Archive for December, 2007
31 Dec 2007

Would-Be Ford Assassin Released From Jail at Age 77

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AP:

Sara Jane Moore, who took a shot at President Ford in a 1975 assassination attempt, was released from prison Monday.

Moore, 77, had served about 30 years of a life sentence when she was released from the federal prison in Dublin, east of San Francisco, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said.

She was 40 feet away from Ford outside a hotel in San Francisco when she fired a shot at him on Sept. 22, 1975. As she raised her .38-caliber revolver and pulled the trigger, Oliver Sipple, a disabled former Marine standing next to her, pushed up her arm. The bullet flew over Ford’s head by several feet.

In recent interviews, Moore said she regretted her actions, saying she was blinded by her radical political views.

“I am very glad I did not succeed. I know now that I was wrong to try,” Moore said a year ago in an interview with KGO-TV.

Just 17 days before Moore’s attempt, Ford survived an attempt on his life in Sacramento by Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson.

Moore said that she was convinced at the time that the government had declared war on the left.

“I was functioning, I think, purely on adrenaline and not thinking clearly. I have often said that I had put blinders on and I was only listening to what I wanted to hear,” she told KGO.

Moore’s confusing background — which included five failed marriages, name changes and involvement with political groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army — baffled the public and even her own defense attorney during her trial.

“I never got a satisfactory answer from her as to why she did it,” said retired federal public defender James F. Hewitt. “There was just bizarre stuff, and she would never tell anyone anything about her background.”

Sarah Jane Moore is probably too old to be a danger to anyone, but the same ideology, the same climate of insanity, which infected her and produced her murderous attempt on the life of an American president is just as thriving in San Francisco and other American cities. It is no less dangerous today.

31 Dec 2007

New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay

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Robert Burns, author of Auld Lang Syne

(From Robert Chambers, A Book of Days, 1869)

NEW YEAR’S EVE, OR HOGMANAY

As a general statement, it may be asserted that neither the last evening of the old year nor the first day of the new one is much, observed in England as an occasion of festivity. In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St. Stephen’s or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to English habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:

Yule’s come and Yule ‘s gane,
And we hae feasted weel;
Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
And Jenny to her wheel.’

Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the Daft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterized the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness—which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses—has now much declined, but New-year’s Eve and New-year’s Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.

This last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule, already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άιαμηνη (the holy moon or month), and in reference to this theory it may be observed, that, in the north of England, the term used is Hagmenu, which does not seem, however, to be confined to the 31st of December, but denotes generally the period immediately preceding the New Year. Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts ‘Hogmanay, trollolay!’ to be a corruption of ‘Homma est né—Trois Bois lá” (‘A Man is born—Three Kings are there’), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the ‘Three Kings.’

But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu-nott, Hogenat, or Hogg-night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and festal purpose word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from ‘Au gui menez’ (‘To the mistletoe go’), or ”Au gui ľan neuf’ ‘ (‘To the mistletoe this New Year ‘), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or 0guinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.

In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (some-times, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:

‘Hogmanay, Trollolay,

Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.’

And another favourite rhyme is:

Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars;
For we are bairns come out to play,
Get up and gie’s our hogmanay!’

The following is of a moralising character, though a good deal of a truism:

Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
And deal your bread to them that ‘s here;
For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
And then ye’ll neither need ale nor bread.’

The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing :

My feet’s cauld, my shoon’s thin;
Gie’s my cakes, and let me rin!’

It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man’s household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.

In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The ‘Queen Mary’ alluded to is evidently the Virgin:

‘This night it is grid New’r E’en’s night,
We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
And we ‘re come here to crave our right,
And that’s before our Lady.

The very first thing which we do crave,
We ‘re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
A bonny white candle we must have,
And that’s before our Lady.

Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
And weigh us here ten mark.

Ten mark, ten pund,
Look that ye grip weel to the grund.
Goodwife, gae to your geelin vat,
And fetch us here a skeet o’ that.

Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.

And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
We’ll sharp our whittles ilka ane.

Ye’ll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.

Gae fill the three-pint cog o’ ale,
The maut maun be aboon the meal.

We houp your ale is stark and stout,
For men to drink the auld year out.

Ye ken the weather’s snow and sleet,
Stir up the fire to warm our feet.

Our shoon’s made o’ mare’s skin,
Come open the door, and let’s in.’

The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows ! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.

The doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year’s Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy like-wise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of ‘excellent new songs,’ which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up ‘Barbara Allan,’ or the ‘Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,’ they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For this purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. Each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, ‘with an old-woman’s cap and a broomstick, and is styled ‘Bessie: Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!

The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. The drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications, to that performed by the mummers in various parts of England, and of which we have already given a specimen.

