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Saturday, May 05, 2007
The Perils of Hot-Linking

Now this is funny, especially the part where the guy thinks he's been hacked.

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Friday, May 04, 2007
More from the Marathon Man

In his continuing series on the bungling at the University of Illinois over a program that was supposed to help our fighting men and women get a degree after their service is completed:

The University has given so many different stories about the number of veteran scholarships granted – 61, 76, 37 or 39 – and the number of years it was planned – two, 3, three-four, "several years" or it's just plain "uncertain." No matter how the university spins this story, the simplest explanation seems to be what Occam's razor tells us. The most obvious explanation, based on the evidence, is 110 scholarships in one year.

John is a superb investigative blogger, whose posts have won him accolades in the mainstream media, and this is one of his best. Highly recommended!

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Some Debate Highlights

Some excellent responses in here. Obviously Giuliani fumbles the abortion question. I liked Romney's comment that he wouldn't tell Catholic Bishops what to do (see updated below). Ron Paul seems every bit the kook that he is; he trusts the internet more than the mainstream media? That's buffoonish. If you want to say that you trust conservative bloggers more than the New York Times, okay, but if you want to say that you trust the internet, you're a crackpot.

Some reactions:

Jonah Goldberg:

Every campaign needs a narrative, a storyline for why a candidate is in the arena. A while ago Rich noted, in this very helpful post, that the narrative for Giuliani was that he was going to be "a tough S.O.B. — for you." In other words he was gonna go medieval on al Qaeda the way he had on the squeegee men and turnstile-jumpers. This remains the chief source of Giuliani's appeal within the base of the GOP (if not necessarily with average Americans). The McCain camp seems to have understood this better than Giuliani going into last night's debate. His feisty, at times awkward, junkyard dog routine was intended to send the signal that if you want someone to fight the war on terror the Chicago Way, he's your man.

London Times:

Mr McCain, who according to new polls has bounced back from a lackluster start and now leads his major rivals in the key early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, appeared more sure footed than the current frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor particularly struggled on the issue of abortion, a crucial issue for conservative voters who hold the key to choosing the party’s presidential nominee.

Des Moines Register:

John McCain was his old self at Thursday night's Republican presidential debate: feisty, pointed and a straight-talker who wasn't afraid to tell Republican activists things they didn't want to hear.

It made him the big winner of the night.

The senator's campaign has been lagging a bit lately. Despite a slow start in Thursday's gabfest, he turned in an increasingly forceful performance that is sure to re-caffeinate his campaign.

Update: Well, I should have known that Romney's comment about how the Catholic Church was private and could do whatever it wanted to was a flip-flop from a previous position.

This answer represents a significant shift in Gov. Romney’s position. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney ordered Catholic hospitals to administer emergency contraception to women who claim they had been raped.


Thursday, May 03, 2007
This May Cost Me My Place in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy...

But Andrew Sullivan is right about Hate Crimes.

I am sympathetic to the argument that all assaults are effectively hate crimes. But I do think that there is a difference between hearing that the guy down the street got beat up because of an argument over a parking space, and that he got beat up because he was black, or Jewish, or gay. And it is that in the latter case, it sends an implicit message to other blacks, Jews and gays, that you could be next.

And as Andrew points out, non-gays are not uncommonly attacked because they are perceived to be gay. When I lived in SF, I remember one evening when a gang of 4-5 punks were harrassing several (probably gay) men on the bus. I guess the driver had radioed in that there was trouble going on, because a cop car pulled us over and removed the youths from the bus, to much applause from the passengers.


New Poll Shows Giuliani Support Waning

Looks like the mayor had better not order the new drapes for the Oval Office just yet:

Compared to Quinnipiac's last national poll in February, Mr. Giuliani fell to 27% from 40% — a huge tumble. Mr. Romney barely budged, going to 8% from 7%. Mr. McCain also barely budged, going to 19% from 18%. And Mr. Thompson burst onto the scene, coming in at 14%, having not been included in the last poll (and, as usual, stealing third place from Mr. Romney, despite not having lifted a finger).


While Mr. McCain's favorable-unfavorable ratings have deteriorated slightly with the public at large, he's gained among white Evangelicals while Mr. Giuliani has seen an erosion. In February, Mr. McCain's fav-unfav with white Evangelicals was 53%-24%; now, it's 58%-15%. Among the same group, Mr. Giuliani went from 62%-16% in February to 57%-19% today.

These aren't huge jumps on either side. But they are evidence that Mr. Giuliani's liberal social views are catching up with him, while Mr. McCain is having some success reminding social conservatives that, though he's had some spats with the religious right, his views aren't that far out of the Republican mainstream.

