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  • Archive for December, 2006

    Steyn — America Alone

    Posted by James McCormick on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )

    Steyn, Mark. America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, Regnery, 2006. 224 pp.

    [cross-posted at Albion's Seedlings]

    Mark Steyn requires little or no introduction to blogosphere readers of the center-right. His impact as a commentator over the last few years is outsized if for no other reason than volume — he creates a constant stream of articles, columns, essays, books, TV and radio appearances. It’s a rare month when one of his wittier quotes doesn’t create a flurry of blog linking. He brings his sense of humour to the subject of national security and the culture wars, and from what little I’ve seen of his “live” performances on radio and TV, it’s clear that he can think effectively on his feet. Most of us enjoy seeing the “moonbats” of modern life get their comeuppance. Mark Steyn has become a dependable and unapologetic source for such bon mots and stinging sarcasm from the Right. A guilty pleasure.

    What really sets him apart, however, from more staid and plodding media pundits, is his willingness to confront the bromides of political correctness directly, and bring real literary skills to bear on summarizing current events. The result has been a stream of compact and compelling 500 word columns for newspapers around the world … leavened occasionally with erudite magazine articles and obituaries on figures from the art world. It wouldn’t be a stretch to place Mark Steyn alongside Victor David Hanson as one of the leading columnists of our time, making the case vigourously for the legitimacy, survival, and prosperity of Western civilization.

    With American Alone, Steyn breaks out of the short form and assembles the facts from the early years of the 21st century into a “big picture” argument … about the state of the world and the circumstances of America. Does he translate well to the bigger canvas?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 16 Comments »

    Happy New Year

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )


    The snowmen of Boca.


    Posted in Announcements, Humor, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Questioning Assumptions: Taxes and Expropriation of Financial Assets

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )

    Your analysis is good. But what happens if the assumptions on which you base your analysis change? Carl from Chicago explains how the analyses on which much conventional tax- and retirement-planning advice is based can fall apart if lawmakers change the rules of the game. Carl points out that the rules have been changed before and probably will be again. The conventional advice no longer looks so wise.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Society | 3 Comments »

    Prosecute the flying imams?

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )

    Here’s one proposal (in response to this reasonable question). Newt Gingrich expressed a similar idea.

    Nowadays anybody who makes bomb jokes in an airport security line or on a plane can expect to be arrested. So why doesn’t a group exercise in terrorism street-theater, which seems to be much more threatening and disruptive than are mere jokes, get the same response? Certainly the perpetrators of this incident have received a lot of public scrutiny and criticism, which they deserve, but they also have received a great deal of valuable publicity at little cost to themselves.

    The implicit incentive structure here is not a good one. Politically protected groups should not be granted legal safe harbor to engage in abusive stunts while poor schmucks who say something stupid in an airport security line get the book thrown at them. If we are serious about security we should prosecute the imams — as punishment for disrupting the lives of many people who reasonably perceived them as threatening, as a deterrent against future such behavior and to deter real attacks. On the other hand, if we think it’s more important to be politically correct and not offend anyone, let’s eliminate the whole air-security charade.

    I think we should be serious about security and prosecute the imams. Their behavior, unlike that of most jokesters, was clearly intended to provoke and did so convincingly. Unfortunately the official response to the incident makes clear that political correctness is our institutional priority.

    Posted in Law Enforcement, Terrorism | 20 Comments »

    Review of “Annihilation from Within”

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )

    Annihilation from Within is Fred Charles Iklé’s attempt to draw attention toward, and thereby inspire management of, the true geopolitical risks of the 21st century – risks ultimately deriving from a great decoupling of science from the cultural constraints of politics and religion, a quarter of a millennium ago – risks portended by, but utterly eclipsing, the events of 9/11/2001 – risks almost entirely unrecognized by our current risk-management institutions, foremost among them the nation-state.

    AfW is eminently worth reading and relatively likely to do some actual good in the world. But you haven’t grazed in here to read a blanket endorsement, and I’d be no blogger if I didn’t contend (with all-but-nonexistent credibility) with some portion of Iklé’s thesis; so for a thoroughgoingly unqualified critique, complete with annoyingly personal speculation and fuzzy intuition-laden commentary, read on!

