The story of language gets more interesting.

February 25th, 2018

I’m tired of politics.

I’ve been interested in autism for some years.

Some of autism is involved in language. Now we are starting to learn about the genetics of language.

It had long been suspected that language has some basis in genetics, but this was the first time that a specific gene had been implicated in a speech and language disorder. Overeager journalists quickly dubbed FOXP2 “the language gene” or the “grammar gene”. Noting that complex language is a characteristically human trait, some even speculated that FOXP2 might account for our unique position in the animal kingdom. Scientists were less gushing but equally excited – the discovery sparked a frenzy of research aiming to uncover the gene’s role.

Several years on, and it is clear that talk of a “language gene” was premature and simplistic. Nevertheless, FOXP2 tells an intriguing story. “When we were first looking for the gene, people were saying that it would be specific to humans since it was involved in language,” recalls Simon Fisher at the University of Oxford, who was part of the team that identified FOXP2 in the KE family. In fact, the gene evolved before the dinosaurs and is still found in many animals today: species from birds to bats to bees have their own versions, many of which are remarkably similar to ours.

This gene has many roles, some of which are involved in language. However, it is not that simplae.

All bird species have very similar versions of FOXP2. In the zebra finch, its protein is 98 per cent identical to ours, differing by just eight amino acids. It is particularly active in a part of the basal ganglia dubbed “area X”, which is involved in song learning. Constance Scharff at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, reported that finches’ levels of FOXP2 expression in area X are highest during early life, which is when most of their song learning takes place. In canaries, which learn songs throughout their lives, levels of the protein shoot up annually and peak during the late summer months, which happens to be when they remodel their songs.

So what would happen to a bird’s songs if levels of the FOXP2 protein in its area X were to plummet during a crucial learning window? Scharff found out by injecting young finches with a tailored piece of RNA that inhibited the expression of the FOXP2 gene. The birds had difficulties in developing new tunes and their songs became garbled: they contained the same component “syllables” as the tunes of their tutors, but with syllables rearranged, left out, repeated incorrectly or sung at the wrong pitch.

What is next ? How about Neanderthals ?

The unique human version of the FOXP2 gives us a surprising link with one extinct species. Last year, Svante Pääbo’s group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, extracted DNA from the bones of two Neanderthals, one of the first instances of geneticists exploring ancient skeletons for specific genes. They found that Neanderthal FOXP2 carries the same two mutations as those carried by us – mutations accrued since our lineage split from chimps between 6 and 5 million years ago.

Pääbo admits that he “struggled” to interpret the finding: the Neanderthal DNA suggests that the modern human’s version of FOXP2 arose much earlier than previously thought. Comparisons of gene sequences of modern humans with other living species had put the origins of human FOXP2 between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, which matches archaeological estimates for the emergence of spoken language. However, Neanderthals split with humans around 400,000 years ago, so the discovery that they share our version of FOXP2 pushes the date of its emergence back at least that far.

“We believe there were two things that happened in the evolution of human FOXP2,” says Pääbo. “The two amino acid changes – which happened before the Neanderthal-human split – and some other change which we don’t know about that caused the selective sweep more recently.”

Language and autism are somehow connected.

Some of this is pretty primitive as yet.

Moreover, the striking conservation of both FoxP2 sequence and neural expression in different vertebrates facilitates the use of animal models to study ancestral pathways that have been recruited towards human speech and language. Intriguingly, reduced FoxP2 dosage yields abnormal synaptic plasticity and impaired motor-skill learning in mice, and disrupts vocal learning in songbirds. Converging data indicate that Foxp2 is important for modulating the plasticity of relevant neural circuits. This body of research represents the first functional genetic forays into neural mechanisms contributing to human spoken language.

This has got to be important if we can figure it out.

We are in uncharted territory.

February 20th, 2018

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On October 18, 2016 Barack Obama ridiculed anyone who could think the election could be rigged.

OBAMA: I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts. … [T]here is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved. There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whinin’ and go try to make his case to get votes.

Then Hillary lost.

In December 2016, Democrats were still trying to figure out what happened.

