Day By Day

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Good Presidents

The two Presidents Bush earlier tonight at the World Series:



The good guys have their moment. Brings back memories -- good ones.

Wretchard's Prediction

Wretchard [Richard Fernandez] expanding on observations by Charles Krauthammer, has an interesting take on the aftermath of the upcoming election. If, as many expect, the Republicans gain control of at least one house of Congress, the only way Obama can continue to put his reforms in place is through the federal bureaucracy. This sets up an interesting situation:
Democrats will advance their agenda on Obamacare, financial reform and energy by means of administrative regulation, such as carbon-emission limits imposed unilaterally by the Environmental Protection Agency.”  That will be the main card for 2011 and what a humdinger it will be. If a conservative Congress attempts to cut back on the agencies, the giant bureaucracy will be fighting for its life. In that capacity it will be formidable. In zero-sum game against the President and the agencies, Congress may be the political underdog without allies.

Where will it find them? The only plausible allies that Congress can line up behind it are the States. The States are the other separate power in the Federal structure. Their stake in the outcome is as great as anyone else’s.  At some point in an all-in political conflict, especially when money and authority is concerned,  the several states are likely to play a part in proceedings.  It is unlikely they will watch completely passively from the sidelines. With Washington in a meltdown and a divided capital struggling in unparalleled acrimony, there’s a possibility the states will be drawn in, perhaps through Interstate Compacts, or simply through political persuasion. What will they do about Obamacare, financial reform and carbon emissions?

What may occur after the Tea Party breaks over the capital is not that the wave will dissipate, but that the impetus will return to to the States and spread downwards from there. 
Read it here.
Some degree of conflict between federal mandates, largely unfunded, and State governments is inevitable. State governments simply cannot afford to comply with many federal dictates. And the response by Democrats and the MSM to State insubordination is equally inevitable. They will invoke the mid-twentieth century struggle for civil rights and howl "RAAAAACISM". But that tactic has lost much of its sting and is unlikely to be very persuasive. For half a century and more we have seen a continual trend toward concentration of power in the federal government and in the non-elective elements of that government [the bureaucracy and the courts]. Perhaps in the coming struggle that tendency can be halted, or even reversed, and that, to quote a famous criminal mastermind [Martha Stewart], would be "a good thing".

Bob Hope Nails It



Exactly!

Sarah Nails It Again

"Corrupt bastards" -- that's what Sarah called the creeps at Alaska CBS affiliate, KTVA, who were conspiring to embarrass Republican senatorial candidate Joe Miller. She suggested that the lack of journalistic integrity and outrageous bias displayed in the incident were generalized throughout the MSM. I think she's right.

Read about it here. Breitbart has a transcript here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Relatively Sane Look At the Tea Parties

John Judis, writing in the New Republic, identifies four "myths" being promulgated in the MSM about the Tea Parties.

1. The Tea Party is not, as many MSM commentators would argue, a coherent movement. To call it such is to impose [and this is an important insight into elite thinking] "continental European" categories onto what is a quintessentially American phenomenon.

2. The Tea Party is not, as the Left claims, "fascist" in any way. Fascists seek to deny civil liberties, the Tea Party promotes them. Fascists are violent, the Tea Party is not. Etc. Again Judis makes the important observation that elite comment reveals a continental European mindset that is inappropriately applied to America. Moreover, he makes another pertinent point -- to the extent that it looks toward the past it is an American past, which was relatively respectful of individual freedom, rather than toward a European past which was repressive. I don't agree with his view that the Tea Party is reactionary -- progressives always identify their critics as being reactionary -- but his point about the American past is spot on.

3. The Tea Party is not, as Leftists charge, racist. It stands for solid middle-class values and resents those who ostentatiously spurn them. That includes many non-whites, but also  Wall Street moneymen, academics, Hollywood celebrities, etc. The resentments are class-based, not racist.

4, The Tea Party is not, as some Democrat hacks have claimed, a creation of the Republican Party or of Big Business. The Republicans and business interests are likely to benefit from the Tea Party's emergence, but they certainly did not create it nor do they control it.

A provocative and interesting take -- one of the best I have seen from a progressive writer. Check it out here.

Screenshots

The other day after the rains I took some pictures of the fall foliage through rain-spattered window screens. The result was an interesting effect.







