Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Homeschooling Growing Seven Times Faster than Public School Enrollment

As dissatisfaction with the U.S. public school system grows, apparently so has the appeal of homeschooling. Educational researchers, in fact, are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years, as more parents reject public schools. A recent report in Education News states that, since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75%. Though homeschooled children represent only 4% of all school-age children nationwide, the number of children whose parents choose to educate them at home rather than a traditional academic setting is growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12 every year.

Must read: The Broadband Empire and the Game of Drones

Read the whole thing.  Excerpts: 

Your only safety lies in being overlooked, that is to say, in not being part of an affinity group of interest to the Obama administration. Otherwise you become part of the result set of a query, or search pattern.  The fact that you belong to a large group, for example the 50% of the US population that is conservative or Republican, does not give you safety in numbers.

If you can control, corrupt or even bait those (leadership) nodes you can reduce the entire group to impotence. You can effectively decapitate it, a strategy applied not only to al-Qaeda but apparently also by the IRS in its hunt of Tea Party and Republican fundraising groups. The virtual world lets you dominate the virtual high ground. You don’t have to clobber all Muslims and Republicans. You just have to clobber the key nodes and the rest will mill around like leaderless ants.

Mark Steyn - The All-Seeing State: The inevitable corruption of the permanent bureaucracy

What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. 

When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”

It may be that the strange synchronicity between the president and the permanent bureaucracy is mere happenstance and not, as it might sound to the casual ear, the sinister merging of party and state. Either way, they need to be pried apart. When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.

Got a long-distance relationship? Smart underwear lets you "touch" your partner from your phone

Remember Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock in “Demolition Man”?


Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday links

Gallery: 20 Biopic Actors And Their Real-Life Counterparts.

Getting Drunk Like the Ancients Did.

How Do Mosquitoes Survive Rainstorms?

Gallery: Cats and Dogs Ready to Kill You

At Dark Roasted Blend, more cats here and more dogs here.

News from down under: Festival of the Vagina comes to Sydney

On 29 June 2013, Sydney will host Australia's second Festival of the Vagina. The first was held in Melbourne in March as part of the 101 Vagina Book Launch and Exhibition, and attracted around 1000 visitors.

Philip Werner, the curator of the Festival of the Vagina and creator of the 101 Vagina project, will be bringing together Sydney's diverse artists, educators, performers, and musicians, with the common purpose of removing the taboo and shame that many people still feel around their genitalia. He has also begun work on the 101 Penis project.

FBI, NSA massively surveilling data from 9 Internet companies

I was going to try to provide a synopsis of this post at Hot Air, but there's too much, especially since they keep updating.  Go there and read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wine, Beer and Spirits Could Get Nutrition Labels

Article at Good Morning America, where they seem to think it's a really spiffy idea.  No mention of how the regulatory process, testing and changes in labeling will be paid for.

Wine, beer and spirits manufacturers may soon have to disclose calorie content and other nutritional information on bottles and cans. But for now, such labeling remains optional.

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is part of the Treasury Department, proposed a labeling rule in 2007 that would require alcoholic beverage manufacturers to include calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein content on their labels, but it has yet to make a decision on whether to implement the rule. It announced last week that manufacturers could add this information if they wanted to.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Must Read: Court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Read the whole thing at The Guardian (UK media doing the work ours won't):

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecom providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

via Hot Air, which has comments and additional links.

Martin Bashir: When Republicans say “IRS,” they’re really dropping the N-bomb on Obama

Hot Air:

People were tweeting about this as it happened and I ignored it because I thought they were exaggerating. See for yourself. You can thank Charles Cooke for the video.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m saying it — MSNBC’s really gone downhill since Olbermann left. Not because Olby was above this sort of thing; he trafficked in it endlessly, sometimes bringing on cartoon character Janeane Garofalo to fling it while he played straight man. What I mean is, he was never this witless about it. The whole segment is a giant non sequitur.

So, You Really Can Have An Orgasm When You Give Birth.

A new study, conducted by psychologist Thierry Postel of Blainville-sur-Mer, France, found that orgasmic birth is not only a real possibility, it’s a common occurrence. The results “established the fact that obstetrical pleasure exists,” Postel wrote. He interviewed 109 French midwives who had assisted in more than 200,000 births. In 668 cases, mothers told midwives they felt orgasmic sensations while giving birth. In 868 cases, midwives observed orgasms in birthing mothers.

Possible Poisoning? Al Qaeda weapons expert says U.S. ambassador to Libya killed by lethal injection

An al Qaeda terrorist stated in a recent online posting that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed by lethal injection after plans to kidnap him during the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi went bad.

The veracity of the claim made by Abdallah Dhu-al-Bajadin, who was identified by U.S. officials as a known weapons experts for al Qaeda, could not be determined. However, U.S. officials have not dismissed the terrorist’s assertion.

An FBI spokeswoman indicated the bureau was aware of the claim but declined to comment because of the bureau’s ongoing investigation into the Benghazi attack.

“While there is a great deal of information in the media and on the Internet about the attack in Benghazi, the FBI is not in a position at this time to comment on anything specific with regard to the investigation,” Kathy Wright, the FBI spokeswoman, said.

According to Dhu-al-Bajadin, “the plan was based on abduction and exchange of high-level prisoners.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Greatest Wedding Photograph Ever

Click for larger.

