Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

QOTD, rock edition

Posted by Richard on July 14, 2018

“Same three guys, same three chords.”
— Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top

Their 50th anniversary is next year. Hard to believe.

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Smirking Strzok

Posted by Richard on July 13, 2018

Peter Strzok testified before a House committee yesterday, and the usual suspects in the media lauded him as a hero and excoriated the Republicans as doing the bidding of Putin. For example, here’s John Brennan on MSNBC (emphasis in the original):

Moments later, Barack Obama’s former CIA Director and NBC News Contributor John Brennan absurdly applauded Strzok: “Well, I’m personally glad that Peter Strzok had an opportunity to talk publicly about this so that the American people could see his professionalism as well as what I think is his integrity.”

Professionalism and integrity? He’s talking about this guy:

Strzok just oozes professionalism and integrity in that clip, doesn’t he?

That’s one of the key figures in both the Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, folks. Looks completely objective and unbiased, doesn’t he?

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Turning cancer against itself

Posted by Richard on July 12, 2018

If we can manage to keep the Luddites who fret about “Frankenfoods” and “designer babies” at bay, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology will enable us all to live longer, healthier lives. The latest example of its potential involves modifying cancer cells so that they attack their own kind:

Cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream have something of a homing instinct, able to find and return to the tumor where they originated. To capitalize on that ability, researchers engineered these roving tumor cells to secrete a protein that triggers a death switch in resident tumor cells they encounter. The cancer-fighting cancer cells also have a built-in suicide switch — so the weaponized cells self-destruct before they can start tumors of their own, the team reports in the July 11 Science Translational Medicine.

The new study isn’t the first attempt to fight cancer with cancer. Previous research has used circulating tumor cells to deliver cancer-killing viruses to noncirculating tumor cells, for example. But the new approach uses a gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 to manipulate the offensive-line cancer cells and give them more sophisticated properties, such as the ability to self-destruct once no longer needed.

As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, “Faster, please!”

HT: Fark

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DOJ: AR-15s are not “weapons of war”

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2018

The Department of Justice has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation. As Billll notes:

The DOJ has thrown in the towel in a lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed which opens up a lot of doors and windows.

The settlement acknowledges that Defense Distributed has a First Amendment right to publish 3-D printer files for making firearms and related information, and DOJ agreed to pay “a significant portion” of the plaintiff’s legal fees. But perhaps most importantly, as SAF notes in their statement, it destroys a key argument of the gun control crowd:

Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military.

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.

In today’s climate, I’m willing to celebrate that as something of a victory. But I’m compelled to point out that a true understanding of the Second Amendment leads to the conclusion that it’s the right to possess military arms, “weapons of war,” that our founding fathers wanted to protect.

“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”
– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28, January 10, 1788

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Prediction: Kavanaugh will get bipartisan support

Posted by Richard on July 10, 2018

National Review’s Jim Geraghty has a roundup of conservative praise for Trump’s SCOTUS pick, Brett Kavanaugh. But the really interesting news, and the basis for my prediction, comes at the end:

The Susan B. Anthony List commissioned a poll of registered voters in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, and asked voters, “As you may know, Justice Kennedy recently retired from the Supreme Court. The President will appoint a replacement and the U.S. Senate will vote on that person. Do you think Senator [Nelson, Donnelly, McCaskill, Heitkamp, or Manchin: depending on the state] should vote to confirm President Trump’s appointment to the Supreme Court?” (Note this poll is conducted before Kavanaugh was named.)

In Florida and Indiana, 56 percent of registered voters answered Yes. In Missouri, 57 percent of respondents said Yes, in West Virginia it was 59 percent, and in North Dakota it was all the way up to 68 percent.

It’s a near certainty that some of those senators, facing tough re-election battles, will decide that keeping their job trumps (if you’ll forgive the expression) loyalty to the party leadership. All five races are currently considered toss-ups. Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin voted to confirm Gorsuch, arguably even more of an originalist/textualist on the Constitution than Kavanaugh.

Another five Senate Democrats are running for re-election in states that Trump carried in 2016 (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Montana, and Pennsylvania). But those senators (Stabenow, Baldwin, Brown, Tester, and Casey, respectively) are currently favored to retain their seats, and thus are less likely to break ranks for reasons of self-preservation.

I’m guessing that Kavanaugh will get three or four Democratic votes, more than enough to offset the possibility of one or two GOP defectors (Collins and a RINO to be named later).

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Not the Onion: Lesbians protest against transgenders

Posted by Richard on July 9, 2018

I’m sure this is troubling to advocates of intersectionality theory, but it left me grinning from ear to ear:

In a bizarre scene Saturday, a group of “lesbian activists” disrupted and stalled the London Pride Parade, in what they called a protest against the event’s inclusion of transgender individuals.

