Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Would the U.S. Military Fight a Zombie Army?

The army and marines would likely do the heavy lifting, with air force and navy fighters providing close air support. As long as the military can protect the troops from infection and isn't handcuffed by liberal politicians who really want the zombies to win, we should be able to handle things.

10 Plundering Politicians.

Something to keep in mind the next time someone says our politicians are corrupt...compared to these guys ours are rank amateurs.

Home Built Star Wars Landspeeder.

And people say I have too much time on my hands.

More photos here.

Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog: Separated at Birth?

What do Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog have in common? More than you might realize...

Darth Vader explains the Pythagorean Theorem.

He finds your lack of faith disturbing.

On Human Sacrifice and Political Correctness.

This text is somewhat related to one of my older essays, about the history of cacao and chocolate. When I was younger, I was once told that regularly practiced cannibalism didn't exist in any society in modern times. This was a racist, colonialist lie invented by prejudiced Europeans. One example would be the former cannibal dubbed "Friday" and converted to Christianity in Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. As I grow older and wiser and investigate things for myself, I see how wrong this claim was.

The article is here.

Maria Bartiromo Interviews Sarah Palin.

Worth a look.

Michael Moore: 'Gustav is proof there is a God in heaven'.

Mike Stajduhar: "Michael Moore is proof that God makes mistakes".

Peggy Noonan Weighs in on MSNBC's Coverage of the Democratic Convention.

Trust me. Watch the whole thing.

Book Review: Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba.

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba (being published next week) is at once a colorful family saga and a carefully researched corrective to caricatures of decadent pre-revolutionary Cuba and the 50-year disaster of Fidel Castro's rule. Contrary to the impression that Cuba's elite uniformly backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, for example, Gjelten shows that the Bacardis withheld their financial support, even when they received a written demand from one of Batista's goons saying, "We will collect the funds for this event from friends of the cause . . . among whom we include you." To ignore such a demand was risky, Gjelten writes, but the head of the family "was as courageous as he was stubborn. He passed the letter on to his secretary, with a brief instruction scrawled across the top: 'Return -- regretting not being able to cooperate.' "

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thoughts on McCain's Choice.

A lot of people have asked me what I thought about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. Before I posted something, I wanted to take my time and give it a serious think.

If it had been my call I would have preferred someone with more experience...I probably would have gone with Romney or Thompson. Both would have helped McCain solidify his base and Romney would have helped in Nevada and Colorado (both states have large Mormon minorities). More importantly, they would have reassured voters that there would be someone "Presidential" to take over if, God forbid, something should happen to McCain.

I've always felt that Clinton's choice of Al Gore was inspired. At the time Gore was very highly regarded by almost everyone-his 2000 campaign for President would change that of course. In fact, Gore was generally regarded as the more substantial of the two. The Senator from Tennessee was widely viewed as a future President unlike the obscure Governor of Arkansas. When it came time make a decision about running for President, Gore took a look at President Bush's 91% approval rating and decided to pass. Bill Clinton, who had nothing to loose, decided to roll the dice. The rest is history. Later when it came time to choose a running mate, Clinton chose Gore. When asked why he responded, "because I could die". I'm worried that the Palin pick falls short on this yardstick. That said however, I think it's an inspired choice.

It works so well on so many levels. Here are a few off the top of my head.

1) It totally negates any Democratic Convention bounce in the polls:
Truth be told it was a pretty lacklustre convention. Maybe it was the odd looking stage, maybe it was the shadow of John Edwards hanging over things, maybe it was the lukewarm reception that the selection of Joe Biden as V.P. , maybe it was just a hangover from all that Olympics coverage...and what was the deal with all those shots of female delegates crying at completely inappropriate times....what were they trying to convey with that?

Biden's speech was poor (and occasionally awkward when he tried to get that chant going), Hillary seemed to be praising the nominee through gritted teeth and the best speaker, Bill Clinton was limited to an insulting 10 minutes...lest he steal the show. Obama for what it's worth had a good speech too (though not nearly as good as his keynote address four years ago) and the whole stadium/Greek temple thing worked better than I expected. Just the sort of stuff you'd expect to dominate news coverage for the next several days, giving your candidate all kinds of free media...and then John McCain dropped the bomb. Historically a candidate can expect an 8-10 point bounce in the polls after his convention (and then of course the other side has theirs and cancels it out). We'll have some real numbers on Monday but right now it looks like Obama got no bounce at all. In short the Democrats spent 15 million dollars on a whole lot of nothing.

2) Her lack of experience is actually an advantage:

This works in several ways. First, like Obama, because her record is fairly short she's had relatively little time to make any catastrophic mistakes. More importantly like seeing faces in the clouds, when people don't know much about a candidate they tend to fill in the blanks the way they'd like them to be. Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Mario Cumo, Jack Kemp, and Gary Hart have all benefited from this basic human tendency. Finally, every time the Democrats raise the issue of her lack of experience it allows the Republicans to remind voters how inexperienced Obama she's actually run a state...and a town...and worked on trade agreements with our largest trading partner (Canada) ...and she has Russia right across the Bering Straight. She actually had to show up and make decisions. On the whole I'd say that's more impressive than voting "present" in the Illinois legislature and the Senate.

3) She's a Woman:

I don't want to make too much of this. On the whole I think race and gender shouldn't matter in this sort of thing...but clearly for some people they do.

After one of the most bruising political campaigns in modern memory, one in which many Clinton supporters feel they were treated unfairly by both the media and the eventual winner, now the Obama people are in the difficult position of having to attack another woman while at the same time trying to make nice with all those disgruntled Hillary voters. That won't be easy. Even before the convention there was a lot of talk about how the media and the Obama folks were a bunch of chauvinist pigs. In Hillary there was a woman who had paid her dues, worked hard, stood by her man...only to be passed over for a less qualified man. I'm not saying I agree with that analysis, but some folks are talking that way...and they're not Republicans. The Democrats need to be very careful about how they attack Palin.

4) She Solidifies the Republican Base:
While McCain and the conservative wing of his party agree on most issues, McCain's public image has largely been defined by issues where he has parted company with the right. You don't get to be a Maverick by towing the party line. During the primaries, most of the opposition to McCain came from social conservatives who backed Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee to various extents. A lot of those people were continuing to talk, long after the primaries were over about how difficult it was going to be to support McCain. Well that's all over now. Palin is one of us. I can't remember the last time I saw conservatives this excited about a candidate. Not only does she talk the talk, she walks the walk. At age 44, after having four kids already, she's told the baby she's carrying has Downs Syndrome. She never considered that child to be anything other than a blessing. Amazingly, I've already seen democrats attack her for this. They argue that either she should have aborted it or she should quit her job and stay home to take care of one sentence you've managed to offend both pro-lifers and feminists. Keep it up dummies.

5) She's smart, tough and attractive:
By all accounts she's been an effective Governor and taken on corrupt entrenched interests in her home state. Almost everyone thinks she's doing a hell of a job. She's pleasant, has a great family story and is easy on the eyes.