All in all, a good week so far for Mr. McCain in the polls.

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Rolling Stone Prints Kook Story About JFK Assassination

This is crap, but you can tell that it will be entertaining crap to the JFK conspirazoids and will be cited endlessly by the 9-11 Deniers.

E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.

However, amazingly, Hunt himself was not in on the assassination or in Dallas. Given that the whole reason that Hunt was suspected was the grainy photo which apparently showed him in Big D, this strains credulity.

It's not hard to spot the warning signals that his son, oddly named Saint, the source for the story, is unreliable:

Saint had come to Miami from Eureka, California, borrowing money to fly because he was broke. Though clean now, he had been a meth addict for twenty years, a meth dealer for ten of those years and a source of frustration and anger to his father for much of his life.

Out in eureka (sic), a few days before his father's death, St. John is driving through town in a beat-up mottled-brown '88 Cutlass Sierra. He is fifty-two. His hair is dark, worn long, and despite his decades as a drug addict, he's still looking good. He has a Wiccan girlfriend named Mona.

At the moment, Saint doesn't have a job; his felonies have gotten in the way. He has to borrow money to put gas in his Cutlass. Beach chairs substitute for furniture in the tiny apartment where, until recently, he lived with an ex-girlfriend, herself a reformed meth addict, and two kids, one hers, one theirs.

That the son is not a big fan of his dad comes through loud and clear:

"Whenever I made a sound, he looked at me with those hateful, steely eyes of his, a look of utter contempt and disgust, like he could kill," St. John says. "He was a mean-spirited person and an extremely cruel father. I was his firstborn son, and I was born with a clubfoot and had to have operations. I suffered from petit-mal seizures. I was dyslexic and developed a stutter. For the superspy not to have a superson was the ultimate disappointment, like, 'Here's my idiot son with the clubfoot and glasses. Can we keep him in the closet, Dorothy?'"

There is reportedly a tape recording but you know the problem with that. Who's to say that's E. Howard Hunt speaking? He's dead now. And despite his son's claims that he 'fessed up in 2003, the old man wrote a memoir that was published earlier this year that does not include a confession to knowing about JFK's assassination.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Trouble in Obamaland

Apparently the campaign got a little heavy-handed with a MySpace guy who had 160,000 friends.

Whatever the case, at this point it appears the Obama people simply decided that they would get control of the url by going around Anthony and getting MySpace to lock down his access to it. In their view, Anthony was violating MySpace's terms of service by falsely representing himself as Obama, and thus they didn't have to pay him anything. The worst that would happen, they reasoned, is that they would have to rebuild the candidate's network of friends.

Now, you know how it is; there are arguments to be made on both sides here. But the important thing is that Obama's campaign has just ticked off the netkooks and so there will be hell to pay.

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Racial Disparity in NBA Foul Calls?

So says a new study:

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”

But to get an idea of how hard it is to really analyze this stuff, get this part:

With their database of almost 600,000 foul calls, Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price used a common statistical technique called multivariable regression analysis, which can identify correlations between different variables. The economists accounted for a wide range of factors: that centers, who tend to draw more fouls, were disproportionately white; that veteran players and All-Stars tended to draw foul calls at different rates than rookies and non-stars; whether the players were at home or on the road, as officials can be influenced by crowd noise; particular coaches on the sidelines; the players’ assertiveness on the court, as defined by their established rates of assists, steals, turnovers and other statistics; and more subtle factors like how some substitute players enter games specifically to commit fouls.

Okay, so let's throw out the foul calls on white centers, let's say that all-stars (who are disproportionately black--nine of the ten starters in this year's All-Star game were African-American; the tenth was Yao Ming) should get more fouls than they do, and I don't have a clue as to what they are talking about with the "players' assertiveness on the court".

Do I believe that some racial bias might pop up in foul calls? Sure. Do I believe it's really to this point?

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price claim that these changes are enough to affect game outcomes. Their results suggested that for each additional black starter a team had, relative to its opponent, a team’s chance of winning would decline from a theoretical 50 percent to 49 percent and so on, a concept mirrored by the game evidence: the team with the greater share of playing time by black players during those 13 years won 48.6 percent of games — a difference of about two victories in an 82-game season.

“Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you’d win a few more games,” Mr. Wolfers said.


Ezra Klein, a liberal blogger, comes up with some good points:

An increase in fouls of 2.5-4.5% per 48 minutes for African-American players is incredibly low. If state troopers only stopped black drivers 5% more often than white drivers we would be crowing about the incredible reduction of racial profiling.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Another Kid Who Makes Me Feel Inferior

James Calderwood managed to get all the Merit Badges there are in Boy Scouts.

