29 June 2007

News about Cats!

News from the WaPo: It seems we never domesticated them. They domesticated themselves - sort of. They simply moved in about 12,000 years ago when humans began to store agricultural products, which of course attracted rats, mice and other rodents. Looked good to the feral cats and they settled in. And never left.

So your nagging feeling that little Fluffy and Tigger were just using you - is absolutely correct. They are essentially ferals that have made the compromise of being cute so they can live off our largess, intended or not. Most often they do this by carefully training us to do those little chores they would do for themselves if they only had opposable thumbs.

Like opening tuna cans.


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Clemens' Comedy Break - Irish version

This is what happens when you let Muppets pretend they are Irish. I think the first one and the last one are singing in Irish, but can't be sure.

This goes out to Murty, Máire and Maeráed, the last two who are actually IN Ireland at the moment.

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27 June 2007

Ann Coulter and the People of North Carolina

If you look at the video of Elizabeth Edwards calling up and asking Ann Coulter to lay off the personal attacks (like attacking John Edwards for talking about the loss of their son), which you can find on the Obsidian Wings link (with Sniper Kitty my hero), listen carefully to the end of it.

She makes fun of John Edwards for winning cases before "illiterate juries." Those "illiterate juries" were usually made up of North Carolinians and other noble sons and daughters of the deep south.
The most conservative people in the nation. Here is a well heeled, college educate elite making nasty comments about the backbone of the conservative movement.

She doesn't mean it. And she is not serious.

But she is still popular among some conservatives like my friend Budweiser who is from the deepest deepest south. He thinks she is 'funny.'

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Dan Simmons is back with a modest proposal

... actually, several modest proposals on how to deal with the situation in Iraq. A very good question, and Simmons is a smart and talented guy when not whiffing too much testosterone or bile. I discovered his latest essay while reading Michael Toten's blog "Middle East Journal." I think I have linked to it before and it is worth checking out, though it may depress the hell out of you. Here's what he has to say about Simmon's essay:

It isn’t possible for anyone to agree that all four options are good ones. They’re contradictory (and absurd) on purpose. But the whole thing is a delightful and thought-provoking out-of-the-box read by a clearly intelligent person.

Personally, I wouldn't go that far, but it is certainly worth a read. Some of you may remember my long series of posts on his "Century War" last year. I don't think I have the energy to do that with this essay, but read it and see what you think.

For me, I'll ponder it for a few days.


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Herodotus was right!!!!

I've been waiting for this news since I was twelve years old (just ask my little sister)!

Late breaking news from The Week:

Italians in Tuscany originally came from Turkey, genetic evidence shows. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Etruscans, who dominated much of the Mediterranean before the Roman era, came from Lydia, now called Turkey. Modern scholars, though, have long scoffed at that claim, saying the ancestors of today's Tuscans evolved locally. But two new Italian studies support the Turkish connection. Both Tuscan men's DNA sequences and Tuscan women's mitochondria resemble their counterparts in parts of modern Turkey far more closely than in other parts of Italy. In Herodotus' fifth century B. C. account, a famine in the 13th century B. C. forced the Lydian king to send half his people west to seek a new life.

Isn't modern science wonderful.

Next week, the Melungians.


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Just for Murty Abu Mags

So as I was saying to Abu Mags after my second pint of Oatmeal Porter (a health food, btw), Ann Coulter is so into it for the money and NOTHING ELSE. She has no more ideological commitment to conservatism than she has to Neo-Manicheanism. He wanted proof. Abu Mags believes that as loathsome as she is, Coulter is a sincere true believer.

Ha! I said, only slightly slurring my words. I'll put something on the blog that will convince you. And here it is. Click here, watch the video, pay no attention to what Coulter is saying, but watch the look on her face in the final half second.

by the by - ever wonder why Philip Pullman, in his Dark Materials trilogy, named the arch villainess, the one who maims and psychically destroys children, Mrs Coulter? Just wondering, myself.


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26 June 2007

Angry Revolutionary Kitty - my new love

After having looked at the cute little kitty over at Obsidian Wings about 6 or 7 times, I am now in love with Sniper Kitty. She looks just like our little gray cat, the one we thought was a little boy and named Mosby after a Confederate war hero. So Mosby would understand, even though, or perhaps because, she is a little girl cat. I myself tear up every time I see the glint of sunlight on the sniper scope.