This process, which is a form of what’s called confirmation bias, can help explain why Trump supporters remain supportive no matter what evidence one puts to them—and why Trump’s opponents are unlikely to be convinced of his worth even if he ends up doing something actually positive. The two groups simply process information differently. “The confirmation bias is not specific to Donald Trump. It’s something we are all susceptible to,” the Columbia University psychologist Daniel Ames, one of several scholars to nominate this paper, said. “But Trump appears to be an especially public and risky illustration of it in many domains.” (Ames and his colleague Alice Lee recently showed a similar effect with beliefs about torture.)

One of those was a good observation. But what about the “Russia Collusion” story?

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What happened last weekend ?

January 23rd, 2018

Last weekend, the Democrats in the Senate refused to vote for a Continuing Resolution to fund the US government.

Why ? Because they wanted a law to legalize the thousands of illegal aliens in a status called “DACA” or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

Thus these illegal aliens were given the right to remain and to work in this country. Why ?

The policy was established by executive action rather than legislation; however, participating individuals were sometimes referred to as Dreamers after the DREAM Act bill, a bipartisan bill first proposed in 2001 that was the first of a number of subsequent bills in the U.S. House and Senate attempting to provide a pathway to citizenship or other legal status for certain undocumented residents who immigrated illegally as children and subsequently completed some college or military service.[2]

This is mostly a myth.

Victor Davis Hanson explains some of the mythology.

College graduation and military service are often referenced as DACA talking points. In truth, some studies suggest that just one in 20 dreamers graduated from college. One in a 1,000 has served in the military. So far, about eight times more Dreamers have not graduated from high school than have graduated from college.

I examine military applicants and am unaware of any “Dreamers.”

Then again, are the DACA people just 700,000 ? Or are they millions ?

To be eligible, illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship,[39] nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.

They are widely eligible for free college education or, at least, to be given resident status for tuition.

Many of these people entered as “Unaccompanied Minors. “

A significant number are teenaged gangsters like the MS 13 gangs in Maryland and Virginia.

Almost one-third of 214 U.S.-based MS-13 gang members arrested in an international sweep were invited into the United States by President Barack Obama’s “Unaccompanied Alien Children” policy.
The successful “Raging Bull’ sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

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The Gods of the Copybook Headings are Coming.

January 7th, 2018

There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, explained by John Derbyshire here, That warns of consequences that will come no matter how much we wish it otherwise.

Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one’s handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings — the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

The poem is severe and depressing, as Kipling was when he composed it.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.

Retribution is sure to follow.

The present Deep State, or “Swamp” if you prefer, seems to be nearing some sort of denouement

The House Intelligence Committee now has the bank records of Fusion-GPS. They were turned over Friday after a federal judge on Thursday shot-down a last-ditch effort by attorneys from Fusion to get an emergency injunction.

Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee now have the records of payments made by Fusion-GPS to “journalists and media companies” during 2016 and early 2017 when Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby and Peter Fritsch were shopping the Christopher Steele ‘Russian dossier’ to enhance the “Insurance Policy”.

I expect to see rats going overboard now on a daily basis.

Most of the direct (“small group”) FBI (CoIntel), DOJ (NatSec Division) and Special Counsel co-conspirators are only able to talk amid themselves. They know by now they are being monitored and they have strong suspicion the size of the surveillance upon them. [Hi guys.] No-one else is willing to put themselves at risk now. Congressional allies now view the small group as carrying a legal ebola virus. Contact is now a risk.

I consider Congressman Devin Nunes one of the two heroes of this story. The other is Admiral Mike Rogers.

Rogers warned Trump that his transition team was under surveillance right after the election. For this the Obama people tried to fire him from his position at NSA.

The Washington Post reported on 19 November 2016 that Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper Jr. had recommended to President Obama that Rogers be terminated as director of the National Security Agency. Carter reportedly recommended he be terminated due to poor performance, whereas Clapper considered it wise that the position be held by a civilian. Both Clapper and Carter had put Rogers on notice for poor performance in internal security and for a poor leadership style.

Yes, poor performance as a member of the internal espionage team of Obama.

Nunes was attacked as well.

In early 2017, he was criticized for his alleged bias in a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[3][4] On April 6, 2017, he temporarily stepped aside from leading that investigation while the Office of Congressional Ethics investigates charges that he improperly disclosed classified information to the public, but he remains committee chairman for other purposes. Nunes has denied the allegations.[5][6] The Office of Congressional Ethics later cleared Nunes of allegations that he disclosed classified information to the public.

His crime was disclosing to Trump what he had discovered about the Obama team effort at throwing the election to Hillary.

