Archive for February, 2011
22 Feb 2011

According to the Left, Conservatives Are Always Astroturf

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The latest obsession of the political left, represented by a series of indignant New York Times stories and left-wing blog exposées about the Koch Brothers or other donors to conservative groups and think tanks, seems really to constitute a convenient denial mechanism for our friends on the progressive side.

It is not that the policies advocated by the progressive wing have had untoward effects or that a majority of American voters do not like the way Obamacare was rammed through Congress or that a genuine groundswell of opposition to progressive fiscal policy, redistributionism, and coercion has manifested itself across the country. All the opponents of the democrat party, Barack Obama, and the socialist left are really just corrupt hirelings of right-wing billionaires and corporate interests.

The fact that the democrat party is really, in truth, the party of the rich in the United States, the party representing the American establishment, the party with by far the best ties to Wall Street and corporate interests is entirely overlooked. The left cries out constantly in outrage at the existence of any opponents and dissent.

It is not enough that they possess a predominant share of all of the mainstream media. The existence of Rush Limbaugh and AM radio and Fox News drives them crazy. They have George Soros, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and a list of liberal donors as long as your arm, but the existence of a tiny number of wealthy donors providing funding to Republicans and to organizations on the right is deemed by them to be an absolute outrage.

John Hinderaker, at Power-Line, was moved to respond to one of the most recent left-wing rants which attempts to connect opposition to the power of unionized government employees in Madison, Wisconsin today to the John Birch Society and a fellow who passed away in 1965.

What is the sum and substance of Think Progress’s expose? Governor Walker’s position is endorsed by a majority of Wisconsin voters, as well as several conservative groups, some of which have gotten modest amounts of support from conservative philanthropists. In what world is that some kind of scandal?

Certainly not in the world of Think Progress, which is entirely a creature of the billionaire left. One curious feature of today’s left is its obsession with “astroturf.” There is a reason why lefties who work for billionaire-funded web sites like Think Progress constantly talk about astroturf: it is the world they live in. They are paid by rich liberals, and the demonstrators who are bused in to left-wing protests are generally union members who are paid to attend. No one on the left does much for free. So lefties find it hard to understand that ordinary citizens (“Tea Partiers”) will turn out at rallies without being paid, that conservative voters vote on principle, not financial self-interest, and that conservative activists act out of conviction, not because they are subsidized by a sugar daddy. Failing to understand that conservatism–unlike liberalism–is a movement of principle, not self-interest, they are constantly looking for the elusive, non-existent money trail.

22 Feb 2011

US Navy Sending a Message to Iran

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The USS Enterprise makes an imposing presence in the Suez Canal. (AFP photo)

DEBKAfile reports that Iran’s recent decision to send two warships through the Suez Canal for “exercises” with Syria provoked an overwhelming display of naval force by the United States.

Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic, headed south through the canal. By Friday morning, they were through and taking up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy’s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance.

Furthermore, since the first week of February, the USS Kearsarge, another aircraft carrier, was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal’s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.

The USS George Washington carrier and the USS Carl Vinson were additionally deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the latter having been moved from the Pacific.

A battle of nerves is therefore underway.

The Iranian warships found themselves cheek to jowl with a major concentration of America naval might piling up in the Red Sea and Suez and were not sure what would happen if they went forward with their mission to transit the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean for the first time in 30 years on their way to Syria.
Sunday night, the Canal authorities announced another 48 hours delay shortly after Tehran state TV claimed the warships were already through to the Mediterranean.

And, finally, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier was quietly transferred from Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet amid the anti-government uprising, to a point opposite the Iranian Gulf coast.

This pile-up of US naval, air and marine might at strategic points in the Middle East is a warning to meddlers to keep their hands off the revolutions, uprisings and protests sweeping Arab nations. It carries a special message for Tehran that the Obama administration will not permit the Islamic Republic’s rulers to make military and political hay from the unrest – in Bahrain or anywhere else.

By positioning the Enterprise opposite Iran’s 12th Flotilla at the Red Sea entrance to the Suez Canal on Feb. 17 Washington has confronted Tehran with a hard dilemma, which was practically spelled out by US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley a day earlier: “If the ships move through the canal, we will evaluate what they actually do,” he said. “It’s not really about the ships. It’s about what the ships are carrying, what’s their destination, what’s the cargo on board, where’s it going, to whom and for what benefit.”

