Archive for April 2013

The Council Has Spoken: Apr 26, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilThe Right Planet –Rush for Judgement: The All-Star ‘’Calumnists’’ of the MSM

Noncouncil:  Michael Totten- The Beginning of the End for Hezbollah

Full voting here.

The Lure of the Conspiracy Theory Revisited

Six years ago I wrote about how conspiracy theories were alluring, thereby attracting attention of some conspiracy theory believers in the comments section of the post. In the days since the bombing attacks in Boston I have watched the conspiracy theories blossom into full flower, something that two of my friends noted.

D starts off the conversation (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AT LINK BELOW):

I can’t help myself. The whole thing seemed off from the beginning. Tell me I’m losing it?

My response:

We have an administration that lies to the people and tells them their lives have never been better. You have a media that repeats these lies over and over. Yet people look around them and ask themselves whether or not this is true and realize that their lives aren’t better and that they are being fed a constant stream of lies. This is made worse by the administration’s trumpeting of itself as the most transparent in History when the opposite is the case.

Is it any wonder that conspiracy theorists are going crazy over this event?

I founded my blog to counter the conspiracy that thrived after 9-11. Today we are witnessing a similar blossoming of such theories made more potent by the toxic political environment Obama and the Democrats have created during his tenure.

People such as the poster of the article aren’t crazy, D, not with this administration in place. I still believe Occam’s Razor and even Carl Sagan’s statement that “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof” proves his/her argument is wrong, but he or she isn’t crazy and neither are you for considering such things in our poisonous political atmosphere.

My friend J chimes in:

The conspiracy theory is the perfect example of confirmation bias because if you’re looking for it you’ll find it. That being said, something still stinks about this whole thing. Did these guys shoot the MIT police or didn’t they? Did they rob that 7-11? If you just committed a terrorist attack why would you do either of those things, let alone stay in Boston? And what about the Saudi national that was in the hospital under armed guard that is suddenly being deported, especially since there are pictures of agents carrying a spool of det cord out of his apartment?

And another thing…Chechens? Since when do they give a shit about the US, they terrorize their own people (Beslan, opera house)..and its not like we’re Putin’s BFF.

These guys are some of the best analysts and managers I’ve worked with in the banking industry, and neither one of them is stupid by any stretch of the imagination. The three of us also read Zerohedge, and the comments over there remind me of the intellectual free-for-all that followed 9-11 when the attack became a giant Rorschach test. Anti-government libertarians and anarchists see the attack as a “false flag” operation with the Tsarnaev brothers puppets pulled by strings controlled by Obama (if you’re a Republican), the Koch Brothers (if you are a liberal), and the Jews (if you are an old-school asshat.) Some of these people are clearly nuts, but the vast majority of them don’t trust their government or the media.

It’s difficult to trust an administration that conducts “Operation Fast and Furious,” a program by which the federal government provides guns to Mexican drug cartels in exchange for dead border patrol agents and gun control in the USA. Or an administration that refuses to investigate the death of its own ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi Libya or even allow the survivors of the attack to speak to Congress. Or an administration that demands more gun control laws while refusing to to prosecute gun crimes in Chicago, one of the country’s most violent American cities. Or the billionaire mayor of New York City who states after the Boston attacks, “(Y)ou’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” As one commenter put it,

“We’re going to suspend your rights to protest, bear arms, privacy, and trial by jury.”
“To protect you from terrorists.”
“Why do we need to be protected from terrorists?”
“They hate you for your freedom.”

Evidently Bloomberg forgot Franklin’s quote “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Perhaps since liberals long ago stopped teaching about “dead white men” like Franklin, Bloomberg never learned that.

Are people being paranoid when they question the official narrative when the administration is full of people who use terms like “narrative” to describe factual events? As if there was no Truth, just a made up story that everyone agrees upon. How very relativist.

Henry Kissinger is credited for the saying “Even paranoids can have enemies,” and while I still personally believe the facts will prove the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of the attacks in Boston, the behavior of this administration, its media handlers, and the Wall Street kleptocrats that keep it in power makes me at least somewhat sympathetic to the conspiracy theorists’ seemingly outrageous plots and cherry picked evidence. The Tsarnaev brothers may have committed this terrorist attack, but there are other crimes that are being committed today in the halls of power that are going unpunished and ignored, and that behavior becomes the fertile soil in which conspiracy theories will continue to germinate and thrive.

