December 28, 2008

Wrong From the Beginning

Like the rest of the world, I'm watching the events in Gaza with dismay. If this proportion of deaths were occurring in the US, the dead on the first day would number 46,000.

First Israel, with help from Egypt, starved the Gazans. Some Gazans responded with unlawful, but largely ineffective homemade weapons, as well as despicable suicide attacks. Now, however, Israel is killing policemen and schoolgirls from the air, and apparently intends to go on doing it (until what?) No end in sight.

These are war crimes. "Strategic bombing" is a war crime. Supplying high-tech weapons, knowing the track record of the Israelis, is also a war crime.

Pro-Zionists will argue that Israel has a right to defend itself. Perhaps, from a short-term perspective.

Zionism, despite the hollow pronouncements of some of its early leaders, could only have meant what it ultimately accomplished--the expulsion or elimination of the indigenous population, based upon a newly-discovered interpretation of the Jewish religion. Unfortunately, however crudely and stupidly led, the indigenous population has refused to acquiesce in its dispossession.

Meanwhile, Zionism has meant the uprooting and destruction of small Jewish communities the world over, the extinction of their languages, and their subjection to the religious dictates of pettifogging Ashkenazic rabbis, whom the secular state has empowered.

It has also created a claque for the most aggressive and mindless U.S. policies.

In short, although I have defended the existence of Israel notwithstanding my rejection of its mythology, I must recognize another truth, "Zionism poisons everything." That proposition is the beginning of wisdom. It is the same idea that the French officer expresses in the film "The Battle of Algiers," if you want to keep this place, implicit in the wish are the tactics we employ.

Whether some form of accommodation is still possible, or whether the best solution is the evacuation of Israel, which has already begun through voluntary emigration, which now exceeds immigration, I do not know.

I do know this: Zionism poisons everything.

December 20, 2008

More "Bah! Humbug!"

If you're with me in despising "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," listen to Fairytale of New York.

This is the version with Katie Melua, not the Kirsty MacColl version. The latter is grittier, but the former's easier to understand.

The people in the song aren't sanctimonious, and are in need of salvation.

December 17, 2008

Honest Abe?

A whingeing pom gives another perspective on Abe Lincoln.

High-level corruption in the Land of Lincoln, and this US Attorney thinks we should be surprised at that -- and Lincoln would be shocked. Oh, sure. As Captain Renault was shocked to find there was gambling going on at Rick's Café.

I am not surprised to see yet more evidence that corruption is endemic in the Land of Lincoln. I'd call it highly appropriate. But then, I've known enough about Lincoln all my life to know that the sobriquet 'Honest Abe' was originally meant as irony. Lincoln was venal and greedy, and long before he was elected president in 1860, the people of Illinois knew it.

Fair use and all that. Read the whole thing.

December 15, 2008

Vile Christmas Music

With a few exceptions ("White Christmas", "Deck the Hall", "The Twelve Days"), I dislike secular Christmas (oops, "holiday") music.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"? Yecch.

I reserve particular odium for "The Little Drummer Boy." Cloyingly sentimental, repetitively oppressive, and this years, seemingly, played everywhere.

Most carols, on the other hand, I like. Grouchy, ain't I?

December 14, 2008

Epoxylips Now?

We hear all kinds of weird and distressing news these days:
  • The world financial structure continues to teeter and disintegrate, while free marketeers shovel out subsidies--but not to any company that actually makes anything.
  • GM, which used to be the pillar of our economy, is teetering on the edge, begging for a direct subsidy, as opposed to the highway program's indirect subsidy. (Remember "Engine Charlie" Wilson, Secretary of Defense, who said "What's good for GM is good for the country"?)
  • Bernard Madoff turns out to have been the biggest crook in world history, to the tune of fifty billion dollars! Most of the booty was swindled from his supposedly money-smart co-religionists.
  • The Governor of Illinois was trying to peddle a Senate appointment, on the phone, while he knew he was under investigation. Well, actually, he's a run-of-the-mill Illinois crook, a piker and a nutcase.
  • The US defense establishment (and even more so, its political masters) is exposed--a report came out on the hollowing-out of the military in spite of increased expenditures, another on the incompetent effort to rebuild Iraq, and a third on Washington's deliberate encouragement of torture.
  • The Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Whale (the LA Times), files a bankruptcy petition. NBC gives up on drama or comedy in the 10 o'clock hour, and instead goes for five days of Jay Leno. In short, the MSM are in the tank, too.
While this goes on, I'm reading a post-apocalyptic screed-novel, World Made By Hand, which describes a post-nuclear, post-plague world where modern technology fueled by fossil fuels and electricity, has disappeared, and people have to live and make do on a local level. The author seems to like this notion.

Are the end-times here, or has history, pace Francis Fukuyama, simply resumed?

December 5, 2008

Eyesore Central

James Kunstler is an aficionado of apocalypse*. If it wasn't Y2K then, it's "peak oil" now. He's a particular critic of suburbanization, fueled as it is by cheap fuel, which he believes will soon be gone and force us into a less global, more local, and sounder way of life.

That's a kettle of fish for a later supper, however.

Today I wish to celebrate a feature of his blog, the "Eyesore of the Month." Kunstler has pretty good taste (at least he dislikes what I do), and each month he posts a photograph of something tawdry, tacky, or pretentious. He has a particular dislike for the Euro-pretentious architect Daniel Liebeskind, whose monkey I decline to touch, no matter how Euro-hip he is.

The above picture is just one of many.

__________
*The use of "apocalypse" here to mean the end of civilization is really a misnomer, or at least a case of metonymy. Apocalypsis means "revelation," not "end times" or anything like it. It happens that St. John's revelation referred, among other things, to the end times, and so the word has acquired an additional meaning.

December 3, 2008

Grave of Fireflies

Apparently I never posted about the Japanese animated film, Grave of Fireflies, by the great Miyazaki.

I'll make it short. It's a tragic film about the aftermath of American bombing of Japan in WWII, but it's also about the great love of a brother for his sister.

Heartbreaking but beautiful.

November 27, 2008

Factoid of the Day

Turkey droppings are being used as a fuel source in electric power plants. One such plant in western Minnesota provides 55 megawatts of power using 700,000 tons of dung per year. The plant began operating in 2007. Three such plants are in operation in England.

November 25, 2008

Crazy Caroline

Caroline Glick is the Chicago-born Mme. Defarge of modern Zionism. She sits and knits, and devises schemes for crimes and disasters. She's bright enough, but radioactively dangerous. Here's her latest:

With just six weeks remaining to his tenure in office, much of what Bush will leave behind him has already been determined. But there are two things he can still do that will impact greatly both the world he leaves behind and how he is judged by history: He can take action against Iran's nuclear program, and he can embrace Israel as an ally by pardoning four men who have been persecuted for assuming the alliance exists.

On the surface, these two agenda items couldn't be more disparate. By neutralizing Iran's nuclear installations Bush would save the lives of millions of people. By pardoning Jonathan Pollard, Larry Franklin, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, he would save the lives of four people.

In short, start an aggressive war for the sake of a minor and problematic ally, and free two convicted spies and two accused ones before their trial is over.

Glick does not mean to advocate increasing diplomatic efforts to prevent the nuclear armament of Iran. She craves war:
By attacking Iran's nuclear installations - or by permitting Israel to fly over Iraq to attack Iran's nuclear installations - Bush will do two things. He will bolster the US-Israel alliance. And he will demonstrate that the stability engendered by the status quo is antithetical to US interests.
Notwithstanding this crazy bloodthirstiness, Glick's fawning admirers seem to regard her as a prophetess, and her man Netanyahu is ahead in the polls these days.

The Zionist attacks on Obama were designed to force him away from any hint of evenhandedness on Middle Eastern issues. With (obliterate Iran) Hillary headed for Foggy Bottom, Glick's attitude is not simply the nattering of a crazy extremist.

