May 30, 2014
I hope everyone has had a good week. May is pretty much gone, June's right around the corner and it's finally springtime in Montana, which means we had rain, wind, hail and sunshine -- sometime all with the same day -- all week. At least with the rain I didn't have to water the garden.
The tourons, however, didn't seem to appreciate the weather *diversity*...particularly the golfers and tennis players. So with that in mind, here is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
May 29, 2014
I'm sorry I haven't been writing much of late. I had hoped to get a post up for Memorial Day, but we had family visiting and the Editorial Staff ran into a bit of a brick wall, time- and mental energy-wise.
Thankfully, the Dark One stepped up to the plate.
I'm belatedly realizing that taking only 2 days off from work (one of which was the day I had surgery) was not even close to being enough. Rehab has mostly gone very well, but I'm beginning to suspect that I am not Superwoman after all.
Not even close :p
Right now, my top two priorities (not being The Lightworker, I don't have nearly as many #1 priorities as Obama) are getting my knee back to normal and keeping up with work. Blogging is going to have to move down the priorities list for the next few weeks until I'm walking normally.
I - I - I, me - me - me. Not terribly comfortable with that, but the sooner I get my ownself squared away the better, never having learned to do everything equally well at the same time :p
May 27, 2014
Memorial Day Round-up
I hope everyone had a good and enjoyable day yesterday. It is right that we live the life for which our veterans have given so much. But, while we go about our days of dealing with the business of Life, one rarely rises to dizzying heights without remembering from whence they came lest their Icarian wings melt and relegate the flyer to a terrifying plunge back to Earth. Or, as Santayana put it, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." So, even though they cannot hear or know, we honor and remember our fallen and their families:
"Freedom is not free. And it is not cheap.
It is purchased with lives.
Lives that will not be completed. Lives that will not fill the emptiness of those who loved them, and lost them, and must live on without them.
Their families can’t even thank them. We can’t even thank them. For dying for us, even though they didn’t know us.
But they knew of us. They knew about America.
We can be cheered that their lives were not wasted. Many lives lived much longer are wasted. But dying for the greatest nation in history, for the hope of mankind – for the last hope of mankind – is not a waste.
But it is a tragedy. And it is awfully sad.
God bless the men and women who have fallen defending this country. And, dear God, thank them for us."
Bookworm remembered and honored Memorial Day as well.
"I’m not doing anything special this Memorial Day. In some ways, the fact that the day is ordinary is more compelling than taking part in a parade or attending a barbecue, since it reminds me of how good things are for me. I have a lovely ordinary life: beautiful location; delightful community (if I downplay my politics); comfortable home in a wonderful neighborhood; healthy, beautiful/handsome children; charming dogs; good friends; and a comfortable and healthy material existence.
And finally, I am deeply, deeply grateful to those Americans who made the greatest sacrifice, losing their lives on the field of battle in Concord, at Gettysburg, in Belgium, at Iwo Jima, at Normandy, and in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Without their serving and dying as the front line to defend America’s freedom, none of the people, places or things for which I am so grateful would have existed. Today may be Memorial Day, but their sacrifices are included among the blessings I religiously count every day of my life."
The Dark Side had a quiet and enjoyable day. Our meal was delicious...
...and was shared family and friends, which always makes for good conversation with lots of love and laughter in the air. We remembered those who were lost, and I honored our resident veteran with the best meal I could cook followed by VES'-made Texas brownies for dessert...
...and plenty of beer.
Gotsta have beer to make a proper toast and salute.
And to wash the brownies down with -- which are, btw, great for breakfast, too.
May 26, 2014
No contest this week, y'all. This is not a week to be made light of.
Today, I pay special homage for those veterans who never came home, who came home and have now slipped the etherial bounds of this mortal coil to join their Brothers and Sisters who fought and died by their side.
Today is for MH, for my Pop, my BIL, his son, my brother and uncles.
I do remember.
And always will.
May 23, 2014
Let The Judgement Begin
Even as June gets ready to bust out all over, y'all still find time to come up with enough captions to make me haf'ta work. Although, I'm sure it is this thought that gets the Princess through her pt workouts with an evil grin. But, if that's what it takes to get her
up off her butt and going motivated, I guess I can take one for the team. Although you can tell by my late(errr) posting that the nice weather has been more than enough motivation to get the Dark Lord going....
So, with a backward glance at last week's picture...
...heeeerrrre's the judgement as I take care of old business.
Spinning the prop and getting us launched at number five is frequent flyer with (smirk)--"So THAT'S what cankles look like!"
While George Pal takes gives us a free peek into today's collegiate atmosphere at number four In Socratic Dialogues 101 – An Introduction the question had been put: ”To what does ‘an infernal imperative to a proclivity’ allude”? Bertram’s PowerPoint presentation got him an A+, a sexual harassment charge, and two weeks in SRB (Sensitivity Re-education Bivouac).
Smoking Grabbing the bronze ring this week is B. Obama (aka Yu-Ain Gonnano) for If this Benghazi thing takes off, I'm gonna need a bigger bus.
Continuing the march of the multiple personalities is IGotBupkis (aka OhBloodyHell) with a silver ticket to ride at number two with "Hillary, just stand there. I'm telling you, the bus will be along any minute..."
And, in a very timely win, we have vet66 grabbing the gold for this gem "How did the reset button for Russia get there?"
As usual, fantastic job this week, villains. Congrats to the winners, and thanks for playing everyone.
Sorry I've been AWOL this week - lots of stuff going on at work and all the doctor/physical therapy appointments have made it difficult to find 3 seconds to rub together.
Good news is that the Blog Princess is finally free of the dread Foam Maiden. A brief but tasteful funeral service (complete with pyre) will be held for it over the weekend.
She would pretend to feel sad at its passing, but she'd be lying like a big dog.
Will try to get up a post to commemorate Memorial Day. Hope your weekends are filled with family, friends, and all the good things life has to offer.
May 22, 2014
Sportsmanship and the Bigger Man
As y'all know, I have a problem with the lack of sportsmanship I see (or, don't see, as the case may be) in sports these days and have posted several vids and stories that highlight the instances of (what is nowadays) extraordinary sportsmanship that I find on the innertubes. How I wish I were posting these so often that you guys would beg me to stop. Sadly, however, that is not the case. Until the time when good sports are the norm again, here is a vid that I found over at the Black Sphere that displays the sportsmanship I was taught and still believe adds more to the game than any of the antics currently considered *fashionable*:
Well, done young man. And make no mistake, he is a Man in every sense of the word. His is a life laid at his feet, he has only to choose his direction. He will succeed.
May 21, 2014
Seems that Xerxes has finally met his match.
And, it's not Putin.
It's Grandma and her daytime TV shows.
"When President Barack Obama hit the podium around 11 a.m. today to speak abut the Veterans Affairs scandal, social media erupted with criticism.
It wasn't for the reason one might think."
Oh, and it probably wasn't a good idea to teach them to Tweet...
"As Obama began delivering his remarks, he interrupted the CBS network broadcast of The Price Is Right, quickly sending hardcore TPIR fans to Twitter to complain."
Christina Zychowski @edgarallenhoe
Is Obama really talking through the beginning of the price is right? Priorities America...