Just for the record, we keep Mosby well away from the firearms.

And, just because I promised to inflict this upon my readers every several months, and we are talking about kittens, click here.


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A political ad I like!

Alert the media. No - on second thought don't do that. It would destroy the moment. In my mad aimless wanderings across the great open steppeland of the Web I have discovered a genuinely clever ad for someone running for prez. I might even vote for him, just as soon as I find out who the hell he is.

It almost makes up for this.

(which, if you figure out what it is trying to say, please let us know. I will send you a FREE copy of the definitive study of the second master of the Temple, whether you want it or not)

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The Designated Adult at "National Review"

I usually, no, make that always, refer to Rich Lowry as "the designated adult over at National Review" mag. He's the one they send out to be interviewed on the Jim Leher News Hour, where he usually adopts a noticeably more moderate view than he does in print. Come to think of it, Juan Cole does the same. I suppose it's an American variant of Arafat saying one thing in English and another in Arabic.

But back to the point. This little quote will show you why, despite everything, I still think of Lowry as "the designated adult." It sounds less snarky than "the designated sane person."

But I would never say that. Nor would I call him "Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review."


ps: Aside from speaking out of both sides of his persona, Carmen holds it against Juan Cole that he wore that worst TV tie ever.


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Iraq: another defeatist liberal

Here it is, another Senator who thinks we are losing in Iraq and ought to start withdrawing. Must be one of those defeatist liberals we hear so much about.

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Cheney is out of control (but look at the kitten!)

Here's a link to a self-described voice of moderation, Obsidian Wings. Aside from reading the post which gives the author's take on the Washington Post's articles about just how secretive and dysfunctional the Bush admin is, I really link to it because of the kitten.

Yep, the kitten.


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25 June 2007

Vindication for Korean Cleaners!

This one will shock you.

The judge who sued his Korean dry cleaners for $96 million in compensation for a ruined pair of pants has lost his case: the judge of the case said Roy 'Pantless' Pearson is entitled to nothing.

Appropriately enough, the WaPo filled this in a column entitled 'Real, Strange News.'

Next week Roy Pearson will sue Roy Pearson for defamation of character.

For myself, I can't be sure that this confirms the title of the last post or undermines it.

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The Age of Unseriousness

For a lot of reasons I think of this as the era of silliness, or better, the 'Age of Unseriousness' if Eric Hobsbawm is looking for a new title. Here's one example, the GOP has hired as its chief operating officer an Australian whom the Dept of Homeland Security are trying to deport. Read about it here.

Here's an even funnier part:

Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring, who hired the afore-mocked Kamburowski [the Aussie], claimed he was not able to find a qualified political director for the California party among the three-hundred-odd million citizens of the United States. Nehring used a H1B visa (the type commonly used by high-tech companies when say they need to hire a foreigner with a skill not possessed by any American) to Christopher Matthews, a Canadian citizen, with no experience in California politics.

Homeland security? Immigration reform? They are not serious.

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24 June 2007

I thought it was a hoax!

That would be Conservapedia ... and I will say in self defense that at least ONE reader of Sententiae agreed with me (you know who you are). But no, it's the real thing. If you click on the link and go to Conservapedia's home page you will see, in large letters, a notice that the Los Angeles Times has published an article about it, and that "the LA Times praised our entries on the tuba, Claude Monet, the nation of Latvia, Robin Hood, polygons, and The Renaissance."

Well, yes. But it also included rather sarky paragraphs like these:

"We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them," Schlafly writes in his mission statement [to Conservapedia]. "Beyond that we welcome the facts."

Conservapedia defines environmentalists as "people who profess concern about the environment" and notes that some would want to impose legal limits on the use of toilet paper.

Femininity? The quality of being "childlike, gentle, pretty, willowy, submissive."

A hike in minimum wage is referred to as "a controversial manoeuvre that increases the incentive for young people to drop out of school."

And the state of the economy under President Bush? Much better than the "liberal media" would have you think: "For example, during his term Exxon Mobile has posted the largest profit of any company in a single year, and executive salaries have greatly increased as well."