1848 Daguerrotype of the Cincinnati Waterfront

A fascinating look at a long-bygone era. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Murray on the "New Elite"

The idea of a "new elite" [I prefer the term "new class"] has been much commented on lately. Scholars have been discussing it's emergence and development for several decades now, but recently the idea has oozed out of academia into the general culture and become a political issue. Charles Murray writes:


That a New Elite has emerged over the past 30 years is not really controversial. That its members differ from former elites is not controversial. What sets the tea party apart from other observers of the New Elite is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans. 

Let me propose that those allegations have merit. 
 That of course is the essence of the Tea Party movement's challenge to technocratic authority, but the problems are far broader and of much longer duration than he appreciates. This is a subject that interests me greatly and I will be returning to it time and again in future posts as I work out my understanding of the phenomenon. Link to Murray's article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pennsylvania Pictures -- Miscellany

If you are in the mood for a break from the relentlessly political chatter of the season, check out these pictures of the paradise that is Pennsylvania in the Fall.




A kettle of vultures over Port Clinton.





Farm in Lancaster County with the full moon rising.


The distant ridge in the middle of this picture is "Pinnacle", the highest point in Berks County.


Black vultures roosting at the South Lookout on Hawk Mountain.




Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Haters

P. J. O'Rourke writes regarding Democrats:


They don’t just hate our Republican, conservative, libertarian, strict constructionist, family values guts. They hate everybody’s guts. And they hate everybody who has any. Democrats hate men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays, straights, the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

Democrats hate Democrats most of all. Witness the policies that Democrats have inflicted on their core constituencies, resulting in vile schools, lawless slums, economic stagnation, and social immobility. Democrats will do anything to make sure that Democratic voters stay helpless and hopeless enough to vote for Democrats.

I think he might be onto something. Read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Invasion of the Giant Bedbugs

From Taiwan's Next Media Animation:

Everything You Want to Know About the Juan Williams Firing

Elizabeth Scalia has links to all the relevant commentary here.

My opinion for what it's worth -- the NPR position is despicable, the Soros contribution is suspicious, but none of it is important enough to merit the attention it is getting. The whole imbroglio is a distraction and a trap. The obvious purpose of the NPR action was to goad the punditry into issuing calls for de-funding [thanks, Sarah], which can be used to gin up support among the NPR listening base and get them to open their wallets.

If conservatives are to triumph they have to keep their eyes on the ball.

Check Out Three Minute Philosophy

A nice little introduction to basic philosophical concepts.



Here's the home-page. I plan to keep coming back to it every once in a while, just to see what they have come up with.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Good President [continued] -- Bush Speaks


A sold-out crowd of 2,000 saw former president George W. Bush speak at the University of Texas yesterday. During his talk he received three standing ovations along with occasional chants of "Bring Back Bush". Clearly not everyone agrees with the MSM's assessment of the Bush presidency as a failure.

Read about it here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great President

Calvin Coolidge, in the first presidential speech ever filmed with sound, explains why government is a burden on the people. Listen to what he has to say and compare it with the mouthings today's politicians. We have come a very long way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Volkerwandurung Returns

I recently read Peter Heather's "Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe" and recommend it highly. In it Prof. Heather argues that militarized mass migration [what he calls "predatory migration"] was an important component of the transformation of barbarian populations from primitive, semi-nomadic subsistence farmers into militarily formidable and politically coherent groups that were capable of challenging Roman and other imperial authorities during the first millennium AD. Toward the end of the book he suggests that the concept of predatory migration might usefully be applied to other cultural transformations in early prehistory.

It's an interesting thought, especially as the German press is reporting on new interpretations of sites associated with the emergence of neolithic LBK [linear band keramic] culture in northern Europe. It has long been recognized that this new culture which becomes apparent around 7,000 BC originated in the Danubian basin and perhaps even earlier in Anatolia, but its spread northwestward into northern Europe was a matter of some controversy. Prior to WWII there was general agreement that the change in material culture found in the archaeological record represented a mass migration of a new people, bringing with them neolithic technologies like agriculture, stock raising, etc. and, because of the advantage these technologies conferred upon them, displacing the earlier hunter/gatherer population of the region. 

