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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Click the chart in this post at No Pasaran to see the Misery Index international rankings. Note who made Number One...
Included on the list are Index scores for New York City and the states of Texas and Illinois. The only reason Texas has a higher misery index score than the US overall is that states have sales tax and the national government doesn't.
Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissented, stating that the law "threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state’s citizens." Former presidents Bush and Clinton can suck on a hanging chad for nominating these bozos.
Update: Uh oh, here's a new scandal - The Rev claims that blacks and European-descended whites have different brain physiology, and thus different learning patterns. Not different as in one being superior to the other - watch the accompanying video to get the full gist.
Robert Spencer has the installment here. Topics include qualification for entry to Paradise, and the drawing of parallels between those who rejected the prophets of old and Mohammed's own detractors. The big difference between Mohammed and those prophets, as I've said before, is that those prophets are old were vindicated by miraculous works of God performed before large masses of people - Mohammed lacks such authenticating signs. Of course, the Koran scoffs at those who requested miracles from Mohammed.
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
Widmore's commando forces are now on the island, and they've struck Locke's faction. Known survivors are Hurley, Sawyer, Claire, Aaron, captive Miles Straume, former captive Ben, and Locke himself. Three are confirmed dead, but probably everyone else at The Barracks was killed.
In the standoff with the commando leader Ben confirms what we knew all along, that Alex was taken from Rousseau when she was an infant. This scene hints at something else that is confirmed in the last flash-forward: Ben and Widmore have been in contact with each other before. Ben expected Widmore (though his commando proxies) to play by a certain set of rules; thus when the commando leader shot Alex, Ben makes that remark, "he changed the rules".
But why does Ben say he can't kill Widmore? Even money says we won't have that explained this season - or next. But he does intend to destroy his organization, one agent at a time, and successfully manipulates Sayid into working for him. Hopefully Sayid is smart enough to know that he still can't trust Ben, and that he'll use his position to work against both Widmore and his employer.
We learn something else from that last flash-forward: Widmore doesn't know where the island is, even though he had control over it once before (through DHARMA, unless there's yet another previous tenant we don't know about). Key DHARMA personnel certainly knew how to find it.
Ben unleashes his secret weapon to save their hides - he summons the Smoke Monster! Apparently Rousseau was right all along when she said it was a security system. Smokey vanquishes most of the commandos; one appears in the preview for next week's episode.
Since Smokey's controls are accessible through The Barracks, obviously it was built by DHARMA. It serves as a patrol, ignoring DHARMA vehicles such as the one driven by Ben's dad, and staying out of the fenced area that marks DHARMA's only above-ground installation. But Smokey seems to also be working for Jacob, given its peculiar interactions with the Lostaways.
Jack's getting sick, and the preview says it's appendicitis. Fortunately they have another MD on the island in Juliet, otherwise the closest substitute at hand is the resident dentist. Extracting an appendix isn't exactly like extracting a molar...
Kudos to Bernard for his Morse Code skills - he catches Faraday's lie about the ship transmission. The mad scientist is such a bad liar, anyway - If I ever play poker, I want Faraday as an opponent.
Joining Bernard among the Heroes of the Week are Sawyer, for rescuing Claire, and Hurley, for defusing the gun standoff between Sawyer and Locke. Hurley is the Sam Gamgee of the island, a humble marshmallowy sort of a guy on the surface, but when the chips are down he's a lot tougher than most people realize.
This season will end with people actually getting off the island. The public will know of six survivors: Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Aaron, and Sun. Claire will be separated from her son, either by dying or by some other means. The Oceanic Six will think that Jin is dead, but he will actually survive, and will be working once again for Mr. Paik.
This episode is set in December 2004; the island departure should occur before month-end or in early January. In October of 2005 Ben will leave the island, probably by means of the mysterious conveyance he once dubbed the magic box. He will wind up in the Tunisian desert; recall that prior to her mission Charlotte Lewis had discovered in that same desert a polar bear wearing a DHARMA collar.
Congress enacted more than one piece of legislation to make student loans less profitable. Guess what happened?
Market leader Sallie Mae says it now loses money on every new federal education loan. Sallie continues to lend in hopes of a change in D.C., or increased investor demand for securitized loans.
Others can't wait. A third of the nation's top 100 lenders to students in 2007 have temporarily suspended new loan originations or exited the business altogether. Citibank subsidiary Student Loan Corporation cited "unprecedented federal legislation" in announcing its recent withdrawal from much of the market.
One party would stand to gain some PR points from this debacle, if it weren't so wussified:
Usually, the law of unintended consequences takes so long to reveal itself that no one remembers the culprits. But the speed at which Congress's student lending changes have gone south is raising political danger for Democrats, if Republicans had the wit to point it out. (They don't; that's why they're Republicans.)
For emailing this link to Aliza Shvarts' remarks about her alleged performance art. Sully has appropriately headlined it as a Poseur Alert.
Don't try reading her entire diatribe unless you have large quantities of alcohol nearby.
