I've read a few stories about individual Christians (like Brett Felton and Tim Locks), but here's the first report I've seen of an organized volunteer unit deploying to Syria.

This is a very small unit, but if it signals a trend then we are witnessing a significant challenge to the Westphalian nation-state system we've enjoyed since 1648. Up till now only Muslims have been organizing for violence outside the control of a recognized nation, but now Christians are getting into the game. We get so comfortable with the lines on the map that we're apt to forget that the lines are human constructs with no inherent meaning.

An eight-strong team of former British Army soldiers is preparing to leave Britain to join the fight against Islamic State in Syria, the Standard can reveal.

The team are training to fight as a single volunteer unit alongside the Kurdish militias on the front line in northern Syria.

Images on social media show members of the group posing in combat fatigues and clutching high powered assault rifles on a training exercise in Europe.

The caption to one image of a soldier with a machine gun reads: "Bad news delivery system, if you're ISIS!"

The former soldiers are believed to include a number who have Special Forces training.


It bears repeating: never consent to a search. If the authorities have a legitimate cause to search you they won't need to ask first. If they ask, always say no. Then ask if you're under arrest, and if not then walk away. Don't say anything else.

In a cold consent encounter, a person is stopped if an agent thinks that person's behavior fits a drug courier profile. Or an agent can stop a person cold "based on no particular behavior," according to the Inspector General report. The agent then asks people they have stopped for consent to question them and sometimes to search their possessions as well. By gaining consent, law enforcement officers can bypass the need for a warrant. ...

Moreover, agents can seize cash they find during a cold consent encounter. According to data analysis conducted by the Institute for Justice, half of all DEA cash seizures from 2009 to 2013 were under $10,000. Thanks to civil forfeiture laws, law enforcement can take cash and other valuable property, based on an officer's often subjective determination of probable cause, even from those who have not been charged with a crime. ...

Disturbingly, the Inspector General found that DEA interdiction task force groups have been seizing cash from travelers and then urging them to sign forms disclaiming their own cash and "waiving their rights." In one cold consent encounter, DEA agents stopped another African-American woman in part because she was "pacing nervously" before boarding her flight. After gaining her consent, the agents searched her luggage and found $8,000.

A drug dog then alerted to the cash, and the DEA seized it. However, the Inspector General report did not state if any drugs were actually found or if the woman was ever charged with or convicted of a crime in connection with the seizure. Not to mention that most U.S. currency in circulation has been exposed to drugs.

(HT: Simple Justice.)


Apparently it's protocol for departing State Department employees to hand over all their work emails when their employment ends, and they attest that they've done so using a standard separation agreement. I've seen similar documents in private industry. So, did Mrs. Clinton sign such an attestation when left the State Department in 2013?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, like all departing federal employees, was required to fill out and sign a separation statement affirming that she had turned over all classified and other government documents, including all emails dealing with official business.

Fox News Megyn Kelly reported Wednesday evening on the requirement and that a spokesman for Clinton had not responded to a request for comment, including an explanation of when the former chief U.S. diplomat signed the mandatory separation agreement or, if she didn't, why didn't she.

The Washington Examiner also asked Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill for comment late Wednesday but had received no response from him early Thursday. Clinton did not respond when asked about the issue earlier this week by the Associated Press.

If Mrs. Clinton didn't sign such a separation agreement, why not? I'm sure an FOIA request has already been submitted to retrieve this document, if it exists.

If she did sign such an attestation but failed to turn over her email, then she broke the law and could face serious penalties, including jail time.


Many people find it hard to believe that Hillary Clinton's home-brew email server hosted zero emails containing classified or foreign government information. She was America's top diplomat, and nothing she sent or received was classified?

Mrs. Clinton insisted that she kept classified information out of her email, as the law required. Storing classified information in a personal, nongovernment email account on a private computer server, like the one at Mrs. Clinton's home, would be a violation of secrecy laws.

And relations with other countries are particularly subject to secrecy claims. "Foreign government information" -- information received from another government with the expectation that it will be held in confidence -- is an official category of classified information in secrecy regulations.

A former senior State Department official who served before the Obama administration said that while it was hard to be certain, it seemed unlikely that classified information could be kept out of the more than 30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton's staff identified as involving government business.

"I would assume that more than 50 percent of what the secretary of state dealt with was classified," said the former official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to seem ungracious to Mrs. Clinton. "Was every single email of the secretary of state completely unclassified? Maybe, but it's hard to imagine."

She also deleted tens of thousands of emails, at her own discretion.

