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Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Brutal Truth

July 15th, 2008 - 9:35 am

We may not always agree — far from it. But I like Jonathan Alter. Really I do. Which is why I haven’t said anything about this for months. But after reading his latest for Newsweek, I just had to say something.

Jon: Your new head shot makes you look like a used, angry Q-Tip. The combover has got to go, OK? But, please, keep up the great work. You’re one of the few decent things left at Newsweek — except for that head shot, of course.

Reuters Watch

July 13th, 2008 - 10:40 am

Could Reuters get any worse? Read this report and decide:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Bush administration is considering withdrawing additional troops from Iraq beginning in September, The New York Times reported in Sunday editions, citing administration and military officials.

The withdrawal, which the Times said would constitute a marked reversal from the war’s darkest days of 2006-2007, stemmed partly from the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan to fight the rising insurgency by the Taliban and other fighters. U.S. and allied casualties there have outpaced those in Iraq in recent months.

“Withdrawal” is generally something armies are forced to do after a “reversal.” In other words, Reuters is using the language of defeat to describe a strategic victory in Iraq. In fact all Reuters will admit to is a “consensus among officials that fewer forces are needed in Iraq.” And even that phrase has a “despite” in front and hints of impending doom in Afghanistan at the end. Victory sandwiched in between defeats.

For Reuters, I guess it goes down better that way.

Can You Think of Another?

July 12th, 2008 - 3:48 pm

It strikes me that Tony Snow might have been the only fundamentally decent man ever to have held the job of White House Press Secretary.

Cognitive Dissonance Dumb-Dumbs

July 12th, 2008 - 12:18 pm

The problem? Regulators encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to run wild.

The solution? More regulators!

UPDATE: Your go-to guy for stuff like this ought to be Stephen (no relation) Bainbridge, who notes, “this spooks investors, especially foreign investors. Foreigners abandon the dollar for the euro, dumping treasuries. The collapse of foreign investment in Treasuries makes our massive current account deficit unsustainable. At which point, things really go to pot.”


Conspiracy Theory

July 11th, 2008 - 10:46 am

It’s true — Jesse Jackson loves the microphone, and damn well knows when one is turned on. Or even pointed vaguely in his direction. So what’s up with getting “caught” wanting to cut off Obama’s danglies?

After a couple days of doing what I call “thinking” and what my bride calls “drinking and talking out loud to yourself way too loudly,” I came up with a theory.

I call Jackson’s outburst the Reverse Souljah.

Obama needed a way to distance himself from Jackson without actually doing so — which might hurt him with some of his core voters. So why not have Jackson do the job for him? Jackson didn’t denounce Obama, exactly. But he did say that Obama is “talking down to black people,” about things like fatherhood and dependency.

And what could make a potentially-nervous white voter feel more comfortable with Obama than getting that kind of seal-of-disapproval from a race-hustler like Jackson?

It’s a little kabuki, a little Clinton, and a lot smart.

Rotten Apple

July 11th, 2008 - 8:59 am

iPhone 3G: Worst product launch ever?

No, it’s not that bad. It’s not like Windows Vista bad. But it’s sure as hell not going smoothly.

Wednesday night, Apple’s new “MobileMe” service was supposed to go live. Granted, that is the worst product name since Windows ME, but MobileMe is something I actually want — instant syncing of most any data I like between my laptop, desktop and iPhone. Only it didn’t go live Wednesday night. Or any time on Thursday. Today it works, at times, a little, in fits and starts.

And so many people are activating their iPhone 3G models this morning, that I can’t even get iTunes to update my old phone’s firmware to 2.0 — even though it let me take the 218MB download earlier this morning. Sad fact is, Apple’s (and AT&T’s?) servers aren’t up to the task. What did they think was going to happen today?

The good news is, the new App Store works just fine. I’ve downloaded four iPhone applications already without a hint of trouble. But until Apple lets me install the new firmware, all those apps can do is take up space on my hard drive. Fun!

The bad news is, this is pretty ugly. New phone buyers are getting sent home to activate their iPhones — and they probably won’t have any better luck than I’m having right now. When will their phones stop being bricks? Today? This weekend? Monday?

Even at the nicely reduced price, I’d expect better service from Apple and AT&T.

