Friday, February 29, 2008
First, a picture to warm the cockles of any central Pennsylvanian's heart -- the gun counter at Cabelas. This one is located just outside Hamburg along Rte #78 in Berks County. Lots and lots of firepower. Aaaaaaaah!
And check out the store's centerpiece.
And if, like me, you'd rather have your beasties living and breathing you can always visit Lake Tobias' wildlife park in Halifax north of Harrisburg [here]. There you can get up close and actually touch the critters [well, some of them -- stay away from the big cats..., and the gators..., and the bears and, ...well, any of the carnivores].
Thomas Cheplik over at the American Spectator has climbed on the Sarah Palin for Vice President bandwagon. He writes:
Mrs. Palin is one of conservatism's own, and would be the first female vice president. She's young being only 44 (two years behind Senator Obama), she is widely known to despise government corruption. She defeated a horribly entrenched and corrupt Republican political machine in Alaska. She has a son in the U.S. military. She's strongly pro-life, belonging, in fact, to Feminists for Life. Gov. Palin could become the Republican Party's Segolene Royal, the French Socialist Party's glamorous leader known for her heels and political bite. She is the perfect antidote to Sen. Obama's cheap thrills, and would help rejuvenate conservatism.Can't disagree with that. Read the whole thing here.
David Freddeso over at the Corner agrees. [here]
Bill Shaw, over at Writemarsh, chimes in.
I'd like to take this opportunity to formally throw my support behind Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska to be named John McCain's running mate for the fall election. Why Sarah Palin?-She's a hunter and an NRA member, for starters. She's attractive, and oh, yeah...if McCain picks her, we get to mess up the democrat's argument that they are going to make history when (heh) they win! We get to make history first, if and when we elect McCain for President and Palin for Vice President. How sweet it would be to be the first to have a Republican woman elected to the only office that is literally a heartbeat away from being president!Read the whole thing here.
Here's an earlier post of mine on Sarah.
Here's a link to the "Draft Sarah Palin for Vice Presisdent website".
Fred Barnes is impressed, too. Read it here.
Patrick Ruffini agrees here. He points out that Sarah singlehandedly killed the "Bridge to Nowhere" over determined opposition from entrenched interests.
She has Don Surber's endorsement here. He likes her porkbusting credentials [here].
The U.S. Navy has moved the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and other ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon, Pentagon officials said Thursday.Read it here.
The deployment comes amid a political standoff over Lebanon's presidency, but the Navy would not say whether the events are linked.
"It's a group of ships that will operate in the vicinity for a while and as the ships in our Navy do, the presence is important," Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday.
"It isn't meant to send any stronger signal than that," he said. "But it does signal that we're engaged and we are going to be in the vicinity, and that's a very important part of the world."....
The destroyer and two support ships are close to Lebanon but out of visual range of the coast, Pentagon officials said. Another six vessels, led by the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, are close to Italy and steaming toward the other three, the officials said.
[A] Bush administration official told CNN the decision to move ships to the region was a message to neighboring Syria that "the U.S. is concerned about the situation in Lebanon, and we want to see the situation resolved."
"We are sending a clear message for the need for stability," said the official, who was not authorized to speak for publication. The ships "should be there a while," the official added.
This is an encouraging sign. The willingness of the US [with French support] to deploy significant military resources outside Iraq and Afghanistan is a good indication that [despite election year rhetoric to the contrary] the conflicts in those places are winding down.
There is, for instance, the long bit on Katrina that flatly asserts that the number and force of hurricanes in recent years was due to global warming and predicts a continual increase in storm damage to America.
Well, forget that. Here's NOAA's take:
A team of scientists have found that the economic damages from hurricanes have increased in the U.S. over time due to greater population, infrastructure, and wealth on the U.S. coastlines, and not to any spike in the number or intensity of hurricanes.
Here's the press release; here's the paper.
Oh well, back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, as "Watt's Up With That?" points out, this study has been completely ignored by the MSM.
And then there's this:
Remember those dramatic sequences regarding the disappearance of the "Snows of Kilamanjaro" which Gore flatly stated was due to global warming? Of course you do.
Well, forget about that too. The melting of the snow cap has now been shown to be due to deforestation, not global warming, and it was a temporary thing. These pictures [also from Watts website] show quite clearly that the mountain's snow cap has returned. Once again the MSM generally ignored the story (the NYT reported the phenomenon in its "Travel" section). Once again the public has been uninformed or misinformed on an issue of great import.
And so it goes, and so it goes.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Warning: This is really bad stuff.
I don't for a second agree with those who say that what happened in this hellhole delegitimizes the Iraq war or the Bush administration, but you gotta admit this is..., well..., really bad stuff.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
One of the great ones has passed. I never met William F. Buckley, but for many years his TV image was a frequent guest in my living room. I was an avid fan of "Firing Line" and reader of his magazine, National Review. Those who knew him best -- his friends and colleagues -- have expressed their and the nation's loss far better than I ever could.
Read about him here.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
If you have been paying attention to global weather reports, you know that China has had the heaviest snowfall in at least three decades. David Deming, a geophysicist, in a December 19, 2007 article in The Washington Times, noted that, "South America this year experienced one of its coldest winters in decades. In Buenos Aires, snow fell for the first time since the year 1918." This occurred across the entire Southern Hemisphere. "Johannesburg, South Africa, had the first significant snowfall in 26 years. Australia experienced the coldest June ever."
