Saturday, December 31, 2011

Diana West:
Freedom of speech no longer exists in Austria, as definitively proven by the Vienna high court. This week, a judge upheld the conviction against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff on the following charge: "denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion." In simplest terms, this means that Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff speaks the truth about Islam, and in Austria, as in other nations across the Western world currently transitioning to sharia (Islamic law), speaking the truth about Islam is not tolerated, and, more and more, is against the law. . . .

Where, exactly, does this leave all of the rest of us in that community of nations whose calendars, despite the press of Islamization, still culminate in Christmas? I offer in response a clarifying quotation . . . from Afshin Ellian, a Dutch columnist, law professor, and professor . . . who in 1983 fled Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in Iran.

In early 2010, Ellian, commenting on the trial of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders for allegedly anti-Islamic statements, had this to say:

"If you cannot say that Islam is a backward religion and that Muhammad is a criminal, then you are living in an Islamic country, my friend, because there you also cannot say such things. I may say Christ was a fag and Mary was a whore, but apparently I should stay off of Muhammad."

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nice understatement from Max Boot, on Obama's use of drone attacks:
The fact that a liberal Democratic commander-in-chief is ordering such strikes gives them political and legal insulation that they may not necessarily enjoy in future administrations.

Monday, December 26, 2011

From where he stood he could see the girl plainly, and she was, he tells me, the absolute ultimate word, the last bubbling cry. She could not have looked better to him if he had drawn up the specifications personally.
P. G. Wodehouse, "Trouble Down at Tudsleigh" (in Young Men in Spats)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Excellent short post from Frederick Kagan on Iraq:
“End this war” was never a policy, still less a strategy. The president has accomplished that campaign promise. Now he must face an even harder question: What is our strategy for pursuing and achieving our vital national security interests and objectives in Iraq in the absence of a military presence? So far, the silence from the White House on that issue—apart from bromides about economic activities and friendship—has been deafening.
One immediate concern voiced by Charles Krauthammer:
[W]e are now going to have 16,000 people in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. . . . And without our own military for protection, do we really want that many Americans out there relying on protection of others? I think they’re going to be sitting ducks.
Let's hope he's wrong.
Definitely worth bragging about:
Hamas celebrated its 24th anniversary this week, and like any organization, it used the occasion to issue a press release detailing its achievements. So here, according to its own press release, are what Hamas considers its most notable achievements: It has killed 1,365 Israelis and wounded 6,411 since 1987. It has carried out 1,117 attacks on Israel, including 87 suicide bombings, and fired 11,093 rockets at Israel.

Friday, December 16, 2011

From the introduction to "Dave Barry’s Gift Guide" for 2011:
The holiday season is a time of traditions. Here in America, the most popular holiday tradition, observed by millions, is to celebrate the birth of Jesus by going to a Walmart at 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving and getting into fistfights over steeply discounted TV sets.
But many other nations around the world have equally colorful holiday traditions of their own. For example:

In Spain, on Christmas Eve, children traditionally fill their parents’ best shoes with yogurt, then hide in the woods for two to three weeks.

In Austria, instead of Santa Claus they have “Father Wurmwerfer” — a man dressed in a duck costume who rides a unicycle around tossing earthworms to everyone he sees. Legend has it that if you catch one, you will soon wash your hands.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Charles Krauthammer:
In Kansas, Obama lamented that millions “are now forced to take their children to food banks.” You have to admire the audacity. That’s the kind of damning observation the opposition brings up when you’ve been in office three years. Yet Obama summoned it to make the case for his reelection!
This week's Goldberg File (named for its author, Jonah "Goldberg" File)* is exceptionally good. I'll post a long excerpt from it because 1) the excerpted passage deserves wide distribution, 2) it might induce readers to subscribe (free) to Goldberg's newsletter, and 3) it's way better than anything I could write.
The reviews from Obama's Kansas speech are in. People who heard what they wanted to hear loved it. Everyone else . . . eh, not so much.

The consensus among those who loved it was that Obama has finally "found his voice." Here's the
Newark Star Ledger: "In Kansas, Obama finally found his voice to make that case." By the way, the "case" the editors are referring to is the same case we've heard for a long time: spend piles more money on education, infrastructure, etc., and tax the wealthy to pay for it. You know, the same "new ideas" liberals have been touting for more than ten decades now.

Howard Gleckman -- yes, that Howard Gleckman! -- of the Urban Institute agrees that Obama has found his voice. He tells
Politico, "It is hard for me to believe Republicans are still making a fight of this. This is a total political loser for them. President Obama has finally found his voice on this. It is even hard for Democrats to screw this up."

Yes, absolutely! Now that Obama has found his voice, it's like he's found the One Ring to Rule Them All and nothing can stand in his way!

Tom Brokaw -- who, as we all know, spends his days slipping sawbucks to his vast network of shoeshine boys, newspaper hawkers, drifters down at the docks, soda jerks, and other snitches to keep his finger on the nation's pulse -- saw all this coming. He said on
Meet the Press way back on October 30, "I think he's beginning to find his voice. For the last nine months or so we have not known which Obama would show up from week to week. Now they seem to be on track to what the campaign strategy is going to be." So that was it. After all, Brokaw is always the first to spot a political trend. I believe it was just days after the Tet Offensive that he was saying how public opinion was moving against the Vietnam War.

But . . . whoah, what's this?
U.S. News on September 20, 2011: "Obama appears to have finally found his voice in terms of dealing forcefully with the Republicans."

And it appears that
U.S. News was simply echoing the Washington Blade, which proclaimed in a headline five days earlier: "President Obama finally finds his voice." That blade cuts deep!

Now, hold on, this is strange. Margaret Carlson announced in
Businessweek in April that "Obama Finds His Voice on Cuts That Matter."

April? Feh! Historian H. W. Brands noted that Obama had located his political chi back in January, after his speech in Tucson. "Barack Obama has found his voice again," he announced on CNN.com.

This is getting ridiculous. Maybe Michelle should pin Obama's voice to his sleeves like a little kid's mittens, because that guy apparently loses his voice more than Jon Corzine loses billions of dollars.

On October 26, 2010, the
Washington Post, reported that "in the final weeks leading up to Election Day, Obama has found his voice." This voice was going to turn around the midterms -- you know, the ones that turned out to be an electoral hot-tea enema that psephologists are still marveling at and which even Obama conceded was a "shellacking." Ah, yes, but as Alec Baldwin might say, "Imagine how much worse the shellacking would have been if he hadn't found his voice."

More than a month earlier, Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute was sure that Obama had already found his voice. On September 24, 2010, he proclaimed: "Obama Finds His Voice -- And America's." Twelve days earlier, the
St. Petersburg Times spotted the same trend. "President Barack Obama found his voice last week," the editors insisted. "In a speech in Cleveland and at a news conference Friday, he fought back against Republican demands to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts and resisted election-year pandering to antsy voters."

I mean, who among us can forget Obama's famous Cleveland Speech? Barely an hour passes on cable news without someone referencing that watershed moment in American politics.

But that's not where the trail begins in the hunt for Obama's voice. "So Julie," NPR host Jackie Lyden began a conversation with health-care reporter Julie Rovner, "a lot of people are saying Barack Obama has found his voice on [Obamacare], quite a shift in strategy."

