I Stand With Nikki

We Americans, we don’t like foreigners sticking their noses into our affairs. Ditto times two state’s rights. We have been known, out of sheer obstanacy at times, to push back against those that not only don’t understand our peculiarities but rail against them under the pretense of some superiority, fools. And no where is this more prevalent or timely than the latest kerfuffle over the Confederate flag flying at the war memorial right next to the Capital building in Charleston, looks like that is about to change;

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is set to join those calling on state lawmakers to remove the Confederate flag from a war memorial on the state Capitol grounds.

Up until now I have been apathetic about the controversy. Much like hunting, I don’t do it and don’t get the appeal, but understand that many do so I leave them do it, not being a Southerner (especially from SC, more on that in a bit) I don’t understand the loyalty or deference shown to an archaic symbol of a time not really worth lionizing. But, some folks see this an an issue worth fighting over, especially in South Carolina.

Since the country’s (separate states pledging themselves to the collective of one nation) inception, SC has been notable in their singularity, some say single handedly bringing the Civil War to fruition. Folks like John C. Calhoun and Preston Brooks had been arguing succession for years, but it was Lincoln’s election that pushed them over the edge, Fort Sumter soon followed.

A few words about Nikki Haley. I was a big fan before the shooting, expecting her to turn down a VP request from whoever gets the nomination, she doesn’t need it. But the day after the shooting I was sitting in my doctor’s office with CNN on (I know, commies) when Nikki was speaking. As she choked up, so did I (surreptitiously looking around to make sure no one was watching me) clearly here was a leader who understood their role in a crisis, so unlike Obama.

So now Nikki is calling for the permanent removal of the Confederate Flag. Normally after a tragedy like this ,politicians go all knee jerk (Obama, cough cough) and get on their soap box about gun control. This was different. A sufficient time period had lapsed. Buoyed by Tim Scott (another stud GOP up and comer) Nikki is saying it is time, South Carolinians are saying ,”It’s time”. Who am I to argue?

OT……………………. The USA/Columbia match starts in about 5 minutes, I’m stoked.

Science SunMonday: Volcanic Venus

The more we learn about our solar system, the more interesting it gets:

Could there be volcanoes erupting on Venus?

Scientists think the answer is yes based on the latest data from European Space Agency’s Venus Express, which completed an eight-year mission of Earth’s neighboring planet last year.

Using a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft’s Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface, an international team spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart.

“We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again,” said Eugene Shalygin from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, lead author of the paper reporting the results in Geophysical Research Letters.

“These four hotspots are located in what are known from radar imagery to be tectonic rift zones, but this is the first time we have detected that they are hot and changing in temperature from day to day. It is the most tantalizing evidence yet for active volcanism.”

We’ve had hints of this for a long time now: changes in the sulphur content of Venus’ atmosphere, heat signatures of potential volcanos, what appear to be warm lava flows. But this is the clearest evidence yet. This follows on recent evidence of a cryovolcano on Enceladus. We are also seeing some interesting features as probes close in on Ceres and Pluto.

Friday Roundup: Guns, Money and Gag Orders

A few stories to close out your week:

  • Following on Alex’s post on the attempt to squash free speech at Reason, the Best Magazine on the Planet has gotten the gag order lifted and broken their silence. What they relate is appalling. Not only did the USA try to get personal information on Reason’s commenters, they got a gag order to try to prevent Reason from notifying those commenters that the government was seeking their information (Reason had already notified them by the time the order came). It’s a must-read on a government that is determined to shred any semblance of privacy.
  • Earlier this week, Treasury announced that the new $10 bill will have a woman on it, although it’s not clear who that will be or how she will “share” the bill with Alexander Hamilton. As someone who favors a radical overhaul of which faces are on our currency, I’m moderately in favor of this. But I much prefer the idea of putting a woman on the $20 for reasons articulated by Jillian Keenan (namely that Jackson was a racist slaveholding genocidal shredder of the Constitution). Still, there are lots of women we could honor: Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sally Ride, Clara Barton. I would take all of these over Jackson. And I wouldn’t mind if we took all the politicians off our currency.
  • How bad was the security at OPM that led to the huge data breach? Really really bad. And they won’t fix it. Change we can believe in!
  • If you’re having trouble finding delicious barbecue, blame government. They are literally outlawing the kind of slow-cooking methods that make for such deliciousness. And it’s not really clear why other than “because they can”.
  • It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Paul Krugman and the Keynesians are full of it again. They are citing Iceland an example of how expansionary fiscal policy can save an economy. The problem? In this thing called reality, Iceland endorsed a severe austerity, with significant spending cuts and tax hikes.
  • The blamestorming for Charleston has already begun. Here is a quick refresher about the media’s desperation to blame horrific acts of violence on the Right Wing.
  • And finally, Reason has a feature on a college student who was busted with pot, turned informant and was murdered. No one is accountable, as usual. I’ll spare you my usual War on Drugs rant, in favor of my other favorite one: when dealing with cops and prosecutors, always get a lawyer. Never negotiate on your own.

Massacre in Charleston

This broke late last night, but I wanted to await details. Nine people are dead after a gunman opened fire in one of America’s oldest black churches. The dead include the senior pastor and a state senator.

Be wary of early narratives of what happened here. The gunman is still at large and reports are still fragmentary. Rather than speculate, let’s just pray for the victims. I will update this post as confirmed news comes in.

Update: They appear to have caught the shooter, a 21 y/o white supremacist.

Anti-Trans Discrimination

So over the last few years, the health fascists have been telling us to avoid saturated fats in favor of trans fats. According to their analysis, using trans fats will prevent thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of heart atta- ..

No, wait.

