December 27, 2009
AN AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALE on knives and multitools. Plus the occasional tomahawk.
AN AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALE on knives and multitools. Plus the occasional tomahawk.
A DEATH COUNTDOWN FOR Gary, Indiana? “The current Gary financial monitor’s report makes for frightening reading. Property tax revenue is scheduled to drop 50%+. There is no likelihood of a local income tax and Indiana does not share its sales tax revenue with local government. One of two casinos operating in Gary has entered bankruptcy and even before then a dispute with the casino operators disrupted payments to Gary. The bad news keeps on rolling for 265 pages.” Municipal finance is, sadly, pretty bad in lots of places. But when even casinos are going bankrupt, it’s not a good sign . . . .
THE YEAR the locusts ate.
SO WHEN DOES THE NEW DECADE START? Next week, or in a year?
PODCAST: Interviewing former New Mexico Governor, and Libertarian heartthrob, Gary Johnson.
FRIDA GHITIS: Anti-Americanism: They Still Don’t Love Us. Oderint dum metuant?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jerry Pournelle: “I have always said that if an intelligent person wants to bring down an airplane and doesn’t mind being killed doing it, there are many ways to accomplish it, and many of my readers know of multiple ways to accomplish it with little chance of detection. This incident is a good illustration of that. We aren’t really going to make all airline passengers strip to their underwear, and even if we did, that wouldn’t do it. What we can do is be more discriminating on who gets to fly on US aircraft to US airports, particularly on international flights. Of course that would mean paying more attention to foreign nationals. . . . This one was particularly easy to spot given his association with Yemen in general and Yemen extremists in particular. Once again US authorities had enough information; and once again political correctness prevented any action. Unlike the Fort Hood murders, this politically correct failure didn’t cost any lives. Next time we’re unlikely to be so blessed.”
LOOKING INSIDE Boeing’s 787. When I toured the HondaJet factory a couple of weeks ago for my Popular Mechanics column, I spent a lot of time talking with the HondaJet’s chief interior designer about the various tricks you can use to make the space feel bigger and comfier than it really is. (The HondaJet has twin skylights in its tiny lavatory to make it feel bigger, and it works). Looks like Boeing’s using ‘em in the 787, too. Of course, the airlines will probably ruin it and go for standing-room-only accommodations . . . .
JOE LIEBERMAN: WHITE HOUSE GOING AFTER YEMEN? “The Connecticut senator said that an administration official told him that ‘Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.’” What’s interesting is the raft of commenters accusing Lieberman of being a stooge for Israel because of this statement, when he’s quoting an administration official.
TECHNOMADS: The Secret Lives of Amazon’s Elves.
DETROIT TERROR ATTACK “a major intelligence failure.”
COULD THE MULLAHS fall this time? I’d certainly like that. But I’ve heard optimistic stuff on Iran before, and so far it hasn’t panned out.
HMM: Flight 253 passenger: Sharp-dressed man aided terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab onto plane without passport. “A Michigan man who was aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 says he witnessed Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab trying to board the plane in Amsterdam without a passport.” It seems he succeeded. Read the whole thing, which sounds suspicious.
OUCH: “The first year of Barack Obama’s presidency. It’s not good when you find yourself repeating the phrase, ‘Yeah I voted for him, what’s it to you?’”
CAR LUST: Great Cars Of Song: The Red Barchetta.
BUSTING EMBEZZLEMENT at NYU. “NYU never thanked him. He learned of the outcome only by reading The Post.”
RAND SIMBERG: Some Thoughts On The Latest Man-Caused Disaster Attempt. “Once again, airline passengers 1, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 0. And the response of the TSA? To further punish the passengers, of course.”
MORE HANDS-ON TOY REPORTING: Reader Brenda Largent writes: “We got the Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100! For my Favorite Small Relative, age 6. He’s just having a blast with it, and is able to figure out most of the instructions for himself (he’s on his 6th project right this minute). Thanks so much for the suggestion!” Glad it’s working out. Wish they’d had those when I was a kid.
UPDATE: Reader Jeff Nolan offers a complaint:
Uh you never said the Snap Circuits Jr. would also be completely enthralling for a 43 year old man… I surprised my almost 6 year old son with it and wished I had bought an extra one for me.
It’s not too late, Jeff!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ron Mahn writes:
If you search your archives you will find I replied to your first mention of snap circuits back in 2007. My daughter, Lauren was 5 at the time. She is now 7 and is working toward her Technician Ham Radio license which she hopes to get before she turns 8 in May (and the question pool changes in July). She got her start talking on the radio and using the snap circuit sets (100 and 300). She still plays with them from time to time. It does make teaching the small number of electronics questions a little easier.
That story makes me very happy. Here’s the post. Plus, reader Jeff Weimer writes:
I’m glad that so many have taken your (our?) advice about the snap circuits!