Who was saying that? Susan Estrich, for one! "Democrats like me steeled ourselves for the bloodbath to come, wondering only how truly bad it would be," Estrich wrote twelve days earlier. "But something seems to be happening on the way to disaster: Barack Obama has found his voice again."

Okay, you get it already. All this represents a fraction of a fraction of the times the press and liberal pundits have proclaimed Obama has "found his voice." (I didn't even include David Gergen's bold proclamations in this regard!) It's amazing how hearing what you want to hear amounts to proclaiming everyone else has heard the same thing.
*Yes, I borrowed that joke from Dave Barry. I have excellent taste and little shame.

Friday, December 9, 2011

John Derbyshire:
A liberal is always a totalitarian at heart, though half of them don’t know it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mark Steyn:
In 1975, Milton Friedman said this: “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Just so. Every time Barack Obama stands at his teleprompter and is forced to pretend that he’s interested in deficit reduction, we have taken a step toward that Milton Friedman reality. You have to create the conditions, as the Tea Party and the town hall meetings did, whereby the wrong people are forced to do the right things.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mark Steyn:
We have got used to the fact that Egypt is now a land without Jews. Soon it will be a land without Copts. We’ll get used to that, too.
Andrew Ferguson:
Reporters and columnists who cover business may be the most ideologically motivated journalists in any large newsroom. Various explanations have been advanced for why this is so. One possibility is envy: If you’re of a certain cast of mind, few experiences are more embittering than watching people who are dumber and less sophisticated than you make a lot more money. Whatever its cause, we shouldn’t question the hostility that most business reporters express toward buying, selling, marketing, investing, and every other underregulated activity that a businessman uses to create wealth that the reporters can’t get their hands on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From an article on the orchestral conductor George Szell:
When assured that Szell was “his own worst enemy,” Rudolf Bing, then the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, promptly retorted, “Not while I’m alive.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Theodore Dalrymple:
How many times nowadays does one see in cafés or restaurants people talking not to people present, but text-messaging to people absent? Even I, who am no technophile, begin to feel anxious if I am separated too long from my e-mail or my mobile phone. Yet earlier in my life I was perfectly content to go months in remote locations without any possible contact with my friends, certain in the knowledge that the friendships would persist through the silence. Technology (as well, perhaps, as time) changes character, but not necessarily in the direction of depth.
I feared Obama's tenure would be disastrous; I didn't expect his political shamelessness. Foolish of me.
Glenn Reynolds:
NPR, as a reader emailed and as I noticed myself, has been all over the Occupy movement in the most charitable of ways. The contrast with the Tea Party — both in terms of the behavior of the participants, and the tone of the media coverage — is stunning, even to those of us jaded by past performances.
This is what jihadists call "respecting women." (And I bet some ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews would agree.) We should call it by its true name: slavery.

(Second link via Yourish.com.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Excellent interview of David P. Goldman, aka Spengler. Two quotes:
In the great scheme of things the Muslim world is of minor importance to America, and its disintegration will make that plain over time. Far more important are our relationships with India and China. And these depend on the perception that America is the undisputed world hyperpower, such that it is pointless to test our patience. That means more military spending, not less. . . .

* * *

There will be occasions when our national security interests require us to stir up troubles rather than mitigate them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jonah Goldberg on the idea of Gingrich debating Obama:
Talk to rank-and-file conservatives about such a matchup and they grow giddy, like nerds asked if they’d like to see a battle between Darth Vader and Gandalf the wizard.
One of the all-time great lines in punditry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Politico, whose mission statement includes support for “facts over ideology,” has since Sunday published more than 90 stories related to the accusations against Cain. (Via Drudge.)
Courtesy of the Weekly Standard blog, the cover of the issue of Charlie Hebdo that provoked the bombing of the magazine's offices:

Translation of the text (via Google): "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!"

At The Corner, Michael Walsh quotes the Paris bureau chief for TIME asking Charlie Hebdo's editors (my paraphrase), "Happy now? Was it worth it?" Think he'd have written similarly had Tea Partyers destroyed TIME's headquarters over this cover?

Preposterous hypothetical, obvious answer.

(Edited since originally posted.)

Later: More on the bombing and the reaction to it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ramesh Ponnuru, who I wish were wrong, explains why a flat tax fails politically:
[R]eplacing a progressive income tax with a flat tax necessarily means slashing revenues, raising middle-class taxes or both.

Set the new flat rate at a level that can raise as much money as the current tax code and the middle class will pay more. People in the middle of the income spectrum, that is, will have to make up for the sharp fall in rates on high earners. Set it low enough that middle-class taxpayers pay the same as they do now and revenues drop. The only way around this dilemma is to assume that the flat tax will cause an implausibly large boost to economic growth. . . .

The flat tax may seem simple, efficient and appealing, but it’s the fool’s gold of conservative politics.
Mark Steyn on why “pessimism is the way to bet” regarding government spending. His bleakness is justified. We need to put Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, and then pressure them ceaselessly to eliminate the deficit. The Democrats will spend us into oblivion. With Republicans there's a little hope. But not much.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

William Jacobson on tactics the leftist media are using against Cain.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

John Derbyshire:
I need to pause here to explain my utter failure as a consumer. I am totally the wrong person to be living in a consumer society. I buy things only when I need them and cannot get them otherwise. Then I use them until they disintegrate. My car is a 1993 Mercury. My TV is a 1992 Sony Trinitron, humongous old glass tube in wooden cabinet: it needs two healthy adult males to lift it. My bicycle was given to me by a neighbor who moved house seven years ago; it had been at the back of his garage so long he'd forgotten he owned it.

. . . I tell you, if my habits of consumption were the norm among Americans, our economy — not to mention China's — would have collapsed long since even without the attentions of Messrs. Obama, Geithner, and Bernanke.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

There's an old joke whose punch line is "So men will talk to them." Women used to find it offensive. Do they still? I ask because if this is any indication, the message has gone mainstream.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daniel Pipes:
Those who want a genuine counterterrorism policy must work to remove the Left and the multiculturalists from government.
He's right. We on the Right make plenty of mistakes as to national security, but those mistakes tend to involve tactics or strategy, not overall purpose. Leftists are wrong at their core.

A relevant thought from military strategist Edward Luttwak:
The paradoxical logic of strategy contradicts the logic of everyday life, it goes against all normal definitions of intelligence we have. It only makes sense if you understand the dialectic. If you want peace, prepare for war. If you actively want war, disarm yourself, and then you’ll get war. Virile and martial elites understand that kind of thinking instinctively.
(Second link via John Derbyshire.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Somewhere, Sarah Connor is stockpiling ammunition:
An interdisciplinary team of scientists . . . [has demonstrated] that a computer can analyze raw experimental data from a biological system and derive the basic mathematical equations that describe the way the system operates. . . .

One of Eureqa's initial achievements was identifying the basic laws of motion by analyzing the motion of a double pendulum. What took Sir Isaac Newton years to discover, Eureqa did in a few hours when running on a personal computer.
Skynet nears.

