Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Open thread

We have an inconvenient thunderstorm rolling through the area, which means I need to adjust my schedule to get into work at the normal time. Long story short, no time to post anything, so this is an open thread. Give us something to think about in the comments!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cuba libre

Since we've now normalized relations with Cuba, everything's great, right? Cubans have to be happy with things on their island, right? Well....
 Half of the Cuban men's field hockey team at the Pan American Games in Toronto defected to the United States, a player and sources close to the Cuban delegation said.

The sources said eight of the 16 Cuban players had deserted, while team member Roger Aguilera put the number at seven, just the latest in a rash of Cuban defections across several sports.

"Everyone knows what happened to our team, we have seven of them in the United States," said Aguilera, after the decimated Cubans were hammered 13-0 by Trinidad and Tobago.
We can pretend that Cuba is a decent place, but the people who live there don't agree.

Trustworthy, loyal

The Boy Scouts are going to let local chapters have gays in troop leadership:
The Boy Scouts of America is expected Monday to end its blanket ban on gay leaders — a turning point for an organization that has been in turmoil over the issue.

But some scouting groups will still be able to limit leadership jobs to heterosexuals.

To gain the acquiescence of conservative religious groups that sponsor many dens and troops, like the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches, the policy will allow church-run units to pick leaders who agree with their moral precepts.
As most people who read this feature know, the Benster is an Eagle Scout. I have been involved in Scout leadership at the Cub Scout and later Boy Scout level since Ben started in Scouts, for well over a decade. Is this a big change? Not as big as it would seem.

Scouting has had a very good and effective Youth Protection program in place for the entire time Ben was a Scout. Any scouting organization that follows the guidelines properly can avoid problems with sexual abuse by adult leaders.

There are two keys to the program:
Two-deep leadership on all outings is required. A minimum of two registered adult leaders, or one registered leader and a participating Scout’s parent or another adult, are required for all trips and outings. One of these adults must be 21 years of age or older.
Two-deep leadership provides another set of eyes to ensure that a scout and an adult leader aren't in a position that could become an issue. And to make it explicit:
One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is prohibited. In situations requiring a personal conference, such as a Scoutmaster’s conference, the meeting is to be conducted with the knowledge and in view of other adults and/or youth.
The ban also extends to electronic communication:
The policy of two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact between adults and youth members includes digital communication. Leaders may not have one-on-one private online communication or engage one-on-one in other digital activities (games, social media) with youth members. Leaders should copy a parent and another leader in digital and online communication, ensuring no one-on-one contact exists in text, social media, or other forms of online or digital communication.
I have served as a merit badge counselor, which requires me to communicate with scouts concerning the progress in earning the merit badges they are seeking. Whenever I need to communicate anything to a scout, I always copy the scoutmaster and/or the scout's parents in the communication. We take these guidelines seriously.

I will always recommend Scouting. It's a great program and provides life lessons that endure.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A blast from the borscht belt

You don't hear much from Jackie Mason any more -- if I remember correctly, he got in trouble about 20 years ago for insulting David Dinkins -- but he's still around. And he's still got a fastball when he wants to use it. He makes a valuable point here:
Mason put his comic chops to use in analyzing the inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities as it is laid out in the deal. “Instant” inspections will only take place 24 days after requested, giving time – he charged – to clean up the site to be inspected.

"First Obama said we can inspect them any time, any place, whenever we please. Now it turns out ‘whenever we please’ except when they don’t allow it.  If they don’t want it it’s up to them. So then we have to wait 28 days [sic] to inspect, as if to say for the 28 days we can trust them completely, because they’ll do nothing. They’ll just hold the bomb in front of us waiting for us to come so they can show it to us. That’s how stupid this negotiation is to us," he said.

"Do you know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system. You can surprise any restaurant without notice that you can walk in and inspect them… So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish.  We’re not protected from a bomb but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish," Mason joked.
Maybe if we can't get inspections, we could use Yelp.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Now he's just trolling

Subtle:

Feel the love
The full image, in case you weren't clear:

The ears tell the story
John Kerry will be coming over to wax the Ayatollah's car later on.

Priorities

The United Nations, always with their eyes on the ball:
It’s a good thing all the world’s serious human rights issues have been resolved. With more pressing problems out of the way, the UN Human Rights Committee appears now to have the leisure time to attend to a few loose ends here and there. The committee—which includes representatives from human rights bastions such as Uganda, Algeria, and Egypt—has released a report recommending that Britain fully outlaw the smacking of children at home. 
Nothing else to worry about in the world, of course. No, nothing at all should concern us.

Well, yeah

Hard to argue with this assessment:


Republicans would do well to consider this model:



Friday, July 24, 2015

The race so far

Time to put down a marker on the Republican side. Impressions:

Donald Trump continues to suck most of the air out of the room. I don't know that, when it comes time to actually vote, he'll get many. He is entertaining, of course, and he's been able to dominate the news cycle ever since he got in the race. I don't see him making it, though.

Jeb Bush doesn't really have a reason to run, other than it's his turn. He also gains a lot of enmity among the base. His best hope is that Trump clears out a bunch of the other candidates.

Scott Walker hasn't had a great launch, but he's got a great story and he can tell it well enough. He'll be a contender.

Marco Rubio is a talented guy; he may emerge. He's made a few enemies, though, and they tend to be loud.

Ben Carson is, in the end, not a serious candidate. He has his fans, but I don't see him getting there.

Mike Huckabee has his constituency, but his constituency isn't going to be sufficient to get the nomination. He's got too much Elmer Gantry in him for my tastes.

Rand Paul has been trying to thread the needle by keeping some libertarian street cred while simultaneously trying to avoid the odor of his father's campaign. I don't think he'll be able to sustain it.

Ted Cruz might be the most talented guy in the field. I suspect he'll do very well in the debates. He could emerge.

Chris Christie is too much of a jerk to get through the process. He'll find a way to implode.

John Kasich might have the best credentials in the field, but he's not a pleasant person and he's got too much Jon Huntsman in him to win. If you don't recognize the name Jon Huntsman, you've actually identified the problem.

Rick Perry is sitting pretty low in the polls, but I think he could emerge. He's clearly learned from his 2012 run and has a good record. Someone to watch.

Carly Fiorina has been the most pleasant surprise of the campaign. She's smart and she's tough. A lot of people bag on her for her unsuccessful Senate campaign in California, but the electorate she would face nationally will be easier to sway than the electorate she saw in California. There's a good chance she'll be the VP candidate on the final ticket.

Bobby Jindal is potentially a very good candidate, but he can't get started. Not sure where his constituency will come from, either.

Rick Santorum is not going to make it. He's essentially battling for the same voters as Huckabee and there aren't enough of them to get the nomination.

Lindsey Graham should just go home.

George Pataki is running, I guess. Needs something to do, apparently.

Jim Gilmore apparently was the governor of Virginia at some point. He had an excellent career in the old ABA as well. No, I'm sorry, that was Artis Gilmore.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oh, by the way

The end game is coming:
The 11 million Americans who receive Social Security disability face steep benefit cuts next year, the government said Wednesday, handing lawmakers a fiscal and political crisis in the middle of a presidential campaign.

The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare said the disability trust fund will run out of money in late 2016. That would trigger an automatic 19 percent cut in benefits, unless Congress acts.
How might Congress act, you ask?
There is an easy fix available for the disability program: Congress could shift tax revenue from Social Security's much larger retirement fund, as it has done in the past.

President Barack Obama supports the move. And acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin said shifting the tax revenue "would have no adverse effect on the solvency of the overall Social Security program."
So how long will the retirement fund last under the current setup?
The trustees said Social Security's retirement fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035, a year later than they predicted last year. At that point, Social Security will collect enough in payroll taxes to pay about 75 percent of benefits.
But if the gubmint moves money from that fund to cover the shortfall in the disability fund, would the money really last until 2035? The article says it only changes the number to 2034. That's still less than 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, there's this nugget:
Medicare's giant hospital trust fund is projected to be exhausted in 2030, the same date as last year's report. At that point, Medicare taxes would be enough to pay 86 percent of benefits.
The hour is growing short. But let's talk about gay marriage and Donald Trump.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The plan comes together

If you are an African-American child in New York City, consider yourself lucky -- many of your brethren never got the chance to be born:
Black lives matter? Apparently not in New York City.

A “Pregnancy Outcomes” report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reveals in 2013, more black babies were aborted than born in the city.

A chart on page 7 shows 24,108 “non-Hispanic black” babies were born while 29,007 faced “induced terminations” — or abortions.
Shocking? Not sure why. It's what Margaret Sanger intended.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ghouls

Another week, another Planned Parenthood official in the baby parts market:
A second undercover video shows Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors’ Council President, Dr. Mary Gatter, haggling over payments for intact fetal specimens and offering to use a “less crunchy technique” to get more intact body parts.

It is similar to last week’s viral video showing PPFA Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola admitting to using partial-birth abortions to get intact parts and suggesting a price range of $30 to $100 per specimen.

Gatter is a senior official within Planned Parenthood and is President of the Medical Directors’ Council, the central committee of all Planned Parenthood affiliate medical directors.
And she's a savvy negotiator, too:
Gatter twice recites Planned Parenthood messaging on fetal tissue collection, “We’re not in it for the money,” and “The money is not the important thing,” but she immediately qualifies each statement with, respectively, “But what were you thinking of?” and, “But it has to be big enough that it’s worthwhile for me.”
Needs to wet her beak, I guess. There's more:
Gatter also admits that in prior fetal tissue deals, Planned Parenthood received payment in spite of incurring no cost: “It was logistically very easy for us, we didn’t have to do anything. So there was compensation for this.” She accepts a higher price of $100 per specimen understanding that it will be only for high-quality fetal organs: “Now, this is for tissue that you actually take, not just tissue that someone volunteers and you can’t find anything, right?”

By the lunch’s end, Gatter suggests $100 per specimen is not enough and concludes, “Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine, if it’s still low, then we can bump it up. I want a Lamborghini.”
No word on whether she ever got her Lamborghini, but if she did, one can assume it runs on biodiesel. Video at the link.

I'm a comedian, you see

Al Franken was joking, you see:
Sen. Al Franken on Monday said that remarks he made more than 15 years ago — before he became a senator — about Sen. John McCain’s military service were a joke.

The Minnesota Democrat’s remarks are similar to those of Donald Trump, who ignited a firestorm after telling a crowd in Iowa on Saturday that McCain is “not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
So what did our august solon say, exactly?
Franken’s remarks also appeared in a 2000 Salon article.

That story quotes Franken as saying, “I have tremendous respect for McCain, but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned, he sat out the war.”
Franken did, too:
During Vietnam, I was in college, enjoying my student deferment. The government wisely felt that, in my case, military service was less important than completing my studies to prepare me for my chosen career: comedian.
Of course. Franken is still a comedian, you see:
He also condemned Trump’s remarks from Saturday, saying “I don’t know what’s going on in Donald Trump’s head or through his hair, but I condemn him for a lot of things he’s said.”
I'm sure we'll just accept ol' Al's explanation. Why wouldn't we? We take Jon "Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off" Stewart as a legitimate news purveyor, except when we don't. That's how we roll in America. Accept it, haters.

An excellent question

This report is from the Times of Israel and it's astonishing. See if you can figure out what's wrong here:
The US is considering providing an extensive military package to Israel in the wake of the Iranian nuclear accord, Channel 2 TV reported Sunday.

Days after the deal was signed in Vienna last Tuesday, sources in Washington indicated they will provide the Jewish state with advanced weaponry and technology, apparently to compensate for the boost the deal will give Iran.

In a Saturday phone call with former president Shimon Peres, National Security Adviser Susan Rice explained that the US was ready to offer Jerusalem a military compensation package that was unprecedented in its scope, the TV report said.
So, let's think about this:

  • Why the hell would we need to compensate Israel through offering advanced weaponry and technology if Iran's intentions were peaceful?
  • Why is Susan Rice talking to Shimon Peres and not Benjamin Netanyahu? Would you expect a foreign minister, any foreign minister, to be calling George W. Bush? 
Oddly enough, Netanyahu had the same question:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the notion of a reimbursement package Sunday, saying that no amount of compensation would be enough to confront a nuclear armed Iran “sworn to our destruction.”

“Why should we need to be compensated if the deal is supposed to make us safer?” he asked. “The deal endangers our security, our survival even, and the security of the Middle East and the world.” 
Meanwhile, Obama took the agreement to the UN Security Council yesterday, which approved it. After all, why give Congress a chance to weigh in. Those weasels might actually agree with Netanyahu or something. Can't have that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Donald and Its Discontents

Ahem.

  • Donald Trump speaks for himself, unless he's using Al Franken's old material (h/t Althouse via Reason Magazine). Senator McCain's colleague wrote in 2000: I doubt I could cross the line and vote Republican. I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war. I bet McCain and Franken yuk it up over that in the ol' Senate cloakroom.
  • The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, in the interest of curing Trump fever, make Trump's point quite clearly: Some Americans may find it satisfying 16 months from Election Day to tell pollsters they’d vote for him, but that doesn’t mean conservative elites should validate this nonsense. Are you part of the conservative elite? Do you want to be part of this elite? The elite seems to have trouble winning national elections. Are the elite's concerns your concerns?
  • It's hardly a novel thought, but let's just say it -- the reason that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are garnering enthusiasm is the same. There's a sense out here, beyond the Potomac and the Hudson, that our betters aren't listening to the concerns of the people our betters purport to represent. Setting the politics aside for a moment, the only real difference between the Obama years and the presidencies of every president since, well, Grover Cleveland is velocity. The federal government always gets bigger, but it's even more voracious under Obama. Do you get the sense that any of the mainstream candidates are going to change that trajectory?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Submitted without further comment

An advertisement from the 1970s:


No guns on the premises

The scene in Chattanooga yesterday:

Don't do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs?
Huh, that sign wasn't particularly effective.