03 Sep 2014

9-Year-Olds and Uzis

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UziClass

Amy Davidson, in the New Yorker, quarrels with the characterization by the local sheriff of the accidental shooting death of instructor Charles Vacca by a 9-year-old girl firing an Uzi as “an industrial accident.”

The Arizona Last Stop, where a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot her instructor with an Uzi last Monday, has already reopened. It was “booked pretty solid” for the Labor Day weekend, Sam Scarmardo, the owner, told Reuters. The sheriff of Mohave County described a video of the shooting—recorded by the girl’s parents, who were tourists from New Jersey—as “grisly,” and has filed his report. He found that there is no cause for any criminal charges, not against whoever put together the range’s Bullets and Burgers Adventure, designed to put automatic military weapons in the hands of children as young as eight, or against anyone else. Instead, the sheriff referred the case to the Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health, because, he said, it was “being viewed as an industrial accident.”

“An industrial accident”: that phrase raises the question of what industry we are talking about. …

There are many businesses that make up the gun industry, including the buying and selling of political influence. In Arizona and many other states, the realm of firearms is poorly regulated, from gun stores and fairs to tourist traps like Last Stop. As the Arizona Republic wrote, “Arizona statutes do address firing ranges, but the laws primarily deal with noise levels. No laws govern any training protocols for firearms instructors, safety guidelines or age restrictions. But even if there were, there is no regulatory authority to enforce them.” A former Last Stop employee described the range, to the Republic, as a “shake and bake” operation, but, for what it’s worth, its enforcement record was clean. Setting a minimum age of eight to use a gun on a range has been described, since Vacca’s death, as something of an industry standard in many states. There is still an overhanging injunction that workplaces be generally safe, and maybe the Arizona authorities can do something with that, but there is not much cause for optimism.

This shouldn’t be surprising; it is not accidental. The same political forces that gather around gun rights are those railing against government in any form, even the kind that involves keeping children and their gun instructors, or other teachers, safe. We are left not only with lax gun laws but shake-and-bake shooting ranges. This is part of the explanation for why talking to the gun lobby about “common-sense regulations” never seems to go well. They are drawing on, and stoking, a view that presumes the foolishness of regulations. It is sad and telling that the only department left to look into Vacca’s death is the state equivalent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—regularly derided by Republicans—and that it’s unlikely to be able to do much at all.

A possible question for a 2016 Republican Party debate is whether the candidates think that nine-year-olds should ever be permitted to fire automatic weapons.

But an industrial accident, i.e. an accident which occurred as the result of improper handling of a tool, was precisely what happened.

The 9-year-old girl was clearly too small, too weak and uncoordinated, and insufficiently instructed in the safe handling and management of that weapon in full-automatic fire. She fired too long a burst and lost control of the weapon, which climbed as the result of recoil as it proceeded to continue to fire causing the muzzle to move beyond her intended target, and finally move upward to the left, winding up pointed at one moment as it continued to discharge at the unfortunate instructor’s head.

Was it unwise to put that Uzi into the hands of this 9-year-old girl? Clearly, it was. Yet, I feel perfectly sure that Mr. Vacca could have put that Uzi into the hands of entire school classes full of 9-year-olds without any such accident occurring. Most children would have kept their heads and never lost control of the Uzi. If warned in advance of the hazards of firing too long a burst, if given a magazine for full-auto fire with a more limited number of rounds, if the child were taller or if the instructor stayed lower or stood further behind the child, if the instructor were more alert, Mr. Vacca’s tragic death could easily have been averted.

All over America and the world, adults, from time to time, in the natural course of life, expose children to the excitement and interest of using dangerous tools, machinery (and sometimes weapons) all of which are potentially lethal. Parents teach children how to drive a car, a tractor, a lawn mower, or an ATV. Adults show children how to use a power saw, a lathe, or other machine tools. Parents take children to the shooting range and allow them to handle and fire guns. That is precisely the way that children grow up acquainted with tools, weapons, and machinery and learn to use them safely.

Amy Davidson’s philosophic approach to a tragic accident of this kind is to demand new federal laws and regulations based on the prejudices and emotional responses of people like herself, bien pensants socially and geographically remote from the kind of people who like to play with guns, and who actually in reality possess no expertise concerning guns or firearm safety themselves whatsoever.

