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  • Archive for February, 2012

    What’s the matter with you, can’t we advocate infanticide without angry blowback?

    Posted by TM Lutas on 29th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini wrote a paper entitled After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?. They were subsequently shocked that their argument in favor of infanticide instead of putting up for adoption led to death threats.

    There is something deeply wrong in the state of modern, academic philosophy and ethics. The first problem is in making the argument. The second is in being so isolated from society that the reaction to the article surprises them.

    Update: The journal article has been moved and now resides behind a paywall.

    Posted in Academia, Medicine, Morality and Philosphy | 9 Comments »

    Fianna Fail – fault-lines?

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 29th February 2012 (All posts by )

    So in today’s continuing Eurodrama, Fianna Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv had to step down due to his refusal to support the Fiscal Treaty. Interesting, especially as Fianna Fail is due to start its annual party conference (the “Ard Fheis”) on Friday. Will the grandson of Eamon de Valera lead the way to a new Irish euroskepticism?

    Meanwhile, The Independent points out in an editorial today that on March 31, Ireland will have to pay another €3.1 billion on its ongoing €30 billion bailout of Anglo-Irish bank. For a country with a GDP of somewhere around $200 billion, that’s not chump change. Indeed, there are rumblings of the government will have to cook up what is called here a “mini-budget” (a budget revision) the summer involving more cuts, although (hopefully) no new taxes.

    For leading parties Fine Gael and Labour to succeed, they will have to try to forestall the mini-budget until after the referendum. How they will managed to wrench out a Yes vote from this will be, um, interesting. And why, yes, I do mean that in the Chinese sense.

    Posted in Europe, Ireland | 2 Comments »

    I just can’t help myself.

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 29th February 2012 (All posts by )

    I just saw this post on the Algemeiner about neo-Nazi Arthur Jones running in IL-3.

    Please. Allow me to be the first.

    (the key dialogue starts at 1:45)

    Posted in Chicagoania, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Cheesy Goodness

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th February 2012 (All posts by )

    After following all the directions given for making cheeses last fall, to include covering the various wheels with wax – we stashed the results on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to age. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Photos, Recipes | 10 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Michael Barone:

    This election is a contest between a Democrat who wants to make this country more like Tocqueville’s France and Republicans who want to keep it more like Tocqueville’s America. The liberal bloggers are rooting for France.

    Posted in Elections, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations | 5 Comments »

    Wood Stork, Florida Everglades

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th February 2012 (All posts by )

    A Wood Stork on the bank of a canal in Everglades National Park, Florida. (© Jonathan Gewirtz)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off

    Ireland to have a referendum on the EU fiscal treaty…

    Posted by Telegram from Innisfree on 28th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Prime Minister Enda Kenny has just announced this afternoon that a general referendum will be held on the EU Fiscal Compact prior to the summer. Labour and Fine Gael, the parties currently in power, will campaign for a Yes vote. Sinn Fein will probably line up on the No side, which would continue their journey on the road to Euroskepticism. Fianna Fail, which spectacularly combusted in general elections last year, will be having its Ard Fheis (Party Conference) this weekend, which a good deal of the party’s future will be discussed. No doubt this referendum will be a hot topic. The sense I get so far is that Fianna Fail will back a yes vote, since the previous government was thoroughly Europhilic and the current leader, Micheal Martin, was in the prior cabinet. But let’s see what happens this weekend…

    A few quick thoughts:
    - The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) is announcing this now because he thinks people are generally feeling good about Ireland’s prospects. In the last 10 days or so several hundred new jobs from various overseas corporations have been announced.
    - Or maybe his hand has been forced by the prospect of Sinn Fein issuing a court challenge?
    - Initial takes I’m reading/hearing indicate a No vote would imply a break from the Eurozone.

    Time to go listen to the radio!!