Some years ago I was invited attend a Jewish religious ceremony which was the rough equivalent of a christening. This was a Reformed Temple and the Rabbi was a attractive woman. Halfway through the service I leaned over to The Wife and said something that I'd never thought I'd say, "That Rabbi has great legs!". One can only hope I can soon say the same about our Vice President.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How the Magna Carta Changed the World.

It is crumbling, water-stained and written in Medieval Latin, but the Magna Carta has managed to remain relevant to the cause of human rights even today, 800 years after it was scrawled on parchment and affirmed with the sticky wax seal of the English king.

England's "Great Charter" of 1215 was the first document to challenge the authority of the king, subjecting him to the rule of the law and protecting his people from feudal abuse.

More Here.

P.J. O'Rourke "On God".

Faith depends upon belief in things that cannot be proved, and I can prove that more people flunk physics than flunk Sunday School.

“But science can be proved,” a scientist would say. “The whole point of science is experimental proof.” Yet we non-scientists have to take that experimental proof on faith because we don’t know what the scientists are talking about. This makes science a matter of faith in men while religion, of course, is a matter of faith in God, and if you’ve got to choose …

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Ultimate Dark Horse Candidate.

WIDTH="384" HEIGHT="304">

Sorry Dan, hope this doesn't interfere with your plans. Click the Headline for larger version.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to Eat a Pomegranate.

I'm glad somebody knows. I had almost written the things off as being more trouble than they're worth.

A Step Back From Enviro Lunacy.

Sometimes public opinion doesn't flow smoothly; it shifts sharply when a tipping point is reached. Case in point: gas prices. $3 a gallon gas didn't change anybody's mind about energy issues. $4 a gallon gas did. Evidently, the experience of paying more than $50 for a tankful gets people thinking we should stop worrying so much about global warming and the environmental dangers of oil wells on the outer continental shelf and in Alaska. Drill now! Nuke the caribou!

The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy.

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

More here.

Fred Thompson on Boumediene v Bush.

In Boumediene v Bush, besides, for the first time in history conferring habeas corpus rights on alien enemies detained abroad by our military during a war, the Court struck down as inadequate what Chief Justice John Roberts called “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded enemy combatants.”

Olympics board seeks inquiry into age of Chinese gymnasts.

BEIJING: The International Olympic Committee has asked the world governing body for gymnastics to investigate whether members of the Chinese women's team were too young to compete in the Olympics.

The IOC instructed the international gymnastics federation, known as the FIG, to take up the issue Friday with the Chinese gymnastics federation and the Chinese Olympic Committee and report back to the IOC later in the day.

The FIG has asked the Chinese for official documents, including birth certificates, of its entire women's gymnastics team, according to IOC officials.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised by this. I figured they sweep it under the rug to avoid offending the Chinese.

Aaron Spelling's Widow Moves To Condo, Reflecting Housing Downturn.

Los Angeles, CA (AHN) -- The pending transfer of the widow of television producer Aaron Spelling to a condo unit from a mansion reflects the downturn of the American economy and the real estate market.

Candy Spelling, when Aaron was still alive, lived with her husband for almost two decades in a 56,500-square foot French chateau-style mansion which had a wine-tasting room, bowling lanes and silver, china and gift-wrapping rooms. Aaron was the man behind hit TV series like "Charlie's Angels" and "Seventh Heaven."

Recently she bought a high-end condo unit for $47 million at The Century in Los Angeles, which has identified wealth with estate living, not a high-rise lifestyle. The 140-unit building is still under construction. Spelling will have two penthouse floors measuring 16,500 square feet, which boils down to $2,848 per square foot. (emphasis mine)

Poor dear.

Well it looks like it's Biden.

Obama could have done a lot worse...Biden was for the Iraq war and the surge which puts him in a distinct minority in the Democratic party.

He also has a commendable record of public service-he's clearly ready to be President if, God forbid, something should happen. Unfortunately that just serves to highlight how thin Obama's resume is. It's worth remembering that Obama's qualifications to be President are only slightly better than ....mine. He is perhaps the most grossly unqualified major candidate for President...ever...and it shows. He's full of contradictory half thought through ideas, none of which he's firmly committed to. He simply doesn't know what he's doing and he's way over his head.

Unfortunately even though Biden would make an acceptable Vice-President that doesn't mean he helps the ticket in any meaningful way. Delaware with it's massive 3 electoral votes is a solidly Democratic state so no help there. Democratic talking heads are running around talking about how Biden grew up in in Pennsylvania and is the "3rd Senator" from that state and how he has blue collar appeal because of his economically strained upbringing. Given that Pennsylvania is considered a swing state, the argument is that he helps there. Frankly I don't see it.

Biden is no more associated with Pennsylvania than Ronald Reagan is with Illinois. It may be a source of pride for Illinois conservative activists...but that's about it. To the rest of the world he was from California. It's also worth remembering that Both Gore and Kerry won Pennsylvania so the choice of Biden to help with that state is essentially defensive. If the Democrats think that Pennsylvania is going down the tubes they've got bigger problems elsewhere.

I also don't see Biden having enormous appeal with blue collar swing-voters. I mean ok, Biden did have to work his way up in life and he had some bonafide working class experiences but he just doesn't come off as that sort of guy. He doesn't remind anybody of a union electrician sitting in a bar having an Old Style. Instead he reminds people of the captain of the Debate Team who thought he was smarter than everybody in the room ...everybody hated that guy.

Democrats make this sort of mistake all the time. Consider John Kerry. Democrats assumed that because he served in Viet Nam (and may even be something of a hero-though it would be easier to tell if he'd release his personnel records as he's promised several times) that he'd be popular with veterans and current members of the military. The reality was somewhat different. While many commended him for his service, few could forgive his actions as an anti-war protester. Because most senior Democrats agreed with Kerry on his anti-war stance they assumed it was a plus and that his military service gave it credibility and would mute criticism. They couldn't have been more wrong.

Another problem with Biden though is his tendency to... say unfortunate things. Whether it's praising Obama for being hygienic (I guess most black folks aren't in Biden's world) or suggesting that you need an Indian accent to go into a Seven Eleven, there's no denying that Joe's foot regularly winds up in his mouth.

The biggest problem though are the things Biden said in the course of this campaign. He said Obama was unfit to be President and that electing him would be a terrible mistake. Expect to see lots of footage of this in Republican ads this fall.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sorry About the Lack of Posting.

Your author staring stupidly at a computer screen wondering why won't load.

I'm going through a move at the moment and the cable company in a burst of premature enthusiasm shut off my cable and Internet two weeks early. They were very apologetic about the whole thing and my service is back up and running but it was pretty inconvenient.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top 30 Sci-Fi Films of All Time.

Yahoo has a genuinely idiotic list of the top 30 Sci-Fi movies of all time today. First of all, half the movies on the list are superhero enjoyable genre but emphatically NOT science fiction. Just because Peter Parker used science to become Spider Man and Superman is from another planet does not make those guys science fiction characters.
Now I'll grant you, it's not easy to define the genre.

