Thursday, December 31, 2009
My favorite item from "Dave Barry's year in review: 2009":
In government news, top Washington thinkers, looking for a way to goose the economy along, come up with the "Cash for Clunkers" program, under which the federal government provides a financial inducement for people to take functional cars, which are mostly American-made, to car dealers, who deliberately destroy these cars and sell the people new replacement cars, which are mostly foreign-made. This program, which was budgeted for $1 billion, ends up costing $3 billion and is halted after a month. The administration declares that it has been a huge success, which everybody understands to mean that it will never, ever be repeated.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
We know from the Bible that the Wise Men showed up in Bethlehem and gave the baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, gold is always a nice gift, but frankincense and myrrh - at least according to my dictionary - are gum resins. Who gives gum resins to a baby?
The answer is: men. The Wise Men, being men, didn't even START shopping for gifts until the last minute, when most of the stores in the greater Bethlehem area were closed for Christmas Eve. The only place still open was Big Stu's House of Myrrh.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Here's something I posted (on the now-defunct previous version of this blog) last election night:
To non-Leftists who voted for Obama: You're idiots. May the next four years induce in you the shame you deserve to feel for your starry-eyed foolishness.If I may opine on my own opinion: damn right.
(Link via Instapundit.)
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
After her book tour ends and she has earned some money, I wish she would hunker down somewhere to write, recharge and contemplate things. A month at Hillsdale College, for example, where, in friendly and supportive surroundings, she could debate, talk to faculty, read and write would be wonderful, or in fact a month almost anywhere she could review issues, have her views tested and debated, and do some in depth reading and discussion would be great. . . .
The good news is that she is so energetic, naturally talented, and charismatic, that, with a few weeks prep, she could redo the Couric interview and sparkle. What happened in 2008, was that she went from a supportive populace in Alaska to a hostile prime-time lion’s den, without proper appreciation that she was the antithesis of most of the values and lifestyles of those who would write and comment on her—and they were waiting for her in a way I think she did not anticipate. That said, I think we can already see that she is becoming media-savvy and picking her venues carefully.
Kimberley A. Strassel explains some Democrats' "stubborn insistence on passing health reform":
Think big. The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Nor are we allowed to make jokes about Rajendra Pachauri. I always love those experts who go on TV and say you can’t pronounce on this subject unless you’re a bona fide climatologist. Dr. Pachauri, the head honcho of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a graduate of the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He’s not a climatologist but a railroad engineer. So, if he ever avails himself of a free half-hour with a Copenhagen hooker, I’m sure, like the Bombay to Cochin express, he’ll pull out on time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Resisting terror is exhausting. It’s easier to appease it, but, for the sake of your self-esteem, you have to tell yourself you’re appeasing it in the cause of some or other variant of “social justice.”
* * * * *
“The U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it,” President Obama told his audience in Cairo earlier this year. “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.”
My oh my, he’s a profile in courage, isn’t he? . . . [T]he real issue in the Western world is “the right of women and girls” not “to wear the hijab.” A couple of weeks ago in Arizona, a young woman called Noor Almaleki was fatally run over by her father in his Jeep Cherokee for becoming “too Westernized.” If there were a Matthew Shepard-style gay crucifixion every few months, liberal columnists would be going bananas about the “climate of hate” in America. But you can run over your daughter, decapitate your wife, drown three teenage girls and a polygamous spouse (to cite merely the most lurid recent examples of North American “honour killings”), and nobody cares. Certainly, there’s no danger of Barack Obama ever standing up for the likes of poor Miss Almaleki to a roomful of A-list imams.