9:01 AM - 21 May 2014
Hey, at least he waited until the official voting period for American Idol was over.
There's something to said about a pack of dogs who will let anyone and his brother drive into your driveway and walk up onto the porch without nary a peep, but will go ballistic over someone farting in the neighborhood half a mile down the hill.
Not sure what the *something* is yet. But several adjectives are jumping onto my train of thought at the moment.
May 20, 2014
Important Shared Sacrifice Alert
Furloughed federal workers of America: did the President really share your Sequester Sacrifice? The Most Transparent Administration Evah won't/can't say:
Obama promised last April to take a 5 percent pay cut in “solidarity” with federal employees who were furloughed as a result of the automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester. The cut was meant to equate to the level of spending cuts imposed on nondefense federal agencies.
“The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,” a White House official said at the time.
According to his tax returns, Obama is still receiving the presidential salary of $400,000 per year. Last year, he earned $394,796 in wages from the Defense Financing and Accounting Service (DFAS-CIVPAY), which handles the salaries for civilian members of the Defense Department.
Obama’s income was commensurate to his salaries in recent years. He took in $395,188 in 2010, $394,821 in 2011, and $394,840 in 2012. The salary is also comparable to what former President George W. Bush received in 2007, when he earned $397,839.
The president’s salary is set by the U.S. code, and cannot be legally changed in the middle of a presidential term. However, at the time of Obama’s promise, the White House official said Obama would “write a check to the government” each month, according to the New York Times, beginning last April.
The official also promised that the president would take the cut for the entire year, amounting to roughly $20,000.
The White House would not respond to numerous requests submitted by the Washington Free Beacon to the White House press office to confirm that Obama did, in fact, write checks to the Treasury.
Silly journalists. Obama has no idea what's going on in his own administration. He finds these things out the way the rest of America does.
By watching cable news.
Bringin' the Fun
May 19, 2014
"I Was Not, I Am Not" Aware of All Those Reports on VA Wait Times
So, from the earlier post about the wait list problems at the VA, we have VA Undersecretary Petzel testifying that he was notified of the problem in 2010:
...Petzel acknowledged to lawmakers that he had seen a 2010 memo titled 'Inappropriate Scheduling Practices,' which described failures in several of the VA's 21 service regions.
Shinseki, seated next to him, insisted that 'I was not, I am not' aware of it.
Now, we find out that the White House was notified of the problem in 2008... by the Bush transition team:
The Obama administration received clear notice more than five years ago that VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely health care — problems that have turned into a growing scandal.
Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting.
...Mr. Shinseki, a disabled veteran, has headed the department since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s first term, when the VA report identified many of the problems.
The briefing materials do not reveal any concerns about outright fraud in manipulating waiting times, but they make repeated references in summarizing past audits and reviews about data accuracy.
“This report and prior reports indicate that the problems and causes associated with scheduling, waiting times and wait lists are systemic throughout the VHA,” officials told the incoming administration.
So we have a guy who, in 2008, was notified of a "systemic problem" in the department he has just been put in charge of. Systemic problems generally don't go away on their own.
Then, in 2010, another report mentions the same problem. And the guy at the top testifies that he "was not aware" of it (whatever "it" is).
In the comments to the earlier post, Rex comments:
... it's really hard, if not impossible, to go into the top job of any large organization and find out what's really going on and actually committing change. One has to recruit spies at the lower levels, as well as fostering a climate of doing the right thing. Hiring excellent subordinates is also necessary.
Well, the VA Secretary can only go down a couple of levels in hiring. And it appears that he didn't hire the right people. And he certainly didn't recruit spies at the lower levels.
Wouldn't have done him much good if he had. Unless he was willing to make a public stink.
VA hospitals have been underfunded for at least 30 years. When I was still practicing law in the early 80's, I had occasion to visit a VA hospital to interview a client. No A/C (in the South!), floors were not as clean as the decks in your average warship, nurses were scarce, and the doctors barely spoke English. Nothing much has changed, nor will it, until the government is willing to spend equivalent amounts of money that private or non-profit hospitals spend.
I agree with all of this. If the charge were, "You failed to fix a systemic problem that has been going on for years", I would vote to acquit. What bothers me here is that we have people we hired to run things telling us that they didn't even know there was a problem.
I have a problem with that. If you've previously been notified of a "systemic problem", then it's your job to pay attention. Telling Congress that you had no idea what was going on (whether in regard to the 2010 report alone or the entire problem is not clear) doesn't fly.
Ooh! Ooh!! Ooh!!!
A meme game!
A couple of my favorites so far:
"I’m not saying Hilary is old but the first bimbo eruption she ever handled was for Henry VIII."
"I’m not saying Hilary is old but her face has more wrinkles than a Bill Clinton apology."
"I’m not saying Hilary is old but she wants Matlock for her vice president."
Alright, villains. You get the idea.
Have at it, and, as always, may the Farce be with you.
"I'm not saying Hillary is old, but..."
Seems like *somebody* couldn't control the *natural urge* to up the ante a little too early in the game. And now, having done so, what is a Climate Scientologist to use for the next six months in order to properly petrify the populace into proferring their paltry pennies, pesos and pounds to the pagan priests and priestesses of Gaia? Have no fear! The People's Cube is here to save the...err, day.
Experts in the world's only settled science are up in arms today as a blunder committed by a staunch ally threatens their efforts to raise taxes and save the planet.
On a recent visit to Washington DC, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told President Obama and Secretary of Climate John Kerry, "we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos." The remarks came less than a week after the White House released its 829 page National Climate Assessment which introduced the term "climate disruption."
"That French cretin wasn't supposed to use 'climate chaos' yet!" screamed a government-funded climate scientist at a leading research facility, as he was polishing his hockey stick. "We just started using 'climate disruption' last week and hadn't even come close to getting all the money and regulations we wanted from it yet. Dammit!"
However, it appears that not everyone had their tampon strings tied in knots...
"Besides," continued Mr. Gore, "as someone once said, 'What's in a name? Bulls**t by any other name would still sell as sweetly.'"
"Climate science needs to start thinking out of the box on this," stated Secretary of Climate Kerry. "Now Senator Reid, he suggested 'Climate Koch Brothers'... I think he's on the right track but I'm not sure it's quite what we need at this crucial hour in earth's history."
Thankfully, those incredibly helpful comrades, possessing the prescience of the Oracle, have created a chart for just such a catastrophe....er, calamity....ummm....Bush!!
If I'd Only Known
I'm sure something could have been worked out to get our Princess one for her birthday, too.
Maybe next year when she finally turns 30...
Beach-goers in Pinellas County, Fla., were surprised to see an elephant cooling down in the ocean over the weekend and a video of the animal standing in the surf has been making waves.
The elephant was apparently at North Redington Beach as part of a birthday party for a 60-year-old woman.
She had received permission in February to have the partying pachyderm attend the event, Bay News 9 reported.
"We could not believe our eyes," witness Todd Unbehagen told HLN TV. "There was a professional elephant trainer there and a couple police officers for the event. It looked like somebody was having a party (private) at the beach house, and the elephant was giving rides as well to the guests."