Such are the leading features of the Hogmanay festivities in Scotland. A similar custom to that above detailed of children going about from house to house, singing the Hagmena chorus, and obtaining a dole of bread or cakes, prevails in Yorkshire and the north of England; but, as we have already mentioned, the last day of the year is not in the latter country, for the most part, invested with much peculiar distinction. One or two closing ceremonies, common to both countries—the requiem, as they may be termed, of the dying year—will be more appropriately noticed in the concluding article of this work.

BURNING OF THE CLAVIE

A singular custom, almost unparalleled in any other part of Scotland, takes place on New-year’s Eve (old style) at the village of Burghead, on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, about nine miles from the town of Elgin. It has been observed there from time immemorial, and both its origin, and that of the peculiar appellation by which it is distinguished, form still matter of conjecture and dispute for antiquaries. The following extract from the Banffshire Journal presents a very interesting and comprehensive view of all that can be stated regarding this remarkable ceremonial:

‘Any Hogmanay afternoon, a small group of sea-men and coopers, dressed in blue overfrocks, and followed by numbers of noisy youngsters, may be seen rapidly wending their way to the south-western extremity of the village, where it is customary to build the Clavie. One of the men bears on his shoulders a stout Archangel tar-barrel, kindly presented for the occasion by one of the merchants, who has very considerately left a quantity of the resinous fluid in the bottom. Another carries a common herring-cask, while the remainder are laden with other raw materials, and the tools necessary for the construction of the Clavie. Arrived at the spot, three cheers being given for the success of the undertaking, operations are commenced forthwith. In the first place, the tar-barrel is sawn into two unequal parts; the smaller forms the groundwork of the Clavie, the other is broken up for fuel.

A common fir prop, some four feet in length, called the “spoke,” being then procured, a hole is bored through the tub-like machine, that, as we have already said, is to form the basis of the unique structure, and a long nail, made for the purpose, and furnished gratuitously by the village black-smith, unites the two. Curiously enough, no hammer is allowed to drive this nail, which is “sent home” by a smooth stone. The herring-cask is next demolished, and the staves are soon under-going a diminution at both extremities, in order to fit them for their proper position. They are nailed, at intervals of about two inches all round, to the lower edge of the Clavie-barrel, while the other ends are firmly fastened to the spoke, an aperture being left sufficiently large to admit the head of a man. Amid tremendous cheering, the finished Clavie is now set up against the wall, which is mounted by two stout young men, who proceed to the business of filling and lighting.

A few pieces of the split-up tar-barrel are placed in a pyramidal form in the inside of the Clavie, enclosing a small space for the reception of a burning peat, when everything is ready. The tar, which had been previously removed to another vessel, is now poured over the wood; and the same inflammable substance is freely used, while the barrel is being closely packed with timber and other combustible materials, that rise twelve or thirteen inches above the rim.

‘By this time the shades of evening have begun to descend, and soon the subdued murmur of the crowd breaks forth into one loud, prolonged cheer, as the youth who was despatched for the fiery peat (for custom says no sulphurous lucifer, no patent congreve dare approach ‘within the sacred precincts of the Clavie) arrives with his glowing charge. The master-builder relieving him of his precious trust, places it within the opening already noticed, where, revived by a hot blast from his powerful lungs, it ignites the surrounding wood and tar, which quickly bursts into a flame. During the short time the fire is allowed to gather strength, cheers are given in rapid succession for “The Queen,” “The Laird,” “The Provost,” “The Town,” “The Harbour,” and “The Railway,” and then Clavie-bearer number one, popping his head between the staves, is away with his flaming burden. Formerly, the Clavie was carried in triumph round every vessel in the harbour, and a handful of grain thrown into each, in order to insure success for the coming year; but as this part of the ceremony came to be tedious, it was dropped, and the procession confined to the boundaries of the town.

As fast as his heavy load will permit him, the bearer hurries along the well-known route, followed by the shouting Burgheadians, the boiling tar meanwhile trickling down in dark sluggish streams all over his back. Nor is the danger of scalding the only one he who essays to carry the Clavie has to confront, since the least stumble is sufficient to destroy his equilibrium. Indeed, this untoward event, at one time looked on as a dire calamity, foretelling disaster to the place, and certain death to the bearer in the course of next year, not unfrequently occurs. Having reached the junction of two streets, the carrier of the Clavie is relieved; and while the change is being effected, firebrands plucked from the barrel are thrown among the crowd, who eagerly scramble for the tarry treasure, the possession of which was of old deemed a sure safeguard against all unlucky contingencies.

Again the multitude bound along; again they halt for a moment as another individual takes his place as bearer—a post for the honour of which there is sometimes no little striving. The circuit of the town being at length completed, the Clavie is borne along the principal street to a small hill near the northern extremity of the promontory called the “Doorie,” on the summit of which a freestone pillar, very much resembling an ancient altar, has been built for its reception, the spoke fitting into a socket in the centre. Being now firmly seated on its throne, fresh fuel is heaped on the Clavie, while, to make the fire burn the brighter, a barrel with the ends knocked out is placed on the top. Cheer after cheer rises from the crowd below, as the efforts made to increase the blaze are crowned with success.