It must be said that one big blizzard does not an Ice Age make, but a whole series of events that suggest a cooling cycle may well be the warning that is being ignored in the midst of the vast global warming hoax.
Of course this is cherry-picking and a one-year set of occurrences does not a trend make, but a growing number of scientists have begun worry about variations in solar output that will have immense effects on global climate.
The MSM is slowly beginning to wake to this fact, [see, for instance, this article in the National Post] but at present concerns about solar output and the possibility of global cooling are almost completely drowned out by global warming hype.
We really don't know what the future holds, only that change will take place. That being the case, it makes sense to follow Bjorn Lonborg's advice and focus on global economic development and better science that will enable our children to better cope with whatever changes and challenges they face.
Monday, February 25, 2008
President Musharraf’s political party (PML-Q) has been heavily defeated at the polls by a coalition led by two major opposition parties. The opposition has probably won enough seats to form a new government. The Telegraph reports Musharraf’s exit is now days, not months away. And the man with the power to determine the shape of the new government is a man with close ties to AQ Khan, presided over the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program and has just returned from exile in Saudi Arabia.
That in a nutshell is the perfect storm in which US policy in Pakistan is embroiled.
Read it here.
Basically there are two very dangerous developments going on here. First, the winners in the recent elections are bound to seek to establish civilian control over the military. So far the military has been the stabilizing influence in Pakistan and most importantly has maintained control over that nation's nuclear arsenal. If that control is compromised the possibility of nuclear proliferation or irresponsible use of the weapons is greatly increased. Secondly, both of the winning parties are giving strong indications that they will seek an accommodation with regions currently in revolt. That will provide the Taliban with a safe haven.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
BELGRADE, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica Sunday called on the United States to annul its decision to recognize the independence of Kosovo.
"The United States of America must annul the decision to recognize a false state on the territory of Serbia, and create conditions for the United Nations Security Council to confirm the validity of Resolution 1244, which guarantees Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Kostunica was quoted by local media assaying.
"Otherwise, a continued policy of force will only deepen this crisis that undermines the foundations of the entire world order and threatens peace and stability, not only in the Balkans," Kostunica warned.
Read it here.
And in an utterly predictable move, the EU has bugged out.The Telegraph reports:
Hopes for a peaceful conclusion to the declaration of Kosovo's independence were fading as the European Union announced it had withdrawn its staff from the north of the fledgling country in the face of increasingly angry Serb protests.
And so are the stalwart functionaries of the US Department of State.
And NATO's KFOR troops sealed the border between Serbia and Kosovo. That, however, is not going to stop Serbs from crossing it for protest rallies or worse.
The announcement of the withdrawal came as the United States - which backed Kosovo's drive for independence - began to evacuate its American staff and their families from Serbia, offering US citizens the chance to join a convoy of 40 cars leaving Belgrade for Croatia."We are not sufficiently confident that they are safe here," said US ambassador Cameron Munter.
Read about it here.
Terry Teachout reviews an important new book over at Commentary. Its title is Voices of the Dead, it was written by Hiroaki Kuromiya, and it utilizes secret police files from Kiev to chart the fate of victims of Stalin's terror. It is an utterly horrifying account of the impact of Stalin's regime on ordinary citizens.
The people we meet in The Voices of the Dead are indeed “utterly unknown, ‘ordinary’ Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, soldiers, pensioners, ballerinas, beggars.” All they had in common was that they ran afoul of Stalin’s killing machine. Many appear to have been tortured before being sent to the execution chamber. Some confessed to crimes that they may or may not have committed, while others went to their graves swearing that they had done nothing wrong. To read about them is a jolting experience, no matter how much you may already know about the regime that sentenced them to die.And that's the problem -- far too few people appreciate the utter malignancy of many leftist regimes; the evil they are willing to perpetrate in the service of their twisted ideologies. Teachout quite rightly attributes this ignorance to the efforts of left wingers in academia and the information media to deliberately downplay the sins of leftist regimes. But there is another, unspoken factor -- the determination of many to portray the Holocaust as a crime much worse than anything perpetrated elsewhere. Even Teachout's mild suggestion that we should pay as much attention to the victims of Stalin's terror as we do to the victims of the Holocaust evokes charges in the comments section that he is a "holocaust relativist" [perhaps even a dread "neocon" or "John Bircher"] who does not fully appreciate that Hitler's crime "stands alone as the single most intense expression of human malice."
This insistence on the unique evil of the German genocide, however justified, does a grave disservice to history and to our understanding of the world in which we live. It obscures the significance of other horrific crimes against humanity, and these, as Teachout ably notes, deserve our full attention.
Read Teachout's review here.
You can purchase a copy of Voices of the Dead from Amazon by clicking on the advertisements at the top of this page.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
[T]he environmental left movement has bought very heavily into the fantasy about anthropogenic global warming and the fantasy that humans can prevent or turn back the warming cycle.Read it here.
