“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Stairin' Through My Rear View

Party Like it is 5772

Anwar al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen Air Strike

OOPS !!!

Rocket's red glaring error: China sets space launch to America the Beautiful
Video of Tiangong-1 space station is distributed with US patriotic song as background music in latest Chinese propaganda gaffe

The lift-off was flawless. The orbit immaculate. But while China's leaders were celebrating the triumphant launch of Tiangong-1 space lab on Thursday, viewers of state television footage were treated to a bizarre choice of soundtrack: America the Beautiful.

It Has Happened Before:

"It's of concern that terrorists are going to take advantage of instability" in post-Gaddafi Libya, said a U.S. official

Exclusive: Concern grows over militant activity in Libya

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the dust settles after six months of fighting in Libya, U.S. officials are stepping up efforts to identify Islamic militants who might pose a threat in a post-Gaddafi power vacuum.
U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence agencies have recently produced classified papers examining the strength, role and activities of militant activists and factions in post-Gaddafi Libya, four U.S. officials said. Some assessments examine the backgrounds of anti-Gaddafi leaders with militant pedigrees, and explore whether these individuals, some of whom have publicly renounced Islamic militancy, will stand by their pledges against extremism.
During the half-year campaign by rebels to drive Muammar Gaddafi from power, U.S. and NATO officials downplayed fears that al Qaeda or other militants would infiltrate anti-Gaddafi forces or take advantage of disorder to establish footholds in Libya.
Since then, however, the assessment of top experts inside the U.S. government has sharpened.
"It's of concern that terrorists are going to take advantage of instability" in post-Gaddafi Libya, said a U.S. official who monitors the issue closely.
"There is a potential problem," said another U.S. official, who said both the U.S. government and Libya's National Transitional Council were watching closely. Experts around the U.S. intelligence community "are paying attention to this," a third U.S. official said.
Officials said that while the rebellion against Gaddafi continued, it was difficult to collect intelligence on the rebels. But now that Gaddafi's regime has dissolved, U.S. and allied agencies are taking a closer look.
Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst who has advised President Barack Obama on policy in the region, said there was particular worry that Islamic militants could use Libya as a base to spread their influence into neighboring countries such as Algeria or areas such as the Sinai peninsula, where Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip share borders.
"There is a great deal of concern that the jihadi cadre now are going to be exporting their ideas and weapons toward the east and west," Riedel said.
Riedel and current U.S. officials said one high-priority issue is whether militants can acquire, or have obtained, weapons from Gaddafi's huge arsenals, especially surface-to-air missiles that could be used against commercial airliners.
Another key issue is trying to figure out what militant individuals or factions are presently in Libya. At the moment, two officials said, U.S. and NATO experts assess that a "power vacuum" exists while the shaky transitional council tries to organize itself and set up a new government.
In late August, the Open Source Center, a U.S. intelligence unit that monitors public media including militant websites, reported that "in recent days, jihadists have been strategizing on extremist web forums how to establish an Islamic state" in the post-Gaddafi era.
"Many forum members, describing the fall of Tripoli as the initial phase of the battle for Libya, have urged Libyan mujahideen to prepare for the next stage of battle against the (National Transitional Council) and secularist rebels to establish an Islamic state," the center said.
U.S. officials said militant groups have a history of taking advantage of power vacuums to consolidate and expand. The United States and its allies want to avoid a replay of what happened when Afghanistan was governed, patchily, by the Taliban and al Qaeda was able to establish elaborate, semi-permanent training camps.
Another worry is figures with a militant background getting into the higher echelons of the new Libyan government. One new Libyan leader under close scrutiny is Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a former Islamic fighter in Libya and Afghanistan who now commands post-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli.
After allegedly forging ties in Afghanistan with the Taliban and al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Belhadj reportedly was arrested with his wife by the CIA in Bangkok and later extradited to Libya, where he was imprisoned until 2010. He was released under a reconciliation plan promoted by Gaddafi son Saif al Islam.
In an interview this month with the Al Jazeera website, Belhadj said he was subjected to "barbaric treatment" while in CIA custody and later to "many types of physical and mental torture" in Gaddafi's notorious Abu Salim prison.
Asked about his dealings with al Qaeda, Belhadj said, "We have never been in a relationship with them or joined them in any kind of activity because we could never come to an understanding of (philosophies)."
"Libyans are generally moderate Muslims, with moderate ways of practice and understanding of religion. You can find some extreme elements that are different from the mainstream, but this does not in any way represent the majority of the Libyan people."
Secret British intelligence files recovered by anti-Gaddafi forces from the offices of Gaddafi's advisers show that the British kept a close watch on suspected militants in Britain who they believed were linked to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the main anti-Gaddafi Islamic militant network.
The documents, obtained by Reuters, show that during a February 2005 visit to Libya, British intelligence expressed concern the LIFG might be becoming more militant because some al Qaeda links were emerging. But in a 2008 visit, British officials reported that some UK-based Libyan militants had qualms about closer ties to al Qaeda.
A person familiar with British government investigations of militants said U.K. authorities believe that LIFG, as a group, abandoned violence in 2009, although individual Libyan militants remained active in al Qaeda's central core.
Some U.S. and British experts said today's militants may have no connection with vintage LIFG fighters. They fear that young militants who fought against Gaddafi will be angered if Libya's new government is seen as too close to the West.
(Additional reporting by William MacLean; Editing by Warren Strobel and Doina Chiacu)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More free Stuff for Illegal Immigrants