‘Though formerly allowed to remain on the Doorie the whole night, the Clavie is now removed when it has burned about half an hour. Then comes the most exciting scene of all. The barrel is lifted from the socket, and thrown down on the western slope of the hill, which appears to be all in one mass of flame—a state of matters that does not, however, prevent a rush to the spot in search of embers. Two stout men, instantly seizing the fallen Clavie, attempt to demolish it by dashing it to the ground: which is no sooner accomplished than a final charge is made among the blazing fragments, that are snatched up in total, in spite of all the powers of combustion, in an incredibly short space of time. Up to the present moment, the origin of this peculiar custom is involved in the deepest obscurity. Some would have us to believe that we owe its introduction to the Romans; and that the name Clavie is derived from the Latin word clavus, a nail—witches being frequently put to death in a barrel stuck full of iron spikes; or from clavis, a key—the rite being instituted when Agricola discovered that Ptoroton, i.e., Burghead, afforded the grand military key to the north of Scotland.

As well might these wild speculators have remarked that Doorie, which may be spelled Durie, sprang from durus, cruel, on account of the bloody ceremony celebrated on its summit. Another opinion has been boldly advanced by one party, to the effect that the Clavie is Scandinavian in origin, being introduced by the Norwegian Vikings, during the short time they held the promontory in the beginning of the eleventh century, though the theorist advances nothing to prove his assumption, save a quotation from Scott’s Marmion; while, to crown all, we have to listen to a story that bears on its face its own condemnation, invented to confirm the belief that a certain witch, yclept, a Kitty Clavers,” bequeathed her name to the singular rite.

Unfortunately, all external evidence being lost, we are compelled to rely entirely on the internal, which we have little hesitation, however, in saying points in an unmistakable manner down through the long vistas of our national history to where the mists of obscurity hang around the Druid worship of our forefathers. It is well known that the elements of fire were often present in Druidical orgies and customs (as witness their cran-tara); while it is universally admitted that the bonfires of May-day and Mid-summer eve, still kept up in different parts of the country, are vestiges of these rites. And why should not the Clavie be so too, seeing that it bears throughout the stamp of a like parentage? The carrying home of the embers, as a protection from the ills of life, as well as other parts of the ceremony, finds a counterpart in the customs of the Druids; and though the time of observance be somewhat different, yet may not the same causes (now unknown ones) that have so greatly modified the Clavie have likewise operated in altering the date, which, after all, occurs at the most solemn part of the Druidical year?’

31 Dec 2007

Chicago Attorney Vandalizes Marine’s Car

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Blackfive reports a recent hate crime incident in Chicago.

Jay R. Grodner, a Chicago attorney, was caught in the act of keying Marine Sgt. Mike McNulty’s automobile. Grodner was evidently provoked by McNulty’s Marine Corps license plate and decals.

After sending the car to the body shop, it was determined there is $2400 in damage, making this a felony. Mike went to court Friday morning to collect the damages against Mr. Grodner and file felony charges. Though the damages are over $300 (the amount which determines felony or misdemeanor) Grodner offered Mike to pay his deductible, $100, and have Mike’s insurance pay for it.

The Illinois States Attorneys tried to coerce Mike into accepting the offer. Appalled, Mike said he wanted this to be a felony. The state told Mike that it was not worth pursuing felony damage against Grodner because they don’t have the time. In addition, the state prosecutors told him that he would never it ‘would be difficult to recover the damages’ from Grodner because he is a lawyer.

Instead, the State asked Mike if he would accept probation for Grodner. Mike accepted, probation was offered to Grodner, and Grodner declined the offer, saying within ear shot of Mike, “I’m not going to make it easy on this kid”. Mike’s next court date is tomorrow, Monday, December 31st, to pursue misdemeanor charges against Grodner.

Mike’s leave is over on January 2nd when he reports to Camp Pendleton before heading to Iraq.

Jay Grodner knows this and is going to file for a continuance until Mike is gone and cannot appear in court.

This particular case is going to attract lots of attention. The MSM will be covering it in a day or two, and Mr. Grodner will be receiving a well-deserved 15 minutes of infamy. I predict he will soon be just as widely known as the District of Columbia judge who sued his Korean dry cleaner for $67 million dollars over a lost pair of trousers.

31 Dec 2007

Fred Thompson’s Message to Iowa Voters

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17:01 video

Many YouTube commenters were strongly moved by Thomson’s Reaganesque speech, and so was National Review’s Peter Robinson:

While the other contenders are frantically saturating the Iowa airwaves with 30- and 60-second attack ads—Romney is guiltiest, if only because he’s richest—Thompson has sat himself down, looked into a camera, and spoken for a quarter of an hour, calmly and straightforwardly making his case. I myself find this impressive—in a way, moving. Thompson seems to have stepped out of the eighteenth century. He trusts voters to think. And if the comments on YouTube are at all representative, plenty of people agree. …

While we await Mr. York’s next dispatch, take a look at the Thompson video. Politics as, from time to time at least, they really ought to be.

