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Monthly Archives: February 2006

“Time for a gut-check”

February 20th, 2006 - 9:19 pm

Surrender, on the installment plan.

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Street Legal

February 20th, 2006 - 9:12 pm

260 horses, a curb weight barely over 1,300 pounds, no top, no trunk, and not a single cupholder — does driving get any better than this?

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Job Security

February 20th, 2006 - 1:20 pm

Will Collier, read this:

Japan’s combination of long sea zones and growing rivalry with China make a long-range, twin-engine, supercruising and stealthy interceptor that has unprecedented reconnaissance capabilities and leverages existing Japanese partnerships with Lockheed and Boeing nearly irresistible. Seen in that light, the JASDF’s interest in the F-22 is less surprising.

A Lockheed Martin official has confirmed that a proposal to sell Japan F-22s in some form of downgraded “international variant” is working its way through the Air Force with the support of the Japanese government, and is now “at the three- or four-star level” and among civilian decision-makers.

Of course, Japan knows a thing or two (cough, cough) about electronics, and could probably upgrade any “international variant” to full spec without too much trouble.

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Lessons Unlearned

February 20th, 2006 - 11:55 am

Hey, just because Arafat is dead doesn’t mean Jimmy Carter can’t still suck up to Palestinian terrorists!

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Putting Paul Out to Pasture

February 20th, 2006 - 10:49 am

It’s for Krugman’s own good, really.

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Lessons Learned

February 20th, 2006 - 10:41 am

Damn solid stuff from Dexter Filkins in the New York Times:

In nearly every military and diplomatic realm, the American effort in Iraq is finally beginning to show the careful planning and concentrated thinking that seemed to vanish the moment American troops entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003. We’ve heard progress reports in the past, of course, and they have often preceded a stunning setback. But what is new is the level of sophistication that Americans are bringing to their work, and the intensity of their engagement across so many fronts.

A more subtle response to the insurgency was a long time in the making. American generals were caught flat-footed by the resistance that bloomed in 2003; they didn’t plan for it, and they had no playbook to fight it. The result in the field often amounted to a war of attrition, which was designed to kill and capture as many insurgents as possible but which ended up alienating Iraqi civilians. These days, however, the military is making new efforts to help local Iraqis feel safe and secure in their homes. The two top American commanders, Gen. George Casey and Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, are proponents of placing far less emphasis on killing guerrillas and much more on working with the locals. In Baghdad, General Casey has set up a local counterinsurgency school, through which American officers must pass before they can head into the field. Find an American officer these days, and he is likely to tell you about the police officers he is supervising or the local council he’s helping to set up.

Read the whole thing, please.

Yes, there’s plenty to complain about the Bush/Rumsfeld “peace” plan of 2003. Even taking the VodkaPundit Corollary into account (“no peace plan survives the last battle”), we simply didn’t have enough troops on the ground or even any idea what we would face.

It’s nice to know that at long last, things are changing.

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When I heard last week about Dick Cheney’s hunting accident, I think I’m safe in saying that I had the same reaction as most people: “The guy who got shot is okay? Kind of funny, then.” And that was about it. When the press coverage jumped the rails over the next couple of days, I asked a few decidedly-not-pro-Bush friends whether they thought the story was a big deal. None of them said yes. All of them forwarded me jokes, most of which were pretty good.

That reaction, more than everything else, was all the confirmation I needed that the media has lost its collective mind. I see at Drudge that they’re intent on stretching the non-story of why they didn’t get a press release as soon as they would have liked into a second week.

Now, if you MSM folks out there have any interest in convincing the rest of us that you haven’t lost all sense of proportion (or sense, period), I have a suggestion: quit talking to each other about how ill-used you’ve been, and start doing some actual reporting. Just to show that I’m a nice guy, I’ll even point you towards a big story that isn’t getting any coverage to speak of:

A home invasion and attack near Duluth [GA] a week ago has set off a political firestorm that may reach all the way to China.

Peter Yuan Li said he was tied up and beaten in his Chatburn Way home by several men on Feb. 8. The men spoke Korean and Mandarin and left behind certain valuables, including a camcorder and television, but took his computers, a phone and his wallet, according to Li. They also demanded unspecified documents and pried open two file cabinets, he said.

