25 September 2009

Radicalism and Punditry

You can't visit the NY Times opinion page without someone opposing Obama (a good chunk of Americans) being called a racist (a very serious accusation), and they're dropping in credibility faster than the SPLC. Reason examines this phenomenon in American history in a very interesting piece:

A similar dynamic is at work in 2009. When pundits weave a small number of unrelated incidents into a "pattern" of crime, then link it to the rhetoric of Obama's opponents, it becomes easier to marginalize nonviolent, noncriminal critics on the right, just as a red scare makes it easier to marginalize nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the left.
Admittedly, there been an uptick in crazy lately. After all, shoddy economies and Americans coming home in body bags tend to produce a more extreme politics, and right now America has both. But, the lame attempts to discredit Obama critics as being a pack of racist, barnyard yokels is pretty transparent partisan politics.

Oh Yeah...You Mean THAT "Secret, Underground Nuclear Fuel Facility"

President Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and President Sarkozy are dropping a bombshell (pun intended!) at the G20 summit today...well not really that surprising considering Iran's track record. From the NY Times:

President Obama and the leaders of Britain and France will accuse Iran Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying it has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years, according to senior administration officials.

The revelation, which the three leaders will make before the opening of the Group of 20 economic summit here, appears bound to add urgency to the diplomatic confrontation with Iran over its suspected ambitions to build a nuclear weapons capability. Mr. Obama, along with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, will demand that the country allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct an immediate inspection of the facility, which is said to be 100 miles southwest of Tehran.
That's certainly one way to approach diplomacy, and a much more effective one that inviting Iranian officials over for hot dogs.

22 September 2009


Interesting profile of SECDEF Gates in the NY Times today. Due to his nature of being capable of cleaning up the proverbial bag of dicks that is our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, NY Times likens him to this Pulp Fiction character:

Mr. Gates’s shifting role can be summed up in terms familiar to the defense secretary, an avid film buff who routinely brings piles of DVDs on long trips and cites favorite movies in conversation to make a point.

In his new memoir, Matt Latimer, a Pentagon speechwriter under Mr. Gates’s predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, compares Mr. Gates to the Harvey Keitel character in “Pulp Fiction” — the one who shows up after the grisly killing to wipe away all traces of blood.
A good analogy, however I disagree with this strawman:
For Republicans, Mr. Gates poses a quandary in assessing Mr. Obama’s national security decisions:do they look at him as a turncoat for dismantling some of Mr. Bush’s policies or as the best hope for moderating changes brought by a Democratic administration?
A turncoat...hardly. It's not like the guy is Arlen Specter or something. It was a logical choice by an incoming administration that faced a wartime transition for the first time in over 35 years. And, as you recall, the rare bit of opposition to SECDEF Gates being re-appointed was from lefties upset because this move would signal that Democrats were weak on national security. The guy could be registered with the Bull Moose party for all I care, as long as he gets the job done, which I believe he is.

21 September 2009

Pre-Emptive NEA Goes Under the Bus Post

After the devastating muckraking done on ACORN this month, Breitbart promises some more against the NEA. Although, Big Hollywood has already revealed some pretty serious dirt regarding financing the creative arts in exchange for health care reform support:

But, there is even a larger issue that hasn’t yet received much attention in the press. Among the Obama Administration officials on the call were Buffy Wicks, Office of Public Engagement and the lead White House official on the President’s Serve.Gov initiative to promote national service. Also on the call was Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for Serve.Gov. One of their main goals on the call, it seems, was to encourage artists to produce works that would reinforce the President’s call for service; specifically through the Serve.Gov web-portal.
Andrew Breitbart is amongst the Hollywood creative arts crowd, so I can see why they would want to go after the NEA. But, really, how much are these people ripping off the US taxpayer for to fund annoying Obama-art? I hope that Breitbart's next target is to go after the bozos on Wall Street who fleeced us for billions while the rest of us are scrounging for breadcrumbs. The media seems to have fallen down on the job with the new administration, and I think Breitbart has proven himself quite capable of sticking it to the man during a liberal administation.

20 September 2009

Big Trouble in (Little) Tourist Thailand

The title alone is a reference to the John Carpenter classic, so you know the documentary has got to be good. It takes a look at the seedy side of Thailand and how if you're a tourist here, you're going to either end up getting fleeced by the locals or in Thai prison for a 10-year stretch. Not exactly everyone's experience, but who doesn't love a little bit of sensationalism!

