Saturday, April 26, 2008

33 Of The Most Intricate & Realistic Lego Creations.

Anybody who reads this blog regularly knows that I'm more than a little fond of Legos. Here are some of the best uses of those little blocks I've seen.

The Rules Change for Obama.

Barack Obama seemed puzzled. Angrily puzzled. The apostle of hope seemed flummoxed by the audacity of the question. At the April 16 Philadelphia debate, George Stephanopoulos, longtime aide to Democratic politicians, was asking about his longtime association with Weather Underground bomber William Ayers.

The Weather Underground attacked the Pentagon, the Capitol and other public buildings; Ayers was quoted in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, as saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

It was at Ayers' house that Obama's state Senate candidacy was launched in 1995; Obama continued to serve on a nonprofit board with Ayers after the Times article appeared.

Obamaites live-blogging the debate were outraged. The press is not supposed to ask such questions.

Tax Hypocrites.

Consider, for instance, the tax returns of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The returns were not released during FDR's presidency, but had they been, they would have proved an embarrassment. Tax Analysts has recently acquired from the National Archives copies of the tax returns that Roosevelt filed between 1913 and 1937. And as a group, they reveal something striking: Roosevelt -- a vicious and moralistic scourge of tax avoiders everywhere -- had a penchant for minimizing his own taxes.

Throughout his 12 years in office, Roosevelt was a frequent critic of Americans who tried to avoid taxes, even using legal means. "Mr. Justice Holmes said, 'Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society,'" Roosevelt told Congress in 1937. "Too many individuals, however, want the civilization at a discount."

Roosevelt reserved special scorn for the "clever little schemes" devised by tax lawyers, insisting that they posed a threat to the tax system, and even to society as a whole. "In this immediate problem the decency of American morals is involved," he declared. "The example of successful tax dodging by a minority of very rich individuals breeds efforts by other people to dodge other laws as well as tax laws."

Roosevelt's 1937 message on tax avoidance decried a variety of popular techniques, including the use of overseas and domestic personal holding companies, the creation of multiple trusts for the support of family members, and the incorporation of money-losing country estates and personal yachts.

Such bombast carried the day in 1937, when FDR pushed a tax bill through Congress that tried to eliminate some of the more glaring loopholes. Other high points in Rooseveltian tax policy -- including the Wealth Tax Act of 1935, the undistributed profits tax of 1936, and the tax bill veto of 1944 -- were also rooted in a conviction that rich Americans were gaming the tax laws.

But Roosevelt's tax returns reveal him to be something of a hypocrite. At various points, both before and after his election to the White House, he indulged in the sort of tax avoidance that he claimed to find so objectionable.

Obama's Plan for NASA.

It's grim.

From the article:
Translated into English, that means that he'll maintain the Constellation project at a minimum $500 million per year budget as the band takes an extended break between sets, taking their instruments with them. And for how long does the U.S. postpone a new space transport capability? Obama's answer is the "minimum possible time period." (Now is that in human or dog years?)

In the meantime, the U.S. space program sits on the tarmac. This will free-up funding for his aggressive plans to federalize pre-school.

Which is a lot worse than it sounds. Once you tell all those engineers there's not going to be any work for the next five years, how many will still be around when you decide you want to go back into space after all? Odds are they'll be working for the Chinese space program by then.

The brand of Oscar Wilde.

Last Sunday I made a pilgrimage to the Père Lachaise cemetery, in the northeast of Paris, to pay my respects to the shade of Oscar Wilde. I found I was not alone.

The great man’s grave was surrounded by quite a crowd, including a party of Japanese students, a family of Germans (the father was wearing lederhosen) and an assortment of young people in their twenties: French, Italian, British and American.

As I arrived, one of the young women (an English student from St Andrews) was planting a kiss on the huge Jacob Epstein effigy that surmounts the poet’s grave. She was kissing the marble deliberately, to leave the lipstick impression of her mouth on the monument. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “Because I love him,” she replied. “We all do,” added another of the girls. “He’s one of us.”

Cigars 101.

A useful guide for rubes like me who can't tell a Lonsdale from a Churchill.

The Great Terror at 40.

Robert Conquest in Red Square, May 1990.

Robert Conquest's The Great Terror is probably the most important piece of non-fiction of the second half of the twentieth century. It records in painstaking detail for all to see, the evil that was Soviet communism. Anyone who wants to understand the terrible cost of totalitarianism should begin with this book.

What’s Wrong With Hollywood?

The old bread-and-butter genres—like the Western or the war movie—are either moribund or merely landscapes for political revisionism.

