Sunday, September 30, 2012

Apparently I'm a Cold, Calculating, Unsympathetic ... Guy

This article about "the cold, calculating libertarian mind" made me laugh, especially since it also claims that libertarianism appeals more to guys than girls ... and almost every libertarian I know is a girl, and we're all (if I do say myself) decent warmhearted folks.  Oh, and when Alessandra got wind of this piece, she messaged me with "you cold libertarian biatch!"  LOL!

Anyway, this seems to sum us up pretty well:
These are people who often call themselves economically conservative but socially liberal. They like free societies as well as free markets, and they want the government to get out of the bedroom as well as the boardroom. They don't see why, in order to get a small-government president, they have to vote for somebody who is keen on military spending and religion; or to get a tolerant and compassionate society they have to vote for a large and intrusive state.
I personally don't object to military spending in the way that some others do (I've read too much history - unilaterally disarming is a greeeeeeat way to invite people to assault you), but the rest of that block quote applies.

OMG: Maple Ginger Sweet Potatoes + Brown Sugared Bacon

Wow!  Make this for Thanksgiving?  It looks like madness.  Delicious, delicious madness.

Nerd News: Another Day, Another Anti-Asian School Policy Kerfuffle

I'm used to hearing stuff like this from California, where several lawsuits have taken place and all (and I still remember Saint Bill Clinton of the Dems once saying that if not for race-based quotas, UC campus populations would be mostly Asian ... as if that would be a bad thing, Bubba, based on pure merit by test scores and such), but this new story is from New York City where the NAACP is involved in a flap over Stuyvesant High School.  The claim is that the entrance exam is "racist" (whatever that means right now according to whomever is using it to their advantage), but the practical goal seems to be taking places from Asian students and redistributing them to black and Latino students.

You know, when I was young and ignorant and filled with more pie-eyed idealism than facts, I had a vague thought that affirmative action was a good thing.  Then I grew up and realized that it screws over people who are qualified in order to give their places to people who aren't, and that instituting quotas turns human beings into mere numbers, that setting up two sets of criteria is innately unjust, and that the whole thing had become corrupted by identity politics and race-baiters.  The whole point to education, as I see it, is to push yourself to excellence as a way to get ahead in life, and I see this as especially applicable to children of immigrants (like myself).  Many of these families aren't rich.  Mine wasn't.  Education is the first, best way to improve yourself and your prospects in life.  The intrusion of identity politics into this is a travesty matched only by the Gramscian corruption of public education.

Jon Stewart Vs. Obama's Schedule

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walter Russell Mead on the "War That Nobody Wants"

Take a look.  It begins with a huge salvo of sarcasm:
As everybody knows, there is no such thing as a global war on terror anymore. Instead we live in a harmonious world of interfaith comity with only the occasional criminal act that is quickly and competently handled by law enforcement officials. As a result we can cut our defense budgets and get on with the real business of life, which is to say watching TV, going to the mall and voting to re-elect the strategic geniuses whose wise decisions and firm but thoughtful leadership gave us this tranquil world order.

What If? the Senkaku Scenario

Japan would have its work cut out for it?  As for the scenario itself as a possibility, you'll recall this recent cover of the Economist.  

Note too this precious line from the linked Foreign Policy piece: "And however sincere Washington's assurances about helping defend the archipelago, Tokyo should not bank on its doing so with any real enthusiasm."  Ya think?

Rant: Textual Harassment

So first there was this.  How to respond?  Nope.  By "editing the Bible" these people could mean "changing an ancient text so it's more convenient for you" or maybe even worse, "bowdlerizing the text for cheap political purposes."  

Come on, the guy in HuffPo blatantly advocates excising things that he personally finds objectionable.  That's not really editing.  That's doing actual violence to the integrity of the text.  Dude's a professor of writing; you'd think he'd grasp this basic point, but noooooooooo.  And unless he's got a real command of the ancient languages in which the Bible is written and can read them in any meaningful scholarly way, then he can shut his socially superior piehole, because just mucking about with (often bad) modern English translations is a waste of time if you're really talking about editing/bowdlerizing/whatever.  

Oh, I am totally making my rant/argument from the standpoint of a student of history and language and literature.  I'm not opening the can of religious worms.  I'm also pretty darn sure that I don't have to in order to make my point about capriciously changing a historical literary document (really a collection of documents) to suit your current mood. People, even rather famous people, have tried this little tack before.  Anyway, why do I also get a nagging feeling that this current proposal is yet another a not-too-subtle potshot at the traditional Church both Catholic and Protestant and its opposition to various progressive crusades?  Christians these days make such easy targets.

Whatever.  I also have a counter-proposal: how about, in the spirit of this self-proclaimed ecumenical religious open-mindedness and desire to elide uncomfortable passages in ancient texts, you also advocate "updating" all other ancient religious texts of every other creed?  How about "editing" the Koran?  Cutting out all the bits you personally don't like?  Any takers?

Quote of the Day: On Benghazi

I'd already posted this, but you might also want to look at this smackdown by Kirsten Powers.  The quote of the day is related, and here it is:
... why is the Administration admitting that this is terrorism treated as some sort of endgame? Congratulations, you admitted the obvious. Now, what the hell are you going to do about it?

For Your Reading List: "Escape from North Korea"

The book is brand new and getting a bit of attention.  Check out this blurb by none other than former ambassador to the UN John Bolton:
Escape from North Korea should be assigned reading for anyone—policymaker, academic, or journalist alike—who think they know anything about the Kim family dictatorship. Melanie Kirkpatrick shows how “the new Underground Railroad” is not only providing an escape route from the prison camp that is North Korea, but something even more important as well. She shows how that escape route, aided and expanded, can bring down North Korea’s despotic regime and free its entire people. Kirkpatrick combines exhaustive reporting with insightful analysis in a powerful and compelling tale of repression and freedom.
Here it is on Amazon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fun Video: Andy Serkis as Gollum

My precioussssssssssssssssssss!  It's time to start obsessing (or re-obsessing, as it were) about The Hobbit.


