Archive for April 2017

Cord Cutting 2017

Back in Dec 2015 I wrote an update to my experience cord cutting, ending my subscription to DirecTV having cancelled my service in June of that year. Here’s an update.

So approaching two years of living without DirecTV or cable television. So how do I feel about that? Do I miss commercial pay television? That laughing you hear over the Internet is me. Having spent roughly $7,000 on pay TV till that point I reckon that since June 2015 I have saved roughly $60 a month, or over $1,300, and I still watch a ton of TV. I currently subscribe to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu (although I’m about ready to ditch it), HBO Now, Acorn TV and recently added Crunchyroll for Japanese anime and drama all via a Roku 3. I probably watch an average of 3 hours of TV a day, less than most Americans, but what I do watch is much better quality, shows like Grimm, the Walking Dead, The Expanse, plus a slew of Japanese stuff that you cannot get anywhere but Crunchyroll.

Cutting the cord changed my viewing habits. I used to leave the TV on for company but replaced it with streaming music from Pandora. When I was bored I’d watch Discovery Channel but now I do other things. So when I sit down to watch TV it is to watch something good, not to avoid boredom. That wasn’t my original intent when I cut the cable, but it is a perk.

There is danger on the horizon. I’m discovering new streaming channels, so it’s only a matter of time before much of the cost savings is eaten up by new streaming offerings. For example I’m looking for more Japanese TV subtitled in English, and worst of all there is a competitor to Acorn TV for British shows that just started up, Britbox. There’s always plenty to watch even for a niche viewer like me who is hooked on Japanese dramas and British comedies.

Oh and DirecTV? I still get junk mail from them every few weeks with the same stale offer, return to paying $100+ a month for stuff I don’t watch and they’ll give me a $200 Visa gift card. Woo-hoo! Not. Ain’t happening and I really regret the holes in my roof caused by the satellite dish that remains there, gazing at the southern sky, slowly rusting away.

5/3/17 Update: Cord Cutting spikes fivefold. Welcome to the future!

The Correct Attitude Towards Terrorism

“I don’t want us to get used to Islamist terrorism. We have to stop being naive. We can’t leave our children a country that is not able to defend them.” – Marine Le Pen, speaking after a terror attack on the Champs-Elysees that killed one policeman and injured two others.

Gun Violence in Paris

Just a reminder that the full-auto AK-47 rifle used by ISIS terrorists to kill a cop in France are completely illegal in that country, just as they were in a terror attack in Turkey last year. Yet for some reason the terrorists have no trouble getting these weapons into the EU and using them, and worse, our liberal neighbors in the US dream of instituting European-style gun confiscation here. How can that be? Don’t the terrorists know that full-auto AK-47s are illegal to possess, and if not, how did they get them?

Yes that’s sarcasm, caused by my disgust at watching one of the world’s great countries brought to a standstill by terrorism. Worse, it’s seeing Parisian police leveling their guns at civilians with their hands raised as in this photo. The only time I was ever held at gunpoint in my life was while I was being robbed at my job. I understand that the photo was likely taken minutes after a cop was shot and tension was high, but still, leveling a semi-automatic handgun at a grey haired guy carrying a cell phone? Is that really necessary?

Just remember the rules of reporting: Anything happening abroad is a terrorist attack. Anything occurring within the United States: Gun violence.

Fox News to Become MSNBC Clone

For more than 20 years Fox News has provided an outlet for conservative voices in the United States, but that may soon change under the leadership of James Murdoch, founder Rupert’s son. According to Michael Wolff writing in the Hollywood Reporter about the dismissal of Bill O’Reilly, “If the expulsion of Ailes, and, even more dramatically, O’Reilly, mean anything, it means most of all that James is in charge. And, most immediately, this means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James’ view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change. Virtually overnight.” His goal? “Where Fox News is parochial and America First, the new global brand is worldly and unlimited. It will give his family’s company, once the pirate company, new meaning and new stature — a force for stability instead of upheaval. Murdoch media, in an age of populist disruption, will stand for the established world order.”