Mrs. Clinton said she turned over some 30,490 emails to the State Department in December, nearly two years after leaving office. But she said she had deleted nearly 32,000 others

Mrs. Clinton claims that her decision to use a private email server located in her own residence was purely for convenience. In what world can you not check two email accounts from the same device? Couldn't she have used a government mobile device to check her personal email?

"I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two," she explained. She asked, in effect, that voters trust that she was disclosing more of them than she needed to -- and even to credit her with an unusual degree of transparency.

Paul Mirengoff derides Mrs. Clinton for putting her convenience ahead of national security.

Even if one takes Clinton's explanation at face value, we must conclude that she placed her desire not to carry two devices ahead of Obama administration policy and the security interests of the United States. Whether or not Clinton's email system was breached, Clinton's use of her own server increased the likelihood of such a breach.

It's characteristic of Clinton that she would ignore rules and best practices for her own convenience. Simply put, she thinks she's better than everyone else and thus above the rules.

Dan McLaughlin has the tweet of the day.

palin phones.jpg

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)


Hillary Clinton is promising a press conference after she attends an event at the United Nations; Ashe Schow has 18 questions worth asking Mrs. Clinton, and they aren't all about her email.


Scotland Yard is advising homeowners to install security cameras in their homes "at eye level" to capture images of burglars and help police catch them using facial recognition technology.

Homeowners should consider fitting CCTV to trap burglars, the country's most senior police officer declared yesterday.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said police forces needed more crime scene footage to match against their 12million images of suspects and offenders.

And he called on families and businesses to install cameras at eye level - to exploit advances in facial recognition technology.

If you're living in a free country, buy a gun.


Wait But Why blog has a great layman's primer on the potential for artificial super-intelligence and the potential dangers. They're very lengthy, but fun reads.


The New York Times broke the news about Hillary Clinton's secret, private email server that she used "exclusively" while secretary of state, but now the paper is poo-pooing the suggestion that this revelation could affect her chances to win the presidency in 2016.

The actual public response to the controversy is likely to be a combination of apathy and partisanship. Few Americans are paying attention to any aspect of the campaign at this point. Those who do notice will most likely divide largely along partisan lines, with Democrats interpreting her actions more charitably, especially once they see Republicans attacking Mrs. Clinton on the issue.

Any significant political costs are also likely to be fleeting because the revelations came so early in the campaign cycle. It is hard to believe that a lack of transparency in Mrs. Clinton's use of email will have a significant effect on a general election that will be held some 20 months from now. As the political scientist John Sides wrote on Twitter, "In October 2016, no persuadable voter will be thinking about Hillary Clinton's email account." It's equally implausible that this revelation will draw a second top-tier candidate into the race for the Democratic nomination given the advantages Mrs. Clinton retains over possible rivals like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

I'm certainly rooting against Hillary, so maybe I'm biased, but I'm not so sure of Brendan Nyhan's conclusion. Some thoughts:


Should the punishment for intentionally false accusations match the punishment of the accused crime? (Ugh, that's a hard sentence to frame.) This mind-blowing story about several police officers and prosecutors falsely prosecuting an innocent man for assault is an appalling test case.

But here's my question: Why aren't the seven witnesses to Dendinger's nonexistent assault on Cassard already facing felony charges? Why are all but one of the cops who filed false reports still wearing badges and collecting paychecks? Why aren't the attorneys who filed false reports facing disbarment? Dendinger's prosecutors both filed false reports, then prosecuted Dendinger based on the reports they knew were false. They should be looking for new careers -- after they get out of jail.

If a group of regular citizens had pulled this on someone, they'd all likely be facing criminal conspiracy charges on top of the perjury and other charges. So why aren't these cops and prosecutors?

I could be wrong, but my guess is that they'll all be let off due to "professional courtesy" or some sort of exercise of prosecutorial discretion. And so the people who ought to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us will once again be held to a lower one.

Intentionally false accusations should be punished severely and should never be forgotten by the legal system.


I love this idea -- the federal government is already involved with accrediting colleges, so why not create a National University that accredits courses and offer degrees? There's a plethora of great online courses, but none of the universities who created them are willing to offer online degrees because they don't want to dilute their brands or lose out on tuition money.

That's where the federal government comes in. With some authorizing language from Congress and a small, one-time start-up budget, the U.S. Department of Education could create a nonprofit, bipartisan organization with only two missions: approving courses and granting degrees.

Don't worry, federal bureaucrats won't be in charge of academic matters. Instead, National U. would hire teams of leading scholars to evaluate and approve courses. Some of the decisions shouldn't be difficult. ...