Some films are clearly Sci-Fi like Star Wars. Being set in some hi-tech future almost guarantees inclusion but what about films set in the present or the past that add wildly unhistorical technology or characters? Is H.G. Wells The Time Machine Sci-Fi? If so, why isn't Mary Shelly's Frankenstein? Or is it? Clearly this is something reasonable nerds can disagree about.

For my money, the "monster movie" genre is separate and distinct too. That means no King Kong, Godzilla, Cloverfield etc. If you disagree, I'd like to hear your arguments.

Anyway rather than just complain, here's my alternative list.
Aside from the parameters I mentioned above, I decided that I have to have actually seen each and every movie in question. That means Serenity doesn't make the cut despite it's excellent reputation. Also, most sequels aren't here because they tend to cover familiar ground while trying to squeeze a buck out of a dying franchise. To be considered, a sequel has to bring something radically new to the table. Finally, there are lots of very popular movies that I left off the list simply because I don't like them that much. I'm not going to dispute that Close Encounters of the Third Kind is both "better" and more "important" than some of the films on this list. It just didn't connect with me.

I invite comments.

30) I Robot (2004). Startlingly good, even if it doesn't exactly follow the story by Isaac Asimov.

29) The Mysterious Island (1929) Surviving copies are incomplete. When it was released the entire movie was in Technicolor, with talking sequences, sound effects and synchronized music. Now all that's left is a black and white version. It stared Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life).

Update: Aparrently part of the color sequences survive in the UCLA film archive.

28) Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Am I the only one who thought the Borg Queen was sexy? Looking back on it...yeah I probably was the only one.

27) Soylent Green (1973) It's people!

26) Dark Star (1974) Set in the 22nd Century, the crew of the ship Dark Star roam the galaxy demolishing planets that are a hazard to navigation or colonization. Unfortunately the "smart" bombs they use in this process are...well...really smart and sometimes it's difficult to convince them to do their job.

25) Forbidden Planet (1956) Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest it stars a young Leslie Neilsen in a non-comedy role.

24) Mad Max (1979) The film that made Mel Gibson a star.

23) Running Man (1987) A loose adaptation of a Stephen King story about a world in which criminals are put in an American Gladiators type setting and made to fight for their lives on national television. Staring the current Governor of California, the former Governor of Minnesota and Richard Dawson as the evil game-show host.

22) Heavy Metal (1981) The only animated film on the list. Lots of topless girls and a fantastic score.

21) Return of the Jedi (1983) Could have been ranked higher but it loses points for having Ewoks. Good space battle though.

20) Outland (1981) Sean Connery stars as the sheriff on a mining colony. Faced with hired killers out to get him, he finds himself alone with nobody to turn to. If that sounds familiar it is. It's essentially a remake of High Noon (staring Gary Cooper 1952) and Rio Bravo (staring John Wayne 1959).

19) Predator (1987) Like Running Man this stars a couple of future Governors. This time in the role of commandos in the Central American jungle, they find themselves being hunted by an alien looking for trophies.

18) Logan's Run (1976) Set in the 23rd century, the threat of overpopulation has forced society to take drastic measures-everyone is killed when they reached age 30. Logan is a Sandman, that is he puts people "to sleep". Unfortunately for him, he's got a big birthday coming he decides to make a run for it. Also staring the delicious Jenny Agutter.

17) Independence Day (1996) I almost forgot this one. It doesn't seem to be on television much anymore. I wonder why. It was one heck of a blockbuster.

16) Metropolis (1927) Its the movie that taught us that girl robots are sexy.

15) Alien (1979) In space no one can hear you scream.

14) RoboCop (1987) A Detroit cop is killed in the line of duty. Do you A) give him a decent burial, or B) take whats left of him, graft it on to a crime fighting robot and turn him loose on the city? If you chose A you have no future in science fiction writing.

13) Starship Troopers (1997) Now I'll grant you, it doesn't really have the charm of the book on which it is loosely based and a fair amount of it really doesn't make any sense. I mean really we're fighting bugs who stab people...why don't we just use tanks and artillery? That's still incredibly bad-ass.

12) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) If the plot made any sense this would rank higher. It's cultural significance is huge.

11) Planet of the Apes (1968) "You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

10) Demolition Man (1993) Set in an orderly but bland future where this is (virtually) no crime. Unfortunately a "real" criminal (Wesley Sinpes) from an earlier more violent age (the present) has escaped from the "cryoprison" — which keeps its prisoners cryonically frozen in suspended animation. How do you catch him? How about unfreezing a disgraced cop (Sylvester Stallone) who's also in the deep freeze. With nice performances by Denis Leary and Sandra Bullock.

9) Aliens (1986) One of the few sequels that is actually better that the original movie.

8) The Empire Strikes Back (1980) There's a lot of great stuff in this movie but I still prefer the original.

7) The Terminator (1984) Really an amazing movie.

6) Star Wars (1977) I expect this to be controversial. Episodes I-III don't even make the list and to rank the originals this low is bound to ruffle a few feathers. Don't get me wrong-I love the original movies...and for what it's worth I genuinely like the the more recent prequels...but there are five movies that I think are better.

5) Total Recall (1990) Douglas Quaid (Governor of California Again) is a lowly construction worker who is inexplicably married to a young Sharon Stone. Lately he's been having some very strange dreams.

4) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) A considerable development and expansion of the premise of the original film. At the time of the movie's release the special effects were considered jaw-dropping. Literally nothing like it had ever been done before.

3) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982) Unquestionably the best Star Trek movie ever made.

2) The Matrix (1999) An unusually smart film. I mean how easy it it to persuade an audience that the entire world we live in is an illusion?

1) Blade Runner (1982) Futuristic film noir meets Frankenstein. There are amazingly seven different versions of this movie...which speaks volumes about how troubled production was. I may be the only person alive who prefers the original theatrical release.

Well there you have it. That's my list. It's very heavy on movies I grew up with (mostly '70's and '80's) but I think they stand up pretty well.

Castro's Dictatorship and Cuban Health Care.

Cuban communism may be repressive, but at least it provides good health care. This is a common trope of left-wing apologias for Castro's brutal dictatorship. This claim is getting recycled yet again in the wake of Castro's recent resignation (e.g. here). One response to this point is that of liberal Berkeley economist Brad DeLong: Cuba would likely have a much higher standard of living (and better health care) today had it not gone communist in 1959. As DeLong documents, Cuba in the 1950s was one of the richest countries in Latin America and rapidly approaching Western European standards of living and health outcomes.

Under communism, it became one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere - despite receiving vast quantities of heavily subsidized oil from the Soviet Union for decades. Taking Cuban official statistics at face value (as DeLong does), Cuban health outcomes and standards of living are roughly similar to those of Mexico and the Dominican Republic. In the 1950s, DeLong notes, Cuba was vastly better off than these countries and, on some measures (such as infant mortality) better than many Western European nations.

More here.