UPDATE: Speaking of bricked phones, mine makes a nice paperweight right now. iTunes finally deigned to install the 2.0 firmware, but it doesn’t quite work. As in, my phone shows up in iTunes with a Microsoft-style cryptic error message. “We could not complete your iTunes Store request. An unknown error occurred (-9838). There was an error in the iTunes store. Please try again later.”

UPDATE: I’m so not the only one.

Radio Days

July 9th, 2008 - 4:25 pm

I’m the new host of PJ Media’s PJM Political program on XM Radio. If you’re not an XM subscriber, the podcast is up now, too.

Hang down your head

July 8th, 2008 - 8:47 pm

From Rasmussen:

The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history. This month, just 9% say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52%) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category.
Last month, 11% of voters gave the legislature good or excellent ratings. Congress has not received higher than a 15% approval rating since the beginning of 2008.

Let’s take stock. Congressional approval (Democrat) is abysmal, for good reason. Presidential approval (Republican) is better but languishing at around 30% according to most polls. This is an election year for congressional and presidential races. How, exactly, do we turn the bums out? And if we have nothing but bums, what comes next?

Well, it’s only July. The elections aren’t until November. So what we should do next is turn to Tom Waits.

That’s right, Matilda. Tom Waits.


July 8th, 2008 - 9:16 am

The mysterious Spengler has written yet another tingling entry:

To ascribe a special grace to America is outrageous, as outrageous as the idea of special grace itself. Why shouldn’t everyone be saved? Why aren’t all individuals, nations, peoples and cultures equally deserving? History seems awfully unfair: half or more of the world’s 7,000 or so languages will be lost by 2100, linguists warn, and at present fertility rates Italian, German, Ukrainian, Hungarian and a dozen other major languages will die a century or so later. The agony of dying nations rises in reproach to America’s unheeding prosperity.

An old joke divides the world into two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. America is one of the things that sorts the world into polar opposites. To much of the world, America is the Great Satan, the source of the plague of globalization, the bane of the environment, the Grim Reaper of indigenous cultures, the carrier of soulless industrialism, and the perpetrator of imperial adventures. To hundreds of millions of others it is an object of special grace. Whether one subscribes to the concept or not, America’s grace defines one of the world’s great dividing lines, perhaps its most important.

Violent antipathy to America measures the triumph of the American principle, and the ascendance of America’s influence in the world. America’s enemies make more noise than her friends, but her friends are increasing faster than her enemies. America’s influence in the world leapt as result of her victory in three world wars, including the fall of communism in 1989. Arguably, America is ascending even faster today, despite the reverses in its economic position and the strains on its military resources.

This guy is good, whoever he is. He reads the tectonics of modern geopolitics rather well, don’t you think? Almost spiritual, really.

h/t: Michael Ledeen

Some of the BBC’s most senior executives have been awarded pay rises of more than £100,000 in a year when the corporation has been dogged by fakery scandals and job cuts.

Jana Bennett, the Director of Vision, who was heavily criticised for her role in the “Crowngate affair” where footage of a documentary about the Queen was wrongly edited for a trailer of the programme, saw her salary rise from £433,000 to £536,000 last year, an increase of 24 per cent.

Jenny Abramsky, the outgoing head of Audio and Music, was paid £419,000 last year, a 27 per cent rise from £329,000 the previous year, according to the BBC annual report published today.

The pay increases follow a year of scandal in which the BBC was found guilty of deceiving viewers on a number of radio and television programmes ranging from Children in Need and Blue Peter to Sport Relief.

But What About Cloudy Days?

July 7th, 2008 - 8:39 am

Cooling off your Prius — with sunshine?

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

July 7th, 2008 - 8:27 am

Will Collier emailed this AJC story and asked, “Now, why do I suspect that there’s a word missing from this article? One that starts with “M”?”

See if you can guess:

A Clayton County man faces murder charges in the strangulation death of his 25-year-old daughter early Sunday over what police said was her desire to end an arranged marriage.

Chaudhry Rashad, 54, apparently became angry during an argument in which the victim, Sandela Kanwal, told him she wanted out of the marriage, Clayton police spokesman Timothy Owens said.

Unlike Britain, sharia isn’t yet considered a legitimate method of settling private disputes. Let’s keep it that way.

Required Reading

July 6th, 2008 - 8:46 am

George Will: The knock on the door.

