Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bring Back the State Sponsored Pirates to Fight ISIS?

An interersting proposal for how to deal with America's, and the Obama Administration's in particular, wariness of the committing government troops to combat in the Middle East - bring back state sponsored piracy.

Is It Time To Bring Back Letters Of Marque?
Despite Boko Haram’s purported pledge of fealty to ISIS, apparently neither organizations’ bloody rampages have reached the level of egregiousness that stirs the executive branch to crush the evil gobbling up Iraq and surrounding territories. President Obama has told us repeatedly that there will be “no boots on the ground” save for “advisers, trainers, and security personnel.” Regardless of whether the advisory missions happen to put those advisers in a combat role, the goal, apparently, is to keep us “out of another ground war.”

Whether this be on principle of non-interference or sheer ignorance of an organization that will, if unchecked, eventually threaten global stability, the result is inaction (save for a few airstrikes).
Note: Privateers portrayed here may not be exactly historically accurate. . .

An Alternative: Letters of Marque

The U.S. military wears a heavy boot, but at the moment it does nothing more than cast a shadow over the growing terrorist threat. However, the U.S. Constitution allows another way for citizens to combat threats to life or property: a letter of marque.

Letters of marque are expressly granted in the Constitution (Article I section 8): “The Congress shall have the power…to declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal.” Letters of marque are essentially permits for private individuals to use force against enemies of the state on its behalf. In the early eighteenth century, these letters began tofunction as a way to supplement national navies. “Privateers” were given letters of marque permitting them to capture and plunder enemy ships; an admiralty court adjudicated on the legality of the capture.
The US had a long history of using privateers, up until at least until the war of 1812. One such privateer, Otway Burns, used a vessel made in West River, Maryland, and raided British shipping in the war, and retired to the political life in North Carolina as a state senator.
Here’s How This Would Work In Modern Life
. . .
Pulled out from under a dozen other tactics and strategies, dusted off, and cast onto the table where “war” and “diplomacy” are the only options on display, letters of marque could be the centuries-old concept that aids a modern armed-forces effort.

Letters of marque allow the government some measure of control over the conduct of the recipients, allowing for prosecution if individuals are found in violation. Lack of accountability is in no one’s best interest, and letters of marque provide a way for private individuals to serve the interests of their country and global communities while still being accountable to a formally recognized authority.

One can think of letters of marque as an old solution fashioned anew to meet the unique challenges of an ideologically motivated organization bent on destroying the West and any regions touched by its influence.
I'm still grasping at how the modern privateers would be paid. Would they be collecting cash and valuables from ISIS? That may work, as ISIS has been using oil, ransom and just general theft as a means to fund their movement. Turn about should be entirely "fair play". However, collecting said funds would be more difficult than flying a few bombing sorties over them. It would probably require the dreaded "boots on the ground."
Answers to Objections

Some superficially acquainted with this tool might raise legal objections to its use, namely that the Treaty of Paris “banned” letters of marque. Although we have honored the treaty during military conflicts with countries that acceded to it, the United States never formally acceded to the 1856 Paris Declaration.
. . .
Some less rational factions will undoubtedly hail this as a crazy right-winged conspiracy to privatize the military. But Founders did not design a Constitution with powers that undermine other powers. If letters of marque were a tool of privatization, what good would it have been to include provisions, just a few lines below this, “to raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a Navy”?
Since when do we make it a point to listen to what the founders actually wrote?
It is not certain that such a mechanism would significantly aid a pushback against the Islamic State, but it’s difficult to argue that we should not let those who are willing and able at least try. If this attack were directly on our homeland, and it were our own neighbors being burned alive or beheaded, would we thrust our arms out to hold back our brothers and sisters who were trying to stop it? Would we exclaim our dismay at an upset of the status quo, or would we be relieved the mobilization of decent people to action against veritable evil? . . .
At this point, could it hurt?

One Way to Open the Door

It's a little time consuming for my taste; but the Jehovah's Witnesses might give up in the meantime.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Can We Expect a Progressive and Muslim Boycott?

Given Progressives and Muslims antipathy to all things Israeli, I would hope so:

Israeli Company's Vaccine Blocks 90% of Cancer Types
Vaxil BioTherapeutics's ImMucin trains immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent the disease's return for early stages and remission.

An Israeli biotech company is developing a vaccine for cancer that it says can help prevent the return of the lethal disease for 90% of the differenttypes of cancer.

