Tuesday, February 28, 2017


How the Oscar Picks Went

It wasn't my best night. But still I had a better go of it than Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway did. The actors are often high school or college drop-outs, but that hint of ignorance doesn't stop them from telling us how to live. Hollywood can't properly put on an awards show, but of course they know better than us about everything. I'm reminded of the philosopher Jonathan Edwards: "He can't even run his own life, I'll be damned if he'll run mine, sunshine."

Anyway, for a brief few minutes, I had guessed 9 out of the important 10 right. Still wonder if La La Land didn't really win. Here are the results: 15 right, 9 wrong. Behold. The wrong guesses are crossed out.

The big nine:

Best Picture-- LaLa Land Moonlight won, maybe.
Best Leading Man-- Denzel Washington (but it could just as easily be Casey Affleck) It was Affleck.
Best Leading Lady-- Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor-- Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress-- Viola Davis
Best Foreign Film-- The Salesman
Best Director-- Damien Chazelle
Best Screenplay, Original-- Manchester by the Sea
Best Screenplay, Adapted-- Moonlight

Easy calls:

Cinematography-- LaLa Land
Documentary-- OJ
Animated Feature-- Zootopia
Art Direction-- LaLa Land
Original Song-- City of Stars from LaLa Land
Film Editing-- LaLa Land
Sound Mixing-- LaLa Land
Visual Effects-- The Jungle Book
Score-- LaLa Land

Here are the not that easy rest:

Sound Editing-- Hacksaw Ridge (always go with the loudest movie in the sound mixing category--I mixed the two up and put La La Land where I should have put Hacksaw Ridge etc.
Costume Design-- Jackie It was Harry Potter's Great Uncle in America.
Makeup-- Star Trek Beyond I'm glad that the fairly terrible Suicide Squad won an Oscar.

Here are the next to impossible to call:

Animated Short-- Piper (but it could be any of them)
Live Short-- Timecode (but it could be any of them)
Documentary Short-- Joe's Violin (but it could be any of them)

At least I got one right regarding the shorts. Still couldn't care less.
Finally, I beat my mentor, Dave Miller, for the first time in a few years. We had only disagreed on one in the big ten.


Sunday, February 26, 2017


Name One

Here is the headline for this story:

Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end of century

Then the rest of the story goes on to offer not a single bit of evidence for this pessimism. Worse, one of their sources is Paul Ehrlich, who for some reason is still associated with Stanford. Professor Ehrlich has never been right about any of the myriad catastrophic predictions he has made. He's not the poster boy of reliable prediction the author is hoping for with this effort to alarm us.

I always ask: OK, name one mammal species that has gone extinct in the past 10 years? What was the extinction rate for all species 2000 years ago, and 200 years ago, and what is it now? I'm still waiting for alarming answers. Something like 98% of the species of animals and plants that have lived on earth are extinct. Extinction is as natural as, well, death. That certainly doesn't mean we have to help it along.

Fortunately for the author, the biologist who is making this claim of extraordinarily wide and rapid extinction is not Ehrlich but Professor Peter Raven, of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Oh, well that's completely different. The Missouri Botanical Garden is world famous for producing clear thinking biologists who don't make specious claims.

It seems to be worse for Ehrlich than normal. He is proposing somehow killing (or not replacing by unnatural birth control) about 6.4 Billion people.

A world population of around a billion would have an overall pro-life effect, Ehrlich argued.

I can't tell which method he really prefers. Just mandating birth control as the method for reducing the number of people on Earth will not reduce the population significantly in the 83 years we have left in the 21st Century. So the gathering scientists plan to avert the alleged 6th Great Extinction, caused by overpopulation, they say, without actually reducing the world's population significantly starting right freakin' now. How is that a good plan? Is the Vatican hosting a meeting where the plan is either genocide of humans on an unbelievable scale, or near universal birth control? Maybe the scientists are contemplating a third way and didn't tell the author of the piece.