But Li claims it was no ordinary robbery. The culprits, he said, were Chinese agents who targeted him because of his work with The Epoch Times international newspaper and its Internet site, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

The Chinese government has brutally clamped down on Falun Gong practices and branded it a cult. Li, a practitioner of Falun Gong, said the newspaper is highly critical of China’s communist government and its dismal human rights record.

“It was a warning,” said the China-born Li, 41, who moved to the United States in 1987 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. “They did this because of the work I do promoting human rights.”

The FBI is looking into the incident for possible civil rights violations, but a spokesman declined to say whether the Chinese government might be involved. The attack is still under investigation by the Fulton County Police Department.

A man, who declined to give his name, who answered the telephone at the Chinese Embassy in Washington called The Epoch Times the “propaganda machine of the evil cult” and said he didn’t know anything about the attack on Li.

Li, though, has no doubt who is behind the attack.

Li’s ordeal began a week ago, while he was at the home he shares with his wife and two children. Between 11 a.m. and noon, he said, someone knocked on his door and a man said it was a water delivery. Li said he hadn’t ordered water but when he opened the door another man, who was hidden, jumped out and the two pushed him back into his house. His attackers had a knife and a gun.

He was knocked to the floor, blindfolded and covered with a quilt. “I was scared,” Li said as he recalled the terrifying morning. “They were strong. I couldn’t breathe. I became weak and they started to beat me.”

They used duct tape to cover his mouth and tied him up. At one point, he said, one or two other men came in the house. One, Li said, spoke Chinese and asked him about the location of a safe. Li said he doesn’t have a safe, but could hear them searching through his file cabinets.

He said relatives who still live in China also have been harassed. Li doesn’t ask them about details for fear it might make their situation worse, but his family has told him they think he’s “taking the right course and they support me.”

That article appeared in the Metro section of Thursday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and other than one Washington Post story and couple of online mentions by Forbes, it hasn’t received any other notable coverage. The name “Peter Yuan Li” gets no hits from a search of the New York Times, no hits at CNN.com, and no hits at MSNBC.com (David Gregory, call your office).

I find this a bit odd. Here we have a pretty credible allegation that a United States citizen was attacked, beaten, and robbed in his own home by agents of a hostile foreign power because of his political views and activities.

As George Carlin used to say, I’m going to repeat that, because it sounds kind of important:

Here we have a credible allegation that an American citizen was attacked, beated and robbed in his own home by agents of a hostile foreign power because of his political views and activities.

Call me a press-hating fascist wingnut, but I think that’s a big story. That’s a page one, lead for a week, cover-of-Time-and-Newsweek story. Why the hell are you whining yourselves hoarse about how long it took the White House press corps to learn about a minor hunting accident?

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Now Show Me Yours II

February 17th, 2006 - 10:27 pm

A while back, John Scalzi came up with a fun & useless little game. Hit “random” on iTunes or whatever MP3 software you use, then tell the world the first ten songs that came up.

I’m willing to go John one better.

Instead of randomizing, sort your entire library by how many times each song has played. This is easy to do on iTunes, but I’m not sure about other players. With my game, there’s no hiding your bad taste behind the randomizer – the cream (or spoiled milk) will rise to the top. If you’re willing to play, the whole world will know what you really like to play.

Here’s my list:

Sex And Candy – Marcy Playground
Cryin’ Shame – Lyle Lovett
Sleep All Day – Jason Mraz
Caramel – Suzanne Vega
Got To Be Real – Cheryl Lynn
The Killing Moon – Echo & The Bunnymen
Maybe Tomorrow – Stereophonics
Still The Same – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
Let’s Live It Up – The Brian Setzer Orchestra

Nothing terribly embarrassing there, although I can’t believe Marcy Playground got the #1 spot. And “Sleep All Day” at number three? Really? On the other hand, only one disco tune made the top ten, so I’m not doing too badly.

(more…)

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By the Numbers

February 17th, 2006 - 12:05 pm

Mike Kinsley, apparently, has been running federal budget numbers through through a spreadsheet for years. It’s an odd hobby, but he’s come up with some interesting results.