    (~2,700 words; approximate reading time 7-14 minutes, not counting lots of links.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Religion, Society, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    Languages – What Extinction Can Mean

    Posted by Ginny on 31st December 2006 (All posts by )

    John McWhorter, the linguist, is always a bit of a maverick. And he is also quite often right. In “Dying Languages”, he argues:

    In the end, the proliferation of languages is an accident: a single original language morphed into 6,000 when different groups of people emerged. I hope that dying languages can be recorded and described. I hope that many persist as hobbies, taught in schools and given space in the press, as Irish, Welsh, and Hawaiian have.

    However, the prospect we are taught to dread — that one day all the world’s people will speak one language — is one I would welcome. Surely easier communication, while no cure-all, would be a good thing worldwide. There’s a reason the Tower of Babel story is one of havoc rather than creation.

    (Thanks to A&L, as usual.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia | 2 Comments »

    KHANNNNN! (A Continuing Series)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 30th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Thanks to Glenn for pointing to Genghis Khan: Law and order, an LATimes piece by none other than Jack Weatherford, whose Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World was reviewed by me in, uh, KHANNNNN!

    Posted in History, Iraq | Comments Off

    Leave Me Alone, I Can Do It Myself

    Posted by Ginny on 29th December 2006 (All posts by )

    In Hamlin Garland’s “Under the Lion’s Paw,” the narrator asserts something that most small businessmen, farmers, and self-employed artists know: “No slave in the Roman galleys could have toiled so frightfully and lived, for this man thought himself a freeman, and that he was working for his wife and babes.” Well, yes. And such workers fight collectivization because it takes from them purpose – a heavy work load is a lot easier to sustain than alienation.

    How we make a living is not the only place where we are both more active and more sacrificial than we would be if we merely met other’s requirements. Several articles in the last few days have pointed to that; I suspect these arise from the fact America is an outlier — with our emphasis upon self-reliance, we see our selves defined by the internal & personal choice rather than the social & fulfillment of custom. This leads to misunderstandings – by us and of us. Europeans, for instance, are less likely to understand how we approach religion, culture, and society’s “safety net.” Of course, this post just notes new sources that substantiate old generalizations.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 1 Comment »

    Remembering Mancini on the Little Tube

    Posted by Ginny on 28th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Well, hot women’s groups attract Lex, but here’s a cool note: V. 1, first 8 episodes of Peter Gunn. (Netflix) For those of you of a certain age or a certain temperament, this may reverberate.
    In 1989, Blake Edwards tried to revive the series (with Pearl Bailey as “Mother”!); apparently it wasn’t bad, but film noir only worked in a kind of postmodernist way by then. Tonight I forced my youngest daughter to watch episodes from the old series (1958-1961) and she found herself captivated (as I knew she would be) by the music and the poetry reading in smoky bars. This seems like a foreign world to her. I try to convince her that we were cool, then – but she doesn’t believe me. Of course, we weren’t. I was younger than she is now. And she laughs at much of it – the smoking, for instance, seemed so cool and now seems so absurd.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Media, Music | 1 Comment »

    Gerald Ford

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Alav hashalom (RIP).

    Ford’s presidency looks better with time and Jimmy Carter’s looks worse. Yet I remember the sense of disappointment with Ford, and enthusiasm for Carter, before the 1976 election among my parents’ contemporaries. (I’m sure that I would have voted for Carter if I had been old enough.)

    At the time it seemed natural to frame any evaluation of Ford or Carter mainly in comparison to Nixon rather than in terms of urgent national issues. Ford came across, unfairly, as dull and clumsy and was prone to malapropisms. Carter, with his pious demeanor and then-novel southern political background, seemed to many people to be a sort of anti-Nixon. But Carter turned out to be seriously inept, while Ford’s judgment looks pretty good in hindsight, particularly if you consider his many vetoes, and the bad decisions he avoided by being essentially a practical politician rather than a zealous man.

    Times change. Time clarifies.

