Day By Day

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Words of Wisdom

From Freeman Dyson:

The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with. The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts. But beyond the disagreement about facts, there is another deeper disagreement about values. The disagreement about values may be described in an over-simplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists. Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil. Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert, into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The greatest evils are poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, disease and hunger, all the conditions that deprive people of opportunities and limit their freedoms. The humanist ethic accepts an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a small price to pay, if world-wide industrial development can alleviate the miseries of the poorer half of humanity. The humanist ethic accepts our responsibility to guide the evolution of the planet.


Read the whole thing here. Words of wisdom indeed. Count me solidly in the ranks of the humanists.

And the Beat Goes On...

Yet another Obama nominee has trouble paying taxes. The WaPo reports:

WASHINGTON -- Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius recently corrected three years of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes after finding "unintentional errors" _ the latest tax troubles for an Obama administration nominee.

Read the whole thing here.

This stuff has long since passed the point of being a joke. There seems to be a systemic problem among the Democrat elites -- they raise taxes on the rest of us, but are remarkably lax when it comes to paying them. Why is this not more of an issue? Could it be that Republican elites could not bear similar scrutiny.

This steady drip, drip, drip of embarrassing revelations seriously erodes public confidence in the legitimacy of our government, not just of this administration. There is something definitely rotten here within our national political class and someday [soon we may hope] there will be a reckoning.

More Miami Pictures [On the Beach]

Of course the main reason people go to Miami is to hang out on the beaches. We were there for a professional meeting and were staying downtown but first chance we got we headed east. Here's a bit of what we saw.



As you can see we are walking from north to south heading for South Beach. These guard stands are iconic -- everyone takes pictures of them, so why not me? What makes this one neat for me is those birds taking flight on the right of the image. They are called "Laughing Gulls".



Lifeguard stations are all well and good, but people watching is where it's at on the beach. Here we are a couple of blocks further South and the "birds" on the beach [sorry for the sixties British slang] are of a completely different species.



Tearing my attention away from the sand I looked out across the water.



And there's this. The original image was a bit hazy so I ramped up the contrast and boy did it make a difference. You can really see the contrasting hues of sand, surf, and blue water. It doesn't look real, but I don't care -- I like it this way.

Fascists

Jim Treacher twitters: Remember: The guy who's trying to nationalize industry and start his own youth corps isn't the fascist. That was the previous occupant.

Somebody oughta write a book about this sort of thing..., oh, that's right..., Jonah Goldberg did.


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Teleprompter In Chief

I had earlier speculated as to whether Obama's staff were feeding him answers, via teleprompter, during his press conferences [here]. Well it turns out it's true.

The Hill reports:
[Obama is] so addicted to the teleprompter that one is tempted to believe he relies on it in private conversations with his wife and kids. He uses it for large speeches, news conferences and small gatherings. It turns out that he is to past presidents as news readers are to actual reporters. He reportedly even wants a video screen installed on his podium so that aides can provide answers to questions during press conferences.
Read it here.

The glamor surrounding "The One" is beginning to dissipate and as it does he is being revealed not just as an ordinary political hack but as something much less. The guy actually wants to become a sock puppet for his staffers.


Iowahawk On Our Leaders

An Uncomfortable Truth

Writing in the New York Times, Yale economist Robert Schiller discusses an approach to understanding the behavior of markets based in social psychology, a perspective favored by Larry Summers, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, former President of Harvard, and now top economic advisor to Barak Obama. In the course of that article Schiller makes a remarkable admission:

Of course, forecasts based on a theory of mind are subject to egregious error. They cannot accurately predict the future. But the uncomfortable truth has to be that such forecasts need to be respected alongside econometric forecasts, which cannot reliably predict the future, either.
In other words, we're flying blind and don't have a clue as to either the short or long-term consequences of present economic policies. Yet such is the impenetrable arrogance of the current administration that they are willing to make wild gambles with our nation's future based upon admittedly inadequate predictive models.

Read the article here.

Be afraid..., be very afraid!

Responses

OK, the comparison is inevitable. When disaster hit New Orleans the local residents took it as an opportunity to loot.



But when disaster hit Fargo, the local residents responded in a completely different manner.



The contrast between civic cultures is dramatic. A tradition of dependency on government evokes a certain kind of reaction to distress; but a tradition of self-reliance results in something quite different.

For more wonderful pictures of the Red River disaster go here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Miami Pictures

Miami's skyline is oh, so modern and quite impressive. But what I really love about the city is the old Miami I remember from my youth.



Old Miami was a riot of color, very Caribbean in flavor. Amidst the glass towers there still remain hints of what once was.







It is sobering to realize that I am old enough to remember when these were new.

Enough of downtown. Tomorrow..., South Beach.

More Pennsylvania [and one Florida] Pictures

I'm not in PA, but here are a few pictures from earlier in the week.



Along Rte #78 near Allentown.



Redtail over Saucon Valley.



Thai iced tea at the White Orchids. Makes me think of Guiness.



Sun rays over Hamburg.



And for the contrast, bougainvillea in Miami.

Miami Report -- Raving

Tonight thousands of young people are swarming into the area around our hotel. I asked one guy what was going on. "A Rave!" he replied. "People are coming from all over the world."

I checked it out. Indeed there is a twelve-hour concert being held one block from where we are staying. It is being produced by ViRAM and FSOB. That seems to mean something to the young folk, but nothing to me. From the advertisements it seems that about thirty groups will be performing. I had never heard of any of them, but then I quit listening to pop music in the mid-sixties [about the time it got political].

This afternoon my brother and I were walking around the area and heard them testing the equipment. Lots of heavy bass beats and LOUD! I hope it doesn't penetrate our room -- we need the sleep.

