26 Jan 2015

Blizzard of 1888

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1888-1

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

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

1888-2

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

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

1888-3

26 Jan 2015

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

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CharlesBlow
NYT’s columnist Charles Blow

The politics of racial privilege marches endlessly onward.

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

Oldest College Daily:

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

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

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

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

CharlesBlowTweets

And in his column in the Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 Jan 2015

The Forward Seat

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ForwardSeat

Photo: Ginni Beard, forwarded by Niall Hannity.

25 Jan 2015

Students at Berkeley Angry: No Trannies Made Raphael’s School of Athens!

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Plato and Aristotle, Detail from Raphael’s The School of Athens

Rodrigo Kazuo and Meg Perret found their classroom environment at Berkeley hostile, even when their professor was lecturing on Karl Marx (!), because the Western canon is exclusively composed of works by dead, white, European males, not a single person of color or transgendered individual makes the cut.

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned. These courses pretend that a minuscule fraction of humanity — economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States) — are the only people to produce valid knowledge about the world. This is absurd. The white male syllabus excludes all knowledge produced outside this standardized canon, silencing the perspectives of the other 99 percent of humanity.

The white male canon is not sufficient for theorizing the lives of marginalized people. None of the thinkers we studied in this course had a robust analysis of gender or racial oppression. They did not even engage with the enduring legacies of European colonial expansion, the enslavement of black people and the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. Mentions of race and gender in the white male canon are at best incomplete and at worst racist and sexist. We were required to read Hegel on the “Oriental realm” and Marx on the “Asiatic mode of production,” but not a single author from Asia. We were required to read Weber on the patriarchy, but not a single feminist author. The standardized canon is obsolete: Any introduction to social theory that aims to be relevant to today’s problems must, at the very least, address gender and racial oppression.

The exclusions on the syllabus were mirrored in the classroom. Although the professor said he wanted to make the theory relevant to present issues, the class was out of touch with the majority of students’ lives. The lectures often incorporated current events, yet none of the examples engaged critically with gender or race. The professor even failed to mention the Ferguson events, even though he lectured about prisons, normalizing discourse and the carceral archipelago in Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” the day after the grand jury decision on the murder of Michael Brown.

Furthermore, the classroom environment felt so hostile to women, people of color, queer folks and other marginalized subjects that it was difficult for us to focus on the course material. Sometimes, we were so uncomfortable that we had to leave the classroom in the middle of lecture. For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable.

Read the whole thing.

Myself, I’d argue that Plato may very possibly have swung both ways, and that Michel Foucault was a commie pervert who doesn’t belong in any serious version of the Western canon, but who should qualify perfectly as an excellent (and eminently repulsive) representative of all of the “marginalized” groups there are.

I’d suggest, additionally, that if you think “Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault” came from “England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States,” you probably need to acquire greater personal familiarity with the lives and ideas (and countries of origin) of the philosophers conventionally included in the Western canon, before you will be qualified to dispute over exactly who does, and who does not, deserve to be included.

Hat tip to Campus Reform.

25 Jan 2015

Everybody Likes a Good Swordfight

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From Clara Darko:

Full list of films:

00:01 – Kill Bill

00:06 – Hero

00:08 – Seven Samurai

00:09 – The Princess bride

00:11 – Hero

00:13 – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

00:14 – Gladiator

00:16 – Conan the Barbarian

00:17 – Troy

00:19 – Batman Begins

00:21 – Dragonslayer

00:23 – Kill Bill Vol. 2

00:26 – The Empire Strikes Back

00:29 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

00:33 – Zatoichi

00:35 – Hellboy 2

00:37 – The Mask of Zorro

00:40 – The Phantom Menace

00:45 – Peter Pan

00:47 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

00:49 – Revenge of the Sith

00:52 – The Duelists

00:54 – LadyHawke

00:55 – The Count of Montecristo

00:56 – Kingdom of Heaven

00:58 – Blade

01:03 – The 13th warrior

01:05 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

01:06 – The Fellowship of the Ring

01:07 – Highlander

01:12 – Cutthroat Island

01:13 – Dangerous Liaisons

01:14 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

01:20 – The Attack of the Clones

01:26 – Stardust

01:28 – House of Flying Daggers

01:30 – Matrix Reloaded

01:32 – The Flame and the Arrow

01:35 – Willow

01:36 – Cyrano de Bergerac

01:48 – Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves

01:49 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

01:50 – Hamlet (1996)