Surge for the dollar as global fears rise.

For years now people have been saying that our fiscal policies were undermining the value of the dollar (some truth in that) and the trend toward the the Euro signaled an end to the dollar as the worlds principal reserve currency. But that argument only made sense if Europe's underlying economic fundamentals were better than ours-and they aren't. Add an increasingly erratic and dangerous Russia to the mix and what do you have?

Against sterling, the US currency notched up its 11th consecutive day of gains – its longest uninterrupted rise in more than 35 years – as markets became increasingly convinced that the US was best-placed to weather the global downturn.

Iran says its warplanes are capable of reaching Israel.

Of course the hard part is getting back.

Ukraine Offers Missile Defence Co-Operation with US.

First Poland now this. It seems Russia may have overplayed their hand.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Parent Trap.

Children used to provide cheap labor, and retirement security, all in one. Now they're pretty much all cost and no return, from a financial perspective. That suggests that subsidies might solve the problem. Vladimir Putin thinks so, as he plans to offer generous parental benefits to encourage citizens to have more children, something that's necessary as Russia's population is in absolute decline. (Italy, which is also in demographic free-fall, is doing something similar).

Latest Environmental Crisis: People Who Know How to Park on Brink of Extinction.

Story here.

Warning: Language

I Need a New Laundromat.

Nymphomaniac Coed at the laundromat. Your results may vary.

When we moved to the beach, here in California we were very lucky. We found a place that was affordable, had nice sea breezes, parking, a balcony, and all the modern one: on site laundry. We could have had it installed, we've talked about it...but it just never happened. In part it was the expense, but also it just didn't seem like an urgent priority. In fact, we probably felt a little thrifty for not running out and buying a new washer and dryer and paying to have them installed. So what if it meant that each week one of us would have to spend a few hours at the local Laundromat.

Now I wonder if you can guess which person in my marriage is stuck with laundry duty. On the one hand we have The Wife, a successful but slightly overworked, high-power attorney...who also happens to be seven months pregnant. Then on the other hand you have me, a largely unsuccessful writer who sits around, writes blog posts now and again and but mostly looks at porn on the Internet all day. Now I've tried to explain to The Wife that I have to do what I do or the terrorists win. Unfortunately, she's largely unimpressed. Needless to say, I'm the one trying to match socks each week.

Los Angeles is a very segregated city-not in the formal, legal sense of course, but neighborhoods tend to be mono-ethnic. Drive a few blocks in one direction and suddenly everyone is black. Go a few blocks the other way and all the signs on the business are in Chinese. There is a bit of this in all American big cities I suppose but it seems more pronounced in LA.

Where I live, on the coast is very white and relatively affluent. Unfortunately that also means it's relatively hard to come by a laundromat. There is however a working class Mexican neighborhood just inland, perhaps 10 minutes by car. Exactly the place for the perfect place to do your laundry.

It took me a few tries to find a place I liked but eventually I settled in. The place I'd go to was relatively clean and fairly large, which meant that I could do all my laundry at once and get in and out in about an hour. Now some Laundromats have lots of amenities. There was a place that I went to a couple of times when I was in college that served beer for example-this place on the other hand-not so much. No sink to hand wash items, no bathroom. They did have a couple of TVs but they had been set to Spanish language channels and the knobs had been removed (yes they were old enough to have knobs, which should tell you something about the picture quality). Now I like watching Judge Judy in Spanish as much as the next guy...but after a while it gets a little old.

They also had gumball machines-only there were no gumballs to be had. Instead they had little junk toys, phony gold chains, temporary tattoos, that sort of thing. The best one by far though dispensed inch high figurines of Catholic saints, the Virgin Mary, and even the big man himself...Jesus Christ. Now lets face it: doing laundry is boring. If it were fun, pregnant high-power lawyers would do it. So anyway, from time to time, when the chore of doing the wash was dragging on, I'd purchase a few figures....and play with them. Sometimes Mother Theresa would go on a blind date with St. Peter. Other times Pope John Paul II would have a Kung Fu fight with Our Lady of Guadalupe. Needless to say the Mexican ladies who were doing laundry while I was there would tell their children to stay away from the weird gringo.

I was reasonably satisfied with my laundry mat until one day I discovered one much closer to home. It was round the back in a strip mall, near a deli I'd go to from time to time. It was shinny and new and all the customers were U.S. citizens. The pull was irresistible. Now I knew how John Edwards felt- I began cheating on my laundromat.

At first it was wonderful. Everything was clean, they had a sink and a bathroom (though I'm not sure I'd want to use it and besides it cost 25 cents). You also didn't feel like you had to check and see if your car had been stolen every 10 minutes. It wasn't all gravy of course. Contrary to what you might expect, there were for example relatively few nymphomaniac college girls there...and the few I did run across tended to be put off by paunchy middle aged men who were folding their wife's laundry. No accounting for taste I guess.

On the whole though I liked the new place very much. Then one day as I was folding shirts, a homeless man came up to me and asked for money so that he could do his laundry. I paused for a moment and thought about how difficult it must be to ask a stranger for something like that. "Of course" I said "How much do you need". A little shamefaced, he told me and I gave him the money. Afterwards, I felt kinda good about it...clean clothes seem like such a small thing-until you can't get them. I felt like I had really helped him.

A few weeks later I was approached again (by a different man) and again I was eager to help...and yet it was also a bit of a nuisance. I found myself wishing he hadn't been there. The old Laundromat had none of this sort of thing. People who sneak into this country looking for work aren't very sympathetic to "there but for the grace of God go I" type guilt trips. The Mexican ladies at the old place would have told this guy to get a job...and perhaps they have the right idea.

Anyway I went in today to do laundry and to my joy I noted that the washers and dryers near the back weren't taken (the dryers in the back run hotter which means you're done faster and cheaper). I looked a my fellow patrons, "the fools" I thought to myself "if only they knew how much better my drying experience was going to be...Ha Ha Ha". OK I know it's a little lame but in life you have to take the small victories when they come. With a smile on my face, I strode confidently to the back row. And then I saw it. Rather than pay the 25 cents to use the bathroom, one of the homeless had "used" the floor right in front of my precious ultra-hot dryers...and not just urine either if you know what I mean.

I wonder if my old laundromat would take me back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Latest Environmental Crisis: The Tropics Are Shrinking! Greens Blame Bush Administration And 40,000 Year Long Planetary Cycle...But Mostly Bush.

The positions of the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn, the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle all depend on the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of its orbit around the sun. As the axis tilts, so do all these lines. So, all the useful Tropic of Capricorn markers around the world (some of which are pictured here) aren't really all that accurate. They can't be.

The Tropic of Cancer line is therefore also unstable, meaning that every year the Tropics decrease in size by about 1100 sq km. The Arctic and Antarctic Circles are also moving towards the Poles, meaning the polar regions are technically shrinking too. This all takes place over a 40,000 year cycle, but what happens at the end of that period isn't clear. Maybe it moves back slowly. I certainly hope it doesn't bounce back suddenly.

