14 Jul 2016

Seriema Golf

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Red-legged seriema (Cariama cristata) at golf course in Brazil.

14 Jul 2016

Samuel L. Jackson Describes the First Five Seasons of “Game of Thrones”

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13 Jul 2016

“Why Not the Third Amendment Too, Justice Ginsburg?”

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RuthBaderGinsburg

James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal, delivered a devastating rebuke to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent political indiscretions in the course of a New York Times interview.

Ginsburg’s comments about Trump, which were somewhat vague if you read them closely, were less objectionable than many of the other things she said in the same interview. She also damned the Senate for declining to take up the high-court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland: “ ‘That’s their job,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.’ ”

That’s literally true, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate stops being the Senate under any circumstances. Ginsburg is making a one-sided political argument and framing it as a constitutional mandate. Which, come to think of it, isn’t that different from her approach to jurisprudence. National Review’s Ed Whelan offers a backhanded compliment: “Let’s give her credit . . . for exposing, once again, how nakedly political she is.” …

It gets worse still. Liptak asked Ginsburg if there are “cases she would like to see the court overturn before she leaves it.” Her answer: “I’d love to see Citizens United overturned.” In that 2010 First Amendment case, the Federal Election Commission unsuccessfully claimed it had the authority to criminalize the distribution of a film critical of Hillary Clinton, whom Ginsburg has now implicitly endorsed for the presidency.

She also told Liptak that District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which established that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, was “a very bad decision,” adding (in Liptak’s words) “that a chance to reconsider it could arise whenever the court considers a challenge to a gun control law.” Lipsky reports that “the Times . . . seemed to want to protect Ginsburg from the fallout from this error of judgment, deleting it from the article until sharp-eyed readers called out the paper and the lines were restored.”

There’s no indication that Liptak asked Ginsburg if she also has designs on the Third Amendment. But if you wake up one morning and find a strange soldier on your couch, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

And that’s not all, folks. Ginsburg went on to reveal confidential information about the court’s deliberations during the term just ended. She disclosed how the late Justice Antonin Scalia voted in two cases on which the court deadlocked, and she asserted that Justice Elena Kagan would have joined the 4-3 majority to uphold racial discrimination in Fisher v. University of Texas, from which Kagan recused herself. “If Justice Kagan had been there, it would have been 5 to 3,” Ginsburg asserted.

So, to sum up: Ginsburg, in an on-the-record interview, took political positions on the presidential election and a Senate confirmation, indicated that she intends in future cases to vote to curtail constitutional rights, and violated the secrecy of the Supreme Court conference room.

13 Jul 2016

Everything That Will Kill You, From A to Z

13 Jul 2016

Hard Reboot Required

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AmericaReboot

12 Jul 2016

Putin Purged Baltic Fleet

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PutinBaltic

Daily Mail:

Vladimir Putin has sacked every single commander in Russia’s Baltic fleet in what has been described as a ‘Stalin-style’ purge.

Up to 50 officers of the fleet were fired alongside Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk and his chief of staff Rear Admiral Sergei Popov after they reportedly refused to follow orders to confront Western ships.

Reports in Russia also suggested the purges followed an alleged cover-up of a submarine accident, flaws in recruitment and military construction projects.

It comes amid an undisclosed number of other senior officers of the fleets have been fired over serious flaws in combat training and their failure to take proper care of personnel.

The purges’ scope and publicity make them highly unusual for the Russian military, which usually removes senior officers in a more subtle way.

It is particularly unexpected as it follows Putin’s visit to the Baltic fleet last year in Kalingrad, during which he praised its performance.

However, there has been speculation the drastic measures were prompted after the US Navy ship the USS Donald Cook was ‘buzzed’ by Russian fighter bombers in April, which was meant to be part of a series of confrontations against Western ships in the Baltic.

But international affairs analyst Peter Coates told news.com.au: ‘But the Russian Baltic Fleet, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders – hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.

Meanwhile after news of the sackings were announced, the Moscow Times noted that ‘not since Stalin’s purges had so many officers been ousted at once.’

12 Jul 2016

Identifying the Philistines

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PhilistineCemetery

AP:

An archaeological discovery announced on Sunday in Israel may help solve an enduring biblical mystery: where did the ancient Philistines come from?

The Philistines left behind plenty of pottery. But part of the mystery surrounding the ancient people was that very little biological trace of them had been found — until 2013.