(Edited since originally posted.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From an excerpt of a book about British mathematical genius Simon Phillips Norton:
In mathematics [classes], of course, Simon understood everything he was taught, and divined the rest. In Greek and Latin (as so often with mathematicians) he was a vacuum cleaner. It's the subjects that Simon couldn't do that are interesting. It barely needs saying: sport was Simon's worst subject. "During a game of cricket, he spends his time counting blades of grass or calculating angles," said one report. But in history, a subject you'd think would appeal to his excellent memory and obsession with fact-gathering and numbers, Simon was at sea. "I could never understand what history was about," says Simon. "Why were they always fighting over a field?"
(Via Newmark's Door.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A humbling question from talk-show host Cam Edwards:
Steve Jobs changed the world in less than 56 years. What are you going to do with the time you have left?
And this post from Kevin Williamson, reflecting on Jobs's accomplishments, is great:
I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Terry Teachout on why people still write plays.

Also, two good quotes from playwright Alan Bennett.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

From an article about director Michael Bay:
[Producer Jennifer] Klein: There's this scene [in the movie Bad Boys] where Will Smith runs down a street, and at the first test screening in Lakewood, California, women were screaming because Smith's shirt is flying open. That was it. He was a star. [. . .]

Smith: That was the moment for me where I learned how important single images are. That single image took me from a comedic television actor to a potential movie star. The scripts that I started to get offered changed dramatically. It was the first time that I heard women react to me with an audible gasp. There was a transformation from the cute guy next door who could make you laugh to a guy who might be able to handle himself in a bar fight and a bedroom.
(Via Newmark's Door.)
Andrew Ferguson, in a review of Dick Cheney’s memoir:
[Cheney] learned how to “work the press,” as he puts it, from the masters of the art. He watched with amusement the duel that played out between Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger in James Reston’s New York Times column. (The weapon of choice was blind quotes at twenty paces.) He noticed the haplessness of much of the national press—the short attention span imposed by the news cycle, the susceptibility to manipulation, the craving for superficiality, the professional solipsism—but accepted it as an occupational hazard, to be endured or, if possible, deployed to his own advantage.

In campaigns, he discovered, if your side is being hit by a damaging story, “the press will get off one negative story for another one,” so you provide reporters with a new, less damaging, though still negative, diversion. In domestic politics the journalistic appetite, as Cheney describes it, isn’t necessarily ideological: he gives examples of Republican manipulation of the campaign press, too. It’s simply a taste for troublemaking.

But as secretary of defense under the first President Bush, Cheney began to see that the press’s heedlessness was no longer a minor irritant when national security was involved. At several pivotal moments it became actively harmful to American military interests and imperiled the lives of American soldiers. During the 1989 invasion of Panama, to cite one often overlooked event, a group of American journalists who had entered the country on their own were trapped by Panamanian troops in the basement of a hotel. Journalists traveling with the U.S. military turned the plight of their fellow hacks into the invasion’s top story. “There were thirty-five thousand American civilians in Panama,” Cheney writes, “but the journalists at the Marriott became the center of attention.” The reporting made “it seem as if the military operation, which was generally going well, was somehow not succeeding.” Military units were diverted to rescue the trapped journalists—not because the reporters’ lives were in danger but to remove the distraction and put the press’s attention back on the invasion. Three soldiers were wounded in the rescue.

The experience in Panama and later during the Gulf War, Cheney writes, “deepened my conviction that the press ought not to be the final arbiter of whether we have won or lost a war”—or of how to fight it. Yet the final arbiter is precisely what today’s press yearns to be. It is a larger role than the press has traditionally filled, but the conceit is in keeping with a general process of self-aggrandizement. And it explains why Cheney, upon becoming vice president, resolved to speak with reporters as seldom as possible.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Jonah Goldberg* on the false claim that Hoover cut spending in the early days of the Depression (i.e., before "FDR, the Tony the Tiger of liberalism," made the Depression "Grrrrrrrrrrreaaat!"):
Perhaps because I am so cynical, I'm no longer shocked that liberal historians and Democratic politicians still cling to the Hoover myth, but what is amazing to me is how liberal economists who swear they are empiricists and fact-finders propagate it as well. . . .

The Hoover myth endures for a simple reason -- it has to. Because otherwise the FDR myth will tip over.
*No link; subscribe to his free newsletter here.
Among the winners of this year's Ig Nobel prizes ("For achievements that first make people LAUGH[,] then make them THINK"), four scientists "for their study 'No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise." (Via Inside Higher Ed.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

He'd have made a memorable product spokesman.
When government becomes a tawdry mess.

Two side notes:

The complaint of one of those suing includes the description, “Plaintiff Deborah Edgerly is an African-American woman. . . .” But she alleges gender discrimination, not racial discrimination. How is her ethnicity relevant? Would her position be weaker were she not black?

The story, especially the difficulty of firing a government bureaucrat and the claim of discrimination, reminded me of this 2007 item from John Derbyshire about a Long Island high-school principal:
Some parents and school board members recently tried to dislodge Ms. Leonardi, apparently believing that she showed interest in, and concern for, only the Hispanic students. The pot boiled over when Ms. Leonardi began providing translation services into Spanish at parents' meetings. Fighting against dismissal, Ms. Leonardi played the race card, threatening litigation via federal "discrimination" laws. The school board backed down. A big fat federal lawsuit would be a disaster for a small school district like this one, so it looks as though we're stuck with Ms. Leonardi. . . .

Thus federal laws originally passed in a spirit of atonement for slavery and Jim Crow are used as weapons in a conflict that has nothing to do with either issue. . . . Thus do our freedoms—freedoms to work out our own problems at the local level, citizen to citizen—disappear into the insatiable maw of federal government power, all under the banner of "fairness," "diversity," and "anti-racism," against which none dares stand.

(First link via Newmark's Door.)
I haven't followed the Amanda Knox trial, but if Carol Iannone's analysis is accurate, a terrible miscarriage of justice is occurring in Italy. (Background on the case here.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From 2005, "Silence," a lovely short poem by Billy Collins.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heather Mac Donald on single-parent households, "overwhelmingly the largest predictor of child and family poverty":
[T]he single mother has become the cornerstone of Democratic politics. She provides the justification for the continuous expansion of the welfare state. . . . [Single mothers] provide the largest constituency for every means-tested government poverty program in the country, and they are a growing constituency. . . .

Public policy’s ability to restore the expectation that children be raised by both their parents is undoubtedly limited. But it is better to try than to do nothing. And making child poverty a political issue without mentioning father absence is worse than doing nothing.
Worth reading in full.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jeff Jacoby:
Last week, to kick off its campaign seeking UN recognition as a state, the Palestinian Authority staged a highly publicized march to the UN offices in Ramallah. . . . Officials named Latifa Abu Hmeid to lead the procession and hand over the letter. "She was chosen," reported the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, "because she is a symbol of Palestinian suffering as a result of the occupation."

What the paper did not mention is that Abu Hmeid is the mother of four murderers, whose sons are serving a total of 18 life sentences for their involvement in multiple terrorist attacks.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, this is not the first time Abu Hmeid has been honored. Last year, the Palestinian Authority awarded her "the Plaque of Resoluteness and Giving," and a government minister publicly extolled her virtues: "It is she who gave birth to the fighters, and she deserves that we bow to her in salute and in honor."
A hideous, insane culture. I hope Spengler's right that demographics, especially the graying of the Palestinians ("one of the fastest-aging populations in the [world]"), will lead them to seek peace with Israel within twenty or thirty years.