25 Internet Startups That Bombed Miserably.

Billed by as “the shining example of a good idea gone bad”, Kozmo actually shocked many people by failing. The idea was to let city dwellers order late-night impulse items like movies and snacks that would be delivered free in an hour. It was a big hit with its target market, but before long, Kozmo became a victim of its own success. The very thing that made it appealing - free, fast delivery - made the business model unsustainable. It was simply not possible to deliver items that cheap for free and still turn a profit. By the time Kozmo began charging for delivery it was already too late, and the $280 million in funding was lost when the company closed its doors in March, 2001.

More Here.

I care about the planet, probably more than you.

Unofficial, not-actually-used-by-Toyota Prius ads (according to this article, an advertising firm employee created them as an “unsolicited project”). All show people engaged in bad behavior (dumping a body, hiring a prostitute, having an affair) with the tagline “Well, at least (s)he drives a Prius.”

More on Not-Very-Green Mass Transit.

A full bus or trainload of people is more efficient than private cars, sometimes quite a bit more so. But transit systems never consist of nothing but full vehicles. They run most of their day with light loads. The above calculations came from figures citing the average city bus holding 9 passengers, and the average train (light or heavy) holds 22. If that seems low, remember that every packed train at rush hour tends to mean a near empty train returning down the track.

Transit vehicles also tend to stop and start a lot, which eats a lot of energy, even with regenerative braking. And most transit vehicles are just plain heavy, and not very aerodynamic. Indeed, you'll see tables in the DoE reports that show that over the past 30 years, private cars have gotten 30% more efficient, while buses have gotten 60% less efficient and trains about 25% worse. The market and government regulations have driven efforts to make cars more efficient, while transit vehicles have actually worsened.

In order to get people to ride transit, you must offer frequent service, all day long. They want to know they have the freedom to leave at different times. But that means emptier vehicles outside of rush hour. You've all seen those huge empty vehicles go by, you just haven't thought of how anti-green they were. It would be better if off-hours transit was done by much smaller vehicles, but that implies too much capital cost -- no transit agency will buy enough equipment for peak times and then buy a second set of equipment for light demand periods.

Milwaukee Man Shoots Lawn Mower.

Lawnmower Man Keith Walendowski

“I’ll tell you the truth,” a criminal complaint quotes an apparently inebriated Keith Walendowski. “I got pissed because my lawn mower wouldn’t start, so I got my shotgun and shot it.

“I can do that. It’s my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want,” Walendowski told police.

Ignorance of the law, however, is not a legal defense.

Mysterious Chinese Tunnels of the Pacific Northwest.

In the mid 1930s, the U.S. Government launched the Federal Writers’ Project to support writers during the Great Depression.

As part of a project documenting American folklores, a guy named William Zimmerman told the story about "mysterious Chinese tunnels" (or "Shanghai tunnels") beneath cities in the Pacific Northwest, where kidnapped city dwellers would be smuggled to the docks and sold into slavery in Shanghai (hence the name).

The tunnels are clearly there - so it’s interesting to see how whatever their original purpose was - in this classic urban myth, it has been nefariously subverted to be a malicious one.

The article is here.

On Language.

Why do we capitalize the word “I”? There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule “I” appears only in English.

Consider other languages: some, like Hebrew, Arabic and Devanagari-Hindi, have no capitalized letters, and others, like Japanese, make it possible to drop pronouns altogether. The supposedly snobbish French leave all personal pronouns in the unassuming lowercase, and Germans respectfully capitalize the formal form of “you” and even, occasionally, the informal form of “you,” but would never capitalize “I.” Yet in English, the solitary “I” towers above “he,” “she,” “it” and the royal “we.” Even a gathering that includes God might not be addressed with a capitalized “you.”

Global Warming, Global Myth.

Do you ever wonder how communism could last for 70 years in Russia? Surely there was plenty of evidence, for decades, that the system was failing: food shortages, declining life expectancy, increased infant mortality, low standards of living, primitive hospitals, and sanitation facilities lagging far behind those in Western Europe and America — not to mention pollution far worse than in the West. But to diehard communists, the facts did not matter. All the observable negatives of collectivism were trumped by ideology. The same is true of the ideology behind global warming.

Ian Fleming Interview of Raymond Chandler

The creator of James Bond meets the creator of Philip Marlowe ...awesome!

As Ace says:

Interesting if you're a fan of either man, and especially if you're a fan of both. Be aware that Raymond Chandler was a genuine hard-case full-blown alcoholic,* and he decided to show up for the interview in his normal state, three sheets to the wind. He slurs and doesn't have much to say. Fleming is pretty clearly straining to carry both ends of the interview here.

* In writing one screenplay -- Double Indemnity, I think, but I could be wrong -- he was afflicted by his other big problem, writer's block, and so informed the producers "I can't write this sober, but I can write it drunk." To write the screenplay, he got falling-down drunk in the morning, and was taken by studio car to his bungalow, and typed out pages while getting drunker still through the day; at day's end, they loaded the insensate drunk into the car and drove him back home. And he followed this routine for a couple of months.

Via Ace of Spades.

Why the Left is Unpatriotic and Why the Right Should Say So.

The Oregon Country Fair is an excellent example of the culture of the left in today's America. This is not a culture that favors middle-class capitalism or the traditional form of American patriotism. It is a culture seeking a one-world government, a primitive socialist economic system, a low-tech manufacturing infrastructure, and a religion that worships nature instead of God.

The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company.

Apparently they have stuff for supervillains like myself too.

Sherman's March.

A cool interactive website about the decisive campaign of the Civil War.

The Mysterious Origin and Supply of Oil.

A so-called fossil fuel, petroleum is believed by most scientists to be the transformed remains of long dead organisms. The majority of petroleum is thought to come from the fossils of plants and tiny marine organisms. Larger animals might contribute to the mix as well.

"Even some of the dinosaurs may have gotten involved in some of this," says William Thomas, a geologists at the University of Kentucky. "[Although] I think it would be quite rare and a very small and insignificant contribution."

But another theory holds that more oil was in Earth from the beginning than what's been produced by dead animals, but that we've yet to tap it.

The State Hermitage Museum.

Cupid and Psyche: Antonio Canova
1808, Marble

One of the world's great museums.

Kennedy's Illness, and the Left's.

The Media keep reminding us of the issues that divide us as a nation: Iraq, different approaches about reviving the economy, socialized medicine, the role of mankind in global warming, gay marriage, social issues, and many others.

As Ted Kennedy’s recently diagnosed brain tumor demonstrated, Right and Left are also divided based on whether they display basic human decency when misfortunes befall a member of the other side. The American people seem to be fundamentally cleft about how they treat news of an opponent’s impending death in a conservative manner – with prayer – or a leftist one – with champagne and hate mail.

When Jessie Helms and Tony Snow passed I got an instant message from an old lefty friend who couldn't help but gloat over their demise. I was more than a little shocked. This person is someone I've known for years and considered a friend. We've always had our political differences but I didn't think we ever thought of the other side as evil.