November 5, 2008

A Remarkable Victory

I certainly wouldn'ta thunk it, two years ago, when Obama launched his campaign. With a mixture of skill and luck an implausibly inexperienced son of a white anthropologist and a Kenyan expat parlayed his rhetorical talent and temperament into a historic victory.

Do I share his views? Insofar as one can figure out what they are, mostly not. Will I like his appointments. Mostly not, especially judges. Do I fear a "cult of personality"? You betcha.

I do think, though, that he's a remarkable personality and his victory is historic.

What's more, he'll be a lot more pleasant to listen to than his three immediate predecessors, especially the feckless W.

UPDATE: Corrected a typo.

November 3, 2008

Madelyn Dunham, RIP

Barack Obama's grandmother has died on the eve of what will probably be his greatest triumph.

This woman was there for young Barack when his mother, father, and stepfather were not. How many grandmothers, these days, step in when the parents fail? This is the quiet heroism that keeps our society from getting much, much worse.

May her memory be eternal.

Last Pre-election Post

Although I've been following this election more closely than it deserved, I haven't posted much about it. From a political junkie's perspective, it's fascinating. No candidates for reelection, no VPs seeking to succeed to the White House. A major-party black, the first female GOP candidate--and one who evokes a great deal of feeling on both sides. The heiress-apparent bested by an eloquent but inexperienced ringer. John McCain resurrected.

On the merits, although McCain is a smarter and more attractive man than W, the GOP has forfeited any claim on higher office. McCain forfeits his claim because he has so completely drunk the neocon interventionist Kool-aid that he is a positive danger to the country and the world ("We are all Georgians"). McCain muffed his last opportunity when he went along with the disastrous bailout plan. Had he taken a populist stand there, it might have galvanized support; like many others, he allowed himself to be spooked. Anti-tax is not a substitute for wisdom and courage on the virtual socialization of the financial sector for the benefit of the rentier class. Although Sarah Palin is no student of history, I don't share the view that she was a terrible choice. She has turned out to be a political rockstar, a heroine to her supporters and a bugbear to her detractors. Anyone whom Gloria Steinem hates, after all, can't be all bad. Palin has a future.

Obama is, like McCain, an attractive personality. To the extent he's not merely a cipher, he's far to the left of the country. The one consolation is, he knows it, and is temperamentally cautious. Obama is, however, quite wrongheaded on almost every issue of consequence. His views do not even offer a contrast to the interventionism of the GOP, except that he may employ his statism to favor the ordinary folk in a few ways, more than the super-rich. Less bellicose and more cautious though he is compared to Bush and McCain, Obama seems to have a different stylistic but not strategic vision.

It is the messianism of Obama's movement that is most troubling. It has often been said that if we get dictatorship in this country it will be in the name of tolerance and inclusion. Aside from his likely majorities in both houses of Congress, there are troubling signs of a collectivist mass movement in Obamamania, and signs among his followers of a quick trigger figure for demonization and suppression of his opponents. His own impulses, one hopes, are better than that, so that even though he stands to inherit an imperial Presidency with few checks or balances, the Republic will survive even a new burst of liberalism.

I have adopted enough pessimism and enough of the Stoic worldview that I will not be disappointed. I expect nothing.


The Best, the Worst, and Bush

Nick Kristof's Sunday column has two themes: where W stands on the lists of worst American Presidents, and his notion of what changes we need in foreign policy.

Kristof thinks it's a tie between W and James Buchanan for the worst. In fact, it's probably early to evaluate W definitively, but I don't think he's the worst of the worst. My candidate for the worst is Woodrow Wilson, whose intervention in WWI was a key link in the chain to the disasters of the murderous Twentieth Century.

The best, besides Washington? Probably Calvin Coolidge. The historians traditionally give high marks to wartime Presidents, at least in victorious wars. The ones who avoided war, avoided dangerous innovations, and presided over domestic tranquility are underrated. This is not the time to revive the whole Lincoln controversy--great man or tyrant?

Kristof's other theme is his vision of internationalism. Aside from a rather naïve reverence for international organizations, including apparently the thieving UN, Kristof, like the neocons, seems to accept the notion that this country has some kind of high moral calling in world affairs, and should meddle abroad. Kristof simply wants to be nicer to other countries and more respectful of international institutions. Why not sharply reduce foreign entanglements of all kinds? It's not a question of unilateralism vs. multilateralism, but of hubristic activism versus a cautious modesty.

Stay out of other people's business, and keep our powder dry.

October 19, 2008

Astronomy Yes, Politics Enough Already


I just voted by mail. I'm a bit jaded by politics right now.

Here's a beautiful picture of a solar eclipse. Click on it to see the detail.

October 17, 2008

Eww!

This fellow is an ajolote, or worm lizard.

It's not a snake, but a case of parallel evolution.

Various species are found in Africa, Mexico and South America. Only the Mexican ones have forelimbs.

The Swiss have a cryptid called a Tatzelwurm that seems similar, but it's supposed to have a catlike head.

October 12, 2008

Be A Maverick

I'm a maverick
She's a maverick
Wouldn't ya like to be a maverick, too?
(Be a maverick!)

October 11, 2008

The Bush Internationale

The old Internationale, the anthem of international communism and socialism, began thus (at least in the US version):
Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
Arise, ye wretched of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation:
A better world's in birth!
Now that George Bush is doing more for socialism than anyone since Chairman Mao, I offer the following:
Arise ye fearful of deflation,
Arise ye victims of the crunch!
Your paper suffers condemnation,
You don't have time to go to lunch!
No more the market's tides shall drown us,
Arise ye bankers, one and all;
Our bonds shall rest on new foundations--
The government will pay them all!
'Tis a right fine bailout,
Line up now for your pie,
The international rentier class
Has George Bush as its ally!



October 10, 2008

Another Casualty

Mother's Cookies--you know, those super-sweet ones with pink and white frosting--is kaputt.

Where are the sugar highs of yesteryear?

They Finally Face Facts

The Zionofascists at Commentary's contentions are finally facing facts:
Unless McCain can make a passionate and convincing case that Obama’s is not just “risky” on character and judgment but badly misguided on policy, the voters will decide he’s the best shot they have for changing course and arresting the economic chaos played out before them. Perhaps they already have.
Jennifer Rubin's recipe: personal attacks. But of course Obama comes from a pinko milieu. Wasn't that always the point? Here's another zf,  Peter Wehner:
It’s true that in politics, things can change fast. For the sake of John McCain, they better. He is now in the position of having to engineer a remarkable political comeback. It’s possible, but it’s not the place you want to be less than a month away from an election.
Maybe the country's not ready for a spade in the White House, but it's not ready for another four years of the GOP, either.

Yes We Have Bananas

In banana republics, admittedly, very often the only efficient behavior is displayed by the army (and the secret police). But our case is rather different. In addition to exhibiting extraordinary efficiency and, most especially under the generalship of David Petraeus, performing some great feats of arms and ingenuity, the American armed forces manifest all the professionalism and integrity that our rulers and oligarchs lack. Who was it who the stricken inhabitants of New Orleans and later of the Texas coastline yearned to see? Who was it who informed the blithering and dithering idiots at fema that they could have as many troops as they could remember to ask for, even as volunteers were embarking for Afghanistan and Iraq? What is one of the main engines of integration for blacks and immigrants, as well as one of the finest providers of education and training for those whom the system had previously failed? It may be true that the government has succeeded in degrading our armed forces as well—tasking them with absurdities and atrocities like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib—but this only makes the banana-republic point in an even more emphatic way.

--Christopher Hitchens

He's an ex-Trostskyist, witty English drunk, but he may be on to something.

October 7, 2008

Debate Questions

I was asked by the Orange County Register to join a group live-blog of the first Presidential debate. They invited me back. To view the live-blog, go here.

As a preliminary question, they asked whether the candidates should address Obama's past association with Bill Ayers, an ex-Weatherman bomber, and Obama's riposte, a reprise of the issue of the associations of McCain with Charles Keating, an S&L big (and anti-porn crusader) who was jailed after the last financial crisis.