We'll get back to the bugling in a minute. Earning one merit badge -- much less 122 -- is no easy task. A scout must prove he is proficient at the task and is then quizzed by a professional in the field before he gets to sew that badge on his sash.

"Boy Scouts doesn't have a sash that holds all the badges, so I had to engineer my own sash. So I took three sashes and sewed them together so there are three parts to it," Calderwood said.

However, this is an excellent opportunity to tell of my one moment of glory as a Boy Scout. I was about 12 years old and it was May, when all the troops in the surrounding area got together for a Camporee. Our troop, Troop 59 of Allendale, New Jersey, was one of the great troops of all time. We had about 150 boys in the troop, a huge number compared to the other towns around us who were lucky to muster up 50 or so.

As the Camporee approached, our Scoutmaster, John Cebak, told us that there would be competitions in many events. We would be expected to compete in tasks such as knot-tying, map-making, and a host of other events.

Our patrol, the Apache Patrol, was, shall we say, not exactly made up of high achievers. We knew that our chances of winning things like map-making and knot tying were remote at best. But there was one competition that we thought we could win: Human Pyramid.

As the name implied, six scouts were expected to form a pyramid of their bodies. Three got down on their hands and knees on the ground, while two others got on hands and knees atop them. The final guy had to climb up to the top and hold up his hands in the Scout's Honor position and recite the bit about how "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly.... etc. This last part was not timed, but was simply a requirement to show that the pyramid was stable.

We drilled and drilled and drilled again. I was one of the middle guys, while the smallest and skinniest kid got up top. I think his name was Steven Hoek. Anyway we come up to the competitions and as predicted we did not do well in map-making or knot-tying. So we were definitely keyed up as we came up to the guy judging the Human Pyramid. What was the record? we asked and laughed when the answer came back that it was 3.6 seconds.

So the guy holds up his stopwatch and says, "Go!"

We did it perfectly and in no time at all, Steve was saying "A scout is trustworthy...."

And the guy looks at his stopwatch and does a classic double-take. "You're going to have to do it over," he says. "Why, what was our time?" "One point eight."

So we did it over again, and this time he clocked us in 1.6 seconds, and finally had to admit that we really were that far above everybody else.

But the best part was when the awards were handed out. We obviously won, no surprise there. But the guy running the awards noted that an Explorer Patrol (Boy Scouts in high school) had performed all the contests as well, and they beat us younger kids in every event.

Except the Human Pyramid. :)


Romney Likes L. Ron Hubbard?

This article is attracting a little attention today.

When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to “Battlefield Earth,” a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. That book was turned into a film by John Travolta, a Scientologist.

Reason's Dave Wiegel speculates that perhaps Romney was sending a coded message:

If we surmise that politicians are always sending coded messages when they talk about books or movies that they like - think Bush carting around Bernard Goldberg's Bias - what's Romney's message? "So, you think Mormonism is weird?"

Wiegel says that Battlefield Earth is awful. I have not read that one, but Hubbard (or more likely a ghost writer) wrote a 10-book series called Mission Earth in the 1980s that was actually pretty entertaining.

Romney has also claimed in the past that Huckleberry Finn was one of his favorite books. Of course, that's always a risky pick giving the extensive use of the "N-word" by the title character.

My favorite book has been The Count of Monte Cristo since I was a sophomore in high school.

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Monday, April 30, 2007
Lesbians Much More Likely to Be Obese...

Not that there's anything wrong with that:

“The results of these studies indicate that lesbian women have a better body image than do heterosexual women,” they wrote.

Translation: They're more comfortable being overweight?


McCain Leads Giuliani in Alabama

Of course, polls this far out aren't worth much, but it's nice to see just the same.

A survey of likely Republican voters in Alabama found that U.S. Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are about even at the top of a crowded GOP field of presidential candidates.

In a Press-Register and University of South Alabama telephone poll of 402 people planning to vote in February's Republican presidential primary, McCain was favored by 23 percent, while Giuliani was the choice of 22 percent of those responding to the survey.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 12 percent, followed by actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, with 10 percent, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with 7 percent. Thompson and Gingrich are considering runs for the GOP nomination, but have not officially entered the race.