I guess we have to go totally broke for this insanity to stop.

I found this video, done by a cute young woman, who may have had a drink or two too many but worthy of a watch to listen to her rant. She turned off the imbed. Understandable. She would be an excellent patron at the EB.

LA Times

Gov. Jerry Brown is now considering whether to sign landmark legislation that would extend state financial aid to illegal immigrants who are college students. And that makes Lewis anxious.
Will the law pit illegal immigrants against U.S. citizens at a time of skyrocketing demand for student aid? Can the state afford the largesse in this bleak economy?
"The issue is not students who are undocumented through no fault of their own wanting an education," said Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans club. "The problem is that the public dollars are not there to meet the needs of even [legal] California residents."
Such questions have mounted, along with pressures on Brown from all sides, as he prepares to act on the bill. In July, Brown signed a companion measure giving undocumented students and others who qualify for reduced in-state tuition access to private scholarships. The package of legislation is known as the California Dream Act.
Despite the passions, many financial aid experts say they expect little displacement of legal students by illegal immigrants if Brown signs the bill. Many also argue that the costs will be relatively small, but the investment will reap substantial returns for state taxpayers — who already are legally required to pay for schooling through high school regardless of students' immigration status.
"These students have worked hard to get to college," Diana Fuentes Michel, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, said of undocumented students. "By not furthering their education, we're preventing them from realizing their full potential, which will reduce state revenues in the future that supports all of our citizens."
She said the Dream Act would not affect U.S. citizens or legal residents receiving funds from the state's biggest pot of college financial aid, the $1.3-billion Cal-Grant entitlement program. Those grants are unlimited and given to everyone who meets the academic and low-income requirements, she said. Last year, the aid commission made available an average $4,500 grant to all 372,565 eligible applicants — an increase of more than 145,000 students in three years.
The $127-million fund for Cal-Grant competitive awards, which are limited, will almost certainly not be available to illegal immigrants. That's because the bill prohibits undocumented students from receiving those grants before eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents are served, and at present there are 10 applicants for every award, Michel said.
A Senate committee analysis estimated the annual added cost to the Cal-Grant program at $13 million. But it is not actually known how many undocumented students will be eligible for the grants. One hurdle is the financial aid application process, which involves a federal form used for both state and federal awards that requires a Social Security or taxpayer identification number. Another potential issue for illegal immigrants is the requirement to produce evidence of income, such as tax returns. Michel said the state would need to come up with a different process for them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Five severed heads left outside Mexican school

28 September 2011 Last updated at 04:55 ET BBC

Mexican police have found five decomposing heads left in a sack outside a primary school in Acapulco.

Handwritten messages were also found, reportedly threatening the state governor as well as local drug lords.

It was not clear if the discovery of the heads and five decapitated bodies elsewhere in the city was linked to extortion threats against teachers.

Dozens of schools have been closed since last month after teachers went on strike over security concerns.

Police were called to a street in the Garita neighbourhood of Acapulco on Tuesday morning.

There they found a sack inside a wooden crate placed near the school, officers said.

Inside were the heads of five men, as well as the threatening messages.

Police had earlier discovered five headless bodies in another part of the city, left either inside or near a burned-out vehicle.

Acapulco, on Mexico's Pacific coast, has seen several episodes of gruesome violence as drug gangs fight for control of the resort city.