This turn to climate catastrophism is tied into the decline of the left, and the decline of the left’s optimistic vision of altering the economic nature of things through a political programme. The left has bought into environmental catastrophism because it thinks that if it can persuade the world that there is indeed a catastrophe, then somehow the emergency response will lead to positive developments in terms of social and environmental justice.This is a fantasy. In truth, environmental catastrophism will, in fact it already has, play into the hands of sinister-as-always corporate interests.
Cockburn's anti-corporate bias is, of course, nonsense, but he is quite right to note that the strongest supporters of Al Gore's apocalyptic absurdities are left-wingers who are operating under the delusion that this sort of scare-mongering will bring them to power and enable them to impose fundamental changes on Western society.
This was taken along Rte #81 north of Harrisburg, looking north towards Marysville and Fort Hunter. That structure is the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge.
And this shot was taken from Rte. #30, the Lincoln Highway, looking south toward Wrightsville. The structure is State Rte. #462 between Wrightsville and Columbia.
Finally, here's a picture of the bridge from which I took the previous shot, looking east toward Columbia.
Occasionally in the grip of winter's damp and chill I like to look back and remember that not so long ago the days were warm and the trees were green and soon they will be so again.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned that Russia could use military force if the Kosovo independence dispute escalates.
"If the EU develops a unified position or if Nato exceeds its mandate set by the UN, then these organisations will be in conflict with the UN," he said.
In that case Russia would "proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force", he said.
Read it here.
That's right, he said "brute force". Russia is serving notice that if the EU or NATO opposes Serbian actions against Kosovo, it will intervene to protect the Serbs.
1. What will the Serbs do? Paramilitary groups have already destroyed border checkpoints. Will there be incursions into Kosovo proper? And what about Serbs already living in Kosovo? What mischief will they be up to?
2. How will the EU respond to Serb provocation? Right now the EU is divided with most of its members refusing to recognize Kosovo's independence. The UN will take no action -- Russia and China would block that. Is is possible for NATO to respond without American leadership? Probably not. Would the US public support an American intervention and a showdown with Russia? Not likely in an election year.
Will there again be war in the Balkans? Time will tell. Stay tuned.
Things are getting worse. Now mobs are attacking UN police.
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — Violent protests rocked Serb-dominated northern Kosovo on Friday, as mobs chanting "Kosovo is ours!" hurled stones, bottles and firecrackers at U.N. police guarding a bridge that divides Serbs from ethnic Albanians.
The scenes evoked memories of the carnage unleashed by former Serb autocrat Slobodan Milosevic the last time Kosovo tried to break away from Serbia, which considers the territory its ancestral homeland.
There were disturbing signs the riots in Belgrade, Serbia, and in Mitrovica have the blessing of nationalists in the Serbian government. The government hopes somehow to undo the loss of the beloved province, the site of an epic battle between Serbs and Turks in 1389.
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's authorities have repeatedly vowed to reclaim the land, despite U.S. and other Western recognition of Kosovo's statehood. Some hard-line government ministers have praised the violent protests as "legitimate" — and in line with government policies of retaining control over Serb-populated areas.
Read it here.
And now Bosnia Serbs are threatening to secede from Bosnia and to reunite with their homeland.
Read it here.
And, true to form the EU forces charged with protecting the Kosovars have decided to bug out until things settle down. Way to go guys!
The European Union has withdrawn staff from a divided Kosovo city following violent protests by the Serb minority, an EU envoy said Saturday as Russia warned Kosovo's independence could increase terrorism.
The EU staff in the northern city of Mitrovica have been preparing a 2,000 strong EU police-judicial mission in Kosovo after its declaration of independence, which has been rejected by the Serbian government and Kosovo Serbs.
"We have temporarily brought back our personnel, but we will maintain our office in the north," EU envoy Peter Feith told reporters in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren.
He did not give details on the numbers involved but added: "We hope that conditions will soon allow us to resume our activities" in northern Kosovo.
Read it here.
The first shots have been fired. The Times of New York has as much as charged Sen. McCain with sexual improprieties and corruption and the networks have run with the story. It remains to be seen whether McCain or the Times will take serious damage in this exchange. Meanwhile the Times of London has weighed in with charges that Obama is a dangerous radical. Gerald Baker writes:
There is a caste of left-wing Americans who wish essentially and in all honesty that their country was much more like France. They wish it had much higher levels of taxation and government intervention, that it had much higher levels of welfare, that it did not have such a “militaristic” approach to foreign policy. Above all, that its national goals were dictated, not by the dreadful halfwits who inhabit godforsaken places like Kansas and Mississippi, but by the counsels of the United Nations.
Though Mr Obama has done a good job, as all recent serious Democrats have done, of emphasising his belief in American virtues, his record and his programme suggest he is firmly in line with this wing of his party.
Read it here.
These, of course, are only the opening strategies and no battle plan survives the first volleys.
Will McCain survive the scurrilous attacks on his character and turn the opprobrium on his assailants? If so the Dems have a secondary theme waiting -- that a McCain presidency will be a mere extension of the Bush regime. Will Michelle Obama learn when to shut her mouth and quit injecting radical and resentful themes into her husband's campaign? If so, the Republicans will trot out national defense themes, charging that Obama is too naive and inexperienced to be trusted. Beyond that things get fuzzy on both sides.