Maybe we’ll have smart kids bursting out everywhere!
And those kids will have so much fun when they get to the electric motor/helicopter attachment. And so will the kids-at-heart (use BOTH battery packs in series!).
You can never have too many smart kids. And reader R. Elder writes:
I don’t know how old you are (I’m 38) but I had one of these “150 in one electronic project kits” as a kid (once available at Radio Shack):
It’s unclear if that led to my computer engineering degree or not, but it surely didn’t hurt. Spent many hours building radios, etc. with it.
I had that exact kit when I was a kid.
IS CABLE TV worth it?
SAME FLIGHT TO DETROIT, another problem. Luckily, no explosive device found.
WELCOME TO JAPAN: At Tiny Rates, Saving Money Costs Investors. “What the average citizen doesn’t explicitly understand is that a significant part of the government’s plan to repair the financial system and the economy is to pay savers nothing and allow damaged financial institutions to earn a nice, guaranteed spread.”
Plus, good news for seniors! “If your assets aren’t appreciating and aren’t producing any income, you’re getting eaten up in this interest rate environment.”
OUCH: This Guy’s Been on Every Channel, Every Day for a Year. Now He’s Shy? Yeah, but as Marc Ambinder explains, he has a cunning plan.
MARK STEYN: Cross The River, Burn The Bridge.
PROF. WILLIAM JACOBSON: Will Obama Remain Silent About Iran Protests Again?
TIPPING POINT? Kindle Milestone: Amazon Sold More Kindle Books Than Physical Books On Xmas. “Yes, this is obviously the result of everyone who got a Kindle for Christmas (lots of folks) firing it up and ordering a bunch of eBooks on a day in which most physical-book readers weren’t shopping. But it’s still important and impressive.”
OUTCRY: “Napolitano should quit.” “I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the pevious appearance. It is her basic position that the ‘system worked’ because the bureaucrats responded properly after the attack. That the attack was ‘foiled’ by a bad detonator and some civilian passengers is proof, she claims, that her agency is doing everything right. That is just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically. I would wager that not one percent of Americans think the system is ‘working’ when terrorists successfully get bombs onto planes (and succeed in activating them).”
UPDATE: More from an Obama voter: “Now, I know they are mopping up after a failure, and there is reason to want to portray the attack as coming out of the blue and unconnected to anything that should have been the subject of close monitoring, but — damn — I hope they are doing a better job than they look like they are doing. And if they don’t look like they’ve been doing a good job, then they aren’t even doing a good job of mopping up after their failure.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Obama Voter: “Yes, I’m sorry.”
MORE: Andy McCarthy:
The people now in charge of our government believe Clinton-era counterterrorism was a successful model. They start from the premise that terrorism is a crime problem to be managed, not a war to be won. Overdone “war on drugs” rhetoric aside, we don’t try to “win” against (as in “defeat”) law-enforcement challenges. We expect them to happen from time to time and to contain, but never completely prevent, the damage.
Here, no thanks to the government, the plane was not destoyed, and we won’t get to the bottom of the larger conspiracy (enabling the likes of Napolitano to say there’s no indication of a larger plot — much less one launched by an international jihadist enterprise) because the guy got to lawyer up rather than be treated like a combatant and subjected to lengthy interrogation. But the terrorist will be convicted at trial (this “case” tees up like a slam-dunk), so the administration will put it in the books as a success … just like the Clinton folks did after the ’93 WTC bombers and the embassy bombers were convicted. In their minds, litigation success equals national security success.
It is a dangerously absurd viewpoint, but it was clear during the campaign that it was Obama’s viewpoint. The American people — only seven years after 9/11 — elected him anyway. As we learn more painfully everyday, elections matter.
Indeed they do.
STILL MORE: So what about McCarthy’s other point, about it being wrong to go for a criminal trial? Well, we did that with Richard Reid, and as I recall I thought it was the right thing to do then. Does experience teach us that it was, or that it was a mistake? We’ve had quite a few years to learn more about who we’re fighting. My guess is that the intelligence value of these guys is low — at least, if I were running Al Qaeda, I’d make sure my tools didn’t know anything useful, and maybe even make ‘em think they knew a lot of things that were actually disinformation. But I’m a law professor, not an intelligence type. . . .
MORE STILL: Well, he’s still misrepresenting me, but at least he’s linking to my post this time. Sadly, that counts as progress. But “pro-torture” is just a synonym for somebody Andrew doesn’t like now. Come on, Andrew. Raise your game! Heh.