The subject arose at the Agora, where in comments I expressed the opinion that her efforts really qualify as journalism, not art. Not having followed her story closely, I have no opinion as to whether it constitutes factual journalism.
Chinese-Americans rallied outside CNN's Hollywood office on Saturday to demand the firing of commentator Jack Cafferty for calling China's goods "junk" and its leaders a "bunch of goons and thugs."
I can understand the outrage at the remarks about Chinese wares. The various consumer good snafus represent a mere fraction of China's output; it would be hasty to make judgments about overall product safety based on those incidents alone.
But why should Chinese-Americans object to anyone referring to a Communist totalitarian government as a band of thugs?
If that's not enough, go over to China and ask Christians and Falun Gong if that characterization is out of line. I hope you don't get arrested on some sort of anti-government speech crime charges before you have a chance to drop me an email about your experiences.
Update: Come to think of it, the Stockholm Syndrome reference works only for that segment of Chinese-Americans who actually lived in Communist China (or in Taiwan during the cold war between the two nations). Those who have never actually set foot in the PRC are something else altogether - the operative word if "clueless."
The Al Kuds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest medal, will be given to two female terrorists who helped kill Israelis, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. Ahlam Tamimi, a Hamas affiliate serving a life sentence for driving the suicide bomber who exploded himself in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, killing at least half a dozen people, including a whole family and Amra Muna, who seduced Ophir Rahum over the Internet and then lured him to Ramallah where he was murdered, will both be awarded the medal. Conferring the Al Kuds Mark of Honor is decided at the discretion of the Palestinian Authority's president, and he alone has the final say when choosing the Palestinians to be honored with the medal.
For instance, he Declaration Against Genocide condemns an Islamic hadith (a narration about the life of the prophet Mohammed) that calls on Muslims to kill Jews. It also condemns terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has declared that "the accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible" – an unmistakable expression of genocidal intent toward the countries that Islamic radicals consider to be the "little Satan" and the "great Satan" respectively. There is nothing, in short, that can be considered even remotely objectionable.
One set of non-signers needs to take a refresher course on the English language:
[T]he Black Student Union refused to sign the declaration because it didn't specifically mention the slave trade.
This declaration addresses one specific type of evil: genocide. Slavery is not a type of genocide.
(If the BSU ever issues a declaration against slavery, will they mention the Muslim Arab dominance of the the East African slave trade?)
Gor also ran into vast right wing cowardice:
Perhaps the most surprising rebuff came from the school's College Republicans chapter. Although some individual members expressed support for the declaration, the club as a whole would not support it. "It was a shock when the College Republicans said that [the declaration] was too 'controversial,'" Gor recalls. "They said they didn't want to offend anyone. But I thought, 'Who is going to be offended if you oppose genocide?'"
For those of you who brought your Korans, turn to Verse 5 (Yusufali translation):
"Nay," they [unbelievers] say, "(these are) medleys of dream! - Nay, He [Mohammed] forged it! - Nay, He is (but) a poet! Let him then bring us a Sign like the ones that were sent to (Prophets) of old!"
The remainder of the sura dwells on the works of Allah, including his dealings with various prophets - but not a word explaining Mohammed's credentials. Why was he a prophet? Because he said so? Because he managed to win a war against Mecca on the second attempt?
In Verse 7 the non-Muslims ask why angels have not come to authenticate Mohammed's authenticity as a prophet. In the Bible, miracles are repeatedly manifested by God as a means of identifying prophets to the masses. Riddle me this: how did Allah inform the Arabs that Mohammed was a true prophet?
Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.
What he said reflects a common leftist prejudice against conservatives in general, not just small-town folk:
And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
He might even attract a few Hillary supporters with this quote, for pandering to their bigotry more outspokenly than she would. [Update: That doesn't necessarily translate into a net gain.]
Anti-trade sentiment? Hey Barack, ever heard of trade unions? Big city trade unions? Those clowns fought free trade for just about their entire existence.
If McCain has any imagination, he will play this at his rural rallies. John Mellencamp might complain, though, so he could go with this same-titled John Anderson song. Or Alan Jackson's Small Town Southern Man, when campaigning south of the Mason-Dixon. Jesus gets mentioned - nothing about clinging, though.
I just talked to Brad Stevens, who runs the customized card programs and much else at Starbucks...Stevens assures me that the company has no intention of approving or rejecting personal messages on the basis of ideology. Only a very small number of requests are rejected by the review team at the contractor who actually fulfills the orders, mostly because they are obscene, are insulting to the company or to a specific person, infringe on trademarks, are overtly political, or in some other way associate the Starbucks brand with images the company doesn’t want. Thus, for instance, they have rejected such messages as "Democrats Suck, Republicans Blow," "Vote Democratic for a Change," "Impeach Bush, Vote Hillary," and "I Love GWBush and Cheney." They also, according to their records, rejected "Fair Trade," odd since the company boasts that it is "North America’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified coffee." It may be a sensitive term, though, since "fair trade" campaigners continue to criticize the company.