However, if you act like a rowdy and drunken boob, you can probably get in trouble in any country. And as for sheisty locals ripping off the throngs of rubes on holiday, remember the rule of thumb that the better English they speak, the more sketchy they are.

19 September 2009

Please Mr. President, No Amateur Hour at the UN

Our President's liberal domestic agenda may be loathsome, but I would at least hope that he's good at the whole grip-n'-grin thing with international leaders (like Clinton was). Something that has been important for American heads of state since our Founding Fathers had to ham it up in France to get support for the Revolutionary War. He already has the media, unions, and Wall Street lining up to kiss his ass, how hard can it be to schmooze a few people with hard-to-pronounce last names?

Apparently though, it's pretty tough. Obama is heading off to the UN this week, and Politico has an interesting article about all the work the White House staff has to do to make sure nothing gets fucked up. From Politico:

But avoiding an insistent suitor at the bustling U.N. headquarters can be difficult – despite the painstaking efforts aides sometimes take to send a U.S. president down a different hallway, or into a different corner of a meeting hall to avoid unwelcome diplomatic advances.

“It’s inevitable that you’re going to be in the same room with people,” said John Bolton, U.N. Ambassador under President George W. Bush. “It’s not like the Secret Service controls the floor of the Security Council. If Ahmadinejad just comes up to Obama and talks to him, who’s going to stand in the way?”
Sure, keeping the President away from Ahmadinejad might prevent dickheads like me on the internet from posting funny pictures, and avoiding a few Middle Eastern thugs-in-chief might be no problem. But, I think the real trick will be avoiding the Chinese delegation. After the trade war Obama seems to have kicked off with tariffs on tires and our dollar sucking ass, I'd spend more time thinking up clever excuses.

18 September 2009

Joe's Back with a Good Rant on the GI Bill

Long ago silenced by his superiors for having a milblog that was deemed too risque (although brutally honest), Joe joins us again with some great criticism on VA healthcare and the GI Bill backlog, which seems to be a recurring theme with vets heading off to college.

P4 Desperately Pleas With the Brits

You know public opinion of the war in Afghanistan is reaching epic lows when you've got General Petraeus writing Op-Eds for British papers...but that seems to be where we are at. From The Times:

General Stan McChrystal, the Commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, who has spent most of his career since 9/11 leading the US’s most elite counterterrorist element, the Joint Special Operations Command, is employing a comprehensive, counterinsurgency campaign. He is the first to recognise not just the extraordinary capabilities but also the limitations of counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan...
...If Cecil Rhodes was correct in his wonderful observation that “being an Englishman is the greatest prize in the lottery of life”, and I’m inclined to think that he was, then the second greatest prize in the lottery of life must be to be a friend of an Englishman, and based on that, the more than 230,000 men and women in uniform who work with your country’s finest day by day are very lucky indeed, as am I.
Damn, he even spelled recognize with an "s" to try and keep the Brits in the game. With NATO allies looking to pull out, you have to wonder if society has the will to combat extremism half way around the world while domestic economies are still in the toilet.

17 September 2009

Stranger Than Fiction: Burglar Gets Whacked with Samurai Sword

File this under the department of What the Fuck, because this real-life tale, combining elements of Revenge of the Nerds with Kill Bill, involves a break-in being foiled by a samurai sword. Apparently, a recently-released convict tried to lunge at a mild-mannered, 20 year-old Johns Hopkins student during a break-in and his hand chopped off. From The Baltimore Sun:

To inflict lethal damage requires some skill, Dibble said.

"To be that confident with it that he would go grab it, he may have been into martial arts," he said. "You would have to hold it with two hands and be confident that you would really know what you were doing."

Mantis Swords, an online outlet based in Westminster, specializes in sharp weapons. "Our swords are ready for cutting," owner Shawn Salafia said.
Remind me not to fuck with that guy.

13 September 2009

Now That's a Crowd

More Funnies Over at TAH

Jonn from This Ain't Hell was at the rally and has some good photos, along with some shots of LaRouchers do whatever the hell it is Lyndon LaRouche people do. El Marco has some great ones too. But, overall, the theme of the massive DC tea party seems to be less "Teh Crazy" and more about a grassroots uprising against the past 8 months where Obummer has put America on a pretty dangerous path towards collapse. Matt Welch has a good report and puts the crowd in 6 figures (it doesn't look like the inauguration did, so I'm a tad skeptical of Malkin's 2M number), but what do I know, I wasn't even in-country?