It has started -- Ed Rush and Optical up first. Here's a sample of their work.

Already I'm cringing.

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

When Obama talked about spreading the wealth around he wasn't kidding. The redistributionist, anti-capitalist elements of his stimulus programs are serious stuff, but nothing compared to what is coming down the pike.

Here's an alarming item from FOX News:

A United Nations document on "climate change" that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body.

Those and other results are blandly discussed in a discretely [discreetly?] worded United Nations "information note" on potential consequences of the measures that industrialized countries will likely have to take to implement the Copenhagen Accord, the successor to the Kyoto Treaty, after it is negotiated and signed by December 2009. The Obama administration has said it supports the treaty process if, in the words of a U.S. State Department spokesman, it can come up with an "effective framework" for dealing with global warming.

Read it here.

Oh my, oh my, oh my!!!

Losing Interest in AIG

AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) - From the White House through the halls of Congress, Washington is losing its zeal for an all-out fight over hefty executive bonuses, now that it wants the financial companies it blames for the collapse of the U.S. economy to help clean up the mess.

Read it here.

Of course they're losing interest. The show trial of AIG execs has accomplished its purposes. It served to distract the public from the previous issue of discussion -- Obama's incompetence -- and allowed the Democrats to go on the attack against dat ol' debbil, capitalism. Time to move on to the next distraction, lest people start to again question the wisdom of the Young Messiah's policies.

One thing that needs to be pointed out before the subject is completely dropped, though. Commentator after commentator has described the attacks as an upwelling of "populism" and as such somehow illegitimate, but the whole affair was cooked up by political elites operating out of the White House and Congress, was sustained by the elite media, and served to deflect attention away from a real populist movement -- the nationwide tea protests. All in all, it has been a masterful exercise in political manipulation.


John Hope Franklin Is Gone


One of the greatest, certainly one of the most influential, historians of my lifetime has died. John Hope Franklin passed away two days ago at his home in North Carolina. He was 94.

Here's the New York Times obituary. He was a remarkable man.

And, (my wife will appreciate this) he grew orchids..., lots of them..., big ones, small ones, rare ones..., you name it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hangin' Out in Miami



"She Who Must Not Be Named" and I flew down to Miami today. Got up early (3:00 am) to finish packing [damn those luggage limits], got to the Airport at 6:00, waited for the plane, took off around 9:00 and soon "high above the clouds we fly". We got to the hotel around 1:00 pm; I was already tired and ready for a nap, but the room wasn't ready and wouldn't be for three hours. Oh well! We ate a long lunch and wandered around looking at the neighborhood a bit, then I found a comfortable seat in the lobby and dozed off.


I woke up to this. There were several beautiful young women standing around the lobby. I asked SWMNBN, "models?" "She" replied, "could be, they're skinny enough" and added "they look like sticks". I leave it to your judgment, are they indeed sticky?

Indeed they were models. There was a fashion show nearby and the reason they were standing around was that they were waiting for the organizer to show up with their checks. He showed, handed out the filthy lucre, they all hugged and then split.

Finally we got to our room. I immediately collapsed on the bed and fell asleep while "She" unpacked her things.

It didn't take her long to finish organizing everything to her satisfaction, then "She" poked me awake saying, "lets go, I need to get some things." She wanted to find a convenience store but wasn't about to go out of the hotel by herself.



We explored the area near our hotel. It was fascinating -- lots of brand new buildings, some really nice architecture. This is a picture of Miami Beach, off across the Bay. Tomorrow while "She" is in meetings my brother and I will be heading over there, although if he brings a camera we might head down to the Japanese Gardens on Jungle Island instead and leave South Beach for another day.



I mentioned local architecture. Check these out. Last time I was in Miami, a few years back, none of these existed. The real estate boom of the past couple of decades has really changed this part of the city for the better..., much better. This used to be "Little Haiti" with "Little Havana" off to the West and "Liberty City" to the North. Now the area hosts high-end fashion shows.

Eventually "She" found just what she was looking for -- a shopping arcade down by Biscayne Bay that had all sorts of things including a convenience store. "She" shopped while I carried, then "She" kept shopping while I sat and watched TV outside a nearby bar. Eventually "She" was shopped out (for now) and we trundled back to our hotel for some badly needed sleep.

Smelling Blood

Ralph Peters doesn't mince words. I don't usually agree with him, but this time he's saying something that needs saying.

AMERICA'S enemies smell blood and it's type "O."

All new administrations stumble a bit as they seek their footing. But President Obama's foreign-policy botches have set new records for instant incompetence.

Contrary to left-wing myths, I wasn't a fan of the Bush administration. (I called for Donald Rumsfeld to get the boot in mid-2001.) But fair's fair. Despite his many faults, Bush sought to do good. Obama just wants to look good.

Vice President Dick Cheney was arrogant. Vice President Joe Biden is arrogant and stupid. Take your pick.

Don't worry about the new administration's ideology. Worry about its terrifying naivete.

Read the whole thing here.

And here's the thing. The dangerous cluelessness and moral idiocy exhibited by Obama and his team is pretty much typical of Ivy League academicians -- you know, the kind of people who instructed Obama at Columbia, which is the only place he would have had any contact with serious discourse over foreign policy. These days advanced degrees from an Ivy League institution are no guarantee of competence. In fact, in highly politicized areas [and what isn't these days?] you might be well advised to assume incompetence.


The Most Beautiful Politician In the World


That's Luciana Leon, from Peru. There must be something about the mountain air down there because number 2, Mercedes Araoz is also from Peru.

