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Monthly Archives: January 2006

The Persian Problem/Paying the Piper

January 16th, 2006 - 11:40 pm

How in the world did Iran get the idea that we’d rather pay them tribute and talk it out than fight?

That’s an easy one: We taught them that.

Tehran took over the American Embassy

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But of Course

January 16th, 2006 - 10:16 pm

What did you think he’d be wearing?

With that, I have an essay to write.

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(Somebody Else’s) Mail Bag

January 16th, 2006 - 12:01 pm

Joe Gandelman got some mail and got mad – and then explained why the Democrats can’t win independent voters:

If this is how you make your case in 2006 by questioning the patriotism of Americans who don’t agree with every stance of yours and every gradation of it you won’t have a chance of winning Congress or the Presidency.

And, yes, Joe is talking to Democrats, not Republicans. Read the whole thing.

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Required Reading

January 16th, 2006 - 11:36 am

We do this most every year around this time at VodkaPundit. This year should be no different.


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Here We Go Again

January 15th, 2006 - 11:21 pm

Iran must have some serious wood for nukes if it’s playing the oil card already:

Iran stepped up its defiance of international pressure over its nuclear programme yesterday by warning of soaring oil prices if it is subjected to economic sanctions. As diplomats from the US, Europe, Russia, and China prepared to meet today in London to discuss referring Tehran to the UN security council, Iran’s economy minister, Davoud Danesh-Jafari, said the country’s position as the world’s fourth-largest oil producer meant such action would have grave consequences.

Somebody needs to tell Tehran something, and tell it to them straight. We’ll pay more for oil if we have to – we can, in a pinch, afford it. What we can’t buy back is the millions of lives Iran promises to snuff out if it gets nuclear weapons.

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Not the Real Thing

January 15th, 2006 - 9:07 pm

Zheng He was the most important naval explorer you’ve never heard of. In a series of explorations during the early 15th Century, Zheng and his “treasure fleet” traveled the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and as far West as the Horn of Africa. Some of his ships – and he had a fleet of them – measured 400 feet from bow to stern. Ships of similar size wouldn’t serve in Western navies for centuries. A eunuch and a Muslim, Zheng served China’s Ming Dynasty with more than a little derring-do.

So why have most people never heard of Zheng? Because little came of his exploits. After the death of the Yongle Emperor, his successor had the treasure fleet turned to scrap. In fact, the Xuande Emperor even destroyed China’s impressive shipyards. His reign looked inward, not outward.

There’s more to the story. It is believed by some that Zheng took his treasure fleet east, to the west coasts of North and South America – 50 years before Columbus made his first voyage.

I first read about him three or four years ago, in a collection of alternate history essays & stories called What If? 2. Reading about the possibilities of a Chinese Empire in the American West, I got a little excited by the counterfactual scenario and did a lot of reading on Zheng. While I believe he did indeed visit the New World, the evidence isn’t conclusive.

Now the BBC reports a story which, if true, could prove Zheng really did beat Columbus:

A map due to be unveiled in Beijing and London next week may lend weight to a theory a Chinese admiral discovered America before Christopher Columbus.

The map, which shows North and South America, apparently states that it is a 1763 copy of another map made in 1418.

There’s just one little problem. The map is an obvious forgery. The story claims that

Chinese characters written beside the map say it was drawn by Mo Yi Tong and copied from a map made in the 16th year of the Emperor Yongle, or 1418.

However, there’s no way that the map shown could have been drawn in 1418. Take a look:

What’s wrong here? Two very big things.

First, not even Zheng’s biggest boosters claim that he traveled as far south as Australia, clearly shown on the map. There is some slim chance that in his travels, Zheng talked to locals who told him of some island to the southeast. If so, such “port talk” would explain why Australia appears on the map at all. It would even explain why it appears with far less accurate scale and position than India or Somalia. However, all of this is mere speculation.

The other big problem can’t be explained away.

Sure, there’s compelling evidence that Zheng saw California and Peru. But did he see Brazil or Georgia? Impossible. And yet you can see the entire East Coast of both American continents, and in quite some detail, too. Furthermore, California is shown as an island, just like it appears on European maps from the 17th Century.

