Saturday, January 3, 2009

'Some things are better than others'

Nelson Guirado says the unsayable:
[W]hat's happening now isn't a desire to think of people as on par cosmically or for a legal equality, but a reluctance of people to publicly say that some things are better than others. I imagine that most people who don't mind same-sex marriage see that it's dissimilar to opposite-sex marriage in some way, but that they're intimidated into not saying so (For the first time in history, gay activists were "outing" people who supported exclusive opposite-sex marriage.) for fear of breaking the first leftist commandment: Thou shalt not distinguish. . . .
[S]mart people can say things are different without "hating" and that some things, in fact, are. Men and women are different and it's legitimate to say so and even set up laws that take that difference into account. Whether a particular distinguishing law is wise is another matter that smart people can figure out. For example: It's wise to have separate bathrooms. It's not wise, necessarily, to prohibit women from driving.
Well, we have to give the Saudis some credit, eh? But seriously . . . the leftist fetish for equality is an idol that crumbles at its first exposure to reason. Men and women are different, and in important ways, and I am amazed at the Left's success in compelling people to pretend otherwise. Nelson is writing in reply to my discussion of the gay-marriage debate:
[S]o many of those who would defend traditional marriage find themselves unable to form a coherent argument, because traditional marriage is based on the assumption that men and women are fundamentally different, and hence, unequal. Traditional marriage assumes a complementarity of the sexes that becomes absurd if you deny that "man" and "woman" define intrinsic traits, functions, roles.
If you are unwilling to contradict the modernist dogma of equality, it becomes impossible to argue effectively against gay marriage. Viva la difference!

'Destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure'

Israel launches its ground war in Gaza:
"The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations," said Israel Defense Forces Major Avital Leibovitch, a military spokeswoman, confirming that incursions were under way. "We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas." . . .
Large numbers of forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel navy, the Shin Bet security service and other security agencies. Meanwhile, the cabinet has authorized an emergency call up of tens of thousands of IDF reservists.
Meanwhile (via Ace), in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hundreds of pro-Hamas protesters show their humanitarian civility:

UPDATE: Little Miss Attila is not amused.

UPDATE II: Meanwhile, via Zombie, a little bit of Gaza comes to San Francisco:

More on BSMD

The list of Blog-Specific Mental Disorders -- forms of craziness to which only bloggers are susceptible -- gets updated by William Jacobson's definition of SiteMeter Envy, which is not to be confused with Instalust (obsessive craving for an Instalanche). Like sexual lust, Instalust is insatiable. The more 'lanches you get, the more you want. Also, if you look at your SiteMeter immediately after you get 'lanched, the upward spike is an appropriately suggestive visual metaphor.

Fighting over the spoils

This morning I said I'd defer all future Blago blogging to Marathon Pundit, but the revelation of Harry Reid's involvement in the Illinois Senate Auction (what else would you call it?) is too rich to ignore. I especially appreciate liberal blogger Chris Bowers' take:
[U]sing "electability" as the rationale, Reid did advocate on behalf of two candidates, one of whom, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, attempted to remove Blgaojevich via judicial coup. If the Senate's move to block Roland Burris wasn't already viewed as a political move rather than one of ethics, this story should put an end to that once and for all.
Bowers points out that Obama's seat was previously held by Carol Mosley Braun and yet Reid seems to believe that a black appointee would be "unelectable" in 2010. By appointing Burris, Blago has put the Democrats between a rock and a hard place. All of this uproar, it should be noted, would never have happened if Democrats had trusted Blago to make the decision in the first place. Instead, as a creation of the Chicago machine, Blago was treated as a stooge, incompetent to pick his own appointee, and expected to take dictation from Team Obama.

This entire episode has been an eye-opening lesson in how the Democratic Party actually works.

Stupid liberal tricks

Liberal trolls pretending to be Sarah Palin supporters in an effort to discredit Team Sarah (H/T: Michelle Malkin).

Such vandalism is a species of "progressive online activism" for which there is no parallel on the Right. But it's not the only such species. Back in September, Ace called attention to the "concern trolls" who were apparently part of a Team Obama astroturfing campaign, the apparent object of that effort being to spread negative memes about the GOP ticket via comment fields at conservative Web sites:
The script--
1. The Pledge: I'm a conservative/I'm a Christian/I'm a conservative Christian
2. The Turn: My heart is with you guys, really... but I have these concerns...
3. The Prestige: I hear all these great things about Obama and/or did you hear this horrible stuff about Palin?
It's formulaic, and I've seen the same basic technique in the comment fields at AmSpecBlog -- the guy who claims to be a serious, committed conservative but who is invariably negative. Anything I write about Sarah Palin at the American Spectator is certain to elicit comments from at least one troll asserting that Palin is an unmitigated disaster for the GOP.

Yes, there are Republicans who aren't enthusiastic about Palin, but the trolls don't articulate any real argument against Palin, or express support for an alternative candidate by praising, inter alia, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal or Mike Huckabee. No, it's just the "Sarah is a sure loser" meme, the transparent propaganda intent being to spread among conservatives the idea that the most popular elected official in the Republican Party can't possibly win.

Blago blogging

You may have noticed a relative paucity of BlagoGate blogging here lately. Why? It's one of those situations where so many people are blogging about it that I don't feel I can add anything fresh or different. So Marathon Pundit is your all-Blago 24/7 source.

Good news!

"California Will Be Bankrupt Before General Motors"

'The once-great New York Press'

Sam Schulman discusses Toby Young's essay on the "celebritariat," and writes:
Melik Kaylan and Toby Young were my confreres at "Taki's Top Drawer" in its first incarnation as a section in the once-great New York Press.
Those were the day, eh, Russ?

Lies, damned lies and liberal statistics

"Statistics lead to liberalism and should not be collected."

Actually, I love statistics. The problem with the statistics of Sixties liberals is that they sought out statistics as evidence of social problems about which government ought to do something. Well, they did something, and those social problems immediately got much worse, and pretty soon it was possible to statistically demonstrate a correlation between liberalism and socioeconomic disaster -- a correlation long suspected prior to the Sixties, but now a proven fact that only fools dispute.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Utah: Worse than Canada

In hindsight, I now realize that it was a mistake to admit Utah to the Union. What the heck kind of name is "Utes," anyway?

Utah state motto: Armpit of the West.

UPDATE: Thanks to Dandapani:

'This isn't ideal'

I had previously overlooked the Palin family's press release on baby Tripp's birth:
Governor Sarah Palin has welcomed her first grandchild, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, born to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston on December 27.
"We are over the moon with the arrival of this healthy, beautiful baby," Governor Palin said. "The road ahead for this young couple will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Bristol and Levi are committed to accomplish what millions of other young parents have accomplished, to provide a loving and secure environment for their child. They are both hard workers, they're very strong, and have faith they've made the right decision in setting aside their own interests to make this child their highest priority."
Palin added, "When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn't it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?"
Bristol Palin said she "obviously discourages" teen pregnancy and knows that plans she previously made for herself will now forever be changed. "Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with -- this isn't ideal. But I'm fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can't imagine life without him now."
Bristol begins her final semester of high school next week where she'll get her last credit needed to graduate. She looks forward to continuing her record of good grades and high achievement. Levi is continuing his online high school work in addition to working as an electrical apprentice on the North Slope.
Bill McAllister, the governor’s office communications director, adds: "The governor's office previously declined to comment to honor the family's wishes that the event remain as private as possible. However, the high volume of press inquiries, along with some erroneous information that was published, prompted the governor to make a statement."
I dislike the idea of Bristol Palin offering generic advice -- "Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with" -- rather than acknowledging any personal responsibility for her own situation. Is the problem that teenagers in general are getting pregnant, or that you got pregnant? In point of fact, teen pregnancy is at an all-time low. Is it too much to expect something like a mea culpa?