That’s when archaeologists excavating the site of the biblical city of Ashkelon found what they say is the first Philistine cemetery ever discovered. They say they have uncovered the remains of more than 200 people there.

The discovery was finally unveiled Sunday at the close of a 30-year excavation by the Leon Levy Expedition, a team of archaeologists from Harvard University, Boston College, Wheaton College in Illinois and Troy University in Alabama.

The team is now performing DNA, radiocarbon and other tests on bone samples uncovered at the cemetery, dating back to between the 11th and the 8th centuries B.C., to help resolve a debate about the Philistines’ geographical origins. The archaeologists have not announced any conclusions, saying they are taking advantage of recent advances in DNA testing to get the most accurate results.

———————————————–

Times of Israel:

The discovery of a sizable cemetery, with over 210 individuals, at a site conclusively linked to the Philistines, was a “critical missing link” that allows scholars “to fill out the story of the Philistines,” said Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College.

The cemetery, discovered just outside the ancient city walls and dated to between the 11th and 8th centuries BCE — a period associated with the rise of the Israelites — may contain thousands of individuals, providing an abundance of material to study, he said.

With that broad a population, “we’re going to be able to reconstruct what the Philistines as a group were like,” Master said.

The announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of an Israel Museum exhibit showcasing finds spanning 6,000 years from Ashkelon at the Rockefeller. Among the items on display are 3,800-year-old city gates, gold and silver jewelry demonstrating its commercial prominence, and a Roman marble slab etched with Crusader and Fatimid inscriptions.

Throughout much of its 22 layers of settlement, Ashkelon was a “great seaport,” situated on the Mediterranean and on the main coastal trade route,” Harvard University’s Larry Stager, co-director of the dig, said. It was significantly larger than cities inland during the Bronze and Iron Age, with 10-12,000 people, because it could sustain greater population through commerce.

Ashkelon was one of the five main Philistine cities for six centuries — , along with Gaza, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron — from the 1100s BCE down to Ashkelon’s destruction by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 604 BCE.

“We’ve uncovered their houses, we’ve uncovered their trading networks, we’ve uncovered all aspects of their culture,” Master said. With the discovery of the cemetery, “we’re finally going to see the people themselves.”

“There have been other random finds of people caught in Philistine destruction on occasion,” he explained, “but nothing like this. No systematic example of what they thought about death and how they treated people in that process.”

Isolated graves containing Philistine style pottery were thought to be possible examples of their practices, but the few cases were not enough to convince most scholars.

“What we needed for a Philistine cemetery was to find a large one that was directly connected to one of the cities we know as a Philistine city,” Master said. “And Ashkelon is exactly that.”

Scholars believe the Philistines were among a number of tribes of non-Semitic peoples who migrated across the Mediterranean — possibly from modern Greece and Turkey — and settled the Canaanite coast in the early Iron Age.

12 Jul 2016

Fact: GOP Delegates Are Not Bound

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1876GOPConvention
1876 Republican Convention in Cincinnati

At the Hill, Curley Haugland and Sean Parnell explain both the history and the law.

As the Republican National Convention prepares to kick off next week in Cleveland, there is a lot of confusion and controversy over the question of whether delegates to the convention are “bound” to vote for any particular candidate as a result of primary or caucus results, or state party directions.

The controversy stems from the fact that a large number of delegates believe they cannot in good conscience vote for presumed nominee Donald Trump, while the confusion stems from either a misunderstanding of the history and rules of the Republican National Convention, or more recently a blizzard of misinformation and misdirection coming from those who wish delegates were bound

Here are the facts about delegates to the Republican National Convention and efforts to bind their vote according to primary results or instructions from their state party.

Republican delegates to the national convention have always been unbound by national party rules, with the single exception. The issue was decisively settled in 1876 when delegates voted 395 to 353 to uphold past rulings stating that delegates could not be bound to vote against their conscience. Following the vote, the chairman of the convention summarized the party’s position by saying “[I]t is he right of every individual member thereof to vote his individual sentiments.”

In the following convention in 1880, rules committee chair James A. Garfield, who wound up winning the nomination himself on the 36th ballot and the White House that fall, wrote what is today Rule 37(b) of the temporary rules of the convention. This rule was enacted specifically to provide a mechanism that would ensure every delegate was unbound and free to vote their conscience, and it gave every delegate the right to challenge his delegation’s announced vote on the floor of the convention and have his vote recorded as he wished.

