Monthly Archives: February 2014

After six months of trying and failing to cancel an unwanted Obamacare health insurance plan, a Florida man is now considering shutting his bank account to prevent the plan from automatically withdrawing money from his account.

Finding out what’s in it: After six months of trying and failing to cancel an unwanted Obamacare health insurance plan, a Florida man is now considering shutting his bank account to prevent the plan from automatically withdrawing money from his account.

Remember, the Democrats in Congress and President Obama refused to negotiate any changes to Obamacare in October, thereby forcing the government shutdown. They also were the only ones to vote for Obamacare. These facts must not be forgotten come November.

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One of the publishers who had published fake peer-reviewed papers generated by a computer program has responded aggressively to fix the problem.

One of the publishers who had published numerous fake peer-reviewed papers generated by a computer program has responded aggressively to fix the problem.

And by aggressive I mean positively. They have removed the fake papers and are reviewing everything they’ve published, with the help of the guy who exposed the fakes, to make sure there aren’t any other fakes not yet identified. They also say they are reviewing their procedures to figure out how this happened and to prevent it from happening again.

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Just hours before she was scheduled to testify about IRS harassment of conservatives, the head of a conservative organization was called by an IRS official, telling her that her organization’s tax exempt status had finally been approved, after waiting more than 3 years.

Working for the Democratic Party: Just hours before she was scheduled to testify about IRS harassment of conservatives at a House hearing, the head of a conservative organization was called by an IRS official, telling her that her organization’s tax exempt status had finally been approved, after waiting more than 3 years.

As she noted, “And this is not political?”

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The spoiled rotten kids of DC’s elite.

The spoiled rotten kids of DC’s elite.

The article documents in great detail how elected officials use their power to get great jobs for their kids. Not surprisingly, since this article is written by a modern journalist who favors this corrupt elitism, it starts out by describing the corruption involved with this favoritism, then shifts into finding excuses for it.

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A federal appeals court has ruled that schools can ban the American flag in order to prevent violence.

Bad news for free speech: A federal appeals court has ruled that schools can ban the American flag in order to prevent violence.

The court’s ruling: School administrators can force you to remove your American-flag tee if the alternative is a classmate punching you in the face. That’s because, per the Supreme Court, students don’t have the same free speech rights at school that adults do on other public grounds. At school, the name of the game is order and instruction; you’re entitled to free expression to the extent you don’t interfere with those goals, but once you do, the school’s entitled to limit your expression accordingly.

In other words, a bully can get the principal’s office to silence you by promising to beat your ass if they don’t.

This is, as Eugene Volokh notes, a classic “heckler’s veto” in that it rewards a violent actor by suppressing the speech that’s irritated him instead of punishing him for being violent.

So, according to this ruling, the only people who will have free speech will be those willing to threaten, and even use violence. A foolish and mindless ruling, if I ever saw one.

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Even as the IRS was admitting last year that its harassment of conservatives was a mistake, the agency was working up its new rules to make the harassment official policy, under pressure from Democratic elected officials.

Working for the Democratic Party: Even as the IRS was admitting last year that its harassment of conservatives was a mistake, the agency was working up its new rules to make the harassment official policy, under pressure from Democratic elected officials.

And what about the new official policy?

The tax agency has floated an outline of new rules that would limit those groups’ ability to host candidates, distribute voter guides or conduct voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives. A three-month period for public comments closed on Thursday, and the IRS had posted more than 115,000 comments. They were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed rules, with both conservative and liberal-leaning groups saying the rules would stifle their ability to participate in important public debates.

One joint comment, filed by a dozen groups ranging from the immigration advocacy America’s Voice and the liberal American Civil Liberties Union to the right-leaning American Conservative Union and tea party-aligned FreedomWorks, asked the Obama administration go back and start over on the rules.

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Comments continued

The problem with spam in the comments continues. In order to gain some control over the situation until we can get the spam filter working again, I have changed the settings so that comments on every post close after 14 days. While this might force the end to any discussion prematurely, it also reduces significantly the posts to which spam can be sent. This in turn makes it easier for me to approve the legitimate posts while deleting the spam.