UPDATE: PaleoPat agrees with me, but in the process calls me a neocon. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Yeah, Pat, tell that one to David Brooks, Frank Fukuyama and Ken Adelman. Here's the difference between me and neocons: Neocons believe we should invade foreign countries in order to spread the universal benefits of democracy. I believe we should invade foreign countries because it's a good live-fire field exercise for the troops. What's the point in having aircraft carriers if you don't occasionally pound some Third World dictatorship to smithereens?

My biggest beef about Iraq is that, if we're going to go around the world toppling evil regimes, we ought to start in Cuba. It's 90 miles from Key West, and occupying Havana would be like a vacation. Military recruiters could use the prospect of Cuban occupation duty as an inducement: Jineteras, mojitos and cigars under the swaying palms. Put some Xavier Cugat music on the soundtrack of the recruiting commercials. "Join the Navy and screw the world."

Stop fighting the inevitable

Wednesday, I said that if Republicans are looking for a candidate who can generate online enthusiasm, that candidate's name is Sarah Palin. And now comes the news that oddsmakers make Palin the favorite for the 2012 nomination.

Palin-haters will be apoplectic at this news, and Allahpundit writes:
Barring a catastrophic first term, The One will be heavily favored for reelection, leading young’uns like Jindal and Palin to bow out and bide their time until 2016.
Does Allah really believe that Obama's first term will not be catastrophic? I keep telling you guys: It won't work. Obama's proposals won't fix the economy, and if there is one thing the American voter will not abide, it's a long recession. Therefore, there is a real chance the GOP could take back the White House in 2012, and Palin is the most popular Republican candidate. Allah likes Romney and I like Romney, too, but Romney has never generated the kind of grassroots enthusiasm that Palin ignited.

'We will remain on the path of jihad until the end of days'

At the funeral of murderous Hamas leader Nizar Ghayan, the demand for bloodshed is renewed:
The Islamist group vowed that its attacks, which have lasted for years and which finally provoked the massive Israeli campaign, would not stop.
"I call on the resistance to continue pounding Jewish settlements and cities," said Sheikh Abdelrahman al-Jamal at the funeral of a hardline Hamas political leader killed, together with his four wives and 11 children, in an Israeli air strike on his home.
"We will remain on the path of jihad until the end of days."
I hate to keep repeating myself:
You cannot negotiate with a shark. To the extent that Hamas represents any coherent political philosophy, that philosophy can be summed up in two words: Kill Jews.
The alternatives facing Israel were not to choose between peace and war, but rather to choose between fighting back or allowing Hamas to kill Israelis with impunity. There is no option of peace so long as Hamas exists. War against Israel is the raison d'etre of Hamas, and if Israel wishes to survive, it must fight Hamas "until the end of days."

Travolta's son dead

TMZ reports that John Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, has died in the Bahamas. No details of how the boy died.

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that Jett Travolta died of an apparently accidental head injury, perhaps after suffering a seizure.

Obligatory Lindsay Lohan bikini pics

Lindsay Lohan spent New Year's Day on Miami Beach in a black bikini, with her lesbian girlfriend Samantha Ronson nowhere in sight. The photos were linked at Conservative Grapevine, and I was intrigued by this photo:

Who is Lindsay hugging, and why? We don't know. There was no caption information provided. Did Lindsay just decide to start spontaneously hugging people on the beach? Or is this an old friend she recognized? Or was this some sort of lesbian recruitment thing, with Lindsay trying to rub some of her gayness onto the other girl? Who knows? But we do know that Samantha and Lindsay had a big fight at the airport, so speculation runs rampant.

UPDATE: An admirer at Hollywood Tuna offers to lend Lindsay a helping hand of support.

UPDATE II: In the comments, Greg Ransom says Linsday's too skinny -- "the binge and purge look." Agreed. There are some women who are naturally slender (ectomorphic) and look good that way. But then there are women who, aspiring to a thinness that is not natural to their mesomorphic or endomorphic natures, get that gaunt concentration-camp survivor look. Lindsay's not that far gone, but she's thin enough that her hips seem withered -- a phenomenon that, alas, requires me to post another photo as documentation:

The girl clearly needs some biscuits and gravy.

Marxism and Bowl Games

Tonight, the mighty University of Alabama Crimson Tide will destroy Utah in the Sugar Bowl, which is officially the Nokia Sugar Bowl. The rituals of corporate sponsorship inspire Marxist visions from Jonathan Chait:
At every one of these games, the announcers must take five minutes to speak with the CEO of the sponsoring company. . . . And then -- this is what really burns me -- they thank him for sponsoring the game, as if the game wouldn;t be happening without his beneficience. Oh, thank you, sir, for taking this advertising opportunity. Back in the days when this game was called the Florida Citrus Bowl, life was practically unbearable. Now that it is the Capital One Bowl, and giant credit card logos decorate the playing field, we spectators can finally enjoy ourselves.
Of course, these bowl games originated during the Great Depression with Chamber of Commerce schemes to promote their communities. Having the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day was a chance to highlight the mild Southern California climate that enabled roses to be grown year-round. The Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls emulated this approach, each sponsored by local boosters eager to promote Miami, New Orleans and Dallas in the same manner, and so on with the proliferation of minor bowls. Capitalism was always a factor in bowl games, it's just that now the sponsorship is more direct and blatant.

UPDATE (Post-Sugar Bowl): A Marxist would blame Corporate America for the failure of Alabama to establish its running game. I, however, argue that it was a mistake to admit Utah to the Union.

Kickin' it with MK

Mary Katharine Ham has great taste in rock 'n' roll:

In case any of you youngsters didn't recognize it, that video was accompanied by Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Don't Ask Me No Questions," from their second album, 1974's "Second Helping."

Diversity in action

Remember, diversity is our strength:
Two men and two teens have been arrested on suspicion of gang-raping a woman last month in the San Francisco Bay area while allegedly taunting her for being a lesbian, police said Thursday.
Officers arrested Humberto Hernandez Salvador at his Richmond home Wednesday night, Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan said. The 31-year-old is being held without bail on gang rape, kidnapping and carjacking charges. . . ..
Josue Gonzalez, 21, turned himself in Thursday after police announced they were searching for him. He was wanted on charges of gang rape, kidnapping and carjacking. . . .
Detectives say the 28-year-old victim was attacked on Dec. 13 after she got out of her car, which bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The alleged attackers made comments indicating they knew she was a lesbian, police said.
These two perpetrators were obviously a couple of intolerant right-wing evangelical Republicans who were motivated to commit this hate crime by listening to James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger.

'Life of the party'

Jim Blanning, who ruined New Year's Eve in Aspen by making bomb threats before committing suicide, wasn't all bad, the sheriff says:
"He could be the life of a party," [Pitkin County Sheriff Bob] Braudis said. "He was a witty and intelligent man. He was a womanizer -- he had six or seven ex-wives. He was fun. And if you needed help, he would be there."
He was also a scam artist who served prison time for fraud, but other than that -- and his terroristic warnings of "mass death" unless banks forked over cash -- he was a great guy.

On humor

Is it me? Sometimes people are offended by my jokes, and I wonder if maybe my sense of humor is so idiosyncratic that it is impossible to expect anyone else to share it. The mock-braggodocio of my "about" description -- styling myself a bon vivant and raconteur -- is often misinterpreted by humorless lefties. Well, who can expect them to get a joke?

