November 27, 2005

Philosophical Insight of the Month

Most of us cannot pronounce Foucault without laughing let alone take him seriously as the provider of an all-encompassing worldview. We are more apt to say "Whatever" than "hegemonic discourse" when someone tries to get us down.
-- John Mark Reynolds

November 25, 2005

Another Reason to Buy a Gun (or Several)

This story, and the accompanying video made from a security camera, shows what appear to be Black Muslims sacking an Oakland liquor store. Apparently they raided two and destroyed coolers and bottles of alcohol.

Like the Korean storekeepers in the L.A. riot, I predict these folks will end up deciding to defend themselves and the businesses they have built with family savings and hard work.

This one incident might be for local law enforcement to handle, but if it's repeated it's a national security problem. In any event, it has to be stopped. And soon.

HT: Michelle Malkin, whose blog is getting better and better.

The 419 Scheme Mutates Again

I got this in my email today:
London, SE5 8SY
United Kingdom.

Dear Friend,

My name is Dr.Jang Chung, The Credit officer HSBC Bank plc. I am a member of Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP), Switzerland. ICEP is charged with the responsibility of finding bank accounts in Switzerland belonging to non-Swiss indigenes, which have remained dormant since World War Two. It mayinterest you to know that in July of 1997, the SwissBanker's Association published a list of dormant accounts originally opened by non-Swiss citizens.These accounts had been dormant since the end of World War II (May 9, 1945).

Most belonged to Holocaust victims. The continuing efforts of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons(ICEP) have since resulted in the discovery of additional dormant accounts -54,000 in December, 1999. The published lists contain all types of dormant accounts, including interest-bearing savings accounts, securities accounts, safe deposit boxes, custody accounts, and non-interest-bearing transaction accounts. Numbered accounts are also included. Interest is paid on accounts that were interest bearing when established.The Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT) handles processing of all claims on accounts due to non-Swiss citizens.

A dormant account of ORDNER ADELE with a credit balance of US$ 21,000,000 US dollar plus accumulated interest was recently discovered by me.The beneficiary was murdered during the holocaust era, Leaving no WILL and no possible records
for trace of heirs. The Claims Resolution Tribunal has been mandated to report all unclaimed funds for permanent closure of accounts and transfer of existing credit balance into the treasury of Switzerland government as provided by the law for management of assets of deceased beneficiaries who died interstate(living no wills). Being a top executive at ICEP, I have all secret details and necessary contacts for claim of the funds without any hitch. The funds will be lifted (packaged as consignment)to a Finance firm in Holland-The Netherlands, being a safe haven for funds and we can share the funds and use same in investment of our choice. Everything is set to lift the
funds to the Netherlands.This will make the funds untraceable. Thus,safer than a bank transfer which can be traced.

Due to the sensitive nature of my job, I need a foreigner to HELP claim the funds. All that is required is for you to provide me with your details for processing of the necessary documents.Hence you should send your full names, address, and telephone/fax numbers.I will pay all required fees to ensure that the fund is lifted and deposited with a Finance firm in Holland-The Netherlands. They will assist you in the clearance of the funds and the banking of the funds as well.

My share will be 60% and your share is 40% of the total amount. THERE IS NO RISK INVOLVED. You can find additional information about unclaimed funds through the internet at the following websites:

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office has put funds in Escrow awaiting submission of valid claims for necessary disbursement. I find myself priviledged to have this information and this is a great opportunity for a life time of success which will be of mutual benefits to us.

You should reply immediately so that we can commence.

My Regards ,

Suha Arafat, move over.

BTW, here's the official skinny on the "419 scheme."

After Us, Deluge or Renaissance?

John Derbyshire is one of my favorite commentators. He writes about politics, mathematics, and culture, and even has written a novel about a Chinese immigrant obsessed with Calvin Coolidge, no less. (Haven't read it, but will get around to it). Derbyshire's website even features a pretty good guide to the pronunciation of Chinese.

His Thanksgiving column, although on the surface an expression of thankfulness, iterates on a common theme, the Untergang des Abendlandes, or Decline of the West.

