Monday, March 2, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Jihadi John"

Friends, authorities and people familiar with the case now believe that the man formerly known only as “Jihadi John” is actually Mohammed Emwazi, from West London, the Washington Post and BBC report. Emwazi is now thought to be the man in front of the camera on the beheading videos produced and circulated by the militant group Islamist State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). He’s believed to be the man who executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter.
I have to admit I instinctively felt resentful when I found out he was being called by my first name, as arbitrary as that is. I can only imagine how peaceful Muslims feel when they find out what people like him are doing in the name of Islam.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is this goodbye to "the permissionless internet"?

WSJ reports:

Both ObamaCare and “Obamanet” submit huge industries to complex regulations. Their supporters say the new rules had to be passed before anyone could read them. But at least ObamaCare claimed it would solve long-standing problems. Obamanet promises to fix an Internet that isn’t broken.

The permissionless Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review, ends this week. On Thursday the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities.

No one, including the bullied FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, thought the agency would go this far. The big politicization came when President Obama in November demanded that the supposedly independent FCC apply the agency’s most extreme regulation to the Internet. A recent page-one Wall Street Journal story headlined “Net Neutrality: How White House Thwarted FCC Chief” documented “an unusual, secretive effort inside the White House . . . acting as a parallel version of the FCC itself.”

Congress is demanding details of this interference. In the early 1980s, a congressional investigation blasted President Reagan for telling his FCC chairman his view of regulations about television reruns. “I believe it is imperative for the integrity of all regulatory processes that the president unequivocally declare that he will express no view in the matter and that he will do nothing to intervene in the work of the FCC,” said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat. . . .

The more than 300 pages of new regulations are secret, but Mr. Wheeler says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, under which the FCC oversaw Ma Bell. Title II authorizes the commission to decide what “charges” and “practices” are “just and reasonable”—an enormous amount of discretion. Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has found 290 federal appeals court opinions on this section and more than 1,700 FCC administrative interpretations.

Defenders of the Obama plan claim that there will be regulatory “forbearance,” though not from the just-and-reasonable test. They also promise not to regulate prices, a pledge that Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has called “flat-out false.” He added: “The only limit on the FCC’s discretion to regulate rates is its own determination of whether rates are ‘just and reasonable,’ which isn’t much of a restriction at all.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that if the FCC applies Title II to the Internet, all uses of telecommunications will have to pass the “just and reasonable” test. Bureaucrats can review the fairness of Google’s search results, Facebook’s news feeds and news sites’ links to one another and to advertisers. BlackBerry is already lobbying the FCC to force Apple and Netflix to offer apps for BlackBerry’s unpopular phones. Bureaucrats will oversee peering, content-delivery networks and other parts of the interconnected network that enables everything from Netflix and YouTube to security drones and online surgery.

Supporters of Obamanet describe it as a counter to the broadband duopoly of cable and telecom companies. In reality, it gives duopolists another tool to block competition. Utility regulations let dominant companies complain that innovations from upstarts fail the “just and reasonable” test—as truly disruptive innovations often do.

AT&T has decades of experience leveraging FCC regulations to stop competition. Last week AT&T announced a high-speed broadband plan that charges an extra $29 a month to people who don’t want to be tracked for online advertising. New competitor Google Fiber can offer low-cost broadband only because it also earns revenues from online advertising. In other words, AT&T has already built a case against Google Fiber that Google’s cross-subsidization from advertising is not “just and reasonable.”

Utility regulation was designed to maintain the status quo, and it succeeds. This is why the railroads, Ma Bell and the local water monopoly were never known for innovation. The Internet was different because its technologies, business models and creativity were permissionless.

This week Mr. Obama’s bureaucrats will give him the regulated Internet he demands. Unless Congress or the courts block Obamanet, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How can Obama decry the gender "pay gap" without accusing his own White House of discrimination?