In rejecting the binding of delegates, both the 1876 and 1880 conventions were embracing what had been the understanding of previous conventions dating back to 1856, the first Republican National Convention. At both 1860 and 1868 conventions, some delegations arrived with instructions or recommendations from their state conventions on which candidate to vote for, and at both conventions the right of delegates to ignore those directions and vote their consciences was upheld.

The Republican National Convention has also historically rejected the idea that state laws could bind delegates any more than state party rules or directions could. The very first time delegates were supposedly bound by state law was at the 1912 convention.

Both the Illinois and Oregon delegations announced that state law dictated how they were to vote, but that some delegates did not want to vote as ordered. In the same way the Republican convention had always rejected any sort of binding, those delegates were allowed to vote according to their consciences and ignore state law. The Oregon delegation made similar announcements in 1916 and 1920, and each time delegates were allowed to ignore state law and vote their consciences.

Although some claim it is “illegal” for delegates to defy state laws instructing them how to vote, the U.S. Supreme Court held in two cases nearly forty years ago that state laws could not trump national party rules. Part of their reasoning was that political parties must be free from government control, particularly in matters as important as who the party’s nominee would be, delegate selection, and how delegates could vote.

A careful reading of the rules passed by the 2012 Republican National Convention proves this to be the common understanding and practice of the party. Rules 14 and 16, which govern the election and selection of delegates to the convention, include several references to the fact that the national convention is free to ignore state law, including two occasions where rules begin with the phrase “No state law shall be observed…”

And Rule 16(b)(1) stipulates that state party rules take precedence over state laws governing the election and selection of delegates, and that national party rules take precedence over both. So clearly the national party does not accept that state laws can supersede either state or national party rules.

The only time delegates have been bound by primary results or anything else was in 1976, when the campaign of President Gerald Ford pushed through a rule requiring votes from nineteen states with laws purporting to bind delegates be announced and recorded as if those laws were valid. It was widely understood at the time those laws were unconstitutional as a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling, but the rule was sufficient to bind delegates’ votes for the first time in Republican National Convention history. …

In short, the history of the Republican National Convention proves that delegates have always, with the exception of 1976, been free to vote their conscience, and the rule that has protected this right over the last 136 years remains part of the temporary rules of the 2016 convention. The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the issue also make clear that delegates are free to ignore state laws purporting to bind them, and the one national party rule purporting to bind delegates expires at the start of the convention.

These facts make clear that all delegates are completely unbound and free to vote their conscience on any and all matters that come before them, including the first ballot to decide the party’s nominee for president. No rule change is needed to unbind delegates, so long as the party stands by its 160-year history (aside from the blemish of 1976) protecting this important right.

———————-

The Washington Post reported that a federal judge in Richmond ruled on Monday that Virginia can’t require Republican National Convention delegates to back Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Robert Payne said the Virginia state law requiring delegates who oppose Mr. Trump to vote for him next week at the party’s convention creates “a severe burden” on First Amendment rights.

But Judge Payne explicitly avoided weighing in on whether Republican National Committee rules requiring convention delegates to follow the results of their states as dictated by state and national party rules. Judge Payne said he “lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate” the broader unbinding question.

The Republican Party’s rules explicitly state that they take precedent over state laws and state party rules.

Judge Payne’s ruling has no impact on the rules of the GOP convention, which will be determined by the convention’s Rules Committee when it begins meeting Thursday.

11 Jul 2016

Arguing the Lee-Enfield’s Superiority

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When I was younger, you could find barrels of them in gun stores selling for $35. Nobody wanted them. Their ungainly full-length stocks seemed to have been fashioned from old telephone poles and there is this great big hunk of crude iron dividing the stock into two parts just above the trigger. They have a huge, ugly monstrosity of a magazine hanging out the bottom, and though it is removable, it is not actually intended to be changed or removed, which makes the whole thing a kind of material self-contradiction.

All in all, they look to have been made by subterranean morlocks, a species with no previous acquaintance with firearms, to be as cheap, crude, and inexpensive as possible. The US Springfield is in comparison beautiful. To the American eye, these things simply do not look like a rifle is supposed to look. You cannot make a fine-looking sporter out of one of them whatever you do. And, finally, they fire a rimmed cartridge which has nothing especially positive going for it and which is decidedly inferior to the .30-06. There was just plain never any reason you’d want to own one.

