Rational Review News Digest

News


| Commentary |

Obama visits Hiroshima, more than seven decades after the world’s first atomic strike

"Nearly 71 years after an American bomber passed high above this Japanese city on a clear August morning for a mission that would alter history, President Obama paid a solemn visit here to offer respects to the victims of the world’s first deployed atomic bomb and the sacrifices of the U.S. troops that helped justify the act. ... Air Force One landed Friday afternoon at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, about 25 miles south of Hiroshima, and the president made remarks to U.S. and Japanese troops serving in Japan. After that, he headed to the 30-acre Peace Memorial Park in his black parade limousine for a brief, emotionally charged visit that was freighted with symbolism for the two nations that have transformed from bitter World War II enemies into the closet of allies." (05/27/16)


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Trump, Sanders explore staging unusual presidential debate

"Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders on Thursday explored staging an unconventional U.S. presidential debate that would sideline Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and create a television spectacle that could attract huge ratings. The two men - a billionaire and a democratic socialist - expressed interest in a one-on-one encounter in California even though Republican and Democratic presidential candidates traditionally do not debate each other until the parties have selected their nominees." (05/27/16)


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Microsoft, Facebook to lay massive undersea cable

"A 4,000 mile undersea cable deal announced Thursday by Microsoft and Facebook is just the latest of a dozen high capacity trans-oceanic cables being built by tech companies to deal with their insatiable demand for bandwidth. The two companies plan to build a cable that will run from Virginia Beach, Va. to a data hub in Bilbao, Spain. The cable will join a cat's cradle of cables that criss-cross the ocean floor, an increasing number of which are owned or funded by large tech companies. Google began the trend in 2010 when it invested in a cable across the Pacific between the United States and Japan called Unity. Today, Google either has or plans to invest in five undersea cables, Microsoft four, Facebook two and Amazon one, said Alan Mauldin, research director with telecommunications research firm TeleGeography." (05/26/16)


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Chile: Student demonstration turns violent in Santiago

"A student demonstration in Chile has turned violent as police used tear gas and water cannons to divert the march. Protesters refused to take an alternative route suggested by police in central Santiago and hurled stones at them, the government said. Students said they were brutally attacked by riot police. They are demanding that the government of Michelle Bachelet speed up reforms that will guarantee free university education for all Chileans. 'We are tired of waiting,' read banners carried by students in the demonstration. President Bachelet took office in 2014, promising to implement a number of social measures to reduce inequality. She had served a first term between 2006 and 2010." (05/26/16)


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U.S. sees first case of bacteria resistant to all antibiotics

"U.S. health officials on Thursday reported the first case in the country of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics, and expressed grave concern that the superbug could pose serious danger for routine infections if it spreads. 'We risk being in a post-antibiotic world,' said Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, referring to the urinary tract infection of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman who had not travelled within the prior five months. Frieden, speaking at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., said the infection was not controlled even by colistin, an antibiotic that is reserved for use against 'nightmare bacteria.' The infection was reported Thursday in a study appearing in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. It said the superbug itself had first been infected with a tiny piece of DNA called a plasmid, which passed along a gene called mcr-1 that confers resistance to colistin." (05/26/16)


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Secret Service disciplines 41 employees for leaking GOP congressman’s information

"Forty-one U.S. Secret Service employees have been disciplined over a media leak of the personal files of a congressman who had criticized the agency’s security lapses, the Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday. Punishments ranged from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay for up to 45 days, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement. One person found to have disclosed information on Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz to the Washington Post has resigned from the service, Johnson said, noting that privacy laws prevented disclosure of more details." (05/26/16)


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Microsoft, Facebook to lay massive undersea cable

"A 4,000 mile undersea cable deal announced Thursday by Microsoft and Facebook is just the latest of a dozen high capacity trans-oceanic cables being built by tech companies to deal with their insatiable demand for bandwidth. The two companies plan to build a cable that will run from Virginia Beach, Va. to a data hub in Bilbao, Spain." (05/26/16)


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Revealed: America’s nuke program runs on 8-inch floppy disks

"To anyone born after 1995, the floppy disk is better known as that thing that resembles the 'save' icon. To the Pentagon, it's the gizmo that controls America's nukes. A report from the Government Accountability Office finds US government agencies spend $60 billion a year operating and maintaining outdated systems -- three times more than is spent on upgrades, per CNN. One such system: the Pentagon's IBM Series-1 computer which uses 8-inch floppy disks 'in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation's nuclear forces,' including intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombers. For youngsters, the big floppy disks were the precursor to the 3.5-inch ones, before the CD came around." (05/26/16)


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Trump sews up delegates to seal GOP nomination

