Category: Etcetera

Add some flavor to your holidays

Hey all. So, I haven’t asked for money for the server in forever, but I could definitely use a little financial help these days. Not with a donation or anything. I’m perfectly willing to sell you something in exchange for your money. :)

My new business venture is Doctor Stark’s Elixirs. I make small batch, and as much as the word gets mocked, it applies, “artisanal” cocktail syrups in flavors that you won’t find elsewhere. You can check them out at my site: Doctorstark.com or the Etsy shop or at Square Market.

No bullshit, I’m like some sort of savant with this stuff. These things are incredible, and if you like to mix cocktails, you need them. If you want to serve the best frigging holiday cocktail ever, you definitely need the Apple Cider Pie. If you like sweet & spicy and you dig mezcal, you need Diablo. Hot Ginger is good with literally every kind of primary spirit I’ve tried. Marrakesh is amazing with gin, and also on waffles or ice cream.

Every bottle has a signature recipe on the side, and I make tons of variations. Hit me up if you need ideas. And buy a bottle or 5. They would also make pretty unique gifts for the holidays!

APPLE PIE PRODUCT SHOT Nov2015 2000 DIABLO-new-product-shot-August-2015-001 HOTGING new product shot aug 2015 2000 MARRA new product shot aug 2015 square 2000

Thursday Roundup

A few stories that have been cluttering my tabs:

One subject that came up at the debate was the support Bernie Sanders (and, in fact, most Democrats) gave to a bill that immunized gun manufacturers from lawsuits. You can check out Walter Olson and David Freddoso on why this law was absolute necessary and correct. The law does not protect them from being sued if they produce defective products or break the law. What it protects them from is the “legislation through litigation” tactics Democrats were using to bypass the political process. The idea was that, unable to get what they wanted through the legislature, they would sue and sue and sue and sue the gun makers until the gun makers capitulated to Democratic demands.

There are a lot of Democrats who think that politicians with unlimited resources suing businesses into compliance with their demands is legitimate. A friend described this as “business and government working together for the common good”. I ask them to imagine how they’d react if Republican Governor’s started suing abortion clinics.



Two investigators have determined that the shooting of Tamir Rice was justified. Leon Neyfakh walks through the logic that is being in these analyses, which basically ignore any of the circumstances and require juries to engage in what Ta-Nehisi calls “an act of telepathy” to judge the officer’s thoughts in that moment. Basically, you’re supposed to ignore the decision to roll up right next to him in a car and jump out waving a gun. You’re supposed to ignore that they left him bleeding to death for many minutes. All you’re supposed to consider is what they thought in the precise moment they pulled the trigger. Under that logic, it’s hard to think of a situation where a shooting wouldn’t be justified.

Keep in mind, ordinary citizens are not usually given this benefit of a doubt. If you wake up to find someone smashing down your door and fire a gun, you can be be prosecuted for attempted murder.

Also keep in mind that these were both prosecution-picked experts who have a history of deferring to law enforcement on these matters. Kimberly Crawford is a name that should ring some bells. She was the investigator who concluded that the sniper shot that killed Vicki Weaver — an unarmed woman standing in the door of her own home carrying a 10-month old baby — was justified. That conclusion was so egregious even if the FBI rejected it. You don’t ask someone like Crawford their opinion unless you already have the answer in mind.



The worst answer Hillary Clinton gave the other night was about her enemies. Among those she listed were the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. But these are actually her biggest backers.

This is why I like Sanders better than Clinton. At least he’s an honest socialist. Clinton is a lying crony capitalist.



There is a quiet budget battle going on. As far as I can tell, the fight is between Republicans who want to increase spending and Democrats who want to increase spending.

For all the grief the sequester gets, it has cut our deficit to the lowest level, as a percent of GDP, since Clinton was in office. And I have yet to see the country descend into chaos and anarchy. I see no reason to end the sequester now.

The Nerds are Coming!

GASP

A post from Xetrov?  Don’t get too excited.  It’s a short one.  Travel at my new job has reached insane levels.  I just wanted to share something.

Here’s an article I found interesting on how technology and the era of “Big Data” is changing Presidential Elections.  Particularly, how technology and tech insiders helped elect Obama, and how Clinton backers from Google are implementing plans to put her in the White House.  As the article says:

At a time when private-sector money is flowing largely unchecked into US politics, Schmidt’s funding of the Groundwork suggests that 2016’s most valuable resource may not be donors capable of making eight-figure donations to Super PACs, but rather supporters who know how to convince talented engineers to forsake (at least for awhile) the riches of Silicon Valley for the rough-and-tumble pressure cooker of a presidential campaign.

Fascinating, if not slightly worrying stuff.