Here is a list of 'species' that have probably gone extinct in the past 10 years (or so they believe--sometimes the species they call extinct are just hiding from them). It's possible I'm being picky here but all the mammals on the list are sub-species not species. There are still Black Rhinos (despite the stupid Chinese and unnecessary Arab choices which are killing too many each year). There are Clouded Leopards still throughout Asia and River Otters still throughout Asia and Europe. I think when you say here are species that have gone extinct, you really ought to mean species.

Also let's talk about island extinctions, as most of the list belong in that category. A lot of species which evolve on islands are easy pickings for predators introduced from continental sources. It is a very long list of island birds which were wiped out by pigs or rats or snakes that had not been there before and were introduced by people, often unknowingly. That's a tragedy but it's not the end of the world. It's not half the species gone in 83 years.

The Equadorians have done a very good job of preventing invasive species from ruining the Galapagos. Stopping invasive species would go a long way of preventing further island extinctions.

I've been hearing we're in a great modern extinction for about 20 years now. I'm willing to believe it but I have to know if the rate of extinction of species has gone way up lately and is accelerating in order to believe that a large percentage of species will be extinct before four score and three years have passed; and no one yet can tell me what the ordinary rate of extinction of species has been before human population topped Ehrlich's preferred one Billion around 1800. I don't believe the biologists and zoologists know what that rate was? Tough to talk about acceleration when you don't know the base rate.



Confession of Addiction

OK, not only am I going to ever more Karaoke nights (and not just at the Czech bar), now I'm making my own Karaoke versions of the 30 or so great songs no one else has bothered to make. It's not particularly difficult for the computer savvy (which is not me), but it can be tedious. So far I have two done, the second slightly better than the first. You will know that I need an intervention when I start renting studio space to record the instruments, but not the lead voices, on songs I like. I'll keep you updated.

This is not yet a cry for help. I think Karaoke is no longer the hot new thing at bars and will decline in popularity and fade from the bar scene over the next decade or so. But to my knowledge, I have never gotten ahead of a social movement in my life. And at my age, being a cranky die-hard fits the profile.

Photo of travel blogger Dave and Japanese friends Karaokeing away. Nearly all Asian Karaoke is in private rooms. In America, you have to sing in front of strangers too.


Saturday, February 25, 2017


Take Them To the Bank Oscar Picks

Generally it's a LaLa Land sweep. Because there's nothing the members of the Academy like better than a movie about them. That the movie centers around young people doing well in Hollywood (despite the cost emotionally) is icing on the cake. Here we go.

The big nine:

Best Picture-- LaLa Land
Best Leading Man-- Denzel Washington (but it could just as easily be Casey Affleck)
Best Leading Lady-- Emma Stone (small possibility it's Isabelle Huppert)
Best Supporting Actor-- Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress-- Viola Davis
Best Foreign Film-- The Salesman (stealing the win from early favorite Toni Erdmann)
Best Director-- Damien Chazelle
Best Screenplay, Original-- Manchester by the Sea (could possibly be LaLa Land)
Best Screenplay, Adapted-- Moonlight

Easy calls:

Cinematography-- LaLa Land
Documentary-- OJ
Animated Feature-- Zootopia (tiny outside chance for Kubo and the Two Strings)
Art Direction-- LaLa Land
Original Song-- City of Stars from LaLa Land (despite it being insipid tripe)
Film Editing-- LaLa Land
Sound Mixing-- LaLa Land (because sound editing is completely different from sound mixing)
Visual Effects-- The Jungle Book (aren't all movies merely visual effects?)
Score-- LaLa Land

Here are the not that easy rest:

Sound Editing-- Hacksaw Ridge (always go with the loudest movie in this category)
Costume Design-- Jackie (but it could be LaLa Land)
Makeup-- Star Trek Beyond

Here are the next to impossible to call:

Animated Short-- Piper (but it could be any of them)
Live Short-- Timecode (but it could be any of them)
Documentary Short-- Joe's Violin (but it could be any of them)

I'll watch the show this time but under social duress. I'm continuing to like TV more than the movies.
I only saw four of the nine up for Best Picture and I liked Hell or High Water the very best of those four.



Extreme Stupidity of the Week

That's right, Hitler oversaw the building the '61 Berlin wall from his retirement community in Argentina.