"Triumphantly armed with a majority of his party's delegates, Republican Donald Trump unleashed a broadside attack Thursday on Hillary Clinton's prescriptions for energy, guns, the economy and international affairs, shifting abruptly toward the general election with his likely Democratic opponent locked in a divisive primary contest. The New York billionaire shrugged off signs of discord within his own campaign hours after sewing up the number of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, a feat that completed an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and set the stage for a bitter fall campaign." (05/26/16)


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France: Tax fraud police search McDonald’s headquarters

"French police have searched McDonald's headquarters outside Paris after a probe was opened for alleged aggravated tax fraud and money-laundering against the local branch of the fast-food company. The national financial prosecutor's office said Thursday documents were seized when the tax fraud police unit searched the headquarters in Guyancourt, west of Paris, last week." (05/26/16)


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UN committee denies credentials to press freedom group

"A United Nations committee voted Thursday to deny consultative status to the Committee to Protect Journalists, effectively keeping the press freedom group from accessing U.N. bodies and processes. The committee voted 10-6 with three abstentions on Thursday to deny CPJ's application, which was first made in 2012. South Africa, China and Russia were among the countries that voted against accreditation for the New York-based organization that seeks to protect press freedoms around the world and in conflict zones." (05/26/16)


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Abu Zubaydah called as witness in 9/11 case at Guantanamo

"A Palestinian not seen publicly since his 2002 capture by the CIA launched a brutal interrogation program may soon make his first appearance in a U.S. courtroom. Abu Zubaydah, who CIA agents once sought to be kept incommunicado for the rest of his life, has been called as a witness by Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the defendants in the Sept. 11 war crimes case, to back up allegations of mistreatment inside a high-security unit at Guantanamo Bay." (05/26/16)


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Puerto Rico: Senators override veto, halt tax increase

"Puerto Rico's governor has lost a battle to increase a business-to-business tax and impose a transition to a value-added tax system amid an economic crisis. Senators on Thursday gathered enough votes to approve a bill previously vetoed by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who warned their actions would push the U.S. territory into deeper financial trouble. The bill prevents an increase of the business-to-business tax from 4 percent to 10.5 percent from going into effect next week." (05/26/16)


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Japan: G7 warned against interfering with South China Sea by Chinese media

"Chinese state media on May 26 warned the G7 nations, who have gathered in Japan for talks, to not interfere with the South China Sea disputes. The G7 talks will take place from May 26 at a secluded resort on Kashiko Island, 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of Tokyo. According to reports, this came after European Council President Donald Tusk said that the G7 nations should take a 'clear and tough stance' on China’s maritime claims." (05/26/16)


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NJ: Boat from 19th century found under home

"Workers raising a waterfront home in New Jersey made a nautical discovery: a 44-foot wooden boat from the 19th century. The 12-foot wide vessel, its rudder fully intact, was found beneath Eileen Scanlon's Highlands bungalow on Wednesday, the Asbury Park Press reported (http://on.app.com/1sRr5bR ). The boat likely was used to transport coal and other good along local waterways, and pieces of coal were found scattered along the floor. Rumors of the vessel's existence had circulated for years. Scanlon got a peek of what looked like a rudder through the home's crawlspace shortly after buying it in 2010, but she didn't anticipate the size and scope of the boat. It's built from 3-inch-thick wooden plants and is held together with 18-inch iron nails." (05/26/16)


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Indonesia: Widodo approves castration for sex offenders who prey on children

"The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, signed a decree on Wednesday authorizing chemical castration for convicted child sex offenders and requiring those released on parole to wear electronic monitoring devices. The new punishment comes in response to the brutal gang rape and murder in April of a 14-year-old girl on her way home on the island of Sumatra. Seven teenage boys were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crime, which prompted national outrage and revived previous calls for chemical castration as a punishment against child sex offenders." (05/25/16)


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Apple hires encryption expert to beef up security on its devices

"The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have waged legal war on encryption and privacy technologies. You may have heard many news stories about the legal battle between Apple and the FBI over unlocking an iPhone that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter. However, that was just one battle in a much larger fight. Now, in an effort to make its iPhone surveillance-and-hack proof, Apple has rehired security expert and cryptographer Jon Callas, who co-founded the widely-used email encryption software PGP and the secure-messaging system Silent Circle that sells the Blackphone." (05/25/16)


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State Department: Clinton violated email rules

"A State Department watchdog concluded that Hillary Clinton failed to comply with the agency's policies on records while using a personal email server that was not approved by agency officials even though it should have been, according to a report released to lawmakers on Wednesday. The long-awaited findings from the agency's inspector general, which also revealed Clinton expressing reluctance about using an official email account and apparent hacking attempts on her private server, were shared with Capitol Hill Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. It's the latest turn in the headache-inducing saga that has dogged Clinton's campaign." (05/25/16)