In order to take this map as the real thing, you’d have to believe that Zheng didn’t just discover the New World before Columbus, but that he voyaged into Hudson Bay two centuries before Henry Hudson.

It’s obvious – even to an amateur like myself – that somebody has been fooled, and badly. The map shown by the BBC simply has to be an amalgamation of European and Chinese knowledge, cobbled together sometime in the 16th or 17th centuries.

Nothing surprising there, really. People get taken in all the time by “too good to be true” historical finds. What is surprising is that the BBC – with all of its vaunted institutional knowledge – couldn’t spot a hoax as quickly as an amateur sitting in his basement with a baby on his lap.

I still think that Zheng almost certainly visited the New World decades before Columbus. The BBC, on the other hand, doesn’t know what to think.

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“An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers”

January 13th, 2006 - 2:37 pm

From NZ Bear:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.


N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber

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Beyond Faint Praise

January 13th, 2006 - 10:23 am

Charles Krauthammer has seen Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” and had this to say:

Munich, the massacre, had only modest success in launching the Palestinian cause with the blood of 11 Jews. “Munich,” the movie, has now made that success complete 33 years later. No longer is it crude, grainy TV propaganda. “Munich” now enjoys high cinematic production values and the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg, no less, carrying the original terrorists’ intended message to every theater in the world.

I don’t think he liked it very much.

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A Few Notes on Tyranny

January 13th, 2006 - 12:27 am

We’re about to get a new Supreme Court justice who never knows when to say no to executive power. With Sam Alito comes the usual heavy breathing on the left, and a couple peeps of protest from the right. Me, I’m maintaining a smiling detachment about the whole affair. Alito is a worse judge than I hoped for, but probably a better one than most of us had any right to expect. I say this because the last thing I fear in this country is the dictatorship which Alito’s detractors say he represents.

Imagine for a moment an unlikely combination of a bad election, a few bad Supreme Court decisions, and a compliant Congress. Safely

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Isn’t He Lovely

January 12th, 2006 - 10:22 pm

He looks so much like his mother it just makes me melt.

NOTE: And with that, I have “A Few Notes on Tyranny” to write.

UPDATE: Slightly less lovely while projectile vomiting.

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January 12th, 2006 - 11:05 am

Finally, an admitted bloodsucker is running for President.

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Handicapping the Obvious

January 11th, 2006 - 5:25 pm

What, nothing on the Alito confirmation hearings? OK, here’s a little something.

I was never that in love with Alito, but he’s about as good as we’re going to get from the President Bush. David Corn has it right when he argues that Alito is too “deferential” to Executive power. Corn goes on to argue that Democrats

had to create a showdown. Why? Because otherwise not enough people are going to pay attention to the hearing, and if there is not widespread concern about Alito within the American public, the Democrats are not going to be able to block him. While the Democrats have generated moments of conflict with the occasional sharp question, there has been no shaping of the event. It just looks like the usual and expected partisan back-and-forth, with Democrats looking–that is, hoping–for a gotcha moment, and Alito not obliging.

I don’t agree with all the particulars of Corn’s opposition to Alito. Not even close. That said, Corn’s advice to Democrats is telling.

Corn’s (and the Democrats’) opposition is based on the fact that Alito is the wrong kind of Big Government Booster. The Left wants the federal government powerful enough to keep abortions legal until just before labor begins, but too weak to eavesdrop on telephone conversations between American citizens and known bad guys. The Right wants it the other way around.

Heads, big government wins – tails, big government wins.

And that’s why Corn and the Democrats don’t stand a chance of keeping Alito off the court. The only way to defeat a principled big-government guy is to wage a principled campaign of limited government against him. The Democrats are in no position to even consider such a fight.

The Republicans once were – but haven’t been since about 1998.

Sam Alito will be confirmed, and with the votes of at least five Democrats, probably more.


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3. “Honnnneeeeeeeey!”

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Hail Cthulhu!

January 10th, 2006 - 3:23 pm

Unabashed Plug time: Last night, I watched The Call of Cthulhu, a fan film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s famed short story.

And I loved it.

