Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flashback: 1999

I spotted the image above over at Theo's place, and it prompted me to go look for the online version of the article, which I found here. Remember, this ran back in September 1999. Some key excerpts:
The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

[ ... ]

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

[ ... ]

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

[ ... ]

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.

[ ... ]

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.
I know it's not news to most people, but this is the root cause of the economic times we're now dealing with. Sure, Wall St. may have exacerbated the problem with all their exotic derivative financial instruments, but that was a simple by-product of being forced by government regulation to write bad paper.

Remember this the next time you hear Obama and his disciples say what a mess Bush left for Obama.

Where's the outrage now?

Hey...remember when the left went batshit crazy over George W. Bush using troops as "props" when he delivered speeches at military installations? Being the rational, objective types that they are, I guess we'll be seeing similar invective toward Obama.

Yessiree...any time now...

Friday, February 27, 2009

The shape of things to come?

Last Tuesday night, I stayed at a hotel at Gatwick Airport near London to make it easier to catch my flight out Tuesday morning. The hotel bar was pretty crowded, and since I was by myself at four-seat table, I offered an older couple a couple seats. We got to chatting, and it turned out they were a British couple enroute on their trip back from South Africa.

The conversation turned to the state of affairs in Africa, and the lady pulled this Zimbabwean bank note from her purse to show me. Yup, 200 million Zimbabwean dollars. Someone in South Africa just gave it to her as a souvenir, because it's so devalued now it's nearly worthless. You might liken this to handing someone a dime.

It kind of made me wonder how long it'll be before we give away US tens or twenties as worthless curiosities.


OK, so I've been using Twitter for a couple months now, and I have to say I'm underwhelmed. It's definitely got some usefulness, but some of that usefulness gets diluted by the way some people use it.

First the good stuff about Twitter. I can keep up with geographically-dispersed friends and family members on Twitter in way I couldn't before. It's easy to use, either through a web browser or any number of Twitter clients offered for hand held devices like my BlackBerry. OK, that's about it for the good stuff.

What's annoying about Twitter is the way some use it as a one-way communications medium. "Follow me on Twitter!" you'll see plastered on various blogs and web sites. OK, fine...I'll follow you on Twitter. But for what? So I can see the same stuff you're posting on your blog? And it's not as if any of the "big time" bloggers follow you on Twitter.

Take for example Allahpundit at Hot Air, one of my favorite bloggers. He's got 898 followers as of this writing, and he follows 12. I followed Allahpundit for a while and saw him post a reply to Andy Levy of Red Eye (3,238 followers, following 101). I think Levy's a pretty damned funny guy, so I followed him, too. For the next few days, I watched the two carry on various conversations with each other on Twitter, something they could easily have done with regular SMS text messaging.

At one point, Allahpundit tweeted a question to nobody in particular and I started to reply, but then I realized, why bother? He doesn't follow me so it's not like he'd see anything in his user timeline. He'd have to actively search for responses to @allahpundit to see it. At that point I realized this is stupid. I stopped following pretty much everyone who's not also following me because it just makes no sense. Except for The Onion (48,176 followers, following 44,947). And they're at least following me.

Update: Forgot to mention the other misuse (in my humble opinion) of Twitter, which is the habit some have of putting a link in every single Tweet. I use Twitter on my BlackBerry almost exclusively. Sure, I have a web browser on it, but that's not really what I want to use Twitter for.

Update: Andy Levy notes in the comments...holy crap, did Andy Levy just leave a comment here? Why yes he did! I'm both honored and humbled. Anyway, Levy corrects me about how @replies work in Twitter. Apparently if someone replies to your tweet, you'll see it even if you're not following him. So I think I'll go back to following a few people I'd un-followed earlier. Did the word "un-follow" exist pre-Twitter? I doubt it.

Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia...Iraq?

I don't know how to take this op-ed column by Bennett Ramburg...I really don't. Is he being serious, or is it sarcasm? The lead-in to the column says of previous instances of America's hastened departure from other countries: "...despite immediate costs to America's reputation, disengagement ultimately redounded to America's advantage." The previous examples cited are Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.

OK, so our departure "redounded to America's advantage" in the sense that American soldiers stopped getting killed in those places, but can anyone really say with a straight face that we're better off with those countries in the state they're in now than if they were thriving under a stable democracy?

How the hell does anyone hold up Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia as examples of the good that can come from us leaving a job undone? Sounds more to me like he's making the case for not intervening in the first place.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No-confidence vote

In parliamentary systems of government, members of parliament can call for a vote of no-confidence in the head of government. Short of impeachment, I don't think we have anything similar here, and even if we did, there's not a chance that the current seated congress would do so.