We'll haf'ta start crowd-sourcing for that starting in January, though, cause the itinerant Eskimos keep blowin' their paychecks on booze and beefcake - what, you thought they were male?
We wanted the work done right the first time.
Happy Monday, everyone!
*Now* He Tells Me...
The Spousal Unit couldn't quite stop himself from bringing this to our attention over the weekend:
Everyone's a critic.... after the fact.
The "Weapons-Grade Cuteness" of Babies
Amusing phrase from a fascinating WSJ piece about the relationship between a baby's physical health/robustness and its ability to charm other humans and the evolution of the human species:
Humans also have "alloparents"—other adults who take care of babies even when they aren't related to them. In forager societies, those alloparents are often young women who haven't yet had babies themselves. Caring for other babies lets these women learn child-care skills while helping the babies to survive. Sometimes mothers swap caregiving, helping each other out. If you show pictures of especially cute babies to women who don't have children, the reward centers of their brains light up (though we really didn't need the imaging studies to conclude that cute babies are irresistible to just about everybody).
Dr. Hrdy thinks that this cooperative breeding strategy is what let us develop other distinctive human abilities. A lot of our human smartness is social intelligence; we're especially adept at learning about and from other people. Even tiny babies who can't sit up yet can smile and make eye contact, and studies show that they can figure out what other people want.
Dr. Hrdy suggests that cooperative breeding came first and that the extra investment of grandmothers, fathers and alloparents permitted the long human childhood that in turn allowed learning and culture. In fact, social intelligence may have been a direct result of the demands of cooperative breeding. As anybody who has carpooled can testify, organizing joint child care is just as cognitively challenging as bringing down a mastodon.
What's more, Dr. Hrdy suggests that in a world of cooperative breeding, babies became the agents of their own survival. The weapons-grade cuteness of human babies goes beyond their big eyes and fat cheeks. Babies first use their social intelligence to actively draw dads and grandmoms and alloparents into their web of adorableness. Then they can use it to do all sorts of other things...
You think that adorable infant is lying in its crib dreaming of warm milk. But really, it's doing the same thing it does every day.
Plotting to take over the universe.
The linked video is quite good if you're interested in this topic.
You Had *One* Job....
"So I think he definitely has convinced people that he stands for change and for hope, and I can't wait to see what he stands for."
- Susan Sarandon, on Barack Obama
Flash forward 6 years and America is still waiting to see what Barack Obama stands for. Even when he gets "madder than hell", there is no action. And no consequences:
The White House chief of staff says President Barack Obama is 'madder than hell' about reports of treatment delays at veterans' hospitals across the country.
Top aide Denis McDonough tells CBS' Face the Nation that Obama is demanding that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and others in the administration 'continue to fix these things until they're functioning the way that our veterans believe they should.'
Note the lack of a concrete standard for when things will be considered to be "fixed": he doesn't demand that the people in charge of the facilities who covered up their own wrongdoing and incompetence should be held accountable (much less suffer any punishment for lying to the groups charged with oversight). He's not even willing to say what the standard ought to be - that, he leaves to "our veterans" (who, last time we checked, weren't being paid to make policy or monitor performance). Unlike Petzel, Shinseki, or Obama.
But this is a stunning admission:
Petzel, the undersecretary for health care at the VA, resigned abruptly on Friday, just a day after telling a U.S. Senate committee that he knew in 2010 about a memo describing 'inappropriate scheduling practices' now blamed for as many as 40 deaths at VA medical centers.
...Petzel acknowledged to lawmakers that he had seen a 2010 memo titled 'Inappropriate Scheduling Practices,' which described failures in several of the VA's 21 service regions.
Shinseki, seated next to him, insisted that 'I was not, I am not' aware of it.
Setting aside the observation that "inappropriate" is the mother of all euphenisms for a deliberate coverup of professional malfeasance that resulted in the deaths of veterans, isn't it Shinseki's job to be aware of how the VA is run?
And isn't it, in turn, Obama's job to be aware of how well each of his cabinet secretaries are doing their jobs?
Isn't that precisely what both these men were hired to do?
"I had no idea what was going on in the organization I was hired to run until I turned on the TV news" is an excuse that only works for one Barack Obama, Lightworker.... for Benghazi, DOJ seizing phone records from reporters, Fast and Furious, the Statue of Liberty flyover. ...
But Duuuuuuuuuuuuude. That was like, one year ago.
Why do the press let him get away with this nonsense? Where' Dana Priest? Hiding out in an undisclosed location? Are these folks seriously not aware that the job of the President is to know what's going on in the Executive branch?
Of course no one expects him to be personally involved in every aspect of the running of every department. This is why we have Secretaries. Who are supposed to know what's going on in their departments and report it up the chain to their boss.
You know, the President. The man in charge of the desk where the proverbial buck stops.
... as President of the United States, one of the things I’ve learned, and we just talked about was anything that happens on my watch is my responsibility. That’s what people expect. Harry Truman said the buck stops with me...”
Barack Obama, July 2012
Yanno, having re-read Obama's "the buck stops here" quote, we're now inclined to think we missed his meaning entirely. Damn that Harry Truman.
May 17, 2014
Alright, villains, here is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
May 16, 2014
Let The Judgement Begin - Mother's Day Edition
Thanks to you guys, the VES is now on the hook for washing all my cars. She didn't think you guys would come up with much for this week's picture, but I knew better. You guys have yet to disappoint, and until you do, I will continue to bet on your proficiencies in snark. The weather says it's supposed to be sunny this weekend. I hope so, washing cars in the rain just ain't no fun.
But, right now I have old business to conduct, so a small flashback to last week's picture...
and on to the judgement.
Speaking of flashbacks, George Pal musta been flashing back to his college days when he came up with the number five entry for this week, Otus meh mahn, how mannee times I be tellin yeh dohnt be givin yerself a Jheri curl after yah bee smokin ganja with dem Rastafarians.
Spacing us out even further at number four is Jayne Cobb (aka YAG) with this Obscure TV Show Reference winner, Pretty cunning, dontcha think?
CAPT Mongo fires a shot over the silky-shorted butt of his *misguided* bretheren to capture third place, "I will not go to sleep beside the USMC recruiting office again. I will not....."
Grim easily snatches the silver this week with the only theme-relevant comment, Aware that his mother had really always wanted a daughter, "Chelsea" surprised her on Mother's Day by becoming a prison wife.
Bringing me to htom for not only the first place answer, but also Major Movie Reference props for, It rubs the depilatory on its head and rubs it in, or else it gets the hose again.
Winner of the "No Shit Sherlock" award goes to frequent flyer's wise observation,
A father's worst nightmare, when his son comes home with this hairdo.
BELAY THAT--His worst nightmare is when this comes to the door to pick up his daughter for a date.
For this comment, frequent flyer finds himself the new owner of a little something I
picked up just put together in the back room
And finally, winner of this week's Wuss-Out Award goes to CAPT Mike when he said, Not touching this one.
C'mon, man! Where's the fun in that on a caption contest?
Congrats to the winners! And thank you all for playing. (Well, all that is except for a certain CAPT...0>;~])
Another picture will be up *soon*.
Another Lap Complete!
Albeit on crutches for the last few months, but in the game of Life, there aren't any penalties for assisted mobility.