Quote of the Day: Political Speech & Political Act in the EU

Food for thought by a French political scientist.  Here's a bit of it:
In Europe, what we say as citizens no longer has any importance, since political actions will be decided at some indeterminate place, a place we cannot situate in relation to the standpoint from which we speak. Everyone knows that the most solemn speech that a people can formulate, a vote by referendum, is a matter of indifference for the European political class, which charges itself with the responsibility of leading the necessary process of the “construction” of a united Europe. The supposed necessity of this process discredits and invalidates all political speech in advance. 
If this process continues—the financial crisis of the euro has put extraordinary pressure on it—we will soon leave behind the regime of representative government and return to one of speechless commandment. The commandment will no longer be that of the state, which at least occupied a place of a certain elevation, but that of regulations. We do not know the source of regulations—only that we must obey them.
Oh, dear.  

LOL: Satirical New Look at the $16 Trillion National Debt

Delightfully snarky.  Good job, people.  Behold the tweety conversation that led to the glorious result, or just go here and laugh.  Oh, snap!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hashtag #BibiBomb on Twitter

#BibiBomb was the new thing on Twitter earlier today as social media users responded to Netanyahu's speech - with visual aid! - at the UN.  Here's a look at #BibiBomb and commentary, but if you haven't heard the speech itself, you should.  Transcript here.  I thought it was a good, solid speech of clarity and conviction, delivered with characteristic Netanyahu flair.  Personally one of my favorite moments was this:
"Shockingly, some people have begun to peddle the absurd notion that a nuclear-armed Iran would actually stabilize the Middle East. (pause)  Yeah, right."
Sometimes you need soaring rhetoric.  Sometimes you need to deflate idiocy in no uncertain terms.  As usual when I listen to one of his speeches, I think: now here's an orator.  Anyhoo, full video at C-SPAN or just see it on YouTube here.  You'll know exactly when in the speech the hashtag #BibiBomb sprang into life on Twitter.  The deliberate simplicity made it extremely effective.  Bonus: Netanyahu quotes the great scholar Bernard Lewis!

UPDATE:  Oh, Internet.  I laughed out loud, though.

Oktoberfest 2012

Foreign policy headaches driving you to drink?  Good thing it's Oktoberfest, then.  The Atlantic has a cool collection of photos.  I especially like the girl wearing pretzels on her head and the guy who wreathed his hat with hops.  That's the spirit!  The gingerbread love poems are kind of cute too.  Ich liebe Dich, gentle reader!

Stephen Hadley on Dealing with Iran

Former national security adviser Stephen Hadley has a pretty long article considering the pros and cons of several possible approaches.  In Hadley's words,
The purpose of this article is not to advocate a particular course of action, but to contribute to the public debate by setting out the full range of plausible approaches to resolving the confrontation between the international community and the Iranian regime over its nuclear program -- a program that virtually the entire international community believes is a vehicle for achieving an advanced nuclear-weapons capability if not a nuclear bomb itself. Eight options are described below -- from negotiations through use of force to containment -- along with potential benefits and costs in each case. 
These should be viewed as a set of "nested" options that could lead sequentially from one to another. They should be seen not in two dimensions, with the task being to pick one of the options from among the list, but in three, as a family of options through which the policy of the United States and the international community could move over time depending on the success or failure of prior options -- and the choices made by the Iranian regime.
Aaaaaand this is when you realize that sometimes all options have their downsides and that sometimes all options are bad, though some are worse than others.  The last option - acquiescing to a nuclear Iran under the delusion of being able to "contain" it - is unthinkable. I don't care how many eggheads argue that a nuclear Iran could "make the Middle East more stable." (What have you been smoking, eggheads?)  Do you really think a nuclear Iran would be a rational actor?  The mere thought is almost enough to make you miss the "good old days" of the Cold War.  Oh, I do love the understated disadvantage of this option: "Israel might not accept this outcome."  You don't say!

Navy Names Research Vessel After Neil Armstrong

A fitting tribute to an American pioneer.  Oh, and people tend to forget that Armstrong was a naval aviator who flew almost 80 missions during the Korean War.

LOL: Fashion Faux Pas When Zooey Met Lucy

I didn't bother watching the Emmys because award shows are boooooooooooooring.  Still, the fashion statements on the red carpet are often diverting and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Now I'd seen Zooey Deschanel's cutesypoo baby blue ballgown with all the tulle layers and Lucy Liu's insane sci-fi-ish dress with mega-sequins that looked like she was wearing a mirrorball, but I had seen the official photos.  I'm much more taken with this shot of what happened when Zooey's floaty netting met Lucy's metallic disks. Oh, and I apologize for the image of Ryan Seacrest, but it couldn't be helped!

That's My Story and I'm Sticking To It ... Until I Can't Anymore

The WaPo has a detailed timeline of the Obama Administration's statements of the Libya embassy attack.  Read the whole thing.  Here is the remark that kicks off the timeline:
In any kind of confused overseas event, initial reports are often wrong. But the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, is a case study of how an administration can carefully keep the focus as long as possible on one storyline — and then turn on a dime when it is no longer tenable.
UPDATE: There's this too.  And this.  OK, I can't help myself.


LOL: "Gangnam Style"

On the off chance that you are not one of the 200 million+ people who have seen this already on YouTube, here's the now-infamous "Gangnam Style."  This crazy song has gone globally viral, and it is as weird as all get out even for K-Pop.  So!  Do you think it's as annoying as that other earworm of the moment "Call Me Maybe"?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

British Humor 1, Apples Maps 0

Seen at a London train station.