Me? I'm voting no-confidence in Barack Obama.

'Are you the biggest tosser?'

This sign I saw in a store window last night in Reading, England cracked me up. Don't know what a "tosser" is? Ask a Brit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Confirmed: Qurans at the top of the stack in London

I ducked into a Borders book store in London this afternoon and figured I'd go see if, as has been noted on blogs recently, the Quran is in fact being displayed on the top shelf in book shops, per Muslims' request demand. And yes, it's true...sorry for the crappy picture quality, but those are definitely copies of the Quran on the top row.

Oh, the Bible? Yeah...somewhere in the middle of the stacks.

Just in case

Who knows...they may need them again.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A pub, a soccer game

How British is that? Manchester United v. Blackford Rovers, for those who follow the game. Man U just scored, and it appears the crowd at the Cat And Canary are Man U fans.

Update: For those who care, Manchester United won 2-1. Fun game.

British History: The first few thousand years

Some 10-12,000 years ago, near the tail end of the last ice age when sea levels were much lower, what we know as modern day Britain was just another oddly-shaped chunk of land connected to the European mainland. Some clans of hunter-gatherers stumbled onto this spit of land and by the time they realized the weather was always for shit and wasn't going to improve, the sea level had risen again, cutting off their retreat to mainland Europe. Modern day Brits are thankful for this because there's otherwise a good chance they'd have become French.

In the first recorded instance of early Brits keeping the now-famous "stiff upper lip", they accepted their lot and set about populating the island. The early seeds of discord were sown when everyone grew weary of trying to understand the utterances of a clan who spoke an unintelligible dialect completely devoid of vowels. This clan was banished to the far western part of the island and came to be known as the Welsh.

At about the same time, another clan known for being the most unruly of the new arrivals (and nearly as unintelligible as the Welsh) were sent off to the far north of the island. This clan became known as the Scots. They would later develop a beverage that would give rise to millions of pretentious assholes claiming to be experts on the topic.

These various clans inhabiting the island of Britain would - in no particular historical order - tangle with and ultimately boot the Roman empire, build Stonehenge, piss off the French, launch a series of crusades, advance modern western civilization as we know it, piss of the French again, spawn the United States, deliver a form of democratic government to the third world, be reinvented by the French, piss off the French yet again, and provide to the world a steady stream of pretty fucking good rock bands.

Hey...anyone who pisses off the French that much can't be all that bad.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Woe is me

Had to fly out to Phoenix yesterday to give a talk at an industry event there this morning, then headed right to the airport for my flight back home. Tomorrow I have to fly out to London for five days, so consider this my light blogging excuse.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heckuva a job, Barry!

What does it say that on the day that Barack Obama will be signing into law the craptacular "stimulus" bill the Dow opens 140 points down? Futures were down close to 200 points just a little earlier, so I'm sure there's more room to drop as trading progresses. you think there just might be people out there with a little economic smarts who know something that neither the President nor Congress seem to know?

Update: Yep...down nearly 300 points at the close. Everyone but Obama knows this thing is a steaming pile of crap.

Hitler: Not just evil...ill-mannered, too

A recently discovered document reveals that Adolf Hitler was not only evil and insane, but ill-mannered as well. Oh, and he farted a lot.
The dictator also bit his fingernails at meal times and nervously rubbed his index finger back and forth across his moustache, the newly discovered papers disclose.

The top secret papers also state Hitler believed Goebbels' own propaganda about himself and genuinely thought he was the "greatest military genius of all time".

The revelations show Hitler had a "streak of passive masochism" in his relationships with women.

The Fuhrer's daily routine and "uncouth" behaviour were recorded in notes taken from a high-ranking Nazi who spilled the beans to a British agent.

[ ... ]

"The statement provides a vivid personal description of Hitler in his last days and his behaviour in the bunker.

"It mentions a digestive disorder which could be a reference to his flatulence, but denies the rumours that Hitler was homosexual.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hold elected officials accountable for security leaks

Last Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California Alpha Centauri, remarked casually on the source of unpiloted drones used with great effectiveness to launch missiles against al Qaeda and Taliban targets in lawless areas of Pakistan.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border.

"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
Un-fucking-believable. As pointed out in the first quoted paragraph, Feinstein chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Surely she knows that such tidbits of information are classified? Has she never heard the term "OPSEC"? If this had been a military member letting slip such information, he'd lose his security clearance and be brought up on charges.

