Archive for August, 2007
26 Aug 2007

We Already Paid For It

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The Sunday Times reports:

Pennsylvania officials plan to build up to 10 toll areas along the 311-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in the next three years to help pay for road, bridge and mass transit projects and subsidies. …

Pennsylvania’s plan is to generate about $950 million a year through the sale of bonds backed by tollway revenue and other state sources over the first 10 years, with about $500 million going to road and bridge projects throughout the state, and the remaining $450 million going to subsidize mass transit in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other cities.

State officials say that about 70 percent of the 21 million vehicles that travel I-80 annually are from out of state, and 40 percent are commercial trucks.

This is completely outrageous.

The owners of the cars and trucks driving on Pennsylvania’s portion of Route 80 already paid for its construction with their federal income taxes. And they continue to support its upkeep by paying federal fuel taxes.

There is no justification whatsoever for the greedy, grasping pols who infest Harrisburg to reach out for additional revenues for highway maintenance. Funds are already amply provided for just that purpose through both state and federal systems of taxation.

And the proposed transfer of wealth from far-from-affluent rural Pennsylvania to the Commonwealth’s two largest cities is absolutely unconscionable.

Making I-80 a toll road also violates the principle that at least one major route ought to be free of tolls, providing travellers some choice about paying toll charges. The only East-West alternative route across Pennsylvania, Route 76, is already a toll road.

When you read the Times article, too, you’ll find that Arlen Spector has declined to oppose this loathsome scheme. Whenever I read about the political genius of Karl Rove, I remember the craven refusal of George W. Bush and the National Party to support the conservative Pat Toomey against Spector in the 2004 Republican Primary. Spector defeated Toomey, even with George W. Bush’s support, only by 51-49 per cent. There might be a real Republican senator from Pennsylvania if Karl Rove was really so smart.

26 Aug 2007

Japanese Tetris Television Game

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4:25 video

Japan undoubtedly has the funniest game shows.

Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.

26 Aug 2007

How One Dutch Store Deals With Shoplifters

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Hema has a very amusing technique.

1:25 video

25 Aug 2007

A Neighbor

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Sgt. Henry Wood (1841-1910) first served in the 14th Virgina Infantry; but was quickly transfered to the 18th Virginia Infantry, Pickett’s Brigade, in which he fought in the battles of First Manassas (1861), Williamsburg (1862), and Seven Pines (1862), where he was wounded in the leg. In 1864, he returned to service with the Fluvanna Light Artillery, fighting under Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 in the Third Battle of Winchester, and in the battles of Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek.

He acquired the pistol he wears in the photograph from a Yankee major he captured along with six privates at Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864.

25 Aug 2007

Air Force’s First Female Aerial Gunner

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Airman First Class Vanessa Dobos

Her profile at Reasoned Audacity reads:

Vanessa Dobos is a gunner of a USAF AC-130 gunship. She has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan. She likes long walks on the beach, men who are not afraid to cry and puppies.

Her dislikes include feed tray stoppages, tracer flareout of her NVGs and premature fixed-wing strikes scattering her high-value targets.

Via The News Junkie at Maggie’s Farm.

25 Aug 2007

Kyrgyzstan Hunting Festival

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Taigan chases wolf at festival

The event was near the village of Bokonbayevo, some 186 miles east of the capital Bishkek, August 24, 2007. More then 20 hunters with dogs and eagles took part. The slideshow illustrates exhibitions of hunting with Taigans and Golden Eagles using domesticated wolves as the quarry. The Salburun (hunting) festival has been held annually since 1997.

Hat tip to Dr. Milton Ong.

25 Aug 2007

“Brutus a Good Friend to Caesar?”

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At the end of last month, William Kristol, in the Weekly Standard, expressed editorial indignation at the publication by the Nation and the New Republic of accounts of alleged brutal and callous behavior by US troops, evidencing the traditional defeatist meme of the emotionally and morally debilitating effect upon American forces of, as The Nation puts it,

a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars of occupation.

