Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Thursday, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hugh Fitzgerald posted this passage from Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pnin:
What chatty Madam Shpolyanski mentioned had conjured up Mira’s image with unusual force. This was disturbing. Only in the detachment of an incurable complaint, in the sanity of near death, could one cope with this for a moment. In order to exist rationally, Pnin had taught himself, during the last ten years, never to remember Mira Belochkin–not because, in itself, the evocation of a youthful love affair, banal and brief, threatened his peace of mind . . . but because, if one were quite sincere with oneself, no conscience, and hence no consciousness, could be expected to subsist in a world where such things as Mira’s death were possible. One had to forget–because one could not live with the thought that this graceful, fragile, tender young woman with those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in the background, had been brought in a cattle car to an extermination camp and killed by an injection of phenol into the heart, into the gentle heart one had heard beating under one’s lips in the dusk of the past. And since the exact form of her death had not been recorded, Mira kept dying a great number of deaths in one’s mind, and undergoing a great number of resurrections, only to die again and again, led away by a trained nurse, inoculated with filth, tetanus bacilli, broken glass, gassed in a sham shower-bath with prussic acid, burned alive in a pit on a gasoline-soaked pile of beechwood. According to the investigator Pnin had happened to talk to in Washington, the only certain thing was that being too weak to work (though still smiling, still able to help other Jewish women), she was selected to die and was cremated only a few days after her arrival in Buchenwald, in the beautifully wooded Grosser Ettersberg, as the region is resoundingly called.


Unsolicited tv recommendation: Downton Abbey, on PBS's Masterpiece Classic. It's an English period drama set in the early 20th century, and it's beautifully done. You can watch here the episodes that have aired.

Were all of PBS and NPR so good I'd be conflicted about pushing to end their funding.


Walter Russell Mead:
Historically, Black voters associate the expansion of federal power with emancipation and civil rights. They associate states’ rights and localism with slavery and segregation. . . . [P]eople like me who think centralized federal authority is a problem today need to recognize the blindingly obvious truth that the enemies of Blacks have historically sheltered behind the cry for states’ rights.

It was federal power overruling state policies that ended slavery and broke Jim Crow and no honest discussion of the relationship between federal, state and local power can ever proceed as if those facts weren’t true.


From a book review by Thomas Meaney:
In "Perpetual Euphoria," Pascal Bruckner, a French philosopher and social commentator, proposes to free us from this "pitiless idol of happiness." He subjects our culture's happiness-instructors and self-help gurus to such savage mockery that it's easy to overlook the seriousness of his argument. Reading "Perpetual Euphoria" feels like watching Friedrich Nietzsche give a close reading to the latest issue of Men's Health magazine.


Chris Matthews appears to have attained a largely marble-free state.


Just to prevent any questions: I'm not this Michael Greenspan. I imagine I'll be reiterating that fact when the movie comes out.

Later: I've changed the email address here to notthefilmmaker-at-yahoo. Surprised it was available; I expected that some weary non-Hollywood James Cameron or Christopher Nolan would've grabbed it.


Last week the BBC aired a documentary on global warming, hosted by geneticist Paul Nurse, titled "Horizon: Science Under Attack." James Delingpole, perhaps Britain's most prominent anthropogenic-global-warming skeptic (his posts typically draw more than a thousand comments each), was interviewed for the show. As one might expect with such a program on that network, Delingpole came off badly. Simon Singh, who writes books and produces shows on math and science (including for the BBC), Tweeted this:
Sorry, but @JamesDelingpole deserves mockery ‘cos he has the arrogance to think he knows more of science than a Nobel Laureate
On his blog, Delingpole responded:
I have no doubt whatsoever that Sir Paul Nurse knows more about genetics than I do. It is, after all, where the field in which he won his Nobel prize. As for science, sure, Nurse has the advantage over me there, too. He has a PhD. He’s a science graduate and I’m an arts graduate. But then I’ve never pretended otherwise. My case is not that I “James Delingpole have taken a long hard look at the science of global warming and discovered through careful sifting of countless peer-reviewed papers that the experts have got it all wrong.”