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Sweden: Court upholds warrant for Assange

"A Swedish district court on Wednesday upheld an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, in a blow to the WikiLeaks founder's hopes to end his years-long stay at Ecuador's embassy in London. Assange is wanted on rape charges [sic] in Sweden that date back to 2010. ... In February, a United Nations working group concluded that the hacker and anti-secrecy activist has been 'arbitrarily detained' for the last three years, and that he should be allowed freedom of travel. After that claim, Assange's lawyers filed a motion asking the Stockholm District Court to overturn his arrest warrant. But Swedish officials continue to believe the charges [sic] are valid and still consider him a flight risk, Marianne Ny, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement." [editor's note: In point of fact, Assange has not been "charged" with any crime in Sweden; Ny claims to just want to question him, but has declined numerous opportunities to do so - TLK] (05/25/16)


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Japan: Abe to take G7 leaders to shrine

"Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe was set to escort Group of Seven (G7) leaders to the Shinto religion's holiest site on Thursday ahead of a summit that will cover topics from risks to the global economy to China's maritime assertiveness. Abe was to take U.S. President Barack Obama and other G7 partners to the expansive grounds of Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan, dedicated to sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, mythical ancestress of the emperor. Abe has said he hopes the shrine visit will provide an insight to the heart of Japanese culture. Critics say he's catering to a conservative base that wants to put religion back in politics and revive traditional values." (05/25/16)


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WA: Trump, Clinton win presidential primaries

"Donald Trump’s sweeping victory in Washington state's Republican presidential primary has brought him closer to the presidential nomination as he is now said to be merely 10 delegates short. Trump’s victory in the Washington state primary on May 24 got him at least 40 of Washington's delegates taking his total delegate count up to 1,229. ... Meanwhile, the Democratic race too proceeded as expected with Hillary Clinton easily defeating Bernie Sanders by winning 54 percent to 46 percent in early returns." (05/25/16)


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Pols from 11 states sue: Feds can’t take away our welfare checks just because we’re creepy gropy pervs

"Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The lawsuit announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. The challenge, which asks a judge to declare the directive unlawful, follows a federal directive to U.S. schools this month to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity." (05/25/16)


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Obama admin set to transfer “up to 24 more” detainees from Gitmo

"The Obama administration is preparing to transfer up to 24 additional detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp this summer, Fox News has learned. The move comes as President Obama continues to try to close the camp in the face of congressional resistance. The administration so far has reduced the population from 242 detainees to 80. But one official said the detainees remaining at the camp represent the 'worst of the worst.' The official was not confident the countries ultimately receiving these terrorists would be up to the task of keeping them locked up or even tracking them." (05/25/16)


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SC: Haley signs bill banning abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy

"South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday signed into law a bill banning most abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk, a spokesperson told Reuters on Wednesday. The South Carolina legislature passed the bill last week, the 17th U.S. state to approve such a ban. A signing ceremony will take place on a date to be announced later, said Haley spokesperson Chaney Adams. The act, proposed last year in South Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature, passed after it was stripped of exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape of incest." [editor's note: Wait a minute, it passed ONLY after removing those exceptions? At the risk of advocating aggression, may the children of those legislators be raped incestually (if they have not already been); karma should rule here - SAT] [additional editor's note: Actually, to the extent that the pro-life position makes any sense, it stops making sense if there's an exception for rape or incest. The pro-life idea is that the fetus is an innocent person; rape or incest doesn't change that equation - TLK] (05/25/16)


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Trustee completes review of MtGox claims

"In a major announcement at a scheduled Mt. Gox creditors meeting today in Tokyo, the court-appointed Trustee in the defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy investigation has revealed that all claims to date have been reviewed. Notably, the status of all the claims has also been determined. ... The total amount claimed to date stands at 263,519,268,303,371 JPY, approximately $2,411,412,137,427 USD. The total amount of bitcoin held by the MtGox estate is approximately 202, 185 XBT, or approximately $91.2 million, which bitcoin exchange Kraken will help distribute among the claimants." [editor's note: Yes, you read that right -- creditors are claiming they are owed more than $2 trillion - TLK] (05/25/16)


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Commentary


| News |

Opening day

"Today was mostly for meeting old friends, renewing acquaintances, and squabbles over credentials and delegate seating. The latter had wrapped up by the time I was able to join the fun, so I headed instead for an event hosted by our friends at FreedomFest, nearby the convention. As future presidents go, the crowd was pretty strongly against Gary Johnson, and for Austin Petersen—which made sense, as he was the only candidate who bothered to make the short walk over. ... At some point, improbable presidential candidate John McAfee appeared at a table by poolside, his manifestation completed by a TV crew from Spike filming footage for some sort of upcoming show. ... Gary Johnson, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen, and would not be until a later unofficial debate with McAfee, anarchist candidate Daryl W. Perry, and campaign-reform candidate Marc Allan Feldman ..." (05/26/16)