Update: Questions about the attack linger. For example, it turns out the surviving Tsarnaev was unarmed while he was hiding in the boat. If so, then how did he shoot himself in the neck? And how could there have been a firefight? He hid in a fiberglass boat, one that was shot to pieces by authorities using .223 caliber ammunition. I own a .223 rifle, and its round can perforate tree stumps 2 feet thick. The boat offered as much protection as a newspaper. Either the authorities can’t shoot worth a damn or the Truth has yet to be exposed. As my friend J says, something still stinks about this whole thing.

Stealth Inflation Caught in the Wild

Here is a classic example of how stealth inflation works.

Copyright 2013 - Stealth Inflation

The product is salsa for sale at Walmart. The old jar at the top is 16 oz while the new jar is 15.2 oz, a difference of roughly 5%.
Note how Walmart is advertising it as “new” in a different section away a few feet down from where it sells the old product for the exact same price. Normally Walmart doesn’t waste the effort moving the new size away from the older, larger size, but it has provided a section for the producer containing other of their products.

5% less salsa for the same price won’t kill anyone, but it is an example of how producers are hiding inflation from consumers, and how consumers pay more for products without realizing it. The company passes along increased prices to the consumer while maintaining market share that could be lost to brands that do not raise their prices. A buyer might notice a $.10 jump in the $2 price of salsa, but he may not notice when he receives $.10 less product. Hence the stealth designation.

Pretty clever, huh?

What’s His Jihad?

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Jihad

The Council Has Spoken: Apr 19, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilJoshuapundit –Unmourned, Unloved and Politically Inconvenient

Noncouncil:  Caroline Glick-Moral Relativism and Jihad

Full voting here.

Liberal Hopes For Right Wing Extremism Dashed in Boston

So contrary to the hopes of some on the Left, the bombers of the Boston Marathon are not white tea party types like myself but Muslims from Chechnya. Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, had been in the country for several years. One of the assumptions made by liberals about Islamists is that they misunderstand us, that if they only got to know us better (and if we stopped blowing them up in their homeland and supporting the evil Jews) they’d like us and wouldn’t want to harm us. Attacks like 9-11, the thwarted Time Square bombing, and the Fort Hood Shooting are in the eyes of liberals based on ignorance just as much as they are on misguided foreign policy.

This thinking has its roots in the writings of Erasmus, something that I covered here a few years back.

From the Machiavellian perspective, the struggle between Islamic terrorists and the Free World is a zero-sum game of winners and losers whereas Erasmus’s humanists view it as a game where everyone can win. Once the Islamic terrorists are educated to understand that America isn’t anti-Islamic, they won’t seek to destroy it. Terrorists and Americans can coexist in peace – all that’s necessary is a few apologies and a worldwide media campaign showing the terrorists how much we love Muslims.

Cases like the Tsarnaev brothers undermine the “they don’t understand us” argument originally put forward by Erasmus 500 years ago, as do the inconvenient facts that all of the 9-11 hijackers as well as the plotters including Osama bin Laden himself spent years studying in the United States and the West. These men are not ignorant, and to imply that they are shows an elitist and racist arrogance that liberals would abhor if they could see themselves from a perspective other than their own. A photo narrative by Johannes Hirn notes,

Tamerlan says he doesn’t drink or smoke anymore: “God said no alcohol.” A muslim, he says: “There are no values anymore,” and worries that “people can’t control themselves.”

Let’s consider that a moment. I don’t believe I am stuffing a straw man when I write that to a greater degree an American liberal believes the following:

1. Atheism is the sign of an enlightened mind.
2. All religions are the same, based on ignorance, and the enemies of knowledge.
3. Women are the equal of men and should be treated as such in all spheres both public and private.
4. Western culture is inferior to other cultures, or at best, equivalent.
5. Sexual freedom is the only expression of freedom that must be protected at all costs.

In the US there are no doubt several protestant denominations of Christianity that would agree with at least some of these propositions. The most liberal sect of Islam I know of is the Ismaili sect, and even that sect would disagree with all of the propositions. Do you think Tamarlan Tsarnaev believed in any of those propositions with the possible exception of western inferiority (or rather did, evidently blowing himself up before capture)?

My abhorrence of Islam isn’t based on fear or ignorance. I’ve read the Koran and more importantly, the Hadith, or interpretations of the Koran in the centuries following Muhammad’s death. I’ve lived in a Muslim country, eaten halal food and have celebrated Muslim holidays. I have studied Islam and its history and although do not consider myself an expert on either I know my way around the religion well enough so that I can confidently say that I know what I don’t know. How many liberals have done the same? A liberal looks at the Muslim community and blames American conservatives for Islamic extremism. I look at the Umma and wonder why, based on the teachings of Muhammad and the interpretations found in the Hadith, all Muslims aren’t Islamic extremists. Muslims have a pretty good idea of what American life and life in general in the West is like, and the truth is that a sizeable minority of them don’t like it.