SLATE: WHY WORLD LEADERS FIND IT EASY TO say no to Obama. “It isn’t just that that no one has cut Obama any slack. World leaders seem to be taking pleasure in rebuffing him, disappointing him, even, in some cases, mocking him. . . . Praising and admiring Obama are still common, but raising doubts about him, even scoffing at him, is now becoming fashionable. Although he is still popular among Europeans and more popular with Muslims than his despised predecessor, Obama is being tagged with the unflattering label John Quincy Adams earned before he lost the 1828 election: ‘Adams can write, Jackson can fight.’ . . . In fact, no world leader has paid a price for disappointing Obama. With Obama so nice and so conciliatory, risking retaliation by the White House doesn’t seem all that dangerous.”
Now if Obama treated America’s enemies the way he treats people who criticize his health care plan, things might be different . . . .
MOTIVATION: “My ‘C,’ ‘D,’ and ‘F’ students this semester are almost exclusively American, while my students from India, China, and Latin America have – despite language barriers – generally written solid papers, excelled on exams, and become valuable class participants.” But I’ll bet the American students have better self-esteem. They come from an educational process that values self-esteem; the other students from one that values performance. Both have produced as designed. (Via Ann Althouse, where a commenter objects, “There are plenty of lazy Indian and Chinese students, but those are in India and China.”). But, as Michael Barone has noted, America has the world’s worst 18-year-olds and the world’s best 30-year-olds. Let’s hope we can keep that up.
HMM: Does the equivalence in this passage mean I’m moving up, or that the NYT is going down? “When one of these vulnerabilities is exposed, through attack or accident, the results are affecting enough people to draw the attention of large-audience media outlets like The New York Times noting user outrage and Instapundit noting the Blackberry outage.”
HUFFINGTON POST: What’s wrong with this picture?
UPDATE: Marc Ambinder explains that it’s all a cunning plan. Ambinder’s a nice guy, but his nonstop spin has become embarrassing. I mean, when you’re getting more honest criticism from HuffPo and Firedoglake . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: HuffPo criticism has been pulled. What’s wrong with this picture?
HORSE, BARN DOOR: New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers. Air security has always been a joke. It’s just an increasingly inconvenient one.
UPDATE: Some earlier thoughts, here.
WHERE IS THE COURAGE? I think we’ve found the liquid courage, anyway.
JOHN SCALZI: Most memorable science fiction films of 2009.
CAPITALISM HAS FRIENDS . . . ELSEWHERE: In North Korea, Resistance is the New Currency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il moved early this month to wipe out much of the wealth earned in the past decade in his country’s private markets. As part of a surprise currency revaluation, the government sharply restricted the amount of old bills that could be traded for new and made it illegal for citizens to have more than $40 worth of local currency.
It was an unexplained decision — the kind of command that for more than six decades has been obeyed without question in North Korea. But this time, in a highly unusual challenge to Kim’s near-absolute authority, the markets and the people who depend on them pushed back.
Grass-roots anger and a reported riot in an eastern coastal city pressured the government to amend its confiscatory policy. Exchange limits have been eased, allowing individuals to possess more cash.
The currency episode reveals new constraints on Kim’s power and may signal a fundamental change in the operation of what is often called the world’s most repressive state — a change driven by private markets that now feed and employ half the country’s 23.5 million people, and appear to have grown too big and too important to be crushed, even by a leader who loathes them.
Hey, maybe there’s hope for us, then . . . .
CAN EATING CARBS make you thin?
AT AMAZON, ramping up the After-Christmas sales.
On September 11th 2001, the government’s (1970s) security procedures all failed, and the only good news of the day came from self-reliant citizens (on Flight 93) using their own wits and a willingness to act.
On December 25th 2009, the government’s (post-9/11) security procedures all failed, and the only good news came once again from alert individuals.
GIVE ME LIBERTY, or give me social justice. “This week our government chose social justice over liberty. We will get neither.”
And, of course, the occasional disrespectful college administrator!
REPORT: ANTIGOVERNMENT PROTESTERS save men from hanging in Iran.
STEREOTYPICALLY, OF COURSE, IT’S MEN WHO ARE THE BAD LISTENERS. But not always.
POLIWOOD: comparing the Best Picture winners of the 1950s to those of the past decade. The more Hollywood talks about its artistry, the crappier its product becomes.
SNUBBED. I predict it will get much worse.
MICHAEL JENNINGS gets around.
UPDATE: Related thoughts from Randy Barnett.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Byron York: Obama handles Northwest Airlines terror incident differently than Ft. Hood. “The White House wants the public to know that President Obama, on vacation at a luxurious oceanfront home in Hawaii, has received conference call updates and is keeping close tabs on the situation.”
JANE HAMSHER: Why I Reached Out to Grover Norquist on Fannie/Freddie.
MORE IUD TALK. The discussion in the comments is as interesting as the article.
GREATEST NEWSPAPER HEADLINE of all time.
VIDEOLAN to release a video editor.
STUNNING satellite photos of Earth.