No, Google, that’s not what I meant

July 5th, 2008 - 5:48 am

After whooping for joy a few minutes ago while reading this story, I decided to Google the first sentence to find a more detailed report on the incident. So I copied the first several words into my search window, and here is what came back:

Man up, Google. The guy didn’t drop the head of a wax statue of Adolph Hitler. He reached in and tore it off.

Fireworks Over Philly

July 4th, 2008 - 8:06 am

Every other year or so, VodkaPundit publishes the text or video of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In that spirit, here’s King’s original inspiration — The Declaration of Independence.

You know, just on the off chance you needed a reminder.

No Fireworks Over Burbank

July 4th, 2008 - 7:52 am

How do you hide an entire aircraft plant from enemy attack?

You put “suburban camo” netting over the entire damn thing.

Those are before and after pictures of Lockheed’s Burbank plant in 1942, when in the wake of Pearl Harbor, a Japanese air raid seemed like a real possibility. I don’t know who came up with the idea of suburban camouflage, but it has a kind of simple brilliance to it.

Happy Independence Day, and thanks to all those who made it possible — even the ones who thought up, built, and rigged giant nets.

Pivot Schmivot

July 3rd, 2008 - 5:22 pm

Barack Obama: Change you can believe in. Except when he doesn’t want you to believe he’s changed.


July 3rd, 2008 - 5:17 pm

What’s the Dell Windows Vista Bonus?

XP preinstalled.

Into The Night

July 3rd, 2008 - 3:28 pm

Steve loaned me his copy of Tom Kratman’s novel Caliphate a few weeks ago. It’s basically a polemic-as-potboiler about what the world might look like in a hundred years should current demographic trends result in an Islamic-ruled Europe.

I thought the premise was pretty clever. I didn’t, however, think it was likely to be proved prophetic.

Until today:

The most senior judge in England tonight gave his blessing to the use of sharia law to resolve disputes among Muslims.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that Islamic legal principles could be employed to deal with family and marital arguments and to regulate finance.

He declared: ‘It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.’

In his speech in an East London mosque Lord Phillips signalled approval of sharia principles as a means of settling disputes so long as no punishments that conflict with the established law are involved, and as long as divorces are made to comply with the civil law.

With such steps does civilization teeter into darkness.

So long, Europe. We could protect you from tyranny, but we cannot stop you from willingly giving your freedom away.

Happy 4th!

July 3rd, 2008 - 9:17 am

The holiday tempo in our house begins today, so before things get too busy I want to wish you all a happy 4th of July, 2008. I’ll be celebrating with family, with some of my oldest friends and some of my newest. We will have a fine day tomorrow, followed by a day of tubing down the Guadalupe River.

And, see – even an automaton can enjoy the company of others! From the Offenbach opera “The Tales of Hoffman” here is (you guessed it!) Natalie Dessay, performing as a wind-up doll to some of the most hauntingly happy music to be had anywhere.

The Doll Song (Les oiseaux dans la charmille)

Thank you, France! Happy Birthday, America!

Explosive Growth

July 2nd, 2008 - 9:55 am

If you need to buy flash memory from industry leader Samsung, and your name isn’t Steve Jobs, then you’re in trouble. Apple must be planning on selling lots of new 3G iPhones. Like, 10 million or more just in the second half of this year.

It seems that Apple is doing (or trying to do) to the smartphone market what Microsoft did to the PC market in the ’90s.

Back when Apple sucked — pretty much most of the ’90s — Microsoft exploded. It’s not that Macintosh was losing sales, it’s that while Apple was stuck with their existing customers, Microsoft was creating entire new markets of PC buyers.

Similarly, Apple isn’t trying to steal customers away from RIM’s Blackberry. Those people want their email every four seconds, and RIM delivers. Say what you like about Blackberries, but the do that one thing better than anybody. Instead, it seems that Apple is creating entirely new markets of smartphone buyers. People like me who don’t need a dedicated email phone like RIM makes, but something a little more all-purpose.

In other words, iPhone sales won’t grow by stealing customers away from RIM. Apple is making all-new customers RIM never dreamed of pursuing.

I’m not in the market for a 3G iPhone — my current model works just fine, thanks. But when it finally breaks, you can bet I’ll pop right on up to the Apple Store to buy the latest and greatest 4G (or whatever) model. And Crackberry addicts will most likely stick by RIM. But people who never dreamed of owning a smartphone before will prove much more likely to buy an iPhone than a Blackberry. Just like Microsoft once made PCs ubiquitous, Apple is poised to do the same for smartphones.