John McCain being a member in good standing of the DC Swamp, attacked Nunes for his contacting Trump. McCain, of course, was involved in forwarding the “Steele Dossier” to the FBI as part of the war on Trump and the Deplorables.

Nunes, in spite of Democrat and McCain opposition, is winning.

WASHINGTON – […] Gaining access to Fusion GPS’s bank records marks yet another victory for the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee, which earlier in the week secureddocuments and text messages related to the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.

Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had pursued the information for months and threatened a contempt of Congress charge against both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray after they refused to turn over the information.

Two Republican senators earlier in the day Friday recommended that the Justice Department criminally investigate the author of the Trump dossier, which contains salacious and unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia. Republicans are concerned the dossier may have been the impetus behind the federal inquiry looking into possible Russian collusion between that country and the Trump campaign.

The ties are actually between the Clinton campaign and Russia, if anything.

As the Inspector General investigation continues: ?FBI Agent Peter Strzok has been reassigned to the HR department. ?FBI Lawyer Lisa Page, personal legal aide to FBI Asst. Director, Andrew “Andy” McCabe, has been returned to the DOJ side. ?FBI Chief Legal Counsel James Baker has been relieved of his duties by FBI Director Christopher Wray. ?FBI Asst Director Andrew McCabe has announced his intent to retire in March.

All of these FBI personnel moves are a preliminary outcomes of the still ongoing Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation. All of this has been reported. None of these moves are speculative. All of these geese are cooked. However, this is just one side of the 2016 political “Trump operation”, the FBI investigative Counterintelligence Division side.

The other hero in this is OIG Inspector Michael Horowitz, who is still looking into the Clinton Foundation.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the review in response “to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public.”

The probe will also examine allegations that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from the probe. Questions were raised about McCabe’s impartiality after it was revealed Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe donated to his wife’s 2015 Senate campaign.

Additionally, the probe will investigate allegations that DOJ and FBI employees improperly disclosed information not meant for the public. This apparently refers to assistant attorney general Peter Kadzik, whose email tipping off Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta about a House oversight committee hearing was revealed by WikiLeaks.

More popcorn, please.

The Iranians are revolting.

December 30th, 2017

Iran was once an ally of the US and Israel. That ended in 1979 with the revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Since then, the Iranians have declared that we are at war. In 1979, during the revolution, they took members of the US embassy staff and the Marine Guards hostage.

The immediate cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western autocrat who had been expelled from his country some months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs.

That article is typical leftist revisionism. The hostage takers were “students” only as an expression of their age. They were typical “student radicals” seen in most countries undergoing such violent upheavals.

Carter attempted a hostage rescue which was botched although the military people did their best. The US had no joint forces history and the mission was spread between Army, Air Force and Navy, none of which had worked together before.

It ended the day Reagan was inaugurated as president and was probably a sign that the Mullahs saw that he would not be played as they had played Carter.

Now, we have another
uprising but this is directed at the regime.

A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran’s weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment.

The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

Thousands already have taken to the streets of cities across Iran, beginning at first on Thursday in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims.

The protests in the Iranian capital, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting about them, raised the stakes. It also apparently forced state television to break its silence, acknowledging it hadn’t reported on them on orders from security officials.

The 2009 protests became violent but Obama offered no support.

CNN tries ro spin it but he was silent as Iranians were brutalized and killed.

What is different now ? One, Trump is president. Recently he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and determined to move the embassy there.

There have been many complaints and protests, mostly in the US but he has persisted. This is in stark contrast to prior presidents who were all talk, or no talk, and no action.

In addition, Obama’s shameful deal with the Iranians mullahs may have destabilized the regime as the rulers greedily gathered in the billions sent by Obama and did nothing for the people. Obama might have, totally inadvertently, destabilized the regime he was trying to support.

Maybe this is the opening round in regime change.

David Goldman has discussed Iran’s Syrian quagmire.

The Iranian regime is ready to sacrifice the most urgent needs of its internal economy in favor of its ambitions in Syria. Iran cut development spending to just one-third of the intended level as state income lagged forecasts during the three quarters ending last December, according to the country’s central bank. Iran sold US$29 billion of crude during the period, up from $25 billion the comparable period last year. The government revenues from oil of US$11 billion (655 trillion rials) were just 70% of official forecasts, and tax revenues of US$17.2 billion came in 15% below expectations.