Is it any wonder that the majority of military members don't trust Democrats with affairs of national security?

Air passenger meltdown

Synopsis: Passenger arrives at gate after apparently dilly-dallying around after checking in. Boarding door is closed and she's refused boarding. Hilarity ensues.

I say "dilly-dallying" because she had checked in and checked her bag which had to be offloaded when she didn't show up. Passengers often check in then spend too much time either shopping at the duty-free store or getting snockered in a bar and this is what happens. If the airline accepted her bag, she had plenty of time to get to the gate.

I actually saw a meltdown like this once in Atlanta during an ice storm. Nobody was going anywhere, but one lady got so freaked out she was screaming hysterically and threw herself on the floor just like this one did. Unfortunately, this was about nine years ago, before the days of ubiquitous cell phone video cams.

Lefties predictably happy over Venezuela's referendum results

How anyone can see the results of Venezuela's constitutional referendum as a good thing is beyond me. But then again, I'm not a reader/commenter at Huffington Post. Here's a sampling of the comments on the HuffPo article. While reading these, remember that these are the people who voted for Obama and back every single one of his socialist initiatives.
  • Yes we can! The Venezuelan yes we can! The kind that continues to demand real change!
  • What exactly is so wrong about nationalization of industry? You act as if it is somehow immoral.
  • "... influences the media."? our media is so controlled, they might as well wave a powder blue and white flag before each broadcast. which country is it that has a powder blue and white flag? Oh, right...

So there's your obligatory leftist anti-Semitism. Moving on:
  • ...outside the US, democracy means, you know, democracy.
  • IMHO Chavez has been a very stabilizing force for Venezuela, just as Saddam Hussein was a stabilizing force in the M.E. We didn't get that, either.
  • Nice to see the democratic process in action. congrats to the people of venezuela.
There actually were some comments there from readers who saw this as a bad thing, but even many of those thought so not because Chavez is an evil commie, but because the next guy might be worse...presumably an evil free-market capitalist or something.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Venezuelans lose big

Hugo Chavez's constitutional reform power grab appears to have passed in a referendum today in Venezuela.
President Hugo Chavez won a referendum to eliminate term limits Sunday, according to official results, paving the way for him to run again in 2012 and beyond in what critics fear is an attempt to become Comandante Numero Uno And Absolute Supreme Dictator For Life.
OK, I might have tweaked that quote a little bit.

Tough news for Venezuela, but I guess Obama will be happy to have a kindred spirit to the south.

Dodd slips exec pay limits into final bill

The "spendulus" bill that Barack Obama will sign on Tuesday includes language capping executive pay at banks who receive bailout money.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, inserted strict rules into the $787 billion economic stimulus package over the White House's objections. Dodd's limits on bankers' bonuses are significantly more aggressive than those sought by Obama or Geithner in recent days, with much fanfare.

Dodd, D-Conn., said the restrictions — an executive making $1 million a year in salary could receive only $500,000 in bonus money, for example — are necessary if Obama plans to ask Congress for more money to save the financial sector.
I don't like the government mucking about in anyway with executive compensation in private industry, but the legislation still could have been worse and more far-reaching. This also might have the effect of keeping banks from requesting bailout money unless they're truly in dire straits.

Now, how about some legislation requiring detailed accounting of the use of bailout money? Unless something's changed, I don't think anything like that is in place yet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Traveler's hell

If you have to spend a lot of time stuck at an airport, avoid Rochester New York's. Got here around 11:30 this morning to try and get an earlier flight than the 4:55 I'm currently booked on. No luck, so I'm stuck listening to the worst of the 70s and 80s music.

Geek talk

This evening at 6:31:30 PM EST, will be a major event for Unix geeks. Why? At that instant, Unix time will be 1234567890. Unix time is the number of seconds elapsed since 1 January, 1970.

Parties around the world are planned to mark the event. No, really.

Unfortunately for me, I'll be in the air somewhere between Rochester and Cincinnati.

H/T my buddy Kris.

Judd Gregg drops out

I was hanging out at the airport yesterday afternoon in Rochester waiting on a delayed flight which I gave up on, when I heard the news about Judd Gregg's withdrawal from the nomination for Commerce Secretary. That Gregg singled out Obama's mucking about with the census bureau as one of the reasons was pretty sweet.

Heckuva job, Barry!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weird 'religion' getting weirder

The Church of Scientology is building a 22,000 square foot underground vault in south west Wyoming to "store documents". And stuff. Or maybe for something else.
As many as 20 heavy trucks a day hauling construction materials and equipment rumbled down the valley's main gravel road, passing into a gate marked with a "No Trespassing" sign. Helicopters flew in sling loads of cargo. Powerful work lights lit up the valley at night.