Local media reported that the protesters stalled the parade for around ten minutes, and as they were carted off, one could be heard screaming that, “A man who says he’s a lesbian is a rapist” — an apparent reference to male-to-female transgender individuals.

… The lesbian activists who disrupted the parade said they’ve felt left out of Pride events this year, after noting to organizers that lesbians prefer sex with only biological females, not transgender men who might dress and live as women but who have not completed gender reassignment surgery.

“We don’t want any kind of penis in our bedroom,” an activist told media. “I’m really sad I have to reassert this again.”

Men who don’t want a relationship with a “woman” who has a penis are routinely excoriated by the “woke” left as hate-filled cis bigots. How are they going to deal with women who feel the same way?

Grab the popcorn!

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A 3000-pound go-anywhere motorcycle

Posted by Richard on July 8, 2018

This season, Guns & Ammo TV (on the Sportsman Channel) has a new feature highlighting some of the cool military toys you can play with at DriveTanks.com. The episode I watched the other night showcased a unique German WWII motorcycle called the Kettenkrad. Check it out.

As I watched, I wondered about the name. “Ketten” means chain or track, and “rad” means wheel or bike (“fahrrad” is bicycle), but the extra k in there made no sense to me. I’ve forgotten a lot of my German, so I thought maybe I was just missing something. But no, it turns out that “Kettenkrad” is actually short for “Kettenkraftrad,” which is best translated as “tracked motorcycle.”

If that video makes you want to drive one, you need to head to the Ox Ranch in the Texas Hill Country, the home of DriveTanks.com. The Kettenkrad is just one of many adult toys you can drive and shoot there — for a price.

If you’d like to own one … well, that’s really going to cost you. In 2016, the asking price for this fully restored Kettenkrad was 120,000 Euros.

But wouldn’t it be cool to head up some ATV trail on one of those?

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OMG! Conservatives have “weaponized” the First Amendment!!

Posted by Richard on July 7, 2018

I’m old enough to remember the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. But anyone who’s been paying attention knows that we’re far removed from the time when the left argued that the right of free speech was absolute and applied especially to speech that some people found offensive or disturbing. (Of course, they argued that in the context of defending speech about how racist and imperialistic the US was, so there may never have been much principled consistency to their stand, just a self-serving posture.)

For some time now, the left, and especially the academic left (and thus a good 90% of academia), has argued exactly the opposite: that there is no right to say anything that offends or disturbs anyone (at least, anyone on the left). Just take a look at the battles that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been fighting for almost 20 years. Or look at the scores of times that leftist professors and students have used violence or the threat of violence to silence or prevent the appearance of “fascist” speakers on campuses across the country (“fascist,” in their usage, means anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton).

For a look at where the left stands now with regard to free speech (with the apparent approval of the New York Times), see this Ben Shapiro column.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a front-page, 2,000-word report on how “conservatives weaponized the First Amendment.” Now, you might ask yourself why the most famous press institution in American history is questioning the wisdom of the First Amendment. You might also ask yourself how conservatives could have weaponized a freedom. This is sort of like saying that law-abiding citizens weaponized the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. But according to the Times’ Adam Liptak, conservatives have twisted the definition of free speech to enhance their own political goals.

“Twisted the definition of free speech” apparently means “applied it equally to those we disagree with.”

Shapiro unpacks Liptak’s summary of the current leftist argument against a content-neutral application of the First Amendment:

… Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict.

This is inane, of course. As soon as we subvert the commitment to free speech in favor of curbing the harms attendant on free speech, free speech is no longer a right. This view of the First Amendment is anti-Constitutional; the founders believed that rights pre-existed government, not that the government created rights. But if you believe the government created and gives you rights, then anything the government deems to be bad can countermand such rights. That’s the perspective of Democrats these days: conservative speech is bad for the country, and thus ought to be curbed, while Leftist speech ought to be promoted.

Liptak further states that “Some liberals now say that free speech disproportionately protects the powerful and the status quo” (note: when a journalist writes “some … say,” it’s safe to conclude that what follows is what the journalist believes). Let’s apply “some liberals'” thinking to other rights, shall we? It would follow that only socialists, minorities, and the poor should:

  • be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • have the right to a trial by jury and to not incriminate themselves.
  • be able to keep and bear arms.
  • be free from cruel or unusual punishment.
  • be able to peaceably assemble.

You get the picture. The left’s view is (and always has been; they’ve just become more open about it) that there are no rights; there are only privileges that ought to be granted to those of whom the left approves and denied to those of whom it disapproves (e.g., white males and the owners of corporations).

Read the whole thing. Note especially how the contemptible law professor Catharine MacKinnon characterizes the First Amendment as a “shield” when used to the benefit of those she approves of, but a “sword” when used to the benefit of the deplorables.

This, as Shapiro notes, is how we got Trump.