Sarah Palin, the top ranked American, came in at #24 and, believe it or not, Hillary! Clinton was #34.

Don Surber has the details here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chema Madoz


I'm not usually a big fan of surrealism, but this guy is great. Chema Madoz is one of the wittiest photographers I've seen and his images are both original and delightful. Check out more of them here.

Rahm Texts During Presser

Rahm Emmanuel and Valerie Jarrett were texting messages on their blackberries during the Dear Leader's press conference.



They don't look too happy. Bloggers have been speculating on what messages they were getting, but I'm more interested in what messages they were sending. Remember Obama brought a teleprompter with him to the news conference. That seemed strange, but could he have been using it to get prompts from Rahm on how to answer specific questions? Seems reasonable.

Is "The One" a mere hand puppet?

You Get What You Deserve

Mark Steyn on the congressional jihad against AIG executives:
[I]f you own even modest assets (a small house, a savings account) and you think that in a battle between the political class and the business class it's in your interest for the latter to lose, you're a fool who entirely deserves the vaporization of his wealth on which Barney Frank & Co have embarked.
Read it here.

Skipping Merrily Down the Road to Serfdom

From the WaPo:
The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president's Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

Read it here.

Gee, and you believed that bit about him not being a socialist.

The essential fallacy of this entire thing is the belief that government bureaucrats can make credit and investment decisions more wisely than businessmen who, to use one of Obama's more disgusting figures of speech, have "skin in the game".

Incredible!

The Obamination has decided that there is no Global War on Terror. Instead we now have..., wait for it..., an "Overseas Contingency Operation".

That's right -- pure bureaucratise.

Read about it here.

Unfortunately for the Young Messiah, changing the terminology does not change the facts. We are still involved in a global war with terror organizations and the states that sponsor them.

As I said, "Incredible" as in "not to be believed".

Obama vs the CBO


Remember the past several years when Democrats were assaulting Bush for his supposed fiscal irresponsibility? Of course you do! Well, back then Dems swore up and down that CBO figures could be trusted and that they invalidated administration projections of the deficit. Actually there was little discrepancy between the CBO and administration figures.

Well, things have changed.

Now that the Democrats are writing the budgets they have decided all of a sudden that CBO figures are not to be trusted. That's because the CBO contradicts our Dear Leader's projections of future deficits, and not by a few percentage points [as was the case under Bush] but by a whopping 33 percent!!!

I guess Obama figures, if you are going to lie, lie big!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Mean we Have to Sterilize These Things?

If you want a preview of how Obamacare will perform, check out the VA system here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Case Against Regulation

There's a terrific post by Scott Sumner on why Democrat proposals for strict federal regulation of credit markets are, in economic terms, complete nonsense.

One can look at the sub-prime fiasco from a theoretical perspective, or a empirical perspective, but what one cannot do is compare an ideal regulatory scheme to actual banking practices. No one doubts that we would be better off if we could go back in time and install a regulation banning sub-prime mortgages in 2004. But if we had that ability, the bankers would have also known what was coming, and would never had made the loans in the first place.

[I hope no one gives me the silly moralistic argument that the villains got off Scott-free, while innocent investors were left holding the bag. The villains are exactly the people who have lost $100s of billions of dollars, even after the bailouts. I know it is never that way in Hollywood movies, but real life is different. This never would have happened (even without regulation) if bankers could have seen into the future.]

So the anti-EMH [efficient market hypothesis] argument for regulation must be based on the following; bankers are irrational and make lots of foolish loans. Regulators are rational and can see that these loans are too risky, and can protect bankers from hurting themselves. At a theoretical level this doesn’t even pass the laugh test. But what happened in practice? What position did the “regulators” take in this crisis? First we need to define “regulators,” who are much more than just the low-paid Federal bureaucrats that oversee the banking industry. Regulators are the watchmen, those who watch the watchmen, and those who watch those who watch the watchmen. In other words:

1. The President
2. Congress
3. The Fed
4. The media
5. Most academics
6. Nouriel Roubini [economist who predicted the current crisis]

Guess how many of these institutions warned us about the sub-prime crisis. Now guess how many were encouraging banks to behave even more recklessly than they did. Unless we plan on making Roubini dictator of the world, there is zero evidence from the sub-prime crisis that simply giving regulators more power would have helped. And how do we know that even Roubini wasn’t just lucky, and might miss the next fiasco?

There's an extended argument attached -- it even dips into the realm of philosophy. Well worth your time. Read the whole thing here.

Shatner is 77 Today


Happy Birthday William Shatner. To commemorate the occasion could we hear it once again..., and again..., and again...



And now, how about some "Rocketman"?



Aaaaaah, the memories....

Duplicity

We went to see "Duplicity" today. It's a serviceable romantic caper flick starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, but nothing to get excited about.

There's a lot of talent on display here -- Roberts and Owen are old pros; so are Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, Denis O'Hare, and Kathleen Chalfant and others in the supporting cast. They all do competent jobs. The cinematography, likewise, is competent, if a tad lazy; so is the direction. The plot is overly complicated, but not too hard to follow. The dialogue tries to be smart, but is actually pedestrian. There's not one memorable line in the entire film. The locations standard for this kind of movie, bouncing from Dubai to Rome, to New York and places beyond, but this is all stuff we've seen before many times.

"Duplicity" is watchable, but does not strongly involve the viewer. I think this is due to the fact that we don't really believe the relationship between the two leads. The "caper" part of the formula is too complicated and the far more important "romantic" part just doesn't click. The fault is not with the actors, who do their jobs, but with the script and direction, and that places the blame squarely on Tony Gilroy who directed his own screenplay. Gilroy has done decent work in the past, on the Bourne films [which he wrote] and Michael Clayton [his only other directorial turn], but this effort barely passes muster.