It's Getting Crowded Around Those Senkaku Islands

Those little blobs of land and their surrounding waters are a big bone of contention between Beijing and Tokyo, and Taipei got in the act yesterday: some 40 Taiwanese fishing boats and 8 Taiwan Coast Guard vessels sailed into those waters and got themselves water-cannoned by the Japanese Coast Guard until they left (check out the news photo).  The Taiwanese Coast Guard was recently conducting drills out there.  Taiwan also claims the Senkaku islands, but generally speaking I'd say the Tokyo-Beijing catfight is of a higher order.

UPDATE: Photos from Japan's Kyodo News.  I give you one:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Movie Madness: OK, Who *Isn't* in "The Longest Day"?

I'm watching this classic movie while I'm working on research, and I just have to say: "What famous face from the glory days of Hollywood isn't in this film?"  It's like a Who's Who of that cinematic generation.  A heck of an ensemble cast, that.  Great epic movie too, by the way, winner of several 1962 Oscars.

Nerd News: The Geeky Glory of MIT

A British paper attempts to understand MIT.  I personally love how there is a code of etiquette for pranks and practical jokes.  Seriously, nobody does practical jokes like MIT students.  Oh, as for the nerdy geeky glory, you can get some of that online free.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Quote of the Day: Culture Wars in the Middle East

From an op-ed with a Pakistani background:
Salman Rushdie’s book — Satanic Verses — sparked global outrage in the late 1908s and since then, we have increasing polarisation between those who view freedom of expression as an absolute value, and extremists within Muslims who think violence is the only way to ‘save’ Islam from such attacks. Millions of Muslims are trapped between the two ends of this hate-spectrum. Despite the offence caused by such provocation, they will not resort to violence or support wanton destruction of life and property. But are these voices represented and articulated through credible leadership? The answer is no because the hold of clerics and merchants of political Islam is gaining more and more traction across the globe.

Mark Steyn on the Mob and the First Amendment

Worth a look, as Steyn always is.

LOL: U Didn't Build That

Hey, One Journalist Who's Actually Doing His Job!

While a large number of his colleagues seem to have turned into shameless cheerleaders and boosters for the Obama campaign, here's one instance in which ABC's Jake Tapper is still doggedly doing his job.  

My darling, actually testing politicians' mendacious and self-interested claims against verifiable facts?  How delightfully quaint and old-fashioned!  My, my, you'd think Tapper still subscribes to such unfashionable ideas as journalistic integrity and disinterested analysis and actual skepticism of politicians' claims or something.  Follow him on Twitter.

Quote of the Day: Jonah Goldberg on the First Amendment

Goldberg declares that some things are non-negotiable, though you wouldn't know it to look at our so-called governing "elite" these days:
There’s nothing wrong with exercising sound judgment, even caution, when it comes to offending another’s most cherished beliefs. But the First Amendment isn’t the problem here, the dysfunctions and inadequacies of the Arab and Muslim world are. 
James Burnham famously said that when there is no alternative there is no problem. If free speech in America causes a comparative handful of zealots to want to murder Americans, the correct response is to protect Americans from those zealots (something the Obama administration abjectly failed to do in Libya) and relentlessly seek the punishment of anyone who succeeds. Because, as far as America is concerned, there is no alternative to the First Amendment.

Friday, September 21, 2012

LOL: Your Geeky Pop Culture Joke of the Day

If I have to explain, it's not funny anymore.

Krauthammer on the Collapse of Obama's Foreign Policy

It ain't pretty, people.  In the end, the worst of it may be this:
"It’s as axiomatic in statecraft as in physics: Nature abhors a vacuum. Islamists rush in to fill the space and declare their ascendancy. America’s friends are bereft, confused, paralyzed."
Well, DUH!  What did you think was going to happen?  It's not only the disarray of American influence under a leadership that is seemingly made of as much mendacity as naivete and incompetence and wishful defiance of reality.  (Some of the policy decisions and whatnot seem as if they sprang straight from a particularly silly chapter of high school Model UN.)  It's not only the willful sidelining of Israel in the face of Iran's nuclear ambition.  It's the seemingly blithe abandonment of the most vulnerable of all, the liberals and reformers in those wretched countries that are burning up the news outlets right now. We've proven ourselves craven to our enemies, treacherous to our natural friends, and squishy to the core.  It's all as dishonorable as it is immoral and self-destructive, and it is going to cost even more lives than it has already.  

Political Cartoon: On Selective Outrage

Public Service Announcement: If You're Not Reading Sarah Hoyt, You Should Be

Her many sci fi books aside, Hoyt's blog is fascinating stuff.  Her latest post is here.

Friday Fun Video: Nathan Fillion's Guide to Hugs

Having a tough day, gentle reader?  Me too.  Time for a hug to make everything better.  There is, though, an art to a hug.  Let's watch Firefly alum Nathan "I Really Am Ruggedly Handsome!" Fillion give a valuable lesson.  Listen up, folks!  

Note too: If you're going to hug a person, then hug the person. Don't give the recipient some lame, half-hearted, awkward, hurried, fidgety side hug.  That's uncool.

Oh, and Nathan?  You can practice those hugs on me anytime.  You wouldn't want to get rusty, after all, would you? (Hey, people, don't you judge me!  Who doesn't want to hug Nathan Fillion/Captain Reynolds/Rick Castle?  And by "hug" I mean just "hug."  Sheesh.)

We Humbly Apologize For Your Bad Behavior

We're running apology ads in Pakistan now?  The stupid "Innocence of Muslims" video inspired a mob freak-out, and I'm pretty sure this Obama-Hillary Clinton video is going to make everything OK ... not!  Get ready for more hate, this time spiked with contempt.  The haters will go on hating, because at the end of the day, their problem isn't with a video.  The video's just a catalyst for a far bigger problem.  

You know, I'm reminded of John Wayne as Captain Nathan Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:  "Never apologize.  It's a sign of weakness."

Quote of the Day: The Libya Narrative

It was a spontaneous reaction to a crappy video!  It was a planned terrorist attack!  It was both!  Neither!  Something ... SQUIRREL!  

