wednesday, january 31, 2007
perception vs. reality
“The arguments of liberals are more often grounded in reason and fact,” the Illinois Democrat wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” a memoir published last year. “Much of what I absorbed from the sixties was filtered through my mother, who to the end of her life would proudly proclaim herself an unreconstructed liberal.”
Remember the debate over welfare reform in 1996? Liberals ranted:
Cries from Democrats of “anti-family,” “anti-child,” “mean-spirited,” echoed through the Capitol, as did warnings of impending Third World–style poverty: “children begging for money, children begging for food, eight- and nine-year-old prostitutes,” as New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg put it. “They are coming for the children,” Congressman John Lewis of Georgia wailed—“coming for the poor, coming for the sick, the elderly and disabled.” Congressman William Clay of Missouri demanded, “What’s next? Castration?” Senator Ted Kennedy called it “legislative child abuse,” Senator Chris Dodd, “unconscionable,” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan—in what may well be the lowest point of an otherwise miraculous career—“something approaching an Apocalypse.”
That was their reason and fact. 10 years later, welfare reform proved to be a huge success.
More foolishness from Barack:
“I agree with George W. Bush when in his second inaugural address he proclaimed a universal desire to be free,” Obama wrote. “But there are few examples in history in which the freedom men and women crave is delivered through outside intervention.”
The United States would not exist were it not for intervention of the French.
Look at North and South Korea: one is destitute and other prosperous. The difference? Outside intervention. Germany and Japan became what they are today because of massive "outside intervention."
no doubt bill Maher will laugh this off
Terror plots? What terror plots? Oops, the Brits prevented another one:
A ninth suspect has been arrested by police investigating an alleged Iraq-style kidnapping and beheading plot in the UK.
It follows the detention of eight people at addresses in Birmingham early today. Assistant Chief Constable David Shaw, of West Midlands Police, revealed the last suspect was stopped on a motorway near the city.
He said officers were carrying out a "very, very major investigation" that would take "days if not weeks" to complete.
It has been reported the alleged plotters intended to post a video of the hostage being tortured and killed on the internet. The target was a British Muslim soldier in his twenties who is now under police protection.
Remember the Canadian homegrown terror plot from last summer?
Frontline World devoted half its broadcast last night to that story. For those who think homegrown jihadis are just a bunch of knuckleheads (Bill Maher), this should be required viewing. If you missed it, you can catch it here.
This is the Reagan Library this morning, during a brief break in the weather. The snow capped mountains in the background are the Toa-Topas.
a sales pitch to live by
I just heard a commercial on the Rush Limbaugh show. It began by saying that [some big number] percent of Christians cannot name the Ten Commandments. Then it cut to man-on-the-street interviews with people stuttering out one or two of them.
Then came the corker:
"It's important for people to know what they believe and why they believe it."
Gee, ya think?
how many dems does it take to screw up a light bulb?
One to start. Just when you think liberals have run out of ways to stick their noses in your business, along comes another "grand idea." A California pol wants to ban incandescent light bulbs and force consumers to .
"They're cheaper for the consumer, they save the state money and they're better for the environment," Levine said of energy-efficient bulbs.
Legislation is needed because many consumers, faced with a much cheaper retail price for a traditional bulb, don't realize that an energy-efficient model can burn 10 times longer and save perhaps $55 per bulb in the long run, Levine said.
"We don't realize" = people are too dumb to make their own choices. I guess the only thing pro-choice about the Democrat party is abortion.
For what it's worth, we use the flourescent bulbs in my house wherever possible. But they are not the same.
Max Lofing, one of the owners of Lofing's Lighting in Sacramento, said the vast majority of energy-efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs provide substandard quality.
"They aren't quite up to par as far as color rendering," he said.
"They don't make them up to a standard where they provide the highest quality for decorative fixtures."
Shut up Max, the Democrats have a planet to save.
how to decorate your jag
...with 14,000 Post-It notes.
tuesday, january 30, 2007
pressing questions about the jesus pancake
A fellow finds the image of Jesus on a pancake, eats it, then offers the spatula for sale on eBay. The questions from members are pretty funny, as are his answers.
blood for oil redux
During Saddam's reign, Europeans cheated on the sanctions regime, trading blood for oil. Of course, the dopey American Left fawned over socialist Europe and condemned the USA as immoral capitalists.
The same story is being replayed over Iran, where the Europeans don't want to give up their profitable commerce with the mullahcracy.
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.
Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran.
Bush is asking them to pitch in and support this most multilateral cause:
Europe has more commercial and economic ties with Iran than does the United States, which severed relations with Iran after the revolution and seizure of hostages in 1979.
The administration says that European governments provided $18 billion in government loan guarantees for Iran in 2005. The numbers have gone down in the last year, but not by much, American and European officials say.
American officials say that European governments may have facilitated illicit business and that European governments must do more to stop such transactions. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has said the United States has shared with Europeans the names of at least 30 front companies involved in terrorism or weapons programs.
“They’ve told us they don’t have the tools,” said a senior American official. “Our answer is: get them.”
“We want to squeeze the Iranians,” said a European official. “But there are varying degrees of political will in Europe about turning the thumbscrews. It’s not straightforward for the European Union to do what the United States wants.”
Another European official said: “We are going to be very cautious about what the Treasury Department wants us to do. We can see that banks are slowing their business with Iran. But because there are huge European business interests involved, we have to be very careful.”
In short, blood for oil. Blood for profits. No matter that trading with the Iranian outlaw regime gets them closer to a nuclear weapon. Or that once said weapon is obtained, Europe will be in the crosshairs and Israel will face an existential threat.
For those who fret about America's "lost prestige" in the world, remember who "the world" is. Much of it consists of petty pantywaists whose depravity is only exceeded by their moral vanity.
Sometimes they're worse than skeeters. This gizmo shoos them off .
it's the profits, stupid!
Remember Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking's holier-than-you attitude vis-a-vis the US? Wiedeking's position - which is probably held by a majority of German managers and certainly by practically all German journalists - is that "anglo-saxon" capitalism is an inferior economic strategy as compared to the German "social market economy".
Then, of course, is the Kyoto debate in Germany, with wild accusations against supposedly anti-environmental policies of Bush and his neo-cons. How admirably and favorably the German philosophy of sustainability compares to these stinking non-caring Americans! Think Schroeder.
And now this:
Porsche's chief executive on Friday warned of an impending business war between Germany on one side and France and Italy when he said plans by the European Commission to limit carbon dioxide emissions were an attack on German luxury carmakers.
The outspoken comments by Wendelin Wiedeking at the sports carmaker's annual meeting underline the nervousness of German carmakers, all of which are a long way above the proposed limits and are much more threatened than the likes of France's Renault and Peugeot and Italy's Fiat.
"It is an attack on BMW, Mercedes, Audi and ourselves ... This is a business war in Europe. We will fight," Mr Wiedeking told shareholders.
Read on and learn that "the leading German luxury car maker sells cleaner and more fuel efficient models in the U.S. than in Germany!"
rabbi, tear down this wall!
Chabad of the Conejo's 120 families would spend $20,000 on a religious structure that would benefit all local Jews.
Common in Los Angeles and most big American cities, the eruv - a thin monofilament line strung from light pole to light pole to symbolically extend a Jew's private domain to everything within the loop - would enable Jews to carry keys and push strollers on the Sabbath without violating Halacha, or Jewish law.
But the eruv, constructed in late December, was met by public disgust.
"Is it me or am I the only one that finds this strange?" Carlos Bernal of Oak Park wrote in an e-mail to local officials. "Why don't we install a crucifix at every stoplight? Or the picture of Muhammad at every pedestrian crossing?
Apparently fishing line strung up along the light poles constitutes a wall.
The concept of enclosing a community so Jews can behave on the Sabbath as if they were within their own home stems from the 40 years Israelites spent wandering the desert after the Exodus. Jewish rabbis developed the rules when forming the Talmud centuries later.
Running a monofilament wire from post to post creates a series of "door frames" that, according to Jewish law, act like a wall.
Without it, Orthodox Jews cannot take a bottle of wine to a friend's house on the Sabbath, and those with small children have trouble attending synagogue. Driving a car is prohibited, regardless.
Though only Orthodox Jews follow the laws regarding an eruv, they say that all Jews - Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular - benefit from having one in the community because it helps them subconsciously follow a stricter interpretation of God's law.
Subconscious religion? Hmm.
"It is not some biblical thing that says, `Hang some fishing line.' It's an arbitrary man-made work-a-round," said Susan Flores, a Reform Jew.
One might argue that it's all a manmade thing, which is not an atheistic position: it is quite possible to believe in god but not in church.
top ten myths about iraq war
1-No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Several hundred chemical weapons were found, and Saddam had all his WMD scientists and technicians ready. Just end the sanctions and add money, and the weapons would be back in production within a year. At the time of the invasion, all intelligence agencies, world-wide, believed Saddam still had a functioning WMD program. Saddam had shut them down because of the cost, but created the illusion that the program was still operating in order to fool the Iranians. The Iranians wanted revenge on Saddam because of the Iraq invasion of Iran in 1980, and the eight year war that followed.
2-The 2003 Invasion was Illegal. Only according to some in the UN. By that standard, the invasion of Kosovo and bombing of Serbia in 1999 was also illegal. Saddam was already at war with the U.S. and Britain, because Iraq had not carried out the terms of the 1991 ceasefire, and was trying to shoot down coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone.
3-Sanctions were working. The sanctions worked for Saddam, not for Iraq. Saddam used the sanctions as an excuse to punish the Shia majority for their 1991 uprising, and help prevent a new one. The "Oil For Food" program was corrupted with the help of bribed UN officials, and mass media outlets that believed Iraqi propaganda. Saddam was waiting out the sanctions, and bribing France, Russia and China, with promises of oil contracts and debt repayments, to convince the UN to lift the sanctions.
Read them all.
monday, january 29, 2007
will they apologize?
In the wake of the first week of the Libby Trial, Patrick Fitzgerald's soufflé has turned into a pancake. Of course, if you are getting your news of the trial from the press you're certain to believe Libby is in trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reporting is as bad as I've ever seen (Matt Apuzzo of AP being the rare exception of a reporter who's getting it mostly right).
dirty harry (reid)
It's hard to buy undeveloped land in booming northern Arizona for $166 an acre. But now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effectively did just that when a longtime friend decided to sell property owned by the employee pension fund that he controlled.
In 2002, Reid (D-Nev.) paid $10,000 to a pension fund controlled by Clair Haycock, a Las Vegas lubricants distributor and his friend for 50 years. The payment gave the senator full control of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City that Reid and the pension fund had jointly owned. Reid's price for the equivalent of 60 acres of undeveloped desert was less than one-tenth of the value the assessor placed on it at the time.
Six months after the deal closed, Reid introduced legislation to address the plight of lubricants dealers who had their supplies disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies. It was an issue the Haycock family had brought to Reid's attention in 1994, according to a source familiar with the events.
If Reid were to sell the property for any of the various estimates of its value, his gain on the $10,000 investment could range from $50,000 to $290,000.
dirty nancy, dirty rahm, dirty evan
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and two other prominent Democrats have failed to disclose they are officers of family charities, in violation of a law requiring members of Congress to report non-profit leadership roles.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana also did not report they serve as family foundation directors, according to financial disclosure reports examined by USA TODAY.
All three foundations are funded and controlled by the lawmakers and their spouses, and do not solicit donations from outside sources.
in to africa
Kerry recently damned Bush for inaction on African AIDS. This story from the Washington Post on New Years's Eve was headlined:
Bush Has Quietly Tripled Aid to Africa
How "quiet" this news is is the decision of editors at the WaPo, New York Times etc. Nonetheless, it notes:
President Bush's legacy is sure to be defined by his wielding of U.S. military power in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is another, much softer and less-noticed effort by his administration in foreign affairs: a dramatic increase in U.S. aid to Africa.
The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world's most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 -- to nearly $9 billion.
The moves have surprised -- and pleased -- longtime supporters of assistance for Africa, who note that because Bush has received little support from African American voters, he has little obvious political incentive for his interest.
"I think the Bush administration deserves pretty high marks in terms of increasing aid to Africa," said Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And four African nations -- Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda -- rank among the world's top 10 recipients in aid from the United States.
Beyond increasing aid to Africa, Bush has met with nearly three dozen African heads of state during his six years in office. He visited Africa in his first term, and aides say he hopes to make a return visit next year.
Although some activists criticize Bush for not doing more to end the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, others credit him for playing a role in ending deadly conflicts in Liberia, the Congo and other parts of Sudan. Meanwhile, Bush has overseen a steady rise in U.S. trade with Africa, which has doubled since 2001.
going on offense
This sounds like a lot of good news.
Iraqi security forces, backed by American tanks and air support, attacked what appears to be a mixed group of Sunni insurgents and a Shia end-times cult known as the "Soldiers of Heaven." The battle occurred in the suburbs and orchards north of Najaf. "Police Colonel Ali Nomas said 250 militants had been killed," reported Reuters. "The political source said up to 1,000 had been involved. An army source said they wore camouflage and appeared well organised." They were also believed to have possessed anti-arircraft missiles.
Later counts put the number of enemy fighters killed at up to 350, with a minimal loss to Iraqi and U.S. troops. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and 21 wounded, five police were killed and 19 wounded, and two U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter was downed.
The leader of the Shia cult, Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni "who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam," was killed during the fighting, which lasted over 24 hours. The Iraqi Army fought what appears to be a well armed, well trained and organized force on its own turf, and deal the enemy serious casualties, while beheading the leadership.
Early reports indicated there were both Sunni terrorists and Shia cultist involved in the fighting. "Governor Asaad Abu Gilel as saying that the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussain."
jimmy carter: too many jews
More on that pious, pompous creep:
We spoke to the former Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Council, Monroe Freedman, who confirmed a WorldNetDaily report that he had received a note from Jimmy Carter complaining that there were "too many Jews" on the Holocaust Memorial Council. Professor Freedman also said that Carter's support for the Holocaust Memorial Council was "principally a political gimmick" based on getting political support from Jews.
Professor Freedman, now a law professor at Hofstra University, also confirmed that a respected Holocaust scholar was rejected as a board member by Carter's office because the scholar's name "sounded too Jewish" -- although he was a Presbyterian Christian. Mr. Freedman told us that the WND account was "entirely accurate" except that Elie Wiesel, not Freedman himself, had selected the board members.
sunday, january 28, 2007
besides, polio was cured by jews
A leading Islamic doctor is urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella because they contain substances making them unlawful for Muslims to take.
Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, says almost all vaccines contain un-Islamic "haram" derivatives of animal or human tissue, and that Muslim parents are better off letting childrens' immune systems develop on their own.
back in the u.s.s.r.
John O'Sullivan's new book The President, The Pope And The Prime Minister has a marvelous account of the funeral of Yuri Andropov. In case you've forgotten, he was one of those late-period Soviet leaders who looked like he'd been plucked in haste from the local embalmer's and propped up against the balcony for the May Day parade. When he was eventually pronounced (officially) dead in 1984, Margaret Thatcher was prevailed upon by an aide to stop at a shoe store en route to the airport and get some fleece-lined boots for the chilly February burial. She grumbled about the cost all the way to Moscow. There she met Andropov's successor, Konstantin Chernenko, whom the Politburo had anointed as the next cadaver-in-chief. And, after shaking hands with him, she stopped complaining about the cost of her Kremlin boots. "They were a prudent long-term investment," she told her aide.
More like short-term. Vice President George H. W. Bush was nearer to the mark when he said goodbye to the U.S. Embassy staff after the Andropov funeral: "Next year, same time, same place." Close enough. Chernenko died 13 months later.
The decrepitude of the Politburo waxworks and their Eastern European clients embodied the ideological health of communism: Andropov and Chernenko were the sclerosis of the regime made wan flesh. With democracies, decrepitude is harder to spot. Our leaders are younger, and even in the U.S. Senate -- the nearest the Western world has to a Brezhnevite politburo -- new blood occasionally shows up: Barack Obama is hot, hip, happening, even if none of his political ideas are.
But old whines in new bottles sell better than old whines in old bottles, as John Kerry evidently concluded. Last week, the senator took to the floor and reduced himself to tears as he announced that he'd regretfully decided not to run for president again. John Edwards shoveled him into the landfill oistory with some oleaginous boilerplate about Kerry's readiness to "respond to any call to serve his country." Was anybody calling? And why would they? What does Senator Kerry weep for other than his own thwarted ambition? What did he stand for? What was his vision other than a belief in his own indispensability?
The only energy displayed by Nancy Pelosi was the spectacular leap to her feet within a nano-second of the president mentioning Darfur. Up went Madam Speaker and the entire Democratic caucus like enthusiastic loons on a gameshow. Darfur! We're all in favor of Darfur. People are being murdered! Hundreds of thousands! We oughtta do something! Like, er, jump up and down when it's mentioned in a speech. And, er, call for the international community to mobilize. Maybe one of those leathery old '60s rockers could organize an all-star concert or something. If Darfur were indeed a game show, the Sudanese would quickly discover it's one of those ones where you come on down to discover you've missed out on all the big prizes but you're not going away empty-handed: No, sir, here's your very own SAVE DARFUR! T-shirt autographed by Nancy Pelosi and George Clooney.
Darfur is an apt symbol of early 21st century liberalism: What matters is that you urge action rather than take any. On Iraq, meanwhile, the president declared: "Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory." And the Dems sat on their hands.
The American left has long deplored Bush's rhetorical reliance on such vulgar conceits as "good" and "evil." But it seems even "victory" is a problematic concept, and right now the momentum is all for defeat of one kind or another. America is talking itself into willing a defeat that has not (yet) occurred on the ground, and would be fatally damaging to this nation's credibility if it did.
the democrats' botched joke is john kerry
Kerry hands the Islamo-nutters a propaganda freebie.
Kerry was asked about whether the U.S. government had failed to adequately engage Iran’s government before the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.
Kerry said the Bush administration has failed in addressing a number of foreign policy issues.
“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.
“So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East — in the world, really. I’ve never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today.”…
Kerry criticized what he called the “unfortunate habit” of Americans to see the world “exclusively through an American lens.”
He said this while seated next to the former CEO of one of the world’s foremost terrorist states, which as we speak is working on building nuclear weapons, bankrolling Hezbollah’s efforts to foment civil war in Lebanon and Hamas’s exterminationist jihad against Israel, and supplying Shiite militias with IEDs to kill American soldiers in Iraq.
Whose current leadership, lest we forget, Kerry has previously signaled a desire to meet with. Note the bolded bit in the quote, too: given a direct choice between defending the president or siding with the Iranian government circa 2003 — whose nominal leader was, of course, Khatami himself — Lurch essentially chose the latter.
UPDATE: This image needs no explanation.
she has the right to remain silent
At the antiwar spectacle yesterday:
"Silence is no longer an option," Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall. The actress, once derided as "Hanoi Jane" by conservatives for her stance on Vietnam, said she had held back from activism so as not to be a distraction for the Iraq anti-war movement but needed to speak out now.
Please. When do antiwar people ever shut up?
And by the way, she is still derided as Hanoi Jane.
from death metal to death to america
How does a young Southern California boy, raised by hippies, turn into an al-Qaeda mouthpiece? The answer makes fascinating reading in The New Yorker.
Gadahn is the ultimate “homegrown”—a term used by scholars and government officials for Western citizens who are “picking up the sword of the idea,” as one senior F.B.I. official put it, and are willing to attack their own societies, even martyr themselves if required.
Most homegrowns are second- or third-generation Muslims, but a few—and perhaps the most puzzling—are converts. Jose Padilla (the so-called Dirty Bomber) and Richard Reid (the so-called Shoe Bomber) are well-known examples.
In 2004, Ryan Anderson, a Muslim convert in the Washington Army National Guard, was convicted of attempting to provide Al Qaeda with military intelligence. (During a military sting, Anderson said, “I wish to defect from the United States. I wish to join Al Qaeda, train its members, and conduct terrorist attacks.”) John Walker Lindh, who grew up in Marin County, California, never plotted against America, but he joined and fought for the Taliban.
saturday, january 27, 2007
swiss miss: john kerry pisses on America
...and gets his facts wrong. Captains Quarters:
Kerry said the Bush administration has failed to adequately address a number of foreign policy issues.
"When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy," Kerry said.
"So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East - in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today."
Once again, we have the spectre of Kyoto haunting the Bush administration, when it was the Clinton administration that refused to submit the treaty to the Senate -- and the Senate that unanimously passed a resolution saying they'd never ratify it. The Byrd-Hagel Resolution in 1997 made it clear that the US would not allow itself to be bound by the treaty as long as it exempted India, China, and other developing nations. That's the same position as the Bush Administration has taken -- and the same position that John Kerry himself took in 1997 when he voted in favor of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution.
That's yet another example of the hypocrisy of John Kerry -- but there's more.
He took the time to scold the Bush administration for its lack of effort on AIDS and other diseases in Africa. However, Bush has already spent more on these issues than the last Democratic administration did in eight years. Humanitarian aid to Africa comprised $1.4 billion a year at the end of the Clinton administration, but Bush has tripled that to $4 billion per year -- and wants to more than double it over the next two years:
President Bush's legacy is sure to be defined by his wielding of U.S. military power in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is another, much softer and less-noticed effort by his administration in foreign affairs: a dramatic increase in U.S. aid to Africa.
The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world's most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 -- to nearly $9 billion. ...
Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And four African nations -- Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda -- rank among the world's top 10 recipients in aid from the United States.
So not only is John Kerry a hypocrite, he's also an ignoramus. However, we have noticed that the Davos forum has become, over the years, a convention of sorts for both. Kerry should feel right at home.
If you study hard, you do your homework, show up for committee meetings and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck believing (and repeating) your party's disinformation.
missed cinema: Millions
By now there have been dozens of movies that have its protagonist discover a bag of illicit loot. This is the best of them. It's funny and touching, and has something to say without making speeches. Alex Etel, the kid who plays the young boy, is a natural.
This was directed by Danny Boyle, who made the quasi-zombie movie "28 Days Later" and "Trainspotting." Neither of those would give you any indication he could make a film as sweet as this.
But, like David Lynch's "The Straight Story," one of the best G-rated movies every made, this is a family film that doesn't require adults to compromise.
The British accents can be a challenge in places. We turned on the English substitles and didn't miss a thing.
why ceos are warming up to global warming
In a word, money.
The warming of planet earth may or may not be manmade. But the politics of the Green Scare are definitely the work of man. Liberals have an instinct for minding other people's business, and an instinct for despising capitalism, which makes global warming such a delicious issue for them. By manufacturing a crisis, they've invented a righteous reason to meddle and tax.
Some corporations see the issue as a way to reduce competition and make a buck. As Kimberly Strassel notes:
The Climate Action Partnership, a group of 10 major companies that made headlines this week with its call for a national limit on carbon dioxide emissions, would surely feign shock at such an accusation. After all, their plea was carefully timed to coincide with President Bush's State of the Union capitulation on global warming, and it had the desired PR effect. The media dutifully declared that "even" business now recognized the climate threat. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who begins marathon hearings on warming next week, lauded the corporate angels for thinking of the "common good."
There was a time when the financial press understood that companies exist to make money. And it happens that the cap-and-trade climate program these 10 jolly green giants are now calling for is a regulatory device designed to financially reward companies that reduce CO2 emissions, and punish those that don't.