From the liberal point of view, the combination of the administrative state and the pure intrinsic wisdom of the well-educated elite is effectively omnipotent. Just surrender more liberty and money to them, let them pass some more laws and create another federal agency, and they can successfully regulate happenstance, misfortune, and human incompetence and stupidity out of existence.

Obviously, there are a lot of us who disagree.

Instructor Vacca’s death was a tragic accident, but Mr. Vacca himself had as good a chance as anyone could possibly have had of preventing it. He simply failed to foresee one extreme possibility. I expect that shooting instructors nationally are going to be a lot more careful about placing full-auto weapons in the hands of children, and are going to take extra precautions and be more alert when they do.

Davidson obviously falsely depicts shooting ranges as part of an imaginarily lucrative and conspiratorial firearms industry so rich that it can buy political immunity from regulation. Gun control has actually been successfully resisted almost entirely by the purely grass-roots efforts of individual sportsmen, hobbyists, and collectors. The firearms “industry” contributes modestly to the NRA and many of its member corporations sell out to government quite readily.

Shooting ranges are all well aware that they live in a litigious country with a predatory trial bar eager to go after them. They do not need political prodding to implement safety rules and protocols. Every shooting range has already adopted all of them that they could think of as necessary.

The accidental death of Mr. Vacca merely proves that human foresight is limited and that even experts –Mr. Vacca was undoubtedly an expert– make mistakes.

The decision about when a particular child should be permitted to shoot a gun, or drive a tractor, or even I would say, when a child should be permitted to take a drink, ought really to be left up to the child’s parents. We do not need state or national policies and the last people who should be permitted to regulate access to, and usage and possession of guns or other machinery or tools should be the kind of people who write in the New Yorker and who are completely innocent of personal acquaintance and familiarity with the things they wish to regulate.

03 Sep 2014

Who’s Really Shrinking Whom?

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Town Hall: Obama explained earlier today that he is working with the international community to shrink ISIS into a “manageable problem.”

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Twichy

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I’d say that it looks to most of us that adversaries like ISIS and Vladimir Putin have already managed to shrink Obama into a manageable problem.

TIny-Obama

03 Sep 2014

Shieldmaiden Burial

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lagertha
Ragnar Lodbrok’s’s wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), on Vikings (TV series).

TOR:

Shieldmaidens are not a myth! A recent archaeological discovery has shattered the stereotype of exclusively male Viking warriors sailing out to war while their long-suffering wives wait at home with baby Vikings. (We knew it! We always knew it.) Plus, some other findings are challenging that whole “rape and pillage” thing, too.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to revamp the way they studied Viking remains. Previously, researchers had misidentified skeletons as male simply because they were buried with their swords and shields. (Female remains were identified by their oval brooches, and not much else.) By studying osteological signs of gender within the bones themselves, researchers discovered that approximately half of the remains were actually female warriors, given a proper burial with their weapons.

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USA Today:

[T]he study looked at 14 Viking burials from the era, definable by the Norse grave goods found with them and isotopes found in their bones that reveal their birthplace. The bones were sorted for telltale osteological signs of which gender they belonged to, rather than assuming that burial with a sword or knife denoted a male burial.

Overall, McLeod reports that six of the 14 burials were of women, seven were men, and one was indeterminable. Warlike grave goods may have misled earlier researchers about the gender of Viking invaders, the study suggests. At a mass burial site called Repton Woods, “(d)espite the remains of three swords being recovered from the site, all three burials that could be sexed osteologically were thought to be female, including one with a sword and shield,” says the study.

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Early Medieval Europe journal abstract:

Various types of evidence have been used in the search for Norse migrants to eastern England in the latter ninth century. Most of the data gives the impression that Norse females were far outnumbered by males. But using burials that are most certainly Norse and that have also been sexed osteologically provides very different results for the ratio of male to female Norse migrants. Indeed, it suggests that female migration may have been as significant as male, and that Norse women were in England from the earliest stages of the migration, including during the campaigning period from 865.

03 Sep 2014

Vitruvian Basset

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02 Sep 2014

George Orwell, Literary Mediocrity

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Orwelltombstone

Will Self, the BBC Magazine, takes a potshot at the posthumous reputation of English Letters’ equivalent of Aristides the Just, the pious George Orwell.