Time, though, has a way of changing things.

Back then, most American shooters turned up their noses at Model 1911 .45 Automatics. Americans liked revolvers. The military .45 was considered loose, sloppy, and intrinsically inaccurate compared to a Smith & Wesson sixgun that functioned like a fine watch. Time went by, Jeff Cooper evangelized, custom gunsmiths accurized them, and target shooters started winning matches with them. As WWII receded into history, the handgun that the marines used to break Banzai charges at Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal began suddenly to seem bathed in glory. Everybody wanted one.

The same sort of thing has been happening more recently to the old SMLE. It used to be part of the untouchable category, along with Mosins, Arisakas, and Mannlicher Carcanos, of surplus clunkers useless for making into sporters that nobody particularly wanted to own. Now, it is becoming widely regarded as “the best fighting rifle” (the Springfield being described as “the best target rifle” and the Mauser 98 as “the best hunting rifle”) of the Great War.

Bloke-in-the-Range’s video is amateurishly produced, to say the least. (It breaks in the middle because his camera suddenly runs out of battery power.) But I think it is actually, nonetheless, well worth watching, because he makes the best case for the SMLE that I have yet heard.

I picked one up recently at a local farm auction. Now I’m equipped for the Apocalypse. I’ve got myself a modern rapid-fire assault rifle, 1917-style.

11 Jul 2016

The Nightwatch

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10 Jul 2016

The Clinton Deal

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TrumpShortFinger

Liberal democrat Maureen Dowd is not exactly thrilled with her party’s impending nominee. Hey! why should we be the only ones with a crappy, hideously undesirable candidate?

[T]he email transgression is not a one off. It’s part of a long pattern of ethical slipping and sliding, obsessive secrecy and paranoia, and collateral damage.

Comey’s verdict that Hillary was “negligent” was met with sighs rather than shock. We know who Hillary and Bill are now. We’ve been held hostage to their predilections and braided intrigues for a long time. (On the Hill, Comey refused to confirm or deny that he’s investigating the Clinton Foundation, with its unseemly tangle of donors and people doing business with State.)

We’re resigned to the Clintons focusing on their viability and disregarding the consequences of their heedless actions on others. They’re always offering a Faustian deal. This year’s election bargain: Put up with our iniquities or get Trump’s short fingers on the nuclear button.

Now she’s complaining. I don’t exactly remember, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Maureen Dowd was a staunch MoveOn.org supporter, back when Republicans were trying to bring Bill to justice.

10 Jul 2016

The Intentional Obsolescence Trap

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My wife and I bought a new BMW in the early 1980s (Our first new car!). It was terrific, fun to drive, luxurious and reliable. We sold it about ten years later. It had over 350,000 miles on the original engine.

We bought another new Beemer more recently. I discovered, too late, that it came with run-flat tires (no traction at all on gravel roads –Virginia Horse Country is full of gravel roads, and we lived on one–, accompanied by constant false electronic warnings of low tire pressure) which proved good for 10,000 miles. The run-flat tires were used because BMW (encouraged by government bureaucrats to save energy by reducing weight) had chosen to eliminate the spare tire.

What really burned my cork, though, was the discovery that the engine had no dipstick, no way to check the oil. The owner is intended to rely entirely on the dashboard computer, the same computer that issues “The World Is Ending! The Sky Is Falling! Your Engine Has Blown Up!” warnings in very cold weather, or anytime (easily) blocked engine or trunk compartment drains cause wiring to get wet.

I’ve recognized myself the same characteristics of modern consumer products Oilman2 inveighs against. I agree with him. I’ve been swearing lately that my next automobile is going to have been made on the other side of 1960, back when cars were made out of steel, not plastic, and had distributors and carburetors you could adjust yourself and no goddamned computers or emissions crap.

