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Monthly Archives: June 2008

“I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me.”
—General George S. Patton

PARIS — A military shooting demonstration in southeast France on Sunday left 16 people wounded, including children, when real bullets were used instead of blank ones, officials said.

Four of the wounded were in serious condition, including a 3-year-old child, Bernard Lemaire, chief of the regional administration in Aude, said on France-3 television. Fifteen of the injured were civilians.

A Defence Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks. The official said investigators will look into why real bullets were used.

Wen Jiabao

June 29th, 2008 - 11:00 pm

China’s top leaders said they were thankful for U.S. help after Sichuan’s devastating earthquake, with Premier Wen Jiabao saying Monday he was impressed that the first foreigners he saw providing help when he toured the province were Americans.

Almost 70,000 people died in the May 12 quake that devastated a wide swathe of Sichuan. The dead included thousands of schoolchildren who died when their classrooms crumbled.

“I would like to express our thanks to madam secretary and through you to the American people,” Wen told visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Wen said he was being driven to Beichuan in northern Sichuan, where at least 16,000 people died, when he saw three young people with backpacks.

He asked his driver to stop, got out of the car and learned the three were Americans.

“I was touched by their enthusiasm to help and I thanked them,” he said.

We Have A New Champion

June 29th, 2008 - 3:49 pm

Early this month, I gave Martini Boy a fifth of my then-favorite clear grain spirit, the outstanding Square One, which is an “organic” rye vodka made in Idaho. Right up until this weekend, I was convinced (and I think Steve agreed) that it’s one of the smoothest, if not the smoothest vodka I’ve ever tried. It’s also one of the pricier brands (short of the really esoteric stuff), weighing in at around $40 a fifth in your average package store.

That was then. This is now.

Tito’s Handmade is distilled from corn, and produced in a little shack outside of Austin by a guy whose real name is Tito Beverage–all of which led me to believe that it would resemble lighter fluid more than a top-shelf brand. The only reason I picked it up on Friday is, I used to live in Austin and got a kick out of the idea of having a bottle of vodka made there.

How wrong I was.

Not only can it go toe-to-toe with Square One in flavor and smoothness, Tito’s gets a big tough-economy thumbs-up for costing less than half as much. Check it out, and if you’re in a state with no sales on Sundays and can’t get to the store today, click here in the meantime for a really great article about the origins of Tito’s from a few years back in the Austin Chronicle.

Reporting from Laviano, Italy, Russell Shorto writes:

When Falivena took office in 2002 for his second stint as mayor, two numbers caught his attention. Four: that was how many babies were born in the town the year before. And five: the number of children enrolled in first grade at the school, never mind that the school served two additional communities as well. “I knew what was my first job, to try to save the school,” Falivena told me. “Because a village that does not have a school is a dead village.”

Laviano now pays women 10,000 euros to have babies and live in the town. Although school enrollment is up, the city is still losing population.

It’s a long article, but well worth your time to read the whole thing.

My Loony Bun Is Fine Benny Lava

June 29th, 2008 - 9:15 am

It’s imperative that you crank the volume on this one.

Second Thoughts? Same as the First.

June 28th, 2008 - 10:14 pm

Why I am so pissed off at Bobby Jindal? I’ll tell you.

When you fail to teach children how to think critically… wait, scratch that. When you teach children that critical thinking doesn’t work, doesn’t apply, doesn’t mean anything… then you’ve opened the door for every and any charlatan and faker who comes a’ knocking.

And I’d rather have a bald-faced charlatan — like Barack Obama — than one like Jindal, any day of the week. And if Jindal really believes in the law he just let pass? Then that makes him the most dangerous charlatan of all: The one who really does believe his own BS.

Obama can hurt the economy and our security for four or maybe eight years. Jindal (and his ilk) can destroy generations of Americans minds.

A kid who is taught bullshit by liberal teachers in all his “soft science” classes still has a chance of saving his brain — so long as somewhere, anywhere, he learns the goddamn difficult process of critical thought. That’s what the hard science classes are good for nowadays: the last line of defense. There’s a reason almost every engineer I’ve ever known — damn near every single one — was a true-blue libertarian or conservative.

But if you poison the well, then what is that kid left with? If you mix faith and science in the same classroom, then all he’s got is some right wing god-fearing religious pablum, to go with the left wing state-worshiping pablum he gets in the rest of his classes.

Social sciences are, almost by definition, soft-skulled bullshit. So let the liberals teach it. Real science is supposed to mean something… and when it no longer does, then we’re all screwed.

So am I emotional on this issue? You bet your ass I am. And I’ll get emotional whether it’s a Kansas school board, or the legislature and governor of a state I’ve barely even visited.

In the churches, faith can and does sustain good people of every stripe — and in ways biology, physics, and math never could. But forcing our preachers to teach in the scientific method would ruin the religious experience. Just as surely, mixing faith and science would destroy those things science offers us.

And with that, I’ll step away from the pulpit for a while. I’d like to think that Governor Jindal would do likewise and get the hell out of our classrooms.

