Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bwahaha!!


Obama apparently thinks Tampa mayor Pam Iorio is head of a sovereign state (photo courtesy of AP).

I mean, why else would he bow to her? (H/T: Weasel Zippers)

Assortment

1) Union flame-war in California.

2) Hard to believe, I know, but Pelosi may have lied about her “powerlessness” in putting a halt to waterboarding.

3) Is Obama bored with his job?

4) Carol says, “It sucks when the best thing you can say about your president is that at least he's notJohn Edwards.”

5) Gosh, not just Pelosi, but Obama, too, seems to have a little problem with mendacity.

6) The poetry corner, with TimT.

7) Expert on socialism visits America, smells something strangely familiar.

8) The coveted Paco Enterprises Product Award goes to Bag Balm, the very versatile goop that is useful for treating sunburn and psoriasis, improving ammo reloads, silencing squeaky hinges and salving irritated cow udders.

A Breath of Fresh Air in England

Via friend and commenter, Penguin, comes this story on Peter Davies, the mayor of Doncaster, a fellow of highly unorthodox (i.e., non-socialist and non-PC) views.
Within a week of his election, Mr Davies had slashed his own salary from £73,000 to £30,000, scrapped the mayoral limousine and abolished the council's free newspaper.

He has written to the Electoral Commission asking them to scrap two-thirds of Doncaster's 63 council seats in order to save the town £800,000 a year.

'If Pittsburgh can manage with nine councillors, why do we need 63?' he asks. 'They each get a basic salary of £12,590 and we have only eight council meetings a year anyway.'
He's no fan of enviro-theology, either:
Deeply sceptical of 'green claptrap', he must be the only mayor in Britain who wants more traffic in his town. He says it will boost business and has just announced plans for more parking spaces and an end to bus-only routes. 'Like it or not, we live in the age of the car,' he says.
If only we could turn such outbreaks of sanity into a worldwide epidemic.

Freedom of Speech in Venezuela

Not free, in fact, but very costly (warning: pretty grisly photos).

Update: Interesting new crowd control device employed by Venezuelan National Guardsmen.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunday Funnies

Two from the Burri boys:

Steve at Grandpa John's.

Lance at Troglopundit.

And one from Are We Lumberjacks?

And we conclude with the great Iowahawk, who compounds Christopher Buckley's irrelevance as a political essayist (H/T: Captain Heinrichs).

Credibility Gap


"I am not a duck."



"I am not a cow."




"I am not a platypus."



"I am not an ideologue."

Friday, January 29, 2010

David Brooks is Talking in His Sleep Again

Anybody else get the impression that David Brooks must have listened to the SOTU speech through a glass held to the wall separating his apartment from his neighbor's? Who, besides Brooks, heard anything in the speech that suggested that Obama had "distanced [himself] from the Democratic orthodoxy", or "distanced [himself] from Washington morality", thereby making him "the sole coolheaded man in Gomorrah"?

And what's all this business about "a saner, updated version of Ross Perot", and why does Brooks think that Obama should (or even can) forestall the rise of such a figure by becoming this person himself?
If I were one of those fellows advising Barack Obama, I would tell him that you can either get run over by that saner Ross Perot or you can be the saner Ross Perot. You’re not ornery, but you are a bit of a loner. You’re not a billionaire with a huge ego, but that’s because you’re not that rich. God gave you self-esteem. You might as well use it for good.
In reality, of course, Brooks is "one of those fellows" giving advice to Barack Obama - free advice, and clearly worth every cent.

As Bertie Wooster said, "I can tolerate rot, but it must not be utter rot." Brooks' latest...effort...is intolerable.

Some Candle Light, Soft Music and ...Pork Chops

I always figured that anything that tastes this delicious had to be good for you.

Rule 5 Saturday

The lovely and tuneful Boswell sisters sing “The Heebie Jeebies”.



Rule 5 Bonus:


A terrific tribute to the late, great Jean Simmons at Seraphic Secret.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'd Pay to See That, Nancy

Pelosi says she'll push a health care bill through congress if she has to "pole vault" it through.

Like this?



Update: Looks like it was just Pelosi's last bluff.

Things the Purpose of Which Remains a Mystery

1) The human appendix.

2) Male teats.

3) Christopher Buckley.

Happy Feet Friday

Count Basie and his band do their version of “Air Mail Special” (check out the fat “dancer” who looks like Charlie Rangel!)

The Suspense is Killing Me!

As I indicated in a previous post, I didn’t watch the SOTU speech; however, I have read excerpts from the written transcript, and I’ve seen a fair amount of blog commentary, including this post by Drew over at Ace of Spades.

So, Mr. Preshizzle, you say the “war in Iraq is ending.” Cool. Er, you want to give us a hint about who won?

Over at Contentions (in my opinion, one of the most thoughtful, well-written group blogs out there), John Steele Gordon denounces Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court. Aside from the embarrassing fact that Obama - noted Constitutional law junkie - was wrong in his interpretation of the particular ruling, it was a remarkable display of disrespect and even cowardice (it’s not like Chief Justice Roberts could have jumped up and cited the president for contempt, after all, although Alito’s silent criticism is priceless). Gordon, incidentally, links to this comprehensive, yet short, piece at Future of Capitalism which boils the astonishingly bad speech down to its primary components of mendacity and inert ingredients.

BTW, Alito's voiceless comment, coming in the midst of Obama's bluster, reminded me of a bible verse:
"Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” God said to Elijah. Then God passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks – but God was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire – but God was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
(1Kings 19:11-13 GNT)

Yawn

Much is being made of Justice Alito's mouthing of the words, "That's not true", in response to Obama's attack on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision during the SOTU speech last night.

But what about Harry Reid's "You're boring the hell out me" moment?

Update: Haw! John McCain mouths the words "Blame it on Bush."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From the Shelves of the Paco Library



Friend and commenter Robert Blair kindly mailed me some books by Nevil Shute, and I have just finished his autobiographical Slide Rule, which focuses on the author’s experiences as an aeronautical engineer in the early days of commercial flight.

I know “Wow!” is not a very sophisticated, or even a particularly helpful, word in describing a book, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Shute, who missed out on becoming a pilot in WWI (he served in a reserve battalion of the Suffolk Regiment) nonetheless dove into the engineering side of air travel design after the war while it was in its infancy, and I know of no other book that so neatly combines the scientific aspects of flight with its commercial development, and does so in a way that is positively mesmerizing.

