Day By Day

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ecumenical Right

For nearly a century now progressives have striven mightily to portray conservatives as narrow, closed-minded, intolerant religious zealots, and their efforts have paid off. Millions of Americans and Europeans hold precisely that image of the Right. But it has never been like that and isn't now. Bill Kristol points out that last Friday, before going down to Washington to speak at Glenn Beck's rally, Sarah Palin spoke at a Jewish shabbaton in Hershey, PA. He writes:
[E]vangelical Christian Sarah Palin spent Friday night with (mostly) observant Jews, along with various Christians, including some Amish. Then on Saturday she spoke at a rally hosted by a Mormon who went out of his way in his remarks to refer to the important role of "churches, synagogues and mosques" in American life.
 Read it here.

Well, what would you expect from Sarah? She was baptized into the Catholic faith, but followed her mother into a Pentacostal congregation, then took her own children into the congregation at the Wasilla Bible Church, a healthily non-denominational congregation that frequently welcomes Jews and Catholics to speak from the pulpit. 

Man Eating Squids -- Oh My!

From the UK Express:

DEADLY sea monsters have woken from the deep to cause carnage among some of the world’s richest fishing grounds.
Millions of killer giant squid are not only devouring vast amounts of fish they have even started attacking humans.
Two Mexican fishermen were recently dragged from their boats and chewed so badly that their bodies could not be identified even by their own families.
No wonder the giant squid are called “diablos rojos” – red devils. 
 Read it here.

Big Boat in a Little Harbor


We got into town the other evening and as we drove down Light Street, "She Who Must Not Be Named" remarked that there was a really big ship docked at the Inner Harbor. "She" was right. That's the USS Whidbey Island, 600 feet of steel, just back from the Strait of Hormuz. Nice!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Memphis In the Meantime

Just because I'm in the mood for it:

John Hiatt and the Goners doing "Memphis in the Meantime". Great song, and some remarkable guitar work by Sonny. It's John's song, but I like Chris Smither's upbeat version better.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baltimore Pictures -- Water Street


Just a few years ago this was one of the hot spots in Baltimore. On a summer's Friday evening it would attract hundreds of young people who would spill out onto surrounding streets and jam up traffic. This is what it looked like early on Friday evening a week ago. Sure there are some customers, but not many. The herd seems to have moved on to other pastures, which is a relief for those of us who live in the neighborhood.

Media Malfeasance and Katrina

There has been a lot of media hype this week about the fifth anniversary of the Katrina disaster, most of it self-congratulatory. In some cases it was treated as an opportunity to get in a few more whacks at President Bush. W. Joseph Campbell, author of "Getting it Wrong", notes that he [a conservative] and arch-liberal Harry Shearer, director of "The Big Uneasy" agree that the media coverage of the crisis and recovery efforts since have been abysmal. For the most part it was showboating, exaggerated, inaccurate, and to some extent politically, driven. He describes the on-site coverage:


“They reported snipers firing at medical personnel. They reported that shots were fired at helicopters, halting evacuations from the Convention Center [in New Orleans].

“They told of bodies being stacked there like cordwood. They reported roving gangs were preying on tourists and terrorizing the occupants of the Superdome, raping and killing. They said children were victims of sexual assault, that one seven-year-old was raped and her throat was slit. They reported that sharks were plying the flooded streets of New Orleans.”
And what is perhaps most offensive, is that the press refuses to admit their errors and has even gone so far as to congratulate themselves on the excellence of their reporting.

Faugh!

Read the article here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Baltimore Pictures

We were in Baltimore during "Restaurant Week", so naturally "She Who Must Not Be Named" wanted to eat out every night. She blogged about it here [Yes, "She" has her own blog]. "She" took pictures of the food and decor in the restaurants -- my eye was caught by other things.


A garbage scow reporting for duty. I noted the extremely choppy wake and liked the way it reflected the morning sun.