These Muslims find the idea of a government without G-d just as abhorrent as liberals find a government with G-d. Islam makes it clear that all law derives ultimately from Allah through his prophet Muhammad, which is why the Hadith sprung up to handle legal questions that Muhammad himself didn’t address while alive. By this logic Western society and the Shi’a heretics who accept a limited separation between religion and state is heretical by its very existence, and lacking Allah’s support, weak and Evil. In Islam there is no freedom in the Western sense of the word; instead there is a freedom that comes through submission, a type which any pre-Enlightenment European, fundamentalist Christian married woman or perhaps any dedicated servant or slave could relate to, but a concept which would be completely alien to most raised in the post-Enlightenment West. What liberals refuse to understand is that the message of Islam, of complete submission to Allah, can be appealing on its own. The idea that a man like Osama bin Laden, born of wealth, educated in the finest schools in the West would choose a philosophy where women have few rights, homosexuality does not exist, and unbelievers are allowed to live only as future converts to Islam over the Leftist paradise of sexual and economic equality must rankle the liberal, if she would only allow herself to be rankled. I suppose it is possible. After all, Charles Krauthammer, David Horowitz and are ex-liberals as am I.

Charles Krauthammer once wrote Conservatives think Liberals are stupid, whereas Liberals think Conservatives are Evil. What’s ironic is that libertarians and their conservative allies feel towards Liberals the same way Liberals feel about Muslims, that they are ignorant and misguided, that if they just understood us better they’d like us. But unfortunately Liberals see us the way we see jihadists, as enemies meant to be crushed. How else to explain the vain hope by the Left that the bombers turned out to be white men from the Right? And how sad?

Isn’t Terrorism Supposed To Provoke Terror?

Because it seems to me the only thing the bombings at the Boston Marathon have provoked is anger.
Maybe we need a new word for such acts, furyism, because I’m not seeing any terror or fear, just pure white-hot anger.

It’s Easy To Ban Guns for Others While You Remain Protected By Them

I’m just saying…

Bloomberg 3 AM

The Alarm System

The barking drifts into my dream where it’s incorporated into the plot, but as it lasts I know something in real life is wrong and I force myself to awaken. I come out of my sleep grudgingly, and check the time: 3:30am. The barking is louder now, almost frenzied, and I can tell the dogs are excited. I am no Doctor Doolittle, but spend time with your animals and pay enough attention to them and you’ll understand how they communicate. Whatever it is that has them riled up is new, but has them scared. I dress and grab a high-power flashlight and open the gun safe. Bears are known in these parts and one was sighted on the property next to mine, so I grab the .223. I have no intention of shooting a bear if I come upon one, but I choose the tool necessary in case I need to protect myself or the dogs.

The night is clear and moonless, and all the constellations in the sky are the ones I’ll be seeing next season at a more opportune viewing time. I click the flashlight and scan. “Blue” the pack coward, the one I rescued and intended to become the guard of the pack, is at the edge of the clearing leading into the woods barking wildly. She runs back towards me, obviously relieved to see me, then runs forward in a vain attempt to prove she’s fierce. She’s not but I love her anyway. I call to the dogs, and shine the light forward. The beagle appears, her eyes catching the light and glowing somewhat demonically. A demonic beagle. Not exactly the hellhound of ancient mythology, and I’d appreciate the irony if my heart wasn’t throbbing in my ears and I wasn’t scared to the point where each step became like trudging through sand. Hearing my arrival the frenzy of the pack reaches a crescendo. Now the dogs want to show their bravery and I’m worried that they are going to do something stupid and get hurt. A dog is no match for a bear’s claw which can gut it from nose to tail with a single swipe. I push through the underbrush, thorns catching my jeans and cutting my arms as I hold the flashlight in one hand and the rifle in the other. I begin to regret my choice of weapon. A .223 round has too much velocity and will pass through an animal and put me at risk of hitting one of my own dogs. Perhaps the .12 gauge with buckshot would have been the wiser choice. But what do I know about guns; I grew up in the suburbs and even at the age of 12 my mother forbade buying a toy gun from the local Ben Franklin that shot pea sized rubber balls a whole 5 yards for fear I’d hurt myself with it. I’m learning as I go along.