Here's my answer;
I can't say that these questions are totally irrelevant. To me, they are surrogates for the question of where the candidate comes from--does he hang out with policy wonks, good-old-boy lobbyists, fishermen, or trendy radicals? Whose attitudes does he share? The Ayers and Keating questions are snot enough, by themselves, to tell us where the candidates come from, but they can't be wholly dismissed.

Now that the question has been raised, however, we ought to hear answers. Obama seems to have soft-pedaled the Ayers connection as he did the influence of Rev. Wright.

That said, I would much rather, but doubt I'll get answers in two areas: the economy and war.

The economy. Why did both candidates allow themselves to be stampeded into this ridiculous bailout giveaway? What other steps should government take to avert economic disaster? If you believe that inadequate regulation contributed to the meltdown, what new regulatory steps would you adopt, and why? And the question neither man answered the last time, in spite of Jim Lehrer's persistence--what goodies in your endless wish list will you forego or postpone because of the ballooning deficit and the added costs of the financial crisis?

War and Foreign Policy. Looking forward, under what conditions would you go to war? When, if ever, would you launch a preemptive war? We have troops and alliances around the world, created to resist communism and an expansive Soviet Union; these are gone, so why do we need foreign entanglements around the globe? Which ones would you reduce? There are thousands of nuclear weapons in the world, mostly in Russia and the US; will you do anything to eliminate or reduce them? Would you favor a regional conference to sort out the future of Iraq? If not, what, beyond a temporary deal with Iran and bribing the Sunni tribes, do you propose by way of a political solution? How big a military do we really need, and what changes in its armament and deployment would you make? Don't you think it's crazy to provoke Pakistan, a huge nuclear-armed Muslim country? Will you end the disgrace of officially countenanced torture by Americans?

If I had time, I'd ask why we have a higher rate of imprisonment than any industrial country, at enormous cost, and what the feds can do about it, if anything? Do we need a "war on drugs"?

I doubt I'll get much substance out of this debate, but hope springs eternal.

October 6, 2008

Just Askin'

Will the next depression bring us anything as good as Fred Astaire?

Will mass unemployment solve the servant problem?

What will the moonbats do if there are not enough Republicans to kick around?

October 5, 2008

Palinology

I haven’t commented much on the Sarah Palin phenomenon. Not only has the pressure of work limited my bloggery, but also I wanted to let the campaign unfold a bit before passing judgment. My deadlines, after all, are purely internal.

Now it can be told.
 
Palin is likeable, charming even. She is a naturally gifted campaigner, a thing of wonder to anyone who has experience in retail politics. Even her talent for evasion when necessary is a gift in the world of politics.

Palin is personally admirable in many ways. The attacks on her that have come from Obamaphiles have been wrongheaded and unduly nasty. The fascination with her is near-universal. Got to any political blog with comboxes. The number of comments on Palin articles is much higher than on most other subjects.

The criticism based on inexperience is also overstated. As others have observed, Sen. Obama is not much more experienced than she, and the experience of a Biden, being wrong for 35 years and proud of it, has little to recommend it. Dick Cheney took office as one of the most experienced Vice Presidents ever, but for those who dislike what he has done, his experience may be a negative, because without it, his bureaucratic maneuvers might have failed more often.

Where the inexperience issue is most concerning is in foreign affairs, which to a governor have little importance, the narrowness of the Bering Strait notwithstanding. To a President, on the other hand, world affairs are critical. Although I dislike the fact and would change it in important respects if I could, we are up to our neck in foreign political entanglements, and the economy and ecosystem are globalized. Here, she’s a tyro. This gap can be bridged in a few years; one does learn something being briefed for the ceremonial duties of a Vice President and participating in the councils of government. The rub is that the gap is being bridged by the crazy neocons, whose madness appears to have no antidote in Palin’s universe. Lacking such an antidote, she will be infected with the bellicosity of John McCain, which could become ingrained, rather than an aspect of the unconditional loyalty Vice Presidents owe to their Chief.

In short, the problem is John McCain, and what the GOP has become. The choice of Palin does not change the game, even if it makes the play more entertaining.

October 2, 2008

Question

The Dow is down 348 points today. 

How does that gibe with the alleged magnificence of the Bailout?  

The 777 fall was supposedly due to the House's failure to pass the abomination.

Economic analysts want things both ways, methinks.

October 1, 2008

Bailout Mini-Rant

The bandit says to the farmer, "I'm taking your cow,  your goat, and the chickens. To win your assent, you may keep the cat."

As I find it hard to stay on one foot for long, all the rest is commentary.

September 29, 2008

The Dark Lord Has Spoken

Larison:
Few on the right are more hostile to the perverse appeal to “creative destruction” than I am when it is used to justify de-industrialization, the displacement of people, the transformation of local communities or demographic upheaval through mass immigration, but what we are faced with this week is the victory of Hamiltonian collusion between finance and government to use the latter’s apparatus of power to shore up the former’s wealth. Central government is robbing the people to prop up concentrated wealth, and claiming in the process that it is doing us a favor. Never mind that the government’s alarmism may well be wrong.
People have been cajoled into submission through fear and intimidation, and above all by the threat that life might become less comfortable. In other words, advocates of the bailout are quite happy to say that liberty has a price and they are very happy to pay it so long as it avoids most of the unpleasantness. “Give me liberty or give me a comfy retirement!” is not exactly a phrase that will live forever. Thus an abject abandonment of liberty is here being implausibly dressed up as a defense of liberty. Burke and Kirk would, I suspect, feel like retching if they had lived to see their understandings of constitutional government and social order used in this way.
It is easy to talk about principle when there is no crisis happening and no risk attached to standing on principle. The real test comes when holding fast may actually cost something. Holding to a principle, if it means anything, means that you value it more than mere self-interest, satisfaction or comfort. A lot of Americans want to have it all–the pretense that they are free, with none of the responsibilities or dangers that go with it. In reality, you can either have the latter and remain free, or you can cease being free and then be kept free (temporarily) from responsibility and danger.

Marcy Kaptur Says It All

Marcy Kaptur's usually too "progressive" for my reactionary tastes, but here she's on a roll!
HT: Juan Cole, another strange bedfellow.

September 28, 2008

Morandi Timeout

There's a Morandi exhibition at the Met.

Quiet, brilliant paintings. Slideshow here.

Bailout Haiku

Government, they said--
A problem, not solution.
Now they lick its shoes.

Man from Goldman Sachs
Says he can cure the crisis
He's rich from causing.

Give away the store
Investment bankers care less
If your children starve.

The Republic's dead.
Laugh, then set yourself ablaze;
Nothing left to do.

Bailout Rant No. 2: Ten Reasons to Oppose the Bailout

Some talking points on the bailout:
  1. Moral hazard. The prattle from the economic punditocracy was that bailing out the poor slobs that borrowed on teaser terms would create a "moral hazard," that is, reward the grasshoppers, not the ants. All this has been forgotten. When the grasshoppers are powerful enough, forget about moral hazard.
  2. True prices.  If the gummint buys this paper at the market price, it's no help to the paper holders--they could sell the paper on the market. If the gummint buys the paper above market price, we're nationalizing the losses. The market provides feedback, we are instead politicizing the determination of values. We are entering a permanent economic fantasy world.
  3. Precedent.  If we start rescuing failed enterprises, where does it end?  With a nation of Amtraks?
  4. Fairness. In the Jewish and Christian moral traditions, we are supposed to care for the widow and the orphan. Apparently we are caring first for the rich, and let the devil take the hindmost.
  5. Universal Subsidy. The underlying fallacy of the welfare state is that everybody cannot subsidize everybody, while the gummint takes its cut. Someone must be productive. The Chinese will not be productivity surrogates for us forever.
  6. Short-stopping Recession.  It's political poison to acknowledge, but recessions have their uses. They tend to eliminate badly managed businesses and illusory valuations of goods. If we try to head off a recession whose origin is founded on poor management and misallocation of resources, we are preventing the system from self-correcting. 
  7. Our Children. We're borrowing the money for this exercise. Guess who's paying? 
  8. Opportunity Cost. The more money we spend on this exercise, the less is available for everyone's pet projects. When it comes to welfare state programs, it's just as well. When it comes to fixing our crumbling infrastructure, think again.
  9. Shattered Hegemonic Dreams. Some may not regret it, but spending this much money on the economic crisis will make the notion of American hegemony even more impractical. Bail out a bank, scratch a weapons program.
  10. Constitutional Destruction. We are building an ever-more centralized, unaccountable gummint. Remember "gummint isn't the solution, it's the problem." Once we has a constitution. Fuggedabadit. The man from Goldman, Sachs, with minimal oversight, is guarding the henhouse.
In short, my gentle friends, this is larceny and folly on a Herculean scale. 