We rode the new "Circulator Buses" [ride for free from the Inner Harbor to various entertainment and restaurant centers] over to Harbor East. Our destination was the Lebanese Taverna. We are both experienced users of urban transit systems, so we left plenty of time for the trip, but this time we got there quickly and had some time to kill. The bus stopped right outside a decorator's showroom, so we went in to get out of the heat and to look around. I took a few pictures:


"She Who Must Not Be Named" bought a few trinkets and I chatted with the salesgirl. She was originally from Harrisburg and still had family there. Then it was time to go to dinner... but to read about that you will have to go to SWMNBN's blog here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Good President [continued]


What a classy couple! K-Lo at the Corner reports that George and Laura Bush showed up unannounced at the recent "Run For the Fallen" even in Ogunquit, Maine and met with and posed for pictures with each of the families being honored. It was a kind and gracious thing to do. They are good people, those Bushes. The nation was blessed to have had them for eight years. Wish it could have been longer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Teachable Moment? Race Violence at the Iowa State Fair

So 30 to 40 black youths roamed the Iowa State fairgrounds openly proclaiming it to be "beat whitey night", and randomly assaulting fair-goers including attacks on two police officers. Some of the victims were seriously injured. So what is the official reaction?
There are indications that some of the fights - which appear to involve mostly teenagers and young adults - were racially motivated, police said.

We don't know if this was juveniles fighting or a group of kids singling out white citizens leaving the fairgrounds," Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. "It's all under investigation, but it's very possible it has racial overtones."
Yeah, right! They don't know, and just can't say, but they will investigate. And then there's this:
State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to fight gang-related violence, said he doesn't have enough information to decide if the fights were racially motivated. He said police comments that race was involved could miss other factors, such as nonracial taunting.


....


He added, "We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don't, they are playing games with themselves."

State Fair spokeswoman Lori Chappell said she had few details about the incidents.
And what would you expect from our PC official culture that is, in Dennis Miller's words, "a mincing behemoth".

And here's the kicker -- the assailants were young women in their teens and twenties. What was it Kipling said? Oh yeah! "The female of the species is deadlier than the male", and don't ever forget it. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amazing Optical Illusions



Check them out here.

Tolerating the Intolerant

Toleration is a two-way street. In order to be tolerated, you must be tolerant and tolerable. But what if one of the disputants has no interest in  being tolerant and is making irresponsible demands that are profoundly offensive? Christopher Hitchens has a nice piece in Slate on the problem:
As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …
As for the gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it's easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals. This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be "phobic." A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.
Read the whole thing here.

Hitchens is absolutely right on this matter. This is why the demands of the Iman Rauf and his backers must be resisted and why his supporters are acting shamefully by branding opposition "Islamophobic".

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Good President [continued] -- Missing Bush

Elizabeth Scalia has a nice way of cutting to the core of the situation. By way of explaining why people miss Bush she writes, quoting a friend:
"We knew that he said what he meant, even if we didn’t want to hear it. We knew who he was, even if we didn’t like him. And we never had to wonder whether he liked us. He always did.”
And continues: 
And that is it, in a nutshell. Bush is missable, because we miss having a president whose affection for his country and its people–even the ones who hated him–was never in doubt.
We miss Bush because he never lectured us or harangued us, and when people disagreed with him, they were not immediately called names in an attempt to simply shut up debate. 

....

[B]ecause Bush never hated his opponents, and he never believed the worst of his countrymen; he believed the best. 

Believing the worst of his countrymen sometimes seems to be President Obama’s default mode.

We miss Bush because he believed that Americans are inherently decent and heroic people who would–even in strained situations–bring thoroughly decent and heroic responses to bear.
Read it here.

As I have said many, many times, George W. Bush was a good man, a far better man than his critics, and a good, possibly a great, president. Time will tell how much he will be appreciated. For my part, I consider him to be the best of my lifetime [and I was born during the Roosevelt administration].

The Good President [continued] -- Bush on the Rise

Newsmax surveys recent polls on Presidential approval and notes:
Since March 2009, Bush's Gallup rating has climbed 10 points. Obama's favorability during the same period: down by over 20 points.


The bottom line: just 18 months after leaving office, Bush doesn't look so bad after all – despite the fact that the current administration has used him as a political piƱata for months. 

The article attributes this to several factors:

The winding down of the Iraq war, which increasingly seems like a victory and the unpopularity of Obama's Afghanistan adventure; the fact the Bush allies have begun to defend him and his policies in the press; the revelation that Bush was deeply involved in humanitarian activities and policies, particularly in Africa; the fact that Bush kept America safe from terrorism; and the fact that Obama has continued many of Bush's most controversial policies, suggesting that they were in fact the responsible course of action.

I have little hope that the current inhabitants of academia's upper reaches will soon get over their Bush derangement -- they are far too committed to their pet ideologies to be disturbed by mere facts -- but the general public is slowly awakening to the fact that the man they so despised was a good, honest, and possibly great figure. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Amazing Photos -- Yann Arthus-Bertrand



The earth from above: Check the whole series out here.