"Duplicity" is a by-the-numbers flick. If you have money and gas to spare, go to see it -- but if not, fire up the DVD and watch "The Thomas Crown Affair" [either version] or "Charade"[definitely the Cary Grant version, not the one with Marky Mark], you'll have a much better experience.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Denglish

Now this is an interesting development:

Der Spiegel reports:

As education becomes an export product, Dutch universities are increasingly switching to English as the language of instruction -- some say that higher education is suffering as a result.
Read it here.

There seems to be a bit of resistance, especially on the part of faculty who are having to learn a new language late in life. The heavily accented broken English they speak has been termed "Denglish". The reason for the shift is globalization and the need to prepare students to work in an international setting where transactions are increasingly negotiated in English. Makes sense to me.

Gets me to thinking...,

Wouldn't it be nice to spend a year teaching in a Dutch university?



Friday, March 20, 2009

President Zo-Bama

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- Red Tails

Walked out the front door, looked up in the sky, and this is what I saw. You can see why they call them red-tails.



Of course the resident crows were in a tizzy.



They quieted down as he moved off to the west, then he saw something and dived. He was too far away to get a good shot and in a matter of seconds disappeared below the treeline, but this is his silhouette as he began his stoop.



Headed up the hill into the woods, hoping to see some signs of Spring, but there wasn't much -- lots of dead leaves and bare branches and interesting shadows.



Emerging onto a field further down the ridge I spotted a tree stump. Sat down for a minute and looked up to see:



Yep, another red-tail on the hunt. I watched him circle for a few minutes, snapped several pictures, then packed my camera and headed home.

Just another day in the glorious commonwealth.

Iowahawk Strikes Again -- Tards

Check out Iowahawk's response to Obama's flub on Leno [here].

Remember, we have to keep supporting "The Wun" no matter how often he screws up, because he's so..., so..., Special!!!

And he appears to have "special needs".

Spring -- It Won't Be Long Now


Have a very happy first day of Spring. This is one of my favorite images. I just stood at my front door and aimed my camera at the sky and those pink things got in the way.

The Costs Of the Crisis


Excellent photo essay at the Boston Globe website [here] on the global effects of the credit crisis. I particularly like this picture of a few of the 57,000 vehicles unloaded at the Port of Baltimore [mostly because I live not far from there]. These SUVs are sitting and sitting, waiting for customers' orders that aren't coming.



And then there are pictures that illustrate the human costs, like this of a tent city in California. I suspect that, like many of those iconic images of the Great Depression of the Thirties, was posed and costumed -- the flag jacket is a dead giveaway -- but even though the picture is a lie, the sentiment behind it rings true.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Implications of Change

A couple of potentially big stories broke in the past few days.

First, from the Wall Street Journal:

Migration around the U.S. slowed to a crawl last year, especially for this decade's boom towns, as a weak housing market and job insecurity forced many Americans to stay put.

Demographers say the dropoff in migration, shown in Census data to be released Thursday, is among the sharpest since the Great Depression. It marks the end of what Brookings Institution demographer William Frey calls a "migration bubble."

As asset values rose fairly steadily in the past decade, Americans young and old moved around the country in search of jobs or better weather. In many cases, people living in higher-cost housing markets such as San Francisco and New York cashed in their real-estate winnings and moved to outlying counties, or to states like Florida and Nevada, hoping to find a cheaper house and pocket the difference. Now, "people are hanging tight; they're too scared to do anything," said Mr. Frey.

Read it here.

The second major story was noted in the New York Times.

More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than in any other year in American history, according to preliminary data reported Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The 4,317,000 births in 2007 just edged out the figure for 1957, at the height of the baby boom. The increase reflected a slight rise in childbearing by women of all ages, including those in their 30s and 40s, and a record share of births to unmarried women.

But in contrast with the culturally transforming postwar boom, when a smaller population of women bore an average of three or four children, the recent increase mainly reflects a larger population of women of childbearing age, said Stephanie J. Ventura, chief of reproductive statistics at the center and an author of the new report. Today, the average woman has 2.1 children.

Also in 2007, for the second straight year and in a trend health officials find worrisome, the rate of births to teenagers rose slightly after declining by one-third from 1991 to 2005.
Read it here.

They say that "demography is destiny" and there is a great amount of truth in the saying. Significant changes in the rates of migration [including immigration] and fertility can have a dramatic effect on the American society and its institutions. In designing, funding, and staffing our institutions we build in certain assumptions, the most important of which is that current trends will continue into the indefinite future. It's too early yet to say whether any of these observed changes represent new tends, but they should warn us that the plans we are currently making are based on future projections that might well be inaccurate.

This is something to keep an eye on.

The Danger of Technocracy

One of the most dangerous of the Goreite loons out there is James Hansen who has parlayed his employment at NASA into a position as a leading advocate for radical environmental reform. Yesterday, while preparing to join a protest march in England, Hansen declared that the democratic process was broken and that meaningful change would require resort to non-democratic means.

Read about it here.

This is how technocracy always ends up. Impatient with the pace of democratic change, the "experts", convinced of their own superior wisdom, always subvert democracy and restrict the freedom of citizens. This is why technocratic imperatives must always be resisted.

Revolutionary Measures

From the International Herald Tribune:

WASHINGTON: The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities.

Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed's measures in the last year.

Read it here.

This is a sure recipe for inflation as soon as credit starts flowing again, and we are not talking about the steady 2-3% inflation that has characterized the American economy in recent decades. This promises to be at least as bad as the ruinous inflation of the Seventies.