HAWAII VACATIONS? I’d be the last to begrudge anyone a tropical island trip, though I don’t want any goddamn carbon-footprint lectures from people who fly thousands of miles week after week. Meanwhile, whatever you think of Presidents, I think Congress should be required to spend at least 270 days a year outside of Washington . . . .
THE FIRST FUNCTIONAL molecular transistor.
MARTIN FELDSTEIN: Gold is a poor inflation hedge.
ROGER SIMON: A ClimateGate Christmas.
PANASONIC TO CREATE batteries that can power a house for a week. I’d love to see ‘em.
IN THE MAIL: From Howard Morris, Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid: The Simple Truth to a Complicated Relationship.
JACK LAIL: Why Examiner.com’s traffic is growing through the roof. “Oh yeah, some are more worried about Google ‘stealing’ their content while the Examiner just grows and grows. We better start worrying about somebody wooing the audience.”
STEVEN BARNES: What if Spike Lee had directed Avatar?
TOP TECHNOLOGY TRENDS of 2009.
AL QAEDA FAILED. WHAT ABOUT US? Stewart Baker has ten questions on last night’s attempt.
NICE TO SEE THE NEXT GENERATION COMING ALONG. In response to my hands-on-toys posts from a while back, reader Lynn Blatnica wrote last night: “Went to Amazon and bought the electronic schematic sets plus the Science book for kids. My grandson, David, has not stopped playing with the 300 set all day. He’s nine. He has made every effort to build all 305 projects in the book. I have never seen him take such a major interest in anything before. Had to say thanks for making me the ‘best gramma in the world’.” That’s what it’s all about!
CATCHING ON A LITTLE BIT LATE: “This Is a Frightening New Side of Barack Obama.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE OBAMACARE LAWSUITS.
IF THE SHOE BOMB FITS: Jules Crittenden on last night’s failed terror attempt.
Plus, the real homeland security kicked in: “Next thing you know everybody was on him.” Nice to see that travelers haven’t forgotten the lessons of 9/11, even if our leaders mostly have.
PAY CAPS DON’T APPLY, if your political connections are strong enough.
SLEEP ASSAULT: “If it’s true, then Nordegren committed a very serious criminal attack. Attempted murder, perhaps.”
VIDEO: Why you shouldn’t leave that Christmas Tree up too long.
LESSONS FROM JOHN GALT.
TAKING “DEATH PANELS” to the next level.
EMBARRASSING OLD EMAIL ADDRESSES: “And it’s so awkward, because I really felt like it was cool.”
PATTI SMITH on what’s happened to Rock & Roll:
After being away from the music scene for more than a decade and a half, Smith said she’s glad to have found, upon returning to the stage, that rock ‘n’ roll is anything but dead.
“I think that in the current state of rock ‘n’ roll, we actually have two states,” she explained. “Obviously, the state of the music business is in shambles, but … the state of the people, I think, is fine.
“We’re in a very democratic era of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not an era of rock gods. You don’t have the, you know, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Grace Slick — there isn’t really the pantheon of rock gods and goddesses that we had in my time. But we have something equally as interesting, and that’s the fact that rock ‘n’ roll is really, more than ever, the people’s cultural voice.
“You go on MySpace or different websites, and there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of people making their own music, expressing themselves, exchanging files and deciding how they want to hear music and how they want to distribute music. Everything is changing, and I think that’s fine. Rock ‘n’ roll was a revolutionary cultural voice that was people-based, and I think the people have taken it over.”
ALMOST HOME: A Christmas story from Salena Zito. It’s true, and it has a happy ending.
CAR LUST: Santa’s Sleigh.
AVATAR as suicide fantasy.
THIS YEAR’S Carnival Of Christmas is up!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to our troops.
FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT: PJTV’s Yule Log.
BOX OFFICE SQUEAKER: Avatar neck-and-neck with . . . Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel?
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, as written by a lawyer.
FOR HORSES, No More Room At The Inn.
YULE-BLOGGING, from Walter Russell Mead.
FRANK J. FLEMING: Have A Merry Government-Regulated Christmas.
PHYLLIS CHESLER: Could Jesus Live Safely In Bethlehem Today?
WHEN HOLLYWOOD RETREATS, OTHERS ADVANCE: Video games take command of war epics as movies retreat from recent conflicts.
If you want to see a thrilling war movie about America’s battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, forget about heading to your local movie theater or calling up your Netflix queue.
You need an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 video game console and a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for epic action from today’s front lines.
Hollywood churned out dozens of in-the-trenches, pro-America extravaganzas such as Wake Island and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo while World War II was being fought.
But the portrayal of the U.S. military during its current engagements has been more subdued and even critical.
Game makers have stepped into the breach. And they’re making huge bucks crafting patriotic entertainment pieces for which the movie industry used to be famous.
Good for them.