Another bailout haiku:
Give away the store
Investment bankers care less
If your children starve.

September 26, 2008

Liveblogging the Debate

The OC Register asked me and  5 others to liveblog the presidential debate tonight.

I was the most logorrheic. It's here.

Bailout Rant No. 1

I actually emailed my Congressman--not a bad guy, John Campbell--to tell him, 'No bailout."

Until they pardon every shoplifter and chicken thief in this country, not a penny for the Masters of the Universe. OK, maybe food stamps.

Remember all the prattle about “moral hazard” if we help out the poor slobs who bit on the hook of teaser mortgage rates? Sauce for the ganders, sez I.

I grew up in New York and live in California, but I remember with nostalgia the bumper stickers from the Carter oil shortage days–”Let the Yankees freeze in the dark.” Let the investment bankers get real jobs cutting grass and stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
“Once I built a railroad, I made it run
I made it run against time
Once I built a railroad, and now it’s done
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

“Once I built a tower way up to the sun
Of bricks and mortar and lime
Once I built a tower, and now it’s done
Buddy can you spare a dime?”
Of course, if I remember my history, the Great Depression ended when a patrician demagogue led us into a war.

One more song that’s been running through my head:
“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

“Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
Ill never look into your eyes…again

“Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need . . .of some . .  . stranger's hand
In a . . . desperate land . . .”
Let us end by quoting the Boy Orator of the Platte: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

September 13, 2008

Another Post That Made Me Cry

This is right out of a Russian novel.

I am a sentimental old fool, for which I am grateful.

August 28, 2008

What Derb Said

The man pulls no punches:
Both parties’ choices of nominee are appalling to me. I contemplate the next four years with dread.

I don’t want either of these men in charge of the federal government, neither the crazy old fool nor the simpering sophomore. I don’t want either the moralistic imperialism of John McCain or the welfare-state-to-the world sentimentalism of Barack Obama. I don’t want my country represented by either a Compassionate Crusader or by Oprah Winfrey in drag. (Possibly in person, too, if the rumors we’re hearing about Obama’s plans for Ms. Winfrey are true.)

Even if I wanted either of them, I do not believe, as both candidates apparently do, that our country has the nigh-infinite fiscal resources required to fund their lunatic world-saving schemes. The effort to rid Iraq of evil has cost us working stiffs a trillion dollars so far; say $7,000 a head. Population-wise, the world has 260 Iraqs. So I’m in for two million bucks? John, hate to tell ya, but I don’t have that kind of money. And this is the “conservative” candidate!

What a disaster! What on earth has happened to us? Nothing yet as bad as what will surely happen if either of these two gibbering numbskulls gets his hands on the levers of supreme executive power.
HT: Rod Dreher

Dangerous Voyeurs?

Bird-watchers.

A Bit of Wisdom From Victor Hanson

I admire Victor Hanson, who is a classicist and military historian. He's too enamored of the crusade to save democracy everywhere, but he's a smart guy.

He's figured out that NATO's obsolete, like an overgrown plum tree.

Don't take my word for it. Take his.

If it's obsolete and ineffective, why provoke Russia by expanding a useless alliance?

August 27, 2008

A Meteorological Alan Keyes?

Tropical Storm Gustav, soon to be a hurricane, no doubt, is headed straight for New Orleans.

Gustav could veer off, or stay relatively small, but it ain't lookin' good. Just in time for the GOP convention. More of that Obama luck?

While we're at it, where's Brownie?

Update: BHO ran into Hurricane Sarah. We don't know her category yet.

August 26, 2008

Tremble For the Republic

Pat Buchanan, love him or not, is hot today:



Mikheil Saakashvili started this war with his barrage attack and occupation of South Ossetia. Russia's war of retribution was far less violent or excessive than the U.S. bombing of Serbia for 78 days over Kosovo, or our unprovoked war on Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which has brought death to scores of thousands, or Israel's 35 days of bombing of Lebanon for a border skirmish with Hezbollah.

Yet, declared John McCain of Russia, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations." Even Dick Cheney must have guffawed.

Russia must get out now, adds Bush, for South Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to a sovereign Georgia. But when did Bush demand that Israel get off the Golan Heights or withdraw from the birthplace of Jesus, which Israelis have occupied for 41 years, as he demands that Russia get out of the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, which Russia has occupied for two weeks?

As Israel was provoked in 1967, so, too, was Russia provoked.

Russians died in Saakashvili's attack, as American died in Pancho Villa's raid on New Mexico in 1916. We sent "Black Jack" Pershing, future Gen. George Patton and a U.S. army 300 miles into Mexico to kill Villa. Was this proportionate?
The neocons are barking mad, McCain is in their pocket, and Obama doesn't have the wit or courage to make a systematic challenge to their dangerous, Russophobic nonsense.

Think:
Would we send U.S. troops into the Baltic republics to signal that we will fight Russia to honor our NATO war guarantees? Which NATO allies would fight alongside us against a nuclear-armed Russia?

If we bring Ukraine into NATO, what do we do if Russified east Ukraine secedes and Russia sends troops to back the rebels? Do we send warships into Russia's bathtub, the Black Sea, and commit to fight as long as it takes to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity?
Our leaders have no answers, only bravado. Tremble for the Republic.

August 19, 2008

I Want the Novelization and Movie Rights

A former Senator and vice-presidential candidate misused campaign contributions and money pledged to fight poverty so he could bring his mistress on the campaign trail with him during the presidential campaign where he was constantly making appearances with his widely admired cancer stricken wife then fathered the mistress's child sometime around the time he was getting a Father Of The Year Award and then asked his loyal aid who already has a wife and kids to falsely claim paternity while the fake dad and the mistress were funneled money so they could move to be near the mistress's psychic healer friend while the former candidate continued to meet the mistress and baby until he was caught by tabloid reporters and hid in the bathroom and then confessed on national TV a couple of weeks later but both he and his wife continued to lie during that interview and in subsequent statements.

And the press is supposed to yawn that story off?

--Lee Stranahan

Christopher Buckley, where are you?

August 16, 2008

This Story Got To Me

This story is about a camp for siblings who have been separated by the foster care system, allowing them to be together for a week.

Stories about "lost" children make me tear up. I don't know why.

August 14, 2008

Two Smart Takes on Georgia

The British, at least outside their rather inbred and grotesque left, tend to be more realistic about international affairs than the Americans, who are too prone to ideologize. Here's a wise Brit, Michael Binyon, on Georgia:

The attack was short, sharp and deadly - enough to send the Georgians fleeing in humiliating panic, their rout captured by global television. The destruction was enough to hurt, but not so much that the world would be roused in fury. The timing of the ceasefire was precise: just hours before President Sarkozy could voice Western anger. Moscow made clear that it retained the initiative. And despite sporadic breaches - on both sides - Russia has blunted Georgian charges that this is a war of annihilation.

Moscow can also counter Georgian PR, the last weapon left to Tbilisi. Human rights? Look at what Georgia has done in South Ossetia (and also in Abkhazia). National sovereignty? Look at the detachment of Kosovo from Serbia. False pretexts? Look at Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada to “rescue” US medical students. Western outrage? Look at the confused cacophony.