A few quotes that seem appropriate at this time:

In his book "The Ascent of Money" Niall Ferguson quotes John Maynard Keynes, who in turn attributes the idea to Lenin, to the effect that:

There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.

Lenin's colleague, Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, described the banknote-printing press as

that machine-gun of the Commissariat of Finance which poured fire into the rear of the bourgeois system.

Wow! It looks as if the Obamination was serious when they promised fundamental, even revolutionary, change. We're talking about measures that threaten the very social fabric of this nation.

Be afraid of this guy in the White House..., be very afraid.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shep, Shep, Shep!!!

Shep Smith spells out congressional responsibility for the AIG scandal.



I would have done the timeline a bit differently, but come to the same conclusion. This is devastating and should be played and replayed everywhere.

Lileks on the NEA

Lileks does it again. Another screedblog [they seem to be coming with more regularity these days]. This time his target is a fatuous fool at the Huffington Post who has some ideas about reconfiguring the National Endowment for the Arts. Delicious as always.

Read it here.

Europeanization and American Exceptionalism

One of the most provocative thinkers in America today is Charles Murray. Go here to read his thoughts on American exceptionalism, the threat of Europeanization, and the problematic orientation of the present administration. They are well worth noting.

Who Broke AIG? -- Tom Maguire Knows

The party line, issuing from the White House and being repeated over and over in the media and in Congress is that the current crisis is the result of insufficient government oversight and what is needed now is increased regulation of business activities. But inconvenient facts keep popping up to counter this self-serving account.

Banks and insurance companies are in themselves stringently regulated so the argument doesn't work very well when applied to them. But the market in derivative trading is largely unregulated and so the finger of blame has been pointed there. Tom Maguire, however, has taken a close look at how AIG bailout funds have been distributed and notes that the largest payments [representing the scale of distress] occurred in highly regulated institutions and not in the unregulated securities trading firms. He analyzes the figures, notes that media reporting on the nature of the crisis has been shamefully wrong, and wonders why the American people are being lied to. He concludes:

Why the misdirected coverage? My guess is that we are seeing an unholy alliance of insurance regulators who would rather point the finger at unregulated credit derivatives, people who always favor more regulation as the answer to everything, and public officials who don't want people to wonder whether other staid, boring insurance companies that don't do credit derivatives might still have huge problems in their core portfolios. Since securities lending lacks the glamour of M&A or international "Master of the Universe" trading, the media is easily distracted.
Read the whole thing here -- it's an eye-opener.

More Messing With the Census

ACORN will be participating in the conduct of the next census survey. Doesn't that give you confidence in the outcome? Not me.

Read about it here.

Obama Incompetence Watch

Brazil's President was in town and scheduled for a meeting with the Young Messiah, but that might put a crimp in Obama's plans to party hearty so:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — His meet and greet with the U.S. president was bumped to Saturday, and when the White House announced his official visit, they misspelled his name.
About par for the course with this cluster of clowns. As one of the British ministers said, Obama can't even be bothered to fake an interest in foreign policy.

Read about it here.

Uh Oh!


Look who has been having secret meetings in the West Wing! This explains a lot.

Shameless and Scary


And speaking of greater evils -- Jay Ambrose gets to the heart of the AIG scandal.

As obnoxiously avaricious as these AIG contractual bonuses were, it is authoritarian, unconstitutional overreach for the government to try to block them at this point. Obama does not care. He shares the blame for anger at the executives, having railed repeatedly and demagogically against economically insignificant CEO salaries, and now that this public fury is turning in his direction, his administration is making it clear it is perfectly happy to throw the rule of law overboard.

Read it here -- he also has some juicy words for the Young Messiah.

Authoritarianism, disregard for constitutional limits, shameless demagoguery, death threats -- sound familiar?

Obama is leading us into dark and dangerous territory.

Cartoon, Michael Ramirez at IBD. Check him out here.

Ultimate Evil

There are those who would argue that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime were the greatest evils of the modern world. It's a fair argument, but others looking at the historical record would beg to differ. Jonathan Brent is one -- he remembers Stalin.

Read about him here.

I personally would nominate Mao Tse Tung as the greatest evil, but Brent has a point with Stalin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Good President (continued) -- Silence

George Bush, like his father, is a consummate gentleman. AP reports:

CALGARY, Alberta – Former President George W. Bush said on Tuesday that he won't criticize Barack Obama because the new U.S. president "deserves my silence..." Bush declined to critique the Obama administration in his first speech since leaving office in January.

....

"I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena," Bush said. "He deserves my silence."

Bush said he wants Obama to succeed and said it's important that he has that support.

....

"I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

Read it here.

Compare this with the sniping and posturing and politicking we have seen from Jimmy [the miserable wretch] Carter and Bill [lookatme, lookatme] Clinton.

Dubya was a damn good president, maybe (depending on how things turn out) a great one. One thing is sure though, he is a good and a great man.

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone

Another Diplomatic Failure for Obama

Now it's Mexico!

The Financial Times reports:
A long-simmering trade dispute boiled over into sanctions on Monday after Mexico said it would raise tariffs on $2.4bn of US exports in retaliation for ending a pilot programme to allow Mexican trucks on American roads.

The announcement marks one of the first big tests for trade policy under President Barack Obama, who has sought to tread a fine line between assuaging his domestic constituencies and upholding the US’s international obligations.

Mexico said it would increase tariffs on 90 industrial and agricultural goods, likely to include politically sensitive farm products, after Congress last week killed a pilot programme allowing a limited number of Mexican trucks on American highways.
Read the whole thing here.