And I'm probably quibbling here, but of all the photos out there that show Hitler doing the Nazi salute, the Occupy Democrats choose one where he isn't doing it?

The historical idiocy, no, the plain old idiocy of these Democrats is staggering.

(h/t Powerline Week in Pictures)


Friday, February 24, 2017


California Drought: Nigh About Over

Here is a chart of droughts in the West (including California) over the past 1200 years as shown by proxy studies (of tree rings). Looks like California was often pretty dry back then, and dry for very long periods of time. Was that the normal condition of the state or is the really wet version now the normal condition? Or is the fluctuation between the two extremes the normal condition? Hint: fluctuation is normal for climatic conditions.

Here is the Sierra Snowpack now, at 190% of normal. All of the state's biggest reservoirs (except one, the most southern one, Perris) are above historical averages. So things are a lot better as far as drought is concerned. 17% of the state still has mild drought conditions (like in the Mojave and Sonoran/Colorado deserts and in the LA basin).

It might be a smart move for the state government to table the fast train to nowhere boondoggle and repair the old dams and construct a few new ones for water storage. Who knows, it might go back to drought conditions all over the state again. Indeed, it surely will.

Don't want to brag unnecessarily, because a return to wet was always in the cards, but here is my prediction about the drought on my birthday in 2015 and here is an interim report last year. Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.



Some Democrats Are Waking Up

Nick Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, is not my favorite columnist. He doesn't appear to have the intellectual rigor I enjoy in the opinion writers I read regularly. But he can be a bellwether. Behold here.

Money quote:

There are three reasons I think it’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters, a complicated (and, yes, diverse) group of 63 million people.
First, stereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding. Hundreds of thousands of those Trump supporters had voted for Barack Obama. Many are themselves black, Latino or Muslim. Are they all bigots?
Second, demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system. One can be passionate about one’s cause, and fight for it, without contributing to political paralysis that risks making our country ungovernable.
Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t. This raises knotty questions about tolerating intolerance, but is it really necessary to start with a blanket judgment writing off 46 percent of voters?
The third reason is tactical: It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.

You have to love the double standard, self congratulation inherent in the sentences about tolerance, which is not merely a liberal value, it is a human value to be encouraged as often as it is reasonable. If it wasn't for double standards the left might have no standards at all. Who died and made them the arbiters of what is tolerance and what isn't? If it is bad for Republicans to be intolerant, it is equally bad for Democrats to be intolerant.

But on the bright side, Kristof seems to be getting a clue that "Vote for me you bitter-clinger, deplorable racists!" is not the best campaign slogan ever invented. He warns his fellow Democrats not to do that any more. Good luck with that, Nick.

As Glenn Reynolds points out, the Democrats' undeserved feeling of superiority to the stupid and evil Republicans is one of benefits of being a Democrat

But here is the strange part. He writes:

If Democrats want to battle voter suppression, it's crucial to win local races -- including in white, working-class districts in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

What? What voter suppression? Requiring all voters to produce a photo ID? Are you talking about passing laws, completely constitutional (see Crawford v. Marion Count Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008)), which don't appear to stop anyone entitled to vote from voting? Is that the voter suppression you're talking about here?

You really have to be a racist deep down in your heart to think that black Americans, and other Democrat voter blocs, are less capable of getting a photo ID, an essential document for leading a normal life in the 21st Century, than white people and other Republican voters are.

But that tired, racist accusation is not the weird part. How in the world will winning local races, especially in white working-class districts in some states, battle the mythical voter suppression? It might be a formula for ending the current trend of ever fewer Democrats in public office, but how it specifically does anything to stop voter ID laws is a complete mystery.

The reason Democrats are losing is so clear it must take considerable effort for Democrats not to see it. The party has gone too far to the left for a majority of most states' voters. But you see in Kristof's plea to stop the name calling the Vital Lie the Democrats are constantly telling themselves. The tell themselves that we didn't lose because we're unpopular with voters. No! That couldn't possibly be it. They say we lost because of any of the myriad of false excuses the Democrats are clinging to (bitterly?) recently. Here the excuse seems to be the alleged (and apparently magical) voter suppression by the Republicans. That is really what's keeping our candidates out of office.

