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Friday, April 29, 2011

You Can Achieve Whatever You Set Your Mind To — No, Really!

"Decades of study on expertise prove that virtually anyone can be great at anything — "bad genes" are an excuse, not a cause."

Entire article here. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Occurrence at McDonalds

I wonder if the vicious beating at a McDonalds restaurant in Maryland might have presidential political implications.

Two young black women - teenagers really - attacked a white "transgender woman". A transgender woman is a person that was or still (depending on the level of surgical or chemical modification) is a man, going about as a woman. Like the rest of us, transgenders have various calls of nature, which, when they are in public, going about as women, they respond to in public toilets reserved for women. This particular transgender may or may not have met one or both of his attackers in the women's restroom before the attack. So far as it went, the incident was a common crime. As with much common crime, depravity, folly, and brutality highlighted what can be wrong, weird and terrible about our sinful species. Normally (or in a saner society) none but the prurient or debased would want to know much more about this case other than, perhaps, that arrests were made and justice done.

But this ugly incident could end up being more than that. Special-needs sexual practitioners, in which category "transgenders" can certainly be counted, are much in the public debate. There is building pressure from a determined minority to force the government to legally deconstruct the institution of marriage to allow for so-called "gay marriage". The president of the United States has made it as clear as he believes politically advisable that he supports this pressure. Part of the president's political base, the left/progressive wing of American politics, has for some reason decided this issue is a great test of civil rights and is determined to push the question at this moment, at all costs.

At the same time the president's approval rating among black Americans has already dropped to 85%. This is at first glance (and in actuality) a huge majority. But when one remembers that George W. Bush received about 10% of the black vote, context comes into view. More black Americans oppose Barack Obama than supported George W. Bush. This is interesting. Economic issues must play a role in these numbers, but I wonder if cultural and perception issues may not be more important. Mr. Obama is seen to be very supportive of illegal immigrants. Are most black Americans? I believe not. The president is strongly pro-abortion; black America is strongly not. And now this nasty incident appears that could quite possibly - if pushed far enough - come to be portrayed as a civil rights matter in the national spotlight.

No sane person can support violent assaults. But will this president, with his so-far impressive track record of saying the wrong thing about matters upon which he has no need to opine, be able to keep from saying the wrong thing in this case? Will he stupidly say the reasonable thing - that men pretending to be women really should stay out of the Ladies' Room? Will he mouth the equally stupid, but more politically correct (and far less reasonable) thought that men dressed as women have the right to go wherever they choose, and only bigots would challenge the idea? If he says the first, what will be the reaction of the gay community and its supporters? If he says the latter, how will the black community react? It is a ticklish spot and history indicates Mr. Obama hasn't the wit or finesse to handle such dilemmas. He cannot win if he opens his mouth. Will he please his opponents and try? Or will he escape his nature this time? Will this crime be driven offstage by a liberalist media that sees the political danger their man faces, while his advisors (who know both his limitations and his lack of self-awareness) keep the president's mouth shut until the moment passes?

Tough call. There are young black women involved, charged with a crime. If presented properly by their defense counsel, the case could be about their right not to have white men walk into their toilet and harass them. It doesn't matter if it happened that way; it could be so asserted. Traditionally under such circumstances, Sharpton and Jackson would show up to melodiously and passionately say stupid things in front of large crowds. But a drag queen, that is a "transgender", beaten for going about as a woman? For this sort of thing prominent academics publish verbose accusations in the best tradition of Communist show trials. But will they now? Can they? Bullying a special needs sexualist - isn't this according to current fashion a greater crime than treason? Are not "haters" - the term for anyone that harms a deviant for any reason, just now in season? Yet what's a good liberalist to do? Will the gay community stay quiet? Will they demand a public branding of the two young black female thugs? Can it be done without mentioning their race? If not, will various parts of the president's base square off and go to town in an escalating game of racecard rock-paper-scissors?

Who knows? It's a royal wedding week, gas is four bucks a gallon, the Mideast is turning into an even bigger stain, the economy is in the tank, and America's full faith and credit is being debated around the world. Maybe this small and shabby story will fade away. It is nothing much really, other than bizarre, pathetic and sad. But still, if the stars line up, two black "haters" and a white drag queen could have an interesting effect on the political fortunes of the most powerful man in the world.

My only royal wedding post, ever...

I'm kind of amazed I am linking this. I have no interest in the upcoming royal wedding in Britain and am only aware of it because, since I don't live in a cave, I can't not be aware of it.

But this particular post caught my eye: Why I’m Watching the Royal Wedding.