This sort of thing is par for the course for the (traditionally-Stalinist) Nation, of course. But Kristol is appalled that the Neoliberal New Republic has been playing the same “demonizing US forces” game, publishing an account, titled Shock Troops by a currently serving soldier in Iraq who pseudononymously and

colorfully describes three sets of alleged misdeeds he and his buddies committed in Baghdad: They humiliate a woman in a military dining hall who has been disfigured in an IED explosion (the woman “wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor”); they discover human remains and one private spends a day and night playing around with a child’s skull (“which even had chunks of hair”), amusing his fellow soldiers; and one private routinely drives a Bradley Fighting Vehicle recklessly and uses the vehicle to kill stray dogs.

Kristol makes the obvious point that, despite all their protestations to the contrary, the anti-war left, including its representatives in the elite branches of the MSM, is doing the precise opposite of supporting the troops.

Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the troops they claim still to support. They sense that history is progressing away from them–that these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, could still win the war, that they are proud of their service, and that they will be future leaders of this country. They are not “Shock Troops.” They are our best and bravest, fighting for all of us against a brutal enemy in a difficult and frustrating war. They are the 9/11 generation. The left slanders them. We support them. More than that, we admire them.

Stung by Kristol’s criticism, Jonathan Chait, at New Republic, has the unmitigated chutzah to try to explain why publishing (what were subsequently established to be false) contemptible, and ultimately trivial, accusations dishonoring US troops was not treason or defeatism at all. Those slanderous and false accusations were published to serve no political agenda, Chait assures us (and his own morally debilitated conscience), but “merely for the edification of readers.”

There is more than one way to support the troops, Chair explains:

the way you support the troops is contingent upon your analysis of the war. If you think the war is succeeding, then supporting the war is a way of supporting the troops. If you think the war is doomed to failure, though, proposing that more troops die in vain is not a way of supporting them.

I am reminded of the scene late in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998), in which Jimmy Steinway argues to Des McGrath that one could betray someone (motivated by other worthy considerations), and still be a good friend to him, the way Brutus was a good friend to Caesar. “You call Brutus stabbing Caesar in the back the act of a good friend?” Des explodes indignantly.

But Chait has the decisive last word: Watch out what you say, Kristol. We (the Washington Establishment) can ostracize you.

Kristol’s good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he’s too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.

25 Aug 2007

Al Qaeda Begins Counteroffensive in Iraq

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Bill Roggio reports, in the Weekly Standard, that Al Qaeda has begun a major effort to supply the headlines needed by its allies in the MSM to achieve the decisive demoralization of US public opinion required to give Congressional democrats a safe opportunity to defund US military operations in Iraq and compel withdrawal.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has ramped up its attacks against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and U.S. security forces over the past 48 hours. The effort demonstrates that al Qaeda in Iraq still possesses the capacity to launch a counteroffensive to the ongoing U.S. and Iraqi operations and is seeking to influence the upcoming debate in the U.S. Al Qaeda in Iraq has launched its version of the Tet Offensive.

Over the past several days, al Qaeda in Iraq conducted five high-profile attacks against Iraqi and U.S. targets. Four out of five of the attacks occurred outside of Baghdad–two in Diyala province, two in Salahadin province. Three of the attacks were conducted with suicide bombers, the other two attacks were conducted as infantry-type assaults. …

U.S. generals have warned that violence is very likely to rise as al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups attempt to sabotage General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker’s presentation on the state of progress in Iraq. Al Qaeda will attempt more spectacular attacks in an attempt to grab headlines and break the will of the American public and political elites.

The next several weeks will display both al Qaeda’s capacity for terror strikes as well as the short-term results of the counterinsurgency plan instituted just eight months ago. As the past few days show, al Qaeda can still pull off spectacular attacks. But it should be noted that only one of these five strikes occurred inside Baghdad, and two were retaliatory strikes for local Iraqis turning against al Qaeda. A failure by al Qaeda to maintain a sustained offensive would speak volumes about the terror group’s current abilities.