Slide Rule is concerned largely with two great events in Shute’s life: the design and construction of the air ship R100, and the ground-up creation of an airplane manufacturing company, Airspeed, Ltd. In the late 1920s, the British Labour government, seeking, as all socialist and quasi-socialist governments do, to expand the public sector, established a sort of contest in which the Air Ministry was instructed to design and construct a commercially-viable air ship, in competition with an air ship to be designed and built by the private firm, Vickers, Ltd. There is much in Shute’s recounting of the twin projects that underscores the superiority of free enterprise over bureaucratic management.
So the thing started, and each staff began work on the preliminary researches that precede design in a big job like that. It was no fault of the Cardington party [the government’s design team] that they had the Air Ministry press department always nagging at their elbow for a story to put out in order that the expenditure of public money might be justified, but the effect was a stream of optimistic forecasts in the newspapers from the men who were building R101 which in the end were to build a ring fence around them from which there was no escape…[T]he Cardington designers found themselves hemmed in behind a palisade of their own published statements which could not be broken through without some personal and public discredit, till one course only was left open to them, a course they never would have taken had they been free men, a course which was to lead to tragedy and death.
Almost as dangerous, if not more so, as piloting air ships was the construction of them. The Vickers team worked in a “hangar” that was, in reality, an enormous (and leaky) old shed. The men labored far above the ground in building the skeleton of the ship, and in cold weather the framework would frequently ice over making for treacherous footing. There was also the little matter of working w-a-y above the ground:
The scale of the work produced its own peculiar difficulties, for most of us were unaccustomed to working on high places. When we first arrived at Howden I can very well remember venturing up the stairs to the passage ways in the roof of the shed 170 feet above the concrete floor, petrified with fear and clinging to the handrails with sweating hands at every step…By the time that the ship was half built we had lost all sense of height; it seems to be a matter of habit, because in my case the fear of heights has since returned, and is as strong as ever.
After the tragic crash of the government air ship (and in spite of a very successful test of the R100, which flew from England to Canada and back), air ships had become less commercially viable than they had appeared to be just a few years before, primarily, according to Shute, because of the rapid improvement in the speed and carrying capacity of airplanes. It was at this point that Shute got the idea of starting a company that would manufacture airplanes, first catering to the demand from individuals and flying clubs, but quickly expanding to sell to airlines and, ultimately, the government. The crowning achievement of the company’s existence as an independent entity was the sale of an Airspeed Envoy to the King’s Flight (an RAF unit responsible for transporting the Royal Family). Watching the fortunes of this company unfold, from its original shoestring financing to its eventual sale to the de Havilland Company, is an excellent short-course in the workings of venture capital.

Although the book concentrates on Shute’s first love (flying), there is much, as well, on his first forays into fiction writing, much that is interesting and instructive (at least to this dilettante). Slide Rule is an honest, well-written depiction of an amazingly fruitful and active life, one that leaves this (fairly) sedentary reader almost dizzy with the sheer whirl of it all, but with a deep-seated respect for people, like the author, who make, rather than read about, history.

SOTU: I Forgive You For Not Completely Accepting My Awesomeness; Go and Doubt No More

Actually, I have no idea what the overall “message” will be, but I think we can count on the following dodges, verbal tics and rhetorical gimmicks:

The Impenetrable Passive/Intransitive Blame Deflector Shield
Look for sentences like, “Mistakes have been made”, “The pace of change has been faster than anticipated”, “The message has been received”. This is the standard tactic for (a) acknowledging problems that indisputably have been created or exacerbated by oneself while (b) conveying the notion that they’ve been caused by some vague external force, like a poltergeist or El NiƱo.

Oh, Look! Over there! It’s George Bush!
I will be astonished if there are not multiple references to “the past eight years”, “the problems I inherited”, “cleaning up the mess”, etc. In fact, you may come away thinking that you’ve just been addressed by the First Janitor.

Smoke and Mirrors, Jobs Edition
Everything connected with domestic policy – but everything - will be fed into the teleprompter with the implication that it’s “all about jobs.” There will probably be a reference to the proposed Son of Porkulus, and a corresponding blackout on any mention of new taxes (unless it’s some bromide about reducing the tax burden on the middle class).

Did I Say Health Care? I Meant Jobs, Of Course
On this subject, look for a crazy quilt stitched together out of the previous three tactical approaches. “Movement on this issue was too precipitate, the message has been received, it’s not my fault anyway, and, you know, jobs are not just about salaries but about affordable health care for all.”

The Global War Dragnet On Terrorism
It’s all about balance, see? We don’t want to become what we oppose, so naturally our enemies should be given the full benefit of those constitutional rights they want to destroy. Water-boarding? Psssh! Wait till Abdullah ibn Scowlpuss or whoever has to sit in a court room and actually watch a prosecutor wag a finger at him. He’ll crack, I tell you, he’ll positively crack. Airport security? Meh. We’ll get back to you on that.

Foreign Policy: Everybody Likes a Cute Fluffy Bunny, Right?
There will likely be some jaw-jaw about America rediscovering its proper place in the world, building bridges, not walls, “my Speech in Cairo”, arms are for carrying home bags of arugula from Whole Foods, not for making war, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and we wouldn’t still be bogged down in Afghanistan (love the troops, by the way!) if You Know Who hadn’t allowed himself to become distracted by Iraq.

Ya Gotta Believe!
We will pursue a policy of transparency, openness, honesty, bipartisanship and fiscal responsibility, and this time we really mean it.

The Ritual Introduction of an Obfuscation
“Let me be clear…”

If anyone wants to catch this thing and report back, feel free. I’ll be watching old Gunsmoke episodes, myself.

Update: I hadn't noticed this, but the Anchoress did.

Update II Great speech drunk blogging over at VodkaPundit. One funny line (among many): “'We must answer history’s call.'” Dude, you should have gone before you left."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sorry, Mates

For those who (correctly) got the idea from a previous post that I was working on a Detective Paco story involving Ellie Light, I'm afraid the story's not on after all. The real identity of "Ellie" has been discovered, and the facts don't fit my story-line at all. Back to the drawing board.

You Think Waterboarding's Rough?

Wait till the prosecutors employ their dreaded implement of torture: plea bargaining.

Eureka!

Good-bye old government job, hello new private sector job!

I think with my experience, I'm a shoo-in for a position like this.

Totally unrelated: Cal City Chronicles solves a scientific mystery.

Pardon Me While I Outsource My Budgetary Responsibilities to Someone Else

I guess all that new federal spending and porkulus and everything else contributing to our gazillion-dollar deficit was just an Act of God. I mean, it’s not like Congress had anything to do with it, or the President had any veto power or anything.

The idea of creating a special commission “to tackle the nation’s fiscal problems” - which are the direct result of Congressional and presidential profligacy, for which both parties deserve blame – is ludicrous, but completely unsurprising coming from people who are congenitally unable to think outside of the bureaucratic box.

Barack Obama at the wheel. What could possibly go wrong?

Lech Walesa Hits the Campaign Trail

Stacy McCain reports that anti-communist hero Lech Walesa will be campaigning in Illinois this week for Adam Andrz Andrewz ONE OF THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES for governor (Andrzejewski. There! I did it).

Monday, January 25, 2010

You Got Me, Babe



Rep. Marion Berry of Arkansas is bowing to the inevitable.

As indicated in the Hot Air piece, he and some of the other Blue Dogs tried to warn the President not to force them into supporting the O-topia; however, Obama, when reminded of the Democratic disaster of 1994, responded, "Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me."

To which Berry must have responded (at least mentally), "Yeah, that's what I mean."

I didn't care for Bill Clinton, but he had sense enough to shift gears after the Republican gains in '94 and at least give a plausible impersonation of somebody who "got it." Obama seems prepared to believe in his invincible awesomeness to the bitter end. He inflated a big whoopy-cushion of deception with which he was going to trick the American people, and he's done gone and sat on the thing himself.

You know what, Mr. Prez? The big difference between "here and in '94" is that, then, we had a president who got it; now we've got a president who's going to get it.

Lock and Load!

Time to showcase some of the Paco arsenal before the Democrats overturn the second amendment (click to enlarge).