Chaos in Iran’s financial system prevents the Iranian government from carrying a larger budget deficit.

It appears that the Obama payoff with billions of cash has been quickly absorbed by the corrupt regime and its mullahs, which may explain the revolt currently underway. We await developments.

The attempted Trump coup.

December 4th, 2017

I am usually not interested in conspiracy theories but the present circumstances make me suspicious.

First, Hillary launched and persists in supporting a movement that refuses to accept the election result.

Hillary Clinton rallied the opposition Friday with a videotaped message urging “resistance plus persistence” that she delivered via President Donald Trump’s favorite form of communication — Twitter.

“The challenges we face as a party and a country are real,” a smiling Clinton said. “So now more than ever, we need to stay engaged in the field and online, reaching out to new voters, young people and everyone who wants a better, stronger, fairer America.”

This could be acceptable if it was only rallying the troops for next year. That is not all that is happening.

First, we have the Russia conspiracy theory.

Last year, before the election, a “Dossier” was assembled with the aid of a British former agnet and a company formed by a]several former reporters called “Fusion GPS”

Russia may have been trying to undermine Trump. And it may have done so in collusion with the Democrats. The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberly Strassel noted Thursday that Fusion GPS has ties to the Democrats — and will not reveal who paid it for the dossier. Strassel asked: “What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign?” The money could have passed through intermediaries, she added.

That means the real story of collusion in the 2016 election could be that Democrats were working with Russia. And that would make sense, given their long history of appeasing the Russians, under both Clinton and Barack Obama.

It appears that Fusion GPS may have paid reporters in addition to providing the ludicrous “Dossier” for their titillation with anti-Trump myths.

Secondly it appears that the FBI used the Fusion GPS “dossier” to seek warrants from the secret court for FISA.

Read the rest of this entry »

What is happening with higher education ?

November 30th, 2017

It is a very long time since I graduated from college. I have been teaching medical students for 15 years until I finally retired two years ago.

My five children have all attended college and all but one have graduated. Three have advanced degrees.

The most recent graduate, my youngest daughter, was taught some untruths at the University of Arizona a few years ago.

For example, she was taught, in her “US History Since 1877” course that “The Silent Majority” consisted of white people who refused to accept the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That was in her final exam review study guide. There was no mention of Nixon or the Vietnam War.

My theory is that university faculties when I attended were mostly World War II veterans or older and I could never sense the political affiliation of any of them. During the Vietnam War, colleges became refuges for anti-war students who stayed in grad school to avoid the draft. Since they were mostly strongly leftist in sympathy, they have perpetuated the leftist bias in faculty by recruiting similar students and by rejecting those who hold more conservative views.

As evidence I offer Steve Hayward’s report on hiring practices today.

Here is the announcement.

Evidence of ability for excellence in teaching and research grounded in political theory and focusing on topics central to the discipline at large: e.g., ancient, modern, and contemporary theories; democratic theory; critical race theory; immigration; the carceral state; postcolonial theory; identity; hybridity; intersectionality; queer theory; deconstruction’s focus on alterity; globalization, and neoliberalism.

What the hell is “the carceral state?” I suppose that refers to BLM theories that black males are unfairly incarcerated.

What about the high school level ? They are graduating illiterates who are going to college.

An internal email obtained by WAMU and NPR from April shows two months before graduation, only 57 students were on track to graduate, with dozens of students missing graduation or community service requirements or failing classes needed to graduate. In June, 164 students received diplomas.

According to a teacher at Ballou, this feat was accomplished by “smoke and mirrors.”

Teachers felt pressure from administration to pass chronically absent students, and students knew the school administration would do as much as possible to get them to graduation.

And Teachers we spoke with say if they questioned administration, they were painted as “haters” who don’t care about students.

The results have been what you would expect:

Last year, 9 percent of students there passed the English standardized test. No one passed the math test. The average SAT score last year among Ballou test takers was 782 out of 1600.

Achievement must be earned. It cannot be mandated by the authorities. Now all of these kids are in college, presumably subsisting on financial aid provided by taxpayers. Their illiteracy and habit of blowing off classes must leave them plenty of time for Black Lives Matter protests. When they are not made Chairman of the Board immediately upon graduation, they will blame it on racism, and for the most part the media will concur.