And amid this rather cool tone of ironic putdown is this one paragraph:

Many, perhaps most, of Conservapedia's articles are free of ideology. There are brisk, straightforward entries about hundreds of topics: the tuba, Claude Monet, the nation of Latvia, Robin Hood, polygons, the Renaissance.

That's the praise. Which is immediately followed by this paragraph:

But consider the entry on Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (b. 1947). She "may suffer from a psychological condition that would raise questions about her fitness for office" — namely, "clinical narcissism," Conservapedia asserts. Evidence of her instability includes her "ever-changing opinion of the Iraq war."

I guess the editors are working under the assumption that there is no such thing as bad publicity.


Team Bush in the Middle East

Another little item I found in that same Newsweek I mentioned in the last post.

Both the Israelis and Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, warned the Bush administration about upcoming elections because of the growing political clout of Hamas. Then Hamas won in an open and fair election won.

[Secretary of State Condi Rice said] "Nobody saw it coming." The line could describe much of what has resulted from George W. Bush's efforts to transform the world.

I especially like that 'nobody saw it coming' line.

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The value of psychotherapy

Partly because I think that Freud was a quack and the psychiatric sciences are in roughly the same stage of development as medical science was around 1688, I have never had much trust in psychotherapy. So it was nice to see my prejudices confirmed in an article in Newsweek I was flipping through at the library where Carmen works. It was talking about post traumatic stress syndrome and what is called 'stress debriefing' where the patient examines the incident causing trauma in detail and relives it in order to get it out of their system.

Many of those who undergo stress debriefing develop worse PTSD symptoms than those who deal with the trauma on their own, controlled studies show, probably because the intense reliving of the trauma impedes natural recovery. Burn victims who underwent debriefing, for instance, had worse PTSD thirteen months later than victims who had no psychotherapy; people who went through it after a car crash had greater anxiety about travel three years later than those who did not.

"probably because the intense reliving of the trauma impedes natural recovery" - I would have thought common sense might have told us that. It reminds me of a friend of mine who grew up in Tallahassee and suffered greatly as a child because his mother had gotten the idea in her head that the best cure for sunburn was to apply something hot. So when he came home red and tender from too much time outdoors, she would stick him in a tub full of hot water and apply hot water bottles to him at night.

At least her treatment was free.

23 June 2007

The Master of the Temple

Since you have born with me will I have complained about finishing my paper on Robert of Craon, second Master of the Temple, here is a key paragraph from it, summing up why I thought the guy was important.

Birth, upbringing and training had prepared Robert for this position. He was a product of a family with a tradition of loyalty to the counts of Anjou, of excellence in command, be it military, judicial, or social, and of deep religious feeling. As a youth he had been present to see Pope Urban II, a guest of his grandfather's, call for what would become the First Crusade, and he had seen his grandfather and his uncle leave on the crusade, never to return. He grew up knowing both Robert d'Arbrissel, one of the most famous of the wondering preachers and Geoffrey of Vendôme, a powerful prince of the Church. He had also seen that same Geoffrey humiliate his older brother in the full curia of Anjou. In his career in Aquitaine he had displayed talent and vigor as a military leader for Count Vulgrin. And as a younger son with nothing to inherit, giving up a wealthy heiress, perhaps moved by his father's own deep religiosity, he had found the perfect solution in the military order of the Templars. The organization and wealth that allowed the Templars to gain their reputation, for good and bad, was in large part the legacy of Robert of Craon.

Wait for the movie. The article is a bit academic.

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Mora wins! Clemens just glad its over

Do you remember me mentioning an article I was working on, about the second Master of the Temple, the one I had agreed to submit three years ago? The one that I told the editor I was only two weeks away from finishing two years ago? The very same that I told the same editor almost exactly one year ago that I was finishing it up and would send it to her by the end of the week?

Well, I finished it on Sunday. E-mailed it as an attachment on Monday and it is done. I am so relieved. Now I can start working on the next article, the one about Urban Violence within the Angevin realm in the 11th and 12th centuries. Piece of cake.

I'll mail it off next Tuesday.

Now Mora, quit laughing. Stop that. You shameless minx ... it WILL be ready by Tuesday... some Tuesday,,, anyway..

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22 June 2007

The Secret to the success of the Japanese car industry

Some secret Asian discipline and passion for perfection, like Buddhist monks? The passion and determination of the medieval Samurai? Some ineluctable characteristic of being Japanese?