This is a Winchester Centennial model .30/.30 lever-action. It's got a long (and heavy) octagonal barrel, brass side- and butt-plates, and an ornamental saddle-ring. Note the deluxe finish on the stock. Class all the way! Unfortunately, it's too nice to shoot, so I keep it around for looks.


Here's the Winchester's distant cousin: a no-frills, all-business Marlin .30/.30 lever-action. This is a great little light-weight rifle.



Weathered and worn, this WWII Mauser 7.9mm is still an outstanding piece of engineering. It's fun to shoot, and deadly accurate.


Astute readers will recognize Detective Paco's weapon of choice, the Ruger Police Service-Six .38 Spl. This is a fine revolver, with a simple, but elegant design; accurate and easy to carry, I keep this baby loaded with hollow points as part of the home-protection system.


This little pea-shooter is a Sterling .25 semi-auto. I believe the company is out of business, but I always liked this pistol. Fits in the palm of your hand, and I don't recall it ever jamming.



For you gun-controlling liberals out there, this is not an "assault rifle". In fact, it's not a gun at all. This is a two-edged, razor-sharp dagger with a steel pommel that I started carrying on my hikes into the White Tank Mountains when I lived in Arizona. I used to go way off the marked trails, far back into the brush and cactus, and one late afternoon I came upon a sandy-bottomed arroyo where someone had scratched pentagrams and other satanic signs in the dirt. After that, I figured it might be a good idea to carry a little protection - just in case.

Government: Look for the Union Label

Brian Johnson points out in the Washington Times this morning that there’s a growing obstacle to implementing permanent cuts in the size of the federal government:
Any Republican effort to cut back the size of government will run straight into a battle with the unions - not the traditional industrial unions that have long formed the backbone of the Democratic Party, but government unions. According to data released last week, for the first time in history, more than 50 percent of union members work for the federal, state or local government.

This unprecedented event raises the question: How can a public that wants smaller government achieve that goal when every dollar that goes into that government is paying to build an interest group intent on growing the government?
This is one potential threat to democracy that has, for the most part, been flying under the radar. The idea of large blocs of unionized government workers that – let’s face it – would represent an unofficial arm of the increasingly left-wing Democratic Party, and would be able to influence government policies in such a way as to favor the growth of its membership and power, even in the face of the public’s dissatisfaction with the extent and pace of government expansion, is inimical to the concept of self-government. The last thing we need is a permanent fifth-column of statists embedded throughout the executive branch of the federal government (and, perhaps even more importantly, in state and local governments)working hand-in-glove with the Democrats – which is another reason why it is so important to capitalize on the building momentum of the Tea-Party activists to check the spread of government power and turn transparency into a reality.

Let There Be Light

Little Miss Attila hears from prolific letter-writer and Obama supporter Ellie Light.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that Detective Paco is currently working the case, with a report due in a day or two.

Update Little Miss A. links, in an update, to this funny take at Interesting News.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beer: The Staff Of Life

Did early man cultivate grain in order to make bread, or, as archaeologist Patrick McGovern suggests, to brew beer?

Drum Roll!

A while back, I linked Professor Carol's web site, Music After 50, which is going to post a series of pieces on preserving our western cultural heritage.

The proprietor of Arts & Ammo, which is where I found the link, emailed me today to let me know that Professor Carol has a video featuring Roland Muzquiz, the principal percussionist of the Dallas Wind Symphony. In this video, Muzquiz gives a mini-seminar on percussion styles of the swing era. Highly instructive and a pleasure to listen to.

The State of the Union...

...is, in some ways, considerably better than it was a year ago, when the hope 'n change tsunami threatened to wash away everything not lashed to a government program. We've still got problems - high unemployment, a big debt load, a series of tepid responses to the world's bad guys - but the prognosis for improvement is good, mainly because of the increasing level of disenchantment with President Jesus H. Obama, and the prospects for an enormous backlash against the Democrats this fall.

David Axelrod says that the SOTU address will focus on jobs.

I'm sure it will: David Axelrod's job, Rahm Emanuel's job, Barack Obama's job...

Sunday Funny

Life imitates art.

William Jennings Obama



President Obama has decided to go the populist route.
The populist drumbeat emanating from the White House is a predictable reaction to the shellacking Democrats took in Massachusetts last week and the drop that began some months ago in President Obama’s's poll numbers. It is at best a partial answer to what ails the president and Democrats in Congress.

The president's rhetoric over the past week suggests he has decided to try to fight anger with anger. If Americans are fed up with bank bailouts and bonuses going to their top executives, Obama wants people to believe that he resents them just as much.
This strikes me as one of the worst cases of not-getting-it-itis in presidential history, not to mention one of the most transparent cons jobs to date in an administration that is steeped in deception. If Obama thinks that Coakley blew up in Massachusetts because the people were primarily angry about bonuses for bank executives, then he is far less astute – and far less hip – than his putative coolness had led many of his supporters to believe. The main driver of public concern over the direction being taken by Obama and the Democratic Party is the stunning, jaw-dropping overreach, best exemplified by the Democratic health care proposals, but also manifested by cap-and-trade and the almost–criminal irresponsibility that underlies the Great Spending Spree of ’09. Trying to blame the banks isn’t “progressive”, it’s completely reactionary.

It’s also laughably hypocritical. As Karl points out at Hot Air, Obama was a prime beneficiary of the largesse handed out by the typical Wall Street suspects during his campaign. Now we are to believe that he is ready to grab a pitchfork and take his rightful place at the head of the “mob”?

“You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” William Jennings Bryan could get away with rhetoric like that because, as he also said, “Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart.” In Obama’s case, public speech is nothing more than sterile Democratic talking points transmitted to the people via teleprompter and the President’s melodiously-tuned larynx. Obama as a populist is truly awful casting - on the order of casting, say, Hugh Grant as Huey Long.

2012 is looking more and more like a banner year for sanity.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Barrett Brown, Snake Handler

I occasionally catch some of those cable shows featuring various macho types doing dangerous jobs: lumberjacks, ice truckers, those fellows who go after the Alaskan king crabs. But I tip my hat to Barrett Brown, who makes the others look like milquetoasts: Brown has recently announced a partnership of sorts with Little Johnson. I think this may answer the question, “who will be the last fanatic to drink the Kool-Aid in the Reverend Johnson’s Church of Me?”

Stacy McCain has a fine roundup of links on Johnson's continuing meltdown (and I offer a H/T to Captain Heinrichs, too).

Has Anybody Seen Wronwright?

The orbital weather cannon seems to be missing, too (H/T: The Classical Liberal).

Dennis Miller, Genius

The Democratic Party is like headcheese.

BTW, Dennis Miller deserves some kind of award for (presumably) inventing the phrase, "cool d'etat".

Rule 5 Saturday

The lovely songstress, Nan Wynn, gives a beautiful performance of “Brazil”.



Special Rule 5 bonus (IDF edition): Nineteen-year-old supermodel Esti Ginzburg is in the army now.



(In accordance with the McCain code of blogging).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Australia Day!

Best wishes to all my mates down under!

Maybe one of you "blokes" or "sheilas" can explain the "Melbourne Method".



Important Update: I seem to be off by several days. But then, to me, every day is Australia Day.

Important Update II: No, wait! It really is Australia Day! The global cold snap brought on by global warming has caused the earth to shrink, so it came early this year.