This was the US spokesman’s answer to the debkafile disclosure of Feb. 16 that the Kharg was carrying long-range surface missiles for Hizballah. It raised the possibility that the moment they venture to sail into the Suez Canal, the two Iranian warships will be boxed in between the Enterprise and the Kearsarge and called upon the allow their cargoes to be inspected as permitted by the last round of UN sanctions against Iran in the case of suspicious war freights.

21 Feb 2011

Washington’s Birthday

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The submersion of the national holiday honoring George Washington into a generic and meaningless “Presidents Day” is one of the nearly too-many-to-count bad things we owe to the administration of the late and unlamented Richard Nixon. A number of editorialists this year are arguing that America needs to do the right thing by going back to honoring our first, and possibly greatest, national hero.

John R. Miller:

In 1968, the public-employee unions, seeking a three-day weekend, convinced Congress to move the commemoration of Washington’s birthday to the third Monday in February. This eventually led to what we now call Presidents Day, which marks the birthday not only of Washington but of Lincoln and all other presidents. By celebrating every birthday, we effectively celebrate none.

Washington’s contemporaries hailed his Revolutionary War victories at Trenton and Yorktown, but they honored him more for risking his fame, fortune and life in taking on military responsibilities for which he wasn’t paid—and then giving up command to return to his farm and family. The young American citizenry esteemed him for bringing together and presiding over the Constitutional Convention, but they honored him more for his steadfastness in holding the colonies together and facing down potential insurrectionists who might have seized the government and made him a military dictator. And while they appreciated him returning to public service as president, they honored him more for leaving an office that many expected him to hold for life.

Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries were unaware of, but they would not have been surprised by, what King George III supposedly said upon hearing that Washington, after winning the Revolutionary War, had refused to be king: “If that is true, he must be the greatest man in the world.” …

Our ancestors expected that America would produce other great leaders. But they celebrated Washington’s birthday because, as the Connecticut Courant observed in 1791, “Many a private man might make a great president; but will there ever be a President who will make so great a man as WASHINGTON?”

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Basil explains that the federal holiday really is still officially designated as Washington’s Birthday.

I know. Some of you thought today was “Presidents’ Day.” Don’t let that bother you. Some of you believe in the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and that Elvis works at a Burger King in Michigan.

Where I come from, we usually look at such people and say “Bless their heart.” That’s Georgia-speak for “What a dumbass.”

I know, the calendar you got at the kiosk at the mall has “Presidents Day” written in the little block for today. Well, about those people that made that calendar? Bless their heart.

I know, all the TV and radio ads talk about “Presidents Day” sales going on today. Those people that wrote those commercials? Bless their heart.

Today’s a federal holiday. And, it’s “Washington’s Birthday.” Take a look at United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103 and see what it says. Sure enough, it says “Washington’s Birthday.”

Now, the truth is that George Washington’s birthday isn’t until tomorrow. In fact, the official federal holiday for Washington’s Birthday never falls on his actual birthday. Who else but the government could screw up a birthday so bad? And some folks want them in charge of health care. Bless their heart.

Why do I make a big deal about what today is called? Because I think it’s bad idea to ignore history. George Washington was actually a pretty important guy in American history. Important enough to actually give a holiday for his birthday. …

In 1968, the movement to change many holidays to a nearby Monday began. In 1971, Richard Nixon issued Executive Order 11582, beginning that process. Still, the holiday is officially Washington’s Birthday, and has always been Washington’s Birthday. (Snopes has a write-up about this, too, by the way.)

Some states observed Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12). Some still might. And some people got the idea that the new federal holiday in February was for Washington and Lincoln. Bless their heart.

Somewhere along the way, people began to call today’s holiday “Presidents’ Day.” Whether by design or not, it contributes to the ignorance of Americans. It ignores the importance of George Washington. And it causes many Americans to either forget or never understand the contributions of George Washington in the formation of this great country.

So, I wish you a very pleasant Washington’s Birthday today. Some of you are off work. Others, like me, have a regular work day. Whatever your plans are, take some time to remember George Washington.

And, if you’re celebrating Presidents Day today? Bless your heart.

20 Feb 2011

Monster Photograph From Lake Windemere

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Photograph allegedly taken by cell phone camera last week at Lake Windemere

A pair of kayakers allegedly recently photographed a Loch Ness style of monster swimming in Lake Windemere near Bowness, Cumbria.

Westmoreland Gazette (Thursday 2/17):

This is believed to be the eighth sighting in the past five years of the mysterious hump-backed creature.

Tom Pickles, 24… and fellow kayaker Sarah Harrington, 23… who work for an IT firm in Shrewsbury, were staying at Fallbarrow Hall, Bowness, as part of a team-building residential training course.

They had paddled 300m out onto the lake near Belle Isle when they spotted a mysterious creature the size of three cars gliding across the lake.

“It was petrifying, we paddled back to the shore straight away,” said Mr Pickles.

“At first I thought it was a dog and then saw it was much bigger and moving really quickly at about 10mph.

“Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast.

“I could tell it was much bigger underneath from the huge shadow around it. “Its skin was like a seal’s but its shape was completely abnormal, not like any animal I’ve ever seen before.”

They watched it for about 20 seconds before it plunged out of sight.

Ms Harrington said: “It was like an enormous snake.

“It freaked us all out but it wasn’t until we saw the picture that we thought we’d seen something out of this world.

“All I could think was that I had to get off the lake.”

Mr Pickles’s picture perfectly matches the description of an earlier sighting from the shores of Wray Castle in 2006 by journalism lecturer Steve Burnip.

“I’m really pleased that someone has finally got a really good picture of it. I know what I saw and it shocked me,” said Mr Burnip, of Hebden Bridge.

“It had three humps and it’s uncanny the likeness between this and what I saw five years ago.”

The Sun article

Cryptomundo

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Lake Windemere has no connection of any kind to Loch Ness.

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20 Feb 2011

Is Rove Behind It All?

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Paul A. Rahe
, as he watches democrat political prospects cratering all over America, begins to entertain an amusing, but fantastical, theory that liberals have not turned into a horde of lemmings suddenly swarming into a mad dash toward self destruction on the basis of ideology, that there had to have been a plot and a program of calculated and deliberate enemy action to produce such ruin. And if there really was a plot by some political mastermind to destroy the American left, the genius behind it had to have been Karl Rove.

“Could it be true?” I ask myself. “Has everything that we have seen in the course of the last twenty-seven months been engineered by the supreme Machiavel of our age – that evil genius Karl Rove? Did he “discover,” in the manner of a Hollywood agent, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid? Were they found at a drugstore soda fountain? Or did he find them at Central Casting? Stranger things have happened. After all, it was Pat Sajak who “discovered” Keith Olbermann and sent him on to infamy.

“Wanted,” Rove must have thought, “the Keystone Politicos – a gang supremely capable of winning an election but utterly incapable of shooting straight once in office. Let’s start with an American half African caught up in a Third-World ideology invented in the 1950s and long out of fashion, vain beyond belief, obsessed with the notion that he is a world-historical figure, hostile to compromise, contemptuous of his compatriots, apt to think disgraceful conduct on the part of one or more of his own supporters provides him with ‘a teachable moment’ in which he can hector his fellow citizens, and so persuaded that as an orator he has ‘a gift’ that he supposes that, if he delivers three hundred speeches a year, people will bow down, strew myrtle at his feet, and chant, ‘Hosanna in excelsis.’ Then, we will need a lady legislator willing to advocate passing a bill so that we can see what is in it, and a half-senile clown from a state where the prostitutes greatly outnumber the preachers, a man who owes everything to the gambling industry.” “Wanted,” he must have thought, “an opportunity to impose this gang on the opposition and ruin them for a generation or more!”

I know, I know. It is madness! But ask yourself whether what everyone now takes to be true about what has happened in this country is not even stranger than my lunatic hypothesis. In 2006, you might have imagined that the Democrats would sweep in 2008. Many of us feared as much. But, if someone had also told you that, after the election, they would pass a series of bills without a shred of Republican support, bills thousands of pages in length that no one had bothered to read and that no one understood – well, what would you have said?

Consider the evidence! Just when Dennis Hastert and the Republicans in Congress had demonstrated that the Democrats were not the only corrupt, patronage-oriented party in Washington, just when you think that it really is over for the Republicans, along comes Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid to remind the American people just how bad it can get and to treat the opposition with so much disdain that the Republicans in Congress begin to grow backbones.

And how can you explain Wisconsin? In November, 2010 – when the Republics won both state houses and the governorship in that state, would you have predicted that the Democratic Senators in that state would charter a bus to flee to the People’s Republic of Illinois in order to shirk their responsibilities, paralyze legislative activity, and leer at the waitresses at Rockford’s Tilted Kilt? Did you foresee that thousands of teachers, who make on average a hundred grand a year, would call in sick and then descend on at the capitol in Madison carrying signs denouncing the state’s newly elected governor as a Mubarak and a Hitler for having the effrontery to think that he and the Republicans swept into office with him should enact the platform on which they campaigned? Would you have imagined that Barack Obama would then wade in, announcing his support for public-sector workers, making twice what ordinary Cheeseheads make, who think it unthinkable that they should be called upon to do what private-sector workers customarily do: contribute to their pension funds and help pay for the healthcare insurance from which they benefit? Had I predicted any of this, you would have thought me daft. You would have said, “Come on! The Dems may be corrupt, but they are not stupid!”

So, I suggest that this must all be the result of machinations on the part of Karl Rove. Rush Limbaugh failed with Operation Chaos, but Karl has succeeded with Operation Annihilation. Think about it. After the events of this week, what are the chances that Barack Obama will take Wisconsin in the general election scheduled to be held a bit more than eighteen months from now? What, do you think, is going to happen in Ohio and Michigan in the next couple of months? And what will be the consequences?

Heh! Schadenfreude can be such fun.

19 Feb 2011

The Battle of Madison

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40,000 angry protestors flocked to the Wisconsin capital yesterday

Walter Russell Mead explains the nature of the struggle currently underway in Wisconsin, and predicts that however this particular battle goes, a necessary revolution is underway, a war has begun which the left is certain to lose.

[I]t’s just possible that the disturbances in Madison, Wisconsin mark what will ultimately prove to be a bigger turning point in world history.

In the heart of Blue State America, we are seeing a challenge to some of the fundamental assumptions behind the progressive state, and we could conceivably be watching both the birth pangs of a new social model and the first big step in America’s transformation into a true 21st century economy. …
The problem is that the way we do government in this country has to change — and it will have to change in ways that put the interests of those who don’t have government jobs ahead of those who do. The number of people employed by government is going to have to shrink; much more work will have to be done by many fewer hands — and many tasks historically done in government bureaucracies by life-tenured employees will be done by private sector workers employed by outside contractors. Nor can government workers enjoy pension plans and health benefits better than those widely available in the private sector; the days of defined benefit pensions for government workers are drawing rapidly to a close.

The Battle of Madison is part of a national struggle over the future of American society. The public sector unions and their allies believe in what I’ve called liberalism 4.0, the twentieth century’s dominant set of progressive ideas. It was the ideology of a society made up of big unions, big corporations and big government. The Big Three car companies, Big Three networks and the Big One phone company (back when AT&T had a legal monopoly on providing telephone service) were held in check by government regulation and union power rather than by free competition.

Technological change, global competition, and the rise of a more dynamic economy have wrecked the old social model, but old institutions, old habits of mind and old interest groups don’t disappear overnight. In many ways, public sector unions and government employees are the last great citadel of the Blue Social Model and what we see in Madison (as well as Ohio and Tennessee) is a way of life fighting for survival in the last ditch. We should not be surprised that the battle is fierce, the tactics ruthless, the polarization intense: this is not just a struggle between interest groups, it is a conflict over basic ideas about how the world does or should work.

Regardless of what happens in Madison this week, it is a hopeless battle. 4.0 liberalism and the Blue Social Model aren’t immoral and they helped many Americans enjoy roughly two generations of unprecedented prosperity — but they are unworkable in the contemporary world. States that don’t make the kind of changes that Wisconsin seeks will face the problems that loyally blue Illinois does now: staggering pension bills that undermine the state’s credit and cripple its ability to attract and hold business. An article in the New York Times, that bastion of blue thinking, mocks Illinois’ latest plan to pay its current pension bill with a $3.7 billion bond issue. Note reporters Mary Williams Walsh and Michael Cooper, Illinois “is essentially paying a single year’s bill by adding to its already heavy debt load. That short-term thinking is not unlike Americans taking out home equity loans to pay for cars and vacations before the housing bust.”

However much money the public sector unions fling into the maw of Democratic party politics, the old system is going down.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

19 Feb 2011

British Police on the Job, Protecting Criminals, Again

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Back in Queen Victoria’s day, when Britain was still sane, you could buy one of these to protect your garden shed. If he breaks in, he gets both barrels.

The Daily Mail recently reported on police in Surrey and Kent intervening to protect criminals from home owners.

Don’t put wire on your windows – it might hurt burglars! Villagers outraged after police order them not to protect garden sheds
Residents in Surrey and Kent villages have been ordered by police to remove wire mesh from their windows as burglars could be injured.

Home owners in the villages of Tandridge and Tatsfield in Surrey and in Westerham, Brasted and Sundridge in Kent have said they are furious that they are being branded ‘criminals’ for protecting their property.

Locals had reinforced their windows with wire mesh after a series of shed thefts but were told by community police officers that the wire was ‘dangerous’ and could lead to criminals claiming compensation if they ‘hurt themselves’.

19 Feb 2011

Edo-Period Japan Still Present Today


Suzuki Harunobu, Title Unknown, woodblock print, c. 1768.

Henry Tricks, the Economist’s Tokyo bureau chief, finds Japan’s Edo-period past “shimmering just below the surface of modernity.”

It is mid-September, the heat is just leaking out of the end of summer, and Japan is enjoying a rare public holiday. A holiday, that is, in the uniquely Japanese sense of the word, which means the GPS hardwired into every citizen is sending thousands upon thousands to the same fashionable boutiques near my home in Tokyo to shop. It is more crowded than a commuter train at rush hour. Policemen shepherd the multitude along the streets with flashing orange batons. Yet there is something peaceful about the way the Japanese drift together in a crowd; they carry a tiny aura of personal space with them, no bigger than one of their Louis Vuitton handbags, and every bit as precious. They hardly touch, like those shoals of translucent fish that dart from one direction to another without colliding. The policemen use their batons like conductors, keeping everything harmonious. But if you try to defy them, those batons will block your way faster than they can say “Dame desu”—which is about as final as “Not on your life.”

Such are the means by which order and harmony are maintained in Japan. There is a deep-rooted respect for others, so ingrained that ground staff at Narita airport bow to departing planes as they taxi to the runway. And there is a subtle coercion, like an invisible hand on society’s collar, based on centuries of ancestor worship that has made many customs immutable. The attitudes have been shaped partly by the physical landscape of Japan, which packs one of the most crowded populations on earth onto narrow plains, bounded by sea and inhospitable mountains. For centuries the main activity has been rice farming, which requires communal planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, rather than the rugged individualism of American and European agriculture.

I have been mesmerised by life here since I arrived a year ago, floating on a wave of adoration of most things Japanese, yet getting in everyone’s way and doing everything wrong. I would jog around the Imperial Palace in a clockwise direction, only to find everyone else running anti-clockwise, bearing down on me as if I didn’t exist. I wore short sleeves in early autumn, and couldn’t work out why, when it was still blazing hot outside, everyone had put on their jackets and ties again. After swimming with dolphins on the island of Mikurajima this summer, my family and I went to a café to have lunch, still in our damp bathing costumes. Our hostess was so livid that at first I thought we must have set the place alight, not left a few damp seats where our bottoms had been. Living as a foreigner in Japan, for all its attractions, has many such small humiliations. You may be on a noble quest to plumb the depths of the Japanese soul, but you will take so many wrong turns you end up wondering whether you are indeed too brutish to make sense of it.

You may also be struck by how few of the locals have a matching interest in you and your culture. That is because it increasingly seems as if the outside world—with its sharper elbows, fattier food and shoddy dress sense—is kept at arm’s length. Fewer young Japanese are travelling abroad, fewer are studying English (this year, the main English-language school went bust), and fewer are taking places at leading academic institutions overseas such as Harvard Business School. Bosses at Japan’s legendary export businesses complain they cannot find youngsters who are prepared to work abroad. Two clever young Japanese friends, just posted to excellent jobs in America, told me that Japan is so comfortable they find it hard to leave.