Public planners in southwest Wyoming's Sweetwater County — a sagebrush expanse roughly the size of Massachusetts — say the contractor hired for the project has told them it intends to build a 22,000-square-foot underground storage vault to store documents.

Whose documents exactly? Apparently, the writings of the late L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology's founder, and other church records.

But plans remain vague. County land use planner John Barton said the county also has been told the vault might hold any number of things besides documents.

"We've had everything from underground housing of sheep or hay," Barton said. "We've had cemetery discussed. We've had mining discussed."
Nobody really knows because no permits - which would describe the intended use - have been drawn for the project.
A local attorney representing IGSS, Robert Reese, said the earthwork already done is similar to improvements that would be made at any ranch. He said that's consistent with the site's agricultural zoning and past use as a cattle ranch. Therefore, he said, the contractor hasn't needed to get a permit.

"Our position is that everything that has been done so far falls well within the agricultural use and no permit is required," Reese said.
Uh, yeah...I'm sure every ranch in Wyoming has a 22,000 square foot underground vault.

Sarah Palin: Prescient

Hot Air linked a couple of items under the heading "Quotes of the day" last night. First quote:
“Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”
Second quote:
“Miranda is an issue, it is a potential issue in prosecution.”
The first one is from a Sarah Palin stump speech during the campaign last fall, and the second is from a "senior Obama administration official" quoted here by the LA Times in an article describing the problems facing prosecutors as detainees are moved from Guantanamo Bay and put into the criminal justice system. Palin nailed it.

Never in our history - in wars declared or undeclared - have we prosecuted in the courts enemy combatants captured in the field. Never. What's changed now that makes some people think it's a good idea? Why the desire to extend constitutional protections to a jihadi captured in combat in Afghanistan?

In the seven plus years following 9/11, we've not had a single successful terrorist attack on US soil. I'm guessing all bets are off for the next four.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's failed leadership

Slublog breaks it down nicely at Ace of Spades HQ. Obama's complete and utter failure of leadership since taking office is breathtaking.
Although I'm not a big fan of FDR, the man knew that part of leadership was preventing panic. In 1933, during one of his "fireside chats," FDR said the following:

After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work.

It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.

Roosevelt knew panic would only make the problem worse, so while he was honest about the state of the economy, he deliberately tempered his rhetoric. Compare that to Obama's words from last night:

They can't pay their bills. They've stopped spending money. And because they've stopped spending money, more businesses have been forced to lay off more workers. In fact, local TV stations have started running public service announcements to tell people where to find food banks, even as the food banks don't have enough to meet the demand.

As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across America. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami [Florida]. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine.

And if there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside-down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from.
Obama's not interested in leading, he's interested in ramming crappy spending legislation down our collective throats.

Let's see...Law student, law professor, community organizer, state legislator, half a term in the US Senate...what? You mean a president with no leadership experience is a leadership failure? Shut! Up!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Breath of fresh air

Attack Cartoons strikes again. This one really hits the mark. If one could measure the level of one's Bush Derangement Syndrome, one would find a proportionate level of Obama Man-love.

'Nein' to 69

When Croatian footballer soccer player Dino Drpic wanted to wear the number 69 on his jersey for the Karlsruhe, Germany football soccer team, the league said 'Nein!'.
Dino Drpic, the new Croatian defender at Bundesliga side Karlsruhe SC, apparently wanted 69 put on his jersey as an homage to the fiery love he has with his vixen pop star wife Nives Celzijus, but the German football league nixed the naughty number.

“Dino and I picked out the number 69 for him. But he unfortunately can’t wear it,” Celzijus told the Monday edition of newspaper Bild.

Celzijus, known for her provocative public personality, has proudly talked about her passionate relationship with her husband – not always to the benefit of his football career. Drpic had to leave his old club Dinamo Zagreb after his wife revealed on television that the couple had had sex at the club’s stadium on the middle of the pitch.
As a compromise, team management agreed to provide Drpic with more consonants.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The dangers of one-party rule

I suspect that "can you imagine the outrage if Bush had done this?" will be a recurring theme here.

Last Thursday, the White House raised the GOP's hackles when an Obama staffer told CQ Politics that the new Director of the Census Bureau would report directly to the White House, constitutional provisions that the director report to the Commerce Secretary notwithstanding.

