30 Jan 2015

Roman Mold-Blown Glass Cups

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Ennion, mold-blown glass cups (1st century A.D)

From the Metropolitan Museum via Belacqui.

30 Jan 2015

Andrew Sullivan Retires (Again)

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andrew-sullivan-sad

On Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Sullivan suddenly announced that “in the near future,” he is going to quit blogging.

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years.

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Pejman Yousefzadeh cheerfully interprets Andrew’s decision to retire as a final gesture of repentance for betraying Conservatism in order to pursue the homosexual agenda and worship at the feet of the first black (and very possibly queer) US president.

[D]uring the Obama era, Sullivan has indeed blogged “like a hack in a one-party state.” At times, Sullivan’s blogging project seemed like a giant audition aimed at getting Sullivan named chief propagandist of the Obama administration. Sullivan may have failed to achieve this particular station in life, but his failure wasn’t for lack of trying.

I write all of this, of course, because Andrew Sullivan claims that he has decided to quit blogging. Now, Andrew Sullivan has claimed that he decided to quit blogging before, and he has come back, so I’m keeping the champagne on ice for the moment. But I’d like to think that at long last, Sullivan has realized that his fatuous, overwrought, emotionally unstable, intellect-insulting writing has finally reached China Syndrome proportions of insufferability. I would like to think that Sullivan took a good long look at his writing, his thought process (if one can be so generous as to claim that Sullivan’s writing is backed up by any thought whatsoever), and himself, and didn’t like what he saw. I would like to think that at long last, Andrew Sullivan decided that a belated embrace of discretion and silence was the best–the only–way to salvage whatever dignity he once had, before he decided to squander the vast majority of that dignity via anti-Semitic trolling, logic-defying apologetics on behalf of the Obama administration, and the spelunking of Sarah Palin’s womb.

——————————————–

Andrew retired previously once before, and of course unretired before very long. Glenn Reynolds (perhaps Andrew’s only real rival for title of genius loci of the Blogosphere) responded to Andrew’s announcement with the skeptical retort: “I suspect Sullivan will be back. In my observation, it’s easier to quit blogging than it is to stay quit.”

——————————————–

I certainly agree with Pejman Yousefzadeh about Andrew Sullivan’s shameless and infuriatingly insolent pronunciamentos. Reading Andrew’s melodramatic postings accusing US counter-terrorism agencies of “torture” and his endless, lachrymose complaints about George W. Bush, the War in Iraq, and Sarah Palin, contrasted with his canine adoration of Barack Obama, could get my blood pressure pumping on a daily basis. Personally, I’ve been hoping that some especially keen GOP candidate in 2016 will put “Deporting Andrew Sullivan” high up on his list of contributions to the Republican Platform.

Nonetheless, I have to admit that Andrew has been an extraordinarily perspicacious and creative blog editor, reliably able to turn up precisely the kind of interesting and amusing web morsels that readers are looking for. Additionally, I feel obliged to note that, despite the outrageous intellectual dishonesty too commonly characteristic of Andrew in full rant, he did always maintain a peculiar streak of personal honesty and habitual fairplay, which frequently caused him to apply his excellent editorial skills to finding and publishing the best rejoinders to his own nonsense.

Besides which, speaking as a blogger myself, my hat is off to Andrew for his energy, his ability to produce readable prose with such rapidity, and for the enterprise capable of making his blog such a large-scale, profitable enterprise. My own efforts at monetizing my blog get me the occasional coupon from Amazon.

My suspicion is that, as the third year of Andrew’s subscription paywall has arrived, Andrew felt the cold breath of the general decline in blog readership, and perceived that his blog’s financial momentum was starting to flag. Clever bugger that he is, Andrew is simply declining to ride his current horse into the ground, and has decided to “retire” while The Dish still appears to be a success. His temporary withdrawal from the field will permit Andrew to regroup, bat out another lucrative book, and then he can come back with the exciting, brand-new Andrew Sullivan blog.

I do kind of wonder whether, now, with the culture war triumph of Gay Marriage in his pocket, and the stars shaping up for a Republican sweep in 2016, Andrew may not take his period of retirement as another occasion for personal ideological transformation.

30 Jan 2015

American Material Abundance and Our Forgotten Past

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LittleHouse
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie reconstructed at the original location, 12 miles southwest of Independence, Kansas.

Megan McArdle reflects on the amazing way in which contemporary Americans enjoy an unprecedented kind of material abundance and have forgotten completely that there was ever a time when people got by with so much less.

