The Place of Jade: Lake Ada on Milford Track, in southwestern New Zealand’s Te Wahipounamu (by Michael Melford; via National Geographic)
Luxury Holiday Villa, Bang Po beach, Thailand
From Warm Weather Getaways for Rent Right Now (Apartment Therapy)
Time for the 'Never Agains' on North Korea || Nicholas Eberstadt (WSJ) -
In the past there were excuses for those inclined to ignore or deny the horrors the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea routinely visits upon its subjects. Defectors have an ax to grind, we were told. American intelligence is making up stories, and Pyongyang’s foreign enemies stand to profit from these tales.
There is nowhere for North Korea’s apologists to hide now. The 200,000-word, nearly 400-page report released Monday by the “commission of inquiry” for the United Nations Human Rights Council, led by the Australian jurist Michael Kirby, in effect presents the world with the black book on North Korean communism.
The report is a careful but shocking document, the result of a year-long investigation, based on public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington, public testimony from more than 80 witnesses and an additional 240 private interviews. Much of the material is based on firsthand testimony of escapees from this hell on Earth.
"The gravity, scale and nature of these violations … does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," the report says. It charges the North Korean government with "crimes against humanity" and urges international action. The question to those of us beyond the reach of the North Korean regime is: Now that we know this terrible truth, what do we do about it?
Just as the Soviets had the gulag system of political prison camps, so too does the rule-by-terror Communist government in Pyongyang maintain a North Korean version with dozens of camps.
Some of the most chilling passages concern the North Korean penal system—especially its dreaded kyohwaso (prison camps) and even more brutal kwanliso (political prison camps). The horrors begin with detention and interrogation centers, where people are initially detained after being accused of crimes against the state by the security services. (North Korea has more than one set of secret police.)
The charges are often of the most trivial or arbitrary variety—one witness said he was arrested for the crime of misspelling Kim Il Sung’s name when typing. The detainees are routinely brutalized, with cruelties large and small. “An old woman who had no shoes and asked for shoes in order to work,” the report says, “was told by the SSD agents that she did not deserve shoes because the detainees were animals and should die soon.” Then she was beaten until bloody.
In the prison camps, conditions are still more sadistic and dehumanizing. Starvation and torture are the norm, sexual abuse of women routine. Most who are sent to these camps can expect to perish there. Concludes the report: “According to the Commission’s findings, hundreds of thousands of inmates have been exterminated in political prison camps and other places over a span of more than five decades.”
Over FCC Plans, MSM Finally a Bit Curious re Obama Admin || The Anchoress -
It’s only taken seven years, but a member of the mainstream media is finally asking “what are they thinking?”…
The last thing we need is the government mucking around with news content.
The title of this Big Brother-ish effort by the Federal Communications Commission sounds innocuous enough: “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs.” But it’s a Trojan horse that puts federal officials in the newsroom, precisely where they shouldn’t be.
Don’t take my word for it. The FCC says it wants to examine “the process by which stories are selected,” as well as “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
… “What are they thinking?” Mr. Kurtz, it’s pretty obvious; they’re thinking no one in the mainstream press has asked them a difficult or challenging question in 7 years, so why would they start now.
And you are correct, by the way, when you write “if George W. Bush’s FCC had tried this, it would be a front-page story.” I expressed a similar sentiment in relation to this story, back on February 13, thanks to Instapundit.
But we have seen repeatedly that what was objectionable under a president with an R next to his name is barely worth a sigh when he or she carries a D. T’was ever thus.
Oh, you thought the press was serious when it ranted about “constitution shredding” and “the fierce urgency of now?”
Well, this is how career trajectories are ended, when one’s bright naivete cannot come to appreciate “nuance.”
Some may disagree, but I will dare to repeat myself, because I think I am right: The biggest problem in our nation is not the Democrats, or the Republicans; it is not the Obama Administration, just as it wasn’t the Bush Administration, and it won’t be future Clinton or Warren Administrations. Our biggest problem is that the press has voluntarily surrendered its freedoms for the sake of idols and ideologies..
Because this is true, our government is either factionalized, fictionalized and bombarded with daily media outrage and indignation, or it is given an utterly free pass, with no accountability required. Either way, it is a process of illusion, which gives assist to the necessary distraction, and that’s all.