Since the 1960's, though, mass migration as a mechanism of change has pretty much been written out of the historical record, largely because many scholars were uncomfortable with the implications of the concept [which included ethnic cleansing and tracing nationality groups back to ancient origins -- which had been a feature of pre-war German historiography] and instead a scholarly consensus has emerged around the concept of peaceful change -- either through cultural diffusion in which indigenous populations remain in in place but pick up new habits from their neighbors, or a process of demic diffusion in which small groups of migrants moved slowly into a region peacefully coexisting with or merging with previous inhabitants.

The scholarly consensus, however recently taken a second major hit that reinforces Heather's conclusions. Der Spiegel reports on findings by German archaeologists showing that there was a mass migration of neolithic farmers into northern Europe from the Middle East starting around 7,000 BC. Rather than peacefully absorbing or interbreeding with the indigenous inhabitants the evidence suggests that the migrants displaced them. The advantage these migrants possessed over the indigenous populations seems to have been less technological than genetic [they were lactose intolerant]. Finally, there is extensive evidence for violent confrontation accompanying the migration. [read it here].

Of course the old paradigm is not going to crumble without a fight and hostile commentary on both Heather's book and the Der Spiegel article is pouring out. For a fair and reasonable discussion of what the new findings do and do not suggest check out John Hawks blog here. For an overview of the controversy by Razib Khan go here.

I love the sound of paradigms crashing -- especially those like the diffusion synthesis that have obvious political and ideological underpinnings.

Five Myths About Sarah

By Matthew Continetti, who notes that much of what people think they know about Gov. Palin is based on the SNL parody of her. In his piece he argues that Sarah did not cost McCain the election, that her resignation was not a rash move, that she and the Tea Parties are not destroying the GOP, that she is not an extremist, and that she, despite the vitriol poured on her, is highly electible.

Interesting read. Check it out here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Sign Of the Times

Even PBS is turning on Obama. The mendacity of the current administration has gotten so bad that even its liberal acolytes can't stomach them. Items:

David Brooks tells Jim Lehrer that Obama told him [off the record] that there were no "shovel-ready jobs". [here]

Mark Shields, also on PBS accused the White House of fabricating the whole Chamber of Commerce story [here].

The thing about these charges is that they were made on PBS, by former Obama fans. That is significant because it means that Obie is losing his base.

Iowahawk Strikes Again -- Beltway Adventure

Anyone who has played a text-adventure game can appreciate this latest offering from the funniest man on the internet:

BELTWAY ADVENTURE

WELCOME TO ADVENTURE! WOULD YOU LIKE INSTRUCTIONS?
>YES
YOU ARE SOMEWHERE IN BELTWAY FOREST, WHERE SOME HAVE FOUND TREASURES OF GOLD ALTHOUGH SOME HAVE ENTERED AND NEVER BEEN SEEN AGAIN. MAGIC IS SAID TO WORK IN THE FOREST. I WILL BE YOUR EYES AND HANDS. DIRECT ME WITH SIMPLE COMMANDS.
YOU ARE IN AN OVAL OFFICE. THERE IS SNOW OUTSIDE. YOU ARE BEHIND A DESK. ON DESK THERE IS A BUST OF CHURCHILL.
YOU HAVE A CONGRESS.
YOU HAVE A SENATE.
YOU HAVE A MEDIA.
YOU HAVE A TELEPROMPTER.
YOU HAVE A MILITARY.
YOU HAVE A BIG JET.
YOU HAVE $3 TRILLION OF GOLD.
YOU HAVE 82% APPROVAL HEALTH.
THERE IS 7.2% UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE FOREST.
YOU HAVE A RACE CARD.
YOU HAVE INAUGURAL PARTY LEFTOVERS.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
>EAT LEFTOVERS
>RETURN BUST
YOU ARE IN AN OVAL OFFICE. YOU ARE BEHIND A DESK. ON DESK THERE IS NO BUST OF CHURCHILL. THERE ARE NO MORE LEFTOVERS. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
>GIVE SPEECH
 YOU ARE IN AN OVAL OFFICE. YOUR APPROVAL HEALTH IS 81%. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
>NAME TEAM

It just keeps getting better. Check out the whole thing here.