Geithner's Inglorious Past

Democrats never tire of arguing that the financial crisis and the initial response to it happened on President Bush's watch. Fair enough. But we should note that the response that the response, which Democrats brand a failure, was not formulated without significant Democrat input.

Last November the New York Times reported this regarding Obama's nomination for Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner:

As president of the New York Federal Reserve since 2003, Mr. Geithner has straddled Wall Street and Washington as a central player in trying to resolve the most significant financial crisis in more than 60 years. He would bring a deep understanding of Wall Street and a close working relationship with Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, his partner in the $700 million bailout, along with Treasury Secretary Henry N. Paulson, Jr.
Read it here. [emphasis mine]

So Geithner was one of the architects of the "failed" policy? Interesting..., verrrrry interrresting!

Oh, and the article reveals one more thing. Geithner is not an economist. Even more interesting.

And there is this. Geithner learned his craft working for Robert Rubin, who during the Clinton adminstration oversaw the growth of the disastrous tech bubble and then ruined Citycorp, and Larry Summers, who failed as President of Harvard.

Why does this not inspire confidence that the tax cheat is the right man to confront today's crisis?

Just sayin'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shelby Steele On the Future of Conservatism

There is an interesting article by Shelby Steele in the Wall Street Journal on why Conservatives can never succeed with minority voters.

He argues that conservatives, when challenged to respond to the nation's racial past and current inequalities, offer only personal responsibility and discipline as solutions, trusting to the invisible hand to eventually right all wrongs. In doing so they are certainly right both morally and substantially, but such an approach can never succeed politically.

Liberals, by contrast, accept the concept of collective guilt and offer collective redemption through activism. The fact that remedial programs almost always fail to deliver promised gains and are often counter-productive is beside the point. What matters is that Liberals are seen to be taking action and that, to most Americans, is the only possible path to redemption for past wrongs.

But even that path will not lead to redemption. American minorities, especially Blacks, are so strongly wedded to grievance narratives that is will never be possible for them collectively to forgive White Americans for past sins. So ultimately the racial divide will never be healed and Republicans will never be able to make significant inroads into Black minority voting blocs.

In conclusion he writes:

The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity. I always secretly loved Malcolm X more than Martin Luther King Jr. because Malcolm wanted a fuller human dignity for blacks -- one independent of white moral wrestling. In a liberalism that wants to redeem the nation of its past, minorities can only be ciphers in white struggles of conscience.

Liberalism's glamour follows from its promise of a new American innocence. But the appeal of conservatism is relief from this supercilious idea. Innocence is not possible for America. This nation did what it did. And conservatism's appeal is that it does not bank on the recovery of lost innocence. It seeks the discipline of ordinary people rather than the virtuousness of extraordinary people. The challenge for conservatives today is simply self-acceptance, and even a little pride in the way we flail away at problems with an invisible hand.

Read the whole thing here.

Steele is certainly insightful, but I hope he is wrong in his conclusions. He seems to be saying that moderate conservatism, such as that pursued by President Bush, will always fail, but the alternative, principled conservatism, offers nothing other than a personal sense of righteousness. Either way the Republicans will be consigned to the margins of America's political culture.

But history suggests otherwise. Republicans have been electorally successful for most of the past quarter century and Dubya's compassionate conservatism did make significant, if temporary, inroads into minority voting blocs. Obama's election certainly did, as Steele asserts, depend to a great extent on the promise of redemption for white guilt, but when that redemption fails to materialize, the cheap moralism on which that guilt is premised will be significantly diminished, and with it the popular appeal of liberal group-think. Perhaps in the future Republicans will never be able to successfully appeal to a significant number of Black voters, but that does not mean that Republicans will not be electorally successful otherwise.

At least I hope that's the case. We need a strong two party system.

The Gloves Are Off

P. J. O'Rourke is a brave and principled man. He is currently in treatment for cancer. As a cancer patient he is precisely the kind of person who would be expected to strongly support the administrations position on funding for embryonic stem cell research, but his principles lead him to speak honestly, something that the Young Messiah seems to be incapable of doing.

In his latest column [here] O'Rourke argues that President Obama is a blatant and amoral liar who does not hesitate to undermine fundamental democratic principles in pursuit of his agenda. The case in point is the speech Obama gave defending his removal of the restriction on using federal funds to support embryonic stem cell research which, Democrat lies to the contrary, is not the same thing as a ban on stem cell research, but the implication is that similar judgments could be made regarding other Obama declarations.

O'Rourke, perhaps because in his present circumstances he has little to fear either professionally or personally, is the first major journalist to openly launch such charges against Obama. Will this be the first of many? I suspect so.

1984 All Over Again

Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Guantanamo is still open, but there are no longer "enemy combatants" there (Perhaps the name of the camp can be changed next?). The old campaign snicker that a na├»ve McCain really believed that a then-stronger economy is "fundamentally sound" is now the new Obama gospel about a far weaker one. There are to be no more earmarks in spite of 8,000-plus new ones. A $3.6 trillion-dollar budget is proof of commitment to financial responsibility; the remedy of Bush’s borrowing profligacy is to increase the deficit from $500 billion to $1.7 trillion. Bush’s signing statements bad; Obama’s signing statements good. An end to lobbyists in an administration ensure there are over ten; the highest ethical standards mean the nominations of Daschle, Richardson, etc. The changing meaning of words really does trump memory and reality itself.
Read it here.

What hurts is the blatant contempt these clowns in Washington have for the American people and the fact that they are getting away with it. As Bob Dole used to say, "where is the outrage?"

