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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

May 13th, 2010 - 12:50 pm

Today’s Trifecta: Why does a Republican getting the boot in Utah have liberal in Washington running scared?

The Next Space Race — Tourism

May 13th, 2010 - 11:14 am

Armadillo Aerospace will put you in orbit for a hundred grand — and return you safely to the earth, I presume, at no extra charge.

So now is the time to start planning for the collapse of North Korea? I suppose it’s going to happen eventually, and a Unified Korea is a threat to no one. So what’s the problem? Here’s as good an explanation as any:

Let’s go back to 1989 once more. West Germany had 62 million people, and the world’s third-largest economy. East Germans numbered a mere 17 million, and by Communist standards, they were quite rich. In fact, the old DDR was the richest Communist nation ever, period, full stop. So while reunification was an expensive proposition, West Germany could afford it without too much pain. Also, East Germans had been under the Communist yoke for “only” 45 years. There were still people alive with some memory of how a civil society functions. Easing matters, East Germans could often watch Western TV, and many were allowed limited travel to the west.

South Korea has fewer than 50 million people, and while they’ve made great strides, their per capita income is still only up to that of modern Poland. They aren’t poor, but they aren’t nearly as rich as West Germany was. In addition, their economy isn’t as mature or robust, as the Asian Financial Crisis of a couple years back showed.

Up north are 22 million of their starving brethren. Before the Communist dictatorship, they lived a brutal existence as virtual slaves of Japan. “Chosen,” as Tokyo called Korea, was annexed by the Japanese Empire 93 years ago. It’s safe to say that there is no one in North Korea with any experience living in a politically modern, free, democratic, or tolerant state. Travel is forbidden. Only a small handful of South Koreans are allowed north. There is only one radio station, and it runs nothing but the foulest sort of propaganda. And according to a story in US News & World Report a few weeks ago, North Korea even has concentration camps bigger than the District of Columbia.

Through no fault of their own, the people of North Korea simply aren’t ready to enter the modern world, and South Korea can’t afford to feed, house, re-educate, and re-civilize them all.

Whether or not there’s a war, when North Korea collapses there’s going to be a humanitarian crisis on a scale the world has never seen — 22 million scared, hungry, and desperate people left without any semblance of anything familiar.

I wrote that, almost exactly seven years ago. And now is the time to start planning?

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

May 13th, 2010 - 10:05 am

Here’s a gut-wrenching story of unjust imprisonment and torture from the 2004 archives:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed to the British Broadcasting Corporation that the US military is operating a second “black jail” at its Bagram airbase near Kabul in Afghanistan, contrary to the Pentagon’s public denials.

The BBC’s Hilary Andersson writes that in response to a question about the existence of the secret facility, “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram.” The Red Cross has not had access to these prisoners.

At that site, according to numerous former detainees, prisoners are abused, beaten, humiliated and subjected to sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and other forms of torture.

Oh, my bad — this one has today’s date on it.

Big Sis Is Watching You

May 13th, 2010 - 6:47 am

So: We have a nominee who tried to invent a whole new class of unprotected speech — and it turns out she’s not so hot on the Second Amendment, either. Something tells me Elena Kagan might not be entirely fond of the ninth or tenth amendments.

But don’t worry, I’m sure she’s totally, 100% against quartering troops in our houses. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

The Dog Ate My Free Trade

May 12th, 2010 - 3:06 pm

Cato’s Sallie James reports that the Kerry-Leiberman-Graham Cap & Tax bill is really the Cap & Tax & Protectionist bill.

Oh, and — surprise! — it uses some really childish tricks to hide from the WTO.

Posted Without Comment

May 12th, 2010 - 2:37 pm

Because, really, what else needs to be said?


May 12th, 2010 - 2:17 pm

Here’s the good news: Americans are paying less in taxes than at any time since 1950.