If Fred Thompson keeps speaking like this, I think he has a good chance of winning the GOP nomination.

30 Dec 2007

China’s Military Capabilities Limited by Fuel Reserves

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Andrei Chang, editor of the Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, thinks that China lacks the capability of conquering Taiwan if an extended military operation is required.

By calculating the amount of fuel oil required by the Chinese navy and air force in a large-scale attack across the Taiwan Strait under high-tech conditions, it becomes apparent that such an assault could not be sustained for an extended period. …

..should high-intensity warfare break out across the Taiwan Strait, the daily fuel consumption of the PLA Air Force would be a minimum of 10,794 tons, taking into consideration only the third-generation fighters and H-6 bombers, JH-7A fighter-bombers and attackers. Actual consumption would be far greater if the large number of J-7E and J-8F serial fighters and Q-5 attackers currently in service are figured in.

The three major fleets of the PLA Navy would have a daily fuel consumption of 1,200 tons. As a result, the navy and air force would consume a total of 11,994 tons of fuel each day on average.

An initial large-scale landing operation against Taiwan would likely involve 20 divisions or brigades of amphibious, light and heavy mechanized troops. If each mechanized division or brigade needed fuel reserves for 500 kilometers, and one division or brigade consumed an average of 200 tons of fuel each day, the daily total of the 20 divisions and brigades would be 4,000 tons. Here, helicopters deployed by the ever-growing Army Aviation Forces have not been included.

The combined fuel needs of all combat forces engaged in an assault on Taiwan would amount to a minimum of 15,994 tons each day, not including the Second Artillery Forces and logistic support troops. These calculations alone indicate that the PLA forces would need a total of 240,000 tons of fuel to sustain 15 days of assault operations against Taiwan.

What is the total annual fuel consumption of the Chinese armed forces? A report published by the PLA General Logistics Department in 2007 says that the PLA forces saved 55,000 tons of oil in 2006, approximately 5.1 percent of their total consumption. Based on this figure, the total would be over 1 million tons, about 2,954 tons on average per day. It can be concluded that fuel consumption in a 15-day large-scale assault operation would surpass 20 percent of the annual total consumption of the Chinese military.

The hard fact is that China has only 7 million tons of oil reserves available for a period of conflict. The country has set its 30-day oil reserves at 10 million tons for civilian consumption, an average of 330,000 tons per day. During a 15-day assault, the country would require 4.96 million tons. The conclusion is that China’s current oil reserves could sustain a high-intensity assault operation against Taiwan for no more than 15 days.

30 Dec 2007

Dave Barry’s Year in Review

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A departing look at 2007 from Dave Barry:

It was a year that strode boldly into the stall of human events and took a wide stance astride the porcelain bowl of history.

It was year in which roughly 17,000 leading presidential contenders, plus of course Dennis Kucinich, held roughly 63,000 debates, during which they spewed out roughly 153 trillion words; and yet the only truly memorable phrase emitted in any political context was “Don’t tase me, bro!”

It was a year filled with bizarre, insane, destructive behavior, an alarming amount of which involved astronauts.

In short, 2007 was a year of deep gloom, pierced occasionally by rays of even deeper gloom. Oh, sure, there were a few bright spots:

• Several courageous members of the U.S. Congress — it could be as many as a dozen — decided, incredibly, not to run for president.

• O.J. Simpson discovered that, although you might be able to avoid jail time for committing a double homicide, the justice system draws the line at attempted theft of sports memorabilia.

• Toward the end of the year, entire days went by when it was possible to not think about Paris Hilton.

• Apple released the iPhone, which, as we understand it, enables users to fly, cure cancer, read minds and travel through time. …


Complete column
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30 Dec 2007

Bumper Sticker We Admired

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29 Dec 2007

Vermont Moonbats Want Brattleboro to Arrest Bush & Cheney

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Kurt Daims
(All well-dressed machinists like to sport red berets.)

The New England town meeting has been long admired as a rare surviving instance of direct democracy in action, which gladdened the hearts of the democratic principle’s admirers everywhere by remaining practical and effective.

All that was, of course, in the old days, when town meetings were attended by crusty old farmers notorious for skepticism and common sense. Today, alas! Vermont towns have frequently been taken over by trust-fund bolsheviks and hippie tree-huggers, who bring a very different approach to direct democracy. Given access to direct democracy, these kinds of arriviste dingbats are moving to try to arrest the president and vice president.