There are lessons everywhere. To the former Soviet republics - remember your geography. To Nato - do you still want to incorporate Caucasian vendettas into your alliance? To Tbilisi - do you want to keep a President who brought this on you? To Washington - does Russia's voice still count for nothing? Like it or not, it counts for a lot.

I admire Putin in some ways, but he aint' warm ner fuzzy. Just smart.

But, as Steven Plocker points out (HT: David Hazony), he shouldn't be cocky. Militarily, Putin was shooting fish in a barrel, and the fact that he couldn't accomplish his ends by a quiet diplomatic dressing-down shows how far Russia has to go to regain something of her former influence, even in her "near abroad":
The Russian army entered those areas while facing little resistance, but this does not attest to its fighting abilities. This “war” did not see the utilization of complicated technological means, massive troops were not flown great distances, no headquarters were established, and there is no room for comparison between the “Georgia war” and the two American wars against Saddam Hussein.
Neither Putin nor we should push too hard. Neither side should want the Sixth Fleet stalking the Russian Navy in the Black Sea.

August 12, 2008

Keep This Man Away From the Nuclear Football

From FOX:

YORK, PA — John McCain maintained his focus on the war in the Caucasus for the second straight day, declaring, “we are all Georgians,” during a town hall meeting before more than 2,000 voters in central Pennsylvania.

“We learned a great cost of the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. With our allies we must stand in united purpose to persuade Russian government to withdraw its troops from Georgia,” McCain told the crowd. “(President Mikheil Saakashvili) wanted me to say thanks to you, and give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny little democracy far away from the United States of America. And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today we are all Georgians.’”

This is a truly dangerous man.

Just look at a map.

Poem

This woman started writing poetry when she was 73!

Strange Patterns

Carrie Allen McCray

When I was a young child
in Lynchburg, Virginia
I could not ride the
trolley car sitting next
to our white neighbor
But could sit, nestled
close to her
under her grape arbor
swinging my feet
eating her scuppernongs
and drinking tall, cold
glasses of lemonade
she offered us on
hot, dry summer days

When I was a young child
moving to Montclair, New Jersey
I could now ride the
trolley car sitting next
to our white neighbor
but did not dare
cross the bitter line
that separated our house
from hers
and she never offered us
tall, cold glasses of lemonade
on hot, dry summer days

August 9, 2008

War in the Caucasus

Daniel Larison has gone into the war pretty exhaustively. Even at my most prolific and my fastest keyboarding speed, I cannot keep up with the man, who is most wise for one so young. I would say this about very few people.

That said, a few bullet points:
  • This war is an absolute tragedy and a potential disaster. Three Orthodox Christian peoples are going at it; this war, like many, was avoidable. Patriarch Alexey has said all the right things. It's time for the bishops to be prophetic.

  • The meme of poor "democratic" Georgia slammed by the Russian bear is false. Russia was encouraging the Ossetians and the Abkhaz in their separatism, much as Europe and the U.S. nurtured Kosovo. But Georgia is no more or less democratic than Putin's Russia, and for all his U.S. education, Georgia's Saakashvili is an admirer of Stalin, Beria, and Gamsakhurdia.

  • The Russians were ready to respond, but Georgia started the thing by trying to take and isolate South Ossetia's capital. She failed. Stupid move. When you shoot at a king, you must kill him.

  • These events are partly payback for the foolish Euro-american Kosovo adventure. What goes around, comes around. Always.

  • The big question is whether Russia will invade Georgia proper, as opposed to just bombing it, which is bad enough. This would be foolish. Georgia is a good place for partisan warfare, and the world, which will tolerate the Ossetian and Abkhaz adventures, especially after Kosovo, will be both frightened and angered by a full-scale attack on Georgia. A limited foray makes more sense.

  • The "expansionist Russia" meme is unproven and probably false. The Russian Federation is in some ways a rump state of the old Soviet Union, and has an understandable and strong interest in its "near abroad," much as the U.S. does in the Caribbean and Central America. As Russia recovers from Yeltsin and profits from costly oil, she was bound to reassert herself.

  • The U.S. policy of dishonoring these Russian interests, expanding NATO, supporting "color revolutions" and the like was reckless and foolish. It antagonized Russia and is proving unsustainable. Cozying up to Georgia militarily, holding out the carrot of NATO membership, but then blinking when the Russians call our bluff, was typical of the folly of this administration.

  • Obama's cautious response, calling for diplomacy and a cease-fire, was a lot more sensible than McCain's fire-breathing. McCain (aka Col. Kong) is at his worst on the Russian question. Russia has thousands of nukes. A confrontational approach to a conflict in Russia's backyard is nuts. It almost makes me want to support the inexperienced, left-liberal metrosexual for the Presidency.

  • The most dangerous political tendency in this country is the neocons. They are foaming at the mouth to defend every "democracy," screaming about 1938, and invoking the evil Russian bear. Suspicion of Russia is an old story in the U.S., and one must add to the mix the anti-Orthodox and anti-Slavic prejudices of many Jews (see "Borat"). They are prolific, they are organized, they are articulate, and the other tendencies--liberal internationalism, conservative "realism," and my personal view, patriotic anti-interventionism--are much less well-organized. This crisis has made me realize again, just how dangerous these people are.
OK, coffee break's almost over. Discuss amongst yourselves, then back on your heads.

August 5, 2008

Her Energy Policy Actually Makes More Sense Than Those Other Guys'

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

From Courage to Demagogy In One Easy Lesson

I admired Barack Obama for not giving into the demagogic gimmick of a summer gas tax holiday, pandered by both Hillary and McCain.

Now he wants to tap the strategic oil reserve, when we don't have a strategic emergency, but might have soon. This proposal is stupid and demagogic, just as the speculative part of the oil price bubble is bursting.

Can you turn a tin ear into a pennywhistle, and then play it?

Touch Me

I'm Facebook "friends" with some wonderful people--Paul Jabara, a fine Canadian choral director; John Darnton, the NY times reporter and more recently, novelist (whom I went to school with half a century ago).

It's an interesting phenomenon.

Of course, my children hate the idea that I'm on Facebook and will have nothing to do with me there.

August 3, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, RIP


The Russian writer has died at 89.

Memory eternal. вечная память.

July 30, 2008

Couldn't Help This One

This is Princess Chunky, a 44-lb. house cat, and not the world record holder.

Probably not a good ratter.

Yosemite Sam Goes Jihadi


Here's Jalaluddin Haqqani, red beard and all.

Remember, the Greeks, among others, made it to Afghanistan.

July 27, 2008

Barack Attack

I've been watching the unfolding Obama campaign, and reading the constant whining from neocon-land, such as this, and combined with his undoubted eloquence and charisma, these put-downs make me want to like the guy. Plus which, as the Republican party has degenerated, in a two-party system, one tends to want to vote against the bad guys.

However, as much as I kind of like the guy, and would rather listen to his elevated platitudes than W's lateral /s/, I can't bring myself to support him.

Aside from his mechanical support for the whole social agenda and centralizing, egalitarian domestic politics of the left, his foreign policy is not the pansified surrender that the neocons suggest.

In fact, the "Citizen of the World" who wants us to be concerned with Burma, Darfur, Zimbabwe, and God knows where else, is a traditional liberal internationalist. He wants us to be concerned with the happiness and prosperity of everyone, everywhere, and to spend the money and send the military forces needed to make it happen. This view isn't very different from the militarized democratic messianism that W adopted after 9/11, except it's unmoored from realpolitik, from any sense of what the strategic interests of our country are. Iraq may have been a mistake, but at least there was a claim (partly false, of course) that it was of special concern because of oil and terrorism.

The Darfurs of the world have no such significance. Whether BHO makes any distinction between humanitarian concern and the national interest is not clear. What is clear is that he has not eschewed such quixotic nonsense as NATO expansion, the basing of troops in South Korea, and a monetary military commitment to an increasingly repulsive Israel, notwithstanding the paranoid rantings on contentions.