Well, no. Actually it was this guy from Sioux City, Iowa. His name was Edward Deming and he taught the Japanese nearly everything they know about running a manufacturing plant. I remember watching a documentary about him years ago on TV. He is revered by the Japanese who have named their most prestigious award for innovation in manufacturing after him.

So why did this home grown genius have to go to Japan to get anyone to listen to him? Why don't American car companies read his "14 Points" and "7 Deadly Diseases"? And act on them?

uuuuuh.... I don't know. Perhaps they still think Deming's analysis and prescription are just too damn foreign and Japanese and all. Wouldn't work with real Americans. Click on the above link and take a look and see what you think. And remember, when I say I saw the documentary on TV years ago, I really do mean years ago. Someone alert Detroit.

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20 June 2007

Read this and die!

Another misquote that will cause you to die of heartworms. This one from a coming attraction tease on the oh-so-reliable CBS-TV, New York.

"How to protect your neighborhood against crime and Jennifer Beals, star of The Bride. Live at five."

So where do I sign up for our Neighborhood Watch?


About those misquotes

[see last post]

A quote from a reputable medical article by reputable medical experts!

"Heartworm is an infectious life-threatening cardiovascular disease spread by misquotes."

Hmm. Think I'll go back and check all those quotes I have in my just-now finished article on the Master of the Temple. I didn't know being a writer could be so dangerous.

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The Passport is here!

Maeráed's passport has arrived. Her mom handed it to her at our favorite pizzeria last night. She looked at her picture in it and said "Who's that?"*

It only took 14 weeks, even though the head of the passport office was quoted in The Washington Post as saying the backlog delay is 10-12 weeks.

And, btw, it took a very well connected Republican Senator's staff's direct intervention to get it within those 14 weeks. Must have been a typo in that news report. Or perhaps she misspoke. Or can't remember. There's been a lot of that going around Washington lately.

Or perhaps she was simply misquoted. I'd be the last person on earth to say she deliberately 'misled' us.

*I got the same feeling the last time I had a passport photo taken.


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A New Problem at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

I think it is safe to say that no one was expecting this.

An armed security guard at Walter Reed Army Medical Center unholstered his gun and began firing at another guard during an argument this morning, D.C. police said, shocking employees who were driving through the busy main entrance on Georgia Avenue NW.

Don't you wish everyone was armed like our rent-a-guards? The NRA sure does.

19 June 2007

Conservapedia and its antidote

I really thought that Conservapedia was a put-on by some clever liberal, but apparently its the real thing, put together by Andrew Schlafly. Andrew Sullivan has the link, and the antidote: a conservative web page defending Science, real Science. Hurrah.

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17 June 2007

The Bushies and Competence

The last post was about a problem that while infuriating if you are the one experiencing it is not a matter of life or death. The republic will go on even if my little niece's summer is ruined.

But what about the way we treat our soldiers returning from the Iraq war? Surely, if there were any place the Bush administration might be expected to take pains, it would be with medical care for our veterans.

You already know the answer of course. Congress slashed funds for head wounds and conditions at the Walter Reed Hospital, mere blocks from El Prez' house and the Army's showcase was shown to be... well, let's just say less than optimal. You can check here for my take on another problem last year before the bad news hit. And here. And for some real rage inducing giggles, here.

But what happens when your wounds are not physical and do not show? Then, apparently the government simply cheaps out and denies that you are wounded. Josh Marshall give a synopsis of a new Washington Porst article detailing the VA's conduct. Here's a bit about one of soldiers who helped capture Saddam Hussein:

One VA psychologist diagnosed Cruz with post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition was labeled "severe and chronic." In a letter supporting his request for PTSD-related disability pay, the psychologist wrote that Cruz was "in need of major help" and that he had provided "more than enough evidence" to back up his PTSD claim. His combat experiences, the letter said, "have been well documented."

None of that seemed to matter when his case reached VA disability evaluators. They turned him down flat, ruling that he deserved no compensation because his psychological problems existed before he joined the Army. They also said that Cruz had not proved he was ever in combat. "The available evidence is insufficient to confirm that you actually engaged in combat," his rejection letter stated.