The new school year has been disrupted

But as the government crackdown on cartels continues, criminal organisations here and in other parts of Mexico are fracturing and increasingly turning to extortion.

Last month, as the new school year began, dozens of teachers in Acapulco said criminal gangs had threatened them with violence if they did not hand over half their salaries from 1 October.

They and colleagues have since been on strike, leading to the closure of more than 100 schools.

Guerrero State Governor Angel Aguirre has promised a series of measures, including increased police patrols and the installation of security cameras and panic buttons in schools.

But teachers say they still fear for their own and pupils' safety.

One striking teacher told the BBC that although they welcomed the governor's proposals, they could not expect the situation to improve overnight.

Is Drug Legalization the Only Answer?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Get Prepared, Goldman Sachs Rules the World, The End is Near.

INTERNATIONAL TRADER: ‘I GO TO BED EVERY NIGHT AND I DREAM OF ANOTHER RECESSION’ | While European government and financial leaders are scrambling to prevent a financial crisis in the Eurozone that would likely throw the global economy into even more turmoil, stock trader Alessio Rastani took to BBC today to tell the world that traders were looking forward to the possibility of a second big recession. “For most traders, it’s not about – we don’t really care that much how they’re going to fix the economy, how they’re going to fix the whole situation,” he said. “Our job is to make money from it.” Rastani, who also claimed “Goldman Sachs rules the world,” said, “Personally, I’ve been dreaming of this moment for three years…I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession. When the market crashes… if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this.”


Monday, September 26, 2011

Old Habits Die Hard. Putin the Man Who Never Left is Returning.

Vladimir Putin sets sights on another 12 years in Kremlin's top job

Prime minister bids to return for two more terms as Russia's president after months of speculation

Vladimir Putin is to run for president of Russia next year in a move that could keep the powerful leader at the helm of the country until 2024.
Prime minister Putin and head of state Dmitry Medvedev ended months of speculation on Saturday during the ruling United Russia party congress.
"I think it's right that the party congress support the candidacy of the head of the government, Vladimir Putin, in the role of the country's president," Medvedev said. Thousands of flag-waving delegates inside Moscow's Soviet-era Luzhniki stadium gasped before breaking into applause.
Russia has been paralysed by months of speculation regarding the decision, though signs had recently emerged that Putin would announce his intention to return to the Kremlin seat. Putin, who has worked hard to prevent a credible opposition from forming, is all but certain of winning the presidential vote that is set for March, raising further concerns over the growth of soft authoritarianism in the country. The announcement is also likely to dismay the combative prime minister's numerous critics in the west.
In a surprise twist, Medvedev said he was ready to serve as prime minister under Putin. Medvedev will head the party list of United Russia as it readies for parliamentary elections in December, paving the way for the premiership.
"I'm ready to head this government and work for the good of the country," he said, adding that such a move was dependent on United Russia sweeping the parliamentary vote, he said. United Russia has seen its popularity decrease sharply since the financial crisis hit, but it remains the country's most influential party, created with the aim of supporting Putin.
The swapping of roles would be the clearest illustration yet of Russia's so-called "managed democracy", a term coined by Kremlin ideologues to describe Russia's political system.
Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, remains the country's most popular leader, albeit with the help of a carefully controlled media. Under constitutional changes adopted by Medvedev upon coming to office as Putin's hand-picked successor, Putin will serve for another six years. A possible second term after that would keep him in the Kremlin beyond his 71st birthday.
The former KGB agent appeared to enjoy the acclaim yesterday.
"I want to thank you for the positive reaction to the proposal for me to stand for Russian president," Putin said. "For me this is a great honour." He launched into an electoral programme that focused on addressing the stagnant economy.
A return to the Kremlin will hand Putin back formal control over foreign policy. Relations with the west plummeted when he was president.
Russia's opposition denounced the move, despite having expected it. "All authoritarian regimes are the same," said Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the 82-year-old doyenne of Russia's human rights community. "Either they have to modernise or they come crashing down, as happened with Gaddafi."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"It's our role as Jews to build the land of the Jews." :: "Defending the land is a holy task. If we let them succeed, they will take more and more."

