Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stalin's Cannibals

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_spectator/2011/02/stalins_cannibals.single.html
The back story: While Lenin was content, for a time anyway, to allow the new Soviet Union to develop a "mixed economy" with state-run industry and peasant-owned private farms, Stalin decided to "collectivize" the grain-producing breadbasket that was the Ukraine. His agents seized all land from the peasants, expelling landowners and placing loyal ideologues with little agricultural experience in charge of the newly collectivized farms, which began to fail miserably. And to fulfill Five-Year Plan goals, he seized all the grain and food that was grown in 1932 and 1933 to feed the rest of Russia and raise foreign capital, and in doing so left the entire Ukrainian people with nothing to eat—except, sometimes, themselves.

FBI Special Agent and Counterterrorism Expert Criticizes the TSA

http://gmancasefile.blogspot.com/2012/01/tsa-fail.html
TSA has never, (and I invite them to prove me wrong), foiled a terrorist plot or stopped an attack on an airliner. Ever. They crow about weapons found and insinuate that this means they stopped terrorism.  They claim that they can’t comment due to “national security” implications. In fact, if they had foiled a plot, criminal charges would have to be filed. Ever hear of terrorism charges being filed because of something found during a TSA screening? No, because it’s never happened. Trust me, if TSA had ever foiled a terrorist plot, they would buy full-page ads in every newspaper in the United States to prove their importance and increase their budget.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Study: A powerful member of congress can have a negative effect on a state's economy

http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-02-powerful-member-congress-negative-effect.html
Researchers from Harvard Business School found that when a member of a state's congressional delegation becomes chair of a powerful committee, that state sees a tremendous influx of government cash through earmarks and government contracts, as one might expect. But rather than stimulating growth, the study found that the extra government spending actually causes businesses in that state to downsize.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Space Combat

Slashdot had a discussion about what space combat would look like. Two interesting links from the comments:

A short story about an alien race attempting to conquer humanity:
http://pastebin.com/aJQfubrK
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_%28short_story%29

A thorough answer to the question of what space combat would look like:
http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacewarintro.php

The Ally From Hell

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/the-ally-from-hell/8730/?single_page=true
The nuclear shell game played by Pakistan is one more manifestation of the slow-burning war between the U.S. and Pakistan. The national-security interests of the two countries are often in almost perfect opposition, but neither Pakistan nor the U.S. has historically been able or willing to admit that they are locked in conflict, because they are also dependent on each other in crucial ways: the Pakistani military still relies on American funding and American-built weapons systems, and the Obama administration, in turn, believes Pakistani cooperation is crucial to the achievement of its main goal of defeating the “al-Qaeda core,” the organization now led by bin Laden’s former deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The U.S. also moves much of the matériel for its forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan, and must cross Pakistani airspace to fly from Arabian Sea–based aircraft carriers to Afghanistan. (In perhaps the most bizarre expression of this dysfunctional relationship, Osama bin Laden’s body was flown out of Pakistan by the American invasion force, which did not seek Pakistani permission and was prepared to take Pakistani anti-aircraft fire—but then, hours later, bin Laden’s body was flown back over Pakistan on a regularly routed American military flight between Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, in the Arabian Sea.) 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Society_of_Composers,_Authors_and_Publishers

http://www.woodpecker.com/writing/essays/royalty-politics.html

"ASCAP attracted media attention in 1996 when it threatened Girl Scouts of the USA and Boy Scouts of America camps that sang ASCAP's copyrighted works at camps with lawsuits for not paying licensing fees."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rodney Alcala

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Alcala
In 1980 Alcala was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Samsoe's murder, but his conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court because jurors had been improperly informed of his prior sex crimes. In 1986, after a second trial virtually identical to the first except for omission of the prior criminal record testimony, he was convicted once again, and again sentenced to death. However, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel overthrew the second conviction, in part because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala's contention that the park ranger who found Samsoe's body had been "hypnotized by police investigators."

For the third trial Alcala elected to act as his own attorney. He took the stand in his own defense, and for five hours played the roles of both interrogator and witness, asking himself questions (addressing himself as "Mr. Alcala" in a deeper-than-normal voice), and then answering them.  During this bizarre self-questioning and answering session he told jurors, often in a rambling monotone, that he was at Knott's Berry Farm when Samsoe was kidnapped.  He also claimed that the earrings found in his Seattle locker were his, not Samsoe's.  As "proof" he showed the jury a portion of his 1978 appearance on The Dating Game, during which his earrings — if he wore any — were obscured by his shoulder-length hair.  He made no significant effort to dispute the other four charges.  As part of his closing argument, he played the portion of Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant" in which the protagonist tells a psychiatrist he wants to "kill."

Grade Inflation

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/the-history-of-college-grade-inflation/

http://gradeinflation.com/

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why do we lock up so many people?

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/01/30/120130crat_atlarge_gopnik?currentPage=all
The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education.
Northern impersonality and Southern revenge converge on a common American theme: a growing number of American prisons are now contracted out as for-profit businesses to for-profit companies. The companies are paid by the state, and their profit depends on spending as little as possible on the prisoners and the prisons. It’s hard to imagine any greater disconnect between public good and private profit: the interest of private prisons lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible. No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America. Here the company (which spends millions lobbying legislators) is obliged to caution its investors about the risk that somehow, somewhere, someone might turn off the spigot of convicted men:
Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. . . . The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.