To a progressive respectability means conformity, and in an industry where only 7% of journalists identify as Republicans conformity means turning Fox News from the sole voice of conservativism in TV news into another MSNBC and CNN. With liberals ensconced at the peak of the established world order in journalism, there can be no denying that James Murdoch’s vision of Fox News standing for the “established world order” means the end of Fox News as an outlet for anti-establishment, conservative views.

I find it ironic that the downfall of Fox News came due to unproven allegations of sexual harassment, the same allegations made against the husband of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate that the liberals have challenged, whitewashed or completely ignored. For Democrats sexual harassment charges or in the case of President Clinton, rape charges, can be ignored or dealt with by attacking the characters of the women making them. But for Republican journalists the only option is dismissal or career suicide.

Wolff states James Murdoch was horrified by seeing the O’Reilly allegations in the New York Times, (He) “kept repeating with horror to his friends and executives: “This is on the front page of The New York Times!””

The very fact that the owner of Fox News would be horrified by anything the New York Times put on the front page says all we need to know about the future of Fox News.

It’s hard to deny the impact the loss of the network will have on the Republican party and the conservative voice. Now would be a good time for libertarian and Trump backer Peter Thiel to enter the market and start his own pirate journalism enterprise.

RIP Fox News. I’ll miss you.

The Sun God and the Vestal Virgin

The religion of Ancient Rome was unlike anything we’d recognize today. It was a set of superstitions centered around a pantheon of gods who needed to be kept happy otherwise the people would suffer. To keep them happy they demanded the sacrifices of animals and on a handful of occasions, humans. The gods manifested their will through omens, and the ancient historians would find plenty of these just before a major event in Roman history.

For example the ancient historian Livy provides a veritable laundry-list of bad omens before the battle of Cannae in 216 BC that saw the decimation of Roman forces at the hands of Carthaginian general Hannibal, leaving Rome defenseless. From Livy’s History of Rome, book 22:

To add to the general feeling of apprehension, information was received of portents having occurred simultaneously in several places. In Sicily several of the soldiers’ darts were covered with flames; in Sardinia the same thing happened to the staff in the hand of an officer who was going his rounds to inspect the sentinels on the wall; the shores had been lit up by numerous fires; a couple of shields had sweated blood; some soldiers had been struck by lightning; an eclipse of the sun had been observed; at Praeneste there had been a shower of red-hot stones; at Arpi shields had been seen in the sky and the sun had appeared to be fighting with the moon; at Capena two moons were visible in the daytime; at Caere the waters ran mingled with blood, and even the spring of Hercules had bubbled up with drops of blood on the water; at Antium the ears of corn which fell into the reapers’ basket were blood-stained; at Falerii the sky seemed to be cleft asunder as with an enormous rift and all over the opening there was a blazing light; the oracular tablets shrank and shrivelled without being touched and one had fallen out with this inscription, “MARS IS SHAKING HIS SPEAR”; and at the same time the statue of Mars on the Appian Way and the images of the Wolves sweated blood. Finally, at Capua the sight was seen of the sky on fire and the moon falling in the midst of a shower of rain. Then credence was given to comparatively trifling portents, such as that certain people’s goats were suddenly clothed with wool, a hen turned into a cock, and a cock into a hen.

But more important than all of these omens was the misbehavior of vestal virgins. It’s difficult to describe the importance of vestal virgins to the Romans to a modern audience. The Vestals were servants of the goddess Vestal, the protector home and family and ultimately of Rome itself. The vestals were viewed as the living embodiment of the state, a kind of “royal family” that consisted of women selected between the ages of 6 and 10 who served for 30 years. There is no modern equivalent, but the Romans took their vestals very, very seriously, and when they strayed, Rome was doomed.