Those Wacky TSA Cut-Ups!

Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom links to an article on the latest hijinks from Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Update: No way you terrorists are gonna slip past the Preshizzle's tight security...

Well, That’s a Relief!

Ace proves that Obama isn’t the Anti-Christ.

Meanwhile, Stacy McCain brings us the news that Rush Limbaugh’s web site administrator has corrected an oversight.

Blair Affiliates Stockholders’ Meeting

Time again for a roundup of links to Tim Blair’s far-flung commonwealth of blogs.

Starting with our, er, bonzer blogfather himself. Last week, Tim invited readers to ask him questions. This was mine:
Is it true that you turned down an offer from Paco Enterprises to sell your blog for US$1,000,000? If so, did that have anything to do with the fact that the ink on the bills came off on your hands (because I swear the brown paper bag containing the currency just got caught in the rain or something).
Here’s is Tim’s hilarious reply:
It was less to do with the running ink than the images on those bills—such as I could make them out—being of Megan Mullally. Also, the ink was orange. And I don’t think US currency comes in denominations of “s**tloads”, as was printed on the one legible bill.

Pixie Place II posts some valuable insights from James Lewis at The American Thinker on the distinctly non-liberal strains in what passes for liberalism these days.

On the subject of Scott Brown, frollicking mole at Tizona invites us to compare and contrast.

Kae says accidents will happen.

Wild man, Tim T, makes an important musical discovery.

More compare and contrast from Three Beers Later.

Bingbing now has a good idea of what I have to put up with.

The Incredible Two-Headed Loser



There's nothing wrong with Harry Reid's reelection campaign that a little Obamagic can't fix.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Happy Feet Friday

Cab Calloway and his band swing “Some of These Days” (from 1937).

What is it they say about bringing a knife to a gun fight?

Fishersville Mike has the perfect visual analogy of Scott Brown's victory.

Oh, and did you catch Keith Olbermann's reaction?

It's Like a Chain Reaction or Something

Air America - the liberals' answer (snicker!) to Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing radio hosts - is going to file for bankruptcy.

Dave in Texas over at Ace's place has the best headline: "Air America Off The Air - Actually Almost Nobody Hardest Hit".

Completely off-topic: I apologize for not posting my weekly book review, but, as Senator Claghorn once said, "Boy, I've been busier than the pea in a traffic cop's whistle at the main intersection during rush hour."

All Aboard!

Ralph Reiland has an amusing piece on AmTrak’s Auto Train over at the American Spectator.

Mrs. Paco and I took this train from Florida to Virginia over 20 years ago, and it was an enjoyable experience, overall. We had the same kind of room Reiland writes about, and I recall that the food was pretty good. I particularly got a kick out of this marketing jive, cited by the author: "panoramic views of America's southeast through picture windows." In addition to the comical observations made by Reiland, I should point out that trains generally don’t run through the best parts of town, and the back of Kissimmee, Florida, isn’t all that “panoramic” at any time of day.

Still, it was fun, and I’d do it again if they brought the price down (a cheap trip, it ain’t).

A question for Australian readers: on the outside chance that I ever get down under, are there any good scenic train trips?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bulwer-Lytton Contest Ought to Be Retired

No, really. How can anyone ever top this? The flyblown historical and literary analogies, the bundle of neuroses disguised as social conscience, the fact-free vitriol, the laughable imagery most likely derived from a recollection of illustrations from old editions of Weird Tales magazine, the whole dog's breakfast labeled as a defense of "reason". Truly awful stuff. And to cap it off, he's wrong.

Some actors just shouldn't ad lib.

Obama's Big Chance

Obama's nominee for head of the Transportation Security Agency, Erroll Southers, has withdrawn from consideration.

Good riddance. The guy abused his authority as an FBI agent and...got creative when answering questions at his confirmation hearings.

Mr. President, you need a top-notch, two-fisted, street-savvy lawman to fill this position, and I'm proud to report that the times have produced the man...

...

...

...

...


"A hundred dollars a day and all the cigarettes I can smoke - including inside federal buildings. Take it or leave it."

Every Now and Then You Ought to Check the Batteries in Your Smoke Alarms

Pelosi, Reid, Axelrod, et al seem to be sleeping through all the warning bells, beeps and whistles represented by Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. The house is on fire, the smoke is billowing through the halls, and these people continue to snooze away, convinced that the repudiation of Obama’s over-reach is a mere bump in the road to serfdom.

There is a growing number of Democrats, however, who are having second thoughts about playing Russian roulette with a six-shot revolver loaded with five bullets. Rep. Anthony Weiner believes that passage of a health care bill (in either the Senate or House version) is now about as likely as porcine aeronautics. Even [sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus] The One is making cautious noises: “President Obama warned Democrats in Congress today not to ‘jam’ a health care reform bill through now that they've lost their commanding majority in the Senate” (oh, so it’s all Congress’s fault, now, is it?)

And from the Department of Inexplicably Confusing Harry Reid with Jimmy Stewart’s Character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, we have the increasingly insufferable Garrison Keillor providing evidence that the resemblance of his physiognomy to pond life is no accident:
Reid is the gentlest and most patient soul in the U.S. Senate and his presence there in a colony of bull walruses is a tribute to Nevada. He's a soft-spoken man from hardscrabble roots in the mining town of Searchlight who possesses Western honesty and openness and a degree of modesty startling for a senator, and if he goes down to defeat to some big bass drum, the Republic will be the poorer for it.
(Proudly stolen from Moonbattery)

Update: Captain Heinrichs has the perfect solution for those pesky Democrat fund-raising calls.

Who is Scott Brown?

Richard McEnroe has your cool Scott Brown facts, right here.

On a more serious note, Marc Thiessen reveals the interesting fact that terrorism and interrogation policy played an important role in Brown's victory.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recriminations Roundup!

The Democrats have descended into full terrarium-overpopulated-with-starving-gerbils mode as they all try desperately to affix the blame for Coakley's loss to Brown.

1) Politico has some nice grouping, with Rahm Emanuel blaming Coakley, Massachusetts congressman Richard Neal blaming "malaise", and one unnamed Democratic strategist blaming The One, Himself: "We lost independents in Virginia, we lost independents in New Jersey and we’re losing independents in Massachusetts. The only thing those three states have in common is Obama.”

2) David Axelrod shakes his head sadly, like a doctor in an old movie who's been called in to give a prognosis on some shot-up gangster. "David Axelrod said today that if the White House had been asked earlier, more could have been done for embattled Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley in Massachusetts."

3) Chris Mathews seems to think the problem is post-tribalism.

4) John Kerry blames, er, Sarah Palin.

5) Movie critic Roger Ebert thinks the culprit is the sheer ingratitude of the people of Massachusetts toward Ted Kennedy (H/T: Ed Driscoll).

6) House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (if that really is his name) blames GOP obstructionism.

Excellent. Note how many of them blame everybody but themselves and their own unpopular policies. Hold that thought, guys!

Scott Brown Beats Democrat Monopoly


Martha Coakley had her chance and blew it, as Republican Scott Brown parlayed a down-to-earth, straightforward campaign, voter dissatisfaction with the Massachusetts Democratic party machine and concern over the scope of Obama’s statist policies into a stunning victory.

Ted Kennedy is no doubt having the dry heaves rolling over in his grave.