What Obama has on offer, then, is a more multilateral, touchy-feely version of Wilsonian interventionism. Such a policy will not spare us from more useless expenditures on foreign aid, more kowtowing to the corrupt UN, and more war.

Unless, of course, as Bush did in abandoning his aversion to "nation building," the man surprises us. I'd be the first to applaud.

Parenthetically, McCain, with his "Bomb, bomb, Iran" jokes and his anti-Russian stance, is a dangerous man. If I lived in a swing state, I might have to force myself to vote for Obama. I live in California, now a Dem. slam dunk. I can vote for Bob Barr without fear or guilt, and hope agaisnt hope that Obama is a Manchurian candidate for non-interventionism.

July 24, 2008

Kristof Bells the Cat

Nicholas Kristof is one of the better writers on the New York Times, and has not been shy in support of humanitarian causes. He's tumbled to the sordid truth about Israel, and has been on the receiving end of brickbats from Zionists--many of whom seem increasingly deranged to me. Of course, it could just be me. Here's his latest column on the subject, his blog post with comments, and his Facebook page.

Even the Gray Lady can't be all bad all the time.

July 20, 2008

Mongol

Mongol is a wonderful movie. Part of a projected trilogy directed by a Russian, it describes the early life and rise to power of Temujin, later to be known as Genghis Khan.

It has many things Mongol, from gers (yürts) fermented mare's milk to throat-singing, to stews with lots of bones in them. It also has a love story, lots of scenes of people crossing the wilderness on horseback and on foot, and lots of bloody battles.

Apparently (I'm no expert) it's fairly true to history.

If you like the exotic, or fantasy stories about strange and imaginary places, or just dramatic and unfamiliar scenery, this film is worth seeing.

Vignette

This story depicts the reality of Israeli-Palestinian relations. In this one, the Israelis are the bad guys. The converse is also true. Excerpt:
In the industrial neighborhood of Wad Al-Joz in Jerusalem, a group of Israeli Special Forces troops on motorcycles along with police and army reinforcements were stationed on the path the bus from Tiberias was taking to get its passengers, all legal residents of Israel, home. They demanded that the driver stop immediately. One of the soldiers got on the bus and said, “Anyone who moves his head, I’ll put a bullet in it.” Arab said to me, “At that moment all I could think of was Abir, who really was shot in the head by a bullet.”

The soldier continued, “We are from national security.” He then told the young men, about ten of them, to begin taking off their clothes in the bus, in front of the women and girls. Then he took them out one by one and had them lie down on the filthy street, littered with stones and pieces of glass. They began with Ahmed, who was 16 years old. Then all the young men had to strip and get out of the bus and lie on the ground. One of them was injured in the stomach by a piece of glass. Arab asked me, “How can they ask the men to undress in front of the women? They don’t have morals!”

I asked him, “Do you think they perhaps have at least some basic morals?”

His answer was definitive: “None at all.” I explained to him that humiliation by forced nakedness didn’t just happen to his friends: it is a longstanding problem in the Israeli military.
HT: Velveteen Rabbi, who struggles with these issues.

July 19, 2008

Accessories Before the Fact

The full-blown lycanthropic yowling of some for an air attack on Iran is well-known in the media and the blogosphere, but considering the nature and extent of the threat, moral and physical, that such an adventure poses, it has not drawn enough attention.

Much of the yowling comes from Jewish Americans who sympathize with the most aggressive and hysterical forms of Zionism. These are the people for whom any criticism of Israel is Jew-baiting (remember Joe Klein), the diverse world of jihadis is a single, monolithic enemy, and it is 1938 every day. They take the rhetoric of Iranian President Ahmadinejad as an expression of his intentions, and see no distinction between the interests of israel and the United States. They are, of course, a small minority of American Jews, who absorbed veneration for St. Eleanor and the slogans of liberalism at their grandma's knees.

There are, of course, proponents of an aggressive war with Iran who are not Jewish and don't even particularly care about Israel, except as a strategic asset. (Despised in the region, Israel must tie itself to a foreign sponsor, first Britain and then the United States--hence it's a Mideast base of last resort).

However, to give the agitation critical mass and effective rhetoric, it's the NoPods and the Krauthammers whose theme-development and writing are essential to the effort, in which exploitation of WWII genocide is constantly exploited. Pat Buchanan, although in some ways performs yeoman service, has to play bad boy and use the term "Fifth Column" to describe these circles, and if Israel were an enemy, and not just an over-pampered and too-influential ally.

I have played the troll on Commentary's Contentions blog, attacking this notion and the constant lies used to promote and exonerate Israel. It's no fun commenting where everyone agrees with you. But it's a bigger deal than a few nasty exchanges.

War with Iran would be a horrible mistake, and a crime. Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson said,
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
The United Nations Charter, to which the US is still, perhaps unwisely, a signatory, also forbids aggressive war.

To bomb Iran, then, without an attack from Iran or the imminent danger of an attack, would not only be a mistake, it would be a crime. And the Commentary crowd are accessories before the fact.

Psychopathology plays a part here. In most intellectual men there lurks the self-doubt--am I, a scribbler, really a man? Norman Podhoretz, the leading agitator for a bombing campaign, parlayed reminiscences about being beaten up by what used to be called "Negroes," into a literary career, and fame among a small New York coterie. For those who were converted to Zionism in 1967 or later, identifying with the image of the tan, tough, brash and ruthless Israeli is an anti-pansification salve.

Instead of agitating for the murder of thousands to reassure themselves that they aren't wimps, here's my suggestion to these folks. Take a Viagra. Then take a Valium.

July 13, 2008

Tanking

Obama's dropping in the polls. His lead's down to 1 per cent in Rasmussen's tracking.

This drop could be ephemeral. They've both had a lousy two weeks. But, then again, perhaps not.

Barack needs to get his groove back. Meanwhile, the electoral college map still favors BHO.

UPDATE (7/19)--back up a little, then down. Tied in Rasmussen. Odd, because the McCain campaign is invisible.

July 9, 2008

Grrr

Am I the only one out there that despises the Partnership for a Drug Free America and their stupid ads?

They set my teeth on edge.

July 4, 2008

Parse This

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Well, it's that time of year again (already!).

Let's just start with the first proposition, that it is "self-evident" that "all men are created equal."

It is evident that all men are not equal when it comes to basketball prowess, mathematical skill, and perfect pitch. What, then, doth "equal" mean? Equal in rights to participate in gummint? Jefferson may have proclaimed this equality as an ideal, but it was belied by property qualifications for voting, slavery, and if "men" is taken to be gender-inclusive, the limited rights of women. To rescue the proposition, we must retreat to some rather abstract notion of equal importance to God, rather like the mother who loves her slow and disobedient offspring just as much as her clean, obedient achievers.

Not much of a proposition on which to found a nation, however nice a ring the words have to them.

Next we come to natural rights and the reason for governments. I'll leave the "life, liberty" stuff to the reader, but it's pretty clear that governments in fact were not instituted to secure these rights, but to get organized to fight the guys over the next hill, or to make sure the Big Men kept more of the women and luxuries than the peasants.

I love the country and the ring of the words, but like most truisms, their sound is more persuasive than their sense.

Talk amongst yourselves, as Linda Richman would say.

July 1, 2008

A Surfeit of Males

Abe Greenwald, the Deputy Hack-in-Chief of connections, Commentary Magazine's warmongering blog, had an interesting post for once. Pointing out that the Chinese, in the face of the state's one-child policy, have slaughtered their female fetuses in the womb or allowed them to die of neglect in babyhood, and are now facing a huge excess of males over females, creating problems of frustration and violence--not enough women to domesticate men, which is what they tend to do.

