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Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Southern Strategy

March 31st, 2008 - 8:16 pm

Barack Obama: The Left’s George Wallace?

The Chick Opera

March 31st, 2008 - 5:00 pm

A friend once told me that the Puccini opera La Bohème is a chick opera. It made me laugh when he said it, but I suppose it is true. So if you like chick flicks, why not attend this Saturday’s Metropolitan Opera live broadcast of La Bohème at a movie theater near you? It is an easy opera, as they go, approachable and very melodic; a very good first opera, if you’ve not been before. (Hey, remember the movie Moonstruck, with Cher and what’s his name? Remember when he took her to the opera? They went to the Met and saw La Bohème. And you remember what happened after that. So.)

Here’s a taste. This is from the first act, when the struggling seamstress named Mimi, ailing and pale, and the muy romantico Rodolpho (sung here by the great tenor Jose Carreras) first meet in his Parisian loft amid all its Bohemian splendor. And what do you suppose happens when they first meet? They fall in love, of course, as is made known by Rodolpho in this gorgeous aria “Che gelida manina” (translation: What a cold, little hand).

Sniff, sniff.

No Embellishment

March 31st, 2008 - 1:17 pm

Hitchens on what Hillary Clinton really did in to Bosnia:

I can remember, first, one of the Clintons’ closest personal advisers—Sidney Blumenthal—referring with acid contempt to Warren Christopher as “a blend of Pontius Pilate with Ichabod Crane.” I can remember, second, a meeting with Clinton’s then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin at the British Embassy. When I challenged him on the sellout of the Bosnians, he drew me aside and told me that he had asked the White House for permission to land his own plane at Sarajevo airport, if only as a gesture of reassurance that the United States had not forgotten its commitments. The response from the happy couple was unambiguous: He was to do no such thing, lest it distract attention from the first lady’s health care “initiative.”

Did a quarter million Bosnians die for the sake of Hillary’s ego? It would seem at least partly so.

UPDATE: Makes you wonder what she’d do to her own party to secure the nomination, eh?

Quick Pick

March 31st, 2008 - 9:51 am

I’ve said here before that, despite his views, I just can’t help liking Barack Obama. But the more I find out about him, the less I like the guy. Turns out I’m not the only one:

Yesterday we wrote about a new poll (PDF) that suggested Hillary Clinton’s unfavorability rating reached a new high of 48 percent, while Barack Obama’s rating was significantly lower at 32 percent. Considering Obama’s rough press coverage over the past few weeks because of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, this was a blow to the conventional wisdom that Obama’s candidacy had been harmed by Wright’s rhetoric.

However, a new SurveyUSA poll shows the two candidates’ unfavorables to be much closer. Obama and Clinton have similar numbers in this poll, with Clinton polling unfavorably among 42 percent of voters. He is viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the voters. She is viewed favorably by 35 percent of voters, while Obama is viewed favorably by 38 percent of voters.

Those aren’t winning numbers.

Let the Games Begin

March 31st, 2008 - 9:13 am

You thought Florida and Michigan voters were disenfranchised? Now this is disenfranchisement:

Officials released a trickle of national election results evenly split Monday between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the opposition, which accused President Robert Mugabe’s government of rigging returns to conceal a massive loss.

Why the slow results? I’m betting because Mugabe couldn’t get enough fake ballots printed up — the presses were all too busy printing billion dollar bills.

A Little Something With My Coffee

March 31st, 2008 - 8:45 am

How many libertarians can you fit in a Volkswagen?

Wait — that’s a circus, not a carnival.

Take Me Where the Music Play

March 31st, 2008 - 6:55 am

The Steely Dan references just keep coming.

So how come nobody ever pulls lines from The Fez?

Thank You for Your Support

March 30th, 2008 - 8:55 pm

The Rocky Mountain News has come out in full favor of full First Amendment rights for bloggers:

This nation that so enshrines free expression still hasn’t decided for certain whether bloggers should have the same leeway that, ahem, newspaper editorials and other traditional forms of opinion enjoy. Fortunately, Congress will soon have an opportunity to give Web blogs more durable First Amendment protection.

In the coming days, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., is set to introduce The Blogger Protection Act of 2008. The bill would enact in law regulations that were handed down two years ago by the Federal Election Commission regarding bloggers and campaign finance laws.