Why Kerry Is Flat Wrong on Climate Change || Richard McNider and John Christy (WSJ) -
In ancient times, the notion of a flat Earth was the scientific consensus, and it was only a minority who dared question this belief. We are among today’s scientists who are skeptical about the so-called consensus on climate change. Does that make us modern-day Flat Earthers, as Mr. Kerry suggests, or are we among those who defy the prevailing wisdom to declare that the world is round?
Most of us who are skeptical about the dangers of climate change actually embrace many of the facts that people like Bill Nye, the ubiquitous TV “science guy,” say we ignore. The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.
What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth’s atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.
We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.
For instance, in 1994 we published an article in the journal Nature showing that the actual global temperature trend was “one-quarter of the magnitude of climate model results.” As the nearby graph shows, the disparity between the predicted temperature increases and real-world evidence has only grown in the past 20 years.
When the failure of its predictions become clear, the modeling industry always comes back with new models that soften their previous warming forecasts, claiming, for instance, that an unexpected increase in the human use of aerosols had skewed the results. After these changes, the models tended to agree better with the actual numbers that came in—but the forecasts for future temperatures have continued to be too warm.
The modelers insist that they are unlucky because natural temperature variability is masking the real warming. They might be right, but when a batter goes 0 for 10, he’s better off questioning his swing than blaming the umpire.
The Progressive Art of 'Single-Entry Bookkeeping' || Mario Loyola (NRO) -
[W]hile the art of “single-entry bookkeeping” may indeed be “occult” in the sense that it entails a kind of magic trick — namely that of making the costs of a particular policy vanish for political purposes — the art is widely practiced, has a long pedigree, and is viciously effective.
Most progressive policies you can think of — going back to the agriculture and labor laws of the New Deal — are sold to the public only by reference to the benefits for beneficiaries, and never by reference to the far greater costs for society as a whole. Progressive policies are virtually never sold to the public on the basis of an honest cost-benefit analysis. Instead, proponents systematically deny that there are any such costs, and supporters earnestly believe it. This is strange magic indeed, because progressive policies virtually always cause net losses for society as a whole. That’s because they virtually always consist of interventions in the market in the form of limitations on the freedom of exchange. The immediate effect is systematic mis-allocation of resources, hence reduced output and higher prices for everyone — in other words, dead-weight economic loss, as with monopoly pricing.
So how do these policies continue to enjoy so much support? That’s where the artifice of “single-entry bookkeeping” comes into play. If all those poor working families throughout America don’t know that they’re paying far more for milk and sugar than they would in a competitive market — that in essence they’re being defrauded by a conspiracy of government and special interests — then you can get their votes as well as the support of the dairy farmers and sugar producers whose interests you actually serve.
Democrats and Corruption || Kevin D. Williamson (National Review) -
Just as Republicans are held to a higher standard on sexual scandals because the GOP claims to be the party of traditional values and such, Democrats should be held to a higher standard when it comes to the corruption, inefficacy, and low performance of the public sector. (Neither party, to be sure, runs on a pro-corruption or pro-anonymous-public-restroom-sexual-encounter platform — yet — so we should not get too carried away with those distinctions.)
Democrats are the party of the public sector, not only in rhetoric but in fact. The Democrats consistently seek to claim for the public sector a larger role in our community life and a larger share of the economy; its defects are their defects. Not that corrupt Republicans should not be run out of town on a rail, but Republican corruption or incompetence does not tell us much that is important about conservative ideas, which assume a relatively high level of dysfunction in the public sector. Progressive ideas largely assume an effective and honest public sector, which, as Ray Nagin — and Barack Obama — and others remind us, we do not have. Every Enron scandal is presented as evidence against capitalism per se; but political scandals are rarely if ever understood in the popular mind, and certainly not in the incurious American media, as evidence against political management of affairs that fall outside the natural jurisdiction of politics (i.e. the provision of public goods). Until Goldman Sachs has a navy, a nuclear weapon, police, or prisons, we probably should consider political corruption and incompetence much more dangerous and consequential than its corporate counterpart.
Aerial photograph of Iceland by Emmanuel Coupe-Kalomiris (via butdoesitfloat)
Aerial photograph of Iceland by Emmanuel Coupe-Kalomiris (via butdoesitfloat)