Four of the affiliates--Duke, PG&E, FPL and PNM Resources--are utilities that have made big bets on wind, hydroelectric and nuclear power. So a Kyoto program would reward them for simply enacting their business plan, and simultaneously sock it to their competitors. Duke also owns Cinergy, which relies heavily on dirty, CO2-emitting coal plants. But Cinergy will soon have to replace those plants with cleaner equipment. Under a Kyoto, it'll get paid for its trouble.
DuPont has been plunging into biofuels, the use of which would soar under a cap. Somebody has to cobble together all these complex trading deals, so say hello to Lehman Brothers. Caterpillar has invested heavily in new engines that generate "clean energy." British Petroleum is mostly doing public penance for its dirty oil habit, but also gets a plug for its own biofuels venture.
Finally, there's General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt these days spends as much time in Washington as Connecticut. GE makes all the solar equipment and wind turbines (at $2 million a pop) that utilities would have to buy under a climate regime. GE's revenue from environmental products long ago passed the $10 billion mark, and it doesn't take much "ecomagination" to see why Mr. Immelt is leading the pack of climate profiteers.
CEOs are quick learners, and even those who would get smacked by a carbon cap are now devising ways to make warming work to their political advantage. The "most creative" prize goes to steel giant Nucor. Steven Rowlan, the company's environmental director, doesn't want carbon caps in the U.S.--oh, no. The smarter answer, he explains, would be for the U.S. to impose trade restrictions on foreign firms that aren't environmentally clean. Global warming as foil for trade protectionism: Chuck Schumer's dream.
Note the irony of the Democrats kissing up to big business, to the detriment of the average Joe.
What makes this lobby worse than the usual K-Street crowd is that it offers no upside. At least when Big Pharma self-interestedly asks for fewer regulations, the economy benefits. There's nothing capitalist about lobbying for a program that foists its debilitating costs on taxpayers and consumers while redistributing the wealth to a few corporate players.
This is what comes from Washington steadily backstepping energy policy into the interventionist 1970s, picking winners and losers. In ethanol, in biodiesel, in wind farms, success isn't a function of supply or demand. The champs are the ones that coax out of Washington the best subsidies and regulations. Global warming is simply the biggest trough yet.
Both Republicans and Democrats understand this debate is increasingly about home-state economics, even as they publicly joust about environmental rights or wrongs. The softening Republican stance on a mandatory program is one result. New Mexico's Pete Domenici appeared to undergo an epiphany about global warming in 2005, voting for a Senate resolution supporting caps. The switch might have more to do with remembering that his state is nuclear-power central, and will win big under a new program. Just ask his fellow New Mexican, Jeff Bingaman, who introduced the resolution.
so long, saddam
by Burt Prelutsky
A lot of people were up in arms over Saddam Hussein’s execution. Some hated the fact that it took place around the time of an Islamic holiday. But it’s as difficult to avoid their holy days as it is to avoid hitting a mosque when you bomb Iraq. Others were angry that the actual hanging was captured on a cell phone. And, finally, there are those sob sisters who believe they are morally superior to mere mortals because they’re opposed to executions any time, anywhere.
Well, I beg to differ. I wish his hanging had been televised in color and broadcast during prime time around the world. Except for the initial elation when the Butcher of Baghdad was rooted out of his rat hole, I have been disgusted by all subsequent events. I still recall what consternation there was when we saw photos of Hussein having his hair checked for lice and his mouth checked for cyanide capsules. You’d have thought Mother Teresa was being strip-searched.
The guy was a monster who had used poison gas on the Kurds, invaded Kuwait, bribed every thief at the U.N., shot missiles into Israel and waged two wars against the U.S.; and still chowderheads in and out of the media were concerned about his dignity being insulted.
During his trial and again on the gallows, he urged his followers to go on killing. Well, why not? Torture, murder and rape, were his legacy. But we were supposed to preserve his dignity?
If there were really any justice in the world, Hussein would have wound up the way the Italians saw to it that Mussolini ended up – his carcass hanging upside down like a side of beef in Milan’s Piazzale Loreto.
Every tyrant in the world, from Kim Jong-iL and Ahmadinejad to Syria’s al-Assad and Vladimir Putin, should have had the opportunity to turn on his TV and seen in living color what might very well be their fate if they don’t shape up.
There are times, after all, when a picture is worth a thousand words. And a picture of a pig hanging in an Islamic country would have spoken volumes, and wouldn’t have required translation into Russian or Korean.
Speaking of swine, what I have never understood is why Israel or any other country besieged with suicide bombers doesn’t announce that in the future their remains will be carefully collected and buried wrapped in pig skins. I have to suspect that would cut way down on recruitment. I mean, it’s one thing to believe that 72 virgins are anxiously awaiting your arrival, and quite another to think you’ll be lucky to wind up on a blind date with Rosie O’Donnell!
friday, january 26, 2007
sign the no money pledge
If the weakling Republican senators offend you, offend them back by signing the Pledge:
If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.
john edwards' crib
The presidential candidate and tort lawyer's humble home.
biology's next revolution
The emerging picture of microbes as gene-swapping collectives demands a revision of such concepts as organism, species and evolution itself.
One of the most fundamental patterns of scientific discovery is the revolution in thought that accompanies a new body of data. Satellite-based astronomy has, during the past decade, overthrown our most cherished ideas of cosmology, especially those relating to the size, dynamics and composition of the Universe.
Similarly, the convergence of fresh theoretical ideas in evolution and the coming avalanche of genomic data will profoundly alter our understanding of the biosphere — and is likely to lead to revision of concepts such as species, organism and evolution. Here we explain why we foresee such a dramatic transformation, and why we believe the molecular reductionism that dominated twentieth-century biology will be superseded by an interdisciplinary approach that embraces collective phenomena.
mohammed reports from baghdad
Apache attack helicopters are constantly hovering over Baghdad now. Tracking them from my home in this city I can often estimate where the action is taking place.
In many cases these are combat missions, not routine surveillance patrols, and the sounds of the helicopters heavy machineguns can often be heard in the distance; sometimes far away, sometimes coming closer.
If the star in the sky is the Apache, the star on the ground is the Stryker armored vehicle. One can hardly avoid meeting Strykers in Baghdad these days. Everybody here is talking about the astounding presence of this armored castle with its surrounding steel bars. With its huge mass and powerful headlights that can be seen from hundreds of meters away it is pure intimidation.
Today in Baghdad, American troops not only man checkpoints on main streets, but are also running daily patrols through the inner streets in residential blocs. Typically a patrolling unit will choose a number of homes to meet their occupants. It’s more like getting familiar with the locals than searching; the commander of the patrol talks to the head of the household and meets the members of the family. If one of them happens to know English the commander usually ask the translator to stay outside; most Iraqis prefer not to speak before other Iraqis when it comes to security concerns.
Read it all.
poor bored susan
Since half of the State of the Union speech on Tuesday was about Iraq, I wanted very much to pay close attention. There was the proposed troop buildup to consider, the recent history of the conflict to weigh, the geostrategic context to judge. But a question distracted me the whole time, eventually growing so intense that I couldn't think about anything else. The same question was probably nagging you: What does Susan Sarandon think of all this?
That's why I was so grateful when, On Wednesday, the august Associated Press distributed this bit of breaking news: "Actress Susan Sarandon says she was bored by President Bush's State of the Union address asking Americans to give his troop buildup in Iraq a chance."
I'm furious at the White House speechwriters. Did they ask each other, even once, Are we telling Susan Sarandon anything she thinks is new? And what will I tell my family in Baghdad? They keep leaving me phone messages, and I'm petrified that they'll want an update on Susan Sarandon's latest mood swing. With everything else they've been through, will they be able to absorb Susan Sarandon's boredom?
only the dense are surprised
Muqtada Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric, has backed away from confrontation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent weeks, a move that has surprised U.S. officials who long have characterized his followers as among the greatest threats to Iraq's security.
Thursday, a leader of the Sadr movement in one of its Baghdad strongholds publicly endorsed President Bush's new Iraq security plan, which at least some U.S. officials have touted as a way to combat Sadr's group.
Surprised? Recall the famous words of Samuel Johnson:
"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
Or as Jack Kelly wrote three days ago, noting the impact of "the surge" even before it's begun:
"Mookie," as the troops call him (al-Sadr), can only be relied upon to behave when he is terrified.
Hmm... could the arrest of 400 of his top followers have any bearing on this?
moktada makes a will
It's welcome news that Moktada Al Sadr, having studied his changing situation, has found it prudent to write a will. That's what he recently told the Italian center-left newspaper, La Repubblica, in what appears to be a genuine interview (and not the faux "interviews" that have appeared in such U.S. media as Newsweek). Al Sadr also said that he had moved his family to a safe place.
"There are at least four armies" out to get him, Al Sadr confided. These include a secret army trained by Americans in Jordan; a special army at the command of Ayad Allawi; the Kurdish peshmerga, and last but not least, the Americans. (It's Al Sadr's combination of ignorance and paranoia that is the most compelling evidence that this is a genuine interview.)
Anyway, the noble Moktada has ordered his thugs not to respond to these
four massing armies until Islamic New Year and Ashura are over, or so he told La
Repubblica. Even if they kill him, Moktada added, the Mahdi army will live. “They can kill men, but they can't kill faith or ideas,” he said in a fit of righteousness, though he might have thought of that before he got into the murder business himself.
The will is welcome news, of course, but word that the will's provisions are being applied will be far more welcome. In the meantime, the rest of us are left pondering the new crackdown on insurgents and militias in Iraq, and wondering just what to make of it. Has Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki really turned his back on Moktada, after steadfastly protecting him and his Sadr City stronghold from US troops? The reaction of my relatives in Baghdad is, “La hwaya,” or “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
an open letter from ben stein
Thanks to Susan Gertson, who passed this along to us.
Open Letter to Our Armed Forces and Their Families From Ben Stein
Greetings From Rancho Mirage By Ben Stein
Tuesday, January 23rd
Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, National Guard, Reservists, in Iraq, in the Middle East theater, in Afghanistan, in the area near Afghanistan, in any base anywhere in the world, and your families:
Let me tell you about why you guys own about 90 percent of the backbone in the whole world right now and should be happy with yourselves and proud of whom you are.
It was a dazzlingly hot day here in Rancho Mirage today. I did small errands like going to the bank to pay my mortgage, finding a new bed at a price I can afford, practicing driving with my new 5 wood, paying bills for about two hours. I spoke for a long time to a woman who is going through a nasty child custody fight. I got e-mails from a woman who was fired today from her job for not paying attention. I read about multi-billion-dollar mergers in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast I noticed how overweight I am, for the millionth time. In other words, I did a lot of nothing.
Like every other American who is not in the armed forces family, I basically just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic in my trivial, self-important, meaningless way.
Above all, I talked to a friend of more than forty-three years who told me he thought his life had no meaning because all he did was count his money. And, friends in the armed forces, this is the story of all of America today. We are doing nothing but treading water while you guys carry on the life or death struggle against worldwide militant Islamic terrorism. Our lives are about nothing: paying bills, going to humdrum jobs, waiting until we can go to sleep and then do it all again. Our most vivid issues are trivia compared with what you do every day, every minute, every second.
Oprah Winfrey talks a lot about "meaning" in life. For her, "meaning" is dieting and then having her photo on the cover of her magazine every single month (surely a new world record for egomania ). This is not "meaning."
- Meaning is doing for others.
- Meaning is risking your life for hers.
- Meaning is putting your bodies and families' peace of mind on the line to defeat some of the most evil, sick killers the world has ever known.
- Meaning is leaving the comfort of home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for your family and for your nation and for free men and women everywhere.
Look, soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen and Coast Guardsmen, there are eight billion people in this world. The whole fate of this world turns on what you people, 1.4 million, more or less, do every day. The fate of mankind depends on what about 2/100 of one percent of the people in this world do every day and you are those people. And joining you is every policeman, fireman, and Emergency Medical Technician in the country, also holding back the tide of chaos.
Do you know how important you are? Do you know how indispensable you are? Do you know how humbly grateful any of us who has a head on his shoulders is to you? Do you know that if you never do another thing in your lives, you will always still be heroes? That we could live without Hollywood or Wall Street or the NFL, but we cannot live for a week without you?
We are on our knees to you and we bless and pray for you every moment. And Oprah Winfrey, if she were a size two, would not have one millionth of your importance, and all of the Wall Street billionaires will never mean what the least of you do, and if Barry Bonds hits hundreds of home runs it would not mean as much as you going on one patrol or driving one truck to the Baghdad airport.
You are everything to us, as we go through our little days, and you are in the prayers of the nation and of every decent man and woman on the planet. That's who you are and what you mean. I hope you know that.
the real cost of good intentions
by J.C. Phillips
In spite of political rhetoric to the contrary, it is an economic fact that the government can set the price of labor, but the government cannot determine the value of that labor. Whenever the price of labor exceeds its value, that job will be eliminated, automated, absorbed by others or replaced with lower priced labor. This may explain why virtually every empirical study of the minimum wage has found that the minimum wage results in a net decrease in jobs.
A study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis reports, “The magnitude of the unemployment effects of minimum wage increases can be questioned, but the existence of those effects cannot.” Indeed, advocates of the minimum wage do not dispute that there is indeed a nexus between the minimum wage and job loss. They simply hold that an incremental increase of the minimum wage implemented slowly over time will nullify the laws of economics and that the negative of jobs lost by some will become a net positive by the increase in wages for others.
Oddly enough, such arguments by defenders of the minimum wage depend on faith in another economic law: A dynamic economy creates jobs -- even low skilled jobs. When worker productivity is high and unemployment is low, there is upward pressure on wages. Increased productivity drives innovation and the creation of new businesses, which creates jobs.
Democrats have been very vocal about the failing American economy even as they push for an increase in the minimum wage. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson for example in declaring his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for president described the U.S. economy as “languishing,” thus illustrating one of the great ironies of the minimum wage debate. Democrats are able to propose an incremental increase in the minimum wage only because the economy is thriving. More than 7 million new jobs have been created since August of 2003 and the unemployment rate is below 5% , real wages have grown at 2.3 % over the last 12 months, well above the average of the 1990’s and over the last three decades worker productivity has more than doubled. The idea of government arbitrarily setting the price of labor is politically viable only because of the dynamism of the American economy.
It is also the same dynamism of the economy that renders the minimum wage a dinosaur of our new deal past. A thriving economy makes the minimum wage almost irrelevant as evidenced by the fact that wages for many low skilled jobs are currently well above the minimum wage even for illegal immigrant labor.
The day laborers looking for work in the parking lots of Home Depot stores across the country are not regulated by the government, nor do they work for slave wages. In fact, try offering any of these men as little as minimum wage and you are liable to get your feelings hurt. No matter their immigration status, they all speak the international language of $8-$10 per hour. The same is true of nannies and house keepers working in the Los Angeles area. Families looking for a little help during the day are not guided by minimum wage laws and yet the pay for domestic help is well above the minimum wage.
The absence of a minimum wage will certainly mean that wages for some jobs will fall below the previous federal minimums. Those jobs however, were overpriced for their value and very likely would have been eliminated. We cannot simply wish the laws of economics away. Employers, like all consumers are perfectly willing to pay for value. Rather than mandate a minimum wage that even they concede will cost jobs, the best thing Democrats in Congress can do is to keep taxes low, resist the urge to heap regulations onto business and continue to stoke the fires of a growing and dynamic economy.
thursday, january 25, 2007
How the Senate voted to authorize the war in Iraq.
The text of the resolution. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Whereas Congress in 1998 concluded that Iraq was then in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations and thereby threatened the vital interests of the United States and international peace and security, stated the reasons for that conclusion, and urged the President to take appropriate action to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations (Public Law 105-235);
Whereas Iraq remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations, thereby continuing to threaten the national security interests of the United States and international peace and security;
turnaround in baghdad
As Democrats in the Senate vote to hoist the white flag, the New York Sun reports good news:
The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.
In other words, battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda. This is a major accomplishment.
Last October, my sources began telling me about rumblings among the insurgent strategists suggesting that their murderous endeavor was about to run out of steam. This sense of fatigue began registering among mid-level insurgent commanders in late December, and it has devolved to the rank and file since then. The insurgents have begun to feel that the tide has turned against them.
In many ways, the timing of this turnaround was inadvertent, coming at the height of political and bureaucratic mismanagement in Washington and Baghdad. A number of factors contributed to this turnaround, but most important was sustained, stay-the-course counterinsurgency pressure. At the end of the day, more insurgents were ending up dead or behind bars, which generated among them a sense of despair and a feeling that the insurgency was a dead end.
The Washington-initiated "surge" will speed-up the ongoing process of defeating the insurgency. But one should not consider the surge responsible for the turnaround. The lesson to be learned is to keep killing the killers until they realize their fate.
Read it all. Compare that to Daniel Henninger's column "Talking Ourselves into Defeat."
We are not only on the way to talking ourselves into defeat in Iraq but into a diminished international status that may be harder to recover than the doom mob imagines. Self-criticism has its role, but profligate self-doubt can exact a price.
Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins wonders "whether the clock has already run out." To U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton the new strategy is "a dead end." For the Bush troop request, presidential candidate Joe Biden predicted "overwhelming rejection." (His committee resolution to that effect yesterday passed by three votes.) Presidential candidate Chuck Hagel: "We have anarchy in Iraq. It's getting worse." And not least, Sen. John Warner this week heaved his tenured eminence against the war effort, proposing another "non-binding" resolution against more troops.
To pick one amid scores of similar characterizations in the media, the Associated Press wrote from Washington before the State of the Union speech that "Democrats--and even some Republicans--scoffed at his policy." "Scoff" is a strong word, suggesting eye-rolling ridicule. (The line was so good that the AP ran it after the speech as well, under another writer's byline, this time from Baghdad.) But of course amid the giddy vapors of mass mockery, they all "support the troops."
china scotches year of the pig
...to appease Muslims.
Meanwhile, the Faloon Gong must be wondering "What the @#^!?"
smoke and lens
Beautiful photographs composed of smoke.
euro-spiders hunt tax cheats
Websites around the world are getting a new computerized visitor among the Googlebots and Yahoo web spiders: The taxman. A five-nation tax enforcement cartel has been quietly cracking down on suspected internet tax cheats, using a sophisticated web crawling program to monitor transactions on auction sites, and track operators of online shops, poker and porn sites.
happy birthday...or else
Just when you thought every problem was being addressed by one interest group or another, along comes a new one. What a country, eh?!
Birthdays without Pressure seeks to curb the excessiveness of certain parents when throwing their kids a birthday party. You remember the old days of cake and ice cream, pin the tail on the donkey and pinatas. Outdated. Consider:
- A one year old’s party in a Minnesota community has 60 guests. The gift opening takes two hours; the party infant sleeps through most of it.
- A three year old’s parents in the same community rent a fire station for party #1, and a private club with a pool for party #2.
- A six year old girl and her friends in St. Paul get makeovers and dance in public as part of a “starlet” package at a party business.
- A six year old guest who is disappointed by a St. Paul party without gift bags, declares, “This is a rip off!”
- A wealthy New York father throws a $10 million party for his 13 year old daughter’s birthday, including the band Aerosmith and $10,000 gift bags.
To find out whether you, as a parent, have lost touch with reality take the Birthday Pressure Quiz and read their helpful info.
remedial reading for senator webb
In his party's rebuttal to the State of the Union, newly elected Senator James Webb said:
When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.
Webb should read Thomas Sowell before he starts legislating "fairness." Sowell begins:
I could become so greedy that I wanted a fortune twice the size of Bill Gates' — but this greed would not increase my income by one cent.
If you want to explain why some people have astronomical incomes, it cannot be simply because of their own desires — whether "greedy" or not — but because of what other people are willing to pay them.
The real question, then, is: Why do other people choose to pay corporate executives so much?
Is it because of indifferent boards of directors who set CEO pay?
It makes a neat picture and may even be true in some cases. What deals a body blow to this theory, however, is that CEO compensation is even higher in corporations owned by a few giant investment firms, as distinguished from corporations owned by thousands of individual stockholders.
In other words, it is precisely where people are spending their own money and have financial expertise that they bid highest for CEOs. It is precisely where people most fully understand the difference that the right CEO can make in a corporation's profitability that they are willing to bid what it takes to get the executive they want.
If people who are capable of being outstanding executives were a dime a dozen, nobody would pay eleven cents a dozen for them.
Here's a message for Webb and his party of know-it-all meddlers.
Many observers who say that they cannot understand how anyone can be worth $100 million a year do not realize that it is not necessary that they understand it, since it is not their money.
All of us have thousands of things happening around us that we do not understand. We use computers all the time but most of us could not build a computer if our life depended on it — and those few individuals who could probably couldn't grow orchids or train horses.
In short, we all have grossly inadequate knowledge in other people's specialties.
The idea that everything must "justify itself before the bar of reason" goes back at least as far as the 18th century. But that just makes it a candidate for the longest-running fallacy in the world.
Given the high degree of specialization in a modern economy, demanding that everything "justify itself before the bar of reason" means demanding that people who know what they are doing must be subject to the veto of people who don't have a clue about the decisions that they are second-guessing.
wednesday, january 24, 2007
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes this war was over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of the battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.
preventing human nature
From today's LA Daily News
Before Adolph Hitler began to wipe out Europe's Jews, gays and Gypsies, he argued that Nazi Germany's brutality would escape global condemnation.
"Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?" Hitler asked his commanding generals in 1939, The New York Times reported at the end of World War II.
The first genocide of the 20th century - the killing of 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 - is viewed by scholars as a precursor to the Holocaust that erased 6 million Jews.
In Los Angeles, which has among the world's largest Armenian and Jewish populations, members of the two communities gathered in Encino late Monday to share their kinship of suffering and motivate their youths to fight the forces that lead to genocide.
"The question is: Can we teach our young persons something true so there will be no genocide in their generation?" said Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom. "Can we acknowledge that there is something evil in human nature?"
Good luck. Liberals choke on the concept of evil (unless you're speaking about Bush).
In 1994 as 800,000 Rwandans were being hacked to death by machete, the Clinton State Department held a briefing.
The first spokesperson was asked about the reports of genocide. She tap danced about "acts of genocide" but refused to call it thus. To do so would have obliged the US, and the UN, to act. After she finished, another spokeserson took the podium to protest certain foreign governments' ban on showing the film "Schindler's List." He sniffed that only by acknowledging genocide could it be prevented.
In such a world, there's no cure for genocide.
That's the knock on Washington's social dynamic, populated as it is by strivers and posers. (Hollywood is known as Washington for stupid people - so there!)
Anyway, the epithet comes to mind watching the strange ritual known as the State of the Union address. George Washington delivered the first one in person, then Thomas Jefferson, believing the event reeked of monarchy, mailed his in. This remained the practice until Woodrow Wilson resurrected the live event.
Today, Bush could easily post a PDF on the White House website and be done with it. Of course, the Oscars don't need an event either.
The SOTU is both compelling to watch and tough to stomach. As the President enters the hall he's gladhanded by members of Congress who've staked out their seats for hours, like dweeb losers camped out for Star Wars tickets. Many of them despise Bush, but want to be seen on TV by the folks back home. At least they don't wear funny hats like football fans hoping to be singled out on teevee.