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Self-Inflicted Wounds

February 17th, 2006 - 10:48 am

Charles Krauthammer isn’t all that pleased with how Dick Cheney handled his weekend shooting accident, calling the 14-hour delay, “understandable but not really justifiable.” However, Krauthammer saves his real venom for the press:

The media laying these charges are the same media that just last week unilaterally decided that the public’s right to know did not extend to seeing cartoons that had aroused half the world, burned a small part of it and deeply affected the American national interest. Having arrogated to themselves the judgment of what a free people should be allowed to see regarding an issue that is literally burning, they then go ballistic over a few hours’ delay in revealing an accident with only the most trivial connection to the nation’s interest or purpose.

If our journalists were as balanced and brave as they claim to be, then they would have as much power as they think they have.

UPDATE: Related stuff from Jeff Goldstein:

Reporting has become less about reporting facts in their proper context so that the public can remain informed than it

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Lessons Learned/Required Reading

February 17th, 2006 - 10:43 am

Charlie Munn explores the seven things Iran learned watching Operation Iraqi Freedom. His first item goes to the heart of something we talked about at length last fall:

The media is your friend: Iran has been much better about laying out its case for acquiring nuclear technology than Saddam ever was. Part of this is because of the frequent news conferences they hold. The Western media has been iffy on covering this too much because of the mandatory Jew-hate in each speech, but if war seems likely on the horizon, you can bet that they will be amplifying Iran

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Friday Recipe

February 17th, 2006 - 10:17 am

This one is a February classic. It’s called

Stay Warm and Comfy

You’ll need:

A bottle of Nyquil
A space heater

Combine in whatever way seems appropriate.

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After You

February 16th, 2006 - 2:18 pm

You’ll never believe this, but Europe has been a wee tiny bit hypocritical about their concern for the environment. Dana Joel Gattuso reports:

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by an average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But 13 of the 15 original members of the European Union have increased their emissions since 1990, not reduced them. New data by the EU’s own European Environmental Agency show that by 2010, the 15 nations’ emissions collectively will exceed 1990 levels by seven percent.

It gets funnier. 1990 was chosen as the baseline for a very good reason: it was the year Germany reunified. Germany was going to scrap a bunch of the former East’s dirty brown-coal power plants anyway, making it easy for them to hit the targeted reductions. Also, no one was buying Trabant autos anymore. Apparently, not even rigging the game was enough to let Europe win.

Maybe they’ll shut up now, but don’t count on it.

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Required Reading

February 16th, 2006 - 10:22 am

Mark Steyn talks demographics:

In 2005, some 137 million babies were born around the globe. That 137 million is the maximum number of 20-year-olds who’ll be around in 2025. There are no more, no other sources; that’s it, barring the introduction of mass accelerated cloning (which is by no means an impossibility). Who that 137 million are will determine the character of our world.

The shape’s already becoming clear. Take those Danish cartoons. Every internet blogger wants to take a stand on principle alongside plucky little Denmark. But there’s only five million of them. Whereas there are 20 million Muslims in Europe – officially. That’s the equivalent of the Danes plus the Irish plus the Belgians plus the Estonians.

Read the whole thing – but not at bedtime.

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Cartoon Violence Spreads

February 16th, 2006 - 8:43 am

Heh.

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Gack

February 15th, 2006 - 10:36 pm

This head cold hasn’t exactly knocked me flat, but my brain feels as clogged as my nose. There’s a kind of guilt involved there.

Anybody got a Kleen-ex?

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Unintended Consequences

February 15th, 2006 - 11:12 am

Well, maybe one more thing before I go back to drinking tea and zoning out. This item from Will Saletan was too good to pass up:

Chinese women are taking fertility drugs to evade the country’s one-child policy. Pharmacists are selling the drugs indiscriminately to women who want to increase their chances of getting two or more kids from their one allowed pregnancy. Twin births are up nationwide; a hospital that used to deliver 20 sets of twins or triplets a year now delivers 90. Chinese government’s warning: These drugs are dangerous for women and kids because multiple-fetus pregnancies can lead to abnormalities and premature births. Critics’ rejoinder: Women will stop taking the drugs if you let them have two babies the normal way.

Where there’s a will…

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Notice

February 15th, 2006 - 11:10 am

Everybody here has sore throats today, so I’m taking the day off. Back tonight, as usual.