Mollie Hemingway writes:

The only way to continue to use the statistic that women are paid 77 or 78 cents on the dollar for the same work as men is if you believe all work should be paid exactly the same, no matter the skills or education required, the hours worked, the risk involved, the experience accumulated, or any of the other factors that go into wage determination. This so-called gap is calculated simply by comparing the average amount of money men make and comparing it to the average amount of money women make.

If that’s your standard — which is a joke of a standard, but let’s leave that aside — the White House suffers from a deeply alarming pay gap. And a pay gap that hasn’t gotten better since Obama took office.

We have two possible scenarios here. Either the White House — the headquarters of Mr. Equal Pay himself — suffers from a whopping pay gap of 13.3 percent, practicing unconscionable sexism by paying its female staffers an average of five figures ($10,100) less than the male staffers, or the White House is guilty of deception about pay gaps.

It’s actually the latter, but it’s not like our media will press them on the matter. Either way, it would be nice if political types stopped shaming those of us who think there is more to life than work for pay. Some of us have chosen different career paths because we value vocations that pay in ways that are not monetary. We’re kind of sick of being made to feel bad for wanting to be homemakers, spend more time with our children or simply have more flexible schedules than we would otherwise be able to in a different career.

Monday, February 23, 2015

"Why don’t dads complain about parenthood like moms do?"

Samantha Rodman asks the question:

It seems like women are being publicly applauded for complaining about parenthood. And dads, well, aren’t...

One thing I have noticed as a clinical psychologist in private practice is that men are increasingly less able to voice negative feelings about parenting, even ones that are entirely understandable. Imagine being at a play date and hearing someone say, “God, I needed a drink all day today. The kids were behaving terribly, I couldn’t deal.” You’re picturing a mom, right?

However, what if the speaker is a dad? The question is moot because I have yet to hear a dad complain this openly and honestly about his kids, and this is not for lack of trying. Dads don’t even take the conversational bait. If asked to commiserate about parenting, the average mom breathes a sigh of relief and sits forward in her seat, but the average dad looks around like he’s on Candid Camera and gives a vague answer about having lots of fun sitting around watching dance class through a two way mirror for the 15th week in a row. . . .

My male clients in therapy, one of the few places where people are free to speak openly, often tell me how stressed they feel. They feel pressure to support their families (with or without the financial contribution of their wives), they have limited time for social or leisure activities outside work and family play dates, and they are expected to be verbally and emotionally open and engaged with their wives in a way that was never required of men in previous generations. They also often have less-than-fulfilling sex lives. (Sadly, research contemporaneous with the confessional mommy movement indicates that women in long term relationships lose interest in sex more easily than their male partners [NYT link]; this is another topic upon which many women today expound with abandon.)

As the icing on the cake for the fathers in today’s families, they are expected to do half the childcare, while being criticized for how they do it. Further, society appears to dictate that men should never complain about the same tedium and exhaustion that women experience for fear of being considered a throwback, Don Draper-like, uninvolved dad. Yet, he must support his wife in her public admissions of her yelling too much, not paying attention to the kids, playing on her phone while parenting, and even being a pothead.

Note: I am not judging any of these behaviors. I’m saying this: Tell me what the reaction would be if a dad talked about yelling too much and smoking pot in front of his kids.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

ISIL, Nutella, and kittens

"ISIS is talking online about jars of Nutella, pictures of kittens and emojis. These three images are in part helping ISIS recruiters lure westerners into their fight because they want people to believe their life on the battlefield isn't so different than yours. They actually eat Nutella, and I guess they have pet kittens . . . "

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Should President Obama tell us whether ISIL's view of Islam is correct or distorted?

No, says Reihan Salam:

Like Bush, President Obama has weighed in on matters that must ultimately be left up to Muslims. Take his remarks this Wednesday, when he said, quite rightly, that “we are not at war with Islam.” Not content to stop there, or to simply explain that we are at war with various apocalyptic death cults that have declared war on us, he added that “we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

In great detail, Obama explained that ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, and other extremist groups seek religious legitimacy in order to recruit young people to their cause, and that they “depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith.” According to Obama, [terrorist] groups base their claims to legitimacy on falsehoods and selective readings of Islamic texts. Obama’s position seems to be that the leaders of these groups aren’t sincere in their beliefs. He suggests that what ISIS is really after is power, as if its obsessive focus on acting in accordance with practices that were widespread in the days of Muhammad is merely window-dressing for thuggery and theft. But why do the leaders of ISIS have to be insincere in their beliefs in order for us to reject their brutality? . . .