I still don't intend to watch but I understand and even have some sympathy for the viewpoint.

Today's Day By Day

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Divorced Dad Who Is Paying for Child's College Has Right to See Report Card

A divorced parent funding a child’s college education can demand the student’s academic records as a condition of payment, a state court judge says in a case of first impression. ...

At the TAXProf Blog.

Seems right to me, too. (HT: Instapundit)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Speculating About Speculators

There's much noise about "speculators" allegedly driving up the price of gasoline. In this context "speculator" simply means "gambler". That is, there are people guessing what the price of oil is going to be in the future, and then buying up rights for that oil at a specific future date, at a specific price. If they do it right, they buy a future oil contract for less money now, and sell it for more money later. If they guess the price of the oil is going up, they are willing to pay a higher price for that future oil contract. If they guess correctly, they make money. If they are wrong, the price of the oil at that future date will be less than the price of their contract. The contract then becomes worthless and they lose money.

If a lot of speculators are trying to buy future contracts for oil, the price of those contracts will go up. The very fact that future contracts are becoming more expensive will cause the price of real, live oil to go up today. Hence the speculation (I couldn't resist) that speculators may be causing the current spike in oil prices.

This analysis (or wild-assed supposition) misses a critical point. Why would all these speculators believe the price of oil will be higher in the future? It seems to me they merely have to look at the fact that the US government is purposely allowing the dollar to de-value (thereby increasing the relative value of others things - like oil), we have seriously irritated of the Saudi Arabians (who have in retaliation lowered their oil output), we have signaled that America will not increase its own oil production, and we are running around like fools in Libya, thereby keeping that country's oil from entering the world market.

If people are betting that the price of oil is going up, it isn't because they are necessarily evil; it is simply that they are not stupid. Of course the price of oil is going up and the American government has - as if by design - created many of the reasons that will cause the price to continue to climb.

This focus on "speculators" is absurd.

Free Kindle Book

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, linked to a book entitled
Do the Work.

Today, he re-posted the link, along with a note from one of his readers that both
recommended the book and pointed out that you can get it for free from Amazon for the next couple weeks. I went to Amazon, downloaded the free Kindle app for my PC, and then downloaded the book. Done. Ready for reading at lunchtime.

What an amazing, modern world we live in.

Archbishop of Canterbury talks like a teenage beauty contestant.

From the Telegraph OnLine:
Archbishop: make the rich and powerful help the poor

"Political leaders, the rich and the powerful should be required by law to spend time each year helping the poor and needy, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested yesterday."

Don't get me wrong - I get the point and the Archbishop is correct that Christians are supposed to serve. The more rich and powerful the Christian, the more he should be doing to serve others.

But that requirement comes from God to the Christian. It does not go through an intermediary. It is not - and should not be - a legal requirement. The Archbishop may well be a very nice guy, but this sort of syrupy silliness does nothing for evangelism. If anything, I believe it hurts the brand.

Tolerance, Muslim-style

New Christian Convert from Islam Murdered in Somalia
"Muslim militants shoot young man dead after learning he had begun to follow Christ."

Just another day at the office in the Umma.

HT: Mark Krikorian at NRO's The Corner

Why Is (Pacifist) Spain Selling Cluster Bombs to Libya?

Pajamas Media asks the question.
"While Spain’s Socialist government publicly preaches the virtues of post-modern pacifism, in private it is busy selling weapons to some of the most odious and repressive regimes in the world."

Helping NATO partners in Iraq and Kosovo wasn't pacifist enough. But selling anti-personnel ordnance to tyrants is just peachy. It's hard to keep up sometimes with the mental gymnastics of progressive utopians.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

General Sir Charles Napier (August, 10, 1782 – August 29, 1853)

From Wikipedia:
A story for which Napier was noted involved a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of Sati, often referred to at the time as suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. The exact wording of his response varies somewhat in different reports, but the following version captures its essence:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; [then] beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
Maybe they used to build better Englishmen than they do today.

Lady Gaga: Thin-skinned, atonal skank can dish it out...

How perfect is this? Lady Gaga - who figures it's way cool to dress up like a slutty nun, and market a song on the basis of offending over a billion people, refuses to allow Weird Al Yankovic to produce a parody.

The more mediocre the talent, the more seriously they take themselves. (HT: Big Hollywood)

UPDATE: Wow. That didn't take long. Apparently the Lady Gaga crew loves Weird Al parodies. Can't imagine a higher complement. It was all a misunderstanding.

Maybe I need to learn more about this Twitter thing. It seems to be powerful stuff.

