Day By Day

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Goolsbee on Government Research Grants

Greg Mankiew points to a devastating comment by Presidential Science Advisor, Austan Goolsbee, on the efficacy of government funded R&D.

Basically, government attempts to stimulate research by throwing money at researchers is counter-productive. The money does little more than enrich the researchers and actually crowds out private research.

Read it here.

Dinosaur Death Watch -- The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Sun moves closer to full extinction.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Sun has laid off 61 people in its newsroom, about a quarter of its editorial staff, including veteran editors and managers, columnists, photographers and designers.

Maryland's largest newspaper laid off managerial employees at the end of the day Tuesday, and notified union-represented employees Wednesday afternoon, said Renee Mutchnik, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sun Media Group.

Twenty-one managers and 40 staffers represented by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild were laid off, Mutchnik and union leaders said. The union cuts included one employee who volunteered to be laid off. The cuts represent about 27 percent of the newsroom staff at The Sun, which is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co.

Among the managers who lost their jobs were one of the deputy managing editors, the opinion page editor, the op-ed editor and the copy desk chief. Many had decades of experience at The Sun.

Read the whole thing here.

Chopper Chick

The more we learn about Sarah Palin the more I like her. Turns out she is into motorcycles.

People Magazine reports:

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin recently welcomed the crew from Orange County Choppers... to Anchorage where show star Paul Teutul Sr. ...hangs out with the Governor in her office and talks about the Alaskan weather, snowmobiling and fishing in the summer.... After inviting the OCC crew back for the summer months, she suggests having fun Alaska style, saying, "We'll ride the bike to the fishing hole."
Read it here.

Sarah on the back of a bike.... Woo Hoo!

More important, though, is the fact that the "Chopper" program took pains to seek her out and interview her. They know their audience and they know that she is immensely popular with their fanbase. Will we someday see Sarah participating in "Rolling Thunder"? Could be.

UPDATE: Holy Moly! Here's a link to a video of the interview [including a criticism of Sarah for having a bearskin in her office].

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sarah Twitters

Sarah Palin is on twitter at

The Scariest Words You Will Ever Hear

From ABC News:
"The overture has finished and now it truly begins," said one adviser to the White House, referring to the healthcare, energy, and automaker debates to come. "If people thought the first 100 days a productive one, it genuinely only served as a curtain raiser," the adviser added.
Read it here.


I take it back -- this is even scarier because it comes from the horse's mouth.

Bloomberg reports:
President Barack Obama marked his 100th day in office by telling Americans that “we’ve begun the work of remaking America.”
Read it here.

Bush was Right (continued)

Tom Friedman unwittingly devastates his paper's [and his own] criticism of President Bush's conduct of the war on terror.

Now that the Dems are safely in control, Tom Friedman has decided to admit [here] that President Bush was right to go after al Qaeda aggressively in Iraq using every means possible.

His reasoning starts with the recognition, strenuously denied by Left loons and opportunistic Dems, that al Qaeda is an enemy unlike any other we have faced before.
Al Qaeda was undeterred by normal means. Al Qaeda’s weapon of choice was suicide. Al Qaeda operatives were ready to kill themselves — as they did on 9/11, and before that against U.S. targets in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania and Yemen — long before we could ever threaten to kill them. We could deter the Russians because they loved their children more than they hated us; they did not want to die. The Al Qaeda operatives hated us more than they loved their own children. They glorified martyrdom and left families behind.

Second, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda aspired to deliver a devastating blow to America. They “were involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this case, nuclear material,” Michael Scheuer, the former C.I.A. bin Laden expert, told “60 Minutes” in 2004. “By the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen.”

Third, Al Qaeda comes out of a stream in radical Islam that believes that it has religious sanction for killing absolutely anyone, including fellow Muslims. Al Qaeda in Iraq has blown up Muslims in mosques, shrines and funerals. It respects no redlines or religious constraints. One of its leaders personally severed Daniel Pearl’s head with a butcher knife — on film.

Finally, Al Qaeda’s tactics are designed to be used against, and to undermine, exactly what we are: an open society. By turning human beings into walking missiles and instruments from our daily lives — cars, airplanes, shoes, cellphones, backpacks — into bombs, Al Qaeda attacks the very feature that keeps our open society open: trust.
It was, Friedman admits, perfectly reasonable for the Bush administration to use extremely aggressive methods to combat such an enemy -- one that, more than any foe we had faced in the past, threatened the very foundations of our free society. And, contrary to those who have argued that aggressive interrogation provokes resistance from the Islamists, Friedman notes that al Qaeda does not care whether or not we torture, or who occupies the White House. They declared war on us while Bill Clinton was President.

He then makes a devastating observation regarding the cheap moral posturing of the unhinged Left.
We have the luxury of having this torture debate now because there was no second 9/11, and it was not for want of trying.
In other words, he agrees with Dick Cheney that the Bush administration's efforts against al Qaeda worked, and because they worked we have the luxury of engaging in this irresponsible and fatuous debate. The point has been made before, by Richard Fernandez who wrote:
It is one thing to swear that you will not divulge secrets to the Marcos police under any circumstances, while sitting safe in a bolthole, with a .38 in your lap. It’s quite another to say nothing when your interrogator is prying your eyeball out with a penknife. It is one thing to say I won’t use coercive methods even as “a last and desperate option” in the War on Terror, but entirely another matter to maintain that stance when your child is gasping for breath through his anthrax ridden lungs. Anybody who tells you different is probably a liar or fooling himself.
Read about it here.