While the diplomats haggle, deadly tensions are mounting in the nascent Palestine

The quest for Palestinian statehood at the UN has worsened a climate of fear on the ground in the West Bank
Women at the Jewish settlement of Pnei Kedem
Women at the Jewish settlement of Pnei Kedem practise firing pistols and high-powered rifles. Photograph: Nati Shohat/Flash90
The settlers come down the hill from the outpost, mostly on foot, but occasionally on horseback or in tractors or 4x4s. They carry Israeli flags, and sometimes bring guns, shovels and dogs. There may be as few as three or as many as 40. They taunt the local villagers and sometimes attack them. Often the Israeli army arrives and trains its weapons on the villagers.
In Qusra, deep among the terraced hills of the West Bank, fear is on the rise. "The settlers are provoking us continuously," said Hani Abu Reidi, head of the village council. "They uproot olive trees, kill our sheep, burn our mosques and curse our prophet. They want to drag us into the sphere of violence. We do not want to go there."
As the Palestinian quest for statehood looks set to be mired in diplomatic back rooms for weeks or months, tension on the ground is mounting. Both Palestinian villagers and Jewish settlers say each other is responsible for a spike in attacks over the past fortnight; mostly small-scale incidents such as throwing stones, molotov cocktails and insults. Both sides claim the other is preparing to invade their communities and attack their people. It has created an edgy climate of fear and menace, and is a forewarning of potential battles to come if the struggle for the land moves up a gear with impending Palestinian statehood.
Occupied territories graphicCredit: Giulio Frigieri
The request by the Palestinians to be admitted to the United Nations as a full member state, formally submitted on Friday, will now be considered by the security council for an undefined period, during which efforts to get both sides back to the negotiating table will intensify.
If no progress is made, the Palestinians will press for a vote at the security council, a move the US has pledged to veto. The Palestinians would then have the option of asking the 193-member general assembly for enhanced status, albeit short of full statehood. As this process inches forward, anger on the ground is rising.
On Friday, violence between settlers from the outpost of Esh Kodesh and around 300 Qusra villagers ended in a haze of teargas and bullets fired at the villagers by Israeli troops, two of which struck Issam Odeh, 33, killing the father-of-eight.
Qusra set up a defence committee earlier this month after one of the village's four mosques was vandalised in a settler attack condemned by the US and the European Union. Up to 20 unarmed men patrol the mosques from 8pm to 6am every night, and Abu Reidi claims they have already foiled at least one attack. Other Palestinian villages have followed suit.
On the hilltops, preparations for clashes have also been under way for weeks. Security around settlements and outposts has been reinforced with extra barbed wire, CCTV cameras, security guards and dogs. And the settlers themselves are armed and primed in anticipation of what they believe will be incursions by Palestinians intent on making their hoped-for state a reality on the ground.
This week, photographs were published on a pro-settler news website,Arutz Sheva, showing women from Pnei Kedem, an outpost south of Bethlehem, learning to shoot. In Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish enclave in the midst of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in east Jerusalem, settlers are preparing to invoke a law allowing self-defence against intruders. "We are talking about shooting at their legs and if that doesn't work, and our lives are in danger, we won't be afraid to shoot straight at them. Most of the residents here are armed," spokesman Yehonatan Yosef told parliamentarians two weeks ago.
Activists in the settlement of Qiryat Arba, on the edge of Hebron, have distributed clubs, helmets and teargas to nearby outposts. "They've been given all of the tools we could provide for them in order to protect themselves," Bentzi Gopstein, a member of Qiryat Arba's council, told the Ynet news website. "But we must remember that the best defence is offence. We can't stay close to our fences. If the Arabs can come to us, they must learn we can come to them."
The settlers believe Israeli soldiers will be hampered by restraints imposed by commanders fearful of negative publicity. "They are not receiving the right orders," said radical activist Itamar Ben-Gvir from Qiryat Arba. "There's no state in the world that would allow the enemy to cross its lines and enter its communities. If the IDF will not act properly, we will have to defend ourselves."
Women and children would take part in defensive action, he said. "We want to present an equation: women against women; children against children. The Arabs are intending to use their children and we will not sit still."
Shaul Goldstein, mayor of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Bethlehem, expects the focus in the coming weeks to "move from hypothetical issues in New York to practical terror here in Judaea and Samaria [the biblical term for the West Bank]". Gush Etzion had a comparatively good relationship with its Palestinian neighbours, he said. "We are trying to talk to them to reduce friction and tension. But if the Palestinians march towards the settlements, there is a red line. If they try to cross, to penetrate our communities, it will be a big problem."
As well as fighting on the ground, many settlers believe they must also wage a political battle against the Israeli government. "Netanyahu is a weak leader, not standing for the values he was elected for," said Goldstein. "The [settlement] construction freeze was the first in history – and this from a rightwinger. So we have to push him, to press him, to keep him to hold the line."
The settlers are not just fighting to hold on to the land they already occupy; they intend to expand and grow – as they see it, reclaiming the land that has been willed to them by God.
"Our purpose is to build new towns and communities, new outposts in Judaea and Samaria," said veteran activist Daniella Weiss. "It's our role as Jews to build the land of the Jews."
In Qusra, Abu Reidi agreed the land is at the heart of confrontations between Jewish settlers and Palestinian villagers. "Their ultimate goal is to drive us from our land," he said. "Defending the land is a holy task. If we let them succeed, they will take more and more."