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“Ain’t No Rest for the Triggered”

Posted by Richard on July 5, 2018

I like Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” but I think I like Chris Ray Gun’s version even better. The vocal even sounds a lot like Matt Shultz, and the lyrics are brilliant.


[YouTube link]

Hit the above YouTube link to upvote this and to learn more about Chris Ray Gun, grab the lyrics (expand the description), or watch other Social Justice: The Musical videos.

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Independence Day quotes

Posted by Richard on July 4, 2018

Some time ago, I signed up for the firearms self-defense insurance from US Concealed Carry. Most likely, I’ll never have to even draw my weapon, just as most likely, my house will never catch on fire. But like a home fire, the financial consequences if I should have to fire my gun in self-defense or defense of others can be significant. So I choose to insure against both possibilities. Of the relevant insurance programs available at the time, I liked theirs best. And I like their approach. If you hit the link above, you’ll find a comparison chart of all the available programs along with links to all their competitors; that bespeaks of confidence in one’s product.

All that’s prefatory to explaining that they shared in an email the below Jefferson picture and quote, which they suggested that we share with others on this Independence Day. I thought I’d expand on that idea by adding some other appropriate quotes that I’ve collected over the years.

Jefferson on the right to bear arms

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
— Frédéric Bastiat

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature … laws not preventive but fearful of crimes.
— Cesare Beccaria

A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.
— George Washington

Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.
— Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi, An Autobiography, page 446

You can have peace or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.
— Robert A. Heinlein

If, before undertaking some action, you must obtain the permission of society — you are not free, whether such permission is granted to you or not. Only a slave acts on permission. A permission is not a right.
— Ayn Rand

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
— C. S. Lewis

The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.
— Col. Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
— Daniel Webster

To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them.
— George Mason

If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government — and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws.
— Edward Abbey

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Happy Independence Day!

Posted by Richard on July 4, 2018

Perhaps the finest words ever penned by man, from the document that changed the world for the better like no other before or since:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

fireworks over Washington, D.C.

Today is the 242nd birthday of the first and only nation founded on an idea: human liberty. Join me in celebrating that founding and that idea.

On this Independence Day, please take 20 minutes to listen to Sen. Ted Cruz read “The Americans Who Risked Everything,” a wonderful speech by Rush Limbaugh, Jr. (father of talkmeister Rush Limbaugh III) about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. If you want to follow along in the text, it’s available here, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.


[C-SPAN link]

If you don’t have a copy of the Declaration handy, you can find the entire text here. Take the time this Independence Day to read it. Then raise a glass in a toast to Liberty!

John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence"

John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence” (from ushistory.org)

The painting features the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence — John Adams, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson (presenting the document), and Benjamin Franklin — standing before John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. The painting includes portraits of 42 of the 56 signers and 5 other patriots. The artist sketched the individuals and the room from life.

And don’t forget that one of the primary natural rights for which our founding fathers fought is the right of self-defense — the right to bear arms in defense of oneself, one’s family, friends, neighbors, and our freedom. That right is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. It is that right that guarantees all the others, and it ought never be encumbered or infringed.

Old Glory

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Screening out animatronic car buyers

Posted by Richard on June 2, 2018

There’s a Fiat dealership in Florida that includes an unusual item in the stack of paperwork that car buyers have to sign: a printout of a reCAPTCHA such as you encounter on many online forms. Nothing else on the page, just the reCAPTCHA. Marci Robin took a picture:

I wonder, if you laughed at them and refused to check the box, would they decline to sell you the car? Has it occurred to them that a robot capable of walking into a dealership, negotiating a purchase, and signing its name is certainly capable of checking the box? So they really need a better in-person Turing test. SMDH.

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Good guys with guns aren’t very newsworthy, but are effective

Posted by Richard on May 29, 2018

Last Thursday, in the most recent example of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy, the bad guy started shooting into a busy Oklahoma City bar and grill when two armed citizens independently confronted him and one of them shot him dead. Newsbusters noted that this event was barely mentioned by CNN and completely ignored by NBC and MSNBC. It will never be included in the list of “mass shootings” that the media and (other) gun control advocates compile because the bad guy only wounded two and didn’t kill anyone. As the NRA noted:

…Like a perverse Goldilocks, gun controllers will discount cases where a criminal was stopped before they were able to carry out sufficient carnage, and, as in the case of the shooting in Southerland Springs, dismiss a case where the killer was able to exact significant violence before an armed citizen could arrive.

According to a 2017 study by the excellent Crime Prevention Research Center, the number of concealed carry permit holders nationwide has grown to over 16 million, up 256% since 2007. But that’s still just 6.5% of the adult population, so it’s pure luck when a good guy (or gal; carry permits for women have been growing much faster than for men) with a gun and the willingness to act happens to be on hand when a bad guy starts shooting.

