Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category
For being a super power the United States certainly doesn’t put much effort into its monuments. The Washington monument, for example, is just a giant phallus. The Lincoln Memorial is a bit neater since it does have a giant statue of a man on a chair. Mount Rushmore may be one of our most impressive monuments but it’s still just the faces of four dudes carved into stone. Other superpowers put a bit more effort into living up to the title. China, for example, just showed us who’s boss by building a gigantic 1,350-ton statue of a war god:
The statue has just been unveiled in Guan Yu Park in Jingzhou, China. It’s 58 metres (190ft) tall and weighs over 1,320 tonnes, and it contains over 4,000 strips of bronze. It was designed by Han Meilin, who is probably best known for his designs of the 2008 Beijing Olympics mascots, and the monument is so big that there’s even an 8,000sqm museum inside it! Guan Yu lived during China’s turbulent Three Kingdoms period. He carried an axe-like weapon called a Green Dragon Crescent Blade, which has been immortalised with him as part of the statue. The only difference is that the weapon now weighs 136 tonnes!
It truly puts everything the American Empire has built to shame. Not only is it huge but it also looks awesome:
Online harassment is pervasive. Death threats on the Internet are a dime a dozen and if you’re a woman there’s a good chance punk kids are going to subject you to a constant stream of variations on “Show me your tits,” followed by accusations that you’re a whore and should be killed. Anybody who has played online games has probably lost track of how many times pissed off children have claimed to have slept with their mother and challenged them to a fight in real life.
I’ve received enough threats online that I could paper my living room walls if I printed them all off but I mostly ignore them because I don’t really care. However, if you do feel the threats are credible and report them to the police you’ll likely receive little more than a shrug and a claim that there’s nothing the department can do. Things are a bit different when the harassment is aimed at police officers though:
Five police officers were killed in the Dallas shootings, constituting the highest number of police casualties in an attack since September 11. And as a result, law enforcement officials everywhere are suddenly much more sensitive to threats against their lives.
But one result has been that several police departments across the country have arrested individuals for posts on social media accounts, often from citizen tips — raising concerns among free speech advocates.
The police are like you and me, only better.
Another issue here, as pointed out by The Intercept, is free speech. A lot of people will argue that since many of the posts in question were threatening in nature that free speech doesn’t apply. But statements such as “I have no problem shooting a cop for simple traffic stop cuz they’d have no problem doing it to me,” aren’t threats in my opinion because the person is stating an opinion, not a course of action that they’re planning to pursue. If the statement had been “I will shoot any cop for pulling me over,” then it could been seen differently as the statement is expressing a potential planned course of action (of course it could also been seen as a statement expressing a willingness to defend one’s self). But then questions of means must be answered because a threat is meaningless if the person making it doesn’t have the means to go through with it.
Regardless of your opinions on threats in regards to freedom of speech, there is no question that the police are treating people who threaten them online different than people who threaten regular Janes and Joes. It’s no different than a politician who argues regular people shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun but then carries a gun themselves or hires armed body guards to protect them.
A lot of venues recognize the importance of having onsite security personnel. Unfortunately, many of those venues mistakenly hire off-duty police officers instead of professional private security agents. If you work for a venue that does this be warned that the agents you hired may walk off because they saw somebody wearing a t-shirt that offended their sensitive little feelings:
Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.
Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio.
“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers,” the team said in a statement. “While our players message mourned the loss of life due to last week’s shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. … We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.
What a bunch of cry babies. Were I in charge of their police department I’d fire those officers as they’ve proven themselves to be unreliable and too emotionally sensitive to perform police work.
Let this be a lesson to everybody though. When you need security for your venue hire professionals. There are a lot of quality private security firms out there that won’t leave you high and dry just because your employees do something that disagrees with their beliefs.
It’s not secret to anybody who has had the displeasure of flying out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) that something is wrong with the security lines. While there are several numbered gates they are no longer in use. Now there are only three. There’s the two main gates and then there’s the lesser known gate tucked away elsewhere in the airpot. This has lead to ridiculously long security lines and flights are being missed just so a putz with a badge can play their part in security theater.
If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a failure of an organization in general then the TSA at MSP is the idiot uncle of the family that everybody hates because he get drunk at the family get togethers and starts getting frisky with everybody’s wives and daughters.
Somebody has finally had enough and is filing a lawsuit:
A Minneapolis man is blaming the long lines at security for missing a recent flight, and now he’s suing the federal agency and the Twin Cities airport’s operator for $506.85.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court last week, Hooman Nikizad said his wait of more than 90 minutes on March 19 before he passed through security screening by the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made him miss his afternoon flight to Los Angeles.
“I had to buy a ticket with another airline to be able to make my destination and meet my obligations,” Nikizad said in his claim, which noted the TSA had limited staff on duty at the time and “only one body scanner for the regular security line [in operation].”
