Archives for: April 2015

Don’t Silence Mumia

Last year, the State of Pennsylvania passed the Revictimization Relief Act, a bill designed to allow crime victims to sue if criminals engage in speech that causes them mental anguish. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what the law is about is to look at why it was passed: Mumia Abu-Jamal had given the commencement address at Goddard College. He gave this via videotape because Abu-Jamal is in prison for the murder of Daniel Faulkner. And Faulkner’s family is getting a little tired of seeing his murderer bruited about as some great public intellectual.

Let’s get one thing straight: I think Mumia is guilty as hell. Faulkner was shot by a gun consistent with Mumia’s revolver, which had fired five shots and was found next to him. Mumia was himself shot by Faulkner. Four witnesses placed him at the scene. To believe Mumia is innocent, you have to believe … actually, I’m not sure what you have to believe because the theories of his innocence make no sense and Mumia has not given a consistent account of what happened. Maybe a one-armed man ran in, grabbed Mumia’s gun, shot the cop and left.

The protestations of his innocence revolve around him being an intellectual and a supposedly peaceful man. That’s as maybe but anyone is capable of murder. We don’t convict people of murder because they’re the kind of people who would probably kill someone and we don’t acquit because it’s, like, totally not like them to gun down a cop. I tend to focus my attention on the evidence, which was and is damning.

I also have little time for Mumia’s supporters. It’s not just that they lavish praise and support on him (and, in some cases abuse on Faulkner’s widow and accusations of corruption against Faulkner). It’s that they do so while ignoring the hundreds of innocent people who have languished in prison and on death row for decades but aren’t celebrities.

That all having been said, the Pennsylvania law crosses me as blatantly unconstitutional. And it was struck down by a federal court this week. Volokh and Randazza have a breakdown of the decision. Bottom line:

First Amendment protection extends to convicted felons. The Act is in violation of the First Amendment as it is content based, overbroad, and vague in its coverage of “offenders” and speech “conduct.” Victims have other forms of redress and can use their own free speech to combat that of inmates.

Call Mumia a murderer. I’ll do that right now: he’s a murderer. Call the school that invited him to do their commencement idiots. I’ll do that, too: they’re idiots. But restraint of his speech and those who want to promote his speech is wrong and unconstitutional. As we like to say, it’s the speech you hate that needs the most protection.

Baltimore Erupts

The city of Baltimore is in a state of emergency right now. Riots have erupted over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Gray, who was arrested for possessing a switchblade, was put into a police van. When he emerged, his neck was shattered and he would later die of severe spinal injury. And this isn’t the first time someone has been seriously injured by a Baltimore PD van ride:

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.

For some, such injuries have been inflicted by what is known as a “rough ride” — an “unsanctioned technique” in which police vans are driven to cause “injury or pain” to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees, former city police officer Charles J. Key testified as an expert five years ago in a lawsuit over Johnson’s subsequent death.

Christine Abbott, a 27-year-old assistant librarian at the Johns Hopkins University, is suing city officers in federal court, alleging that she got such a ride in 2012. According to the suit, officers cuffed Abbott’s hands behind her back, threw her into a police van, left her unbuckled and “maniacally drove” her to the Northern District police station, “tossing [her] around the interior of the police van.”

“They were braking really short so that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really wide, fast turns,” Abbott said in an interview that mirrored allegations in her lawsuit. “I couldn’t brace myself. I was terrified.”

In fact, the city of Baltimore has paid out $6.3 million in settlements for police brutality just since 2011. Report indicate rampant and widespread abuse. When you add in the city’s problems with crime and lawlessness, it has been a powderkeg for a long time. There is some evidence that complaints are down under the new Mayor. But I suspect this situation will not resolve any time soon, especially if the officers involved are not indicted or are acquitted.

The protests since’s Gray’s death have been peaceful. But starting over the weekend, hooligans have been taking advantage of the situation to engage in looting and violence, which has exploded into today’s chaos. The police are also claiming they have “credible threat” that gangs intend to retaliate against the police. Let’s hope some order can be brought to the situation.

Clinton Cash

In about a week, a book called Clinton Cash is going to drop on bookstores. Already a top-seller, it details a lot of the corruption we’ve been hearing about. Glenn Reynolds:

It was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. So bad, in fact, that The Washington Post declared she had “the worst week in Washington.” From The New York Times, there were reports of shady uranium deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan. From The Post, it was reporting on how the Clintons’ foundation seems more like a personal piggy bank. And from Politico, it was a report that “Clinton struggles to contain media barrage on foreign cash.” (If you haven’t kept up, here’s a bullet-point summary of the key bits). And the book that led to all these stories isn’t even out yet.