Despite lame characterizations by the Obots that this was some redneck hate fest, Matt Welch offers some better insight:
Nineteen out of 20 signs were hand-made. My favorite was "Stop spending our tacos. I love tacos." The most popular were variations on "Don't tread on me," "You lie," complaints about Obama's "socialism," warnings about the 2010 elections, references to the deficit or big spending, critiques of Obamacare, and (especially) cracks about various czars (including not a few that equated czars with Soviet Communism). Godwin's Corollary was satisfied on multiple occasions, including "Hitler gave great speeches, too," "the Nazis did national health care first," and someone comparing Obama's 2009 with Hitler's 1939 (alas, we didn't get to ask him whether America was about to invade Poland). Michael Moynihan did have a nice chat about George Marshall with the fellow holding a sign saying "McCarthy was right." There was an "Obama bin lyin," "Feds = treason," "Birth certificate," and "Glen Beck for president." Greatly outnumbering such things were references to the constitution, taking our country back, and so forth.
Pretty good and straight up observations, so read the whole report. Or you can head over to the far-left Americablog where Joe Sudbay comments with disdain "this wasn't the healthiest looking group of people who were descending on the Capitol" while he was on his "15 mile run". He's definitely holding up the progressives are smug douchebags stereotype, although pushing a politically-correct lifestyle on to everyone else has been a goal of liberalism for as long as I can remember. I wish some of these luminaries would self-examine their own policies that have been dominating America's politics for the last 8 months and ask themselves why so many Americans would spend their weekend marching on Washington.

12 September 2009

Time Traveling Back to 9/10

One of my favorite bloggers concurs with Will Wilkinson that we should get back to the "head-up-our-collective-ass" days of 9/10 when we chose to ignore that there was people actively seeking our destruction:

Yet those responsible for this disaster have been successful in hiding behind the shock of the crumbling towers, as if support for their dangerous and deadly policies is inexorably implied by feeling deeply the full weight of 9/11’s tragedy. Those most insistent that we “never forget” 9/11 are those who need our continuing collective complicity in the erosion of our civil liberties, in the weakening of the rule of law, in the unjustified invasion of unrelated foreign countries and the murder of their people, in the policy of state-sanctioned torture.
A very serious criticism that would take a thesis to dissect, but let's look at this "erosion of our civil liberties" thing. As a society, we entrust law enforcement with more powers than your average citizen to maintain the security of our nation. Without security, you can't really have anything (an economy, rule of law, etc.), so I'm willing as a citizen to sacrifice a small portion of liberty to prevent something as catastrophic and devastating as 9/11. So, I don't really constitute having to take my shoes off at the airport and the possibility that my phone calls from Thailand about me having the runs being possibly monitored by the NSA as an "erosion of our civil liberties". I suppose I lose some libertarian credibility, but I'm just too sympathetic to the underlying purpose of law enforcement. As long as its terrorism we are talking about and not something silly (like seatbelt laws).

Dems Freaking Out Over DC Tea Party

Not Really

Bomb threats against Tea Party organizers, the inept GOP trying to capitalize on the rowdiness, and even though the press is predicting "thousands" of protesters in DC on 9/12, the Dems in Washington are fearing two million. From The Plum Line:
Looks like there’s serious concern among Dems about the big 9/12 rally that’s being heavily promoted by Glenn Beck, Fox, and the tea partiers for tomorrow.

A top House Dem leadership aide has emailed a memo to Dem aides on the Hill and outside liberal groups warning they should brace for a turnout of up to two million people, suggesting Dems worry that if enough conservatives descend on the Mall it will amount to a major PR victory for the right.

The aide, Doug Thornell, warned in the memo that the dust-up over Joe “you lie” Wilson has been invigorating conservatives. “It looks like Saturday’s event is going to be a huge gathering, estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to 2 million people,” Thornell wrote in the memo, which was forwarded by a source.
Speaking as no good bitter and as previous observer of a DC Tea Party, I can assure you that libertarian-conservative types are really bad at organizing these types of things. The one I went to in April had permit SNAFU and the protest in front of the Treasury Department got nixed. There was a few clever signs here and there, but I felt like I was at a family reunion on Grandma's farm rather than something which was really going to shake up the system. So, I'm not sure what the Dems are so worried about. Perhaps it's the fact that their shoddy leadership of the country has led us into an irreversible deficit spiral whereby the dollar will be as valuable as old VHS tapes of Mr. Belvedere, but why take responsibility when you can blame "teabaggers" and Sarah Palin for all your problems.

Anyhoo, sounds like the protest might be kind of interesting, so we'll see how it plays out.