This is why I think education is in an existential crisis. These kids will never repay student loans. Eventually, the level of delinquency will overwhelm the system.

The Data.

Balances of student loans have eclipsed both auto loans and credit cards, making student loan debt the largest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages. These interactive charts show how student loan borrowing and delinquency rates vary among age groups and over time.

It will never be repaid. The next question is what happens to these illiterates when they graduate from college, as they certainly will. Many will drop out but there will be some illiterate graduates.

More evidence of the left slant that is getting close to vertical.

America’s Principle Agent Problem.

November 10th, 2017

Instapundit frequently links to another story of government incompetence with the comment “We have the worst ruling class in our history.”

There are so many examples, it is hard to list them but I will try with a few.

First, let’s have a definition.

The principal–agent problem, in political science and economics, (also known as agency dilemma or the agency problem) occurs when one person or entity (the “agent”) is able to make decisions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the “principal”.[1] This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.

The Founders were well aware of this problem and tried to protect the citizens with certain provisions of the Constitution.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

This provision was violated by Barack Obama who spent billions to subsidize insurance companies to support his “Affordable Care Act” which was not successful.

Of course, the Amendments were intended to protect the rights of the people but the one that has been ignored for 100 years is the Tenth.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Civil War largely ended Federalism.

In recent years, political parties have mislead their voters, the worst offender being the Republican Party. The Democrats posture as the party of the working man but it has become a party with two wings, the rich who want social liberties, and the poor who want to be taken care of. Jay Cost has written a good book about the Democrats Party called, “Spoiled Rotten, which explains the current policies of the party which has adopted “Identity politics” in which race and victim status has become a principal focus. My own review of the book is here.

The Republicans have gradually become the party of small business but the interests of small business are not being considered as paramount as the party seems to be evolving into another party of professional politicians whose personal interest trumps (so to speak) the interests of the voters. The result has been the rebellion of the Tea Party and more recently the election of Dave Brat, an economics professor, to Congress defeating Eric Cantor, a member of the GOP leadership, in 2014.

The election of Donald Trump has presented the GOP Congress with a crisis to which many have responded by retiring. One wonders what the next step of their career will be. Few, I suspect, will return home to the district that elected them. Most will remain in DC as Cantor has done.

Immediately thereafter, Cantor accepted a position as vice chairman of investment bank Moelis & Company. and,

In February 2015, the firm opened its Washington DC office, following the hire of Eric Cantor, former House Majority Leader, in September 2014.

The “Swamp” as President Trump describes it.

Other examples of the decline of the ruling class are easy to find.

A former professor at West Point, the Army’s Military Academy described the decline in standards at that institution.

The US Navy has had a series of catastrophic ship incidents an analysis is here.

As you will see over and over; yes there is individual failure, but this is actually a systemic failure. No one gets to be OOD overnight. No one gets to be the senior officer in CIC by fogging a mirror. These are, in theory, highly trained professionals who have invested years to be standing that watch. At a minimum, the basics should be instinct, should be expected – should be reinforced by the entire watch team because that is what we do. This did not happen in isolation. This is not the first time any of this took place.

Why, on this ship on this watch, did this happen? What were the conditions that created such an environment?

The rest is horrifying. What has happened to competence ?

The Transportation Security Administration has improved their success at detecting violations to only 80% failure.

Back in 2015, the TSA failed 67 of 70 tests that were conducted around the nation, which involved undercover officers smuggling banned items through security. That’s right, they have a ~95% failure rate. At least up until recently, the TSA has been consistent. In July a similar test was conducted, where 16 of 17 tests were failed, which is a similar failure rate.

I simply can’t wrap my head around how this is acceptable. Earlier in the year we saw the federal government imposing ridiculous (and dangerous) bans on electronics for flights from the Middle East to the US, while for flights departing the US, 95% of weapons go undetected.

Information is now coming out about the latest tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, in which undercover agents brought weapons through TSA checkpoint. This time around they’re not revealing exact numbers, but rather are only giving ballpark figures.

Then, of course, we had the botched implementation of Obamacare and its web site registration system.

Though the Obama administration tried to cover up the full extent of the website failure in the days following its launch, the lengthy HHS document tells a tale of complete collapse. It was forced out of this secretive administration by our November 25, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Judicial Watch filed suit after HHS refused to respond to our October 7, 2013, FOIA request seeking the following information:

Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the number of individuals that purchased health insurance through Healthcare.gov between October 1, 2013, and October 4, 2013.