Here’s the bad news: Incomes are down, reducing income tax receipts; employment is down, reducing payroll tax receipts; consumer spending is down, reducing sales tax receipts.

And on the horizon: Perhaps a VAT, increased income taxes next year, increased taxes on medical expenses, medical devices, etc. Oh, and a spending binge that will have to be paid for, oh, somehow. Where does government get money again?

Oh, right — taxes.

So you’ll excuse me if I’m not feeling too grateful to my masters in Washington.

It’s Time

May 12th, 2010 - 11:19 am

Milbloggers supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

How times have changed. In 1993, DADT was a halting, imperfect (and ultimately frustrating) step forward for gays. They couldn’t serve openly, but at least they could serve.

We’ve come a long way in just 15 years. By and large the troops support repeal, and I’ve never met a better or smarter group of people (even if we were in Vegas at the time, and I’m even including Uncle Jimbo ) than the folks at BlackFive and the other milbloggers. If they all say it’s time, then it’s time.

Required Reading

May 12th, 2010 - 10:59 am

I’m a little late to this party, but Ed Driscoll’s “Liberal Fascism: The Font” is the most fascinating blog item I’ve read in ages.

Congressman Eric Cantor dares you to cut the budget your own self:

Today, we are launching YouCut – a first-of-its-kind project designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows YOU to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House – YOUR HOUSE – enact. That’s right, instead of Washington telling YOU how THEY will spend YOUR money, YOU can tell THEM how to save it. After several days of voting, on Monday, May 17th, we will announce the first winner and later that week House Republicans will call for an up-or-down vote on the spending cut. We will repeat this cycle every week for the rest of the year.

That’s from the announcement at Big Government, and you really ought to read the whole thing. But this link is where you get to start going snip snip snip like an over-caffienated veterinarian at an over-capacity animal shelter. At least, that’s what I’ll be doing.

UPDATE: If you’ll excuse the meagerness of the compliment, you’re braver than the Congressional Democrats, who are dragging their feet on passing even a huge bloated uncut budget.


The Amendment of No

May 12th, 2010 - 9:55 am

Kagan v Roberts:

Defending a 1999 federal ban on depictions of animal cruelty, Kagan boldly asked the Supreme Court to recognize a new category of speech that, along with such historical exceptions as defamation, incitement, and obscenity, is entirely outside the scope of the First Amendment. “Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection,” she wrote, “depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.”

Writing for the 8-to-1 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts called this claim “startling and dangerous,” adding: “The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”

Great. Sounds like nation-wide campus speech codes. Again, what part of “Congress shall make no law…” do people have a problem understanding?

Must-See PJTV

May 12th, 2010 - 9:27 am

Two Trifecta‘s for you today. The first one is a behind-the-scenes special, and it’s a bonus for subscribers.

Scott Ott hosts the other one, and we take a look at the life and career of Elena Kagan where we find… an Obama-like lack of a paper trail.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Do They Want a Revolution?

May 12th, 2010 - 9:17 am

Honestly, at this point I have to wonder if the Democrats are trying to incite a revolt. They’re actually talking openly about seizing millions of 401(k) accounts? For the promise of an IOU down the line? When the “lock box” fraud has already proven to be just that? When Social Security and government health care are already insolvent to the tune of $53 trillion-with-a-T? And ObamaCare adds how much more to the bill?

Look here. Washington spends money. That’s what it exists to do. It spends all the money it can appropriate. And then it spends some more. And when Washington can’t borrow money anymore, it will seize it, apparently. And when there’s no money left to steal, Washington will simply print more money, and spend that. Because Washington doesn’t save money. Washington doesn’t invest money. Washington certainly doesn’t make any money.

And if they get away with this multi-trillion-dollar theft, we’ll be beggars. People who didn’t borrow. People who spent less than they made. People who saved money, invested money, people who worked hard and wisely for a better future — these people will be made into beggars. People who did the exact right thing, will be reduced to wards of a state that can’t even feed itself.