01:52 – Rob Roy

02:02 – Young Sherlock Holmes

02:08 – The Crow

02:12 – Casanova

02:20 – Star Wars: A New Hope

02:29 – The Four Musketeers (1974)

02:31 – Dragonheart

02:33 – The Return of the Jedi

02:38 – Hook

02:40 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

02:44 – Army of Darkness

02:55 – Azumi

02:57 – 300

03:01 – Excalibur

03:03 – Blind Fury

03:05 – The Curse of the Golden Flower

03:38 – Equilibrium

Hat tip to io9.

24 Jan 2015

“It’s Barack Obama’s Cloud Cuckoo-Land and We Just Live In It”

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ObamaBiden50

Michael Walsh finds the arrogance of Barack Obama’s SOTU address perfectly consistent with the personality of the man who wrote an autobiography after graduating from law school, and who concluded that his fortuitous elevation to the US Senate demonstrated his qualification for the presidency.

It’s easy to despise Barack Hussein Obama, perhaps the least qualified man ever to accede to the Oval Office. The empty resume, the imaginary biographies, the laziness, the arrogance, the profligacy with the public treasury, the weakness, the cowardice and the cringing servility when dealing with America’s enemies abroad: his six years as president of the United States — a presidency we will all look back upon someday with wonder, shame and national embarrassment — have been as disastrous and harmful as some of us predicted at the time. The man is a disgrace.

And yet…

There is one thing, and one thing only, to like about him. And that is his complete and utter contempt for his domestic political enemies and the high-handedness with which he treats them. And why shouldn’t he? As the beneficiary of the Being There presidency, he must retire to the family quarters of the White House each night laughing his head off at the electorate and yet at the same time being utterly convinced of his own rightness. After all, he won, didn’t he? Twice! If he’s so dumb… how come he’s president?

As Yuval Levin noted in a post over at NRO after the State of the Union speech, Obama acts as if the electorate had not just delivered his party a crushing rebuke in an election in which he said quite clearly that while he may not have been on the ballot, his policies most certainly were. (Not that he cares about what happens to the Democrats after he retires to a live of Secret Service-protected, taxpayer-supported, think-tank enriched utter indolence.) But he appears to be living in a fantasy land of his own device, one in which he, Barry, remains beloved by the masses who didn’t bother to show up at the polls.

    The most striking thing about President Obama’s State of the Union address was how thoroughly and consciously it was disconnected from the political moment. The president addressed the Congress he will face for the remainder of his term, which is the most Republican Congress since 1929, but he didn’t really speak to that Congress or to the electorate that sent it. He made no mention of the recent congressional election and offered no reason to think its results would change his approach to his own job.

    Instead, he began by pointing to economic gains that suggest that, six years after the end of the last recession, we may finally see the sort of growth that could merit being called a recovery. He then proceeded to propose a set of policies — giving the federal government far more power over community colleges, cutting taxes for families with two working parents but not for those with a stay-at-home parent, levying new mandates on employers — designed to draw contrasts with Republicans rather than to close distances or to be enacted. Then he painted a rosy picture of international affairs on an Earth-like planet that plainly is not this one. And finally he hearkened back to the promise of his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, which he knows everyone recalls fondly on cold nights, and said it wasn’t too late for Americans to prove ourselves worthy of that speech and its maker, if only we would behave a little less like congressional Republicans.

In short, so far, so nuts.

Read the whole thing.

24 Jan 2015

Ships’ Dazzle Camouflage WWI

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Dazzle1
Dazzle2

The Battle of Jutland must have looked like all the admirals had recently dropped acid.

Belacqui:

Modern art, wartime strategy and perceptual psychology converged during World War I giving rise to dazzle camouflage. The only color visual records of dazzle camouflage from the period are paint-scheme drawings made by the Admiralty and modernist marine paintings. The picture by Group of 7 artist Arthur Lismer of HMS Olympic in dazzle is not a fauvist hallucination, but a true record of the ship’s appearance just after the Armistice. The modernist painter Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889-1949) supervised the application of dazzle camouflage at the Liverpool naval shipbuilding yards during World War I. He painted the image above and others, and also made wood block prints depicting ships in dazzle. After the war, he also painted abstract compositions based on dazzle patterns.