A simple request – that was stonewalled for over six months. Now we know why. This document shows that, on its first full day of operation, October 1, 2013, Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov received only one enrollment! That’s one – out of 334 million Americans. On the second day, 48% of registrations failed to process.

Billions were spent on this disaster. The Oregon state program failed completely

Oregon, under then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, aspired to create a shining model for other ObamaCare exchanges, but instead, it became its poster child of dysfunction. After spending more than $300 million in federal taxpayer dollars, Oregon pulled the plug last year and decided to default to the federal exchange.

The state is now embroiled in lawsuits with its primary vendor, Oracle, and current and former Oregon officials are the subject of congressional and other federal investigations. Depending upon the outcome of those investigations, Congress could demand that the state to pay back the $300 million it spent on a project that numerous reports show was fraught with mismanagement and political maneuverings.

Kitzhaber was an ER doc and may have returned to that occupation after his adventures as Governor.

The failure of Congress to repeal Obamacare is one more example of incompetence. The reaction of Republican Congress persons to Trump after his election suggests where their loyalties lie. The Swamp.

I think Angelo Codevilla’s piece about “The Ruling Class” has the best explanation.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Corruption at all levels.

October 20th, 2017

UPDATE: More on the Clinton Russian scandal.


J. Michael Waller, writing in the Daily Caller, says that new FBI information about corruption in a Clinton-approved uranium deal with Russia raises questions about Clinton’s actions after the FBI broke up a deep-cover Russian spy ring in 2010. The FBI ran an elaborate and highly successful operation called Ghost Stories to monitor and rip apart a deep-cover Russian agent network. It tracked a ring of Russian spies who lived between Boston and Washington, D.C. under false identities.

In 2010, thanks to the Ghost Stories operation, the FBI arrested 10 spies. According to Waller, “Secretary of State Clinton worked feverishly to return the Russian agents to Moscow in a hastily arranged, lopsided deal with Putin.”

If this is true, why did Clinton do so? Waller ties her actions to the Russia uranium deal:

For the Clintons, the FBI’s biggest counterintelligence bust in history couldn’t have come at a worse time. . .It all happened as the uranium deal was in play: An arrangement to provide Moscow’s state Rosatom nuclear agency with 20 percent of American uranium capacity, with $145,000,000 to pour into the Clinton Family Foundation and its projects.

There are many examples of the corruption of our government. A serious commenter at All Althouse said this’

Blogger buwaya said…
Another difference between the US, the greatest banana republic that has ever been, and your garden-variety banana republic, is that the economic interests that run it are of a vastly different kind.

Your usual banana republic was and is run by people who make money by making things, and mining things, and growing things, and selling them abroad or to local consumers. They may be assholes, they may employ thugs, they can and do cheat and collude and corrupt governments, but their source of wealth is production and there are significant interests shared with the common people, much more than one would think.

In the US though the big money has nearly no interests in common with the commoners. Their wealth rests on exploitation of laws and regulations, paper assets. The people are extraneous and irrelevant.

I have thought for some time that we are being dominated by billionaires that don’t make useful things. Most of it, like Facebook and Google, is vaporware. Some other techie will come along and build a better mousetrap and those entities will disappear.

They don’t make things. Much of the wealth in this country is now created by handling money. It is an old ironic comments that”Even the handling of money can be profitable.”

Now, we are seeing the gigantic scandal that may or may not become apparent. The Democrats are trying to keep the lid on it and Republicans are not a great deal more trustworthy. The story is explained here.

To read the headlines, a poor, beleaguered opposition-research firm was humiliated and constitutionally abused this week by partisan Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. Fusion’s lawyers sent a 17-page letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, accusing him of misdeeds, declaring his subpoenas invalid, and invoking a supposed First Amendment right to silence. Yet the firm’s founders, the story went, were hauled in nonetheless and forced to plead the Fifth. “No American should experience the indignity that occurred today,” Fusion’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, declared.

Fusion is known as a ruthless firm that excels in smear jobs, but few have noticed the operation it’s conducting against the lawmakers investigating it. The false accusations against Mr. Nunes—that he’s acting unethically and extralegally, that he’s sabotaging the Russia probe—are classic.

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Christopher Columbus.