Considering the nature of the enemy and the threat it represented to the fundamental institutions of our society, the aggressive actions undertaken by the Bush administration were not only understandable, but wise, justified, and effective. Rather than shutting down our open society, George Bush and Dick Cheney protected it, and because they did so effectively, we can afford to indulge the idiotic protestations of the Left. Rather than being an abuse of power, the Bush administration's response to al Qaeda was a wise and measured one.

And, regarding the oft-repeated canard that the war in Iraq was a "mistake". Friedman writes:

I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — particularly in Iraq. Al Qaeda knows that if it can destroy the U.S. effort (still a long shot) to build a decent, modernizing society in Iraq, it will undermine every U.S. ally in the region.

Conversely, if we, with Iraqis, defeat them by building any kind of decent, pluralistic society in the heart of their world, it will be a devastating blow.


What an admission by one of Pinch's minions!

And why would Friedman be moved finally to write the truth about President Bush? Well, the answer is easy. He is doing so to defend President Obama from Leftloon critics who object to his decisions not to prosecute CIA interrogators or to withdraw precipitously from Iraq.


Jennifer Rubin, over at Commentary, writes regarding Friedman's piece:

So to recap: the Bush team kept us safe from an implacable foe by using interrogation methods which the American public approved of and by fighting (often against the admonitions of Friedman and his colleagues) and largely prevailing in Iraq. The latter effort may deal a death blow to Al Qaeda which one supposes made it a very worthwhile endeavor....

It must be some other George W. Bush who was the worst foreign policy president in history – because the 43rd president, by Friedman’s accounting, got some very big things right, despite ferocious odds.
Read her here.

After Specter

In the wake of Specter's defection Pennsylvania politicos are madly recalculating their chances. Jim Gerlach is expressing interest in challenging Pat Toomey; Joe Torcella, Fast Eddie's puppet, is looking for a place to perch; people are starting to mention Tom Ridge again. It's all a "cesspool of political speculation and innuendo."

Read about it here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter's Defection

John Ferrell, over at U. S. News, thinks the Specter defection is bad for both parties. It will increase the Democrats' arrogance and the Republicans' ideological rigidity. [here] His colleague, Robert Schlesinger, predicts that Specter will face opposition from Joe Torsella and (most importantly) from Joe Sestak, but not Allyson Schwartz. [here]

Things really do not look good for Specter. He has no chance against Toomey, which is why he bolted the party. Polls say that he could not win as an independent, and he has to be a long shot against Sestak. Still, Specter has a lot of money in his warchest, so we can't count him out this early. Besides, Obama has promised to support Specter in the primaries. That may, however, not pan out. Obama's promises are not something you should rely on.

What fascinates me about this is that removing Specter opens the way for a new leadership group in the Republican Party, but putting him at the top of the Democratic ticket blocks the rising generation of Democrat leaders. Right now national Democrats are drooling over gaining a Senate seat, but sticking with Specter could hurt the party at the State level.

Things are starting to get interesting.

Death of the Dinosaur Killer

In a recent post paleoanthropologist John Hawks warned against uncritically accepting "umbrella hypotheses" -- those elegant contrivances that would account for a wide range of phenomena by reference to a single, simple explanatory mechanism. He notes that paleoanthropology has historically been susceptible to such monocausal explanations. Examples would include the "savannah thesis" the "killer ape" thesis, the "aquatic ape" thesis, and many more.

Read his article here.

Such explanations are seductive because they are elegant and easy to comprehend and they form the basis for numerous popularized science and history texts and innumerable journalistic accounts. But the world is seldom so simple as these hypotheses suggest and despite their popularity they usually lack staying power because contrary evidence rapidly accumulates to undermine them.

One such elegant hypothesis has been the asteroid impact theory that was held to explain a number of geological features as well as discontinuities in the evolutionary record. Most provocatively, an asteroid impact was supposed to account for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Well, new research seems to suggest otherwise. Bloomberg reports:
The demise of the dinosaurs probably occurred 300,000 years after a giant meteor struck what is now Mexico, scientists said, casting doubt on a popular theory that the impact triggered a mass extinction.

The Chicxulub crater, which is about 180 kilometers (112 miles) across, was formed on the Yucatan peninsula when an extra-terrestrial object struck Earth 65 million years ago. Since its discovery in 1978, the crater has been cited as evidence that the impact’s aftermath led to the extinction of about 65 percent of all species including the dinosaurs.

New clues at other sites in Mexico showed that the extinction must have occurred 300,000 years after the Chicxulub impact and that even larger asteroids may not be the purveyors of doom they’re thought to be, according to a paper published in the Journal of the Geological Society by researchers from Princeton, New Jersey, and Lausanne, Switzerland.

Read the whole thing here.

And another scientific consensus bites the dust.

Oh well, the impact theory had a good run, about a quarter of a century, and it inspired a lot of books and TV shows that made a lot of money for a lot of people and in modern science, that's ultimately the name of the game.

Words of Wisdom

Jim Treacher: "I keep telling you, Obama isn't another Nixon. Nixon was an amateur."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lost Legion Films Marketed as Iraq War Screeds

Two films are being made about a Roman legion slaughtered by the Picts. Both are supposed to be allegories for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The Eagle of the Ninth is being adapted for a Hollywood film, one of two productions examining the failure of the Roman army to crush the Picts in Scotland in the second century AD.

Both are intended as allegories of recent American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kevin Macdonald, the director of The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, is directing the adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe's 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth.

It tells of a disillusioned young Roman soldier who travels to Scotland to find out what happened to his father who fought there.

The Romans will be made to resemble American GIs in the film in a clear attempt to draw parallels between past and present, said Macdonald.

"In a way it is an Iraq or Afghanistan war film taking place in the second century," he told The Times.