(Edited since originally posted.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"And they all have the vote, God help us" looks likely to become a theme of this blog. It seems the right commentary on, for instance, this story from late August:
While Republicans have pushed to cast the sputtering economy as Obama’s fault, Americans place their blame elsewhere. Fifty-one percent say that George W. Bush is most to blame for the down economy, while 31 percent say it’s Obama.

At the same time, 44 percent of Americans say that “a lot” or “most” of the blame should be put on the shoulders of congressional Republicans, while 36 percent say the same of congressional Democrats.
Via Alana Goodman, who notes that a Quinnipiac poll in July found that "Americans blamed Bush [on the economy] over Obama by 54 to 27 percent."

The Earth is doomed.
Great post title from Craig Newmark.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The software available to home musicians these days is amazing. If you're curious, go here, click "Demos," and listen to some of the tracks. (I'd recommend "Morning Adventure," "String Quartet," "Touch" and "The Planets - Venus" to start.) For less than $500 (while the sale lasts) you can buy an almost-totally-convincing simulation of a concert orchestra. The recordings are so realistic and complex I have to remind myself that all the "instruments" and effects, especially reverb, exist only within a computer.
Glenn Reynolds points to an article on Jon Stewart. This paragraph is simultaneously instructive and baffling:
"When I tell people that I used to work for Jon, the thing they ask, all the time, is 'Oh, is he nice?'" says Stacey Grenrock Woods, a former Daily Show correspondent who is now Esquire's venerable sex columnist. "Now, I would never think of Jon Stewart as 'nice.' He's a comedian, and comedians aren't always particularly nice people. But these people look so hopeful, and it's obviously really important to them. So I always say, 'Yes, he's very nice.' And they always say, 'Oh, thank God. I don't know what I'd do if he wasn't.' "
First, I can believe there are many such people, God help us. Second, what’s wrong with them? Why do they care whether he’s “nice,” and how do they not see he isn't? It’s one of the most obvious facts in television—Laura Mennell is beautiful, Michael Westen is resourceful, Jon Stewart is a jerk. How have they missed it all this time?

And they have the vote.

(Amended since originally posted and since originally amended.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I am over sixty years old now. And when just the other day I heard Richard Frederick and Anna Moffo do a medley from Show Boat, Jerry Kern's wonderful melodies, I pulled over to the side of the road, parked, and cried like a young boy.

I sit here in California, writing these reminiscences in a heavy rain, thinking of the fires and the mud slides, and it does seem as if the magic sunny land I knew has been "struck," like the movie sets it built, and has disappeared overnight, all its genies gone back into bottles, leaving skyscrapers where the orange blossoms used to scent the wind.
Johnny Mercer, c. 1971 (quoted in Portrait of Johnny)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

James Lileks (sub. req.) on why we need to reduce federal spending:
Because that old world is over. . . .

A half-century experiment in draping steam­ship anchors around the necks of the productive class and expecting them to run a four-minute mile has ended in failure. The confiscation of rights and property, the moral impoverishment of generations caused by the state’s usurpation of parental obligations, the elevation of a credentialed elite that believes academia’s fashions are a worthy substitute for knowledge of history and human nature, and above all the faith in a weightless cipher whose oratorical panache now consists of looking from one teleprompter screen to the other with the enthusiasm of a man watching someone else’s kids play tennis–it’s over, whether you believe in it or not. It cannot be sustained without reducing everyone to penurious equality, crippling the power of the United States, and subsuming the economy to a no-growth future that rations energy.

To which some progressives respond: You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Joseph Epstein, in an essay on Saul Bellow: "[O]ne of the unacknowledged blessings in life is not to have a famous father."
Recommended, though not to all: Spencer Reece's "Margaret." Beautifully written, terribly sad.
David Pryce-Jones on Turkey's expulsion of the Israeli ambassador:
What’s been happening is worth studying as a prime example of values within the Muslim world that compel foolish and dangerous behavior . . . the calculus of shame and honor that runs throughout the Muslim world.
A five-star review at Amazon of Harry Stein's book I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican: A Survival Guide for Conservatives Marooned Among the Angry, Smug, and Terminally Self-Righteous:
Don't judge by the cover. This book is not funny. I spent 40 years of my life living in Communist Poland. Now Communism is long gone, and I am U.S. citizen. And I am figuring it out that in today USA presenting myself as Republican is actually more dangerous and is creating more problems that presenting myself as anti-communist when living under Communist regime. It is OK to be on a party and make jokes about Bush, Palin, McCain and such. Actually, this is mandatory. It is NOT OK to make jokes about Biden and Obama. Once, for such jokes, I was requested to leave. Requested by my good friends.

I believe that this book is not funny. It is tragic. As tragic as what is going on in this country
Google has an extensive excerpt of the book.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Excellent post from Rob Long on the success of Indiana's school-voucher program and the resistance it's provoked from the education establishment:
The message should be: do better, reform the system, fire bad teachers, win back parent confidence. The message the education monopolists seem to have received is: hire lawyers; sue the governor.

And that says everything you need to know about the state of public education.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spengler:
Large corporations who already have health care plans, and have serried ranks of lawyers to deal with the regulators, are doing very well, in fact. S&P 500 corporations increased employment by 10% over the past year while overall employment was flat. Start-ups who have to deal with Obamacare and the rest of the Washington regulatory burden can’t get over the threshold. Remove the obstacles and let Americans do what they do best and the economy will recover.
Makes sense to me.
John Derbyshire:
My princess daughter Nellie started college in New York City at the end of August.

Back home (she’s commuting) from the first day, she reported that the very first words spoken to her by a classmate (male, South Asian) were: “Hi! Say, you’re mixed, aren’t you?”

Back when I was starting college 48 years ago, we all assumed that matters of race and ethnicity would melt away as the world opened up and we all got to know each other. How naïve we were!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

At this moment, with New York City enduring a tropical storm that may yet become a hurricane, I'm grateful that Mayor Bloomberg didn't waste his energy working to strengthen the city's seawall, but chose instead to fight the true dangers, such as trans fats and smoking in public parks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

From the second part of Jay Nordlinger's "Salzburg Journal":
Being a student abroad had a great impact on me — because of the anti-Americanism of the Americans around me. It wasn’t “self-hating Americanism,” as people often say. These people did not hate themselves, trust me. Quite the opposite. What they hated was you, so to speak. Man, were they ashamed of their country — especially when governed by that yahoo Reagan. . . .

A German tells a joke, which the Americans soak up — because it plays to the image they have of their compatriots as contemptible, ignorant boobs. An American tourist passes a statue of Schiller. He says, “Look, Goethe! Mozart!
Eine kleine Nachtmusik!” Then he sings the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

My question: Why does the tourist have to be an American, as opposed to a tourist from any other country in the world? You and I know why: sheer envy and resentment — and, possibly, lurking somewhere, shame.

Since at least the 1930s, America has been, arguably, the music capital of the world: the leader in orchestras, opera companies, choruses, chamber ensembles, conservatories, and so on. Musicians from all over the world have sought to study in America, have their careers in America, pursue their destinies.