Check out the National Geographic video "Home" based on his work here.

Ayaan v Barak

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali born former Dutch parliamentarian, forceful voice for human rights, and prominent critic of Islamic culture, especially as regards the treatment of women, argues that President Obama's understanding of Western/Islamic relations is flawed. She instead suggests that Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" model is more appropriate to the current situation and should form the basis for our policy toward the Islamic world. The fundamental point at issue is whether patient tolerance will lead to a positive change in Muslim attitudes toward the West, or whether those attitudes are so deeply ingrained in the culture that persistent acquiescence to Muslim demands will simply be interpreted as weakness. It's an interesting debate. Check her out here.

The Good President [continued] -- Missing Bush

From the National Review:
A prominent Democratic pollster is circulating a survey that shows George W. Bush is 6 points more popular than President Obama in “Frontline” districts — seats held by Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees as most vulnerable to Republican takeover. That Bush is more popular than Obama in Democratic-held seats is cause for outright fear.
 Read it here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Volcanoes

National Geographic has a series of really spectacular volcano photos available online. Check them out here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority -- Fraud at Harvard

Even in the most illustrious institutions, the quest for fame and fortune corrupts scientific inquiry.


Harvard's media-friendly evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser, famous for his 2006 book Moral Minds, is under investigation for misrepresenting research on morality in primates. Students asked Harvard officials to raid Hauser's lab three years ago; they didn't like what they found.


Like his colleague Steven Pinker, Hauser believes that primates (including humans) possess psychological traits - like morality - which go back quite far in our evolution. In other words, humans possess an innate sense of right and wrong that they share with their evolutionary cousins, the monkeys and apes. He's written extensively about the moral and cognitive traits of tamarin monkeys, as well as human babies. But, according to the New York Times' Nicolas Wade, who has been following this unfolding academic melodrama, Hauser's students got so fed up with wrongdoings in his lab that they reported him to Harvard authorities three years ago. They claimed he was misrepresenting his research, an accusation which was mirrored by other colleagues.
Read it here. Original NYT report here.

So the scientist wanted to become a media star and in the process of doing so sold his integrity and threatens that of the entire field. And how did Harvard react to the problem? The Times quotes a colleague:

“The people who really know what’s happened are students, current and former,” said a scientist who asked to remain anonymous because of Dr. Hauser’s continuing power in the field. “They are very unhappy about how Harvard has handled this, and they feel things are being swept under the rug.”
Indeed!

Genomics and Race, An Anthropologist's View

An observation by Dienekes:
How strange that modern genetics is supposed to have invalidated the concept of race, yet, at every turn, it confirms most of the basic racial taxonomic observations of people working only with their eyes and, much later, their calipers.

Read it here.

The Greater Evil

Lovecraft's "Curse of Cthulhu" as you've never heard or read it before:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taiwanese Take on Michelle's Spanish Adventure

Not Thinking Things Through

In the wake of the administration's tacit admission that the choice of Joe Biden for Veep was an unmitigated disaster and the numerous suggestions that he be replaced by Hillary Clinton,Tunku Varadarajan asks:
If Hillary is going to be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, would you want that to be your heartbeat?
Well do ya feel lucky, punk? Do ya?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Barone's Simple Truths

In his latest column Michael Barone states the simple truth, long understood by conservatives, that market mechanisms are more efficient allocaters of economic resources than panels of government experts -- a fact blithely ignored by an administration that has placed its faith in the pronouncements and policies recommended by various "expert" economists. Unwilling, for obvious reasons, to call Obama's policies what they are [fascism, which as Jonah Goldberg has demonstrated is a variety of socialism] Barone instead lables the administration's policies "State Capitalism". He writes:

[F]acts are stubborn things. The fact that the private-sector economy has not responded as administration economists expected and confidently predicted should be a wake-up call.

It shows the limits of expert knowledge and of the ability of political actors to make optimal economic choices.



The intellectual firepower of this administration may be high. But so was the intellectual firepower of the postwar British Labour governments that nationalized steel and auto companies and the railroads.
That didn’t turn out so well, and for decades the British economy lagged behind those of America and its European neighbors. State capitalism has been tried before. It didn’t work.
Barone not only invokes the historical experience of post-war Britain -- he cites the opinion of a number of conservative economists, which only goes to illustrate a second simple truth -- experts are seldom in agreement on any major issue.