I thought we were opponents but never enemies. Perhaps I was wrong. I simply can't understand taking joy from the misfortune of my fellow Americans.

Barack Jennings Obama.

Most analysts compare this election to 1976 (though in some ways I think 1952 is more apt). Michael Zak has his eye on 1896.

Early on, Bryan looked like a winner, but his campaign faded in the fall. Rhetoric that had once seemed inspirational came off as pompous and bombastic. Worse, many voters wondered if Bryan really knew what he was talking about. While McKinley presented himself as a seasoned team leader, Bryan proved himself to be a naive, one-man show.

Indecent Images.

Indecent Images is a gallery of evocative pre-Raphaelite paintings...some are fairly racy. Think of it as the Diminished Expectations version of Theo's Totty. View at your own risk.

10 Dead People Who Weren’t Really Dead.

Who wouldn’t like to get away from their responsibilities now and then? No kids, no job, no financial worries. Sounds nice, but these 10 people took it to the extreme by faking their own deaths. Although some of these people didn’t do it to shirk their responsibilities - some did it just to see who would show up at the funeral. Yikes.

The list is here.

Wine-and-cheese thuggery.

Tom Matzzie is mailing threatening letters this week to nearly 10,000 people with whom the liberal political operative vigorously disagrees.

If the recipients act in a way he disapproves of — namely, donating to certain conservative or Republican causes — Matzzie and his new nonprofit group, called Accountable America, will unleash what The New York Times describes as “a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.”

Matzzie claims he’s simply seeking to prevent dishonest attacks on politicians and causes he favors, but the reality is that such letters are nothing less than political thuggery.

And, as Judicial Watch points out, the Accountable America letters are also quite possibly violations of the civil liberties of those receiving them: “A key federal civil rights law (42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)), popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, may be applicable if ‘two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy.’ ”


One of the first things that prompted me to move away from the left was the realization that it was never really about "peace and freedom".

Would You Buy an Electric Car Now?

The argument for electric cars goes like this. Most Americans have two cars, and most driving is within 20 miles or so of home. Therefore, the usual shortcomings of electric cars (small, short range) would not matter if the electric car were used as a commuter car.

According to some, like the makers of the documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, electric cars might be plentiful on the highways today but for the conspiracies of Big Oil and Big Auto.

I’m doubtful about this, because of a simple, simplistic metric: I, who am tempted to buy many techy things, have never been tempted, have never even been curious about buying an electric car. And if I am outside of the target market, my reasoning goes, it’s not that big a market.

Why do Asian students generally get higher marks than Latinos?

Because cultural and family expectations matter.

A surprisingly candid piece from the L.A. Times.

Win at the Carnival.

Midways are notorious hives of scum and villainy. Impress the rubes by emerging triumphant.

Strict Liability, Constitutional Rights, Guns, Speech, Abortion, and Underage Sex.

Sexy title huh? Professor Volokh weighs in on the constutionality of of laws that hold someone criminally liable even if he's made an honest mistake (or perhaps even a reasonable mistake).

Satirical Maps of the First World War.

Very cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cloned puppies may have exposed 31-year mystery.

SALT LAKE CITY - A woman who made news around the world when she had five pups cloned from her beloved pit bull Booger looked very familiar to some who saw her picture: She may be the same woman who 31 years earlier was accused of abducting a Mormon missionary in England, handcuffing him to a bed and making him her sex slave.

If the government is going to start cracking down on everyone who keeps Mormon missionaries as sex slaves, then pretty soon it'll be illegal to abduct a Jehovah's Witness or a Scientologist, chain them to your furnace and have your way with them. Sadly I think we're loosing sight of the things that made this country great.
h/t The Wife.

In Honor of the Olympics....OK I Know Ice Skating is a Winter Event...But Still.

The 50 Most Famous Cars Of All Time.


The list is here.

Quiz: Shakespeare’s Characters

The play is the thing wherein Hamlet captured the conscience of the king. We’ve taken that concept and put a challenging _flossian spin on it. We’re not after your conscience (so relax); we’re after your knowledge of Shakespearean theatre. In this quiz, we’ll provide a Shakespeare character and ask you to choose the play in which he or she appears.

It's pretty tough. I only go 75% and I like to think I know my Shakespeare pretty well.

See how you do here.

Dogs of Note.

Greyfriars Bobby

The epitome of loyal, Bobby is said to have spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave in Edinburgh, Scotland, until his own death. His master, a policeman with the Edinburgh City Police, died of tuberculosis in 1858. In 1867, when someone pointed out that a dog with no owner was supposed to be “destroyed” by law, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh renewed Bobby’s license himself. He died in 1872 and was buried not far from the man he was so loyal to. Greyfriars Bobby has lots of fans – he has been featured in numerous children’s books, the Dog Aid Society of Scotland installed a gravestone for him, and a statue of him stands in front of the Greyfriars Bobby pub in Edinburgh. It makes me think of that Futurama episode where Fry’s dog waits for him outside of the pizza joint he worked at, not realizing that he is never coming back. It gets me all choked up every time.

More Here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The MSM’s Latest Embarrassment.

We also have the obligatory column from Clark Hoyt admitting that the New York Times was wrong, but denying that their reticence to cover the Edward story was the result of liberal bias. Yes, who could imagine such a thing of the paper which ran a front-page, uncorroborated story of the Republican nominee’s alleged relationship with a lobbyist some nine years ago?

The Edwards mess is the most recent and visible, but hardly unique, example of the mainstream media’s hear no evil/see no evil approach to newsgathering. How many other stories has the MSM missed, denied or avoided? From Rathergate to Reverend Wright to the success of the surge, the pattern is the same: MSM stalls, shuffles its collective feet, and doggedly ignores information for as long as possible until they can no longer do so with a straight face. The fact that these stories without exception work to the detriment of Democrats is apparently a grand coincidence.

Remembering the Bomb, Forgeting Why.

The decision to drop the bomb will always be controversial because the answer to that question is yes, there were other ways we could have ended the war with Japan. Some would almost certainly have cost more lives than were lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Army Air Force Commander of Strategic Forces in the Pacific Curtis LeMay believed if given six months and freedom to target whatever he wished, he could bring Japan to its knees by completely destroying its ability to feed itself. Victory assured — at the cost of several million starved Japanese.

The navy thought a blockade would do the trick. Starving the Japanese war machine of raw materials and the people of food they were importing from occupied China would have the Japanese government begging for peace in a matter of six months to a year. Again, visions of millions of dead from starvation came with the plan.

The army saw invasion as the only option. A landing on the southernmost main island of Kyushu followed up by an attack on the Kanto plain near Tokyo on the island of Honshu. Dubbed Operation Downfall, the plan called for the first phase to be carried out in October of 1945, with the main battle for Japan taking place in the spring of 1946. Casualty estimates have been hotly debated over the years, but it seems reasonable to assume that many hundreds of thousands of Americans would have been killed or wounded while, depending on how fiercely civilians resisted, perhaps several million Japanese would have died in the assault.