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Clinton’s best defense

"As a well-funded constellation of conservative groups swings into action to attack Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner is fighting fire with fire. From day one of her campaign, Clinton has made no bones about her need to raise big money, and lots of it. A big chunk of the $1 billion Clinton and her allies have set out to collect will go toward defending her against the scorched-earth assaults of what she once dubbed the 'vast, right-wing conspiracy.' The pro-Clinton group Correct the Record, which has raised $5 million to date under the leadership of hard-charging political operative David Brock, has no purpose other than to defend Clinton 'from baseless attacks,' as its website states." (05/26/16)


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Spotify’s next investors may face the music

"Spotify’s latest figures are both impressive and worrisome. The Swedish streaming-music service increased revenue 80 percent last year, to 1.9 billion euros, or about $2.1 billion. Its number of users swelled from 60 million in 2014 to nearly 90 million. And the 28 million paying subscribers it has signed up represent over 40 percent of the total streaming market. Even assuming generous growth and operating leverage in the future, though, it may be hard to justify a higher valuation than its most recent one. The 10-year-old company led by cofounder Daniel Ek is confronting a common problem for digital music startups. A substantial portion of sales goes toward royalties and distribution fees." [editor's note: YOu could not prove that by the songwriters who wrote the songs; they are all getting screwed! - SAT] (05/26/16)


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Free Thoughts Podcast, 05/27/16

"Deirdre N. McCloskey joins us to discuss her Bourgeois Era book series. Why are we so much wealthier now than at any other point in human history?" [various formats] (05/27/16)


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Democratic unity: Harder in 2016 than in 2008

"If you divide the world of liberal politics into two groups of people (those prone to panic, and those who are sanguine about the coming election) you’ll hear two different stories about the state of the Democratic primary. Former Harry Reid aide Jim Manley spoke for the former group when he told CNN, 'I am increasingly concerned that even if Senator [Bernie] Sanders would come around and support a [Hillary] Clinton nomination that things become so polarized that not all of the supporters would agree to do so. I am afraid he has made this internal debate so polarized that even if he comes around, far too many of his supporters would just be so disgusted with the process that they won’t come out in the numbers needed.'” (05/26/16)


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Health insurers find back door to limit choice

"Lost in the noise of political posturing over health care, there’s one widely accepted principle: the importance of the doctor-patient relationship in medical decision-making. Yet we’ve all heard stories where insurance companies won’t fully cover a drug that both the doctor and patient believe is the right medical choice. Why not? It’s pretty simple: the insurance companies don’t want to pay. As cutting edge drugs come to market, insurance companies are scrambling to find ways to justify not paying for them." (05/26/16)


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How charter schools heighten the politicization Of education

"Last year a breakthrough policy brief from the National Education Policy Center exposed some of the financial machinations charter schools engage in to further the interests of profit-seeking entrepreneurs. But what about the political machinations? The politics of charter schools are less quantifiable that their financials but are troubling nevertheless, and the expansion of these schools will no doubt lead to increased politicization of education in local communities. Consider the following anecdotes." (05/26/16)


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Retro government computers

"As anyone who has ever collected antiques will tell you, it’s an expensive hobby. Around $60 billion is spent annually, keeping these relics functional. Finding parts for Government computers is getting as hard as finding music on MTV. This should come as a surprise to no one. It’s pretty much understood that the Government isn’t always up on the latest things. Ironically, the computers used in US nuclear silos were state of the art, about time that Richard Nixon asked Elvis Presley to encourage the youth of America to stay off drugs (and kids were listening to Led Zeppelin)." (05/26/16)


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Bill Cosby, from victimizer to victim

"There is no doubt in my mind that Bill Cosby did a great deal of what his female accusers say he did -- i.e., drug and sexually assault them. There are dozens of accusers with similar stories, and the tales go back for decades. I confess, I didn't pay much attention to the story until one night, while channel surfing, I caught Cosby doing his comedy act and felt a cold brace of certainty that this man really hates women. Stars can have their pick of willing females; Cosby perversely preferred to trick, dope and violate unwitting victims. His goal was not his own satisfaction so much as their debasement. ... Still, I think the prosecution of Cosby in a Norristown, Pennsylvania, court for the alleged 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, then 30, goes too far." (05/26/16)


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What your browser says about you that your GPA doesn’t