Advanced senility, however...
So, without further ado, and with as much fanfare as one can muster in pixels....
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PRINCESS!!!
Men of VC, Strike a Blow Against Sexist Piggery!
Do it for the children:
Who wears short shorts? This summer, men wear short shorts, according to a delightful fashion dispatch from the Wall Street Journal’s David Coleman. “In the past few years, the low-water-mark length of a 15-inch-or-so inseam receded to knee-length (11 inches), then a knee-baring 9 inches, then to a quadriceps-exposing 7 inches and on to the newly fashionable thigh-flaunting 5 inches,” Coleman reports. “If men's shorts were a glacier in Greenland, scientists would be freaking out.”
...If short shorts on men are dangerous, then I welcome a state of emergency. The shorter short can, of course, make for a compelling visual—think Daniel Craig emerging, boy-shorted, from the sea in Casino Royale—but short shorts on men also confer social benefits to everyone. In a world where women’s bodies are often dismissed as “dangerous” and “wrong” when exposed, girls are made to pass fingertip hemline tests to gain access to middle-school classrooms, and authority figures claim that these rules and regulations are put in place to protect girls from boys, pulling the short short onto the other leg implicitly dismantles these sexist structures. Craig’s ocean scene wasn’t just a proud moment for short-shorted men everywhere—it helped to restore the cosmic balance between cheesecake and beefcake in the Bond universe.
As you strut about in your gloriously proud manliness, know that the womenfolk of America
are ogling have got your back side.
What a brave new world, that hath such wonders in't.
May 14, 2014
It was the bitterness of Quartermaster Gen. Montgomery Meigs that first led to the cemetery’s creation.
Angry that his former mentor, Robert E. Lee, had joined the rebellion and desperate for more space to bury the accumulating dead of the Civil War, Meigs recommended that the Lee estate overlooking Washington be turned into a graveyard. Burials had already begun by the time approval came through on June 15, 1864.
A century later, it was with a simple nod of her head that Jacqueline Kennedy acquiesced to the gravesite for her husband on the slope below the Lee Arlington House. She insisted that the assassinated president be laid to rest in a public, accessible place because “he belongs to the people.”
A half-century after that, it was the outpouring of grief by young widows, parents and battle buddies that led to the only consistent splash of color within 624 acres of cemetery — the balloons, childhood drawings, stuffed Easter bunnies and unopened bottles of beer left on the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead.
The now-widely recognized Section 60 is a long stroll from popular tourist sites such as the Kennedy grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Unlike the deceased retired military that make up most of the 27-30 burials that occur at Arlington each day, the dead of Section 60 were so young, that the grieving here is far more intense.
So it is a place where a grieving father may be seen laying prostrate on his son’s grave or where a mother sits in a thunderous downpour unaware that her lawn chair is sinking into a softening earth.
Those who mourn regularly have coalesced into a kind of club, but one that one mother conceded “nobody wants to be in.”
For visitors who stroll the walkways or ride the trolleys across the cemetery, there are more stories than a single trip can encompass.
I am reminded of a line from a favorite movie. "There must be ghosts...", or at least the lingering echoes of a grief too deep for words.
So many gone, too soon.
No Better Friend
Another reason to love the Marine Corps:
A small contingent of Marines have deployed to Chad, where they are teaching local park rangers how to combat poachers who have decimated elephant populations over the past decade or so.
About 15 members of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14.1 out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, deployed to the central African country in late April. They are spending about a month training approximately 100 members of the Chadian Ministry of Environment’s Mobile Brigade.
The Marines, temporarily assigned to SP-MAGTF Africa 14.1 from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will teach Chadian rangers small-unit tactics, patrolling, marksmanship, land navigation and site exploitation.
While the mission is not expressly an anti-poaching one, it will help rangers combat heavily armed poachers who are more akin to soldiers than hunters and have decimated elephant populations in the Zakouma National Park. The elephant population there numbered 4,000 in 2005. By 2010 just 450 elephants remained.
Elsewhere on the Dark Continent, it appears to be open season on little girls who want to learn to read and write. But don't despair - their leaders are finally ready to
unleash the dialogue spring into inaction.
May 12, 2014
The Power of Perseverence
...or the heartbreaking injustice of inequality, take your pick:
May 11, 2014
Boko Haram and the Illusion of Clean Hands
Grim has an interesting post up on the much ballyhoo'd photo of the First Lady's recent foray into hashtag diplomacy. In it, he responds to a piece by Mark Steyn pointing out the yawning gap between political rhetoric and policy:
Contempt may well be warranted, but not for the failure to deploy special operators into this.
...You can't drop a SEAL team if you don't know where to drop them, and we most likely don't have any idea. That's not contemptible. It's a fact of the art of war.
The right reason to feel contempt is at the posture, which makes our nation look weak and helpless. We probably can't rescue these girls in a Hollywood-style raid, but we could wipe this group off the face of the earth in a few hours if we were willing to kill a lot of innocent people too. We could wipe them out in weeks, with less danger to innocents, if we were willing to deploy the 1st Cavalry Division for that purpose with a very loose set of ROE.
If we don't do those things, it's because we are choosing not to do them. It won't do for the White House to beg, plead, or scold, or make sad faces in front of a camera.
Take responsibility for your choice.
Wise words, but in our present "DO SOMETHING!" culture it has become unacceptable to say openly what we all ought to understand without having to be told: America can't be the world's policepersun (eyeroll) if we have no patrols out walking the world's streets. We can't be the world's policepersun if we can't tolerate mistakes and errors of judgment that cost human lives. We can't be the world's police force if we can't accept loss of life and failure and ugliness; if we think being a policepersun is some sort of inalienable human right: an individual fairness issue rather than a hard condition inextricably intertwined with the survival of our children, our culture, our way of life.
Our freedom, and the historically unprecedented freedoms enjoyed by women in Western societies.
If we believe situations like this one are truly intolerable - believe that it is our duty to do something about them - then we need to be willing to bear the cost of keeping such options open. That is one thing this administration is openly unwilling to do, though.
This is a President who, during his inauguration, publicly upbraided his predecessor - from a position of utter and abject ignorance - for seeing any conflict at all between the peace and prosperity we take for granted and our highest ideals:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers -- our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man -- a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.
And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. And we are ready to lead once more.
The thing is, the America described in the history books we grew up with was NOT the friend of each nation. Not even close. The America of history took up arms against many nations, and not always in perfect accordance with the highest ideals of one Barack Obama: World Citizen. How does a highly educated man, with an administration full of highly educated people and over 5 years of experience under his belt, arrive at such a profoundly ahistorical and criminally naive view of global politics?
“Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, ‘Uh oh, Michelle Obama is very cross with us — we better change our behavior’?” Will said on Fox News Sunday.
“It’s an exercise in self-esteem,” he said of the practice. “I do not know how adults stand there, facing a camera, and say, ‘Bring back our girls.’”
How does this happen?