Al Qaeda’s attempts to ramp up the violence in the short term and affect the debate in the U.S. may very well be unsuccessful, if recent statements from U.S. Democratic Congressmen are any indication. And these brutal assaults are only serving to turn the population against al Qaeda in the long term. Al Qaeda conducted similar suicide and infantry attacks in Anbar province in the spring of this year, only to see that province, which was once the most violent in Iraq, turn on the terror group.

The Pentagon is predicting further headline-grabbing attacks. IOL:

A senior US general warned on Thursday of “sensational” attacks during the upcoming Ramadan period in Iraq directed at swaying perceptions of a key upcoming US report on progress in the war there.

Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that insurgents are likely to attempt to make use of the coincident sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the onset of Ramadan, and the much-awaited US progress report to accelerate attacks in Iraq.

24 Aug 2007

Left Outraged Over Bush’s Vietnam War Reference

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Victims’ skulls on display at the Cheoung Ek “Killing Fields” memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

John Podhoretz, in the New York Post, comments on the remarkable effusion of indignation resulting from George W. Bush treading on a sensitive spot in the collective conscience of the leftwing Establishment.

And so the world of conventional wisdom is even now rearing in horror at the mere thought of President Bush daring to compare the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam – or, rather, describing the consequences of losing the war in Iraq by discussing the consequences of our loss in Vietnam and asking the American people if they want to see that disastrous past repeated as our inglorious future.

You could almost feel the outrage rising like steam heat from the left side of the blogosphere: Why, doesn’t that evil moron know that Vietnam is our analogy?

Doesn’t he know no one should be permitted to mention Vietnam in any context other than the one we use – as an example of an immoral, pointless and stupid war, a quagmire from which the nation was saved not by heroes on the battlefield abroad but by political opposition at home?

Read the whole thing.

24 Aug 2007

The Cowardice of the Intelligentsia

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Dr. Stephen Rittenberg think the roots of our liberal punditocracy’s pacificism can be found in childhood.

In that freewheeling world of the schoolyard, the good little girls and physically timid boys who craved teacher’s praise were at a disadvantage. The schoolroom was their utopia, where physical aggression was banned and all problems had a verbal solution. Girls are usually more verbally adept in the early childhood years and gain surplus praise from teachers. In addition, such children, including boys who crave teacher’s approval, receive moral approbation for being “good” while aggression is, “bad”. Hence the future wordsmith intellectual grows up feeling smarter, morally superior, a caring idealist.

These self-flattering views carry over to adulthood, and shape the future wordsmith intellectuals’ political views. If words can resolve all conflicts, then wordsmiths are exceedingly important. If conflicts within and between human beings can be “resolved” with words, then who better to play the role of savior than the wordsmith intellectual?

One of the central features of utopian politics, explaining their appeal to intellectuals, is the promise that conflict can be abolished and human nature fundamentally changed. Whether Communism, Nazism or Islamism, the aim is a unified, submissive, happy mankind led by an elite in possession of the truth, just like Miss Murphy when she taught 6th grade. Aggression will then vanish when egalitarian paradise prevails.

Read the whole thing.

24 Aug 2007

Proven: Tax Cuts Increase Federal Revenue, Reduce Deficit

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Wars are costly, and the US has conventionally spent more than its actual revenues in time of war. Say what you will about George W. Bush’s management of the War in Iraq. His domestic tax policies (i.e. tax cuts) combined with the Rumsfeldian parsimony in troop deployments have successfully kept the US economy healthy and avoided customary war-time inflation.

As the New York Sun notes, the deficit is shrinking faster than those glaciers the moonbats are so concerned about.