Economic Growth, Is Richard Heinberg Correct?

A blogger at The Telegraph made this observation:

"It is a fact that nothing, not even the universe itself, can grow for ever. Why is it then that we pretend that the economy can grow ad infinitum?

Without growth our present financial system fails and we have reached the point where further growth is no longer practical, unless we destroy everything we have and start again as we did in 1939-45. We urgently need to start looking for an alternative but instead the powers that be prefer to patch up the old system. This approach is bound to fail.

You can see the cracks appearing in today’s version of capitalism, where governments use taxpayer’s money to bail out failed companies and some companies are considered too big to fail. This is not recognizable as the capitalism of earlier times, in fact it is more similar to the communism of the Soviet era.

A new economic system, or a world war, will come eventually and we could save ourselves a lot of heartbreak if we started to develop it as soon as possible.

This is what the IMF should be discussing."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Walking on the Sunny Side

For Sam...

Snapshot of a Sick Society

"Teen", have a great day!

by Victor Davis Hanson

Quite often a brief news story sums up the collective pathologies of postmodern American society. Here is a recent tragic news item from my local paper, followed by some commentary:

Police call slaying of Hanford woman a random act
Posted at 6:04 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee

A woman found slain at a Hanford car wash this week was killed randomly when a 17-year-old gang member happened to see her while taking a walk, Hanford police said Thursday.

Denise McVay was washing her car — something she did several times a week — early Tuesday morning before work.

The teen was wandering the streets after leaving a party when he saw McVay at the Royal Car Wash on Garner Avenue at about 5 a.m. and decided to kill her, police said.

The teen “simply wanted to kill somebody that night” and McVay, 49, was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Capt. Parker Sever said. “It was a purely random act.”

The teen stabbed McVay several times and slit her throat.

The teen took McVay’s money and her car, Sever said, and drove to the home of a fellow gang member, Mauricio Ortiz, 18, of Hanford. Sever said the teen was covered with blood and told Ortiz what he had done.

Ortiz helped him ditch the car at Tachi Palace Casino and went with him to Visalia Mall, where the teen used McVay’s money to buy clean clothes, Sever said.

The teen, whose name was not released because of his age, was booked into the Kings County Juvenile Center on suspicion of murder. Ortiz was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact.

Walk through this story to learn something about our confused American society. First, note the discrepancy between the employed Ms. McVay — washing her car in the early morning hours on her way to work, apparently intent on having a clean automobile when she arrived — and the unidentified youth who, we are told at first, was “taking a walk,” later expanded into “wandering the streets after leaving a party.” How did we go so nonchalantly in a mere two paragraphs from “taking a walk” to “wandering the streets after leaving a party”?

In our present society, an able-bodied young man of 17 has leisure to walk about at 5 a.m. after a night of partying, while a hard-working woman squeezes in such an early morning moment to wash her car in order to appear presentable at work.

Note, furthermore, that our society has no compunction about letting the world know the identity of Ms. Denise McVay, who was horribly murdered and left dead on the pavement of a car wash. But it is worried that we might learn the name of the “17-year-old gang member,” also known as an anonymous “teen.” Yet why are we, as a society, more sensitive to disclosing the identity of a gang-member and suspected killer than of a slain productive worker?

In the transition from a shame culture to a guilt culture, America has become a confused society that values the sensitivities of the felonious living far more than respect for the law-abiding dead. Could it not simply waive anonymity protocols in cases of capital crimes? If 16- or 17-year-old would-be murderers knew that their names, addresses, and photos would be published on commission of a crime, would that create any deterrence to their viciousness — or at least provide solace to the community that barbaric killers do not slide so easily through the special exemptions afforded to immature “teens”?