How did this start? You know why: because Germans and other Europeans pushed the best among them out, across the sea — when they couldn’t kill them first.

Not many people mention that, do they? Instead they joke about Americans’ alleged lack of culture — a stereotype that has not been true in eons, if it ever was.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theodore Dalrymple (sub. req.) in July on the protests in Greece and Spain against "austerity measures":
[W]hat drove [the protesters] onto the streets was the realization that the whole system of subsidized employment was coming to an end just as they were joining the labor market. They were demonstrating for a continuation of the subsidies that would allow them to rob their children as they themselves had been robbed by their parents and grandparents.
Similar emotions are at work in the Wisconsin unruliness and public-union agitation more generally: "It's supposed to be our turn. Why should we get nothing? It isn't fair." An understandable but childish attitude. The structure is rotten, and has to fail sometime; the sooner the better.
In National Review (subscriber-only), Mary Eberstadt reviews Paul Hollander's book Extravagant Expectations: New Ways to Find Romantic Love in America:
Hollander is surely correct in observing that the language of the marketplace, of selling oneself, has come to litter modern love — even in precincts whose inhabitants consider themselves to be free of any taint of commerce, such as that of the readers of and personals advertisers in The New York Review of Books. Noting how often women describe themselves as “stunning,” “attractive,” “very attractive,” and so on, for example, Hollander asks: “How many ‘stunning’ women such as those described . . . could be out there awaiting eager partners?” Such is not to focus unfairly on women; “men too,” he notes with the dry wit frequently on display in the book, “are capable of implausible self-presentations.”

. . . Hollander believes that there is something peculiarly American about the “extravagant expectations” of those and other souls. In a particularly fascinating passage comparing ads in
The New York Review of Books with their counterparts in the London Review of Books, he depicts the contrast between the societies as mirrored in their personals ads. Unlike the Americans, he observes, the Brits aren’t even trying to sell themselves — at least not in the same way; there, irony and self-deprecation rule instead. Witness as exemplary, “Bald, short, fat, and ugly male, 53, seeks shortsighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.”

How did Americans come to this difficult romantic pass? Modernity, observes Hollander alongside his fellow sociologists, has frayed the bonds that once joined individuals to clan and communities quite beyond any ability to knit them back together. One consequence has been an increased reliance on the bonds to others that do remain in the hands of modern men and women — primarily, romantic bonds. And so romantic love is made to pull more weight than it ever had to before, or indeed than wiser souls ever would have assigned it. . . .

To understand the way we live now is to see, yes, that modernity has shredded the ties that once bound us to one another. But it is also to see that that shredding has been different for the different sexes. . . .

Are women who are surrounded by children and grandchildren in middle and old age as likely to feel lonely and shut out as some other women — namely, those who bought the revolution’s promises and ultimately denied themselves the rewards of family; and who are now aging coquettes embittered by their competitive disadvantages against any woman years or decades younger?

The questions seem to answer themselves.
Slightly later: Hollander in an interview at FrontPage Magazine:
I think the whole idea of a self-conscious pursuit of happiness is very American and modern (of course it goes back to the Founders and the 18th century and the French Enlightenment as well).

The very idea that human beings have a capacity for happiness, combined with the fuzziness of what happiness entails, is very American and it creates difficulties. The belief that we all have this capacity to be happy is highly dubious. It would be far more realistic to propose – and American society and culture provide endless examples – that human wants endlessly expand, that we have a huge capacity for dissatisfaction.

* * *

[Answering the question, "What are some of the consequences of our extravagant expectations?"] Disappointment, floundering relationships, marital instability, confusion.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that people were happier in the highly unromantic traditional societies where their families made the choices for them. Of course in those societies life for most people in general was far more difficult and survival itself was an accomplishment – ideas of happiness cannot flourish under such conditions.

* * *

I don’t think I can offer anything very original by way of advice. People looking for a durable and emotionally satisfactory relationship ought to know themselves, including their own limitations. Also, people should try to determine what human qualities really matter in the long run. I would not rank looks, money and popularity too high, not that these things are unimportant. The love life of celebrities ought to give us a pause.

Romantic love is a very good thing while it lasts but by definition it involves the idealization of one’s partner. It is not realistic to expect one person to meet all our emotional, psychological needs but it sometimes may happen. Intimacy and compatibility are certainly worthy ideals but difficult to combine with the mundane, routinized aspects of daily life.

Also, individualistic impulses have to be curbed; fantasies of self-realization are often dubious as are conceptions in our uniqueness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

David Pryce-Jones on Obama's frightening ineffectualness in foreign policy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mark Steyn on the London riots:
This is the logical dead end of the Nanny State. When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the British welfare regime in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want” to be accomplished by “co-operation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from life’s vicissitudes, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

Big Government means small citizens: It corrodes the integrity of a people, catastrophically. Within living memory, the city in flames on our TV screens every night governed a fifth of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. When you’re imperialists on that scale, there are bound to be a few mishaps along the way. But nothing the British Empire did to its subject peoples has been as total and catastrophic as what a post-great Britain did to its own.
Two items (both subscriber-only) on philosophy and religion from recent issues of National Review.

Michael Knox Beran:
Peter Gay said of [philosopher Denis] Diderot that atheism “repelled him even though he accepted it as true,” while Catholicism “moved him even though he rejected it as false.” Writing to his mistress, Sophie Volland, Diderot “cursed the philosophy — his own — that reduced their love to a blind encounter of atoms. ‘I am furious at being entangled in a confounded philosophy which my mind cannot refrain from approving and my heart from denying.’”
Daniel J. Mahoney:
[Reinhold] Niebuhr argued with great conviction, and no little eloquence, that Christianity offered a more truthful or “empirical” account of the nature of man than the secular alternatives, ancient, modern, and contemporary. His apologia for Christianity had the added attraction of being rooted in reflection on human nature and thus not depending on revelation per se.

In Niebuhr’s view, Christianity put forward a compellingly paradoxical view of humankind as existing at the “juncture” of nature and spirit, “perilously caught,” in [John Patrick] Diggins’s paraphrase, “between its freedom and its finitude.” . . . Diggins pungently summarizes Niebuhr’s position: “The law of love is normative, but the fact of sin is universal.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This made me laugh a lot.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life in the music industry, 1980s edition. For all I know it may still be that way, at the high (so to speak) end of the business.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Peter Berkowitz, reflecting on leftists' harsh rhetoric during the debt-limit debate:
The evident panic of the progressive mind stems from a paradox as old as progressivism in America. Progressives see themselves as the only legitimate representatives of ordinary people. Yet their vision of what democracy requires frequently conflicts with what majorities believe and how they choose to live.

Add to this the progressive belief that human beings can be perfected through the rule of experts, and you have a recipe—when the people make choices contrary to progressive dictates—for generating contempt among the experts for the people whose interests they claim to alone represent. And not just contempt, but even disgust at diversity of opinion, which from the progressive's perspective distracts the people from the policies demanded by impartial reason.

The progressive mind is on a collision course with itself. The clash between its democratic pretensions and its authoritarian predilections has generated within its ranks seething resentment for, and rage at, conservatives. Unless progressives cultivate the enlightened virtues they publicly profess and free themselves from the dogmatic beliefs that undergird their political ambitions, we can expect even more harrowing outbursts to come.
Leftists (my preferred term) won't ever relinquish any of their beliefs. Conservatives and libertarians will need to fight them with equal relentlessness, as long as American civilization exists to be defended.

(Edited since originally posted.)

(Via Instapundit.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

In his manifesto, Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik listed Theodore Dalrymple among those whose writings inspired last month's massacre. Dalrymple here, here and here reflects on Breivik, the thinker's culpability and morality more generally. All worth reading. I very much liked this, from the second link, an interview of Dalrymple:
[I]f we understood each other perfectly, "we'd know exactly what each other are thinking—and that would be horrific," he insists. "At least if my thoughts are anything to go by."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Practically all artists and writers are aware of their destiny and see themselves as actors in a fateful drama. With me, nothing is momentous: obscure youth, glorious old age, fateful coincidences—nothing really matters. I have written a number of good sentences. I have kept free of delusions. I am going to die soon.
Eric Hoffer (notebook, 1977)

Monday, July 25, 2011

What did the crowd of young people shout to Jacques Chirac in 2004, during the first visit by a French president to Algeria since decolonization? "Visas, visas." A malicious wit might say: they drove us out and now they all want to come live with us! That does not cast doubt on the legitimacy of their independence, but it does explain this disturbing truth: Europe got over the loss of its colonies much more quickly than the colonies got over their loss of Europe.
Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (translated by Steven Rendall)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Today's "Impromptus" by Jay Nordlinger is an especially good entry in that always-worth-reading series. The anecdote that closes it is charming, with excellent advice. Highly recommended, the whole piece.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Laura Ingraham, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, describes one effect of having children:
They’ve slowed me down. It’s like, we’re going to sit here and make strawberry shortcake and that’s going to be our night. ‘What’d you do tonight, Laura?’ ‘Er, I made strawberry shortcake.’ I used to go out a lot, but that’s how life changes. Right now I’m just hoping and praying I make it through the kids’ teenage years.
A lot of parents say they're hoping and praying to survive their kids' adolescences. It means something different when she says it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Prediction: Andrew Cuomo will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sometimes a man survives a considerable time from an era in which he had his place into one which is strange to him, and then the curious are offered one of the most singular spectacles in the human comedy. Who now, for example, thinks of George Crabbe? He was a famous poet in his day, and the world recognised his genius with a unanimity which the greater complexity of modern life has rendered infrequent. He had learnt his craft at the school of Alexander Pope, and he wrote moral stories in rhymed couplets. Then came the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and the poets sang new songs. Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. I think he must have read the verse of these young men who were making so great a stir in the world, and I fancy he found it poor stuff. Of course, much of it was. But the odes of Keats and of Wordsworth, a poem or two by Coleridge, a few more by Shelley, discovered vast realms of the spirit that none had explored before. Mr. Crabbe was as dead as mutton, but Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. I have read desultorily the writings of the younger generation. It may be that among them a more fervid Keats, a more ethereal Shelley, has already published numbers the world will willingly remember. I cannot tell. I admire their polish—their youth is already so accomplished that it seems absurd to speak of promise—I marvel at the felicity of their style; but with all their copiousness (their vocabulary suggests that they fingered Roget's Thesaurus in their cradles) they say nothing to me: to my mind they know too much and feel too obviously; I cannot stomach the heartiness with which they slap me on the back or the emotion with which they hurl themselves on my bosom; their passion seems to me a little anaemic and their dreams a trifle dull. I do not like them. I am on the shelf. I will continue to write moral stories in rhymed couplets. But I should be thrice a fool if I did it for aught but my own entertainment.
W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (1919)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

He could see that his father had reverted to his military personality again. His father was still a marvel to him. At various points in Richard's life he had been prompted to ask himself what the hell the navy did to people in four short years to change them so much. His father had been an Oklahoma farm boy until he went in the navy, and he had come out like this, and stayed this way for forty years.
Thomas Perry, Runner

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Earlier this week New York Times reporter Jose Antonio Vargas revealed that he's an illegal alien. Jack Shafer, editor at large of Slate, responded to the news:
[R]eporter-editor relationships are based on trust. A news organization can’t function if editors must constantly cross-examine their reporters in search of deliberate lies. I’m more disturbed with Vargas for lying to the Washington Post Co. (which—disclosure alert!—employs me) than I am about him breaking immigration law. His lies to the Post violated the compact that makes journalism possible.
Mark Krikorian is rightly scornful:
So, apparently the employer-employee relationship is not “based on trust.” Or the police-citizen relationship. Apparently, journalism is special, a place where trust and truth are more important because journalism is more important. Shafer doesn’t mind if illegal aliens lie to the police, lie to their employers, lie to the DMV, lie to immigration authorities, lie to Social Security, lie to the Secret Service, lie to their schools, landlords, banks, etc., etc., etc. But lying to the Fourth Estate? The Guarantors of Democracy? The bulwark against greedy capitalists and fascistic police? Who does Vargas think he is?
David Pryce-Jones:
Russian foreign policy at the moment is every bit as misguided as it was in Soviet days, principally designed to recover its lost superpower status by playing the anti-American card. The power maniacs in the Kremlin are consistent spoilers. Building on Syria’s sovietised past, they have become the leading supporters of Bashar Assad, and make it plain that Russia will use its full influence to oppose any international measures against him. In other words, the Syrian people can go hang. And next week, a Russian minister will be in Iran attending the inauguration of the nuclear plant at Bushehr, the work of Russian engineers and a step in the ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions that the West tried hard to prevent and Russia will one day regret. The ayatollahs’ missiles have Moscow in range.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mark Steyn on the fake-lesbian-bloggers story:
A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of Arabia.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An observation that caught my eye, from theater director Joshua Logan:
A musical is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery. You can have all the elements, the right songs, the right book, the right cast, the right director, the right costume designer—and the lighting man can screw it up.
(In Portrait of Johnny, a biography of songwriter Johnny Mercer, by Gene Lees.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kathryn Jean Lopez on the prospect (now the fact) of Anthony Weiner's resignation:
Our long national tweet is over.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The text of a commencement address by Terry Teachout.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Most people who mock Sarah Palin for apparent-but-not-actual errors hold the following unstated assumption: "I didn't know it, so she can't have known it." Have such people read this piece, from 2008? If they haven't, they should read it now. Here's the first paragraph:
It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's “intelligence,” coming especially from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes—God help me, I'm agreeing with Fred Barnes—suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.
Just as one may smile, and smile, and be a villain, so one may be intelligent without talking like an Ivy Leaguer.

(First link via Glenn Reynolds. Second link too, probably.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paul Ryan isn't a good choice for the GOP presidential nomination. Three reasons:

1) As Congressman he can devote himself entirely to the crucial work of taming the federal budget. A president can't be so single-minded.

2) He'd be a far-from-flawless candidate. As Ramesh Ponnuru wrote,
Right now, conservatives think of Congressman Ryan as a bold, free-market visionary. Within weeks of his entering the race, he would be redefined as the longtime Washington fixture who voted for TARP, the prescription-drug benefit, the auto bailout and other bills hated by Republican primary voters.
3) We don't need another commander-in-chief for whom national security is of less than primary importance. Here's the headline of a story from the NYT's front page on 9/11:
KEY LEADERS TALK OF POSSIBLE DEALS TO REVIVE ECONOMY
Urgent stuff at the time, and by the afternoon no one was thinking about it; the world had changed. Ryan's natural focus, like Obama's, appears to be overwhelmingly on domestic policy. That's not the kind of president we can afford anymore.

Ryan seems a very good man, and I'll vote for him if he's nominated, but we're better off if he stays where he is.
Bully for Texas, and federalism:
In a unanimous vote last week, the Texas senate adopted ‘loser pays’ tort-reform legislation, which says that a plaintiff must pay the winning party’s legal fees if their complaint is judged to be groundless. On Wednesday, the Texas house concurred. Governor Perry, who had championed the legislation from its inception, signed it Monday night.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is it possible the president is unwell? What else could explain this? While I oppose almost all his policies, I want him healthy, and not just because the alternative is President Biden. Here's hoping that nothing's amiss, and it was only a brief, bizarre lapse of attention.
At Hudson New York, Guy Millière describes the return to Europe of toxic anti-Semitism:
Hatred towards Israel is now the most widely shared sentiment among Europeans, whatever their place on the political spectrum. . . .

[A]n increasing number of Europeans seem quite ready for another Holocaust: one that would be the annihilation of Israel.

If sacrificing Israel allowed non-Muslim Europeans to see Muslim anger disappear, they would be willing to make the sacrifice immediately. If, in order to accept the sacrifice with a clear conscience, non-Muslim Europeans have to caricature Israel ignobly, they will -- and do. . . . The Israeli army is often compared in European media to the Nazi army. The comparison is fully playing its role: if the Jews are Nazis today, it means that the Europeans did the world a favor in killing six million of them, and that the Europeans are not really guilty.
Millière's analysis reminds me of a point Thomas Sowell has made often, for instance here, about slavery in the pre-Civil-War US:
If all men were created equal, as the Declaration of Independence proclaimed, then the only way to justify slavery was by depicting those enslaved as not fully men. A particularly virulent form of racism thus arose from a particularly desperate need to defend slavery against telling attacks that invoked the fundamental principles of the American republic.
To reconcile slavery with American principles, its supporters had to make and defend the absurd, reprehensible claim that blacks were less than human. And now, to render another Holocaust morally acceptable, Europeans need to perform (in Melanie Phillips's term) the moral inversion that turns genocidal Muslims into victims and civilized Israelis into barbarians. It's a shameful tide of thought, if such can be called thought, and it deserves relentless and unstinting condemnation.

And in case you think I'm likening Western enemies of Israel to antebellum proponents of slavery: Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing. Glad you've caught on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nice free track at Amazon today: "Circling," by Gretchen Parlato.
A distressing insight from Kenneth Anderson: Though Democrats' national-security policy is worse than Republicans', the country may be better off, in national-security terms, with Democrats in power. The reason is that while Republicans will always vote to defend the country, Democrats might not do so unless Democrats are in charge. When Democrats are out of power, they'll often block national-security legislation for tactical, i.e. political, reasons, thereby leaving us less safe. So we may have a better chance of seeing crucial national-security legislation pass when they're in control.

Not a happy thought.
Spengler: Catastrophe nears in Egypt.
Jack Dunphy on the Los Angeles Police Department's mediocre higher-ups, a group he calls "the Club":
When they graduate from the police academy and have worked the streets for some time, members of the Club learn that they . . . simply lack the skills that mark the best police officers. What they find they are skilled at, however, is learning the esoterica of the police bureaucracy and taking tests by which such knowledge is measured. And in the Los Angeles Police Department, the term “esoterica” is stretched to almost unfathomable lengths. For example, there once appeared on an LAPD promotional exam a question about how long the lights should be allowed to be kept on in an unoccupied room. (Yes, there is a section in the LAPD manual that governs such things.) You wouldn’t want to work for the person who got that question right.
Note her pride. (Via Legal Insurrection.)
Two good ones from The Onion: "Hostages Trapped Inside Walmart Insisting They Never Shop At Walmart" and "Report: Area Woman Has Best Friends In Whole World." (Some profanity in the second link.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bing West calls for "focus[ing] on one overarching goal" in Afghanistan:
Place a reasonably confident Afghan army at the front, costing $12 billion per year for the next decade, and replace our combat battalions with a U.S. adviser corps of about 25,000. Provide these advisers with incentives (extra pay or promotion) to undertake a frustrating job. No strategy is risk-free, either in the stock market or on the battlefield. But on balance, it’s time to begin a quiet withdrawal of our combat units. It’s not our war to fight if the Taliban are not a threat to the U.S.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Daily Caller is often too snarky for my tastes, but whoever writes the newsletter [Later: Jim Treacher] does a good job of mocking leftist media. From today's edition:
Tina Fey is the star of a low-rated workplace situation comedy and has written a book about herself. In addition to these accomplishments, she has learned how to make her voice sound vaguely like that of an Alaskan woman. Did she do so when she hosted Saturday Night Live this week? Of course she did. Here's what FeyPalin had to say: "It's just so great to be back on Fox News, a network that both pays me and shows me the questions ahead of time. And I just hope that tonight the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeatin' 'em verbatim... But the important thing for everybody to know is that I'm gonna be runnin' for president every 4 years for the rest of my life. It's my Olympics and I intend to win a whole buncha silvers." It was funny the way she said it, honest! Fey is also visibly pregnant, which is a wonderful thing for any woman to be, as long as she doesn't publicly disagree with liberals.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

David Bernstein makes an excellent point:
[I]f you can’t get the leftist Europeans, NGOs, etc. behind a surgical strike on Osama Bin Laden, they are hardly going to approve of much broader Israeli military action in Gaza or Lebanon.
A lesson the years have taught me: In the view of the Left, victory is morally suspect, and the victor tends to be morally inferior to the vanquished.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

David Pryce-Jones on the stakes in Syria:
Elie Kedourie, the most far-sighted and informed of commentators, always used to say that Syria held the key to the future of Palestine, Israel, and the wider region. It seems true right now. But how Bashar Assad will take the determining decisions is unclear. . . .

A wrong decision, even a small slip, can lead to sectarian or ethnic massacre on a hideous scale. And it is all in the hands of a one-time ophthalmologist who accidentally became a dictator because his elder brother was killed driving too fast.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Andrew C. McCarthy:
It is past time to ask: What on earth is this administration’s infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The problem with this is that when they meet an actual dinosaur they'll think it's harmless.

 

Why I'm still not a Republican. I don't know if it's principle on my part, or a lack of fortitude, that I can't bring myself to join the party and work from within to change it (not that I imagine I'd accomplish much; I'm sure I wouldn't). But I look at the budget deal, that emblematic chimerical triumph, and I don't even want to try. From the first link:
Based on the serial cave-ins by alleged fiscal conservatives over the last four months, what evidence is there that more than a shred of something resembling the Ryan Plan will even make it out of committee, let alone pass two houses of congress?
From the second:
[T]he most knowledgeable supporters of the deal acknowledge, at least privately, that a large fraction of it is phony.

If tea-party congressmen nonetheless vote for it, how can they tell their supporters that they meant what they said last fall about transparency and ending D.C.’s budget games?
From the third:
[I]f President Obama promised to propose an annual budget that would hold spending increases down to $352 million, and then plopped on the Speaker’s desk a proposal that — once carefully examined — turned out to increase spending by $38 billion . . . [w]ould Boehner be saying the difference was no big deal? Would commentators be saying, hey, “Let’s not fly off the handle, the Obama budget isn’t as bad as it sounds”?
No doubt a real fight to get the deficit under control would be difficult in ways I, completely on the outside, can't imagine. But the Republicans have the chance here to achieve greatness, a service to the country for which future generations would thank and honor them. Isn't that prospect worth the struggle? Yet they seem unwilling to attempt it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

These are complicated times for singletons. (Straight ones; does a comparable dynamic exist among gays? I don't see why it would, but I don't know.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scientist and global-warming-alarmist-turned-skeptic David Evans:
The whole idea that carbon dioxide is the main cause of the recent global warming is based on a guess that was proved false by empirical evidence during the 1990s.
(Via small dead animals.)

 

Hey baby, nice sclerae.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

 

Mark Steyn, in a piece worth reading in full:
‘Why is there no looting in Japan?” wondered a headline in the Daily Telegraph. So did a lot of other folks. . . .

Most analysts overlooked the most obvious factor: Looting is a young man’s game, and the Japanese are too old. They’re the oldest society on earth. . . .

Old societies are always vulnerable. Old societies running up debt levels of 200 percent of GDP in an attempt to jump-start the economy before the clock runs out are even more vulnerable. . . .

When the earthquake strikes, who clears the downed electric lines from the roads, pulls you from the rubble, supervises an orderly evacuation? Young people. . . .

The tsunami has accelerated Japan’s date with demographic destiny, as the economic downturn accelerated Europe’s.

 

StrategyPage on Libya:
Helping the rebels defeat Kaddafi forces, and capture Tripoli, is very difficult. Even by Arab standards, Libyans are terrible soldiers. Heavily armed Libyan troops were once defeated by Chadian tribesmen riding around in pickup trucks, using light weapons against Libyan armored vehicles. What was most humiliating about this was that the Chadians were not considered Arabs, but sub-Saharan Africans (who are considered even less effective soldiers than Arabs.) But in this case, the Chadians were better organized and better at what they were doing, and sent the surviving Libyan troops fleeing north.

The military ineptitude is a cultural thing. Arabs moving to the West, and joining the military there, perform as well as anyone. But back in the Old Country, putting together an effective fighting force . . . is very difficult. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it took years to find men who could handle the training and responsibilities. . . . But in Libya, the locals and foreigners would like a solution within months, or less.

. . . [T]he rebels are divided into many factions, and have only been united (most of the time) the past few months because the Kaddafi forces were close to killing all of them several times. But with NATO air power, and help organizing more effective military units, the immediate danger is gone. The factional differences will assert themselves. Many Libya experts believe that this is just the first stage of a multi-act civil war. Prospects for a quick and lasting peace are not good.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

 

Lee A. Casey and David B. Rivkin Jr.:
The Obama administration’s announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several other al-Qaeda operatives involved in planning the 9/11 attacks will be tried by military commission marks another step in the process whereby the president and his advisers are returning even to those Bush anti-terror policies about which they once were the most critical. . . .

The administration’s reversal reveals a growing, if perhaps grudging, realization — based doubtless on access to the highest classified information and more than two years of fighting the global war on terror — that the Bush administration did not adopt these policies as part of some grand strategy to increase presidential power. . . .

It would, of course, be nice if the president would publicly acknowledge that he was wrong about these things. Politics being what they are, however, this is not very likely. However, if he has not already called former President Bush to make that acknowledgment in private, it is high time he did.

 

Andrew C. McCarthy, on a statement (which he terms "repugnant") from General Petraeus and NATO Ambassador Mark Sedwill:
Petraeus says, “we are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.” Is that why you thought we sent troops to Afghanistan? Is that what you think we should be doing in Afghanistan now? I am pretty confident that most Americans couldn’t care less about the Afghan people. . . .

What should our new policy be? We should have as little to do with Muslim countries as possible. At home, we should focus on the political and legal terrain with an eye toward:

(a) distinguishing between our allies in the American Muslim community (i.e., those who do not want to impose sharia on public life) and those who seek to undermine our constitutional system, so we can marginalize the latter;

(b) excluding from the United States aliens who would support supplanting the U.S. Constitution with a sharia system . . . ; and

(c) cutting off immigration from, and sharply reducing contacts with, Muslim countries until they take it on themselves to reform — on separation of mosque and state, freedom of conscience, equality, interfaith tolerance, individual liberty, and unambiguous rejection of terrorism.

Not only is that a policy that can work, it is one an insolvent country can actually afford.
Seems reasonable.

 

Mark Steyn, responding to one senator's unhappiness with freedom of expression:
I often get asked to reprise the words I quote in my book, from Gen. Sir Charles Napier in India explaining to the locals his position on suttee — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Napier was impeccably multicultural:
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.
. . . In Trafalgar Square, there is a statue of General Napier. I would urge any visitors to London to see it before it’s taken down, as it surely will be one day soon. Imagine what our world would look like if it were Lindsey Graham up on that plinth. A society led by such “men” cannot survive, and does not deserve to.

 

Many worthwhile items in John Derbyshire's latest diary. For instance:
We — some colleagues and I — were discussing the two pieces National Review published recently on homosexual marriage. . . .

The problem with both pieces, I tried to tell my colleagues, was that they were scholastic, in the pejorative sense — angels on pin-heads, the cooking up of elaborate rationalizations for positions you are determined to take anyway. As Bertrand Russell said of Aquinas: “The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”

Such arguments are persuasive to nobody whose personality, circumstances, and life experience have not already made the conclusion appealing to them, or mandatory.
Another:
The life of a content provider improved immensely through the 19th and 20th centuries. Now it looks as though we’re headed back to Grub Street.

For example: I have an acquaintance whose life ambition was to be a musician and producer of music. (Pop music, that is.) He labored away at it, at one point having his own studio and equipment. He had to give up at last. “Nobody wants to pay for music anymore,” is his explanation. Now he’s a computer programmer.

Writing is headed the same way. . . .

“Nobody wants to pay for music anymore.” And pretty soon nobody will want to pay for TV shows, or movies, or journalism, and the content-provider business will be like professional sports: a handful of superstars making megabucks, the rest of us sleeping on ash heaps for the warmth. . . .

As the Turks say: İt ürür kervan geçer — “the dogs howl, the caravan moves on.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Amazing anecdote via Clifford May:
Investor's Business Daily recently quoted James Zogby, head of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, offering a creative analysis. "The guy who gets up on the plane and says 'Allah!' or whatever and then blows the plane up is not making a statement about his faith," Zogby told congressional staffers. Zogby explained that it's like a Christian hitting his thumb with a hammer and exclaiming "Jesus Christ!"

"The comparison is absurd,"
IBD comments.
Not at all. Whenever I stub my toe I shout, "Neptune's brackish trident!" and find someone to disembowel.

Zogby's an idiot, a liar or both. He should no longer be taken seriously on any matter besides polling, and possibly not even on that.