    Posted in History, Obits, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day II

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Michael Ledeen agrees that, WRT Iran, unfortunately, nothing is up:

    Those killer quotes from the Times show once again the failure of strategic vision that has plagued us from the beginning of the war. We can only win the war—the real war, the regional-or-maybe-even-global war—if we stop playing defense in Iraq and go after regime change in Damascus and Tehran. Everyone in the region, above all, the Iraqis, knows this. And everyone in the region is looking for evidence that we might be able to muster the will to win this thing.


    But dumping responsibility for dealing with Iran in the quivering laps of the Iraqi leaders is precisely the wrong thing to do. We have to lead this war, we have to go after the Iranians. Otherwise, surge or no surge, fifty or a hundred thousand troops more or less, we’re gonna lose. Because the peoples of the Mideast, who have seen many armies come and go over the centuries, are going to throw in with the likely winners. And we can’t win if we refuse to engage the main enemy, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Posted in Iran, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Quote of the Day, or Merry Christmas II

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th December 2006 (All posts by )

    The twilight deepens. Mary and Joseph descend the hill …

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity | Comments Off

    Milton Friedman in Iceland

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Via a commenter on David Friedman’s post that I mentioned here comes this link to a video of a 1984 appearance by Milton Friedman on Icelandic TV. I’ve started watching it and it looks good. (It’s always a pleasure to watch Friedman in good debating form.) FWIW, the questioner in the two-toned sweater is now president of Iceland. Maybe he learned something from Friedman.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 6 Comments »

    “Dishonest Words”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th December 2006 (All posts by )

    David Friedman analyzes, with prejudice, the use in argument of loaded words such as “homophobic.” Such words, used thoughtlessly, confuse and indicate confusion on the part of the speaker. Used artfully, they are rhetorical bludgeons intended to stifle rational discussion at the point where rationality would be most helpful.

    (Note also the comments to the post, including one comment that straightforwardly defends the use of dishonest words, in a way that unintentionally makes the opposite case, though the comment is perhaps a parody.)

    Posted in Political Philosophy, The Press | 2 Comments »

    Merry Christmas

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th December 2006 (All posts by )

    It is an odd thing to be a Roman Catholic co-blogger amongst a bunch of libertarians who are mostly not religious, or are formerly religious, and some of whom are actively hostile. I see more and more of that hostility these days, so I feel more and more free to just say what I think on the subject. I have never had any interest whatsoever in being anything else. But today most of all I a realize how blessed I am.

    During Advent, we get ready for the arrival of the baby, and we turn our prayers more and more onto the scene which is coming, which has been reproduced so often, sometimes as masterpieces of art, more often as kitsch. The last day or so, it is easy to imagine Mary and Joseph, real flesh-and-blood people, on the road, tired, worried, not sure where they will be staying, roughing it. You can imagine yourself walking beside them on the road, coming over a rise, Bethlehem ahead at last. Maybe you put your hand on Joseph’s shoulder, “look, it will be OK. You are almost there”. But then, no place to stay, after all that. They carried on, they did what they could with the means at hand. They did not have an easy time. What a small act of kindness it would have been for someone to make room for a pregnant woman for one day. Make an effor to be patient and kind to the people around you, to be alert to their needs, look up from what you are doing and look around. This is harder than it sounds. Decide not to hold personal grudges. If that is too hard, pick one and drop that one.

    God Almighty chose to disclose himself, at first, in the most understated possible fashion, silently, obscurely, at the edge of civilization, far away from the powerful and the wealthy and the well-connected, the well-read, the clever. This is so clearly a Divine approach, at least it seems so to me, no need to show off. Humility is a very basic virtue we all lack to some degree, but one which we would do well to work on. I direct this at myself as much as anyone.

    The creator of the universe is Love. Hard to grasp. Love is as basic as being itself, love precedes the material existence of the universe. This is not how it seems much of the time. The world itself, despite its many terrors, its many disappointments, which are consequences of original sin, is after all a good place and we are lucky to be here. Love, of course, the real article, is deeds, not sweet words. God in his providence has brought people into your life, so love them by how you treat them, and where appropriate, by telling them so. This time of the year is a good time to decide to turn up the effort a little bit in this department.

    I hope all our readers get the presents they want. Around here people are still wrapping things.

    God bless all our contributors, our readers, our friends and our enemies.