ArthurLismerOlympic
Arthur Lismer, Olympic With Returned Soldiers, Halifax, 1918, Canadian War Museum

24 Jan 2015

Plots Nobody Uses

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UndramaticPlotStructures

24 Jan 2015

If John Kerry Had Been Running WWII…

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James-Taylor-Squad

24 Jan 2015

Just a Small Percentage…

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Muslims-and-Nazis

23 Jan 2015

Archaeological Tyranny & Hype

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Nebra sky disc

The National Post describes, with grossly naive exaggeration and the worst kind of statist prejudice, an interesting, rather pretty Bronze Age artifact with an outrageously offensive history.

The Nebra disc was found in 1999 along with two bronze swords, two hatchets, a chisel, and fragments of spiral bracelets, by Henry Westphal and Mario Renner using a metal detector.

The government of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt claims to own everything in the ground and, as knowledge of the find gradually became known to the public, confiscated all the artifacts found and charged the discoverers with “looting.” Westphal and Renner were convicted and sentenced to prison, as a reward for their discovery, for four months and ten months in 2003. When they appealed, the appeal court raised their sentences to six and twelve months.

Thus, as the National Post reports, the precious artifacts were “saved from the black market” and transferred to the custody of bureaucratic officialdom and the all-knowing administrative state.

The disc has been dated on the basis of the style of the bronze swords buried with it to the mid 2nd millennium BC. Radiocarbon dating of a bit of birchbark found on one of the swords was dated to between 1600 and 1560 BC confirming the former estimate.

The author of the article was scarcely able to breathe while describing the totally astonishing alleged scientific significance of the disc. Why, the Nebra disc represents the earliest human depiction of the cosmos!

Saxony-Anhalt’s house prehistorian & archaeologist Harald Meller (who personally confiscated the horde on behalf of the Leviathan state) has interpreted the disc as a tool used for determining when a thirteenth month – the so-called intercalary month – should be added to a lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons. When certain prominent constellations, particularly the Pleiades, lined up with the sun and moon as displayed on the disc, every 2-3 years, it would be time to add an extra month in order to bring the lunar and solar calendars into agreement.

Or maybe it was simply made as a piece of decorative art, depicting the most prominent constellations in the night sky.

There is, of course, no real reason, beyond arrogance and brute force, why any state should be entitled to lay claim to ownership of all undiscovered archaeological finds, and there is also no particular reason to believe that immediate state ownership is essential to their preservation. Art objects have been collected and preserved historically most commonly privately since Antiquity. In the modern world, art objects privately owned have a strong tendency to make their way via philanthropy into institutional collections.

These days, we read frequently of absolutely fascinating finds made by hobbyist metal collectors in Britain. In Saxony-Anhalt, I expect we will be reading about fewer of those, since the reward for discovery there is imprisonment for looting.

Wikipedia article

Meller’s theory explained

22 Jan 2015

We’ve All Had Mornings Like This

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seaotters

22 Jan 2015

Sullydish Readers Defend Rand

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Ayn-Rand-008

Andrew the Illegal Immigrant, like many other people, blogged about the recently-gone-viral letter from Ayn Rand to her niece who wanted a loan, but (being a Rand villain) Andrew described Rand’s missive as “amazingly horrible.”

Andrew Sullivan does get these occasional fits of actual integrity in his blogging, though, and yesterday he passed along this highly effective demurral from one of his readers:

I don’t see what is so “horrible” in what Ayn Rand wrote to her niece. First, the niece didn’t ask for $25 as a gift; she asked to borrow it. If you read the letter, Rand gives TWO examples of where a similar request was made, and the money was NOT used to accomplish the stated goal, nor was it paid back. Second, Rand didn’t insist on charging interest, merely getting the principle back. Third, she simply insisted the niece be honest and A) spend it on what she said, and B) pay the loan back when she had the chance instead of spending on something else.