Walker Out

With his poll numbers dipping near 1%, Scott Walker has apparently ended his Presidential campaign. This is kind of surprising. Walker was an early favorite (as attested by the numerous idiotic MSM hit pieces on him) and was the front-runner as recently as April. There are numerous post-mortems out there, many asking if he peaked “too soon”. I think it’s pretty straight-forward. He had a poorly run campaign, flip-flopped on the issues (especially immigration) and pandered too obviously. He was one of several candidates who suffered from trying to outcrazy Trump.

Walker won’t be the last to drop out. Graham, Santorum and Jindal can’t keep up this pretense for much longer. Christie, Kasich, Paul, Cruz and Huckabee are lingering, but I doubt their appeal will grow so I expect at least two of those guys to drop out by the end of the year.

Right now, Trump is still in the lead, although his support has tailed off a bit. Carson is also starting to tail off while Fiorina is rising rapidly. But I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: the nominee will probably be Bush or Rubio. As we get closer to the election, experience will begin to matter more and more to the voters. And they are the most experience and the most Presidential among the second-tier candidates.

Game of Thrones Season Five

Season Five just finished. Overall, it was good. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Season Four, but that was to be expected. Overall, it wandered a lot and didn’t really get very far. I’m told that this is also true of the books (although we are now well past the books). Hopefully, Season 6 will start pushing us toward a conclusion.

It just ended as I write this so if you haven’t watched it yet, spoilers ahoy!:

Read more… »

Baltimore Into the Abyss

Wow:

May was the most lethal month in [Baltimore] in more than 40 years; in per capita terms, it may have been the bloodiest month since recordkeeping began.

There were 43 victims of homicide in the city last month, the most since August 1972, when Baltimore ’s population, now 600,000, was about 900,000. In addition, there were 108 nonfatal shootings in May, nearly triple the number recorded the same month last year. Over the three-day Memorial Day weekend alone, the city recorded 32 shootings and nine homicides.

As Baltimore’s streets succumb to the wave of carnage, the police have simply withdrawn, by many accounts. Harassed, hooted at and openly hated in the wake of the arrest of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody triggered the rioting in April, uniformed officers seem to have decided not to do their jobs.

Arrests, already down from 2014 levels before the rioting, have plummeted by more than 50 percent since then. Community leaders in Sandtown — the area where Mr. Gray was arrested — say there is a deliberate effort on the police department’s part to vacate the streets and see how the community likes it.

On Fox News, one officer, his face and voice obscured, explained the cops’ “reasoning.” “After the protests, it seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. He went on to blame the city’s leadership for not having officers’ backs and prosecutors for indicting the six police officers in whose custody Mr. Gray was fatally injured.

This is not unprecedented. Cops in New York engaged in a slowdown after the Eric Garner non-indictment and some subsequent comments by the Mayor.

First thing first: the blame for this surge of violence obviously belongs with the communities. When two cops were assassinated in December, I wrote the following:

I am not an anarchist. We can see around the world how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is destroyed. Law and order are a huge improvement over the lack thereof, no matter how poorly they are enforced. It’s one thing to criticize police and demand reform and changes. It’s one thing to defend yourself if, for example, cops smash down your door in the middle of the night and you have no idea what’s going on. People can and should oppose aggressive policing and the intrusion of government into their lives. But the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two policemen is an attack on civilization, on the idea of law and order.

The primary problem we have with policing in the United States is not a bunch of evil cops running around. It is a political leadership that has given them a million laws to enforce, authorized an aggressive war on voluntary behavior, shoved assault weapons and tanks into their hands and chipped away at accountability. The system is failing the police as thoroughly as it is failing the rest of us.

I was mocked a bit for my line on attacking civilization, but look at what’s going on in Baltimore right now. Most people are good. Most people — even in the worst part of Baltimore — won’t run around killing and stealing. But you only need a small fraction to be bad for the system to collapse. And now that it has … I’m not sure the genie can be put back in the bottle. This may be the final nail in Baltimore’s coffin.

All that having been said, the idea that the police slowdown was justified by the actions of Baltimore’s Mayor and the prosecution of the six cops is ridiculous. It’s another sign of a police leadership and union leadership that are increasingly isolated from reality. The cops and their union reps have come to expect unwavering and absolute loyalty from political leadership and get extremely agitated when they don’t get it (the link includes an interview with FOP head Jim Pasco. Among other things, he says that people who videotape cops should get 15 years in prison).

After the Freddie Gray incident, the Baltimore cops have been saying that the prosecution is making them “hesitant” and shows that they are being “thrown under the bus” by the mayor and the prosecutor. Balko:

So because a prosecutor has charged the six cops who illegally arrested a man and gave him a “rough ride” in the back of a police van that resulted in his death, all Baltimore cops are now afraid to use force. How does this follow? It would be logical if they were now hesitant to give rough rides — and that of a course would be a good thing. But what happen to Gray shouldn’t impact conscientious Baltimore cops in the slightest. There’s no connection between employing extra-judicial punishment by roughing a suspect up after he’s been arrested and cuffed, and using force to stop a violent person from harming innocent people. To argue that accountability in the former will lead to hesitation in the latter is to argue that we can’t have any accountability for any killing by a police officer, because it may cause other officers to hesitate before shooting people.