Caption Contest

June 28th, 2008 - 11:40 am

We’ll start with: “Bitter Bill Face.”

That’s a Promise

June 28th, 2008 - 10:39 am

What would you call a law urging teachers and students to disdain science favor of malarky? If you’re Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, you call it “academic freedom.”

And if McCain picks Jindal for his veep, I’ll vote for Obama.

Why Veeps Now Matter

June 28th, 2008 - 9:23 am

Michael Barone sums it up nicely, as he always does. One graph:

The framers of the Constitution created the vice presidency to solve the problem of succession. They expected that electors meeting in state capitals would vote for two candidates from different states, with the No. 2 vote-getter becoming vice president. It worked well twice. Then the unexpected emergence of political parties produced bizarre results.

My crystal ball is a bit dusty, but I would guess that Obama will pretty much have to select a woman, and McCain will need an actual conservative. That’s logical thinking to my mind, therefore I will probably be wrong on both in this election year.

Yeah, We’re Pretty Much Effed

June 28th, 2008 - 7:24 am

We’re gearing down for the worst recession since ’80-’81 — and the worst inflation since then, too — and Congress fiddles while Rome burns:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has appealed to Senate Democratic leaders to confirm President Bush’s long-pending nominations to fill two empty chairs as Fed governors, enabling a fully staffed central bank to handle the current financial crisis. He did not receive a favorable response from Sen. Christopher Dodd, Senate Banking Committee chairman.

And what’s President Bush doing? About the same:

Bush has not yet named anyone for a new vacancy, so three of seven seats on the Fed’s Board of Governors are empty, with an imbalance of economists over bankers.

Fortunately, Bush will leave office next January. But it looks like this Congress is here to stay.

Required Reading

June 27th, 2008 - 12:09 pm

Krauthammer on Obama: He’ll make the Clintons look scrupulous.

The Brutal Truth

June 27th, 2008 - 8:37 am

Iraq: Where al Qaeda went to die.

Does anyone still sneer at the “flypaper” strategy? Well, of course they do. The difference is, now they’ve got to lie to themselves, too.

Everything You Need to Know

June 26th, 2008 - 8:39 pm

Huge Heller roundup at Jed’s.

“And Everybody Hates the Jews.”

June 26th, 2008 - 1:24 pm

So North Korea is going down the Tripoli Road to unilateral disarmament:

The U.S. began removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after the communist regime released an inventory of nuclear plants and materials, removing an obstacle to future ties between the two countries.

The declaration was required under a September 2005 agreement by the government in Pyongyang and the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to rid the Korean peninsula of atomic weapons. North Korea’s refusal to submit information on its programs had stalled the negotiations for months.

The question is, why? We’ve been using carrots (and the occasional small stick) for fifteen years now, trying to get Pyongyang to drop its nuclear program. What changed? Why now?

I think the answer goes back to last fall, and the we have Israel to thank. Remember Osirik II? It went like this:

U.S. officials are sorting through what they say are private Israeli claims that on Sept. 6 they struck targets tied to nuclear weapons activity, not merely to missile production.

U.S. concerns about ties between Syria and North Korea have long focused on a partnership involving missiles and missile technology. Even many hawks within the Bush administration have expressed doubts that the Syrians have the money or technical depth to build a serious nuclear program like the one in Iran.

But the Israeli airstrike inside Syria on Sept. 6 has reignited debate over whether the Syrians are trying to overcome these obstacles by starting their own small nuclear program, or by trying to buy nuclear components from an outside supplier.

The most thrilling part of the Israeli Air Force operation wasn’t that they destroyed a terrorist state’s nascent nuclear program. It wasn’t even that the North Koreans were involved on the ground. It’s that Israeli warplanes got through one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems, unharmed and (so it seems) undetected. And the IAF doesn’t even own any stealthy jets. They did it electronically.

Which means we can, too. With impunity.

So. Pretend you’re the Dear Leader. Your choice is between losing your nuclear program to the United States Air Force in the middle of the night sometime, or selling it for cold, hard cash. Kim Jong-il took the money.

Now let’s see if he’ll run.

On Heller, the Washington Post’s Colbert King declares, “The thugs won.”

He doesn’t argue, doesn’t cite the Constitution, doesn’t mention any pesky facts — he just vents and shouts and embarrasses himself and his newspaper. Here’s a typical graf:

So now it has come to pass that D.C. residents can keep handguns, as well as rifles and shotguns, in their homes. A well armed, informal militia we shall be — ready to fire back in self-defense at the shooters who believed they had the right to their guns all along.

So guns are bad when criminals own them in violation of the law, and even worse when law-abiding city residents own them for sport or defense. King wants gun control to work, because he wishes it to work, even though he himself concedes that criminals “have been blowing away their fellow citizens with abandon since the law was put on the books 32 years ago.”

But gun control is good, because… well, because it just is.

And because Colbert King says so.

I wonder what he’ll say when DC’s homicide rate inevitably decreases…


June 26th, 2008 - 10:02 am

I’m not really interested in motorcycles, but this one‘s electric.