The White House quickly backpedaled, saying instead that the new director would "work closely" with White House staff.
The Obama administration acknowledged Thursday that the as-yet-unnamed Census Bureau director will have a direct line to the White House but sought to define the relationship as one in which the director would "work closely with" rather than report to President Obama's senior staff.

After black and Hispanic leaders raised concerns over Commerce Secretary-nominee Judd Gregg's commitment to core functions of the Census Bureau, a senior White House official told CQ on Wednesday that the director would report directly to the White House.

That brought fire Thursday from Republicans, who accused the White House of attempting to gain advantage in the politically delicate process of counting Americans and of violating the law by circumventing the Commerce secretary. The decennial census is used to determine the apportionment of congressional districts among the states and federal funding for numerous programs.
Yeah, well I "work closely" with my boss, too, but I still damned well better do what he says. At Samizdata, they're calling this power grab clearly illegal:
From reading through Title 13, Chapter 1 it appears obvious to me that the POTUS has no role in the census whatsoever beyond, with Senate approval, selecting the Secretary of Commerce and, also with Senate approval, selecting the Director of the Census who "shall perform such duties as may be imposed upon him by law, regulations, or orders of the Secretary." Hhmmm... No president mentioned.

The Secretary of Commerce is the only authority the law recognizes. Since as commenter Laird points out, the Constitution did not place the census function in Article II - the Executive branch but in Article I - the Legislative branch, it is not at all within the President's reach unless the legislature places it there.

[ ... ]

The Secretary of Commerce does not even report his findings to the President, but rather is instructed to 'publish' them. It looks quite clear to me that any incursion by the White House after those two Senate approved appointments is clearly against the law.
This is seriously dangerous stuff, and not surprising in the least. Obama isn't "settling into office" so much as he's "consolidating power" in the worst Chicago tradition.

Thanks to AoS for the Samizdata link.


A great story out of North Carolina involving soldiers and dogs.
A U.S. soldier returning to Fayetteville, N.C., from Afghanistan got a surprise welcome from two dogs he saved from starvation while stationed in the war-torn country., a FOX affiliate in Raleigh, reports that a charity animal-rescue program run by Internet search engine reunited Staff Sgt. Daniel Barker with two dogs reportedly rescued by Barker and his fellow soldier, Adam Krause, during their 2008 deployment to Afghanistan.
Way to go, Sarge, and kudos to for their efforts.

'Security...has ceased to be a concern'

I really wish Obama and his gang of fools would stop saying they're going to "end the war" in Iraq.'s fucking over, no thanks to you.
Maj Gen Andy Salmon told The Daily Telegraph that following months of steady improvements in the security situation in Iraq's second city, the rate of violent crime and murder in Basra has fallen below some major British cities.

"On a per capita basis, if you look at the violence statistics, it is less dangerous than Manchester," he said, hailing a "radical transformation" in Iraq's prospects.

[ ... ]

The general, a Royal Marine Commando, also jokingly compared Basra and Stockwell in south London where he once lived. Asked where he would rather spend a Saturday night, he replied: "Downtown Basra, in the restaurants, enjoying myself."

He said: "It's pretty normal down there: people going about their business, the nights bustle, people are enjoying themselves, kids are playing in parks. People are concerned about the normal things you'd be concerned by: jobs, the delivery of essential services, their future prosperity."

[ ... ]

Maj Gen Salmon said the improving security situation is largely down to the presence of very large Iraqi army and police forces: there are more than 30,000 Iraqi security forces in a city of more than 2 million. He said: "The risks are diminishing on a monthly basis. Security, as far as the population is concerned, has ceased to be a concern."
What's galling about this is that over a period of about two years - not 16 months as promised - Obama will gradually withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq and take credit for "winning" the war when he runs for reelection in 2012.

Foster mom in trouble over religious conversion

A foster mother in Britain is in hot water after a 16-year-old Muslim girl in her care decided to convert to Christianity.
A local council removed the woman from their register for failing to "respect and preserve" the teenager's faith, even though the girl made her own decision to change religion when she was 16.

[ ... ]

She claims that she did not pressurise the girl, who was put in care after being assaulted by a family member, to convert, and actually tried to discourage her initial interest in Christianity.
What would have been the council's reaction if a Christian in her care had decided to convert to Islam? Yeah, don't bother...I already know.

UN finally figuring out who the bad guys are?

Fox News notes that the UN's UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency) is, at long last, realizing that Hamas isn't the cuddly puppy they thought it was.
A United Nations agency's suspension Friday of aid into Gaza is the latest in a series this week of tougher stances against Hamas — in contrast to the U.N.'s criticisms of Israel during its battle with Hamas in Gaza in late December and January.