We rely on police to keep us from the abyss. But it does not follow that they are unaccountable or that if they truss up a man, throw him in the back of the van and rough ride him around the city until his neck shatters, we should ignore that. To pull back from a city that so desperately needs law and order because of the Freddie Gray indictment or a few nasty words from a mayor is ridiculous. And it illustrates just how badly policing has gone wrong.

Not that there isn’t enough blame to throw the mayor’s way. A competent mayor would be able to condemn the cops who killed Freddie Gray, go forward with the prosecution and still keep the cops on the streets. Balancing the anger of the citizens, the need for reform and temper of the union is the mayor’s job. It’s tough but it’s what they’re elected to do. Even de Blasio’s comments only resulted in cops slowing down “broken windows” arrests. And while murders are up a bit in New York in 2015 (123 through May 28, compared to 107 last year), overall crime is actually down slightly. There has not been nearly the surge in violence we’ve seen in Baltimore. Think about that: Rawlings-Blake is making Bill Fricking de Blasio look competent.

FIFA Under Fire

About damned time:

Hours after Swiss authorities arrived unannounced at a Zurich hotel and arrested top FIFA officials early Wednesday morning, the Justice Department and prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York forcefully declared that their investigation had only just begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption.

“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who supervised the investigation from its earliest stages, when she was the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

Soccer officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth, United States officials said. Whether through convoluted financial deals or old-fashioned briefcases full of cash, people were expected to pay for access to FIFA’s river of money and publicity. The federal indictment lists 47 counts, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.

FIFA is one of the most corrupt organizations in the world. It’s not just the bribery, which has amounted to tens of millions of dollars. It’s the way they persuaded Brazil to burn billions of dollars building stadiums that are now useless (FIFA made an estimated $4 billion off the 2014 World Cup. Brazil invested over $15 billion in hosting it). It’s the way they look the other way as Qatar builds a World Cup on bribery, slavery and thousands of dead workers. If you missed it, here is John Oliver on the subject:

I’m going to make a confession: I really like international soccer. Last year’s World Cup was thrilling for the United States and I’m looking forward to 2018. But the organization that controls this sport is horrifying. They make American sports leagues — who extract billions in free stadiums from bankrupt cities based on economic nonsense — look like angels.

This is just beginning. This organization is thoroughly corrupt. I’m glad to see some justice may finally be done to them.

Double Standard

Following along the same vein as my previous post about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom law, and Hal’s followup, I found this interesting.

Jack, of Castle Rock, Colo., is making national headlines over an experiment he conducted in the wake of attacks on Christian business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages.

Last year, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple who wanted a wedding cake. Jack Phillips, the owner of the cake shop, is a devout Christian, and his attorneys argued that to force him to participate in the gay wedding would violate his religious beliefs.  The Civil Rights Commission saw it differently.

So if Christian bakers who oppose gay marriage are compelled under law to violate their beliefs – what about bakers who support gay marriage? Would they be compelled to make an anti-gay marriage cake?

 Jack, who is a devout Christian, asked three bakeries to produce two cakes – each shaped like an open Bible. On one side of one cake he requested the words, “God hates sin – Psalm 45:7.” On the other side he wanted the words, “Homosexuality is a detestable sin – Leviticus 18:22.”

On the second cake he asked them to write another Bible verse: “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us – Romans 5:8” along with the words “God loves sinners.”  And finally, Jack wanted the bakers to create an image – two grooms holding hands, with a red “X” over them – the universal symbol for “not allowed.”

Now if you read the national news accounts of Jack’s experiment – you would’ve read that he wanted gay slurs written on the cakes. But that wasn’t true.

According to the commission’s own report, there’s no mention of Jack using any gay slurs – unless you consider Bible verses to be gay slurs.

Mark Silverstein, the legal director for Colorado’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, accused Jack of wanting obscenities written on the cakes.  “There’s no law that says that a cake-maker has to write obscenities in the cake just because the customer wants it,” he told the Associated Press.

Does the ACLU consider the Bible to be obscene?

As you probably guessed, the bakeries rejected Jack’s request for what some would call “anti-gay” cakes.  “If he wants to hate people, he can hate them not here in my bakery,” Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva told 7NEWS. She called the writing and imagery “hateful and offensive.”

So Jack filed a discrimination complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission – just as the gay couple did in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.  Using the commission’s logic – if a Christian baker is forced to violate his beliefs, shouldn’t all bakers be forced to violate theirs, too?