Livy writes, “For, over and above these serious disasters, considerable alarm was created by portents which occurred. Two Vestal virgins, Opimia and Floronia, were found guilty of unchastity. One was buried alive, as is the custom, at the Colline Gate, the other committed suicide.”

1,800 years ago the Roman empire was under the domination of Septimius Severus and his descendants who ruled from 193 AD to 235 AD. Severus was of Carthaginian ancestry and his wife Julia Domna was of Syrian. Although Severus was a powerful general, the real power of the dynasty was his wife’s family, in particular his sister-in-law Julia Maesa. In 218 Maesa engineered the elevation of her 14 year old grandson, Elagabalus, to the throne.

Elagabalus usually appears near the top of the worst Roman emperors. During Severan rule the worship of Heliogabalus spread through the empire, and Elagabalus became a high priest of the cult like his grandfather, Maesa’s husband. As the teen emperor of Rome he must have seen himself in a unique position to spread the religion upon the normally religiously tolerant Roman masses. One of his first actions was to bring a sacred black stone, likely a meteorite, that symbolized Heliogabalus from Emesa Syria to Rome. When it arrived he placed it in a chariot pulled by four horses and led it walking backwards through the streets of Rome to the pantheon where he installed it above the statues of all the other Roman gods including Jupiter.


Gold coin with Elagabalus on obverse, quadriga chariot carrying the sacred stone symbolizing the sun god Heliogabalus on reverse. (British Museum)

Not content with angering the Romans with that move, he divorced his first wife and married a vestal virgin, Julia Aquilia Severa, viewing the act as a symbolic marriage between the Roman goddess Vesta and Heliogabalus. The marriage was quickly annulled and Elagabalus was forced to marry Marcus Aurelius’s great-granddaughter. But the marriage didn’t last long. Elagabalus rebelled and again married Severa.

Silver coin featuring Aquilia Severa on obverse, Concordia goddess of marital and civil peace on reverse.

It is unclear whether Elagabalus had feelings for Severa or whether he viewed the marriage as religiously important. The ancient historians weren’t objective writers so it’s difficult to determine the true nature of the relationship. Nevertheless Severa remained with the emperor until he was murdered at the age of 18 by his own guards. After that she disappears from history.

Elagabalus marrying a vestal not once but twice would be like a new British Prime Minister marrying the Queen of England. I can’t imagine what the average superstitious Roman must have thought being handed a coin featuring a portrait of Aquilia Severa. Coinage was seen as an important part of the state’s propaganda efforts. Whenever a new emperor took power one of the first things he did was issue coins with his portrait on them. After a particularly bad emperor was dethroned circulating coins with his portrait were often defaced in a process known as damnatio memoriae, literally “damnation of memory.”

Brass damnatio memoriae coin with Nero’s portrait defaced. (Romae Aeternae Numismatics)

The coins of Aquilia Severa are scarce and there is no evidence that she suffered damnatio memoriae. But one wonders how a Roman receiving one of her coins would have felt. How would a pious Roman have felt holding a piece of silver with a defiled vestal virgin on its face? Would he have felt the coin would bring the wrath of the gods on him and his family, or was he happy possessing a coin that represented a day’s wages for a Roman legionnaire?

United Airlines Forgets Capitalism Beats Up Passenger

Social media is ablaze with video taken of a United passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight to open a seat for a United employee.

The video inspired this new United commercial by Jimmy Kimmel:

I understand that airlines need to be profitable and overbooking is a necessary evil. The airlines follow the best solution: pay a passenger to give up their seat. Evidently on this flight United personnel offered $400 + hotel, then doubled that to $800 but no one volunteered. United’s mistake was to stop there.

Offer enough money and someone will take it. There were 70 passengers on the flight. Would a $1,000 + hotel have convinced someone to volunteer? If not how about $1,200 or $1,500? Everyone of those 70 people had a dollar figure they would have accepted for the inconvenience of being stuck in Chicago for another day.The next flight was 22 hours later (why didn’t United offer to book the passenger on another airline? Was that really the next flight or the next United flight?) which is a considerable delay for most travelers but for the right price someone would have taken the cash.