National U. would also map out which courses students need to take to earn an associate or bachelor's degree. This won't be difficult, since existing colleges have already established a standard set of requirements: a certain number of approved lower- and upper-division courses, plus an approved sequence in an academic major, adding up to 60 or 120 credits. Once students complete the credits, National U. will grant them a degree.

While many of the courses will be free, students will bear small costs for taking exams through secure online channels or in-person testing facilities. (Textbooks will be free and open-source). Students will also pay a modest fee of a few hundred dollars for the degree itself, enough to defray the operating costs of National U.

When my six-year-old goes to college I bet it will look a lot different than it does now.


President Obama is "very interested" in raising taxes via executive action.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unitlateral executive action.

"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.

King Obama should learn some history.

(HT: TaxProfBlog, Instapundit.)


She writes:

Here is why I believe I am a Christian: I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ. Whether or not I succeed in living up to that example is primarily between Him and me.

My understanding of Christianity is that it doesn't require me to prove my faith to anyone on this plane of existence. It is about a direct relationship with the divine and freely offered salvation. That's one of the reasons that when my generic "There must be something out there" gut feeling blossomed into a desire for a personal connection to that "something," it was Christianity that I choose to explore. They'll let anyone in.

To be clear, I don't just believe in God. I am a Christian. Decades of mass culture New Ageism has fluffed up "belief in God" into a spiritual buffet, a holy catch-all for those who want to cover all the numbers: Pascal's wager as a roulette wheel and not a coin toss. Me, I'm going all in with Jesus. It's not just that the payoff could be tremendous--it already has been! The only cost is the judgment that comes from others, from telling people that my belief has a specific shape, with its own human legacy of both shame and triumph.

This makes my day! There's almost nothing I like more than reading about people coming to Christ.


James Taranto thoroughly mocks John Kerry and Hillary Clinton for their flip-floppery on their support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and makes a keen observation:

Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday's column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn't. The joke would be perfect if only the Democrat were John Kerry.


Federal investigators managed to find Lois Lerner's "lost emails" in two weeks and are now investigating whether any crimes were committed relating to their "loss".

The watchdog agency found the backed-up emails by consulting with IRS information-technology specialists, according to TIGTA Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Tim Camus.

"They were right where you would expect them to be," he said at the rare late-night hearing, which lasted until about 10 p.m.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress last year that the backups were no help in recovering Lerner's lost emails, in part because the IRS overwrites them every six months.

Camus said the IRS's technology specialists told investigators that no one from the agency asked for the tapes, raising doubts about whether the agency did its due diligence in trying to locate Lerner's emails, or possibly greater troubles.

"There is potential criminal activity," Camus said.

Come. On. The IRS can't be fixed -- it needs to be completely disbanded and we need a wholly new tax collection agency.


Rudy Giuliani said that he doesn't think President Obama loves America and was immediately vilified for it, but numerous surveys show that liberals themselves claim to be less patriotic than conservatives do.

A Pew Research survey last year found that 46 percent of "steadfast conservatives" believed that the U.S. stands above all other countries; only 11 percent of "solid liberals" believed the same. Seventy-two percent of steadfast conservatives said they often feel proud to be an American; only 40 percent of solid liberals said they do. Gallup headlined its write-up of a 2010 survey

"One in Three Americans 'Extremely Patriotic': Republicans, conservatives, and seniors most likely to say so." According to Gallup, 52 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of conservatives called themselves extremely patriotic; only 20 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of liberals did.

That's not to say that President Obama or any other specific liberal doesn't "love America", but there's definitely a patriotism gap.


The music and movie industries use scummy accounting to rake in huge profits, pay performers almost nothing, and evade taxes. Read both articles if you want to be shocked and appalled. Maybe Congress will crack down on this sort of scam?

If you follow the entertainment business at all, you're probably well aware of "Hollywood accounting," whereby very, very, very few entertainment products are technically "profitable," even as they earn studios millions of dollars. A couple months ago, the Planet Money folks did a great episode explaining how this works in very simple terms. The really, really, really simplified version is that Hollywood sets up a separate corporation for each movie with the intent that this corporation will take on losses. The studio then charges the "film corporation" a huge fee (which creates a large part of the "expense" that leads to the loss). The end result is that the studio still rakes in the cash, but for accounting purposes the film is a money "loser" -- which matters quite a bit for anyone who is supposed to get a cut of any profits.

And who is supposed to get a cut of the profits? Artists, actors, and the tax-man.


Not for the faint of heart, but here's a look into human sacrifice and cannibalism in the Aztec Empire. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to geography.