It's somewhat more disturbing when my jokes are misunderstood by friends and allies, as indicated by some of the comments on the "Guest Blogger of the Year" post. Seeking a hook for linking Iowahawk's hilarious Rita Ortiz post, I decided to combine it with a link to Jules Crittenden's post announcing his Weblog Award nomination, and frame it in the joking context of pretending to have my feelings hurt that I had not been nominated.

So, just to clear up any misunderstanding, I apologize to any of "you ungrateful bastards" who were offended by the joke. Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault that I'm a bad blogger whose jokes aren't funny.

How Big Government helped destroy the newspaper industry

The absurd idea that a Connecticut newspaper might get a government bailout prompts Jules Crittenden to one of the few useful suggestions for saving print journalism:
Throwing out the FCC’s cross-ownership ban once and for all might also help.
The FCC's obsolete prohibition on newspaper publishers owning broadcast franchises in the same markets has been bent, over the years, for a few politically-connected conglomerates -- for instance, Cox owns both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB TV/radio in Atlanta.

There was a time when, if the ban had been repealed, newspapers would have purchased broadcasting outlets. If the ban were lifted now, the buyout pattern would be the other way around. But too little attention has been paid to how the FCC, by preventing consolidation between print and broadcast media, undermined the economic viability of print journalism.

The rise of cable television in the 1980s changed the game. Cable is not "broadcast" and thus is exempt from FCC regulation, and anyone who was paying attention should have realized how the growth of this new technology invalidated the FCC's original rationale in banning cross-ownership. Newspapers could have benefitted by sharing editorial staff between print and broadcast, and using the broadcast outlet to promote the print product. But the entrenched New Deal-era mentality among regulators stifled such insights, and so the absurd wall between broadcast and print remained -- with strategic exceptions, of course, for the big conglomorates that could curry favor in Washington.

Repealing the ban now would probably be too little, too late to save failing papers like the Bristol Press, but it might save others. It's a tragedy, however, that nothing was done sooner.

Seeming vs. being

Tina Brown:
I remember being stunned when Tracy Hogg, the former nanny who wrote the bestselling mommy manual The Baby Whisperer told me that the mothers she worked for usually hired her without checking any of her references. She had a British accent, and . . . the Baby Whisperer’s posh vowels were enough, apparently, to convey a Mary Poppinsesque aroma of wholesomeness.
(H/T: Don Surber.) What Brown has in mind, among other things, is Bernie Madoff's swindle. The phrase "con man" comes from "confidence" -- the con man's trick being to inspire his victims to have confidence in him. The con man exudes charm, and has the sociopath's knack for seeming. He seems trustworthy, and takes advantage of people's belief that they can judge a man's character at a glance.

This problem recurs in many contexts. I'm reminded of how President Bush pronounced that, based on a one-time meeting with Vladimir Putin, he knew he could trust him:
I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.
This is one of the most idiotic statements Bush ever made, but in making it, he was only expressing what many other people believe: That they can form an accurate estimate of a person's character just by talking to them for a few minutes, or even by seeing them on TV. Some people aren't cynical enough to realize that there are other people who put tremendous effort into seeming to be things they are not.

Think about a job interview. Everybody tries to put on their best face for a job interview, but some people have a real knack for exuding an air of competence in that kind of situation and, as a result, they get hired for jobs that they aren't really qualified for. Yet the same personality trait -- an aptitude for seeming to know what they're doing -- will often stand them in good stead at the job, if no concrete measurement of productivity or work quality is applied. Having good "people skills" (at least when dealing with the boss) can indeed substitute for having any other skill, absent any effort to determine who is actually doing good work.

You see this in politics, as well. The likeability factor cannot be underestimated. The typically uninformed "swing" voter doesn't go point-by-point through the candidates' records and policy proposals, but instead watches the candidates on TV and decides which one he likes based on a gut-hunch impression: "Who do I like? Who do I trust?" And so you get a candidate like Barack Obama, whose calm demeanor and baritone voice conveys a sense of steady resolve -- "No Drama Obama," to borrow his campaign team's phrase -- convinced millions that a relative newcomer to politics ought to be entrusted with the presidency.

Tina Brown can't help being skeptical:
Thank God Obama was only kidding when he kept touting Change You Can Believe In. His own Cabinet choices have been cautious and well-researched, but that doesn’t mean we now have to climb into the tank and believe they suddenly know what they’re doing. Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, to whom our flailing economy has been entrusted, are protégés of the erstwhile genius Bob Rubin.
This is one reason why I keep saying of Team Obama's neo-Keynesian economic proposals, "It won't work." No amount of personal charm can suffice to void the laws of economics. As likeable as Obama is, his likeability cannot make demand-side interventionism work. At some point, being is more important than seeming.

Death of a killer

Can any reasonable person mourn the death of a man who sent his own son on a suicide attack?
Earlier Thursday, an Israeli aircraft killed a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza along with nine women, including at least four wives, and 11 of his children. . . .
The assassination of Nizar Ghayan left dozens of people from neighboring buildings injured and brought up the body count on the Palestinian side to 425 people since the start of the campaign.
The IDF Spokesman said that Ghayan's house had served as a weapons silo and a war room for Hamas. Under the house, according to the IDF, was a tunnel which was meant to serve as an escape route in case of an Israeli attack. . . .
A lecturer at Gaza's Islamic University, Ghayan, 49, had mentored suicide bombers and would sometimes go on patrol with Hamas fighters. He was known for his close ties to the group's military wing and was respected in Gaza for donning combat fatigues and personally participating in clashes against Israeli forces. He sent one of his sons on an October 2001 suicide mission that killed two Israeli settlers in Gaza.
He was also an outspoken advocate of renewing suicide bombings against Israel. Hamas said Israel would pay a "heavy price" for his death. Ghayan was one of the most extreme opponents of Fatah, and supported violence against Fatah's men during Hamas' seizure of power. (Emphasis added.)
What a piece of work, eh? This is why Israel can't negotiate with Hamas:
You cannot negotiate with a shark. To the extent that Hamas represents any coherent political philosophy, that philosophy can be summed up in two words: Kill Jews.
Ghayan was a leader of Hamas specifically because he was such a bloodthirsty Jew-killer. It was his enthusiasm for killing Jews, and nothing else, that made him a Hamas leader. So good-bye and good riddance, Nizar Ghayan, your four wives, and the rest of the Jew-killing Ghayan family. The world is a much better place without you.

They don't get it

The Washington Post has an exit-interview feature about longtime Bush staffers Joshua Bolten and Stephen Hadley, and I was struck by this passage:
[Bolton] echoed the point when discussing the dramatic shift in economic policy of recent months, dismissing the notion that Bush abandoned free-market principles and simply subcontracted decisions to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.
"He hasn't changed his philosophy, but he was advised and accepts . . . that massive government intervention has been necessary in the financial markets in order to protect the viability of the financial markets," Bolten said. "It's been a dialogue," he added. "It's not that Paulson all of a sudden shows up once a week and says, 'Here is what I am going to do,' and the president rubber-stamps it. It is a regular conversation between Paulson and Bernanke and Paulson and the White House."
If accepting "massive government intervention" is not a change in philosophy, then what the hell is it? Notice that "the viability of the financial markets" is used to justify this. OK, suppose you accept that justification. So what justifies the Detroit bailout? What does saving the UAW have to do with "the viability of the financial markets"?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Guest Blogger of the Year

Nobody nominated me for the Weblog Awards, but that's OK, my feelings aren't hurt or anything, you ungrateful bastards.