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Living On In The Aftermath

February 15th, 2006 - 4:46 am

A while back, I introduced the Vodkasphere to one of my favorite writers, New Orleans columnist Chris Rose. Prior to Katrina, Chris’s work was usually focused on humorous slice-of-life pieces, always echoing the weird, chaotic joys and worries of his hometown. These days… well, these days, like a lot of other people in NOLA, he’s pissed.

I sometimes talk to septuagenarian women on the phone — that’s one of my job responsibilities; don’t ask — and I find the language I hear both shocking and, I have to admit, very entertaining. Maybe even uplifting.

Inspiring would be too strong a word for it.

I have used some of these words in this column space in recent months, vocabularic liberties my editors would probably not have allowed back before The Thing.

This linguistic phenomenon was best described to me by Greg Meffert, the chief technology officer for the mayor’s office and a man with no proficiency whatsoever in language studies but who, nevertheless, has developed a social paradigm that exhibits a keen understanding of human behavior.

Particularly New Orleans human behavior.

The Meffert Theory, as told to me, is thus: “If you were circumspect before Katrina, now you are candid. If you were candid, now you are frank. If you were frank, now you are blunt. And if you were blunt, now you are an asshole.”

After softening you up with that rueful laugh, Chris gets out the knife. I won’t spoil the last section for you here; go read the whole thing.

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One Last Thing…

February 14th, 2006 - 10:10 pm

…and then I really will call it quits until morning.

Sometimes, it really is nice to be proven wrong, even if only in a small way.

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Turn It Up to Eleven

February 14th, 2006 - 9:37 pm

I’m a bit too brain-dead to say anything witty tonight. So instead I offer ten random observations.

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Batteries Not Included*

February 14th, 2006 - 10:11 am

*Actually, they are. Or at least they’d better be. Read:

Mullen Motors has entered into a joint venture with Hybrid Technologies to produce an all-EV version of its Mullen GT. The GT is normally powered by a Corvette V8 engine, but this version will get its go-juice from a pack of lithium-ion batteries. The

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Good Question

February 14th, 2006 - 8:34 am

Joe Gandelman asks, “Will Cheney complete his term?”

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I laughed so hard, my baby messed himself and cried. Al Gore, on the other hand, has no shame at all when it comes to spewing filth.

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An Affair to Remember

February 13th, 2006 - 10:56 pm

John Noonan takes a look back at Operation Homecoming.

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Econ 101

February 13th, 2006 - 10:43 pm

Let’s pretend that I run two businesses. Widgets Inc enjoys sales of a million dollars per year, with net profits of a half million. At the same time, Doohickey Corporation has earnings of a billion dollars, with net profits of 20 million dollars per annum. Now let’s say that you have a million dollars, and you want to start a new business to compete with me. Would you rather make widgets or doohickeys?

If you answered “Doohickeys,” then you’re an ignoramus, or you might be Jimmy Carter.

The most dangerous legacy Carter left us with was the “windfall profits tax,” and I mean to explain why by using the Let’s Pretend example above.

Competing with Doohickey Corporation looks pretty sweet. I mean, they made 20 million dollars last year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Heck, it’s not even anything to burp at, even one of those tiny burps you think no one else noticed during the dessert course. But if you look a little harder, you’ll find that Doo-Corp eked out a tiny 2% profit margin. Do you really think there’s room for your brand-new company in an industry with profit margins that small? I wish you the best of luck, but don’t look to me for any start-up money.

Widgets Inc is another story. Sure, they made “only” $500k

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Building a Community

February 13th, 2006 - 9:54 pm

Ed and Melenie Lambert are two of my favorite people, and part of Ye Olde Dinner Party Gang – my family-by-choice. Their daughter (my sister? cousin? niece?) Beka is pretty damn cool, too.

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Required Reading

February 13th, 2006 - 8:58 pm

By the numbers, we are winning.

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For the Record

February 13th, 2006 - 7:46 pm

Since it’s all the rage to denounce Ann Coulter, please keep in mind that VodkaPundit was way ahead of the curve on this one. Four years ago I called her a “hatchet-faced hatchet-job artist whose main claim to fame is a poorly-written book and a TKO over the fearsome Katie Couric.”

My opinion of her hasn’t changed one whit since then.

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Tech News

February 13th, 2006 - 10:23 am

Forget frivolous patent lawsuits; the real BlackBerry killer might just be – surprise! – Microsoft.

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