* * * * *
Talk to any educated Muslim woman who attended university in the fifties, sixties or seventies—back when they assumed history was moving their way and a covered woman was merely a local variant of the Russian babushka, something old and wizened you saw in upcountry villages. Now you see them in the heart of the metropolis—and I don’t mean Beirut or Abu Dhabi so much as Paris and Brussels. It’s very strange to be able to walk around, say, Zarqa, hometown of the late “insurgent” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and look 90 per cent of the women in the eye, and even be rewarded with a friendly smile every so often, and then to fly on to London and be confronted by one masked face after another while strolling down Whitechapel Road in the East End. The burka, the niqab and the hijab are not fashion statements but explicitly political ones, and what they symbolize in a Western context is self-segregation.
Ben Stein, about a rocket artillery battalion soon to deploy to Afghanistan:
The thought came to my old head that I had just seen the best Christmas group I have ever seen: men and women who so love their fellow man that they are cheerfully and eagerly going off to risk their lives to save total strangers. These really are the peacemakers. These really are the blessed of the earth, the gifts from God. If we have any decency at all, these men and their families take our gratitude and our prayers with them with every step they take. Merry Christmas, Camp Pendleton, and all who serve to save.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Daniel Pipes: "Wasted U.S. Spending in Iraq: $53 billion and Counting." The problems he describes—lack of trained personnel, squabbling over resources—would afflict similar efforts in other less-developed parts of the world, which is one reason I'm skeptical of foreign aid.
Roger Scruton: "[I]t is easy to flaunt compassion, but harder to bear the cost of it." And: "What all conservatives know, however, is that it is they who are motivated by compassion, and that their cold-heartedness is only apparent." He's too generous: many conservatives are such because they feel they benefit by it. But he's right about conservatives and leftists in general.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"One photo that sums up the whole American enterprise in Afghanistan." Probably true, and not encouraging.
Interesting piece on the idea that "virtuous [i.e., environmentally conscious] shopping" makes the consumer feel free to behave worse in other ways than he would if he shopped unvirtuously. (Via Instapundit.) The subtitle is, "Can organic produce and natural shampoo turn you into a heartless jerk?" With a lot of greens (meaning people, not vegetables), that gets it backwards. Going green didn't make them obnoxious. They were obnoxious to start with, and they adopted greenness as easy moral cover. I'm sure most of us can think of people who use the cloak of conventional religion that way.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
If they did alter data, here are a few possible reasons:
They were sure they were right, so they got ahead of the available information because the science would eventually catch up with them.Of course there are many more. These assume good faith (of a sort) on the scientists' part.
Drastic climate change is so dire a threat that they altered the data so as to help prevent global catastrophe—again, it wouldn't be fraud because they'd be proven right.
They were afraid funding would disappear before they could convince the world of the need for action.
It would look as if they'd been wrong for years, and their careers would end when they still had crucial, even world-saving, work to do.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
John Belushi as Beethoven and as Joe Cocker. He really could be great at blues/rock, but maybe he was better when mimicking someone else than when singing as himself. (Two incidentallys: I remember hearing Cocker say—not complaining, just observing—that it bothered him how well Belushi imitated his voice; and I suspect that's Paul Shaffer on piano in the first clip.)
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Obama, at a most inopportune time, with a new war-strategy rollout and the health-care debate at a critical juncture, is managing to turn off each segment of the electorate. The Tina Brown liberal sophisticates are convinced he’s faking it. The moderates and independents think they are victims of a bait and switch. And conservatives are crowing that they were right all along about Obama — he’s the worst of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. It is, from a political perspective, a mess.
But it is, after all, what is naturally expected to flow from a candidate who let everyone form their own impression of who he is and what he stands for. It is what comes from delegating major decisions and legislative draftsmanship to others. Rather than filling in the blanks with their own positive images of Obama, diverse voters are now filling in the blanks with their gripes and disappointments. It’s only the first year of his presidency, but if this keeps up, Obama will have managed to alienate friends and persuadable voters in the middle, as well as energize the opposition. No easy feat.
The YouTube Screening Room
is a platform for top films from around the world to find the audiences they deserve.The films are here.
Every other Friday, you’ll find four new films featured. . . .