This week, Graeme Wood published an excellent cover story for the Atlantic on ISIS, which has deservedly drawn a great deal of attention. What he has found is that ISIS is attracting not just psychopaths motivated solely by bloodlust, but also sincere believers who embrace it for its rigorous, uncompromising adherence to the doctrines of early Islam. As Bernard Haykel, one of the experts Wood interviews, puts it, Islam is perhaps best understood as “what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Other Muslims can certainly reject the interpretations of ISIS and its followers as perverse, as the vast majority of them do. But it’s not as though these Muslims, let alone two Christian presidents of the United States, have some unquestioned monopoly on the right to interpret Islam. You can declare that the leaders of ISIS are in fact apostates. You can also declare that Shiite Muslims or Ahmadiyyas are apostates, as Salafi Muslims do as a matter of course. To do so won’t settle anything, as no one owns Islam, just as no one owns Christianity.

How to describe President Obama's patriotism?

"It's complicated," says Will Wilkinson:

[F]or many conservatives, to love America is to insist on the sanitisation of historical fact. We see this attitude at work in the Oklahoma state legislator's recent proposal to nix Advanced Placement American history courses on the grounds that such courses, by teaching some actual history, tend to cast the country's past in a rather unflattering light. But plenty of facts about America just aren't very flattering. A few miles from my house one can find battlefields where men killed and died for the right to keep other men as slaves, as well as the place where many thousands of dispossessed captive Cherokee were forced to begin a genocidal march to Oklahoma. And that's just Chattanooga!

Now, Mr Obama's political worldview is pretty much what one would expect from a moderately left-leaning African-American law professor. This means that the president is indeed keenly aware of, among other blots on the national record, America's exceptionally savage history of slavery and white supremacy, and its ongoing legacy. This sort of awareness inevitably—and justifiably—complicates a relationship to one's country. Many of us have been ill-treated or abused in one way or another by our parents. We love them anyway, because they are ours, but we don't forget the abuse, and it tempers the quality of our devotion. Love of country is not so different.

The ardent and unclouded quality of love that [Rudy] Giuliani and [Kevin] Williamson find missing in Mr Obama is largely the privilege of those oblivious of and immune to America's history of injustice and abuse. Those least aware of historical oppression, those furthest from its living reality, will find it easiest to express their love of country in a hearty and uncomplicated way. The demand that American presidents emanate this sort of blithe nationalism therefore does have a racist and probably sexist upshot, even if there is no bigotry behind it.

Mr Obama's politically compulsory declarations of America's exceptionalism have always struck me as rote, a little less than heartfelt, even a bit grudging. Mr Giuliani, I think, has come away with a similar impression, as have many millions of conservatives. The difference is that where Mr Giuliani sees a half-hearted allegiance to the fatherland, some of us see instead evidence of education, intelligence, emotional complexity and a basic moral decency—evidence of a man not actually in the grip of myths about his country. A politician capable of projecting an earnest, simple, unstinting love of a spotless and superior America is either a treacherous rabble-rouser or so out of touch that he is not qualified to govern. So Barack Obama doesn't love America like a conservative. So what? His realism and restraint are among his greatest strengths.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oliver Sacks on the end of his life

Oliver Sacks, the well-known neurologist/writer, writes about finding out he doesn't have long to live (NYT link):

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama on what "Muslim leaders need to do more" of

"We've got to acknowledge that [moderate Muslims'] job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests that the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion. . . . So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there is an inherent clash in civilizations. Everybody has to speak up very clearly, that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn't defend Islam or Muslims; it damages Islam and Muslims." — President Obama