It happens the same way (and for the same reasons) that caused a woman to sue her local grocery store for reminding her that packaged meat comes from live animals who have been slaughtered. She was perfectly happy to eat dead animals, mind you. What she could not tolerate was being forced to confront how that meat got to its antiseptic plastic wrapper and - eventually - to her table:
Armed Liberal wrote about the problem of those who 'keep their hands clean,' never hunting, buying meat prepackaged and without an awareness of the moral cost. I disagree: there is no moral cost. We are monsters, who butcher though it creates mounds of gore: who sever heads, and find it moves us though we know not why.
But it isn't killing that makes us monsters. We are exactly that same kind of creature, whether we have ever killed or not.
The moral problem of 'the clean hands' is that it is an illusion. It makes people believe they are better than they are, and therefore that others can also be better than they can be. It creates a class of people who feel clean, because they have never felt blood on their hands.
Yet all these things arise from things buried deep in the genetic code. You cannot walk away from them. The failure to experience these things does not mean you would not react to them in just the same way as everyone else: it only means that you cannot understand how you would react, and how others do.
The man with clean hands is just the same as the hunter. It is only that he does not know it. He does not understand that part of his soul, as it lurks beyond his experience. He comes to believe that there is a kind of human that is and can be clean: perhaps that sweet, aged lady on the corner, who in her youth broke necks every night before dinner.
Failing to understand what Man really is, he opens himself more than is wise, and defends himself less. The man with the clean hands believes in diplomacy but not the force that makes diplomacy viable. He believes in staying clean, because he believes it makes him better than you. He does not understand that it only makes him blind.
This is not a call to amoralism, but precisely the opposite. It is a call for true morality, which can only begin with awareness of sin. It can only come from a recognition of how deep-set, how permanent, how personal sin is in each of us.
It is only in that way that we can begin to put real chains on sin: by recognizing the truth about it. We must learn to face the truth about ourselves, so that we can better ourselves: we must learn to face the truth about others, so we will recognize when murder is in their hearts.
These people want to believe that all nations are our friends. But more than that, they want to believe that we can enjoy peace and prosperity without getting down into the muck and fighting for them like the animals we are, but struggle to control when we can win a small space to be something more.
And so we take to Twitter and create hashtags.
Happy Mother's Day
Athletes talk about “keeping it real,” which usually means swagger, not humility and gratitude. That all-too-common swagger doesn’t usually involve publicly — and tearfully — saluting your mother while accepting your sport’s MVP award.
But that’s exactly what Kevin Durant did when he received the award last week from the National Basketball Association.
Durant responded to the trophy presentation by talking about how much his mom sacrificed, moving the family from apartment to apartment and working long hours to make ends meet. Yet she always found time to tell her sons that she loved them. She was, said Durant, at his games and his practices and involved in his life in ways that money couldn’t cover — ways that only a mother’s heart could provide.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward, a former University of Texas star, fought back tears as he detailed many of those tough moments. Then he delivered a special message to his mother, Wanda Pratt, declaring that she was “the real MVP” as her son’s teammates and fans gave her an emotional standing ovation.
For a mother, it doesn’t get any more special than this — a heartfelt recognition from a child that sacrifices were appreciated. It’s not even important that it happens on a national broadcast or comes from a celebrity son. What matters is that genuine thank-you.
In Durant’s case, he’s all too aware of what his mom selflessly endured to make him a responsible man as she fought the odds of raising a family alone in Washington. “We weren’t supposed to be here,” a sobbing Durant said. “You made us believe, kept us off the street. Put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us.”
When he fell, his mom was there to pick him up. When he achieved, no one cheered louder or longer. Little does it matter whether he was 9 years old in the backyard shooting baskets alone or now, in his mid-20s, on his profession’s biggest stage with thousands in the stands and millions watching on television.
The voice that speaks loudest, truest and with unconditional love is usually our mother’s. And for a mother to hear her son show such self-awareness and vulnerability is a great moment indeed.
This is what every parent strives for - to raise a child who is strong and successful, but who also understands how much of true leadership consists of service and sacrifice.
On Mother's Day, I'd like to dedicate this song to the woman who, more than anyone else on this earth, has provided the example of quiet strength and loving sacrifice that I have all too often failed to live up to:
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth,
I would be nothing without you.
Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be.
I love you, Mom. But more than that, I am so very proud to be your daughter.
May 09, 2014
Caption Contest - Mother's Day Edition
Alright, villains. Here is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
Let The Judgement Begin - Kentucky Derby Edition
California Chrome may have won the actual race, but I'm betting nobody had as much fun as I did reading another week of fine commentary by VC villains. Nicely done!
So, after a relatively small reminder...
...we're off like a prom dress and on to old business and the judgement.
Lined up on runway number five, is frequent flyer for Having seen "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" in "Annie Get Your Gun, Yoshi decided to give "trick riding" a try.
In this photo, he reprises the Western show staple of riding a horse while standing up.
George Pal rides in at number four with Daichi-san had misconstrued the meaning of 'horsey set’.
htom shows his un-Amerikkkan creds by not allowing his disadvantaged technique to keep him from snatching the bronze ring Horse stance, I'm doing it wrong.
While Don Brouhaha stumbles, fumbles then finally falls on the silver ring in Crouching jockey, stumbling horsey.
Finally, in a return to the top, spd blows by the competition with "Breaking Bad" wasn't the fastest horse around, but if he got out front the rest of the field would just drop back. Way, way back.
Congrats to the winners, and, again, great job everyone. Thanks for playing.
Another picture is forthcoming.
May 08, 2014
Markets in Everything
The latest idiotic parenting fad - eating coaches:
Leslie Springer was tired of acting like a short-order cook for her twin girls in second grade and daughter in preschool. Day-Glo orange mac and cheese was a staple. Snacks consisted of Goldfish crackers, Cheez-Its, potato chips and Oreos. Her girls devoured french fries but wouldn't touch other kinds of potatoes. She would offer cauliflower and carrots only to get rebuffed.
...Reforming picky eaters isn't cheap. Fees and approaches vary—some coaches interview parents over the phone and offer counsel; others like to meet the children. An initial hour long consultation can cost up to $250, plus follow-up visits. Coaches say they are able to resolve most instances of overly discerning young eaters for about $400.
What child, knowing that an endless supply of cookies and junk food is available, is going to eat what's offered to them during meals?
That will be $400.00. Next.
A Modest (But Apparently Not In The Least Satirical) Proposal
The GOP should seize the "opportunity" (or was that "opportunism"?) to discharge student loans and end federal subsidies of postsecondary education.
Here's a summary of the argument as we understand it:
1. Student loans subsidize academia.
2. Academia is overwhelmingly liberal.
3. Academia delenda est.
4. Cut off their funding and you seriously weaken (if not destroy) the Left.
We'll bet you just can't wait to hear the plan:
What all this means is that firing an Exocet missile into the heart of the American higher-education establishment should qualify the trigger man for a place on Mount Rushmore.
Here’s the missile: Republicans commit, as part of their 2016 platform, to (1) canceling all student loans owed to the federal government and paying off all loans owed to private institutions and (2) eliminating all federal aid, grants, support, etc. to postsecondary educational institutions. It’s a package deal: no elimination of aid, no cancellation of debts.
Hmm. I wonder how the 38 million people with student-loan debt would vote on that issue. In 2012, 60% of Millennials voted for Obama. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Aye Chihuahua. The mind boggles.