The Fruits of Victory in Iraq

ABC reports:

Dramatic advances in public attitudes are sweeping Iraq, with declining violence, rising economic well-being and improved services lifting optimism, fueling confidence in public institutions and bolstering support for democracy.

The gains in the latest ABC News/BBC/NHK poll represent a stunning reversal of the spiral of despair caused by Iraq's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. The sweeping rebound, extending initial improvements first seen a year ago, marks no less than the opportunity for a new future for Iraq and its people.
Read it here.

At least ABC has the decency to note in passing that these dramatic improvements date from the time when the Good President was still in office. Of course, they waited until Obama was safely elected to report on them.

This is not to say that violence has ceased. Just three weeks ago my nephew was in a convoy [BBC reported that it was a combat mission, but it was just a "meet and greet" with local officials] that was ambushed. Three of his men and an interpreter were killed. They rounded up three of the attackers, turned them over to Iraqi authorities, and a local judge released them back onto the street.

Double faugh!

The Horror, The Horror!

The Times reports:

The NHS is to advertise free operations to reverse female circumcisions, with experts warning that each year more than 500 British girls have their genitals mutilated.

Despite having been outlawed in 1985, female circumcision is still practised in British African communities, in some cases on girls as young as 5. Police have been unable to bring a single prosecution even though they suspect that community elders are being flown from the Horn of Africa to carry out the procedures.

Read it here.

Once again we ask, where is the feminist outrage?

Faugh!

Ron Silver -- RIP

Ron Silver was one of the good guys -- bright, talented, well-informed and vitally concerned about this nation and its people. He was a good guy (albeit misguided) back when he was a flaming liberal, and he was a good guy when he finally woke up and realized what a miserable con liberalism was. His example should serve as a caution against demonizing those who disagree with us.

Goodbye Ron, we remember you fondly.

Lileks Takes On the Communitarians

Lileks cuts loose on the cheap moralistic posturing of lefties and in the process demolishes Amitai Etzioni [nee Werner Falk] one of the most pretentious of the communitarian theorists, exposing the fascist core of his social agenda. Etzioni's program seems to boil down to:

What’s the point of freedom if people waste it on themselves?

Nobody does this sort of thing better than Lileks. Read it here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Obama's Climate Hypocrisy

Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiew suggests that Obama's budget proposal reveals his and his advisors' deepest beliefs regarding the economy [here].

1. They are economic optimists and expect their policies to work over the course of the next few years.

2. They like to spend. Rather than reining in expensive entitlement programs they are expanding them and creating new ones.

3. They are deficit doves and plan to continue deficit spending long after the current crisis is resolved.

All of these are disturbing to conservatives, but for me the most problematic is this:

4. They are serious about climate change and not just because of environmental concerns. They see a massive cap and trade system as a major source of government revenue in the future. In a very real sense environmental reform will be a huge tax increase on the American people, but also by making the government dependent on ever more stringent environmental restrictions they will guarantee not only the permanence of their system but its future expansion. And this comes even as the the scientific consensus upon which environmental reform is based starts to crumble.

Writing in the Telegraph Christopher Booker notes that the political determination to adopt environmental legislation runs precisely counter to the best current science which holds that:

Sea levels are not shooting up but only continuing their modest 3mm a year rise over the past 200 years. The vast Antarctic ice-sheet is not melting, except in one tiny corner, the Antarctic Peninsula. Tropical hurricane activity, far from increasing, is at its lowest level for 30 years. The best correlation for temperature fluctuations is not CO2 but the magnetic activity of the sun.
Read it here.

But then the Left never really cares about "science". To them environmentalism is only an excuse for expanding the intrusion of government into the lives of Americans and expanding its revenue base by inflicting more taxes on them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Michael Ramirez On Obama

American Economy "Sound" According to Obama

From the AP:

Obama says US economy sound, reassures investors

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday downplayed divisions between the U.S. and Europe over how to tackle the world's financial crisis and said China should have "absolute confidence" that its sizable investments in the United States are safe.
Read it here.

Remember during the campaign when McCain said the same thing he was savagely attacked by the Democrats and the MSM? Of course you do!

Sigh!

The Russian Bear Threatens

To build strategic air bases in Cuba and Venezuela.

Read about it here.

Funny, they didn't dare to pull this sort of stuff while Dubya was in charge.

Riots in Northern Ireland

The tenuous peace in Northern Ireland is falling apart. AP reports:
LURGAN, Northern Ireland – Irish nationalist gangs hurled gasoline bombs at police Saturday after three alleged IRA dissidents were arrested on suspicion of killing two British soldiers in an attack designed to trigger wider violence in Northern Ireland.
Read it here.

As American leadership dithers, the world begins to crumble.

A Remarkable Human


Those who criticize Sarah Palin for deciding to give birth to a child with Down Syndrome should note the career of Andrea Fay Friedman.

Because Andrea was born with Down syndrome, the pediatrician told her parents to send her straight to an institution because she would not develop beyond the mental age of four or five. Her parents, Harold and Marjorie Friedman, ignored the doctor's advice, took Andrea home, loved her, taught her and worked to help her develop to her full potential.

....

In 1991, she auditioned for and won the continuing part of Amanda, Corky's (Chris Burke) girlfriend in the TV series "Life Goes On" and became a permanent member of the cast for two seasons.

In addition to "Life Goes On," Andrea has been a featured guest star on episodes of "Baywatch," "Touched By An Angel," "Chicago Hope," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "7th Heaven," "The Division," "Law and Order, SVU " and the star of her own Christmas special, "Smudge."

"So what", you say, "It takes no intelligence to be an actor." Well..., granted, but then there's this:

Andrea is often invited to be a motivational speaker and supporter of causes that help other challenged people. In October, 1994, she addressed the students and faculty at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education....