What a Race!

BEIJING (AP)—With history about to slip away and Michael Phelps cheering him on, Jason Lezak pulled up next to the lane rope and set out after hulking Alain Bernard, like a NASCAR driver drafting down the backstretch at Daytona.

Only 25 meters to go, half the length of the pool. Every stroke brought Lezak a little closer, a little closer, a little closer, his body seemingly carried along by the Frenchman’s massive wake. The two lunged for the wall together. When the result flashed on the board, Phelps was still on course for his record eight gold medals.

By a fingertip.

Lezak, the oldest man on the
U.S. swimming team, pulled off one of the great comebacks in Olympic history Monday morning, hitting the wall just ahead of Bernard in the 400 freestyle relay, a race so fast it actually erased two world records.
Few sporting events live up to the hype—this one exceeded it. The 32-year-old Lezak was nearly a body length behind Bernard as they made the final turn, but the American hugged the lane rope and stunningly overtook him on the very last stroke.

“This has been happening my whole career,” Lezak said. “People have gotten on my lane line and sucked off of me, so I figured this is the one opportunity in my whole career to do that.”
Suck it Frogs.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Scarecrows and Bogeymen.

When war opponents declare that there is no military solution, they are attempting to imply that those with whom they politically differ believe that there is not only a military solution, but that it is the sole component of the solution, and that no other solutions (e.g., diplomacy, reform of a corrupt government, etc.) need apply.

There is an additional false implication that the military will play no part of the solution — that only their solutions are useful. Hence their extremist demands for years that the troops be brought out of Iraq immediately. After all, if there is no military solution, what is the military doing there, and what harm can there be in removing it?

Similarly, when we are told that we can’t drill our way out of our current energy problems, they falsely imply that those who favor expanded domestic exploration believe that this is a panacea, and that no other measures need be taken to solve the energy shortage. But I’m aware of no proponent of looking for more sources at home who believes this.

Courting the "No-Values" Vote.

'No Values Voters' Looking To Support Most Evil Candidate

Warning: Language

Picking Sides.

"The only thing I want to know about a man," said the Edwardian Liberal Isaac Foot, "is which side he would like his ancestors to have fought on at Marston Moor".

Mexican Military Holds Border Patrol Agent at Gunpoint.

Since 1996, there have been more than 200 confirmed incursions by the Mexican military into the United States.

In the olden days we used to call this sort of thing an "Act of War". Today nobody cares.

The article is here.

War in Georgia: A roundup.

The situation in Georgia is evolving rapidly. Here are some of the latest developments:

Local authorities are claiming that nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in this morning's military assault. A spokesman for Russia's peacekeeping force in the region says that 10 Russian soldiers have been killed and thirty wounded.

Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili says that 30 Georgians have been killed by Russian bombing. He also claims that Georgian troops have taken control of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. According to news agencies, fighting between Georgian and Russian forces is ongoing.

"War has started," says Vladimir Putin. Georgia agrees.

Georgia will be withdrawing 1,000 troops from Iraq to participate in the fighting.

Envoys from the EU, United States, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been dispatched to negotiate a truce.

Volunteers fighters from North Ossetia -- officially part of Russia -- are pouring in to help the rebels.

The Red Cross has called for the opening of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to evacuate.

News of the Day.

Well the Olympics has begun, without any major disasters far as I can tell anyway. I'm not watching and my confidence that the media would report things that are inconvenient for their Chinese hosts is pretty low (though it seems a Chinese national has stabbed an American to death).
In the wake of the games we have the Russians invading Georgia and John Edwards finally admitting to his affair (though he still denies being the father of his girlfriends illegitimate child...which if true means she was cheating on the kids say LOL), both timed to minimize media coverage of the events.
Actually I really don't care about Edwards affair. People are flawed, they make mistakes and sometimes do stupid hurtful things to people that they care about. What's disturbing is the extent which the media covered for him. Now the press is claiming that they didn't have enough to go with the story. That doesn't even pass the laugh test.
When someone makes a unsubstianted accusation about John McCain possibly having an affair it's a major story for weeks. If there is a rumor that Larry Craig got arrested for solicitation, they report the rumor and ask him for comment. Surely the fact that the Enquirer had run front page stories about the affair might warrant a little inquiry on the subject(whatever you might think of their journalistic standards, they still do investigative journalism...and don't forget they did find Gennifer Flowers). Instead the editors at the LA Times ordered their reporters not to mention the story in their blogs. Can anyone really imagine the press helping a prominent Republican conceal an affair and possible love child? I'm dubious, especially one who had so sanctimoniously made his public persona "the guy who stands by his wife with cancer".
The media has a duty to engage in a quest for the truth. Here they punted. It it quite easy to imagine that Edwards could have been Obama's Attorney General or perhaps even his running mate. The refusal of the media to cover the story was not only unfair to the American people, it was unfair to Democrats. By concealing the bad news, the press was in effect setting them up for a fall. Shameful.
If the Edwards story is ridiculous, the war in Georgia is frightening. As I write this the Georgia parliament has declared a state of war (which is apparently not the same as declaring war on) with Russia. Georgia, like many former captive nations of the old Soviet Union has become a friend and ally of the United States. In particular, Georgia has been extremely helpful in the war on terror. It also sits astride a major oil pipeline. This could get very nasty very fast.

French Swimmer Mocks U.S. Team.

“The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for.”

The we in that statement is the French men’s 4x100 freestyle relay team. And the who making the proclamation was Frenchman Alain Bernard, who holds the current world record in the 100-meter freestyle.

That's pretty rich since if it weren't for us he'd be swimming in German.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

School Choice Humor.

Freeman Hunt posted this and I couldn't resist. Delicious.

The Man Behind the Curtain.

The bottom line: liberal pundits — following months of analysis by their conservative counterparts — had figured out that despite the best possible terrain for the Democrats to recapture the White House, the Democrats (with a whole lot of cheerleading from the mainstream media) have chosen a thinly experienced, irresolute, underachieving and obnoxious standard bearer. And his excuse-mongering just makes it all the more irritating.

It is not clear what provoked the soul-searching or why reality didn’t dawn on the pundits sooner. After all, they knew all along that he had virtually no experience and that he often sounded bizarrely confident about his nonexistent credentials.

Some might conclude that they were so blinded by their bias against Hillary Clinton and eagerness to shove the Clintons off the national stage that they ignored any signs that The Chosen One was deeply flawed. And, indeed, many of the faults that are potentially so dangerous in Obama — his predilection to lie when the heat is on and his lack of core principles — were even greater liabilities for Clinton in the media’s eyes.

26 Cheerleaders stuck in an elevator.

I've seen several movies that begin this way. Unfortunately decorum prohibits me from mentioning them.

Via Drudge.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris Hilton for President.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Actually she makes a lotta sense. God help us all.

UPDATE: Ok I give up...I can't make the Html code work for the video.

Here's a link.