In the Old World, domestication of herbivorous mammals, such as cattle, sheep, and pigs, proceeded apace with that of food plants. By about 7,200 B.C. in the New World, however, ancient hunters had completely eliminated herbivores suitable for domestication from the area anthropologists call Mesoamerica, the region of the future high civilizations of Mexico and Guatemala. Only in the Andean region and southern South America did some camel-related species, especially the llama and the alpaca, manage to survive hunters' onslaughts, and thus could be domesticated later, along with another important local herbivore, the guinea pig. In Mesoamerica, the guinea pig was not available, and the Camelidae species became extinct several thousand years before domesticated food production had to be seriously undertaken. Dogs, such as the Mexican hairless, and wildfowl, such as the turkey, had to be bred for protein. The dog, however, was a far from satisfactory solution because, as a carnivore, it competed with its breeders for animal protein.

It seems that the whole Aztec Empire was organized around cannibalism:

At first glance, this prohibition against commoners eating human flesh casts doubt on cannibalism's potential to mobilize the masses of Aztec society to engage in wars for prisoners. Actually, the prohibition was, if anything, a goad to the lower class to participate in these wars since those who single-handedly took captives several times gained the right to eat human flesh. Successful warriors became members of the Aztec elite and their descendants shared their privileges. Through the reward of flesh-eating rights to the group most in need of them, the Aztec rulers assured themselves an aggressive war machine and were able to motivate the bulk of the population, the poor, to contribute to state and upper-class maintenance through active participation in offensive military operations. Underlying the war machine's victories, and the resultant sacrifices, were the ecological extremities of the Valley of Mexico.

With an understanding of the importance of cannibalism in Aztec culture, and of the ecological reasons for its existence, some of the Aztecs' more distinctive institutions begin to make anthropological sense. For example, the old question of whether the Aztecs' political structure was or was not an "empire" can be reexamined. One part of this problem is that the Aztecs frequently withdrew from conquered territory without establishing administrative centers or garrisons. This "failure" to consolidate conquest in the Old World fashion puzzled Cort├ęs, who asked Moctezuma to explain why he allowed the surrounded Tlaxcalans to maintain their independence. Moctezuma reportedly replied that his people could thus obtain captives for sacrifice. Since the Aztecs did not normally eat people of their own policy, which would have been socially and politically disruptive, they needed nearby "enemy" populations on whom they could prey for captives. This behavior makes sense in terms of Aztec cannibalism: from the Aztec point of view, the Tlaxcalan state was preserved as a stockyard. The Aztecs were unique among the world's states in having a cannibal empire. Understandably, they did not conform to Old World concepts of empire, based on economies with domesticated herbivores providing meat or milk.


Or a young woman, of course! But if you're in your late 30s and you still spend the majority of your time at work writing code you'd better be really good.

They don't prepare you for this in college or admit it in job interviews. The harsh reality is that if you are middle-aged, write computer code for a living, and earn a six-figure salary, you're headed for the unemployment lines. Your market value declines as you age and it becomes harder and harder to get a job.

I know this post will provoke anger, outrage, and denial. But, sadly, this is the way things are in the tech world. It's an "up or out" profession -- like the military. And it's as competitive as professional sports. Engineers need to be prepared.

This is not openly discussed, because employers could be accused of age discrimination. But research, such as that completed by University of California, Berkeley, professors Clair Brown and Greg Linden shows that even those with masters degrees and Ph.Ds have reason to worry.

Basically as you get older you need to diversify your skills beyond coding. As a software engineer in my late 30s, I'm not sure this is "age discrimination" -- you can't keep doing the same work and get 5% raises every year. Sure, you've got a family to support now, but that doesn't entitle you to more pay: you've got to create more value! Integrate your deep experience with software development with some other skills and you'll be golden:

Move up the ladder into management, architecture, or design, and diversify your experience. Work with business executives in your company, in areas such as sales, finance, marketing/product management, legal, and operations. Develop a broader set of skills that make you more valuable to your employer and that differentiate you from others with just coding skills.


It seems like you're on precarious moral ground when you feel compelled to write laws that self-destruct if your opponents win an election. Looks like bad faith and sour grapes on the part of politicians who would take such a path.

The city's new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law's co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.

The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.

"In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, 'We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,' we're going to take the data," he explained.


Graeme Wood has produced a masterful dissection of how the Islamic State's religious devotion drives its strategy and tactics. It's a long piece, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in understanding what ISIS wants and how it views itself in the world.

Here is one small passage that describes how ISIS is forbidden from engaging diplomatically with anyone:

Choudary's colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State's propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.

One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. "This is not permitted," Abu Baraa said. "To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God's." This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means--for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate--is shirk.

There's a lot more, and a lot to think about.

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