The suspension of aid was in response to armed Hamas militants on Thursday stealing hundreds of tons of food intended for Palestinians by armed Hamas militants.

Also this week, the U.N. reversed its earlier claims that Israeli Defense Forces had bombed a school in Gaza administered by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). On Tuesday, the U.N.'s Office for Humanitarian Affairs issued a report on the Jan. 6 incident that claimed the lives of 43 Palestinians, stating that "the shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school."

Separately, Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the organization will investigate the use by Hamas of children as human shields during the three-week Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Of course, it took some brazen acts by Hamas against UN relief efforts for the light bulb to finally switch on:
Twice this week, Hamas gunmen have stolen emergency aid shipments in Gaza.

On Tuesday, 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels were taken at gunpoint in Beach Camp, Gaza. Then on Thursday, 10 truckloads of flour and rice were stolen, again at gunpoint.
Ah, but it seems the UN may not have arrived at this conclusion completely independently:
UNRWA's criticisms of Hamas were welcomed on Capitol Hill, but they are unlikely to quell efforts to bring greater oversight and accountability of the agency. Over 40 members of Congress now have signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an independent audit of UNRWA. The letter was drafted by Reps. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Steve Rothman, D-N.J.

"It's an agency that's increasingly held in disrepute on Capitol Hill," Kirk said. "But this new posture may be an effort to forestall an independent audit."

[ ... ]

"I always wondered why the United Nations didn't address an entity dedicated to the destruction of a member nation of the U.N.," [Kirk] said. "You think it would be basic that a U.N. agency would defend the existence of members of the U.N."
Yes, one would think so.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Why wait?

When I saw this, I thought it'd be one of many posts I'd put up on the occasion of Fidel Castro's death. But it's too funny to wait that long. Who knows how long the commie bastard will hold out?

Shamelessly lifted from Theo's place.

And now, a public service announcement

Don't be that guy...get your mumps booster shot.

Via Neatorama.

Obama thugocracy watch: Panetta henchman grabs reporter

Just up over at Hot Air, which links this Politico article.
Following Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing Thursday, several reporters approached the CIA director-designate in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building.

There, CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm — upon asking a question — was physically restrained by a man who accompanied Panetta at hearings both days.
As Ed at HA asks, "Can you imagine the media reaction if this had happened a year ago?". It's not at all hard to imagine. This would have been burning up the media airwaves, and the howler monkeys on the left would have been, well, howling about the fascist thugs running the country.

Just another day in ObamaNation.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Night Tom Petty

I think American Girl was the first Tom Petty song I heard. To this day it's still one of my favorites. I found a better vid than this one, recorded in 1978 at something called "Old Grey Whistle Test", but embedding was disabled so I put up this one instead. But check out the link if you want to see Petty playing a "Flying V" type guitar...don't think I've ever seen that before...he seems to be mostly a Telecaster man.

Cops gone wild

I caught this on FNC this morning during the "Kelly's Court" segment. It seems a guy was tooling along above the speed limit, got lit up by one of Minnesota's finest, and took a little too long to pull over for the cop's took him "almost a mile" to pull over. Guy says he was waiting to come to a safe location to pull over, and what with the heaps of snow on the side of the road, I can see his point.

Anyway, just as the guy's coming to a stop, the cop rams him from behind in a "PIT" maneuver...with his three kids in the car. Cop arrests the guy for engaging her in "pursuit", and he spends two days in jail, ultimately with no charges filed.


No good deed shall go unpunished

Six Afghans are in prison and two of them face death for the high crime of translating the Quran into a language spoken in parts of Afghanistan.
The pocket-size translation of the Quran has already landed six men in prison in Afghanistan and left two of them begging judges to spare their lives. They're accused of modifying the Quran and their fate could be decided Sunday in court.

[ ... ]

The book appeared among gifts left for the cleric at a major Kabul mosque after Friday prayers in September 2007. It was a translation of the Quran into one of Afghanistan's languages, with a note giving permission to reprint the text as long as it was distributed for free.

Some of the men of the mosque said the book would be useful to Afghans who didn't know Arabic, so they took up a collection for printing. The mosque's cleric asked Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai, a longtime friend, to get the books printed.

But as some of the 1,000 copies made their way to conservative Muslim clerics in Kabul, whispers began, then an outcry.

Many clerics rejected the book because it did not include the original Arabic verses alongside the translation. It's a particularly sensitive detail for Muslims, who regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and a mistranslation could warp God's word.