May 07, 2014
Web Site of the Day
Herman Melville has a lot to answer for. More on this Important News Story here:
Jack Lawson, a scientist affiliated with the Canadian fisheries department, told the media that his main concern was neither the stench nor the possibility of an explosion. He warned that the worst thing would be for a person to get too close to the whale and fall inside it: “The [whale] skin is starting to lose its integrity and if someone were to walk along, say, the chin — that is full of all that gas — they could fall in the whale. The insides will be liquefied. Retrieving them would be very difficult."
“I have fallen through the side of a whale up to my chest," he added. "It’s not very nice."
Cheer up, people. It could be so much worse. You could be living in France, where corseted jackwagons caper down the Champs Elysees with live poultry loosely (we hope) tethered to their nether regions.
All in the name of Art.
May 06, 2014
Presented without comment.
Great Moments in French Justice
Question for the ages: when French citizens become dissatisfied with conditions in their native country, do they threaten to move to Les Etats-Unis?
When performance artist Stephen Cohen tied a live rooster to his penis and danced around in front of a group of nuns by the Eiffel Tower, he thought he was making a powerful political statement.
French police did not agree, however, and promptly dragged him away.
He accused them of having 'no understanding of what art is', and today he can feel vindicated, despite being convicted of 'sexual exhibitionism', after he walked away from a Paris court a free man.
Last September Cohen appeared without warning in the Trocadero Plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves and an elaborate feathered headdress with the rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon.
Against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, and under perplexed gaze of tourists, including a group of nuns, he danced for only a few moments before police pounced, dragging him across the plaza, rooster still attached.
...'If I'm found guilty ... I will see it as a failure of French justice,' said the 51-year-old, who has lived in France for about 10 years.
...The Paris performance was a reaction to an increasingly homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic world, Cohen told the newspaper.
'In showing the most intimate part of me, I'm saying: I'm male, I'm Jewish, I'm queer, I'm white,' he said.
He said the rooster, named Franck, was not harmed during the performance. The animal was chosen 'because it's the emblem of France,' he said.
He says he now plans to leave the country.
All of France weeps...
May 02, 2014
OK, That Was Strange....
So.... three weeks ago, the Blog Princess had surgery to reconstruct the ACL in her left knee. The surgeon gave us a prescription for Percocet, which is pretty normal.
The Spousal Unit takes the Rx to the local CVS and they made a really big deal out of filling it. He was pretty ticked, but finally they gave him Oxycodone, which is pretty much the same thing.
Fast forward one week. The Princess goes to her first follow up visit with the doctor and he asks her if she wants a refill. Having stopped taking the pills about 3 days after the surgery except for 1 before bedtime, she had a few left and said, "No".
One more week, another doctor's visit, another, "Do you need a refill". Again, still had a few pills, so she says "No". At which point the doctor replies, "Look, you don't have to take them all the time but if you don't have something to help with the pain you aren't going to push hard enough to get your knee moving again." So reluctantly, she said OK to the refill.
A week and a half later, she finally gets around to refilling (or trying to refill) the prescription only to be told that CVS doesn't have any Percocet and can't fill it. So she goes to a tiny little pharmacy and there seems to be a fair amount of commotion around filling it. Finally the pharmacist asks her if she had filled the same Rx previously somewhere else.
"Why yes", quoth she - I took it back to CVS (the place that originally filled it) and they said they didn't have any.
"Weird", he says. "They've probably sent 10-15 people over here today. I wonder what's going on over there?"
So La Princesse du Blog did some Googling and found this:
The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the California Board of Pharmacy are investigating the disappearance of prescription pain meds from four stores in California.
The DEA served the stores with warrants almost a year ago after learning about prescription drugs like Vicodin that were not present and accounted for.
The company now faces up to 2,973 separate violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act because its records don’t match the actual inventory of the drugs in question. CVS could be forced to pay upwards of $29 million in penalties for these possible violations.
When the DEA earlier this month banned a Walgreens distribution center from dispensing controlled substances to its pharmacies in Florida and on the East Coast, the measure no doubt caused more tension for some patients.
But DEA Special Agent Mia Ro said there is no oxycodone shortage in Florida.
What customers are experiencing is likely a combination of factors, industry experts say, including pharmacists simply being more cautious.
No one wants to be the next DEA target.
"What we're looking at here is a chilling effect," said Michael Jackson, chief executive officer of the Florida Pharmacy Association.
In an effort to curb Florida's prescription-drug epidemic, the DEA earlier this year blocked one wholesale-drug distributor from shipping controlled substances such as oxycodone and issued suspension orders against two CVS pharmacies in Sanford preventing them from selling controlled substances.
Many factors at play
Experts say other pharmacists and wholesale-drug suppliers who do not want to find themselves in the same position may be scaling back the oxycodone they are willing to dispense.
If a drug supplier notices a spike in orders of a particular drug from a pharmacy, the company could potentially restrict how much of that drug the pharmacy could buy or cut the store off altogether, Jackson said.
At the pharmacy counter, pharmacists can decline to fill prescriptions for a number of reasons left to the individual's judgment.
Sometimes, the store could truly be out of the drug. In some instances, experts say, the pharmacist may have caught customers lying about their medical history and other prescriptions or suspects the prescription is fraudulent or improper.
And some chains, such as CVS, have ordered their pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for certain drugs written by doctors the companies have identified as "high-prescribing." At least 22 Central Florida physicians were notified late last year they were on the CVS list.
Which explains why the second pharmacist (who DID fill the prescription) asked me what the doctor's name - which was right on the Rx - was.
The real irony here is from what we can tell, these pills really don't do much except kill pain. You don't get "high" from them, or at least we didn't experience any such jubilation and delight. Kind of a pain in the patootie for a drug we only take right before physical therapy twice a week.
Caption Contest - Kentucky Derby Edition
Alright, villains, the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, so it seems appropriate that this is your next picture to snarkify.
Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
Let The Judgement Begin
Holy hairy houndstooth collars, Batman! Another outstanding week of caption entries. The assembled villainry is truly the best, IM(CA&NS)HO. It must be the arrival of spring that's roused y'all. Whatever it is, I like it. So, with a small peek from last week:
we're on to old business and the judgement.
Grim leads us into the top five this week with a thought that I got more pleasure from than I probably should Harry Reid has a recurring nightmare in which 'domestic terrorists' stop caring about his rules.
Number four has George Pal extrapolating Grim's thought to it's seemingly natural conclusion, Video just in confirms Radio Rebelde reports that the canines have taken the parks. We’ve also heard unconfirmed reports of cats overturning litter boxes. Leaders have called for calm. PETA fears retribution.
YAG grabs the bronze ring this week with When asked, the head of the Dyslexic Atheists for the Separation of Church & State, said that the dog wasn't just a mascot, but a full fledged member.
While frequent flyer swoops in to nab the silver with this snort-worthy comment In a canine version of the "Perp Walk"--Rex was made to carry a sign identifying himself as a "serial lawn pooper."
However, this week's gold goes to Five Dog Electrical Band (aka our own Princess) for pulling off her frilly panties of repression and flashing us this piece of sheer brilliance -
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Poo here, don't poo there, can't you read the sign?