What I am saying, and I say almost every day, is that the evidence is not as robust as the “consensus” scientists claim; that there are many distinguished scientists all round the world who dispute this alleged “consensus”; that true science doesn’t advance through “consensus” and never has; that the Climategate emails threw the peer-review process into serious doubt by demonstrating how eminently corruptable it is; that there are many vested interests out there determined and able to spend a great deal of money by making out that the case for catastrophic, man-made global warming is much stronger than it is. And on these specific issues I can reasonably claim to be better informed than Sir Paul Nurse, regardless of how many PhDs he has, because I’ve spent much more time than he has researching them and because they are not issues which require an exclusively scientific knowledge to understand. They just require the basic journalistic skill of being able to read and analyse. . . .

You can disagree with me all you like on whether or not you think global warming is man made; on how much we should spend to deal with it; on whether mankind is a cancer on the earth or a force for good; on any number of issues. But what I can’t abide any more is what has been happening all this week, irresponsibly orchestrated by Sir Paul Nurse, the BBC and their dishonest, ferociously lopsided “documentary”: the frenzied witch-hunt of a journalist and blogger who has done no more than journalists and bloggers should be doing in a free and open society.
(Singh responds here to Delingpole's post, mainly to a paragraph I haven't quoted. Singh is right that Delingpole caricatures certain of Singh's views, but otherwise Singh's post is dishonest in important ways, especially in its pervasive appeal to authority, and its deliberate mischaracterization of Delingpole's argument. Delingpole slightly overstates his case, but makes it; Singh is too slippery to trust.)

A bit later: As to the question of consensus on AGW, the first eight minutes or so of this video is worth watching:

(Edited since originally posted.)


Some background on Frances Fox Piven, from William Tucker.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stanley Kurtz linked yesterday to a fascinating article he wrote in 2008, about tribalism in the Muslim world. At the time it appeared I posted a kind of abridgment of it (it's a long piece). These two passages are, I think, among the most important:
[T]he template of tribal life, with its violent and shifting balance of power between fusing and fissioning lineage segments, is the dominant theme of cultural life in the Arab Middle East (and shapes even many non-Arab Muslim populations). At its cultural core, says Salzman, even where tribal structures are attenuated, Middle Eastern society is tribal society.

* * * * *

The most disturbing lesson of all is that, in the absence of fundamental cultural change, the feud between the Muslim world and the West is unlikely ever to end. Tribal feuds simmer on and off for generations, with negotiated settlements effecting only temporary respites. Among the tribes of Waziristan, the saying goes: "I took my revenge early. I waited only 100 years."
(Kurtz's article is largely an analysis of and response to Philip Carl Salzman's book Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, which Kurtz called "the most penetrating, reliable, systematic, and theoretically sophisticated effort yet made to understand the Islamist challenge the United States is facing in cultural terms.")

The article got little mention in the blogosphere; I think it was just too long for most people to read through. I found it extremely valuable, which is why I posted my chopped-up version—better that some of it be read than none—and why I'm reposting it below. Click "Read more" to see it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I've long believed (in an untutored way—I have no expertise) that Egypt will be a sharia state. What persuaded me is this post from December 2005 by Michael Totten:
I asked [Egyptian blogger] Big Pharaoh what he thought would happen if Egypt held a legitimate free and fair election instead of this bullshit staged by Mubarak.

“The Muslim Brotherhood would win,” he said. “They would beat Mubarak and the liberals.”

I was afraid he was going to say that.

“I’ve had this theory for a while now,” I said. “It looks like some, if not most, Middle East countries are going to have to live under an Islamic state for a while and get it out of their system.”

Big Pharaoh laughed grimly.

“Sorry,” I said. “That’s just how it looks.”

He buried his head on his arms.

“Take Iranians,” I said. “They used to think Islamism was a fantastic idea. Now they hate it. Same goes in Afghanistan. Algerians don’t think too much of Islamism either after 150,000 people were killed in the civil war. I hate to say this, but it looks like Egypt will have to learn this the hard way.”

“You are right,” he said. “You are right. I went to an Egyptian chat room on the Internet and asked 15 people if they fasted during Ramadan. All of them said they fasted during at least most of it. I went to an Iranian chat room and asked the same question. 14 out of 15 said they did not fast for even one single day.”

“Egypt didn’t used to be like this,” I said.

“Nasser’s biggest crime was not establishing democracy when he took over," he said. "Back then, Egyptian people were liberal. It would have worked then. But not now.”

Progress is a funny thing. We Westerners like to think it moves in a straight line. In America that’s pretty much how it is. No serious person would argue that American culture was more liberal and tolerant in the 1950s than it is now. But Egypt, amazingly, moved in exactly the other direction.

. . . [“]After the first Gulf War, Saudi Arabia began to Saudize its economy and said they no longer needed Egyptian workers. When the Egyptians came home they were contaminated with Wahhabism. Egypt’s economy kept getting worse. Unemployed members of the middle class either sat around and smoked shisha or got more religious. That was when Islamism moved from the lower class to the middle class. Now it is moving even to the upper class.”

“Egypt will get over it after a while,” I said, “just like Iran is getting over it now.”

“That will take 25 years! I don’t have 25 years!”
Big Pharaoh hasn't blogged in a long time, as far as I know. I hope he's all right, and that he doesn’t have to wait 25 years.


Chris Christie answers a New Jersey policeman unhappy with his (own) paycheck. Very impressive.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The January Wired has some great pieces (no surprise). Four I especially like:

"The AI Revolution Is On": warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence—except maybe a random number generator—had a hand in determining what went where.

But the warehouses aren’t meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might—by placing like products next to one another, for instance—’s robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. . . .

Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks.
"Algorithms Take Control of Wall Street":
Over the past decade, algorithmic trading has overtaken the industry. . . . (By some estimates, computer-aided high-frequency trading now accounts for about 70 percent of total trade volume.) Increasingly, the market’s ups and downs are determined not by traders competing to see who has the best information or sharpest business mind but by algorithms feverishly scanning for faint signals of potential profit.
"TED Curator Chris Anderson on Crowd Accelerated Innovation":
I believe that the arrival of free online video may turn out to be just as significant a media development as the arrival of print. It is creating new global communities, granting their members both the means and the motivation to step up their skills and broaden their imaginations. It is unleashing an unprecedented wave of innovation in thousands of different disciplines: some trivial, some niche in the extreme, some central to solving humanity’s problems. In short, it is boosting the net sum of global talent. It is helping the world get smarter.
"Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die":
There are no more hidden thought-palaces—they’re easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans. And I’m not going to bore you with the step-by-step specifics of how it happened. In the timeline of the upheaval, part of the graph should be interrupted by the words the Internet. And now here we are. . . .

When everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole’s worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we’re all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted. We’re on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.
I want to register a dissatisfaction with that last essay. The author, Patton Oswalt, fails to argue—as I feel he should argue—for revering creators (by which I mean those who make original, fandom-inspiring works; he mentions among many others Monty Python, Neil Gaiman, and Tolkien) above otaku (people fascinated with the creators' work and whose own work is deeply derivative of the creators'). It's a logical implication of the piece: Everything starts with the creators; without them, what would the otaku have? But Oswalt avoids stating it (he may not believe it; many people don't) and turns instead to hallucinatory, albeit dexterously imagined, fantasy. He misses an opportunity to make a point that needs making, often and strongly. But the article's a good read anyway.

(Edited since originally posted.)


Theodore Dalrymple laments young Britons' ignorance of history:
WHEN I used to ask my young patients to name a British prime minister other than the present one and Mrs Thatcher (they had all heard of her) they used to reply with an answer such as: “I don’t know, I wasn’t born then.”

The name Winston Churchill rang no bells with them, 1066 meant nothing. Queen Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Horatio Nelson … it was all Greek to them. They’d heard of the slave trade but had no idea whether it came before or after the Second World War.

The majority were unable to give a single historical date. Their geographical knowledge was little better. They’d heard of Paris but not of Berlin.

Indeed almost every part of the earth might as well have been the far side of the moon as far as they were concerned. The only places whose location they knew for sure were local nightclubs and football stadiums.
Dalrymple goes on to praise a call by UK Education Secretary Michael Gove for "a more chronological teaching of history, to history as narrative with facts included":
Mr Gove will find it difficult to change the teaching of history and geography because there are powerful ideological interests against change. . . . It would not be surprising if we ended up with the exact opposite of what Mr Gove wants. But the effort must be made.


Kangaroos can be jerks.


Among Jay Nordlinger's thoughts on the SOTU:
I hate this us-against-the-world stuff. Like we’re in some kind of economic Olympics with other countries. It’s not true. Prosperity, economic vitality, is a shared blessing; it is not zero-sum. We rejoice in others’ success, and we continue to succeed our own bad selves. Small, small, what Obama is saying. I have a feeling he does not comprehend abundance.

America is bigger than envying, or worrying about, other countries. I’m reminded tonight of the 1988 Democratic primaries — when Gephardt and Dukakis and those guys kept talking about the rising sun (Japan), whose heat would melt us all. Cripe.

* * * * *

“. . . America’s standing has been restored.” What a self-flattering, ignorant, and disgusting line.

* * * * *

“. . . on the Korean peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keep[] its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.” That’s tellin’ ’em, Barack! We insist.

* * * * *

“This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas.” Could someone tell this self-flattering so-and-so, who thinks the world began with his presidency, that we have had alliances with those countries for many years? I saw José Napoleón Duarte — does Obama even know who he was? — kiss the American flag, on the White House lawn.

* * * * *

This speech is unbelievably rah-rah-America. If a Republican gave it, the Left would call it jingoistic, ethnocentric, chauvinistic, flag-waving, maybe McCarthyite. But Obama can get away with it.

* * * * *

From here on out — from now until Election Day — it’ll be super-patriotism all the way. Obama will make Curtis LeMay look like a pinko. We wondered whether Obama was as flexible as Clinton. I think Obama may prove silly putty itself.


From a long interview of Gary Taubes:
Fat Head: You wrote something in Why We Get Fat that I think every frustrated dieter needs to hear: the proper diet will help us become as lean as we can be, but not necessarily as lean as we’d like to be. Once we become fat, is there a limit to how much fat we can lose without starving away our lean tissue? If so, what’s the barrier to mobilizing and burning those last 10 or 20 pounds of excess fat?

Gary Taubes: Simple answer, I don’t know. But it’s obvious that not every woman can have the body of an Angelina Jolie, regardless of how few carbs they eat. And not every man can have the body or the body-fat percentage of, I don’t know, a Matthew McConaughey, one of these actors who’s always taking his shirt off in movies.

That’s for starters. Some of us are wired to have more body fat than others from the get-go. Then I think when we grow up in a carb-rich environment, some degree of chronic damage is done to the way we partition fuel. Maybe our muscle tissue never quite loses its insulin resistance, or our fat tissue remains more insulin sensitive than it would be had we never seen carbs. Maybe our pancreas secretes a little too much insulin.

It’s hard to tell, but the way I describe it is this: if I grew up in a hunter-gatherer environment — and my mother did as well, because there are effects that are passed from mother to child through the uterus — I’d probably weigh around 175 pounds, even as an adult. Had I stopped eating carbs in my late teens, I might naturally weigh about 190 or 200, which was my football weight in high school. The fact that I not only kept eating carbohydrates into my forties but gorged on them during the low-fat, you-can’t-get-fat-if-a-food-doesn’t-have-fat-in-it years of the late 1980s and early 1990s means the best I can do now, even eating virtually no carbs at all, is about 220. And there’s nothing I can do to go lower, short of starving myself. Semi-starving myself doesn’t work. I tried that long ago.

Fat Head: So what’s the message for those people? Lose what you can and focus on being healthy, as opposed to obsessing with squeezing into a size-8 dress?

Gary Taubes: Precisely.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)


The most important paragraph in this piece about the never-ending birth-certificate meshugas:
[Hawaii's] Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama's parents and knew him as a child, said last month he wanted to release more of the state's birth information about Obama. But he ended the effort last week when the state attorney general told him that privacy laws bar disclosure of an individual's birth documentation without the person's consent.
In this case, "the person" is, of course, Obama. My guess as to why he hasn't given his consent: because the controversy helps him paint his opponents as unstable.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This is enraging:
More than 1,000 young American women have been raped or sexually assaulted in the last decade while serving as Peace Corps volunteers in foreign countries, an ABC News 20/20 investigation has found. . . .

[T]here is a yearly average of 22 rapes. There were 15 in the year for which the figures are most recently available, 2009[.]
Enraging that the attacks happened, and that the Peace Corps appears to want to keep them quiet.


Four good items on the Beck/Piven controversy. This summary, which Glenn Reynolds reposts, is especially lucid:
So let's see if this makes sense:

1. Fances Fox Piven advocates left-wing violence by the unemployed against the government.

2. Glenn Beck criticizes her for this, calling such talk dangerous.

3. Then an unstable unemployed left-wing radical engages in violence against the government.

4. Glenn Beck then repeats his criticism of Piven.

5. Finally, the Am. Sociological Assn blames Glenn Beck for his criticism of Piven AND indirectly for the left-wing violence.