"Indian Slaves in US Saved"

The title above was the teaser headline at the Deccan Chronicle OnLine. When you get to the headline at the actual article, the title reads:

"US sues over treatment of workers from India, Thailand".
"A U.S. federal agency has sued over unequal treatment of more than 500 workers from India recruited to work at shipyards in Mississippi and Texas and over 200 Thai farm laborers brought to Hawaii and Washington state, officials said on Wednesday."
The shenanigans that go on with temporary visas in the US really is a scandal.

Brilliant!

Energy saving light bulbs 'contain cancer causing chemicals'
Aren't these dorks - I mean the Gaia-loving/tree-hugging/"renewable" energy cultists - the same people that were always spouting on about the precautionary principle? At least when it came to sensible and useful things, like oil-drilling, incandescent lights, and toilets that use enough water to get the job done?
(HT: Instapundit)

Victor Davis Hanson on the Mideast

My two takeaways:

Few in fits of introspection blame endemic cultural practices such as tribalism, gender apartheid, and religious intolerance as equally responsible for the general misery. A Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ben Ali, King Abdullah, or Assad is thus not a natural expression of a society’s collective values and customs, but supposedly an aberration, and one forced upon Middle Easterners by an array of often sinister foreign interests.

and...

An outsider might look at the last four months in the region and reach some reductionist conclusions. Americans treat dictatorships with more deference than they do existing democracies. It is wiser for a dictatorship to be anti-American than pro-American. Survival is likelier to be assured by launching brutal, deadly crackdowns, banning the media, and ignoring global opinion than by trying to prevent mass casualties, allowing international television into the country, or accommodating U.S. concerns. The effort to acquire nuclear weapons wins exemption, as in Iran, while the surrender of such programs invites intervention, as in Libya. Oil trumps most considerations, accounting for the European attacks on Libya once the rebels seemed assured of ousting Qaddafi, the American lack of interest in pushing popular protests in the Gulf, and the American braggadocio in ordering the oil-poor dictators of Egypt and Tunisia to step down. The possibility of using American force will be predicated on international authorization, and the actuality of it will be not be decisive.

The whole thing is here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hey, More Che!

Lots of people love the fictional Che Guevara (you know, the one that's supposed to be a hero). Such fools can easily be identified because they like to put his picture on all kinds of stuff. Personally, I think about the insane, cowardly, incompetent, racist, serial-rapist mass murderer Che. The real one.

And the only place I want to see his ugly mug is in a urinal.

Che Guevara at the Bay of Pigs

"(T)he physical sexual abuse of students in schools..."

"...is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

From the Catholic League website.

A middle-aged friend used to remark that he and I had both grown up in the "best" of times - after the sexual revolution and before the widespread outbreak of AIDS. Interestingly, he attended a Catholic college in the 1970's and, though heterosexual, sometimes attended parties thrown by friends at the college's seminary. He was impressed by the blatant, celebratory, homosexual carousing that went on.

As Donohue points out the Church doesn't have a pedophile problem. They had a predatory homosexual problem, mostly fixed now. At least as much as any institution, however well-intentioned, can ever permanently fix problems that arise from the sinful nature of man.

The Tolerant Left

Michael Walsh nails it:

"They never miss an opportunity to let the mask of hatred slip. It’s practically Pavlovian; they are so invested in the myth of their own righteousness that their “tolerance” fetish goes right out the window whenever they suffer the slightest affront to their delusional notion of how the world works."
Of course the idiot with the self-control issues is a "Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies". It's almost not fair, liberals have to keep making stuff up out of whole cloth and we conservatives just have to grab the low-hanging fruit.

Or find it so ripe it already fell on the ground.

Mounting Evidence of Rebel Atrocities in Libya

From John Rosenthal at Pajamas Media:

"Video clips depict summary executions, lynching of an alleged mercenary and a beheading. Black African prisoners are singled out for abuse."

When you pick a side in a fight between two sets of barbarian a**holes, you end up allied with barbarian a**holes.

UN human rights body plans urgent meeting on Mideast unrest

"Diplomats told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a special session of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council could take place in Geneva as soon as next week."
Wow. The UN Human Rights Council is finally on the job.

Maybe as soon as next week.

For months Mideast governments have been falling, riots have been raging, grapeshot promiscuously whiffing; the UN already authorized some sort of Keystone Cops military action, missiles are flying, bombs are dropping, and only now the UN Human Rights Council has decided they need an emergency session because the situation is urgent?

And this is the group with members like Cuba and Zimbabwe, right?

