Archive for September, 2011
26 Sep 2011

Obama Supporter’s Atavistic Message

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Some of us always thought that the left’s political philosophy inevitably arrived at cannibalism.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

26 Sep 2011

Near Miss

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This video shows a nearly fatal accident which occurred in the course of the ceremonies celebrating the 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Wałcz in western Pomerania in 2003. One sees a sign reading “Wałcz 700 years 1303-2003” atop a kiosk at the end of the video.

The salutes were being fired by the honor guard (“kompania honorowa”) of the city of Wałcz. The city’s coat of arms can be seen on the lower corner of the flag.

Some commentators blame the thick gloves worn by the city guardsmen for the rifle firing prematurely. Others blame lack of proper training.

Thanks to Leon Stevens.

Hat tip to Roger de Hautville.

25 Sep 2011

Short Quotations

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From Claire Berlinski:

[During the Korean War,] the North Koreans were shocked that Americans with our critical-thinking, multiple-perspective stuff were the easiest to brainwash? Pretty much 180 degrees from what they expected. The opposite end of the scale? The Turks. They were totally impossible to turn. Their perspective was: “I’m a Turk, you’re my enemy, if I had a pointy stick, I’d kill you right now.”

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“Socialists,” said the Senior Usher, “can never leave anything alone. That’s the trouble. They start with one or two things that badly need reforming, and jolly good luck to them. But then it gets to be a habit. They can’t stop. And that’s what’ll do them in. As Macauley has it, we can make shift to live under a debauchee or even a tyrant; but to to be ruled by a busybody is more than human nature can bear.”

— Simon Raven in Fielding Gray (1967).

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James Delingpole
: A Conservative friend of mine has a favorite exasperated phrase for our political class: “There just aren’t enough bullets.”

25 Sep 2011

Picture of the Day

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The photograph seems to come from Go Moose via Theo.

25 Sep 2011

End of the World as We Know It

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Mark Steyn looks at the pre-2012 political jockeying taking place in America these days and the European economic mess and feels in the mood for a little doom and gloom.

I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago the IMF’s calculation that China will become the planet’s leading economic power by the year 2016. And I added that, if that proves correct, it means the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economy. I thought that line might catch on. After all, we’re always told that every election is the most critical consequential watershed election of all time, but this one actually would be: For the first time since Grover Cleveland’s first term, America would be electing a global also-ran. But there’s not a lot of sense of America’s looming date with destiny in these presidential debates. I don’t mean so much from the candidates as from their media interrogators — which is more revealing of where the meter on our political conversation is likely to be during the general election. On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing. …

In a perfect snapshot of this administration’s witless banality, the president traveled last week to the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River and claimed that, despite the fact that the structure connects the home states of the Republican House leader and the Republican Senate leader, the meanspirited GOP is going to kill the jobs bill and thus all prospects for a new bridge between their two states.

The bridge has nothing to do with the jobs bill. Work on a new bridge is not scheduled to begin for four years and wouldn’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. Because in the Republic at twilight you can run up another seven-and-a-half-trillion dollars of new debt in less time than it takes to put up a bridge. Even as cheap political showboating the president’s photo op was a pathetic joke, with the laugh on you.

If this is the best America can do, there won’t be a 2022, not for the United States, or anything that would be recognizable as such.

Read the whole thing.

24 Sep 2011

Even the Innocent Pay in Massachusetts

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The same Supreme Judicial Court that concluded a few years ago that the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 mandated Gay Marriage has recently concluded that the Bay State can enhance its revenues by charging drivers for contesting traffic tickets.

The Newspaper.com:

Motorists issued a traffic ticket in Massachusetts will have to pay money to the state whether or not they committed the alleged crime. According to a state supreme court ruling handed down yesterday, fees are to be imposed even on those found completely innocent. The high court saw no injustice in collecting $70 from Ralph C. Sullivan after he successfully fought a $100 ticket for failure to stay within a marked lane.

Bay State drivers given speeding tickets and other moving violations have twenty days either to pay up or make a non-refundable $20 payment to appeal to a clerk-magistrate. After that, further challenge to a district court judge can be had for a non-refundable payment of $50. Sullivan argued that motorists were being forced to pay “fees” not assessed on other types of violations, including drug possession. He argued this was a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause, but the high court justices found this to be reasonable.

“We conclude that there is a rational basis for requiring those cited for a noncriminal motor vehicle infraction alone to pay a filing fee and not requiring a filing fee for those contesting other types of civil violations,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the court. “Where the legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings.”