    Posted in Europe, Ireland | 11 Comments »

    Read and Weep

    Posted by David Foster on 28th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Link

    Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Islam, Terrorism | 9 Comments »

    Around Chicago February 2012

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 27th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Upper left – the hotel Dana. There is a cool Asian restaurant in the hotel – the billboard has a girl with 2 different colored eyes. On the roof of that hotel there is a club that is open all winter. Note – from behind – that building looks like a Soviet creation it is all faceless wall with one window. Upper middle – a cool new building on the Northwestern medical campus in Streeterville. Upper right – a little candle lit setup in the restaurant Zocalo in River North. Lower left – some random construction in River North. They are just adding a level on top of a building like it is a third world country or something. Lower middle – Chick Fil A is in Chicago near the Magnificent Mile – that place is awesome! Lower right – a cool red building in River North.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 4 Comments »

    File Under the Heading W-T-F

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th February 2012 (All posts by )

    As I was working over a hot computer this afternoon, with the local classical music station on, I heard a reader for this little excursion. Oh, my – I wondered if Texas Public Radio just wants us to get a good look at what happens when a prosperous state undergoes a revolution of the proletariat, and have received a full ration of social justice, as well as management by the modern version of the philosopher kings … yep, get a good long hard look at the itinerary. It includes a stop at the Bay of Pigs Museum. Lots of lovely pre-revolution buildings – at least, that is what the TPR website page about the tour displays.
    Gee, I guess they couldn’t wrangle a tour to Syria – I gather that it’s lovely, this time of year. Or maybe to another civil-rights hellhole like Burma, or Iran; so many lovely historic buildings and pleasing vistas, for the delectation of the culturally-sensitive and well-heeled visitors. I am just gob-smacked by this – and the timing for this particular tour offering, as well as the community that it has been offered to. San Antonio is a fairly conservative town, full of former military – and many of whom are sponsors and contributors to public radio – or at least, we were, back in the day.
    I used to work at this place, as a part-time announcer; until they decided to let all the local part-timers go, and manage the station with a combination of full-time professionals and automation. I used to think that TPR was one of those intersections where a lot of different circles in San Antonio intersected. Now, my daughter is wondering – Did Sean Penn and Michael Moore go halfsies on corporate-sponsoring Texas Public Radio?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Cuba, Latin America, Leftism, Personal Narrative | 43 Comments »

    Urban Cow, In Concealment

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Be vewy, vewy quiet … you never know when a cow will be watching…

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Humor, North America, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Richard Lugar just hung up on me

    Posted by TM Lutas on 25th February 2012 (All posts by )

    I just got an anonymous call from Indianapolis, a hang up from the number 317-550-1990. This is annoying and potentially illegal if what’s going on is an attempt to put robo-calls on answering messages. So I look up the number as a search and find whocallsme.com as the top link. It’s a Richard Lugar hate fest there with people swapping stories about how they are going to vote for Mourdock and how they’ve annoyed the Lugar people when the call connects.

    There are obscure forums out there that the politicians don’t even know exist and they’re invisibly undermining them.

    Posted in Politics | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th February 2012 (All posts by )

    David P. Goldman (“Spengler”), “Memo to Jews: After They Come for the Catholic Church, They Will Come For Us“:

    Open the door to “scientific” determination of matters of life and death, and America’s Orthodox Jews — a minority within a minority — will be vulnerable to a new Inquisition. On this issue, there can be no compromise. Agudath Israel is right: Jews should stand by the right of the Catholic Church to determine what is acceptable by its standards, just as we one day will ask the Catholic Church to stand by our right to determine what is acceptable by our standards. To its credit, Britain’s Catholic Church stood by us in 2009 when the English courts shamefully and wrongly ruled that our most basic religious criteria were “racist.” Shamefully and wrongfully, some Jews have failed to stand by the Church under the Obama administration’s persecution. I appeal to these Jews: Don’t be naive. We’re next.

    Posted in Big Government, Christianity, Civil Society, Judaism, Obama, Quotations | 9 Comments »

    Very Very Scary

    Posted by David Foster on 24th February 2012 (All posts by )

    How Obama makes decisions.

    Excerpt:

    Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men portrays Barack Obama as being confounded by his duties as president. Some of the scenes depicted by Suskind would be comical if they were not so tragic for America.

    For example, when Obama’s experts assembled to discuss the scope and intricacies of the stimulus bill, Barack Obama was out of his depth. He was “surprisingly aloof in the conversation” and seemed “disconnected and less in control.” His contributions were rare and consisted of blurting out such gems of wisdom as “There needs to be more inspiration here!” and “What about more smart grids” and — one more that Newt Gingrich would appreciate — “we need more moon shot” (pages 154-5).