The Obama administration seems to have a naive faith in the ability of "experts" to come up with the single best solution to problems facing us as a people and to recommend the most effective policies to be implemented in order to deal with them. These feckless progressives do not seem to realize the simple truth -- that intellectual [and especially scientific] inquiry is a continuing dialogue in which new perspectives and evidence are constantly changing what we think we know.
Barone suggests that in the face of such uncertainty a certain degree of modesty is in order, but modesty is an alien concept to Obama's "experts". If this administration can be characterized by any single thing it would be a staggering and overwhelming hubris, based in a naive faith in the efficacy of "expert" opinion.
 
He leaves us with yet more uncertainty. Obama's vaunted teams of "experts" have failed, and failed miserably, but there is no indication that Republican "experts" will do any better. Maybe, just maybe, they will be a bit more modest, but there is no guarantee of that. After all, they too are "experts" and to admit that they just don't know what to do would be to deny their own value, and they are not about to do that. 
 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Good President [continued] -- Double Standards

The death of federalism.

This WSJ editorial points out the blatant double standards applied to President Bush, who was blamed for the failure of State and local authorities in the case of Katrina and President Obama, who largely escaped criticism when federal incompetence and regulations blocked any effective response to the BP oil spill on the part of State and local governments. The point is not just the obvious one that Bush has frequently been subject to unfair criticism, far more so than Obama, but that in both cases the national media disregarded the role played by State and local authorities in order to focus on the more politically potent critique of national and international [in the case of BP] actors. Read the piece here.

What We Had for Dessert

Early this evening "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I joined a dear friend for dinner. After a bit of discussion we decided on Thai. We hit the streets south of the Inner Harbor walking down Light Street heading for the Thai Arroy near the Cross Street Market, but when we got there they were closed. What to do? What to do? It's not like there weren't other restaurants in the area -- the place is loaded with them -- but we had our appetites set for Thai food. "She" suggested that there was another Thai restaurant -- "ten oh six" -- nearby, but none of us could remember seeing it recently. We soon found it nestled into a small space next to "Regi's" about half a block away. It wasn't "ten oh six" anymore. The ownership was the same, but they had changed the name, the decor, the menu, and some of the personnel. It is now called "Thai Yum".

What a wonderful surprise! They had gone from a mixed Asian-American cuisine to authentic Thai and had changed their focus in an attempt to appeal to young, urban foodies. It seems to be working. We got there early and were the first customers, but as the evening progressed the place filled up, mostly with young women out for dinner with their friends. Not bad for a Monday crowd. I won't blog the meal -- "She" has already done that over on her own site -- but I do want to call attention to the dessert. It's something like baked alaska -- an ice cream core ["Thai tea" ice cream] surrounded by baked merangue. Mmmm, yum.

If you are in the Baltimore area and feel like eating Thai food, check out Thai Yum on South Light Street, about a block north of the Cross Street Market. You'll be glad you did.


Timewasters

Blessing or curse? Probably the latter. If you like to push pixels around go here to find links to the 150 greatest online flash games.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eastern State Penitentiary in Photos



Check out the whole series here.

Prof Reynolds on the Coming College Crackup

For some time now I have been arguing that not just the public schools, but the entire higher education establishment is pursuing an unsustainable course and that a crisis is emerging that will radically transform the current dysfunctional institutional structure. The university as we know it is not going to be around for long and alternative methods of instruction are already becoming more popular. Glenn Reynolds [the Instapundit] has a nice piece in the Examiner on the subject. He writes:

For the past several decades, colleges and universities have built endowments, played moneyball-style faculty hiring games, and constructed grand new buildings, while jacking up tuitions to pay for things (and, in the case of state schools, to make up for gradually diminishing public support).

That has been made possible by an ocean of money borrowed by students -- often with the encouragement and assistance of the universities.  Business plans that are based on this continuing are likely to fare poorly. 


....

A college degree demonstrates, at least, moderate intelligence - and, more importantly, the ability to show up and perform on a reasonably reliable basis, something that is of considerable interest when hiring people, a surprisingly large number of whom do neither.

But a college degree is an expensive way to get an entry-level credential.  New approaches to credentialing, approaches that inform employers more reliably, while costing less than a college degree, are likely to become increasingly appealing over the coming decade.