2004: $413 billion
2005: $318 billion
2006: $248 billion
2007: $158 billion

Close readers of this column may recall the top three numbers in the list above from our editorial of July 12, “Incredible Shrinking Deficit.” It commented on the mid-session review released by President Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, which projected the fourth number, the 2007 federal budget deficit, at $205 billion. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released its own updated estimate for 2007, $158 billion, a deficit even smaller than the White House’s July figure. The CBO yesterday also released its latest estimate of the 2007 deficit as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, allowing us to update another list of deficit numbers:

2004: 3.6%
2005: 2.6%
2006: 1.9%
2007: 1.2%

23 Aug 2007

Why America Commonly Doesn’t Educate

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Curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson is appalled at the failures of contemporary American education, and thinks he can identify some of its problems.

Last week I went shopping in our small rural hometown, where my family has attended the same public schools since 1896. Without exception, all six generations of us — whether farmers, housewives, day laborers, business people, writers, lawyers or educators — were given a good, competitive K-12 education.

But after a haircut, I noticed that the 20-something cashier could not count out change. The next day, at the electronic outlet store, another young clerk could not read — much less explain — the basic English of the buyer’s warranty. At the food market, I listened as a young couple argued over the price of a cut of tri-tip — unable to calculate the meat’s real value from its price per pound.

As another school year is set to get under way, it’s worth pondering where this epidemic of ignorance came from. …

Our present ambition to make every American youth college material — in a way our forefathers would have thought ludicrous — ensures that we will both fail in that utopian goal and lack enough literate Americans with critical vocational skills.

The disintegration of the American nuclear family is also at fault. Too many students don’t have two parents reminding them of the value of both abstract and practical learning.

What then can our elementary and secondary schools do, when many of their students’ problems begin at home or arise from our warped popular culture?

We should first scrap the popular therapeutic curriculum that in the scarce hours of the school day crams in sermons on race, class, gender, drugs, sex, self-esteem or environmentalism. These are well-intentioned efforts to make a kinder and gentler generation more sensitive to our nation’s supposed past and present sins. But they only squeeze out far more important subjects.

23 Aug 2007

No Sporting Goods Stores in Roseville Back Yards

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The Sydney Morning Herald has a story demonstrating just how far contemporary urban bourgeois phobia toward firearms can proceed.

In Roseville, doubtless a fashionable neighborhood of Sydney, residents are in a panic over the prospective opening of a sporting goods store.

Up in arms would accurately describe the incensed reaction of Roseville residents to news that a gunshop is to open in their midst.

Last night hundreds were expected to pack a community hall to protest against the approval granted by Ku-ring-gai Council, apparently without notification to those who may have an opinion about such an enterprise.

Andrew Peter, a gun enthusiast and coffee shop owner from Bondi Junction, made an application last month to turn an old printing shop into a sporting goods and firearms store. One of the main reasons for his decision was the estimated 1300 firearm owners who live in the area.

The shop is opposite a community hall that runs a preschool centre. It is also near a bus interchange used by schoolchildren, and some neighbouring businesses say the approval, although legal, is inappropriate.

Lisa Warrand is one of dozens of parents who fear the worst: the potential for an armed hold-up and shootout, or merely having to explain to children who walk past every day why a shop sells guns.

“Roseville has five churches and no pubs. People buy in this area because they want a more family-focused area,” she said yesterday. “We teach children about how bad guns are and yet we are being put into a position where we have to explain why there is a man in the car park carrying a gun bought across the road.”

Sally Cochrane runs the Zest hairdressing salon a few doors away. She concedes that the chances of a hold-up are slim but says it is a risk that should rule out the shop from the neighbourhood. “Children and guns don’t mix. It’s as simple as that, and if there is a robbery then it could be disastrous. I accept that this man has a right to open his shop and to sell guns, but not here.”

23 Aug 2007

History Lesson

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MeaninglessHotAir at YARGB shares an email describing the prehistoric origins of some well-known contemporary human cultures.

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter. The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups. These are known in the United States today as (1) Democrats and (2) Republicans. …

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Republican party. Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the Republicans by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q’s and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Democratic party. Some of these Democratic men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as girliemen.

Some noteworthy Democratic achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that Republicans provided. Over the years Republicans came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Democrats are symbolized by the jackass.

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