What's the deal with the White House's wonky take on the Libya embassy debacle?  PERFECT ASSESSMENT:
“I think this is a case of an administration saying what they wished to be true before waiting for all the facts to come in.”
Meanwhile, here's other news about the increasing scale of people getting it wrong on all fronts.  What we were just saying about living in utter defiance of reality?  Well, reality will eventually bite you in the (insert body part of choice).

On Property Rights: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

Via Samizdata on property rights with my emphasis in bold:
It’s typical of the left to argue that all property rights are somehow tainted by past injustices and therefore that government can redistribute to whatever groups wield sufficient political power to demand a share of the spoils. Of course, that is a non sequitur; past injustices do not justify new ones, against people who did not commit the original wrong. It’s true that, as Twain said, there’s not a foot of land that has not been stolen and restolen countless times. But isn’t this good reason to stop stealing what belongs to people? Instead of institutionalizing as social policy into the indefinite future a system that deprives people of their earnings, their belongings, and their substance, to serve priorities that others consider more important? The American Indian suffered terrible abuses, and stands today as an object lesson in what happens when government is given too much power to seize and redistribute property. Yet Yglesias praises that state of affairs and urges its repetition! That really is outrageous.
UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Pseudo-Polymath! Yes indeedy, two wrongs don't make a right, but two Wrights do make an airplane!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Free Speech and the Terrorists' Veto

Michael Totten comments.

The New Cover of "The Economist"

Yes, this is the actual forthcoming cover of The Economist.  I thought the turtle's comment was a nice touch.  The China-Japan dispute over the Senkaku Islands has been in the news a lot lately ...

In addition: Look at the small print in the upper right corner. Is this publication actually going to run an article about Kate Middleton/the Duchess of Cambridge's  ... uh ... huge tracts of land?  I mean, the paparazzi shots of her topless on a beach have been making all the celebrity gossip rags, but come on!  Then again, as California Dreamer and I were saying earlier today, plenty of publications that aspire to seriousness have been running pieces about that ... er ... royal real estate.  Methinks it's partly one big excuse for journalists and analysts to talk about, as this sarcastic British commentator says, "boobs, boobs, glorious boobs."  (Good Lord!  Did I just blog about huge tracts of land?)  If you ask me, the boobs that really need a closer look aren't the ones on the duchess, but the ones who are in office and completely botching it.  

LOLWUT: This Is A Thing Now?

Silly.  Are we all back in middle school?  Oh, and don't you remember all the laughing when Sarah Palin wrote on her hand?  She at least wrote notes for a speech; these dipsticks are writing banalities and slogans.  Besides, we as free citizens do not pledge our allegiance to a person.  That's the sort of behavior you find in unfree places.  We do not have a "Dear Leader" in the USA.

You know what we should do instead?  Write "$16 trillion" on the hands of our little ones and upload those photos, because the kids are the ones who will be stuck with the bill.  And no, it's not funny at all.

Disgustingly Cute: Three Stowaways

This story is from last year, but I don't care.  The news lately has been so awful that I think we need (a) some feline cuteness as a balm, and (b) a reminder that good and decent folks live in our world too.  The attention in recent days has gone to the worst of the violent psychotics.  Please to contrast ambassador-murdering criminals with military personnel who foster lost kittens in their spare time.

Here's the story straight from one of the folks involved:
I'm Navy deployed overseas... 
We were in port a few days ago, and a cat came aboard via mooring line. We lost track of her, and found her later that evening. We managed to get her back to the pier, and waved goodbye as we took off. This cat seemed unusually upset by this... 
Turns out, in the short time she was on board, she gave birth to THREE kittens. The poor things went almost four days with no food or mommy before we found them in the machine shop. We have been bottle feeding them all day, and have already contacted local veterinary services to come check them out. 
After the initial shock of being found, and feeding, the kittens are just as happy and playful as any other cute little bugger you'd find anywhere else. They were a great boost to crew morale, and I LOVE THEM. 
I'm a sucker.
Kudos, sir!  More awwww-inducing photos here.  Know your past too, as this is just one instance in the long, long history of military personnel taking time for kittehs (see this for more photos ranging from 1888 to 1959).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rant: I Hate Everything About "The Innocence Of Muslims" Except Its Right To Exist

Take a look at this passionate rant from one of the movie sites that I sometimes visit.  Language warning.  Oh, then contrast with this opposing take by the Los Angeles Times, the ending of which has the most clueless paragraph I've read in a while.

Best Comment Yet On the Chicago Teachers Strike

This is even better than "Rahm Emanuel Likes Nickelback."  Check out this gloriously snarky tweet, baseball fans:

Sign of the Apocalypse: Tom Friedman and I Actually Agree on Something

As for Friedman, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so this must be one of those times?  He tells the violent embassy-storming mobs to take a long hard look in the mirror.

LOL: Finding Yourself in Iceland

OK, I totally laughed.  I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

MM in the Kitchen: Sri Lankan Shrimp Curry

It doesn't do to talk about foreign policy headaches on an empty stomach, my darlings. Serve this over jasmine rice.

If This Is as Good As It Gets in the Middle East Morass

Then DAYUM.  Really?  I don't even know what to say about this.  Well, its thesis has the distinction of being something I've not heard actually advocated so far in the many ongoing debates, discussions, and various freakings-out about Iran, Israel, and ramifications for regional (in)stability.  No, I'm not saying that I back it.