The responses from Clintonworld have been unconvincing — my favorite was when their supporters denied that a meeting between Bill Clinton and shadowy Kazakh nuclear officials had taken place, only to have a The Times reporter produce photo evidence. But, hey, the Clintons have survived even more concrete evidence of scandal — remember Monica Lewinsky’s semen-stained dress? — so why should this time be any different?

Well, one big difference is that three major news organizations — The Times, The Post and Fox News — are all working on the story. If it were just Fox, the Clintons might be able to spin it as a product of, in Hillary’s famous phrase, the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” But that’s unlikely to fly this time. Even the liberal group Common Cause has called for an audit of the Clinton Foundation’s finances.

Even so, don’t count the Clintons out yet. Even if these scandals ultimately kill Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential candidacy, she’ll be inclined to keep it staggering along as long as possible. So long as it looks as if she might be president, the money will keep coming in, and many people will be afraid to challenge her. As soon as her candidacy falls off the table, so will the money, and the influence.

Reynolds goes through the winners and losers from Clinton’s “bad week”, but I would agree with Nick Gillespie that the real losers are the American people who have yet another reason to doubt their government.

I have obviously not read Schweizer’s book but we don’t need it to know that the Clintons have been wallowing in largesse for years. The Foundation is frantically refiling its taxes and admitting that most of its money gets spent … on itself:

According to the Post, it took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid.

Much of the Foundation’s money goes to travel ($8.5 million in 2013); conferences, conventions and meetings ($9.2 million); and payroll and employee benefits ($30 million). Ten executives received salaries of more than $100,000 in 2013. Eric Braverman, a friend of Chelsea Clinton, was paid nearly $275,000 in salary, benefits, and a housing allowance for just five months’ work as CEO that year.

Bill Allison is a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group once run by prominent leftist Zephyr Teachout. In Allison’s view, “it seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons.”

It’s important to note that the Clinton Foundation’s status as a problematic charity is distinct from the “Clinton cash” issue that Peter Schweizer and others have highlighted. “Clinton cash” focuses on the fundraising methods used by the Clintons. Specifically, there are substantial allegations that they raise money in part because nations and wealthy individuals hope to influence U.S. policy through their donations, and very possibly have succeeded in doing so.

The problem flagged by Charity Navigator and other watchdogs focuses on what the Clinton Foundation does with the money it raises (whether ethically or not). The Foundation’s profligacy and failure to spend a significant percentage of its funds on its alleged mission would be of concern even if there were no ethical problems associated with the Clintons’ fundraising.

I have a sinking feeling that none of this is going to matter in the end. As I said in a previous post, we’ve known who the Clinton are for over two decades and people still love them. But it’s going to be fun watching the cockroaches scatter as the sunlight is finally turned on the Clintons. And how knows? Maybe the Democrats will wake up and realize they’re about to nominate a corrupt surveillance-state supporter, drug warrior and Wall Street darling.

And if that happens … oh my goodness will this election suddenly become unpredictable and fun.

Science Sunday: Twin Spin

Two stories I want to highlight this week.

The first is some exciting news in cancer research. It’s been over four decades since President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” and while we have many treatments for it, of varying effectiveness, a “cure” is elusive. The biggest reason is that we’ve discovered that cancer is an incredibly complex panoply of conditions, some of which respond to certain therapies, some of which don’t. Last week, we heard about a therapy that’s having stunning results:

The 49-year-old woman had had three melanoma growths removed from her skin, but now the disease was spreading further. A several-centimeter-sized growth under her left breast went deep into her chest wall. Some of the tissue in the tumor was dying because of lack of blood flow.

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center offered her an experimental combination of two drugs: Opdivo and Yervoy, both manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, both among a vanguard of new medicines that boost the immune system to attack tumors. Three weeks later she came back for her second dose.

“She didn’t say anything and when I examined her, I said, ‘Wait a minute!’” says Paul Chapman, the doctor who was treating her. “She said, ‘Yeah, it kind of just dissolved.’”

Where the tumor was before was, literally, a hole – a wound doctors hope will heal with time. Chapman took some fluid from it, and found there were no melanoma cells there. “I’ve been in immunotherapy for a long time, and we’ve talked and fantasized about reactions like this, but I’ve never seen anything this quickly,” he says. He skipped her next dose, and gave her two more before she stopped treatment because of the diarrhea the drug combination was causing. She has no detectable melanoma – amazing for a disease that has long been considered close to untreatable.