Is that what these fools in Congress are aiming for? It’s getting hard to draw any other conclusion.

Attack of the 50-Foot Pelosi! Eek!

May 11th, 2010 - 1:09 pm

RIP Frank Frazetta

May 11th, 2010 - 9:30 am

I think like a lot of guys about my age or a bit older, the artwork of Frank Frazetta is directly responsible for inducing puberty. He died yesterday following a stroke. Michael Cavna nailed Frazetta’s genius:

Amid all his artwork’s massive swords and towering cliffscapes and thundering skies of menace, Frazetta could flat-out make the viewers’ eye feel the “meat” of the thing. Coiled pythons. Poised big cats. Rippling torsos posed just so. Frazetta’s artwork pulled you into worlds that put you at immediate peril — and it all started with the sinew. Glorious, striving, all-too-mortal muscle.

He’ll be missed.

Or something like that.

Anyway, it’s time for another fresh installment of Hair of the Dog, and it might be our best episode yet. Where else can you see Jack Tapper get sent to summer school. David Brooks get biatch-slapped, and Valley Girls elevated to Pundit Status — and all in just seven minutes?

No where else, biatches!

So subscribe to PJTV already. Or at least just watch the show. It’s a good one. Honest.

Office is coming to the iPad through Microsoft’s Docs.com. That doesn’t effect me very much, since I’m completely weened off the Office suite — but that’s pretty big news for lots of people, trying to figure out what they’d do with a tablet.

Back in the USSK?

May 10th, 2010 - 1:59 pm

Gordon Brown is out as head of Labor — but will Labor continue to govern? It’s not impossible:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday he would step down this year, sacrificing himself to give his Labor Party a chance of forming a government with the smaller Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems are already being courted by the Conservatives, who did best in an election last week. But Brown said in a statement in front of his official residence at 10 Downing Street that the Lib Dems now wanted to talk to Labor too.

The center-right Conservatives, led by David Cameron, won most seats in parliament but fell short of a majority.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. The UK is on the brink of financial and economic ruin, Gordon Brown is about as beloved as a fistful of poo — and the Tories still might be locked out of power?

Who do they think they are, Republicans?

The President speaks to America’s youth:

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,” Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.

Sorry, but I have to borrow a line from Glenn here.

They told me if I didn’t vote for Barack Obama, we’d end up with a techno-illiterate in the White House — and they were right!

More seriously, is there anybody Obama won’t throw under that bus? Because this time, he’s sold out one of his harshest critics: Me. Recall that before he was sworn in, the Secret Service wanted the President-elect to give up his BlackBerry. Here’s what I said back then:

Here we finally have a technology giving presidents the power to peer outside their protective bubble. And what do we do? We take it away amidst worries about security and lawsuits.

There’s got to be a better way.

And so as it turns out there is a better way. And that is, the President gets to keep his CrackBerry, but you’d better think twice before picking up that shiny new iPad.

Because Obama’s a supergenius, but your wee tiny brain can’t handle all that “distracting” “content.”

PS Hey there, Mr. Supergenius President Sir? My four-year-old can work an iPod. Just sayin’.

Product Review – Drobo

May 8th, 2010 - 3:12 pm

You’ve got a lot of data. Pictures, movies, music, the works. And chances are, more and more of that data is on magnetic hard drives instead of shiny plastic optical discs. My problem was, making all that data manageable, and keeping it backed up.

Welcome to the world of worry-free RAID. OK, not really — but very, very close. It’s called Drobo, and it’s a toaster-sized black box full of hard drives.

About a year ago, I started ripping all of our DVDs onto hard drives, for wirelessly streaming to the various computers and Apple TV devices throughout the house. We buy a lot of DVDs, and even in a bigger house, rack after rack of movies and TV shows is bulky at best and hideous at… also best. Much better to rip each DVD once, then stick it in storage under the basement stairs.