The court insisted that allowing a hearing before a clerk-magistrate instead of an assistant clerk, as well as allowing a de novo hearing before a judge constituted benefits that justified the cost. Last year, the fees for the clerk-magistrate hearings generated $3,678,620 in revenue for the courts. Although Sullivan raised the issue of due process during oral argument, the court would not rule on the merits of that issue.

It’s easy to see why Elizabeth Warren is a viable candidate in that state.

24 Sep 2011

Splitscreen

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I really don’t think New York City compares terribly well to Paris, but the maker of this cleverly crafted little video, shot entirely on the Nokia N8 mobile phone does a heck of a job at trying. Not surprisingly it won the Nokia Shorts competition 2011.

Hat tip to Inés Bagration.

24 Sep 2011

Reading Mark Steyn in the Light of Ortega

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Jose Orgetga y Gasset

Mark Anthony Signorelli turns his review of Mark Steyn’s After America: Get Ready for Armageddon into an essay supplementary to Steyn’s book, arguing the author’s view of cause and effect can be improved by reading a much earlier (1930) attack on the same forces of dissolution by the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset.

Throughout his book, Steyn catalogues the demoralizing effects of unlimited government upon the American citizenry. No one can ignore the power of the case he presents. But as much as government overreach erodes the character of a people, the debased character of a people manifests itself in arbitrary government. Bad institutions make bad people, but bad people also make bad institutions. Our ugly politics is every bit a reflection of our cultural failings as are our worthless schools. Steyn is not unaware of these facts; one of the passages I found most compelling in his book was when he argues that the truly horrifying thing about the rise of Obama was the fact that the majority of the American people had been duped by such an evident buffoon. Our folly created his administration, and all of its works. So Steyn clearly understands the way a people’s faults can manifest themselves in inept government. Still, the obvious emphasis of his book is on the causal relationship which runs opposite, on the way that inept government debases the character of a people. I think that emphasis is misplaced; I think the effects of a people’s character on the character of their government are more fundamental, more decisive to their happiness, and more subject to reform than the effects which flow from a corrupted government upon the citizenry. Or, to put the point in a different way, I believe that culture is far more consequential for the maintenance of a well-ordered community than politics. Steyn himself advises that, “changing the culture is more important than changing the politics,” but since the emphasis of his book is on the way that bad politics has changed our culture for the worse, he actually seems to undermine this bit of advice.

The book that most effectively delineates the ruinous social mechanisms of liberal democracy is The Revolt of the Masses, by the early twentieth-century philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset. For Ortega, modern western society was marked by the rise to power of the “mass-man,” the unqualified or uncultivated man, who, lacking all necessary intellectual and moral training in the duties of civic life, had nonetheless asserted his immutable right to impose his own mediocrity of spirit upon society: “The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will.” The mass-man is not bound by any traditions or maxims of prudence; he cares only about having his own way in the world. And when he is taught (as all modern political theory teaches him) that the state is a manifestation of his own will, he freely grants it an unlimited scope of action, just as he (theoretically) grants himself a perfect freedom of action: “This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention, the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State…when the mass suffers any ill-fortune, or simply feels some strong appetite, its great temptation is that permanent, sure possibility of obtaining everything – merely by touching a button and setting the mighty machine in motion.” The consequences of this trend are catastrophic:

    The result of this tendency will be fatal. Spontaneous social action will be broken up over and over again by State intervention; no new seed will be able to fructify. Society will have to live for the State, man for the governmental machine. And as, after all, it is only a machine whose existence and maintenance depend on the vital supports around it, the State, after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome than the death of a living organism.

Exactly as Steyn describes it in his book, some eighty years later. But what Ortega makes us see is that “big government” results from the prior moral corruption of the people, in particular from their unbounded self-love and self-assurance. It destroys them in the end, but at the first, it was their creature.

Read the whole thing. This one is a must-read.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

23 Sep 2011

Dropping the Mask

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Charles Krauthammer explains the president’s recent tax proposal. This is politics, but it’s not only politics, this is the real Barack Obama.

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless. …

Obama has actually gone and done it. He’s just proposed a $1.5 trillion tsunami of tax hikes featuring a “Buffett rule” that, although as yet deliberately still fuzzy, clearly includes raising capital gains taxes.

He also insists again upon raising marginal rates on “millionaire” couples making $250,000 or more. But roughly half the income of small businesses (i.e., those filing individual returns) would be hit by this tax increase. Therefore, if we are to believe Obama’s own logic that his proposed business tax credits would increase hiring, then surely this tax hike will reduce small-business hiring.

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing reelection? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his reelection. And as such, it is already working.

Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of the neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”

Added Updike: “For all her exertions, it never was.” But now with Obama — it will be! Turns out, Obama really was the one they had been waiting for.

That is: the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

Considering the political cost — a massive electoral rebuke by an infuriated 2010 electorate — these are the works of a conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.

That politician now returns. Obama’s new populism surely is a calculation that his halfhearted feints to the center after the midterm “shellacking” were not only unconvincing but would do him no good anyway with a stagnant economy, 9 percent unemployment and a staggering $4 trillion of new debt.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

He’s returned to the authenticity of his radical April 2009 “New Foundation” address (at Georgetown University) that openly proclaimed his intent to fundamentally transform America.


In a 2001 NPR, State Senator Barack Obama complains of constitutional constraints on redistributive change.

23 Sep 2011

More on Elizabeth Warren

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Bookworm does a very nice job of putting Commissar Warren in her place.

There are so many things wrong with Warren’s statement that I really don’t know where to begin. Tonestaple sent me an email that certainly gets the tone right (which led to my post’s title):

    They [meaning the middle class Leftists who applaud the above statement] seem to think it is the ne plus ultra of common sense. I think it sounds like a gangster saying, “Nice factory you’ve got here – be a shame if anything happened to it.”

…Tonestaple perfectly nailed the reality behind Warren’s cutesy, nursery school-esque, “God blessy” statement that everybody should share with everybody else.” The reality is that, in Obama world, if you don’t make nice with the government, the government is not going to make nice with you. (The cutesy tone, incidentally, is classic Warren. She was one of my law school profs, and I found her invariably sweet in word, unintelligible in substance, and vaguely vicious in action.)

Tone aside, there are two major problems with Warren’s factory parable. The first is the assumption that the factory owner contributed nothing to roads, education, police and fire forces, etc. In Warren’s world, the factory owner is a pure parasite. Warren conveniently forgets that the factory owner pays taxes (hugely more taxes than all those people whom she posits paying for roads, education, etc.); that the factory owner provides work for and pays the salary of those employees who then pay taxes; and that a successful factory owner makes a product that provides a benefit to people.

The second problem with Warren’s statement is actually a much more profound one than her “forgetting” that it’s the employers who provide the goods, services and salaries that make all those useful taxes possible. Warren’s statement turns the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and everything else the Founders stood for upside down.

In Warren’s world, a socialist world, the government owns everything. (And don’t you love it when well paid Harvard professors advocate socialism?)

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

23 Sep 2011

Stanford Football Fans Respond to Elizabeth Warren’s “Nobody Got Rich On His Own”

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Liberals are burbling in delight over Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s full-throated expression of the left’s soak-the-rich version of the social contract.

Warren said:

I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.”

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

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One of Glen Reynolds’ readers, who signs himself Fog City sent along his own rejoinder to Warren, originally posted in a discussion of her remarks in the Current Events section of a Stanford Football Fan forum:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” “Built a factory” is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.

“But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” Between fuel taxes, license fees, tolls and various taxes on transportation related activities, the roads budget is smaller than the total tax take.

you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work, taught them how to communicate in clear sentences, taught them that there are rights and wrongs and (unlike with your schools) wrongs have consequences in the workplace. Then paid for extended education for my employees so they could continue to improve themselves and better add value to what we do around here.

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Funny, my factory has 24/7 security guards because the last time it was broken into, the police did not even bother to take a report, they just said “call your insurance company”. As for fire? The closest fire department is 10 miles away. My insurance company requires that I have a full wet sprinkler system to qualify for insurance because there is no local fire protection.

“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Well, that is not exactly true. When the AFL-CIO tried to unionize my workforce, they staged three days of noisy protests outside my factory. The police forces just stood around and watched as the protesters intimidated my workers, vandalized their cars and destroyed my property.

You say “we” like the government and society are the same. They aren’t. My company and my community and you politicians are not “we”.

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Another Stanford fan signing himself neodymian60 remarked in disgust:

I’ll weigh in because she could be my next Senator and the Democrats here are scrambling to unseat Scott Brown. Somehow she seems like the perfect insufferable replacement for the insufferable Ted Kennedy.

She has the big 3. Harvard. Lawyer. Academic. Check.

She is shrill, contentious, and condescending as only the elite can be.

While any idiot knows that there can be no market without roads and consumers, she insults everyone’s intelligence by having to explain that to them. And then insults the successful by making it seem as if they have betrayed everyone with their talents. …

I just got a call from the Brown campaign and gave them $110.