Ransacking ethnography and history, how can a society deal with this problem? I came up with five ideas. On longer reflection, one might come up with more.
  1. Polyandry. As in Tibet, allow a woman to take more than one husband. Unfortunately, this works best when the husbands are related, usually brothers ("adelphic polyandry"), and the Chinese, generally allowed one child only, tend not to have brothers. It might work with cousins.
  2. Eunuchism. It was common enough in many Asian empires, to castrate promising youths, who then became most useful to the court, and less likely to be disloyal in the interest of the children they were incapable of having. Certainly it would reduce the number of randy, frustrated men.
  3. Monasticism. Practiced among Buddhists, Christians, and others, this practice involves temporary or permanent celibacy for certain people (in the case, it would need to be mostly males) to pursue their spiritual as opposed to carnal development. Whether buggery develops in such settings is a cultural and spiritual matter--the practice still reduces the randy-young-man-with-a-knife problem. The Chicoms haven't yet come to terms with religion, although it is coming.
  4. Human-wave warfare. The Chinese practiced this technique in Korea, with some success, and the Iranians under Khomeini used it extensively, with hundreds of thousands of teenagers dying in Saddam's minefields. It can certainly dispropotionally deplete the male population, as it did in the Paraguayan War and in WWII Russia.
  5. Importing foreign women. In a sense, this practice simply internatonalizes the problem, but why should the Chinese care? They have some racial feelings, but the Han have absorbed many non-Han peoples. So, mail-order or internet-order brides from the Phillipines and places like Moldova might be an option. In fact, there are thousands of American women whom the feminist demonesses and girlie-men have driven into careerism, casual sex, and loneliness. How many would jump at the chance to marry up-and-coming Chinese engineers? They do tend to have high IQs and to age gracefully, and Eurasian children are beautiful. (For all the single Jewesses out there, the Chinese are people of the book, albeit Confucius's Analects and the classic poets. A briss and a mikveh (circumcision and a Jewish baptism), and your up-and-coming engineer will be kosher, solvent, and perfectly marriageable under the traditional rules. The kiddies will be unlikely to fall ill with one of the many Jewish genetic diseases. The campuses will fill up with Sino-Hebraic valedictorians in 20 years.)
You decide whether these suggestions are tongue-in-cheek or seriously analytical. At least, on this blog, when we wring our hands, we offer solutions, pretty or not.

June 21, 2008

The Wedgwood Chicken

Young BHO has orated from a lectern decorated with the pseudo-seal on the left. It is the color of Wedgwood. The non-messianic blogosphre is agog.

If one were to remark that the bird is a Popeye's fried chicken and the sphere a watermelon, all Hell could break loose.

It's GOOD to be the Messiah, but it can be hard.

HT: Larison, J. Rubin.

June 18, 2008

Thought For the Day

From Kyriakos Markides, The Mountain of Silence:
“Marriage, for example, is considered by the Ecclesia [basically Eastern Orthodox teachings] as a form of askesis [method of spiritual exercise], an arena for transcending one’s ego absorption of the sake of the other. It is a mistake, Father Maximos argues, to consider marriage, as many traditional Christians do, as first and formemost a means for procreation. The primary aim of marriage is askesis engaged in by two people who are asked to overcome their separateness in their common ascent towards God.”
NB: ἀσκέσις means "practice, training, or exercise," as by an athlete. Marriage, thus, is just as much a spiritual journey as monasticism!

June 12, 2008

How Nerds Party

Here, on the successful landing of the Phoenix Mars lander.

This is an amazing achievement. Who cares of one of Barack's ex-minions got a sweetheart loan from Countrywide?

June 10, 2008

Another Scarebus In Flames

An airbus in Khartoum skidded off the runway and burst into flames. Many escaped, but dozens burned to death.

June 7, 2008

God Forgive Me, I Despise That Woman

I just listened to Hillary's concession speech. She didn't say anything a loyal Democrat wouldn't say on such an occasion, but she makes my gorge rise. I just can't stand her pieties, her identity politics, her nasality, and her nostrums.

I notice that Chelsea approached, Bill got a peck, but as they walked off, he was the runt, sucking the hind teat.

How long will that marriage last? And who's going to pay the $20 million debt?

June 6, 2008

Snark for Lanny Davis

You all know Lanny Davis, that unctuous little weasel whom HRC anointed as one of her TV avatars. Mark Cooper finds him particularly repulsive, and wrote a snarky ave atque vale, or "hail and farewell."

The obvious pun popped to mind, and I offered my contribution, which I immortalize in these bytes and pixels:




Lanny Boy, is CNN still calling?
From tow’r to tow’r, and up the aetherside?
The spring is gone, forsythia’s not blooming.
It’s you, it’s you, must go while Barack bides.

But come ye back, in sunshine or in shadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
It’s I’ll be here, your arse to kick to Glasgow,
O Lanny Boy, O Lanny Boy, I’d love that so.

And if I fall, as all the leaves are falling,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be.
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
My ghost will kick yer arse to Tipperary.

June 4, 2008

Dies Irae

There's something painfully ironic about Pfleger's (if temporary) ouster.

He's been thumbing his nose at authority -- secular and sacred -- for years in pursuit of what he believes God has called him to do: fight for the poor and the oppressed; battle injustice in whatever form it appears, be it racism, sexism, or classicism; and to above all present the God of revolutionary love and radical grace to the world around him. That sometimes has meant disobeying civil and canon law.

--The Chicago Sun-Times

Gotta watch out for those Greek scholars. Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile.

May 21, 2008

Taj Mahal, Shmaj Mahal, Flatbush It Ain't

True, Abe Burrows said that Miami was Flatbush with palm trees.

But why does Sadr City remind me so much of Queens Boulevard?

A Website for Everything


This one's for dog castration protest poetry.
Memory still foggy--
Car ride; vet; deep sleep; now pain.
What's this 'round my neck?

So I humped your leg.
It's my duty as a dog.
A bit drastic, no?

Tell me it ain't so.
I thought I was "man's best friend"..
Better hide your shoes...

- dave

May 17, 2008

Farmers and Gays

I had some thoughts about two poltical events this week--the California Supreme Court's discovery of a constitutional right of gays to marry if breeders do, and the Congress's passage by a veto-proof majority of a pork-filled farm subsidy bill.

I'm also experimenting with a service called Scribd, which allows one to upload documents to the Web much as flickr allows it with pictures. See the link below:

Read this doc on Scribd: Farmers and Gays
For a short document, I suppose just posting it is fine, but for longer ones, Scribd and its program, iPaper, seem quite effective.

UPDATE: the window for Scribd is small. The average viewer might not know where to click to make the document bigger. For this blog, it may have limited use. So, here's the text of the document:

In the wake of the California Supreme Court's discovery in the text of the state's Constitution a right of homosexuals to marry if breeders do, I have been puzzled at the ease and swiftness, in historical terms, with which the homosexual agenda has progressed in modern America. I remember my father asserting, with absolute conviction, in the Sixties, that what is now called the gay rights movement would meet so much resistance that it would never amount to anything. He was, of course, wrong. In the space of a generation, gayness is not merely tolerated, but placed on a pedestal, in spite of the fact that gays make up perhaps 2 per cent of the population. (Don't believe the old Kinsey propaganda about 10 per cent—it just ain't so).

During the same week, Congress was passing, with veto-proof majorities, an agricultural subsidy bill loaded with goodies for the large farmers, who represent a tiny proportion of the population.

The notion is hardly original with me, but these events have something in common. Each represents the triumph, in its main area of political interest, of a small minority whose interests are at odds with those of the majority. How does this happen?

Several factors are at work:

  1. The minority cares deeply about its issue; the majority is at most mildly interested.
  2. The minority is found in clumps in various parts of the country, and thus has more influence in a number of places than its national numbers might reflect.
  3. The minority is politically organized, and either has advocates in the scribbling classes, money to spread around, or both.

The result is that on its issue, politicians in a number of places—and judges are politicians, of course—have something to gain, but less to lose, by taking up the cause. Farmers aren't very influential in New York City, but in the rural midwest or California's Central Valley, they have great power, and cultural standing. Gays are concentrated in New York, LA, San Francisco, and a few other places, care deeply about their issue, and their cause has been taken up by many writers, artists, and celebrities, including law professors, who influence the legal profession and thus, eventually, judges. The average urbanite, on the other hand, might prefer not to see his tax money go to subsidize corporate factories with organic parts, but the proportion of the tax money involved is small enough that he doesn't care much. Similarly, citizens of the heartland may disdain the shennanigans of the self-proclaimed queers of the Bay Area, but for most it's an issue far from the core of their being. What's more, as time went on, the idea was sold that it 's provincial and even bigoted to take umbrage at the normalization of gayness.