Beijing: Protesters Mob US Ambassador's Car

Has everybody in the world been eating crazy flakes for breakfast lately?  Or perhaps these fine upstanding folks didn't want to get left out of embassy-storming and ambassador-assaulting, the hottest international fad in foreign policy commentary and cultural dialogue right now!  Don't miss out!
The car of the U.S. ambassador to China was surrounded Tuesday by a small group of demonstrators who damaged the vehicle and briefly prevented it from entering the U.S. Embassy compound in Beijing. 
A YouTube video of the incident showed the protesters chanting slogans such as "down with the U.S. imperialists" and, in an apparent reference to the Chinese government's purchase of U.S. government debt, "return the money!" 
...The U.S. Embassy is located near the Japanese Embassy, which in recent days has been targeted by thousands of Chinese protesters voicing complaints over Tokyo's move to purchase islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China.  
In an apparent reference to that dispute and the United States' security treaty with Japan, some of the demonstrators Tuesday chanted: "The U.S. government is the mastermind." 
Well, as for that final quote, I see fevered nutball conspiracy theorists are cavorting out in Beijing too.  It's not a proper ambassadorial assault unless you bring the nutball conspiracy theories about how everything ever that annoyed you is the result of the actions of an evil mustache-twirling mastermind.  You are also free to say mean things about our mommies and burn flags, but you do that last bit at your own risk.

Quote of the Day: Lileks on Culture

James Lileks, always worth your time, has a firecracker of an essay.  Read the whole thing, of course.  Here is a blurb:
Forgive me if I note that one culture has a debate about allowing gays to marry, and another that seems to have concluded a debate about whether they should live. 
Yeah, and somehow we're the bad guys if you listen to too many pundits and opinion makers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Questions for the Presidential Debate

What do you think?  What would you like to ask Obama and Romney about domestic policy?

Quote of the Day: A Dutch General on War and Peace

I'm not even going to try to pick one line from General Peter van Uhm's talk.  Just watch this.  


Living in Utter Defiance of Reality

I was going to write a full-blown post about this administration's foreign policy and public relations follies, but  the thought occurs to me that everything I want to say can be summed up in the blog post title.  

When Hillary Clinton insists that Benghazi residents took the late ambassador to the hospital as if performing a good deed instead of dragging his corpse in the street while snapping photos, when Susan Rice insists that the riots were spontaneous when the Libyan president says otherwise, when Jay Carney insists that the riots weren't about America but only one asinine video when even a cursory look at history would prove him wrong, when the president would rather go to Vegas and hang out with Beyonce and Jay-Z than go to security briefings and meet with Netanyahu, when the First Amendment seems to evaporate at a convenient moment, when the prospect of a nuclear Iran doesn't make you do anything other than pay lip service, and when Mitt Romney seems to be a bigger problem than the fact that abroad you have alienated your allies and inflamed your enemies while at home you have presided over 40+ months of 8% unemployment and $16 trillion national debt and unsustainable entitlements ... Well, you just might be living in utter defiance of reality.  It's not just denial.  It's the active, willful defiance of it.

(And, no, it's not raaaaaaaaaaaaacist to say so.)

Old Glory and Karma?

Or you call this poetic justice?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nerd Fun: Paper Dioramas of History's Disasters

From Pompeii to the Hindenburg to Shackleton's expedition, they're here rendered in cartoony papercraft quirkiness. You can even download instructions to make your own for your desk or cubicle!  Who knows?  You might learn a little history along the way too.  I really like the Great Chicago Fire one, complete with Mrs. O'Leary's cow.

Reminder: The Long History of Muslim Anti-Western Protests

Surprise!  They didn't begin with George W. Bush, and they certainly won't end with Barack Obama.  On another day, maybe we'll talk about Napoleon's 1798 campaign in Egypt, a campaign that might count as the beginning of the modern period in the Middle East, along with Western impact thereon.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Dignified Rant!

Quote of the Day: Ayaan Hirsi Ali Comments

She knows a thing or two about free speech issues and Islamist threats, and she remarks:
How often have I endured bizarre conversations with government officials who cling to the illusion that the threat is temporary or that it can be negotiated. And then there are the even more delusional positions staked out by some prominent intellectuals who blame the writer, the politician, the filmmaker, or the cartoonist for provoking the threat. In the days after van Gogh was murdered, too many prominent Dutch individuals expressed precisely this position, declaring smugly, “Yes, of course killing is wrong, but Theo was a provocateur ...” Will they never cease looking for ever more ingenious ways of apologizing for free speech?
No, they won't.  Heck, right now even the feckless US government is busy apologizing. That's why the rest of us have to keep on vociferously defending it.  Ali adds:
It was Voltaire who once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As Salman Rushdie discovered, as we are reminded again as the Arab street burns, that sentiment is seldom heard in our time. Once I was ready to burn The Satanic Verses. Now I know that his right to publish it was a more sacred thing than any religion.
Amen, sister.

Irony of Ironies: It's Constitution Day Today

Right on the heels of the Nakoula debacle!  Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights beginning with the First Amendment.  Remember, as Franklin said, what we have is "a republic if you can keep it."  

Monday Therapy: The Most Epic Ad Ever For Public Transportation

I don't know about you, but I could use a break from the endless drumbeat of bad if not outright infuriating/horrifying news.  Alessandra just emailed me this uproarious ad from Denmark.  Be clear to click the "cc" button so you can see English subtitles.  Then get ready for a minute and a half of sheer goofy awesomeness.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Canadian Op-Ed: Harper 1, Obama 0

What was I just saying about the Canadians being ahead of the curve?  I found this little op-ed rather interesting, not least because it comes out in praise of Stephen Harper and I can't really remember the last time a Canadian journalist spoke about the Prime Minister in order to praise him.  Over Obama.

Shana Tova - Let's Eat!

As my Jewish friends have reminded me, it's Rosh Hashanah.  Happy New Year and let's eat!

Naval War Games at the Strait of Hormuz

One British paper reports (amid some breathless speculation about Israel and Iran -  just the facts about the fleet, please) that this round of the annual exercises are the biggest war games ever for that region as vessels from 25 nations head for the Persian Gulf:
The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups ... supported by at least 12 battleships, including ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers and assault ships carrying thousands of US Marines and special forces. 
The British component consists of four British minesweepers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a logistics vessel. HMS Diamond, a brand-new £1billion Type 45 destroyer, one of the most powerful ships in the British fleet, will also be operating in the region.