While the US Supreme Court goes about the serious business of recognizing real and valuable individual rights, the Spanish parliament has gone and:

voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

Parliament’s environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

Try looking at it this way. Your average EU country doesn’t really recognize individual rights; there are just some facets of human existence Brussels hasn’t gotten around yet to regulating fully. So why not give “rights” to chimps? It’s not like they’ll gain much, when half or more of Europe is already one very posh, very nice zoological garden where people are kept on display in a semi-natural state.

Heck, Madrid, or even Brussels, could extend the franchise to dogs who think they’re people, at it wouldn’t make one bit of difference to how the place is governed.

Well Duh

June 26th, 2008 - 8:47 am

All I need to know about the Heller decision is that Scalia wrote the majority opinion, and Breyer wrote the dissent. Most any day of the week, that’s a big, big win.

New British Coins

June 26th, 2008 - 6:04 am

Did you see that Britain is changing its change?

Here’s an image of the reverses of the new coins, arranged to display the… well, here, listen to a Brit explain it:

“… the Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.”

Still no explanation on why they call it football instead of soccer.

Follow the Money

June 25th, 2008 - 9:03 am

Microsoft is undergoing it’s biggest hiring spree in 11 years — all for its Mac Business Unit.

Hollywood Actors to Strike?

June 24th, 2008 - 10:54 pm

The Independent says an actors’ strike threatens to bring Hollywood to a standstill.

To have one trade union paralyse Hollywood was strange; two doing it in quick succession feels like carelessness. A threatened walkout by actors, which could begin as early as next week, is throwing major film and television studios into chaos.

The contract dispute, this time between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and their white-collar bosses, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), is causing what industry experts have called a “virtual strike”.

Production deadlines for dozens of major projects have been scrapped amid growing signs that the SAG, which has 120,000 members, will fail to resolve its dispute before a deadline for industrial action on Tuesday next week.

Most major film shoots are now either being put on hold, or wrapping-up early to avoid disruption.

Strike! Strike, you asshats! Strike now! Strike long! And stay stricken! Er, striked. Or is it strik.

More Money Than Sense

June 24th, 2008 - 10:12 am

No, I don’t mean the Obama campaign. But one Silicon Valley insider says Google is a “total f-ing train wreck.”

Can you think of anything Google does well apart from search? If they’re not a train wreck, maybe at best they’re a one-trick pony. Still — it’s a damn good trick.

It Ain’t Exactly Bing & Bob

June 23rd, 2008 - 6:13 pm

Michael Totten reports from the Road to Kosovo.

New Boss/Old Boss

June 23rd, 2008 - 12:05 pm

Is Barack Obama in bed with ethanol giant Archer-Daniels-Midland?

Dunno, but he likes flying on their corporate jet.

George Carlin, 1937-1980

June 23rd, 2008 - 8:43 am

It’s been nearly 30 years now since George Carlin was funny, other than a handful of somewhat amusing movie appearances. It will be said that he’ll be missed, but I’ve missed him for ages.

Maybe now he’ll finally find a place for his stuff.

I just returned from a visit to the San Francisco bay area and was happy to learn that San Francisco Opera is also providing live broadcasts of selected performances to movie theaters around the country. Here is the SFO schedule for past broadcasts, they have not yet released their schedule of live broadcasts for next season.

While there, I had the privilege to attend the opening performance of Lucia di Lammermoor at SFO on Tuesday evening. Natalie Dessay was a delight to behold. She seems to absorb her roles, doling them out with astonishing authority and a deep understanding, resulting in a spectacle that is hard to forget. SFO audiences are a tough nut to crack for performers, being quite reserved particularly about granting a standing ovation. But did Dessay receive a standing O come curtain call? Oh yes. Oh my, yes.

News You Can Abuse

June 18th, 2008 - 11:13 pm

The headline reads:

Women Dressed As Nurses Targeting Central Fla. Shoppers

Some stores could charge extra for that, you know.

Round And Round

June 18th, 2008 - 3:47 pm

A few years ago, a friend of mine was having a beer with a very senior Air Force official, and asked what said official thought about the Boeing/Airbus tanker competition, which at that time was still out for bids. Paraphrasing the hearsay mightily, this was the response:

“The quickest thing would have just been to turn Boeing on for the 767 lease conversion contract. But McCain wants to be president, and he’s got a mad-on for Boeing, so he raised a stink. So they weren’t able to get the easy deal. It was their own fault; they got greedy and overpriced the bid (besides which, Boeing got caught cheating, and were really lucky that they got to bid at all).

“Now they’re probably going to lose to Airbus. What’ll happen after that is, everybody will freak out because an American company didn’t get the contract, and it’ll go back to selection, and this time Boeing will win. And all we’ll have accomplished is, it’ll be five or six years later, we still won’t have any new tankers yet, and it’ll cost a lot more.”

Judging by today’s news that Boeing succeeded in its protest over the Airbus team’s contract win, that prediction remains right on target.

The Troops Go Shopping On

June 18th, 2008 - 12:12 pm

Look for the Army label?

The Kid Stays in the Picture

June 18th, 2008 - 11:08 am

Obama’s underlings are at it again.