The second film to explore the same theme is Centurion, directed by Neil Marshall, who helped make the horror movie Dog Soldiers. It will look at the Roman army's apparent defeat directly, rather than through the lens of the next generation.

Read about it here.

Jeez, these lefty film guys never give up do they? Iraq and Afghanistan just have to be portrayed as imperial hubris and nemesis. I think I'll be giving these screeds a pass, even though the "Dog Soldiers" credentials are impressive.


Just how stupid can these Obamamaniacs be? Manhattanites were treated today to the sight of the Presidential jet flying overhead, as low as 150 feet above the skyline, rounding the Statue of Liberty and taking a second buzz run over Manhattan. There was no advance notification and people throughout the city were panicked as visions of 9/11 flashed through their minds. Mayor Bloomberg knew nothing about it until alarms started going off.

The whole thing was a publicity stunt set up by the White House, but initial reports blamed the Pentagon. Later the blame game was clarified and lodged squarely at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Supposedly there had been advance notification, but somehow it hadn't been widely communicated. The public was kept in the dark and even Mayor Bloomberg didn't know that it was going to happen. This is an incredibly stupid stunt that was guaranteed to scare thousands and thousands of people.

But then, scaring people is what this administration is all about.

Read about it here.

I guess Manhattan is now flyover country.

People say that the Obamination has a Sept 10th mindset. This confirms it.

Listening To The Renaissance Ensemble

Saturday evening "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I went to hear a chamber concert by the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble. Wow!!! I haven't enjoyed an evening's music this much in a long time. The program began with several well-known English madrigals then progressed through Italian, Spanish and French forms, ending with some wonderful Monteverdi renditions. For me the high point of the evening came with several Sephardic songs that mixed Spanish and North African modes. Several of these are available on the net, but they all have modern instrumentation and sound weak. None of them comes close to comparing with what we heard at the Peabody where the full power of the original came through on the traditional instruments [lots of drums]. For those of you unfamiliar with Renaissance music, much of it is really, really vulgar. Here's an example of a lyric from "Matona Mia Cara":
"I'm no laggard, I'll make love to you all night long, thrusting like a ram."
And that's the bowlderized version. As the director explained, some items on the program were performed only instrumentally because the lyrics were "too obscene to be sung in any language". It reminds us that many of these compositions, which we associate with Renaissance elite culture, had their origins as street songs.

One final note. In any ensemble performance many of the artists spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for their turn to play or sing. Sometimes the boredom of counting measures and beats gets to them, as it did with these vocalists.

How could she possibly be comfortable with her ankles in that position? Ah, youth!

Wretchard on the Torture Debate

Richard ["Wretchard"] Fernandez, over at Pajamas Media, has an excellent article on the current "Torture" debate. I haven't been paying it much attention because I don't consider the Bush administrations' critics on this matter to be intellectually or morally serious on the matter. They simply stake out an extreme position ["We are America, we don't torture"] and then go on the attack. I have equal contempt for the Republican mouthpieces who defend the Bush administration on technical grounds. Torture is a serious matter deserving some serious thought and we are getting none of that from the beltway bloggers.

Fernandez, one of the most serious and perceptive writers in the blogosphere, has actual first-hand experience with torture and its uses. He has thought long and hard about it and he knows how useless absolute moral posturing of the kind now beeing used as a political weapon is when the chips are down. He knows that there are no easy answers. He writes:

It is one thing to swear that you will not divulge secrets to the Marcos police under any circumstances, while sitting safe in a bolthole, with a .38 in your lap. It’s quite another to say nothing when your interrogator is prying your eyeball out with a penknife. It is one thing to say I won’t use coercive methods even as “a last and desperate option” in the War on Terror, but entirely another matter to maintain that stance when your child is gasping for breath through his anthrax ridden lungs. Anybody who tells you different is probably a liar or fooling himself. Some will go further — much further — under duress than they think. Others will break right away. But nobody can predict it in advance.

There is one sense in which I unreservedly sympathize with Cheney’s request to reveal the “successes” of the coercive interrogation program: we ought to know all the facts before making up our minds about moral stances. We ought to look everything in the face. I find it curious that a society which thinks that the CIA’s destruction of the video record of the water boarding sessions is immoral can simultaneously maintain that showing the video of Daniel Pearl being beheaded is inflammatory or inappropriate. Let’s see it all. They are two sides of the same coin.

Read it here.

That is the kind of debate we need, but it is one we will not have.


Interview With Carrie Prejean

Speaking of smoking hot conservative babes (whaddya mean I wasn't? At least I was thinking about them), Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA, is interviewed here by a gay activist journalist. She holds her own pretty well. Whatever, it gives me an excuse to run this picture.

Spring -- It Was Nice While It Lasted

A week ago it seemed that Spring had finally arrived here in Baltimore. There was a riot of color everywhere. It was really fun on a cool day to take my camera for a walk down and around the streets and byways of Charm City. Well, that's all over now. The heat and humidity of deep Summer arrived with a vengeance this weekend. Temps rose into the 90s each afternoon and the big crowds returned to the Harbor. Spring lasted approximately five days this year.

Carnival Cruise Lines was advertising their new season of cruises originating at the Port of Baltimore and so there was a lot of entertainment available to the surging masses. I walked around sampling the delights and spent some time watching tumblers, dance parties, street performers, sand sculptors and the like. Most of the time I hung out on the West side of the Harbor listening to a calypso band. It wasn't the greatest band, pretty bad actually, but it reminded me of my youth, hanging out in South Florida in the Sixties. As I get older more and more things remind me of those salad days.