Brattleboro Reformer:

We’re planning to arrest, detain and extradite him,” said Kurt Daims of Brattleboro, an activist who has sought to impeach President George W. Bush and is now trying to up the ante. “There’s a fundamental question here. If Congress doesn’t do this, shouldn’t it be done anyway?”

Daims hopes to gather the 440 signatures necessary to place an article on the Town Meeting warning that would call for the Brattleboro Police Department to arrest Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and cart them off to unspecified foreign entities.

“Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?” Daims’ proposed article reads.

“And shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictment, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro and extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them.”

Daims joined a group of eight like-minded activists Friday afternoon for their weekly impeachment march through town. Beating homemade drums and waving signs calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, the protesters walked from the Brattleboro Food Co-op to the Municipal Building and dropped off a copy of the proposed article at the Town Clerk’s office.

According to Newfane Selectboard member Dan DeWalt, who made headlines when his town called for Bush’s impeachment in March of 2006, even if Daims is unsuccessful in throwing Bush in the clinker, his message could resonate throughout the country.

“Kurt saying ‘I’m going to arrest the president’ has no meaning. The town of Brattleboro voting to say they’re going to arrest the president does have meaning,” DeWalt said.

As to just where Brattleboro would send Bush if he was arrested, DeWalt said, “I know there are people preparing war crimes charges against him. I don’t know if they’ve officially been filed anywhere, but once they are filed that would give us a place to extradite him to next time he comes to town.”

Daims hopes other towns will be inspired by his quest and pursue similar courses of action — particularly Kennebunkport, Maine, where the Bush family spends its summers.

“We should do something Mr. Bush can feel. Maine is a very liberal state and I think this could pass in Maine, so then he couldn’t get to his million dollar family vacation resort,” Daims said. “They could arrest him there.”

29 Dec 2007

Differing Reports on Bhutto Death

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IBNNews reports that Pakistan’s government has denied that she died of bullet wounds at all.

Mystery shrouds the death of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In an explosive revelation, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz on Friday said that Bhutto did not die of bullet wounds.

Nawaz said that Bhutto died from a head injury. At least seven doctors from the Rawalpindi General Hospital – where the leader was rushed immediately after the attack – say there were no bullet marks on Bhutto’s body.

The doctors have submitted a report to the Pakistan government in which they say that no post-mortem was performed on Bhutto’s body and they had not received any instructions to perform one.

“The report says she had head injuries – an irregular patch – and the X-ray doesn’t show any bullet in the head. So it was probably the shrapnel or any other thing has struck her in her said. That damaged her brain, causing it to ooze and her death. The report categorically says there’s no wound other than that,” Nawaz told a Pakistani news channel.

Government sources say there will be an investigation to determine why no autopsy was conducted.

According to agency reports doctors at the Rawalpindi General Hospital tried desperately for 41 minutes to revive former prime minister Bhutto after she was shot but failed in their efforts.

Bhutto was declared dead 41 minutes after she was brought the hospital’s emergency department at 1735 hrs (local time) (1805 hrs IST) with open wounds on her left temporal bone from which “brain matter was exuding”, the report said.

It said Bhutto was not breathing at the time and her pulse and blood pressure “were not recordable”.

IANS adds: According to the report, “immediate resuscitation (process) was started” and she was taken to the operation theatre where she was attended by a team of doctors headed by Musaddiq Khan, principal of the Rawalpindi Medical College, Dawn reported Friday.

“Left antrolateral thoracotomy for open cardiac massage was performed,” the hospital report said, adding: “In spite of all the possible measures she could not be revived and (was) declared dead at 1816 hrs IST (6.16 p.m.).”

An autopsy was not carried out at the hospital “because the district administration and police had not requested the hospital authorities (for this)”, the report said.
Bhutto was shot not far from where Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was killed by an assassin’s bullet on Oct 16.

Nasir Jaffry, a correspondent for Agence France-Presse, who was present at the assassination, reported that in its immediate aftermath:

A truck came from the local fire brigade. They took their hoses and started spraying water on the street, trying to wash away the blood.

And all forensic evidence.

CNN quotes an aide from Bhutto’s political party, who insists that she was shot.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan People’s Party information secretary, said it was clear that the former Pakistani prime minister suffered bullet wounds to her head, contrary to a government report that she died because she hit her head on a sunroof lever.

Cheema noted that if Rehman — as she said — believes she saw bullet wounds that caused Bhutto’s death, “We don’t mind if the People’s Party leadership wants her body to be exhumed and post-mortemed. They are most welcome, but we gave you what the facts are.”

Cheema emphasized that the government’s conclusion on the cause of death was based on “absolute facts, nothing but the facts.”

“It was corroborated by the doctor’s report; it was corroborated by the evidence of the footage we showed you.”