Self doubt mixes with fear as the barking grows louder, but at least the adrenaline dulls the pain from the thorny vines. I push forward and catch in the light the stray shepherd I feed but who will not let us touch. He’s perhaps the toughest dog of the pack, and by far the wiliest given that he freely roams the surrounding area. But he defers to the dog I believe is his sister, a shepherd chow mix I rescued at the nearby bridge, and the pack alpha, a lab/border collie mix who used to be too scared to go into our backyard to pee in the suburbs at night without the Wife or me being with her. They are dancing and barking around the base of a tree, leaping up in a vain attempt to catch what shelters in its limbs above them. I raise the light expecting to see a huge brown mass of fur.

And find a snarling mouth full of sharp teeth in a long grey snout followed by a loud cat-like hiss.

A possum. The dogs treed a possum. All this over a possum? Possums may not look particularly dangerous when they are squished on the side of the road, but when they are up close to your face, those sharp teeth and claws are pretty scary, so scary in fact that hillbillies in these parts are known to get drunk and catch them by hand for fun. I thought this was a myth until a mid-level told the Wife about finding her husband covered in scratches one night with a can of beer in one hand and a possum by the tail in the other, grinning proudly. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

Well my pack isn’t exactly the smartest and they are still learning the woods, and honestly I’m too relieved and tired to care. I don’t have to shoot anything, and no one, including the possum, is going to get hurt this morning. I call to the dogs and convince them one by one to leave the tree, and follow me back into the house. Eventually there’s just the shepherd, and he’s got better things to do than mess with a possum, so he’s the last to follow me back to the house where he stops at the edge of the driveway.

It’s now 4:00am, and the dogs are still excited, running around inside the house and barking as if they had won a great battle. And perhaps they had in their own little doggie minds; I was too tired to convince them otherwise. I locked the gun back up, undressed and returned to bed, assured that something even as small as a possum would not escape notice by my pack. It’s not the best alarm system in the world, and heaven knows it’s not cheap given the cost of dog food and vet bills, but it works.

The Council Has Spoken: Apr 12, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilJoshuapundit – Appomattox: The Fire Is Quenched

Noncouncil:  Sarah Palin- The Grocer’s Daughter

Full voting here.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

Union Jack

I’m silent about the Lefty celebrations over her death because I have big plans when Jimmy Carter meets Che Guevara, Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler in Hell.

UPDATE: The Economist does the Lady proud this week. And I’m sure this cartoon in the venerable magazine would have made her smile.

Copyright 2013 The Economist

A Phone Call Between Premier Li and President Obama

Premier Li
Thanks for taking my call so early in your morning. I hope Hong forgives me for dragging you out of bed, but I felt it necessary given the circumstances.

As you know our two nations have had our difficulties over the years. I understand that there is a lot of history between us, and I don’t expect bygones to be forgotten on your side any time soon. But the recent history of our two nations should be cause for optimism. I would like to think that you see things have improved between our two great nations since I took office. I have personally worked very hard to give your nation the space it needs to take its place as a true world power. I am not worried that doing so weakens my country, and I have done my best to marginalize those who do. I see a great future between our two countries based on shared responses to common problems such as environmental degradation, rising income inequality and the common prosperity that our two nations can share by working closely together.

But I must speak clearly and forthrightly about the North Korean situation. Here in America we have a saying coined by former Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Pottery Barn Rule. Pottery Barn is a shop common at indoor shopping malls that sells decorative glass and pottery items for around the house, much of which I might add come from factories in your country. If a customer mishandles an item in the store and breaks it, the store has a rule that he or she must buy it. In short, the Pottery Barn rule is if you break it you’ve bought it. Secretary of State Powell spoke in reference to US intervention in Iraq, but I believe the pottery barn rule applies equally to North Korea.

Mr. Premier, make no mistake that everyone knows China owns North Korea. Every American president since Truman understands this, as does every Russian president and Japanese prime minister. We might play along with the notion that North Korea is an independent state in public, but we learned our lesson who owns what there when the Chinese Red Army spilled over the Yalu River some 60 years ago. Some may advise you that our goal is to regain what we lost on the battlefield back then, that we seek a united Korea firmly allied to the United States. Let me reassure you that nothing is further from the truth. I know that the South Koreans have told you the same thing they’ve told us – that they do not wish to do what Germany did in the 1990’s when it reunified. It has taken the Germans over two decades to make reunification work, and it still has a way to go before the living standards are equitable on both sides of the former Berlin Wall. The South Koreans see the disparities between the living standards between North and South as even greater than that between East and West Germany, and know that reunification would bankrupt them and possibly wreck their economy for generations. The South Koreans simply do not want reunification in the foreseeable future, and would much prefer to see North Korea follow your nation’s path to prosperity. Their argument against reunification seems very sensible to me and I see no reason not to believe them.