So we send them into combat, and then deny that they have been in combat. And besides, they were probably crazy to start with. We don't need to spend any money on them! Make no mistake about it: it is a question of money. From Day One the admin has tried to fight this war on the cheap. We have been ... "thrifty"... with everything except blood.

This goes beyond incompetency, beyond stupidity. It is criminal.

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Bushies and Passports

The Bush administration has come completely apart. As it cracks up people can now take a look inside at all its secret little parts whirling and gigging. The ones that were supposed to be so efficient.

Here is a case in point: getting a passport. Back in 2005 the Federal government decided to increase the demand for passports by mandating tougher documentation for travel in the region, especially hotbeds of terrorism like Mexico and Canada (I hear Winnipeg is particularly dangerous). So - it should require a minimal amount of intelligence and foresight to understand that serious steps would have to be taken to meet the huge increase before the deadline. The Bushies running the passport department assured Congress that they could handle it.

Guess what? Just so you won't think this is just a typical liberal screed, let's look at a post from the National Review. Please read the whole thing to appreciate its venom, but here is a taste of it:

Last Friday, after members of Congress reported that their offices were overwhelmed with complaints about passport delays, DHS and State announced they were postponing implementation of a new requirement that all air travelers between the countries have passports...

... DHS and State haven’t done so well with the first part of the plan. Passports, which usually take between 8 and 10 weeks to process, are now routinely taking 13-15, according to members of Congress whose offices have been deluged with complaints from summer travelers. The departments failed to prepare adequately for an estimated six million new passport applications from air travelers, and the system was overwhelmed.

DHS - that would be those wonderful folks bravely fighting to keep us as safe as New Orleans was, just before it was destroyed. Once again they seem to be having trouble with a slow motion disaster moving directly toward them.

What it means to you and me? Well, my Irish-American friend Maeráed is now 5, which means she needs a new passport so she can go to Ireland next Thursday. Not only have the folks at the passport office not managed to issue one in 15 weeks, calls to our Congress women have gotten nowhere. This leaves her mom with two options: go to Ireland without her daughter, or drive up to Washington to wait in line personally to get an emergency passport.

I used to work for the Federal government. So did Carmen. I had also worked for State and County government, small business, and one large corporation. The Feds were by far the most efficient and dedicated of all the people I worked for or with.

No more. They are just hapless stumble bums left completely clueless. This is a failure of leadership - remember Brownie and Chertoff* during Katrina? Run this level of performance through every part of government: the CIA, DHS, DOJ, DOD, any and all. And you have the Bush administration. A group of feckless clowns playing it for laughs and self-aggrandizement because, hey, they don't believe the Federal government does anything useful anyway! So why worry about it.

All politics is local, and the local politicos, the representatives and senators, are now getting their ears flamed so badly from people like Maeráed's mother that they are beginning to fear for their jobs. When you talk to their offices about where your passport is they are as harsh in their criticism of the Bush administration as the wildest most irrational liberal.

Never forget who visited this upon all of us. They are still out there. They are still asking for your money and your vote.

ps: I hope you weren't planning on going anywhere requiring a new passport this summer.

* the one who was not even aware of what every single citizen who had turned on a TV was aware of. And HE is protecting us from Terrorists?


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13 June 2007

Immigration bill autopsy

At least according to John Derbyshire over on NRO. I don't think anyone at 'National Review' was happy with the immigration bill. Feel free to read it and give me your comments.

The Derby is most interesting as fights his way through the pro-immigrant argument that Bush makes that there are some jobs that Americans won't do. He is skeptical but finally admits that there are, indeed, some jobs that could not be filled at the going hourly wage. His response is bracing:

I would still say: Well, then, let those jobs go hang. If you can’t, for love or money, find any citizens or legal residents to pick your apples, at wage levels not so high that consumers refuse to buy the apples, well, let the apples rot. That’s hard on you, I understand. You’ll have to find some other way to make a living. That happens to people, though — it’s happened to me a couple of times. And the U.S.A. won’t fold for want of apples.

As for me, I am not sure it is a question of Americans being willing to do the jobs, but whether or not there are enough Americans to fill all the jobs. Historically we are at relatively low levels of unemployment, so where do we find the workers?