Or if you don’t want to be horrible like her, I too could use some new clothes to improve my employment opportunities, and a $250 (inflation adjusted from 1949) Amazon gift credit in reply would help. And you shouldn’t be horrible about insisting that I really use it for clothes, or that I pay it back, much less according to some terms. If you did insist, you would be “horrible” just like her.

This is the one thing often missed in Ayn Rand’s works: the heroes keep their promises, and pay what they owe “to the last dime”, often at great cost.

And another of Andrew’s readers added:

I’m a bit miffed at how ill treated this letter is in your post. What an invaluable lesson this is about debt! …

Most people in the US think nothing about taking on a new credit card – or a fancy new degree – and the mountain of “irresponsibly” laid down debt literally destroys their lives. It destroys their entrepreneurial spirit; it destroys their educational, relational, and employment opportunities; it destroys their quality of life and entrenches mild- to severe poverty; and it degrades them psychologically and virtually eliminates any taste for risk taking and enterprise, locking them into “getting by” employment to constantly service the debt.

Would that they had someone as wise as Rand cautioning them to think reeeeealy hard before taking on $40,000 for that BS Degree or $10,000 for a late-model car when they could be driving around a reliable beater. Think of the suffering that could have been alleviated if such lessons were taught to the entire generation of then-17 year old millennials who are currently groaning under their debt.

And let’s look at the massive handicap our national debt has on this same generation and their children. Would that anyone in Congress had had an aunt as shrewd as Ms. Rand! Look at the Greek debt or historic Latin American debt. How “horrible” would it have been to have a tut-tutting aunt make people painfully aware of the potential repercussions of their decisions before undertaking them? How much global suffering could have been avoided with a little more tough love from a wiry, stick-in-the-mud Aunty like Ayn Rand?

Read the whole thing.

22 Jan 2015

Geoffrey Chaucer in 1386

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Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer from the Ellesmere Manuscript.

Stevie Davies reviews Paul Strohn’s microbiography: Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury in The Independent.

Strohm centres on a single year, 1386, at the end of which Chaucer “suddenly found himself without a patron, without a faction, without a dwelling, without a job … without a city.”

Exiled from London and his literary circle, Strohm’s Chaucer lost an audience, in an age before the printing press, when poetry in manuscript was read aloud in performance. The book’s compelling thesis is that Chaucer’s loss generated the invention of a “portable audience” within The Canterbury Tales: the pilgrims themselves. …

One of Chaucer’s overarching themes is the volatility of fortune, whose reversals – if we are wise – teach us “to maken virtu of necessitee”. Strohm’s Chaucer is essentially a small player in a world of venal power politics, “a politician of limited gifts, and not much of a factionalist either”. A loyalist of Richard II, he’d risen by espousing the long-term losing party. Esquire to the king, Chaucer had made an advantageous marriage. But he and his higher-ranking wife, Philippa de Roet, sister to John of Gaunt’s mistress, Katherine Swynford, lived apart and his association with the loathed Gaunt jeopardised him.

Deployed by his political masters to the post of controller of wool custom, Chaucer had the unenviable job of monitoring the activities of “some of the richest and best connected and least scrupulous crooks on the face of his planet”. Strohm’s portrait of the collector of the lucrative wool custom, corrupt magnate Nicholas Brembre, is formidable. When the royalist faction secured Chaucer’s election to the 1386 Parliament, and Brembre’s wheel came thundering down, so did Chaucer’s. His grace and favour apartment was forfeit. Strohm assesses Chaucer’s withdrawal from public life as “a matter of constrained choice”. Chaucer became “a wanderer in Kent, with no fixed job and insufficient income”. …

Losing “that thick and involving texture of London life” meant forfeit not only of discomfort but of stimulation and conviviality. The listening audience Chaucer now lacked he invented as a fellowship of pilgrims: “Chaucer’s varied cast of rogues, pitchmen, scammers … divines, social snobs, humble toilers [is] a miracle of imaginative inclusion.” …

From the misfortune of 1386, Chaucer moved towards a sense of authorial identity, preparing his literary legacy for generations to come. The pilgrims mediated “between Chaucer and the extended public he has begun to imagine”. The poet’s humiliated exile, Strohm compellingly suggests, is part of the deep story of how The Canterbury Tales came into being.

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