The Continung Collapse of Scientific Authority

As I have frequently noted scientific investigation is a human activity and as such is subject to all the foibles of human endeavor. This is a fact that has not been generally appreciated, largely because of an irrational faith that the internal institutions that shape the scientific community include corrective mechanisms and methods of inquiry that guarantee objectivity. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly obvious that those mechanisms do not, and never did work, very well and that a great deal of the information reported by serious scientists is just plain wrong. David Freedman, writing in The Atlantic reports:
"Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong."
He discusses the career of Dr. John Ioannidis, who for decades now has been exposing the problem and is now beginning to be taken seriously.
He’s what’s known as a meta-researcher, and he’s become one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research. He and his team have shown, again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies—conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain—is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. His work has been widely accepted by the medical community; it has been published in the field’s top journals, where it is heavily cited; and he is a big draw at conferences. Given this exposure, and the fact that his work broadly targets everyone else’s work in medicine, as well as everything that physicians do and all the health advice we get, Ioannidis may be one of the most influential scientists alive. Yet for all his influence, he worries that the field of medical research is so pervasively flawed, and so riddled with conflicts of interest, that it might be chronically resistant to change—or even to publicly admitting that there’s a problem. 
Yes, indeed, there is a problem -- a big one! And it is not just in medical science. The same problem afflicts climate science, sociology, economics, and in fact any field of inquiry where money and power are contingent upon results.The entire scientific enterprise, upon which our progressive view of the world is based, is thoroughly, and perhaps irredeemably corrupt.

Read this important and sobering article here. Then think about what you have read.

Hyrax Pees on Climate Models

It had to happen -- as a result of recent controversy the confirmation bias built into scientific investigations of past climate change has dissolved and at long last evidence contradicting the standard model are being reported. One interesting finding comes from South Africa. It is based on investigation of Hyrax urine deposits and is of interest mostly because it shows just the opposite of what the standard model predicts. The lead investigator states: "If the model can't simulate the past. ... how much trust do we have in its ability to predict the future?"

Well, "none" is the proper answer, and that is just the point. A few years ago the hyrax evidence would not have been reported, or at least not taken seriously because scientists believe fervently in the standard model. That it is being cited now is evidence of a major shift in thinking about climate. 

Read the article here. Then, if you wish, follow the link at the bottom for a discussion of "giant bird poop".

No: this is not from the "Onion" -- we're talking "National Geographic" here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bret Favre Is the Talk Of the Town

The Taiwanese are at it again. Here's their take on Bret Favre's recent problems:

American Apocalypse?

The cries of doom and gloom are everywhere. America, we are told, is degenerate and in decline and about to be eclipsed by more dynamic powers like China. It's the same old declinist cant we've heard over and over and over again. Before China it was the EU and before that Japan and before that the Soviet Union and before that Germany and before that.... well, you get the idea.

David Bell has a nice short piece on the phenomenon in the latest New Republic. He writes:
For whatever reason, it is clear that for more than half a century, many of America’s leading commentators have had a powerful impulse consistently to see the United States as a weak, “bred out” basket case that will fall to stronger rivals as inevitably as Rome fell to the barbarians, or France to Henry V at Agincourt.

Of course, this does not mean that their actual analyses are mistaken at every point. But it does mean that they often take for granted things that perhaps they should not: for instance, that overall national economic performance necessarily follows from national performance in primary education, or from the savings rate; or that political paralysis at home necessarily weakens a country’s international influence. Such conclusions stem naturally from notions of what is wrong or right, strong or weak on an individual basis. How can a weak, flabby, undisciplined couch potato possibly compete with a rival who eats right, studies hard and works out every day (like the Russians … I mean the Japanese … I mean the Chinese)? 

The trouble with the analogy is that nations do not in fact behave like individuals. Government debt is not the same thing as individual debt. The collective pursuit of new pleasures and luxuries can create economic benefits that have no real individual equivalent. Attempts to impose stringent discipline on behavior on a national scale can backfire spectacularly. But the psychological impulse to see the country in decline leads writers again and again to neglect these differences, and to cast the story of a huge, complex nation as a simple individual morality play.
 Read the whole thing here.

 He's right, of course, predictions of imminent decline and destruction have been a constant theme in American commentary and policy writing ever since World War II, and as an historian I can assure you that the theme goes much farther back than that. Since long before our nation's founding the history of America has been time and again couched in terms of moral and physical decline.