Today, walking down South Charles toward Cross Street I was struck by the fact that the intense Spring color was nearly all gone. Only a few small trees and bushes still bloomed. Otherwise they were a uniform green. What variation in color there was came from the buildings, not from nature.

And for a real riot of color, you had to go inside like this interior shot of the Cross Street Market. This is the ultimate triumph of the built environment over that of nature. Not only was the inside brighter and cheerier than the streets, it was also air conditioned and provided relief from the heat and humidity that plagues the whole Chesapeake region during the hot months.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- After the Storm

Spring has finally exploded on the mountainside. The first wave of azaleas are in full bloom. Soon come the lavender, the rhododendrons, the dogwoods, and many more.

And of course Spring means rain, lots of it. Driving through Berks County after an afternoon storm. The sun was bright and low in the western sky but to the east dark storm clouds hung over everything. The result was a dramatic contrast between bright sunlit objects and the dark sky.

And of course the clouds in the sky were spectacular.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why Does He Hate Us?

From the Telegraph (UK):

If al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the rest of the Looney Tunes brigade want to kick America to death, they had better move in quickly and grab a piece of the action before Barack Obama finishes the job himself. Never in the history of the United States has a president worked so actively against the interests of his own people - not even Jimmy Carter.

Obama's problem is that he does not know who the enemy is. To him, the enemy does not squat in caves in Waziristan, clutching automatic weapons and reciting the more militant verses from the Koran: instead, it sits around at tea parties in Kentucky quoting from the US Constitution. Obama is not at war with terrorists, but with his Republican fellow citizens. He has never abandoned the campaign trail.

Read the whole thing here. [emphasis mine]

It is time that we as Americans look hard at ourselves and ask the question: Why does the New Messiah, in his infinite perfection, hate us so much? What have we done to deserve such contempt?

A Night At the Opera

"She Who Must Not Be Named" and I attended the Peabody Chamber Opera Company production of "Dora" (music by Melissa Schifflet, libretto by Nancy Fales Garrett). Friday evening. It was an interesting experience. The opera is based on the case of Ida "Dora" Bauer, a young victim of sexual abuse who was treated by Sigmund Freud for hysteria. Most of the story is told in flashbacks which reveal a horrific series of abusive incidents and also raise questions about Freud's relationship with his own daughter, Anna. There's not much to admire in the story. It is simply the standard feminist indictment of Freud and a litany of male sins against women. There were a number of clumsy jokes at Freud's expense. "Dora" is less a work of art than a political diatribe. The music and libretto are not well integrated and the performances for the most part were merely adequate [this is, after all, a student production]. The standout was Jessica Abel in the title role who was in superb voice. This was a chamber presentation and the staging was interesting. A group of provocatively posed nude female mannequins, symbolizing the objectification and subjugation of women, ringed the stage [no subtlety here]. Given the limited facilities performers had to double as stagehands and it was amusing to watch singers move pieces of furniture around the stage while they were singing. That aspect of the performance did exhibit some ingenuity.

It wasn't a bad evening -- about what I've come to expect from the lefty art crowd these days. A minor diversion, nothing more.

Oh, and there is some nudity.

Diamond Exposed

I never could understand the popular enthusiasm for Jared Diamond's books. They always seemed to me to be simplistic and more than a little deceptive. He was always more a storyteller than a serious student of history. His supposedly historical accounts were little more than morality tales and in his most famous work, the ultradeterministic "Guns, Germs and Steel", Diamond tries to explain the entire course of human history without recourse to human agency. It turns out that he also makes things up and has finally been called on it. Read about it here.

The Sense of Wonder

Charlie Jane Anders has a nice piece over at IO9 on the "sense of wonder" which once was the essential appeal of Science Fiction. Anders argues that this emotional response appeals particularly to adolescents and adults who seek that experience are actually trying to recapture the innocence and wide-eyed enthusiasm of their childhood.

Read it here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fascinating Site

Check out the World Digital Library here.

I just spent several hours poking around in their holdings. Some great stuff.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sign of the Times

We had dinner tonight at a Thai restaurant in a small Pennsylvania city. The waitress was of Chinese extraction and grew up in Thailand speaking both Thai and Chinese. When she and her husband decided to come to America she went back to school to learn English, but when she arrived here she found that everyone she met spoke Spanish so now she is enrolled at a community college learning her fourth language so that she can speak to her customers.

Globalization sure makes things complicated, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Raptor Attack

Last weekend I spent some time in the sculpture garden at the Baltimore Museum of Art taking pictures of the magnificent Spring foliage. I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, looked up, and saw this. A red-tailed hawk perched on a nearby limb scanning nearby trees for prey.

Then it saw a movement below, looked down, and saw me. What a chilling stare.

I must have looked tasty, because almost immediately it launched itself at me, and for a split second I knew what a rabbit must feel like.

The hawk passed just a couple of feet above my head and flew off behind a nearby building. It all happened so fast that I couldn't keep my assailant in focus and in frame.

Living at Hawk Mountain I have seen and photographed red-tails many times but was never attacked before. Perhaps it was nesting and I got too close to the nest. At least I hope that's the explanation. I would hate to think that I look like raptor bait.

Lies Of the Left -- I. F. Stone

The maddening thing is that it takes so very long to expose the lies of the Left -- often decades of work by diligent researchers are required. Such is the case of I. F. Stone, long celebrated as a fearless liberal journalist who spoke truth to power. There have long been persistent allegations and mounting evidence that Stone was in fact a Soviet agent. Now, it seems, the case is finally closed.

One of the more interesting facts presented in the article is this:

[T]he KGB recruited a great many journalists. A 1941 internal KGB summary report broke down the occupations of Americans working for the spy agency in the prior decade. Twenty-two were journalists, a profession outnumbered only by engineers (forty-nine) and dwarfing economists (four) and professors (eight).
Read about it here.