These films always appear with the permission and involvement of the filmmakers, so be sure to rate, share and leave comments. This is your chance to not only watch great films from all corners of the globe, but also to converse with the filmmakers behind them.
While the majority of these films have played at international film festivals, occasionally you’ll find films that have never before screened for wide audiences.
All films playing in the YouTube Screening Room are displayed within our High Quality player to give you the best viewing experience possible.
Be a part of a new generation of filmmaking and distribution and help us connect films and audiences in the world’s largest theater!
This stuff is so complicated:
In a striking finding that raises new questions about carbon dioxide’s (CO2) impact on marine life, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists report that some shell-building creatures—such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters—unexpectedly build more shell when exposed to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).(Via Watts Up With That?.)
Because excess CO2 dissolves in the ocean—causing it to “acidify” —researchers have been concerned about the ability of certain organisms to maintain the strength of their shells. [. . .]
The concern is that this process will trigger a weakening and decline in the shells of some species and, in the long term, upset the balance of the ocean ecosystem.
But in a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Geology, a team led by former WHOI postdoctoral researcher Justin B. Ries found that seven of the 18 shelled species they observed actually built more shell when exposed to varying levels of increased acidification. This may be because the total amount of dissolved inorganic carbon available to them is actually increased when the ocean becomes more acidic, even though the concentration of carbonate ions is decreased.
[. . .]
“We were surprised that some organisms didn’t behave in the way we expected under elevated CO2,” said Anne L. Cohen, a research specialist at WHOI and one of the study’s co-authors.
Andrew Gilligan in The Spectator (UK):
The leaked papers show British naivety on two fronts. In postwar Iraq, smiles and handshakes could not work. Even previous peace support operations, such as Bosnia, had only been resolved by the use, or threat, of massive force. And with the American alliance, we only belatedly realised that this was no marriage, but more like the relationship between General Stewart and his driver. The harsh reality is that that, in Iraq, was just as well. The Americans were broadly right, and we were broadly wrong. I, for one, am glad they ignored us.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
[T]he president's statements regarding Pakistan seem to evade the root cause of the Pakistan-Afghanistan crisis – namely, Pakistan's role over the past three decades in the region in general and in Afghanistan in particular. . . .
The shaping of the Pakistani identity on the Islamic path has over the years turned Pakistan into an expansionist state. . . . In practical terms, this policy meant a constant concerted effort by the military-led Pakistani establishment to go beyond its borders into India (not only in Kashmir but also the mainland India) and in Afghanistan through the use of militant groups. . . .
The U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, which has led to growing pressure on the Pakistani military to reverse the decades-long Pakistani strategy, cannot succeed in achieving its goals either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. . . .
The U.S. is locked in a conflict it cannot win. But it has to keep fighting it to prevent further deterioration of the crisis, which would endanger the whole region and America itself.
President Obama's strategy to build on partnership with Pakistan based on "mutual trust" defies the history and hard reality of the Pakistan-Afghanistan crisis.
Addressing the Pakistani role is indeed a sensitive issue. . . .
Evading the role of Pakistan, however, can only prevent a safe exit strategy.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
One of Lyndon Johnson’s press secretaries, George Christian, once said that no one should be allowed to work in the West Wing who has not suffered a major disappointment in life — the atmosphere is too intoxicating and the power too great for callow young things who do not know from personal experience how badly things can go wrong.Two hundred (or so) days later we can see how sensible Murray's fear was. Obama's shown his instinctive reaction when faced "with no good option, only a choice among bad options": paralysis. Deeply worrisome in a chief executive.
Unlike George Christian, we don’t have to worry about just a few special assistants. We have a president who, from the time he entered Honolulu’s Punahou School as a teenager, has lived a magical life. Everything has gone right for decades now. Nor are any of his aides crouching beside him in the chariot whispering, “You too are mortal.” On the contrary, if we are to judge by Larry Summers, even his most astute advisers suppress what they know to be true to accommodate Mr. Obama’s wishes.
Down the road, the president’s economic policy will engender a new crisis that, to be met, will require him to reassess his assumptions and to defy his political base — and we haven’t a shard of evidence that he is able to do either of those things. Down the road, a hostile world will require him to make a foreign-policy decision with no good option, only a choice among bad options, in the face of horrific consequences if he is wrong — and we haven’t a shard of evidence that he is able to do that. Worst of all, he will come to those pivotal moments serenely confident that whatever he decides will work out.
How do I think about the Obama presidency as I look ahead? I’m scared stiff.
Nice anecdote via Terry Teachout:
Dostoevsky said it: "Man gets used to everything--the beast!" It's been a long time since I got a charge out of seeing my name in print. Even so, I have yet to reach the level of detachment attained by Paul Hindemith when he decided that he was too busy to attend the world premiere of his Symphonia Serena in Dallas in 1947. "Why should I go to hear my own works?" he said to a friend.
Geoffrey Skelton, Hindemith's biographer, tells the rest of the story:In the end he did consent to go, though only because he had a certain musical problem on his mind and thought that he could best work it out in the train, where he would be undisturbed. Carl Miller, who gave me the clearest account of this episode which is one of the favourite and most widely recalled ones at Yale, said that his students were amazed when he came into the classroom, grinning from ear to ear. "Why aren't you in Dallas?" they asked. "Because I had solved my problem by the time I got to New York," he said. "So I got out of the train and came back home."
Monday, November 23, 2009
David Pryce-Jones on Herman van Rompuy, Europe's new (and first) president:
In photographs, van Rompuy has the looks of a rarely observed humanoid insect. Here are a couple of samples of the haikus which apparently he jots down whenever he can: “A fly zooms, buzzes/ Spins and is lost in the room/ He does no one harm,” and “Hair blows in the wind/ After years there is still wind/ Sadly no more hair.” Perhaps this sounds less trite in its original Flemish, but it ought to disqualify him from any responsible office.Alas . . .
Theodore Dalrymple, prompted by this story:
No one, I think, would take me for an admirer of Gordon Brown, much less an apologist for him; but in the matter of the letter that he wrote to Mrs Janes, mother of the soldier killed in Afghanistan, I feel sorry for him. He has become a victim of the ideological sentimentality so assiduously promoted by his odious predecessor, and now so fully a part of our national character.
From WSJ.com's Photo Journal:An Emirati man watched cheerleaders perform on the beach at Jumeira on the first day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai on Monday. (Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)
Meteors streaked past stars in the night sky near Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday. (Ali Jarekji/Reuters)
A billboard stood against the backdrop of San Cristobal hill in Lima, Peru, Thursday. (Mariana Bazo/Reuters)
A priceless start to this column by Jonah Goldberg:
In [Slate magazine's] reader forum, The Fray, one supposed Palinophobe took dead aim at the former Alaska governor’s writing chops, excerpting the following sentence from her book:What I'd like to know: how many who fell for the prank claimed beforehand to have read Obama's book? And were they lying, or are they just very bad at remembering what they've read?
“The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.”
Other readers pounced like wolf-sized Dobermans on an intruder. One guffawed, “That sentence by Sarah Palin could be entered into the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest. It could have a chance at winning a (sic) honorable mention, at any rate.”
But soon, the original contributor confessed: “I probably should have mentioned that the sentence quoted above was not written by Sarah Palin. It’s taken from the first paragraph of ‘Dreams From My Father,’ written by Barack Obama.”
Friday, October 30, 2009
Here's to freedom.
Vocals by the Lederspan Singers. Downloads: video (Windows), video (Apple), mp3, lead sheet. I can put together full sheet music for piano and vocal if people might find it useful.
Sources of images:
Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence (individual lines)
Edward Savage and/or Robert Edge Pine, Congress Voting the Declaration of Independence
John Trumbull, Declaration of Independence
Statue of Liberty
U. S. Capitol
If I've used any of these illegally, please let me know.