Each generation of talented English mediocrities seizes upon one of their number and elevates her or him to become primus inter pares. Of course, these figures may not, in fact, be talented mediocrities at all, but rather genuinely adept and acute. However, what’s important is that they either play to the dull and cack-handed gallery, or that those who sit there see in them their own run-of-the-mill reflection.

The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we’ve had many political leaders, we’ve got by with just a single Supreme Mediocrity – George Orwell. …

It’s this prose style that has made Orwell the Supreme Mediocrity – and like all long-lasting leaders, he has an ideology to justify his rule. Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is frequently cited as a manifesto of plainspoken common sense – a principled assault upon all the jargon, obfuscation, and pretentiously Frenchified folderol that deforms our noble tongue. Orwell – it’s said by these disciples – established once and for all in this essay that anything worth saying in English can be set down with perfect clarity such that it’s comprehensible to all averagely intelligent English readers.

The only problem with this is that it’s not true – and furthermore, Orwell was plain wrong. …

As for most people who bother with the matter admitting that English is in a bad way – hardly. Since 1946, when Orwell’s essay was published, English has continued to grow and mutate, a great voracious beast of a tongue, snaffling up vocabulary, locutions and syntactical forms from the other languages it feeds on. There are more ways of saying more things in English than ever, and it follows perfectly logically that more people are shaping this versatile instrument for their purposes.

The trouble for the George Orwells of this world is that they don’t like the ways in which our tongue is being shaped. In this respect they’re indeed small “c” conservatives, who would rather peer at meaning by the guttering candlelight of a Standard English frozen in time, than have it brightly illumined by the high-wattage of the living, changing language.

Orwell and his supporters may say they’re objecting to jargon and pretension, but underlying this are good old-fashioned prejudices against difference itself. Only homogenous groups of people all speak and write identically. People from different heritages, ethnicities, classes and regions speak the same language differently.

Read the whole thing.

02 Sep 2014

Top News Item Today!

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Tweet62

Buzzfeed: Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, Other Celebs Victims Of More Alleged Photo And Video Leaks

Actual photos may be seen here.

01 Sep 2014

What Do Art History Majors Do For a Living?

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Ghostwriters

Are you a Chinese student with shaky English and a weak understanding of US college admission office culture who wants to go to Yale? You need to hire Eunice Park to write that application essay for you.

I’m a black market college admissions essay writer, and over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students. Although my clients have varied from earnest do-gooders to factory tycoon’s daughters who communicate primarily through emojis, they all have one thing in common: They’re unable to write meaningful sentences.

Sometimes this inability has stemmed from a language barrier, but other times they have struggled to understand what American college admissions committees are looking for in a personal essay. Either way, they have all been willing to pay me way more than my old waitressing job ever paid me.

Although I’m a second-generation Korean American like some of my clients, I never felt pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer. I majored in art history at college, and after graduation, I found myself bouncing from retail jobs to temp work. Every day, I loafed about in bed. Reading my friends’ Facebook statuses about finishing law school and starting their dream jobs, I wondered if I should ever leave my house. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or if I even possessed any skills someone could pay me to use—at least I didn’t know until my friend told me I could reap in a cash bonanza forging wealthy Asian students’ college essays.

Once I started ghostwriting essays, I quickly went from making $8.50 an hour as a waitress to making $2,000 in two weeks. In one admissions cycle, I wrote over a hundred essays and earned enough money to pay my bills for the rest of the year, pay off my car loan, and—as a treat for my hardworking hands—receive $150 Japanese manicures on a biweekly basis.

Each ghostwriting session starts with a daylong interview. I pry into every intimate corner of a client’s life: her family history, financial background, and childhood secrets. Then I try to pinpoint one relatable thread of pain or humanity, which I can make the focal point of an essay attached to a larger universal theme, like empathy or humility. …

The voice of a college admissions essay is very specific, especially when you’re writing from the perspective of a Chinese exchange student. You have to portray a lot of their expected characteristics while simultaneously fighting against some of their more negative stereotypes. You have to be timid yet idealistic, ambitious yet giving, and reserved yet honest. Selling personal stories of yourself written in the voice of strangers who lack empathy and humility will eventually dissolve you. At the end of every writing season, I always swear I will quit, but I’m still broke with no idea about the shape of my future. I can deny it all I want, but I know, come this fall, I will be in front of my computer at 2 AM mining my brain for another piece of myself to sell for $400.