Clearly both sides are pitching their early appeals to a moderate middle that fears radicalism and longs for good government. What turns the campaign will take in future months are hard to discern.
As Hillary said, "now the fun part begins."
BAGHDAD (AP) - Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Friday that he has extended a cease-fire order to his Shiite Mahdi Army by another six months, giving Iraq a chance to continue its fragile recovery from brutal sectarian violence.
His message was delivered by Shiite clerics during prayer services in mosques dominated by followers of the black-turbaned cleric.
``According to an order by Sayyid Muqtada, activities of the Mahdi Army will be suspended ... for another six month period,'' al-Sadr's aide Hazim al-Aaraji said, using an honorific for al-Sadr during his sermon at the Kazimiyah mosque in Baghdad.
Read the whole story here.
This is good news. Of course Mookie is keeping his options open and could at any time resume his attacks, but now for several months he has seen political participation in the new government as a more productive position than military opposition, and every month that the peace holds grants that government more legitimacy in the eyes of all Iraqis. The peace extension is thus one more indication that the democratic Iraqi regime has indeed turned a significant corner in its journey toward general reconciliation.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Approximately 200,000 Serbs attended a rally today protesting Western recognition of Kosovo's independence. Afterwards mobs surged through the streets attacking various embassies, including the American. The crowd briefly broke into the embassy and burned part of it.
Serbianurged rioters to stop.
"I appeal to our citizens to protest calmly. All those who take part in the unrest I want to withdraw from the streets and stop attacking foreign embassies," he said in a televised appeal. "This only keeps Kosovo distant from Serbia."
Rioters -- many wearing balaclavas and scarves to hide their faces -- had attacked the building with sticks and metal bars after destroying two guard boxes outside.
They ripped metal grilles from windows and tore a handrail off the entrance to use as a battering ram and gain entry.
One man climbed up to the first floor, ripped theoff its pole and briefly put up a Serbian flag.
Other people jumped up and down on the balcony, holding up a Serbian flag as the crowd below of about 1,000 people cheered them on, shouting "Serbia, Serbia."
Black smoke billowed out of the embassy. Papers and chairs were thrown out of the windows, with doors wedged in the window frames and burning.
Some 200 riot police arrived later, driving the crowd away. Some protesters sat on the ground, bleeding. Fire engines arrived to put out the flames, local media reported.
Read it here.
Fox News reports that when police cleared the area a charred body was found -- apparently one of the protesters.
BBC video here.
WaPo coverage here.
We don't know yet whether this is a mere temper tantrum or not. It has the potential to escalate into something serious. The key seems to lie in Moscow. Serbia cannot act effectively against Kosovo without Russian sanction and protection. Putin has been acting ever more aggressively in the past few years, trying to re-establish Russia's status as a great power. The Kosovo situation might provide him with an opportunity to assert Russia's traditional role as the protector of Slavs against their Muslim enemies.
Finally, a developing Balkan crisis will be a fascinating test for the presidential candidates in the US. Will Hillary defend or repudiate her husband's interventionist policy? Will she blame the current crisis on diplomatic failures? Will McCain be willing to bail out Europe again? And what about Obama? What will his position be? Is he willing to use military force to compel compliance with agreements forged in Western Europe?
Time will tell. Stay tuned.
The media and bloggy masses have focused on Michelle Obama's declaration that throughout her entire adult life she had not, until now, been proud of her country. That is an extraordinarily disturbing statement, one that reveals a deep adversarial relationship between this woman and the culture that has nourished her, but it is by no means the most problematic portion of that speech.
About eight minutes into it she has this to say:
“Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation and that you move out of your comfort zone. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual – uninvolved, uninformed – you have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.”
This is scary, authoritarian stuff. There are disturbing depths to be plumbed in the Obama campaign. Let us hope that the New York Times will exert as much diligence in exploring them as they seem to have done with regard to Sen. McCain's career.
The left has adopted Darfur as a cause. Good for the left. There are several Web sites out there. One suggests that people wear wristbands. Another suggests that people make videos.
Barack Obama made a video. It is a nice video. This time, I don't think he lifted the speech from Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
Here is the substance:
"The United States has imposed economic sanctions on seven Sudanese individuals responsible for violence in Darfur and on more than 160 companies owned or controlled by the government of Sudan," the White House said.
Here is some more substance.
"The United States is the largest single donor to Sudan, including to Darfur, where more than 2.5 million people live in camps for Internally Displaced Persons.
"Since the outbreak of violence in Darfur, the United States provided, through fiscal year 2007, nearly $2.5 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance to that region.
"In FY 2007, the U.S. gave more than $1 billion in assistance to the people of Sudan, including Darfur, and anticipates providing a similar amount in FY 2008.
"In 2007, the United States provided more than 67 percent of the World Food Program's food aid to Sudan, serving more than 6 million people throughout Sudan and eastern Chad," the White House said.
If you are reading that for the first time, you are far from alone.
That is because the American MSM has generally ignored all the good that Bush has done in Africa -- it doesn't fit their narrative -- but as Surber notes the foreign press has been far more attentive.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The New York Times and the New Republic team up to put out a story alleging [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] that several years ago Sen. McCain knew, attended a fund-raising meeting with, and shared a plane ride back to Washington with, an attractive woman half his age. The woman was a lobbyist.