Then there's the incessant applause. God almighty, let the speech continue! Example:
It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol -- (applause) -- using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.
That's an interruption every 31 words. When Bush began speaking about the war on terrorm that droppped to one interruption for every 156 words.
It was interesting to see all the Republicans rise and applaud Bush's call for victory in Iraq, while only a handful of Democrats did, rather blatantly advertising their desire to see us lose.
Bush was in good form last night. But Nancy Pelosi, like a scene stealing actor who does something distracting to attract attention, blinked incessantly. Located off Bush's right shoulder, she blinked so much I couldn't take my eyes off her. Soon I was counting how many times she blinked and not listening to Bush. Clever woman, she.
fly with google earth
Popular Science touts a new gizmo. Looks cool.
hitchens reviews steyn
Steyn is much more definite about the cultural side of his argument, in other words, than about the counterterrorist dimension. If I wanted to sharpen both prongs of his thesis, I would also propose the following:
1. An end to one-way multiculturalism and to the cultural masochism that goes with it. The Koran does not mandate the wearing of veils or genital mutilation, and until recently only those who apostasized from Islam faced the threat of punishment by death. Now, though, all manner of antisocial practices find themselves validated in the name of religion, and mullahs have begun to issue threats even against non-Muslims for criticism of Islam. This creeping Islamism must cease at once, and those responsible must feel the full weight of the law. Meanwhile, we should insist on reciprocity at all times. We should not allow a single Saudi dollar to pay for propaganda within the U.S., for example, until Saudi Arabia also permits Jewish and Christian and secular practices. No Wahhabi-printed Korans anywhere in our prison system. No Salafist imams in our armed forces.
2. A strong, open alliance with India on all fronts, from the military to the political and economic, backed by an extensive cultural exchange program, to demonstrate solidarity with the other great multiethnic democracy under attack from Muslim fascism. A hugely enlarged quota for qualified Indian immigrants and a reduction in quotas from Pakistan and other nations where fundamentalism dominates.
Senator Jim Webb seems to have guzzled the whole tank of Democrat Kool-aid, spouting the "two Americas" canard. Dan Riehl takes him apart. We begin with a quote from Webb's speech.
There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.
When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.
At a time when most reasonable experts conclude today's economy is an extremely positive tribute to the fiscal policy of the Bush presidency, a Democrat Party more interested in wealth distribution and entitlements can't bring itself to see it that way.
I'll link as oppose to address mostly the same populist rhetoric we've been hearing from Democrats for years. As usual, they seek only to divide America by class, instead of celebrating an America of free enterprise that encourages and allows even the poorest among us to elevate themselves and accumulate wealth as a result of their work.
They remain the party which seeks to cultivate a society of average people, as opposed to nurturing what's best in each and every American by urging them forward in working for their dreams, financial and otherwise. In the world view of today's Democrats, apparently no one can succeed without government help. That concept flies directly in the face of most everything that has made America great, through its appreciation for rugged independence and every individual's unique efforts and strengths.
tuesday, january 23, 2007
just threat of a surge seems to be working
Only 3000 additional troops have arrived in Iraq, but Jack Kelly writes that already things are changing:
Three interesting things have happened since President Bush announced plans to "surge" U.S. troops.
First, al Qaida appears to be retreating from Baghdad. A military intelligence officer has confirmed to Richard Miniter, editor of Pajamas Media, a report in the Iraqi newspaper al Sabah that Abu Ayyub al Masri, the head of al Qaida in Iraq, has ordered a withdrawal to Diyala province, north and east of Baghdad.
Mr. al Masri's evacuation order said that remaining in Baghdad is a no-win situation for al Qaida, because the Fallujah campaign demonstrating the Americans have learned how to prevail in house to house fighting, Mr. Miniter said.
"In more than 10 years of reading al Qaida intercepts, I've never seen (pessimistic) language like this," he quoted his intelligence officer source as saying.
Second, the radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr, whose Iranian-subsidized militia, the Mahdi army, is responsible for most of the assaults on Sunni civilians in Iraq, is cooling his rhetoric and lowering his profile.
"Mahdi army militia members have stopped wearing their black uniforms, hidden their weapons and abandoned their checkpoints in an apparent effort to lower their profile in Baghdad in advance of the arrival of U.S. reinforcements," wrote Leila Fadel and Zaineb Obeid of the McClatchy Newspapers Jan. 13.
Third, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is putting more distance between himself and al Sadr, upon whose bloc of votes in parliament he had relied for political support.
Last Friday al Sadr ordered the 30 lawmakers and six cabinet ministers he controls to end the boycott of the government he ordered two months ago. AP writer Steven Hurst described this Monday as "a desperate bid to fend off an all out American offensive."
Despite this, Mr. Maliki consented to the arrest that same day of Abdul Hadi al Durraji, al Sadr's media director in Baghdad. Mr. Sadr said Saturday some 400 of his supporters have been arrested in recent days.
This map compares each of the 50 states' GDP and substitutes it with a corresponding nation. California becomes France, Texas becomes Canada and Michigan become Argentina, etc.. Fascinating.
"Attend" the Sundance Film Festival via the web. There's plenty to watch.
state of the union
As the news media prepares to pee all over President Bush, regardless of what he says, this perspective is welcome.
This widespread derision of President Bush bothers me. I'm distressed that a man like George Bush can be so reviled, while a moral degenerate like Bill Clinton can be so widely praised.
Notice, now, that I didn't say that I couldn't understand why this is so, I just said that it distresses me. The why is easy to understand. Bush has been a target since the day he was sworn in. Over 90% of the members of the mainstream New York and Washington press corps voted for Al Gore in the 2000 elections. Some of these people have come to accept the reality that it was a close election .. .and that Bush won. Others, perhaps the majority, have never come to terms with Bush's win and have been dedicated to the idea of destroying his presidency since January of 2000.
Since day one there has been a template applied to the media coverage of Bush's presidency. If the story makes Bush look good, either ignore it or downplay it. If the story makes Bush look bad, put it on the front page.
The media hasn't been fighting this war against Bush alone. The Democrats, of course, have been on board. There was a momentary respite in the aftermath of 9/11. But it took no time at all for the Democrats to renew their attacks. I firmly believe that the Democrats made a conscious decision that it was more important that they destroy the image of George Bush than it was for them to get behind the war against Islamic terrorism.
I believe that 9/11 transformed George Bush. I believe that since that date he has been completely dedicated to the purpose of protecting this country from further terrorist attacks.
How can he be blamed for acting against Saddam Hussein? Have we all forgotten that the official U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was adopted during the Clinton administration? Have we forgotten Saddam's cat and mouse games with U.N. weapons inspectors? Have we forgotten that American intelligence officials have recovered documents and materials that constitute proof positive that Saddam was proceeding with a program to develop nuclear weapons? Hussein defied the U.N. He defied the international community. The proof is there ... he had contacts with Al Qaeda. No, I'm not saying that Saddam was behind 9/11, but there were agents in Saddam's government who had contact with those who did plan 9/11. Add the rape rooms, the mass graves, the use of WMDs to kill tens of thousands of Iranians and his own countrymen .. .and you come up with a despot that should have been left in power --- in power to continue with his weapons programs?
Read it all.
now, this is depressing
Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, got basic facts wrong when writing about the Plame affair in the New Yorker, which brought this post from John Podhoretz at the Corner.
"[T]he White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times Op-Ed piece that he published five months later. The Administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters. That led to the unlawful exposure of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a C.I.A. agent."
Now, to correct Dean Nicholas Lemann:
First: The White House did not dispatch Wilson to Niger. The CIA — acting on the recommendation of Wilson's wife — did.
Second: Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times not five months later, but seventeen months later. There was an intervening event. It was called "the war in Iraq." Perhaps Lemann has heard of it.
Third: It is probably untrue that the "exposure" of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was "unlawful." No one has been charged with any such offense, and there is a significant question about whether she maintained covert status in the five years preceding the publication of her name by Robert Novak — the trigger for the possibility that a crime was committed.
As Podhoretz noted, Lemann is an honorable journalist. And the New Yorker is famous for its staff of "fact checkers" who scrutinize every article before publication to insure factual accuracy.
And they still bungled the basic facts of a story that has been amply covered.
monday, january 22, 2007
the saddest day of the year
...is today, says some expert.
Stink bombs, pain beams, spy drones—this is the future of law enforcement, brought to you by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
Dick Tracy would've drooled over this gear.
Of course, one study that Zakaria cited to prove this premise “points out that 2006 was a bad year for liberty, under attack from creeping authoritarianism in Venezuela and Russia, a coup in Thailand, massive corruption in Africa and a host of more subtle reversals.”
Zakaria never addressed what President Bush did to advance creeping authoritarianism in Venezuela and Russia, the coup in Thailand, and the massive corruption in Africa. Instead, he reported the following (emphasis mine throughout):
What explains this paradox—of freedom's retreat, even with a U.S. administration vociferous in promoting democracy? Some part of the explanation lies in the global antipathy to the U.S. president. "We have all been hurt by the association with the Bush administration," Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian activist, told me last month. "Bush's arrogance has turned people off the idea of democracy," says Larry Diamond, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy.
Isn’t that special? Of course, no article critical of the Administration would be complete without bringing up Iraq:
The administration has constantly argued that Iraq has witnessed amazing political progress over the last four years only to be undermined by violence. In fact, Iraq has seen its politics and institutions fall apart since the American invasion. Its state was dismantled, its economy disrupted, its social order overturned and its civic institutions and community corroded by sectarianism. Its three communities were never brought together to hammer out a basic deal on how they could live together. The only things that did take place in Iraq were elections (and the writing of a Constitution that is widely ignored). Those elections had wondrous aspects, but they also divided the country into three communities and hardened these splits. To describe the last four years as a period of political progress requires a strange definition of political development.
Mysteriously, as Zakaria complained about Iraq’s economy, he totally ignored a Newsweek article from just a month ago addressing how that nation’s economy is booming.
lower oil prices = pain for iran
Oil prices have fallen 17% over the past few months, now heading toward US$50 a barrel. Surprisingly, the Saudis are not interested in stemming the price drop. Ibrahim al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, during a recent trip to India said oil prices were headed in the "right direction". A close US ally, Nigeria, has Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries chairmanship, and even though Venezuela and Iran have requested an early OPEC meeting, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have all refused to schedule one to discuss oil prices.
The Sunni Saudis take on the Shia Iranians via the battle of the barrel. Gee, and I thought Bush controlled oil prices.
how the ap helped stoke civil war in iraq
What has been lost in the debate about "Who is Jamil Hussein?" is the substance of his Iraqi atrocity stories peddled by the AP. The most recent ones have been denied by the US military, which has much better sources than the Associated Press. They have also not been confirmed by other news outlets. Whether "Jamil Hussein" was a cover name, an AP fabrication, or a real person is not as important as the content of his apparent disinformation. What was the purpose of the lie about six Iraqis being deliberately burned to death by terrorists? What about the other 60 AP stories that cited "Hussein"? How many lent credibility to other atrocity tales?
Two hypotheses spring to mind. One is that "Jamil Hussein" was benefiting from being an AP source. He was smart enough to know that AP wanted horror stories, and that's what he gave them. Maybe he was paid. Maybe he liked instant fame. But 61 citations as an AP source suggests an ongoing relationship, one with a clear and sustained purpose.
A more sinister interpretation is that "Jamil Hussein" was a political plant, whose primary goal was to feed atrocity stories to the AP. He could be an Iranian plant in the Iraqi Police, which is heavily infiltrated by Mahdi Army killers who are paid by Iran. They were the ones who shouted "Muqtada Al Sadr!" when Saddam Hussein was hanged. An Iranian mole's purpose would be to stir up civil war, and at the same time to provide more "evidence" for the American Leftist news narrative that Iraq is a hopeless mess.
would you buy a used car from this couple?
The ever sharp Scott Ott:
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-NB, today introduced a bill with several of his Democrat colleagues that would cap the number of Republican Senators at current levels and begin negotiations with Democrats for a phased GOP withdrawal from the Senate.
The measure comes as the Senate prepares to debate a Hagel-sponsored resolution opposing President George Bush’s move to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
“Just as sending more U.S. troops isn’t the solution to defeating terrorists in Iraq,” said Sen. Hagel, “more Republican senators won’t accomplish the party’s legislative goals here. Each additional GOP senator simply antagonizes the majority party and makes the Senate a worse quagmire than it already is.”
New York Democrat Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton co-sponsored the so-called “cap and yank” measure.
sunday, january 21 2007
my spanking initiative
California made national news again with an effort by a Democrat legislator to outlaw spanking of children under age three. It will never pass. So, rather than waste pixels on her law that will never pass, I'll waste pixels on my law that will never even get introduced, much less passed.
Call it The Citizens Spanking Law. To understand how it would work, I refer you to a real life incident.
While shopping at Trader Joes, a local specialty market, I saw a father and six-year-old son in the tea aisle. While dad scruntinized the labels of the tea boxes, sonny stretched his shirt sleeve about six inches past his wrist and used it as a whip to knock over the carefully arranged stacks of tea boxes. Dad said, "Stop that, honey." The kid smirked and did it again. Dadddy repeated the warning. Sonny knocked more boxes over, defiantly looking at Dad. (Kind of like Saddam and the UN.)
This went on until the twerp had created quite a mess. Weakling dad never did anything to discipline his darling monster.
Here's where my law would go into effect. Much like a citizen's arrest, outraged observers could apply a citizen's spanking. That's right, grab the brat and give him a couple swats, bruising only the kid's ego, but teaching him that actions have consequences. One might force the kid to start cleaning up the mess, while lecturing him about respecting private property and his fellow man.
If dad objects, spank him, too. Explain that unleashing brats on the world is unkind. Explain that California, and much of America, already filled its quota of human beings with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, and that his weak parenting is, at minimum, littering our social environment.
Then make him stand in the corner.
here's a new one: retail food environment index
What is an RFEI? It's a silly statistic invented by a group called the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Last Friday they managed to get stories in the LA Times and local television news with this bulletin:
In California, people are more than four times as likely to find a fast-food restaurant or convenience store than a grocery or produce store, according to a study released today...
Imagine that: more restaurants than supermarkets. Remember, supermarkets are called that because they are big. Once there were hundreds of mom-and-pop markets. They were absorbed into fewer, but much larger, supermarkets.
The "study" was engineered to pass laws.
"Where someone lives directly affects their chances of being overweight," said Harold Goldstein, the center's executive director. "In neighborhoods with fewer grocery stores than fast-food restaurants, the residents not only have higher obesity rates, but they also have higher rates of dying."
Sorry to be a stickler Harold, but the rate of dying is the same for everyone: 100%.
Based on its findings, the center recommended that communities offer incentives to increase the number of grocery stores and produce vendors and that they limit the number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Further, it endorsed a requirement for providing nutritional information on fast-food menus and menu boards.
Let's say you forced McDonalds to offer steamed broccoli as an alternative to fries. Do you think anyone would buy it? No, reader you don't.
But do-gooder activists do. It's a mental flaw peculiar to liberals, who have a knack for missing the obvious.
The number and location of supermarkets and restaurants is determined by market researchers who study demographic data to find out where their customers live. Then they open for business.
Liberals see it the other way around: businesses "target" innocent citizens and coerce them.
So if the do-gooders (who always seem to know what's good for all of us) can impose their will on the public by limiting fast food joints and opening a salad bar on every corner, people would eat better and lose weight. And we'd have a perfect world, tra la la.
Not. During the local TV report on the story, they interviewed a guy, probably 28, in his car at a Jack-in-the-Box drive-up window. He said he came there every day on his way home from work because, "It's easier than buying food and cookin' it." He never indicated that finding a grocery store was a strain, just cooking what they sell.
Looking at the CCPHA's web site, it's clear they have good intentions. They were instrumental in getting public schools to stop selling sodas to students. I agree with that. That was a case where the government -- the public school district-- was selling crap to kids to make money. Advocacy helps reform government. This is good. But meddling, via law, with the private excercise of personal choice, however bad those choices may be, is another.
Liberals seldom understand the distinction.
a few thoughts while watching carrie fisher kvetch
by Burt Prelutsky
My wife wanted to see Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show, so there we were the other night in the mezzanine of the Geffen Playhouse, while on stage Princess Leia, of “Star Wars” fame, bellyached about the hardships of growing up as the privileged daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
After a while, my mind, as it is wont to do when I’m forced to sit in one spot for too long, began to wander. And once my mind gets it into its mind to stretch its chubby little legs, there’s no telling where it will wind up.
For instance, what idiot came up with the notion that sending a kid to his bedroom was the appropriate punishment if he behaved like a brat? The average kid’s bedroom is a modern day Garden of Eden, but with lots more toys and gadgets, and one less snake. While I can’t swear to it, I have a hunch that the idea was first hatched by that eminent child psychologist, Dr. Brer Rabbit.
Somewhere between Ms. Fisher’s complaining about step-fathers numbers two and three, I decided that any college football player who scores a touchdown and then strikes that corny Heisman Trophy pose in the end zone should automatically be out of the running for the award.
Carrie was just beginning to make jokes about the awful hairdo she was saddled with in “Star Wars” when I found myself thinking that it’s probably the perks, and not the job itself, that makes being a U.S. senator the slightest bit bearable. I mean, I’ve worked in enough offices to know that all it takes is one creep in the work place to put a pall on even the best of jobs. Well, imagine, if you will, what it must be like to spend day after day, year after year, with such long-winded gas bags as Schumer, Kerry, Boxer, Clinton, Biden and Byrd!
Just as Carrie started dumping on one of her ex-husbands, Paul Simon, I found myself thinking that if only Albert Einstein hadn’t beaten me to it, I would have inevitably come up with Prelutsky’s theory of relativity. Quite frankly, I don’t know how it was that the professor got so much mileage out of his discovery. Maybe Einstein just had a better P.R. person than we realized. I mean, time is obviously relative. Any kid knows that days stretch on interminably in the week leading up to Christmas. For this they hand out Nobel Prizes?!
Or take doctors, for example. I bet time just zips along for those guys. However, if you’re cooling your heels in the waiting room or, worse yet, sitting in an examining room in a paper gown, cooling your tush, time crawls along like an arthritic snail. Time has actually been known to come to a complete standstill during certain Will Ferrell movies, and even to move backwards when you’re waiting for some knucklehead to finally pull out of a parking space at the local mall.
Which brings me to the show, itself. First off, one can’t help feeling that you’re caught up in a peculiar time warp when a person spends the better part of two hours either talking about a 50-year-old Hollywood scandal involving her folks and Elizabeth Taylor, or a 30-year-old science fiction movie. But, for me, the thing I disliked the most about the evening were her gratuitous cracks about George W. Bush. Now you should understand that, even though I’m a Conservative or perhaps because I am, I no longer take cracks about the president to heart. Ever since he decided to be more concerned with safeguarding Iraqi mosques and trying to win the hearts and minds of the heartless and mindless Islamic fascists, he lost my support. I wanted to see Falloujah wiped off the map, but he obviously feared how that would play on CNN and Al Jazerra. It certainly didn’t help our relationship when his approach to illegal aliens was to roll out the red carpet or when he out-spent Clinton on federal entitlement programs or when he failed to use his bully pulpit to promote a right-wing agenda. By the time his Justice Department let Sandy Berger off with a slap on the wrist, instead of twenty years hard labor in Leavenworth, you knew better than to invite us to the same dinner party.
However, all that being said, if an allegedly funny person, someone such as Carrie Fisher, is going to get laughs at his expense, one expects her to do it with wit and some style. Instead, she merely flashed his photo on the screen a couple of times, as if it were a Pavlovian exercise for the predominantly left-wing audience, and made some puerile remarks about the man. It was as if she were merely displaying her credentials, reassuring us all that she’s one of us.
Well, maybe if I were also a liberal, it wouldn’t have annoyed me quite so much. Still, I’d like to think that even if I were an ACLU card-carrying fruitcake who thought the sun rose on Ted Kennedy in the east and set on Barbara Streisand in the west, it might give me pause to realize that a middle-aged woman who makes her living ridiculing her still-living parents, who has herself been divorced twice, has a daughter by a homosexual husband, been a drug addict, an alcohol abuser, and been institutionalized as a certifiable loon, shares my politics!
from a reader, commenting on "what troubles you, babe?"
In the book "Watership Down," the rabbits go to a warren where they meet some strange inhabitants. These strange rabbits make art and have strange poetry.
These strange rabbits are well-fed and act embarrassed if someone who is missing from the group is discussed.
Fiver, one of the travelling rabbits, comes to understand the poetry and leaves the warren for it only brings death. He comes to see that these strange rabbits have gone from being afraid of the farmer to aquiesing in their own destruction. The farmer feeds them well and only takes a few with the snare.
The Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man," can also be seen in a similar light. The aliens lay out what they are going to do in their book though humans don't understand and decide to put off translating it until, for the main character, it is too late.
The Jihadists lay out what they want to do in the open but there are few who really want to translate it into what they really mean. Perhaps these who could warn us are like the strange rabbits, not worrying about it as long as they aren't the ones being caught in the snare.
saturday, january 20 2007
even the weather channel gets political
laugh of the day
Cockroach versus weatherman. Video here. Did Chris Tucker change careers?
“If you keep serving people crap, they’re eventually going to think it’s a meal,” Rosie touted.
Glass houses, Ms. Chubby Cheeks, glass houses. Bray like an ass, and eventually people think you've got talent. Or worse, insight.
“To make fun of someone’s physical appearance, is this what America thinks is entertainment?” Rosie challenged.
That's rich coming from someone who once called Rudy Guiliani "the village idiot" and compared his looks to a "human Pez dispenser."
Maybe she was just jealous of what she saw on this video.
sandy berger can, sandy berger can
The winner of the "Sandy Berger Lies" parody contest, lyrics and audio. Best bet is to scroll down, start the song playing and read along. Then spend the next 24 hours getting the tune out of your head.
how arafat got away with murder
Twenty years before he joined Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin in Washington for that famous handshake--and proceeded to become Clinton's most frequent foreign guest at the White House--Yasser Arafat planned and directed the murder of an American ambassador and his deputy chief of mission.
From the first moment of the deadly operation, which took place in Khartoum on March 1, 1973, the State Department possessed direct evidence of Arafat's responsibility, yet neither the State Department nor any other government agency made public its knowledge. Indeed, as recently as the summer of 2002, the State Department denied that such evidence existed. Across seven administrations, the State Department hewed to silence and denial.
iran's finger pointing
As Iran's economy tanks -- 17% inflation, widespread unemployment, sliding currency etc. -- the blame game is on. Amir Tehari describes the two schools of thought in Iran:
ON economic policy, the movement has always been divided between two schools.
One school is called sazendegi or "constructionist." Its theorists claim that the Khomeinist system can't survive in an atmosphere of tension with the outside world and must find ways of attracting partners while neutralizing its enemies.
Taking Communist China as a model, the constructionists argue that the outside world, especially Western powers, dScott Johnsonon't care about any political system's domestic aspects as long as it poses no threat to them and offers them business opportunities. Like China's regime, which has managed to survive and prosper, the Khomeinist system must find a place in global trade, thus giving the major powers a stake in its survival.