Scholars, pundits and politicians have been casting about for a term that adequately describes President Obama's approach to governance, and especially to his economic policies.

Jonah Goldberg quite properly has pointed out that in its major features Obama's approach very closely resembles the American "Progressive" movement of the early Twentieth Century as well as features of European socialism and fascism, both of which movements were closely related to American progressivism [here]. Because of their specific historical references, however, using the terms "progressive", "fascist", or "socialist" to describe aspects of Obama's approach to government, no matter how technically accurate the designation, serves to divert attention away from the policies themselves and toward the popular image of those movements.

What has been missing from the political dialogue is a term that encompasses all of these related and recurring movements. Steve Malanga suggests "corporatism" which he defines as:

the notion that elite groups of individuals molded together into committees or public-private boards can guide society and coordinate the economy from the top town and manage change by evolution, not revolution. It is a turn-of-the 20th century philosophy, updated for the dawn of the 21st century, which positions itself as an antidote to the kind of messy capitalism that has transformed the Fortune 500 and every corner of our economy in the last half century. To do so corporatism seeks to substitute the wisdom of the few for the hundreds of millions of individual actions and transactions of the many that set the direction of the economy from the bottom up.
Read it here.

This seems to me to be a quite adequate formulation, one that carries little of the emotional baggage of the other terms currently in use, and one that focuses attention on the most pernicious common element of the various related ideologies of control -- the naive faith that credentialed elites can reliably render objective and effective judgment that can adequately substitute for individuals' own judgment of what is in their best interest. It is this, what Jean Francois Revel termed the "totalitarian temptation" that disturbs me most about the current trend in American political culture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hollywood Hates You

John Nolte has a piece in "Big Hollywood" about the ways in which the film community's version of recent American history diverges from reality. He has some good points, to wit:

John Kennedy was not the liberal that Hollywood makes him out to be.

Nixon successfully ended America's direct participation in the Vietnam War.

Charlie Wilson did not win the Cold War.

Veterans are not psychos.

The homeless are not fonts of wisdom.

It is interesting to contemplate the ideas undergirding such presentations. In the minds of the men who make the movies the American people are stupid dupes manipulated by evil marketers [not a remarkable perspective considering that these are people whose entire careers consist of manipulating audiences]. Because the public in general is in the thrall of the evil establishment, wisdom and truth must be found elsewhere -- in foreign lands, in the minds of society's outcasts, or in the lives of people who, for speaking truth to power, were killed by minions of the establishment. Finally, the establishment and those who serve it are a threat to themselves, to the nation, and to the world. The only sane and moral stance is perpetual antagonism to it.

Read Nolte's article here.

Sarah's Not the Only One

Alaska's "First Dude" is not the only really, really lucky guy out there. There's also Bruce Thompson who married this babe..., and then they went hunting.

Read about it here.

HT: Lileks

How Not To Sell Universal Health Care

Micky Kaus objects to the way Democrats are trying to sell universal health care, as a cost-cutting measure, not because it is profoundly disingenuous (he approves of lying to the public in order to achieve your ends) but because it is a losing argument. "Cutting costs" inevitably involves triage, denying care to some applicants, and Republicans are sure to point out that the Dems are asking voters to approve a system in which government pencil pushers may someday decide that their lives are not worth saving.

Read it here.

Mickey's a really smart guy, but he scares me sometimes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sarah Palin's Speech

I'm a little late getting to this, but here is Gov. Sarah Palin's Indiana Right to Life speech in its entirety. Listen and enjoy.

Sarah Palin Indiana Right to Life Speech from therightscoop on Vimeo.


The Bosque Boys have an excellent and balanced discussion of the Tax Day Tea Parties comparing them to the Stamp Act controversies of 1765. Check it out here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- Appalachian Springtime

Getting up close and personal with Forsythia.

The lavender buds are ready to pop. Just a few more days.

Looks like my neighbor's trampoline had a rough winter.

But his bees are back.

And so are the bluebirds. When I took this picture I was focusing on the angle in the fence and didn't even notice the bird. It was only later when I reviewed what I had seen that I noticed it. Too bad, I could have switched lenses and gotten a nice closeup.

Latest from Iowahawk -- Red Scare

Anyone old enough to have been exposed to those old anti-communist propaganda films of the 1950s will recognize this piece. It's spot on, and like everything Burge writes, hilarious. He's far and away the funniest guy on the web -- a Jonathan Swift for our times.

Read "Red Scare" here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Paul, Susan and Simon

Everybody and his brother has been obsessing over the performance by Susan Boyle on "Britan's Got Talent" [here]. It's a wonderful, heartwarming story of a plain person who demonstrates a wonderful talent that astounds the audience and judges, a triumph of determination over cynicism. But we should note that it isn't the first time this show has told that story. Two years ago Paul Potts, another plain person, astonished the audience and charmed the judges with his amazing vocal abilities. First time is a wonderful occurrence, the second might well be a carefully crafted marketing campaign. Perhaps there really is a bit of cynicism on display.

Paul Potts' audition from 2007. Notice the similarities to Susan Boyle's performance. Paul is now a moderately successful recording artist and, based on her interview yesterday morning with FOX News, Susan has similar ambitions.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Class Warfare

Well, the "Tea Parties" have come and gone, although there are more being planned for July 4th. They were fun while they lasted and drew something in excess of a quarter million people. Not bad! Now we will see whether they are a base on which a genuine populist movement can be built.