Yet as those friends are the first to admit, it is a cotton-wool comfort that keeps out alien germs–like the surgical facemasks that many Japanese wear, so at odds with the rest of their perfect attire. To the outsider, it can lend the society an air of feeble vulnerability. At times it is downright maddening. Foreign ATM cards don’t work in most Japanese banks, Japanese movies—even the classics—rented at the ubiquitous Tsutaya video store don’t offer the option of foreign-language subtitles. Japanese mobile-phone technology is so idiosyncratic that analysts talk of “the Galapagos effect”, because it has grown up in a unique eco-system that makes it unsuitable for use anywhere else.

At times it feels as if the outside world does not exist. …

[I]t is the Edo era, the peculiar two-and-a-half-century time capsule from 1603 to 1868, that casts the longest shadow. It was the time when a newly unified Japan turned its back on the outside world, shut its borders to almost all foreigners, stopped its people travelling abroad and forbade Japanese émigrés from returning to the country on pain of death. Each person was given his exact rank in society–in descending order: samurai, farmer, craftsman, merchant and outsider—and Japan went for 265 years without wars or revolutions. Much of this era is known as the sakoku jidae or “closed-country period”, and it was centred on Edo, now Tokyo, while the emperor was cloistered in Kyoto. At first glance, it seems like the epitome of the dark ages—a medieval equivalent of North Korea or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, ruled by an all-powerful family of shoguns, or military dictators, named Tokugawa. They handed on power for 14 generations, and kept the citizens in line through a byzantine network of spies and informants. The execution grounds can still be visited in Tokyo. Ordinary criminals might be crucified, boiled, burned or chopped in half: only the lucky samurai got to disembowel themselves.

The gore, of course, has gone, but it seems to me that something of the Edo era shimmers just below the surface of modern Japan.

18 Feb 2011

Democrats Run and Hide

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Frank J. thinks Governor Walker is making a mistake in trying to find those missing democrat state legislators.

The left’s tactics have gotten increasingly odd as they get less and less popular, and now when confronted with state budget problems they’ve settled on running and hiding. Strangely, Walker has sent the police to find them, but I don’t get why. I guess they’re needed to finalize the bill, but there has to be some way around that. It’s just when you hear the Democrat legislators have fled your state, it’s really odd that your first response would be, “How do I get them back?” The smarter response is, “Can we nationalize this?” We need to find what laws will get Democrats to flee from all the other states and what will cause Obama to leave the White House and run and hide. And if these chase away the Democrats bills are passed in every state, eventually the Democrats will have no option but to flee to Canada — and they’ll probably be much happier there. We certainly will be. And you know what happens when all Democrats flee to Canada? That’s right: We’ve won the future.

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Charles Martin reveals that those democrats selected a rendezvous at Rockford, Illinois which features a restaurant called “The Tilted Kilt,” a Scottish-motif equivalent of Hooters.

18 Feb 2011

Can a Machine Potentially Do Your Job?

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Andy Kessler argues that the gods of economics have turned their faces against mere sloppers, sponges, slimers, and thieves, i.e., persons working in support and service and professional capacities. The number of available openings for them will dwindle and their bargaining power is doomed to decline. The future, and the lion’s share of income, will belong to the creators.

With a heavy regulatory burden, payroll taxes and health-care costs, employing people is very expensive. In January, the Golden Gate Bridge announced that it will have zero toll takers next year: They’ve been replaced by wireless FastTrak payments and license-plate snapshots.

Technology is eating jobs—and not just toll takers.

Tellers, phone operators, stock brokers, stock traders: These jobs are nearly extinct. Since 2007, the New York Stock Exchange has eliminated 1,000 jobs. And when was the last time you spoke to a travel agent? Nearly all of them have been displaced by technology and the Web. Librarians can’t find 36,000 results in 0.14 seconds, as Google can. And a snappily dressed postal worker can’t instantly deliver a 140-character tweet from a plane at 36,000 feet.

So which jobs will be destroyed next? Figure that out and you’ll solve the puzzle of where new jobs will appear.

Read the whole thing.