To misquote the Comedian from that over-rated cartoon movie: "Sure the world's got problems but it takes a room full of morons to think you jokers can do anything about them."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bully for Haters

The great Thomas Sowell writes:
"There is a lot of talk from many people about bullying in school. The problem is that it is all talk. There is no sign that anybody is going to do anything that is likely to reduce bullying."

Thomas Sowell is a lot smarter than I so with trepidation I point out what he writes is beside the point. Of course nobody is going to do anything about bullying. Nobody can. Adam couldn't keep Cain from bullying his little brother Able; it's not likely we're going to succeed where Adam failed.

Two things would have to be done, and neither is possible. First, children would have to be raised to always respect others and refrain from taking advantage of the weak. Always. All children. All the time. Anybody want to bet money on that proposition? Second, punishment for bullies would have to be swift and consistently applied. Can you picture that, in our current society? Me neither. The best corrective to bullying is thwacking the dickens out of the bully when you catch him in the act. It's a solution that may as well be on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It's across the border in Cambodia and we're not allowed to go there. We'll simply patrol around, conducting 'hearts & minds' campaigns, and every now and then find a bully, or the body parts thereof. Occasionally we'll declare this week's body count is better than last week's so we must be winning.

Where I think Professor Sowell misses, is that the current sturm und drang is no longer about (if it ever was really about) bullying per se. Nobody sensible believes we can actually, you know, do anything about bullying. In America, real, live bullying will happily continue, and even increase, for everybody but heterosexual, Christian, white males, who, as has become customary, will be singled out for anti-bullying campaigns whether they are as nasty as Eddie Haskell, or as true-blue, decent and fair as Little Joe Cartwright.

Bullying is merely this season's must-have fashion. It is the "Glee" of cultural and political discourse. It is what we talk about to stay on top of the up-to-the-minute fashion. We are simply experiencing another temporary societal obsession such as we have been developing, with increasing frequency, whose only lasting results are always the same: we take a perfectly serviceable word and make it forever useless for anything other than vilifying opponents in an argument. "Bully" will now join "racist", "sexist", "extremist", and the recently added "hater" on that special list we draw from when we want to tell somebody to shut up, and tell everybody else not to listen to a single word that person says.

Recently on Facebook someone wrote he was contemplating "defriending" a certain person for being a "hater". The contemplative fellow supplied a new-fangled definition of hate: "the willful desire to cause harm without right justification. Right justification is defense of self or defense of others." I leave it to the reader to look up the word "hate" if he cares to, but trust me when I declare that were we to adopt the above definition, it would mean George H.W. Bush does not really hate broccoli, and Inigo Montoya did not really hate the six-fingered man.

Since Bush did, and so did Sr. Montoya, this interesting new definition of hate is no longer very useful for its old purpose - identifying real, live "hate", but it becomes quite useful indeed for wrapping an insidious moral accusation inside a supposedly descriptive word. With such a definition, when the good guys hate for "right justification" it is not really hate at all, and when the bad guys hate, it is by definition an immoral act in and of itself. The good guys, we will find, will always look like progressive leftists and the bad guys will be the usual suspects (the above mentioned heterosexual, Christian, white males, and of course Americans in general, Republicans in particular, and most especially members of the Tea Party).

"Hate" has metastasized into the latest progressive buzzword to use against conservatives. The Left's depraved attacks on Sarah Palin lowered the stock value of the word "sexist"; many now yawn if accused of "racism" (currently defined, apparently, as anybody that thinks Barack Obama just may be a knave and a fool); "Islamophobe" and "Homophobe" were always weird, artificial-sounding things and, being the truly stupid terms they are, they have inevitably lost much of the sting they once inexplicably possessed. We need some new words on deck. Hate can't last forever, unless you're Ricardo Montalban in a Star Trek movie, or the average Palestinian.

I suspect "bully" will do nicely as the next trendy accusation. Progressives can customize the definition, and then they will for a while enjoy its heft and feel as they swing it at conservatives. They will overuse it, as they did "racist", or violate its true meaning beyond even their own ability to dissemble, as they did with "sexist", or shoot past it so forcefully with their own despicable behavior (see "incivility" and Madison, WI) that eventually the day will come when bully will never be mentioned again. But for the near future, expect to notice a lot of Republican "bullies" among the "haters", and keep your eyes open for the next word we may want to make useless in the cause of progressive newspeak.

Australian Tim Blair explains...

...the reasons for his continued success:
"Sustainability is important. That’s why, many years ago, I decided to base almost all of my columns on making fun of left-wing blundering and idiocy."