Meanwhile, Cliff Kincaid hyperventilates over a proposal by Fox News to limit their debate to candidates with a chance of winning. His point would be valid if Fox weren't setting the bar quite low:

Reports indicate that the candidates will have to register at one percent in various polls before being invited to the debate. But as the AP story noted, “In a variety of national and state polls, seven of the 10 candidates hover around one percent or less.” Four candidates—Hunter, Tancredo, Paul, and Brownback—are at one percent in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. But it’s not clear this poll will be used to select the debate participants. The three top GOP candidates in the poll who stand to benefit the most from the Fox News decision are Giuliani (at 39 percent in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll), McCain (24 percent) and Romney (12 percent).

But certainly registering 1% should not be an insurmountable hurdle, and Fox is quite right to insist on at least that kind of support, otherwise we'd have a debate with 1,500 candidates. I suspect that Hunter, Tancredo, Paul and Brownback will be in the debate, but some even more marginal candidates like Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore may be left out.

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About Those Fluourescent Bulbs...

Turns out they may not be the best thing for the environment, after all:

As each CFL contains five milligrams of mercury, at the Maine "safety" standard of 300 nanograms per cubic meter, it would take 16,667 cubic meters of soil to "safely" contain all the mercury in a single CFL. While CFL vendors and environmentalists tout the energy cost savings of CFLs, they conveniently omit the personal and societal costs of CFL disposal.

Not only are CFLs much more expensive than incandescent bulbs and emit light that many regard as inferior to incandescent bulbs, they pose a nightmare if they break and require special disposal procedures. Yet governments (egged on by environmentalists and the Wal-Marts of the world) are imposing on us such higher costs, denial of lighting choice, disposal hassles and breakage risks in the name of saving a few dollars every year on the electric bill?

These things have the potential to be another MTBE nightmare


Sunday, April 29, 2007
The Amazing Race: Stars and Stripes

The teams learn their next major destination: Guam. Three of the teams make the early flight to Tokyo, but Young Gay miss barely. However, they can still make the connecting flight from Tokyo if they hurry. Sure enough, they make it just barely and the flight looks to be almost solely TAR contestants.

At Guam they first go to an Air Force Base, and climb a tower. Another problem for Charla. Detour: Care Package or Engine Care. In Care Package, they pack up 300 pounds of food and drop it off using a cargo plane. In Engine Care, teams have to wash off a bomber. It's pretty clear that the latter task will be shorter, but Charla and Mirna decide to do Care Package. Looks like fun although they do end up leaving behind the other teams.

Next stop: A naval base. Roadblock: Search for a downed pilot using a GPS system, then take the pilot to a landing zone where they will be picked up by a helicopter. Charla seems to have trouble understanding that she's not to touch the buttons or the screen on the GPS and keeps getting lost. The Beauty Queens ace through this and again are in the lead, with the Pit Stop ahead. Danielle seemingly finds the pilot fairly easily but the Landing Zone sems to elude her. Finally she locates it.

Charla and Young Gay complete at about the same time. Meanwhile, the Beauty Queens have already finished, indicating that Danny and Oswald will have a time penalty awaiting them at the mat. Danny does get off one good crack about Charla searching--"The teletubbies join the army!" Sure enough Danielle and Eric finish second, One and a Half Women come in third completing the finalists. Danny and Oswald are Phil-Liminated. They mention that they hope Charla and Mirna win.

One thing that's kind of annoying; Phil keeps mentioning that the Beauty Queens have the chance to be the first all-female team to win TAR, without ever apparently realizing that Charla and Mirna also could achieve that as well.

Viking Pundit has his usual excellent recap up. Like him I am nearing exhaustion with this season.


Carbon Boondoggle

Here's a pretty good article in the NY Times about the carbon trading scam:

On this, environmentalists aren’t neutral, and they don’t agree. Some believe it helps build support, but others argue that these purchases don’t accomplish anything meaningful — other than giving someone a slightly better feeling (or greener reputation) after buying a 6,000-square-foot house or passing the million-mile mark in a frequent-flier program. In fact, to many environmentalists, the carbon-neutral campaign is a sign of the times — easy on the sacrifice and big on the consumerism.

As long as the use of fossil fuels keeps climbing — which is happening relentlessly around the world — the emission of greenhouse gases will keep rising. The average American, by several estimates, generates more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide or related gases a year; the average resident of the planet about 4.5 tons.

At this rate, environmentalists say, buying someone else’s squelched emissions is all but insignificant.

“The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation,” said Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group. “Instead of reducing their carbon footprints, people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins.”

“This whole game is badly in need of a modern Martin Luther,” Mr. Hayes added.

Exactly. The idea that these self-centered celebrities can excuse their opulent lifestyle for a few bucks paid to an eco-kook firm, while simultaneously hectoring us to hang our clothes on a clothesline is hilarious.

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