Teenagers? Well, if you are willing to work with an entire crew of teenagers, get to it. Just be sure you adjust your hours so that they can still make it to school - which, if it is doing its job is busy ensuring that they will not have to do such work as adults. When you think about it, that is in fact the purpose of our education system.

Of course there are always retirees who can at least work part time. Somehow, though, I can't quite see too many of them being capable of putting in even 20 hrs a week at, say, the local chicken factory here in beautiful (and aromatic) downtown Wilkesboro. I am also not sure that most employers want to deal exclusively with part timers, although there are some advantages to that (fewer benefits to pay for, for one).

Anyway, there is always the Derbyshire solution: find another line of work. As he says, the USA won't fold if you drop dead, as it were.

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10 June 2007

Fouad Ajami and Scooter Libby

A peculiarity of the Bush admin has always been its tarbaby like ability to suck people in once they were stuck supporting the boys, destroy their reputation. I've said several times that Fouad Ajami is a favorite of mine and I was thoroughly educated by his last book on Iraq.

Alas, I was taken aback by his op-ed piece in the WSJ yesterday. I pretty much agree with this piece by Steve Benen on Talkingpointsmemo.


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The Romney Reading List

Tagg Romney, Mitt's son, has his own MySpace page. Among other things, he lists his favorite books. Here it is:

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, The Bible, The Hobbit, Lincoln, The Victome de Bragelonne, Battlefield Earth, Dragon Flight, Dune, Book of Mormon, Tale of Two Cities, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Screwtape Letters, Les Miserables, Harry Potter (my guilty pleasure), Pride and Prejudice, A Farewell to Arms, Ender's Game, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

I applaud the interest in history, Harry Potter, Hemingway and Lewis, but what is it with Mormons and Ender's Game? Is there some Mormon mentalité to it that I don't get?

And his and his dad's delight in Battlefield Earth? Does Scientology and Mormonism share something?* Or is it just the Romney family?

Just curious.

*they probably do, but I DON'T want to get into that!


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08 June 2007

Paris Hilton: Want some sarcasm with that item?

While I myself don't use sarcasm, I do so appreciate it when I see it. Here, for instance.

Politics in the South

Well, Alabama actually, a world unto its own. I guess this is what happens when you mention a good southern boy's mama. He gets a bit het up. The funniest part is the CNN newsreader's reaction to it.

You will notice that is the Demo who does the talking, and the Repub that does the swinging. Possibly an allegory for our times.

Ah, the American political class.

Have I mentioned my Spirit of Balls Bluff campaign... recently?

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06 June 2007

Derbyshire on Immigrants.

I can understand why out of control illegal immigration might upset anyone. I can even, to a point, share the dislike for rewarding 'illegals' with a decent shot at residency and citizenship. But among some conservatives their dislike for 'illegal immigration' is morphing into a weird type of nativist anti-immigration spite pure and simple. Here , for example, is a reader writing in to agree with John Derbyshire, my favorite NRO commentator, about wanting to trash the 'Nation of Immigrants' image of America as untrue. Here's the key points:

Best I can tell most of my family came from Germany well over a century ago. But I'm not a German, never been there, don't really want to go. I'm an American. Let's start calling ourselves that instead of this ridiculous Nation of Immigrants nonsense.

And I don't buy Andy McCarthy's saying we have a '"nation of immigrants' self image.' I certainly don't. I don't know anyone who does. It's what we're told, we're expected to believe it, but I know nothing of having an immigrant past, and know only one person ... who does.

This is fun for several reasons. One, the Derby himself is an immigrant, from England, I believe (as are Andrew Sullivan, Arriana Huffington, Fareed Zakharia, Christopher Hitchens, etc, etc). Second, his ancestors came from Germany a century ago! Newcomer. My ancestor, a guy named Jesse, an Englishman or a Scots-Irishman, was active in the little North Carolina town near here in the 1760s. As a group, African Americans are the oldest 'American' population there is, if you discount the Native Americans (who really had an illegal immigrant problem).

Yet this relative newcomer now knows only ONE person who has an immigrant past. How odd. I live and work in rural America, the region where the good ol' WASP American culture first crystallized. People here either come from families that have been here for 200 years, or they've been here for less than 15 years. There is little in between.