“Cthulhu” is probably the best fan-made movie ever filmed, and don’t be thrown off by that admittedly low standard. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that indicates just how close we’re getting to an era when you don’t have to be associated with Big Entertainment to create great entertainment. What makes this movie all the more impressive (at least to me) isn’t just that it wasn’t made by an established movie studio, it’s that “Cthulhu” never would have been made by one.

Just imagine any studio–even one of the little ones–agreeing to these production terms: a black-and-white, 47-minute horror movie using film techniques from the early part of the last century: stop-motion animation, forced perspective, even models and canvas to simulate a ship at sea. No nudity, no gore, no cursing–heck, no dialogue. Oh, and did I mention it’s a silent movie, with a symphonic score and title cards, that’s been digitally enhanced to lower the quality of the image, simulating actual 1920′s film stock?

But it works. It’s marvelous. It’s easily the best film adaptation of Lovecraft, ever. If you’ve read and like the story, you will enjoy the hell out of this little movie; but even if you haven’t, go reward ingenuity and craft and love, and get yourself a copy.

Oh, and one other thing: I got to watch “Call of Cthulhu” purely because of file-sharing. I doubt I ever would have seen it otherwise; it’s only for sale from the creators’ website. But I scored a copy, and watched it, and loved it–and then bought the DVD for myself, this morning. Which is just another reason why the folks who made it are the future, and the Big Entertainment execs who never would have allowed it to be made are the past.

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Hail Intel!

January 10th, 2006 - 2:56 pm

Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs announced the first Macs to use Intel processors today. Since a few folks appear to be interested, here’s what I think about them.

Nice computers. Not really what I myself would be looking for, but probably just fine for others. Personally, I’m not interested in the new iMac or other all-in-one desktop machines. Call it the Engineer’s Curse: I don’t want a “main” computer that I can’t rip the lid off of and tinker around with. For those who would just as soon leave the lid on, the new Intel-based iMacs look like very capable machines. Sharp display, good performance numbers, and the price ain’t bad, considering everything that’s included.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be interested (oddly enough) in an Intel-based Mac Mini somewhere down the line. [I thought you just said you didn't want a computer you couldn't tinker with. --ed] I’m not finished. Pay attention, and quit stealing Kaus’ schtick. [Sorry.] I said I don’t want a main computer I can’t tinker with. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested in a second computer that I could hook up to The Beast Downstairs. The iMac isn’t it; it has one monitor too many built-in. But one of these days Apple is going to release the home entertainment hub version that I keep predicting, and that one will be fit for The Beast.

As far as the new Powerbooks Macbooks go (I hate the name already), they look excessively cool, but again, not for me. In contrast to what I expect out of a desktop, my laptop needs are pretty simple, and definitely pretty cheap. A “pro” line that starts at $2,000 is way out of my laptop range (and besides which, I bought a new iBook about a month before Jobs announced the Intel switch–turtleneck-wearing bastard).

I very much like the looks of the new iWeb software. Looking forward to giving that one a test drive soon.

So, that’s what I think: Nice computers. Not for me, but still quite nice. I’m interested to see what Apple can do with the rest of the product line, which according to Jobs will all switch over to Intel chips this year.

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Car Talk II

January 10th, 2006 - 12:12 pm

Things are worse for Ford than I thought – Chrysler might be ready to replace the Blue Oval in the number two spot:

According to the Detroit Free Press, Jeep

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Back In My Day

January 10th, 2006 - 11:33 am

David Brooks finally noticed that twentysomethings are using the web to find love and friendship:

Go to MySpace.com or Facebook or Xanga or any of the other online sites where people leave messages on the home pages of their friends and you’ll see these great waves of praise and encouragement. People visit their friends’ pages and drop lovebombs. There’s scarcely a critical word about anyone or anything in the whole social network. It’s just fervent declarations of friendship, vows to get together soon and memories of great times gone by.

Statistically speaking, by the times Brooks picks up on a social trend, it’s almost over. So before long, Twixters will go back to hooking up the old fashioned way -

- through cleavage and vodka.

Hey, it worked for me.

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Car Talk

January 10th, 2006 - 1:11 am

In the Year of Our Ford

Now that the LA Auto Show has wrapped up and the wraps have been taken off all the new vehicles at the NAIAS in Detroit, it’s time to make three predictions.