Memes of Outrage

Yup, what happened at midnight in California looks just as bad now in the harsh light of day.  That image of  Nakoula Basseley Nakoula being hauled away should be the image that ends the career of the president who let it happen on his watch!  You call that defending the Constitution?  I mean, seriously.  The whole point of the First Amendment is protecting even the most objectionable and offensive of people.  Yes, dirtbags have rights too.  That's why America rocks.  Now, last I heard, making an idiotic low-budget Youtube video is not a crime.  Oh, but this is a video that the government happens not to like ...  WELL, IT'S STILL NOT A CRIME.

But, as the Insta-Prof has suggested that we all publicize the incident and our indignant disapproval, there is a new Internet meme that has sprung up overnight.  I give you one of my favorites as it modifies the famous phrase associated with Voltaire about disapproving of what you say, but ...

Fine print.

In the interest of fairness, a contrarian view.  The Insta-Prof (remember Reynolds 2016 with flamethrowers for embassy protection!) doesn't buy this, and I don't either.  That stupid video had been online since July 1.  It's a little too convenient to say, hey, on September 11 Embassy-Storming Week began, so a mere 4 days later when the bloody-minded mobs are howling about this video we'll haul Nakoula off in the middle of the night ... amid a blaze of media trucks for ... probation violations. 

UPDATE: People are meme-ing the hell out of this image.  Good.  Let this photo haunt the administration all the way to Election Day.

Quote of the Day: Preventing Iranian Nukes

The quote of the day comes from Netanyahu's appearance on "Meet the Press":
"President Obama has said that he is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. If you're determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it means you'll act before they get nuclear weapons."
Red lines, anyone? Because you and I both know that Iran's plowing ahead - a fact admitted even by the IAEA.  And Obama's policy is incoherent about Iranian nukes.

As for Netanyahu's appearance, I watched it and was struck again by his ability to communicate with both clarity and substance (remember this?) especially as compared to the endless and increasingly obvious BS-spinning of all the other talking heads. It was a nice touch later when he used a sports analogy to describe Iran's nuclear ambitions, as football season has just kicked off:
"You know, they're in the last 20 yards.  And you can't let them cross that goal line. You can't let them score a touchdown. Because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences, for the peace and security of us all, of the world, really."

Film Culture Commentary: the 10 Worst Chick Flicks Ever Made, Or "Turn Off That Slop and Watch Buffy Instead"

Hear, hear!  You're already familiar with my critiques of The Notebook (#10) and Twilight (#1) the bookthe actual movie, and also the entire phenomenon.

Paul Krugman vs. the Baltic

Economist/commentator Krugman gets called on his antipathy to the Baltic nations, something that Estonia already did in magnificent fashion. Is Krugman seriously dumping on the successful Baltic states because they are successful (as opposed to the implosions in southern Europe)?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reconstructing the Stasi Files

Recovering East German history that is literally in tatters.

LOL: PhD Student Pays His Tuition With ...


Besieging the Japanese Embassy in Beijing

Greeeeeeeeeeeeat.  I guess the Chinese didn't want to be left out of Embassy-Storming Week even though they have a totally different beef. Ostensibly it's the Senkaku isles, but it's more than that.

I Can't Believe This Is Happening

What fresh hell is this?  Or this?  I confess to using language unbecoming a lady.

Law enforcement knocks on your door at midnight and hauls you away in handcuffs not because you committed an actual crime, but because you made a video.  
This happened in AMERICA.

UPDATE: The responses of two law professors - Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse.  On a related note, law prof Eugene Volokh argues that stuff like this will only lead to more violence.

I Don't Know What This Is, But It Ain't Serious Journalism

I do, though, kind of like how Iowahawk tweeted this description of this Daily Beast "article": "Transformation of Daily Beast into parody of North Korean propaganda now complete."  So basically what the "article" is telling me is that amid the implosion of American foreign policy (such as it is), we should all be ... indulging in bootlicking hagiographies of Hillary Clinton.  And so the Daily Beast transmogrifies into the Daily Spaniel?  Please let me be wrong about this.  (Then again, is making up hagiography easier than answering tough questions?)

The Onion on the Embassy Riots

The satire site The Onion made a sharp observation about the riots by taking a completely different tack.  It published a completely offensive cartoon that was sacrilegious to a number of major world faiths.  Anyway, I think I need to bleach my eyes (and maybe bleach them twice) after seeing it.  BUT!  The upshot is the accompanying words:
The image ... reportedly went online at 6:45 p.m. EDT, after which not a single bomb threat was made against the organization responsible, nor did the person who created the cartoon go home fearing for his life in any way. Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and continued on with their day.
In retrospect, there was something quite piquantly brilliant about this commentary on free speech, offense, and response.  The Onion then underlined it by having the webpage's URL say "no-one-murdered-because-of-this-image."  

Some people might complain that the Onionistas pulled their punches because they didn't include Islam in the list of religions they blasphemed in their cartoon ... but I actually think they were making a point about all the other religions and their response to offense.

Quote of the Day: Yelling "Fire" In a Global Theater?

From this piece in Foreign Policy:
First, there is a fundamental disagreement between what the United States views as a basic right and what many Muslims living in Arab states view as a basic right. Where Americans prioritize freedom of speech as a value to be cherished and upheld no matter the circumstance, the Arab world sees sanctity of religion as a value that cannot be violated in any instance. While this is not new, the explosion in communications technology and the resulting dissemination of information, no matter how obscure or trivial, pushes this divergence of worldviews to the forefront. 
Five years ago, nobody in the United States, let alone in Egypt or Libya, would have heard of "Sam Bacile," and not more than a handful of people would have seen any part of the infamous film. Now, however, anyone with a laptop can create an abhorrent masterpiece and ensure that it is viewed by millions of people the world over. The entire planet has become, in the words of Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, a "crowded theater" on the brink of stampede.
Writer Michael Koplow concludes that embassy riots aren't going to stop any time soon because every little stupid thing produced by fringe idiots is so easily publicized to an inflammatory audience.  By the way, if you're not following his blog Ottomans and Zionists, you should.  