As for me - I know lots of people with an immigrant past. My Cuban wife, for starters, and my second generation Cuban-American niece and nephew. They've done so well assimilating. My beloved sister-in-law is Vietnamese, which means my other niece and nephew are half-Vietnamese, though pure American and have no impulse to visit the old country tho' the older one says he can still understand Vietnamese.

Then there is my cousin's son: 1/4 African American, 1/4 Japanese, 1/4 Viking Minnesotan, and 1/4 Clemens. And my aunt married a Hungarian Jew who had escaped from Vienna one step ahead of the Nazis. He was actually the most sophisticated and intellectual of all my relatives.

And my friend Maeráed's dad is from Ireland; my niece Mulan is from China; one of my colleagues is from Kenya, one from Russia; one raised in Argentina though at least legally an American; one was socialized as an adult in Mexico and considers himself as Mexican as his Mexican wife who is, btw, legal as all get out; and one is Finnish. Of my two favorite colleagues over in the English Dept one is the daughter of Yiddish speaking survivors of the Holocaust and the other is, well, English.

What is this poor WASP boy to do, except buy into the 'Nation of Immigrants' image?


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Bad Spelling - Clemens is NOT alone!

This just in from Rich Lowry, designated adult at National Review Online:

Sorry for consistently mis-spelling lightning last night. Weirdly enough given my job, I'm an atrocious speller.
And the man calls himself an editor.

Western Art and The Woman

Andrew Sullivan has a link to an oddly compelling U-Tube bit. He uses it to strike a blow against the Islamists.

And to take a dig at Starbucks.*

Take a look, for both reasons.

*whose coffee sucks even compared to McDonald's brew, at least according to Consumer Reports.

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05 June 2007

What I read on Amazon today

Sometimes reading the mini-reviews on Amazon is depressing, sometimes infuriating and sometimes funny. Take this paragraph from "Clear Thinker" (sic) savaging George Packer's The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq. Mr Thinker is clearly in support of the war and wrote his review almost exactly a year ago.

First, it is yesterday's book. Written before three overwhelmingly successful elections in Iraq, a constitution, an elected government, the death of Zarqawi and vast overall progress on a number of fronts, it attempts to draw final conclusions too early. Even Zarqawi described Al-Qaeda's current situation in Iraq as "bleak". The author seems to be not aware of the substantial losses in the early days of wars from WWII to the Revolutionary War. War is messy, mistakes are made, battles and men are lost. The poorly-educated (militarily) Packer has probably never heard of Von Moltke or of his well-known dictum that "No plan survives contact with the enemy. Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force."* Things take time, and the author has shown panic at too early a stage and lost his perspective of that fact. He is a short-term weak thinker, and war is a long-term business for strong determined men.

Somehow his critique has not withstood the test of time.

*apparently von Moltke did not mean you shouldn't at least have a plan.


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Clemens Comedy Break Part Deux

Carmen just came in my office and forced me, forced me I say! to look at this little bit over on Claw of the Conciliator. I was hard at work on ... uh ... well, reading the Claw of the Conciliator ...

Swat Team Handsignals (in case you are ever in a position where you NEED to know).

now back to work... no, actually, I think it's time for lunch...

Clemen's Comedy Break

Still hard at work on the article about the Second Master of the Temple. Still procrastinating. And in so doing found this: "BOOGIE NIGHTS: the Star Wars Edition."

Didn't you always kinda suspect that 'Star Wars' had a porn movie trapped inside trying to get out?

And now, back to 12th Century France, trying to shake this dame Mora. 'The horror. The horror.'


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04 June 2007

Turkey, Greece and the USA

Greece has traditionally been somewhat more anti-American than France. Now that the Greeks are facing the reality of having Turkey in the EU, without passports or borders needed, and with only the elite (and hypothetical) EU rapid deployment force to protect them, the Americans don't seem quite so bad after all.

Victor Davis Hanson, vacationing in Greece, has the observation.

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Derbyshire and el Prez

For some reason buried deep in the reptilian part of my brain John Derbyshire, historian of math, writer of right-wing commentary, and clever fellow, almost always manages to crack me up with his opinions. I've linked to him before.

Here's a new one, about the shoddy way el Pres and his minions have been talking nasty to their own base:

Clever, bright, witty, and personable people turn to snarling and scratching. And always, always the insinuation that you are a bad person and I am your moral superior.