For now the Tea Parties' major significance is that they seem to be an authentic expression of the emerging class warfare that is currently scrambling the institutional structures of American political culture. They roused hostility from the beltway political class, all major media outlets except NewsCorp, and the left blogosphere, were mischaracterized and dismissed as a conservative stunt funded and directed by mysterious billionaires and Republican political operatives, were libeled as racists, gun nuts, madmen, secessionists and religious fanatics, and suffered all manner of public calumny. Even the Department of Homeland Security tried, rather clumsily, to suggest that they represented a dangerous element in American society.

Notably, this hostile reaction included conservative and Republican sources as well as lefties and Dems. The reaction of many Republican politicians and commentators was craven confusion as they flailed about trying to figure out what was the safest way to play the situation. Most office holders lapsed into silence or cheap platitudes, hoping the whole disturbing thing would go away. Others, who did not have to run for office, like David Frum, were openly contempuous [example here].

We have seen similar reactions to other emergent political forces that have a reasonable claim to be the authentic voice of common people. The trashing of Sarah Palin is but the most obvious example.

What is happening here is the breakdown of a stable political order -- a technocratic regime that emerged after World War Two and has steadily increased its control since them. Reactionaries in all parties view this transformation with horror and react violently against it. Revolutionaries, heedless of the consequences, welcome it. Perhaps the most reactionary of all are functionaries and supporters of the current admistration, naive devotees of the cult of credentialed expertise, who openly yearn for a return to mid-twentieth century certainties. Most revolutionary are the insurgents who naively trust in the efficacy of free people, free markets, and free nations. Neither side represents a repository of timeless wisdom, although both pretend to. Victory by either extreme would be disastrous. The old credentialed elite is thoroughly corrupt, probably irredeemably so, and increasingly tyrannical as it extends controls into ever more aspects of American life. But at times the revolutionaries in their quest for freedom verge on anarchism. Neither side sketches what to me seems to be a desirable future.

These, as I have said before, are dark and dangerous times, and the current administration, yearning back toward the Roosevelt and Johnson administration, seeing themselves as the latest incarnation of "The Best and the Brightest" offers nothing in the way of positive leadership. If anything they are making the situation worse..., much worse. But at least these promise to be interesting times, and for an historian that is the best of all possible outcomes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

60 Second History.

Who say's history can't be fun. Check it out here.

Best Commentary on TV -- Redeye

It's a measure of the sad state of today's political discourse that the best social and political commentary available on TV is found on FOX News' "Redeye With Greg Gutfeld". Check out the "Gregalogues" here.

Too bad it comes on at 3:00 am. This show really does deserve a wider viewership.

McCain Embarrasses Himself Again

There was a time when I had a great deal of respect for John McCain. I still respect his integrity and courage -- the man is a genuine hero -- but he is ill suited for a position of political leadership and is downright ridiculous in the role of senior statesman. His appearance on the Leno show [here], in which he pointedly dissed Governor Palin, is just the latest in a long series of performances in which his inadequacies are fully on display. He's becoming an embarrassment, but then he's not as ridiculous as the guy we wound up electing.

Bird Sighting

A Bell's Viero, photographed in Baltimore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


PETA reports that Obama's dog just ain't natural.
Bo (nee Charlie) [has] been snipped, cut, neutered, fixed, emasculated, vasectomied, castrated to become a walking, barking, four-legged first-dog example of canine birth control.
Read it here.

Latest From the Onion

Having trouble typing, can't stop laughing, take a deep breath......

Ahhhh...., there, that's better. The Onion reports:

WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.

"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."

Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."

Much more, all of it hilarious here.


I believe there has never been a more blatant demonstration of left-wing paranoia than the obscene report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and distributed to police departments across the nation.

The Washington Times reports:

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.

Read it here.

To some extent this is a despicable political ploy, issued on the eve of the Tax Day Tea Party demonstrations to be held all across the nation tomorrow, but it is also an extremely dangerous move. The last time we heard this kind of nonsense issuing from government agencies was during the Clinton administration, and that led directly to the atrocity at Waco.

We are entering dark and dangerous times and the Young Messiah is leading the way.

The best fisking of the report I have seen yet is by Power Line. Check it out here.


The Anchoress, noting the way the report is being treated by the MSM, thinks she sees a larger purpose here.
[I]t seems pretty clear that its (the leak’s) purpose is meant to create a narrative. That narrative will be used to excite and frame legislation.
I think she's right, and am not surprised. Constructing demonization narratives has been pretty much the main thrust of the Obamination so far. It is dangerous, it is destructive, it is despicable, but it is damnably effective.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good News!!!

The Daily News reports:

Hero Capt. Richard Phillips was freed today in a dramatic ending to a four-day high seas standoff that riveted the world.

Three of the four ragtag pirates who held the world's most powerful Navy at bay on the Indian Ocean were killed, and the fourth was taken into custody.

Phillips was said to be in good condition.

Read the whole thing here. Also read here.

Heroes 1 -- Thugs 0
Military 1 -- State Dept. 0


I'm glad somebody in the chain of command had the good sense to allow killing the pirates to replace an indeterminate negotiation process and culturally sensitive demands that we work through local "elders".

UPDATE: Hot Air reports that what precipitated the firefight was that Captain Phillips made a second attempt to escape. If that is true no credit accrues to the commanders. It was Phillips who created an opportunity for rescue and on-site troops who took advantage of the opportunity to bring him to safety. Kudos to them, but nothing for the higher command who will now try to take credit for what these brave men did.