Rehman — who had been riding in the car behind Bhutto’s when it was attacked — called the government’s conclusion that Bhutto was not shot “the most bizarre, dangerous nonsense.” Watch Sherry Rehman’s interview with CNN »

“It’s beginning to look like a cover-up to me,” Rehman said in a CNN interview.

Rehman said Bhutto was hemorrhaging on the way to the hospital and that the two cars used to get her there were blood-soaked.

“There were clear bullet injuries to her head,” said Rehman. “When we bathed her we saw that.”

This 0:50 video shows the gunman firing three shots.

28 Dec 2007

Renegade Commando Units May Have Performed Attack

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Al Qaeda is taking credit for the assassination, and may very well have accomplished it using Pakistani military forces, abetted by Pakistani security services, Eli Lake, at the New York Sun reports.

American and Pakistani military leaders are seeking to account for what may be renegade commando units from the Pakistani military’s special forces in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto’s rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto’s armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.

A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.

A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan’s Special Services Group, the country’s equivalent of Britain’s elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.

“They just killed the most protected politician in the whole country,” this source said. “We really don’t know a lot at this point, but the first thing that is happening is we are asking the Pakistani military to account for every black team with special operations capabilities.”

28 Dec 2007

Putting Benazir Bhutto in Perspective

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Abu Muqawama reminds us not believe everything we read in the MSM.

The folks on NBC, though, are making it sound as if Bhutto was some brave liberal alternative to the Musharraf regime, swallowing hook, line, and sinker this narrative that Benazir Bhutto was some kind of Pakistani Aung San Suu Kyi.

Okay, folks, we all know she was eloquent, went to Harvard and Oxford and was a darling of the English-language media. But she was arguably the most corrupt woman in the history of South Asia. She was removed from office not once but twice on corruption charges. And ruthless? She killed her own brother in 1996.

28 Dec 2007

The Real Pakistan

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Andrew C. McCarthy thinks Benazir Bhutto’s assassination should be no surprise, considering the real nature of Pakistan.

A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

If you want to know what to make of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder today in Pakistan, ponder that.

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

The real Pakistan is a place where the intelligence services are salted with Islamic fundamentalists: jihadist sympathizers who, during the 1980s, steered hundreds of millions in U.S. aid for the anti-Soviet mujahideen to the most anti-Western Afghan fighters — warlords like Gilbuddin Hekmatyar whose Arab allies included bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the stalwarts of today’s global jihad against America.

The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the thin line between today’s boiling pot and what tomorrow is more likely to be a jihadist nuclear power than a Western-style democracy.

In that real Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s murder is not shocking. There, it was a matter of when, not if.

Read the whole thing.

27 Dec 2007

Russia Loves P.G. Wodehouse

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The Telegraph reports this interesting development.

Outlawed by Stalin in 1929, P G Wodehouse – or Pyelem G Vudhaus as he is known – has undergone a remarkable revival since the ban on his books was lifted in 1990.

There can be few fans as dedicated, however, as Mr Kuzmenko.

As president and founder of the Russian Wodehouse Society he has attracted over 3,000 members, some from as far away as Cheliabinsk and Omsk, thousands of miles to the east. His monthly Wodehouse dinners at the Cleopatra and elsewhere are always sold out.

The actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have played their part. Ever since their acclaimed television portrayal of Jeeves and Wooster was dubbed into Russian, young fans have started flocking to the club.

Wodehouse translations have mushroomed and even a souring of Anglo-Russian relations has done little to dim the enthusiasm for this quintessentially English author.

“If you look around on the metro you can see lots of people reading Wodehouse,” said Tatyana Komoryeva, a 25-year-old accountant. “All the bookshops, even the small ones, are guaranteed to sell at least some of his books.”

That there is a Wodehouse fellowship at all, though, is largely thanks to Natalya Trauberg. A self-taught English speaker, the 79-year-old former dissident risked transportation to the gulags under Stalin for translating the theological works of C S Lewis and G K Chesterton in samizdat.

Although she came across an English copy of Damsel in Distress in 1946 (only Russian translations were banned), Mrs Trauberg was too frightened to attempt a translation until 1989. Her first attempt, the Blandings short story Birth of a Salesman, was also produced in samizdat – not for political reasons but because publishers doubted that there would be any public interest.

“From 1929 to 1990 very few, if any, Russians knew anything of Wodehouse,” she said. “It was a big gamble.” As the popularity of the books spread and the publishers changed their mind, a forerunner of the Russian Wodehouse Society was formed, with each member taking their name from a Wodehouse character.

Mrs Trauberg became the Princess of Matchingham, the scheming Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe’s pig.

It might seem odd that Russians find such an affinity with tales of young upper-class twits stealing policemen’s helmets and elderly upper-class twits stealing each other’s pigs. After all, Wodehouse – who died in 1975 – only really touches on matters Russian in The Clicking of Cuthbert when a Soviet author recounts how an assassination attempt caused Lenin to miss a two-inch putt whilst playing golf with Trotsky.

For Mrs Trauberg, however, Russia’s love affair with the author is far from surprising. As decades of repression has given way to a new era of cut-throat commercialism, Wodehouse represents a madcap innocence that many Russians yearn to emulate.

“Russians need freedom and laughter very much,” she said. “They had none for so long. Wodehouse encapsulates this spirit of freedom.

“He also saves souls. His books are all about innocence and joy and purity.

“The reader is lifted into an English paradise, which many Russians believe is the best paradise of all.”

26 Dec 2007

St. Stephen’s and Boxing Day

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Rembrandt. The Martyrdom of St. Stephen. 1625. Oil on panel. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Feast Day: St. Stephen, the first martyr.

St. Stephen’s Day

To St. Stephen, the Proto-martyr, as he is generally styled, the honour has been accorded by the church of being placed in her calendar immediately after Christmas-day, in recognition of his having been the first to seal with his blood the testimony of fidelity to his Lord and Master. The year in which he was stoned to death, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, is supposed to have been 33 A.D. The festival commemorative of him has been retained in the Anglican calendar.

A curious superstition was formerly prevalent regarding St. Stephen’s Day—that horses should then, after being first well galloped, be copiously let blood, to insure them against disease in the course of the following year. In Barnaby Googe’s translation of Naogeorgus, the following lines occur relative to this popular notion:

Then followeth Saint Stephen’s Day, whereon doth every man
His horses jaunt and course abrode, as swiftly as he can,
Until they doe extremely sweate, and then they let them blood,
For this being done upon this day, they say doth do them good,
And keepes them from all maladies and sicknesse through the yeare,
As if that Steven any time tooke charge of horses heare.’

The origin of this practice is difficult to be accounted for, but it appears to be very ancient, and Douce supposes that it was introduced into this country by the Danes. In one of the manuscripts of that interesting chronicler, John Aubrey, who lived in the latter half of the seventeenth century, occurs the following record: On St. Stephen’s Day, the farrier came constantly and blouded all our cart-horses.’ Very possibly convenience and expediency combined on the occasion with superstition, for in Tusser Redivivus, a work published in the middle of the last century, we find this statement: ‘About Christmas is a very proper time to bleed horses in, for then they are commonly at house, then spring comes on, the sun being now coming back from the winter-solstice, and there are three or four days of rest, and if it be upon St. Stephen’s Day it is not the worse, seeing there are with it three days of rest, or at least two.’

In the parish of Drayton Beauchamp, Bucks, there existed long an ancient custom, called Stephening, from the day on which it took place. On St. Stephen’s Day, all the inhabitants used to pay a visit to the rectory, and practically assert their right to partake of as much bread and cheese and ale as they chose at the rector’s expense. On one of these occasions, according to local tradition, the then rector, being a penurious old bachelor, determined to put a stop, if possible, to this rather expensive and unceremonious visit from his parishioners. Accordingly, when St. Stephen’s Day arrived, he ordered his housekeeper not to open the window-shutters, or unlock the doors of the house, and to remain perfectly silent and motionless whenever any person was heard approaching. At the usual time the parishioners began to cluster about the house. They knocked first at one door, then at the other, then tried to open them, and on finding them fastened, they called aloud for admittance. No voice replied. No movement was heard within. ‘Surely the rector and his house-keeper must both be dead!’ exclaimed several voices at once, and a general awe pervaded the whole group. Eyes were then applied to the key-holes, and to every crevice in the window-shutters, when the rector was seen beckoning his old terrified housekeeper to sit still and silent. A simultaneous shout convinced him that his design was under-stood. Still he consoled himself with the hope that his larder and his cellar were secure, as the house could not be entered. But his hope was speedily dissipated. Ladders were reared against the roof, tiles were hastily thrown off, half-a-dozen sturdy young men entered, rushed down the stairs, and threw open both the outer-doors. In a trice, a hundred or more unwelcome visitors rushed into the house, and began unceremoniously to help themselves to such fare as the larder and cellar afforded; for no special stores having been provided for the occasion, there was not half enough bread and cheese for such a multitude. To the rector and his housekeeper, that festival was converted into the most rigid fast-day they had ever observed.

After this signal triumph, the parishioners of Drayton regularly exercised their ‘privilege of Stephening’ till the incumbency of the Rev. Basil Wood, who was presented to the living in 1808. Finding that the custom gave rise to much rioting and drunkenness, he discontinued it, and distributed instead an annual sum of money in proportion to the number of claimants. But as the population of the parish greatly increased, and as he did not consider himself bound to continue the practice, he was induced, about the year 1827, to withhold his annual payments; and so the custom became finally abolished. For some years, however, after its discontinuance, the people used to go to the rectory for the accustomed bounty, but were always refused.

In the year 1834, the commissioners appointed to inquire concerning charities, made an investigation into this custom, and several of the inhabitants of Drayton gave evidence on the occasion, but nothing was elicited to shew its origin or duration, nor was any legal proof advanced skewing that the rector was bound to comply with such a demand.* Many of the present inhabitants of the parish remember the custom, and some of them have heard their parents say, that it had been observed:

‘As long as the sun had shone,
And the waters had run.’

In London and other places, St. Stephen’s Day, or the 26th of December, is familiarly known as Boxing-day, from its being the occasion on which those annual guerdons known as Christmas-boxes are solicited and collected. For a notice of them, the reader is referred to the ensuing article.

CHRISTMAS-BOXES

The institution of Christmas-boxes is evidently akin to that of New-year’s gifts, and, like it, has descended to us from the times of the ancient Romans, who, at the season of the Saturnalia, practiced universally the custom of giving and receiving presents. The fathers of the church denounced, on the ground of its pagan origin, the observance of such a usage by the Christians; but their anathemas had little practical effect, and in process of time, the custom of Christmas-boxes and New-year’s gifts, like others adopted from the heathen, attained the position of a universally recognised institution. The church herself has even got the credit of originating the practice of Christmas-boxes, as will appear from the following curious extract from The Athenian Oracle of John Dunton; a sort of primitive Notes and Queries, as it is styled by a contributor to the periodical of that name.

Q. From whence comes the custom of gathering of Christmas-box money? And how long since?

A. It is as ancient as the word mass, which the Romish priests invented from the Latin word mitto, to send, by putting the people in mind to send gifts, offerings, oblations; to have masses said for everything almost, that no ship goes out to the Indies, but the priests have a box in that ship, under the protection of some saint. And for masses, as they cant, to be said for them to that saint, &c., the poor people must put in something into the priest’s box, which is not to be opened till the ship return. Thus the mass at that time was Christ’s-mass, and the box Christ’s-mass-box, or money gathered against that time, that masses might be made by the priests to the saints, to forgive the people the debaucheries of that time; and from this, servants had liberty to get box-money, because they might be enabled to pay the priest for masses—because, No penny, no paternoster—for though the rich pay ten times more than they can expect, yet a priest will not say a mass or anything to the poor for nothing; so charitable they generally are.’

The charity thus ironically ascribed by Dunton to the Roman Catholic clergy, can scarcely, so far as the above extract is concerned, be warrantably claimed by the whimsical author himself. His statement regarding the origin of the custom under notice may be regarded as an ingenious conjecture, but cannot be deemed a satisfactory explanation of the question. As we have already seen, a much greater antiquity and diversity of origin must be asserted.

This custom of Christmas-boxes, or the bestowing of certain expected gratuities at the Christmas season, was formerly, and even yet to a certain extent continues to be, a great nuisance. The journeymen and apprentices of trades-people were wont to levy regular contributions from their masters’ customers, who, in addition, were mulcted by the trades-people in the form of augmented charges in the bills, to recompense the latter for gratuities expected from them by the customers’ servants. This most objectionable usage is now greatly diminished, but certainly cannot yet be said to be extinct. Christmas-boxes are still regularly expected by the postman, the lamplighter, the dustman, and generally by all those functionaries who render services to the public at large, without receiving payment therefore from any particular individual. There is also a very general custom at the Christmas season, of masters presenting their clerks, apprentices, and other employees, with little gifts, either in money or kind.

St. Stephen’s Day, or the 26th of December, being the customary day for the claimants of Christmas-boxes going their rounds, it has received popularly the designation of Boxing-day. In the evening, the new Christmas pantomime for the season is generally produced for the first time; and as the pockets of the working-classes, from the causes which we have above stated, have commonly received an extra supply of funds, the theatres are almost universally crowded to the ceiling on Boxing-night; whilst the ‘gods,’ or upper gallery, exercise even more than their usual authority. Those interested in theatrical matters await with consider-able eagerness the arrival, on the following morning, of the daily papers, which have on this occasion a large space devoted to a chronicle of the pantomimes and spectacles produced at the various London theatres on the previous evening.

In conclusion, we must not be too hard on the system of Christmas-boxes or handsets, as they are termed in Scotland, where, however, they are scarcely ever claimed till after the commencement of the New Year. That many abuses did and still do cling to them, we readily admit; but there is also intermingled with them a spirit of kindliness and benevolence, which it would be very undesirable to extirpate. It seems almost instinctive for the generous side of human nature to bestow some reward for civility and attention, and an additional incentive to such liberality is not infrequently furnished by the belief that its recipient is but inadequately remunerated otherwise for the duties which he performs. Thousands, too, of the commonalty look eagerly forward to the forth-coming guerdon on Boxing-day, as a means of procuring some little unwonted treat or relaxation, either in the way of sight-seeing, or some other mode of enjoyment. Who would desire to abridge the happiness of so many?

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