So should we take the latest wave of despair seriously? Has the wolf finally arrived? I think not! 

Much of the current discourse is simple moralistic nonsense spewed by a boomer generation that is quick to find moral error in everyone, even their peers. Some of it is inherent in academic and activist institutions that define themselves in opposition to [or at least at a critical distance from] the mainstream culture. But much of it is special pleading of the "follow my prescriptions or doom will certainly ensue" type. Predictions of doom have obvious political value, both as a club with which to beat your opponent and as a counterpoint to calls for change. Doom and gloom is the flip side of optimistic programs of reform like the "New Deal", the "New Frontier", "Morning in America", Environmentalism, or the current administration's fuzzy concepts of "Change". Given their psychological, institutional, and political utility it is not surprising that we are constantly inundated by predictions of apocalyptic doom. There is nothing new in them and, I strongly suspect, there is no need to take them too seriously.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Listening to the Jupiter String Quartet

We're well into the fall concert season. Last weekend we joined some of our friends for a trip up to the BMA where the Jupiter String Quartet was playing. The old joke goes, "A string quartet consists of a pretty good violinist, a not so good violinist, someone who used to be a violinist, and a guy who hates violinists." Not at all applicable here. These kids are excellent! The Jupiter Quartet is something of a family affair. The second violinist, Meg Freivogel, is the sister of "violist" Liz Freivogel, and is married to the cellist, "Daniel McDonough". Only the lead violinist, Nelson Lee, is not in the family. They are all superb musicians.

They performed three numbers: Haydn's "String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76, No. 2 "Quinten" (a very traditional piece of music -- listen to them performing it here); Gyorgy Kurtag's "Hommage a Mihaly Andras," 12 Microludes, Op. 13 (an experimental set of meditations on the D tone); and finished with the magnificent Beethoven "String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130 with the spectacular "Gross Fugue".

Since the performance took place within an art museum there were two short talks between music performances on the subject of the relationship between the musical and visual arts, illustrated by short appropriate passages played by the quartet. It was an interesting experiment and added to my enjoyment, especially of the Kurtag piece, which I had not heard before. The ensemble is on tour right now and might be coming to a city near you. They will also be touring Europe again soon. Check them out -- they are definitely worth hearing.

Here they are playing Mendelssohn:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Experience of War in Afghanistan

There's an interesting post over at the "Duck of Minerva" blog by Vikash Yadav titled the "Blogs of War". In it he surveys a number of blogs by soldiers serving in Afghanistan, concentrating on those who spend a lot of time off-base. He finds a number of common themes: paternalism, a faith in modernization, mistrust of the Afghans, and a fascination with the comforts of Western life, provided by the military. He concludes that even those military personnel who spend a lot of time among the Afghanis don't understand them very well. You don't have to accept his assessment. Follow his links to the original blogs and judge for yourself. 

The Myth of Disinterested Science

Roger Highfield, editor of the New Scientist, reviews the current dispute among internationally famed scientists on the subject of "kin selection" in evolutionary theory [don't worry, his article will explain what it is all about] and concludes:
The only conclusion is that the idea that science is a disinterested quest for truth, where only rational argument counts, is a myth. Like any human endeavour, it is swayed by fashions, by belief – and sometimes even by the lynch mob. 
That's something I have been saying for a long time. There is no such thing as a disinterested authority, scientific or otherwise.

Read Highfield's piece here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Columbus Day

On this day it is interesting and informative to see what Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa had to say back in 1990 about what Columbus' voyages meant and why.

Most commentators these days take positions on one side of a moral question: Was Columbus' voyage the beginning of a great European triumph, or the start of the greatest crime in human history? Llosa tries to get beyond that simplistic dichotomy. He writes:


I have two other questions, both having to do with the conquest, and I happen to think that an honest and thoughtful discussion of them is as timely and urgent as any others one could pose just now about Latin America. First: How was it possible that cultures as powerful and sophisticated as those of the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians–huge imperial cultures, as opposed to the scattered tribes of North America–so easily crumbled when encountered by infinitesimally small bands of Spanish adventurers? This question is itself centuries old, but not academic. In its answer may lie the basis for an understanding of the world the conquest engendered, a chronically “underdeveloped” world that has, for the most part, remained incapable of realizing its goals and visions.