For decades the North has played a game in which it has threatened my nation and its allies in exchange for this or that. This game was played masterfully by Kim Jung Il, allowing him to acquire nuclear weapons while under UN sanctions.  But Kim Jung Un is not his father. I am very concerned that the young Un truly believes the propaganda dished out to his people by the State, and trusts the views of his advisers who do not understand my position. We have given North Korea as much as we possibly could under my administration, and I simply do not have anything left to give.

I must make this clear: in the event North Korea attacks the United States or its allies, I will personally hold you and your nation accountable. Premier Li, I am a peacemaker as proven by my Nobel Prize. Unlike my immediate predecessor I don’t start wars, I end them. Although I have no interest in a war between our two great nations, an attack by Kim Jung Un will leave me with no choice but to retaliate against China. This will not be a battle of proxies, but one directly between the United States and China. Such a war would be calamitous for our countries. It would result in thousands of deaths on both sides, and send the entire world into distress. And over what? The deluded scion of a hermit kingdom?

Following the Pottery Barn Rule, North Korea is broken and you own it. Therefore you must fix the situation in a manner that you see fit but one that calms the region. It is up to you to handle the North Koreans. There is nothing more that I can do on my side to prevent war. If Kim attacks, I must respond and in a way that you will likely not approve of.


Aw crap. The translator is not working? G-d D*** it! Denis! Get Brin on the line 2 NOW, and while you’re at it give Eric a call and tell him Google is his b***h.

The Council Has Spoken: Apr 5, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilGay Patriot –Random Thoughts on Gay Marriage

Noncouncil:  Victor Davis Hanson-The California ‘Mordida’

Full voting here.

Lies, Damned Lies and Propaganda

The unemployment rate is down to 7.6%, it’s lowest in 4 years. Alan Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, writes “today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are helping to build an economy that creates jobs and works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”

So, happy days are here again? Only if you are drinking the kool-aid at the White House. Every month roughly 150,000 more people join the workforce as they come of age or arrive on our shores as immigrants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that payrolls expanded by 88,000 people last month. So why did the unemployment rate drop to 7.6%?

A record 663,000 people gave up trying to find a job and left the workforce. These people are not counted in the BLS employment statistics; only those that are working or actively seeking employment within 2 years of having a job are counted. Anyone beyond that 2 year mark is simply dropped from the statistics, as is anyone who applied for and received disability, or moved back to live with their parents while attending school.

So is this statistic really indicative of a healthy economy?

Consider the following thought experiment:

In 2017 a Republican moves into the White House. Within a few months of taking office, her policies begin to have an effect on the economy and it starts to boom. Businesses start hiring, the economy picks up, and wages rise. At the same time social programs are cut back by the Republican administration and its allies forcing those on the dole to return to the work force.

What happens as these people reenter the workforce?

The BLS begins to include them back into their statistics because they are actively looking for work. If the number of jobs is growing but the number of job seekers is growing faster because they are being forced to get a job or encouraged by the success of friends and family to get one, what happens to the unemployment rate? It rises as the number of people outside the workforce shrinks, the exact opposite of the situation today. Do you think the mainstream media will trumpet the expanding economy sucking people off their couches and back into the workforce?

Happy days aren’t here again, and won’t be while leftist ideology trumps job creation, and crony capitalism allows the wealthy to benefit from the Left’s War on Poverty.

Americans have been conditioned to believe that a low unemployment figure is good while a higher unemployment figure is bad. Such simple notions used to be true until economists and their political patrons realized it provided them with a tool to support their favored policies. They then began manipulating the figures, including this while excluding that in order to support their favored legislative agenda. A century and a half ago Mark Twain recognized the danger of statistics who wrote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” But today our political leaders have gone beyond lies with their manipulation of statistics, whether damned or not, into the realm of pure propaganda.

North Korea: Likely Outcomes

Ranked from most likely to least likely:

1. NK continues saber rattling during month of wargames before regime stands down, claiming some imagined diplomatic victory.
2. NK attacks a SK ship or shells islands as it did in 2011. US pulls out all stops to prevent SK from escalating.
3. NK attacks a Japanese target using conventional weaponry.
4. China responds to “call for assistance” by NK leader Kim Jung Un, Chinese forces in NK calm.
5. NK attacks the Japanese using nukes.
6. NK invades SK.
7. Black Swan.Black Swan

Update: 1 more likely given US fear of upsetting the young Un. “We accused the North Koreans of amping things up, now we are worried we did the same thing,” one Defense Department official said.