This notion extends to other constituencies. The pro-Israel lobby is very similar. It has its rather relentless scribblers, its supposed numbers are not that great but situated in a few metropolitan areas where they vote out of proportion to their numbers, and at least until recently has not made demands, say, for US troops, that might arouse strong feelings among the rest of the population. Support for Israel could also be fit into the prevailing foreign policy narratives—the Cold War, and later the Global War On Terrorism.

Substitute the Cuban exiles in Florida, New Jersey and New York, and you get a similar result. The Armenians, fewer in number, less well-organized, and less vocal among the scribblers, haven't quite succeeded.

May 7, 2008

Moving

Father of girls that I am, this made me cry, but it's most inspiring.

It's a story of the friendship of two little girls in dire circumstances.

Obama--Attraction and Repulsion

Blogging has been very light, as I've been preoccupied with business and personal matters. It's time, though, after the Indiana and NC primaries, to muse some more about Barack Obama, now the likely candidate and very possibly, after years of GOP fecklessness and in a troubled economy, our next President--with a comfortable majority in Congress.

I've got to confess that although I don't share most of his views, I like the guy. Perhaps it's that he's the most eloquent political figure we've had in a long time (since King, Kennedy, FDR, Huey Long?), and eloquence is something I admire. Perhaps it's that he seems more reflective than the average pol, something we need after the endless wonkish blather of Clinton and the lateral-/s/-laced blubberings of W. Perhaps it's that I find Hillary horribly grating. Even her improved oratorical style does not prevent her from uttering the same nostrums, laundry lists and clichés that annoyed me in the first place.

Despite my personal attraction to the guy, some things give me pause--the messianic cult around him, the skimpiness of content in his early campaign, and the leftist tilt he often shows when he does take policy positions. Sometimes something better shines through--for example, the wisdom of his opposition to the demagogic gas tax holiday McCain proposed and Hillary embraced.

In two areas he gives me pause. First, although he opposed the war in Iraq (easy enough for an Illinois state senator from South Side Chicago) and seems willing to negotiate with our adversaries, I don't know that he's eschewed interventionism in concept; he will be an interventionist with a humanitarian twist, perhaps. Leathernecks, welcome to Darfur.

It's also pretty clear that by reflex or instinct, he's a statist--a Nanny Stater who wants to use government to improve s morally, a centralizer who wants to regulate more and spend more, and an egalitarian who wants to soak the rich (if only a bit) to help the poor (at least in concept). He expresses these notions in conciliatory fashion. The Clintons are policy triangulators; Obama's a stylistic triangulator.

All of this rings my political alarm bells, but then, although there's much to admire in John McCain, he rings bells, too, and some of the same ones.

We are doomed, it seems, to live in an interesting political year, and perhaps an interesting quadrennium.

Obama, McCain, Bob Barr. Hmm. Stay tuned.

May 1, 2008

Apophatic Conservatism

Fleming's curmudgeonly post moves from expressing irritation at the foibles of bloggers to the difficulty of fathoming a basis for a revived conservative coalition.
There is a lot of conservative chatter out in the blogosphere. Much of it can be reduced to Rodney King’s question: “Why can’t we all just get along.” Unfortunately, most of these would-be peace-makers, drunk on their own ungrammatical effusions, have made themselves appear as stupid as Rodney King–and just as troublesome and even harder to repress. They spend their time lambasting “Paleos,” Catholics, Southerners, and even all Christians, wihtout knowing the first thing about “paleoconservatism,” Christianity, or the South. Then they wonder why they cannot build a coalition. I had hoped, by beginning a serious dialogue on the early Church, Protestants and Catholics might begin to find some common ground. In fact, that is exactly what has happened. Can we develop the same common ground on more political topics? Why not? Where do we begin?
Perhaps, like Marxists schooled in their squabbles, conservatism seems more fragmented from the inside than the outside. Catholic traditionalists, nationalists, Southern revivalists, libertarians, and so on appear to have very different views. Whether they are "conservative" in the dictionary meaning of the world is often questionable.

This brings to mind a couple of adages. First, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." The second is the supposedly Arab saying, "I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the infidel." In short, it is easier to define what we are against than to agree on the reasons.

There is an approach to theology in the Orthodox tradition called "apophatic":
Apophatic theology—also known as negative theology—is a theology that attempts to describe God by negation, to speak of God only in absolutely certain terms and to avoid what may not be said. In Orthodox Christianity, apophatic theology is based on the assumption that God's essence is unknowable or ineffable and on the recognition of the inadequacy of human language to describe God. The apophatic tradition in Orthodoxy is often balanced with cataphatic theology—or positive theology—and belief in the incarnation, through which God has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
One can approach conservatism in a similar fashion--we don't agree on who we are, but we have a consensus on what we're against. For me, the essence of conservatism is a recognition of human fallenness, the danger of tinkering with the unarticulated and inarticulable habits of soul and society evolved over generations, and the probable wickedness and folly of all "progress," all utopias and systematic programs for change, especially when imposed by a powerful state.

In short, a conservative coalition might form around rejecting the idea of progress, schemas and programs for comprehensive change, the impulse to reform everything, and powerful and centralized government--which today also means opposing interventionism in the name of crusades for democracy. We define ourselves, that is, by what we are not.

It might be a start.

Bloggerai

Thomas Fleming is the grey eminence of Chronicles, a paleocon site inhabited by a variety of fairly rare political fauna, united by a distaste for interventionism and the federal gummint. He likes to write about topics like Beowulf and the early fathers of the church, rather than today’s Rasmussen poll (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Today Fleming put up a post that had two themes, both worthy of comment. The first is the feckless idiocy of much bloggery:
Which came first in America, the narcissistic obsession with personal trivia or the blogosphere? In other words, did Internet blogging reduce the mentality of young Americans to the level of mind-numbing chatter about what they had for breakfast or what they think about Obama or did blogging only give an opportunity for the already brain-dead to talk about themselves?

I suppose I know, already, that the second answer is the correct one. I’ve spent the past 30 years, at parties, conferences, rides on the O’Hare shuttle bus, and coffee hour after church, listening to strangers tell me about the wonders of their RV, their vacations in Disney World, their opinions on pop music, and their political prejudices. Beware of the Republicans, who are plotting to enslave American workers; beware of the Clintons, who are plotting to make themselves dictators. What are most political blogs but cellphone conversations overheard on the runway before the plane takes off. The good thing about blogs–including this one–is that you don’t have to read them, but when the bloggers are shouting into their telephone or cornering you at coffee, they are impossible to escape.
Here Fleming is being a bit curmudgeonly, I think. Gossip about the misbehavior of the dog, the hats or scarves of the church-ladies, breakfast, and so on, are the sinews of social life. Live in isolation and you start to miss this stuff. Even I, a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, feel impelled to lighten up and enjoy the chatter I hear while on line at the post office or the market.

Reading the ramblings of the accredited commentariat, that is, those who get paid, I cannot say that they are wiser than those of the better bloggers. Indeed, because they must dance for their supper, they seem more inclined to effuse contrived ephemera.

Blogging, and especially commenting, combines the vices of spontaneity, isolation, and permanence. We write without thinking much, without the raised eyebrow or the "Ahem!" of our interlocutor to curtail our folly, and our drivel is preserved in pixels and bytes even when we think better of it. The catharsis of writing a really ripping letter to the editor and then crumpling it up and trying for a three-pointer in the trashbasket has been lost.

Bloggery is no worse than daily stuff-and-nonsense; it just doesn't disappear as chatter does when the sound waves dissipate. A word to the wise, or better, to the heedlessly garrulous.

More on TF's second point, later.