Problem: Three terabytes is a lot of bytes. And a lot of hard drives. And impossible to back up easily. And a total pain in the butt. Picture this: Next to my desktop monitor is a aged iMac, dragooned into acting as a media server, with four external Firewire drives daisy chained in back. Did I mention that’s a year’s worth of work with no backups? And that it’s ugly?

I looked into getting a big, cheap RAID box, but RAID’s not for dilettantes. It’s complicated to set up, complicated to maintain, and expansion basically means having to start from scratch, with a second rig and bigger (or more) drives. No thanks.

Data Robotic’s Drobo uses proprietary “BeyondRAID” technology to go, uh, beyond RAID. You can mix and match drives speeds and sizes, and expansion is easy. Just plug a new drive into an empty slot, or pull out an old drive (no need to even power down), and swap it for a bigger one.

I bought the bottom-of-the-line Drobo for $310 on Amazon. And shoved three, two-terabyte hard drives in it. Total storage: 3.6 terabytes — fully backed up, in case a drive fails. (That’s 5.5TB or real drive space, minus 1.84TB for data protection and 6.52GB in “overhead.”) You can even protect yourself against two drives failing simultaneously, but you’ll take a bigger storage hit. Total investment: $730. I still have a free slot left over for expansion. When bigger drives become available, don’t fret — a single Drobo partition can be as large as 16TB. At about 2GB a pop, that’s a lot of ripped movies.

Set-up was easy, although I’m glad I checked something first. The newest drives (like the ones I just bought) use larger sectors, which on incompatible equipment will result (I think I have this right) in less storage and slower performance. Drobo can handle the new drives, but only after installing the latest firmware. And the instructions tell you to put your drives in first, before even checking for firmware upgrades.


Check your firmware first, or at least make sure your HDs aren’t the new Advanced Format.

So, firmware upgraded, I powered down, shoved in the hard drives and powered back up. Drobo Dashboard recognized everything properly, formatted the drives to Apple’s HFS+, and was ready to go. Next step: Tell iTunes that the Drobo is where to keep files, and then to go on and reorganize everything from the four little drives onto the one big one.

And then wait three days.

Using my antiquated Mac’s Firewire 400, a terabyte takes about 22 hours to copy over. Three terabytes, nearly three days. Meanwhile, iTunes streaming continues to function just fine.

Drobo has a fully-modern Firewire 800 interface, but the old Mac doesn’t. Pricier Drobo units have eSATA or gigabit ethernet outputs. And more drive bays, too. Since it’s going to be at least another year or two before I fill up all four bays with 2TB drives, and it can theoretically handle 4TB drives, the extra money just didn’t seem worth it. Even then, my storage needs are pretty extreme for a consumer, so I doubt many homes would need anything bigger. (Question: We’ve been stuck with 2TB-max drives for a while now. Has magnetic storage hit a wall?)

Maintenance is easy. The shiny black plastic cover on the front is just translucent enough for the status lights to shine through. If they’re green, ignore them. Yellow means add more storage soon, red means add more storage right the heck now. Flashing red means a drive has failed, and you’d better swap it out. The Dashboard front end gives you all the same info, in the exact same manner, so you don’t need to keep it in plain sight.

The only real con I’ve noticed (other than the lousy instructions regarding the firmware), is the noise. At least during the initial copy, the fan runs almost continuously, and there’s precious little sound insulation. If you’re used to the whisper-quiet of an iMac (even my Nehalem-powered Mac Pro barely murmurs, even under duress), you’ll want to think about putting the Drobo somewhere else. Since my desk backs up on the mechanicals room, I’m planning on drilling a couple holes in the wall and buying some longer cables.

Drobo generally has higher up-front costs than RAID, but should prove to have a much lower TCO. And while it’s not quite plug-and-play easy, it’s very, very close.

Only Seven?