One difference is the steady decline in the quality of male actors. We simply do not have a James Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Bill Holden, or John Wayne any more, much less brilliant against-the grain actors like a Robert Duvall, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, or a Yul Brenner, nor character actors like a Slim Pickens or a Ben Johnson.

Biblical Scholars Challenge Pelosi's 'Scripture' Quote.

Tip for politicians of all parties (Mike Huckabee had trouble with this too):

If you're going to rely on a Biblical quote to advance a policy position...make sure the quote actually exists.

The Democrats and National Security.

[W]hy it is that we go after Obama hammer and tongs on natsec issues but largely give Clinton a pass. It's actually very simple: we don't believe a word she says on the issue, which makes her more reliable.

No, really.

Read on.

It's like this, you see: Senator Clinton is trying to get elected, and she's been trimming on this issue from Day One. She's stuck in a Party that dislikes national security policy questions, is not very good at formulating those questions, and is even worse at answering them - so she's been stuck with pandering to them. She's not even trying to get more votes from them; her realistic objective was always to minimize the damage. In other words, we don't believe that she actually has a principled stance on the subject, which means (paradoxically) that she's not going to either ignore objective reality if she gets in the Oval Office, or let her past utterances adversely affect her in any way, shape, or form. And Clinton certainly won't take any risks on this. At all. We can work with that.

As for Senator Obama... well, the only thing that he has been clear and unambiguous about is his opposition to the war - which, by the way, is going fairly well at the moment (see also Bill Roggio) - and we cannot give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. When he says he'd have us bug out of Iraq, the only thing that any reasonably objective observer can conclude is that he means it. He probably wouldn't mean to let happen next what will happen next if we bug out, but that's not exactly a comfort, particularly if you happen to live anywhere near an instantly-recognizable American landmark.

Put another way: God help us all, he's just not playing to the antiwar crowd. Senator Obama really does have the national security awareness of a walnut.

How Possessions Bend Our Perceptions.

Anyone who's ever tried to sell a house, a car, or practically anything, quickly discovers that buyers and sellers rarely see eye-to-eye on price. A quick skim through the classifieds in the back of the local paper will reveal endless examples of people overpricing what seem like pretty ordinary items. But that's not how the seller sees it.

There's no doubt that sellers want to get the best possible price and they also want to introduce some wiggle-room for negotiation. But does this really explain the unrealistic prices people sometimes demand, or is there something else going on?

California foreclosures up 327% from '07 levels.

And we haven't even seen the worst of it.

Obama and the "William Ayers Thing".

[F]irst with Jeremiah Wright and now with Ayers and Dohrn, we're supposed to believe that he was clueless about all of this. What does that say about "judgement" and "character"? He's either oblivious or he's as calculating as any politician who has ever come down the pike. And given his refusal to confront the questions about Wright and Ayers, I'm inclined to believe the latter. To believe otherwise requires, as Hillary Clinton would be likely to say, a willing suspension of disbelief that I'm just not prepared to make.

Specific Performance & the 13th Amendment.

Here's the abstract:

Black-letter law declares that a contract to perform personal services cannot be specifically enforced. Many courts, scholars, and commentators have claimed that to do so would constitute "involuntary servitude" under the Thirteenth Amendment. This claim, however, has never been the subject of extensive scholarly analysis. This article fills that gap and rejects the conventional wisdom.

Neither the original meaning of "involuntary servitude" nor its subsequent interpretation by the Supreme Court justifies a per se prohibition on specific performance of such contracts. The non-constitutional arguments supporting the rule are likewise weak, and substantial policy and moral arguments counsel in favor of specific performance of at least some personal service contracts. Accordingly, this article concludes that the per se rule should be abandoned and that specific performance should be available for the enforcement of personal service contracts on the same basis as other contracts.

Mommy, What's An Eagle Eat?

A goldfish would eat you if it could get you in his mouth. That's all you need know about Nature. Go out in it, and have something real to do with it. Life and death; or a test of will, anyway. You can never respect it if you don't know about it. And remember it's still as cruel and remorseless as God made it in the first place.

Building the Eiffel Tower.

A great handful of photos showing the construction of one of the world's most recognizable landmarks.

B-36 Flying Aircraft Carrier.

It's an huge plane, much larger than the more famous B-52 (which is freaking enormous). When I used to live in Nebraska, I'd go and visit the example they had at The Strategic Air Command Museum from time to time. The one they had on display had it's bomb bay doors open and you could climb inside where the H-Bombs used to be. To say it was spacious is something of an understatement. You could park your car in there. Several cars really. Anyway, the idea here was to provide long range fighter cover on bombing missions over the Soviet Union.