    Suskind writes:

    Members of the team were perplexed…for the first time in the transition, people started to wonder just how prepared the man at the helm was. He repeated a similar sorry performance when he had a conference call with Speaker Pelosi and her staff to discuss the details of the planned stimulus bill. He shouted into the speakerphone that “this stimulus needs more inspiration! Pelosi and her staff visibly rolled their eyes.”

    Presidential exhortations more befitting a summer camp counselor will evoke such reactions.

    Several months ago, I cited a study of Woodrow Wilson written by Sigmund Freud and William Bullitt:

    Throughout his life he took intense interest only in subjects which could somehow be connected with speech…He took no interest in mathematics, science, art or music–except in singing himself, a form of speaking. His method of thinking about a subject seems to have been to imagine himself making a speech about it…He seems to have thought about political or economic problems only when he was preparing to make a speech about them either on paper or from the rostrum. His memory was undoubtedly of the vaso-motor type. The use of his vocal chords was to him inseparable from thinking.

    To Obama, it’s all about the speeches, all about the hype. Despite his faux reputation as an intellectual, the man has remarkably little interest in contemplation, analysis, or problem-solving.

    Posted in History, Politics, Rhetoric, USA | 28 Comments »

    Miami Beach Hotels

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th February 2012 (All posts by )

    The Boulevard and Starlite hotels on South Miami Beach's Ocean Drive at night. (Copyright 2011 Jonathan Gewirtz jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off

    Athens in better days

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd February 2012 (All posts by )

    I couldn’t figure out how to post these in comments so here are a couple of photos of my family in Athens. We loved it and would like to go back. I envy Sgt Mom her experience.

    Here is is one view of the Plaka and the tourists- Cindy and Annie (at age 14.)

    I think kids benefit from travel and especially from prolonged stays in other countries. That doesn’t necessarily qualify them to be president.

    Posted in Blogging, History | 5 Comments »

    An Old Mission Church, Half Tumbled Down

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd February 2012 (All posts by )

    On this day, 176 years ago, the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Bexar and laid siege to the Alamo, raising the flag of ‘no quarter’ from the top of the highest building in town, the original church of San Fernando … Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History, North America, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Jim Bennett Radio Interview

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2012 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: You can listen to the archived interview:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    —-

    Live now, 9:00 PM EST on KNUS 710 AM in Colorado.

    Listen here.

    I’ll post a link to the archive as soon as it’s available.

    [bumped]

    Posted in Anglosphere, Announcements | 11 Comments »

    Idylls of Athens

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    We lived in Athens for nearly three years, my daughter and I. She was only three years and a few months old, when we arrived there, and just short of kindergarten when we left. This is the place that she remembers clearly as a child. I was assigned to the base at Hellenikon, which was merely an acre-wide strip between Vouligmeni Boulevard, and the airport flight line, wedged in between a similar strip which was a Greek Air Force facility, and a couple of blocks of warehouse and semi-industrial facilities of the sort which cluster in the vicinity of busy urban airports. Once – at the end of WWII, or so I was told by people who remembered that far back – the airfield had been away out in hell and gone in the wild and rolling scrub-brush country, south of the city. One very elderly American retiree recalled that the airfield was so far from the city that he was advised to carry a pistol for self-defense purposes, when he had reason to venture out that far from the American Embassy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 7 Comments »

    The Insanity of Federalized Teacher Evaluations

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    Last Sunday’s New York Times had an article highlighting the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system being put in place in Tennessee. The system is part of the Race-to-the-Top attempt to drive education reform in the states by dangling federal cash for reforms.

    As you read the article, you should begin to realize why “reform” fails and why many people in both the Government Education Complex and Education Transformation* movement find these rules so absurd.

    There simply is no way that a federal bureaucracy (or any bureaucracy, for that matter) can devise a unified system of teacher evaluation. There are too many variables, and teachers are correct to be skeptical of this top-down approach to their craft.

    For example, the first few paragraphs of the article expose the unworkable nature of the evaluation process.

    Steve Ball, executive principal at the East Literature Magnet School in Nashville, arrived at an English class unannounced one day this month and spent 60 minutes taking copious notes as he watched the teacher introduce and explain the concept of irony. “It was a good lesson,” Mr. Ball said.