Absolutely not, says the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  It ruled that Azucar did not discriminate against Jack based on his creed. It argued that the bakery refused to make the cakes because of the “derogatory language and imagery,” The Denver Channel reported.

Seems like a pretty clear double-standard to me.  One cake maker was forced by the government to defy their beliefs.  The other cake baker was not forced by the government to defy their beliefs.  Because one was for religious reasons, and the other wasn’t, that makes it OK somehow?  The freedom of religion is guaranteed in the US Constitution.  Shouldn’t that make it even more sacrosanct in this regard?

 

Religious Freedom in Indiana

Perhaps you’ve heard about all of the hullabaloo going on in Indiana over a new law that the Governor there signed this past week.  Now Celebrities and National Politicians are getting involved.  Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer’s Twitter Page has been quite active in retweeting condemnations of the new law.  Presumptive Democratic Front Runner Hillary Clinton had this to say:

Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love.

 Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, and many other celebrities are being quite vocal in their condemnation of this new law.  Even the Indiana Pacers felt it necessary to have a press release on the new law.  And now companies are getting involved.  Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been very adamant over his condemnation, and has started calls for boycotting Indiana over this new law.  Leadership in other companies including Apple, and Yelp are also putting in their two cents. condemning the law as discriminatory.

So what’s the  problem with all of these people coming out against this new law?  Well, hypocrisy of course.

First off, I would be willing to bet quite a bit of money that none of the people I mentioned above have actually read the new law.  You can read the entire law here.  The part that people appear to be having a problem with is this text:

Government may burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person —

(1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Oops.  I’m sorry.  That is part of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law back in 1993.  Here’s the text from the Indiana law:

A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Seems almost identical.  In fact, the Indiana law is largely based on the Federal law.  Yet many people are being vocal about the Indiana law, but mum about the Federal Law.  I ask – why?

Do you remember the aforementioned esteemed Senator Schumer from New York who does not like the Indiana law?  It turns out that he was actually the main sponsor of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act back in 1993, which passed both houses with almost unanimous majorities.  And Hillary Clinton?  Her husband, President Bill Clinton at the time, signed the bill into law and was very supportive of it (you can see a lovely picture of him signing it, with Senator Schumer looking over his shoulder at the link).

What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.

It was signed specifically to protect Religious Freedom from Government intervention.  Which is exactly why the Indiana law was passed.  But Hillary didn’t just support her Husband and this 1993 law (which she does in her book, “It Takes a Village”).  In 2005 as Senator Clinton, she supported the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act.” which was co-sponsored by amazingly unlikely allies John Kerry, and Rick Santorum.  It was designed to protect the religious freedoms of employees from employers, but has yet to be passed into law.  So why is she against the Indiana Law again?

Legally there is virtually no difference between the Federal Law and Indiana’s law except that it applies specifically to that State and its government instead of the /Federal Government.  And Indiana isn’t alone in this type of law.  19 other states already have RFRA laws on the books, all based on the Federal law.  Why is nobody calling for boycotts on those other states?

So why shouldn’t CEO’s of companies like Salesforce, and Apple condemn the Indiana law, and call for boycotts?  They do billions of dollars of business in China.  China, which is not only a religious freedom nightmare, but it is also a place where there are no laws protecting against homosexual discrimination, that does not recognize gay marriage, civil unions or anything close to it, and where it is illegal for homosexual couples to adopt.

Whether or not you support the law, I guess all I’m saying is that these people and organizations need to think before they open their mouths.

Technical stuff

Hi. I’m sorry I let the blog technically malfunction so often and for so long. Working on fixing it. I just wanted to explain where I am stuck right now.

  • I think I have restored the author writing tools to working order.
  • Something I did broke the registration form completely. At one point I was able to register a new account for myself, but now it;s broken again. Still working on that.
  • Comment form now has a 90% working editor. The link button does not pop up and become useful yet. Something in the customization from the redesign ages go is interfering between the preview and the link buttons.

I don’t have a ton of time to devote to this, so if I can’t get it working soon, the odds are that I will scrap the entire design and all customization and install a new wordpress theme and enough plugins to get it working, then turn it over to Hal and Alex or whoever we all decide is a good technical admin. Fingers crossed that I can find the frigging cuplrit. It’s something in the AJAX vs JQuery stuff. I hate blog software.

*EDITED TO ADD*

I do not know what the fuck is going on here and to be honest I can’t devote the time or money to fix it. Everything I tried broke something else and when I tried to put it back the way it was I broke the entire site. Hence this new blank template. I’m ready to turn this over to someone else and see if they can fix it and get things running in a useful way.

In the last ten minutes I have had 5 6 emails telling me new users registered. ALL SPAMMERS. Registration has been turned off for now.

I’m not going to deal with this for very long, so y’all need to decide fairly quickly what is going to happen to this blog. I’m pretty much done. I’ll work with someone to hand it over. I can still host. I just cannot work on it.