Last week, in her State of the Union response, Joni Ernst mentioned going to school with bread bags on her feet to protect her shoes. These sorts of remembrances of poor but honest childhoods used to be a staple among politicians — that’s why you’ve heard so much about Abe Lincoln’s beginnings in a log cabin. But the bread bags triggered a lot of hilarity on Twitter, which in turn triggered this powerful meditation from Peggy Noonan on how rich we have become. So rich that we have forgotten things that are well within living memory:

    I liked what Ernst said because it was real. And it reminded me of the old days.

    There are a lot of Americans, and most of them seem to be on social media, who do not know some essentials about their country, but this is the way it was in America once, only 40 and 50 years ago:

    America had less then. Americans had less. …

I am a few years younger than Noonan, but I grew up in a very different world — one where a number of my grammar school classmates were living in public housing or on food stamps, but everyone had more than one pair of shoes. In rural areas, like the one where Joni Ernst grew up, this lingered longer. But all along, Americans got richer and things got cheaper — especially when global markets opened up. Payless will sell you a pair of child’s shoes for $15, which is two hours of work even at minimum wage.

Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you — two whole hours! But I’ve been researching historical American living standards for a project I’m working on, and if you’re familiar with what Americans used to spend on things, this sounds like a very good deal.

Consider the “Little House on the Prairie” books, which I’d bet almost every woman in my readership, and many of the men, recalls from their childhoods. I loved those books when I was a kid, which seemed to describe an enchanted world — horses! sleighs! a fire merrily crackling in the fireplace, and children frolicking in the snow all winter, then running barefoot across the prairies! Then I reread them as an adult, as a prelude to my research, and what really strikes you is how incredibly poor these people were. The Ingalls family were in many ways bourgeoisie: educated by the standards of the day, active in community leadership, landowners. And they had nothing.

There’s a scene in one of the books where Laura is excited to get her own tin cup for Christmas, because she previously had to share with her sister. Think about that. No, go into your kitchen and look at your dishes. Then imagine if you had three kids, four plates and three cups, because buying another cup was simply beyond your household budget — because a single cup for your kid to drink out of represented not a few hours of work, but a substantial fraction of your annual earnings, the kind of money you really had to think hard before spending.

Read the whole thing.

29 Jan 2015

Lars Anderson: Reinventing Historic Archery

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From Bookwormroom & Bird Dog & Karen L. Myers.

29 Jan 2015

SNL: Patriots’ Deflategate Press Conference

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29 Jan 2015

What Happened to the Unicorns?

One of a series of humorous videos by Canal+.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

28 Jan 2015

Facebook Begins Censoring Images of Mahound

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CharlieHebdoMohammedCover
The kind of Chalie Hebdo image some people won’t publish.

The Washington Post gleefully pounces on the weasels.

Only two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a strongly worded #JeSuisCharlie statement on the importance of free speech, Facebook has agreed to censor images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey — including the very type of image that precipitated the Charlie Hebdo attack.

It’s an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It’s also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg’s free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook’s record doesn’t entirely back it up.

Just this December, Facebook agreed to censor the page of Russia’s leading Putin critic, Alexei Navalny, at the request of Russian Internet regulators. (It is a sign, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum wrote from Moscow, of “new limits on Facebook’s ability to serve as a platform for political opposition movements.”) Critics have previously accused the site of taking down pages tied to dissidents in Syria and China; the International Campaign for Tibet is currently circulating a petition against alleged Facebook censorship, which has been signed more than 20,000 times.

While Facebook doesn’t technically operate in China, it has made several recent overtures to Chinese politicians and Internet regulators — overtures that signal, if tacitly, an interest in bringing a (highly censored) Facebook to China’s 648 million Internet-users.

Hat tip to Jose Guardia.

28 Jan 2015

Stuff Academics Say

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AcademicsSay

19 examples.

Hat tip to Irene Manta.

28 Jan 2015

Shaggy Buffalo Story

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buffalow

From Gerard van der Leun:

He’d hunted big game for years all over the United States. Hunting was a way of life to him. But, in all those years, he’d never shot a buffalo. He’d put his name in for the lottery that gave out yearly licenses to shoot buffalo, but year after year the winning number had eluded him. As he failed, again and again, his need to add a buffalo, an American bison, to his life bag grew to obsessive proportions. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He determined that he would buy a couple of young buffalo, raise them, and then shoot them. It seemed like a plan.

When the buffalo purchase was completed the question arose about where these buffalo were to be raised. He wasn’t a rich man and the cost to two baby buffalo maxed out his credit cards. The only viable option was to raise them on his front lawn in Moab, Utah. Accordingly, the buffalo were delivered and put out to pasture, or “out to lawn” as the case may be.

Besides grass the lawn also contained, courtesy of his kids, a couple of soccer balls. Shortly after the buffalo became his lawn ornaments, he was out walking among them when one of them discovered a soccer ball and butted it over to him with its nose. Without thinking he kicked it back towards the other buffalo, who passed it to the first buffalo who butted it back to him. An hour or so of passing and kicking the soccer ball between man and buffalo ensued.

When he went out on his lawn the next morning, they were waiting for him. One seemed to be playing midlawn while the other hung back by the water trough which had become some sort of goal. The forward buffalo butted the ball towards him. Without thinking he returned the kick over the head of the forward. No good. With a speed belying its bulk, the defensive buffalo moved quickly and butted it through his legs to the porch. When it bounced off the barbecue, they seemed to do a brief victory prance. The game was afoot.

Read the whole thing.

27 Jan 2015

18 Adorable Bugs

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27 Jan 2015

Weather Forecast

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Tweet72

27 Jan 2015

Contemplating Black Privilege

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PolicemanwGun

The Yale Alumni Magazine is full of chin-stroking and thumb-sucking over the scandal of the century: the Yale undergraduate son of a black NYT columnist being stopped by a Yale Police Department officer looking for a burglary suspect, having a gun pointed at him, and being forced to lie on the ground.

The NYT columnist, Charles Blow, yesterday contended that his son’s encounter with that Yale cop was terribly (and permanently) traumatic.

[T]]he scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.

Yale President Peter Salovey, yesterday afternoon, acknowledged too the “personal pain” experienced by many in the bien pensant community at this outrageous example of racial lèse majesté.

All of which brought back to my mind decades-old memories of cops pointing guns at me the time I shot that rapist in New York. Regular readers may remember my mentioning the incident once previously. I was Chief Operating Officer of a Manhattan real estate company. I used to stay in the city during the week, setting up some kind of temporary bedroom in the immediate vicinity of my temporary office, located for convenience in the building currently undergoing the most extensive renovation.

I got a call near midnight from a tenant on the top floor who said that a woman was screaming on the roof. I borrowed the super’s .22 rifle and went up and found a rape in progress. Naturally, I made a citizen’s arrest of the rapist, but in the long course of walking him down six flights of stairs, he made a break for it and tried to escape. I cried Halt! and fired a warning shot, but he kept running, saying as he moved away: “You ain’t gonna shoot me, man. You ain’t gonna shoot nobody.” So I shot him. Intentionally, in the center of the left calf, so that if I were to wind up getting sued, the amount of damage and risk of fatal injury would be minimal.

He screamed, fell to the ground, and bled a lot. At which point, my super arrived, and I told Sam to call the cops. In a short while, multiple police cars came screaming up to the building on East 13th Street. Cops piled out of those cars, all drawing their pistols and aiming them at me. “Drop the gun!” the police demanded, overlooking the fact that I was holding it with the muzzle pointed in the air and my hand outside the trigger guard. “Here,” I said, “I’m handing it to you.” And they ran up, took the rifle, handcuffed me, and stuck me in the back of a police car.

It was obvious to me at the time that, had I made one injudicious move, those cops would have panicked and riddled me with lead. I was a mite perturbed at the time that those New York City cops could not instantly perceive that I was a good citizen rather than a criminal, and I was mildly alarmed at having looked down the barrel of so many pistols with so many fingers on their triggers. But, c’est la vie! They didn’t actually shoot me, so I figured no harm, no foul.

Unlike the sensitive Messrs. Blow père et fils, I can’t even say that I ever bore any particular psychic scars over having pistols pointed at me.

Also unlike the more fortunate Mr. Blow minor, I actually did get arrested. In defiance of the statute, which authorized the use of deadly force by a citizen making an arrest in such circumstances, I was arrested, tossed into the New York City jail system for days prior to being arraigned, and then had to face a Grand Jury deciding about whether to affirm proposed charges of First Degree Armed Assault (and incidental –never really discussed– Gun Law violations). I’d say that spending days in the filthy New York City jails, incurring serious legal expenses, and experiencing the jeopardy of possible prosecution and conviction for a major felony were all a bit traumatic, though I have certainly gotten over all of them. Being actually arrested, jailed, and potentially charged are all much bigger deals than being accosted by a cop or even having (very briefly) a gun pointed at you.

(If anybody is really interested in my shooting a rapist story, I put the scrapbook of documents on line a while back.)

Now I know that what a liberal like Mr. Blow will say is: Harummph! Well, you can skip shooting rapists and not get in any trouble, Zincavage, but I and my son were born African-American and cannot avoid getting profiled on the basis of the color of our skin.

To which I would reply: True, you can’t do anything about your skin color or ethnicity. Yet, it is actually pretty easy for a bourgeois chap of African-American descent to increase very significantly the odds of police recognizing his elite social status simply by dressing like a preppy. If Mr. Blow minor had left Sterling Library the other day wearing a J. Press Harris tweed sport coat, khacki trousers, and a tie, what are the odds that the Yale cop could possibly have confused him with the resident of New Haven recently guilty of burglarizing Trumbull College?

All this, too, demonstrates the need for fellows like Charles Blow to recognize the national extent of Black Privilege. His son gets stopped briefly, questioned, and immediately released by a Yale cop, and that trivial incident provokes national navel-gazing and serious debate.

I, a white and Lithuanian Yalie, got arrested, tossed in the calaboose for days with the roaches crawling everywhere, and I got, at the time, a joking reference in a humor column in Time Magazine. So much for Equality, Mr. Blow!

26 Jan 2015

Blizzard of 1888

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1888-1

All correct-thinking members of today’s community of fashion know that human energy use and economic activity is altering the climate and producing extreme weather. Of course, until recent years when the earth’s human population has enormously increased along with accompanying energy consumption and industrial activity, we all know that extreme weather never really happened.

Gawker, nonetheless, today took the occasion of “extreme weather” visiting the Northeast to remember the Great Blizzard of ’88, which was obviously merely a case of perfectly ordinary weather. 200 people, however, died.

1888-2

Trains full of people were trapped without food. Public transportation stopped, and hundreds of people went home to Brooklyn by crossing the East River over the ice.

Men of fashion were obliged to take shelter in Bowery flophouses, sleeping beside the tramps. The flophouse operators took advantage by raising their rates from ten cents to fifty cents.

1888-3

26 Jan 2015

NYT Times Columnist Offended By Son’s Questioning By Yale University Police

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CharlesBlow
NYT’s columnist Charles Blow

The politics of racial privilege marches endlessly onward.

Last week, Yale University experienced a minor crime wave consisting of a series of thefts from undergraduate residential colleges on York & Elm Streets.

Oldest College Daily:

On Jan. 15, Michael Cruciger ’15 had his laptop stolen from his Trumbull College common room in entryway J. Another student in the same entryway reported his wallet missing, and Axell Meza ’16 said an unknown man entered his common room claiming to be looking for “Josh.” On the same night, Kartik Srivastava ’17 said that while he was sleeping, his wallet was taken from a desk no less than a foot from his person, and his suitemate’s checkbook was taken. Transactions had been made on Srivastava’s debit card, and his suitemate’s checks had been cashed, he said.

Several days later, laptops and an iPad were stolen from a suite in Lanman-Wright Hall, the freshman residence for Berkeley and Pierson colleges.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, another pair of students in Trumbull encountered an intruder in their suite. Although the Yale Police Department reported that they had arrested a suspect in connection with the Saturday afternoon intruder in the Trumbull College suite, they initially targeted the wrong individual. Later that day, Tahj Blow ’16, son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, was confronted at gunpoint by a YPD officer because he allegedly matched the description of the suspect. …

Mr. Blow responded to learning that his son had been stopped and questioned by Yale University Police because he matched the description of the suspect, “tall, African-American, college-aged student wearing a black jacket and a red and white hat,” by having a conniption fit on Twitter:

CharlesBlowTweets

And in his column in the Times:

When I spoke to my son, he was shaken up. I, however, was fuming.

Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately. School is his community, his home away from home, and he would have appreciated reasonable efforts to keep it safe. The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.

Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?

What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.

My son was unarmed, possessed no plunder, obeyed all instructions, answered all questions, did not attempt to flee or resist in any way.

This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club.”

When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred. Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice.

I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.

The dean of Yale College and the campus police chief have apologized and promised an internal investigation, and I appreciate that. But the scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.

Demands for special consideration and regard for American Americans as recompense for a system of involuntary servitude ended a hundred and fifty years ago and a system of regional segregation ended fifty years ago never seem to end and, indeed, keep escalating.

Black privilege, these days, is considered by its loudest advocates to include immunity to profiling by police in defiance of the obvious reality that essentially all crime in places like New Haven, Connecticut is committed by African Americans.

Mr. Blow implicitly demands that police should start treating all suspected criminals, without regard to the well-known propensity of many belonging to that category to be illegally-armed and readily capable of murderous violence, as if they were all respectable citizens.

Evidently Mr. Blow believes that, in order to avoid offending the amour propre of the rara avis upper middle class African American the police officer might encounter one day, he ought never to draw his gun first or insist upon immobilizing any gangbanger from the Hood. All police officers should simply trust to the benevolence of humanity. Protecting the police officer’s life is, from Mr. Blow’s perspective, less important than the possibility that psychic scars might be inflicted upon some black haute bourgeoisie by being confronted with lethal force or by being briefly treated with less than the customary reverence he is accustomed to receiving.

Needless to say, few police officers, black or white, are likely to share Mr. Blow’s priorities.

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