11 September 2009

Proud to Be

Can't go wrong with an American flag on this day. The Sniper goes with the more politically incorrect "Fuck You Haj", but he's just saying what we were all thinking on 9/12/01.

09 September 2009

The New Funny Liberal Word: Tenther

I was a Tenther before it was cool!

Since Teabagger, Nazi, and right-wing terrorist are pejoratives that have been so overused to defend the hapless Obama administration that they have lost all meaning, Washington Times notes that the new keyword to show your hate for the red states is "Tenther". This is a reference to those radical right-wing populists that believe in the 10th amendment, I guess. From Washington Times:
Liberal activists have a new name to disparage conservatives: "tenthers."

The nickname refers to those who cite the 10th Amendment to argue that federal intervention in areas not authorized by the Constitution, like health care for example, is unconstitutional.

This follows other names such as "birthers," "deathers" and "tea baggers."

Health care reform supporters at the Center for American Progress, the American Prospect, MSNBC and other outlets have deployed the term against Republicans who cite the 10th Amendment as reason not to create new programs. Some of the leading Republican proponents of the allegedly "dangerous" and "conspiratorial" theory include Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Apparently, the term stems from this American Prospect last month and Digby, Yglesias, and Crooks and Liars have both incorporated it into their musings. If taking a strict interpretation of the constitution makes you a square, I'd sure like to know where these progressives think the power of the federal government to intervene stops.

06 September 2009

Learning Thai in the Big Mango

Since I have to go to the countryside for my job (where English is not often spoken), I've been trying to navigate the Thai language. Five tones, no similarities to English, and frequently getting laughed at for my mispronunciation has contributed to the struggle. But, I'm making progress and I guess that's what is important or some shit. Anyhoo, the books available for foreigners to learn Thai are in the 800-1600 baht range (25-50 bucks), but the books for Thais to learn English are only like 100-200 baht (3-6 bucks). Being a cheap bastard, you can guess which ones I pick up.

This one I bought yesterday is entitled ไวยากรณ์ อังกฤษ (wai-yaa-gawn Ang-Grit or English Grammar) However, I question the choice of icons for the English-speaking world used on this book's cover:
Uh, I guess the Eiffel Tower is in London now.

But, the cutesy cartoon characters in the margins of the lessons more than make up for this crass error:

05 September 2009

Change of Venue

I'll be over blogging at This Ain't Hell for the weekend, so come on by and shoot your mouth off, in case you have nothing else going on for a holiday weekend.

02 September 2009

The Long-Term Obama Campaign Strategy

Don't ever question the Obama administration's ability to get new converts. The President is set to give a speech addressing America's K-12 students on September 8th, and the Department of Education has released guidelines for how teachers can solicit student participation during this "historic" and totally shameless moment (h/t Legal Insurrection). For K-6:

Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:
What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the President?
Great, the President has now become Dad-in-chief. Can this guy get anymore ego-maniacal? Here's the program for Grades 7-12:
Listening with a purpose: Inspiration and Challenges. Using a similar double‐column
style notes page as the one above, the teacher could focus students on quotations that either propose a specific challenge to them or inspire them in some meaningful way. Students could do this individually, in pairs or groups...Create decorated goals and steps on index card sized material. The index cards could be formatted as an inviting graphic organizer with a space for the goal at the top and several steps in the remaining space. Cards could be hung in the room to create classroom culture of goal setting, persistence and success, and for the purpose of periodic review.
Not that I was a model student or anything, but shouldn't kids be learning Algebra or reading Shakespeare instead of making hokey glitter collages of President McDreamy. At least they'll have a great future as community organizers.

01 September 2009

George Will Throws in the Towel on Afghanistan

In a piece that is certain to stir up some controversy today, conservative heavyweight George Will questions what the hell we are still doing in Afghanistan. This follows the month with the most casualties during the 8-year war with no end in sight. From George Will:

U.S. strategy — protecting the population — is increasingly troop-intensive while Americans are increasingly impatient about “deteriorating” (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.

U.S. strategy is “clear, hold and build.” Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.

Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country — “control” is an elastic concept — and “ ‘our’ Afghans may prove no more viable than were ‘our’ Vietnamese, the Saigon regime.”
I really don't have much to criticize George Will for on this. His arguments are based on facts and our lack of clear objectives, but maybe General McChrystal come up with a more suitable strategy with his recent report to CENTCOM and the Pentagon. I don't pretend that I have some master plan, but at least the guy who is supposed to has a good-looking set of pants.