Now hey you - Fur Face! - can't you read?
Got to wear a collar and walk on a leash.
You can't take a dump or scratch your fleas.
You ain't supposed to pee here...
Best Riff of a comment - Cass for The Walk of Shame.
And proving that one can be a winner and yet still walk on the thin ice of forcing the Dark Lord to alter our deal *further* (as in you'll have to both fly and buy next time), is FDEB for Sadly, the first signs of growing interspecies microaggression that preceded the Canine Occupy movement were not taken seriously by a nation made soft by free health insurance and weekly caption contests.
That's the judgement for this week, villains. Again, outstanding job everyone. Thanks for playing.
Another picture is forthcoming.
Friday Incendiary Debate Question
So, a while back Sheryl Sandberg's campaign to "ban" the term bossy generated lots of outrage and excitement on the right. Many lofty principles regarding the desirability of free and open speech and the hideous dangers of discouraging even obnoxious or disrespectful rhetoric were aired.
Which leads the Blog Princess to snidely ponder this question: "If it's dangerous and wrong/bad to discourage speech we don't like, then isn't this sort of thing dangerous and wrong/bad too?"
“Negative general portrayals of fathers/husbands/men in TV commercials and sit-coms contributes to a decrease in men wanting to assume those roles in society, and creates the impression among others that men need not assume such roles anyways, that such simply aren’t important,” Matt Campbell, an administrator for Mensactivism.org told reporter Sarah Peterson.
A couple of years ago CNN produced a story on how a bunch of dads had decided to fight the “doofus dad” trope. “We’re not the Peter Griffin or the Homer Simpson that we’re often portrayed as,” Kevin Metzger, who runs the Dadvocate blog told reporter Josh Levs. The protest was prompted by a series of Huggies commercials portraying fathers as idiots.
If women complaining about negative stereotypes typically used against women endangers free speech, then doesn't it logically follow that men complaining about negative stereotypes typically aimed at men is wrong on the same grounds?
How do we "kill" a stereotype, anyway? Shoot it through the heart? Wag our fingers at it sternly? Make disapproving faces at it? Or simply respond to it with opposing ... ummm.... speech. Which is said to be dangerous when certain people speak out, but a healthy and vibrant exercise of democracy when others do the exact same thing :p
The mind boggles.
May 01, 2014
Separate and Unequal Replaces Separate, But Equal
A while back, the indefatigable mr rdr sent us this pithy summation of the absurdity of using Title IX (which forbids sexual discrimination in federally funded schools) to justify discriminating against male students on the basis of their sex. The argument, as this author puts it, is pretty much irrefutable:
The customs and practices of the field of higher education have adopted, as a common policy formation, that sexual actions with a person the respondent knows to be incapacitated, or should know to be incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, sleep, etc., are prohibited.
This is a non-discriminatory way to frame policy.
But in a recent case, the campus policy stated that intoxication creates an inability to consent. Thus, in any situation in which a male student and a female student have sex, and both are intoxicated, this college will commit an act of gender discrimination by only charging one of them.
If both are intoxicated, they both did the same thing to each other. Why should only the male be charged if both students behave in ways defined as prohibited by the policy?
The simplicity (and neutrality) of this line of reasoning is a thing of beauty. It is the gender neutral standard Title IX aspires to in theory, but fails to deliver in practice:
If intoxication creates lack of consent,
And both parties are intoxicated,
Then neither is capable of consent.
Sokolow goes on to observe that since sex itself is not a crime (nor is drunken sex), then some other offense must be invented to push the drunken hookup over the line into full blown sexual assault. That something is a presumed desire to take advantage of the drunken state of the woman. Since there is no direct evidence of this desire, colleges invent it out of whole cloth.
But apparently, only men will be presumed to take advantage of drunken sexual partners. Women have no duty to know (and no duty to find out) whether a man they have sex with is too drunk to consent.
Which rather begs the question: if women are equally capable, equally intelligent, equal in every conceivable way to men, then from whence do these profoundly unequal and opposite duties and presumptions spring?
Surely they have no basis in law, for the language of Title IX is simple and straightforward:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
No one can look at this policy and seriously maintain that these colleges are treating women and men equally, regardless of their sex. Under the authority of a law explicitly created to outlaw sexually discriminatory treatment, men are being held to completely different standards than women.
That's the textbook definition of sexual discrimination, and under Title IX any college that holds women and men to different standards based on their sex is in violation of the law.
Of course this should be no surprise coming from a President who is fond of saying that he wants everyone to play by the same set of rules, but constantly creates exceptions to those rules for classes of people he favors. Legalized discrimination under the guise of non-discrimination: in a twisted way, one has to admire the sheer gall of these folks.
Well, Ain't That Funny
Why is Google censoring my Yahoo email?
Ever since the Heartbleed security hole was discovered, and subsequently patched, Gmail has been censoring all mail coming from Yahoo. Since Google doesn't have any support tech at all, the only way to attempt to get an answer about this, is to go to one of their myriad forum pages and *hope* that someone from Google actually sees your complaint. Seems kinda, I don't know, un-customer friendly to me. Especially given the number of bloggers who use Gmail addresses, and the even larger number of everyday Yahoo email addresses out there.
Now, the Heartbleed security hole wasn't one that was directly associated with any specific virus, trojan or malware, so there wasn't any chance of anything being spread. It was simply a flaw in the security socket programming that became the norm for providing secure connections to places like banks, etc. where important transactions, ie, money, personal information, etc., is being transmitted back and forth between two computers. A flaw that apparently was never exploited [To'S:Cloudeight] even though it had been in existence for almost two years before a Google employee stumbled upon it.
"For the last week, researchers at the Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a separate supercomputer facility, have been examining Internet traffic they recorded going in and out of their networks since the end of January, looking for responses that would indicate a possible Heartbleed attack.
They found none, said Vern Paxson, a network researcher at Berkeley Lab and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley."
So, after all this time there hadn't been any discernable use of the Heartbleed flaw...well, that is, until it was made public:
"But security researchers and law enforcement are growing concerned that hackers are trying to exploit the flaw now that it has been public for more than a week.
Meanwhile, four computer scientists at the University of Michigan, Zakir Durumeric, David Adrian, Michael Bailey and J. Alex Halderman, have been monitoring stashes of fake data on the Internet — called honeypots — to see if hackers would try to retrieve them using the Heartbleed bug. It worked.
To date, they’ve witnessed 41 unique groups scanning for and trying to exploit the Heartbleed bug on three honeypots they are maintaining. Of the 41, the majority of those groups — 59 percent — were in China.
But the attacks began only after the Heartbleed bug was discovered on April 8. The computer scientists have also found no evidence of any attacks before the disclosure, and they say it’s impossible to tell if the scans came from real hackers or other security researchers trying to look at the problem."
Now that the flaw has been found, patched and is being constantly monitored, why is Google still censoring Yahoo email?
And, as a follow up, on what grounds does Google - or any provider for that matter - believe it can censor any email in the first place?