The most important ramification of this victory is the possibility that the Democratic health care plan may be derailed. True, the donks may find a way to finesse passage of their bill, but I tend to think that more than a few of the Democratic lemmings are going to decide that dying peacefully in bed at a respectable old age beats jumping off a cliff into the icy waters of political oblivion.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Well, folks, the game is Obama Care poker. Mr. President, looks like it’s your bet.”

Will the Boston Globe Also Publish Tomorrow's Stock Prices Today?

The amazingly prescient Globe calls the election for Coakley eight hours before the polls close.

BTW, would a Scott Brown victory be bad news just for Democrats, or for incumbents in general?

And George Moneo at Babalu reveals the profile of the typical Coakley supporter.

While We Wait for Election Results...

Here's a guest post from fellow citizen of Occupied Northern Virginia, Michael the Patriot.

12 Signs That 2010 Is Going To Be A Really, Really Bad Year For The Democrats And The Obama Administration

The 2010 election is still almost 10 months away, but already every indication is that if the election was held today, the Democrats would suffer a crushing defeat. So will things get better for the Democrats by the time election day rolls around? Well, actually the truth is that things are only likely to get worse for the Democrats and the Obama administration in 2010. As the U.S. economy continues to fall apart, and as health care and national security continue to take center stage on the national scene, an increasing number of voters are likely to become disenfranchised with the Democratic Party. The following are 12 signs that 2010 is going to be a really, really bad year for the Democrats and the Obama administration....

#1) Health care "reform" has been a total nightmare for Obama and the Democrats. The majority of Americans have been horrified to learn that the plan put forward by the Democrats will make purchasing health insurance mandatory, will raise taxes, will give the government unprecedented control over health care decisions, will result in much fewer health care choices for the average American and will push U.S. government deficits through the roof. Approval ratings for the health care "reform" bill have been hovering in the 30s, and considering that this is the centerpiece of the Democratic agenda, this is a really, really bad sign for Obama and the Democrats.

#2) In fact, more Americans than ever are sick and tired of the financial mess that the U.S. government is getting us all into. The truth is that the U.S. government is drowning under an absolute mountain of debt and all of the spending that Barack Obama is doing is only making it worse. To finance this debt, the U.S. Treasury has been forced to issue so many new bonds that the rest of the world cannot possibly buy them all. So who is buying them all up? The Federal Reserve. In fact, the Fed is now purchasing approximately 80 of all new U.S. debt.

#3) But even with all of this reckless government spending the unemployment situation in the U.S. is still absolutely brutal. When even Wal-Mart is closing stores you know things are really bad. Wal-Mart just announced this past week that it will close 10 money-losing Sam's Club stores and will cut 1,500 jobs in order to reduce costs. So if even Wal-Mart has to shut down stores, what chance do other retailers have?

#4) In fact, some areas of the U.S. are a total economic nightmare at this point. The mayor of Detroit recently said that the real unemployment rate in his city is somewhere up around 50 percent. When things get that bad, the party out of power starts to look better and better.

#5) So just how bad are things when compared to past recessions? During the 2001 recession, the U.S. economy lost 2% of its jobs and it took four years to get them back. This time the U.S. economy has lost more than 5 percent of its jobs and there is no sign that the bleeding of jobs will stop any time soon. Those who do not have jobs are much likelier to consider voting for the party out of power.

#6) The reality is that more Americans are in financial trouble than at any point in recent times. Americans are going broke at a staggering pace. 1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 - a 32 percent increase over 2008. This is not a trend that is going to help the Democrats.

#7) We are also seeing a record number of mortgage defaults. According to a report that was just released, delinquent home loans at government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac surged 20 percent from July to September. In fact, things are such a mess at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the Obama administration recently removed the caps on the amount of financial assistance that the U.S. government will be giving these two entities. Whether or not Obama created this mess is not the issue. What is the issue is that an increasing number of Americans are blaming him for this mess.

#8) In fact, many analysts believe that the the housing crash is far from over. They say that a massive "second wave" of mortgage defaults is getting ready to hit the U.S. economy starting in 2010. In fact, this "second wave" is so frightening that even 60 minutes is reporting on it. When this second wave does hit, most Americans are going to place responsibility for it in the laps of the Obama administration.

#9) Now there is even concern that the recent global deep freeze could end up seriously affecting food prices in American supermarkets in 2010. As the past several decades have clearly shown, Americans tend to vote according to how their pocketbooks are doing, and if food prices shoot through the roof that will not help Obama and the Democrats at all.

#10) In addition, recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans are so concerned about terrorism that they would be willing to sacrifice certain freedoms in order to feel safer. Considering the fact that terrorism is considered to be an issue that greatly favors the Republicans, this has got to be very concerning to the Democrats.

#11) On the foreign policy front, Obama risks alienating the Jewish vote by continuing to insist that Israel give East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The truth is that the Jewish vote is crucial for the Democrats and Obama in places like Florida, and by taking such a hardline anti-Israel position, Obama is not winning any new friends in the Jewish community.

#12) Also, Barack Obama is continuing to push for a treaty with Russia that would reduce the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal to approximately 10 percent of the size that it was at the height of the cold war. Such an irresponsible approach to national security is surely not going to win Obama and the Democrats many friends among moderate voters who are concerned about security issues.

Any way you cut it, 2010 is shaping up to be a very bad year for the Democrats. Barack Obama's approval rating has already been plummeting like a rock, and there does not seem to be much hope of that turning around any time soon. In fact, if the signs above are any indication, the 2010 election could end up being really, really good to the Republicans. But with Obama still in the White House until at least 2012, will they be able to do much to clean up the mess?

The Worst Job in the World?

Mopping up Keith Olbermann's spittle.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Disentangling Fact from Fiction

Marc Thiessen has written a fascinating article on CIA interrogation techniques that shows there's a world of difference between the methods used by real-life interrogators and those used by Jack Bauer. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

“The Unluckiest Country”

Joshua Keating provides a a brief summary of Haiti’s history over the last fifty years.

I encountered some of the turbulence of Haiti’s politics very indirectly back in the mid-80s, when I was working for Florida National Bank in Miami. I was part of a three-person team involved in commercial credit review, and was located in an office the luxuriousness of which was far out of proportion to my humble station. We worked on the third floor of the Alfred I. DuPont Building – a beautiful specimen of Art Deco constructed in the late 30s. The offices we occupied had previously served as the location for the executive management of Florida National; the head of our little group had the office that had belonged to Ed Ball, when he was in Miami (the trustee for the Alfred I. Du Pont estate, Ball had served as chairman of Florida National - headquartered in Jacksonville - for many years, and was Du Pont’s brother-in-law; he died in 1981). The other junior person had the office which had belonged to the former president of the Miami branch of the bank, and my office was, in fact, the old board room: marble floors, marble walls, and an enormous marble-topped brass table that had to be installed in the room before the exterior wall was completed, because it would never have come in through the door. I sometimes felt rather like the Doge of Venice in such surroundings, though the smallness of my paycheck inevitably and cruelly brought me back to reality. Bank executives had relocated to another floor as senior staff levels increased, and since the bank needed to stick us somewhere, we were plopped down in these rooms of almost oriental splendor.