Confessions of a Proto Mac Addict

July 1st, 2008 - 6:55 pm

So my bride’s laptop computer is dying. It was a cheapo Dell, so no big loss — but you still don’t expect the screen of a $1,300 machine to die after barely 30 months.

Melissa likes my Macs (and loves her iPod), and thanks to Parallels, she can still use Office for Windows and Lockheed-Martin’s super-top-secret VPN software. So I told her what to look for in a MacBook, and that even their bottom-of-the-line model had enough muscle to edit high-definition baby videos from her new camcorder.

She told me, “We’d better wait to buy it. $2,300 is a little much for our budget right now.”

“How the hell did you price a MacBook up that high? It starts at eleven hundred and that’s for the newest version of the two-year-old one I have — and mine is plenty fast.”

“Oh, I was pricing a MacBook Air.” The Air is the pretty, shiny, skinny, expensive one. And she priced it with damn near all the options.

I’m telling you, when it comes to Apple, my wife’s a natural.

Barack Obama: Slum Lord?

July 1st, 2008 - 6:37 pm

No, of course not. He’s just the political and philosophical enabler of slum lords.

The man would never get his hands dirty himself.

(Hat tip, Insty and Kaus.)

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago…

July 1st, 2008 - 6:02 pm

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace put science in the driver’s seat of the story of the origin of species.

1858: The Linnaean Society of London listens to the reading of a composite paper on how natural selection accounts for the evolution and variety of species. The authors are Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Modern biology is born.

Alas, one hundred and fifty years later, superstition is still hanging around yelling “shotgun! shotgun!” like the annoying little brother you hope your friends don’t see you with.

So, you pat him on the head to humor him, hoping he’ll go away or at least keep to himself, but he just keeps yelling and yelling and yelling and finally he brings Ben Stein in to make a really lame, almost universally-panned, documentary about how you’re nothing but a Nazi.

But that’s ok, because you’re still the smart one and you get all the girls (mostly the ones with glasses, but there’s a naughty minx hiding in each one).

That out of the way…

Hi, you probably don’t know me, but I used to run a lil’ blog called The World Wide Rant, until I decided not to run it anymore.

In general, I would sum myself up as a “small-L” libertarian, although I’m a little more to the left than Steve these days (the doc says it could be because I sleep on my belly with the left knee raised). I’m also an atheist, which means – statistically – chances are you and I are going to disagree on at least one topic. It’s a real tragedy that you’re so mistaken about it too. But, hey, variety is the spice of life, and if everyone agreed with me, who would I poke fun at?

So, anyway, just thought I’d say hello and how do you do. As the mood strikes, I might drop a post here and there, generally ones that I anticipate will cause discord, strife, and human suffering, because that’s what we atheists do, you know, given our lack of morals.

Have a fabulous day!

“Believe me, it’s torture.”

July 1st, 2008 - 5:46 pm

Hitchens gets waterboarded. Some would probably applaud that.

D700: The Short Review

July 1st, 2008 - 2:54 pm

The rumors were dead-on right this time: Nikon announced the D700 body today.

What is it?

It’s a prosumer D300 (which I usually shoot) with the full-35mm size digital sensor from the professional D3 shoved up inside it.

What’s it cost?


What’s it do?

It’s shoots a lot slower than the D3, which is built for speed. It even shoots slightly slower than the D300, unless you add on the battery grip; then they’re tied.

What’s it good for?

If you need to shoot really wide angles, or in really low light. Otherwise, save yourself $1,300 and buy a D300. The D3 and D300 are virtually identical on sharpness and color rendition, and I suspect the D700 is no different. Literally, no different. It has the sensor of the D3 and the electronic guts of the D300. All three cameras are 12 megapixels.

The verdict?

Honestly? The D700 slips into the very tiny crack between the D3 and the D300. I can see why Nikon felt they ought to build it, but I can’t see much reason to buy it. Also, with the DX-size sensor on the D300, my 70-200mm zoom effectively reaches out like a 300mm lens. Put it on a D700, and you’re back down to 200. To get the same reach (with the same fast f/2.8 aperture and vibration reduction) on the D700, I’d have to pony up an extra $4,500 for this baby.

I’ll keep saving my money for the 24 megapixel D3X next year.

UPDATE: Longer review from Ken Rockwell.