A powerful class of business-mullahs has always advocated the Chinese model. They put their ideas to the test in the early 1990s under President Hashemi Rafsanjani, himself the richest man in Iran. Having ended the war with Iraq, Rafsanjani opened Iran's markets, and presided over a mini-boom that some still remember as the "golden age" of the Islamic Republic.
Opposing the Chinese model from the start were those who won the sobriquet of "The North Koreans of Islam." Their chief theorist was the late Muhammad-Ali Raja'i who briefly served as president in 1981 before he was assassinated.
Rajai's catchword was khod-kafa'i or "self-sufficiency." A genuine Islamic society, he argued, will be impossible while the country is exposed to global commerce dominated by "infidel" powers. With the slogan: "Iranian! Buy Iranian!" he argued that the people of Iran must start with the assumption that they need nothing. Once that "zero base" was established, they should then decide what are the goods and services they can't do without in the context of an Islamic society based on frugality, mutual help and a minimization of needs.
According to Raja'i, the goods and services produced by "infidel" powers, designed to meet the desires of their own populations, don't always meet the requirements of Islamic life.
The problem with the second school is that the Iranian masses dropped out of it years ago. They favor a more western Iran.
Ali G. Scotten, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, recently visited Iran and wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor:
'What do Americans think about us?" asked an old lady on the bus. That was the question most often asked of me during my three-month stay in Iran last year. Messages to the American people were also common. "Tell the Americans that we're not crazy, scary people," she continued. Her comment came after she and others had been dancing in the aisle (with curtains drawn so the police wouldn't see) while the rest of us – along with the driver – clapped as we raced down the highway. So maybe they are crazy. But in a good way.
Many Westerners are afraid to come to the Middle East nowadays, and understandably so. But it's at times like these when face-to-face contact is most crucial. As I traveled alone through the Iranian countryside conducting anthropological research, I took note of local opinions about US-Iran relations. I was heartened by what I heard.
Beyond mere hospitality, authentic affection for America
However, I was soon put at ease. After speaking with numerous Iranians from all walks of life – lower and upper class, religious and secular, Westernized and traditional, government- affiliated and civilian – I became convinced that this vilified member of the "Axis of Evil" is actually one of the most welcoming places for Americans to travel in the Middle East. Indeed, all Iranians with whom I spoke shared a positive opinion of Ameri- cans.
Iranians don't hate America. On the contrary, many of them envy Americans to an unrealistic degree and think of the US as a paradise, a land where no problems exist.
helping spread poverty equally
With the Democrats back in power in Congress and with the 2008 election campaign already upon us, you'll be hearing much more about "income inequality." This is a major issue for "progressives" (when you hear that word, think "socialists") like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Populism is back in fashion.
By populism, I mean the exploitation of the uninformed, angry impulses and unfiltered passions of the masses. That anger and resentment has historically been directed at the usual villains and cardboard stereotypes: bankers, insurance companies, "big pharma" (that means drug companies), agri-business, "the military-industrial complex," free trade, free markets and, of course, "the rich." This mentality feeds on conspiracy theories and simplistic fantasies about the way the world works. It seeks to impale the minority of "haves" on the pitchforks of the more numerous "have nots." When you do the political calculus, it can seem like a seductive winning formula for many politicians.
Complaints of income inequality are nothing new. Will Durant traces its history to ancient Rome. He observes that: "The concentration of wealth is a natural and inevitable result of the concentration of abilities in a minority of men and regularly recurs in history . . . Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it."
forty-six years ago today
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge and more.
Yes, the world is very different now. Alas, so is the Democrat party. Bush's second inaugural echoed this speech in many ways, and he was mocked by Democrats (and some Republicans) for it.
one democrat who remembers jfk
...is Joe Lieberman, who was technically bounced from the Democrat party this summer.
"Iraq is the central part of a larger and ultimately longer-term conflict in the Middle East between moderates and extremists, between democrats and dictators, between Iran- and Iraq-sponsored terrorism and the rest of the Middle East. . . . Are we going to surrender to them, surrender that country to them, and encourage people like them to be in authority and power all over the Middle East and in a better position to strike us again?" asks Mr. Lieberman. If only Livy had his quill today.
These are blunt words, and quite a few more flow from Mr. Lieberman throughout a lively interview in his office this past week. A born gentleman, he refrains from lobbing any pot shots at opponents. But he made clear that he felt Washington had been ducking an honest debate about the war and the consequences of abandoning it, hiding instead behind "cosmetic" resolutions and rhetoric. Four years into the conflict, Mr. Lieberman thinks there is value in remembering again why it is we're in Iraq.
This is well-trod ground for a man who supported not just the first Gulf War, but sponsored the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act that aimed to topple the regime. In 2003 "we did something that was right and courageous, which was to overthrow Saddam Hussein," says Mr. Lieberman. "He was a genocidal dictator, he tried to assassinate a former American president, he used chemical weapons [on his] . . . own people . . . He was a hater of the United States." Saddam was a danger, not to mention a barrier to creating a democratic Middle East that ceases to be a threat to the U.S.
This is why the senator remains unmoved today by those colleagues who have abandoned the cause, lamenting that they were "deceived" about the existence of WMD or that they have "lost confidence in the leadership of the president." Says Mr. Lieberman: "If you still think, not only that the original purpose of going in was right, but that how it ends will have a significant effect on American security for a generation or more to come, then you don't back away." And that, he says, counts even in the face of faltering public opinion. "I think we are elected to lead. . . . Americans are understandably responding to the carnage they see on TV every night, and what we have to urge them is not to surrender to the people who are causing that carnage."
the price of good intentions
by J.C. Phillips
In her book Open Wide the Freedom Gates, Dorothy Height, one of the doyennes of the civil rights movements of the '50s and '60s, describes a meeting wherein women of the Mississippi delta talked openly about the effects of certain federal programs on their lives. Discussing the minimum wage, one woman is quoted as saying, “When minimum wage came in, our hours were shortened. So now instead of more adequate pay, we do double the work in half the time.” It is noteworthy that this meeting was not sponsored by a republican club, but the National Council of Negro Women and was moderated by Fannie Lou Hamer, another elder of the movement. Neither was the woman quoted some ivory tower intellectual or partisan gun slinger. She was one of the real-life people actually affected by minimum wage laws as opposed to so many of us that merely talk about such things in the abstract. In very plain language, the woman in Height’s story gives testimony that economic laws remain true, and their effect on the lives of people are real regardless of the pronouncements of politicians.
Amidst promises to lift legions of low wage workers out of poverty, the 110th Congress recently passed an increase in the minimum wage, a bill the president has indicated he will sign providing there are protections for business owners included in the legislation. Let us put aside for the moment the fact that the overwhelming majority of minimum wage earners do not live in poverty, do not raise families on their salaries and do not work full-time. As the Mississippi woman’s story attests, a minimum wage increase is more likely to actually harm those it is intended to help. We may wish it differently, but the laws of economics, which are neither cruel nor kind, say differently. Federal and state governments are perfectly able to set the price of labor. They are, however, unable to change the VALUE of labor and business owners, like all consumers, seek value for their money. As Height’s story demonstrates, a job whose real value has been overpriced by minimum wage laws will be eliminated, performed by those pricing their services appropriately or absorbed by other workers who must now justify their increase in wage with an increase in productivity.
It is ironic that this nugget of Mississippi delta wisdom now seems lost on a generation of Blacks that now demands minimum and living wage laws that invariably end up locking low skilled workers i.e. young black men out of work.
If past is prologue, sometime in March a major newspaper will publish a report describing the deepening plight of young Black men. The story will detail a list of afflictions including incarceration rates, lack of education and employment. What the story will not discuss is the impact minimum wage laws have on Black unemployment rates or how Black men on the margins are now in competition for low skilled jobs with illegal labor that is not burdened by federal or state wage laws.
In 1954, the unemployment rate for both black and white teenagers was 14 percent. In the decades that followed, the minimum wage increased sharply and the Black teen unemployment rate followed suit. After a brief dip in the 1980’s, the Black teen unemployment rate currently stands at 42 percent.
Congressmen will continue to make impassioned speeches about how raising the minimum wage will be the hand that lifts the poor from destitution. More than likely, it will mean continued unemployment for black men living on the margins, fewer prospects for entry level employment and a hobbling of the opportunity to build job skills and an employment record that will lead to better paying jobs in the future. It will mean men marginally educated with few or no skills resort to the street hustle to make ends meet and end up in the prison system.
That is the more realistic result of minimum wage increases. None of us wishes it so, but as an anonymous Mississippi woman made plain in 1965, there are real life consequences to all our good intentions.
friday, january 19 2007
beginning of the end of the world
It's been a good run for investors, too. With lower taxes, the economy has grown faster. So stock market returns have been higher.
According to data from Ibbotson Associates, the real (after-inflation) compound annual return of the S&P 500 over those 13 years was 8.2%, compared to an average of only 7.0% for all the years prior.
Wait! Stop right there! No nasty emails, please! Let me anticipate your objections.
You're probably saying, so what -- the difference between 8.2% and 7.0% is trivial. Oh, really? Suppose you have some money to deposit in the bank. There are two banks, right next door. One pays 8.2% interest, and one pays 7.0% interest. Which one are you going to choose?
You'd better pick the one that pays 8.2%, especially if you're a long-term investor. After a 60-year lifetime of investing, thanks to the magic of compounding you'll have twice as much in your account if you get that extra 1.2% per year interest.
And you're probably saying that over those 13 years we not only didn't raise taxes, we cut them. So what about the government budget? How can we possibly get along without those tax revenues?
We can get along better, actually. In 1993, before the 13 years of no tax hikes began, the federal deficit was 3.9% of GDP. Today, after 13 years of tax cuts, it's about 2.5%.
And back in 1993 the cumulative federal debt was 49% of GDP. Now it's only 39%.
So let's see here. We cut taxes for 13 years. The stock market performed better. The deficit went down. The debt went down.
So what's the stupidest thing we could possibly do now? That's right (all at once, now): raise taxes.
And that's just what the House did yesterday. It's the beginning of the end of the world.
The new moralists of the left have erected a secular religion as fundamentalist and rigid as any in its belief system. Those who understand the etiology and purpose of postmodern rhetoric will recognize that the agenda of this book is to promulgate (whether consciously or unconsciously) the same old tired anti-capitalistic, anti-consumer slogans of socialism and communism under the new trappings of multiculturalism, political correctness, and radical environmentalism
(three of the four pillars of the 21st century's socialist revival )
It just so happens, that these tenets represent three of the four pillars that are the foundation of an evolving epistemological, ethical and political strategy that the socialist remnants in the world have developed and are using to prevent their ideology from entering the dustbin of history.
Because, even Karl Marx believed that wealth was a good thing. He was only delusional in thinking that socialism would be able to deliver the goods more efficiently and "fairly" than capitalism. Reality proved him terribly and catastrophically incorrect.
It is said that the only way to make a small fortune as a Marxist is to start with a large one--and this truth has been proven repeated all over the world where Marxist ideas have been applied to national economies.
Thus, Marx's decendents have been faced with a terrible ethical dilemma. Their ideology of choice is complete crap and is unable to deliver any of the material goods it promises--so what to do? Simple! You make one tiny little ethical change, and instead of touting that wealth is good, you convince people that wealth--and everything that is necessary to create it--is bad!
Read it all.
joke of the day
From Maggie's Farm: His and Hers Diaries.
mercedes benz picks on blondes
how to topple the mullahs
There is only one approach that will get the attention of the Tehran’s revolutionary and clerical leaders; and this is the one approach that Baker and Hamilton – and the foreign policy Establishment - have rejected: support for regime change.
This is the one approach that the United States and its allies have never tried. Short of an all-out U.S. military assault on Iran, it is the only approach that can avoid a future Persian Gulf region dominated by a radical Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons. Saying pretty-please, as the Baker-Hamilton group proposed, just isn’t going to work.
Empowering Iranians to change their regime will be costly. From having worked with opponents to the Iranian regime over the past twenty years, and studied the requirements of opposition groups currently working inside Iran, I believe the United States should be prepared to commit a minimum of $300 million over an initial six month period if we are to have any hope of a successful outcome.
will big baloney admit its mistakes?
One of the more tiresome media tropes vis-a-vis Bush is that he refuses to admit mistakes. That's bunk. And when's the last time you heard Pinch Sulzberger, the twerp who runs the New York Times because of family ties, admit mistakes? Or CNN?
Critics of the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq have long demanded that he admit his mistakes. But they have not admitted their own past mistakes, much less admit the potentially catastrophic mistake they will make in the future if they make it impossible to sustain military operations there.
Critics have been proved wrong repeatedly in their claims that elections could not be held in Iraq or a government formed there. Iraqi voter turnout, even in the face of terrorist threats, has exceeded voter turnout in the United States.
During the 2004 presidential election campaign, John Kerry warned that the Bush administration had plans to impose a military draft immediately after being re-elected.
Two years later, there is no sign of a military draft on the horizon. The only people who have been advocating a military draft have been Democrats like Charles Rangel — transparently as part of their class warfare political strategy of claiming that "the poor" are fighting and dying while "the rich" stay home and enjoy life. No facts back up this claim.
Miscalculations have been the rule, not the exception, in wars going back through the centuries. The miscalculations in the Iraq war have not been military but political.
Saddam Hussein's army was defeated quickly, decisively, and with far lower American casualty rates than in previous wars. Clearly there were ample numbers of American troops to accomplish that mission.
President Bush was right to listen to the military as regards the conduct of the war. But perhaps he should have sought the advice of police chiefs as regards maintaining law and order.
For that we did not have enough troops in Iraq and — more important — the troops we did have were under too many politically imposed restrictions. Put bluntly, they needed to tell the many private militias in Iraq to drop their guns or get killed.
thursday, january 18 2007
art buchwald, rip
how not to do it
Video of how not to drive on icy streets. Pinball wizards, all.
File this away for the next time a Democrat complains that Bush "politicized" the war on terror.
On Dec. 5, Newsweek magazine touted an interview with then-incoming House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes as an "exclusive." And for good reason.
"In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq," the story began, Mr. Reyes "said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a 'stepped up effort to dismantle the militias.' "
"We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq," the Texas Democrat said to the surprise of many, "I would say 20,000 to 30,000."
Then came President Bush's expected announcement last week, virtually matching Mr. Reyes' recommendation and argument word-for-word -- albeit the president proposed only 21,500 troops.
Wouldn't you know, hours after Mr. Bush announced his proposal, Mr. Reyes told the El Paso Times that such a troop buildup was unthinkable.
cure for cancer?
It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.
It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.
Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.
...writes about the comparison of Iraq to Vietnam:
Nothing is easier than to second-guess decisions made in wartime. Anyone who has bothered to read the history of wars knows that very few wars have been without disastrous surprises, often on both sides.
It is not that the people in charge are stupid. Too many things are unpredictable in war, despite politicians who demand timetables, as if running a war is like running a train.
We can now look at the Iraq war with hindsight, as no President or Secretary of Defense could when making decisions that had to be made. Still, it can be useful to determine with hindsight what went wrong, if only to avoid similar mistakes in the future and to see what needs to be changed in the present.
Despite all the politicians who were demanding more troops a year ago, and who have turned around and are now demanding that no more troops be sent to Iraq, the purely military aspects of the war have gone better than in most wars.
We have learned the hard way, notably in the Vietnam war, that military victories are not enough. American troops scored a big victory on the battlefield in 1968 that was presented in the American media as a big defeat — and that began the political unravelling of the Vietnam war.
Many in the media seem to think that they did something noble, to get us out of an "unwinnable" war. But the war was unwinnable only because they made it so politically. Even after American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, South Vietnam was able to hold off the invaders from North Vietnam.
missed cinema: devil's playground
Think of it as an extended spring break, in which the kids party hearty, smoke cigarettes, smoke pot (or worse), drive cars, listen to popular music, fool around with the opposite sex etc. After living on their low tech farms, everything else seems like Vegas.
After this "Rumspringa," which means "round around" in Pennsylvania Dutch and can last five years, they given the choice of becoming baptized in their faith, renouncing the world according to their community standards. The documentary "Devil's Playground" captures this rite of passage as it focuses on a few kids as they struggle to decide their futures.
At 73-minutes, it never lags.
In case you're wondering, 90 percent of the kids opt to remain Amish.
using youtube to advance science
This is cool: a team using distributed computing to solve the protein folding problem has put out a promotional video asking for your unused computing cycles…and along the way they explain exactly what it is they are doing.
which are you: tightwad or spendthrift?
Carnegie-Mellon has a survey for you to take. Note: you have to wait for results.
letter from a gold star family
Susan Gertson passed this along:
As parents of fallen soldier, Sgt Patrick Tainsh, my husband and I allowed CNN to come to our home on Wednesday night to interview us after the President's speech. (We also met with President Bush at Ft Benning on Thursday) My husband, USMC Sgt Maj (ret) and I support our President and understand the importance of winning this war.
Upon his preparing to leave, although we knew the answer, my husband ask the reporter.,Bob Franken, why more negative than positive was shouted by the media (which is causing lack of understanding to the public of why we must win this war)...Franken, standing near our son's folded flag and Silver Star said " Where no house is on fire, there is no news, Where it bleeds it leads."
And when I replied to the reporter, "you mean you're willing to report negativity that feeds the insurgency which emboldens them and causes death to our troops and can cause death to us," he said
"Not our problem, we just report the fires. It's a democracy."
Well, Michael, now I'm reporting this soulless idiot to you.
I hope if Franken and all media persons who "feed death" are ever allowed into heaven, Patrick and all our other fallen give them all a good "... kicking" since it is the soldier that gives the media rights they take carelessly to the danger zone. And all the negative that is reported is adding enormous weight to the grief our military families carry.
insurgencies rarely win
Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different. Now that it finally has a winning strategy, the Bush administration is in a race against time to beat the insurgency before the public’s patience finally wears out.
The cold, hard truth about the Bush administration’s strategy of “surging” additional U.S. forces into Iraq is that it could work. Insurgencies are rarely as strong or successful as the public has come to believe. Iraq’s various insurgent groups have succeeded in creating a lot of chaos. But they’re likely not strong enough to succeed in the long term. Sending more American troops into Iraq with the aim of pacifying Baghdad could provide a foundation for their ultimate defeat, but only if the United States does not repeat its previous mistakes.
wednesday, january 17 2007
global warming snow in malibu
Yep, Kanan Road is closed (4 pm) because of snow.
corrupt news culture in culture wars
The Times got their numbers from the Census Bureau's new American Community Survey, which surveyed "117 million women over the age of 15." Wait a minute. "Over the age of 15"?
Is it really a surprise that millions of 15-20 year-olds are "living without a spouse"? It shouldn't be. In addition to several cultural factors (some of which the Times touched on), the age of consent in the United States averages just over 16 years of age. In several states, including California, it's 18.
James Lileks has some thoughts on this.
Since the story’s methodology is fubar, what’s the point? Lay some snark on marriage, add another questionable statistic to the pool of Things Smart People Know To Be So, give aid and comfort to the readers who see the prospects of marriage slipping away for good, and erode, ever so gently, the stature of a venerable but quaintly outdated institution. I imagine the tone of the piece would be different if a majority of men divorced their lives to throw some hose in the trophy-babe pool, and pronounced their new freedom from responsibility and duty a great revelation. Sure, my kids don’t get to come home for Christmas and have Mom and Dad and the old ornaments and traditions, but the other night I slept with a 20-year old on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this.
Is it just me? Am I nuts? Or would a Times piece by this author about surging rates of marriage – especially among the young – somehow communicate a sense of dread and regret, of oppurtunities lost?
But that’s not the most instructive thing about the story. No. The real story reflects on the newspaper industry, and it comes after the story’s conclusion.
Ariel Sabar, Brenda Goodman and Maureen Balleza contributed reporting.
It took four people to write and report that piece. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a tale about ruthless cutbacks in the newsroom.
no stopping this insanity now
On the first day of the trial of Lewis Libby for a specious crime that was all that could be scraped out of an abortive investigatoon, we turn to the trusty headline writers of the New York Times newsroom daisy chain for: Trial Is Set to Begin for Former Cheney Adviser. The Church Lady in our soul says, "Well, isn't that spe-cial." The keyword is, of course, "Cheney." But you already spotted that.
There's still a chance for justice. Even more, there's a chance for turning this raging bore of a trial into real entertainment.
Mike Nifong, the Duke Rape Bozocutor, has kicked himself to the curb so let's bring him in. After all, now that Patrick J. Fitzgerald, once know as "top federal prosecutor in Chicago," has disgraced himself and his office, it can only go lower with Nifong in first chair.
With Nifong, the nation can at long last not know the truth about the whole Valerie Plame Affair. After all, if it was an affair there should be some evidence of such. So can we not know, once and for all, if the Federal investigooners in this matter found any traces of Robert Novak's, Karl Rove's, Lewis Libby's, Vice-President Cheney's, or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's" DNA on Valerie Plame?
thought for the day
Robert D. Kaplan, in The Atlantic:
And yet, as Thucydides would have been the first to note, reality cannot be reduced to neat equations, whether moral or analytical. The world as it exists often rejects rationality, spare narratives, even truth. If we have learned anything during this age of speedier and increasingly numerous interactions between peoples with different historical experiences, it is that facts matter less than perceptions, especially perceptions informed by raw emotions. It is what people believe that is crucial, not what they actually know.
What is needed, therefore, beyond guiding philosophical principles, is a vivid appreciation of just what’s out there, in the form of the myths, passions, and irrationalities that in any age are central to decision making and, in a larger sense, to the human spirit itself. Romance, rather than being antithetical to realism, is a necessary component of it.
Yesterday, the morning after Fox's television show "24" stunned viewers by exploding a suitcase nuke in Valencia, MSNBC had talking heads discussing whether the scene would "help President Bush." Their concern was that depicting an awful, but fake, terror attack might get people thinking, "Hmm, that Bush, he might have something there with all that terrror stuff."
And trust me, the notion that Americans might take terror seriously terrifies many on the Left. Consider this:
The menace of global terrorism has been labeled the greatest threat to western civilization since communism and yet swimming pools, peanuts and lost deer kill more Americans every single year. Why are our governments facilitating the terrorist's agenda by hyping a peril that simply doesn't exist?
Got that? The terror threat doesn't exist. Granted, that was from a loony left website.
But even The New Republic, one of the more reasoned liberal publications, had a story last month entitled, "The Case for Fear." It was a survey of two books, "Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry" and "What's Wrong With Terrorism."
Consider a few numbers. Fewer than three thousand people died in the attacks of September 11, but about forty thousand people die each year in automobile accidents. Even in 2001, Americans were fifteen times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than as a result of a terrorist attack; and seven times more likely to die of alcohol-related causes; and five times more likely to die of HIV; and five times more likely to die as a result of accidental poisoning or exposure to toxic substances.
How interesting to see the Left use traffic deaths to measure risk. Attack Machine has been comparing the 42,000 annual traffic deaths to the media's body count of military dead for three years (161,000 on American roads versus 3000 in Iraq.)
We tolerate road death as an acceptable risk, just as our military tolerates the risk of death in serving their country. We could reduce the risk of auto deaths to zero: just ask the Amish in Pennsylvania. And we could reduce military deaths by never fighting, but at what cost to national security?