The drug is proving very effective, wiping about about 20% of the cancers its encounters. The results from an investigation into lung cancer were so effective that Bristol-Myers Squibb ended the trial early because it was unethical to withhold the drug from placebo patients.

This isn’t a “cure” but it is very promising. There are concerns, because the drug is very expensive ($250,000 per year of treatment). As McArdle points out, the new emphasis on cost effectiveness may limit access to the drug. But even if it only goes to the super rich for now, it’s blazing a path that other less expensive drugs might follow.

And people wonder where the money for prescription drugs goes.

In other news, this week marked the 25th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope, which they celebrate with this spectacular image of Westerlund 2 (Click to see the full image):

15-066

I’ve written about Hubble before (here, here, here and here). It has challenged everything we thought we knew about the universe and thrown down the gauntlet for future missions. Happy Birthday.

Guns on Campus

I’m neutral on the question of whether guns should be on college campuses. I’m not comfortable with the combination of young people, alcohol and firearms although I’m open to debate about it. But I see no reason why concealed carry holders, who must meet certain requirement to get their permits, should not be permitted to carry on campus. There is an abundance of research showing that concealed carry holders are far less likely to be involved in crime than the general population. Allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons onto campus has very little risk and would extend the protective effect (i.e, criminals don’t know if someone is packing or not) to the students.

Guess what? Colorado is showing that this approach works just fine:

For most of Colorado’s history, firearms were legal on public university campuses. That began to change in 1970, due to concerns about campus violence by terrorist organizations such as the Weather Underground.

I’ll pause for a moment. This is one of the dirty little secrets of the gun control movement: it got its big impetus as a response to left wing violence, especially organizations like the Black Panthers.

In 2003, Colorado passed the Concealed Carry Act:

As the brief explained, Colorado’s law, like the law of almost every other state, provides an objective process for issuing permits to responsible adults. In Colorado, an applicant must be at least 21 years old, pass a fingerprint-based background check, and a safety-training class taught by a nationally-certified instructor. Even if a person meets all these conditions, the statute instructs the Sheriff to deny the application “if the sheriff has a reasonable belief that documented previous behavior by the applicant makes it likely the applicant will present a danger to self or others.”

As a result, in Colorado, as in other states, persons with carry permits, tend to be highly law-abiding. For example, in the five-year period between 2009-13, there were 154,434 concealed handgun carry permits issued in Colorado. During this same period, 1,390 permits were revoked. 931 of these permits were revoked following an arrest. Contrast this with the arrests of over 200,000 Colorado adults in 2013 alone.

Those stats are similar to those I’ve seen for other states.

Colorado State has allowed guns on campus for 12 years. There has never been a problem. The University of Colorado just lost a lawsuit and will have to permit them as well. The legislature tried to change this but one thing that stopped them was the testimony of a woman who was raped on the Nevada Reno campus. She had a permit to carry in Nevada but was forbidden from carrying her weapon on campus. Her testimony is a rebuttal to all the pseudofeminists who oppose women arming themselves:

The crime took place just a few feet from an emergency call box. “How does rendering me defenseless protect you against a violent crime?” she asked the Colorado Senators. State Senator Evie Hudak told Collins that if Collins had been carrying a gun, statistics showed that the gun would have been taken from her. Actually, statistics show that fewer than one percent of defensive gun use results in the defender’s gun being taken.

“Respectfully senator, you weren’t there,” Collins responded. “Had I been carrying concealed, he wouldn’t have known I had my weapon; and I was there. I know without a doubt in my mind at some point I would’ve been able to stop my attack by using my firearm. He already had a weapon of his own; he didn’t need mine.”

Because the rapist was not stopped that night, he later raped two more women and murdered one.

You know who else supports allowing concealed carry on campus? The Colorado Sheriffs, who note that they can not be everywhere at once and that concealed carry is a vital part of public safety.

Guns are not a panacea, obviously. And mass shootings are so rare that I think any specific policy response to them is misguided. I’m dubious that concealed carry will massively cut crime rates on campuses (which are already lower than the general population). But I see no reason why conceal carry holders should be forbidden from bringing guns on campus, no matter how “offensive” they might be the “University values”, as the UC Board of Regents so charmingly put it. And they just might confer a solid benefit.

(PS – I recommend reading that entire link, which is quite good.)