Vaxil BioTherapeutics based in Nes Ziona has been developing ImMucin for more than five years, and already has seen strong success in testing indicating it can be a vital tool in combating cancer. The disease kills eight million people worldwide per year, and sees 14 million new cases diagnosed annually according to the World Health Organization.

"Vaxil is developing a drug to keep the cancer from coming back," Vaxil's CFO Julian Levy told NoCamels. "We are trying to harness the natural power of the immune system to fight against cancer by seeking out cancer cells and destroying them."
. . .
The vaccine stimulates a certain part of the immune system, developing it to attack specific cells with markers indicating cancer. When used in early stages of cancer, the vaccine is expected to train the immune system to destroy the right cells as cancer develops and fight the disease.

Until last January the company focused its experiments on Multiple Myeloma patients, but then shifted to breast cancer patients. It may be some time before the vaccine sees its way onto the market though, with Levy expecting a release by 2020 at the latest.
I hope they're onto something real here.

How long before ISIS comes up with a cure for cancer?

Are Birth Control Pills Killing the Bay?

Probably not, but they are almost certainly involved in the "feminization" of some fish species in upper portions of the bay, and it's tidal streams. I've pointed that out before, when various news articles were decrying plasticizers, pest and herbicides, and "personal care products" as potential causes for the the appearance of ovaries in male fish with mentioning the potential contribution of dumping vast quantities of known female hormones through sewage treatment plants and out in the the Bay. This is the first popular article I've seen that highlights the potential for birth control pills to be involved.

Fish don’t want birth control, but scientists say they get it from your pill
Your birth control pill is affecting more than just your body.

Flushed down toilets, poured down sinks and excreted in urine, a chemical component in the pill wafts into sewage systems and ends up in various waterways where it collects in fairly heavy doses. That's where fish soak it up.

A recent survey by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn't good.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a University of Missouri assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at USGS. "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."
. . .
BPA and EE2 are both endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormones and cause developmental disorders. Over the past 12 years, male smallmouth and largemouth bass throughout the country, including the Potomac River basin in the Chesapeake Bay region, have switched sex, developing ovaries where their testes should be, and the two disruptors are prime suspects.

These particular chemicals were employed in the study for good reason. EE2 is a major ingredient in oral contraceptives for women, and up to 68 percent of each dose is released in the latrine through urine and excrement. A full dose is released when some women simply pour unused pills down the drain.
So, what's it going to be girls; give up your birth control pills, or give up the Bay?

The "Affordable Housing" Scam

It has been said that every great cause becomes a business, which becomes a scam. Stacy McCain details how "affordable housing" has made the progression: ‘Peak Hipster’ in San Francisco
“Affordable housing” is one of those phrases, like “social justice” and “sexual equality,” that sounds like a good thing, until you realize it’s a license for totalitarianism. For most of us, “affordable housing” means living someplace where we can afford the rent. The advocates of “affordable housing,” however, always want to live someplace we couldn’t afford to live — a trendy urban location — and demand a system of taxpayer subsidies and/or burdensome regulations to force others to allow them to live in a high-rent community at below-market rates. To put it as simply as possible, they’re moochers and “affordable housing” is about protecting their right to mooch.

The enemy of affordable housing is “gentrification,” which is what happens when people with actual jobs who can afford to pay rent at market value start moving into a trendy urban location where the moochers live. Regular Right Guy calls our attention to the gentrification crisis in San Francisco:
On a sunny Monday afternoon in early March, tenants from Station 40, an affordable housing complex in San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying Mission District, joined with activists from the Housing Rights Committee and Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to hold a press conference condemning one of the latest evictions happening in the city. In late February, Station 40 tenants were slapped with an eviction notice from their landlords, Ahuva, Emanuel and Barak Jolish.
. . .
“Station 40 has been home to anarchist, queer and transgender refugees, broke people, veterans against war, those healing from the prison system, lifelong San Franciscans, immigrants, people with disabilities, and those who were previously homeless,” according to the groups’ press statement. Station 40 has also “hosted and/or organized hundreds of anticapitalist-oriented events, including fund-raiser, critical discussions, film screenings and performances, assemblies, book releases, art shows and workshops, and indie media projects, contributing to the rebel spirit of the Bay Area.”
Gosh, we’re sorry to hear about the end of your anti-police/anti-capitalist “anarchist, queer and transgender” scene, hipsters.