There is no evidence of inappropriate behavior or any favors exchanged. Everyone involved denies that there was any sexual relationship. The only supporting evidence offered is that two aides warned McCain to stay away from the woman because being seen in public with her might raise the appearance of impropriety and that McCain had agreed to their request.
Read the story here.
Mark Ambinder reports the story here. What is disturbing is that many of his commentators are rushing to the assumption that there was a sexual relationship involved.
President George W. Bush hugs a woman after a visit to Maasai Girls School in Arusha, Tanzania WH Photo by Eric Draper
I didn’t know Bush was still there! There is so little press coverage of Bush’s very well received visit to Africa that we don’t even know he’s there.
Contrast that to the day-to-day coverage (even his rest-stops were covered!) of President Clinton’s trip to Africa a decade ago - which was written about, analyzed, photographed and reported on endlessly and with a fervor bordering on the coverage on might expect to herald the second-coming of Christ.
Read it here.
And so it goes..., and so it goes.
And while we are on the subject of the Atlantic, Alan Wolfe has an interesting article in the latest edition. In it he takes issue with the recent spate of scare stories predicting a rise in religious fervor that will disrupt the international system. He notes that on a global scale religiosity is on the decline, and that even in areas where it is high religious observance is evolving to accommodate secular rationalism. Secularism rather than religiosity, he argues, is the wave of the future.
I think he's right, but what struck me most in his article is the figure reposted above. It illustrates the relationship between religiosity and economic development. There are several interesting things to note in this chart.
First of all the inverse relationship between economic development and religiosity is striking. With few exceptions the wealthier a country becomes the lower its level of religiosity.
Secondly the regional concentration of wealth stands out. Note the concentration of African states on the left side of the graph and the cluster of Western European states on the right. Eastern Europe and Latin America, though more dispersed, also seem to occupy distinct areas on the graph.
Also note the outliers. Kuwait is distinctive in its high religiosity and comparatively high level of wealth. I am not certain why this is so, but suspect it has a lot to do with that country's experience in the past two decades. And by far the most distinctive country is the United States. Not only are Americans, in terms of their purchasing power, far wealthier than the citizens of any other nation, but Americans to an amazing extent generally resisted the secularizing drift of other developed populations. I suspect that this is because American Protestantism [and to a lesser degree Catholicism] has tended to celebrate rather than to denounce capitalism. Moreover America's extreme religious pluralism and its voluntaristic traditions encourage people to migrate across religious boundaries rather than to submit to doctrines that might undermine their material interests.
Interesting! Read Wolfe's article here.
Michelle Malkin replies to Michelle Obama:
Like Michelle Obama, I am a “woman of color.” Like Michelle Obama, I am a working mother of two young children. Like Michelle Obama, I am a member of the 13th Generation of Americans born since the founding of our great nation.
Unlike Michelle Obama, I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve been proud—really proud—of my country since I was born and privileged to live in it.
Read the whole thing here.
Malkin gets a reply from an Obama supporter here. [warning: disgusting language]
I had almost forgotten -- this is Oscar Week. This Sunday approximately one tenth of the nation will tune in to see the ceremonies. The only people who actually seem to care are those in the industry and the "critical community" who get paid to watch films and write about them.
Michael Medved explains why the Oscars don't interest us much anymore. His argument can be boiled down to a few propositions. The proliferation of media has fragmented our common culture, blockbuster movies used to reflect the common culture and so did the Academy awards. Now movies are a niche entertainment, produced for small, carefully targeted audiences, and few people find much to interest them in the ceremonies celebrating those films. Read the whole thing here -- there's much wisdom in it.
For what it's worth -- I think "No Country for Old Men" should win best picture; Daniel Day Lewis should win for best actor; "Juno" should win something major; and beyond that I just don't care, although I did like Josh Brolin's work in "No Country".
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Obesity needs to be tackled in the same way as climate change, a top nutritional scientist has said.
The chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce wants world leaders to agree a global pact to ensure that everyone is fed healthy food.
Professor Philip James said the challenge of obesity was so great that action was needed now, even without clear evidence of the best options.
Read it here.
No, this is not a Pythonesque satire -- these people seem to be entirely serious. This is where transnational crisis-mongering takes us. Global institutions are making a serious bid to control every aspect of our lives and to eradicate the national sovereignty that protects us from their authoritarian absurdities.
1. What a wonderful time this is in which we live! Only a generation ago we were beaing told that much of the world's population was at risk of dying from starvation. Now we worry about obesity. Give thanks to the inventors of genetically-modified food products. They have saved the world.
2. There is no limit to which the malevolent control freaks will go in their attempt to organize the world.
3. Credentialed scientific authority is at best a poor guide to public policy. Note that the call is for action despite admitted ignorance as to what would be the best option. Acting out of ignorance is a sure prescription for disaster.
You knew it was coming. For the past year and more Fidel Castro, the Monster of Sierra Maestra, has been lapsing into a state of senile dementia that has rendered him incapable of acting effectively as head of state. State officials have kept a lid on the situation and have been governing in his stead through the long period of decline. It was only a matter of time until the real state of affairs was made public. Well, that time has come.
