Category Archives: Culture

Jordan Changes Rape Law

I guess one could call this an improvement, but not much.

A law which protected rapists from punishment if they married their victims has been scrapped in Jordan.
The Jordanian cabinet revoked Article 308 on Sunday, after years of campaigning by women’s activists, as well as Muslim and Christian scholars and others.

The law had meant rapists could avoid a jail term in return for marrying their victim for at least three years.

Its supporters said the law protected a victim’s honour and reputation.

But last year, it was amended so a rapist could only use the loophole to marry his victim if she was aged between 15 and 18 and the attack was believed to have been consensual.

So if you rape a child and marry her, it’s cool in Jordan.

Killers Ask Court to Stay Execution Due to Good Health

SMH.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death Monday in what could be the nation’s first double execution in more than 16 years asked an appeals court on Sunday to halt their lethal injections because of poor health that could cause complications.

Lawyers for Jack Jones and Marcel Williams asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Sunday to grant them stays of execution.

Jones’ lawyers say he suffers from diabetes and is on insulin, has high blood pressure, neuropathy and had one leg amputated below the knee. He is on heavy doses of methadone and gabapentin. They say he may be resistant to the lethal injection drug midazolam because of the drugs he is taking for his maladies and could suffer a “tortuous death.”

Lawyers for Williams say he weighs 400 pounds and it will be difficult to find a vein for lethal injunction, so the drugs are unlikely to work as intended.

So much wrong with this… let’s start with how fat these guys are after being on death row for 20 years. Of course we should feed prisoners, but do we have to let them eat enough to blimp up to 400 pounds? And now that the prison did let them get that fat, remember that all of the related health care expenses are being paid for by the taxpayers.

Whether you support the death penalty or not, how can anyone take this bizarro argument seriously? They are sick so we shouldn’t carry out their sentences? If you find yourself having any sympathy for these men, remember that they are on death row for a reason:

Both Jones and Williams have admitted they are guilty. Williams was sent to death row in 1994 for the rape and murder of Stacy Errickson. Jones was given the death penalty for the 1995 rape and murder of Mary Phillips.

USCCA Disinvited from NRA Annual Meeting

Wow. That stinks.

West Bend, WI – The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) today announced that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has disinvited the organization from its 2017 Annual Meetings & Exhibits and the 2018 Great American Outdoor Show because of “concerns regarding its programs.”

The move shocked the leadership of the USCCA because they were given less than two weeks notice that they had been banned from the annual show, even though they had attended for the past several years.  This decision also came as a surprise because over the past two months, the leadership from the NRA and the USCCA met twice to discuss the shared goal of the two organizations in support of the Second Amendment.

In a note sent to millions of USCCA supporters, Founder and President Tim Schmidt said that even though the NRA might be fearing the competition, USCCA will still support the NRA’s efforts to protect the Second Amendment.

I suspect that the real reason is that the NRA offers a competing insurance product and the USCCA has been gaining too much market share for the NRA’s liking. What’s unfortunate for 2nd Amendment supporters is that we have two advocacy organizations who won’t work together due to competing business interests.

Oklahoma City – 22 Years Later

We remember

On April 19, 1995, a truck-bomb explosion outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, left 168 people dead and hundreds more injured. The blast was set off by anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh, who in 2001 was executed for his crimes. His co-conspirator Terry Nichols received life in prison. Until September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack to take place on U.S. soil.

I visited the memorial last year on this day. The pain continues to linger.

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Why the Rage Against Chemical Weapons?

He has a point.

The Obama-Trump doctrine that the United States will enforce a global norm against the use of chemical weapons is strategically pointless and morally arbitrary. Strategically, it requires the United States to invest its time and resources policing a weapon this is not qualitatively different from conventional weapons. Morally, it amounts to a declaration that the United States cares more about the murder weapon than the murder victim.

Assad, for example, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, but we’re only supposed to get upset when he kills them with chemical weapons? The reasoning for opposing chemical weapons is that they can be deployed in an arbitrary fashion that kills a lot of innocent people and they result in a gruesome death. One could make the same case for the MOAB.

Injured Marine Completes Boston Marthon

Stud.

For Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, what it means to serve and represent his country is something he knows all too well. According to NBC, Sanchez is a retired Marine who lost the lower part of his left leg by stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011. However, the former military man would not be deterred because of his injury when it came time to run in the 2017 Boston Marathon.

Rather, he showed his pride and honor for his country on Patriots’ Day on an entirely different level.

Sgt. Sanchez wore a Semper Fi Fund shirt and ran on his prosthetic leg while carrying a large American flag for the entire 26.2-mile race, finishing in 5:46:13.

“I want to recognize veterans and everyone who thinks they can’t do something,” Sanchez told Runner’s World. He completed the race as a charity member for the Semper Fi Fund, which supports wounded veterans, Runner’s World reports.

Vegan Butcher Shop

Wait… what?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A first-in-the-nation business officially opened in Minneapolis Saturday, giving non-meat eaters a reason to go into a butcher shop.

Siblings Kale and Aubry Walch are the brains behind The Herbivorous Butcher in northeast Minneapolis, which has customers lining up around the block on its opening day.

They sell things like vegan Italian sausage, kielbasa, porterhouse steak and many different vegan cheeses.

I’ve always been a bit flummoxed by the need of some vegetarians and vegans to create dishes to approximate meat. Why? If you don’t want to eat meat or animal products, then don’t. I don’t try to make my steak taste and feel like a salad.

Government Safety Net

Literally.

(CNN)The Golden Gate Bridge has a problem: horrifyingly high suicide rates. The community has a solution: a net covering the perimeter of the bridge.

It sounds like a simple response to a complex problem, but the barrier is a big task. In May, crews will begin to erect fencing along the approaches and tower legs, but that deterrent is only temporary. From there, workers will take careful measurements to begin installing a net that extends 20 feet out along both sides of the 1.7 mile long bridge.
The installation will begin in 2018 and the Golden Gate Bridge, Transportation and Highway District expects construction to be completed in 2021.
And this isn’t your average net. It will be constructed from stainless steel — light enough to be inconspicuous, but strong enough to save lives.
[…]
Costing $211 million to design, plan, and construct, the project is a group effort. The funds are coming from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, state mental health provisions and private donations.
Isn’t it interesting that a city that prides itself on free expression and individual liberty (as long as it’s liberal) would deny people the ability to kill themselves? Who are they to interrupt someone exercising an alternative deathstyle?
Also, if someone jumps off of the bridge and lands in the net, couldn’t they just crawl over to the edge of the net and jump again? It’s not as if the slightly reduced distance is any less deadly.
$211 million and three years to put up a 3.4 mile net… only in government.

Engaged to a Robot

The next frontier in civil rights?

A young woman named Lilly greeted me when I arrived. She was glowing as she set the table with cheese, crackers and French pastries. We were surrounded by picture frames of her and the token of her affection. She poured champagne, and together we toasted her engagement … to a robot.

She calls the robot inMoovator, and in a story reminiscent of the Greek myth of Pygmalion, Lilly built inMoovator herself, 3D printing dozens of parts in a lab nearby. She plans to eventually add artificial intelligence. The first words she wants to program: “I love you.”

Lilly says she was 19 when she realized she didn’t like people.

“It was a slap in the face. I wondered what was happening to me,” she said. “I wanted myself to be attracted to humans, so after my first relationship, I had a second one. But I went against my own nature. So it was all the more disastrous.”

Pokemon Go Players are Blissfully Happy

Here’s some critical research going on at Wisconsin’s premier research institution.

Pokemon Go people are happy people.

That’s the finding of media researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison who leapt to study the wildly popular mobile game shortly after its release in July 2016. Their work, newly published in the journal Media Psychology, shows that Pokemon Go users were more likely to be positive, friendly and physically active.

James Alex Bonus, a UW–Madison graduate student studying educational media, says he joined the throng playing the game when it was new, but was surprised by the mix of reactions in news coverage.

Perceptions of Milwaukee

I started watching an Amazon series called “Patriot.” It’s a quirky show about an undercover dude who is trying to keep Iran from getting a nuke. In order to get overseas with an intact cover, he poses as a normal employee of an industrial piping firm based in Milwaukee.

One can just imagine the writers talking about this. “He should have a job that sounds super boring and technical… that’s a gold mine of material.” “Hmmm… how about industrial piping?” “YES!” “Where should the company be based? It needs to be somewhere equally boring and easy to create weird characters in it… something rust belt.” “Cleveland?” “No, they have a good basketball team and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” “Milwaukee?” “YES! PERFECT!”

Anyway, in episode 2, one of those goofy local characters is talking to the main character, who is not from Milwaukee. He poses the question:

milwaukee

The answer was, “It’s an ice box… sun hardly shines; our economy is factory-based, dwindling since the ’60s; endemic violent crime in Milwaukee.”

That, my friends, is how the world still sees Milwaukee. And it is still largely true.

That is why we must work extra hard to attract businesses and people. Milwaukee doesn’t have the luxury of hot sandy beaches, glorious mountains, a temperate climate, or a warm water port. Nor does it have low taxes, friendly regulations, or a welcoming business climate. While we can’t change the physical or historical attributes of Milwaukee or our state, we can change the rest of it… if we want to. If not, well, I guess people will continue to think about Milwaukee like this for the foreseeable future.

 

Islamic State Continues to Kill Innocents

It is a very dangerous world.

Two blasts targeting Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday have killed at least 42 people, officials say.

In Alexandria, an explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church killed 13 people. Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside and was unhurt, state media reported.

An earlier blast at St George’s Coptic church in Tanta killed 29 people.

So-called Islamic State (IS) says it is behind the explosions. The group has recently targeted Copts in Egypt.

And

The suspect behind the Stockholm truck attack had been facing deportation and had extremist sympathies, Swedish police say.

The 39-year-old Uzbek man is suspected of having driven a truck into a department store in the city on Friday.

His application for residency was rejected in June last year and he was being sought by immigration officials, police said.

[…]

Police say the man was known to have expressed sympathy for groups including so-called Islamic State.

 

The Math Behind Good Literature

Interesting.

A good book evokes a variety of emotions as you read. Turns out, though, that almost all novels and plays provide one of only six “emotional experiences” from beginning to end—a rags-to-riches exuberance, say, or a rise and fall of hope (below, top). Researchers at the University of Vermont graphed the happiness and sadness of words that occurred across the pages of more than 1,300 fiction works to reveal the emotional arcs and discovered relatively few variations.
A different study coordinated by Poland’s Institute of Nuclear Physics found that sentence lengths in books frequently form a fractal pattern—a set of objects that repeat on a small and large scale, the way small, triangular leaflets make up larger, triangular leaves that make up a larger, triangular palm frond (below, bottom).

Transgender Folks Sue UW for Free Surgery

One lawsuit to drive up taxes AND health care costs. Awesome

MADISON – Two transgender University of Wisconsin employees sued state entities Friday in federal court over their refusal to pay for their gender transition surgeries.

The two employees sued the UW System, the Board of Regents, insurers and others with the assistance of the national and Wisconsin arms of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As a result of (state policies), plaintiffs’ health insurance plans single out transgender employees for unequal treatment by categorically depriving them of all medical care for gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition codified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Classification of Diseases,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Madison.

70% of Millennials in China Own a Home

Interesting cultural differences.

While young people around the world are struggling to get on the property ladder, an HSBC study found that 70% of Chinese millennials have achieved the milestone.

A sizeable 91% also plan to buy a house in the next five years, according to the survey.

The mortgage lender spoke to around 9,000 people based in nine countries.

While China came out top of the pack, Mexico was next with 46% of millennials owning property, followed by France with 41%.

Playing Small Ball While Rome Burns

Pardon the mangling of two analogies, but this is an interesting analysis.

Some may argue that this is because governments no longer feel like they are “of the people, by the people, for the people”, as Abraham Lincoln put it in his Gettysburg Address. Over the last half century, the business of governing has arguably become more technocratic, with positions of power populated by larger numbers of professional politicians and policy wonks. Many long-established political parties once had closer ties with specific groups of people. Left-wing or social democratic parties in particular were set up to represent the will of the working class. Those ties have stretched to breaking point, however.