Unfortunately, the story only becomes more depressing. We next read that the anonymous teen “simply wanted to kill somebody that night,” and, unfortunately, Ms. McVay, 49, was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” So a Capt. Parker Sever goes on to characterize the fact that “the teen stabbed McVay several times and slit her throat” as “a purely random act.”

The law-enforcement officer, who no doubt means well, nonetheless describes a productive worker, striving to clean her car, as “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” But in fact, it is the anonymous teen who is in the wrong place at the wrong time — as if civilization could possibly continue if the majority followed his wrong hours and wrong behavior. Ms. McVay, in fact, was in the right place at the right time, and she should have had every expectation that she could go to the car wash before work without worry that a murderous gang-banger would slit her throat.

What sort of abjectly amoral society have we become when we metaphorically reduce a productive life to being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” — only to worry that the teen murder suspect and his family might suffer from the disclosure of his identity? Perhaps our civilization and our police forces, in fact, are in the wrong places and at the wrong times when we cannot ensure Ms. McVay the humane expectation of basic safety.

Nor do I think that the killing was quite “a purely random act,” for two reasons: (1) I suspect any gang member, as is the wont of such thugs, has had prior brushes with the law, so the latest may well have been a logical escalation of accustomed gang-related behavior. And (2) the “teen” stole Ms. McVay’s car and cash. That suggests that the murder was in some sense a means to an end as well. Apparently law enforcement terms it a “purely random act” because the unidentified killer, or his post facto accomplice, savvy to the legal consequences of premeditated violence, claims that he saw Ms. McVay and abruptly “decided to kill her.” But why believe a murderer or his associate, when it is at least as likely that the gang-banger left his all-night party looking for somebody to rob and commit violence against?

In truth, the teen was an opportunistic predator, on the prowl for an easy victim, which translated into profiling a woman alone. His killing was “random” only to the extent that had he encountered instead three large men washing down a truck at 5 a.m., he surely would have kept his blade sheathed and passed on by with no thought that he “simply wanted to kill somebody that night.” In short, he did not want to kill just anybody that night: He wanted instead to stab an easy somebody, who might offer little resistance, and perhaps take cash and car as a bonus.

Examine what happens next: The murderous teen then “drove to the home of a fellow gang member, Mauricio Ortiz, 18, of Hanford . . . the teen was covered with blood and told Ortiz what he had done. Ortiz helped him ditch the car at Tachi Palace Casino and went with him to Visalia Mall, where the teen used McVay’s money to buy clean clothes.”

The bloody murderer shows up unexpectedly at the home of a friend. Mr. Ortiz apparently decides that such gore is not all that shocking, and so does not suggest that the teen turn himself in, but rather, almost by second nature, helps him to hide the crime. Both gang members apparently know well both the parking lot of the Tachi Palace Casino and the Visalia Mall, where they respectively ditch the car and buy new clothes with the deceased’s hard-earned money. The familiar haunts of a casino and mall do not readily suggest elemental poverty. And did the murderer and his accomplice really go to the mall to buy “clean” clothes? I think it would be more accurate to suggest “new” clothes — given that both undoubtedly had existing spare clothing. Why must we be insulted by taking at face value any such tale, gleaned from either the killer or his accomplice?

It leads us to wonder how many Mauricio Ortizes there are in our area, who at the first suggestion of lucre are quite ready to try to cover up a bloody murder and spend the victim’s cash. If the time comes when there are more of them than there are Denise McVays, civilization is finished.

We end this morality tale with society’s now-standard self-righteous declaration, “The teen, whose name was not released because of his age . . .” — as if we have evolved morally from a hundred years ago, when the suspect would have enjoyed no such exemption. But what really was “his age,” and did it matter whether the anonymous suspect killer who butchered the hard-working Ms. McVay was chronologically 17 or 50? The original intent of the law was apparently to protect the immature pre-adult, but it has now the effect of directing society’s empathy to a sophisticated anonymous killer and away from his publicly identified victim. Note as well that the murder suspect himself earns only Juvenile Hall; his post facto accessory rates the harder county jail — another of a sick society’s messages that we calibrate age far more than savagery.