In any event, I worked at the end of the table nearest a group of windows that opened out onto the street. In the mid-1980s, revolts broke out across Haiti against the regime of “Baby Doc” Duvalier (son of the notorious “Papa Doc”), and he fled the country in 1986. It was sometime in late 1985 or early 1986; I recollect that it was a pleasant, sunny day, and I had opened the windows. Late in the afternoon, a crowd began gathering in front of the Haitian consulate (across from my building and perhaps thirty yards further up the street). There were some angry shouts, which eventually rose to a series of frenzied chants, as the crowd – made up of Haitian political refugees, and now become a mob – began trying to break into the consulate. I learned subsequently that it had been the intention of the mob leaders to drag the Consul General into the street and…well, have words with him, to put it mildly. As I drove out of the parking garage to go home, I remember the sound of a roaring crowd and police sirens in the distance. It was a fascinating end to what had been a mundane day at the office (from the perspective of public spectacle, second only to the spontaneous demonstrations by the local Cuban-American community during the Mariel boatlift, when everyone seemed convinced – wrongly, as it turned out – that the Castro regime was teetering; on that occasion, I got trapped in the middle of an impromptu parade, which included a truck full of Cuban-American paramilitary types, and the crowds were cheering ecstatically. I was pretty ecstatic, myself, as nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have seen Castro fall; sadly, of course, he and his brother and their vile police state linger still).

Not related to Haiti at all, but perhaps of some interest to those who are curious about the super-rich and the rumors that always seem to plague them, I recall reading an interview in Forbes magazine many years ago in which one of DuPont’s grandchildren claimed that Ed Ball and his sister-in-law successfully conspired to murder Alfred DuPont, the cause of whose death in 1935 was ruled a heart attack. The only thing I can now find in connection with that interview is the postscript to this online biography of DuPont. While I don’t recollect many details from the interview, I do remember thinking at the time that the evidence, such as it was, was extraordinarily thin.

Did Obama Campaign for Frei?

Right-wing presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera has won the election in Chile, defeating Eduardo Frei.

Coakley Makes Futile Grab for Shortest Presidential Coattails in Recent History

Nice try, Martha!

Gateway Pundit has two posts on the Preshizzle's appearance in Massachusetts: (1) being heckled, and (2) failing to fill the hall.

That first video is priceless. Listen at the very beginning; it almost seems as if Obama's teleprompter was ululating ("you-you-you...")

Update: Expert testimony from Barney Frank (H/T: Ed Driscoll).

Sunday Funnies

I asked Boy on a Bike what he thought of this new-fangled bamboo bicycle they've come up with, and was not disappointed:
Bamboo bike - an object likely to excite much attention from the likes of those who exclaim that a dish full of dog excrement with a magnolia poking out the top is a "searing indictment of the inhumanity of capitalism and its impact on the endangered butterflies of patagonia".

The thought of having part of the frame shatter after two years of use whilst descending a hill at 40mph doesn't bear thinking about.

Then again, it could be a good way to thin the greentopia population.

With that in mind, when does marketing start on the People and Cargo Omnicycle?
From Middle Coast comes this great tea party poster.

Finally: who you gonna believe, Al Gore or your lying eyes?

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yeah, I Think They Used a Photo of Me to Make D.B. Cooper’s Wanted Poster

Maybe not one of the FBI’s most brilliant moments; on the other hand, what else is a lefty Spanish politician good for?
A Spanish lawmaker was horrified to learn that the FBI used an online photograph of him to create an image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.

The image using Gaspar Llamazares' photo appeared on a wanted poster updating the U.S. government's 1998 photo of the al-Qaida leader.

Llamazares, former leader of the United Left party, was elected to Spain's parliament in 2000. The photograph of him used to make the wanted poster originally appeared on posters for his 2004 general-election campaign.
Good luck clearing Customs when you come to the U.S., Gaspar! (Meh. Actually, considering airport security these days, should be a snap).

I dunno. Maybe it isn't so strange to use pictures of lawmakers as a representation of someone or something else. I was watching one of those mystery ailment shows the other night, and there was this guy with an inexplicably enlarged scrotum. He was kind of shy about having it photographed, so they used the this image to indicate what it looked like:



(Heh. I guess those wire-rims are "specticles")

What the Massachusetts Bloggers Are Saying

1) Martha Coakley: sleeze merchant.

2) The tea party has returned to its home base.

3) Right now, this is the worst job in the world.

4) Go long on Scott Brown (pots of money in it!)

Democat!

Richard McEnroe is betrayed by his own cat!

BTW, tomorrow is Richard's first blog anniversary. Stop by and wish him well.

Assortment

1) Lloyd Marcus spots racism - among black people.

2) The Archdiocese of Miami is reviving Operation Pedro Pan to bring Haitian orphans to the United States. The original plan saved over 14,000 Cuban children in the 1960s; I hope it can save even more kids now. Swampie has a report on the horrible conditions and the aid efforts in Haiti.

3) A special inquiry directed to Boy on a Bike: what do you think of this thing?

4) Gaffamaniac Martha Coakley strikes again. By the way, here’s a great visual symbol of her campaign from Red Mass Group:



5) Mark Steyn attempts to get his arms around the Scott Brown phenomenon (or would it be more accurate to refer to it as the Martha Coakley phenomenon?)

Pray for Poor Haiti

Unimaginable devastation, in a country plagued by poverty, corruption and a turbulent history.

Lurita Doan at Big Government provides some historical perspective.

There is a link to the Red Cross's emergency aid to Haiti here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rule 5 Saturday

Absolutely solid, Jackson! Little Martha Tilton sings the intro, and then we get Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dancing to some righteous big band swing (at about 2:39). Yowsa!



Rule 5 Saturday Bonus! From the same movie (You'll Never Get Rich - 1941), a shorter clip of Fred and Rita doin' some tap boogie.

SEIU Workers for Scott?

That's what Stacy McCain says, and he's got the pictures to prove it.

Update: Gateway Pundit has a great campaign video of Scott and Giuliani - with a brief appearance by Joe Ligotti!

Who's Joe Ligotti? Why, he's the famous guy from Boston! (Strong language warning)

Swell

My daily commute could get a lot more interesting if the Obama administration decides to try Gitmo detainee, “Hambali”, in Washington, D.C..

Hey, but that kind of thing’s obviously ok with Virginia Eighth District Congressman Jim Moran, Super Genius.

Scott Brown and His Surge of Renown

Scott Brown is surging in Massachusetts. Does this mean we sit back and start clinking glasses of champagne? Not on your life! We’re talking about Massachusetts, after all, so if the Democrats can…finesse an election anywhere, it’s going to be there; let’s keep the pressure on.

First off, Dan Riehl has some excellent links to stories unmasking Martha Coakley as a sort of Andrei Vyshinsky of Massachusetts state prosecutors (although her prosecutorial zeal was sometimes strangely lacking).

And although Coakley was obviously smart enough to get through law school, the effort must have killed off a critical mass of brain cells as she has lately been uttering non-stop nonsense. Even her “help” seems to consist of trigger-happy foot-shooters.

Oh, no! Mighty Mouse to save the day!.

Political Roundup

1) An Australian masters the American political system.

2) Is Harold Ford, Jr. a Republican plant? Or is the Democrat really this dumb? (H/T: Hot Air).

3) The race between Scott Brown and Marth Coakley now rated a toss-up.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Feet Friday

Some beautiful harmonizing from Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.