Furthermore, calculating the cost of 9/11 in terms of 3000 deaths understates its significance. 9/11 dealt a body blow to the American economy, one it withstood with help from the Bush administration. The airlines immediately starting bleeding red ink, as did all aspects of the economy that rely on people and goods moving freely. Modern economies flourish on "flow" -- people producing, trading etc. 9/11 temporarily halted that flow.
Back to the New Republic:
If people expressed the same level of concern about a similarly small risk in the environmental domain, it would be natural to wonder whether we were witnessing a grotesque overreaction. John Mueller believes that we are, and that the "terrorism industry" is responsible. In his view, that industry, which includes the American government, has essentially been doing the terrorists' business, because it has taken steps to scare people beyond all reason.
Terrorism industry -- ah, so it's not jihadis we need fear, but exploitive capitalists and government puppetmasters.
...Terrorists seek to make people believe that they "cannot be safe," even if their capacity to inflict harm is sharply limited. Mueller believes that it is not terrorism, but the terrorism industry, that has made Americans so fearful, and so willing to believe that they are engaged in fighting not a form of international crime but a never-ending "war."
Sometimes you have to step back, connect the dots (the string of terror attacks on the West since 1979), and listen to our enemies. Bush critics are forever sneering that Bush refuses to "talk to our enemies." Maybe that's because Bush is listening to them and heeding their threats.
There are enough deranged Islamic jihadis to do serious harm to the USA. Consider the number of suicide bombers who every day express their commitment to the cause in Iraq. What if they were here?
In 2000, the so-called Millennium Bomber, who planned to take out LAX, was caught (by an alert border agent) as he crossed the Canadian border. Are we to believe that no more such attempts are in the works? Or worse?
Radical Islam is not the concoction of some "terrorism industry." It's real. Europe is becoming more Islamic as each year passes. Most Muslims are not terrorists, but more and more are settling into "dish villages" where they tune in Al Jazeera and worse via satellite for a daily dose of anti-western propaganda. France has been fighting a low-level intifada for more than a year, sustaining 2500 casualties among its police forces in 2006 alone. And then there's Iran.
Has this terrorist industry "taken steps to scare people beyond all reason"? I can't see it. Immediately after 9/11 President Bush encouraged Americans to resume their normal daily lives, to go to the mall etc. For this he was ridiculed for asking people to fight terror by shopping.
Where is the fright in that?
Compare that with Leftwing fear mongering over:
- Global warming -- it will kill us all unless we mend our ways, and fast!
- The police state that's taking over America. Huh? Democrat Sandy Berger gets a walk for stealing and destroying classified documents and Republican Scooter Libby goes on trial for allegedly lying to the FBI about details of a non-crime.
- The coming theocracy.
- Genetically modified foods. Here the Euro-ninnies set the bar by fretting about "Frankenfood" while puffing on their cigarettes.
When I finish this, I plan to make a cup of espresso. My non-fat coffee creamer comes with a foil security seal. It was not always like this-- packaging was not always tamper proof. But in 1982, someone poisoned a number of Tylenol bottles and returned them to drugstore shelves. Seven people died. A small number.
Yet from that day forward, packages for food and medicine have been designed,and mandated by law, to prevent more such deaths. Was that the terror industry at work? Or just common sense?
tuesday, january 16 2007
rocks in her head
It didn’t take police long to crack the case of a Framingham woman reportedly hiding a foil-wrapped rock of cocaine in her ear.
Gina Drohan, 42, told police she had no idea how the contraband got crammed in her ear, police spokesman Lt. Paul Shastany said.
“She had put the foil ball inside of her ear to hide it,” said Shastany. “They (the officers) retrieved it and there’s a $50 rock of crack in it. Maybe she thought it would look like jewelry.”
how to lose your way in 100 hours
If you're like me, you may have lost sight of what the Dems were doing in their first 100 hours while you were paying attention to all the troop surge talk. So, let's go over it, lest you miss out on the entertainment.
People tend to read things they know they'll like, or that reinforce existing beliefs. You can dig yourself deep into a rut this way. Long ago, a college professor inspired me to maintain what she called the "first three books" rule. It's a simple game. Often enough to challenge yourself, you walk into the library, stand in front of the nonfiction new books, close your eyes and touch the shelves.
No cheating, you can't stand in front of your favorite section, the one where you know you'll find books of interest to you. Now open your eyes, check out and READ the three books nearest your hand.
Maybe you'll end up finding out more than you really need to know about the economics of wheat production in the nineteenth century. Or you're a dedicated hater of couch potatoes and big-money sports, and you have to plow through an autobiography of some overpaid, self-inflated jock. You could be a Christian with no intellectual curiosity about other religions, and find yourself holding a 782 page history of Buddhist influences in Europe.
Tough. Life is full of injustices. And the biggest fight is always the struggle to manage our own minds. Keep your brain agile and resilient when the going is easy, or when hard times come you'll be trying to flex out of your mental chains as well as fighting the external enemies.
She also has a great trick for getting your kids to read good stuff.
gore effect by proxy
Country singer Kathy Mattea - one of Al Gore’s climate thetans - recently delivered Al’s message to a Utah crowdlet:
Mattea, one of hundreds of people enlisted by Gore to give presentations like the one featured in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” spoke to a crowd of several dozen people at the Orem City Council chambers, asking people to take action against global warming.
A man died in Washington County, homeless people were turned away from a packed shelter in St. George and records fell across the state Sunday as an arctic cold front settled over Utah.
In all, 16 record-low minimum and 16 record-low maximum temperatures were set or met.
Meanwhile, in California: “This is one of those freezes that, unfortunately, we’ll all remember.”
upside down (again)
The Bush administration has been quietly choking off critical financing for Iran as it struggles to repair and modernize its crumbling oil infrastructure. Oil wealth is the source of Iran's power, which has been in the hands of the malicious mullahs since 1979. It's a smart tactic that involves no invasion, no bombing.
Of course, choking off financing requires third parties to turn down lucrative business with Iran, to put principle over profit. One German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, recently complained:
"USA Pressures German Firms Out of Iran
The USA is putting firms under massive pressure worldwide to stop doing business with Iran. With that economic isolation they want to force the country to stop its controversial atomic program. Especially German firms are hard hit by that, indeed they traditionally do good business in the region. The latest case comes from the banking world.
BERLIN. After massive pressure from the USA, Commerzbank has now announced that it will end its processing of dollar-business for Iran at the end of January. Commerzbank boss Klaus-Peter Mueller has already publicly complained about the pressure from the Americans in his position as President of the Federal Union of German Banks."
German media typically depict the USA as the land of soulless, rapacious capitalists. Yet here they are whining about doing "traditionally good business" in Iran.
Sorry, but anything that prolongs the mullah's regime cannot be good. Unless of course, your only measure of good is Deutsche Marks.
monday, january 15 2007
ap doesn't know the history of kyoto treaty
big brother apple
Apple makes innovative, beautifully designed (at least on the outside) products. Apple also makes saps of certain people, those devoted souls who follow the company like a cult*.
But they don't know they're saps, and that makes them very fun to annoy. I've derived much inducing Mac-heads to work themselves in a religious tizzy over their brand of computer. For these people, Apple is not just a product, it's a badge of hipness.
Apple knows this and exploits it shamelessly. Thus the ad campaign aligning Mac buyers with Einstein, Martin Luther King, Thomas Edison, John Lennon and other notables who Think Different. Oh, Steve, you do flatter us so!
Conflating a product with coolness is no Apple innovation. Big Tobacco did that for years.
The most famous Apple ad, a great one, was the 1984 Big Brother commercial, positioning the Mac as the computer for people who aren't corporate drones.
Apple gouged its charmed customers with outrageous margins, but that didn't faze them, although it nearly put the company out of business as non-cultists noticed the price differential. They promised battery life that never came close, and that didn't faze them. Now
Apple is starting to look a lot like Big Brother, as this post from Boing Boing notes:
iPhone - the roach motel business model
Randall Stross has a great op-ed in today's New York Times about how Apple's iPhone comes chock-full of DRM that will restrict your freedom and your consumer choice. He makes the great point that although Apple claims it adds its DRM (which locks you into buying Apple products) at the behest of the music industry, that many of the copyright holders whose work Apple sells in the music store have asked it to switch off the DRM. An Apple lawyer has gone on record saying that Apple would use DRM even if the music industry didn't want it.
It's ironic that a company whose name is synonymous with "Switch" has built its entire product strategy around lock-in. The iTunes/iPhone/iPod combo is a roach-motel: customers check in, but they can't check out.
And it doesn't stop with the iTunes DRM. Apple and Cingular have been trumpeting the technical prowess they've deployed in locking iPhone to the Cingular network, to be sure that no one can switch carriers with their iPhones. Even the Copyright Office has recognized that locking handsets to carriers is bad for competition and bad for the public.
There's another thing you can't switch with the iPhone: the software it runs. You can't install third-party apps on handset. Steve Jobs claims that this is because running your own code on a phone could crash the phone network, which must be news to all those Treo owners running around on Cingular's own network without causing a telecoms meltdown.
Lock-in isn't good for you. Does anyone really believe that Apple will make better products if its customers aren't free to switch to a competitor? Or that Cingular's network and pricing will be improved by lock-in?
Even if you are ready to pledge a lifetime commitment to the iPod as your only brand of portable music player or to the iPhone as your only cellphone once it is released, you may find that FairPlay copy protection will, sooner or later, cause you grief. You are always going to have to buy Apple stuff. Forever and ever. Because your iTunes will not play on anyone else’s hardware.
*If you doubt that description, watch a few minutes of Steve Jobs's annual keynote speech at MacWorld.
pelosi's tuna helper
What a tangled web the Culture of Corruption can be. Far from hiding nearly six-figures in the freezer, today's latest scandal, best called TunaGate, is a real knee-slapper. Or at least it would be if it weren't such a bald-faced example of Beltway Fever and Democrat hypocrisy.
During the recent passage in the House of a hike in the minimum wage to $7.25, a little-known amendment was passed exempting American Samoa from the requirement. In and of itself, most people probably couldn't care less what happens in American Samoa. The interesting thing, however, is that the largest employer in American Samoa is Del Monte Foods' StarKist Tuna, home to over 75% of the island's workforce. Del Monte Foods, as it turns out, is headquartered in the District of the new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Smelling a whiff of impropriety, House Republicans have thrown up some serious questions about the exemption and who inserted it into the bill.
NewsBusters points out that few in the Mainstream Media will cover this story given their breathless love for the new Speaker. FoxNews has picked up the story, questioning the potential influence Del Monte may have as a major player in the Speaker's District. Doing my own research, however, I've discovered that the impropriety is much deeper. Speaker Pelosi's husband Paul, it turns out, owns something to the order of $17 million in Del Monte stock! I wonder if he stands to benefit should StarKist avoid an additional $2 hike in hourly wages...
Follow the money trail a little further and Speaker Pelosi may have a sympathetic accomplice in the US Senate. It turns out that the H.J. Heinz Company owns nearly 75% of Del Monte's stock. Heinz, of course, is the company owned in large part by the H.J. Heinz family of whom Teresa Heinz is a major heir as the widow of H.J. Heinz the III, the late Senator from Pennsylvania. And who did Mrs. Heinz marry shortly after her late husband's passing? Senator John Forbes Kerry of Massachussettes! I wonder if they would stand to benefit from StarKist avoiding an additional $2 hike in hourly wages...
scott pezzy on the job
"60 Minutes" talking head, Scott Pezzy, landed himself an interview with none other than the President of the United States and proceeded to make an ass of himself. By now, you've probably heard Pezzy's corker, "Do we owe the Iraqi people an apology?"
Bush replied that no, the Iraqis owe America a debt of gratitude.
To say the least. Why should America even feel remotely apologetic? For looting Baghdad after Saddam fell? No, that was Iraqis. For setting up death squads to kill innocents? Nope, not us.
Pezzy asserted that today Iraq is less stable than it was before we liberated the country, which assumes:
- Stablility is an end in itself. Sure, Saddam kept Iraq stable. But he murdered approximately 300,000 Shia after the Gulf War. But Americans didn't see those murders on CBS every night (just in the movie "Three Kings"). So out of sight, out of mind and everything's jolly?
- The "stablity" of Iraq in 2003 was quickly eroding. Our Eurotrash "allies" were cheating on the sanctions that theoretically kept Saddam in check. The no-fly zones were costing the US $10 billion annually to maintain, and the Saudi's were pressing to end them. Saddam was working his way free.
Pezzy kept referring to "the American people" not liking the war etc.
I wish Bush would have turned it around and asked, "Why is that, Scott? What does the average American know about conditions in Iraq beyond what you and your like-minded cohorts tell them? Do they understand that Iraq is but one battlefield in a global war? Do they appreciate that the Kurds are flourishing in Iraq, whereas before they were being gassed by Saddam? That, despite the violence in Baghdad, there is a functioning economy. That kids are going to school? That life is going on? Do they know that wars are always hit-and-miss, cost too much and wear on people's patience?"
Or sumpin' like that.
Bush might has also asked Pezzy to poke through the "60 Minutes" archive and look at some of the stories they've broadcast about Iraq over the years. Just from memory I can think of:
- The "60 Minutes" story about the "super cannon" that Saddam was developing with the help of Canadian astrophysicist Gerald Bull. This was just one a series of Saddam-is-dangerous stories from CBS.
- The "60 Minutes" story about the 500,000 Iraqi children starving and dying for lack of medicine because of UN sanctions. This was a story orchestrated by Saddam's propaganda office, one of many, that led to creation of the Oil for Food program. This same program allowed Saddam to skim billions of petro dollars and extend his vicious reign over Iraq. Does "60 Minutes" owe the Iraqi people an apology for being played for saps?
- The "60 Minutes" story about Kofi Annan playing peacemaker at the last minute to keep Bill Clinton from dropping the hammer. Mike Wallace fly back on the plane with Kofi, all gushy, kissing Kofi's ring for having averted war. Of course, Saddam punk'd Kofi less than a month later by breaking his word.
- The "60 Minutes" story about President Clinton bombing Baghdad for four days in 1998. What? Clinton thought that Saddam was a danger to US and global interests? Y'mean it wasn't just something Bush dreamed up?
sunday, january 14 2007
msm: our grim millstone
Every 100 deaths in Iraq is a "grim milestone," by fiat of the media. It is the most overworked clichÃ© of local journalism since, "Rain couldn't dampen the spirits/enthusiasm of _____ graduates of _____ high school during last night's commencement ceremony as they looked to the future and pondered the past."
It requires no thought or reflection. It treats round numbers as the definition of reality. This has been a media trope since the first shots were fired ("After days of intense searching by ground and air, U.S. forces on Saturday found the bodies of two soldiers missing north of Baghdad, as the toll of American dead since the start of war topped the grim milestone of 200 ..." -- Associated Press, June 29, 2003).
I doubt anyone who wrote any of these headlines could explain to you why death number 3,000 was enormously more significant than death number 2,997. Certainly not to the parents of number 2,997.
Read more, including the media trope that Bush never admits mistakes.
cindy's sheehan's response to bush's speech
she has it all
I don't know where they stand on apple pie, but the Democrats have come out for motherhood in a big way. In fact, who needs apple pie when you've got the extra-sugary content of the Washington Post? Last Wednesday, the capital's newspaper of record (now available in print, online and in granulated form) published a column headlined ''Grandma With A Gavel.''
Can you guess which grandma it was, boys and girls? Yes, it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has single-handedly, as she put it, ''shattered the marble ceiling.'' And she's right: From CNN to the New York Times, the entire press corps has lost its marbles. Grandma Smith Goes to Washington is the hit of the planet.
At a time when most grandmothers are reduced to eating dog food because the Bush administration refuses to let them bulk-order prescription drugs from Saskatchewan or, even more horrifying, reduced to watching Robert Goulet in dinner theater night after night in Florida, Gran'ma Pelosi has single-handedly shattered the dinner-theater ceiling and/or dog-kennel ceiling. ''Grandma With A Gavel'' was written by hard-headed reporter Ruth Marcus, scourge of Republican Justice Departments for many years, and this column reflected her notoriously sharp forensic skills:
''The images as California Democrat Nancy Pelosi took office last week were striking -- and stirring -- in their unfamiliarity. Pelosi, holding her infant grandson swaddled in a white receiving blanket, as she sat in the well of the House, awaiting her election. Pelosi, with the assurance of a mother experienced at dispensing cookies to impatient toddlers, giving each child his -- and her -- turn with the gavel. Pelosi raising her hand to take the oath as her grandson, at her side, fiddled with grandma's papers.''
Read it all.
getting better all the time
...one of the more controversial aspects of the book is my belief that humans have actually continued evolving over the centuries, and that most people and cultures were impossibly cruel, barbaric, and frankly crazy by today's standards. This is an unpopular notion because it doesn't appeal to either traditionalists on the right or contemporary liberals on the left. Traditionalists don't like it because it seems contrary to the idea that human beings were created by God with an unchanging nature: a man is a man is a man, whether 2500 years ago or today.
And liberals don't like it for reasons of multiculturalism and moral relativism. As I wrote in the book, the humanities have become "highly politicized, vulnerable as they are to crass politicization and to the noxious practice of 'deconstruction' by various interest groups interested in normalizing abnormality." Ya think?
In other words, for the same reason feminists are silent about the horrors of female treatment in the Islamic world (and hypocritically despise the world's greatest liberator of Muslim women, George Bush), liberals in general do not judge people of the past. They pass over in silence the systematic homosexual abuse of boys in Ancient Greece, or the horrific adolescent initiation rituals of primitive groups, or the ceaseless and sadistic warfare of so many native American tribes.
Of course, the only exception they make is for barbarism perpetrated by Christians, such as the witch trials. That they judge, even though it was a relatively time-limited and proscribed aberration. Or they judge the West's involvement in the slave trade, ignoring the much wider involvement of Arabs and Africans themselves, who had no regard for human life and no opposition to slavery at all. Frankly, it wouldn't have occurred to Africans that it was problematic. That requires Christianity or Judaism.
dispatch from baghdad
A British Lt. General, on his fourth tour in Iraq:
...I have enjoyed an honest engagement with Iraqis from all persuasions whose hospitality is humbling, and on each occasion that I return to this country have seen progress being made that rarely gets reported.
It is often the small things that get lost. For instance, in February of this year the Business Association of Fallujah (the city most famed for the large US operations in 2004, and the devastation that it had been previously left in) consisted of some 20 members. Yet today, less than 10 months on, it has a healthy members’ list of some 340.
Earth shattering it most certainly is not; and unlikely to break into the FTSE index, missed also by the multi-national media most likely.
But for those people living out in a city that was only 2 years ago claimed, and broadly controlled, through murder, torture and brutal intimidation by Al Qaeda insurgents, it is a real Iraqi step forward, and this is just one of many little successes taking place all over this country.
Read it all.
saturday, january 13 2007
chilly weather for dummies
An unsung pleasure of living in Southern California is watching the local media hyperventilate over weather. There's so little actual weather to go around, they have to make hay when the sun don't shine.
Thus a patch of rain is heralded on TV with a "Storm Watch 2007!" logo, stirring music and the obligatory "team coverage." The latter means dispatching news crews to various SoCal locations to make inane observations.
I once saw a reporter standing at the base of a slope in Malibu, in perfectly dry conditions, yammering about how there had been a mudslide at that very spot the year before. And ya never know, it could happen again!
Normally the print media are more reserved. But today's LA Times offers tips for coping with our "winter" weather. Brace yourself folks and summon all the sympathy you can: it's dipping into the 30s in LA (at night). During the day, it's around 50.
Please remember us in your prayers as we suffer through.
To make sure we don't suffer too much, the Times suggests:
- Wear layers of loose-fitting clothes, such as thermal underwear, sweaters, sweat shirts, sweat pants and socks, to trap body heat.
- Close off unused rooms and the vents that heat those rooms.
- Move furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls instead of exterior walls and windows.
- Close your fireplace damper tightly when not in use.
- Never use your range or oven to heat your home, and never use a barbecue grill in your home or garage.
How did they manage to leave off this tip:
- No matter how cold you feel, never set your clothes on fire. The relief you feel will only be temporary.
"I remember when I was a child, being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit on the program which I most desired to see was the one described as 'The Boneless Wonder.' My parents judged that the spectacle would be too demoralizing and revolting for my youthful eye, and I have waited 50 years to see The Boneless Wonder--sitting on the Treasury Bench."
--Winston Churchill, January 28, 1931,
in the House of Commons, referring to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Today, Boneless Wonders sit on the benches of both parties in Congress. More are to be found on the Democratic side of the aisle than the Republican. But the herd of Boneless Wonders these days is a bipartisan one. Let's see if we can describe their thinking.
Say you're an average congressman. How do you react to President Bush's Iraq speech? You suspect, deep down, that he's probably doing more or less what he needs to do. We can't just click our heels and get out of Iraq--the consequences would be disastrous. And the current strategy isn't working. You have said so yourself. Last fall you called for replacing Rumsfeld. You've complained that there weren't enough troops. What's more, you've heard good things about General David Petraeus from colleagues with military expertise. So now Bush has fired Rumsfeld, put Petraeus in command, and sent in more troops. Maybe this new approach deserves a chance to work?
But, hey . . . look at those polls! And those op-ed pages! You didn't come to Washington to support an unpopular president conducting an unpopular war. And the Bush administration is doing a crummy job of explaining this change in strategy. The path ahead in any case is going to be tough, and the new strategy might fail. Besides which, being for "escalation" sure doesn't sound good. Wasn't that a problem in Vietnam?
captain chandler and me
by Burt Prelutsky
Recently, I received an e-mail from a young associate pastor in Maryland. He introduced himself as an avid fan of “MASH”. He said that one of his favorite episodes had been one I wrote, “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?” and that he was considering using the show as an inspiration for an upcoming sermon. He wanted to know how I had come up with the idea. He also wanted to know how my own faith and understanding of God or Christ had informed my writing.
I must confess that I am not usually given to thinking of my writing in such grandiose terms, and it shocked me to find a man of the cloth doing so. It took some thinking on my part, especially as the writing took place over 30 years ago. At the time, my TV writing career was at a standstill. Because my agents were a man and wife team who were well-meaning, but highly ineffective, it appeared that things weren’t likely to change for the better any time soon.
Fortunately, I was still a print journalist, writing a weekly humor column for the L.A. Times. Because I would occasionally mention having gone to Fairfax High School, I was invited to host an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding. As part of the event, someone representing each of the five decades would reminisce about their years of internment. Larry Gelbart, writer-producer of “MASH,” spoke about the 1940s. I did double duty, hosting and talking about life at Fairfax in the 50s.
One day, some months later, I got a call from my female agent. She wanted me to know that they’d taken in a third partner. The new guy would specialize in sit com writers. She suggested I come down and meet him. I did, and regretted it almost immediately. The guy was totally obnoxious. It seemed he wanted to be a producer more than he wanted to be an agent. He proposed that I should write up his ideas. I pointed out he didn’t seem too crazy about the way I wrote up my own. He said that was true, but this time he would be around to help. I told him that I would think about it, but in the meantime I had a family to support.