If you say so, Nick.


Sunday, February 19, 2017


More Self Delusion

I am convinced that Chuck Todd views himself as a fair minded neutral journalist. He is blind to the beam in his eye. Here's an example from less than an hour ago. He had the somewhat squirrelly Reince Priebus on, as usual, and spent about 80% of the time talking about Mike Flynn and some vague, nefarious Russian connection of the Trump campaign with Russian 'agents'. It is as clear as the nose on anyone's face that Donald Trump is a sleeper Russian agent, a sort of Manchurian Candidate, so endless questions about this are clearly germane. But when answering a question/accusation that the White House was in chaos, Reince started to list the good things the White House has accomplished and Chuck Todd cut him off and promised to let him talk about the successes later.

And then he never let him talk about it.

That doesn't seem to be fair minded neutrality to me, but then I am evil and stupid, as lefty friends are at pains to point out to me. I'm not yet ready to go full belief that the Press is an enemy of the people, but they are just awful at their jobs. Almost all of them. For the past 20 years they have acted as Democratic operatives with a by-line* and in the past two years have stopped even pretending that they are fair minded and neutral. We noticed. Which is why the Press is lower than whale slime in the polls for trustworthiness.

I believe most rational thinking people believe a free press is an important bulwark against governmental overreach, but if nearly all the free press is of one party and makes no attempt to hide the members' collective desire to help that party and hurt the opposition (as it is now), how is that helping the American people?

*classical reference at Instapundit

Of course, when the Democrats have the same sort of contact with foreign nations as is alleged against the Trump campaign, that means it is not illegal and certainly not worth a single story in our glorious free press.


Friday, February 17, 2017


Mind-Numbing Self-Unawareness

I haven't watched Bill Maher in a long time. The only thing I really liked was the "New Rules" segment anyway, but I have to admit that he is politically incorrect about Muslim Jihadis (but logically, historically, morally correct about them) and once in a blue moon he is willing to speak truth to liberal power. This might be one of those times.

Rather than wade through the article, here is the money quote from Jeremy Scahill (whoever that is) who won't be on the show if it is contaminated by the presence of gay gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos. He cites his reasons for not appearing:

Yiannopoulos’ appearance could also be used to incite violence against immigrants, transgender people, and others at a time when the Trump administration is already seeking to formalize a war against some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
I don't know if you've been keeping up with current events, Jeremy, but your ilk are the only ones using violence against vulnerable people in our society.

And high on the stupid meter is the term "formalize a war against..." What, do you think Trump is going to Congress (like FDR on 12/8/41) and asking for a formal declaration of war? I'm sure Mr. Scahill is of normal intelligence (pretty sure), but the ignorance evident in his position and statements is awesome.

Sorry I'm going to miss him on the show. Sounds like a fun guy.


Sunday, February 12, 2017


I'm With These Guys

Here is an article from the American Council on Science and Health which makes a lot of sense. Not perfect sense, mind you, but in the main they are right. I'll summarize: Small, fail-safe nuke reactors; drill, baby, drill in the meantime; and, if there is a break-through in solar technology and battery storage in the future, we can start the switch to that renewable then (despite the myriad problems with it even if there are such break-throughs);

Screw wind power--ugly, noisy, fickle, delicate, useless totems to the religion of man-made global warming. Oh, and the blades kill hundreds of thousands of birds and bats each year. You have to wonder, reasonably, if its supporters hate birds and bats.

I part ways with the American council at #4, throwing more federal money at research in solar and fusion. When I was a boy, fusion power plants were 30 to 40 years away. 50 years later they are still 30 to 40 years away. Not everything imaginable is achievable. I've always been troubled also by the inherent disconnect with fusion. So we re-create a miniature version of the sun and then we use it to boil water. Really? That's the plan?