When you buy a car, it is designed for a maximum lifespan of about 10 years, but many are designed with even less. This gives the “design engineer” a window of materials within which he can operate. As an example, cars from the 1950’s used metal dashboards. Now, many reasons are given for why plastic and foam dashboards are currently used, including safety. But I will posit here that the safety was secondary and a great sales driver for using a lower cost material. …

Have you ever owned a car you wanted to keep, only to have the dashboard crack? The air conditioning vents crack? The control knobs crack? That is UV light doing what it does, breaking things down by shattering chemical bonds. …

As a long term material, plastic… well, it just sucks. …

My buddy George was lamenting to me just the other day that the starter on his tractor has a plastic gear that contacts and spins the flywheel. Yep – it goes out very regularly. He asked them why they no longer made a metal one, and was told that the plastic design “put less stress and wear on the flywheel”. Seriously? Really? A part that is truly designed to fail regularly, to protect another metal part that rarely, if ever, fails? I have replaced ONE (1) flywheel in my almost 60 years, and it was damaged by an idiot that just kept cranking a worn out starter. …

In a world where things cost what they are actually worth, it is nuts to knowingly buy anything you will be forced to purchase again in a few years. Today, things do not cost what they are worth – they are cheap, built cheaply with minimal cost materials and minimal standards. They are built in what I term ‘justenuf’ style – justenuf to work for a job or two. They are cheap in America due to the strong dollar as well, further fueling this morass of planned obsolescence, cheap plastic junk and ‘justenuf construction’. …

So my advice is pretty simple:

Buy items that you can repair

This may mean buying older things and restoring them to service. A 1960’s or earlier vehicle will be restorable for a cost of around $10-20,000. What does a new vehicle cost? Can you work on it yourself? Nope, so how much does a trip to the shop cost you? Minimum $500 for the easy things – easily 2x or 3x that for more difficult parts replacement.

What about a lawn mower? Easily $500 or more for something reliable like a Honda or a Husqvarna. A rebuilt one with fresh motor can be had for $300 or less – I see them at the same shops I used to take my mower to for service.

Buy items that have simple, reliable designs

Anything with an ECU (electronic control unit or computer control) is not normally fixable by a guy with some tools. This is intentional, to force you back to the dealer system for service. Anything with computer or digital controls is likely designed in similar vein. Is it really necessary to have touchpad controls and a logic board on a washing machine? To have a refrigerator that has a grocery list linked to your I-phone?

Every time digital is added to a device, the cost goes up for the initial purchase, but the maintenance and repair costs skyrocket. There is little difference in the mechanics internally – freon and compressor for a fridge or freezer and timing circuits and solenoids for the washer. The ‘digital’ end is another level of complexity tacked on to make a common item appear more “tech-ish” and new again.

Buy new items with fewer tech features – reduce points of failure.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

10 Jul 2016

Fly Fishing in the Catskills

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Larger video

10 Jul 2016

Marvel & DC Taken Over by SJWs

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Female Thor

Charles Nash notes that comic book sales are dropping after Marvel and DC sold out to the Social Justice Warrior crowd.

“Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor?” Marvel villain The Absorbing Man yells at the new “female Thor” during a vicious street brawl in an issue published last year. “Damn feminists ruining everything!”

The dialogue mirrored most sane reader’s thoughts during the issue, but we’re not all monsters. We are just loyal, long-time readers who are sick of our favorite characters being butchered by nose-ringed lesbians for the sake of diversity, and at the apparent expense not just of dialogue, story and creativity but also, it now appears, the commercial success of Marvel’s comic books line. …

Increasing customer frustration at obscure third-wave feminism preoccupations shoehorning their way into Marvel’s comic books is starting to have an effect on sales. It turns out you can’t bully people into caring about “microaggressions.” …

Marvel isn’t getting the message. Its latest comic book character is — wait for it — a fifteen year-old black female Iron Man. That’s right. Tony Stark, the badass, billionaire playboy businessman who has represented the quintessential white American male since the 1960s is to be replaced by a fifteen year-old black girl with an Afro and hooped earrings.

Other comic book publishers are hardly saints, of course. In an issue of DC’s Wonder Woman last year, the popular female superhero complained about a villain “mansplaining” to her before an ally punched him in the face for the crime. “The lasso compels truth, but it can’t stop mansplaining,” declared Wonder Woman as the “bad guy” had his teeth knocked out of his mouth.

The new social political styles seem a weird choice for publishers who have a predominately apolitical — and disproportionately male — audience. …

“We’re seeing the worst falloff of Marvel and DC sales in the store’s 38-year history,” complained one comic book store owner in an industry forum. “Both companies are losing established readers who no longer feel that the company’s output reflects the sort of comics they enjoy.”

Read the whole thing.

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