The editorial concludes, “The Blogger Protection Act would tell the FEC – not to mention the courts – that such blatant attacks on political expression violate the First Amendment, and cannot prevail.”



March 30th, 2008 - 1:29 pm

al Sadr begs for mercy in Basra.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in line right behind him.

Required Reading

March 29th, 2008 - 2:48 pm

Bill Roggio sums up all the news from the fighting in and near Basra.

Defense Dodgeball

March 29th, 2008 - 12:02 pm

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle has a few questions on the eve of another NATO summit:

Are we content to rely indefinitely on the US to set the security agenda and carry the burden for Europe within Nato? If not, what is the alternative? And if we are serious about any such alternative, how do we propose to put it into practice in the foreseeable future?

The answer to the first question is probably “no.” The answer to the last two questions is, “I hear nothing!”

Nice Work If You Can Get It

March 29th, 2008 - 10:00 am

Zimbabwe is holding elections today, not that it matters. What, with a criminal thug having held office for 28 years and having spent the last decade driving his once-prosperous nation into ruin. And all to soothe his own ego.

In other words, the only thing missing is a visit from Jimmy Carter to give his blessing.

Another Angle

March 28th, 2008 - 7:10 pm

According to CNN, the fight in Basra isn’t gong so well, after all:

A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting in Basra shows that Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of the city, according to officials in both the United States and Iraq, and Basra’s police units are deeply infiltrated by members of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army.

“This is going to go on for a while,” one U.S. military official said.

Wait — you mean to tell me that a block-by-block knife fight might not be all shock-and-awe-ish? No freakin’ way.

And you also mean to tell me that al Sadr might have used his ceasefire and local tribal loyalties to infiltrate an otherwise-incorruptible Middle Eastern police force? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Seriously, given the nature of city fighting, the constraints of local politics and religious loyalties, ever-present age-old Arab corruption, and every other Middle East pathology, the miracle here is that the Iraqis are fighting — and winning! — at all.

Next time, skip the lurid headlines. Hell, most times you might as well skip the MSM’s story.

UPDATE: This should be obvious, but needs stating anyway. Anything on CNN is, by definition, anything but “closely held.” That’s like saying Eliot Spitzer only frequented chaste hookers.

You’ll Think I’m Nuts

March 28th, 2008 - 2:42 pm

What I’m about to write is totally true. It’s also, I think, impossible. But I have screen shots to prove it.

I ran this by my Mac guru, Will Collier, first, and he was just as perplexed as I was. So what’s the big mystery? My iPod controls my laptop. Magically. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I picked up Sims Pool for my 5th generation iPod. A fun little time killer, I thought. It’s also possessed or something. Plenty fun, but it has a minor bug. After I exit a game and go back to regular iPod mode, whatever font Sims Pool uses (it looks like “Calibri”) becomes the system font on my iPod. Which is kinda cool, because I like it better than the default font.

See What I Mean?But then I noticed something really strange. If my Macbook is running nearby when I play Sims Pool on the iPod, then the fonts all change on the Macbook, too. Click the thumbnail image there to see the full-size, completely unretouched version.

Look. I don’t sync the iPod to the Macbook — I keep my music library downstairs on the iMac. I don’t even ever plug the iPhone into the Macbook. The Macbook is on the wireless network, but Bluetooth is switched off to conserve battery power. And anyway, the 5th generation iPod has no known wireless connectivity.

And yet it happens. I haven’t tested for distance yet or other things yet. Does the iPod need to be the same room? Does it just need to be within range of the household wireless router? What if the Macbook is asleep? Don’t know the answer to those questions. I know only two things: It’s not possible, and it happens every time.

Any Mac experts out there have an explanation? If you don’t believe me, I’ll snap more screenshots and send them your way. It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen a computer do, and I’m including that time my old Commodore 64 managed to pummel the keyboard right off a TI-99.

Next Up: Fax Machines!