He asked me what shows appealed to me. I mentioned “Bob Newhart,” “Mary Tyler Moore” and “MASH”. He looked at me as if I were insane. “You’re only talking about the hottest shows on the air.” I told him I was fully aware of that fact, but those were the ones I wanted to write for, and, besides, I was merely answering his question. I told him that, inasmuch as I had to earn a living, I would gladly write for any shows that would have me. He told me that at least now I was being realistic.
When I got home, my wife told me I had a phone call from Larry Gelbart. I called him back. He started out by thanking me for having mentioned him in a column I had written that past Sunday in which I argued that for a quarter of a century the best comedy in America wasn’t in books or movies or on Broadway, but, rather, on TV. I then mentioned ten of the anonymous talents who were most responsible for writing “Sgt. Bilko,” “The Sid Caesar Show,” “Mr. Peepers,” “The Honeymooners” and “MASH.” Gelbart was one of the ten.
He went on to say that when he and his wife had attended the Fairfax event months earlier, they had assumed they’d be bored to tears, but that I had been very funny, and that he felt remiss for not having dropped me a note.
I thanked him for the kind words and was ready to hang up when he said, “By the way, I hear on the grapevine that you sometimes write for TV. If you ever get a notion for a ‘MASH’ episode, please send it along.”
Some of you will wonder why I hadn’t broached the possibility of my writing a “MASH” script. It’s not as if it didn’t occur to me, but I would have considered it impolite. I mean, Gelbart was calling to pay me a compliment and to thank me for mentioning him in my column. Taking advantage of his courtesy to ask him for a job simply struck me as rude.
In any case, as soon as we hung up, I called my new agent and told him he was now my ex-agent -- that “MASH” apparently wasn’t as locked up as he’d insisted it was half an hour earlier.
For a few seconds, I felt just great. Then it hit me that I was not only unemployed, but now I didn’t even have an agent. Talk about your Pyrrhic victories!
In a panic, I sat down in a chair with a steno notebook and my pen and hoped (prayed?) that a terrific idea would magically appear on the page. The idea that arrived within minutes was that a wounded soldier would show up at the MASH unit without dogtags, claiming to be Jesus Christ. I took another twenty minutes or so to fill in the details pitting good Dr. Freedman and evil Col. Flagg in a battle for the man’s body and soul. I even came up with a title, “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”
I typed it up and mailed it to Gelbart at 20th Century-Fox. A day or two later, he called to say that he and his producing partner, Gene Reynolds, loved the idea.
The final script got nominated for a Humanitas Prize, and led to my writing seven more “MASH” episodes, and totally resuscitated my TV career.
At the time and to this day, although I am a non-observant Jew, I felt the idea was divinely inspired. How could I not? After all, when I sat down with pad and paper, I had no reason to suspect that Jesus Christ was going to wind up in a sit com episode.
Although there is no way to really explain how the creative process works, typically a notion buzzes around in a writer’s head until the opportunity to use it comes along. But that was certainly not the case here.
With “Captain Chandler,” there was no notion, no buzzing, just a timely Christmas miracle.
la cathedral wall: your ad here
Sure, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles faces millions of dollars in bills from recent court case settlements.
But are finances so tight that it has decided to sell advertising space on its grandest church steeple? That's the way it looked to startled motorists in downtown Los Angeles when they glimpsed a giant sign on the side of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
"Your Ad HERE," proclaimed the huge letters across the cathedral's landmark bell tower.
A telephone number was printed at the top and bottom of the 50-foot-wide illuminated sign, visible to thousands of commuters stuck in slow-moving rush-hour traffic Wednesday evening on the northbound Hollywood Freeway.
The sign was gone the next day, but questions lingered for church officials.
No, it was the work of an "artist."
On Wednesday, he noticed the cathedral bell tower. It is next to the busy freeway and its bottom portion is free of ambient light from street lamps and the cathedral's decorative spotlights. At 6 p.m., Cui set up his equipment on the Grand Avenue freeway bridge and fired up the 2,000-lumen projector.
Alternating with the "Your Ad HERE" image was one that read, "Your Corporate Logo Here." For 2 1/2 hours, he stood on the bridge and watched motorists' double-takes as they spied the signs — which were accented with animated, laser-like moving graphics.
The bell tower site was better than the spot near the Harbor Freeway at 3rd Street and Beaudry Avenue where Cui has twice before projected his artwork on a bare wall.
stem cells: false hopes and a bright future
You don't need religion to tremble at the thought of unrestricted embryo research. You simply have to have a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good. Once we have taken the position of many stem cell advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down. What is to prevent us from producing not just tissues and organs, but human-like organisms for preservation as a source of future body parts on demand?
South Korea enthusiastically embraced unrestricted stem cell research. The subsequent greatly heralded breakthroughs -- accompanied by lamentations that America was falling behind -- were eventually exposed as a swamp of deception, fraud and coercion.
The slope is very slippery. Which is why, even though I disagreed with where the president drew the line -- I would have permitted the use of fertility-clinic embryos that are discarded and going to die anyway -- I applauded his insistence that some line must be drawn, that human embryos are not nothing, and that societal values, not just the scientific imperative, should determine how they are treated.
wisdom of crowds vs. uncle sam's mighty hand
When the Medicare Drug Benefit was passed by the GOP, and Bush mentioned it in his State of the Union address, Ted Kennedy pouted like a four year old.
This had been HIS issue and now it had been stolen. Plus, Teddy was mad that the Feds were not going to dictate drug prices.
Soon we were awash in MSM propaganda about how the drug benefit was too confusing. Said "confusion" was the sound of competition as various providers angled to get the best deal on drugs to pass on to their customers.
The success of the Medicare prescription drug benefit provides strong evidence that competition among private drug plans has contributed significantly to lowering costs. The average monthly premium has dropped by 42 percent, from an estimated $38 to $22 -- and there is a plan available for less than $20 a month in every state. The net Medicare cost of the drug program has fallen by close to $200 billion since its passage in 2003.
Seniors and people with disabilities like the benefit. Studies consistently show that three-quarters of Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage. Individuals like being able to choose the plan that best fits their needs. A single, one-size-fits-all drug plan would have made the choice easier, and Congress did create a standard plan. But fewer than 15 percent of enrollees have selected that standard plan -- opting instead for plans with lower premiums, no deductibles and enhanced coverage.
Despite the success of the benefit, some people believe government can do a better job of lowering prices than a competitive marketplace. Legislation under consideration would require the secretary of health and human services to negotiate and set the prices of drugs. In effect, one government official would set more than 4,400 prices for different drugs, making decisions that would be better made by millions of individual consumers.
"Some people" means Pelosi and her band of know-it-alls, eager to stick it to the evil pharmaceutical companies.
There is also the danger that government price setting would limit drug choices. Medicare provides access to the broadest array of prescription drugs, including the newest drugs. But price negotiation inevitably results in the withholding of access to some drugs to get manufacturers to lower prices.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, often cited as an example of how government can negotiate prices, operates an excellent program for veterans, but the VA formulary excludes a number of new drugs covered by the Medicare prescription benefit. Even Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug, isn't on the VA formulary. That may be one reason more than a million veterans are also getting drug coverage through Medicare.
Some observers point to the massive buying power of the federal government as the means to exert clout over drug companies, but the federal government has nowhere near the market power of the private sector. Private-sector insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers, who negotiate prices between drug companies and pharmacies, cover about 241 million people, or 80 percent of the population. Medicare could cover at most 43 million.
friday, january 12 2007
are iraqis more capable of self reliance than americans?
You'd get that impression from John "Two Americas" Edwards. As Best of the Web noted:
"If you think about everyday life, people are more likely to take responsibility when no one else is helping them or propping them up," John Edwards told Larry King the other night.
Wow, this is news. Is Edwards abandoning his class-warfare rhetoric about "two Americas" and embracing an ethos of personal responsibility?
Well, not quite, as evidenced by the next words out of his mouth: "It's time for the Iraqis to do this."
jack bauer's life lessons
- A cell phone can sometimes be used to activate a secondary detonator on a terrorist's explosive vest regardless of how many minutes are left on your plan.
- The only thing harder than racing to stop a madman from releasing a deadly virus that will kill thousands of people is doing it while simultaneously trying to kick heroin.
pelosi's fish party
On Wednesday, the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.
The bill also extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. However, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.
One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi.
At least one GOP member got in a jab:
“There’s something fishy going on here,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican.
During the House debate yesterday on stem-cell research, Mr. McHenry raised a parliamentary inquiry as to whether an amendment could be offered that would exempt American Samoa from stem-cell research, “just as it was for the minimum-wage bill.”
A clearly perturbed Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who was presiding, cut off Mr. McHenry and shouted, “No, it would not be.”
“So, the chair is saying I may not offer an amendment exempting American Samoa?” Mr. McHenry pressed.
“The gentleman is making a speech and will sustain,” Mr. Frank shouted as he slammed his large wooden gavel against the rostrum.
the hill's dimmest bulb
Iran and Al Qaeda have been asserting themselves not only in Baghdad and Anbar, but everywhere from Somalia to Lebanon to Afghanistan. I can't say I was overwhelmed with satisfaction at Bush's speech on the matter, but at least he addressed the wider implications of events in the region. His critics on Capitol Hill don't seem interested. Indeed, the televised response by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to President Bush's speech on Wednesday did not even acknowledge the broader stakes of US failure. Durbin had not a word to say about Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas, or any of the other forces salivating at the prospect of a US withdrawal. It was an unworthy opening critical salvo, and it has been followed by even worse.
"We're not going to baby sit a civil war," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), told NBC's "Today" Show Thursday. Thank you, senator, for your appalling condescension. Surely the nadir of the Hill's reaction was the performance of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who noted during Thursday's Senate hearings that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has no offspring to serve in the military. Thank you, senator, for confirming the capital's long-time speculation that you are the Hill's dimmest bulb.
There are obviously legitimate issues to debate, from the ineffectual leadership provided thus far by Nouri Al Maliki, to the readiness of Iraqi forces, and such questions have arisen during hearings. Fine. But the broader implications of an American humiliation have been sidelined. If the US "redeploys" from Iraq under the present circumstances, its Iraq problems may be reduced, but its Islamist problems will certainly be exacerbated.
...but wait, there's more!
Boxer wasn't done making an ass of herself. She had to attack Condi for being childless:
Rice appeared before the Senate in defense of President Bush's tactical change in Iraq, and quickly encountered Boxer.
"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."
Then, to Rice: "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."
We scarcely know where to begin.
The junior senator from California ap parently believes that an accom plished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.
It's hard to imagine the firestorm that similar comments would have ignited, coming from a Republican to a Democrat, or from a man to a woman, in the United States Senate. (Surely the Associated Press would have put the observation a bit higher than the 18th paragraph of a routine dispatch from Washington.)
WARNING: If you have not seen Little Miss Sunshine and intend to see it, stop reading now.
Having heard almost nothing but good things about the quirky comedy, Little Miss Sunshine, I was eager to see it when it arrived via Netflix. And it is indeed a funny, affecting movie. The performances are spot on, and it is well directed.
But it's also a movie that unravels on further thought. If you've read this far, you've probably seen the movie and know it builds to a finale where Olive Hoover competes with other seven-year-olds in a beauty pageant. The Hoover family is stunned to realize the level of competition is way beyond their pudgy Olive. (Why they ever thought she was a contender is a mystery.)
The other girls in the contest are dolled up-- literally. They actually look like toys.
Apparently the filmmakers cast real contestants from such pageants. There's a ghastly shock when you see them, all bronzed, bewigged and layered with makeup, like seeing the footage of JonBenet Ramsay. Social critics have decried this as "sexualizing" young girls. Maybe not. Maybe this is just girls playing extreme dressup and mothers, who never outgrew dolls, indulging themselves.
I once heard a shrill NOW feminist denounce the Miss America pageant for "objectifying and sexualizing" its contestants. She spoke as if men tuned in Miss America to ogle the babes. Hardly. I think men care about beauty pageants as much as women care about boxing -- not much.
So, back to the movie: the other girls perform very slick, well-rehearsed dance routines. Then comes Olive in her homemade outfit to do...a modified striptease. Naturally, the pageant audience is shocked. The pageant director, already established as a churchy, big-hair tightass, demands that Olive be stopped. Chaos ensues. And the dysfunctional family at last finds common ground by defiantly joining Olive onstage to dance with her.
Olive acts like a stripper (coached by her vulgar, heroin-sniffing grandfather) and we're manipulated to take her side. Sorry, no sale.
You might ask, why give this or any movie that much thought? Why not be grateful for the laughs and forget it? The answer is that the filmmakers want us to find deeper meanings. They intended the film as an indictment of American society, where insecurity is the result of cut-throat competition. The LA Times review referred to America's "winner-takes-all culture, a society coming apart at the wheels."
The Hoovers (Hoovervilles, get it?) are suburbanites. With few exceptions (Spielberg), Hollywood filmmakers scorn the suburbs and those who dwell there. Screenwriter Robert Towne ("Chinatown") once said he identified what his protagonist feared the most, and then forced him to deal with it. I think most filmmakers fear being conventional. Deep down, they feel very ordinary and, driven by insecurity, feel compelled to crap on ordinary people.
This came to mind recently at my daughter's cross country awards banquet, as I watched adult volunteers being acknowledged for their time and dedication. It's a scene played out all across America: ordinary people with full-time jobs give up their evenings and weekends to enrich the lives of kids in their community. It is goodness. It's heartwarming, accurate, sunny snapshot of suburbia, just not one coming soon to a theater near you.
As for America's supposed winner-take-all culture? Puhleeeze. It took three hours to hand out all the awards, because in today's America, everyone is a winner.
miracle weight loss
by J.C. Phillips
I am never surprised when the Food and Drug Administration announces that yet another weight loss drug has made false claims about the ability of their products to help people effortlessly shed pounds. The world, it seems, is full of people trying to make a fast buck offering quick and painless fixes for people’s problems. Selling snake oil is perhaps the world’s second oldest profession. That would make buying snake oil the world’s second oldest pastime.
I am amazed that it is necessary for the federal government (or anyone else) to warn adults that there is no such thing as a pill that will shed unwanted pounds while you sit on the couch eating potato chips.
There is a reason people that eat junk food all day rarely look like fitness models. In the long run, the only way to lose weight and keep it off is sensible nutrition and exercise. You must burn more calories than you consume. There is no easy way around it and the FDA needn’t have to forewarn any of us about what we already know.
Alas, there remain an endless stream of people offering short cuts in a bottle and just as many lined up to throw away hard earned money.
I consider it my civic duty then to offer an alternative to the miracle elixirs currently receiving so much federal scrutiny. If one of your New Year resolutions is to finally lose weight, forget about stapling your stomach, binging and purging or risking your health on risky appetite suppressants. Come to my house and eat dinner with my children. If that doesn’t kill your appetite, nothing will.
My wife and I do teach our sons table manners. Remember, though, that the reason children must be taught manners is that they do not come by them naturally. My sons are no exception. The three of them eat like a pack of puppies. I put the plates on the table and jump back before I lose a hand. The food begins flying like wood chips at a saw mill. You have never heard so much slurping, burping and smacking of lips in your life. We use a plastic table cloth as no meal is complete without milk or juice being spilled all over the table. The real dietary payoff, however, is after dinner. Whatever didn’t make it into their mouths is on the table…on the floor…on their chairs…the walls. It’s everywhere! I am seriously considering redoing our kitchen in concrete. I’ll put a big drain in the middle of the floor and after dinner, I can just hose the whole room down like they do at the zoo.
If you are still in need of motivation, you can go upstairs and take a gander at their bathroom. If that doesn’t dampen your desire for food, you will certainly get a good cardio work out as you run screaming from the sight. It doesn’t seem to matter how often we clean or what products we use, their bathroom always looks as though a tornado has just come through: toothpaste spread from one end of the counter to the other, soap all over the place and water on the floor. At least we think its water, with three little boys you can never be too sure. And the smell! The ionic breeze air purifier we purchased from the store melted. Between that and their bedroom we have started telling guests that we are using the upstairs rooms to raise sheep.
What I am offering is a completely natural dietary supplement. (The only potential side effect is that it may cause an aversion to children. Of course, that may, in fact, be a benefit.) This program is 100% guaranteed. If you want scientific proof, you need look no further than my wife. After 13 years of marriage and three children, she is the same dress size as the day we were married. She owes it all to the regimen I have described. That and the 30 miles she runs each week.
thursday, january 11 2007
jimmy carter, loser
...of 14 more:
Fourteen members of an advisory board at the Carter Center resigned today, concluding they could "no longer in good conscience continue to serve" following publication of former President Jimmy Carter's controversial book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
"It seems that you have turned to a world of advocacy, including even malicious advocacy," the board members wrote in a letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "We can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position. This is not the Carter Center or Jimmy Carter we came to respect and support. Therefore it is with sadness and regret that we hereby tender our resignation from the Board of Councilors of the Carter Center effective immediately."
the new "yellow peril"
In my town, visit the library on a school night and you'll find a lot of Asian kids studying. You'll see very few mastering skateboard tricks out in the parking lots. Why? Because their parents understand the importance of education. Many are recent immigrants who know opportunity when they see it.
In a meritocracy, those who strive harder achieve more, and that includes admission to the best colleges. Thomas Sowell writes about liberals defining that as a problem.
Today, there are echoes of that notion in a front page headline on the education section of the New York Times of January 7th.
"At 41 percent Asian, Berkeley could be the new face of merit-based admissions. The problem for everybody else: lots less room at elite colleges."
Anybody of any race who takes a place at any college leaves one less place for somebody else. Does an Asian American take up any more space than anybody else? Are they all Sumo wrestlers?
This hand-wringing about too many Asians is an echo of the past in another painful way. Back in the early 20th century, various elite colleges decided that there were "too many Jews" applying and set quotas to restrict the number of Jewish students admitted.
One of the institutions that did not do this was the College of the City of New York, which admitted students according to their academic qualifications. Jewish students seemed to be an even higher percentage of the students at CCNY then than Asian students are today at Berkeley.
Because CCNY was both free and a high-quality academic institution, it became known as "the poor man's Harvard."
That was then. Today, CCNY has long since succumbed to the siren song of "inclusion" and flung its doors open to all and sundry, with no old-fashioned notions of academic qualifications. No one calls it a poor man's Harvard any more. Few would even call it adequate.
In the long and rambling New York Times article about Berkeley — titled "Little Asia on the Hill" — there is lots of space devoted to racial representation among the student body and remarkably little mention of qualifications and achievement. You might never guess that a university has purposes other than presenting a demographic profile that is politically correct.
this money doesn't talk, it listens
...the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.
The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.
Intelligence and technology experts said such transmitters, if they exist, could be used to surreptitiously track the movements of people carrying the spy coins.
dearth of a salesman
I admire much about President Bush: his strategic vision, his backbone, his gracious way of deflecting ugly invective, among other traits.
But as explainer-in-chief, Bush is terrible. Last night's speech was a chance to frame the Iraq war in a way that Americans might (for those who even listen to him anymore) see the big picture. He didn't do it.
Bush understands the Big Picture. Just listen to him here with a small group of columnists.
It is conceivable that 20 or 30 years from now the world will see a Middle East in which violent forms of – extreme forms of Islam compete for power, moderate governments will be toppled, oil will be used to extract concessions, and Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and writers such as yourself would say, what happened to them? How come they couldn't see the great conflict taking place in front of their very eyes? Why did they lose their nerve? Why did they not support moderate people who yearn for something better than the vision of the extremists?
To my ear, none of that came through last night's speech. Which is a shame because it makes it all the more easier for the Democrats and their media friends to marginalize Bush, to paint him as an obsessed doofus.
He could have cribbed Jules Crittenden's blog post and done better.
democrat gods must be crazy
More worrisome behavior from the Pelosi Party, as Powerline reports:
The powers-that-be in the House have named Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison to the Judiciary Committee. Any number of items from Rep. Ellison's past ought to have served to disqualify him from being named to the committee. His cavalier approach to compliance with the law -- whether it be federal tax law, or Minnesota campaign finance law, or Minneapolis parking ordinances flouted so frequently that his driver's license has been suspended more times than he can recall -- ought to have ruled him out.
His past support for and/or friendship with such murderers, cop-killers and cop killer wannabes as Kathleen Soliah/Sara Jane Olson, Assata Shakur and Sharif Willis ought to have been a dealbreaker all by itself. But Ellison's interest in rolling back the laws that have proved crucial for the American government and the citizens of the United States in providing for the common defense in the war being waged against us was apparently sufficient to override the countervailing considerations.
Gregg Gutfield takes on another minion of the ugly left.
On January 10th, 2007, at the Huffington Post, John Seery, an academic with credentials, just proposed a novel contest. He says it's "sort of like Monopoly," except it's far more clever: you get to guess how many US troops will die this year. "Submit your estimate," he goads, in a curiously hopeful manner.
The more that die, he understands, the smarter he looks. As a college professor, he's hoping for an invite to a cocktail party where he doesn't have to serve the drinks.
It only leads me to ask: When, and how, will John Seery be killed?
I'm just curious, of course, in the same manner Mr. Seery is. He's asking you to submit a number - the larger the better - which is perfectly appropriate for the Huffington Post - where hoping for the worst is the only hope allowed.
HT: Pat Dollard
wednesday, january 10 2007
Tigerhawk links and excerpt two pieces on the Middle East.
When the Bush administration came into office, only Egypt and Jordan were functioning allies of the U.S. Iran and Iraq were already declared enemies, Syria was hostile, and even its supposed friends in the Arabian peninsula were so disinclined to help that none did anything to oppose al Qaeda. Some actively helped it, while others knowingly allowed private funds to reach the terrorists whose declared aim was to kill Americans.
The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.
Read the whole post.
scratch another one off the list
Al-Qaeda terrorist Fazul Abdullah Mohammed - reputed architect of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa - was reported killed in an American airstrike in Somalia.
whisky ted raises white flag
....and Don Surber deftly compares Ted with his big brother, JFK.
how it ends
"Scarecrow" at leftie blog Firedoglake snarks on Gen. Petraeus' line, "Tell me how this ends," with a picture of the Vietnam Memorial wall.
All of our wars have ended that way, with an honoring of the men and women who gave their lives for their country, for our freedom, and for the freedom of others.
But wars, in fact, generally don't end. At least not on the dates listed in history books. The famous scene at Appomattox Court House was followed by a century of terrorism and strife. World War I took a breather, then came its bastard child, World War II. World War II, thanks to a bad deal at Yalta, morphed into the Cold War, which had its hotter moments in Korea and Vietnam, not to mention Africa and Central America. Our abandonment of Vietnam of course emboldened the Soviets to invade Afghanistan, emboldened the Iranians to ... well, you know where all of that led.
I don't know how this war ends. But I have a pretty good idea how it ends if we follow FDL's prefered route. Just like the Vietnam War. Only here.
the bully bear
Just over a year ago, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine due to a standoff over whether the country would pay full “market price” over the subsidies that it had been receiving. Consequently, given that a large amount of Western Europe’s gas flows through Ukraine’s pipelines, there were a lot of German and French folk freezing their butts off last year until the flow was restored.
The news made international headlines immediately, most likely due to who it affected rather than the simple action itself. But regardless, it was the first sign of a Russia ready to bully its former satellites in a battle for control of the transit systems that deliver a large amount of its government budget to the rest of the world.