United had an auction on their hands, the staff just didn’t realize it. They quit bidding before hitting the lowest price a passenger was willing to accept for another day in Chicago. Had they raised the offer by $200 increments they likely would have found someone quickly. $800 is pretty tempting to me but offer $1,200 airfare to Italy and I would have been off that plane and in a deep dish pizza restaurant, no beating necessary.

The problem is that United forgot that we live in a capitalist society. Airlines including United have been coddled since 9-11 by the government and have operated as a monopoly that competition is no longer in their DNA. When the capitalist tool of cash appeared to fail the United personnel immediately resorted to state sanctioned force in the form of the police. United is a private corporation and that knee-jerk resort to force over cash is what troubles me most about the incident. United acted like Aeroflot during the Soviet days instead of a competitor in a free market.

Every problem doesn’t need the involvement of Congress, but the problem this incident highlights is due to government intervention in the market. The federal government has limited competition in the US domestic market from foreign airlines to protect US airlines. Since deregulation in the late 1980s the US has gone from dozens of domestic carriers to just three. Foreign carriers are allowed to fly from domestic US airports to foreign destinations but are forbidden to fly from one US city to another. Allowing foreign airlines to fly routes like Chicago to Louisville would shake up Delta, United and American Airlines and discourage such heavy handed behavior as seen on that United flight. UK-based carrier Virgin Airlines bans overbooking so the incident never would have happened on one of its flights.

US airlines have forgotten how to compete. It’s up to Congress to act and allow foreign airlines to teach them in their home market.

Transgender vs Transracial: The Smackdown

Remember Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter president outed for being born a white girl? She’s been invited to South Africa to be the special guest at an event “intended to promote a dialogue for a ‘non-racial’ South Africa.”

The American Left still hasn’t forgiven her for proving conservative critics of the “trans” movement right. In “It’s Time to Debunk Rachel Dolezal’s Big Transgender Lie.“Samantha Allen writing about Dolezal’s equating the transracial struggle with the transgender movement states, “So long as outlets on the left and in the center let Dolezal slide on the Caitlyn Jenner comparisons—and continue to give her large platforms to make them—it will keep being cited further right on the political spectrum to make transgender people seem ridiculous. It happened in 2015; it’s happening today. For transgender people, this déjà vu isn’t just tiresome, it’s dangerous.” Allen then goes on to cite several conservative publications for using Dolezal to attack the transgender movement. Allen writes, “These kinds of comparisons make transgender people guilty by association with Dolezal. They elide enormous differences between the biology and sociology of race and gender to score a deceptively easy point. Worse, they make it seem like “transgenderism” is some trend, pushed by “activists,” when, in fact, it has long been recognized by science and medicine as a legitimate phenomenon.”

Recognized by science and medicine as a legitimate phenomenon? Allen cites her own 2015 article where she lays out the proof that being transgender is real. In the article she makes four points:

  1. Allen: “There are at least 700,000 transgender people in the U.S. alone—enough to establish it as a palpable, if often invisible, population. People like Rachel Dolezal, on the other hand, are few and far between, hence her almost inherent newsworthiness.” This is the weakest of her arguments since it’s based on the fallacy “Appeal to the Crowd.” Today people who identify as transracial or transethnic might be “few and far between”, but how about tomorrow when people are able to put a label to their identity? After all in the two years between Allen’s articles her transgender count doubled from 700,000 (her 2015 article) to 1.4 million (her 2017 article).