01 Sep 2014

Tribute to Veterans

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31 Aug 2014

Another Summer of 1939?

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Novorossiya2
Novorossiya

Max Fisher identifies the key term in Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just dropped the biggest, scariest dogwhistle of the Ukraine crisis: “Novorossiya.”

The word literally means “new Russia” — it was an old, imperial-era term for southern Ukraine, when it was part of the Russian Empire, and is now a term used by Russia ultra-nationalists who want to re-conquer the area.

Putin has used the word twice during the crisis. First, he used it in April, about a month after Russia had invaded and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, subtly suggesting that the annexation was justified because Crimea was in Novorossiya and thus inherently part of Russia.

He used it again on Thursday, in an official presidential statement addressed to the eastern Ukrainian rebels that have seized parts of the country — and whom he addressed as “the militia of Novorossiya.”

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Anne Applebaum, who has written a book on the totalitarian genocides committed in Europe’s Eastern Borderlands during the last century, tells us that she suddenly feels as if she is living in the Summer of 1939, and warns, on the basis of familiarity with the kinds of things which appear in the Russian press which the New York Times is never going to report, just how scary the thoughts are that Russia is thinking.

A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”

But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot — argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries — “dwarf states,” he called them — and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”

A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.

Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But “Mein Kampf” also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.

31 Aug 2014

These Days, Not Such a Wonderful Life

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pottersville

A Facebook friend of Glenn Reynolds recently argued that, life under the leadership of Barack Obama, is a lot like the vision of Pottersville George Bailey was shown by the angel Clarence.

Let’s accept, arguendo, that the outgoing DIA chief is right, and that we are now in an era of danger similar to the mid-1930s. How did we get here? It’s worth looking back into the mists of time — an entire year, to Labor Day weekend 2013. What had not happened then? It’s quite a list, actually: the Chinese ADIZ, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Mosul, the end of Hungarian liberal democracy, the Central American refugee crisis, the Egyptian-UAE attacks on Libya, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the scramble to revise NATO’s eastern-frontier defenses, the Kristallnacht-style pogroms in European cities, the reemergence of mainstream anti-Semitism, the third (or fourth, perhaps) American war in Iraq, racial riots in middle America, et cetera and ad nauseam.

All that was in the future just one year ago.

What is happening now is basically America’s version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The President of the United States — supported to an exceptional extent by an electorate both uncomprehending and untrusting of the outside world — is Clarence the Angel, and he’s showing us what the world would be like if we’d never been born, Unsurprisingly, Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, and it’s a terrible place. Unfortunately we do not get to revert to the tolerable if modest status quo at the end of the lesson: George Bailey will eventually have to shell the town and retake it street by street from Old Man Potter’s Spetsnaz.

But the larger point here is not what’s happening, because what’s happening is obvious. Things are falling apart. The point is how fast it’s come. It takes the blood and labor of generations to build a general peace, and that peace is sustained by two pillars: a common moral vision, and force majeure. We spent a quarter-century chipping away at the latter, and finally discarded the former, and now that peace is gone. All this was the work of decades.

Look back, again, to Labor Day weekend 2013, and understand one thing: its undoing was the work of mere months.

31 Aug 2014

Thrown

NeckThrow1

Via Megazal.

31 Aug 2014

Baoding Shan Buddha

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Buddha1

Head of Buddha, attended by Zhao Zhifeng (thought to be a portrait of the monk who supervised the construction) and Liu Benzun, carved during the Southern Song Dynasty, betweeen 1179 and 1249 AD. Baoding Shan, Dazu – China. link

Via Other World Imports.

30 Aug 2014

Obama’s Tan Suit

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ObamaTanSuit

The big news item yesterday was the storm of astonishment and reaction, when Barack Obama, a professional politician, dared to appear in public in a non-blue, tan suit.

I thought myself that the suit was perfectly appropriate for before Labor Day (though one could easily see that it was off-the-rack from its less-than-perfect fit). But, I wondered myself, what was with that sub-fusc grey tie?

30 Aug 2014

Death of the Artist

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LastFriend
Zygmund Andrychiewicz (1861–1943), Death of the Artist — the Last Friend.

Via du vide.

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