Now it is official. The sick old dictator has resigned, passing control to his equally brutal and only marginally less competent brother Raul. Babalu Blog has the announcement here; New York Times story here. This is a continuation of the sham. Raul is an alcoholic and only five years younger than Fidel. There is no chance that he will act as an effective chief of state. The committees that have been running things so far will continue to do so as various figures within the state apparatus contend for power.
Don't expect radical change immediately. Rather look for gradual liberalization of the regime as the old guard who fought with Fidel dies off and is replaced by a new generation of leaders.
What is probably most significant here is that Fidel's retirement provides an excuse for the United States to lift its trade and travel embargoes on Cuba. That will almost certainly happen if a Democrat gains the White House and there is no political crisis in Cuba. There is also a possibility that restrictions will be lifted or relaxed in a McCain administration [McCain seems to argue that easing of trade restrictions will hinge on political liberalization in Cuba]. Maybe Bush himself will act. Whatever the situation, we have here an opportunity to create a far more humane and reasonable relationship with Cuba. [the candidates' reactions are here; Michelle Malkin reports that Bush has no intention of lifting the embargo here.]
Who knows, maybe in a year or so "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I will be able to spend the worst weeks of winter lolling on a Cuban beach.
The basic questions are, (1) was Castro simply another Latin American caudillo whose system will die with him, or did he institutionalize his authoritarian system; (2) will the United States take this opportunity to redefine our relationship with the Cuban regime; (3) will liberalization take place in Cuba, and if so, will it be accompanied by violent conflict?
Time will tell.
Babalu Blog has extensive commentary here.
The Cuban Archive documents the atrocities committed by the Castro regime [here].
The Miami Herald commentary is here.
Monday, February 18, 2008
President Bush's five-nation trip to Africa, aimed at highlighting the problems of epidemic diseases on the continent, has not gotten a great deal of play in the US media, and what coverage there has been has usually been critical. Bush is assailed for not visiting the worst trouble spots, where civil wars are raging. This president, who has done more for the peoples of Africa than all other world leaders combined and much, much more than any other American president, is criticized for not doing more.
You know how it goes.
By contrast, Bill Clinton's extravagant Africa excursion, which consisted of little more than a series of photo-ops, was widely praised in the western media.
At least the WaPo admits:
By all accounts, Bush has done more to combat the AIDS pandemic that has devastated Africa than any other president, and even his harshest critics usually credit him for paying attention to a region often neglected by Washington. Much of the world has soured on the United States, but surveys by the Pew Global Attitudes Project show that Africa is one place where it is held in high regard.
Of course, the Post then goes on to dismiss the trip as a cynical exercise in "legacy building". No guys, that's what Bill Clinton does -- Bush is a far better man than his predecessor.
Read it here.
The New York Times is even worse.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush has been smothered with affection here, never more so than on Sunday, when he sat at a wooden desk under a sweltering sun with President Jakaya Kikwete by his side and signed a $698 million grant of foreign aid to Tanzania. But while people here in the capital city of this East African nation are excited about Mr. Bush, another American politician seems to excite them even more — Senator Barack Obama. Mr. Bush is on a six-day, five-country tour to spotlight American efforts to fight poverty and disease in Africa. Though the president’s face is on billboards all over town, the name Obama is on the lips of Tanzanians — from taxi drivers to city merchants to the artisans who sell wooden Masai warriors in makeshift stalls at a dusty open-air market on the outskirts of town.Way to stay "on message" guys. Read it here.
No matter how much the MSM works to diminish him, President Bush's actions with regard to Africa stand as a magnificent and generous effort, unparalleled by any of his contemporaries or predecessors.
Gateway Pundit has more here.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Read it here.
KENOSHA, Wis.-- Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton’s voice filled with emotion today as she listened to the story of a mother and young daughter who said they were being forced from their home due to a skyrocketing adjustable mortgage.
Appearing at a rally and question and answer session inside the Brat Shop, a restaurant located off Interstate 94, the main north-south route between Chicago and Milwaukee, Clinton asked local officials if they could provide any help to the woman.
Bill and Hill have worked themselves into the position where nothing that they do can ever be taken at face value. The assumption is always that everything they present to the public is coldly and carefully calculated. Is this possible? Ot, can it be that she really can work herself into an emotional state listening to some stupid woman who signed up for an ARM expecting that interest rates would stay low forever.
What's that you say? Never heard about it? That's because the MSM has been curiously quiet on the subject. Neo-Neocon describes the situation:
Read her whole piece here.
This particular event should have been the lead article on the front page of every newspaper. It should have been the big subject of all the talk shows. It ought to have been acknowledged by every critic of the surge—you know, the ones who initially said the surge wouldn’t work before it even began. The ones who then said Petraeus was lying about the drop in casualties. The ones who then said that it didn’t mean anything anyway because after all, the Iraqi legislature hadn’t met the proper benchmarks that would indicate political progress and reconciliation.However, here’s how it played on the network news programs. Only ABC’s Charles Gibson saw fit to cover it, repeating an ABC pattern of being more favorable to favorable news from Iraq. And even Gibson alloted it only twenty seconds (although they were positive seconds), the sort of skim-the-surface coverage for which network TV news is notorious....