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mendicant98:

You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she says. “But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

Um – the thing is – those who built the factory and employed the workers generated the revenue that allowed the ctizens to pay for the roads, police etc. It sure as hell wasn’t built by the poor.

She continues: “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”


Um – again. THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN DOING THAT. Hey if she questions that – just go to a town that revolved around a factory that went out of business and see how that town is faring. The factory – as it employs the citizens and pays its taxes etc (not to mention all its fees etc under the various regulations/licensing requirements) IS TAKING A HUNK OF THAT AND PAY(ING) IT FORWARD FOR THE NEXT KED WHO COMES ALONG.” Course if the factory shuts down – then that kid loses that opportunity and the town loses a whole lot of revenue.

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Rocky 17 vented:

Elizabeth the Harvard and Rutgers Prof, Head of TARP, lawyer, marxist, head of consumer affairs, candidate for US senate in Mass. friend of Obama, friend of Harry Reid…

If anyone on this board doubts that she is for the social contract that successful people need share their success with those who aren`t successful and have no cause for personal celebration or reward, that she intends that wealth redistribution is necessary and good, that she is not a marxist, you must be Palcal. There is no successful individual except those who have earned it on the backs of others and therefore owe the masses. There are no successful countries except those that earned it on the backs of other countries and therefore owe those countries.

Thus the apology tour at the initial stages of the Obama administration, the rage at successful people, the class warfare rhetoric. She and Obama are two peas in a pod, share the same values and cannot be called anything but Marxist redistributionists. To me, this is the antithetical behavior and value of what made the US exceptional and why the country is headed into the deep morass with policies that slowly and quickly drain the wealth of America over the world.

Gosh, it looks like some Stanford grads must have gone into business and become conservative.

22 Sep 2011

Decline and Fall

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Laurie Newsome explains:

Why S&P Downgraded the US:

U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent [April] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

Let’s remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:

Annual family income: $21,700
Money the family spent: $38,200
New debt on the credit card: $16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
Budget cuts: $385

Hat tip to Small Dead Animals via Bird Dog and Karen L. Myers.

22 Sep 2011

The Ineffably Annoying Conspicuous Philanthropy of the Haute Bourgeois

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Joe Queenan tells us he has had a bellyful of boasting about the rising generation’s resume-burnishing, do-good activities.

Joe is lucky that he doesn’t have to read the Yale Alumni Magazine.

Deep inside, everybody wants to talk about what a sensitive, caring, wonderful human being he is. But this is impossible when you work for a law firm that cold-calls Colombian drug dealers to see if they need any extra legal representation, when you’ve publicly boasted about cheating on your taxes, when everyone knows you’ve had an affair with an underage roadie for a Flock of Seagulls tribute band, when you’ve moved into a gated community to avoid even having to breathe the same air as minorities.

So instead, you tell people how jaw-droppingly great your children are. Britney is spending the summer working for Habitat for Humanity. So is Courtney. Dylan is in Burkina Faso, teaching local wretches how to make designer T-shirts out of organic mangoes. Aisha is interning at a company that designs noiseless, subterranean windmills. Yes, Kayla is getting a law degree, but only so she can help political prisoners from Darfur get green cards. And Caitlin and Skyler are spending junior year abroad participating in demonstrations against the governments in Athens, Damascus and Tehran, as course work for their degrees in Global Goodness Studies.

Wherever something truly wonderful is being done, these kids are at the epicenter of the action. They make the Little Sisters of the Poor look like thugs.

The upwardly moral children of the bourgeoisie are obsequiously, uncompromisingly virtuous. They ride bikes everywhere. They never eat meat. They refuse to watch television. They eat with wooden chopsticks. They only read books by authors named Jonathan who live in Brooklyn. They themselves are named Jonathan and live in Brooklyn. That is because everyone who is good and just and whip-smart and special in this society lives in Brooklyn. If you had good children like mine, you would know that. Your children probably live somewhere horrid, like Toledo, Ohio. And they’re probably named Susie or Fred.

As a mean-spirited, amoral crank who has labored mightily to raise reasonably insensitive kids, I find precociously virtuous children revolting. Luckily, I don’t have any. I don’t want my kids bailing out the faceless Trans-Caucasus masses or helping Jimmy Carter hammer nails in Detroit. I want them to be rich, so they can buy me a chalet in the Alps or at least cover my geriatric wisdom-teeth extractions. I grew up poor; I’m looking for payback.

22 Sep 2011

Atmospheric Gases in Perspective

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This anti-Carbon Tax video from Australia’s Galileo Movement uses a well-known local bridge to explain the constituents of the earth’s atmosphere.

Via Theo.

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