She lives independently in her own apartment, which she shares with her best friend. When she is not acting, she works in the accounting department of a major law firm. She drives her own car and manages her own schedule, budget, housekeeping and social life.

Granted, Andrea is unusual, but if the eugenicists had their way she would have been judged defective and never been born at all.

Read about this remarkable human being here and here.


Friday, March 13, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures

Descending into the valley. Note the little white signs on the tree trunks -- this area is heavily posted.



Spooky! This was taken on the night of the big moon, when Luna was closer to the Earth than it will be at any other time this year.


Aaaaah, home sweet home -- a real fixer-upper.



Early morning sunlight shining through dead leaves makes them look sorta neat -- no?



More From Iowahawk

Iowahawk nails it again:

Check out his review of "Chutch" [here].

Creepy Indeed

Responding to Walter Shapiro's insane assertion that "Americans Like Big Government: They just don't really know it yet", Ann Althouse writes:
Sometimes government sounds like a creepy stalker....
Indeed it does, Ann, indeed it does....

Read it here [follow link to the Shapiro article].

In Concert

"She Who Must Not Be Named" has noted several times recently that I have not been blogging about any of the cultural events we have attended. I can take a hint, so in the interest of preserving domestic bliss here goes....

We are subscribers to the Shriver Hall Concert Series in Baltimore. "She" particularly likes this venue because not only do we get a chance to see new and established artists in performance, but each concert is preceded by lectures presented by faculty at the Peabody Conservatory. So a concert date involves listening to a lecture on and discussion of the evening's concert, attending the concert itself, then going to a leisurely late dinner at a local restaurant with friends. Circumstances have prevented us from attending all of this season's concerts but we get to most of them. In recent months we have seen some remarkable performances. viz

Ingrid Fliter, a lovely young pianist from Argentina who has been burning up the international concert circuit for the past few years and in 2006 was the first woman to win the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award. The LA Times describes her as a "pianistic force of nature" and proclaims "a wonderful pianist has arrived." She certainly can play with power, but I was more impressed by her fluidity.

She played Bach, Schumann and Chopin. I was unable to find any performance of her concert selections on the internet, but this performance of Chopin's "Nocturne in D-flat Major" gives a good indication of her virtuosity.



She's already a major star and has several decades of performance before her. She'll be one to watch. Interesting.

The next concert featured an established artist -- another pianist, Radu Lupu. Lupu rose to prominence back in 1966 when he won the Van Cliburn competition and followed it up with wins at the Eriscu International competition in 1967 and the Leeds International competition in 1969. Ever since he has been one of the most important figures on the international concert circuit. We heard him perform Sonatas 9 in E Major and 10 in G Major by Beethoven as well as Shubert's Sonata in B-flat Major. This time the pre-concert lecture was particularly helpful because the instructor was able to highlight continuities between Beethoven's and Schubert's treatment of the sonata form of which I had been completely unaware. It was nice during the concert to hear things you had just been discussing.

Here's Lupu's performance of the first movement of the Shubert Sonata. What amazing technique! The video also has links to the rest of the sonata. Listen to them all -- the guy is terrific.



Comparing him to Fliter's performance above illustrates the difference between a good rising artist and one of the all-time greats.

Then a couple of weeks ago we again trekked up to Schriver Hall to see a famous pianist perform. This time it was Peter Serkin and he was not performing alone. The featured artists were the Brentano String Quartet. Earlier in the season we had missed a performance by the Guarneri String Quartet. Sad, but unavoidable; particularly disappointing because this is the last season the renowned quartet will be performing. So I saw the Brentano concert as a consolation prize.

The concert started and ended with traditional material -- Haydn's Quartet in D Minor and Beethoven's Quartet #16 in B-flat major [the famous Grosse Fuge]. In between, though, was a something completely different.

Here's an excerpt from the Haydn, not by Brentano, though.



And here's the Beethoven:



I am not a great fan of the modern composers. I often say that my appreciation ends with Bartok. In the second performance of the concert Serkin joined the Quartet for a rendition of Charles Wuorinen's "New Piano Quintet". Wuorinen is one of my least favorite composers, one who has bucked the post-modernist tide and stubbornly continues to churn out modernist monstrosities. Here's an example of what I mean.



At the preceding lecture we learned that Wuorinen is currently composing an opera based on "Brokeback Mountain". Gee, that's something to look forward to. I wonder if there will be any female parts -- an opera without sopranos, strange.

I will say one thing for Wuorinen. After enduring one of his pieces, I gained a new appreciation for Arnold Schoenberg. I had always disliked Schoenberg's work, but coming after Wuorinen he sounded almost traditional. For the first time I heard and sorta liked his "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte" [performed by the piano quintet]. I couldn't find a performance of it anywhere on the internet. Too bad, it's an interesting piece -- a "sprechstimme", a musical form the invention of which is frequently attributed to Schoenberg, in which the a spoken part is performed [actually a mixture of song and recitation] in approximate pitches to the accompaniment of the musical score. Because the pitches are only approximate the performer [in this case Thomas Meglioranza, a wonderful baritone] has wide discretion as to how the recitation should sound. From the preceding lecture we learned that Schoenberg placed only one restriction on the performance -- that it had to be done by a male singer. In one case the "Ode" was recorded with a female singer and in response Schoenberg fired off a letter in which he threatened to dedicate the rest of his life to ruining her and the group with which she performed [he wasn't entirely sane at that point].

All in all an interesting and informative evening, despite the Wuroinen.

So that's the extent of our recent participation in the music scene. I hope "She" is happy.