The second question is this: Why have the postcolonial republics of the Americas–republics that might have been expected to have deeper and broader notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity–failed so miserably to improve the lives of their Indian citizens? Even as I write, not only the Amazonian rain forests but the small tribes who have managed for so long to survive there are being barbarously exterminated in the name of progress.
In other words he turns the moralists' questions back on themselves, urging them to stop assigning blame to Europe for everything that afflicts them and to instead look to their own pre- and post-colonial history.

It's an interesting position. I recommend the article highly.

Read the whole thing here.

The Social Network

We saw "The Social Network" this weekend. It is extremely well made. The acting is uneven, but overall not bad. There are strong performances by Rooney Mara (in a minor role), Andrew Garfield, and (surprisingly) Justin Timberlake. Jesse Eisenberg in the lead does his standard passive-aggressive routine, this time to good effect. The film's strong point is the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on a book by Ben Mezrich. It's filled with sharp dialogue and in the hands of director David Fincher accomplishes the amazing feat of making thoroughly obnoxious nerds sort of interesting and boring activities like pounding a keyboard or sitting in a deposition room involving. To this extent it is a technical triumph. In terms of the narrative the obvious references are to "Citizen Kane" and "Faust" and the arc is the story of a young man who gains the world, but loses those things [friendship and love] that are most important. It's a classic tale and that is part of the problem. It's something we've all seen done better before. But most disturbing is the fact that this movie is profoundly bigoted. It abounds with negative ethnic stereotypes -- violent and stupid WASP aristocrats who look down on smart Jewish nerds; hot Asian chicks who make themselves sexually available to smart Jewish nerds; Latin American elites who want to hang out with smart Jewish nerds; fast talking hustlers who seduce smart Jewish nerds; Asian guys who do the grunt work for smart Jewish nerds -- you get the idea. This is a triumphalist screed produced by smart Jewish nerds to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments while denigrating nearly everyone else. I wonder how much of themselves Sorkin, Fincher and Mezrich see in the central character of the film -- Mark Zuckerberg played with neurasthenic nastiness by Jesse Eisenberg.

There is a vigorous debate as to whether the central characters were portrayed fairly. That's not important. Like all movies this is a work of fiction that lies for dramatic effect. What is, at least to me, significant is that this is a thoroughly nasty and vicious production pervaded with bigotry to which the critical establishment seems completely insensitive [except for the film's rampant sexism -- which has drawn some comment]. There is a deep sickness at the core of the American film industry and nowhere is it more on display than in this profoundly offensive, but celebrated film.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Red Eye's Halftime Report

How many insensitive comments can be crowded into one segment? Watch Red Eye's half-time report and count them.

Stop Spending!!!!!

Ben Howe does it again -- meet "The Socialist"

Soft Despotism

This one you have to listen to and think about.

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield argues against tolerance and the "soft despotism" of sensitivity [here].

Friday, October 08, 2010

Zombie Voters


Noting that the Social Security Administration has sent checks to tens of thousands of deceased people Erick Erickson writes: It has come to this: Democrats are not only getting the dead to vote, but paying them for their votes too.

Read it here. Photo here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

George Bernard Shaw At His Worst

Shaw expressing an attitude, all too often characteristic of Progressive thought, that I find absolutely horrifying.



Progressives, like their British counterparts, the Fabians, are really scary people.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Who Can Obama Kill?

Jonah Goldberg, who is maturing into a fine thinker and writer, has a nice piece here on the subject of Obama's assassination list. One of the figures targeted for liquidation is Anwar al-Alwaki, a US citizen. This is a tricky subject -- whether or not presidents can, during wartime and with the implied consent of congress, target American citizens for assassination without judicial oversight as Obama has. Goldberg lays out the arguments for and against Obama's assassination order. He comes to no firm conclusion, but his final point is important -- in our current situation [and that which promises to obtain in the foreseeable future] we cannot continue to think in traditional terms about how executive power can be implemented. There has to be a national debate to define just what a president can and cannot do, and that debate cannot be bound by partisan enthusiasms. It's an interesting article on an important subject. Read it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Good President [continued]

Commenting on Obama's continuation of Bush-era national security and foreign policies, Michael Barone writes:

Obama implicitly confessed that the view of the world held with quasi-religious fervor by the Democratic left was delusional all along. Bush didn't lie, we didn't go into Afghanistan and Iraq without allies and against their wishes, we didn't carry out policies of torture, etc. The effort to cast Iraq as another Vietnam and America under Bush as an oppressive rogue power were perhaps emotionally satisfying but unconnected to reality.
 And the reaction of his partisans in the Democratic base, 
They don't like hearing it. They're keeping their ears plugged up and their eyes defiantly shut. Their MyObama Web pages are inactive and their checkbooks are closed. They've tuned out of the campaign and many of them won't even vote. The president they helped elect -- and the world -- have turned out not to be what they thought.
Read the whole thing here.

He's onto something here. The Left Wing attacks on President Bush were more than cynical posturing; they were so fervent and persistently vicious that they had to be based in a deeply held belief system that was, and remains, impenetrable to reality. It is indeed "quasi-religious" in character. It is virtually impossible for such people as this to admit that President Bush may have been wise and prudent in his policies and actions, for to do so would shake to the core their understanding of the world and their role in it.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Jack Gilbert's Dry Wit

The first Jack Gilbert poem I ever read:
FLAT HEDGEHOGS: [for Isaiah Berlin]

When the hedgehogs here at night

see a car and its fierce lights

coming at them, they do the one

big thing they know.
[From Refusing Heaven]

It made me chuckle, so I read on and on and on and now Jack Gilbert is one of my favorite contemporary poets.

Spooky Dolls

On our way north from Philly "She Who Must Not Be Named" insisted that we stop at one of her favorite places -- a combination of florist, garden center, and antique store just south of Reading. While she shopped I sought a quiet corner where I could sit down with my beloved kindle and read [right now I'm in the middle of Peter Heather's "The Fall of Rome and the Rise of Europe", an excellent analysis of development, migration and state formation in the first millenium AD]. I found an empty side room and settled in, but soon got a creepy feeling that I was being watched. Looking around I saw these sitting on shelves across the room, staring at me. I wasn't paying much attention to the displays so I can't be absolutely certain that they were there when I first came into the room. I certainly hope they were. My wife thinks they are adorable -- but to me they are just spooky.






Shudder.

Racism?

The latest Gallup poll has a lot of people asking, "Just who are the racists here?"

The good news for President Obama is his popular support among blacks is holding steady at 91%.
The bad news is no other group of potential voters likes him that much.

In fact, 29 days before his first midterm elections, the Democrat's approval ratings remain mired below 50%.
Read it here.

After all that has come down, he still has better than 90% approval! That's remarkable, and should be remarked on.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mao's Little Helpers

Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend. He's one of those pointy-headed intellectuals who embraced Marxism early in life and eventually graduated to Maoism by the 1960's when he trumpeted the glories of China's Cultural Revolution. He even traveled to China to make propaganda films for the regime. Nothing since has changed his mind and he views the current success of China's authoritarian system as a complete repudiation of America's decadent capitalism and of Cold War anti-communism. Naturally we argued, and had a great time doing so. Sometimes one of us will take a position in these discussions just to get a rise out of the other, and I suspect that was the purpose behind some of his more outrageous statements. Still intellectual infatuation with Mao, despite all we now know about him, has not been unusual, as is documented in Richard Wolin's devastating study of Western Maoists, "The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s".

It's an important book, not least for what it says about the generation of radicals that came to dominate academic circles at the time when today's leadership was being educated. Check out Jeremy Jennings' review here.

Developments

Boston. com posts a terrific collection of satellite photos from Google that show the south Florida housing boom at its most extravagant. Check them out here. The comments on the article are overwhelmingly negative and anti-development, but I admire the audacity of the developers.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Economic Consensus

Greg Mankiw notes that there is broad consensus among economists on a number of issues. 

Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:
  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
  7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
  8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
  9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
  10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
  11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
  12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
  13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
  14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)
What is striking is the extent to which these consensual positions are regularly disregarded by the architects of public policy. Read Mankiw's post here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Mark and Gloria Show

Mark Levin can be offensively overbearing and over the top and for those reasons I don't often listen to his radio show, but there are times when his abrasiveness is appropriate. This is one of them. Go here to listen to him interview the genuinely offensive and despicable Gloria Allred. He eats her alive.