Making Soviet Monuments Into American Super Heroes

Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Vandalizing Soviet Monuments

Russia is demanding that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet monuments, after yet another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted, ITAR-Tass reported. The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria has issued a note demanding that its former Soviet-era ally clean up the monument in Sofia’s Lozenets district, identify and punish those responsible, and take “exhaustive measures” to prevent similar attacks in the future, the news agency reported Monday. The monument was spray-painted on the eve of the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s celebration of its 123rd anniversary, the Sofia-based Novinite news agency reported.

h/t disinfo

 

Snowden Vindicated?

Court Backs Snowden, Strikes Secret Laws – Bloomberg View

In a major vindication for Edward Snowden — and a blow for the national security policy pursued by Republicans and Democrats alike — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program is unlawful.  This is the most serious blow to date for the legacy of the USA Patriot Act and the surveillance overreach that followed 9/11.

The central question depended on the meaning of the word “relevant”: Was the government’s collection relevant to an investigation when it collects all the metadata for any phone call made to or from anywhere in the U.S.?

The court said no. That was the right decision — not so much because it protects privacy, as because it broke the bad precedent of secret law created by the NSA and endorsed by the secret national security court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Sports Authority: Killed By Minimum Wages and “Showrooming”

From Why Sports Authority is throwing in the towel and closing all of its stores:

Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica-based analyst of consumer behavior and marketing trends, figures consumers haven’t seen the last of major retailers shuttering. Just last week, Sport Chalet announced the closure of all 47 of its stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. That chain is based in La Cañada Flintridge.

With the minimum wage going up to $15 an hour and more people turning to online shopping, more stores are going to close,” Lempert said. “It’s fine to say that everyone should have a living wage. But the money has to come from somewhere.”

Lempert said a growing number of retail outlets have fallen victim to “showrooming,” where customers will walk into a store, try on the shirt or jacket they like and then order it online at a significant discount.

“These stores have to look at not at how they will compete with other brick-and-mortar stores, but how they will compete with Amazon,” he said. “It’s become a holistic environment where people can buy things on their mobile phones and then have the products delivered by the time they get home.”

The Suicide of Venezuela

Joel D. Hirst on The Suicide of Venezuela:

I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.

No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.

[…]

Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.

Victims of Communism in Cuba: 73,000

From Victims of Communism in Cuba: 73,000 (CNSNews):

As President Barack Obama currently visits Cuba, it merits noting that the Communist regime south of Florida has killed an estimated 73,000 people since the dictator Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which was established by an act of Congress in 1993.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which runs the Museum of Communism, is a non-profit group created “to educate this generation and future generations about the ideology, history, and legacy of communism,” reads its website. It also is building a memorial “to commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communism” worldwide.

A Color-Blind or Color-Conscious Academy Awards

From Oscars’ Diversity Controversy: Michael Caine Speaks Out : People.com

As the diversity debate embroiling the Academy Awards continues, Michael Caine is the latest star to speak out – and he’s not holding back. For the second year in a row, no actors of color received Oscar nominations, a reality that has prompted some stars to boycott the show and examine the deeper issues surrounding race and the entertainment industry.

When asked to address the controversy during a BBC Radio 4 interview this week, Caine said, per The Hollywood Reporter: “There’s loads of black actors. You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You got to give a good performance, and I’m sure there were very good [performances].”

[…]

Caine’s comments come around the same time current Best Actress Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling raised eyebrows for telling French Radio network Europe 1 on Friday morning that the Oscars are “racist to whites” and speaking out against the possibility of a quota system to ensure [racial] diversity. Her comments stand in contrast to other actors who have spoken out, including fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo, past winner George Clooney and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Grammys host LL Cool J has also added his voice to the debate. Speaking to the Associated Press Thursday after receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said his advice to fellow African America actors is, “Don’t get bitter, get better.” “Is there room for improvement? Yes,” he said. “But let’s just put the work in. And ultimately, if the work is good enough, and it’s great enough and there’s enough of it, the door gets kicked in.”

On the issue of race quotas the philosopher Ayn Rand had this to say almost a half century ago:

Instead of fighting against racial discrimination, they are demanding that racial discrimination be legalized and enforced. Instead of fighting against racism, they are demanding the establishment of racial quotas. Instead of fighting for “color-blindness” in social and economic issues, they are proclaiming that “color-blindness” is evil and that “color” should be made a primary consideration. Instead of fighting for equal rights, they are demanding special race privileges.

They are demanding that racial quotas be established in regard to employment and that jobs be distributed on a racial basis, in proportion to the percentage of a given race among the local population. For instance, since Negroes constitute 25 percent of the population of New York City, they demand 25 percent of the jobs in a given establishment.

Racial quotas have been one of the worst evils of racist regimes. There were racial quotas in the universities of Czarist Russia, in the population of Russia’s major cities, etc. One of the accusations against the racists in this country is that some schools practice a secret system of racial quotas. It was regarded as a victory for justice when employment questionnaires ceased to inquire about an applicant’s race or religion.

Today, it is not an oppressor, but an oppressed minority group that is demanding the establishment of racial quotas. (!)

The call for “diversity” — racial quotas — in awards based on the color of ones’ skin is racist. The only thing that should matter is the performance. Imagine if such a standard were applied to the NBA? Would that be justice?