  2. Allen: “The American Psychological Association (APA), too, has long recognized the possibility of one’s “gender identity” not conforming to “the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” There never has been nor is there likely to ever be equivalent recognition for identification as another race.” The American Psychiatric Association has been publishing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since 1952, adding “gender dysphoria” to the manual in 1980. It officially removed from the DSM in 2012. Unless the American Psychological Association (APA.org) recognized that gender dysphoria was not a mental illness prior to 2012 when the American Psychiatric Association (psychiatry.org) pulled it out of the DSM, a date which I’ve been unable to find, then five years seems a relatively short time to qualify as “long recognized.”
    Again this argument by appealing to authority suggests that given enough time it is possible for psychologists to see more people like Rachel Dolezal and for them to “come out of the closet” and be accepted by the medical community. There is nothing in this argument that separates transracials from transgendered.

  3. Allen: Transgender people transition out of medical necessity. Dolezal’s “transition” to black, on the other hand, is surrounded by layers of deception—the Howard lawsuit, the false claim to an African-American father, the refusal to correct newspapers that misidentified her as “biracial”—that she was unwilling to fully unravel in her conversation with Lauer.” Layers of deception? Couldn’t those be explained by a person being victimized by a society that refuses to accept their identity? How many layers of deception do transgender people go through before they come to terms with their identity? How many gay and lesbians lie to their friends, family and even themselves as they try to come to terms with who they are? It’s odd seeing a liberal like Allen channeling her inner Bill O’Reilly to attack another woman.
    As for transitioning out of medical necessity, how does Allen explain the growing numbers of post-op regret? There’s even a website collecting these stories. So far the stories have been attacked by transgender advocacy groups as few and far between or politically motivated stories. But a 2011 study of 324 post-op transsexuals in Sweden found overall higher mortality with the group then the general population. Post-op transsexuals also had a higher rate of suicide attempts and psychiatric inpatient care.

  4. Allen: “(U)nlike transgender people who can undergo medically-proven hormonal and surgical treatments to embody their new gender, Dolezal cannot become black in any meaningful sense. When asked by Lauer how she had altered her physical appearance, she responded, “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.”” The first sex reassignment surgery was done in 1930. Does that mean that transgendered people were mentally ill prior to then because they couldn’t become the opposite sex “in any meaningful sense?”
    Today millions of Asian women are getting surgery on their eyelids to make their eyes look less Asian and more European or American. How many Japanese or Korean women identify as French or Italian, and doesn’t this surgery make them so? If it doesn’t, how does the sex reassignment magically turn a boy into a girl but another surgery not change a Chinese woman into an American one? And what about scientific advances tomorrow that may allow one to choose his or her own skin color. Would a darker skin through genetic engineering finally allow Dolezal to be accepted as an African-American just as surgery as allowed Bruce Jenner to be accepted as Caitlyn?
    And how does taking hormones and some plastic surgery turn a man into a woman “in any meaningful sense?” Can such a surgery allow a man to give natural birth? How about menstruate? Or are those two bodily functions baked into a woman’s DNA not meaningful?

The problem with transgender activists is that they’ve stepped on the slippery slope and are sliding down it at high speed. The human mind is so complex that once we rely upon it as judge to determine what gender is, there is no reason we cannot do so for ethnic identity, race, or other aspects of human identity. Allen’s separation of the “acceptable” transsexual Caitlyn Jenner from the “unacceptable” Rachel Dolezal is a moral judgement without any scientific or medical evidence supporting it whatsoever.

Enjoy the ride ladies…

 

Mainstream Media Contorts Itself to Protect Obama on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Cliff Kincaid writing at GOPUSA has a thorough analysis on the mainstream media’s attempts to square the reality of last week’s chemical weapons attack with the 2014 agreement brokered by Obama to clear these weapons out of Syria.

Kincaid writes:

According to the Scott Shane article, President Barack Obama had declared that “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” Later, Secretary of State John Kerry had declared, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”

So they lied. Right? Wrong. It’s a complicated matter.

According to the Times, Kerry and others had tried to refer to the elimination of Syria’s “declared” stocks. This was “a nuance often lost in news reports,” the Times said.

So when Kerry talked about eliminating “100 percent” of the weapons, that isn’t really what he meant.