17 Feb 2011

Returning Antiquities

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The Bookworm has some thoughts on the morality and practical consequences of returning antiquities from Western museums to their lands of origin.

The narrative has long been in place: For centuries, the predatory West raped the ancient world — Egypt, Greece, the Fertile Crescent, Persia — of her culture. Greedy treasure hunters and archeologists stole her mummies, her statuary, her carvings, her jewels and her wall paintings. Their museums gained world renown because of these ill-gotten gains, while the countries of origin moldered, deprived not only of their natural riches, but also of their historic legacy. With the end of colonialism after World War II, the situation started righting itself, as now-properly abashed Western countries began returning these stolen treasures to their true homes.

The actual story is a bit different. The cultures that had created those treasures had long vanished by the time the Western collectors showed up and started sniffing around. Where once had been glory, now was abysmal poverty. More than that, there was a profound disinterest in the past. The citizens of Egypt, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, etc., cared nothing for the treasures beneath their feet. Those that they couldn’t see, they forgot; those that they could see, they recycled. They broke down ancient structures and used their stones to build their homes; they melted down ancient jewelry, and refashioned the gold in modern design. The Egyptian mummies to which thieves had easy access had long since vanished — some within days of being interred — especially since their wrappings made good paper and, for centuries, their dust was thought to have curative powers.

What made these remnants of the past valuable was the interest the West had in the ancient world’s past. To the Middle East, they were raw material; to the Westerners, things of beauty and wonder. And so the West took them away, to museums and private collections. In terms of what was happening in the Middle East 200 years ago or 100 years ago, Western activity was akin to digging in the garbage to collect someone else’s discards. The only thing that bespoke value in the regions themselves was gold, so the archeologists figured out that, if they gave to the fellahin who unearthed the ancient gold a sum of money equal to that object’s weight, the latter cheerfully parted with their cultural past.

The relics, once in the West, were treated with a reverence denied them in the lands from which they emerged. They were cleaned, restored, maintained, studied and much visited. And of course, as their status rose, the people who had so cavalierly parted with them realized that they had lost something of value. When they had achieved some measure of moral power, they demanded them back. Often, the West complied with those demands. …

[M]any ended up back at home, in lands governed by dictatorships. These, no matter how long they last, invariably seem to end in a welter of violence, flames, vandalism and theft. Is it a surprise, then, that when a dictatorship ends, it’s often the case that the treasures, once ignored and abused, then revered in foreign lands, and then returned to their natal soil, should be amongst the first casualties?


Statue of 18th Dynasty Pharoah Akhenaton, circa 1336 BC, recently looted from Egyptian museum and found two weeks later discarded beside a garbage bin.

17 Feb 2011

Connecting Some Dots

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Spook86 wonders aloud whether the short-of-specifics reference by San Diego assistant port director Al Hallor to at least one “weapon of mass effect” having been found somewhere apparently in or near San Diego by an unidentified “partner agency” has a connection to the recent announcement of an unprecedented full-scale test of the current equivalent of the Emergency Broadcast System.

This much we know: Al Qaida has a long-standing interest in WMD. Their capabilities in that area have improved modestly in those areas in recent years, despite severe damage inflicted on their leadership and fund-raising operations–essential elements in any WMD/WME attacks. We also know there was a major WMD operation in the Atlanta area late last year, with the feds stopping all trucks on I-20 during rush hour, and running them through a radiation scanner. Sources told WSB-TV the activity was “real world” and not a drill, though various spokesmen later tried to “walk back” that remark. Sounds like the same p.r. tactic recently attempted in San Diego.

One more point. It’s probably unrelated (at least, that’s what government officials would have you believe), but this recent item also caught our eye: early last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to test Presidential Alerts in the near future. …

To someone who spent years in radio (before having the good sense to join the military) this announcement was stunning. Broadcasters have worked with the FCC for years on the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadcast System or EBS. There was always some provision for the president (or the national command authority) to provide information through the system in the event of a cataclysmic event. But for more than 50 years, no one saw a need to test the presidential capabilities, despite nuclear dangers during the Cold War, and real-world events like 9-11.

And what sort of event might warrant activation of the Presidential EAS? How about a domestic terror attack, using weapons of mass destruction or a weapon of mass effect?

He could be right.

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the Archives of Never Yet Melted for February 2011.











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