(I leave George W. Bush out of that “clever, bright, witty and personable” category. The man’s an idiot, and I’m ashamed I ever supported him. However, I am not going to claim I am his moral superior. My refusal so to claim surely makes it clear that I am a better person than he is.)

aside: other than Jack Perry the Derby is the only person I know who understands why Lionheart Oiler should be commemorated.

ps: You will notice that I do NOT claim to be the Derby's moral superior. That would be wrong. And untrue probably.

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02 June 2007

More on Books from the WSJ!

This time about America's long and not often smooth relation with the Arab world, from The Wall Street Journal:

1. An Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania by Peter Markoe (1787).

Written as a spoof to convince Americans to form a more perfect Union by convincing them there was an Arab spy haunting Philadelphia! It worked.

2. Sufferings in Africa by James Riley (1817).
The story of an American shipwrecked off Africa, captured and tortured by Arabs, finally escaping to tell the tale (and writing a best seller). Having been a slave himself, Riley included an impassioned call for the abolition of slavery. Young reader Abraham Lincoln took it to heart.

3. Valley of Vison by George Bush (1847)
Bush called for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, which would be freed from Ottoman hands by American military force! In 1847! A truly visionary exhortation by an ancestor and namesake of two of our recent presidents who ... manfully support a Jewish state in Palestine.

4. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1869)
The book that made Twain a national treasure - and a small fortune. Twain did his best to present the Arabs (and everyone else he met) in the worst possible light. Alas, the American romantic vision of the Arab world remained mired in the Arabian Nights (pre-Walt Disney and Princess Jasmine version). OTOH, his views on Germans gained some currency around 1917.

5. The Arabist by Robert Kaplan (1993)
Kaplan goes on a tear ripping up the academic experts on the Arab world - who have, now that I think on it, been wrong about most things, with the possible exception of our decision to invade Iraq. Anti-academic polemic at its best, or at least most heart felt.

That's it folks - the conservative reading list on America and the Arab world! Some good stuff here, though I could come up with my own list with a slightly different slant. Fiasco might head it up.


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The Other Side of Immigration

What do you do when your national fear is that too many are leaving your country?

And, who would have thought that the Swiss would resent having too many Germans?


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Writing for Law School

No - it is not an oxymoron. Lawyers can too write! The honest ones, anyway.

Here is Eugene Volokh's recommendations for what to read about writing before going to law school.

What Book Should I Read Before Going to Law School?

As I mention below, lots of people ask me this question. Please post your answers here, but for now let me mention mine: A good English usage dictionary — my favorite is Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, but Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage is good, too. (Garner also has A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, which may be worth reading as well, but it covers a different set of matters.)

My advice for writers of history?

MAKE IT CLEAR! The style can come later.


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Global Warming: Far left, far out, and the Woo-factor?

[Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan]

A delicious send up of the cranks on the Left, who are at the very least as, well, crank-like, as those of the Right, at least when it comes to Global Warming. In this case it is a deconstruction (as in 'demolition') of Alexander Cockburn's bizarre tirades (aka 'lunatic ravings') against the science of global warming. The key conclusions to a very long post:

It's important to remember both the left and the right have anti-scientific tendencies, the left's just tend to be less religious, less world-threatening and more woo-based. My brother recently told me about moving to California, "they don't believe in Jesus here, just bullshit" in reference to the woo-based beliefs of large portions of the population. The risk of unscientific tendencies is when people with potential to become cranks see a scientific theory as a threat to some overvalued idea they hold dear. Sometimes the over-valued idea isn't even a bad quality, it can be compassion - but taken to an extreme. If the left starts to see global warming policy as a money-grab by the elites, expect to see more left wing crankery and climate denial based on conspiratorial beliefs about carbon markets.

I suspect this is what has happened to Alexander Cockburn, a lefty who has gone over the deep end, on what appears to be suspicions of a conspiracy to further defraud and hurt poor countries using global warming science.

This leads me to three questions:

1) Since both the Left and the Right can be completely crockers, who can I, the founder and president of the Hezbollah wing of the Uncommitted, trust on anything?

2) Why does The Nation publish such nonsense?

3) What the hell are 'woo-based' beliefs?

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