[ ... ]

Police arrested Zalmai as he was fleeing to Pakistan, along with three other men the government says were trying to help him escape. [You KNOW you're in deep shit when you're fleeing TO Pakistan. --ed.] The publisher and the mosque's cleric, who signed a letter endorsing the book, were also jailed.
Consider this Exhibit "A" of why we'll never succeed in Afghanistan the way we clearly did in Iraq. After we kicked the Taliban's shit to the curb, we allowed the new Afghan government to establish a court system of which the Taliban would be proud.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Global ass-kissing

Barack Obama's first news interview after his inauguration was with al-Arabiya television. His first call to a foreign "head of state" was to Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PLO Fatah. Now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make Indonesia her first overseas visit.
New US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chosen to visit Indonesia on her first overseas trip because she wants to "reach out" to the Muslim world, a spokesman said Thursday.
Yeah, why not...the Muslim world's been reaching out to us and to our friends in places like London, Madrid and Mumbai for years.

Shoe-throwing catching on

First it was Bush, then the Chinese premier. The latest victim of a shoe-throwing incident is the Israeli ambassador to Sweden.
Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, was the victim of a shoe-throwing incident at a lecture at Stockholm University on Wednesday afternoon.

The incident took place as Dagan was delivering a speech about Israel’s upcoming elections.
I guess you ain't shit on the world stage unless you've had some dipshit throw a shoe at you.

Yeah, yeah...I know...

More Obama appointees go up in flames over tax issues, Iran launches a satellite and becomes ICBM-capable, the Senate's about to pass the most craptacular spending bill in history...and they pick this week to re-org our business unit at work leaving me with four new direct reports scattered from the west coast to Hong Kong.

Back to regular blogging when the dust settles.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Is Kyrgyzstan base closure a big deal?

I pose this question because I really want to know...why is Kyrgyzstan's decision to close our airbase there such a big deal? The Reuters article describes the airlift hub as "vital for supplying U.S.-led troops fighting in Afghanistan". Despite 27 years in the Air Force, I'm not an expert on such matters, so maybe that's why I can't figure out what's so "vital" about the airbase.

Take a look at the map (click it if you need a larger version). Kyrgyzstan is land-locked and isn't significantly closer to Afghanistan than any US or allied airbase in Europe or the Middle East from where supplies and troops headed for Afghanistan might originate. OK, so it makes sense to have a nearby staging area outside the theater of operations IF the theater of operations is so hot you don't dare risk staging troops and equipment within it, say at Bagram Air Base. While Afghanistan is far from peachy, I'd say the Kyrgyzstan airbase is more convenient than vital. I just don't see why troops and equipment can't be flown directly into Afghanistan rather than first stopping in Kyrgyzstan.

I suspect what this is really about is the symbolism of a regional ally, an alliance which Russia has chafed at from the start. Russia paid Kyrgyzstan a paltry $2 billion and in return the Kyrgyz government is giving us the boot. The symbolism was important to the US as a display of broad consensus in the war on terror, but a constant rock in Russia's shoe.

Like I said...I'm not an expert on this stuff, so if anyone reading this has other ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

'The normalization of evil'

Judea Pearl, father of the late Daniel Pearl who was murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, takes a whole host of people to task in a Wall Street Journal column, including Barack Obama prototype Jimmy Carter.
...somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

[ ... ]

This mentality of surrender then worked its way through politicians like the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In July 2005 he told Sky News that suicide bombing is almost man's second nature. "In an unfair balance, that's what people use," explained Mr. Livingstone.

But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel." Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.

[ ... ]

The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

[ ... ]

At my own university, UCLA, a symposium last week on human rights turned into a Hamas recruitment rally by a clever academic gimmick. The director of the Center for Near East Studies carefully selected only Israel bashers for the panel, each of whom concluded that the Jewish state is the greatest criminal in human history.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, February 02, 2009

First signs of "Civilian National Security Force"?

A bill introduced in the house by Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) - H.R. 645 - would provide $360M over FY09 and FY10 to "establish not fewer than 6 national emergency centers on military installations." What for, you ask?
(b) Purpose of National Emergency Centers- The purpose of a national emergency center shall be to use existing infrastructure--

(1) to provide temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster;

(2) to provide centralized locations for the purposes of training and ensuring the coordination of Federal, State, and local first responders;

(3) to provide centralized locations to improve the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts of government, private, and not-for-profit entities and faith-based organizations; and

(4) to meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
I suppose it's number (4) above which prompted the ever-excitable WorldNetDaily to quickly label these facilities "detention camps" for "corralling civilians on military installations". All jumping to paranoid conclusions aside, doesn't this sound just a little bit like the kinds of facilities needed for Rahm Emanuel's creepy little plan for 18- to 25-year-olds?