Awesome Ad Campaign

Are We Lumberjacks? creates an exciting logo for Michael Meehan's communications company.

Elsewhere, the People's Cube reports the news that Congress has passed a new law of thermodynamics.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From the Shelves of the Paco Library



Thanks to his descendants and Penguin Books, who rescued it from oblivion, the memoir of 19th-century merchant captain Charles Tyng is available for our enjoyment and instruction. The son of a successful Massachusetts lawyer, Tyng was a very indifferent student who was ultimately compelled by his father to go to sea. After his first voyage, during which he endured considerable hardships, he informed his father that life as a sailor was not for him; however, Tyng senior prevailed upon him to stick to the profession, and young Charles, over time, worked his way up the ratings scale and eventually became a prosperous captain, ship-owner and merchant. About a year before his death at age 78, Tyng began writing his memoir – published under the title Before the Wind: the Memoir of an American Sea Captain (1808 – 1833) - which ends some 40 years before his retirement, possibly because he began writing it so late in life.

But what a life it was! Over the period covered in this book, Tyng traveled to China, Cuba, England, Germany and Spain, just to name a few of his destinations, and was constantly beset by mutinous crews, pirates, hurricanes, epidemics of cholera and other diseases, crooked commission agents, and the occasional Latin American revolution - all of which are described in an engaging style that makes for a real page-turner. Here he describes a rather severe instance of Chinese workman’s comp:
There is a curious law in China, which was put in force during our stay. That is, if a Chinese is killed, or loses his life while working on board of a foreign vessel, one of the foreigners must be given in return…The case I refer to was on board another vessel, to a Chinaman who was at work taking on board the cargo…I think he fell in the hold. The authorities demanded one of the crew should be given up, which the Captain refused to do, and the work of sending his cargo was stopped…The Chinese insisted upon it, and the mandarins came down in a big boat, also the American consul, and held a sort of court on board, and after some time it was decided that the man who was working nearest to the Chinaman, when the accident happened, should go up to the city under the solemn promise that he should not be harmed, but only to explain to the higher mandarins how it happened. Under this agreement the Captain let the man go. That night, as we learned afterwards, he was squeezed to death, by tying a rope round his body, and two men with bamboo sticks twisting the strap round him until he was a dead man.
On one voyage, Tyng had a close encounter with a crazed steward:
The steward was a French mulatto, a half crazy fellow [who] boasted of having been in the wars with Napoleon, [and] was very careless, neglectful and dirty…Upon opening his [the steward’s] chest, he found several of his [the Captain’s] bottles empty which were filled with cherry cordial, some of his private stores, which he had not commenced on. He wanted him tied up and flogged…I told Captain M. that the man was certainly crazy. I begged him off a flogging and got him to beg the Capt. pardon, and do so no more, which he did and the Capt. let him off. I then went down to my state room…In the course of half an hour, the steward rushed into my room, with a large carving knife in his hand, his eyes glaring most wildly. He made towards me. I sprung up, reached my hand for my pistol. He seemed confused, evidently expecting to find me asleep. He went for the cabin door, but instantly turned and came to the door of my room. I pointed my pistol at him, he threw the knife down, and run up on deck. At once there was the cry “A man overboard.” I went up on deck and found that the steward had jumped overboard, and looked over the side and saw him about a fathom under water with his face downwards, his arms and legs stretched out, and without motion, sinking fast, so that it would have been useless to try and save him…I found afterwards a pot half full of rum, which he had been drinking from, until he became frenzied, and produced that awful glare of his eyes, which I shall never forget.
Along the way, Tyng went shares in a stuffed mermaid, met Lord Byron and (the future) Queen Victoria, grew wealthy shipping sugar, molasses, linseed oil, and flour, acquired a wife and survived a bout with cholera. His was a vigorous, active life – cheerful, overall, in spite of so many preoccupations and dangers - and it is here described with candor and beautiful simplicity.

Martha Coakley Just Oozes Integrity

Well, maybe not integrity, exactly. Stacy McCain has a good roundup of links on the Massachusetts election, including the excellent video of the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack doing some post-graduate work at the School of Hard Knocks. McCormack, incidentally, thinks his assailant was Michael Meehan, a Coakley staffer.

Update - Confirmed: it was Michael Meehan.

Update II - Even more from Stacy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Chip Off the Old Crock!

Nothing like a father and son failure story.

Harry Reid and his elder son, Rory (Rory?) seem to be dragging each other down in Nevada (Rory is running for governor). Priceless quote:
"Rory Reid?" asks a young woman at work in a Wells Fargo bank branch here. "Is he somebody performing at one of the casinos?" When told he is the son of her senator, she frowns, and says, "Ohh."
Another great quote from Rory himself, about his father:
”I think he should go back to making the health-care bill be the best that it can be and doing whatever else he does [emphasis mine]."
Harry Reid is bad enough as a “one-off” deal; a dynasty is unthinkable.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Come to Australia - You Might Accidentally Get Killed"

Bingbing has a hilarious "tourist-promotion" video that makes me want to jump on the next plane to Australia.

While we're on the subject of Australia, I'd also like to thank friend and commenter Robert Blair for the three Nevil Shute books that he was kind enough to send to me. Reading is one of the few genuine pleasures in my life, and there is no gift I appreciate more than books. Thanks again, Robert!

Lunch with a Captain of Industry



Transcript of Brad Smilo’s interview with J. Packington Paco III

I’m here again to do a follow-up interview with that well-known titan of capitalism, J. Packington Paco. His butler Spurgeon has just let me in. How are you Spurgeon?

Spurgeon: Very well, sir, thank you.

Smilo: Say, that chauffeur you sent to pick me up: is he, er, new to the job? He was having a little trouble manipulating the gear shift on that 1939 Packard touring sedan, and he seemed to get lost a couple of times.

Spurgeon: He is new to the employ of Mr. Paco, sir, and I fear that he is somewhat of a novice as a professional driver. He was formerly an executive vice president of General Motors; the marketing division, I believe.

Smilo: Well, that’s interesting. Is there a shortage of career chauffeurs these days?

Spurgeon: Oh, no, sir. It’s simply that there is presently a glut on the market of corporate executives, and their services are very…economically priced, if I may say so, sir. Incidentally, Mr. Paco has had a luncheon prepared which I think you will enjoy.

Smilo: Hold on. The cook’s not another GM employee, by any chance?

Spurgeon: Not at all, sir. He is the former senior credit officer of Credit Lyonnais; a French gentleman, and therefore extremely competent in the practice of the culinary arts beloved of that race.

Smilo: Sounds wonderful! Ah, and here’s the subject of our interview, Mr. Paco, himself! Seasons greetings, J.P.!

J.P: The same to you, my boy, the same to you! I hope you’re hungry? I’ve asked Hippolyte to put together a little snack for us.

Smilo: Lead on! Folks, we’re now entering the dining room of J.P.’s fabulous penthouse apartment high atop Paco Tower. That’s a gorgeous table, J.P. Mahogany, isn’t it?

J.P: You’ve a good eye, Brad. Yes, it’s Honduran mahogany. An endangered species, unfortunately, so naturally I’ve laid in a few thousand board feet of the stuff in case the table should acquire a scratch.

Smilo: I notice that there’s a window opening onto the balcony…and there are some men out there busy with shovels. What’s going on, J.P?