    But under Tennessee’s new teacher-evaluation system, which is similar to systems being adopted around the country, Mr. Ball said he had to give the teacher a one — the lowest rating on a five-point scale — in one of 12 categories: breaking students into groups.** Even though Mr. Ball had seen the same teacher, a successful veteran he declined to identify, group students effectively on other occasions, he felt that he had no choice but to follow the strict guidelines of the state’s complicated rubric.

    “It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.

    What a shock. A principal knows his teachers better than the federalized check list. Wonders never cease.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, Unions | 18 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    Obama is planning draconian cuts in the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, also known as the armed pilots program.

    via Five Feet of Fury

    Posted in Terrorism, USA | 4 Comments »

    A Multipolar World

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    CommodityOnline:

    India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.

    Greg Scoblete, The Compass Blog (Real Clear World):

    I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:
     

    Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

     
    I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…

    Europa:

    “The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
     
    The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”

    Asia Times Online:

    Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.

    And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….

    It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….

    Speaking of energy:

    “Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »

    Think Big

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    Night sky panorama.

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 1 Comment »

    It Works Until It Doesn’t

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st February 2012 (All posts by )

    Back in 2008-9, when it seemed that the world was about to implode, I wrote this article about how odd it was that JP Morgan Chase stepped in and bought an entire bond issue from the State of Illinois, at a time when no one else was interested in our debt.

    The US government has been buying its own debt for some time now. The WSJ today had an article entitled “Treasurys Face Tougher Path” that sums up our dilemma:

    “If we remove the Fed’s purchasing and remove the trillions in Treasurys they hold, what would be the true market value of Treasurys?… I think we would certainly have failed auctions at the current interest rates if the Fed was not the majority purchaser”

    A different article in today’s WSJ called “EU Banks Stashing Cash for Safety” reported that European banks were “parking” their money with central banks rather than lend out to customers, purchase securities (like bonds, above), or loan it to one another.

    The 8 giant European banks that have disclosed their annual results in recent weeks reported holding a total of about $816 billion in cash and deposits at central banks as of Dec 31… that is up 50% from a year earlier… The stockpiling… represented a collective response to the growing pressures on the European Financial system. By storing funds at central banks in Europe, the US, and elsewhere, banks assure that their money is safe.

    As the article above states, we don’t know what the price of debt would be if the US government wasn’t purchasing a substantial portion of the total issuance. It likely would be higher. And in Europe, with losses looming on Greek debt, banks are now questioning their position in the debt markets and apparently “parking” their money more and more rather than purchasing government debt issues.

    In the US we take for granted that we can keep issuing debt to fund our ballooning deficit and that we can find willing buyers at miniscule interest rates. We are also putting our hand on the scale by buying back a lot of the securities that we are auctioning off (try explaining that one to someone who isn’t sophisticated in finance). Like everything else, this works until it doesn’t, and with banks and the US government not buying bonds in the same quantities, who IS going to want to load up on Treasurys at these rates?

    In parallel, the stock market is returning more than ever when dividends are taken into account. There never has been a time in recent history where stocks (assuming dividends and share buy-backs) are returning such a high premium over debt. Thus why would individuals want to purchase Treasurys when (cash) returns in stocks are so much higher?

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. My guess is that it will end badly.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Texiana – Mr. Cannonball Was Not His Friend

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st February 2012 (All posts by )

    Thomas William Ward was born in Ireland of English parents in 1807, and at the age of 21 took ship and emigrated to America. He settled in New Orleans, which by that time had passed from French to Spanish, back to French and finally landed in American hands thanks to the Louisiana Purchase. There he took up the study of architecture and engineering – this being a time when an intelligent and striving young man could engage in a course of study and hang out a shingle to practice it professionally shortly thereafter. However, Thomas Ward was diverted from his studies early in October, 1835 by an excited and well-attended meeting in a large coffee-room at Banks’ Arcade on Magazine Street. Matters between the Anglo settlers in Texas and the central Mexican governing authority – helmed by the so-called Napoleon of the West, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna – had come to a frothy boil. Bad feelings between the Texian and Tejano settlers of Texas, who were of generally federalist (semi-autonomous) sympathies had been building against the centralist (conservative and authoritarian) faction. These developments were followed with close and passionate attention by political junkies in the United States.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, North America, That's NOT Funny | 4 Comments »