Derbyshire goes on at some length about his excitement, from childhood until now, at the progress of space exploration (he prefers the robotic kind).
There followed, through the succeeding decades, images of Mercury and Venus, of the great gas giants and their astonishing moons, of the lesser bodies. If the New Horizons mission reaches Pluto intact, my entire adult life will have been encompassed by this most marvelous of all scientific adventures -- the exploration of the solar system. I wouldn't have missed it for... well, for worlds.
Space exploration is a proxy for Derbyshire's gratitude at living when and where he has. He's about two years younger than I, and I must agree. We missed the slaughters of World Wars I and II, and are in late middle age as the world we know that treated us so well threatens to unravel.
That prompts other reflections about life in these past few decades, and in the next few. The sum total of those reflections is that I have been living in a golden age that will soon end. Born between VE Day and VJ Day, I missed all the greatest horrors of the 20th century. If granted a normal lifespan, I shall miss the horrors of the 21st, too. If my parents' generation was the greatest, mine has been the luckiest. For that, in this Thanksgiving season, I give sincere and heartfelt thanks.

It is not just space exploration I am thankful for, but I see that bold adventure as symbolic of the age now slipping away. It was a manifestation of our civilization's confidence. Look at what we can do! See where our ever-questing curiosity can take us! -- supported and funded, of course, by a proud and efficient public culture, in which enterprise and government deliver results.
All of this, Derbyshire fears, is slipping away.

He points to France as the harbinger of a decline of the West, due to "taxation, regulation, and litigation." Government, larger than ever, no longer works very well. Terrorism threatens to get much worse, with nuclear weapons smuggled into our cities. Western Europeans, rather than showing confidence in their civilization, wallow in guilt and self-deprecation, and things aren't likely to get better:
I can't believe my kids will have that kind of luck. The welfare state, which provided my education, no longer works -- not for them, not for anybody. (I sometimes marvel at how well it did work to lift up the deserving poor in the years after WWII. Don't laugh; it really did.) I shall have to beggar myself to put the little Derbs through college, and they will likely still end up with huge debts. There will be no 9-to-5 jobs for them to go to after graduation, quite possibly no jobs at all other than in government work, which by that time will occupy a Soviet-sized slice of the national economy.

The concept that lay beneath and supported our collective consciousness until recently, the concept that white Europeans, their civilization and their bourgeois culture, were the apex of human achievement, will have been shamed, mocked, and badgered out of existence— along, of course, with that civilization and that culture. Religion, which, following the lead of my Anglican education, I have always regarded as an occasional source of comfort and inspiration that should on no account be taken too seriously, will have become very serious indeed, with religious fanatics committing murder on the grand scale all over the world. Nuclear weapons, throughout my lifetime kept safe under guard in just a handful of reasonably well-ordered nations, will be traded for cash in third-world bazaars and smuggled into American cities ready for the day of judgement. (Perhaps they already have been.) Clever new viruses will mutate, escape from labs, or be released...
My diagnosis is somewhat different from Derbyshire's, and at times I indulge in cockeyed optimism, but it's hard to quarrel with much of what Derb says.

The critical expression of the loss of cultural self-confidence that Derbyshire notes is, for me, the decline in population throughout Europe, and in Japan. Although there are economic factors, such as the shortage and resultant high cost of places to raise a family, and in America, the price-fixing of universities, which have become gatekeepers to the meritocracy, even if they are arguably obsolete as purveyors of knowledge and skills--consider this, for example--a society, which, for whatever reasons, ceases to reproduce itself is likely to be supplanted by those who do. Social reproduction presupposes a functioning family system, which in turn requires some domestication of male sexuality. This domestication, in turn, has often been promoted by religious belief of one kind or another.

In Europe especially, these have vanished in a couple of generations, to be replaced by a welfare state that enables idleness and hedonism, whose taxes burden those who work, marry, and try to raise their children. The sad collapse of Republican fiscal discipline suggests that "tax and tax and spend and spend and elect and elect" (or perhaps, "borrow and borrow and spend and spend . . .") is a recurrent pattern in modern democracies.

Meanwhile, the non-breeding ex-Christian Europeans are being replaced by immigrants from the Muslim and African worlds, who are not encouraged or permitted to become part of their new nations, and many of whom do not want to. Between the seductions of Muslim preaching and the pyrotechnics of burning cars, what is left of the European tradition is imperiled by the newcomers to what is in their tradition the dar al-harb, or "house of war," as contrasted with the Islamic world, the dar as-salaam, or "house of peace."

To all this we can add terrorism, which could get much, much worse, as Derbyshire fears; environmental problems, whose extent is debatable but whose realityundeniableible; and most of all, the rise of a sensibility that does not value, but despises, Western civilization. See this specimen as an example (HT: Michelle Malkin.)

So Derbyshire might be right. There is cause for some pessimism. I hope my girls don't face what he fears. And yet, perhaps these fears are a kind of perverse comfort for an older generation regretting its aging and coming passage from the scene. I am reminded of Cavafy's poem:
Why don't the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.
What if our children end up having to muddle through, and disaster does not strike, or at least remains limited to certain times and places?