Shane goes on to report, with a straight face, “Despite the failure to completely eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama administration officials and outside experts considered the program fundamentally a success.”

A failure is a success.

Read the entire thing.

Japan Wisely Sits Out Refugee Crisis

Do you know how many Syrian refugees the country of Japan has taken in? 100,000? 10,000? 1000?

As of October 2016 they’ve accepted a total of 6, although the government plans to accept 300 over the next 4 years.

Japan has no immigrant tradition and has a highly regulated homogeneous society with a very small foreign population, the bulk of which are Koreans who have lived there for generations. Japan prefers to deal humanitarian issues by sending foreign aid. It’s $10 billion/year budget ranks it #4 in the $ amount of spending, but that aid often comes with strings.

The simple answer is that the Japanese people don’t want them and their government reflects their will. They don’t have a tradition of assimilating immigrants or accepting large numbers of guest workers. The Japanese prize their homogeneous society and aren’t going to do anything that jeopardizes it. They sympathize with the plight of suffering people and are willing to extend financial and other types of help that do not involve taking in large numbers of foreigners.

As for the rest of the world, countries like Sweden, Germany and other European countries have taken a very naive view of the situation. They know little about the factors driving immigrants and refugees to Europe. They know even less about the apocalyptic sects of Islam that some of those immigrants and refugees believe in that encourages violence against non-believers and heretics. They hold a political correct dogma that “Islam is a religion of peace,” without understanding that there isn’t a single “Islam,” and that while most sects are peaceful some are not. Anyone who raises this fact including Muslims themselves they accuse of Islamophobia, thereby ending the formulation of prevention strategies to stop terrorist attacks by ending the conversation.

By 1971 the UK had experienced numerous terrorist attacks by the IRA in North Ireland. A point was reached whereby the IRA attacks became so common that they lost a lot of their propaganda value. The British Home Secretary at the time said the situation had reached “an acceptable level of violence.” Although not intended that way, it was interpreted to mean a failure of the British anti-terrorist tactics in Northern Ireland, and made it look like the Crown had given up the fight.

Unless the world wakes up from its self-imposed stupor and begins to scrutinize immigrants and refugees before they accept them, the recent attacks in Sweden and London will become more common. We are already in danger of reaching that “acceptable level of violence.”

The Japanese are wisely sitting this one out.

How I Learned to Like the AK-47

After I got over my aversion for guns and started shooting and owning them, it took me several years before I would touch an AK-47 or one of its many variants. To me the AK-47 was the weapon of America’s enemies. It is a favorite of terrorists the world over. It is on the flag of Hezballah, the Iranian backed Shiite militia responsible for the deaths of 242 US marines in Beirut Lebanon in 1983. It was standard issue for the North Vietnamese Army. In my mind that weapon engraved thousands of the names on this wall in Washington DC.


Then one day I realized that my old gun-fearing emotions were at the root of this attitude. As the old saying (now cliche) goes guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The AK-47 itself didn’t cause the deaths of those men in Vietnam. The Viet Cong did.

Once I realized that the AK-47 was a tool just like any other, I familiarized myself with the platform, read up on the thousands of AK-47 vs M-16 blog posts, and eventually started shooting it. It is now one of my favorite weapons. Just a joy to carry and shoot. It will eat anything you give it, including cheap Russian steel-cased ammo, without a misfire. It is rugged, so you don’t have to worry about it when you are in the woods or mud. A good AR-15 can beat it when it comes to accuracy, distance and weight, but the AK-47 is like a carpenter’s favorite chisel or a mechanic’s go-to socket wrench: For most jobs it’s the one he reaches for first.

I’ve met others who feel the same way I did about the weapon and I respect that. There are way too many names on that wall, too many good young people killed. But the AK-47 shouldn’t be blamed for their deaths and should be seen for what it is: a simple yet effective tool and one that every American rifle owner should consider.