OK, I should add that we're talking here about communications technology and not so much about censorship or self-censorship.  For the record, I'm a free speech absolutist of the Voltaire school.  In the end, I'm with the late Hitchens, who declared that he was not willing to live his life under the veto of the most easily offended.

UPDATE 1: Maybe the "yelling fire in a theater" analogy is flawed?  (See #3.)

UPDATE 2: Lest we forget, in the end, the moral agency and final responsibility rest with the rioters. I'm not calling them "protesters" because there's a clear difference between peacefully standing with a placard expressing opposition to policy and storming another nation's sovereign territory with intent to destroy property and harm people.

Thoughts on Israel

Here are a few thoughts:

The 2012 Turing Award

The "Nobel Prize of Computer Science," this year's Turing Award goes to UCLA professor Judea Pearl with the citation "For fundamental contributions to artificial intelligence through the development of a calculus for probabilistic and causal reasoning." 

Kudos, sir!  Aside from his outstanding academic work, Professor Pearl is also the father of Daniel Pearl, and he intends to donate a part of the Turing Prize money to the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Book Review: Robert Caro's Epic Biography of LBJ

Put this on your reading list, gentle reader!  I admit that I had never thought about reading this, but a Nerd Lord recommended it, and then I saw this review right afterwards, along with this other, more critical take on it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quote of the Day, Understatement of the Week

Here it is, kids:
The Arab uprisings have overthrown tyrants in Egypt and Libya, but the populations and lawmakers have yet to grasp that democracy is not only about free elections but creating free societies.
You don't say!

Mapping the Unrest

Here's a handy map!  UPDATE: Another handy map!  I do love maps.

Yet Another Fool Confirms Foolishness via Twitter

My, my, my, Twitter's turning out to be a really convenient way to figure out if certain individuals are idiots or not.  I'm not even going to explain the latest revelation.  Just read this.

Chinese Patrol Ships Into Japanese Waters

There's a new round of the China-Japan dispute over the Senkaku islands as two(?) six Chinese patrol boats entered Japanese territorial waters.  Oh, and there's also a China-Philippines dispute over a shoal in the South China Sea - to which Manila is ready to redeploy ships after reports of Chinese ships mucking about there.  

Heh, there seems to be something about little islands in that part of the Pacific that gives Beijing a case of the knee-jerk expansionist chest-thumping crazies, to the headache of the Asian democracies involved.  Nobody likes a bully.  (Besides, as one of my Nerd Lords recently said with surprising forthrightness for academia, Beijing is "a criminal regime.") Note how very little of this ever shows up in Western news media.

Plus this saying that it's also Washington's problem, though that thought just makes me want to smack my head on my desk right now.  Foreign policy - ah, how to say this politely? - isn't exactly this administration's strong suit.

UPDATE: Dignified Rant has thoughts on how the US can help Japan.

Friday Fun Video: Carly Rae Jepsen for Choir and Orchestra

What Fresh Hell Is This: Protesters At German and British Embassies in Sudan

Embassy-Storming Week has now gone viral.  The German embassy is reportedly on fire while the UK Foreign Office says protesters gathered in front of the British embassy there.  You know, it doesn't need to be said, does it, that by making a dangerous world more dangerous you imperil not only Americans but everybody else who shares the same values.  (Including, of course, the native liberal reformers in those troubled nations.)

That Implies That There Was A Coherent Policy to Begin With

Charles Krauthammer fulminates that we're seeing the collapse of Obama's policy on the Muslim world.  OK, but as this post title says, that implies that there was a coherent policy to begin with ... Because as far as I'm concerned, apologizing in Egypt and "leading from behind" on the Arab Spring and whimsically/cluelessly lobbing Operation Rhododaktylos Tomahawk Missiles in Libya don't count as a coherent foreign policy with any strategic substance whatsoever.  Anyway ... Here's Krauthammer, ladies and gentlemen.  Well, there's no doubt that foreign policy - or what passes for it in this administration - is in complete disarray as the State Department is in meltdown too.  Now is it just me or do you also see a horrible symmetry in the fact that Cairo is where Obama first went with his (let's face it, ridiculous) "apology tour" and Cairo is precisely where everything started blowing up in our faces in North Africa?

Oh, and from the archives: almost a year ago to the day I moaned about how our ghastly "foreign policy" was making a dangerous world even more dangerous.  I had no idea, though, that it would end up with Embassy-Storming Week.  It's the administration's utterly mushy "foreign policy" taken to its extreme logical conclusion.  I say, Glenn Reynolds 2016, for he declares that he would adhere to the Napier Response and arm his embassies with Marines wielding not only live ammo but flamethrowers!

LOL: Conan on the Chicago Teacher Strike

I don't know about you, but I could use a momentary break from all the bad news from North Africa.  Thank goodness Conan can still make us laugh.  Remember this real-life zinger from the Chicago teachers' strike?  Conan takes it and runs with it most hilariously.  Here's my favorite of the Photoshopped jokes:

Wow, that's even worse than liking Nickelback.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quote of the Day: Richard Engel on Egypt

"It makes one wonder, well, was it worth it?  Was it worth supporting the Arab Spring, supporting the demonstrations here in Tahrir Square, when now in Tahrir Square there are clashes going on behind me right in front of the US embassy?"

How to Not to Conduct Diplomatic Public Relations on Twitter

This one's going into the history books for all the wrong reasons.  How bad is it and the fallout?  Even the White House has thrown this one under the bus.  One more thing: why does Cairo senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz still have his job?  