At Buzzfeed: Photographer Quinn Miller asked his newly wedded friends and their families to ‘pretend they were being chased by a dinosaur’ on their special day. Then he Photoshopped in a T-Rex, creating possibly the greatest wedding photograph ever.  via Geekpress.

The Tawana Brawley Story, aka why Al Sharpton should have been ostracized 25 years ago

I think the NYT has really wandered off the reservation here - they've been ignoring (and/or supporting) Sharpton's tactics for decades.

Read the whole thing at PJM: Do you remember Tawana Brawley? If not, you must go and watch the video co-produced by RetroReport and the New York Times. The Times starts by giving us a wrap-up of the case:
The news reports at the time, in the late 1980s, were horrific. Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old African-American girl from New York State, was said to have been abducted and repeatedly raped by six white men. She was found with “KKK” written across her chest, a racial epithet on her stomach and her hair smeared with feces. She was so traumatized, according to reports, that at the hospital she answered yes-or-no questions by blinking her eyes. Making the crime even more vile, if that were possible, she and her lawyers later claimed that two of the rapists were law enforcement officials.
Enter a relatively unknown (at the time) African-American activist named Reverend Al Sharpton. Rushing to get in touch with young Tawana, Reverend Al became her mentor, spokesman, and leader of the mass protests demanding justice for Brawley, the victim of an apparent white racist attack. In the process, Sharpton accused the police officer — who Sharpton said had actually attacked her — along with the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, Steven Pagones. “The evidence,” Sharpton said, proved that “an assistant district attorney and a state trooper did this.” Sharpton led mass picket lines at New York state offices, which I recall at times included the always gullible folk singer Pete Seeger.

We all know the outcome, although with this new short documentary, a new generation may be hearing about it for the first time. The Times notes: “After seven months, 6,000 pages of testimony and 180 witnesses, a grand jury found Ms. Brawley’s story to be a lie. Neither the police officer nor the district attorney accused by Ms. Brawley and Mr. Sharpton had been involved in any way, the report concluded.” It was too late for Officer Harry Crist Jr., who committed suicide because of the false accusations made against him, or for Assistant DA Pagones, whose career was ruined and whose reputation was smeared.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Treasury of Flying Cars, from the Golden Age of Aviation

2-Year Old and His Dad Play "Don't Let Me Down" by The Beatles

via Neatorama.

Great headline: Bland's plan to link with Dull and Boring

The long-suffering inhabitants of Bland in Australia are hoping to turn a negative into a positive by establishing sister relationships with Dull in Scotland and Boring in the US.

Eric Holder Loads iPod With AP Phone Conversations For Morning Commute

WASHINGTON—While preparing to leave for work Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly loaded up his iPod with dozens of Associated Press reporters’ confidential phone conversations to enjoy on his morning commute. “It usually takes me about 30 minutes to get to the office, so I’ll have something to listen to to pass the time,” said the Justice Department head while transferring the wiretap recordings taken from dozens of AP journalists’ work and cell phone lines from his home computer to his mp3 player. “It’s nice to just sit back and listen to a few secret conversations between reporters and their classified sources. Lately I’ve been getting into [AP Middle East correspondent] Bassem Mroue’s stuff. His off-the-record calls with top intelligence officials are awesome. It’s like he’s just having a conversation with these people and I’m lucky enough to listen in.” Holder added that he’s saving a really lengthy call betweenWashington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli and CIA Director John Brennan for a cross-country flight he’s taking Friday.

Excellent video: Depressed Canines Reflect on Their Miserable Lives

These are great.  Example:

Dearest Diary, this is the 733rd day that I have tried to test what the cat swore to me was true: namely, that if you hump anything long enough you'll find a vagina.  So far the results have been mixed.  My dearest human's leg vagina has not revealed itself, however.

Follow-up to Sad Cat Diary:

Must Read at Wired: NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

Read the whole thing. Excerpt:
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

IRS: cheapest Obamacare plan will cost a family $20K/year

In a final regulation issued Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assumed that under Obamacare the cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000 for the year.

Under Obamacare, Americans will be required to buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS.

Senator Frank (D, NJ) Lautenberg Died – Governor Christie to Name Successor

The death of Lautenberg, a Democrat, creates a vacancy that Republican Gov. Christie will fill through appointment. How long that appointee would serve is unclear, but much of the decision rests with Christie.

There are two conflicting state statutes that refer to Senate vacancies, one of which says there would not be an election until 2014. But Christie also could call a special election this year.

IRS scandal and the Chicago Way

This was Chicago. And for a business owner to get involved meant one thing: It would cost you money and somebody from government could destroy you.
The health inspectors would come, and the revenue department, the building inspectors, the fire inspectors, on and on. The city code books aren't thick because politicians like to write new laws and regulations. The codes are thick because when government swings them at a citizen, they hurt.
And who swings the codes and regulations at those who'd open their mouths? A government worker. That government worker owes his or her job to the political boss. And that boss has a boss.
The worker doesn't have to be told. The worker wants a promotion. If an irritant rises, it is erased. The hack gets a promotion. This is government.
So everybody kept their mouths shut, and Chicago was hailed by national political reporters as the city that works.

Anti-Muslim Backlash in the U.K.? Not So Much

Of course, there are incidents and there are incidents. One kind of incident is having your head chopped off in the street. Another kind is having someone say on Facebook that he disapproves of religious views that promote chopping peoples’ heads off in the street. It turns out that the anti-Muslim “backlash” consists almost entirely of the latter kind.