"If you want to hire creative, independent, and innovative people, should you look at candidates' school transcripts, or would it be better to know which web browsers they prefer? In an interview with the New York Times, Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, said, 'One of the things we've seen from all our data crunching is that GPAs are worthless' as a criterion for hiring, 'and test scores are worthless -- no correlation at all.' Google's top HR exec may in fact be understating the problem with grade point averages." (05/25/16)


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Immigration and self-determination

"Some philosophers argue that states have rights to exclude immigrants because states have rights to collective self-determination. The idea here is that citizens have the right to control their collective affairs and shape the character of their society. Some people cash this out in cultural terms: we have rights to control cultural change and preserve our national culture. Immigration causes cultural disruption and so citizens have the right to restrict immigration. It's true that the freedom to immigrate can cause cultural change. But so can the exercise of other freedoms. ... if self-determination justifies restricting immigration to prevent cultural change, why can't it justify restricting freedom of speech?" (05/25/16)


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You have a right to be paranoid

"There are a lot of common ploys criminals will use to get within close range of an intended victim. Asking for directions, to borrow a cell phone, a couple of bucks to buy a bus ticket to get back home, for help in an emergency situation, and so on. These ploys all serve to drop the intended victims guard so they can be approached more easily. During a discussion about this story I mentioned to a friend that my standard response to these types of situations is to take a defensive stance, slide my hands into my pocket (usually onto a conceal weapon), and pretend that I don't speak English (in my experience this tends to reduce the amount of time an individual will invest in trying to interact with me). My friend told me that that sounds paranoid, which brings me to the point of this post. Our society places a stigma on perceived paranoia." (05/25/16)


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Maduro uses Washington’s playbook

"The New York Times has an op-ed this morning, entitled 'Venezuela's Military in the Spotlight' by Ernesto Londono, which mocks Venezuelan President Vicente Maduro for preparing for a looming invasion by the U.S. military. Londono asserts the U.S. government has no interest in invading Venezuela and that Maduro is just trying to divert attention away from his domestic problems. I wonder where Maduro picked up that strategy. Let me think. You don't think it might have come from the playbook of the Washington national-security establishment, do you?" (05/25/16)


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Climate change hypocrisy is real

"Yeah, right. Climate change caused by human activity is the most urgent threat facing our entire species right now, but, of course, that doesn't stop Leo from spending lavishly on private yacht and jet travel for himself all the time to classy destinations all over the world. This guy is determined to drastically reduce your carbon footprint on the planet -- he wants you to sacrifice -- but he has no such intention when it comes to his own burning up of vast quantities of fossil fuels. His conduct provides solid proof that climate change hypocrisy is real." (05/25/16)


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The era of rogue justice after 9/11

"As Barack Obama’s presidency draws to a close, the flames of the counterterrorism frenzy that were ignited fifteen years ago have begun to die down. Neither civil liberties nor the rule of law was consumed. Instead, what lie in the ashes are the most egregious violations of them: torture, mass surveillance, indefinite detention, extrajudicial trials, and indiscriminate drone killings, all of which, after bruising battles, have been reined in, if not abolished. This might not have been the case had the handful of officials who first objected to these policies at the end of George W. Bush’s first presidential term not worked hard, quietly and without fanfare, to change them." (05/25/16)


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Why “Hillary is even worse” doesn’t cut it

"Barring a startling turn of events, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee. There are good reasons to question his fitness to occupy the presidency, because of both his policy positions and for reasons of character. The standard response among the Establishmentarians who have announced they will vote for Trump is that 'Hillary is even worse.' That's acceptable for people whose only obligation is to cast a vote. Having to choose the lesser of two evils is common in American voting booths. But that shouldn't be good enough for Establishmentarians." (05/25/16)


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A five-point plan for Sanders

"When Bernie Sanders announced a year ago that he was running for president, few of his supporters (and probably not even Sanders himself) expected that he would actually win. It appeared that Sanders, like his hero Eugene Debs (who ran for president five times in the early 1900s on the Socialist Party ticket) was running mainly to inject progressive issues into the national debate and to help build a movement for radical change. Debs never captured more than 6 percent of the popular vote (in 1912), but his campaigns played an important role in shaping Americans’ views." [editor's note: Yes, I know, we libertarians have our own stuff to deal with; doesn't mean we might not learn from others how to leverage our issues to higher awareness - SAT] (05/25/16)


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The hustle continues: Why the Feds haven’t nailed the big banks

"Americans still want to see some measure of justice for the misconduct that precipitated the financial crisis. But Monday’s decision by an appeals court to throw out a $1.27 billion civil penalty against Bank of America will surely generate some despair. So few cases have even been attempted that when a successful one gets reversed, it can raise questions about whether there were any good ones to make in the first place. The truth is that there were cases out there—but the Department of Justice chose not to pursue them. The Bank of America case, though promising at first glance, wasn’t the most fertile ground for true accountability. When DoJ decided in the wake of the crisis to take the path of least resistance by engaging in this inadequate enforcement, what they really did was take a path to letting big banks and their executives off the hook." [editor's note: This is one issue we libwertarians clearly share with the "leftists" -- be it the Berners ... or pundits like this one who even have half a clue - SAT] (05/26/16)


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Why it’s funny Republicans are upset with Facebook

"America’s right wing is in a froth about allegations that Facebook has tweaked its 'trending news' feed to reduce the visibility of conservative news sites. It’s not clear if the allegations, from a Gizmodo report based on anonymous sources, are true and Facebook denies them. But the deeper problem is undeniably real: Facebook is the dominant member of a small number of giant entities (corporate and governmental) that are gaining control over news, freedom of expression and much of our digital lives. The irony is that the conservatives and business-backed Republicans in Congress who howl about Facebook are the same people who have thwarted policies that would encourage the competition we need to challenge that increasingly centralized control. Almost no one wants to address the fact that Facebook is becoming a monopoly in the antitrust sense of the word. Along with Google, it dominates online advertising; Facebook especially does so on mobile devices, which are the way many people connect to the Internet." [editor's note: I was all set to poke fun at this writer, but then realised he had it right - SAT] (05/25/16)


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Republicans demand Flint-like solution to Puerto Rico debt

"In 2008 Wall Street got in over its head, and the U.S. government and Federal Reserve stepped in with trillions of dollars to bail them out. Now Puerto Rico has debt that it cannot pay. Instead of helping, though, Republicans in Congress are demanding increased austerity and an unelected 'oversight board' that sets aside democratic governance -- the same way Republicans imposed unelected government on Michigan cities like Flint. (We know how that turned out.)" (05/24/16)


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Wendell Berry: Great poet, cranky Luddite on ag tech

"Any occasion to herald the sheer awesomeness of Wendell Berry as one of the preeminent poets and novelists of the past half-century should be seized. This is why I write glowingly of Berry but must curb my enthusiasm about The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, a new documentary making the rounds of U.S. film festivals." (05/25/16)


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The fight for public control of land in the Bronx

"The community group South Bronx Unite (SBU) has battled for four years to stop the grocery store FreshDirect from building a trucking facility. The distribution center would be the latest highly polluting operation in a neighborhood with childhood asthma rates eight times the national average. Time is running out: The facility is slated to open later this year. But in the process, SBU has shaken up New York politics and pioneered a model for public control of neighborhood land." (05/25/16)


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Free Talk Live, 09/24/16

"The Key to a Blissful Relationship? :: Right to Revolution :: Gay a Choice? :: Kinsey Scale :: Police Shooting Protest :: Search for Perfection :: More Duterte Crazy :: Divorce Illegal :: Venezuela Jacks Up Corn Flour 900% :: Indians and Offense :: No More Cola :: Nintendo Attacking Fans' Videos :: Nintendo Lockout Chip." [Flash audio or MP3] (05/24/16)


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Heartland Daily Podcast, 05/25/16

"In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Peter Ferrara, Heartland Senior Fellow and author of the Power to the People, joins host Michael Hamilton to discuss the different proposed plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare." [various formats] (05/25/16)


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An alibi for all seasons

"People seeking medical attention from the VA face long wait times but, then, so do people waiting to ride on the cup and saucer at Disney World. It isn't the time spent waiting that is the important thing; it is the experience. So said the head of the VA. Something like that anyway. He was criticized and mocked for making the comparison but one imagines that there are plenty of people inside the government who are thinking that he got it exactly right and 'why didn't I think of that?' Long lines at the airport, harassed travelers waiting on TSA 'agents' to pat them down and go through their stuff? Just tell them they'd have to wait at Disney World, too." (05/25/16)


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Fighting for control of our purse strings

"The UK's Crown Prosecution Service says that a new law is needed to stop terrorists and other criminals using Bitcoin-style digital payments for illicit purposes such as money laundering. Really? We have more than enough laws already, and a quick way to cut crime would be to scrap two-thirds of them, but that's another story. But the thinking behind this particular proposal is clear: our authorities feel that, because of technical innovation, they are losing control of money, and want to reassert it." (05/25/16)


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Don’t dilute the Libertarian Party just to beat Donald Trump

"My concern isn't ex-Republicans voting for Libertarian candidates. I'd welcome that. (I'd also welcome the votes of Sen. Bernie Sanders's supporters who can't stomach Hillary Clinton's hawkish foreign policy and uncomfortably close ties to Wall Street interests.) My concern, rather, is about the future of an idea. While there are genuine disagreements among those of us who claim the libertarian label, and while the Libertarian Party isn't the libertarian movement, libertarianism, construed broadly, takes a fundamentally different approach to the relationship between government and the governed than either of the two major parties." (05/25/16)


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Can Trump unwittingly end the imperial presidency?

"Congress couldn't impeach George W. Bush because they were co-conspirators with him. And they wouldn't impeach Obama even after he violated the War Powers Act in Libya. Even after he was caught spying on us without search warrants. Congress would not dare impeach the first black President. Do you think they'd impeach the first female President? Unlikely. At most, they'd sue her like they sue Obama, over executive orders relating to domestic policy. But they have no incentive to give Trump a pass. They neither like nor respect him. Congress might put Trump on notice that impeachment is always on the table. Or they will be more likely to pass, with veto-proof majorities, curbs on executive power. Under Trump, the Presidency might shrivel like many of his enterprises." (05/24/16)


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And the non-denial denials keep on coming …

"As governor of New Mexico, [Gary] Johnson grew government spending faster than inflation, faster than population growth, and faster than Barack Obama has grown federal spending as president of the United States. As governor of New Mexico, Johnson more than doubled his state's debt. Those are facts. Maybe there are good explanations for them, but they're still facts. Johnson runs on the parts of his record that sound good, which is fine. But the other parts are fair game for discussion as well." (05/24/16)


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Obstacles to foreign policy restraint

"Continuing bipartisan support for overseas meddling in the name of global 'leadership' remains a major obstacle to a more restrained U.S. foreign policy, and so it is worth thinking a bit more about why that support persists in spite of numerous costly failures since the end of the Cold War. One reason why restraint hasn't gained more adherents in Washington is that it is always easier to accept the prevailing consensus than it is to dissent from it." (05/25/16)


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How to raise wages

"Since the Great Recession, the unemployment rate has steadily fallen from a high of 10 percent in October 2009 to the current rate of 4.9 percent. However, job gains and a low unemployment rate have not been matched by accelerated wage growth. Wages have only grown about 2 percent annually since 2012. This is quite lower than the average 3 percent annual growth that occurred before the recession. Some politicians claim companies are simply being greedy, but it is important to look at other factors -- the cost of employment, in particular." [executive summary -- full paper available as PDF download] (05/25/16)


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Transgender pronoun policing leads to government-mandated speech

"Sexual harassment workplace policies tend to revolve around telling people not to do things. Don't use sexist language when talking to people, don't post pictures of swimsuit models in your cubicle, don't smack people on the ass, don't tell a subordinate he or she has to put out in order to get a raise, et cetera, et cetera. But as we move further into the realm of using federal and state laws to punish harassment against transgender people in the work environment, we are seeing government officials attempting to enforce demands that employers and workers must say certain things. Specifically, refusing to refer to a transgender person by the pronoun 'he' or 'she' -- or other terms we're about to get into -- can be considered harassment." (05/25/16)


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Puerto Rico’s debt, our problem

"Puerto Rico is $72 billion in the hole. Basically, Sanders wants to partially repudiate that debt: 'The billionaire hedge fund managers on Wall Street cannot get a 100 percent return on their bonds while workers, senior citizens and children are punished.' Of course our sympathies are almost entirely with the people of Puerto Rico. But it was their government that racked up the debt, and repudiating sovereign debt is a tricky and parlous thing." [editor's note: Nothing tricky about it at all. "The people of Puerto Rico" didn't sign any promissory notes. Some politicians did. Their tax victims have no obligation to bail them out - TLK] (05/25/16)


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The Jason Stapleton Program, 05/24/16

"This morning Austin Petersen was a guest on the Glenn Beck program and delivered an impassioned defense of liberty and libertarianism. It was exactly the right message delivered at exactly the right time. Today on the show we're going to run through some of the highlights .... From there we'll move on the Alex Jones whom I have a severe distaste. I know I'm going to draw heat from the Jones minions, but sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow." [various formats] (05/24/16)


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Gary Johnson is having a good day

"If Gary Johnson wants to make it onto a primetime presidential-debate stage as the Libertarian Party's nominee, he needs to qualify by polling above 15 percent. If he wants to be the nominee, he needs a strong showing at the party's convention this weekend. And if he wants a strong showing at the convention, he needs to demonstrate to delegates that he’s their party's ideal standard-bearer -- a candidate who can be even a little competitive in a three-way matchup with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Johnson just got good news: A poll released Tuesday morning shows the candidate with 10 percent of the national vote." [editor's note: "Competitive" is important, but it doesn't top the list of required characteristics. It comes after "libertarian" and "honest/trustworthy," and perhaps some others - TLK] (05/24/16)


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Invisible in life, invisible in death: How information becomes useless