Chrysler will continue to do OK. General Motors, despite its financial woes, is in better shape than the auto press (and me, sometimes) gives them credit for. But Ford is in deep, deep trouble.

Let me repeat that: Ford is in worse trouble than GM.

Before I explain why, let’s get to a couple other things.

Dodge ChallengerChrysler/Dodge/Jeep is unique among (semi-) American automakers, because they turn a profit on each car sold. Only a couple hundred bucks

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Dear Senator Poopy-Pants,

I see that in your continuing pursuit of vapid self-aggrandizement, you

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“Congress Shall Make No Law…”

January 9th, 2006 - 2:45 pm

“Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

Pretty harsh, huh? What kind of wacky country would you have to live in where somebody could go to the federal pokey for two years, just because they annoyed somebody else with an online posting?

Well, believe it or not, that’s now federal law.

Not in China, not in Iran, not in Cuba. Well, yes, some variation of those words probably is the law in all of those places–but those exact words really are the law in the United States of America. Here’s a Declan McCullagh column with the sordid details; according to McCullagh, the “annoyance” language was slipped into the “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act” at the behest of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter.

Let’s parse no phrases and mince no words here: this law is an outrage. It is an offense against the First Ammendment, and everyone responsible for its vile passage ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to silence the Internet and to bully down anonymous voices. While I myself have no use for anonymity (I’ve used my own name online since getting my first AOL account over a decade ago), I’m not about to countenance any attempt to prosecute people just for posting something that might “annoy” somebody else. Like, say, a United States Senator.

If I were the type of guy who drummed up blogosphere campaigns, I’d suggest that everybody with a blog adopt a fake name, and start posting stuff guranteed to annoy the authors of this obnoxious law.

Just a thought.

NOTE: The actual legalese used to get this abomination into law is not as cut-and-dried as McCullagh’s article (or my post) suggests. The Senate weasels used a pretty convoluted method to get the “annoy” reference into the law. Here’s a link explaining what happened in the legislation in greater detail.

Law-talkin’ guys, feel free to chime in here.

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If Churchill Were Alive Today…

January 9th, 2006 - 12:12 pm

…he’d sound a lot like former Aussie minister Neil Brown.

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Now You’ve Done It

January 9th, 2006 - 12:52 am

The current Iranian government isn’t some anti-Semitic, terror-sponsoring, nuke-grubbing, repressive, women-hating gang of thugs. Oh, no. They’re a group of anti-Semitic, terror-sponsoring, nuke-grubbing, repressive, women-haters who hold international conferences:

“President Ahmadinejad has placed at the centre of international attention, a very important question on the truthfulness of the version that Europe and the Zionists have imposed on the world on the murder of Jews during the years of the great war, and therefore we are of the opinion that it is useful and necessary to organise an international conference on that theme, where all the historians and researchers, even those that do not believe in the official version, will be able to express themselves freely,” Mehdi Afzali, spokesperson of the Association of Islamic Journalists told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Tehran has joined the ranks of Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran, and done so in a way

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A Fisking

January 8th, 2006 - 11:13 pm

You know what the worst thing is in modern Germany? You might be tempted to say “bad leadership” or “the birth dearth” or “their broken welfare system” or “neo-Nazis

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January 8th, 2006 - 10:14 pm

Quiet, please – I’m fisking somebody. Expect to see the finished product around midnight, MST.

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Deconstructing Risen/Required Reading

January 8th, 2006 - 9:56 pm

David Tell, writing for The Weekly Standard, explains what’s wrong with the New York Times in general…

Now, over two years later, the Times has decided to reveal that on the very day its editorial page offered this suggestion [to eavesdrop on terror suspects], just such an NSA domestic surveillance effort was already underway, on orders from the president. And all of a sudden, responsible news organizations everywhere are loudly warning that the End of Democracy is nigh. It is an outrage that George W. Bush did what the New York Times recommended–according, most notably, and weirdly, to the New York Times itself.

…and what’s wrong with national security correspondent James Risen in particular:

James Risen repeatedly calls the program “illegal,” but offers not a single word of serious statutory or constitutional analysis to sustain the conclusion. He complains that, “for the first time since the Watergate-era abuses, the NSA is spying on Americans again, and on a large scale”–a reference, once more, to those 500 al Qaeda email buddies he’s mentioned, who together represent 1.7 ten-thousandths of one percent of the U.S. population. Shifting gears, Risen next raises alarm over the possibility that NSA could begin domestic spying on a large scale if it wanted to; “there seems to be no physical or logistical obstacle” preventing it at present. Neither does there seem to be any physical or logistical obstacle preventing NSA from sneaking into James Risen’s bathroom and stealing his toothbrush, of course. The question remains: Why on earth would they want to?

Read the whole thing – because I purposely left out the juciest bits.

UPDATE: Frank Martin has also read Risen’s State of War, and thinks that

the book makes a surprisingly clear case for the Bush Administration and why they have taken the steps they have in the War against Al-Qaeda. The PR on the book makes it out that this book into a testimonial against the Bush Administration, but the real villain in this book is former CIA director George Tenet, who is savaged in nearly every chapter of the book. President Bush

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Balance of Terror

January 8th, 2006 - 8:43 pm

As of this writing, China has over 600 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) aimed at Taiwan. And those are the ones we know of, and/or Beijing admits to. Well, two can play at that game:

Taiwan has produced three prototypes of a new cruise missile which could be used to strike the east coast of rival China, an authoritative defence magazine has said.

The cruise missile, called Hsiung Feng 2E (Brave Wind), “will be deployed on mobile land-based platforms and initial plans are for the production of up to 50 missiles before 2010 and up to 500 missiles after 2010,” Jane’s Defence Weekly said in an article to be published January 11.

With a range exceeding 600 kilometres, the missile will be able to attack targets along the east coast of the Chinese mainland, it quoted a defence source as saying.

You know what they say about the best defense.

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Good Company II

January 6th, 2006 - 2:06 pm

I’m not the only one writing letters to Old Europe. Here is Victor Davis Hanson’s take.

Hat tip to John Noonan. After reading this morning that Charles Krauthammer seemed to be cribbing my notes, John writes, “you’re apparently leading VDH around by the nose too.” I rather doubt that – I’m just having a really good week.

Blogging is up. Quality is up. Traffic is down – and in an election year! Go figure.

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Paging Al Franken

January 6th, 2006 - 9:52 am

The Neo-Neocon explains what a lie is – and isn’t:

But no matter; Bush lied.

I’ve become convinced that the key to this assertion is a relatively new and fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “lied,” an error that has its genesis in the growth of narcissism (please see Dr. Sanity’s fine series on the affliction).

In truth, the hallmark of a lie is that its locus is in the speaker. To be lying, the speaker must be aware of the falsehood of the utterances. So whether or not something is a lie has nothing to do with the listener, and everything to do with the teller.

But many listeners in our day and age have lost sight–not just of truth vs. relative truth, or objective vs. subjective truth–but of any truth-falsehood distinction outside of their own perceptions.

Read the whole thing – I think Ms N. is onto something here.

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Early Handicapping

January 6th, 2006 - 12:43 am

Good reporting from David Broder on this year’s midterm elections. Choice bit:

The campaigns in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin will tell us more about the direction of the country and the shape of the 2008 presidential battleground than any of the battles for Capitol Hill — where incumbency advantages in both money and gerrymandering are likely to skew the results.

Governors are closer to their constituents than most senators or representatives, and they exert more influence on presidential politics than their federal counterparts, in part because the nominees themselves most often come from the statehouses.

Republicans are likely to consolidate their current strength among governors across the South from Florida through Texas. Democrats are poised to solidify their grip on the state capitols in the Northeast, with strong candidates available to challenge in New York and Massachusetts, where Republican incumbents are retiring.

What Broder leaves out is that Republicans lead in growing states, while the Democrats are stuck mostly with shrinking ones.

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Good Company

January 6th, 2006 - 12:14 am

Sometimes blogging provides warm, comfy moments – like when Charles Krauthammer writes almost the exact same column you wrote yesterday. OK, so Krauthammer’s version was written better. But still – I beat him by 24 hours.

Advantage: VodkaPundit!

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