The logic of the Assn escapes me.
Bonus: two videos of a roundtable featuring Piven, Milton Friedman, and (a wonderfully young) Thomas Sowell.

I nearly pity her.

(Edited since originally posted.)


Jihad, by violence and by stealth. Three main points (but read the whole post):
The US's existence, rather than anything we do, is what angers the jihadists. Thus, attempts at conciliating them are at best useless.

Jihadists are as open to peaceful means of conquest as to violent ones.

Many Muslims—that is, many millions of Muslims—who don't support violent jihad, support the stealth jihad.


The promise of small nuclear reactors:
Over the past four years, half a dozen new companies, plus a few old-guard stalwarts such as Babcock & Wilcox, General Electric, and Westinghouse, have introduced designs for reactors approximately one-tenth the size of the conventional variety. . . .

Babcock & Wilcox’s 50-year history of building small submarine reactors for the U.S. Navy finally inspired it to introduce the 125-megawatt mPower reactor in 2010. And NuScale Energy of Corvallis, Ore., has developed a 45-megawatt reactor that could fit into a gazebo and power a town of 10,000.

. . . Hyperion Power Generation of Los Alamos, N.M., has an air-cooled 25-megawatt reactor that can be located in the desert. “It can be used to recover shale oil in Saskatchewan or power irrigation systems in California,” says John “Grizz” Deal, the CEO, who discovered the design while serving as “entrepreneur in residence” at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “You can put it in the basement of a large hospital or industrial complex. The unit includes its own containment structure and can be buried underground for additional safety.”

In fact, small reactors fulfill the dream of the small-is-beautiful crowd for “distributing electrical generation” across the grid in small units, Internet-style, instead of concentrating it in a few large power plants.
Sounds great to me.

(Edited since originally posted.)


An account of the BBC's pervasive leftism, from one who knows.


Answering Christopher Hitchens on Churchill, the monarchy and The King's Speech:
Churchill’s monarchism did not spring only from sentiment. It sprang also from his belief that constitutional monarchies were a force for stability and democracy. He regarded the end of the German monarchy with regret and argued that, if the German people had been allowed to keep a kaiser — not Wilhelm — as a focus for loyalty, Hitler might never have won power.

Such views are, of course, not subject to proof. But as Churchill said at the time, they are worthy of reflection. It may not be a coincidence that, in spite of the errors of those who occupied the throne, it was the British people who believed in their constitutional monarchy who stood up to Hitler, and the monarchist Churchill who led the fight. Hitchens likes the fight. What he doesn’t like is the stubborn traditionalism that made it possible.
(Edited since originally posted.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If you use Windows, and you copy a lot of files, this might make you laugh:


"Alan! Alan! Alan!"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nice free track at Amazon today: "In The Cool Of The Day," recorded by Daniel Martin Moore.


Craig Newmark, commenting (unfavorably) on a list of "Winning Ideas for the Future of B-Schools," passes along one he prefers. I like how the author of that idea describes himself:
Gene Woolsey is a successful, witty, pompous ass. He is short, fat, bald, and looks like the second vice president of a Midwest Kiwanis Club that sings in a barber shop quartet.
Seems like he'd be good company.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tim Blair on two kinds of crazy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Some perspective on global warming:
On Watts Up With That?, Dr. Don J. Easterbrook notes the attention 2010 is getting as a contender for the warmest year of the century. And then he calms everyone down:
[V]irtually all of the past 10,000 years has been warmer than the present. . . .

Of the past 10,500 years, 9,100 were warmer than 1934/1998/2010. Thus, regardless of which year ( 1934, 1998, or 2010) turns out to be the warmest of the past century, that year will rank number 9,099 in the long-term list.
Hey, if 2010 doesn't take it, don't blame me. I drove a lot last year.

(Edited since originally posted.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Don't know how long it'll be true, but for now you can watch free episodes of Showtime's original series.


The much-discussed excerpt from Amy Chua's new book evidently gives a false impression of her beliefs on parenting. Not the first time newspaper editors and headline-writers have misled, intentionally or otherwise.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Charles Krauthammer's column on the Left's insane response to the Tucson shootings deserves the praise it's gotten, but I like Daniel Henninger's piece even more:
The divide between this strain of the American left and its conservative opponents is about more than politics and policy. It goes back a long way, it is deep, and it will never be bridged. . . .

The Rosetta Stone that explains this tribal divide is Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter's classic 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." . . .