January is a strategic month for some. It’s hell frozen over in the former Soviet bloc. By cutting off supplies to Ukraine in January, Russia was able to terrorize the Ukrainian people and government into submission. The month has proven just as crucial for Belarus now as Gazprom pulls the same stunt, with President Lukashenko having no choice — despite the change toward hostile and nationalist rhetoric — but to give in as well.
hidden in plain sight
The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell has a thought-provoking article about the Enron scandal. He shows that Enron, far from hiding its financial dealings, made them quite public but they were so hard to fathom hardly anyone did until it was too late.
In late July of 2000, Jonathan Weil, a reporter at the Dallas bureau of the Wall Street Journal, got a call from someone he knew in the investment-management business. Weil wrote the stock column, called “Heard in Texas,” for the paper’s regional edition, and he had been closely following the big energy firms based in Houston—Dynegy, El Paso, and Enron. His caller had a suggestion. “He said, ‘You really ought to check out Enron and Dynegy and see where their earnings come from,’ ” Weil recalled. “So I did.”
Weil was interested in Enron’s use of what is called mark-to-market accounting, which is a technique used by companies that engage in complicated financial trading. Suppose, for instance, that you are an energy company and you enter into a hundred-million-dollar contract with the state of California to deliver a billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2016. How much is that contract worth? You aren’t going to get paid for another ten years, and you aren’t going to know until then whether you’ll show a profit on the deal or a loss. Nonetheless, that hundred-million-dollar promise clearly matters to your bottom line. If electricity steadily drops in price over the next several years, the contract is going to become a hugely valuable asset. But if electricity starts to get more expensive as 2016 approaches, you could be out tens of millions of dollars. With mark-to-market accounting, you estimate how much revenue the deal is going to bring in and put that number in your books at the moment you sign the contract. If, down the line, the estimate changes, you adjust the balance sheet accordingly.
When a company using mark-to-market accounting says it has made a profit of ten million dollars on revenues of a hundred million, then, it could mean one of two things. The company may actually have a hundred million dollars in its bank accounts, of which ten million will remain after it has paid its bills. Or it may be guessing that it will make ten million dollars on a deal where money may not actually change hands for years. Weil’s source wanted him to see how much of the money Enron said it was making was “real.”
As it turns out, not much.
why pbs is essential
Shows such as Nova Science Now just don't show up on commercial channels. Which is a shame. Thankfully, PBS produces this science magazine show, a spin-off of the long-lived Nova. Last night's episode had three fascinating reports, all of which you can see via streaming video here.
Be sure to see how one bacterium talks to another bacterium and how space imaging is leading archeologists to Mayan ruins with pinpoint accuracy.
ten tips for the president
...In immediate terms, therefore, Mr Bush is left with “go big”, the option his opponents have already attacked. Those familiar with Iraq know that the real war for its future is waged in the United States and, to a lesser extent, Britain. The terrorists have no hope of riding in triumph into Baghdad, but they continue to fight to persuade US and British opinion that the war is lost and that new Iraq does not deserve further support. Moreover, some in the new Iraqi elite have become fence-sitters. Worried that the US may run away, they have sought insurance from Tehran or, in the case of Sunni Arabs, the jihadis.
So, what should Mr Bush do? The last thing to do is to seek a bipartisan policy. Too many Democrats have invested too much in the hope that Iraq fails for them to agree to help Mr Bush to ensure success.
What is needed, therefore, is a nonpartisan policy. This means a policy that safeguards what has already been achieved in Iraq, without further provoking Democrats. In such a policy, there is room for all three options in the Pentagon paper. It is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time.
tuesday, january 9 2007
eine kleine baby step
David's Medienkritik has been after Germany's Stern magazine to change its anti-American "history" on its website.
Before: “The History of the USA: No nation has ever dominated the globe like the USA. And its people could care less about the rest of humanity."
After: "The History of the USA: No nation has ever dominated the globe like the USA. The Stern series describes the history of the United States of America from the colonization to the present."
We might add: No nation was ever kinder to its vanquished foe (Germany which caused the deaths of multimillions in the 1930-1940s), helping to establish democratic governance, fund its redevelopment (Marshall Plan) and defend its sovereignty from Soviet aggression for 50 years.
And no nation -- Germany -- has demonstrated such gross ingratitude and historical amnesia.
smarter than the average bear
Nice words about Mitt Romney from Dean Barnett.
In short, Romney is smarter than the average bear. Admittedly in politics this isn’t much of a feat. While politicians as a class are articulate and charming, they tend to lack intellectual curiosity and intellectual rigor. It’s not that they seek simple solutions to complex problems. Were that only the case.
In truth, they seek to attack complex problems by delivering mindless but effective sound bytes. Think of an example, any example: Religion of Peace, Two Americas, Culture of Corruption, Support the Troops, Don’t Escalate – all of these are examples of labeling a problem with the hope that the labeling substitutes for actually engaging the problem. On the political level, it usually works. In terms of getting anything productive done, it’s reliably an abysmal failure.
Romney’s different. He spent a business career mastering difficult fact patterns and figuring out what to do. Simple sloganeering was never an alternative to effective action. As proof of his acumen in this regard, there are numerous businesses that he helped build (Staples, Domino’s) and a vast personal fortune.
norman mailer's hit list
dog bites man
...and the New York Times warps the truth. But at least they got busted by one of their own.
THE cover story on abortion in El Salvador in The New York Times Magazine on April 9 contained prominent references to an attention-grabbing fact. “A few” women, the first paragraph indicated, were serving 30-year jail terms for having had abortions. That reference included a young woman named Carmen Climaco. The article concluded with a dramatic account of how Ms. Climaco received the sentence after her pregnancy had been aborted after 18 weeks.
It turns out, however, that trial testimony convinced a court in 2002 that Ms. Climaco’s pregnancy had resulted in a full-term live birth, and that she had strangled the “recently born.” A three-judge panel found her guilty of “aggravated homicide,” a fact the article noted. But without bothering to check the court document containing the panel’s findings and ruling, the article’s author, Jack Hitt, a freelancer, suggested that the “truth” was different.
now for something completely different
Here's a rare concert DVD. If you are unfamiliar with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, imagine a group led by a banjo virtuoso who plays the banjo in ways you've never heard.
His ensemble includes, among others, a bassoonist (yeah, you read that right), a reed player who can play two saxophones simultaneously and a percussionist named Futureman whose "guitar shaped Drumitar allows him to replicate sounds of an entire contemporary drum kit with just a few fingers."
Indeed. So, what is their sound? As you can imagine, hard to describe -- jazzy, with hints of Pat Metheny, and bluegrassy, yet unique.
On this concert DVD, they even have a Tuvan throat singer sit in for a couple of numbers. He rocks.
Rent it from Netflix.
The official Bela Fleck website is here.
dig him up and hang him again
On one recording, Saddam presses the merits of chemical weapons on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice president, and now, U.S. officials believe, the fugitive leader of the Sunni insurgency that has tied down thousands of U.S. troops. Al-Douri, a notorious hard-liner, asks whether chemical attacks will be effective against civilian populations.
"Yes, they're very effective if people don't wear masks," Saddam replies.
"You mean they will kill thousands?" al-Douri asks.
"Yes, they will kill thousands," Saddam says.
Before he was hanged for offenses in another case 10 days ago, Saddam had used the so-called Anfal trial, involving the massacre of as many as 180,000 Iraqi Kurds, as a platform for arguing that the chemical weapons attacks of the kind that devastated the town of Halabjah on March 16, 1988, were carried out by Iranian forces then fighting Iraq.
Saddam sounds matter of fact as he describes what chemical weapons will do. "They will prevent people eating and drinking the local water, and they won't be able to sleep in their beds," he says. "They will force people to leave their homes and make them uninhabitable until they have been decontaminated."
As for the concern about international reaction, he assures al-Douri that he alone will order the attacks. "I don't know if you know this, Comrade Izzat, but chemical weapons are not used unless I personally give the orders," he says.
monday, january 8 2007
chinese medicine and J.D. Rockefeller
Today's LA Times reports on a battling brewing in China between advocates of traditional medicine and modern medicine.
A relatively obscure professor at a regional university kicked off the controversy in October with an online petition calling for traditional medicine to be stripped from the Chinese Constitution. It has a protected status here that, at least in theory, guarantees it equal footing with its Western counterpart.
Professor Zhang Gongyao and fellow critics have blasted Chinese medicine as an often ineffective, even dangerous derivative of witchcraft that relies on untested concoctions and obscure ingredients to trick patients, then employs a host of excuses if the treatment doesn't work.
For adherents of the 3,000-year-old system, this borders on heresy. The Health Ministry labeled Zhang's ideas "ignorant of history," and traditionalists have called the skeptics traitors bent on "murdering" Chinese culture.
Ironically, the firestorm dovetails with a growing embrace of Chinese medicine abroad as an antidote to the perceived soulless, money-obsessed nature of Western healthcare.
With medicine, many ironies abound.
In 1901, John D. Rockefeller, a strong believer in homeopathic medicine, founded the USA's first medical research institute. At the time, critics scoffed at the idea of bringing scientists together to "daydream" and come up with useful discoveries. But within a few years the RIMR had discovered a serum for bacterial meningitis. Homeopathy offered no such cure.
Frederick Gates, Rockefeller's philanthropic chief, having suffered a serious illness, undertook a comprehensive study of medicine in America, especially how physicians were trained. Gates was appalled to learn that most medical schools were diploma mills where doctors moonlighted for a few extra bucks. The curricula was either homeopathy or allopathy. Science didn't figure in.
Gates became determined to change that, and did, with Rockefeller's money.
Despite founding and funding the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller never went there for treatment. He was too committed to homeopathy. Yet the RIMR's leadership in medical science effectively wiped out homeopathy from American medical schools.
Rockefeller lived to age 98 and was spry almost to the end.
One more irony: Rockefeller's father was a bigamist con-man who passed himself off as one Dr. Levengstone, promising cures for everything from indigestion to cancer to gullible rubes who bought his elixir.
Mr. O'Rourke is particularly cutting on the situation in the Persian Gulf, which he covered most recently during the war proper, and also in 1990 and intermittently thereafter. "I was very much in favor of the Iraq invasion," he says. "What were the questions? Is Saddam Hussein a bad man? Is he doing bad things? Does he have the oil money to do more bad things? Is he likely to do more bad things? If these were the questions, was the answer more cooperation with France?"
In the aftermath he expected "a great spontaneous return to order," much like, he says, what he saw after the Iraqis were expelled from "devastated" Kuwait. "After they got chased out of there the Kuwaitis totally took control, and it was as though somebody had been chased out of, I don't know, Dayton. Everything was working again within days. Civil society came to the fore--Hayekian social forces. It was amazing. We thought--I know I thought, knowing a fair number of sophisticated, intelligent Iraqis--that this would happen in Iraq. You remove the oppressor, and there would be these self-organizing forces. Well, nooo," he says, drawing out the word. "Instead what you got was Yugoslavia. Triple Yugoslavia. You might call it the really violent Bosnia.
"I have no idea if some societies, anthropologically speaking, aren't really suited for democracy. I don't think that's true. But there certainly are societies that just love to fight. Northern Ireland, for instance. You couldn't stop that problem because they were having fun--they were really, really enjoying themselves. It would still be going on full-force today if the sons of bitches hadn't accidentally gotten rich. What happened was, more and more people started getting cars, and television sets, and got some vacation time down in Spain, and it wasn't that they wanted to stop fighting and killing each other and being lunatics, but they got busy and forgot.
"So our job," he says, "is to make the Iraqis get busy and forget. 'You know, I meant to kill all those other people but, well, jeez, I had to get the kids off to school, the car was filthy and I had to take it down to the car wash, the dog got sick on the rug. Killing all those Shiites is still on my to-do list . . .' " Mr. O'Rourke argues we are well on our way to creating "Weimar Iraq"--a grave phrase--and concludes, mordantly, "I'm so glad the problem is above my pay-grade."
here be dragons
Orrin Judd comments on a questionable "breakthrough" in astrophysics.
"This is the first time we've mapped dark matter" over large areas of the universe, said Adam Riess an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the research. [...]
Dark matter, like dark energy, cannot be seen. It also does not interact directly with visible matter. Its existence has been hypothesized to explain the continuing expansion of the universe.
To create the map, the research team focused Hubble's camera on a 2-degree-wide area of the sky in the constellation Sextans. The project was given 600 orbits of Hubble time, the largest investment of viewing time for any single project since the space telescope was launched in 1990, Massey said.
Because dark matter is not visible, Massey said the researchers used a technique called gravitational lensing to infer the location of clumps of dark matter.
This is akin to drawing a sea monster at the furthest edge of the Atlantic and then claiming that your map demonstrates the existence of same.
spiders on drugs!
A funny video.
..."leaks" Bush's upcoming speech:
In the text the president explains why he’s ordering an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq, rather than heeding the demands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for implementing what the president calls “a strategic skedaddle.”
Portions of the speech text are excerpted here…
My fellow Americans, as I stand to speak with you tonight, some 132,000 U.S. troops stand tall in Iraq. I want to tell you tonight what they stand for. I’m also going to call on thousands more of our heroes to stand with them, and I want to explain why this fight is too important to lose.
As you may have heard, I have directed the Secretary of Defense to boost our troop strength in Iraq immediately. This, of course, will spark new Congressional hearings. Since you don’t have time to watch all those hours of C-Span, I’ll give you the condensed version now.
Increasing our fighting force by 20,000 will not only allow us to better support the Iraqi Army’s new effort to crush sectarian militias, but it also means we can have several armed U.S. divisions on Iran’s border within hours. Once Israeli jets obliterate Iran’s nuclear facilities, we’ll be on the doorstep.
Whoa, did I say that out loud or just think it?
Folks, we’re not at war with the average Iraqi citizen. We’re fighting proxies — deployed, armed and funded by Iran and al Qaeda — who are taking advantage of the Iraqi government’s chaotic infancy to advance their vision of a global Muslim caliphate. This is not a neo-con nightmare fantasy, it’s the enemy’s stated goal.
You’ve probably heard from the news media that the Iraqi insurgency is stoked by high unemployment. Well, if folks can’t pay their bills or buy groceries, where do you think they get the money to make bombs and to buy guns? Do you know how much lamb and falafel you can buy for the cost of one AK-47? The lack of money is not the problem. The people supplying the money are the problem.
As a wise man once said, ‘Civil war isn’t breaking out in Iraq, it’s breaking in.’
Read it all.
sunday, january 7 2007
here's what student loans pay for
The list of the 12 most bizarre college courses in the U.S. includes offerings such as 'The Phallus' and 'Queer Musicology.'
The list comes from the Young America's Foundation, a 40-year-old nonprofit funded by conservative individuals and foundations. Its No. 1 slot this year for bizarre class offerings went to Occidental, for a course called "The Phallus."
No, it's not a biology course. It's a survey, offered by Oxy's department of critical theory and social justice, of "feminist and queer takings-on of the phallus." Topics include "the relation between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism."
You might wonder how a lesbian can have a phallus, or whether it's possible to say "phallologocentrism" three times without tripping on your tongue, but if so, it's likely that you won't be getting an "A" from Occidental professor Jeffrey Tobin, who is teaching the course this spring semester. Also this semester, Occidental will offer the course that the Young America's Foundation rated No. 5 in bizarreness: "Blackness." This class will explore "new blackness," "critical blackness," "post-blackness," "unforgivable blackness" and "queer blackness."
We've arrived at a crossroads in history. The choices are simple.
In a letter to President Bush Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid said they want out of Iraq. It's over. The American people are sick of it. There is no reason and no will to keep fighting this.
At the American Enterprise Institute the same day, senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman came out for a big, sustained surge of troops into Iraq. They made the case for fighting. Key word: "Winnable." They outlined the consequences of accepting defeat. Key word: "Catastrophic."
We are sharply divided as a nation. There will be no governing by consensus. Only by hardnosed leadership. This week, we'll find out what it is going to be. Neither of our options is attractive. But that's war.
Option One: Pull out. Achieve short-term gratification for those who believe our absence from Iraq will solve our problems. Watch Iraq descend into further violence. Watch a nuclear-armed Iran come to dominate Iraq and the world's richest oil fields.
No longer a world power, discredited by our own choice, we can watch the pile of bodies mount. Maybe we'll be restored to our national senses, as we were a decade after Vietnam, when we woke up and realized we never really had the luxury of disengaging from the fight.
This time, it will be harder. It won't be so neatly contained as it was then. The only good side to this is the army gets to rest. Don't count on the Democratic Congress to refit or build it up, or to do anything but dither when we need to use it again.
More likely, a dispirited people, our army broken by defeat, we'll just wait to see who emerges as the new world power. It will be a while before there is one, and much longer before there is one we would care to live under. I predict a dark age, in which brutal second-rate powers such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea do what they choose to whom they choose without restraint. An age of modern warlords, with no over-arching, feared power to keep them in check. We can watch the sick man that is Europe slowly succumb. We can watch small free nations try to fend for themselves. We can await the inevitable nuclear crisis.
Read it all.
john bolton speaks a free man
bunny versus snake
Guess who wins? Video here.
Maybe this is the same rabbit that menaced Jimmy Carter.
the default majority
The "do-nothing Congress" is dead. Long live the "do-nothing Congress." Such should be the proclamation upon the ascension of Democrats to control of Congress, with Nancy Pelosi breaking what she calls the "marble ceiling" to become speaker of the House.
The Republican congressional majority foundered on its inability to address important issues during the past two years, so Democrats are set to fill the breach with an energetic burst of pretending to address important issues. This effort is so urgent that they promise to do it in 100 business hours, trumping Newt Gingrich's first 100 days of legislative action in 1995.
If Democrats want to be faster than Gingrich, they don't want to be as grandiose. This is shrewd. Gingrich mistakenly thought he could govern the country from the speaker's chair and disastrously overreached as a consequence. Nancy Pelosi's only early overreaching will be exhausting all of her party's popular, largely symbolic measures in a matter of days. What will Democrats do to fill the countless other hours before their term is done?
Some of the Democrats' internal reforms are worthy, especially curtailing privately funded travel and enhancing the transparency of earmarks. It is telling that the late GOP congressional majority couldn't manage even these relatively tepid reforms, since some members of its leadership would have been practically immobile without a corporate jet.
But all rules have their loopholes and the ultimate ethics measure is rigorous self-policing. Watch Pelosi ally Rep. John Murtha. If his friends continue to fatten themselves on federal money steered their way by Murtha and return the favor with campaign contributions, nothing will have changed in Congress except the party affiliation of the self-interested barons running the place. Prediction: They will.
The Democratic substance is vanishingly thin. They will raise the minimum wage, but 29 states already have a minimum wage that's higher than the federal rate. The effect of the hike mainly will be to give a small boost to the wage of teenagers working summers or after school. FDR would yawn.
It's been obvious for quite some time that, among rogue states, Iran is the biggest menace. It has been funding Hezbollah, supporting both Shia and Sunni terrors groups inside Iraq, threatening Israel with extinction and pursuing nuclear weapons.
Bush's strategy seems to be taking form. The LA Times reports today:
As Washington wages a very public battle against Iran's quest for nuclear power, it is quietly gaining ground on another energy front: the oil fields that are the Islamic Republic's lifeblood.
Iran's oil industry has raked in record amounts of cash during three years of high oil prices. But a new U.S. campaign to dry up financing for oil and natural gas development poses a threat to the republic's ability to continue exporting oil over the next two decades, many analysts say.
The campaign comes at a moment of unique vulnerability for Iran's oil industry, which also faces challenges from rising domestic energy consumption, international isolation, a populist spending spree by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and trouble closing contracts with foreign oil companies — a recipe for potential disaster in a nation with one of the world's largest reservoirs of oil.
"If the government does not control the consumption of oil products in Iran … and at the same time, if the projects for increasing the capacity of the oil and protection of the oil wells will not happen, within 10 years, there will not be any oil for export," Mohammed Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs, said in a telephone interview.
Meanwhile, Bush has appointed a Navy man to take charge of Central Command, responsible for the middle east, which has raised some eyebrows: an Admiral running a ground war?
ASSIGNING a Navy aviator and combat veteran to oversee our military operations in the Persian Gulf makes perfect sense when seen as a preparatory step for striking Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities - if that becomes necessary.
While the Air Force would deliver the heaviest tonnage of ordnance in a campaign to frustrate Tehran's quest for nukes, the toughest strategic missions would fall to our Navy. Iran would seek to retaliate asymmetrically by attacking oil platforms and tankers, closing the Strait of Hormuz - and trying to hit oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
Only the U.S. Navy - hopefully, with Royal Navy and Aussie vessels underway beside us - could keep the oil flowing to a thirsty world.
In short, the toughest side of an offensive operation against Iran would be the defensive aspects - requiring virtually every air and sea capability we could muster. (Incidentally, an additional U.S. carrier battle group is now headed for the Gulf; Britain and Australia are also strengthening their naval forces in the region.)
Not only did Adm. Fallon command a carrier air wing during Operation Desert Storm, he also did shore duty at a joint headquarters in Saudi Arabia. He knows the complexity and treacherousness of the Middle East first-hand.
STRENGTHENING his qualifications, numerous blue-water assignments and his duties at PACOM schooled him on the intricacies of the greater Indian Ocean - the key strategic region for the 21st-century and the one that would be affected immediately by a U.S. conflict with Iran.
The admiral also understands China's junkie-frantic oil dependency and its consequent taste for geopolitical street-crime: During a U.S. operation against Iran, Beijing would need its fix guaranteed.
While Congress obsesses on Iraq and Iraq alone, the administration's thinking about the future. And it looks as if the White House is preparing options to mitigate a failure in Iraq and contain Iran. Bush continues to have a much-underrated strategic vision - the administration's consistent problems have been in the abysmal execution of its policies, not in the over-arching purpose.
Then there's this exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn:
HH: Oh, well, let's start with Ayatollah Khamenei being reported dead at Pajamas Media by many sources in Iran. That puts Yazdi in the running for supreme leader. How significant the passage from to the next side of Khamenei?
MS: Well, you know, I think the problem with Iran is that the Islamic revolution is really in its final stage. It's gone from basically Lenin to Brezhnevite stagnation in the space of 25 years, so that it's a completely exhausted revolution. And the trouble with that is that you then end up with a situation where there's purely infighting for the sake of it, rather than for any kind of coherent philosophical reasons. You know, there's been a recent uptick in the number of prominent Iranians dying in suspicious motor accidents in the last few months, and I think that suggests that the power struggle, regardless of whether Khamenei is dead, the power struggle, in a sense, is already under way. I'm not sure it makes any great difference to the scheme of things in terms of loosening this regime before it can go nuclear.
HH: I do have posted at Hughhewitt.com a profile of Yazdi, the ayatollah who is a fanatic among fanatics, and I will send our audience there. How about the changes at Centcom and in Iraq with General Abizaid and General Casey being replaced by...at Centcom, William Fallon, and in Iraq by General David Patreus, who's been in charge, primarily, of building up the Iraqi army.