Uber and Guns

Remember, kids: according to Mother Jones, this was not a mass shooting prevented by someone with a gun:

Authorities say no charges will be filed against an Uber driver who shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people in Logan Square over the weekend.

The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others, Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn said in court Sunday.

A group of people had been walking in front of the driver around 11:50 p.m. Friday in the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when Everardo Custodio, 22, began firing into the crowd, Quinn said.

The driver pulled out a handgun and fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times, according to court records. Responding officers found Custodio lying on the ground, bleeding, Quinn said. No other injuries were reported.

Why would this not qualify as a mass shooting stopped by someone with a gun? Because no one was killed and Mother Jones requires at least four deaths to qualify an event as a mass shooting. As I noted before, their criteria are very narrowly tailored almost to deliberately exclude events like this. Maybe if the cab driver had let this guy kill four people before stopping him, Mother Jones would be more impressed.

The Terrorists Are Winning

The GWT is not just fought on the battlefield, it is a fight of ideas, human rights, the freedom to look at scantily clad women and to permit them to dress any trashy old way they want. That fight just took a turn for the worse;

Racy lingerie retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood is seeking bankruptcy protection in federal court after closing all of its stores and switching to an online-only business, which it intends to sell to the highest bidder.

Fredericks (yeah, gratuitous link, you got a problem with that?) has been bleeding red ink for years.

Another American icon bites the dust, hope you Imams are happy.

Fredericks was big in Los Angeles, populating all the malls. Another lingerie staple was Trashy Lingerie on La Cienga, a must stop for any tourist who wanted the whole LA experience.

The Man Show did a great bit with Trashy Lingerie, dated, but still pretty good;


Shopping With the Juggies by 6in1

Science Sunday: Super Civilizations

So I’ll kick off what I hope will be a regular feature here: science sunday, where I’ll blog about a recent scientific result I think is interesting. This week, I’ll blog on something a bit close to me.

(It’s a bit late this week since I’ve been chopping down trees, spreading mulch and dealing with a sick kid. But it’s still Sunday somewhere.)

One of the biggest questions in science — indeed in human history — is whether we are alone in the universe. I am convinced that we will soon find evidence of very simple life within our solar system — archaea or some other simple organism in martian fossils or in the seas of Europa, Ganymede or Titan. We have now detected thousands of planets beyond our solar system, including a number in the “goldilocks zone” where liquid water can exist. But detecting intelligent life is way beyond our current capabilities.

Maybe.

It might actually be possible to detect a sufficiently advanced civilization. SETI has looked in the radio for a long time with no results. But radio communication may be a short-lived phase for alien civilizations. What may be more plausible is looking for heat signatures:

One of the largest-ever searches for distant alien empires has scoured 100,000 galaxies for signs of suspicious infrared activity and found… nothing.

The study by Penn State used data from Nasa’s Wise (“Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer”) orbiting observatory to scour far-off galaxies for radiation which, astronomers theorise, would likely be produced if a civilisation were powerful enough to colonise thousands of stars.

The theory that aliens might be visible on a galactic scale is based on the ideas of physicist Freeman Dyson, who suggested in the 1960s that galactic civilisations would almost by definition use most of the starlight in their galaxy for their own ends. This should be detectable using mid-infrared telescopes. That wasn’t possible when Dyson’s theory emerged, but Nasa’s Wise telescope does have the ability to make close measurements for thousands of galaxies, and so allow scientists to study the data for telltale signs of life.

No, they didn’t find it. But scientists have found 50 galaxies with unusual radiation signatures, indicating something strange is happening inside many distant collections of stars — even if it’s nothing to do with aliens at all.

There have been a few other studies looking for the radiation signatures of nearby Dyson Spheres but there haven’t been any hints of anything yet.

An alien species would have had to have been around for millions of years for us to see the effects of their capturing vast amounts of starlight. So this is the extreme end of the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence. But with millions of galaxies out there, there’s at least a chance we could find one. It’s a million to one shot but if it ever paid off it would be an incredible discovery. And even it doesn’t, we’ll still learn a lot about galaxies.

Ill-bred Bitches Gotta Eat Too

A lot of moral outrage this week over a recorded rant by a full of herself not so famous sports reporter over her car being towed;

The usual calls for her head have punctuated the airwaves and talk shows. And the usual perfunctory apology followed after being suspended for a week. First, I will address the rant, I thought it was brilliant. This woman has obviously dressed down an “inferior” before, look at how good she is at it. In a short one minute video she manages to cover all the bullet points (education, lack of skill sets, greed, intelligence, appearance, and a parting shot of fat shaming), and right off the cuff, impressive.