More generally, old divisions between left and right that once gave voters clear alternatives have fallen, especially since the 1990s and the end of the Cold War. Parties that represented two competing visions of how society should be run throughout the 20th Century have suffered a body blow, says Hoey. As parties on both sides moved to the centre, the gulf between political elites and the electorate opened up even more. “Politics is no longer about the big questions and big issues,” says Hoey. “It has become soulless.”

Cue populists like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, the former leader of UK party Ukip. Such politicians have been able to win support by talking about issues that established parties have been unwilling to address candidly. Ukip wields no hard political power – its only elected member of Parliament defected last week – but its outspoken views on immigration and criticism of EU technocrats shaped the Brexit debate. Similarly, Trump also crafted his campaign around immigration and a pledge to “drain the swamp” of political elites that no longer shared the values of millions of voters.

Senator Craig Supports Constitutional Carry

Yep.

At a base level, the law would give citizens easier access to their constitutional rights, Craig said.

“This is a constitutional right, this is a fundamental right laid out by the Second Amendment,” he said. “Government should be examining that to determine and make sure people aren’t infringed of their rights.

Giving citizens access to those constitutional rights has panned out well in the past, he said. Already, Wisconsinites do not need a permit or training to carry a gun openly.

“In Wisconsin you can open carry (without a permit),” he said. “Are there any ill consequences of that in Wisconsin of any measurable amount? No, there’s not.”

Permitless concealed carry is already happening in 12 states, Craig said, ranging in ideology from Missouri to “Bernie Sanders’ own home state of Vermont.”

“What makes Wisconsinites any different?” he said. “And if other states are doing this without ill effect, and we’ve had the level of permitless carry in Wisconsin without ill effect, why would we not break down that barrier?”

Look for my column on Tuesday :)

Professor Reveals Depth of Hate and Ignorance

What a tool.

A Drexel University professor tweeted that he was “trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul” after he watched a first-class passenger give up his seat for a uniformed soldier on an airplane.

Many on Twitter responded to the professor’s comments with anger and outrage.

George Ciccariello, associate professor of politics and global studies, posted the tweet Sunday on his private Twitter account. CNN obtained his tweet from a retweet someone else posted publicly on the social media platform.

One critic said Ciccariello “is exactly what’s wrong with American institutions today. Fights for free speech unless it contradicts his views.”

Another criticized the professor’s past tweets and bemoaned the fact that Ciccariello is “deemed worthy of educating young minds.”

Changing Views on Healthcare

Krauthammer explains.

A broad national consensus is developing that health care is indeed a right. This is historically new. And it carries immense implications for the future. It suggests we may be heading inexorably to a government-run, single-payer system. It’s what Barack Obama once admitted he would have preferred but didn’t think the country was ready for. It may be ready now.

As Obamacare continues to unravel, it won’t take much for Democrats to abandon that Rube Goldberg wreckage and go for the simplicity and the universality of Medicare-for-all. Republicans will have one last chance to try to convince the country to remain with a market-based system, preferably one encompassing all the provisions that, for procedural reasons, had been left out of their latest proposal.

Don’t be surprised, however, if, in the end, single-payer wins out. Indeed, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Donald Trump, reading the zeitgeist, pulls the greatest 180 since Disraeli dished the Whigs in 1867 (by radically expanding the franchise) and joins the single-payer side.

Here’s a column I wrote 12 years ago about this issue.

Is There A Right To Healthcare?

One of the major issues facing the country is the issue of healthcare.  The quality of healthcare available today is greater than it has ever been.  We have eliminated diseases that decimated previous generations.  We cure diseases that used to cripple people.  We have not only lengthened the average life span by decades in less than a century, but we have made those later years healthier and more enjoyable than ever before.

All of this comes at a cost.  Healthcare costs much more than it used to because it can do so much more.  In the past, there were many ailments for which there were no treatments.  Now we have treatments for everything from cancer to dry skin.  In the past, a broken bone would have been set to heal back into somewhat the same place and then considered healed.  Now that bone is set to heal back and then the patient often undergoes months of physical therapy to regain full motion.  We even treat things now that were never even discussed in the past, like sexual dysfunctions and emotional instability issues.  All of this means much more healthcare is used for every person at a greater overall cost per person.