I have no doubt that in the next two years a good deal of society’s capital will be invested in this unidentified youth and his named accomplice. Preliminary hearings, state-paid public defenders, an array of psychiatrists, and periodic proclamations from the defense team about particular childhood traumas suffered by the killer — all to be followed by years of legal counsel, further psychological examinations and treatment, and of course, if there is a conviction, nearly $40,000 a year in incarceration expenses — as our fast-paced society races onward and upward, without much thought of one productive citizen, Denise McVay, washing her car in the early morning on her way to work. None of us are exempt from such terrible arithmetic, and we now must live with the realization that tomorrow morning any one of us could be written off as either unlucky or unwise in our demise, while the rights of our killer would be obsessed over.

You see, it is characteristic of a morally bankrupt society to be absorbed with the evil living without much remembrance of the more noble dead.

The former gang member and his family by all means must not be embarrassed; the dead woman is reduced to being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Enough said.

©2011 Victor Davis Hanson

Sharing on Facebook and Saying Goodbye to your Privacy for Life


Sharing it all

Sep 23rd 2011, 14:47 by M.G. | SAN FRANCISCO


FACEBOOK, they like to call it “Zuckerberg’s Law”. This is the notion, promoted by Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, that the amount of stuff that people share roughly doubles every year. The social network is certainly doing its utmost to ensure that folk end up revealing more about themselves, whether they like it or not. On September 22nd Facebook, which now has over 800m users, unveiled a couple of significant changes designed to get people to share far more about their life histories and their interests in music, film and other areas.
The first shift involves people’s profile pages, which hold biographical details about them. In the next few weeks Facebook plans to roll out a redesign of these pages. The new-look profile, dubbedTimeline, will allow users to keep far more of the material they share over the network in an easy-to-use historical format and to add photos and other content from their past more easily. Facebook’s goal is to get people to create a complete online archive of their lives that they constantly curate.
At the same time, the firm is promoting a new generation of “social apps”. Users will be encouraged to report to their friends in real time via these apps that they are, say, listening to a piece of music, cooking a particular kind of meal or watching a specific film. Their friends will then be able to click on, say, a music app and listen to the same piece of music. The company has been working with a group of firms, including Spotify, an online-music outfit, Netflix, a video-streaming service, and a range of news organisations (including the Washington Post and The Economist), to flesh out the offerings it will need to make this new feature take off.
The underlying aim here is clear: Facebook wants to deepen its insight into what Mr Zuckerberg calls “the open graph”—a picture of all of the links that people have with other folk and with stuff such as songs, books and articles that they find appealing. The more that Facebook can learn about people’s lives and interests, the better positioned it will be to target advertising at them and to persuade companies to use it to market their wares. With an initial public offering looming next year, it needs to show that it can keep driving up its ad revenue.
The move is also designed to keep Facebook in front of rivals such as Google’s social network, Google+, which this week announced that it was throwing open its doors to the world after a period of beta testing. Some observers think that Facebook’s move could actually help Google+ by encouraging it to focus on areas of differentiation from the social-networking Goliath. Perhaps, but it will be hard to see how Google can resist following Facebook’s lead if the network’s social-app initiative pays off.
At this week’s Facebook developer conference, where the changes were unveiled, Mr Zuckerberg predicted that they would also disrupt many different industries, with the winners being those firms who wholeheartedly embrace the notion of social sharing first. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, came on stage with Mr Zuckerberg to say that initially the firm had been wary of sharing data about its users with Facebook via a social app, but had come round to the view that this made sense given the potential power of social connectivity to boost its overall business. (Netflix plans to roll out a social app on Facebook in all of the countries where it offers a streaming service except America, where a privacy law currently prohibits the sharing of information about movies a person rents. It hopes this law will soon be repealed by America’s Congress.)
To some, all this smacks of MySpace’s ultimately disastrous attempt to turn itself into an online hub where people would come to discover all sorts of different content. But MySpace’s blunder was to try to force-feed content to users by completely cluttering their homepages with links to it. With its elegant Timeline design, Facebook is less likely to fall into the same trap.
However, it could still come a-cropper if it is not careful. The more information that people share about themselves with the site, the greater the danger of another big blow-up over privacy. Facebook says users will be offered the option to set privacy controls as they sign up to each social app. That is welcome, but it remains to be seen how robust these controls will be in practice.
Facebook could also face a backlash from folk who worry that the social network is now going to have even more of a Big Brother-like capacity to monitor everything going on in their lives. Mr Zuckerberg made clear this week that people who want to keep their existing, more basic profile pages will still be forced to transition to the new Timeline one. Perhaps Zuckerberg’s Law should really state that sharing less is not an option.