Like a pole dancer at the local strip club who describes her avocation as in the “entertainment industry” this woman thinks she is a real news reporter. And she thinks she is important because she is on TV. Go paint yourself in sheep’s blood and run naked down Penn. Ave at rush hour, you will get on TV.

Now, what to do with her? Don’t do anything, who cares that she is a bitch or was bitchy to some predatory tow company. Do people have to be nice to be good at their job (assuming she is good at her job since I never heard of her before)? There are rude low rent people out there, alert the media. I guess ESPN had to suspend her for a short period of time, but does she really need to get fired over this?

Fell sorry for her parents, but give the girl a break. She has a job and is paying taxes, let boorish vulgar sleeping dogs lie.

A Slave To His Ideology

Often times Hollywood is more entertaining (and often for the wrong reasons) than intended. Not only for their goofy ideas (spoon fed to them by their dem enablers) and faux sanctimony, but the sense of entitlement, of privilege, that we should not hate them because they are pretty, they really care.

One of the biggest libs in lib land is Ben Affleck, you know, the guy that called Bill Maher a racist because he (Maher) blanches at the idea that radical Muslims want him dead. Affleck is a big star and is not about to let a little unsavory family history sully his image;

As a guest on PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots, Ben Affleck discovered one of his ancestors owned slaves and asked producers to suppress that fact, hacked Sony emails uploaded by WikiLeaks this week show.

The censorship—an apparent violation of PBS rules—is revealed in a July 2014 email thread between Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and Finding Your Roots host Henry Louis Gates Jr. In it, the two discuss the unusual request of an unnamed “megastar” later referred to as “Batman.”

“[C]onfidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors—the fact that he owned slaves,” Gates writes to Lynton. “We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?”

In his reply, Lynton recommends removing the material as long as “no one [else] knows,” before writing “all things being equal I would definitely take it out.”

You remember Gates, another one of those elitist snobs who thinks it is racist for a cop to ask him a few questions. I guess Van Jones or Charles Ogletree were busy.

The beauty of this little incident is that it single handedly touches all the bases in this grand slam of liberal hypocrisy, to wit;

Image over reality- its not what is, its what is presented

White guilt run amok- when you are liberal and white, you personally feel responsible for every perceived injustice that happened from the dawn of time until now, perpetrated by a white man. And as a liberal white man, his credentials must constantly be renewed. It matters not that hundreds of thousands of folks in the south owned slaves, it matters not that even blacks owned slaves, it matters not that when stacked up against the history of slavery with other nations and empires, we were relative pikers in the practice, and it matters not that even within Africa tribes owned other tribes, dealing in slavery way before the white man ever dreamed of the idea, all that matters is the liberal white man is he will be forever tainted by his whiteness, he can never be forgiven the deeds of others of his skin pigment.

The Clinton Doctrine- there really is different rules for different classes, rules for normal folk, and rules for nobility (less rules, of course). The hoity-toity (of which Affleck resides) get treated differently, they are owed this special treatment by right of celebrity. Something that has never been done before (like allowing a guest to dictate what facts will be allowed and what will be omitted), becomes ,”Well, he is a big shot, lets make an exception”.

Black Indignation is a one way street. The cop that hassled Gates must be a racist because he was a cop, but Affleck, even though he was spawned from a slave holder, he gets taught the secret handshake and is allowed into the club because he is a lib just like us. Racism (and the outrage spawned from perceived racism) is always conditional on who (or what class) is the victim. Blacks can not be racists by virtue of their skin color, liberals can not be racists as long as they understand that the cost of them being white can never ever be fully repaid, that charge card will always be maxed out.

Moral equivalence- actions will always be viewed through the prism of race, and as such, morality is ancillary;

Eventually, Gates acknowledges that fulfilling the request “would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman” and “would embarrass him and compromise our integrity,” concluding, “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”

And yet, even these considerations were suborned in the name of racial justice. Censorship is allowed if it perpetuates the cause. Integrity, rules, both guidelines to be navigated (or ignored) dependent upon the message being delivered. It is the motive that counts, everything else is malleable.

Naturally all this drama happens on PBS.

Who knows, that ancient ancestor might have been George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, even Andy Jackson, no matter, disregard everything admirable this man had done through his lifetime, being a slave owner is all that is important.