I'm Good With That
As I'm sure you've noticed, Elise is back from her whiplash double secret vacation. What you might not know though is that she is also back to blogging. And while I enjoy reading pretty much everthing she writes about, this post about semantics, word phraseology and other nuances of the English language is pretty much guaranteed to catch the Dark One's attention - especially when she starts with a rule like this:
"Rule 1: The action taken in revenge must be proportionate to the original harm. So if someone steals your car, you don’t burn down their house. Unless, of course, having your car stolen means you couldn’t get your dying child to the hospital on time and the child’s death leads to your spouse’s suicide and your spouse’s suicide leads to your other child becoming a drug addict. In that case, load up on kerosene and matches and go to it."
I mean, how can a blog post go wrong when this is your starting point?
Anyway, drop by and visit Elise, let her know we've discovered her hiding spot and check to see if she's left any crumbs from last night's food fest behind.
The Supposed Boy Crisis in Education
The Editorial Staff have written many times about the narrative, popular in righty and right-leaning circles, that "feminized" schools are to blame for the supposedly declining educational performance of male students over time. In this post, we pointed out (with data to back up our assertions) that many of the arguments being made on this topic are just plain wrong. Not slightly wrong, but fundamentally, deeply wrong (as in, "there's not really even any evidence that problem you're complaining about is a problem"):
1. College attainment is UP, not down for both sexes over time. The rate of increase is stagnant (in other words, male college attainment is still increasing at the same rate over time).
2. Male HS dropout rates have declined over time by almost 50%.
3. Boys' average GPAs have actually gone up over time. Oops.
4. So have boys' math SAT scores.
But for some people, no amount of data is powerful enough to overcome the pull of a sensational news story or a handful of anecdotes. We count our ownself among those who uncritically accepted what we were reading on conservative blogs and conservative op-eds...
...until we looked into the data and found what we were reading was both wrong and misleading, that is. We don't have time to find it right now, but we're pretty sure we also researched grades over time and posted about this with the same results: the facts simply do not support the narrative that "feminized" schools are keeping our boys down.
And then there are articles like this one, from AEI, that claim that (mirabile dictu!) it's not schools at all (feminized or otherwise) that drive male academic success - or the lack thereof - but the involvement of fathers!
This new research brief from the American Enterprise Institute indicates that teenagers with involved or highly involved dads are 98 percent more likely to graduate from college than teens who report their dads are not involved in their lives. The figures below also suggest that paternal involvement is especially important for teens whose mothers have at least a high-school education.
Gratified as we were to see conservatives refusing to adopt the whiny, only-the-government-can-solve-our-personal-problems mantra of the radical left, we couldn't help noticing in all these charts that there were actually two strong influences on the academic achievement of teens.
One is undoubtedly the involvement of fathers.
The other is the mother's education level, which oddly enough was barely mentioned in the article. Guess that doesn't fit the desired narrative. Having written about this for over a decade now, we don't need to be convinced of the importance of active, engaged dads in our children's lives. But it sure would be nice if we didn't continually cherry pick our arguments, ignoring this and promoting that.
A basic tenet of conservative ideology has always been that individuals have the power to overcome obstacles, perseverance matters, and individual responsibility is a vitally important foundation of any free society. But when it comes to this issue, all of a sudden we absolve students and parents of their responsibilities and call for top-down changes to "the system" because it's keeping boys down? Where is the evidence of this? Most evidence we've seen seems to be of the disparate impact variety - notably an argument conservatives have soundly rejected on the merits.
Eh... we don't need no stinkin' merits.
We're also a big fan of research that looks at long term trends, so we found this quite interesting:
In 2006, Newsweek magazine declared it, loud, on their cover: America's boys were in crisis.
Boys were falling behind their female counterparts in school. They were getting worse grades, lagging on standardized tests, and not attending college in the same numbers as girls. "By almost every benchmark," Peg Tyre, the author of the cover story, wrote, "boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind."
And so it began—the end of men, but also an ongoing conversation on how to better boys' performance in the classroom.
This "boy crisis," however, was based on an assumption: that males had previously been on top. Granted, there was evidence to support that idea. For one, educational institutions for most of modern history have been openly sexist, favoring boys. And traditionally, males had outperformed girls in standardized tests and in math and science. But "by the mid-1990s, girls had reduced the gap in math, and more girls than boys were taking high-school-level biology and chemistry," Tyre wrote.
The assumption that boys had been the better students didn't seem right to (married) researchers Daniel and Susan Voyer of the University of New Brunswick in Canada. "I've been collecting grade data for a long time," Daniel Voyer says in a phone interview. "Typically if you find gender differences, they are in favor of girls—it doesn't matter what it is. So it started to kind of puzzle me." And so the pair set out to test, collecting every study they could find on grades and gender since 1914 and crunching the numbers in a mega-meta analysis, the first of its kind.
What resulted was a data set totaling more than 1 million students and this conclusion: Not only are girls the better students in every subject tested, that has been the case for at least 100 years. Boys may very well be in crisis when it comes to the classroom, but if so, that's the way it's always been.
The Voyers read through more than 6,000 articles to arrive at their final sample of 369 studies. It was an exhaustive process. "I just called it the bane of my existence," Voyer, who embarked on the work in 2011, says.
The Voyers limited their sample to studies of teacher-assigned grades and excluded those of standardized tests. Tests can exhibit a phenomenon called stereotype threat, in which stereotypes (let's say, girls don't do well on the math portion of the SAT), become self-fulfilling prophecies. The grade data are also richer: encompassing the entirety of academic experience, not just one afternoon test date. Plus researchers have shown that grades in high school are as good or even better indicators of college success than standardized tests.
While the girls' advantage is largest in reading and language studies, it exists for all subjects, even math and science. And though they tested data from across the world, the Voyers found the gender gap was largest in the United States.
What's most striking is that the gender gap held across the decades. If the boy crisis existed, they would have seen boys' performance peak and fall over time. That wasn't the case. "Boys have been lagging for a long time and ... this is a fairly stable phenomenon," the paper concluded.
The Internet has a nasty way of stoking confirmation bias. We frequent sites whose authors share our values and tend to avoid those whose authors despise us and our principles. But data - especially long term time series data - is pretty neutral.
A fairly common theme here at VC has been that we need to be careful of embracing the flawed, identity politics rhetoric of the radical Left. We can't complain about disparate impact arguments and then use them ourselves. And we should care what the data say. We should care about the facts.
The Editorial Staff remain deeply concerned about the refusal, failure, inability (whatever we choose to call it this week) of so many young men to assume adult responsibilities, become self supporting, marry, vote, be active in their communities and plan for the future. We have NEVER bought into the notion that in our age of ease, prosperity, and perpetual excuses, everything is just "too hard" for men: the engine behind Western Civilization.
What fathers so often add to the parental mix is challenge and uncompromising standards. Most men of older generations understand that teenaged boys in particular often require a swift kick in the tuckus before their attention is fully engaged. Ours did, and it didn't kill them. Boys are not as easy to motivate as girls, they're not as inner directed, and the forces that drive them are sometimes different as well. The military knows this, and the most successful parts of the military are those where excuses for poor performance or lack of effort simply are not tolerated.
I'm growing increasingly worried about the identity politics wing of the libertarian/right-leaning coalition. We won't change the immensely destructive and divisive effects of race- and sexism- mongering by adopting their tactics and flawed reasoning.