    Posted in Announcements, Christianity, Religion | 7 Comments »

    High Adventure

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Watch out for. .. the poisonous fish!

    Posted in Humor | Comments Off

    Iran – Is Something Really Up?

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd December 2006 (All posts by )

    Both Spook86 and Michael Ledeen suggested a few days ago that the USA might be adopting a stronger position towards Iran. Are we?

    Look at Tradesports’ price history for its AIRSTRIKE.IRAN.DEC07 contract:



    (Click the thumbnail to display a large version of this chart.)

    So what does this combination of an increase in stern American and British rhetoric, and stagnant odds in the geopolitical wagering market, mean? I think it’s clear. The rhetoric is most likely not intended as a prelude to action by us. It is intended as a substitute for action. This is business as usual and not at all encouraging.

    (See also this post.)

    Cross-posted at Midas Oracle.

    UPDATE: Chicago Boyz is an Intrade affiliate.

    Posted in Iran, Predictions, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Bell — Postcards From Mars

    Posted by James McCormick on 23rd December 2006 (All posts by )

    Bell, Jim, Postcards From Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet, 2006, 196pp.

    When I was a kid, growing up in a military family, the Apollo program was an impossibly glamourous and distant showcase of talent, excitement, and adventure. It was inspiration for much newspaper reading, discussions with my Dad, and avid TV watching whenever the pair of Canadian networks deigned to broadcast the grainy black-and-white images of liftoffs and moon landings. The cosmology inserts in National Geographic were also rare oases of rich visual evidence of what we knew about the world above our atmosphere. NASA was Oz. Information was sparse.

    My twenty-five year detour into the social sciences and medicine, away from the space program, was brought to a gradual end by the advent of the broadband Internet. Nowadays, amateur space exploration enthusiasts have a waterfall of sources of information and visual inspiration, including live Internet feeds of NASA TV. Once again my Dad and I could share information, ideas, and now URLs. We can perch as a virtual peanut gallery, getting up in the wee hours of the night, if we’re so inclined, to watch the tense faces in Houston or the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, or peer at high-contrast postage-stamp-sized video from the International Space Station with Lego men in bulky suits wielding strange tools. Or even watch the space station zip across the sky at dawn or sunset. Our cup runneth over. We can be party to industry gossip. Follow every high and low. Every failure, catastrophe, funding fiasco, amazing discovery, and triumph of the “rocket scientists” can be shared in the video clips and press releases and space commentary sites available in a web browser.

    For the last three years, one of the enduring small pleasures of life has been following the progress of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The story of their construction and testing and successful deployment has been well documented in PBS specials but still, a television screen and a computer monitor can only convey a certain amount. Bigger than a bread box. Smaller than a house. Yes, yes. As big as a stadium. About the size of a blueberry. Colour: tan … or tannish. Detail: mmm … rocky, sandy, desert-like maybe. A sand dune of some size or other. Lots of geeky people of all ages and persuasions clearly very excited about something.

    Last April, during a visit to San Francisco, I took the opportunity to catch a limited release IMAX film called Roving Mars. Wow. Suddenly the panoramas of Mars, and the size, shape and detail of the rovers became vivid and crisp, with a resolution that overwhelmed the eye and brain. Much of reason for the excitement experienced by the science teams finally made it from screen to audience.

    Now, three years into what was supposed to be 90 day missions for the two Mars rovers, we finally have a coffee table book that takes full advantage of the human eye to convey the very alien, yet powerfully compelling, landscape of Mars. Postcards from Mars is written by the lead scientist on the twin colour panorama cameras used by the rovers to capture high-resolution images on the Red Planet. He has selected the photographs, supervised their colour-processing, and written a companion text which describes not only what was seen on Mars by the rovers over the last three years, but how the scientists constructed the cameras and developed methods to convey accurate colour so we can see Mars as if we stood with them.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Space | 3 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd December 2006 (All posts by )

    Posted in Judaism, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Reports from our Blog Roll – In From the Cold

    Posted by Ginny on 21st December 2006 (All posts by )

    In from the Cold reports the resignation of Abizaid. Spook 86 observes:

    The choice for Abizaid’s replacement will be an early indicator of how much clout Mr. Gates (and the Bush #41 alumni association) really have in setting policy for the rest of W’s administration.