But per FBI data, that lucky happenstance is happening more and more often, and as David French noted, increasing the number of good guys and gals with guns has been shown to have no downside and is far more likely to provide a benefit than any proposed gun control laws (bold emphasis added):

Any sophisticated approach to a problem involves discussing potential solutions both left of boom (before the shooting) and right of boom (after the shooting starts). Gun control is a classic left-of-boom approach, designed to prevent attacks before they can happen. …

In fact, as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler found in a now-famous fact check, no recent mass shooting would have been prevented by any of the conventional gun restrictions progressives often propose.

But this isn’t a left-of-boom essay. Let’s talk about what happens when the shooting starts. Here, the FBI provides extremely helpful data. How do shootings end? The most common ways are exactly what you’d expect: The shooters kill themselves or flee, or the police exchange gunfire with the shooter and/or apprehend him. But a surprising amount of the time, citizens stop the killer, and an increasing percentage of those citizens are armed.

From 2000 to 2013, only five times did an armed citizen (who was not a police officer) exchange fire with the shooter. Three times the citizen killed the shooter, once the shooter committed suicide, and once the shooter was wounded. Fast forward to 2016–2017. In that time period, six armed citizens confronted active shooters. They stopped the shooting four times (in one case, the shooter fled to a different site and continued shooting, and in the other the armed citizen was wounded before he could stop the shooting).

The lesson? Armed citizens can make a difference, and as more Americans obtain carry permits, more Americans will be on-scene and able to react. Moreover, what’s missing from the data is any indication that armed citizens make the crisis worse. The stereotype of carry-permit holders spraying panicked gunfire is simply wrong.

Police can’t saturate populated areas. There are simply not enough cops to go around. The records of their responses are heroic (the incidents include large numbers of police casualties), but, as the saying goes, when seconds count, police are minutes away. But, by definition, people do saturate populated areas. And when an increasing number of those people possess carry permits, the instant response grows more likely.

It’s foolish to argue that “more carry permits” is the solution to our national challenge. I think it’s also wrong to claim that more carry permits isn’t part of the answer. But for carry permits to help, it requires a government to protect liberty and a citizen to exercise that liberty responsibly.

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That liberty shall live

Posted by Richard on May 28, 2018

“Flags In” for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery. Photo from Isaac Wankerl (www.iwankerl.com).
The grave of his father, Maj. Max W. Wankerl, is in the foreground.

Memorial Day

by Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.
Into God’s valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o’er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.
Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.
The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom’s flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant’s chain.

Today, please remember those who died “that liberty shall live.” I’m remembering my dad, Col. Samuel R. Combs — who, in the memorable words of Robert Denerstein, “answered his country’s call even before the phone rang.” I miss you, Papa.

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Germany to immigrants: keep on truckin’!

Posted by Richard on May 22, 2018

A couple of years ago, Shikha Dalmia wrote an important column about why immigrants in America are by and large much more likely to assimilate than those in Europe:

Immigrants don’t need job programs. They need jobs. …

Jobs offer immigrants not just a paycheck, but also an entry into their new society, providing them with both the means and motive to learn its language and customs, all of which eliminates the need for formal programs. …

Yet many European countries have gone out of their way to deny or severely limit job opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees. Until a few years ago, most European Union countries prohibited asylum seekers from any employment until their application was processed, which could take years. Even now, Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh points out, Germany legally bars them from working for the first three months, Italy six, France nine, and England an entire year. Many countries, including Germany, restrict their employment to “shortage” sectors—and some even ban self-employment.

Even after refugees obtain work permits, their upward mobility is greatly restricted in Europe, thanks to the exceedingly rigid labor market in many countries. The unemployment rates of France and Belgium are nearly twice that of the United States. This dismal job market affects immigrants much more than the native born, thanks to Europe’s tough minimum wage laws and other labor regulations that protect incumbents at the cost of newcomers.

As a result, Muslim immigrants in Europe are much more likely to be filled with resentment, anger, and hatred toward their supposed benefactors. So Germany, where “officials estimate that more than 75% of the new arrivals are unemployed, collecting benefits and are ‘unlikely to find work’ in the next ten years,” [!] should be applauded for taking even small steps to address this problem, right?

Well, maybe. But given that both ISIS and al Qaeda have encouraged the use of vehicles as weapons of terror, and many such attacks have since taken place, this may not be the best choice of jobs programs for Muslim immigrants:

… Big problems such as this call for big solutions and the Germans think they’ve come up with a winner. What better job to give to these unemployed migrants than that of… being a truck driver. (Voice of Europe)

This plan is not only bound to make some Germans, especially those in Berlin, somewhat nervous, it will surely cause many to wonder why it would take three years to train someone to drive a truck. Perhaps the curriculum runs something like this:

  • Three months of commercial truck driving training
  • Nine months of intensive language learning
  • Twenty-four months of teaching the students how and why not to mow down infidels

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