But the biggest disagreement is over who should do the research and who should pay for it. The Council says the federal government should. The federal government couldn't find its ass even if it used both hands. The private sector as always is the creative force in our semi-capitalist economy/society. How much money we throw at the research would be a question of utility. I'm OK, as usual, with reasonably amounts spent on pure research with an emphasis on useful things. How promising the research seems would of course tilt us towards spending more federal money. Right now, the taxpayer money paid for solar and fusion research should be quite small, no more than a couple of hundred million a year. Let the people with the most to gain from success pay their fair share (which is almost all of it).


Saturday, February 11, 2017


Bad Court Rulings

I'll start with a little bragging and context. One of the few legal talents I have is an ability to read a court decision and tell if it is legally sound or utter bs. I've been reviewing some of the more suspect Supreme Court decisions lately (such is my powerhouse social life). I'm adding Justice Kennedy's Boumediene v Bush decision to the top five worst.

But the subject of this is the decision by the 3 judge panel of 9th Circuit in Washington v Trump. You can read it for yourself here. It's pretty much utter bs.

Let's start with some constitutional doctrine which no rational person disputes. The President is given the executive power for the nation in Art. 2, Sec. 1; and in Sec. 2 he or she is given the bulk of the power to conduct governmental business overseas. We call that foreign policy. He or she is admonished to take care that the laws of the nation be faithfully executed. He or she is the commander in chief of the nation's armed forces. These grants of power and duty would seem to include defending the nation from foreign invasion. There is plenty of case law that says he or she has plenary power regarding foreign policy (but Treaties must be approved by the Senate overwhelmingly). Congress in Art. 1, Sec. 8 has the sole power and duty to establish a uniform rule of naturalization (so much for sanctuary cities).

So here is part of what Congress put into the rules of immigration (the first step of naturalization) in 1955 in 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f).

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

So this law allows the President, and the President alone, to decide if stopping immigration of an individual or class of individuals is a good thing for the defense of the country. According to the often cited concurrence of Justice Jackson in the Youngstown case, the President is on firmest constitutional ground when he or she acts regarding an inherent power of the executive which is bolstered by a specific grant of power from Congress. That's exactly what we have here. So it would seem that President Trump was acting in the mainstream of his executive powers when he ordered that we're taking a 90 day break in letting in people, even those who have a visa, from the 7 nations whose citizens the Obama administration identified as not deserving of visa-less entry. But there are judges who say differently. That they didn't cite, quote or even mention the above quoted law is proof positive how worthless their decision was. It's like saying we're reviewing the constitutionality of a law and then not mentioning the law.

Green card holders may get to be treated like citizens but foreign nationals, outside our borders, have no constitutional rights whatsoever, the brilliance of Boumediene notwithstanding.

So screwed up is the decision right now that the best thing to do would be to cancel the Executive Order in question and rewrite it specifically exempting green card holders. Put in some facts about Islamic terrorism and why it is impossible to properly vet at this time the citizens seeking entry to the US from the 7 nations identified as a problem by the Obama administration.

Then dare the members of the judiciary blinded to their duty and limitations by political animus to stop the temporary ban again. Double dog dare them.

Better legal minds than I have come to a similar opinion here, here and here.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017


The Senate Minority Under Sen. Chuck Schumer's Leadership

Just watched the Senate vote on confirming Ms. Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. It was 50/50 and Vice President Mike "Doc Savage" Pence broke the tie and she's in, despite two Republican defections.

Gee, wasn't it a good idea to delay the vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General so he could be the 50th "aye" vote here? Brilliant.


Sunday, February 05, 2017


Modest Proposal

I think we should compare the violent, lefty vandals in black, like the ones in Seattle in '99 or the ones at Berkeley days ago, only to the black shirts of Italy in the '30s, and not to the brown shirts in Germany at the same time. I say this for three reasons.

1. They share the same choice for an economic system as the Italians, a looser form of socialism tinged with anarcho/syndicalism;

2. They do wear black; and,

2. They're not as effective as the brown shirts of the National Socialist and German Worker's Party (now there's a name that screams out right wing). The neo-black shirts do piddling little things over piddling little perceived slights and are more annoyance than uprising.

The Nazis were evil but they were an effective evil. They got things done. I don't admire them for it but you can't read about the period without noticing it.

The Italians were more like these pathetic wannabes, but an order of magnitude more serious.


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