J.P: Upon my soul, all this snow is a colossal nuisance! I’ve opened two new coal-fired power plants in the vicinity and I have yet to see any increase in global warming. Those are a gang of sub-prime mortgage underwriters that I hired through the bankruptcy court. They’re shoveling the snow off the balcony onto the street below [the distant sound of a car’s screeching tires and a collision with another car is heard]. Hmm. Probably should have had the street closed off. Ah, well…

Smilo: Uh-huh. I thought, for a minute, that they might be convict labor; I mean, what with that deputy sheriff standing out there with his shotgun and all.

J.P: Can’t be too careful with those fellows, you know.

[The former senior credit officer of Credit Lyonnais enters the dining room; in his apron and tall cap, he is vaguely suggestive of Chef Boyardee]

Cook: Ah, Monsieur Paco, you will be starting off with a salad, n’est-ce pas?

J.P: What do you say, Brad?

Smilo: I’m not a big fan of rabbit food, but I suppose I could get it down. Do you have any Thousand Island? [The cook glares at Smilo and stomps out of the room] Say, J.P, your cook was getting pretty red in the face, there. Was it something I said?

J.P: You know these French vittle-wallahs. High-strung purists, the lot of them. Pay him no mind. So, Brad, how can I be of service to you today?

Smilo: I’m sure my audience would be interested in hearing your views on the apparent failure of the stimulus money to create new jobs.

J.P: Oh, the stimulus bill was doomed from the start. You see, the government doesn’t have stockholders. Yes, it has stakeholders, whatever that fuzzy notion may mean – the citizenry, the voters, the people, call them what you will – but their participation in the benefits, if any, that may stem from the government’s operations is vague, tenuous and even frequently imaginary. The government is highly adept at spending money, but it doesn’t measure return on investment the way you and I do, it has no inkling of the productive use of money. And even using its own benchmarks – in this case, the impact on unemployment – it is a total failure.

[The cook enters carrying two salad plates, one of which he sets daintily before J.P; the other he plops unceremoniously in front of Smilo, from a height of half a foot above the table; he snaps his fingers and an assistant – formerly the head of the human resources department of Credit Lyonnais – produces a bottle of Thousand Island dressing]

Smilo: Er, thanks. Moving on to another topic, J.P, what do you think of the problems we’ve seen with airline security lately?

J.P: The inevitable consequence of filtering intelligence through a top-heavy bureaucracy, which consists largely of people who are reluctant to make a move for fear of violating some politically-correct taboo or violating an information firewall. Pots of money in it, of course.

Smilo: How so?

J.P: Shorting airline stock.

[A loud report is heard on the balcony]

Smilo: Gosh! What was that, J.P? Sounds like the deputy took a shot at somebody.

J.P: One of those underwriter fellows trying to pinch some of my valuable carnivorous plants, most likely. Ah, here comes the officer. What happened, Joe Bob? Trouble?

Joe Bob: Naw, not really, Mr. Paco. One a’ them turkey buzzards that’s always hangin’ around the balcony wall took a notion to attack Mr. Mozilo, that feller from Countrywide Home Loans. The buzzard got kinda ambitious, reckoned he might just be able to make off with Mr. Mozilo, grabbed aholt of him and even managed to lift him a few inches off the floor. But I bagged him. The buzzard, I mean.

J.P: Good work, Joe Bob! Carry on.

[The cook enters the room with two sizzling plates]

Smilo: Say, this looks like the main course! Mmmm! Steak au poivre and puffed potatoes! Pardon me, can I have some ketch...

J.P: Hippolyte! Remove that knife from Mr. Smilo’s throat this instant!

Cook: But…you hear what he say? He waz goeeng to ask for ketchup! Ketchup, Monsieur Paco!

J.P: Well, give it to him!

Cook: (Removing his chef’s cap and throwing same on the floor with great vigor)Bah! I am finis! Farewell, forever!

Smilo: Gee, I’m sorry, J.P. I didn’t mean to offend your cook.

J.P: Think nothing of it. They’re a dime a dozen. Spurgeon!

[The butler materialized suddenly, as if from out of the dust kicked up by Hippolyte’s retreating heels].

Spurgeon: Yes, sir?

J.P: Call the New York branch of BNP Paribas and ask for a list of their recent employee terminations. I shall need another cook. And tell them I want someone late of their accounting department. No more hypersensitive prima donnas, if you please!

Spurgeon: Very good, sir.

Sean Medlock’s Jim Treacher’s New Digs

Jim Treacher, one of the wittiest and funniest people ever to grace the internet, is now blogging at the Daily Caller. Be there or be square.

Cultural Interlude

Sure, you know me as a zoot-suited alligator, togged to the bricks and boots all laced up, a hep cat who can cut a rug , a righteous gate who’s a solid sender each and every set of seven brights (you do dig my jive, dontcha, buddy ghee? Or are you one of those ickies straight off the cob?)

Anyhow, I love the Swing era, which comes as no surprise to readers who check in every Friday for the Happy Feet video. But I like classical music, too, and Professor Carol, over at Music After 50, is planning a series of posts on the subject, focusing on how we can preserve this valuable part of our Western cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations (H/T: Arts & Ammo).

So get in the groove, hep cats and kittens…er, that is to say, check out Professor Carol’s thoughts on the subject in what promises to be a very interesting series.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Completely Objective Film-Maker to put Stalin, Hitler "In Context"

Oh, goody! Looks like another fair and even-handed historical documentary from Oliver Stone (H/T: Right Bias).

"Stalin, Hitler, Mao, McCarthy -- these people have been vilified pretty thoroughly by history." They sure have, Ollie! McCarthy didn't even kill anybody, and yet, apparently, he's worthy of inclusion in that sentence alongside of three of the greatest mass-murderers of all time.

"Stone said that conservative pundits will dislike the show."

Can't imagine why.

Hell on Earth

One of the worst aspects of totalitarian societies is the ability of an all-powerful leader to stamp his own ignorance, paranoia and viciousness on the country at large, thereby creating an economic system that, although utterly disastrous, is set in stone, grinding millions of people to death in seeming perpetuity (Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face – forever”).

North Korea is quite possibly the most horrifying example in modern times of a single man (or “dynasty”) holding unquestioned sway over tens of millions of people. In Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick lays out in heart-rending detail the circumstances of daily life for the unfortunate majority in that benighted country.
The unlucky -- the ghastly -- part of Mi-ran's experience was that when she encountered the 5- and 6-year-olds who were to be her classroom charges, she noted that they "looked no bigger to her than three- and four-year-olds" and might have been present only to eat the school's free lunch, a soup constituted from leaves and salt. Over time, attendance thinned ominously, from 50 children to 15. As Barbara Demick writes in "Nothing to Envy," a piercing account of the lives of a handful of North Korean refugees, Mi-ran "described watching her five- and six-year-old pupils die of starvation. As her students were dying, she was supposed to teach them that they were blessed to be North Korean." The Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, Demick takes her title from a song of national pride that teachers commonly had their classes sing, which claimed, "We have nothing to envy in the world."
Communism is the most powerful proof in history of the statement made by political philosopher Michael Oakeshott that “the conjunction of dreaming and ruling generates tyranny.” This is particularly true in a society where government is rooted in the dreams of an egomaniacal sadist.