That’s what they were saying. Now they are saying that trans fats are the quintessence of evil, a mass murderer of our body politic, something that needs to be banned forthwith and its inventors shot so that the knowledge of how to make trans fats may be extinguished. And yesterday, the FDA caved, calling for trans fats to be gotten rid of within three years (having been pushed by lawsuits from food nannies).

Take it away, Walter Olson:

It’s frank paternalism. Like high-calorie foods or alcoholic beverages, trans fats have marked risks when consumed in quantity over long periods, smaller risks in moderate and occasional use, and tiny risks when used in tiny quantities. The FDA intends to forbid the taking of even tiny risks, no matter how well disclosed.

The public is also perfectly capable of recognizing and acting on nutritional advances on its own. Trans fats have gone out of style and consumption has dropped by 85 percent as consumers have shunned them. But while many products have been reformulated to omit trans fats, their versatile qualities still give them an edge in such specialty applications as frozen pizza crusts, microwave popcorn, and the sprinkles used atop cupcakes and ice cream. Food companies tried to negotiate to keep some of these uses available, especially in small quantities, but apparently mostly failed.

Even if you never plan to consume a smidgen of trans fat ever again, note well: many public health advocates are itching for the FDA to limit allowable amounts of salt, sugar, caffeine, and so forth in food products. Many see this as their big pilot project and test case. But when it winds up in court, don’t be surprised if some courtroom spectators show up wearing buttons with the old Sixties slogan: Keep Your Laws Off My Body.

Olson also points out that you don’t just ban trans fats; you have to switch to something else. That something else may be palm oil, coconut oil or genetically-modified soybean oil, all of which come with known and unknown health risks.

Anyone want to lay bets on when those oils will turn out to be dangerous? Anyone want to lay bets on how fast we’ll find out that the danger of trans fats has been wildly overestimated?

You can read more from Baylen Linniken, including the details of how this ban came about. What’s striking, however, is the complete and total lack of skepticism in the supposedly fact-based left wing. Vox has run several articles that repeated the health tyrants claims without any skepticism (despite having run numerous articles about how most scientific studies are garbage). Major media networks have mindlessly repeated the FDA’s shaky claim that this will save 7,000 lives a year. None of them have asked with it is the governments business to do this. All of them see this as some sort of progressive victory.

To hell with this. Trans fats are not poison. They are (probably) bad for you. But it’s not the FDA’s job to make us eat right. That’s our job. Their job is to make sure the food supply is safe. Trans fats aren’t nearly deadly enough to warrant a ban. They aren’t even as deadly as the horribly low-salt low-fat high-carb diet the health experts have been pushing on us for decades.

Don’t ban trans fats. Ban the food nannies.

Trump In

Donald Trump just declared that he’s running for President this year, apparently as a Republican, in one of the oddest speeches I’ve ever seen from a Presidential candidate. God knows what he’ll do. He has been famous for really awful ideas, including a proposal for a wealth tax.

This is going to be highly entertaining to blog, but bad for the Republic in the long run. We now have 12 Republican presidential candidates. Some of them are serious (Bush, Rubio, Walker, maybe Kasich and Perry), some have interesting things to say (Paul), some are just engaged in ego-stroking and some are just insane.

If they don’t pull their shit together, Hillary is going to coast to victory.

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… »

Science Sunday: Philae Revives

Great news from ESA:

Rosetta’s lander Philae has woken up after seven months in hibernation on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The signals were received at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt at 22:28 CEST on 13 June. More than 300 data packets have been analysed by the teams at the Lander Control Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

“Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available,” explains DLR Philae Project Manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec. “The lander is ready for operations.”

For 85 seconds Philae “spoke” with its team on ground, via Rosetta, in the first contact since going into hibernation in November.

When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: “We have also received historical data – so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier.”

Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Philae shut down on 15 November 2014 at 1:15 CET after being in operation on the comet for about 60 hours. Since 12 March 2015 the communication unit on orbiter Rosetta was turned on to listen out for the lander.

You may remember Philae as the spacecraft that descended to the comet and landed on the surface. The thought was that it landed at an angle in a crater and it’s solar panels were not well-illuminated. It did some experiments before running out of power but there was always hope that, as it got closer to the sun, the increased sunlight would be enough to revive it.

It looks, tentatively, like that’s happening. If so, it’s gravy on the lovely roast that has been Rosetta’s mission. We’ve already gotten tons of awesome data and breath-taking images. Now we’re might get even more.

Welcome back, Philae.

Shootout in Dallas

Early this morning, a deranged man starting shoot at the Dallas police HQ and planting bombs. No one was wounded. The police chased him down, cornered him in a parking lot, shot out his engine and then, when it appeared he wouldn’t back down, shot him.

I’ve criticized the police in this space for using SWAT tactics in domestic situations. This is one instance where it was absolutely required. As far as I can tell, they handled a dangerous situation well and no innocent bystanders were hurt. So … well done, Dallas PD.

Faking It

What on Earth?

There is another controversy over the veracity of representations of minority status in Washington. We previously discussed the controversy raised by the allegedly false claims of Senator Elizabeth Warren that she is a Native American. In this case, however, the accused is the head of a NAACP chapter and she is being accused of lying by her own mother. Worse yet, some have suggested that Rachel Dolezal is the head of the NAACP’s chapter in Spokane planted hate mail at her office.

Dolezal has claimed to be black, but there are pictures of her as a blonde girl and pictures of her in between as a woman with frizzy hair who has apparently tanned a lot to try to look partially black. There’s also good reason to believe she faked at least racist incidents she experienced.

I have no deep thoughts on this. She’s clearly got issues. But … damn.