MS: Well you know, I think in terms of the military approach to Iraq, you know, I've never been one of these people who thinks we need more forces there. You know, I don't think that this is actually a numbers game, or a money game, or a resources game. What it is, is actually about strategy. And so I assume that at some level, the President and his new defense secretary have concluded that these guys on the ground, charged with the day to day operations, were not handling things correctly. And I would have to say that it's hard not to conclude there's a certain amount of truth in that, simply from the fact that you know, the American military has been in control of Baghdad, now, for almost four years, and has not secured the city. That is a great mark of shame upon what is one of the most powerful military in the world. It should be capable...it's certainly got the money, the men, the equipment to pacify that city, so clearly what's been lacking is some kind of coherent strategy to do it.
HH: Now yesterday, I was talking with a number of people about the replacement at State of the deputy with Negroponte. And today, the announcement of Khalilzad. And it was offered up to me that perhaps the President is putting in place a tough as nails team, and that would certainly apply to Khalilzad at the U.N., and with Miers resigning the Counsel to the President. We could look for a counsel, because he's not for turning, and he's putting around people who can take a few chin blows which will be coming from the Congress. Your assessment of that theory?
MS: Well you know, there is a peculiar aspect to this President. I mean, I don't have privileged access to him or anything, but what I find interesting is that in the brief exchanges I've had with him, he talks tough, he talks very sound, he has a very clear and articulate vision of what the problems are in the world. And then what happens is, the minute you hear some second or third tier official being interviewed on some TV or radio show, they seem to be saying something else entirely. This is a particular problem at State, where State officials, State Department officials just soft peddle, and say things...not just soft peddle, incidentally, but say things that seem to be explicitly at odds with the President's view of the situation. And I think those of us who admired Condi Rice, for example, when she was National Security Advisor, have to conclude that so far, her tenure at the State Department has been incredibly disappointing, and that she does seem to have been Stateified to some large degree, and that she does, although she has a very fine pair of legs, she, in a sense, is metaphorically wearing the same striped pants as a lot of the career diplomats. So I do hope that this is a toughening of the State Department.
saturday, january 6 2007
fossilized "progressive" thinking
Most people see Cuba as a stunted nation, poor in almost every regard.
Its buildings are crumbling and peeling paint. People drive cars manufactured in the 1950s, and not because they're nostalgic. The island is a prison that thousands have fled by cobbling together crude rafts in the hope of reaching the United States. Many have drowned trying.
When Cuba's warden, Fidel Castro, allowed anyone to leave for a few months in 1980, thousands jumped at the chance. I was living in Miami when 125,000 "Marielitos" arrived over a six week period. No doubt the people of Cuba who remain find ways to enjoy life, despite the unnecessary poverty imposed upon them.
That's how most people see Cuba. But a blogger named Kurt Cobb sees a:
...poster child for a transition away from an agricultural economy based on fossil fuel inputs and for a society focused on self-sufficiency. Strangely, it may owe much of its success in this regard to its relative backwardness and its isolation from the world community. The implications for so-called modern industrial countries in a world approaching peak oil couldn't be more striking.
He recounts how Cuba's failing economy was propped up by the Soviet Union for decades with cheap oil and petrochemicals, which were yanked away when the Soviet Union collapsed (it, too, mired in Communist-created poverty.)
The country struggled to feed itself as its export-oriented agriculture based on fossil fuels had to be transformed into one that could feed the Cuban people with few fossil fuel inputs. Some visionary members of the country's Ministry of Agriculture suggested that the low-input, organic methods they had been experimenting with for years be introduced on a broad scale and that agricultural output be directed toward local consumption. This tumultuous time became known as the Special Period in Peacetime. Few countries came to Cuba's aid and the United States even tightened its embargo.
A true visionary might have looked at the world's properous market economies and gotten a clue.
Today, the agricultural economy has recovered becoming largely organic and focused on satisfying local needs. This has made Cuba self-sufficient in almost all foodstuffs. It has significantly reduced the country's need for fuel and fertilizers. The plant-based medicines which the military had carefully studied for years in its special laboratory have become a mainstay of Cuban medicine.
While the number of private automobiles has diminished, a new public transportation system thrives. Many people have returned to the land and are making reasonably good livelihoods as farmers. The city of Havana has become one big urban food garden.
Cobb makes subsistence farming sound like social progress instead of the mark of primitive societies. Like other liberal romantics, Cobb fancies "returning to the land" as wonderful. Do people like Cobb ever wonder very few folks clamor for lives of unmechanized farm labor?
Cobb also idealizes Cuba's lack of cars (good for mass transportation), lack of medicine (good for herbal nostrums) and lack of money (good for anti-materialism).
Cobb believes that the world is running out of oil and must find other sources of energy. No one can argue with the latter, but oil reserves have a way of expanding. For the first twenty years of the oil business, when John D. Rockefeller was on the rise, the only known oil reserves in the world were in western Pennsylvania. That didn't last.
Just last September, three oil companies exploring in the Gulf of Mexico, announced the largest domestic oil find in a generation. Overnight, America's oil reserves increased by 50 percent.
Cobb no doubt casts himself as a progressive. Yet most people, me included, would judge his concept of progress to be laughingly retrograde. I guess we just don't know good the Cubans have it.
a monument to american idealism
by J.C. Phillips
On November 19th 1863, President Abraham Lincoln stood on the site of 7500 war dead. Speaking briefly but eloquently, Lincoln invoked the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded -- principles articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence 87 years before -- and successfully redefined the civil war as a war to make those principles true for all men. Henceforth, this nation would be dedicated to “a new birth of freedom.”
One hundred years after Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Martin Luther King Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and appealed to those same founding principles of equality for all men. King began one of the greatest speeches in American history referencing Lincoln’s remarks at Gettysburg and then citing the words of Jefferson. The bloodline of American idealism -- not drippy utopianism, but a sober belief in the principles of equality and objective truth – began with Jefferson, ran through Lincoln and coursed through King. It is only proper then that the memorial currently being built on the mall in Washington D.C. would be placed between the monuments of these other great men.
That is, of course, if and when it is completed. We are still $30 million short of the $100 million needed to complete and maintain the monument.
Clearly projects of this scope are much easier with corporate support and donations from Coca Cola, Lehman Brothers and the South African government to name but a few have been crucial. However, they shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of corporations. This monument is not only a tribute to the continuing of American idealism, it is a celebration of Black America as this nation’s most ardent idealist. King’s words on the steps of the Lincoln memorial were our words; his dream is our dream. And his memorial is our responsibility.
My father-in-law and I have a long running disagreement. He is of the opinion an educational fund would be a much more appropriate tribute to Dr. King. I do not disagree. The fact is, though, that no one thought to organize such an establishment. And would the community show up financially for such a program anyway? To my knowledge, the King Center in Atlanta does not have a $100 million endowment and as near as I know, my father-in-law has not donated a dime to further their work. (This of course is not to say he and others with similar convictions have not donated time and money to other charitable causes.) Someone did, however, begin raising funds for a monument and if we fail, that is, if the black community sits on the sidelines keeping our dollars to ourselves, the memorial will not be built. Moreover, we will have a devil of a time convincing anyone to step to the plate with a dime to fund the “more appropriate” educational endowment.
The King monument on the mall can be more than a dream if a substantial number of black people – not just Oprah Winfrey, but regular folks like you and I -- commit to making it happen. All it would take is a slight rededication of money that is already there.
The Black community currently spends $2.5 billion annually on alcohol; $2.8 billion on tobacco and tobacco related products; $2.7 billion on entertainment and $6 billion on media. One percent of what we spend on alcohol would just about put us over the top. But I am not asking for such sacrifice.
My weekly column reaches more than 2 million people per week; if only half of my readers donate one dollar we can make an impact. One dollar! That is the cost of one soda. Can each of us forgo one soda this week to pay tribute to a genuine American hero?
Physical construction of the monument will begin in April and is scheduled to be completed in 2008. The MLK memorial will be a place I will eagerly take my sons. It will provide them an important lesson in American history, a vivid example of heroic manhood and a brilliant illustration of the power of dreams.
french have blood on their hands
The hastily arranged car boot sale outside the French Embassy in downtown Kigali last Monday did good business. On offer were laptop computers, televisions, three-piece suites and, well, even the cars themselves. Given the decision taken by the Rwandan Government ten days ago to expel the French Ambassador, his staff and to close all official French buildings in the tiny Central African country, there was clearly little expectation of a return.
Behind these scenes of gloomy embassy employees packing and selling their diplomatic and domestic baggage is a recent history between France and Rwanda steeped in a mire of blood and guilt. Indeed it is the second time in 12 years that the French have found the need for a sudden retreat from Rwanda.
In April 1994 the French Embassy became the setting for the formation of the extremist Hutu Government that was to organise and carry out the meticulously planned genocide of the Tutsis. Witnesses spoke of these ministers, many now facing life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, sitting in plush embassy chairs comparing notes on where the killing was going best. Their host, the French Ambassador, later helped to evacuate those extremists to Paris, away from the apocalypse they had created. The ambassador then made a bonfire of two rooms piled high with documents linking his Government with that of the Hutu dictatorship of Juvénal Habyarimana.
friday, january 5 2007
high priced rope
A cynical Arab friend of mine predicted that, following his hanging, Saddam's effects would probably end up auctioned on the Internet. But more than mere cynicism is necessary to address the case of Saddam's noose, because the Arab press is reporting that a Kuwaiti businessman has offered to buy the rope used to hang Saddam.
Iraqslogger offers a version in English. The site writes that "al-`Arabiya reported on its website that a 'Kuwaiti Businessman' had offered to pay 'any sum necessary' to acquire the rope with which Saddam was hanged. According to al-`Arabiya, the businessman was told that the rope is currently in the possession of Muqtada al-Sadr."
I would never have thought it possible that by executing a ruthless mass murderer, Iraq would find a way to disgrace itself. Saddam deserved to hang, yet thanks to the breathtaking stupidity of Nouri Al Maliki's government, not only have Iraqis been further divided by the hanging, they have been diminished by it.
The cellphone footage of Saddam Hussein's hanging reveals that Iraq's government was content to let the execution become a circus. For example, it features a chant of "Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!" as the dictator is being led to the gallows. Who allowed the miserable, ignorant thugs who follow Moktada Al Sadr to participate in the execution? Was Al Maliki's government afraid that the execution might be a solemn event? Was it acceptable to smear the memories of Saddam's hundreds of thousands of victims by the partisan chanting of the name of a demonstrable half-wit who is currently murdering his fellow Iraqis?
why things at the roxy ain't so ritzy
by Burt Prelutsky
A few weeks ago, I was a member of a panel that discussed movies. At one point, the moderator asked us to compare today’s actors with those in the past. All the others surprised me by voting for the current crop. Even while granting there is some excellent talent around these days, as a group I honestly don’t think there’s any comparison.
Part of the handicap that today’s movie stars labor under in this post-studio era is that the hey-day of the character actor has come and gone. In years gone by, even if the star was just another pretty face, he or she would be propped up by the likes of Charles Bickford, Fay Bainter, Thomas Mitchell, Charles Coburn, Beulah Bondi, Claude Rains, Frank Morgan, Alice Brady, Basil Rathbone, Helen Broderick, Lionel Barrymore, Eve Arden and William Demerest, and, so, the audience never felt short-changed.
In the 30s and 40s, actors who wound up on the big screen had generally had years of seasoning on Broadway, in vaudeville and on the English stage. In addition to which, radio was in vogue, so they usually had distinctive voices. Today, not only can’t I distinguish between one actor’s voice and another, I doubt if the actors, themselves, can do much better.
But, silly as it may sound, I think the worst thing that happened to the movies was the 1960s. That was the first decade in the history of the world in which parents wanted to grow up to be just like their children, thus turning the natural order of things on its head.
Over night, or so it seemed, adults began looking to their kids to be their role models. In huge, scary, numbers, American grown-ups were asking the squirts to tell them what was hip and cool. Adults lived in constant dread that their children would regard their taste in movies and music as -- far worse than bad -- as square!
It was the time when demographics became the most important word in the lexicon of mass media. No longer was it enough that millions upon millions of people bought a certain magazine or watched a certain TV show. They had to be the right people. They had to be urbanites between the ages of 16 and 35. People you wouldn’t trust to pick out your necktie suddenly became America’s taste-makers when it came to popular culture. And, like most people, what they were mainly interested in were people just like themselves.
It led in 1971 to the cancellation of such top-rated shows as “Red Skelton,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Lawrence Welk” and “Green Acres,” shows that appealed to older, rural-dwelling viewers. At what might be considered the high end, the culmination of this particular mind-set was “Friends,” a show starring six actors in their 30s pretending to be characters in their 20s, all of whom spoke and behaved like teenagers. At the low end are the cheaply-produced, mindless, so-called reality shows.
In movies, things aren’t much better. We used to have leading men like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Cagney, William Holden, Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Compare them to the likes of Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Tobey Maguire, Jim Carrey, Rob Schneider, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. Even though the youngest in the crowd is 32, and four of them are in their 40s, they all seem like their biggest concern is getting carded when they go to buy brewskis for Friday night’s frat house beer bash.
Perhaps, as my fellow panelists seemed to agree, it’s just me. But, frankly, I think we’ve gone from having leading men to having leading boys.
much ado about nothing
The New York Review of Books: A Mission to Convert: "The reason Dawkins thinks he has something to say about God is, of course, clear: he is an evolutionary biologist. And as we all know, Darwinism had an early and noisy run-in with religion. What Dawkins never seems to consider is that this incident might have been, in an important way, local and contingent. It might, in other words, have turned out differently, at least in principle. Believers could, for instance, have uttered a collective 'So what?' to evolution. Indeed some did.
The angry reaction of many religious leaders to Darwinism had complex causes, involving equal parts ignorance, fear, politics, and the sheer shock of the new. The point is that it's far from certain that there is an ineluctable conflict between the acceptance of evolutionary mechanism and the belief that, as William James putit, 'the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe.' Instead, we and Dawkins might simply be living through the reverberations of an interesting, but not especially fundamental, bit of Victorian history. If so, evolutionary biology would enjoy no particularly exalted pulpit from which to preach about religion."
democrat conyers wants to stifle free speech
One day in the majority and the Democrats serve up this: Rep. John Conyers’ Koran-kissing H. Res. 288 (text here):
Resolved, That the House of Representatives —
1. condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith;
2. declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected;
3. recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and
4. calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.
This is pernicious on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. It asserts that one person’s right to be respected overrides another person’s right to speak freely. It singles out a single religion, Islam, for special treatment. It accords the holy book of the Muslims more respect than is owed the flag of the United States. This is a CAIR-sponsored Trojan horse, ready to be rolled through the gates into the First Amendment.
And its sponsor is about to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
How well can the USPS deliver?
Having long been genuine admirers of the United States Postal Service (USPS), which gives amazingly reliable service especially compared with many other countries, our team of investigators decided to test the delivery limits of this immense system. We knew that an item, say, a saucepan, normally would be in a package because of USPS concerns of entanglement in their automated machinery. But what if the item were not wrapped? How patient are postal employees? How honest? How sentimental? In short, how eccentric a behavior on the part of the sender would still result in successful mail delivery?
hitachi announces one terrabyte drive
And they'll only cost $399 when released this year.
more crank anti-americanism from germany
Our friend Joerg Wolf emailed to point out another outrageous comment from a German pol.
Peter Gauweiler of the conservative CSU party in Bavaria is a member of parliament and even member of the Bundestag committee on foreign relations. In an interview with the Deutschlandfunk radio about Chancellor Merkel's visit to the US and transatlantic relations, he called for some "tough talk among friends."
He expressed his opposition to US foreign policy in extremely drastic terms: After talking about the "Iraqization" of Afghanistan and saying that Germany should not support US policy in Southern Afghanistan, he opined: "We must make clear to Americans -- or to be more exact: to the current American government -- that not everything is automatically terrorism and that they cannot exterminate cultural aspirations on this Earth as they did with the Apaches and the Sioux."
German enterpreneur Dirk Bauer started making dolphin-shaped dildos in his kitchen a few years ago and never looked back. His company churns out upmarket sex toys that adorn the shelves of department stores and boutiques around the world. The trick, it seems, is to make sure the products don't look too much like penises.
Dirk Bauer should really have won a prize for entrepreneurship by now. He says he started out with capital of just €25 and no loans to speak of, and within just a few years transformed his company into a European market leader.
His products are largely hand-made in the northern city of Bremen. They're expensive but in strong demand around the world. He has satisfied customers in Paris, New York, Buenos Aires and Taipei.
Oh, bury my heart at wounded dolphin.
thursday, january 4 2007
iran pulls a john kerry
They were for the Shia before they were against the Shia. Or sumpin' like that.
Iran is supporting both Sunni and Shiite terrorists in the Iraqi civil war, according to secret Iranian documents captured by Americans in Iraq.
The news that American forces had captured Iranians in Iraq was widely reported last month, but less well known is that the Iranians were carrying documents that offered Americans insight into Iranian activities in Iraq.
An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups."
Iran playing both ends agains the middle? They don't want peace? Consider what Barak Obama said just two months ago (a notion since repeated by the Iraq Study Group.)
And, I think we also have to start sending a message to the region and some of the powers there, including Iran and Syria that it makes sense for us at this point to pull back, to make sure that they are engaged and have a stake in creating some semblance of order there because right now they’re just sitting back I think and watching us flounder but they’re not investing in any kind of way to make sure that Iraq has a decent outcome.
One would hope that our would-be leaders might have the imagination to realize Iran does not want "some semblance of order there." Let's hope the insurgent Democrats sober up from their failure fiesta and realize serious threats abide.
Jules Crittenden sums it up well:
Iran wants war. Iran just doesn't want to fight it. The New York Sun reports that the U.S. military has captured documents providing evidence that Iran is backing Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. Against each other.
Now that doesn't make sense, does it? Shiite Iran backing Sunni insurgents who kill Shiite Iraqis. Except that until last year, they weren't fighting each other, at least not enough, and that didn't suit Iran at all.
This is because Iran benefits from chaos and violence that (a) ties down the United States and could lead to U.S. political failure in Iraq, and (b) ties down Iraq in Iraq and could lead to Iraqi political failure in Iraq. Perfect conditions for a Shiite strongman/Iranian stooge to take power in 60 percent Shiite Iraq. But it's a win-win as long as chaos and unspeakable violence continue. Iran is setting the conditions to discredit the United States, boot the United States from from the region, and weaken the United States globally, while dominating Iraq and ultimately the Arab world. Where the rest of the oil is.
If the value of the blood and treasure we are expending in Iraq and our vital national interests there are not now evident, I don't know what it will take.
I came home to a stack of newspapers. The LA Times featured Queen Nancy and lady Democrats at a podium with a sign proclaiming "A New Direction for America." Sure, yeah, uh huh.
My first thought was, "That Pelosi sure knows how to take a victory lap. She could teach Terrell Owens a thing or two about showboating." Of course, other bloggers have deeper thoughts. Betsy Newmark, in particular.
We began the new year with trip up the California coast, just past San Simeon, to a beach elephant seals have colonized since 1995. Every year they arrive, starting in November, to give birth, suckle their young, fight, mate and draw crowds of humans to watch the spectacle.
We saw a few hundred of the massive animals, with babies being born every day.
Elephant seals are so named because of the males' huge schnozzes, some of which are two feet long. The males are also massive, as much as 5,000 pounds. The females are cuter and smaller, more like harbor seals in size, and generally a beige color.
Elephant seals are capable of diving as deep as 5000 feet and staying under water for 20 minutes on a single breath. Solitary creatures, they range as far as Alaska before returning each year. Back in California, they don't mind getting close.
Males arrive first and vie for prime turf for establishing their harems. The contest for dominance can get ugly and bloody. On our two days, most of the fighting was among the younger males in which the fighting was mostly sound and fury signifying nothing.
The males periodically rise from their slumber to stand erect, throw back their heads and release a deep, guttural, percussive call. The sound carries -- you can hear them over the crashing surf even when they bellow 50 yards from shore.
As we said, the females are cuter.
There were dozens of newborns, all looking lost and calling out with a screech to their mothers. Weighing 60 pounds at birth, they reach 300 pounds quickly from the rich, fat mother's milk.
We watched several have difficulty finding the nipple.
This little fella finally found the source of happiness. The gull is watching for spilled milk.
A few moments after this photo, he snuck in for a few slurps of what baby missed. Storks herald the birth of human babies. Gulls do so for elephant seals, swooping down in a raucous swarm to eat the placenta and pick shreds off the newborn.
Mating takes place after the birthing season. Friends have said it can be a brutal spectacle. We watched a few attempts at mating that were rebuffed. Loudly.
We'll leave you with a "warm puppy" shot of mom and baby. But such tenderness doesn't last. When the babies reach sufficient weight, the mothers wean them by swimming away, leaving their young to figure out life for themselves.
For information about the elephant seals and the rookery, check out the Friends of the Elephant Seal web site.
monday, january 1 2007
good morning to those with clear heads
Here's a nice way to start your New Year: watch the Rose parade, then join the discussion begun by Tigerhawk about risk. Now, now -- it's a good, meaty subject. Here's a sample:
...the imperfect mechanisms we use to transfer the burdens and benefits of risk create vast amounts of diffuse unhappiness. "Sticky" European labor markets are the example with which I am most familiar. European labor laws (especially in Germany and France) make it so difficult and expensive to fire people that employers will go to great lengths not to hire them in the first place.
Yes, this is bad for the overall level of employment in the economy, but there is a much worse problem: employees all over Europe are essentially stuck in jobs they hate, and they are either unwilling to leave (because they will give up the 12-24 months of salary that they will be paid if only they can contrive to get fired) or unable (because their preferred employer is also doing everything possible not to take on new employees that he cannot easily shed if makes a hiring mistake).
That creates a vast quantum of unhappiness that Europeans cannot relieve, but attempt to salve with incredibly short work weeks and six weeks vacation. Americans are far happier in their job, in no small part because they know they can leave to do something else if it doesn't work out. That gives American workers a fundamental power that all of Europe's protective legislation cannot endow. Americans do not work harder than Europeans because it is in our culture. We work harder because, in general, we have vastly greater ability to choose the work that we will do.
The Stella Awards (morons in the courts)
It's time once again to review the winners of the Annual "Stella Awards." The Stella Awards are named after 81 year old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's (in NM). That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the United States. Clever lawyers, or brain-dead juries? We report - you decide. Here are this year's winners:
5th Place (tie): Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms. Robertson's son.
5th Place (tie): 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.
things that didn't happen at duke
cuba: forty-eight years frozen in amber
My how time flies. It was 48 years ago today that:
The President of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, has fled the country, his government in ruins, in the face of a relentless advance by the rebel army led by a 32-year-old lawyer, Fidel Castro.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in celebration this morning as word spread of Batista's departure for the Dominican Republic in the early hours of this morning.
There was a carnival atmosphere as cars cruised through the streets of the capital, Havana, with Cuban flags draped over their bonnets, blowing their horns continuously.
Yes, and those are the same cars on the streets of Havana today, testimony to the expertise of Cuban mechanics, body shop operators and machine shops. Oh yeah, and also testimony to bad Marxist economy policy.
Want to see how Cubans do when the shackles are removed? Visit Miami.
These are suitable for framing, as they say, and work nicely in home or office. Some favorites include this yellow rose photograph with a single drop of milk, this photograph of a white rose half-submerged in chocolate or this Cherry Parfait rose photographed in closeup and given a heavenly glow.