Super Bowl XLIII

I didn't have a dog in this fight, so I decided just before kick-off to root for the Steelers for the simple reason that I identify more with Pittsburgh than with Arizona. Nothing wrong with Arizona, I just don't get out there much. But I kind of like Kurt Warner, so it was a tough call.

Anyhoo...I thought Pittsburgh's James Harrison would have been a good MVP pick after that 100 yard interception return for a TD, but that cheap personal foul late in the game - punching a guy on the ground then shoving him back down - negated everything. I thought he should have been ejected, and this guy does, too.

Congrats to the Steelers and condolences to the was a great game.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Brit environut wants to limit families to two children

Warning that larger families are environmentally "irresponsible", Britain's chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission wants families to limit themselves to two kids.
COUPLES who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned.

Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population.
Never mind that the replacement rate is around 2.2 live births per woman of child-bearing age, just to keep a population steady. We just can't have all these messy humans around, what with the "unbearable burden on the environment" and all.

European Union 1, Obama 0

Barack Obama is backing off a "Buy American" provision in the economic stimulus Democratic frivolous spending bill in a bid to avert a trade war threatened by European Union leaders.
Barack Obama is expected to water down "Buy American" plans in his economic stimulus package after European diplomats privately threatened to launch a trade war in retaliation.

The White House has promised to review the protectionist proposals, passed last week by Democratic allies in the House of Representatives, which would ban the use of non-American steel in the $800 billion of construction projects.

Obama officials are under pressure from what European diplomats in Washington describe as a discreet but outspoken campaign of "quiet fury" from America's closest allies.
The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 deepened and lengthened a global recession into a world-wide depression. The act raised tariffs on some 20,000 imported goods and touched off retaliatory tariffs on American goods in other countries. While the "Buy American" provisions in the spendig bill fall short of Smoot-Hawley, the Senate version goes further than just the steel and iron mentioned in the Telegraph article. From the Washington Post (may require login):
The provision, passed by the House on Wednesday, would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out in the stimulus package. A Senate version still being considered goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.
This spending bill is truly a dangerous piece of legislation. If passed, it's a massive steaming pile of crap which won't be cleaned up any time soon.

Putin facing internal dissent, too

In a follow-up to yesterday's post about growing popular unrest in Czar Putin's Russia, things are actually worse better than I thought.
The protests, which began on Dec 14, rapidly took on a political hue and Mr Putin, who is intolerant of dissent, ordered the Kremlin's top officials in the far east to use force next time. But senior adminstrators refused to intervene and a week later the government was forced to send a special detachment of riot police from Moscow to break up a second protest in Valdivostok.

Furious that he had again been disobeyed, Mr Putin directed Vladislav Surkov, his top ideologue, to sack the newly appointed head of internal affairs in Primorye, the region surrounding Vladivostok.

But the official, Maj Gen Andrei Nikolayev, flatly refused to leave his post. Sources say he threatened to expose corruption linked to the Kremln in the Russian far east if Mr Putin pressed ahead.

Such a gesture of defiance is almost unheard of in Russia. Gen Nikolayev was supposed to be the man entrusted by the Kremlin to keep regional officials under control.
It seems that Vladimir Putin has two choices. He can back off and let democracy (such as it actually exists in Russia) run its course, or he can drop the mask, exposing himself as the totalitarian that he is and drop all pretenses of democracy.

Any bets against the latter?

Nurse suspended for offering prayer

In Britain a nurse has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient.
Caroline Petrie, a committed Christian, has been accused by her employers of failing to demonstrate a "personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity".

[ ... ]

She insists she has never forced her own religious beliefs on anyone but politely inquired if the elderly patient wanted her to pray for her – either in the woman's presence or after the nurse had left the patient's home.
Maybe next time she should ask instead if the patient would like her to sacrifice a goat in the patient's name.

Born to play the guitar

As someone struggling to learn guitar at an age later than most, I'm jealous.
A baby boy was born in California with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, KTVU-TV in San Francisco reported.

Kamani Hubbard, the baby boy born to a couple in Daly City, has a condition called "polydactyly" — a genetic trait that causes the appearance of extra fingers and toes, according to the station.
Hand that kid a guitar as soon as he's old enough. Do you know how many times I've said to myself "Yeah, I could make that chord if I had another finger"?