Monthly Archives: October 2013

Afternoon Links

12 thrilling facts about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Three world-class architects go crazy with Lego architecture sets.

Man buys $27 of bitcoins, forgets about them, finds they are now worth $886,000. 

Watch Talking Heads, Kate Bush and more perform songs inspired by scary movies.

The last command has been sent to the Planck space telescope, a truly great telescope.

Peter Beinart admits the Left has a huge free speech problem. He uses the recent shouting-down of Ray Kelly by Brown University students as his main example.

Watching the president’s speech yesterday, all I could think was that the mendacity of this man never ceases to amaze me. Pete Wehner agrees

It’s helpful to bear in mind the characteristics of the Obama White House. This is the group that for weeks knowingly misled the public on the events surrounding the lethal attacks on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. That claimed that the Affordable Care Act was both a tax and not a tax, depending on what the circumstances required. That hatched the sequestration idea, then denied it, and then blamed Republicans for it. That has perfected the art of stonewalling. That is lawless. And that ran a campaign in 2012 that was unusually vicious and dishonest, up to and including blaming Mitt Romney for the cancer death of a steelworker’s wife. We have as president a man who routinely slanders his political opponents, distorting what they believe, even as he bemoans the lack of civility in public discourse. He constantly makes assertions that are obviously untrue. And it doesn’t matter to him. He keeps doing it because, at least until now, the media has given him something approaching a free pass. I have no idea if Mr. Obama was born mendacious or whether he learned the habit somewhere along the way. What I do know is that Barack Obama is thoroughly post-modern. Words and facts have no objective standing with him; they are socially constructed, unmoored, infinitely malleable, a way to create his own reality and advance his own self-interest. Mr. Obama clearly believes that because his agenda is right and noble and his opponents are benighted and evil, he has license to say pretty much whatever he wants pretty much whenever he wants. After all, anything that advances his agenda while rebuffing the (choose your descriptor) nihilistic, anarchistic, heartless, ruthless, Taliban-like Republicans is allowable. Even encouraged. It’s the Chicago Way. Mr. Obama, then, has a deeply defective public character. He simply makes things up as he goes along. He invents his own reality. And the fact that he is inflicting significant and durable harm to our political culture, and to America itself, seems to bother him not one bit. There is something quite disturbing about this president’s capacity to mislead people with such ease and with such relish. He’s not a man who can be trusted with power.

Matt Welch goes on a good rant here about the lies coming from our lapdog media as well.

The tone from Obama and Jay Carney over the last week has been the typical progressive tripe, “You’re too stupid to know what you want. We know better than you do what’s best for you and your family, so just shut the fuck up and be grateful.” Obama has now taken to blaming the insurance companies for the cancellation of policies, which is absurd because they are being FORCED to cancel the policies in order to comply with HIS LAW. If you’re a healthy, single man who doesn’t do drugs and decided you only needed a catastrophic plan (which the president has now obnoxiously and wrongly taken to calling a “substandard plan”), daddy government says you can’t have that anymore. You are now forced to buy a plan that includes maternity care and substance abuse care, things that you don’t need or want. David Harsanyi takes up this ugly authoritarianism:

You can’t keep your insurance if you like it under Obamacare because you’re too ignorant to understand what’s good for you. That’s the argument we’ve been hearing from a lot of folks on the left; an argument that pivots from “common good” to soft authoritarianism…It’s almost as if some people believe lying is acceptable – even preferable — if the political outcomes are morally pleasing to them. Many Obamacare supporters, in fact, are beginning to sound like they couldn’t care less about process, the law, order, competence, or anything that undermines the goal of putting your health-care choices into more capable hands…In health care, and other things, we often pick plans that offer us something we value above other things. Americans don’t need all their plans to look the same. Maybe some of them like the customer service, maybe some like the stability of staying with one company for many years…Never were we told that ACA was meant to shield people from their own bad choices. What many people feared, and were mocked for, was that Obamacare was just the beginning of Washington micromanaged consumer choices…1 — It forces every person to enter into the marketplace. 2 — It dictates what products companies that operate in that marketplace must sell – which is also a mechanism by which the administration can force consumers to subsidized coverage they may have moral qualms with. 3 — And now it compels individuals not only to buy a product, but to buy the exact product Washington decides. Now, if a person were prone to paranoia, all of this might sound a bit authoritarian to them. But even if they’re not, hearing liberals tell them they don’t need what they want is quite telling.