Megan McArdle explains Gentrification Is an Irresistible Force
Ah, gentrification. What’s not to hate? Except for sit-down restaurants, dog parks, charming pubs, bike lanes ... and there goes the neighborhood. Yesterday, we talked about the inherent irony of gentrification: the fact that gentrification is simultaneously driven and abhorred by nice young progressives who just want to live in a walkable neighborhood. We also discussed why so many of the ideas proposed to stop it -- from inclusionary zoning to tougher rent control -- have so far proven powerless against the March of the Affluent.
Read the rest, but it all boils down to a free market. People who can afford to would like to live in a nice clean, crime free neighborhood, and they have the money to see to it both from a cost and political perspective.

And she explains Why Gentrification Matters
Nonetheless, we should recognize that for many people, gentrification can be a sort of personal disaster. Why? Because when you don't have much money, you rely heavily on another sort of capital: social capital.

Interested readers can listen to me expand upon this in my American Enterprise Institute vision talk, but here's the nutshell version: Navigating poverty successfully requires people to tap into extended networks that operate something like the "reciprocal altruism" networks of hunter-gatherers. You're in trouble, and I help you out, which means that when I am in trouble, you have an obligation to help me out. All humans do this to some extent, of course. But affluent people in modern societies don't need to rely on these networks so heavily, because they have cash and savings. If your car breaks down, you pay a repair shop instead of tapping your network to find someone who knows how to fix the problem. As I discuss in my talks, these networks can be remarkably resilient ways to handle the challenges of poverty, but they can also create barriers to getting out of poverty.
True enough, but some of what keeps people trapped in poverty is the "comfort" of it, the reliable government assistance (which comes whether you go to work on time or not) and the equally reliable friends who help you out, and in the same breathe, help hold you in. What many poor need is a reason to get out, and cut the umbilical ties of poverty.

A New "Polio" Emerges

Link found between children with paralysis and ‘more polio-like’ strain of enterovirus D68, study says
Genetic sequencing of a virus found in respiratory secretions of children in California and Colorado who suffered from paralysis or muscle weakness last fall reveals that they were infected with a mutated strain of enterovirus D68 that is closer to polio than other strains common in previous years.

The study, published Monday in Lancet Infectious Diseases, sheds new light on one of the most troubling medical mysteries of recent years. Amid a nationwide outbreak of severe respiratory illness, doctors at hospitals nationwide began to report that they were seeing an alarming number of children with unexplained weakness in an arm or a leg to complete paralysis that required them to be put on ventilators. Treating physicians noted that many of the children appeared to be infected with enterovirus D68, but researchers were cautious about drawing a causal link because virus had been bouncing around the world since the 1960s and had typically only caused breathing issues such as coughing and wheezing.

While the research does not provide a definitive link -- that would only be established if the virus were found in the spinal fluid and it was not -- it provides the strongest evidence to date of the link between enterovirus D68 and paralysis. The researchers theorize that the reason the virus was not found in the spinal fluid could be because the samples were taken too late. Scientists also tested the children for the presence of other pathogens capable of causing the symptoms but didn't find other viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.
Much like the polio virus, EV-D68 (or whatever acronym is being used) does not affect all people the same way. Most people who got polio (and it is very rare now globally, and eliminated in the US) did not show symptoms beyond short term cold/flu. Only a minority suffered the devastating paralysis which was the reason the vaccines were such breakthroughs at the time. For polio, people were more likely to suffer the paralysis if they had escaped the disease while young, and protected by maternal antibodies. Thus, the poor, living with less sanitation suffered from it less than the wealthy, who were less likely to be exposed while young.  My guess is that it will turn out to be true for EV-D68 as well.
The new research reveals that the children had a novel strain of the virus, called B1, which emerged about four years ago. That strain has only five to six coding differences from previous strains that were commonly found in the United States but each of those are mutated in the direction of polio or another nerve-damaging virus known as EV-D70.

"These are changes that may have made the virus more polio-like," said Charles Chiu, an associate professor at the University of California-San Francisco who worked on the study.
Now that a more dangerous strain has arrived (and the question of whether it originated in the US or was imported from Latin America is still of interest, but hardly germane to the treatment), perhaps the CDC and USDA should be thinking about funding vaccine development for this bug. Or now that we have so much more genetic knowledge than we did in the 1950s, maybe we could work out a vaccine for enteroviruses in general, or at least major groups of them.

Operator, Could You Help Me Place This Call?

A little different:

Midnite Music - "Gimme Shelter"

An interesting arrangement of a Stones classic. Dana Fuchs: