Archive for January, 2009
28 Jan 2009

Why Don’t Comedians Mock Obama?

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Perfection personified

The View‘s Joy Behar explained on Larry King Live that the reason for the comedy gap is because Barack Obama is “just too perfect.”

28 Jan 2009

Climate Change Heresy

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John S. Theon, formerly chief of all weather and climate research for NASA, and James Hansen’s former boss, has just released a statement of his personal skepticism concerning the predictions of climate alarmist James Hansen and of climate models.

Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it).

[C]limate models are useless.

My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit. Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.

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But Dr. Theon and Senator Inhofe had better watch out. If James Hansen has his way, they as Global Warming deniers, along with the chief executives of energy companies, would be put on trial “for high crimes against humanity and nature.”

Hansen is a pioneer of a fascinating new political debating technique. You declare that your position is true and that if it fails to be accepted the consequences will be terrible, and therefore anyone opposing you is prosecutable for injuring the public interest by spreading lies.

I can picture certain Constitutional obstacles to such prosecutions myself, but some of the blogosphere’s leftwing nutroots, example: Kirk Murphy at FireDogLake, are calling Hansen’s proposal “a nice start.”

If prosecuting people who object to your theory is a nice start, presumably burning them at them at the stake for heresy or sending them to the death camps in Siberia is the logical finish.

27 Jan 2009

“Turn Them All Loose!”

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And hopefully right next to where the insufferable ass who wrote this lives:

The total population of terrorists ebbs and flows all the time. When the number goes up by one hundred, no one much notices. If the number goes up by one hundred because we release some previously identified terrorists, there is or will be a public outcry. But it’s the same consequence.

Fewer terrorists are better than more terrorists, to be sure. But a terrorist we release is not obviously worse than a terrorist who was free in the first place.

We evaluate outcomes differently when we feel we are in control or should be in control. We should examine this intuition carefully, since it is not always justified.

We also treat an outcome differently when we feel it allows an enemy of ours to “get back at us.” I suspect this difference in feeling is not usually justified and that it is the primary driver behind the fear of releasing terrorists.

I can think of “political theater” reasons why an attack from a released terrorist would be worse than an attack from an “already free” terrorist. Overall I do not yet feel that we are thinking about this issue rationally.

Tyler Cowen is obviously so smart that he’ll simply rationalize all those terrorists into utter irrelevance before they can shoot him or blow him up.

While somehow I really suspect, in my heart of hearts, that the learned economics professor would very vehemently object to becoming a personal part of his own thought experiment, on the other hand, from his disinterested point of view, releasing tens or hundreds of murderous fanatics far, far from the DC suburbs where they most probably will harm no one other than some Iraqi or Afghan civilians, or the occasional US soldier, constitutes a perfectly acceptable exercise in statistical theory.

27 Jan 2009

Sotheby’s Sells Medieval Hunting Horn

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[T]he olifant its echoing music speaks. – La Chanson du Roland — Sicily, c. 1100 A.D.

Sotheby’s December 2nd Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art sale in London featured a remarkable relic of the Middle Ages, an Oliphant, a great (47cm., 18½”) 12th century hunting horn, fashioned from the tusk of an elephant and once embellished with silver. Despite the recession, it sold for $194,950 / 139,250 GBP, considerably above the estimated price of 50,000—80,000 GBP.

Catalogue description
:

The word ‘oliphant’ is a loanword from old French meaning ‘elephant’, which is first documented in the English translation of the Song of Roland in the 12th century. It described the ivory sounding horn with which the hero Roland summoned aid during the batter of Roncesvalles, shortly before his death at the hands of the Arabian enemy in 778. Carved from a whole elephant tusk and originally banded with silver and hung with cord, these horns would have produced a low but loud call. They were prized symbols of wealth and power, passed down through the centuries in Europe’s treasure houses.

Few oliphants from the eleventh and twelfth centuries survive. They are a fascinating witness to a unique period of cultural exchange between East and West on the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Oliphants were carved from African ivory and were probably prevalent in Fatimid Egypt, although no example has survived. Until 1071 Sicily was part of the Fatimid empire. However, quarrels within the Muslim regime gave the Christian rulers of southern Italy an opportunity to send in Norman mercenaries as a conquering force. Roger I, who became Norman Count of Sicily and the first in the line of Norman rulers of Sicily, led the invasion. The Norman genius was not only in capturing this Islamic stronghold but in maintaining it successfully, by keeping Muslims and Byzantine Greeks in positions of influence. Using the heterogeneous nature of their society, the Normans in Sicily capitalised on their geographic location as a nexus of culture and trade. In the twelfth century, when the island became a kingdom, it was one of the wealthiest states in Europe, wealthier even than England.

The decoration of oliphants, most often with animals and scrollwork, sits within the tradition of Islamic imagery, without over-reliance on the human form. Oliphants carved by Muslim and Byzantine craftsmen for their new Catholic rulers continued in this style. The present Oliphant is very simply decorated and can be most closely compared to another in the collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris (OA 4069). The foliate designs on the two bands close to where the mouthpiece was originally secured, are carved to the same pattern and the body of the Oliphant is shaped in simple flat planes along its length. The Louvre oliphant is dated to the end of the 11th century. The twisted rope work design along the upper length of the present oliphant can be compared to a similar design on a twelfth century oliphant in the collection of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.

27 Jan 2009

What Exactly Did the US Ever Dictate?

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B. Hussein Obama (appropriately enough, I suppose) gave his first formal interview, not to the New York Times or CBS News, and definitely not to L’Osservatore Romano, but to Al Aribiya.

Mr. Obama demonstrated his new style of diplomatic engagement, and carried on one of his own campaign themes, by distancing himself from his predecessors in the White House and by seizing the initiative in criticizing the United States for himself.

Announcing that he was sending former Senator George Mitchell as his own personal envoy to the Middle East to engage in peace-making efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama, perhaps simply by force of long habit, reverted to traditional leftwing anti-American accusations, accusing the United States of “dictating” and of ignorance.

George Mitchell is somebody of enormous stature. He is one of the few people who have international experience brokering peace deals.

And so what I told him is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating – in the past on some of these issues – and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved. So let’s listen.

As far as I know, the US has made numerous efforts to persuade Israel to make concessions of territory and an independent Palestinian state, and the US has bribed Egypt and Jordan to make peace. The only US diktats made toward the Islamic Middle East have been: Thou shalt not eliminate Israel from the face of the map, and drive its population into the sea, and Thou shalt not aid and sponsor terrorism.

Both seem to me to be perfectly defensible policies, of a purely defensive character, that do not require an apology.

Mr. Obama gets his first Jimmy Carter Award for embarrassing poltroonery.

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Andrew Sullivan
snivels admiringly, in the fashion of liberal bed wetters everywhere:

B. Hussein sucking up to the dish-towel-wearing set is a case of “met expectation.”

If you’re the likes of Andrew Sullivan, what do you do with hostile enemies? Why, you brown-nose them! As Andrew explains: “it’s about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Liberals are so chrome yellow that any adversary, however contemptible and primitive, is always an apocalyptic threat, and propitiatory grovelling is always not only in order, it is vital for our survival.

My sense, for what it’s worth, is that Obama is genuine. He doesn’t know whether this bold new play will pay dividends any more than we do. What he does know, I think, is that we have no choice. The trajectory of the current global conflict, centered on the question of Islam and modernity, is an apocalyptic one if the game isn’t changed soon. He is attempting to change the game. Which led me to my second reaction.

Hope.

Pathetic.

27 Jan 2009

Not a Free Country Anymore

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Phillip K. Howard, in an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal, describes the impact of limitless litigation and regulation on American life and the American character.

Here we stand, facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, and Americans no longer feel free to do anything about it. We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don’t.

All this law, we’re told, is just the price of making sure society is in working order. But society is not working. Disorder disrupts learning all day long in many public schools — the result in part, studies by NYU Professor Richard Arum found, of the rise of student rights. Health care is like a nervous breakdown in slow motion. Costs are out of control, yet the incentive for doctors is to order whatever tests the insurance will pay for. Taking risks is no longer the badge of courage, but reason enough to get sued. There’s an epidemic of child obesity, but kids aren’t allowed to take the normal risks of childhood. Broward County, Fla., has even banned running at recess.

The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. We think of freedom as political freedom. We’re certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense. Analyzing the American character, Alexis de Tocqueville, considered “freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated.”

Read the whole thing.

26 Jan 2009

Why the Microsoft Layoffs?

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InfoWorld points to Vista.

Windows Vista has been trouble for Microsoft perhaps since the operating system’s beginning. And this last quarter was certainly no exception. Despite a dip in client software revenue, however, one analyst says the workforce reduction Microsoft detailed on Thursday is healthy — at least from enterprise IT shops’ perspective.

When Microsoft released its earnings report on Thursday, the company indicated not only that it would lay off up to 5,000 workers or 5 percent of its total headcount but also that software client revenue — as in Windows Vista — sank by 8 percent.

“Windows Vista didn’t do well. Based on our data, a lot of clients are skipping Windows Vista,” says Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner. Indeed, nearly every other major analyst firm found a similar lack of Vista adoption, with Forrester Research likening the OS to the failed New Coke.

26 Jan 2009

Bob Woodward Predicts New Obama Scandal

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HuffPo:

Appearing on the Chris Matthews Show Sunday, Bob Woodward offered a rather cryptic prediction of scandal that will plague the Obama White House.

“This may be tantalizing but vague,” said the Washington Post scribe. “I don’t think the nanny or household tax problems and so forth are over for the Obama administration…”

Matthews pressed ever so slightly for more information, but Woodward did not oblige: “I say it’s not over.”

0:23 video

26 Jan 2009

Horse Culture Dying in Southern California

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Bad news from the LA Times:

A flurry of recent stable closures has generated talk where equestrians gather about whether the Southern California horse culture can survive the sprawl of suburbia and its relentless appetite for onetime ranch land.

In December, a collection of ramshackle stalls near the city of Industry abruptly shut down, forcing out a small group of Mexican immigrants who had boarded their horses there at low cost.

The stables had been a gathering place for vaqueros from Zacatecas and Guerrero, and the closure prompted some of the families to give up their horses altogether. The loss follows the disappearance of many other stables along the San Gabriel River watershed.

Weeks later, officials in Orange County announced they might turn the county’s Fairgrounds Equestrian Center into a parking lot — the latest of many Orange County casualties. “There used to be stables all up and down the Santa Ana River, more than 20,” said Jim Meyer of the advocacy group Trails4All. “Now there are two left . . . and one of them is up for sale.”

The picture in other urban-adjacent areas around the state is similar.

Earlier this month, the Cevalo Riding Academy in San Jose closed its doors — the land prized for homes over equines even in this post-bubble environment.

Other stables giving way to homes or parking lots include the Wild Horse Valley Ranch in Napa, the equestrian showgrounds at the state fair in Sacramento and San Diego’s famed Miramar Stables, said Deb Balliet of the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource, an advocacy group based in Lexington, Ky.

It’s happening all over the country, but California “is being really hard hit,” Balliet said.

26 Jan 2009

Gun Shopping Through the Khyber Pass

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A rather timid person, who knows nothing about guns, gets himself an escort and takes a ride through the Khyber Pass to go shopping at one of the arms bazaar villages in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribal province.

He finds locals making 9mm autos with hand tools. The shop he visits is loaded with swords, British Model 1853 Enfield Rifles, and Artillery Lugers at derisory prices. Xavier would love this place.

7:46 video

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

26 Jan 2009

Michaelangelo Did It Better

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Image from a wrapper on the Los Angeles Times Inaugural edition

The MSM’s image of Barack Obama remains just a little over the top, wouldn’t you say?

Hat tip to Puffer via Warner Todd Huston.

26 Jan 2009

Grading in the Age of Obama

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Mike S. Adams thinks it’s desirable to spread the grade points around.

Previously, I announced that I would use a ten-point grading scale, which means that 90% of 100 is an “A,” 80% is a “B,” 70% is a “C,” and 60% is enough for a passing grade of “D.” I also announced that I will refrain from using a “plus/minus” system – even though the faculty handbook gives me that option.

The new policy I am announcing today is that those who score above 90 on the first exam will have points deducted and given to students at the bottom of the grade distribution. For example, if a student gets a 99, I will then deduct nine points and give them to the person with the lowest grade. If a person scores 95 I will then deduct five points and give them to the person with the second lowest grade. If someone scores 93 I will then deduct three points and give them to the next lowest person. And so on.

My point, rather obviously, is that any points above 90 are really not needed since you have an “A” regardless of whether you score 90 or 99. Nor am I convinced that you need to “save” those points for a rainy day. Those who are failing, however, need the points – not unlike the failing banks and automakers that need money to avoid the danger of bankruptcy. …

But I don’t think there’s anything confusing about our pending social responsibilities. Whether we are talking about income or grades it does not matter how much or what percentage we are giving. The question is and should always be “Can we give more?

25 Jan 2009

More Catch and Release? US Navy Intercepts Iranian Rockets Meant For Gaza

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The Jerusalem Post story indicates that the Obama administration is, so far at least, willing to take limited action against Iranian surrogate operations aimed at Israel.

The interception of an Iranian arms ship by the US Navy in the Red Sea last week likely was conducted as a covert operation and is being played down by the US military due to the lack of a clear legal framework for such operations, an American expert on Iran told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.

International media reported that an Iranian-owned merchant vessel flying a Cypriot flag was boarded early last week by US Navy personnel who discovered artillery shells on board.

The ship was initially suspected of being en route to delivering its cargo to smugglers in Sinai who would transfer the ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, but the US Navy became uncertain over the identity of the intended recipient since “Hamas is not known to use artillery,” The Associated Press cited a defense official as saying.

It was then allowed to sail toward the Suez Canal, where Egyptian authorities have been asked to conduct another search of the vessel, according to the report.

Debkafile (voice of Mossad) leaks:

The Iranian ship boarded by a US Navy Coast Guard team on the Red Sea last week before it could smuggle arms to Hamas is now disclosed by DEBKAfile’s military sources to have tried to trick the search team by enclosing its rocket cargo in secret compartments behind layers of steel. Furthermore, our sources reveal, the US has not yet found a harbor in the region for carrying out a thorough search. …

The Americans decided not to give the Israeli Navy a chance to seize the vessel and tow it to Eilat for fear of a Tehran ultimatum to Jerusalem, followed by Iranian attacks on Israeli naval craft patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. …

But the US and Egyptian governments are in a fix. To break the Iranian ship’s holds open and expose the rockets destined for Hamas, the facilities of a sizeable port are needed. It would have to be Egyptian because the other coastal nations – Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia – are hostile or controlled by pirates. Both the US and Egypt are hesitant about precipitating a full-blown armed confrontation with Iran. The timing is wrong for the new Barack Obama administration, which is set on smoothing relations with Tehran through diplomatic engagement. Cairo has just launched a campaign to limit Tehran’s aggressive drive in the Middle East but does not want a premature clash.

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources disclose that the ship’s captain had orders not to resist an American boarding team but impede a close look at its freight. The Navy Coast Guard searchers first found a large amount of ordnance and explosives in the ship’s hold, which the Iranian captain claimed were necessary for securing Iranian freighters heading from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. But then, the US searchers using metal detectors perceived welded steel compartments packed with more hardware concealed at the bottom of the hull.

The option of towing it to a Persian Gulf port for an intensive search was rejected because the Gulf emirates hosting US bases were almost certain to shy away from involvement in the affair. Moreover, Tehran would be close enough to mount a naval commando operation to scuttle the ship before it was searched.

Our military sources estimate that eventually the US government may decide to let the Iranian arms ship sail through the Suez Canal out to the Mediterranean for lack of other options.

Naturally. Mustn’t provoke the mullahs by interfering with their shipments of rifles to the Indians. Who knows? They might become hostile and start supporting terrorism or building WMD.

25 Jan 2009

Britain Accepts Islamic View of Gaza

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Melanie Phillips describes how the British left and the Labour Government has shamefully surrendered to the Saracens.

In Britain, the war in Gaza has revealed the extent to which the media, intelligentsia and political class have simply crumbled in the face of the global jihad.

The U.K. is a major player in European and world politics and is America’s most significant strategic ally. Until now, it has been considered one of Israel’s firm supporters and a linchpin of the Western defense against the world-wide Islamist onslaught. With the reaction to Gaza, however, that reputation is no longer sustainable.

Years of demonizing Israel and appeasing Islamist extremism within Britain have now coalesced, as a result of the media misrepresentation of the Gaza war as an atrocity against civilians, in an unprecedented wave of hatred against Israel and a sharp rise in attacks on British Jews.

Throughout the war, London’s streets have witnessed a hallucinatory level of violent and explicit support for Hamas from Muslims, members of the far left and supposedly progressive individuals.

Certainly, there have been anti-Israel protests around the world. But in Britain, not only have these been particularly violent but the authorities have done nothing to stop such incitement of hatred.

The police told pro-Israel demonstrators on at least one occasion to put away their Israel flags because they were ‘inflammatory.’ Yet officers allowed some anti-Israel demonstrators to scream support for Hamas — and even to dress up as hook-nosed Jews pretending to drink the blood of Palestinian babies.

In general, the police have reacted passively to the violence. One recent video clip captured the astonishing spectacle of Muslims stampeding through London’s West End hurling traffic cones and other missiles at the police, all the time shrieking ‘Allahu akbar’ and ‘cowards.’ The police ran and stumbled backward rather than standing their ground and stopping the rampage.

But, why be surprised? This is the same Britain that convicted Norfolk farmer Tony Martin of murder and sentenced him to life in prison (later reduced on appeal) for defending himself against two burglars.

From the modern leftist perspective, criminals are always at least partially justified by their grievances, and the crime which cannot be forgiven is self defence.

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