Sorry for the inconvenience. I still hope to have things fixed soon.

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On Thursday Japan launched the NASA-built Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory (GPM), designed to track the climate’s rain and snowfall.

On Thursday Japan successfully launched the NASA-built Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory (GPM), designed to track the climate’s rain and snowfall.

This Earth observation satellite will supplement TRMM, which has been tracking rainfall in the tropics since 1997.

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The Obama administration’s Interior Department has decided let the people in a remote Aleut community die rather than risk the lives of the birds in a wildlife refuge.

The Obama administration’s Interior Department has decided to let the people in a remote Aleut community die rather than risk the lives of the birds in a wildlife refuge.

The Aleuts have tried for three decades to get permission to build a 11 mile long gravel road to connect their village with the nearest hospital. The federal government has repeatedly denied them permission because part of that road would go through a wildlife refuge. During that time 19 people have died because they couldn’t get to adequate medical facilities due to the lack of transportation. The quote below from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is quite amazing, revealing starkly how little she (and the rest of the Obama administration) cares about the lives of others.

During an August visit to Alaska, Jewell was told that building a road that connects King Cove and Cold Bay was vital. But in December, Jewell rejected the road saying it would jeopardize waterfowl in the refuge. “She stood up in the gymnasium and told those kids, ‘I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,” Democratic state Rep. Bob Herron told a local television station. “You could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium.” [emphasis mine]

The comments about this story on this webpage are right on the money. The Aleuts should build that road anyway, and dare the federal government to do something about it.

But I like this comment the best: “I’ve been saying for years that progressives LOVE humanity–they just hate actual people.”

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The archeological discovery of a gladiator school in Austria has revealed many details about their daily lives.

The archeological discovery of a gladiator school in Austria has revealed many details about their daily lives.

Discovered at the site of Carnuntum outside Vienna, Austria, the gladiatorial school, or ludus gladiatorius, is the first one discovered outside the city of Rome. Now hidden beneath a pasture, the gladiator school was entirely mapped with noninvasive earth-sensing technologies. The discovery, reported Tuesday evening by the journal Antiquity, makes clear what sort of lives these famous ancient warriors led during the second century A.D. in the Roman Empire. “It was a prison; they were prisoners,” says University of Vienna archaeologist Wolfgang Neubauer, who led the study team. “They lived in cells, in a fortress with only one gate out.” The discovery shows that even outside Rome gladiators were “big business,” Neubauer says. At least 80 gladiators, likely more, lived in the large, two-story facility equipped with a practice arena in its central courtyard. The site also included heated floors for winter training, baths, infirmaries, plumbing, and a nearby graveyard. …

“They weren’t killed very often, they were too valuable,” Neubauer says. “Lots of other people were likely killed at the amphitheater, people not trained to fight. And there was lots of bloodshed. But the combat between gladiators was the point of them performing, not them killing each other.”

The article unfortunately doesn’t explain the last quote. If the gladiator battles did not end in death — as movies portray them — what then was the nature of their performances?

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The harassment of conservatives by the IRS was instigated by Democratic elected officials in plain sight for all to see.

Working for the Democratic Party: The harassment of conservatives by the IRS was instigated by Democratic elected officials in Congress and the White House, in plain sight for all to see.

Read it. The author documents numerous examples of Democrats from 2010 to 2013 demanding the IRS do exactly what it ended up doing, harass and shut down the activities of their opponents. And they did it publicly, with pride. And they are still doing it.

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The treasure trove of gold coins found by a California couple on their property might be the gold coins stolen from 1901 heist of the San Francisco mint.

The treasure trove of gold coins found by a California couple on their property might be the gold coins stolen from a 1901 heist of the San Francisco mint.

This article also explains why the couple has remained anonymous, as they fear the federal government is now going to step in and steal their find from them.