UPDATE: The order to fire was given by the commander of the USS Bainbridge. Good for him! He had orders to fire if he thought Captain Phillips' life was in danger. The details of the incident are still not clear. A Navy spokesman seems to indicate that there was no second escape attempt, but it also seems that Capt. Phillips was in the water with weapons pointed at him when the firefight broke out. [The Washington Times confirms that Capt. Phillips did precipitate the incident by jumping into the water and trying to escape a second time -- here] The killing was done by special ops forces on the Bainbridge. One thing seems clear -- Obama was not involved in ordering the attack. The standing orders were for US forces to take no action against the pirates unless the commander felt that Capt. Phillips' life was in "imminent danger". The expectation was that negotiations would lead to a non-violent conclusion. The Naval spokesman said that it was "unfortunate" that things turned out the way the did. Needless to say I, and most Americans, do not share that opinion.

UPDATE: You knew this was coming. Anonymous White House officials are trying to create the impression that President Obama ordered the attack that freed Capt. Phillips [here]. What Obama did was to authorize negotiations with the provision that an attack could be ordered if, and only if, Capt. Phillips' life was in imminent danger. Not quite the same thing.

Blackfive explains the command situation here.

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- Flatlanding

Occasionally we have to come down from our mountain fastness into the flatlands below. Yesterday was such a day. Here's a bit of what we saw.

It's really invigorating to see the world turn from browns and grays to green. Every day things get a little more colorful and I get a little less grumpy.

A new Giant market has opened up north of Reading. "She Who Must Not Be Named" had a bunch of coupons. The store had a sign saying "Double Coupons". Naturally we wound up at Giant. She shopped, I went to the coffee shop [pictured here], got a chai latte, pulled out a good book and settled in to read in front of the fireplace. Yes, Giant has a coffee lounge, with wi-fi. Coffee house culture has finally hit Temple. Next time "She" wants to spend an hour or so laying in provisions, I'll remember to bring my laptop.

We'll be traveling overseas soon and had to pick up a few things for our trip. So, on we went even further into the flatlands, down to Reading's fabled outlets.

At last the shopping ordeal came to an end. I was hungry -- no..., I was famished. Since we were in the neighborhood we stopped at Friday's to eat. I hadn't been there in several years but nothing much had changed. While we were driving into the parking lot I noticed that the setting sun was illuminating Reading's famous Pagoda up on the hillside above us. Naturally I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

The food wasn't great, but it was filling and satisfying. It soothed the aggravation of shopping. Then home we went where a couple of projects with rapidly-approaching deadlines awaited me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

President Pantywaist

While the American MSM is busily trying to prop up a failing Presidency, the Brits tell it like it is. From the Telegraph:

President Barack Obama has recently completed the most successful foreign policy tour since Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. You name it, he blew it.


Watch out, France and Co, there is a new surrender monkey on the block and, over the next four years, he will spectacularly sell out the interests of the West with every kind of liberal-delusionist initiative on nuclear disarmament and sitting down to negotiate with any power freak who wants to buy time to get a good ICBM fix on San Francisco, or wherever. If you thought the world was a tad unsafe with Dubya around, just wait until President Pantywaist gets into his stride.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Failure of the Quants

Joseph Fuller, writing in the American Scholar [here], notes the role played by computer models in exacerbating the financial crisis. Before the crisis hit business executives and investors placed far too much faith in these models predictions of the future and when the crisis came programmed trading hastened the collapse of the credit markets. The essential point is a warning, do not place too much faith in computer models -- the results may be catastrophic.

But that is precisely what climate change theorists are asking us to do. On the basis of computer model predictions regarding an global environmental system vastly more complex than the business system wherein such models have failed, they are asking public officials to undertake immensely expensive projects that could bankrupt nations.

The example of business models should lead us all to question the efficacy of the climate models upon which the current administration is building policy and the touching faith administration officials seem to have in those models should give us all pause.

Lies of the Left -- Blaming Banks and the US

The global economic crisis did not begin with the United States, nor has its major impact been felt here, or for that matter in the Anglosphere. Nor did the problem originate in the banking industry nor are the banks contributing to the ongoing crisis. So why blame the US and the banks? Simply because that is the default position for the international Left.

What is most discouraging is the fact that our idiot President has bought into this canard.

Read about it here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fanboy Fantasies

You knew this was coming -- a Barak v. Palin comic. Read about it here.

Rummy's Reforms Return

Victor Davis Hanson notes that the new reforms being introduced by Obama and Gates look a lot like the old, much reviled, Rumsfeld reforms of Dubya's first term. Those reforms were brought to an abrupt halt by the Iraq war and were then denounced by Pentagon dinosaurs, military contractors who lost big-ticket contracts, and critics of the war. But now they seem to have a second life.

They should. Rummy's reforms made a lot of sense.

Read it here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Core of Modern Liberalism -- "Preposterous and Repellent"

Camille Paglia nails it:

[S]omething very ugly has surfaced in contemporary American liberalism, as evidenced by the irrational and sometimes infantile abuse directed toward anyone who strays from a strict party line. Liberalism, like second-wave feminism, seems to have become a new religion for those who profess contempt for religion. It has been reduced to an elitist set of rhetorical formulas, which posit the working class as passive, mindless victims in desperate need of salvation by the state. Individual rights and free expression, which used to be liberal values, are being gradually subsumed to worship of government power.

The problems on the American left were already manifest by the late 1960s, as college-educated liberals began to lose contact with the working class for whom they claimed to speak. (A superb 1990 documentary, "Berkeley in the Sixties," chronicles the arguments and misjudgments about tactics that alienated the national electorate and led to the election of Richard Nixon.) For the past 25 years, liberalism has gradually sunk into a soft, soggy, white upper-middle-class style that I often find preposterous and repellent. The nut cases on the right are on the uneducated fringe, but on the left they sport Ivy League degrees. I'm not kidding -- there are some real fruitcakes out there, and some of them are writing for major magazines. It's a comfortable, urban, messianic liberalism befogged by psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Conservatives these days are more geared to facts than emotions, and as individuals they seem to have a more ethical, perhaps sports-based sense of fair play.