March 28th, 2008 - 1:54 pm

Cubans are getting a little taste of freedom. Almost:

It’s only just ended its ban on DVD player and computer sales, but Cuba’s apparently not stopping it’s technological catch-up there, with President Raul Castro now announcing that the country’s also lifting its restrictions on cellphone use. As the AFP reports, there have of course been cellphones in the country for some time, but they have mainly been reserved for foreigners, government staff, or those who were able to obtain them through third parties. Under the new regulations, however, Cubans will be able to get cellphone service from state telecom ETECSA, but only in the form of prepaid contracts that must be paid for in foreign currency.

Allow me to be the first to comment with a totally blasé “Woo-hoo.”

Fight Like an American

March 28th, 2008 - 12:33 pm

The New Iraqi Army is doing just that:

Iraqis may differ on whether U.S. troops should be in the country, but all agree that the Americans are formidable warriors. Increasingly, Iraqi troops are wearing similar combat uniforms and driving hummers. The Iraqi soldiers consciously copy their U.S. counterparts. This includes handling their weapons, and moving around, in a similar fashion. But it isn’t all superficial imitation, the Iraqis stand and fight now. U.S. troops, back in Iraq after having been away for a year or so, are pleasantly surprised to find, when called to reinforce an Iraqi unit (like a checkpoint, or a police station) under fire, that the Iraqis are now fighting harder and smarter. In the past, the U.S. troops would often show up to find the Iraqi troops or police had fled.

Given that it takes a couple years to turn out a world-class NCO, it looks like the Iraqis are making great progress.

The birth of rock and the rise of the singer-songwriter meant the death of the standard. Gone are the days when a songwriter would write a melody, a lyricist would add the words, and singers would interpret them. Those were great times, but can you name even one song from the last 40 years that’s become a standard? OK, maybe you can name one or two. But take away Burt Bacharach tunes and I bet you can’t name even one.

Instead, today we have cover songs. And they mostly suck. Here are a few that don’t.

“Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix (1967), covered by Sting (1987). There are few things more pointless than re-doing a song the the same way the original artist did it. “Little Wing” was, and is, one of the great blues-rock love songs of all time. (Jimi’s guitar rocks, but the lyric is just plain pretty: When I’m sad she comes to me/With a thousand smiles she gives to me free.) Sting took “Little Wing” and turned it into a alt-jazz-pop thing. His reed-thin voice could never compete with Jimi’s soulful howls, so Sting didn’t even try. Instead, he made the song his own — and I spent my freshman year at Mizzou wearing out the cassette.

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus (1979), covered by Nouvelle Vague (2006). This song gave birth to Goth, the milestone for the white & black & purple corseted set. Clocking in at almost ten minutes, it’s dark and twisted and rough. Then along came Nouvelle Vague. If you’ve never heard of these guys, you should. NV is that most evil of creations — the cover band. But they’re too much fun to resist. “Nouvelle Vague” is Portuguese for “New Wave,” and the band hails from Brazil. Their gimmick? They take new wave and alternative tunes from the ’70s and ’80s, and re-do them bossa nova style. So instead of Bauhaus’s industrial guitars, you get something like Stan Getz on acid. Highly recommended.

“Kiss” by Prince (1986), covered by Tom Jones & The Art Of Noise (1988). The original is funk taken down to its barest essentials. The cover is totally over-the-top Tom Jones, plus those weird guys who did that 1986 cover of “The Peter Gunn Theme.” How can you not love that?

“On Broadway” by The Drifters (1963[?]), covered by George Benson (1976). This is one of those cases where the cover is actually better than the original. Maybe not coincidentally, the Benson performance is one of the best live recordings of all time. Listen to him scat. Hear his guitar. This is how composing team Leiber & Stoller must have wanted their song to be played. “On Broadway” is very close to being a modern standard.

Another rare instance of the cover being better than the original — “For Once In My Life.” A Ron Miller song, the first version I can find was recorded by Tony Bennett in 1950. Sinatra tried it out three years later, but it pretty much languished for the next 15 years. Then Stevie Wonder sang it, and “For Once In My Life” became a modern classic. The lyric is selfishly and unashamedly joyous, as is Wonder’s harmonica. Since Stevie’s version, almost everybody with a microphone has a taken a turn. Maybe this one belongs on a list of best-ever standards — but I’m putting here because I want to. Also, “FOIML” is the second-best song you can possibly cover. The best? We’ll get to that in a moment.

