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  • Archive for March, 2012

    Castles in the Air

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th March 2012 (All posts by )

    A closed thistle flower covered in morning dew drops in the Florida Everglades. (© 2012 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Via Martin Kramer, who asks: “What happens to aging ’60s American Jewish radicals after the kids move out, the dog dies, and their parents (may they rest in peace), who so valued and cherished Israel, have passed on to their heavenly reward?”

    If the trailer is representative, this is a slick piece of agitprop packaged as folksy interviews with thoughtful Jewish intellectuals who just happen to have doubts about Israel, no doubt because their integrity and independent-mindedness let them see clearly the evils of Israel that other Jews (and most non-Jewish Americans) are brainwashed into overlooking. In fact this is a bunch of leftist hacks repeating buzzwords (apartheid etc.) and citing events pruned of context to single out Israel for demonization. The woman in the last interview gives the game away by blaming Israel for the “stateless” condition of Palestinian refugees, even though Palestinian Arab statelessness, to the extent it still exists, is a racket maintained by Arab governments and the Palestinians themselves, and even though the post-WW2 world has had many refugee populations that dwarfed the Palestinian Arab refugee population and that, unlike the Palestinians, were mostly resettled within a few years. The difference is that people like those in this movie couldn’t use those other refugee populations as a weapon against the Jews. You would have to be profoundly ignorant to find this movie convincing, but ignorant people seem to be the target audience. Watch it for yourself.

    I was fortunate to have had in high school a leftist, anti-Semitic history teacher, a man who was an enthusiast of Third World “liberation” movements run by kleptocrats and gangsters but who put Israel under a moral microscope. The Israeli Jews, as he saw it, had treated the Palestinian Arabs unjustly by (he would quote a particular historian whose book he always had at the ready) expelling them and this unjust treatment colored everything that Israel did subsequently. Two wrongs — an allusion to the Holocaust — don’t make a right. We should all be citizens of the world and should drop our parochialisms and be happy. Of course he mainly applied this argument to the Jews, and I was not clever enough to point out that the Jews’ enemies had often persecuted them for supposedly being too worldly. I argued, and learned a great deal in that class, and watching this movie trailer transports me right back to it. Shabbat shalom.

    Posted in Israel, Judaism, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Middle East, Rhetoric, Video | 18 Comments »

    I Like Men…

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

    Like them, appreciate them, adore them for their ability to wade in there and … fix stuff. I like them for all those qualities and more, although sometimes they exasperate me, and I have been exposed to slightly more than my statistical fair share of total male fahrk-quads. Twenty years in the military will do that to you. At best, it’s an 85% plus male-dominated profession, and one is guaranteed to observe them in their masculine glory and also at their absolute piggish worst. But on the whole, I like men when they shoulder responsibility, when they are stand-up great co-workers, when they are good in bed and fantastic with amusing children, when they come to your physical and emotional rescue – which they will do – and when they give those perfectly thoughtful and slightly skewed gifts. From one long-time Significant Other, I got a birthday-Christmas present of two pallets of bricks. Yes, but it was what I really-oh-truly-oh-really wanted and I had said so. Dad once gave me a metal tool-box as a Christmas present, for pretty much the same reason.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 21 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

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

    Obama and his political operatives have decided to rebrand those Americans now under 40 as “Gen44.” Specifically, Gen44 is the name of his “council to cultivate and empower a rising generation of leaders in the Democratic Party.”

    Why the number 44? Why, that would be because Obama is the 44th President of the United States, of course. It’s all about him. As Tina Korbe writes:

    Can you say, “hubris,” anyone? It’s almost like pleading to restart the calendar with 2008 as 1 Anno Obama.

    Every time I think I have fully grasped the height of this man’s arrogance and the depth of his narcissism, I find that I have underestimated both.

    Can anyone imagine Lincoln calling his reelection campaign “Gen16?” Obama’s self-positioning in this matter as in so many others is not that of a democratically-elected hired executive leader; it is that of an absolute monarch or totalitarian dictator.

    And what of those core supporters of Obama who are willing–even eager–to submit themselves to uncritical leader-worship? How, in a free society, did we ever wind up with a considerable number of such people?

    (links via Bookworm)

    Posted in Politics, USA | 25 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

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

    From an interview of Ion Mihai Pacepa, the former head of the Romanian intelligence service under Ceausescu, by Madeleine Simon:

    14. Since coming to America, what most positively surprised you about the country, and what has most negatively surprised you?
     
    [...]
     
    What most negatively surprised me? A 2008 Rasmussen poll showing that only 53% of Americans preferred capitalism to socialism. There seems to be a new generation of American young people who have no longer been taught real history in school, who know little if anything about the destructive power of Marxism — a sinister plague that dispossessed a third of the world’s population and killed some 94 million people — and who believe that a socialist utopia would solve everything in the world.

    Posted in Education, Leftism, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    At the Lake

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th March 2012 (All posts by )

    A tranquil pond in Everglades National Park, Florida. (© 2012 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off

    Book Review: Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin

    Posted by David Foster on 27th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Saw this book on the new-books-for-kids table at the local library, and it looked unusual enough that I picked it up and checked it out. The story covers 2 days in the life of Sasha Zaichik, a boy who lives in Russia sometime during the Stalin era.

    Far too little attention has been paid–by academics, the film industry, and the media in general–to the crimes committed in the name of Communism. Claire Berlinski, in her post a hidden history of evil, notes the astonishing lack on interest in copies of secret Kremlin archives that have been smuggled out of Russia. “I offer them free of charge to the most influential newspapers and journals in the world, but nobody wants to print them,” says one former Soviet dissident. “Editors shrug indifferently: So what? Who cares?”

    So I applaud Eugene Velchin for writing this book, Henry Holt & Co for publishing it, and the American Library Association for giving it a Newberry Honor award.

    Sasha is 10 years old, devoted to Communism and to his father, who works as an official of the secret police. He has finally reached the age at which he is eligible to become a member of the Young Pioneers, and is looking forward to the ceremony at which he will receive the red scarf signifying his membership in this organization.

    Then his father is arrested…

    A quick and gripping read, with illustrations by the author.

    Yelchin has a synopsis of the book, with background information and photos, on his website. Link here.

    Posted in Book Notes, Leftism, Russia | 6 Comments »

    Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Slade – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th March 2012 (All posts by )

    But Jack Slade was not quite dead. Some stories have it that he looked up at Jules Beni and gasped, “I’ll live long enough to hang your ears from my watch chain!” The two stage drivers carried him into the station and laid him in a bunk. Almost before the smoke had cleared, a westbound stage pulled into Julesburg, carrying Slade’s immediate boss, the operations superintendent on his own tour of inspection. Accounts differ on what happened to Jules Beni upon being arrested by the outraged operations superintendent. Without provocation, Jules Beni had gunned down an unarmed man in front of witnesses. Anyway it was sliced on the frontier; it came out as cold-blooded murder. Although Jack Slade was still breathing, everyone seemed fairly certain he wouldn’t continue to do so for long. Beni was hung from an improvised gallows and half-strangled; either the rope broke and he managed a daring getaway, or the superintendent ordered him let down and extracted a promise that he would depart immediately and at speed, and stay the hell away from the division. The Pony Express had a real-time test, as one of the newly-hired riders was sent galloping hell for leather to the Army post at Fort Laramie two hundred miles away – the nearest place to find a doctor.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Biography, History, Human Behavior, North America | 4 Comments »

    Extreme Sailing

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th March 2012 (All posts by )

    This should be a welcome change from the political news.

    That looks like great fun except that I would want my hot shower.

    Those guys are going about 30 knots. Day after day.

    Posted in Diversions, Video | 15 Comments »

    In the Garden

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Peacock Garden

     

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    It Depends On Who Is Paying

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2012 (All posts by )

    From a Washington Post story about Dick Cheney’s heart transplant (via Instapundit):

    A study published last November found that treatment similar to what Cheney received costs $167,208 for every year of life saved. Treatments that “buy” a year of life for $50,000 or less are considered cost-effective, and those costing $50,000 to $100,000 are generally considered acceptable. (A European study in 2011 found the device much less of a bargain, at a cost of $414,275 for year of life saved).
     
    Who gets a donor heart when one comes available depends on many variables, including body size and blood type. The most important one, however, is a person’s clinical condition and immediate availability for surgery.
     
    There are strict guidelines for placing someone in the most urgent category and the decision is made by a team of many specialists. Moving someone to the top of the list who shouldn’t be there would be hard to do and would open a hospital to major sanctions. Both Bull and John said they are confident Cheney got no special breaks.

    From the quoted passage: Treatments that “buy” a year of life for $50,000 or less are considered cost-effective, and those costing $50,000 to $100,000 are generally considered acceptable. [My italics.]

    The unstated assumptions here are that 1) third parties will pay for transplants and therefore get to decide which patients will be considered to receive transplants, and 2) third parties will allocate the limited supply of transplantable organs.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Medicine | 6 Comments »

    Post-Modernism: The Ivory Tower & the Presidency

    Posted by Ginny on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Post-modernism shaped academic thinking for the last decades, providing the rationale for two, not unrelated, modes of thought that led to but may not survive this year’s crises. It won’t disappear – its methods are millennia old: intense skepticism and an argument words are but references to words reappear regularly. But, for a while, such evasions may go underground. Accepting its premises means budgets like Paul Ryan’s no more describe reality than does Obama’s “budget.” Free lunches, then, are possible & the debt is only a word. And voters – well, the post-modernist sees identity as category – no self-made post-modernists. However, the reality remains and it is the rational founders who accept the nature of man and post-modernists who distort it. I’m betting on the old guys – perhaps in new suits. I’m not betting on the illusionists.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Obama, Politics | 7 Comments »

    Historical Diversion: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Slade

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    “In due time we rattled up to a stage-station, and sat down to breakfast with a half-savage, half-civilized company of armed and bearded mountaineers, ranchmen and station employees. The most gentlemanly- appearing, quiet and affable officer we had yet found along the road in the Overland Company’s service was the person who sat at the head of the table, at my elbow. Never youth stared and shivered as I did when I heard them call him SLADE! … Here, right by my side, was the actual ogre who, in fights and brawls and various ways, had taken the lives of twenty-six human beings, or all men lied about him! … He was so friendly and so gentle-spoken that I warmed to him in spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realize that this pleasant person was the pitiless scourge of the outlaws, the raw-head-and-bloody- bones the nursing mothers of the mountains terrified their children with.” That was what Mark Twain wrote, years afterwards in an account of a stagecoach journey to California, in 1861, upon encountering Joseph ‘Jack’ Alfred Slade, a divisional superintendent for the Central Overland, and a man who combined a horrific reputation with a perfectly soft-spoken and gentlemanly demeanor … and who in the space of four years, went from being a hard-working, responsible and respected corporate man (as these things were counted in the 19th century wild west) to being hanged by the Virginia City, Montana, Committee of Vigilance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, History | 4 Comments »

    The Palestinians should see this

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Here is a photo that all Palestinians and their supporters should see and remember,

    The caption is worthwhile, too.


    Sudeten Germans make their way to the railway station in Liberec, in former Czechoslovakia, to be transferred to Germany in this July, 1946 photo. After the end of the war, millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans were forcibly expelled from both territory Germany had annexed, and formerly German lands that were transferred to Poland and the Soviet Union. The estimated numbers of Germans involved ranges from 12 to 14 million, with a further estimate of between 500,000 and 2 million dying during the expulsion.

    It is a mystery to me (not really) why the Palestinians and their supporters do not make the connection between the Arabs who left Israel in 1948 and the Germans who were forced out at the end of the war. How many terrorist Sudetan Germans have you heard of ?

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History | 12 Comments »

    “I will dull his mind and he will forget that his is the just cause.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Via Martin Kramer. This is a very well done sermon by a Reform rabbi, a political liberal, against Peter Beinart’s argument that we should penalize Israel by boycott because of Israel’s continued control over the area between the Jordan River and the 1949 armistice line.

    Beinart’s Times op-ed is a monument to sloppy reasoning. He ignores the key facts underlying Israel’s reluctant continuing control over Judea and Samaria: that Israel captured the territory in a defensive war to prevent its own destruction and therefore holds it legitimately absent a peace deal, that most Israelis would be happy to return control over the territory to an Arab government in exchange for a reasonable peace deal, and that none of the Arab governments that have controlled the territory has been willing to make such a deal (which is why Israeli public opinion has shifted away from its 1990s accommodationism). The settler issue per se is a red herring, since there is no obvious rationale other than anti-Jewish ethnic cleansing for preventing Jewish settlers from remaining in their homes under Arab rule (as more than one million Arabs live in Israel), and most of the “settlers” are residents of close-in suburbs of Jerusalem that would be incorporated into Israel under any reasonable final deal. (Why is the term apartheid only used to color the perceptions of ignorant people about democratic Israel but never used in connection with the proposed de-Judeization of the West Bank?)

    Beinart strikes me as either a committed leftist or an opportunist who is trying to position himself to make hay from the BDS movement. Perhaps he is both. Regardless of his motives, his arguments are weak.

    Posted in Israel, Judaism, Leftism, Video | 1 Comment »

    Birds

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Silhouettes of a flock of American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) as they arrive at their evening roosts in the Shark Valley section of Everglades National Park, Florida. (© Jonathan Gewirtz, jonathan@gewirtz.net)

     

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off

    ALDaily

    Posted by Ginny on 25th March 2012 (All posts by )

    ALDaily has a questionnaire up. If you don’t check it out regularly, give it a look. We’re on their blog roll, so keep us in mind. Just saying. And don’t be put off by Chronicle ownership – this may indicate changes to come, but under the late Dutton, it was remarkably open to all viewpoints, though reflecting his interests in evolutionary art criticism (examples too rare to notice unless you knew Dutton’s work).

    Posted in Academia, Advertising | Comments Off

    Talking politics at a social event…

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

    About ninety minutes ago. Two guys are talking. I walk up and join them.

    First Guy: …all politicians are liars. All of them. Mitt Romney is the worst liar. Everything he says is a lie.

    Me: You voted for Obama, didn’t you?

    First Guy: Yes, I did.

    Me: He’s the biggest liar of them all.

    First Guy: No he isn’t. George W. Bush is.

    Me: Excuse me, I need to get to my parking meter before it expires…

    Posted in Leftism, Personal Narrative, Politics | 1 Comment »

    The Race Card

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th March 2012 (All posts by )

    There was a shooting in Florida this week that has now accumulated all the “usual suspects” for a racial extravaganza. The bare details are that a Florida neighborhood had had a high number of burglaries in the previous year. The neighbors had instituted a “neighborhood watch.” The watch member on duty saw a black teenager in a “hoodie” sweatshirt acting in a way that he thought was suspicious. He called 911. The 911 call was recorded but the record may not be clear. A new eyewitness has said that the shooting victim was attacking the shooter and was on top of him as the shooter called for help. The shooter was not arrested and now the local police chief has removed himself from the case. The shooter is in hiding, afraid for his life. Was this a terrible mistake ? Surely the shooting was not done in malice. The shooter is Hispanic and a local resident. Local neighborhood watches are common in Florida, which has a “stand your ground” law. Self defense does not require retreat but this was on a public street, not the shooter’s home. I suspect neighborhood watches are about to be disarmed in Florida.

    The usual suspects have all appeared, including Barack Obama, who seems to insert himself into every racial incident. Of course, Al Sharpton (MSNBC commentator) is heavily involved. Hopefully, the body count will not reach previous levels in Sharpton’s activities. Sharpton did manage to convince some suckers (sorry, supporters) to pay his debts in the Tawana Brawley hoax I guess that means he can go back to New York for his MSNBC gig.

    This may be the substitute for the failed contraception ploy the Democrats attempted. Maybe there really was a crime committed by an excited neighborhood watch member. If so, the magnitude would be voluntary manslaughter, hardly a reason for the attempted lynching now going on in Florida and Washington. It is ironic that the group, which suffered 100 years ago from lynching, now seems to promote it. I think the Republicans would do well to stay away from this case with the exception of the usual sympathy for the victim. It is getting ugly and the facts are far from established.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Media, Obama, Politics, Urban Issues | 31 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

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

    Kevin D. Williamson:

    Under our current arrangements, market forces are eliminated or excluded in more than half of all U.S. health-care transactions (and the president’s health-care reform, if it stands, will reduce the scope of real market activity radically), while in K–12 education, market forces are excluded in 90 percent of the transactions or more. It is not a coincidence that these are among the worst-performing sectors of American public life. The tragedy is that they are among the most important. Once the 1985 [regulatory] regime was in place, the development of wireless Internet and similar products ceased to be in the main a political problem and became an engineering problem. We have dysfunctional political institutions, but Americans are excellent at solving engineering problems. Where it is possible to do so, we reap extraordinary benefits from converting political problems into technical problems. But there is a very strong tendency among self-styled progressives to convert technical problems into political problems.

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Tech | 5 Comments »

    Obama’s pipeline to nowhere

    Posted by TM Lutas on 23rd March 2012 (All posts by )

    President Obama’s decision to support a southern section of Keystone XL is a commitment to build a pipeline to nowhere. Until extra oil supply hits Cushing, OK from Canada, there is no purpose to building a pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico to there. And that’s the kind of economic development, President Obama apparently likes, the dig a hole then fill it in variety.

    Keynesians see nothing wrong with this sort of useless development that doesn’t actually meaningfully enhance an economy’s productive capacity. The actual construction project is a stimulus and that’s fine with them. But those that follow the Austrian school find such development a key factor in setting up future economic trouble because it’s malinvestment, siphoning off investment money to little useful purpose other than to shorten the tanker car runs Warren Buffet is making profits off of.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation | 6 Comments »

    Reviving the Garden

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

    One of the best things about buying a house and retiring from the military was being able to feel free to actually get serious about a garden. I went through a phase of planting roses – many of which have thrived and survived – and a long project to rip out the existing lawn, back and front, and put in xerioscape plants. The back yard was the place that I put the most into, though. Because of the layout of the rooms and the windows in them, the back was the part I looked at the most. And because of the peculiar soil composition – a foot or so of heavy, dense clay laid down over an impermeable layer of caliche which apparently goes all the way to the core of the earth – getting certain things to thrive and grow in it has been a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, North America, Photos, Real Estate | 4 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd March 2012 (All posts by )

    It’s been reported that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who is also head of Obama’s jobs council, is increasingly appalled at the President’s economic ideas. Charlie Gasparino says:

    Friends describe Immelt as privately dismayed that, even after three years on the job, President Obama hasn’t moved to the center, but instead further left. The GE CEO, I’m told, is appalled by everything from the president’s class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation.

    The “Just Unbelievable” title of this post does not refer to Mr Immelt’s belated recognition of the problems with Obamaism (if such has really occurred–the Gasparino story is based soley on unidentified sources)–but rather to the headline that the major financial website Business Insider chose to put on this story:

    GASPARINO: Here’s Why GE CEO Jeff Immelt Is Going To Stab Obama In The Back

    (The “stab in the back” phrase does not actually appear in the Gasparino article, but was added by the BI author or headline-writer)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Obama, Politics, USA | 12 Comments »

    Should We Save It? Why?

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd March 2012 (All posts by )

    There has been a preservationist battle over the Prentice Women’s Hospital, which looks like a strange concrete spaceship from a 1950′s sci-fi movie. Here is an article from a preservationist web site describing the building and its history. From the article

    A concrete, cloverleaf-shaped icon, Prentice Women’s Hospital has added drama and interest to the Chicago skyline for nearly four decades.

    One of the current issues is that it isn’t adding ANY interest to the Chicago skyline anymore. The reason for this is that myriad other, larger buildings have been added all around it – the only reason that I can see this at all (other than being on the street, facing it), is that I am atop a building that ACTUALLY is part of the skyline and looking down.

    While I am all for preservation in various forms it seems odd to demand that a hospital retain an old facility like this. The facility is clearly a high maintenance item – just look at it – and can’t be very practical to refit for today’s technology and practices. And there is nothing else to do with this facility – it is in the middle of the hospital campus so you can’t just turn it into some “boom boom” nightclub like you could here in River North, or even into some sort of weird shopping mecca like Bloomingdales did with the old Shriner’s building (site of the circus).

    I support the preservationists but this one seems like a lost cause because it would obviously be impractical and fiendishly expensive to do anything with it, and it isn’t in a good location for alternative uses. The building is also too tiny to be called part of the skyline anymore. And plus, it is damn ugly.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania | 15 Comments »

    Magic Trump?

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd March 2012 (All posts by )

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 1 Comment »