However, Jules Crittenden has readers who actually like him and can be bothered to do thoughtful little things like this, so he got a nomination. And while I was reading about his nomination for this prize -- a prize I'll never get, because I seem to attract only selfish readers who are insensitive to my emotional needs -- I noticed that there is no category for "Best Guest Blogger." But if there were such a category, it would be no contest.

Rosa Ortiz, Guest Blogger of the Year.

Tales From the Dumb Side

Postmodern scholarship:
"Literature is the key foundation for all types of litercy. Without litercy there would be no means of proper communication."

"The story of Lucious, wrote in the second of two centuries AD, has gluttony and also sluttony."

"In the Odessey, Odysseus expects a marvelous homecoming, is slowed down by various absticals, including the island of the cylcopese, and the plod of the suitors to kill Odysseus’ son, which escapes me."
These examples of your (education) tax dollars at work come from SUNY-Oswego, courtesy of Thomas Bertonneau.

BMD -- Blogger Mood Disorder

Look, if it's enough to get an Instalanche, I think I'm suffering from a chronic case of BMD.

There are two syndromes closely related to BMD:

  • SiteMeter Fever -- A neurosis typified by obsessively refreshing your SiteMeter to see if your traffic has increased since the last time you checked it, seven minutes ago.
  • Bloggernoia -- This psychotic disorder involves the suspicion that other bloggers have malevolent motives for not linking you. "Don Surber is just envious of me!"
Shameless traffic-whoring is not actually a disease, however. A moral failing, perhaps, but not pathological.

Did somebody mention Christina Hendricks?

Still more safe predictions for 2009

Liberals will still feel obligated to send Michelle Malkin hate mail, pointing out that she is not an old white guy.

It's amazing how easy this crystal-ball stuff is.

Another safe prediction

No feminists will support efforts to ban topless sunbathing in Australia:
On any given day, acres of tanned flesh are on view at Bondi Beach: men wearing the briefest of briefs, women sunbathing topless. . . .
A Christian fundamentalist politician, the Rev Fred Nile, is calling for topless sunbathing to be outlawed, and he has received backing from several mainstream MPs.
While nudity is illegal in Australia except on designated beaches, local councils consider toplessness acceptable. Mr Nile wants the legislation to be tightened. "The law should be clear," he said. "It must say: 'Exposure of women's breasts on beaches will be prohibited'."
Now, recall the feminist outrage over the topless women in the Danish washing-machine commercial. Why do feminists shout "sexism" over breasts in a TV commercial, but not when the same commodity is displayed on a beach in Australia? Answer: Because somebody's making a profit on the TV commercial.

Topless sunbathing exists outside the market nexus, which means that ugly women can participate equally, whereas when commercial considerations enter the calculation, good-looking women have an "unfair" advantage. This is the same envious instinct that caused so many feminists to condemn Melissa Beech and her "sugar daddy." It's Undeniable Truth #24 in action.

Good-bye, $6.9 trillion

The Washington Post:
After months of tortuous trading, Wall Street rang out its worst year since the Great Depression yesterday, leaving shareholders $6.9 trillion the poorer.
It hardly mattered that the market finished the last day of the year with a modest gain.
The losses in 2008 were so broad and deep that every sector in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index took a double-digit hit, and the financial sector lost more than half of its value.
You may be wondering: Where did that $6.9 trillion go? Well, it didn't go anywhere. It never existed. Or, to put it another way, it existed only as a value.

This is why people don't understand economics -- they don't understand value. What is a thing worth? Whatever you can sell it for, and not a penny more.

Price is the intersection of supply and demand. The securities traded on Wall Street have value only as reflected by the current price or, perhaps, what someone thinks the price will be a year or five years from now. A year from now, the net value of the S&P 500 might be higher than it is now, or it might be lower. If you think it's going to be higher, buy. If not, sell.

People don't understand this. You can see the miscomprehension of value in everyday behavior. Take, just for an example, clothes. Go look in your closet and ask yourself, what did I pay for this wardrobe? Now, ask yourself, what would it sell for today? No, not what it would sell for in a store, if it were new, but what you could sell it for yourself.

However expensive your clothes, whatever the name brands and designer labels, if you held a yard sale tomorrow, your warddrobe would fetch pennies on the dollar in terms of what you paid for it. That Calvin Klein sweater that retails for $125 may have seemed like a bargain when you bought it on "sale" for $75, but try to sell that sweater secondhand. What price will it fetch at a yard sale or a consigment shop? You'd be lucky to get $5 for it. So much for your "bargain."

Despite this economic reality, some people still spend extra money to buy designer name-brand clothing. Some even borrow money (using credit cards) to buy this overpriced merchandise which loses about 90% of its resale value the first time they wear it. And it cannot be argued that name brands have any "use value" that compensates this depreciation. Whatever the difference in quality between an $80 pair of designer jeans and no-name jeans that sell for $20 at a discount store, it's not enough to justify the difference in price. The purchaser of the designer jeans is buying a status symbol, and paying an extra $60 for the supposed prestige of wearing something with a designer label.

What does this have to do with the $6.9 trillion of Wall Street that evaporated in 2008? Well, remember that the financial meltdown originated in the mortgage market, during the housing bubble that burst. People borrowed money against what they thought the house was worth -- its value in an overheated market -- so between optimistic appraisals and lenders willing to extend "no money down" mortgages, you had people owing 100% of what their home was supposedly worth. Which was fine, if the market continued ever upward.

What happened, however, when the market stopped rising? Suddenly, those homes became depreciating assets -- not really different, in economic terms, than that designer sweater. And just like the silly bimbo who maxes out her Macy's credit card to buy a wardrobe of designer clothes, the overleveraged homeowner finds himself making payments on a possession that he cannot resell for anything near what he borrowed to buy it.

So, what happens now? Well, it seems some people are slow to get the message:
HOUSE PRICES: Still too high? I think so, and I’m surprised at how unrealistic sellers still seem to be. I’m seeing people put houses on the market for 10-15% more than they paid two years ago, when those houses are probably worth 10-15% less. Or worse.
It's as if the bimbo with the maxed-out Macy's card decided to hold a yard sale and put an $85 pricetag on the designer sweater she paid $75 for. These unrealistic home-sellers have in their mind the idea that, because they paid $250,000 for their house, its current value must represent some specific percentage (whether it's 90% or 110%) of what they paid for it. But if the best offer they get is $120,000, that is what the house is actually worth, and not a penny more.

This is what is intrinsically wrong with the bailout mentality that has prevailed, with Congress making plans to "help" homeowners who are upside-down on their mortgages. Such "assistance" only prevents the market correction that is the only real solution to the problem.

Why not also bail out those investors who lost $6.9 trillion on Wall Street by propping up the securities markets? Which is to say, why not prevent securities from selling at what they're actually worth? The idiocy is apparent: If you bought Acme Widget at $20 a share, and today can't find a buyer at $5 a share, why should the federal government step in to offer $10 a share to cushion your loss? Nobody forced you to buy that stock and, in point of fact, no one is forcing you to sell it now. You can either hold onto Acme Widget and hope the price recovers, or else you can sell it at $4 a share and take the loss.

Given current economic realities, this ought to be a buyer's market for housing, a chance for young people who were priced out of the "bubble" market to jump in and get their slice of the American dream at rock-bottom prices. But if the government intervenes to prop up overleveraged homeowners, they discourage this necessary market-clearing process. Yes, some people will be losers in that process, just as there were lots of losers in the $6.9 million Wall Street sell-off. But real recovery cannot begin until the market hits a solid bottom.

In the meantime, good luck selling those designer sweaters for $85 at the yard sale, bimbos.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! (Sydney)

Ringing in 2009 with a $12 million fireworks show:

Better than sex?