It reminds me of the first Mission Impossible movie's hapless official who was on the job when Ethan Hunt broke into his high-security installation; the boss replied with this instant demotion: "I want him manning a radar tower in Alaska by the end of the day. Just mail him his clothes." 

Robot Apocalypse Update: the Robot Cheetah

Yep, this thing officially runs faster than Usain Bolt. On the top of that, something about the way that thing moves just kind of creeps me out.

Apparently It's "Embassy-Storming Week" In the Annals of "Smart Diplomacy"

Egypt. Libya. Now Yemen.   The news story mentions Tunisia too.  This is insane. And deeply troubling.

UPDATE: It's spreading beyond US embassies to the German and British embassies in Sudan. This means the gentle reader Eric's comment below was right on the money, since he made it before the attacks in Sudan.

LOL: Hitting Below the Belt in the Chicago Teachers' Strike

Somebody brought a wicked sense of humor to the otherwise angry strike and focused a laser-like wit on mayor Rahm Emanuel, who's "the bad guy" in the scenario:

The Emanuel camp even responded that no, the mayor doesn't like that much-aligned bunch of musicians.  Then, not content with this, that teacher kicked Emanuel while he was down with this even uglier accusation.  Now that's one heck of a smear, even for Chicago.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Euro Crisis: "a shabby, demoralising slide into darkness"

Life imitates T.S. Eliot: here are a few thoughts on the slow slide into ruin when we're expecting instant apocalypse.  That doesn't mean the ruin is any real.

LOL: Hilarious Headline of the Day

"British-designed skyscraper resembles big pants, say angry Chinese."

Nerd News: A Horrible Campus Speech Code

Unbelievable.  Comply or be expelled.  You know, you don't lose your constitutional rights when you step onto your campus.

Professor Drezner Recommends

Read this.  There's some of the usual blah-blah-blah about not going out of your way to be insulting to the easily insulted because blah-blah-blah, but this I do think is quotable:
... the people who killed people; protesters, thugs, militants, whomever, are ultimately responsible for their actions. If the U.S. government is going to discourage our own idiots from provoking people, then the governments of Egypt and Libya should act to corral those within their own nations who would storm an embassy on the pretext that a film offends. Well, barely, a film. A piece of anti-Muslim bigotry that was made to make the filmmakers feel good and others feel bad. If, as an American, I feel embarrassed that so many of my fellow Americans are bigots, I would, as an Egypt or a Libyan, be even more horrified that the majority in my country seemed unable to stop (and barely condemn) the even more deplorable violent religious extremism of a minority.  
Hey, I do take exception to the idea that "so many of my fellow Americans are bigots."  It's just that the bigots, haters, and fringe-dwelling wingnuts make a lot more attention-grabbing noise than all the non-bigots who are just trying to live our lives.  Frankly, I don't think I like the idea of the US government discouraging idiots from provoking people, because ... Well. But the point about the free will, conscious decision-making, and moral agency of the mob is accurate.

2012: Like 1979, Only With Twitter

Ed Morrissey is having flashbacks of 1979.  You know, I recall the Insta-Prof repeatedly saying that the Obama Administration was shaping up like the Carter one.  Usually this was in the context of economic woes, and that's true and all ... but now I'm wishing it were only in the context of economic woes. 

OMG, US Ambassador Killed in Benghazi

This awful news basically fits the old-school definition of an act of war, but Libya itself seems to be imploding, the Libyan government isn't behind it and can't seem to stop it, and all I'm expecting is more mewling from our own pathetic, prostrate leadership.  The body count is now 4 in the assault on the US consulate in Libya.  The bloody chaos is getting worse.  

Anyway, there is a horrifying kind of contrast between the Libyan deputy prime minister using Twitter to condemn the mess and the actual on-the-ground inability to get a handle on the situation.  It's like modernity and the dark age ran headlong into each other.  Somehow it all seems like an apt metaphor for the Arab Spring, when tech-savvy, Facebooking sophisticated young liberal reformers got their moment - right before the violent extremists stormed in like a medieval horde.

Must Be More Of That "Smart Diplomacy"

This is one of the worst headlines I've ever read: "White House declines Netanyahu request to meet with Obama."  Oh, it's not like Bibi's got anything pressing to discuss, right?  Pfffft.  Now late in the day the media says that Obama and Netanyahu spoke on the phone for an hour and that there had been no actual dissing of Bibi.  Somehow it all feels like playing catch-up.  Leading from behind again, are we?

Anyway, you're trying to tell me that in the same timeframe, virtually the same day, the American diplomatic missions in Cairo and Benghazi got attacked - actually, physically stormed - by frenzied mobs, and here the President is publicly having issues with the leader of Israel? The same leader who's dreadfully (and, let's face it, understandably) frustrated by the current approach to a hostile Iran's nuclear ambitions?  The optics of all this is just horrendous, both the initial breaking of the news and then the weird backpedaling that followed.  I want to slam my head on my desk.  (I would, but the desk has too many books on it so there's not enough space. I suppose I could slam my head on one of the stacks of books on said desk?)

Meanwhile, we're getting idiotic headlines like this from the Los Angeles Times: "Israeli leader ratchets up feud with US over Iran."  Really?  It's all Netanyahu's fault?  That's a tendentious, BS headline, and you know it.  This also has a tendentious headline, though some of the content in the actual piece might be worth a glance.

It's late and I'm tired and I'm frankly not only a little unhappy about having the quality of leadership that we do right now in the reality of a dangerous world.  The whole "Arab Spring"/Egyptian revolution business has blown up in our faces, the liberal reformers got shafted, and the entire neighborhood's gotten a whole lot more perilous.  I'm going to bed before anything else happens.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to comment more clearly.  I'll just close with this: Ultimately and overall, the Canadians are probably going to prove themselves totally ahead of the curve.