Read it here.

She is so right about this! Time and again I have encountered nice and intelligent people, prosperous, well-educated, reasonable and generous in most respects who, once the subject turns to politics, become "preposterous and repellent" haters. What is perhaps worst is that they do not recognize their own bigotry and are so comfortable with it and are so seldom challenged on it that they habitually and casually pepper their speech with disparaging comments regarding conservatives, Christians and white working class Americans.

Florida Flowers

Of course none of the Middle States foliage can begin to compare to what is on display year round in South Florida. Here's a sample of what we saw last week.

More Springtime Photos

For comparison, here are a few shots I took at in Baltimore just a few days ago. At this early stage even dense urban areas in Maryland sport more glorious foliage than do the mountains of central Pennsylvania -- but that will change soon.

Springtime On the Hill

The first weeks of Spring here on the mountain have their charms. My favorites are the foysythia.

"She Who Must Not Be Named", though, favors bulbs, especially hyacinths.

Sometimes you have to get up close to see the beauty.

Of course further south things are a little more impressive.


Tom Sowell writes:

We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past.

Read his whole set of observations here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Vermont Legalizes Same-sex Marriage

From AP:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

Read it here.

I am not particularly a fan of same-sex marriage (I think it's a pathetic, desperate, doomed-to-fail ploy calculated to promote full "acceptance", rather than "tolerance", of homosexuals in the broader culture; at the best it provides same-sex couples with a "feel good" experience) but I see no good reason to oppose it, provided it is achieved through democratic processes. What has always bothered me about the debate is the willingness of proponents to resort to the courts and attempt to impose an outcome through judicial fiat. That, not the marriage itself, is the real threat to American life and culture. So, I view with indifference Vermont's legalization of same-sex marriage, but strongly condemn the actions of judicial tyrants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

The Legacy Of the Cold War

Jonah Goldberg is emerging as one of the most interesting members of the national commentariat. He has a real gift for expressing complex truths in simple and often humorous language. Here he writes on the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War.
To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don't mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.

I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I'm thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.

The Soviet effort to foster wars of national liberation, to poison the minds of the "Bandung Generation," to deracinate cultures from their own indigenous building blocks of democracy, to destroy non-Marxist competitors interested in reform, to create evil and despotic regimes that are seen as "authentic" because they represent the "true will" of their subjugated and beaten down peoples: these seem to me to amount to the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Not least because it was those sorts of efforts that gave birth to North Korea in the first place.

Read the whole thing here.

I would tend to agree with minor quibbles. The propaganda campaign he references was not specific to the Cold War but actually antedated it, being more a legacy of the Popular Front movement of the 1930's that lingered on and was elaborated through the Cold War period. But his point regarding the willingness of the American, indeed the Western Left to embrace and propagate Soviet lies and distortions of history is certainly true. It is hard today for people to realize the extent to which mid-twentieth century discourse was dominated by Marxist-Leninist categories of expression. It permeated everything, and everywhere it was expressed Leftist cant corrupted intellectual discourse.

Failure Written All Over It!

Sign of the times: Two market failures get hitched and give birth to..., this monstrosity.

Segway Inc. and General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that they are working together to develop the two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a fast, efficient, inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars and trucks in an urban environment.
It will go for 35 miles on a single charge and attain speeds of up to 35 mph. Wow!

Of course this is designed to conform to the insane strictures of the PC crowd, but I suspect that if this sort of thing ever goes into production its major customers will be urban governments and the inhabitants of Florida retirement communities. And for that matter, who there needs them, we already have golf carts.

Spring in Baltimore

It was a glorious weekend in Baltimore -- cool, good breeze, the crowds were back. The Inner Harbor doesn't compare, of course, to Miami Beach, but it was a lovely time to walk around the harbor and Federal Hill with my camera at the ready. Here's a bit of what I saw.

Seen on S. Charles Street -- Life does smell good right now with all the trees blossoming. Other times, not so much.

Bradford Pear blossoms just a few feet from where I took the first photo.

Buds on the same tree.

Seen at the Inner Harbor -- three girls on a ledge. All tuckered out and it was only early afternoon.

And the street performers are back. This guy looks to be out of control, but he isn't. It's part of his act. Taking a second look at the photo, I could swear that's the insta-family in the crowd watching him.

UPDATE: Glenn writes -- it isn't him, just one of his many Saddam-style security doubles. But that raises the question, can we really be sure?

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Excessive caution? You be the judge.

Regarding the Binghamton shooting:

One receptionist was killed, while the other, shot in the abdomen, pretended to be dead and then crawled under a desk and called 911, he said.

Police said they arrived within two minutes.

And what did the police do when they arrived?

Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building.

Read it here.

While the police waited to "make sure it was safe" to enter the building eleven more people were killed inside. And when they did enter, it took them two full hours to search the building and find the twenty-six people cowering in the basement.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rawls' Religion

There's a nice piece by Josh Cohen and Thomas Nagel in the Times on the subject of the religious roots of Jack Rawls' philosophy. If you haven't read about Rawls, you should. He's important. He provided the philosophical base and moral justification for modern liberalism. The extent to which he grounded his theory of justice in religious principles is an eye-opener for some of his more extreme secularist fans.

Read it here.

More Miami Pictures -- South Beach

The southern end of Miami Beach -- better known as South Beach -- is famed for many things, not least its lovely art-deco architecture. Here are a few examples: