July 2008 Archives

Two days ago President Bush met with Bob Fu from the China Aid Association and received an Olympic Prayer Band bracelet distributed by Voice of the Martyrs.

Today in The White House Residence, President Bush met with five Chinese freedom activists to discuss his concerns about human rights in China. The President assured them that he will carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing for the games, just as he has regularly made this a priority in all of his meetings with Chinese officials. He told the activists that engagement with Chinese leaders gives him an opportunity to make the United States' position clear - human rights and religious freedom should not be denied to anyone.

Sounds good, but I wish that religious freedom were as high on the bilateral agenda as economic issues.


Looks like the White House reads Master of None.

It looks to me like China is in the process of colonizing the third world.

And so on. Along with all the money, China is pouring millions of Chinese workers into the Third World. There are 50% more Chinese than there are Africans, and it looks like China has a long-term goal of moving into Africa and taking it over with a civilian army.

Unlike European colonialism in which the colonizers sent a small contingent of soldiers and businessmen to exploit the natives, the Chinese are sending millions of workers all over the world not just to exploit, but to simply move in and replace. There's no doubt that the People's Republican Army will protect the safety and security of Chinese expatriates with force when necessary.

China has plenty of people, but lacks land and natural resources. Africa has bountiful supplies of both, and dysfunctional governments that can be easily bought and controlled. China won't need to actually annex African nations if it can just install proxy governments and substantial ethnic Chinese minorities.

If someone else has already brought these points together into a cohesive report I'd like to read it.

Even cooler than the Surface computer is Microsoft's multitouch Sphere.

If you're curious about the safety of your bank, I suggest checking out BankRate's Safe and Sound tool. You can look up your specific bank and get some information that may help you decide whether you should stay or move your money elsewhere.

Cute little bunnies re-enact the Rocky Horror Picture Show in 30 seconds.

Here's a funny story about two married sets of twins whose customers thought the four of them were just two really hard workers.

Customers dubbed the pair the “robot couple” because of their marathon hours, which involved opening the restaurant at 6am and apparently still being there to close it up at 3am.

But it has now emerged that the restaurant in the city of Yiwu in eastern China is actually run by two couples – and both the men and the women are identical twins.

It's interesting to consider their kids:

Both couples now have young sons, who are also almost identical.

It would be impossible to use DNA to determine which kids belonged to which parents! Just think of all the twists that could be crammed into an episode of Law & Order!

Maybe it's just the line of work I'm in, but there seem to be more abbreviations used to describe when things will get done than for just about anything else.

  • ASAP: As Soon As Possible
  • PDQ: Pretty Darn Quick
  • RSN: Real Soon Now
  • TBD: To Be Determined
  • WIR: When It's Ready

I'll post more as I remember them. I had several others in my head this morning, but they seem to have escaped.

This post future-dated to keep at the top. New posts below!

Some friends and I have just launched MindThrow, a new website designed to help people find new things to do. How many times have you sat around, bored, looking for a new hobby, a new book, a new movie, or just anything to do? Yeah, me too. Well MindThrow helps solve that problem by using some sophisticated artificial intelligence techniques to connect interests together so that you can find new things to do based on what you already know you like.

Because the system learns as people use it, the quality of search results will improve over time. We're just getting started, and there are sure to be a few bugs here and there, but I'd love for you to check the site out and let us know what you think.

Originally posted at 080711@14:03:35.

"Mystery explosions" are rattling Iranian leadership... could Western intelligence agencies actually be doing something right?

For an organisation that prides itself on being a well-run administrative machine, the leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is having a rather testing time. It’s not just last Saturday’s mysterious explosion in a suburb of Tehran that killed 15 people that is causing the leadership sleepless nights, although the nationwide news black-out imposed immediately afterwards does suggest the Revolutionary Guards, the storm troops of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, are rattled.

Details are only now starting to reach the outside world, and it looks increasingly like sabotage was responsible for devastating a military convoy as it travelled through Khavarshahar. The company responsible for moving the equipment, LTK, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards and is suspected of being involved in shipping arms to Lebanon’s Hizbollah Shia Muslim militia, which is trained and funded by Tehran. ...

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran’s latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards’ leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

These are all valid military targets. I'd love to think that our much-maligned intelligence agencies are behind this chaos.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Now that the truth is out, I can personally confirm that Edgar Mitchell's claims about an alien presence on earth are completely true.

FORMER NASA astronaut and moon-walker Dr Edgar Mitchell - a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission - has stunningly claimed aliens exist.

And he says extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions - but the alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades.

I have participated in high-level meetings that have set international policy for human-alien interactions. Aliens are here, and will soon have the blessing of human governments to reveal themselves to the world at large.

Chillingly, he claimed our technology is "not nearly as sophisticated" as theirs and "had they been hostile", he warned "we would be been gone by now".

Dr. Mitchell is misinformed on the matter of alien technological superiority, however. Their technological capabilities are not far beyond ours, and their ability to travel interstellar distances derives from a natural quirk of their genetic make-up. Our scientists are close to deciphering the genetic markers involved so that the ability to travel faster-than-light can be implanted into the human species by means of an AIDS-derived retrovirus that will be spread through genetically modified foods.

Dr Mitchell, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering and a Doctor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics claimed Roswell was real and similar alien visits continue to be investigated.

He told the astonished Kerrang! radio host Nick Margerrison: "This is really starting to open up. I think we're headed for real disclosure and some serious organisations are moving in that direction.

Dr. Mitchell has been out of the loop for over a decade, but he is right on this count. An effort is presently underway to root out and eliminate whoever leaked this information to him, but there's no use denying its accuracy now. The plan was for Barack Obama and the other aliens to reveal themselves at President Obama's inauguration in 2009, but the schedule may now need to be moved forward. Stay tuned.

Not only were our political masters getting favorable interest rates from Countrywide, but the mortgage giant they were supposed to be regulating also made it a practice to waive the "junk" fees they stick to the rest of us.

According to Feinberg and company documents, V.I.P.’s nearly always received better deals than those available to most borrowers. Countrywide often waived up to two points and eliminated fees amounting to hundreds of dollars for underwriting, processing, and document preparation. Internal company emails often referred to these fees as “junk” or “garbage.” If interest rates fell while a V.I.P. loan was pending, Countrywide provided a free float-down to the lower rate, eschewing its usual charge of half a point. Some V.I.P.’s who bought or refinanced investment properties were given the lower interest rate reserved for primary residences. Because Mozilo informally preapproved his F.O.A.’s, many of them barely bothered to document their assets and enjoyed exceptions to normal procedures or shortcuts around them.

If you're a homeowner and that doesn't make your blood boil, you may already be in a cool homicidal rage. There's no way that this special treatment isn't bribery of the most pernicious kind, and every, every "friend of Angelo" of either party who participated should be thrown in prison. Pleading ignorance doesn't keep us peasants out of jail, and the people who make the laws should be held to at least as high a standard.

(HT: Instapundit.)

It's hard to find concrete information, but it appears that Barack Obama will be in Iraq for less than 24 hours. Maybe even less than 12 hours! Is that really enough time to "fact-find"?

Senator Barack Obama arrived in Baghdad on Monday, meeting with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi politicians, on the latest leg of a weeklong overseas tour, his first as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

A United States Embassy official said Mr. Obama, who was traveling as part of an American delegation, had arrived in the Iraqi capital in the early afternoon after first stopping in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. ...

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander in Iraq, met briefly with Mr. Obama when the senator arrived at the Baghdad airport and they flew by helicopter to the Green Zone, where the American embassy and many Iraqi government offices are located, according to an American military official.

Mr. Obama was scheduled to meet again with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker later Monday, the official said. ...

Mr. Obama is expected to spend the rest of the day in Baghdad. His movements remained shrouded in secrecy, and Americans here strictly warned Iraqi officials not to give details about Mr. Obama’s visit. But as well as his meetings with senior politicians, he was also scheduled to meet with American soldiers, according to American and Iraqi officials.

So he's probably going to fly out of Baghdad this evening to spend the rest of the week pressing flesh with Europes' socialist masters. I get the feeling he wouldn't have even made this token visit if it wasn't necessary to cover for his utter lack of experience and interest in the matter.