People Vs. Pelosi

In telling House Democrats it's OK to vote for drilling, Nancy Pelosi has conceded that on the biggest election issue she's out of step with the American people. Will Republicans seize this opportunity?

So Much for the 'Looted Sites'

A recent mission to Iraq headed by top archaeologists from the U.S. and U.K. who specialize in Mesopotamia found that, contrary to received wisdom, southern Iraq's most important historic sites -- eight of them -- had neither been seriously damaged nor looted after the American invasion. This, according to a report by staff writer Martin Bailey in the July issue of the Art Newspaper. The article has caused confusion, not to say consternation, among archaeologists and has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Not surprising perhaps, since reports by experts blaming the U.S. for the postinvasion destruction of Iraq's heritage have been regular fixtures of the news.

Up to now, it had seemed a clear-cut case. It stood to reason that a chaotic land rich with artifacts would be easy to loot and plunder. Ergo, the accusations against the U.S., the de facto governing authority, had been taken on faith. No one had bothered to challenge the reports, the evidence or the logic, not least because many ancient sites were in hostile terrain and couldn't be double-checked. By implication, the U.S. had been blamed for that too: After all, the presiding authority is effectively responsible for allowing no-go areas to exist where such things can occur.

Read the whole thing. A Tour of our Solar System.

Very cool stuff.

"Why Obama Can't Win"- From The Huffington Post No Less.

To earn the Democratic nomination, as Fred Thompson points out, Obama ran as George McGovern without the experience, a left-of-center politician who would meet unconditionally with Iran, pull us precipitously out of Iraq, prohibit new drilling for oil, and grow big government in Washington by all but a trillion dollars.

Decision '08: The folks At ComicCon Weigh In.

Stolen from Theo.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Infant Mortality Comparisons.

That I'm not a fan of socialized medicine probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to the readers of this blog. While I don't want to get into a big debate about the pros and cons of government run health care per se (that's a post for another day) I did want to draw attention to this article that the wife emailed me last night.

One of the long standing arguments in favor of government run health care is that certain populations within a society gain access to medical services that they wouldn't get in a private model (I should mention as an aside that the United States emphatically does NOT have a private health care system but rather a mixed one of private and public providers each of whom service patients based on various criteria ranging from ability to pay to it's converse-need.). Whether that's really true or not is I think more open to debate than people realize. For every American twentysomething who didn't get health insurance and now finds themselves with a crippling illness there is a European who can't get a kidney transplant unless they fly to America for one and pay for it themselves. For fans of government run health care, this sort of thing tends to be rather embarrassing. So much for the government taking care of your health care needs in exchange for all those high taxes.

One thing that socialized medicine did do indisputably well though, was was combating infant mortality...or so it seemed. I vividly remember being taught as a child in the 1970's and 80's that countries with government run health care systems had much lower rates of infant mortality than the United States. Supposedly the difference was caused by greater foreign emphasis on low-cost prenatal care given away freely by the state as opposed to the more American approach of throwing lots of money at someone who was already sick. While one model might be better or worse for an individual depending on their circumstances, in the aggregate the statistics indicated that that the socialized medicine model was better for society.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Each country calculates infant mortality statistics their own way. As a result you're lucky if you wind up comparing things as similar as apples and oranges. In the United States we count babies as "live births" if they show any sign of life whatsoever (breathing, heartbeats, movement) and any subsequent deaths are counted. Not so elsewhere. Most other countries don't consider babies below a certain weight or size as viable (and thus outside the sample for infant mortality statistics). Not only does this distort comparisons of health care systems, but there is reason to believe that it undermines incentives to save premature infants.

Socialized medicine may have some strong arguments in it's favor, but quality of care isn't one of them. It defies reason to believe that the vast sums spent by this country account for nothing. Couple that with a healthy fear of screwing up thanks to America's tort lawyers and the notion that our doctors and nurses are being outperformed by a bunch of europeans who have an incentive structure for workplace excellence comparable to the one we see in action at the Department of Motor Vehicles becomes laughable.

Why Do So Many Not "Get" That We Are At War.

Westerners are in denial. And, the deniers are even more afraid of Jihad and terrorism than those of us who are crying out against it. Thus, like battered women, they seek to appease the violent offender; they also engage in self-blame in the misguided belief that if they do not “offend” their batterer that he will not batter them.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Dead at 89.

He was one of the most important people of the the twentieth century. He understood the barbarity that underpinned communism for he had first hand experience with it. He "spoke truth to power" with a courage that critics of western democracy can only fantasize about. He was the real deal.

From time to time I'll meet a leftist who has nostalgia for the Soviet Union and the "achievements" of the communist world. I always recommend that they read The Gulag Archipelago or Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. I doubt they ever do, but at least at that point their ignorance is willful rather than inadvertent.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Book Review: The Same Man: George Orwell & Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

If Evelyn Waugh might be described as a social alpinist, clambering up one aristocratic pinnacle after another, George Orwell, his exact contemporary — both were born in 1903 — was a spelunker, burrowing ever deeper into the seamiest depths. Waugh loved the high life and made it his domain.

Orwell may not have loved the low life, but he valiantly tried to live it. While Waugh was chatting up dukes and duchesses, Orwell was rubbing shoulders with coal miners and tramps. Like a gourmet who sniffs out the most pungent cheeses, he had a nose for the sleazy side of life. Wormwood was to him what Champagne was to Waugh. Both men were, in their way, imposters, but they were imposters with a twist: The deliberate ambiguities of their lives sharpened their appetite for the truth.

Food Apartheid.

Opening a McDonald's in South-Central L.A. is not government-enforced racial discrimination. But telling McDonald's it can open franchises only in the white part of town—what do you call that?

More here.

What If Iraq Works?

There is a growing confidence among officers, diplomats and politicians that a constitutional Iraq is going to make it. We don't hear much anymore of trisecting the country, much less pulling all American troops out in defeat.

Critics of the war now argue that a victory in Iraq was not worth the costs, not that victory was always impossible. The worst terrorist leaders, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Muqtada al-Sadr, are either dead or in hiding.

The 2007 surge, the Anbar Awakening of tribal sheiks against al-Qaida, the change to counterinsurgency tactics, the vast increase in the size and competence of the Iraqi Security Forces, the sheer number of enemy jihadists killed between 2003-8, the unexpected political savvy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the magnetic leadership of Gen. David Petraeus have all contributed to a radically improved Iraq.

Pundits and politicians -- especially presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama -- are readjusting their positions to reflect the new undeniable realities on the ground in Iraq:

The additional five combat brigades of the surge sent to Iraq in 2007 are already redeployed out of the country. American soldiers are incrementally turning province after province over to the Iraqi Security Forces, and planning careful but steady withdrawals for 2009.

Violence is way down. American military fatalities in Iraq for July, as of Tuesday, were the lowest monthly losses since May 2003. The Iraq theater may soon mirror other deployments in the Balkans, Europe and Asia, in which casualties are largely non-combat-related.

Read the whole thing.