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Despite IAU disapproval, the space company Uwingu has announced another private commercial naming project for the craters of Mars.

The war of space names continues: Despite the disapproval of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the space company Uwingu has announced another private commercial naming project for the craters of Mars.

Starting today (Feb. 26), anybody with an Internet connection and a few dollars to spare can give a moniker to one of the Red Planet’s 500,000 or so unnamed craters, as part of a mapping project run by the space-funding company Uwingu. “This is the first people’s map of Mars, where anybody can play,” said Uwingu CEO Alan Stern, a former NASA science chief who also heads the space agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. “It’s a very social thing.”

Sounds fun, and a clever way for this company to raise capital. Whether these names stick is an entirely different thing. Uwingu has as much right to assign names to objects as the IAU, but so far the IAU’s fake authority in this matter carries more weight.

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An image of North Korea taken from ISS illustrates starkly the failure of a state-run top-down dictatorial society.

An image of North Korea taken from ISS illustrates starkly the failure of a state-run top-down dictatorial society.

As is typical for today’s leftwing political correct journalism, this reality is attributed not to communism but to vague generalities. North Korea is a “rogue state” or “North Korea stands alone as an unusually isolated nation, where residents live under a familial dictatorship,” statements that embarrassingly avoid the truth. The rulers of North Korea, like Cuba, refused to reject communist when the Soviet bloc fell in 1991 and have thus left their countries and the people trapped within them poor and bankrupt.

Aren’t you glad that today’s Democratic Party here in the United States considers leftwing dogma the height of progress and a goal worthy of emulation?

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An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

An investigation into the dangerous leak of water into a spacesuit during a spacesuit last July has found that NASA engineers had missed an earlier failure of the same suit.

The leak had first happened in a spacewalk a week earlier, and engineers misdiagnosed the problem. In addition, it appears they didn’t look closely enough at it.

Meanwhile, the investigation has pinpointed the cause of the leak as a clogged filter, but still could not trace what caused that clog.

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Using archived Kepler data combined with statistical modeling, scientists have proposed the discovery of another 715 exoplanets.

Using archived Kepler data combined with statistical modeling, scientists have proposed the discovery of another 715 exoplanets.

This announcement is neat, but despite the many news stories about it today, it should be taken with a grain of salt. What the scientists have really done is pinpoint 715 stars where further research is likely to produce good exoplanet results. It is not guaranteed, however, that a scientist looking at these stars will actually see an exoplanet.

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Comment problem

The comment problem continues. I am sorry to say that even our temporary solution, where previously approved commenters would continue to be able to post, has not worked. At the moment I am periodically scanning the unapproved comments, most of which are spam, and manually approving valid comments as I find them. Please accept the possibility that if your comment has not yet appeared, it will do so eventually, but it might take a couple of days for this to happen. The good news is that new commenters will be able to post, though it will take time to get approved.

I apologize for this problem. Hopefully all will fixed in a couple of days.

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Two publishers of scientific journals have withdrawn 120 papers which they have discovered were nothing more than computer-generated gibberish.

Layers and layers of peer-review: Two publishers of scientific journals have withdrawn 120 papers which they have discovered were nothing more than computer-generated gibberish.

Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers. …

Labbé developed a way to automatically detect manuscripts composed by a piece of software called SCIgen, which randomly combines strings of words to produce fake computer-science papers. SCIgen was invented in 2005 by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge to prove that conferences would accept meaningless papers — and, as they put it, “to maximize amusement” (see ‘Computer conference welcomes gobbledegook paper’). A related program generates random physics manuscript titles on the satirical website arXiv vs. snarXiv. SCIgen is free to download and use, and it is unclear how many people have done so, or for what purposes. SCIgen’s output has occasionally popped up at conferences, when researchers have submitted nonsense papers and then revealed the trick.

The real story here is that many of these gibberish papers were peer-reviewed by actual scientists who are supposedly experts in their fields and should have spotted the fakery immediately. That they didn’t suggests another level of corruption. Either they don’t really bother to peer review the papers they are asked to peer review, or they knew what was going on and were part of the game.