October 9th, 2017

bronx-christopher-columbus

Today is the second Monday in October and, since 1934, it has been celebrated as “Columbus Day.” The original celebration was political, to honor Italian immigrants who had come during the previous 40 years. However, Columbus was from Genoa, which was an independent republic until Italy was unified in the 19th century. He sailed for Spain after having been turned down by the Portuguese royal family, which was content with its African routes to India.

The best history of Columbus was written by Samuel Elliot Morrison, Harvard historian and sailor who would write the history of the
the US Navy in World War II.

His Columbus history is a great work and involved a number of voyages by Morrison and colleagues who repeated Columbus voyages relying on original documents to duplicate his routes as best they could.

To research a biography of Christopher Columbus, Morison spent five months aboard a three-masted sailing ship, retracing the explorer’s routes 10,000 miles across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean. The resulting book, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (1942), made Morison’s name as a scholar who was not content to dwell in the archives. It also gave him entree. “That Columbus book…brought me a welcome from sailors everywhere,” he once said. “It did me more good than the [naval] commission. Columbus was my passport.”

It helps to be a sailor to understand what Morrison was doing with Columbus. He was already a sailor and knew enough about the sea to recognize how Columbus would go about his task.

In 1940, Morison published Portuguese Voyages to America in the Fifteenth Century, a book that presaged his succeeding publications on the explorer, Christopher Columbus. In 1941, Morison was named Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard. For Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942), Morison combined his personal interest in sailing with his scholarship by actually sailing to the various places that Christopher Columbus explored. The Harvard Columbus Expedition, led by Morison and including his wife and Captain John W. McElroy, Herbert F. Hossmer, Jr., Richard S. Colley, Dr. Clifton W. Anderson, Kenneth R. Spear and Richard Spear, left on 28 August 1939 aboard the 147 foot ketch Capitana for the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal from which they sailed on the 45 foot ketch Mary Otis to retrace Columbus’ route using manuscripts and records of his voyages reaching Trinidad by way of Cadiz, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.[8] After following the coast of South and Central America the expedition returned to Trinidad on 15 December 1939.[8] The expedition returned to New York on 2 February 1940 aboard the United Fruit liner Veragua.[8] The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1943.

He drew the outline of islands as they approached them and compared his drawings to those of Columbus that could still be found. The same technique in recognition is still used in cruising publications for amateur sailors.
GPS has replaced a lot of the navigational methods used by tradition but the US Navy has returned to training deck officers in celestial navigation.

But now the US navy is reinstating classes on celestial navigation for all new recruits, teaching the use of sextants – instruments made of mirrors used to calculate angles and plot directions – because of rising concerns that computers used to chart courses could be hacked or malfunction.
“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the naval academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. He told Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette: “The problem is there’s no backup.”

Most of Columbus’ navigation was “Dead Reckoning” as celestial navigation was primitive at the time he sailed. Latitude sailing was the most reliable method before longitude could be determined. The navigator would sail, often by coastal methods, until reaching the latitude of the destination, then sail east or west along that latitude until the destination was reached. Columbus used this method although his latitude measurements were greatly in error.

Middle-latitude sailing combines plane sailing and parallel sailing. Plane sailing is used to find difference of latitude and departure when course and distance are known, or vice versa. Parallel sailing is used to interconvert departure and difference of longitude. The mean latitude (Lm) is normally used for want of a practical means of determining the middle latitude, or the latitude at which the arc length of the parallel separating the meridians passing through two specific points is exactly equal to the departure in proceeding from one point to the other. The formulas for these transformations are:

DLo = p sec Lm and p = DLo cos Lm.

The mean latitude (Lm) is half the arithmetic sum of the latitudes of two places on the same side of the equator. It is labeled N or S to indicate its position north or south of the equator. If a course line crosses the equator, solve each course line segment separately.

This is more complicated as it assumes two latitudes, origin and destination. Columbus knew that the Canary Islands were on the same latitude as China, where he planned to end his voyage. His estimate of longitude was far off, by about 30 degrees. He did not know of the existence of America but began, by his fourth voyage, to realize that he had discovered a New World.

His navigational skills were incredible, given the time. He was able to return to Spain, although his first landfall was Portugal as he encountered heavy weather on the return. He made a total of four voyages and returns. He was less successful as a colonial administrator than navigator but his accomplishments as sailor and navigator are enormous.