"The documentary, Who is Dayani Cristal? shows illegal immigrants found dead in US deserts. Acclaimed actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, tells one man's story. He leaves his Honduran family, crowds onto the top of trains, reaches a border he can't cross, enters a country that doesn't want him, and dies in the desert, alone. US officials mostly fail to identify corpses. One refers sadly to people 'invisible in life, invisible in death.' To say people are invisible is to say they don't count. It's to say that whether they are visible or invisible doesn't matter." (05/25/16)


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War profiteering poisons American soldiers

"During the Iraq War, several corporations made billions in government contracts, as more and more of the military's operations relied on private contractors. And while the public is told that these wars will protect us, all too many American service members have faced unspeakable abuses over seas at the hands of these careless war profiteers." ()5/25/16)


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People, not ratios

"The debate over income inequality became especially heated following the English-language publication of French economist Thomas Piketty's bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The controversy has generated more heat than light. This paper seeks to clarify common points of confusion in the inequality debate and expose the fundamentals behind the ideological tussle. For all sides of the inequality debate, the overarching goal should be to reduce global poverty." [executive summary -- full paper available as PDF download] (05/25/16)


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Repeat after me: There is nothing unique about competition that happens to come from across a political border

"Ambassador Donald Blinken thinks that the case for free trade is sound only if government ensures that trade 'isn't unnecessarily harmful to those sectors of the economy it negatively impacts' (Letters, May 24). He's mistaken, for at least two reasons." (05/24/16)


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Let the people fight their own wars

"It is groups like Anonymous and the People's Defense Forces that are living proof that we do not need the state to fight against terrorism." (05/25/16)


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They’ve spit on the Bill of Rights yet again

"Your home has a uniquely protected status. Unless police have probable cause -- something more than a hunch -- they can't enter your home without a warrant, or unless you give them permission to do so. However, the PATRIOT Act gives the FBI the authority to break into your home without informing you a search took place. Agents may gather evidence related to any federal crime to be used against you. Your right to avoid a warrantless search ends completely in any 'emergency' type situation. The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 demonstrated this new reality. Residents of Boston and surrounding towns were forced to submit to warrantless searches of their homes by heavily armed police. Warrants are also incredibly easy for police to obtain. They have been issued to search homes based on window coverings that hinder police from peeking inside, having a 'heat source' in the home, or even possessing a security system." (05/25/16)


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Europe sees the long march of the extreme right

"Europe's nationalists have learned to use the system to their advantage. They are anti-establishment but no longer openly anti-Semitic. They are anti-immigration but also favor economic protectionism, so their xenophobic instinct is usually diluted in a wider message that speaks to the fears of many Europeans who lost their jobs after the 2008 financial debacle. They are anti-Brussels, but oftentimes they conceal their raw nationalism behind a cloak of respectable Euroscepticism of the sort espoused by libertarians and certain factions of the mainstream right. Their biggest success yet has been to shift the center ground of European politics." (05/24/16)


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The family courts make a mockery of justice

"The UK Department for Education last week published research into rates of reporting child abuse. Feminists claimed that the fact that a third of those interviewed said they would not report suspicions of abuse amounted to 'victim-blaming.' But the Independent's report last Friday mentioned an important finding, the significance of which has been lost on the survivor lobby. It said that the fear of having misread a situation, and of wrongly accusing someone, is the biggest factor that deters reporting. A ruling from the Court of Appeal on 19 May in a family case shows just how skewed the system has become when dealing with accusations of abuse." (05/25/16)


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Bionic Mosquito has it wrong on immigration

"Bionic suggests, given the reality of the welfare state, libertarians are just going to have to abandon their principles, at least with respect to immigration, until the welfare state is ended, which, of course, might never happen, at least not in Europe. Interestingly, however, Bionic also wants to make it clear that he is not a libertarian proponent of government-controlled borders. What? Then what is he? It's either one or the other. You're either a proponent of open borders or you're not. If you oppose open borders, then you automatically favor government-controlled borders. If you favor government-controlled borders, then you oppose open borders. Bionic seems to be saying that he's both libertarian on immigration and anti-libertarian on immigration at the same time." (05/25/16)


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Kosovo: Hillary Clinton’s legacy of terror

"Kosovo today is a fulcrum of terrorism, violence, crime, and virulent nationalism. The Parliament is in chaos as Albanian ultra-nationalists demanding union with Albania shut down sessions with smoke bombs and mob action. This is the legacy of the Clintons in the Balkans: a terrorist state run by Mafia chieftains that has become the epicenter of radical Islamism in the midst of Europe. This is 'blowback' with a vengeance, and Hillary Clinton and husband Bill have their fingerprints all over this outrage: but of course the 'mainstream' media isn’t holding them to account." (05/25/16)


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