A special mention needs to go out to Chaka Khan. Only she could take one of Prince’s worst, most pedestrian early songs (“I Feel For You”), and turn it into a soul classic. Listen to the lousy original (1978), quietly, and then crank up Chaka’s 1984 cover.

Two special categories. The first is The Worst Song to Cover of All Time. And that goes to “Yesterday” by The Beatles. This also happens to be the most-recorded song ever written. Just stop it already.

Finally, the Best Song to Cover of All Time. There’s only one possible choice here: “Spooky” by The Classics IV (1968). The original is a classic rock staple. Then Atlanta Rhythm Section (1976) turned it into the best-ever example of ’70s southern boogie. Actress/singer Christy Baron did “Spooky” as a lounge tune in 2000. In a live KBCO performance from 2001, Joan Osborne flipped the lyric around, stripped down the sound, and “Spooky” became a lesbian folk anthem. A year later, Daniel Ash partially re-flipped the lyric, pumped up the bass, and gave us an electronica tribute to a bonkers bisexual babe and her beaten-down beau. The song has been done — and done well — by everybody from Lydia Lunch to Cal Tjader. If you’ve got a band, do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor, and do a kick-ass cover of “Spooky.”

UPDATE: How could I have left out Johnny Cash’s 2002 cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” (1989)? Maybe the best phone sex song ever, I think Cash was being a little coy when he said, “I don’t know what this song was supposed to be about orginally…” He found it spiritual, instead. Both versions belong in your library.

Notice and Other Useless Stuff

March 28th, 2008 - 8:57 am

What, no blogging? Not quite — I just got distracted by a little project. I’m picking out the best cover tunes I can find. Why? Because most of them suck, so it’s fun to find the gems.

Be back in a bit.

The 3 AM Phone Call

March 27th, 2008 - 10:00 am

So totally not safe for work.

Live on Tape from Bosnia

March 27th, 2008 - 9:03 am

Turns out, Hillary really did have to duck sniper fire in Bosnia, and PunditGuy has the video to prove it.

Getting Better All the Time

March 27th, 2008 - 8:34 am

Practice makes perfect — or at least better:

The February 22nd, 2008 destruction of a broken U.S. spy satellite by a U.S. warship, firing an anti-aircraft missile modified to intercept ballistic missiles, answered a lot of questions about how to do this sort of thing…

The February 22nd shot took six weeks to plan, mainly because there were so many unknowns. Now, many of those unknowns are knowns and another shoot-down could be carried out much more quickly. How quickly remains a secret.

This would be a good time to say, “Faster, please.”

Look! A Free Monkey!

March 27th, 2008 - 7:51 am

Late start today — we have an extra baby here this morning. That’ll keep you busy.

Know what else will keep you busy? Free junkets paid for by a murderous tyrant!

Look. If your country is gearing up for war, and suddenly free plane tickets show up in the mail, you might want to have a little look-see into just who bought those tickets. You know, make a few phone calls before you hop on board Iraqi Air Force One.

One Last Thing

March 26th, 2008 - 5:44 pm

Off the record, another Air Force officer, when asked about AF General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, called him a “turd whistle.”

I’d never heard that one before.

Julieta Quinones Of Memphis Is A Thief

March 26th, 2008 - 3:29 pm

So about three weeks back, I get a call from American Express. They tell me that somebody in Tennessee spent most of a day trying to charge FedEx shipping using my Amex card. I found this to be rather odd, since I haven’t been to Tennessee in about four years (although I must admit, my last visit was awfully fun).

It didn’t take long to figure out that some lowlife had swiped my card number, so Amex canceled the charge and closed the card, and I figured that was that. Then bills from FedEx started showing up, addressed to a “Julieta Quinones” at my address. I’ve never met a Juileta Quinones. Heck, except for the percussionist in the Allman Brothers Band, I’ve never even heard of a Quinones.

So I called FedEx, which advised me to mark through the address on the bills, write “UNKNOWN” on the still-sealed envelopes, and drop them all back in a mailbox. Which I did.

Which brings us to today, when my Amex bill arrived. On it, I found five charges totaling $194.56, all to Federal Express, and all taken out by our pal, Julieta Quinones of Memphis, Tennessee (Amex added them to the fraud file and took them off my account after I called just now). I’d include the people listed as Julieta’s addressees, but nah, let’s just concentrate on the crook.