That this kind of stuff happens repeatedly in many fields of science should make us all very skeptical of any controversial scientific claim that carries with it any political component. This doesn’t mean that all published material is fake, only that we must not take anything on faith. Controversial results had better be bomb-proof before we accept them willingly.

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Harry Reid insists that “all” of the Obamacare horror stories “are untrue.”

Modern American intellectualism: Harry Reid insists in a speech on the Senate floor that the Obamacare horror stories being reported daily “are all untrue.”

He then attacks the sick patients themselves for telling these stories, calling them liars.

I call this modern American intellectualism because it jibs with the typical level of open-mindedness seen in modern intellectuals when it comes to climate science and any data that throws doubt on the theory of global warming.

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Contempt for the law

As I am taking a break from sightseeing and visiting relatives here in Israel, I thought I’d answer a question raised by one of my regular readers, Patrick Ritchie, in a comment a few weeks ago.

Patrick had noticed what seemed a contradiction in my posts and asked me about it. First, he noted my disgust at university officials in South Carolina who were refusing to follow a law requiring them to teach students about the Constitution because they thought it “inconvenient.”

Patrick wrote, “In the post above you state, ‘It might inconvenient, and the law itself might be foolish, but it isn’t up the administrators to decide this. They should be fired.'”

He then cited an earlier post in which I celebrated the Connecticut gun owners who were refusing to register their weapons under that state’s new very oppressive and senseless gun control law. There I had written that “When the law has contempt for freedom, then the only answer is contempt for the law.”

Patrick then asked, “I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on how, in your mind, these two situations are different. More specifically: when (if ever) do you think it is OK for citizens to disregard or break the law?”
» Read more

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Former IRS official Lois Lerner has been recalled to testify again before a House committee in regards to the IRS’s harassment of conservatives.

Former IRS official Lois Lerner has been recalled to testify again before a House committee in regards to the IRS’s harassment of conservatives.

She took the fifth in her first appearance, while also making a statement announcing her innocence. According to numerous experts, this statement voided her ability to take the fifth. There might or might not be fireworks on March 5, when she has been called to return, as she will likely do nothing but cite the fifth amendment in her answers. How the congressmen respond to her non-answers will be interesting.

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A scientific study has found that name-calling and trolling on websites polarizes thought and blocks the ability of reasonable people to focus on the actual facts.

A scientific study has found that name-calling and trolling on websites polarizes thought and blocks the ability of reasonable people to focus on the actual facts.

This confirms my reasoning for banning such uncivil behavior here on Behind the Black. If we want to understand the issues the first thing we need to do is to make sure we are discussing the issues, reasonably, sanely, and politely. Strong words are okay, but they better be backed up with facts and solid reasoning.

Posted from Alon Shvut, West Bank, Israel, local time 1 pm.

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A district that the Democrats won by a big margin in 2013 voted as strongly for a Republican in a special local election on Monday.

I wonder if this means anything: A district that the Democrats won by a big margin in 2013 voted big for a Republican in a special local election on Monday.

The Democrat in this district loudly ran in support of Obamacare. He not only lost bad, the Republican came with a hair of winning the most liberal urban areas in Norfolk City.

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A Florida judge has ruled that it is illegal to live completely off the grid.

Freedom dies: A Florida judge has ruled that it is illegal to live completely off the grid.

The judge stated that a woman, who has been trying to live without using any utilities, has to reconnect her water line, though she won’t be forced to use it. He also admitted that the law is outdated and should be changed. This quote however is revealing.

The widow and former real estate agent now has two choices. She can either restore her hookup to the water system by the end of March or appeal Eskin’s ruling to the courts. It is not known what action the city will take but city officials told Fernandez that they would be willing to let Speronis stay in her home if conditions are “sanitary.” At the hearing, Eskin noted that city officials have not actually been in Speronis’s home to make that determination.

It is so nice the government is “willing to let her stay in her home.”

Thugs.

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