Seven and a half pounds of joy

Congratulations to James Joyner on the birth of his daughter, Katharine Webb Joyner. (Rumors that Mrs. Joyner might have had something to do with this event could not be immediately confirmed.)

Very clever of James to name the baby after Mary Katharine Ham, in a traffic-baiting stunt so transparent that even I am shocked.

UPDATE: Wizbang notes that, in true Republican fashion, young Miss Joyner arrived just in time to qualify her dad for an extra tax deduction this year.

Sex or fireworks?

Italian women threaten a "sex strike" if their menfolk don't cancel their fireworks. Le mie scuse, donna, but I can't do without my fireworks.

AFTERTHOUGHT: However, if you guys do go ahead and shoot fireworks, be careful. You'll be all right, so long as you don't blow off both hands . . . .

UPDATE: A professional show from Switzerland -- 14 minutes, and wait until you see the pyrogasmic finale:

Genf Teil 3 from 3PYRO8 on Vimeo.


Just when you think you've seen the nadir of liberal idiocy, they manage to surprise you:
Over the past century, of course, the conflict between North and South has been between union and non-union labor. . . .
But, just as Lincoln predicted, the United States was bound to have one labor system prevail, and the debate over the General Motors and Chrysler bailout was really a debate over which system -- the United Auto Workers' or the foreign transplant factories' -- that would be. Where the parallel between periods breaks down, of course, is in partisan alignment. Today's congressional Republicans are hardly Lincoln's heirs. If anything, they are descendants of Jefferson Davis's Confederates.
(H/T: Irons in the Fire.) Where to begin? How about this: During the Civil War, the nascent labor movement in the North was vehemently anti-war. Among other things, the coal miners of Schuykill County rioted against the draft. Indeed, the deadliest race riots in American history -- the New York Draft Riots of 1863 -- were chiefly motivated by Irish immigrant laborers' opposition to economic competition from free blacks.

Harold Meyerson's ugly appeal to sectional prejudice is tolerated only because he chooses as the object of his bigotry the South, a convenient scapegoat, ignoring altogether that opposition to the UAW bailout is just as widespread in Western states with the same right-to-work laws as the South. Never mind the fact that the South and the West have prospered by their pro-business policies and opposition to union goonery, while the industrial Rust Belt has declined by clinging to obsolete economic policies. And never mind that free labor -- which is, after all, what Lincoln advocated -- is incompatible with the closed-shop slavery that Meyerson endorses.

How we got here

In politics, few things are more important to sound strategy than an accurate understanding of history. The widespread notion of Barack Obama as destined for triumphant success is an idea rooted in his supposedly brilliant upset of Hillary Clinton. But as Peter Brown notes, Hillary's defeat was self-inflicted:
The Clinton strategy had been to clinch the nomination on Feb. 5, when 22 states held Democratic primaries and caucuses. And that day, like most of the other Tuesdays during the winter and spring, they basically wrote off the caucus states.
Sen. Clinton - and basically everyone else - expected her strong name identification and favorable image among Democratic activists, combined with a presumed (incorrectly it turned out) money advantage would deliver her the nomination that day. But Mr. Obama fought her to a virtual draw on Feb. 5, when almost 40% of the delegates were decided. He took the more numerous smaller primaries and caucus states, while she was winning the handful of big prizes — New York, New Jersey and California.
He, however, had planned and budgeted for the 11 contests during the rest of February. She had not - a victim of her campaign believing its own hype about inevitability.
I made a similar point in a recent Pajamas Media column:
Hindsight shows how foolish were the expectations that prevailed as 2007 came to a close. Conservatives shared the Clinton campaign’s belief that the former first lady would score an early knockout in the Democratic primaries, essentially locking up the nomination on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. As Joshua Green of the Atlantic Monthly has since reported, that mistaken belief was a key factor in the failure of Team Hillary to organize effectively for a long nomination battle.
It is important to understand, also, how Obama benefitted from Republicans' relentless four-year anti-Hillary campaign. The GOP assumed that Hillary would be the nominee in 2004, and devoted immense resources to demonizing her, thus making her a softer target for her Democratic rivals. One of the reasons Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" did not prevent Obama from locking up the nomination was that many of Limbaugh's listeners had been so brainwashed by years of anti-Clinton propaganda that they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary even when Limbaugh told them to.

Too many conservatives seem demoralized by Obama's election, and part of that demoralization is caused by the "Triumph of Hope" narrative, which omits the important facts of how Obama's victory was made possible by the failures of others.

2009 Prediction Number One

Feminists will continue to provide a target-rich environment in the coming year. This fearless prognostication for 2009 is prompted by blogger Sylvia M.'s demonstration of the magical feminist ability to detect evidence of patriarchal oppression everywhere.

The New York Times: "After a lifetime of being wooed by others, Caroline Kennedy is still learning how to sell herself."

Sylvia M. "They're calling her a whore!"

No reasonable person could find sexism in such a commonplace phrase -- "selling yourself," i.e., self-promotion -- but a feminist is, by definition, not a reasonable person. Rush Limbaugh gets a lot of grief for coining the term "feminazi," but that expression captures the fundamental similarity between theories of Aryan supremacy and the feminist worldview of gynocentric biological determinism. And just as the Nazis relentlessly inveighed against "Jewish art" and "Jewish science," so does the feminist use "sexism" as a synonym for "anything I don't like."

Like Nazism, feminism is about fostering a sense of grievance based on evil attributed to a scapegoat. Both ideologies are based on a classic paranoid delusion:
Your failures are not due to any negligence or shortcomings of your own. You are a such a superior person that you are blameless for any misfortune that befalls you. Therefore, your failures are caused by the treachery of your enemies, who so envy your superiority that they conspire to undermine you. You have been betrayed and sabotaged.
This madness is self-contradictory -- the scapegoated enemy is both inherently inferior and yet so clever as to thwart the supposedly superior paranoiac. So, just as Nazis believed that the feeble and decadent Jew was able to sabotage the mighty Aryan civilization, the feminist believes that reactionary male troglydytes are capable of oppressing advanced, enlightened womanhood.

Like Nazism, feminism offers to comfort the isolated and fearful individual with the warm security of collective identity. To reject this collectivism is to betray The Cause and give tacit aid to the scapegoated enemy. The German who rejected Nazism was accused of being something other than a True German, and a woman who rejects feminism is not a True Woman.

Of course, a German of the 1920s and '30s might have been a genuine patriot -- sharing the common grievance over the degradingly unfair terms of Versailles, and eager to see his nation restored to strength and health -- and yet rejected the Nazis. Similarly, a woman might sincerely believe in the importance of educational and career opportunities for women without embracing the rigid ideology of femisism. Like Nazism, feminism demands that its followers either toe the party line or else be demonized as betrayers.

Tammy Bruce was a feminist in good standing, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, until she refused to go along with NOW's national leadership in insisting on solidarity with O.J. Simpson. Although she continues to cherish the same ideals of fairness and justice that motivated her as a NOW activist, Bruce is now despised as a turncoat by her former comrades.

The feminist movement -- as a movement -- is totalitarian. It is one thing to seek to remedy specific and well-defined wrongs against women. It is something very different to portray all men as scapegoats complicit in universal oppression, and to advocate social revolution "by any means necessary" as the only acceptable response.
So it is that with supreme confidence I predict that, in 2009, feminists will continue to make idiots of themselves. Always remember: Equality Is For Ugly Losers.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Roseanne Barr's idiot tale:
Israel is a NAZI state. The Jewish Soul is being tortured in Israel. The destruction of the jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in gaza. Hamas is the street gangs---this is equivilent [sic] to los angeles attacking and launching war on the people of watts to attempt to kill the bloods and the crips.
Call me old-fashioned, but if someone wishes to put their thoughts into writing, I don't think it is too much to ask that they pay attention to spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Coherent logic is optional; grammar and orthography are not.

(H/T: Omri Ceren via Hot Air Headlines.)

By the way . . .

I have never had sex with any lobbyists, no matter what the New York Times tries to tell you.

I can't swear that I've never had sex in a lobby, but if so, I probably would have been in such a condition that I wouldn't remember it anyway.

Technology vs. enthusiasm

John Hawkins makes a good point: Republicans fascinated by the Obama campaign's technological sophistication are looking at the wrong variable. The high-tech stuff didn't drive the enthusiasm, the enthusiasm drove the high-tech stuff.

Which Republican has an online army of 60,000-plus?

The people at Team Sarah aren't necessarily the most tech-savvy Republicans on the planet. What they have, however, is a candidate who generates real grassroots enthusiasm. You can't fake that.

Ahmadinejad's oil crisis

The collapse of oil prices has created trouble for Iran's petroleum-dependent economy:
Iran's president presented parliament with a sweeping economic package Tuesday that calls for scrapping costly state subsidies for fuel, water and electricity and raising taxes to make up for the steep slide in world oil prices.
The move is a risky one for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who already is facing public disenchantment over Iran's economic problems as he heads into June elections. . . .
The government budget is largely financed by foreign oil sales and his spending plans have been undercut by the plunge in price from $147 a barrel in July to under $40.
Ahmadinejad says Iran has no alternative but to end government subsidies that keep prices for gasoline, water and electricity artificially low.
(Hat-tip: Meryl Yourish.) The same problem is also impacting Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Hey, am I the only one who remembers how liberals kept telling us that no amount of drilling could have an effect on oil prices for 10 years? But even the suggestion of new drilling was enough to knock the bottom out of the market. Oil went over $145 a barrel in July, then Bush announced he was lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling. Within a month, the price fell to $112 a barrel. In September, Congress decided not to renew its own offshore drilling ban, which expired Oct. 1, and now world oil prices are barely a quarter of their July peak and expected to continue falling.

The only reason OPEC has been able to hold America hostage is because of their environmentalist allies, who put America's resources off-limits and thereby shovel money into the pockets of people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

Israel: It's not about Obama

The current Israeli air campaign against Hamas positions in Gaza was undertaken without reference to U.S. politics, an Israeli diplomat said yesterday.

"We took this initiative out of our own concerns and the situation we faced and not because of events elsewhere," Jeremy Issacharoff, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of Israel, told bloggers in a conference call reported by Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.

Some pundits have pondered the war in terms of what it means for the incoming Obama administration, but Issacharoff indicated that political changes in the United States will not influence Israeli policy.

Near the end of the conference call, which also included Israeli Gen. Relik Shafir, Hoft asked: "The Bush Administration has been supportive of Israel. Are there any concerns about the support of the incoming Obama Administration?"

Issachar answered by noting Obama's own words during a visit to Israel, when the Democrat said, "If someone was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that." Isaachar continued: "We see a large level of understanding with the Obama team. We have to keep a focus. The contacts before the election with the Obama Team were good. We took this initiative out of our own concerns and the situation we faced and not because of events elsewhere."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Anti-suburban snobbery

Lee Siegel, pondering the theme of "Revolutionary Road," seeks the root of the elite intellectual's anti-suburban bias:
In the '50s and early '60s, the postwar exodus from the cities to the suburbs was just beginning. . . .
It's easy to see why artists and intellectuals felt that they had to alert the general public to the emergency of these sudden new places' peaceful, leafy streets. . . . The suburbs were the embodiment of that period's fashionable existential fear: "inauthenticity." . . .
Most of the people leaving the cities for the suburbs in the 1950s were tradespeople, modest businessmen, teachers and the like. They were, in other words, members of the middle-class, the impassioned rejection of which has been the chief rite de passage of the modern American artist and intellectual. With the growth of suburban towns, the liberal American intellectual now had a concrete geography to house his acute sense of outrage.
Among other things, Siegel points out that "Revolutionary Road" is basically Sam Mendes' remake of Sam Mendes' "American Beauty." Mendes is a talented filmmaker devoting his craftsmanship to an obsession with a perverse theme, namely that there is something wrong with ordinary people living ordinary lives. The Evil of Banality, as it were.

As Siegel says, this theme is puerile. Children dream of distant, exciting places, adolescents rebel against their parents, Bright Young Men think they'll invent the world anew -- well, most of us grow up. We acquire the mature perspective that the ordinary sort of life (job, marriage, mortgage, kids) is actually a very good thing, well worth the having, and in fact a more difficult achievement than we'd imagined back when we were smart-aleck kids bored by our own ordinary upbringing. The elite intellectual, however, succumbs to a Peter Pan fantasy, refusing to let go of the flattering childhood conceit that he is an extraordinary and superior being.

Remember being 19 and thinking you already knew everything? The elitist becomes fixated in that stage, a narcissist trapped in admiration of his own wonderfulness, and therefore sneers at the ordinary existence and ordinary attitudes of ordinary people in ordinary places. This arrested development accounts for the urban elitist's disdain for the suburbanite.

Siegel's essay is very good, more than 2,000 words, and the brief excerpts I've quoted hardly do it justice, so read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Excellent point by commenter Ronsonic:
Interestingly, this is not so different from the attitude of career criminals, not understanding the accomplishment of the ordinary, they think it beneath them. Incapable of the persistence and occasional tedium of life they insist on attempting to bypass it somehow. Thinking themselves superior to those around them, who they see as lacking vision and enterprise they justify themselves.
So we have the strange bedfellows of the counter-culture - upper middle class intellectuals and common street thugs.
This point, I'm sure, would be endorsed by Thomas Sowell.

There goes the (upscale, liberal) neighborhood

Liberals love diversity as a concept. The reality? Not so much:
ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) - As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.
In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.
Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.
How liberal is Antioch? It's in Contra Costa County, which went 68% for Obama. Via Sister Toldjah, who calls this a "case study" about "the perils of believing liberal do-gooders."

Shorter Melissa Clouthier

Foreigners stink:
I’m glad for my Puritanical heritage. Puritans and their whole “cleanliness is next to godliness” obsession were sooooo right. One great thing about Americans is their nearly universal compulsion to be clean. Personal hygiene is imperative. Most days, while walking through my American life, I take clean people for granted. Not anymore. Sharing public transportation–like say tour buses and say, plane cabins–with people from Europe, Asia, and Australia has taught me to have an attitude of gratitude for my American compatriots. It is a problem, fellow world travelers, when you stink at 9:00 a.m. while getting ON the bus before hiking the jungle. If you’re not going to shower, at least wear some deodorant.
Nothing like traveling abroad to make you realize that the rest of the world is full of smelly foreigners who talk funny.

Stupid 2.0

Via Volokh Conspiracy, the perfect argument against online dating, from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals:
Pseudonymous plaintiff John Doe appeals the dismissal of his complaint against defendant, (“SexSearch”), an online adult dating service that facilitates sexual encounters between its members. Doe used SexSearch to meet Jane Roe, who described herself as an eighteen-year-old female. The two met and had sexual relations. Roe, it turned out, was actually fourteen years old, and Doe was consequently arrested and charged with three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. . . . Doe then filed suit against SexSearch, alleging an array of violations under Ohio law, most of which are variations on the claim that SexSearch is at fault for Doe’s sexual relationship with a minor and the harm that resulted from his arrest.
Sorry, "John Doe," the court ain't buying your argument. So let that be a warning to the rest of you guys out there. If you score a connection via an "online adult dating service," and your date asks you to pick her up about 3:30 p.m. in front of the local middle school, expect no mercy from the Sixth Circuit.

I mean, you know, look for clues. Like, suppose you're about to hook up with a chick you met through an "online adult dating service," and when she starts getting undressed you notice she's wearing Dora the Explorer underwear . . . clues.

Hurray for Ruth and Orit!

Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar have won their First Amendment lawsuit against the PC speech codes at Georgia Tech, with the university ordered to pay more than $200,000 in legal expenses.

UPDATE: Orit got video today of a pro-Hamas rally in front of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta:

Hamas in Atlanta, Ga. That just seems so wrong.

Michelle Cottle's nonsense

Fretting about the presidential "bubble" of security and scrutiny that is steadily enveloping Barack Obama, Michelle Cottle conjures up nightmare visions:
Not to focus on the macabre--or to disparage Obama's post-racial sense of self--but there are still enough unreconstructed racists running around with screws loose and guns loaded . . . to merit extra precautions. I mean, sweet Jesus, can you imagine the fallout if anything untoward were to happen to our historic new leader? The outpouring of outrage in the nation’s major cities could make the 1968 riots look like a collection of block parties.
Right. So while the economic meltdown continues and the Middle East incinerates, why bother worrying about the problems we already have? Much more fun to speculate on hypotheticals, fretfully imagining a crackpot neo-Nazi assassination scenario rather than, say, an attack by the Islamicist terrorist organization that killed 3,000 Americans in one day and would have flown a jetliner into the White House or the Capitol if the passengers on Flight 93 hadn't stopped them.

"Senior editor" -- dimwit.

'An aesthetic of naturalism'

"The commitment to realism and an aesthetic of naturalism is shown by the fact that all the women in this commercial are wearing red high-heeled shoes."
-- Little Miss Attila
She apparently is one of the few women on the planet not offended by the notorious partiarchal misogyny of the naked Danish skydiving commercial. My wife reports that the video inspired this conversation between my sister-in-law, Erica, and her husband, Donovan:
Donovan: I'm disgusted.
Erica: Stop grinning, or I'll knock your teeth out.

Or course, it is disgusting -- think of the safety risk involved with all those poor girls jumping out of that airplane, and for what? To sell washing machines! Such disgusting capitalist greed . . .

UPDATE: OK, since we're going all PG-13 and everything, might as well get our money's worth. Thanks to the Right Guy for tipping us to this commercial for a German optical company. The tagline, "Brille notig?" translates as, "Need glasses?"

UPDATE II: Gabriel Malor confirms that he is evil incarnate, by linking this new ad campaign. Before you click that link, I warn you: You can't un-watch it.

Kony's slaughter in Congo

The Washington Post reports:
A Ugandan rebel group known for its horrific cruelties has massacred 189 people and kidnapped at least 20 children over three days in northeastern Congo, U.N. officials reported Monday.
The cultlike Lord's Resistance Army carried out the attacks on three villages between Thursday and Saturday, according to Ivo Brandau, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
The group killed 40 people in the small town of Faradje on Thursday, and over the next two days, it attacked the villages of Doruma, where rebels massacred 89 people, and neighboring Gurba, where 60 were killed, Brandau said, citing reports that the United Nations received from local authorities.
This report by Stephanie Crummen deserves especial praise for these two paragraphs:
Although the Lord's Resistance Army is associated with the political grievances of the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the group has mostly terrorized the Acholis over the past 20 years, proving to be more of a psychotic cult than a true rebellion. Its reclusive, messianic leader, Joseph Kony, claims to consult spirits and says he aims to establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments.
Over the years, however, his movement has earned a reputation as one of the most brutal groups on the continent, sexually enslaving young girls, abducting children and forcing new recruits to machete friends to death during induction ceremonies. The group has killed or disfigured more than 10,000 people -- cutting off victims' lips was a trademark -- and abducted more than 20,000 children, as well as forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes, rights groups say.
Press accounts routinely refer to the LRA as "rebels," which is sort of like calling Charles Manson a "youth adviser." The LRA is, and always has been, a terrorist organization. The Post and Crummen deserve praise for pointing this out.

UPDATE: A report in Uganda's New Vision indicates some of the fleeing LRA have already made it into South Sudan. Doruma is very close to the three-way junction of the borders of Congro, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. It seems obvious that the Dec. 14 joint attack on Kony's base in the Garamba National Park caused the LRA to split up, fleeing in different directions, some heading north and west toward Doruma, others heading east toward Faradje and the Sudanese border.

UPDATE II: Meryl Yourish invokes a comparison between the slaughter in Congo and the situation in Gaza:
I have yet to hear of a special UN Security Council meeting being convened to discuss the crisis in the Congo, where innocent men, women, and children are being murdered for no apparent reason.
Well, yeah. But I don't know if this is an appropriate analogy. Compared to Kony and the LRA, Hamas looks like a Boy Scout troop. (I've actually met two young survivors of an LRA raid.) If anything, the world's willingness to ignore the LRA's horrific savagery bespeaks . . . racism.

Gaza should thank Israel

They've been spared a menace:
A boat carrying international peace activists, including former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and medical supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip sailed back into a Lebanese port on Tuesday after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, organizers of the trip said.
Air strikes are nothing compared to the kind of havoc that Cynthia McKinney can wreak.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin dubs McKinney's vessel the S.S. Moonbat. And let's take a trip down memory lane and remember that moonbattery is hereditary in the McKinney family:
Her father, Georgia state legislator Billy McKinney, shared his [explanation of Cynthia's 2002 Democratic primary defeat] with an Atlanta television reporter on August 19, 2002, the night before she lost. The reporter had asked Billy McKinney about his daughter's use of a years-old, moth-balled endorsement from former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young. Such endorsements were worthless, the elder McKinney replied, because "Jews have bought everybody. Jews." In case the reporter didn't understand, he spelled the word: "J-E-W-S."
The McKinneys are C-R-A-Z-Y.

Good-bye, books

Your lifelong ambition was to become a published author? Better kiss that dream good-bye:
The specter of commercial death has been haunting the whole book business lately. It wasn't exactly the best of times for publishers and booksellers before the economy melted down. Afterward, the headlines got truly grim: There was "Barnes & Noble Braces for 'Terrible' Season" and "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Places 'Temporary' Halt on Acquisitions." (Translation: Publisher with scary debt issues can't afford to pay authors for books.) Then came "Layoffs at Random House, Simon & Schuster," followed quickly by "Publishing Death Watch."
On Dec. 1, Publishers Weekly posed what could be construed as a hopeful question: "As Bad As It Gets?"
Not likely. After the holidays, most observers believe, things will only get worse.

Just posting this for future reference, the next time somebody tries to tell me that the death-spiral of the newspaper industry is a function of liberal bias. On the contrary, the decline of publishing -- not just newspapers, but magazines and books, too -- is a consequence of the coming-of-age of the post-literate generation.

Remember, next time you board an airplane, to observe your fellow passengers to see if any of those under 30 brought a book, magazine or newspaper to read. Instead, in nearly every case, you'll see them zone out to the iPod. Reading for pleasure, or for edification, is a habit that almost no one under 30 ever acquired. Or ever will.

Whatever their ability to read, reading's function for the under-30s is almost entirely utilitarian or job-driven. The idea of browsing a bookstore to purchase an anthology of short stories, a history of colonial New England, or a new volume by their favorite columnist -- dude, they don't read newspapers, how are they supposed to have a "favorite columnist"?

What we have been watching over the past few decades is the slow but relentless decline of reading as a mass phenomenon. Without a mass market to pay the bills, publishers are trying to find a business model that will permit them to survive in a world where reading is the province of a dwindling elite.

UPDATE: One of the commenters has accused me of hyperbole. Here are just a couple of data from this year's Pew survey of American news consumption habits:

  • "Since the early 1990s, the proportion of Americans saying they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%; the proportion that regularly watches nightly network news has fallen by half." And online news readership has not made up the loss.
  • "In spite of the increasing variety of ways to get the news, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998." Note that these figures for the "newsless" include news from all sources, including TV and online.

There is a net decline in readership, and the driving force behind this overall decline is the relatively low rate of readership among the younger generation. Of course, the Pew survey's focus was specifically on news consumers (including people who watch TV news), rather than on literacy or general reading. But the data are consistent with my argument.

We are living in the Age of the Image, where the picture on the video screen is utterly dominant over any truth that can be conveyed by the written word. Children who are immersed from infancy into an all-pervasive media bath of images in motion -- 24/7 cable TV, DVDs, video games, etc. -- are permanently stunted in their mental habits, glued to the floor, as it were. A child raised on a diet of nonstop image-action will never develop the reading habit, and without habitual readers, there is a dwindling market for the written word.

FACT: In 2000, the two magazines with the largest paid circulation were the AARP Bulletin and Modern Maturity (about 20 million each). The leading news magazine, Time, had a circulation of about 4 million in 2000, which fell to 3.3 million in 2007, while AARP Bulletin/Modern Maturity subscriptions increased to 24 million each. Do you get the point?

The problem faced by the publishing industry is a problem of diminishing demand. It is not an issue of content or marketing, and technological innovation (e.g., Kindle) will not fix the problem. The decline of habitual reading has passed a tipping point, so that it is no longer possible to speak of a "mass market" book or a "mass market" magazine, especially for the younger generation.

Now, it may be that you are under 30 and object to this broad generalization -- after all, you are reading, aren't you? But aren't you conscious of what a relative rarity you are amid your generation?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Postmodern nuptial customs

To begin with, congratulations to Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin on the arrival of their son, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnson, who was a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces, when born Saturday morning. May God bless you all.

And now the cultural criticism: What's up with this "baby first, marriage later" thing?
Johnston . . . told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.
What's wrong with a private hurry-up wedding before the baby comes, so that a few years from now young Tripp isn't staring at his birth certificate wondering why his parents are listed with different surnames?

Conservative ought to support real traditional values: "Paint the shotgun white, Pa -- it's going to be a formal wedding!"

UPDATE: Linked at . . . the Village Voice?

Worth a thousand words

Beyond the comic orthography of hate, we have reached a seminal moment in the development of the blogosphere, I would suggest, when Marty Peretz of the New Republic links Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs. Apparently, however, this photo of a protest on New York's Fifth Avenue derives from another blog, The Silent Majority, which has a whole album of photos, plus videos including this one:

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Ace of Spades:
But it's worth the speculation just to note that in addition to dancing, homosexuality, rock music and the clitoris, the would-be global caliphate has also declared war on juice.
Not that it affects me. Atkins and all. But I don't want to live in a world where I can't drink a nice cool glass of Cran-Grape.
Madcap hijinks ensue.

Ace the Magic Ewok

Amid all the "Magic Negro" uproar, Ace the Magic Ewok offers a genuinely thoughtful reflection on the subject. Among other things, he points out octaroon as "a word people aren't quite sure they're allowed to say."

BTW, when he's not blogging, Ace is a screenwriter and so is thoroughly familiar with the origin of the term "Magic Negro" to describe a cinematic archetype, a role that black cultural critics see as insultingly servile. This goes to the intent and purpose of the Paul Shanklin parody, and is not intended as a defense of Chip Saltsman from the charge of stupidity.

UPDATE: Ewoks are notorious misogynists, but that's just part of their authentic culture and only Western hegemonic imperialists would judge them for it.

Short answer: No

A "liberal beta male" -- to use Allah's tag -- ponders his reproductive fitness:
Can it really be right to have children when they’ll grow up in a world dominated by narratives of social and environmental catastrophe the worst aspect of which, following the likely failure of my own generation to act, is that the ability to alter the course of events may well have disappeared?
As the father of six happy, confident children, I can happily and confidently tell Guy Damman: No, you are not "fit to breed."

The exquisite sensibilities of the effete intellectual are antithetical to good parenting. If you're the kind of neurasthenic wuss who sits around fretting about "environmental catastrophe," the world can do without your progeny who, by both nature and nuture, will be bent toward your own self-doubting pathology.

What the world needs is cheerful courage, undeceived and undeterred by the propaganda of secularist gloom which tells people, on the one hand, that man has no need for God, and on the other hand, that only all-powerful government can save us from man-made catastrophe. I have recently been re-reading William F. Buckley's 1951 classic God And Man At Yale, in which the first seedlings of this poisonous harvest of liberalism were discerned. One sees in retrospect that the spiritual bankruptcy of the old liberal elite was manifested a full generation before our campuses erupted in radical madness, that the hand-wringing over "the superstition of academic freedom" displayed the weakness of a regime that would crumble at first contact with any real challenge. This weakness is now manifested as exaggerated concern about "environmental catastrophe," et cetera. Will liberals never learn that what they think of as a political philosophy is in fact but the symptom of a fatal disease of the soul?

Please, gloom-and-doomers, do not feel compelled to inflict upon the world your feeble offspring, genetically predisposed toward your own suicidal perspective. We don't need more whiners.

UPDATE: Linked by CrankyCon. Thanks!

The problem with crystal balls

If we pause for a minute to think about what we expected a year ago, we realize that we don't have the ability to predict the future, a point I make in my latest column for Pajamas Media:
In light of how things turned out, it is an amusing irony that in late 2007 it was Republicans who worried about a long, ugly struggle for their party's nomination. "I fear our intraparty fury will destroy all leaders and send us off to a brokered convention -- and from thence, probably to defeat," Tony Blankley wrote in his column on Dec. 19, 2007. "If the Democrats have their candidate by February and we are campaigning harshly until August, we surely would start in a deep hole."
Instead, Romney surprised Republicans by announcing on Feb. 7 that he was suspending his campaign, effectively ceding the nomination to McCain. And while the Democrats struggled on until June — with Obama finally defeating Hillary only because of a shift in support among the party's superdelegates -- that long, bruising campaign seemed to enhance, rather than diminish, the Democratic advantage in the general election.
Please read the whole thing.


Mark Steyn:
Forty years ago, the mills of northern England needed workers so Britain imported them from Pakistan. The mills closed, but the workers stayed, and now Yorkshire has adopted Mirpuri customs of arranged cousin marriage: in Bradford, 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins.
Mill workers married to their first cousins? Man, those Pakistanis would feel right at home in Alabama.

Of course, they'd have to get nicknames. Everybody in Alabama has a nickname, and especially if you've got a foreign-sounding name that folks in Alabama can't pronounce, you'll need a nickname. Suppose your name is Khawaja Nazimuddin. In Wetumpka, you automatically become "Mudcat." Or suppose your name is Shahid Masood. In Heflin, everybody will call you "Moose."

This is how we know Barack Obama wasn't raised in Alabama. If he'd grown up in Opelika, he'd be "Bubba." Roughly half the population of the state is nicknamed "Bubba." The other half answers to Betty Mae or Mandy Sue.

Of course, Mr. Steyn didn't really mean to compare Pakistani immigrants in England to Southern rednecks. He meant to say that they are clannish religious extremists prone to violence.

Hey, wait a minute . . .