Wretchard over at the Belmont Club explains just why this new agreement is so important:
This measure is vital to institutionalizing the gains won by the Surge. Iraq has long been crippled by the defective, UN-designed "closed-party list" voting system, which created political parties based on sectarian affiliation. A UN website describes why it adopted this system. It had the advantage of being easy ("no census is required") and creating what in the UN view was an appropriate structure of political coalitions. The trouble was the system encouraged the very same fraction that took Iraq to the brink of civil war.
One of the key problems facing strategists of the Surge was to find a way to institutionalize the grassroots movement of the past year. Former insurgents would of course, be retrained and put under the discipline of the Army or Police. But what of the political leaders? The natural path was to encourage the leadership which emerged during the Surge to stand for office, which proved very difficult to do under the closed-party list system. They were dressed up with no place to go.
The impasse in Baghdad is partly the result of a logjam of sectarian interests. There are also a fair number of politicians, who because of the sectarian nature of the coalitions, are stooges of Teheran. A new election law could sweep the logjam away in a flood, with the stooges in the bargain. Electoral reform is supremely important for long term success. It is the linchpin of "reconciliation".
Read it here.
It's the weekend again, so I'm posting a couple more pictures of the prettiest State in the Union, Pennsylvania.
Walking through the woods after a snowy morning, I chanced upon this tree. "Nice", I thought, and snapped a picture. In a few months, once the leaves have returned, I plan to go back again and see what it looks like fully clothed. I can hardly wait for Spring, but deep winter has its attractions too.
One of the things I love about Pennsylvania fields and forests is how every day you can look around you and see something extraordinary.
After an early snowfall I walked out onto my driveway and saw this.
See what I mean? It's the weekend, tear yourself away from the computer, grab a camera [it doesn't have to be a top end piece of equipment] go outside and take a long, hard look at what you can see. Chances are it's better than anything you'll find online.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
What a breath of fresh air the Romneys on the public stage have been. Way too often in pop culture, men are portrayed as dopes; think about just about any sitcom. The dad/husband is portrayed as a doofus. What’s wrong with having somebody in public life who’s like Mitt Romney — a capable, experienced executive who loves his country and also happens to be a God-fearing father and husband? That’s not a bad thing for Americans to see. Forgive him for being easy on the eyes.Read it here.
And I’ll go one step further. I worry about a political culture that is a little too suspicious of a scandal-less, all-American-gee-whiz-this-is-the-American-dream- in-overdrive package. We should be glad that good people — who, while well-off, are not without their share of painful crosses — are willing to subject themselves to the ugliness that politics can inflict. We should be grateful that good families will make the sacrifices necessary to serve — and make those sacrifices with no guarantees they’ll succeed....
Mitt Romney has money, smarts, support, and a loyal staff. He’ll be fine. But the rest of us will have, someday, to face up to the consequences of a culture of political cynicism.
You know how the game goes -- just keep moving the goalposts. Military success meant nothing until civil order was restored; the restoration of civil order in much of Iraq meant nothing until effective central government was installed; central government could not be effective while religious and ethnic divisions remained, etc., etc. The main point was to deny Bush any semblance of victory.
More recently there have been reports of significant political progress in the Iraqi national government [here]. [Note that the biggest obstacle to reconciliation has been an electoral system imposed by the United Nations.] Until now these have been widely ignored, but today the NYT breaks the vow of silence on progress in Iraq with this report:
Read the whole thing here.
[A]fter months of bitter feuding, Iraq’s Parliament has finally approved a budget, outlined the scope of provincial powers, set an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections and voted a general amnesty for detainees.
All these steps are essential for national conciliation.
This is a huge breakthrough.
Of course this is the New York Times, and so every positive development is accompanied by a slew of qualifications and doubts, but the fact that this bastion of liberal correctness is willing to admit that there has been "some" political progress is itself a tremendous crack in the liberal wall of denial. Reality is beginning to seep through and there is finally some hope that the Democratic Party will begin to come to terms with the real world beyond our borders.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Aussie Director Drew Heriot is developing a film, The Aquarian Gospel, about Jesus' "lost years" (between ages 13 and 30, which are not covered in the synoptic gospels). [here]
Mallika Sherawat, pictured above, has been signed to play Jesus' girlfriend who accompanies him on journeys through India, Tibet, Persia, Greece and Egypt.
Why didn't we learn about this in Sunday School?
Recognize her? That's Sarah Palin, former beauty queen, rising Republican star, and currently governor of Alaska, who is being mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain [here].
Sounds good to me. Let's see the Dems try to top her. Trouble is, Alaska doesn't have very many electoral votes and they're not really in play so she's a very long shot. Still she is a lifelong NRA member and pro-life and is a lot prettier than McCain. I'd vote for her.
Follow Norm's links for documentation and his explanation for why the Left is so insistent on asserting this blatant untruth.
Read it here.