Read it here.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

God, the Singularity, and Optimising Mechanisms, Oh My!!!

Here's an interesting dialogue between Bob Wright and Eliezer Yudkowsky on the subjects of "the Singularity" and evidence from design for the existence of God. The two men hold very different positions on the subjects and feel deeply about them. It's fun and, for anyone who has not thought deeply about the matters, instructive to watch them go at each other.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Flash Opera at the Reading Terminal Market

I have been at the Market many times, but never seen anything like this. I wish I had been there.

The Times They Are A'changin'

In the middle decades of the Twentieth Century an elite consensus emerged in the Western democracies, largely in response to the perceived experience of World War Two. One element of this consensus, a reaction agaisnt Nazi race theory, was a massive repudiation of biologically based determinants of the human condition. This was matched by an avid embrace of sociological categories of analysis, for the most part based in Marxist theory. Evolution, we were told, ended with the emergence of society, people were all the same under the skin, and perceived differences among people were mere "social constructs" or evidence of atavistic bias. That consensus still holds in official circles, but is rapidly crumbling in the face of genomic research.

Even such a bastion of liberal opinion as the New York Times has begun, quite tentatively to be sure, to report on this potentially explosive scientific research. A recent article noted that evolution is still ongoing and is producing some interesting variance among population groups. Many Asians, for instance, metabolize alcohol differently than do people whose descent traces back to other parts of the world. Tibetans have in recent times evolved biological adaptations to high-altitude living. People living in cold climate, too, show a suite of recent biological adaptations. Primitive farming populations synthesize folic acids differently than other groups. East Asians, unlike other populations, produce dry earwax. These can all be considered superficial traits, but fundamental biological processes are involved and the Times list is hardly exhaustive. There are well-documented differences among ethnic groups regarding susceptibility to disease or responses to medical treatments and some evolutionary biologists have suggested that there may be cognitive differences too. These, quite understandably, are highly controversial and the Times is right to treat the entire subject gingerly, but genomic research is still in its infancy and the fact that its conclusions, however troubling, are being discussed in such a forum suggests that some major rethinking regarding some fundamental tenets of the post-war elite consensus is taking place.

Naill Ferguson on the Ascent of Money

Naill Ferguson talks with Harry Kreisler about his immensely popular history of finance, "The Ascent of Money". The interview includes one of the most lucid discussions I've seen of how the current credit crisis originated.



Watch the PBS series based on the book here.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Afghanistan and Empires, a New Perspective

Christopher Caryl, wriitng in Foreign Policy, has a nice review of Thomas Barfield's new history of Afghanistan. In it Barfield persuasively challenges the conventional view of Afghanistan as the "Graveyard of Empires". He shows that until the Eighteenth Century Afghanistan had successfully been incorporated into a number of empires and had even spawned some spectacular ones. The Soviet defeat in the region, due largely to American support for the Afghan resistance, represented a break with rather than a continuation of the region's history.

Read the review here.

Promises, Promises -- The Trail of Deception that Produced Obamacare

Mary Katherine Ham and Guy Benson once again do the tedious, but important, job of documenting the deceptive rhetoric that was deployed in the Democrat's campaign to inflict Obamacare on the nation. The result is an invaluable resource of which all voters should be aware.

Read it here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Continung Collapse of Academic Authority

Brendan O'Neill, writing over at Spiked, takes on the peer-review process. Once the mechanism supposedly served to guarantee a high level of competence in academic publications. Now it has been thoroughly politicized and serves to enforce a party-line.

Read it here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Way Things Used To Be


Amazing colorized pictures of America seven decades ago. Check them out here.

Mamet's Conversion

On the subject of liberal to conservative conversions, Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, has a nice piece in Commentary on David Mamet's discovery that he was a conservative. Read it here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Losing Her Faith

Some of my favorite reading on the web has been the now numerous accounts by disillusioned liberals of how and why they became conservatives. One of the best is Neo-Neocon who usually has interesting things to say about a lot of things. Chris Muir's cartoon yesterday summarized the amazing number of intellectual and moral insults liberals have had to endure in the past two decades. Considering the frequency and seriousness of these insults it is astounding that any intelligent person could remain a liberal, but many do -- a triumph of faith over reason.

The National Dialogue on Race -- Loury and McWhorter

Two really smart black guys talking about race in America and, surprise, surprise, they make a lot of sense.I particularly like Professor Loury's assertion that the reign of Political Correctness is coming to an end.