Based on this profile by Kim Strassel and some first-hand accounts by friends who have met her, Master of None is endorsing state treasurer Sarah Steelman for Governor of Missouri.

For an insight as to why the GOP is down and out in Washington, take a look at Jefferson City. That's where Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer, is running in an Aug. 5 primary for the Missouri governorship. And it's where her reform campaign against earmarks and self-dealing is threatening the entrenched status quo, causing her own party to rise against her.

So bitter are House Minority Whip Roy Blunt and Sen. Kit Bond at Ms. Steelman's attack on their cherished spending beliefs that last month they rallied the entire Missouri congressional delegation to put out a public statement openly criticizing her campaign against six-term U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. Joining them in their support of Mr. Hulshof has been the vast majority of the state Republican machine. Ms. Steelman is clearly doing something right.

Her sin is in fact to belong to that new mold of Republican – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint – who know it's no longer enough to simply hawk lower taxes. In 10 years as a state legislator and treasurer, her target has been the slothful political favor factory that's led Republicans away from small-government principles and outraged conservative voters.

And, oh, the howls of misery. Ms. Steelman's Republican colleagues were livid with her attempt to strip them of comfy pensions, annoyed with her "sunshine law" requiring them to be more open in their dealings, furious at her attacks on their ethanol boondoggles, appalled that she criticized GOP state Speaker Rod Jetton for moonlighting as a paid political consultant. The final straw was her temerity to make her primary race about her opponent's Washington earmarking record.

Democrat Jay Nixon is currently leading in the polls, but if Steelman can win the Republican primary I bet disenchanted voters will be willing to give her a shot.

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to why food is "out of reach" for these Ohioans?

They're clearly suffering severe economic hardship.

(HT: The Pirate.)

I like this optical illusion. Post links to any others you think are particularly cool.

Pilot Patrick Smith mocks the Transportation Security Administration. As he points out, everyone who flies knows he's right, but none of the interested parties will stick their necks out to fix the problem.

At this point, the Transportation Security Administration's policies in general are wrong on so many levels that it's hard to get one's arms around them. My apologies to those who've tired of my harping on this subject in column after column, but here again are the bullet points:

* Sharp, potentially dangerous objects can be fashioned from virtually anything, including no shortage of materials found on board any jetliner -- to say nothing of the fact that a copycat takeover in the style of Sept. 11 would be almost impossible for terrorists to pull off, regardless of what weapons they possess. Yet we insist on wasting huge amounts of time digging through people's belongings, looking for what are effectively benign items.

* Almost as senseless are the liquids and gels restrictions. Experts have pointed out the futility of these measures, yet they remain in place. (Still more from TSA's you-can't-make-this-up list of airport contraband: gel shoe inserts.)

* TSA's approach is fundamentally flawed in that it treats everybody -- from employees to passengers, old and young, domestic and foreign -- as a potential threat. We are all suspects. Together with a preposterous zero-tolerance approach to weapons, be they real or perceived, this has created a colossal apparatus that strives for the impossible.

I can't disagree that some level of screening will always be important. Explosives and firearms, for instance, need to be kept off airplanes. But the existing rules are so heavy-handed, absolute and illogical as to be ultimately unenforceable.

You would think, nearly seven years after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, that TSA would have gotten its act together. Not just tactically, but functionally. Take a look at the typical checkpoint. There are people yelling, bags falling, trash bins overflowing with water bottles. There's nowhere to stand, nowhere to move. It's a jury-rigged circus. ...

Except there is no fuss. Serious protest has been all but nil. The airlines, biggest losers in all of this, remain strangely quiet. More and more people are choosing not to fly, and checkpoint hassles are one of the reasons. Yet the industry appears to have little concern while an out-of-control agency delays and aggravates its customers.

Any public officeholder or official who complains or attempts to change the broken system will be pilloried when there's another successful terrorist attack against an airliner. The facade of security isn't worth the cost, and more people need to stand up and say so.

Does the AFP really need to shadow the ChiCom's propaganda so closely that they use the same words? Only a communist could talk of "drafting" "volunteers" with a straight face.

Foul-smelling green algae that has been plaguing China's Olympic sailing venue has been cleared, state media said Tuesday, after more than one million tonnes of the sludge was removed.

Authorities had set a Tuesday deadline to clean up the algae bloom in Qingdao, drafting 10,000 soldiers and volunteers and hundreds of fishing boats to help with the mammoth task.

I don't get the feeling that the civilian "volunteers" had any more choice in the matter than the soldiers did. Someone should investigate this slavery/serfdom and make yet another horrid connection to the travesty that is the 2008 Olympics.

I read stories like this one from the UK about a women using mild force to protect a war memorial from disruptive "youths" and I wonder if adults should be given a presumption of justification for stand-alone instances of violence against kids.

Julie Lake, 50, believed the 15-year-old was one of a number of youths who had damaged the remembrance garden in her village dedicated to those killed fighting for Britain.

But Mrs Lake was arrested after giving a boy, whom she believed to be the ringleader, a talking-to and a 'cuff round the ear'.

She tackled him after she saw at least one youth riding a BMX bike through freshly-laid flower beds.

Magistrates heard that when she grabbed his shirt collar, he said: 'That's assault'.

Mrs Lake claimed she was performing a 'moral obligation' following months of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at the memorial.

But weeks later she was arrested and yesterday was convicted of assault, criminal damage and a public order offence at North Avon Magistrates Court in Yate, near Bristol.

I don't think that repeated patterns of violence against children by an adult should be tolerated of course, but I do think that kids should be scared of adults, and especially of strangers. Children and teenagers should be afraid to act disruptively and abusively in public, and if it takes a "cuff round the ear" to make it so, I'm fine with that.

I'm not exactly sure how the law should be crafted, but the case against Mrs. Lake should have been laughed out of court and the "youths" should have been punished (further). The new law would need to punish domestic child abuse, but shouldn't prevent adults from keeping strange kids in line in public places.

She told how the gang surrounded her, pushed her and shouted: 'You can't touch us, we're 15, we can do what the f*** we like.'

When the 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was questioned in court about the war memorial, he replied: ''It means nothing to me, I guess it's for some people who died in the war.'

If the system weren't so stacked in their favor, I don't think it would take long for kids to realize that they'd better shut up and keep a low profile around adults. I doubt much actual force would need to be used if the threat of force were once again widespread.

(HT: Rachel Lucas.)

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) fascinates me, but one thing I've never had anyone explain to me is how we'd be able to distinguish intelligent signals from from the background noise. After all, I assume that advanced alien civilizations have decent encryption and data compression technology, and encrypted data looks like random data if you don't have the key.

Ezra Levant has written a fascinating pair (so far) of posts about his recent testimony before Congress' human rights caucus. The first contains some background and the transcript of his prepared remarks, and the second reveals Islam's plans to use the Western legal system to institute Sharia law, as related by a diplomat from Pakistan.

She wants Western countries to ban critical comments about Islam -- and she mentioned the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in particular. It was well pointed out by others on the panel that Western defamation law deals with the vindication of improperly besmirched reputations using the truth, as determined by courts of law -- but when it comes to clashing religions, the truth of any faith is in the heart of the beholder. The only legal system that would hold the Koran to be "the truth", and subordinate every other faith beneath the Koranic truth, would be a sharia legal system, such as that in Saudi Arabia. In other words, she wants to replace our secular legal systems with a Muslim legal system. I appreciated the honesty.

Western defamation law is also about vindication of an individual's reputation -- the individual must be indentified; he must have suffered measurable damage. Defamation is not about hurt feelings -- it is about the unjustified destruction of one's reputation in the eyes of another. It has nothing to do with tender feelings, though that was the grievance cited most often by Fatima. ...

But the single most revealing comment I heard all day about this matter was from a State Department lawyer on the panel (whose name I wish to confirm before publishing it.) She has done meticulous research on the Muslim campaign to ban criticism of Islam, and has helped develop the U.S. response to the idea in international legal forums.

She went deep into the issue: she looked at the Arabic word used by Muslim diplomats when describing the "defamation of Islam" that they sought to illegalize. She consulted scholars of Arabic who confirmed for her that the particular legal phrase had been coined very recently, especially for the international diplomatic campaign -- and that, when discussed domestically, Muslim countries used the real Arabic words they mean: the traditional words for blasphemy.

Muslims want to use our defamation laws to ban blasphemy against Allah, but they know that if they didn't use the codewords "defamation of Islam" they wouldn't get very far.

I mostly lift free-weights rather than using machines, but for anyone who spends a lot of time at the gym I recommend checking out this list of exercise machines you "must" avoid because of their propensity to cause injury.

(HT: RD.)

(HT: RD.)

Cowicide has managed to acquire top secret photos from the real Iranian missile test.

The Reconquista continues, now on Catalina Island:

AVALON, Calif. - It seems even 22 miles of open ocean might not be keeping gangs off Catalina Island, a mist-shrouded outpost of Los Angeles County best known for its Hollywood history and crystal-clear harbors.

Deputies on the isle say a fledgling gang called the Brown Pride Locos has gotten a foothold among the beaches, coves and tourist shops. A stabbing, burglaries and graffiti are being blamed on the gang, and deputies last month surprised teenagers practicing moves with knives on a dark bluff above Avalon's crescent-shaped bay.

A swift crackdown has netted at least six arrests and led to a pair of police raids — but it has also caused an uproar in the tiny community, where residents leave their doors unlocked and putt around in golf carts.

Sure, everyone is talking about this, but it's so hilarious I have to post the picture too, courtesy of LGF.


Iran photoshopped pictures of its recent missile launches to make it look like there were four missiles when there were actually only three. There's got to be a Viagra joke in here somewhere... can anyone find it?

Richard Fernandez explains that nuclear deterrence depends heavily on sowing uncertainty in the minds of your enemies, and that the American missile shield we're installing in Eastern Europe is a key contributor to that uncertainty.

What a working missile defense shield will do is make any Russian limited WMD attack on the West a very uncertain proposition. While Russia’s arsenal is easily big enough to overwhelm, through sheer numbers, the defensive system based in Poland and the Czech Republic any such attack would also be big enough to guarantee Russia’s destruction in the resulting retaliation. It may be an exaggeration to claim that a missile defense will have the effect of disarming the Kremlin of any viable military response between issuing a diplomatic protest and starting Armaggedon but it is quite clear it threatens to invalidate a large range of the “full spectrum” responses now available to the Russians.

He also quotes from "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence" which explains that deterrence doctrines have never depended on so-called "rational" enemies.

Deterrence of the Soviets never depended on having “rational” leaders. Stalin was in charge when the Soviets first began a build-up of nuclear arms, and it is difficult to consider him as an example of a rational leader. This is perhaps the grossest error of those who make arguments that the new multilateral threats are “undeterrable” because the new regional actors are not likely to be rational. Stalin was hardly more rational than they. The very framework of a concept that depends on instilling fear and uncertainty in the minds of opponents was never, nor can it be, strictly rational. Nor has it ever strictly required rational adversaries in order to function. What should be sobering to all of us in viewing deterrence as a process is that its outcome was never, nor can it ever be, strictly predictable. ...

Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the US may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed. The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially “out of control” can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts in the minds of an adversary’s decision makers. ‘This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence. That the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be part of the national persona we project to all adversaries.

An excellent and concise explanation of the psychology that helped us win the Cold War and continues to protect us today.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Next time CAIR or some other domestic Islamist group complains about religious persecution because one of us infidels looks at them sideways maybe we should take them more seriously -- after all, Muslims are the world's experts on religious persecution.


Christian Detained on Terrorism Charges - Forum 18 News

On June 3, a newly converted Christian couple in Iran was arrested by police for holding Bible studies with Muslims in their home, and attending a house church. According to Compass Direct News, “Makan Arya and Tina Rad were seized from their home in east Tehran after one of Makan's relatives informed security police of the couple's Christian activities. Their 4-year-old daughter was left behind, ill and unattended. The couple was taken to an unknown jail where they were severely beaten and interrogated for four days.” Compass reported, “Makan was accused of ‘activities against national security’ and Tina of ‘activities against the holy religion of Islam.’ The authorities threatened to take their daughter away to a religious institution and warned they could be imprisoned on charges of apostasy or fabricated drug charges if they didn't stop their Christian work.” The report added that eventually the couple was pressured into signing a statement claiming they had not changed their religion from Islam and promising that they would stay away from their house church and other Christians. “After a court hearing, Makan was freed on bail charges of US $19,634 and Tina upon payment of US $29,451. The couple returned home to find that the window of their shop had been smashed by local Muslims. On June 23, Makan received a letter threatening him with continued attacks if he did not put up evidence of his Islamic faith on the front of his shop, to which he responded by hanging pictures of Muslim leaders on his window,” Compass added. Ask God to strengthen the hearts of these believers to proclaim His Name without hesitation or fear. Pray for healing, especially for Tina who currently cannot walk as a result of her mistreatment in detention. Luke 6:27-28

Muslims in the West should exert as much energy denouncing real persecution in their homelands as they do complaining about slights here.

This story about the idiotic bailout our Senate is planning for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a perfect example of why we need a flat tax law that prohibits this sort of case-by-case meddling by Congress.

Like the bailout that has already passed the House, the Senate bill features a special new tax on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We have long urged reform of the two mortgage giants, which operate with an implicit government guarantee and therefore a license to endanger the taxpayer if they take on too much risk. The shares of both plunged yesterday to new lows based on their credit risks. But as a price for allowing more oversight of the two companies, Mr. Dodd and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank want to cut their allies in on even more of the action. Mr. Dodd creates an annual tax of 4.2 basis points on the mortgages that Fan and Fred purchase each year. Initially this money will go to finance losses resulting from the bill's bailout of refinanced mortgages. But by 2012 most of the cash from this tax will be directed to the new "affordable housing" funds. Mr. Frank applies a 1.2 basis-point tax on the value of all the loans Fan and Fred hold or have guaranteed, to collect roughly the same amount of money. The annual windfall here could amount to more than $600 million at the start, growing to perhaps $1 billion or more, depending on how fast the companies grow. Even better for the pols, this money won't end up in the Treasury's general fund. Instead, they've written the bill to steer the cash toward some of their favorite political allies. In the Senate bill, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development gets the largest pot to distribute, a full 65% of the "affordable housing" funds. Within guidelines established by the bill, the HUD chief has discretion to favor particular states while punishing others in creating a formula for doling out block grants. Much of the political clout will be enjoyed by state politicians once they receive the checks from HUD. The state pols will be free to share the wealth with favored organizations, which will include both nonprofit and for-profit groups with an agenda.

Our government is basically run like a giant pyramid scheme, and those of us who produce wealth by our labor and investments are the suckers.

In our secular age it has become popular to denigrate our national motto, "In God We Trust", as a merely modern fabrication chosen by Congress as recently as 1956. However, it's likely origin is much earlier and can be found in the final verse of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, penned in 1814 by Francis Scott Key.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Though I doubt you'd learn it or sing it in school.

(HT: SMI Blog.)

David Harsanyi has an absolutely brilliant take on the righteousness of self-interest and the right to the "pursuit of happiness" we celebrate on Independence Day.

What we definitely "must" be is selfless — like Obama, who often recounts his own righteous journey. Spurning high-paying gigs on Wall Street, Obama hit the Chicago pavement as a crusading community organizer . . . and then, in meticulous detail, wrote a book about his awesome sacrifice and raked in millions.

Obama claims this experience also opened his eyes to a "citizenship that was meaningful." (Unlike yours.) Imagine if everyone wanted a "meaningful" job? Who would support these quixotic crusaders? Doesn't someone need to produce wealth?

One could easily argue, in fact, that a reviled Chicago commodities trader — one who churns investments, creates jobs and pays exorbitant taxes (to allow "public" service to exist) — is more beneficial for society than an organizer.

Still, Obama has stated that public service will be the "central cause" of his presidency.

As Harsanyi points out, America would probably be a better place if we had more people with jobs and fewer "community organizers".

(HT: Instapundit.)

These guys know how to celebrate. Myself, I'll be barbecuing every single thing I eat all day... though purists will object because I just used a George Foreman Grill to make lunch :/

In the middle of a very optimistic article about the future of Iraq is this strange characterization of how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is balancing his relationships with America and Iran.

Maliki has also shown surprising skill on the foreign policy front. Instead of bemoaning the fate of being dependent on both Tehran and Washington, currently two of the world's bitterest enemies, he is using his trumps on both sides. In Washington, he is campaigning for moderation in the nuclear dispute with Tehran, arguing that Iran could otherwise invade southern Iraq. In Tehran, he has promised to do everything in his power to ensure that the upcoming security treaty with the United States will not infringe on Iran's sphere of influence.

So... in Washington he pushes us to moderate our stance towards Iran, and in Tehran is assures Iran that no one will threaten its power. How is that "using his trumps on both sides"? It sounds to me like he's pretty firmly on Iran's side, unless I'm missing something.

(HT: JB.)

I think Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton has misread his customer satisfaction surveys in a hilariously tragic way.

The Los Angeles Times plans to cut 250 positions, including 150 jobs in the print and online news departments, amid a continuing industrywide slump in ad sales, the paper's editor said Wednesday. ...

"The number one reason that people cancel the L.A. Times is, they tell us, they don't have enough time to read the paper that we give them every day," Stanton said. "We're going to be more picky about the stories we choose to write long and a lot more picky about the ones we write shorter."

I can see the survey question in my head:

We're sorry to see you go! Please tell us the number one reason you are canceling your subscription to the Los Angeles Times: [check] Not enough time to read it.

And Stanton interprets that answers to mean that his readers think the paper is too long! Seems pretty obvious to me that what the ex-subscribers really mean is that they don't have time to read the Los Angeles Times because they're too busy surfing the internet.

Slowly but surely the Iraqi government is meeting the benchmarks set for it by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Even though the Democrats intended to use the benchmarks as leverage for forcing an American retreat from Iraq, what some thought was impossible is actually happening, and we're winning. Naturally the Associated Press spins this optimistic step into a negative.

No matter who is elected president in November, his foreign policy team will have to deal with one of the most frustrating realities in Iraq: the slow pace with which the government in Baghdad operates.

Iraq's political and military success is considered vital to U.S. interests, whether troops stay or go. And while the Iraqi government has made measurable progress in recent months, the pace at which it's done so has been achingly slow.

The White House sees the progress in a particularly positive light, declaring in a new assessment to Congress that Iraq's efforts on 15 of 18 benchmarks are "satisfactory"—almost twice of what it determined to be the case a year ago. The May 2008 report card, obtained by the Associated Press, determines that only two of the benchmarks—enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues—are unsatisfactory.

The White House sees, but of course we all know better. Can't they just report good news without hedging and qualification?

Moldbug explains the Supreme Court concisely. We like to think we're ruled by the law, but:

All governments are governments of men. If final decisions are taken by a council of nine, these nine are the nine who rule. Whether you call them a court, a junta or a politburo is irrelevant.

(HT: Arnold Kling.)

Chicago's Cook County has just hiked its sales tax rate to 10.25%, and residents are predictably upset. What isn't mentioned in the article is the role that high gas prices play in enabling this sort of tax hike.

It will definitely be cheaper to shop in the suburbs. Buy a $500 TV in DuPage County where the taxes are 6.75 percent and you'll pay $534, in Chicago where the taxes are 9 percent, you'll pay $545 for that same television, and when taxes increase to 10.25 percent, you'll pay $551.

For that reason, businesses are concerned that consumers will leave Cook County to make purchases.

Maybe, but the higher gas prices are they more expensive it becomes to leave the county to shop. In essence, Cook County is taking advantage of high gas prices to gouge its residents and further empower the county government.

Lifehacker has a list of books that changed your lives, as voted on by its readers. Overall, the list is pretty good; in order:

  • The Bible
  • The Works of Ayn Rand
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig
  • The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  • The Works of George Orwell
  • The Works of Richard Dawkins
  • The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert

But wait, you say, one of these things is not like the others! The works of Richard Dawkins don't belong on a list of life-changing books! Because they are insipid and vacuous? No, but simply because they don't meet the fundamental criteria of the list: changing lives. Anyone who considers Dawkins' stunted philosophy to be profound was a bitter atheist long before reading The God Delusion.

(HT: RD.)

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