I’m sure Mr. Nikizad will be added to the no-fly list. Regardless his lawsuit, as far as I’m concerned, is entirely justified. Expecting people to arrive hours before a flight for no reason whatsoever (see the TSA’s 95 percent failure rate) is unacceptable. If somebody arrives at the airport 90 minutes before their flight and is forced to buy another ticket because TSA couldn’t get its shit together then the agency should be forced to reimburse them for damages.
I have some shocking news for you. Even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed with the promise that forcing everybody to buy insurance would reduce prices the prices have — you might want to sit down because this is going to be shocking — gone up:
Insured Americans are having to shell out more and more for healthcare, particularly, hospital visits, researchers report this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. From 2009 and 2013—before the biggest provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014—people with individual or employer-sponsored health insurances saw a 37 percent rise in out-of-pockets costs for a hospital stay. Average bills jumped from $738 to $1,013. That’s about a 6.5 percent increase each year. However, overall healthcare spending rose just 2.9 percent each year during that time-frame and premiums—the cost to buy insurance—rose by around 5.1 percent annually.
“Every year, people freak out about how high premiums have gotten and how they continue to grow exponentially, but [out-of-pocket costs are] actually growing even faster,” Emily Adrion, first author of the study and a researcher at the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at the University of Michigan, told Bloomberg.
What could possible be going on here? How can involving more government not fix a problem? The reason is actually quite simple. When you’re required to do business with somebody they have little motivation to provide you a quality service or keep your costs low. This is especially true in a market that is heavily protected against new competitors. The health insurance market, through regulatory protections, is hard for any new competitor to enter unless they’re in possession of billions of dollars. Because of that the already established insurance companies feel safe keeping their prices high so long as the other established companies also keep their prices high.
There are certain constants in the universe. Extremely massive bodies will have gravitational pull, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction, and people will work for beer. A 5,000-year-old table was discovered and translated. What did this ancient tablet have to tell us? That people worked for beer. The tablet, as with many tablets in Mesopotamia, was a receipt:
Writing in New Scientist, Alison George explains what’s written on the 5,000-year-old tablet: “We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning ‘ration,’ and a conical vessel, meaning ‘beer.’ Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker.” Beer wages were by no means limited to Mesopotamia. In ancient Egypt, there are records of people receiving beer for their work—roughly 4 to 5 liters per day for people building the pyramids. And in the Middle Ages, we have several records of the great fourteenth century poet Geoffrey Chaucer being paid in wine. Richard II generously gave Chaucer an annual salary that included a “tonel” of wine per year, which was roughly 252 gallons.
Today you can buy the assistance of friends to help fix your vehicle, move your stuff, or perform other forms of manual labor using this ancient tradition of paying in beer.
One of my interests as of late is the history of human languages. Cuneiform, the writing used for the beer receipt, was the first writing system we’re aware of. Interestingly enough it, like most things, was a product of the market:
The Sumerians first invented writing as a means of long-distance communication which was necessitated by trade. With the rise of the cities in Mesopotamia, and the need for resources which were lacking in the region, long-distance trade developed and, with it, the need to be able to communicate across the expanses between cities or regions.
Trade is the mother of invention. Remember what I said about many of these tablets being receipts? This is because Cuneiform was originally developed as a method of communicating trade information over long distances. Many of the tablets recovered from Mesopotamia discuss business transactions. Over time writing became used in more areas of life and today we plaster our languages over everything.
Yesterday Britain proved it had more guts than Scotland. When the opportunity to leave the European Union presented itself to the British people they actually voted to leave. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since the votes were tallied and Britain is already reaping the benefits of exiting:
Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, he said “fresh leadership” was needed.
The PM had urged the country to vote Remain but was defeated by 52% to 48% despite London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backing staying in.
Getting rid of that pig fucker is a huge plus. Sadly, this vote might also demonstrate that the spirit of Braveheart is completely dead in Scotland:
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “absolutely determined” to keep Scotland in the EU so a second Scottish independence referendum was now “highly likely”.
Scotland my secede from the United Kingdom just so it can make itself the bitch of a larger master? Sad.
I should note that I was hoping the United Kingdom would secede from the European Union. Not because of the major issue at hand, the United Kingdom’s desire to prevent people from crossing its imaginary lines, but because I just wanted to see somebody secede from somebody else. I want to see continuous acts of secession until all seven billion people have seceded from all governments. One country breaking away from an ill-fated union is a good start.
Yesterday a person claiming allegiance to the Islamic State attacked the Pulse club in Orlando. In his wake are 50 bodies. Like vultures the politicians have already descended on this tragedy. Predictably Obama and Hillary are blaming the lack of gun control laws:
Mr Obama said the “brutal murder of dozens of innocent people” was a further reminder of how easy it was to acquire a deadly weapon in the US and shoot people.