Stevens says the rejection of "Laissez Faire" was just an unintended outcome of the instructions that the company gave its supplier.
Memo to Sir Elton John: the same logic you employ to blame misogyny for a significant amount of Hillary Clinton's political opposition could be turned in the other direction, to label you as a racist for not jumping on Barack Obama's bandwagon.
Memo to everyone: unless you can prove your Vulcan mind meld credentials, don't criticize misogyny or racism unless people outwardly express it.
Noting that some of the people protesting China's treatment of Tibet are from the radical left, I've been wondering something...when was the last time such leftists protested against a Communist government?
The company will print many personalized messages on their gift cards, but there are limits. But nobody can get a straight answer as to why "laissez-faire" is blacklisted but other political - or foreign - phrases are not.
Texas falls within Absolut Mexico, so if this map ever really existed it would have to predate 1836, the year Texas gained its independence. Now take a look at the northern US border. It follows the 49th parallel straight to the Pacific coast. That border was not established until the Treaty of Oregon was signed in 1846; prior to that the US claimed the territory up to the 54°40' parallel, even with the southernmost tip of Alaska.
Furthermore, the Absolut map gives parts of the Oregon and "unorganized" territories to Mexico! Refer to this 1830 US territorial map. The northern Mexico border shares the same latitude as the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Absolut Mexico's northern boundary goes further north - by roughly 100 miles, at about the same latitude as Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
No, I'm not gonna expand Tuborg Denmark's borders.
Update: Upon closer observation I have found the source of the error. Think of pre-1836 Mexico's eastern border as a three-tier staircase. The top tier is the border with Oregon. The step right below that is a stretch of the Arkansas River that flows through modern-day Colorado - Absolut misplaced the river.
Did They Not Realize That Americans Would Find Out About This?
Swedish-based Absolut Vodka has launched an ad campaign featuring a map of Mexico prior to Texas independence and the slogan "In an Absolut World." The Rottweiler has an image taken from a Monterrey billboard, and Gateway Pundit has an magazine ad version of the image.
A commenter at the latter site says this:
I think Tuborg or Carlsberg needs to come out with an ad showing Sweden as part of Denmark (which it used to be). "In a Tuborg world...."
Consider it done..
Note that the lettering is red like the Denmark flag.
(Map souce: Historical Map of Europe: 1000AD - found here. It was a good year for Norway, too.)
Update: Maybe this is a mere coincidence, but at the time that the map in the ad was valid, Norway was under Swedish rule. Absolut world, indeed.
Update: There's another problem with that Absolut map - see above post.
There are two Hillary Clintons running for president. One is a perky, upbeat Martha Stewarty sort of candidate. This is the Hillary we see in those softball interviews and at many of her campaign appearances.
But there's another Hillary who is shrill, screechy and berating. We see that one during some of her speeches. Those (like this blogger) who recall the 2003 Connecticut fundraiser know what I'm talking about; that was the event where she delivered this famous line:
I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. And we should stand up and say we are Americans, and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration!
On those occasions, she becomes Stella Mudd:
Sometimes both personalities try to assert themselves at the same time; the Martha side fights to keep the Stella side under control. The effect is the droning monotone Hillary that we see from time to time.
Despite the date - and the outlandishness of this scheme, this is actually half-serious.
The Democrats have two problems. One is obvious: the Clinton/Obama race is fracturing the party. The second is obvious to all except the most fanatical Democrat supporters: the Reid/Pelosi Congressional leadership has plunged the party into the abyss, earning lower approval numbers than the flailing President Bush.
Here's the idea - leading Democrats could offer to support Hillary as the next Senate Majority Leader in return for her dropping out of the presidential race.
This comes with complications:
Hillary has to believe that she has a good chance of being beaten, in either the convention showdown or the general election. She has been politically bulletproof for so long that I doubt her ego would allow for this.
Top Senate Dems have to be willing to admit that Harry Reid has done a lackluster job.
Top Senate Dems have to believe that Hillary can do a better job than Harry Reid.
If Hillary loses her bid, whether in August or November, I wouldn't be surprised to see her jockey for Reid's post anyway. That fight would be classic Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd.
Update: The last two items share an additional caveat. The Senate Majority leader has two jobs: running-the-Senate-machinery duties, and PR duties. Reid comes across as a wuss to a lot of people, thus the Warner Brothers analogy.
Update: If Hillary is Bugs, what does that make Obama? I see McCain as Daffy, myself.
Update: If Hillary wants the Senate leadership post, maybe she could capitalize on Reid's real estate scandals. Yes, the irony would be delicious.
Update: There's one more vital complication that If forgot: do top Senate Dems want her to have that kind of senatorial power?
Update: Actually, the Bugs Bunny analogy doesn't work with regard to the campaign trail. In that milieu, Hillary is a Robert Louis Stevenson character - see post above.