May 8th, 2010 - 1:17 pm

Hot off the Sirius/XM Satellite, in geosynchronous orbit high above Fresno, it’s the podcast version of PJM Political. What do Ed Driscoll and I have lined up for you this week? How about James Lileks, Jennifer Rubin, Roger L. Simon’s big NASCAR adventure, and some other stuff I’ve forgotten because I recorded my end of it two days and seven martinis ago.

UPDATE: Well it’s about time somebody sent me the link to the latest episode of The Delivery. Ed and I were Jimmie Bise’s guests for the full hour. The first half was all about new media and politics. In the second half we started off on Mad Men, but the discussion went all over the place. It’s good radio.

Something Less Than a Mystery

May 8th, 2010 - 12:30 pm

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the UK’s Lib Dems just don’t understand what went wrong:

Defeated Lib Dem Peter Carroll described the failure of his party on a national level as “a mystery” after losing his third successive election battle.

The Gurkha Justice Campaign founder polled 17,602 votes in Maidstone and the Weald – an increase of 13.2 per cent – but still finished almost 6,000 behind his Conservative opponent Helen Grant.

His failure to win the seat mirrored the collapse of the Lib Dems across the country, as the so-called ‘Cleggmania’ phenomenon failed to materialise.

Mr Carroll, who also ran for election in 2001 and 2005, said: “I’m disappointed because I thought we had an outside chance of winning (in Maidstone).

“I was really pleased with the campaign we put together, but it wasn’t the best night and not the result we were hoping for.

I have a theory. The British electorate was concerned almost entirely with the economy, while the most important plank in the Liberal-Democrat platform was changing the electoral system to make it more friendly to Liberal Democrats.

But We’re Liberal!

May 8th, 2010 - 11:08 am

Drudge has the links, like so:

Video shows [REDACTED] police kicking suspect…

“I’m going to beat the f****** Mexican p*** out of you, homey’


Man, things have gotten tense in Arizona — except the beating happened in that bastion of lattes and liberal tolerance, Seattle.

From BP’s War Room

May 8th, 2010 - 10:07 am

The latest on stopping the flow of oil from that spill in the Gulf:

BP, based in London, won’t know until Tuesday whether its plan to contain the leaking oil within a 40-foot-tall steel structure will work as planned, Bob Fryar, a senior BP executive, said. If it works, the container BP calls a dome will capture about 85 percent of the flow, which will be siphoned to the surface by a mile-long pipe.

Fryar, senior vice president of BP’s exploration and production business in Angola, is one of dozens of executives and engineers toiling in a tightly secured warren of offices on the third floor of one of BP’s buildings in suburban Houston, where the work of trying to manage the spill goes on 24 hours a day.

Fryar said 400 to 500 people are working at the center, with 60 percent coming from BP and the rest from other oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, private companies and U.S. agencies.

While people are tired from long, pressure-filled days, the spirit in the crisis room is positive, Fryar said. The engineers enjoy the challenge of working on new problems, though they haven’t been able to stop the leak yet.

This reminds me of the scenes at NASA Mission Control in Apollo 13, only now the stakes are even higher.

Line? Line?

May 8th, 2010 - 10:01 am

Go f*** yourself, San Diego!

Another Rick Sanchez classic, although I think this is one of his smarter moments.

How Does He Do It?

May 8th, 2010 - 9:55 am

The whole entire innerwebs reduced to ten short items in just three minutes — it’s another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs! This week features more cowbell, Rude Ruth and I imitate the boss, badly.

Subject of the State

May 7th, 2010 - 9:12 am

Today’s Trifecta: Scott Ott takes on that chilling tax ad from the Pennsylvania government, including a nice little parody at the end. Frankly, it was so well done that I can’t remember what the hell Bill Whittle and I did on the show.

In Other News

May 6th, 2010 - 3:19 pm

Jim Cramer saved the world economy.

Today’s Trifecta: In which Bill Whittle, Scott Ott, and yours truly rip Bill Maher a new one.

Not that he needed a new one, mind you.