Video: Ray Girn on The Immense Practical Power of Moral Values in Business

It is a generally accepted truth these days that good corporate culture is good business. Almost without exception, great companies point to their organizational values as a key reason for their success. But why? In what way do strong guiding values enable a business to achieve its goals?

Ray Girn, CEO of LePort Schools, shares a few stories about how his company’s core values have impacted the growth of his business, and through them explore key reasons for the immense practical power of moral values in business.

Recorded at the STRIVE Clubs 2015 Fall Student Conference on “The Morality of Value Creation & Trade.”

Affirmative Action For Movie Casting?

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Benedict-Cumberbatch

Movies should cast the best actor for the part — whatever their race or gender. Sadly many viewers are race-conscious rather than race-blind.

Quoting Opinion: A look at Whitewashing and Ethnicity Swapping in Television and Movies

Diversity is important for movies. The whole world watches Hollywood movies, and our films should include a great variety of talented actors, regardless of race or gender. Traditionally, American television and movies have been less than stellar at casting people of color or women for parts that could be portrayed by any ethnicity or gender. The raunchy comedy South Park, even shamelessly goes after this trend in television and movies by having one African American character who is named “Token”.

[…]

If a new movie is released and it isn’t based on older movies, or history, then Hollywood should strive to bring more diversity to their cast. For example, take a science fiction movie like Edge of Tomorrow. The film takes place in the future and involves battles between humans and aliens. Hollywood can and should cast a diverse team for these original movies, as it’s new territory not built on past franchises.

The real diversity that matters — whether in schools, work, sports, or movies — is intellectual (performance), not racial.

Message To Bernie: Denmark is Not a Socialist Economy, But a Market Economy with an Economic Time Bomb Called The Welfare State

From Denmark’s prime minister says Bernie Sanders is wrong to call his country socialist – Vox

[I]n a speech Friday evening at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that while he’s flattered to see Denmark discussed in a widely watched US presidential debate he doesn’t think the socialist shoe fits. “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism,” he said. “Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.” In Rasmussen’s view, “The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security to its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”

Here is Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark addressing the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on a range of Nordic solutions and challenges affecting the state of Denmark.

From Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault – The New York Times

It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly. Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is. It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother … had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.

[…] Denmark’s long-term outlook is troubling. The population is aging, and in many regions of the country people without jobs now outnumber those with them. Some of that is a result of a depressed economy. But many experts say a more basic problem is the proportion of Danes who are not participating in the work force at all — be they dawdling university students, young pensioners or welfare recipients like Carina who lean on hefty government support.

[…] Denmark has among the highest marginal income-tax rates in the world, with the top bracket of 56.5 percent kicking in on incomes of more than about $80,000. But in exchange, the Danes get a cradle-to-grave safety net that includes free health care, a free university education and hefty payouts to even the richest citizens.

[…] But few experts here believe that Denmark can long afford the current perks. So Denmark is retooling itself, tinkering with corporate tax rates, considering new public sector investments and, for the long term, trying to wean more people — the young and the old — off government benefits. “In the past, people never asked for help unless they needed it,” said Karen Haekkerup, the minister of social affairs and integration, who has been outspoken on the subject. “My grandmother was offered a pension and she was offended. She did not need it. “But now people do not have that mentality. They think of these benefits as their rights. The rights have just expanded and expanded….”

[…] Robert Nielsen, 45, made headlines last September when he was interviewed on television, admitting that he had basically been on welfare since 2001. Mr. Nielsen said he was able-bodied but had no intention of taking a demeaning job, like working at a fast-food restaurant. He made do quite well on welfare, he said. He even owns his own co-op apartment. … “Luckily, I am born and live in Denmark, where the government is willing to support my life,” he said.

Also worth reading: Why Denmark isn’t the utopian fantasy Bernie Sanders describes – The Washington Post

Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters are Registered as Democrats?

Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat – The New York Times

Donald Trump holds a dominant position in national polls in the Republican race in no small part because he is extremely strong among people on the periphery of the G.O.P. coalition.

He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats.

[…]

In many of these areas, a large number of traditionally Democratic voters have long supported Republicans in presidential elections. Even now, Democrats have more registered voters than Republicans do in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, which have been easily carried by Republicans in every presidential contest of this century. As recently as a few years ago, Democrats still had a big advantage in partisan self-identification in the same states.

But during the Obama era, many of these voters have abandoned the Democrats. Many Democrats may now even identify as Republicans, or as independents who lean Republican, when asked by pollsters — a choice that means they’re included in a national Republican primary survey, whether they remain registered as Democrats or not.

Mr. Trump appears to hold his greatest strength among people like these — registered Democrats who identify as Republican leaners — with 43 percent of their support, according to the Civis data. Similarly, many of Mr. Trump’s best states are those with a long tradition of Democrats who vote Republican in presidential elections, like West Virginia.

Mr. Trump’s strength among traditionally Democratic voters could pose some problems for his campaign. Many states bar voters registered with the other party from participating in partisan primaries. Other states go further, not allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in a primary; in the G.O.P. race, for example, that would mean restricting the electorate to those registered as Republicans — one of Mr. Trump’s weakest groups. This group of states includes many favorable to Mr. Trump, like Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.