Julieta Quinones of Memphis, Tennessee (or somebody using that name; there is no such person, as listed by Zabasearch in either Tennessee or Houston, where the zip code she gave Amex is actually located)–is a thief.

Just thought you’d all like to know.

Must See

March 26th, 2008 - 3:08 pm

The trailer for the new David Mamet movie looks awfully good. It’s got almost his entire usual stable of actors, minus Bill Macy.

And Tim Allen is in it? Really?

Muscles in Brussels

March 26th, 2008 - 2:14 pm

Has China overplayed its hand in Tibet? Maybe — even the European Parliament is taking notice:

The head of the European Parliament invited the Dalai Lama on Wednesday to address the EU legislature on events in Tibet and questioned whether European leaders should attend the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Opening an emergency debate on events in Tibet, Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said to applause: “I put it to this house to join with me in saying that the Dalai Lama is welcome in this house whenever he wants to come.”

It’s nice to see the EU do something nearly useful for a change.

McPeak Toil

March 26th, 2008 - 1:34 pm

Reader David emails:

Wow, most people I read are linking to the McPeak story.

It’s really funny that Obama has somehow picked up Merrill McPeak as a ‘military’ advisor. I had the mis-fortune of serving my last few years as a commissioned officer in the McAir Force, as we called it. At least amongst the officers I served with, the opinion was pretty unanimous that McPeak was joke back then. It appears he’s not gotten any better. The most significant things I remember him doing were pushing regs that said male personnel couldn’t wear a v-neck t-shirt (The AF 1550 shirt at the time was pretty open at the neck, and t-shirt, or lack thereof was pretty obvious), and launching a large scale program to “update” the uniform. I stopped paying attention to
what he was doing around then.

I think that’s good advice today — except that picking on McPeak makes for some awfully fun blogging.

UPDATE: Larry J comments:

General McPeak’s most widely known contribution as Chief of Staff was to attempt to redesign the uniform. The result looked like a cross between a bus driver and an airline pilot. This was at a time when the military was being downsized by several hundred thousand people. He was and apparently remains a flaming idiot. That Obama chooses McPeak to be his military advisor says a lot (all bad) about his judgment.

ONE MORE COMMENT: I’m pretty sure Chris Byrne isn’t too fond of McPeak, either. If you’ll pardon the language, he writes:

Those of us who served in the Air Force while he was our chief of staff fondly referred to him as:

1. Merrill McPrick
2. Merril “The Doorman” McPrick
3. Merril “Headwaiter” McPrick
4. Merril Mc’FuckinPrick
5. Fucking Merrill McMotherFuckingPrick

I have nothing but respect for his honorable service in Viet Nam; but by ’94 He was a dishonorable, disingenuous, scrote sucking piece of shit, who sold out his service for political gain. I see nothing has changed.

Speaking Truth to Power or Somebody

March 26th, 2008 - 12:56 pm

Perma-guest-co-blogger Will Collier emails, “I’m guessing that actually voting for McCain would require me to not just hold my nose, but actually have my nostrils stitched shut.” But then he links to this piece from NRO’s Campaign Spot, quoting McCain:

A sustained period of rising home prices made many home lenders complacent, giving them a false sense of security and causing them to lower their lending standards. They stopped asking basic questions of their borrowers like “can you afford this home? Can you put a reasonable amount of money down?” Lenders ended up violating the basic rule of banking: don’t lend people money who can’t pay it back. Some Americans bought homes they couldn’t afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates. There are 80 million family homes in America and those homeowners are now facing the reality that the bubble has burst and prices go down as well as up.

It’s nice, for once, to hear some genuine “straight talk” out of McCain.

A Promise Or a Threat?

March 26th, 2008 - 12:12 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When a politician vows to fight on until election day (or until the convention, or until the jury acquits, or until the cows come home to roost in the barn after the door’s been locked and you can’t make them drink), then it’s a sure thing that politician is about to quit, resign, or face the maximum sentence allowed by law.

But when Hillary Clinton vows to “keep this process going,” I don’t doubt her for one moment.

Latino Midget Hillary Clinton

March 26th, 2008 - 11:22 am

What, you thought the headline was a joke?

(Hat tip, Fake Steve.)