Unlike Derbyshire, I think our best hope is probably a religious revival of some kind in the West. We've dipped into and exhausted the moral capital left to us by past generations. Skeptic that I am, I nevertheless believe that our best chance is to seek renewed strength from the old sources, or at least new variants of the old sources.

If we believe Pitirim Sorokin, a new cycle of religious revival may be upon us. Perhaps we can still explore the solar system and restore social discipline and confidence in our own culture.

Neither Derb nor I will live to see more than, perhaps, the very beginning of these events. For our children's sake, I hope the glass is half full.

November 14, 2005

Karl Heinrich the Parrot

I always thought Brazil was the true home of the parrot joke.

Here's a German one:

Ein Einbrecher steigt in ein Haus ein und steht im Schlafzimmer.
Da hört er eine Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet mit seiner Taschenlampe überall im Zimmer herum, sieht aber nichts.
Er kommt in die Küche und hört wieder die Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet wieder herum, sieht aber wieder nichts.
Er kommt ins Wohnzimmer und hört WIEDER die Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet im Zimmer herum und sieht einen Papagei in seinem Käfig sitzen.
Der Einbrecher fragt den Papagei:
“Sag mal, wie heißt du denn?”
Der Papagei Antwortet:
Da sagt der Einbrecher:
“Karl-Heinrich ist aber ein scheiß Name für einen Papagei!”
Da sagt der Papagei:
“Ja, und Jesus ist ein scheiß Name für einen Rottweiler…”
A burglar broke into a house and stood in the bedroom.
He heard a voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined his flashlight around and saw nothing.
He went into the kitchen and again heard the voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined the light, but saw nothing.
He went into the living room and again heard the voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined the light around and saw a parrot sitting on its perch.
The burglar asked the parrot:
"Tell me, what's your name?"
The parrot answered:
"Karl Heinrich."
Then the burglar said:
"But Karl Heinrich is a shitty name for a parrot!"
Then the parrot said:
"Yes, and Jesus is a shitty name for a rottweiler . . ."

Bilingual Education for Dogs

I had a secretary whose father was German. She majored in German, acquired a second husband and a rottweiler. It seems that she and her husband (who isn't German) decided to train the dog in German. Fearsome but affectionate, the hound helped raise innumerable very cute daughters whom she cranked out at regular intervals.

I decided to learn some German a few years ago, probably because I dropped it in college, or my parents spoke it when they didn't want us to understand, or something. Anyway, I got hold of Pimsleur method German CD's and learned enough to fake it, and read Grimm's Märchen or Bernhard Schlink novels with a dictionary.

So, in my old age, I acquired a rat terrier named Charlie, or "Karl Heinrich" in German. Took der Hund to obedience classes, and soon realized that if a dog could learn a few dozen words of English, he could learn the equivalent few dozen words in German. So we have a bilingual dog. "Sitz, mein Hund!" and "Das is nicht für dem Hunden" are as easy for a smart dog like himself to understand as "Sit!" and "Don't eat that!"

I highly recommend bilingual education for dogs. Maybe even trilingual. Does anyone out there have a polyglot basset hound?

November 10, 2005

Is "Intelligent Design" Science?

I've argued that whatever one things of Intelligent Design, it's not science, mostly based on the concept of "falsifiability" developed by Karl Popper.

This article goes into some detail on the same subject. It's always nice to link to people who agree with you.

Tyranny and Gun Registration

This very important article on Nazi policy on gun ownership--using the registration records to confiscate weapons, among other things--shows that legal ownership of weapos is a cornerstone of liberty.

Even two centuries after the Minutemen.

November 7, 2005

A Historical Reminder for Jacques Chirac

This picture shows the demolition of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis a few years back.

Pruitt-Igoe is eerily reminiscent of the Stalinesque "Red Belt" high-rises surrounding Paris, whence have come the arsonists and thugs responsible for the current rioting (Interior Minister Sarkozy's racaille).

There was so much crime and other social pathology in Pruitt-Igoe that the city fathers concluded that emptying and exploding the place, once highly touted as a solution to all kinds of problems, was the best solution.

Perhaps France should consider something similar.

November 1, 2005

Thank God For My Bladder Cancer

Cathy Seipp has lung cancer.

I was lamenting having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.

Horror and Shame

These photos show what was done to an 8-year-old Iranian boy caught stealing bread.

Warning--these photos are graphic and horrible.

Homo homini lupus. Man is the wolf of man.