Timothy Carney piles on

NBC reported that the administration understood the law would lead to cancellation of about half of the insurance plans on the individual market (that is, plans people get outside of their employers). Although Obamacare allowed some existing plans to be “grandfathered” and avoid the law’s requirements, the administration tailored the grandfathering rules very narrowly, maximizing the number of disallowed plans. Again, this was deliberate. One of Obama’s favorite writers, Josh Barro of Business Insider, put it this way: “One of the key reasons that America needed health care reform is that a lot of existing health plans were bad. There are a lot of health plans that Americans shouldn’t be able to keep.” Barro leaves out half the reason Obamacare deliberately killed low-premium plans: stealth redistribution. A central aim of the law was forcing those with more basic plans to buy more comprehensive plans and thus subsidize people who wanted or needed comprehensive coverage…Honest Obamacare defenders say the president shouldn’t have promised to let Americans keep their insurance when he really meant that if Obama likes your health care plan, you can keep it. “Vast swathes of policy are based on the correct presumption that people don’t know what’s best for them,” Barro wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, defending this approach. But this paternalistic mindset, so honestly expressed by of one of Obama’s favorite writers, can also explain why the Obama administration was so willing to mislead on Obamacare: If people don’t know what’s best for them, there’s no reason to deal with them honestly.

Daniel Henninger in a piece that is a little too optimistic, I think, believes this will be the end of the progressive movement for awhile.

Let us try to understand clearly what is happening now with the Obama presidency. On display to everyone watching this week is not merely the failure of a federal website or a software program or Ms. Sebelius’s management skills. This is the failure of the very idea of progressive government. Not liberal government. Progressive government. That battle a few weeks ago over the government shutdown was a familiar Beltway spectacle. But what is happening this week to ObamaCare and the political class that created it is historic. Forty years from now, the millennials who in 2008 and 2012 believed in and voted for the progressive ideal—limitless, mandated, state-led goodness—can tell their grandchildren they watched it fall apart in 2013. This is the glitch that failed. In the 1990s, the American left, burdened with 90 years of unfortunate left-wing metaphors, rebranded itself in the U.S. as the “progressive movement.” Teddy Roosevelt invokes cheerier memories than Leon Trotsky. In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the left rode to power with Barack Obama…The essence of modern Democratic progressivism is: “You will participate in what we have created for you, and you will comply with the law’s demands.”…American progressivism is politics by cramdown…Up to now, most of the events of the Obama presidency have passed in and out of the news as just politics. But with ObamaCare and its details touching so many people all at once, it has become impossible not to recognize that the Affordable Care Act is an offensive ideological exercise, not merely an entitlement program. By Mr. Obama’s own admission, this law is the way he wants the world to work in the U.S.—whether in health, education, energy, infrastructure or finance. And what Americans now riding through the ObamaCare hurricane of canceled policies, disappearing doctors and rebooted promises have to be asking themselves is: Do I want to live with this level of personal enforcement in the U.S.?

Liberals are whining that Republicans “rooted for” Obamacare to fail. The more accurate description is that they accurately predicted and warned that it would fail and that it would stifle our liberty. You can see this when you look back at pieces written in 2009, like this one

Consumers must buy policies from their employers or through the exchanges–but, either way, their choice of coverage is limited to one of four basic insurance plans that the government sanctions. Private insurers will still compete to offer policies but must model their coverage on one of these four templates. In short, the Senate bill explicitly standardizes health benefits and then establishes elaborate mechanisms (including subsidies and penalties) to pay for them. Here’s the rub: While these four plans vary from low- to high-cost options, the benefits offered under them are pretty much the same… In effect, the plan creates a single national health-insurance policy…We’ll all get the same package of benefits established by a series of new agencies and an “insurance czar” seated in Washington. Once the exchanges are in place, the individual market–the ability to go directly to an insurer and buy a health-care policy–will disappear…There’s more, including how the only way to free yourself from the loving grasp of your government is to be among the super rich who can afford to pay cash for whatever you want. Though I’m sure that ‘loophole’ will be closed soon…The funny thing is, employer based health care insurance was the result of government interference in the market place during WWII. Roosevelt and his merry gang of regulators instituted wage controls and the only way companies could reward or compete for workers was through fringe benefit packages and things like health insurance. Now the circle has come round and we see there’s no government screw up that can’t be fixed by more government interference. After current health insurance policies are grandfathered out, we will all be subject to the same type of policies, no more, no less. Doesn’t that make you feel better Comrades? Finally, we will be free from the terrible tyranny of, er, freedom! Let’s be honest, 1776-2010 is a good run by any metric. Now we will see what Obama’s remade America looks like.

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“The website never crashed.”

Yes, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius actually said that yesterday morning, while testifying before Congress, under oath.
“The website never crashed.”
The parrot is just resting!
The Titanic never sank…it just stopped floating.
This isn’t the broken website you’re looking for.
Sebelius went on to say that the president did not break his promise about keeping your plan if you like it.
“The website never crashed.”
“If you like your plan you can keep your plan.”
“We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”


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October 31, 2013 · 4:19 pm

Video of the Day


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October 31, 2013 · 2:58 pm

Your Morning Cup of Links

When is the perfect time to drink coffee? Right now, all the time, always. (The timing is actually a little more condensed than that.)

38 pumpkins carved like famous people. Some of these look like they can’t be real, but if they are, freaking amazing job!

An interview between two of my favorite Middle East analysts, Michael J. Totten and Lee Smith (whose book The Strong Horse is an essential read if you want to even begin to understand the Middle East).

David Petraeus on how we won Iraq and how it is all being lost now.

Jonah Goldberg with a scathing NRO Corner piece on Democrats and the media going along with Obama’s lies.

For starters, Obama’s statements were not  ”narrowly untrue.”  They were broadly, knowingly and entirely untrue. He repeated them over and over again, often straight into the camera. It’s nice that Greg Sargent concedes now that the president “could have been clearer.” But “could have been clearer” implies that he was a little clear about how this would work and just didn’t clarify enough. The truth is the complete opposite. He wasn’t even deliberately unclear. He was clearly dishonest. Obama was stridently deceitful….Indeed, what is so infuriating to many of us is that is that now that it’s the law of the land, Obamacare supporters act as if all of the lies were no big deal and no serious person believed them anyway. But as anyone can tell you, if Obama had been honest about the trade-offs in his signature piece of legislation, it would never have become his signature piece of legislation. So please, don’t tell me the lies don’t matter.  Indeed, this might help unravel the mystery for Sargent. Republicans (or at least a great, great many of them) know that this law glided to passage with tracks greased with b.s. And not just about the ability to keep your plan and lowered premiums, but endless balderdash about extending life-expectancy, bending the cost curve, etc. When they pointed out that what the president was saying was flatly untrue, even impossible, they were called fools or racists. The liberal wonks who knew — or should have known — just how much b.s. was involved in the sales job, nevertheless kept their canons fixed on opponents of the law. And so did the “objective” journalists.

The Ace of Spades blog identifies the really important, subtle, takeaway from the NBC report about Obama knowing that people would lose their health insurance.

The story is not that “Obama knew” that policies would be terminated. That’s damning. But what is hugely damning and very important going forward is not that Obama knew, but that Obama made this happen, and could unmake it with a phone call, but chooses not to…Regulation-writers are executive employees, and as such, answer to the president and not Congress. This means Obama has the actual power — not the puffed up, falsely asserted unconstitutional power, but the genuine legal power — to call this agency and tell them, “We sold this bill as permitting people to keep their insurance; please re-write the regulations in a way that will honor this promise.” Remember, regulations are supposed to add details to the spirit of the law. They are not supposed to change the meaning of the law. Obama’s regulations — written at his behest, or at least with his connivance — change the meaning of the law to render the “grandfathered policy” provision a nullity…A regulation could easily be written that any escalation in premium equal to less than the rate of health care inflation + 1% will be considered the same policy and thus grandfathered. They are deliberately writing the regulations to disqualify the maximum number of policies, because they want to force the maximum number of people into the exchanges, which are, effectively, high-risk pools, and need a lot of healthy bodies to have any shot at solvency. And any policy that is cancelled can then have its rates forcibly jacked up by ObamaCare, in order to subsidize others…Obama has it within his power to call up the HHS reg-writers and instruct them to honor the promise he made time and again for two years. And he doesn’t want people to know this, because he is determined to break that promise. That promise was always a lie, and not a meaningless lie at the periphery, but a central lie propping up the political campaign for ObamaCare. Had he told Americans that they would be losing their current health care in order to be dumped into what is effectively a high-risk pool, so that they could subsidize high-risk clients, the public would have rejected the law even more strongly than he did. So he lied. And lied. And lied. And lied some more. And even at this late date, he could still choose to honor his promise. But he won’t, because he always intended to take people’s insurance away from them. Always. And he’s not going to undo, short of a veto-proof act of Congress.

Why are the Germans being so sensitive about American spying (considering that all countries do it to each other)? Well, partly because we picked kind of a bad location to do it from.

Location, location, location, the Americans were thinking when they moved into their new embassy in Berlin in 2008, right next to the Brandenburg Gate. If Germany has a symbol that encapsulates its history, it is this arch. Prussian kings once rode through its centre columns when entering the city from the Tiergarten, their hunting ground. Napoleon later paraded through it, as did the Nazis with their torches after seizing power in 1933, with glitterati looking on from the balcony of the Adlon hotel on the embassy’s eastern side. Looking in the opposite direction is the land, unmarked but for a tiny plaque, where Adolf Hitler’s bunker and chancellery once sprawled. Today it abuts the 2,711 undulating stelae of the Holocaust memorial. The Berlin Wall used to run through this space and alongside the western side of today’s embassy, past the Brandenburg Gate. Looking out of a window, the ambassador can see the spot where John F. Kennedy mounted a platform when he visited 50 years ago to look at the wall. Ronald Reagan stood there, too—26 years ago, when he told Mikhail Gorbachev to tear it down. Then Ossis and Wessis partied on top of it when it crumbled.

If I were going to partake in a heist, it would definitely be a bourbon heist.

A new species of those jerk marine mammals known as dolphins has been discovered off the Australian coast.

You can pry my sriracha from my cold, dead hands, Californians.

The Daily Caller does an excellent parody of John Lewis.

The 10 most powerful female characters in literature. A decent list, but missing some key ladies (Rosalind, Elizabeth Bennett…).

Do we understand Shakespeare as well as the Elizabethans and Jacobeans did? Is he easier to understand via the page or the stage? The Guardian mulls it over.

Does the Republican party need to lean libertarian to win national elections again? Nick Gillespie thinks yes.

The American Values Survey is based on responses gathered in late September and early October from a representative group of about 2,300 adults. The researchers used answers to questions about national security, economics, and “personal liberty” to create a “Libertarian Orientation Scale.” By such measures, 7 percent of Americans are “consistent libertarians” and another 15 percent “lean libertarian,” meaning they oppose increased government spending on things such as military operations and domestic surveillance, raising the minimum wage, and environmental regulations. Such fiscal conservatism is matched by social liberalism, with libertarians in favor of legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights, allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs, and keeping the Internet unregulated. Libertarians are much more likely than most Americans to be male, white, and under 50 years old. They are also far less likely than most Americans to be religious and to think that religion has a place in politics. This puts them at odds with “other key Republican base groups” such as the Tea Party movement and white evangelical Protestants. As befits people who put a high value on individualism, libertarians don’t fit easily into existing political categories even as they are far more likely to pay close attention to politics than the average American (56 percent of libertarians versus just 38 percent) and to always vote in primary elections…That means that the 22 percent of Americans who are consistent libertarians or lean libertarian are fully capable of throwing any election in their direction. That makes them the true wild cards of American politics. A majority of libertarians describe themselves as independent (35 percent), affiliated with a third party (15 percent), or as Democrats (5 percent), with the remaining 45 percent calling themselves Republicans…After a dozen-plus years of government mismanagement of the economy, foreign policy, and basic civil liberties under Republicans and Democrats, a record number of Americans rightly believe that the government has too much power. Libertarians are young, intense, principled, and highly engaged in politics. They are going to be around for a long time to come, and in ever-larger numbers. The only question left unanswered is who they will vote for.

Totally agree. I consider myself a libertarian and vote for whoever is promising smaller, less intrusive government (usually Republicans, even though they rarely deliver). I hate religion too much to be a conservative. Still waiting for a national candidate that even comes close to representing me. Maybe someday.

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Happy Hour Links

13 of the best literary quotes about beer. Two of my favorites:

“Beer’s intellectual. What a shame so many idiots drink it.” — Ray Bradbury

“The beer tastes good to my throat, cold and bitter, and the three boys and the beer and the queer freeness of the situation makes me feel like laughing forever. So I laugh, and my lipstick leaves a red stain like a bloody crescent moon on top of the beer can. I am looking very healthy and flushed and bright-eyed, having both a good tan and a rather excellent fever.” — Sylvia Plath

The world is running out of wine. RIOT!!!

New spas in Indonesia feature massage by pythons. The movement of the snakes and the adrenaline triggered by fear supposedly has a positive impact on the customer’s metabolism.

You too can own an office chair made out of an ejector seat.

The 13 biggest assholes in Greek mythology. That Hera, what a twat.

The UN plans to defend Earth from asteroids, which means we’re all completely fucked.

The Cleveland House where Langston Hughes became a writer can be yours for only $85,000. Good deal!

It is now illegal in Pennsylvania to touch women’s baby bumps.

Does bacon really make everything better? YES. MATH SAYS SO. 

What makes a sex shop halal? FP investigates

Abdelaziz Aouragh, the owner of a Dutch halal sex shop called El Asira, told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, “There have been a lot of fatwas [Islamic rulings] concerning … [sex toys] … so it’s very clear that they are not permissible. I would sell them if it was permissible but it’s not.” At Aouragh’s online boutique, there are even separate places for men and women to log in, in keeping with the Islamic tradition of purdah, or sex segregation. Halal sex shops also can’t display pornographic imagery, since such images exposea person’sawrah, the Arabic word for areas forbidden from the public eye. According to Hamza Yusuf, women are not allowed to see the region stretching from the navel to the knees on another woman, and men are permitted to see only a woman’s face and hands. Although Turkey is the only Muslim country where porn is technically legal, huge black markets dedicated to it run through Muslim countries with stringent anti-porn policies, with Pakistan leading the entire world in porn-related search in a recent Google analysis. Perhaps the most straightforward aspect of a halal sex shop is that they supply only halal-certified massage oils, lubricants, and other such items. Halal items using animal byproducts, for instance, cannot include pork and must come from animals killed according to Islamic rules. According to Hamza Yusuf, condoms made with pig fat, for instance, would be haram.

Women as Shakespeare’s men.

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Filed under Cute and/or Weird, Literature, Uncategorized

Afternoon Links

Check out these surreal portraits of classical beauties with fish heads by my new favorite artist Hannah Yata.


Sorry, but now I’m going to ruin your day. I was nice and gave you some nudity first. Now for the bad news. Adorable, innocent-looking sea otters are actually brutal sex offenders who hump baby seals until they die.  And they’re not the only marine criminals living secret fiendish lives…

Without a doubt, dolphins are jerks. Male bottlenose dolphins will sometimes team up to target a single female and harass her persistently, forcing her to mate with them despite her attempts to escape. And delphine sexual aggression isn’t limited to members of their own kind. Dolphins have tried to force themselves on human swimmers, a prospect made all the more terrifying by the fact that they have prehensile pensises. Dolphins kill other marine mammals and fish just for fun and commit infanticide. This only gets creepier given the recent suggestion that dolphins actually have names that they call one another. I can’t say I look forward to the day when scientists discover dolphin slurs. Seeing a dolphin at sea should be just as chilling as how many people feel when they see the sinuous silhouette of a shark. Shocking behavior isn’t the sole province of marine mammals. One naturalist was so thoroughly disgusted with the sexual behaviors of Adélie penguins that his observations were hidden from view for almost a century…While visiting Adélie penguins rookeries, Levick was shocked by the activities of what he called “hooligan cocks.” Males accosted and copulated with other males, females that were injured, chicks that had tumbled from their nests, and corpses. In desperation, some male Adélie penguins tried to mate with the ground until they ejaculated. Levick recorded these behaviors as aberrations from the norm of nature. “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he confided to his journal.

37 ways to proudly wear your love of books.

A former TB hospital is now a hot destination for ghost hunters. Because there’s no ghost you would want to meet more than a ghost who has consumption.

Cities are booming out Beethoven and other classical music to keep teenagers away because most teenagers are vile creatures who hate beautiful art.

In her fascinating book Music in American Crime Prevention and Punishment, Lily E. Hirsch notes that we have Canada to thank for the orchestral-assault technique. In 1985, 7-Eleven managers in British Columbia pioneered the aggressive use of classical music as a way to deter Canadian teenagers from loitering in their stores’ parking lots. The strategy worked—the teenagers chose to take their loitering elsewhere—and cities around the world began to follow suit. After transit officials began piping classical music through the London underground, robberies dropped by 33 percent. In 2001, cops in West Palm Beach, Fla., started blaring Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart at a notoriously crime-ridden intersection…Which composers are best-suited for crowd-control purposes? In a 2005 pieceLos Angeles Times writer Scott Timberg noted that “despite a few assertive, late-Romantic exceptions like Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff, the music used to scatter hoodlums is pre-Romantic, by Baroque or Classical-era composers such as Vivaldi or Mozart.” A symphony official quoted in Hirsch’s book maintains that Baroque composers like Bach are best, because their use of counterpoint and polyphony is challenging and inaccessible.

Going to have to pick up that book. Sounds fascinating.

Speaking of using music to deter people, blasting Britney Spears songs makes Somali pirates go away. 

Oh god. It’s spreading.

Oh, you mean the president is an unrepentant liar? I am shocked, SHOCKED.

For the children: therapy dogs dressed as Star Wars characters.

Good news. Hamas is in bad shape.

LOL. The story no one at HHS wants to read today.

George R.R. Martin is not impressed by Game of Thrones porn parody, Game of Bones. Too tame, he says.

Saudi women got behind the wheel last week to protest the kingdom’s ridiculous ban on female driving.


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Filed under Art, Literature, Music, TV/Movies, Uncategorized

Quote for the Day

“In free Governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors & sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them. And it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a State of servitude, and not allow them to become again one of the Masters.”

-Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention

Oh, how far we have fallen from what we were supposed to be.

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