After Hofstadter, the American right wasn't just wrong on policy. Its people were psychologically dangerous and undeserving of holding authority for any public purpose. . . .

This isn't just political calculation. It is foundational belief.
"The divide . . . will never be bridged." He's right. I wish he weren't, but I know too many such leftists to disagree. Nothing will change their minds. There's only one attitude for the sensible conservative/libertarian to adopt:
"I am sorry, gentlemen," said Rearden, "that I will be obliged to save your goddamn necks along with mine."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Amazing studio note from drummer ?uestlove, about recording Erykah Badu's "A.D. 2000":
I fell asleep while drumming. Seriously—you can even hear the point when I woke up; I dropped a stick at 2:56 and used my finger to hit the ride cymbal until I found another stick in the dark. . . . I decided to keep that bit of info to myself until the album was way mastered.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

William Tucker on Pakistan and the assassination of Salman Taseer:
These people are crazy. . . . The place is a lunatic asylum. Thank god they live on the other side of the world. But of course, as 9/11 showed, that's not really true anymore. And they do have a nuclear weapon, too -- think of that. . . .

I think we should finish whatever the hell it is we are doing in Afghanistan but then get the hell out. Forget about this "nation-building." These people are incapable of holding a wedding or a funeral without somebody blowing himself up and taking half the crowd with him. Maybe in some other century we can sit down and talk about a peaceful future. For now, I say let them broil in their own inferno.
My sole qualm about "get[ting] the hell out" is that it might be better for our national security to stay there in some manner. But I don't know. As for the rest of Tucker's analysis, he's dead right. These maniacs blend fanaticism, ignorance and lunacy into a genocidal stew. If and when we can exit the region without endangering ourselves unduly, we should leave as fast as possible, and wait from a safe distance until they decide to join the civilized world, if they ever do.


In his review of David Remnick's recent book on Barack Obama, Christopher Caldwell writes,
The struggle for racial equality appears in these pages as a moral lodestar, the only real litmus test of contemporary political morality. Mastering the history and rhetoric of civil rights, reading the rest of American history through it, rendering one's personality acceptable to those who speak in its name—to Remnick, all of this is so self-evidently admirable as to need no explanation.
I can believe it. I had the thought recently (sweeping generalizations ahead) that to American liberals, the ultimate measure of an American's morality is his attitude toward black Americans. That's not a bad criterion to apply, though it shouldn’t be the only important one. What's pernicious is that to liberals, support for blacks is synonymous with support for Democrats. They believe that Democrats are the party that defends blacks, and therefore to vote Republican is to oppose blacks (and prove oneself immoral). The specifics of the Democrats' platform, their actual policies and those policies' effect on blacks (much less on anyone else), are irrelevant. (Try explaining to a liberal that he should oppose any further rise in the minimum wage because there'd be fewer jobs for young blacks. Seriously, try it sometime.) It's a destructive string of false logic that nonetheless benefits two groups: liberals, who by the simple pulling of a lever every two years can establish their irrefutable virtue; and Democratic politicians, who are happy to scoop up the resultant ballots.

(Link via Jonathan Last.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

David Warren on the Alexandria bombing:
I have prayed in that Church of the Saints in Alexandria; I once interviewed a prominent Coptic churchman there (His Grace Bishop Moussa): a wise, learned, kindly, and magnificent man. I remain on the e-lists of several of the people who used to work at the Pentagon and who are still trying to inform anyone who will listen. And my own rage recedes into a deep sadness, for I am watching another of those "tragedies" unfold, of world-historical proportions.


Ethan Nicolle, a 29-year-old comic artist/writer, and his brother Malachai, five, collaborate on AXE COP, a webcomic. Here’s how it started, here’s the origin episode, and here’s an installment (unrelated to the main storyline, I think) in which writer and artist switch roles. Very enjoyable. (Via Neatorama.)

(Edited since originally posted.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Amazon chose as Best Song of 2010 "F**k You," by Cee Lo Green. The track's a lot better than it might be—it's playful, beautifully performed and produced, and it grooves nicely—but its lyrics render it juvenile, in ways beyond vulgarity. That Amazon put it first says a lot about the culture. For contrast, check Amazon's list of 2010's best books. Whether or not you like them, they're books written for adults. In pop music, though, immaturity reigns. No wonder I buy so little of it.

(Here's my favorite song, by far, of the year. Of the past few years, actually. It didn't make Amazon's list.)