Ralph Luker, over at HNN [here], writes about the most important quote attributed to Ms. Tubman. It goes like this:
When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, "I could have saved thousands-if only I'd been able to convince them they were slaves."This quote has been reproduced in hundreds of articles and commentaries and has been discussed by important scholars for the insight it provides into issues of power and oppression, but, as Luker points out, it quite possibly was invented by feminist writer, Robin Morgan. There appears to be no independent attribution of the quote other than an essay written by Morgan titled Goodbye to All That (#2) [here] and Morgan fails to cite a source for the quote.
Here we apparently have the fabrication of history to advance an ideological agenda -- the construction of a national narrative based on the organizing concepts of oppression and victimization. This emphasis on oppression and its presumed consequences has become the dominant motif for the teaching of history in our public institutions. While it has a certain amount of legitimacy and explanatory power, this victimization narrative is in itself a serious distortion of our national experience. The willingness of scholars to accept and widely reproduce an apparently manufactured piece of evidence touching on the psychological consequences of oppression is a disturbing reminder of the extent to which left-wing ideology and a concomitant disregard for history as it was actually experienced have characterized our national discourse.
Props to Ralph and his correspondents for exposing this sham.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Science Daily reports:
(Feb. 12, 2008) — UCLA stem cell scientists have reprogrammed human skin cells into cells with the same unlimited properties as embryonic stem cells without using embryos or eggs.Read the whole thing here.
The implications for disease treatment could be significant. Reprogramming adult stem cells into embryonic stem cells could generate a potentially limitless source of immune-compatible cells for tissue engineering and transplantation medicine.
"Our reprogrammed human skin cells were virtually indistinguishable from human embryonic stem cells," said Plath, an assistant professor of biological chemistry, a researcher with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and lead author of the study. "Our findings are an important step towards manipulating differentiated human cells to generate an unlimited supply of patient specific pluripotent stem cells. We are very excited about the potential implications."
Good news all around. There goes another campaign issue down the drain.
The state of scientific understanding is constantly changing. Yesterday's crises turn out to be today's opportunities. It is quite possible that an abundantly available supply of embryonic stem cells, such as the Democrats sought to provide, would have postponed or even precluded this immensely fruitful line of research that has produced a superior alternative.
Read it here.
This is what I keep wondering - there is all this footstomping about McCain, but if you really wanted Romney all along, you’d have supported him all along, and Thompson did not really want your support, he just wanted to audition for Veep.So who, really DID the “true conservatives” really want for president this year? Why am I still not hearing any names being bandied about - why am I still hearing only bitching…which is the easiest part of Democracy?
WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Tuesday to shield from lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.Read it here.
After nearly two months of stops and starts, the Senate rejected by a vote of 31 to 67 a move to strip away a grant of retroactive legal immunity for the companies.
has promised to veto any new surveillance bill that does not protect the companies that helped the government in its warrantless wiretapping program, arguing that it is essential if the private sector is to give the government the help it needs.
About 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecom companies by people alleging violations of wiretapping and privacy laws.
The Senate also rejected two amendments that sought to water down the immunity provision.
This is another big win for one of the most effective and consequential presidents we have ever had. Not surprisingly my least favorite Senator, Arlen Specter, tried to water down the immunity provision.
Monday, February 11, 2008
"So what's the problem?" say the activists -- "We tried a solution and it didn't work, try another."
But the problem is real. Instituting public policy to encourage or compel certain kinds of activities is expensive and introduces serious distortions into markets. We saw that when shifting agriculture to the production of biofuels created food shortages in much of the world. What is more, once instituted public policies create constituencies that will fight to keep them intact even if they prove to be counter-productive. Biofuels production has a big constituency in the farm states.
The point is that expert solutions that sound great in theory can be disastrous when applied to public policy and once instituted are very hard to change. This is why we should approach subjects like climate change hesitantly and with considerable trepidation rather than going in whole hog on the basis of expert opinion.
Global warming enthusiasts, like Sen. McCain, like to point to dramatic events like the collapse of the Larson ice shelf in Antarctica to prove their assertion that global warming is an imminent and overwhelming problem that must be addressed immediately. But time and again studies disprove that the original interpretations of these events were erroneous.
Science News Daily reports:
(Feb. 11, 2008) — When the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica collapsed in 2002, the event appeared to be a sudden response to climate change, and this long, fringing ice shelf in the north west part of the Weddell Sea was assumed to be the latest in a long line of victims of Antarctic summer heat waves linked to Global Warming.
However in a paper published in the Journal of Glaciology, Prof. Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University, working as a Fulbright Scholar in the US, and Dr Ted Scambos of University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Centre now say that the shelf was already teetering on collapse before the final summer.
“Ice shelf collapse is not as simple as we first thought,” said Professor Glasser, lead author of the paper. “Because large amounts of meltwater appeared on the ice shelf just before it collapsed, we had always assumed that air temperature increases were to blame. But our new study shows that ice-shelf break up is not controlled simply by climate. A number of other atmospheric, oceanic and glaciological factors are involved. For example, the location and spacing of fractures on the ice shelf such as crevasses and rifts are very important too because they determine how strong or weak the ice shelf is”.
So, once again the original assumptions made and conclusions reached by experts were shown to be erroneous. Once again we have an excellent example of why scientific authority is an inadequate guide for making public policy and a warning against undertaking precipitate and potentially mis-informed action that will have unforeseen consequences for future generations.
Read the article here.