Mrs Clinton said she was an “ally” of the gay community and used a statement to push for tighter gun controls. She said: “This reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
The irony of two people who have used the might of the heavily armed United States military to murder innocent civilians complaining about the wide availability of weapons is not lost on me.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Trump is calling for Obama to step down because he didn’t speak the right words:
Meanwhile her Republican rival, Donald Trump, said Mr Obama should step down for refusing to use the words “radical Islam” when condemning the attack.
Absolutely nothing would have changed if Obama said the words “radical Islam” or any other phrase.
Politicians always leave a sick feeling in my stomach. Their concern for the dead only extends to their ability to exploit them for political posturing.
Over the next week or two the major media outlets are going to report on everything and anything they can get their hands on, even though almost everything will be speculation as an investigation hasn’t been conducted, so they can boost their ratings and up their advertisement revenue. I feel safe in saying that it’s best to ignore them until a proper investigation has been conducted and actual facts are available. Only time will reveal the facts. Until then the only thing that can be done is offering as much assistance to the families of the victims as possible.
Waze is a wonderful app that allows users to alert other users of traffic issues. I use the app because I like to report and know about road pirate activity but it’s also useful for avoiding traffic issues that aren’t caused by thieves with badges. Now that we’ve entered road construction season here in Minnesota Waze is useful to routing around the every changing landscape is the transportation infrastructure. But some people are unhappy with the app because it sometimes routes travelers through their neighborhoods:
When the traffic on Timothy Connor’s quiet Maryland street suddenly jumped by several hundred cars an hour, he knew who was partly to blame: the disembodied female voice he could hear through the occasional open window saying, “Continue on Elm Avenue . . . .”
The marked detour around a months-long road repair was several blocks away. But plenty of drivers were finding a shortcut past Connor’s Takoma Park house, slaloming around dog walkers and curbside basketball hoops, thanks to Waze and other navigation apps.
“I could see them looking down at their phones,” said Connor, a water engineer at a federal agency. “We had traffic jams, people were honking. It was pretty harrowing.”
And so Connor borrowed a tactic he read about from the car wars of Southern California and other traffic-weary regions: He became a Waze impostor. Every rush hour, he went on the Google-owned social-media app and posted false reports of a wreck, speed trap or other blockage on his street, hoping to deflect some of the flow.
He continued his guerrilla counterattack for two weeks before the app booted him off, apparently detecting a saboteur in its ranks. That made Connor a casualty in the social-media skirmishes erupting across the country as neighborhoods try to contend with suddenly savvy drivers finding their way on routes that were once all but secret.
Cry me a river. Mr. Conner must have quite the ego if he thinks he has some kind of right to decide who can and cannot use roads he doesn’t even own.
The issue he’s seeing, without being intelligent enough to realize it, is a tragedy of the commons. Most roads in this country are considered public (which is a fancy word for the State claiming exclusive ownership rights). They’re funded by money that has been stolen from the population in the form of taxes. That being the case, Conner has no right to bitch about how the road in his neighborhood is used. If it suddenly becomes popular with motorists and that popularity causes the road to degrade faster and to be less usable by people living in the neighborhood then there’s no recourse for the people of the neighborhood.
There is a solution to this: private roads. Suddenly everything changes. The people using your private road without your permission are trespassers. If they do want to use your road they can attempt to negotiate a deal with you. If you’re not interested in a deal then you can tell them to buzz off. But none of that is possible if the roads are public because then the State gets to decide who can and cannot use them.
Instead of whining about people using the road that they were forced to pay for, Mr. Conner should really try to see if there is a way to privatize the road so his neighbors and him can decide who gets to use it.
The people of Switzerland demonstrated that their knowledge in mathematics is still sound. There was a proposal to implement universal basic income (UBI) and the people voted it down by a wide measure:
Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all.
Final results from Sunday’s referendum showed that nearly 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.
When I posted this link on Facebook one of my friends asked what my problem with UBI is. While there are a plethora of economic arguments to make against it my only real objection is the fact it can’t be implemented without government violence.
The wealth needed to fund UBI has to come from somewhere. There are two popular methods that governments use to fund their programs. The most common one is the seizing of wealth from the general populace, which is sometimes referred by the far more cuddly term “taxation”. If the Swiss government opted to fund UBI through taxation it would have been pulling the usual government routine of putting a gun to everybody’s head, demanding a tithe, and kidnapping and imprisoning anybody who refused to pay the tithe. As usual, if their intended kidnapping victims refused to go quietly they would be murdered.
The other common method governments use to fund their programs is printing money. This scam is more insidious since it doesn’t rely on overt violence. Instead of sending men with guns to thump skulls, a money printing scam steals wealth from anybody holding the government’s currency (this is why you don’t want to mess with government currency unless you’re under duress) by devaluing it. As more money is printed the purchasing power of each unit already in circulation diminishes.
No matter how you shake it, UBI can only be funded at the point of a government gun.