That isn’t the only thing driving up the cost of healthcare.  Things like company-sponsored health insurance, which shields the true cost of healthcare from the patient, and the costs of malpractice litigation, also drive up the cost of healthcare.  It is indeed a complex problem.

Because of the complexity of America’s healthcare system and the impact on society, it has become one of the premier political problems of the day.  Liberals argue that the government should take control of the healthcare system to provide equal healthcare to every citizen.  Conservatives argue that more of the free market should be introduced into the healthcare system to enable an efficient and effective distribution of healthcare at a reasonable price.  Before any solution for the healthcare problem can be determined, we must answer this question:

Is healthcare a right or a commodity?

All of the questions about what to do about healthcare stem from this question.  Liberals think of healthcare as a right.  The reasoning is that the right to healthcare is an extension of the right to life.  If one has a right to live, then one must also necessarily have the right to the means to maintain life.  One could also derive the right to healthcare from the right to liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, or any other number of well established human rights, but the right to life is the most fundamental of all of these for the right to life is the wellspring of all other rights.

I do not accept the premise that healthcare is a right.  Rights are based upon the principle that each of us owns our own person.  From this foundation, it is plain to see that if one owns oneself, then one absolutely has the right to live, the right to worship, the right to free speech, the right to property, and all of the other rights to which we have become accustomed.

If one owns oneself, then it is also necessarily true that every other person also owns themselves and is equally entitled to all of the same rights.  As such, by definition, rights can not extend past the boundaries of one’s own person.  One can not, for instance, exercise one’s right to free speech by demanding that one’s neighbor cease speaking, for by doing so, one would deny the neighbor’s right to free speech.  Given that healthcare, for the most part, is the product of someone else’s knowledge, labor, capital, and equipment, it is not within the boundaries on one’s own person.  Healthcare can not be a right because it makes demands on other people.

That is not to say that one can not exercise any form of healthcare one may wish upon oneself.  That is certainly within the boundaries on one’s person, and so, within the definition of a right.  When healthcare demands the efforts of another person, however, it ceases to be a right and becomes a commodity.  At this point, healthcare is subject to all of the same rules of exchange that exist for all other commodities that pass between people.  A fair price must be agreed upon by both the seller and the buyer and then the product may be exchanged.

Some will claim that the normal rules of exchange can not exist in the realm of healthcare because the buyer is under duress, and thus unable to make reasonable decisions.  Although this is true, it does not alter the relationship.  Many commodities are exchanged under duress.  For instance, when I need a server part for a down server and I need it ASAP, I will pay an exorbitant price to have the part delivered post haste because I am under duress.  When I am no longer in duress, however, I am free to make my displeasure with the price of the service known within the marketplace, thus applying normal market pressure to the provider in an effort to control the cost.  On a macroeconomic scale, all of the same forces apply.

As I said before, the entirety of the healthcare debate revolves around this fundamental question.  If healthcare is a right, as liberals contend, then it is the duty of government to ensure that everyone can exercise that right.  If healthcare is a commodity, as I contend, then a free market is the optimum mechanism for ensuring its fair exchange.

Venezuela Asks UN for Help with Healthcare

This headline is a bit more chilling today than it was a few days ago. America faces a long future with socialized medicine. This is where it leads.

(CNN)President Nicolas Maduro said he has asked the United Nations for help in dealing with Venezuela’s medicine shortages, which have grown severe as the country grapples with a crippling economic crisis.

[…]

The country is lacking roughly 80% of the basic medical supplies, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela.
Hundreds of health care workers and other Venezuelans staged protests this month demanding better access to medicine and health treatment. Many of the protesters brought prescriptions for medicines that they said they can’t buy at local pharmacies.
Last year, the opposition-led National Assembly in Venezuela declared a “humanitarian crisis” in the health care system.
CNN visited a hospital in Caracas and found that health care workers believed medicine was being swiped to be sold on the black market. Government rationing of medications has made even basics, such as pain relievers, hard to come by.
For years, Venezuelans have had to hunt for penicillin and other remedies at pharmacies, often without success. Public hospitals are in no better shape, with people dying due to the scarcity of basic medical care.