    This news is preceded and followed by speculations on Iran & Gunboat Diplomacy, but his greater energy was spent analyzing the possibilities of recruitment in “It’s the Force Structure, Stupid.”

    Posted in Military Affairs | 1 Comment »

    In Defense of Our Little Community

    Posted by Ginny on 21st December 2006 (All posts by )

    Update: “For Good Heh, Read the Whole Thing” (Iowahawk)

    Isn’t Joseph Rago’s invocation of that great Swedenborgian vision that so dominated Henry James, Sr.’s life – the “Vastation” – kind of weird in his column designed to piss off the average blogger (“The Blog Mob”)?

    I don’t see Iraq that way & wonder if he does. I suspect it is the kind of allusion he thinks bloggers like us don’t make. Most often used to describe a spiritual emptiness, a profound & deeply disturbing recognition of emptiness, he probably means here a “laying waste, depopulation, devastation”. Some don’t see Iraq this way, but some seem to. (Certainly, it must be how Jamil Hussein sees it, but that is another matter, one worth discussion in places resistant to such considerations, i.e., Kurtz‘s column.)

    This is an abyss word. Modern thinkers often draw us to the edge of what they declare to be an abyss; they clearly see it as titillating, as a show of courage. Of course, it isn’t really courage because they don’t feel the fear. They want to use its shock, but don’t, not really, feel it to the depth of their bones. If this is what he truly believes, it should be the subject of the column. He needs to face it – and communicate what he sees – a lot more urgently and honestly. This is far too grim a vision to merely use rhetorically. But I get the feeling he doesn’t really think it is an abyss, he just throws that in, just as he throws in the word itself, to give the illusion of depth. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging | 6 Comments »

    How do we feel about this new comment-feed thing?

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Is it better or worse than the old recent-comments thing?

    Any ideas for modifications or alternatives?

    Leave a comment if you have an opinion.

    Thanks.

    Posted in Blogging | 5 Comments »

    Total Planetary Domination (A Continuing Series)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Thanks to Glenn for pointing to Hypersonic Cruise Missile: America’s New Global Strike Weapon, in which we read that “[i]n 2001, Defense Department planners began searching for something that could hit a foe almost instantly without risking a nuclear holocaust.”

    Exactly.

    Add conventional SLBMs and X-51s to our arsenal. Heh.

    Posted in Military Affairs | 6 Comments »

    Juxtapositions We Might Wish Didn’t Come to Mind

    Posted by Ginny on 20th December 2006 (All posts by )

    Netflix’s infinite riches include a series of 4 dvds of the complete Beckett. Neither of us has ever been a big Beckett fan & I keep falling asleep (surprise surprise), so I suspect we will stop with the first; sometimes I wonder how people decided to keep going during those years. (Scotus wondered why we were doing this during the holidays – it seems more a mortification appropriate to Lent.) To wake up, I trawled the humor sites & brought some links back.

    The fifties were also a time when conventions were all male & a chance to get to the big city. Iowahawk shows us Chicago before most Chicagoboyz were born, but when people knew how to party. 606 makes an appearance, if 666 does not.

    On a more contemporary note, Zucker offers a short comparison often made here as well. But dropping an allusion doesn’t make us laugh (if sadly).

    Iowahawk also reruns What Happens in Davos Stays in Davos to welcome Eason Jordan back to Iraq.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Humor, Iraq | 3 Comments »

    “Error establishing a database connection”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th December 2006 (All posts by )

    If you see this message it’s because I haven’t gotten the blog setup completely debugged. I installed a bunch of plugin programs, like the one that displays recent comments, and at least one of these plugins (probably the comments plugin) is inefficient in its use of server resources. When it maxes out the number of concurrent database connections allowed by the hosting company, the blog software returns this error message. Obviously this is annoying, so I’m testing alternative plugins and should be able to solve the problem by experiment. But in the meantime you will continue to see these database-error messages occasionally, and especially when a lot of people are leaving comments at around the same time.

    UPDATE (7:43 PM CST): I have disconnected the recent-comments plugin for the time being.

    Posted in Announcements | 3 Comments »