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April 13, 2014

Your tax dollars, misdirected (as usual)

The Internal Revenue Service, despite having the same six-year heads-up the rest of us had regarding the demise of Windows XP support, was caught unprepared when the deadline arrived.  Engadget, April 13:
[S]upport for XP officially stopped on April 8th, meaning that Microsoft will no longer provide support or security updates for the venerable OS. However, governmental computers can't be left vulnerable, so the IRS will be paying Microsoft millions of dollars for custom support to keep their machines secure and functional. Right now, over half the agency's PCs still run XP, despite Microsoft telling the whole world that it would stop support for the OS in 2014 six years ago.
Too busy targeting Tea Party organizations and implementing Obamacare enforcement, I suppose.  As far as priorities go, it's business as usual.

April 6, 2014

Booker T. Washington: In the end, merit will be rewarded, regardless of race

Booker T. Washington, born on this day in 1856, wrote the following in his book, Up From Slavery:
I have always been made sad when I have heard members of any race claiming rights or privileges, or certain badges of distinction, on the ground simply that they were members of this or that race, regardless of their own individual worth or attainments.

I have been made to feel sad for such persons because I am conscious of the fact that mere connection with what is known as a superior race will not permanently carry an individual forward unless he has individual worth, and mere connection with what is regarded as an inferior race will not finally hold an individual back if he possess intrinsic, individual merit.

Every persecuted individual and race should get much consolation out of the great human law, which is universal and eternal, that merit, no matter under what skin found, is, in the long run, recognized and rewarded. This I have said here, not to call attention to myself as an individual, but to the race to which I am proud to belong.

January 18, 2014

Ah, such delicious irony!

A publisher of peer-reviewed scientific journals, named in honor of a man famous for challenging the consensus of the day, pulls the plug on one of its journals after an issue that challenges the consensus of the day.  JoNova, January 18:
In extraordinary news, the scientific journal Pattern Recognition in Physics has been unexpectedly terminated, a “drastic decision” taken just ten months after it started.

The publisher appears to be shocked that in a recent special issue the scientists expressed doubt about the accelerated warming predicted by the IPCC. For the crime of not bowing before the sacred tabernacle, apparently the publishers suddenly felt the need to distance themselves, and in the most over-the-top way. The reasons they gave had nothing to do with the data, the logic, and they cite no errors. There can be no mistake, this is about enforcing a permitted line of thought.

I must say, it’s a brilliant (if a tad expensive) way to draw attention to a scientific paper. It’s the Barbara-Streisland [sic] moment in science. Forget “withdrawn”, forget “retracted”, the new line in the sand is to write a paper so hot they have to terminate the whole journal! Skeptics could hardly come up with a more electric publicity campaign.

November 7, 2013

Biometrics: convenient in more ways than one

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Image via "Bits and Pieces"

Conservationism, not environmentalism

This is the footer on a business email I received this morning, and it neatly encapsulates my thoughts on how humans should interact with their environment:
  • Use what you need without feeling guilty about it; 
  • Clean up any mess you make in the process; 
  • Avoid wasteful overuse; 
  • Whenever possible, support efforts to replace what was used.

November 6, 2013

Be careful what you wish for (Or: This won't end well)

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This excellent point is usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but the curators of all things Jefferson at Monticello insist that there is no evidence he is the source.  They also note that other claimed sources, such as Barry Goldwater and Gerald Ford, are also spurious, although they are known to have employed the quote in their speeches.

As far as documentary evidence goes, the earliest written examples of the quote date back to the early 1950s; the original sage seems to have vanished into the mists of history.

Regardless of the quote's parentage, the point remains valid and deeply profound.  In my opinion, we are likely to see its validation in many unpleasant ways in the coming years and decades.

November 5, 2013

Obama the omnipotent?

I've been seeing spam messages like these in my inbox ever since Obama first took office.  Apparently, the Obama cult is still going strongly enough that merely invoking his name is enough to bring in new customers, even if Obama himself isn't paying you to go solar, and he didn't personally reduce your mortgage.  Last I heard, the president doesn't have dictatorial powers yet.  Yet.

Obama the omnipotent?
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October 29, 2013

Adversity reveals character (HUMOR)

A humorous take on the principle that adversity reveals one's true character. Starry-eyed lovers, take note!

October 28, 2013

Obamacare sticker shock leads to heart attacks, many new patients for health care system

'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it'

This quote (from the article linked below), ladies and gentlemen, may go down in history as one of the iconic summaries of the political support the 'Affordable' Care Act enjoyed before anyone actually signed up for it and found out how much it would cost.

The risk pool has been forcibly expanded to include those who were formerly uninsurable due to the fact that they already had conditions guaranteeing that the insurance companies would take a loss on these customers from day one.

I'm not speaking against people who have trouble getting insurance; I'm merely asking: why is anybody surprised that insurance rates would go up when millions of high-risk customers were suddenly added to the risk pool?

Of course, not even Congress read the text of the Affordable Care Act before passing it, so why should we expect consumers to know picky little details like this?

Saturday's Los Angeles Times ran an article about California residents experiencing a rude awakening over the realities of losing their current coverage and being forced into plans that have significantly higher premiums.  Excerpts [emphasis added]:
Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don't like what they see.

These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.

Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation.

"This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people," said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act."
If you're in one of the demographic categories that the ACA was designed to help, the law really appears to be a godsend.  But if you're not one of the favored ones, guess what?  You're basically being taxed to support the favored ones.
On balance, many Americans will benefit from the healthcare expansion. They are guaranteed coverage regardless of their medical history. And lower-income families will gain access to comprehensive coverage at little or no cost.

The federal government picks up much of the tab through an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level. That's up to $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four.

But middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California due to several factors tied to the healthcare law.
This is coming as quite a surprise to many who enthusiastically supported the law as long as it remained an abstract collection of promises.
Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

"She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'" Kehaly said.
Obamacare really does seem designed to fail.  Whether or not the current form of the law was written with malicious intent, it is clearly not politically sustainable.  As the horror stories mount, the clamor for a government-run single-payer system will likely become deafening (especially with the media energetically amplifying said clamor).

[Image credit: various websites.  If you know the original source, please let me know!]

There's a BIG difference between Democrats and Republicans!

Sure, both the Democrats and the Republicans have shown (by their actions, not their words) that they have little interest in the constitutional limits on federal power, but there is a significant difference between the parties.

Democrats want to exercise unlimited, coercive federal power in favor of Democratic spending priorities with the aim of maintaining and advancing Democratic power and privilege, while Republicans want to exercise unlimited, coercive federal power in favor of GOP spending priorities with the aim of maintaining and advancing Democratic power and privilege.  Hope that clears things up.

Is it any wonder that TEA partiers and other constitutionalists annoy the heck out of the Republicans as well as the Democrats?  Dems like to claim that the TEA party movement (of which I am a sympathizer, but not a participant) is a GOP conspiracy, but the reality is that the Republican Party can't get rid of the TEA partiers quickly enough.

October 27, 2013

Do journalists lose their Fourth-Amendment protections when they write articles that make the government look bad?

Washington Times, October 25:
Maryland State Police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for The Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Air Marshals Service.

Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland Security’s Coast Guard service, made a pre-dawn raid of her family home Aug. 6 and took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at The Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid.

Is anyone here ready to argue that the warrant was anything other than a pretext for an illegal search and seizure to punish Ms. Hudson for her negative reporting?