It seems to work both above and below the equator. Maybe it's universal.

Greg Gutfeld predicts attacks on David Mamet

"Legendary playwright" David Mamet started publicly losing his faith in liberalism a couple years ago, and is now apparently coming out with a book on the subject:
The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture

Greg Gutfeld:
"What happens to people who do such things?
My prediction is that Mamet, if he isn’t disowned by his industry already, will be.
The break will be ugly, but clean.
He will be dismissed as a bitter crank who probably sucked to begin with.
All those awesome plays and films once praised by critics and celebs will now be reassessed.
As crap.
Because Mamet abandoned group-think.
Overnight, he will turn from legendary to lackluster – whose attack on the left must be due to artistic suckiness."
Let's face it, predicting vicious leftist attacks on former leftists who question leftism is pretty much like shooting fish-in-a-barrel.

As you sow, so shall you reap...

"Well, when you cave so easily to Muslims’ complaints about blasphemy, you send a signal to everyone else about what kind of behavior is rewarded. May you have joy in the incentive structure you’ve created."

French Catholics Destroy Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.”

Global warming must be true, Charles Manson believes in it.




I admit I've wondered about the mental health of some global warming alarmists, and the simple truth is that one is judged by the company one keeps, but even to me this doesn't seem fair.

Full article at The Daily Mail

If we had hanged this fellow 40 years ago like any sensible society would have done, Charley wouldn't now be embarrassing all those Gaia-worshipping warmenists. They don't really need the help.

MORE: From the PJ Tatler:

"Why, it’s like global warming is a pagan quasi-religious cult or something."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Speaking of wood-burning El Caminos...

...I've been wondering for a while if people that hate fossil fuels really think through the consequences of purposely raising the price of oil.

While this truly boss ride was built in Finland (HT: Instapundit)and presumably was built just for the heck of it, it illustrates a good point. When government policies raise the price of oil too high, what do the intellectualistas think poor people are going to do? Spend money they don't have to buy hybrid cars? Invest the home-equity loans they can't get to completely re-build their houses' heating systems?

Why no, no they are not. Where I live in Eastern Pennsylvania, people are going to drive old trucks longer, and are going to count on their wood-burning stoves to provide more of their heat in the winter.

How's that going to help our air quality? I'm just asking?

Syria Protest Update - How to motivate one's military to follow orders

From Haaretz:
Report: Senior Syria officer assassinated over unwillingness to open fire at protesters
"A senior Syrian military officer was assassinated over his unwillingness to open fire at anti-government protesters, websites linked to Syrian opposition groups said on Monday."

Is this report accurate? Dunno. But it does seem to me that after months of protests and a couple of government overthrows, the remaining Mideast dictators would be working to, shall we say, improve their power-clinging methodology.

Meanwhile in Japan...


...the cleanup continues.

From The Telegraph.

Did you know India has arrested over 120 Somali pirates?


From The Deccan Chronicle:
"The Indian Navy has captured 120 Somali pirates during its anti-piracy operations in the waters off the Horn of Africa and Lakshadweep Islands in the last six months. The biggest capture was of 61 Somali pirates last month after a mother ship, Vega 5, was apprehended."
It's easy to forget how wild the world can be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A little Palm Sunday commie-bashing:

Ron Radosh quotes Leszek Kolakowski doing the needful:
“All of Marx’s important prophecies…have turned out to be false.” Class polarization receded instead of deepened; the working class all but disappeared and dwindled; and proletarian revolution proved not to be inevitable, which Marx thought it was. One might say the 1981 Polish revolt led by Solidarity was led by the workers. But as Kolakowski notes of his countrymen, it was a revolution “directed against a socialist state, and carried out under the sign of the cross, with the blessing of the Pope
.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gotta love it...



(HT: The PJ Tatler)

Apology to Harold French

The other day I posted about a debating maneuver called the no-true-Scotsman. I was frustrated with a Facebook friend I've been arguing with since long before there was a Facebook *. If you're going to argue with someone - at least if you are trying to have a good-faith argument - all participants must use the same definitions for the terms being argued. If two people are arguing, for instance, about "drugs", the argument will be confusing if one person uses "drugs" to mean "drugs that are currently illegal in the United States" (like cocaine, etc.) while the other person uses the word to mean "any chemical substance that has any effect on a person at all" (a category that would include caffeine, nicotine, etc.). Either definition can be fine, provided everybody agrees at the outset what kind of "drugs" the argument is about.

Perhaps part of my problem is that when Harold announces his definition of a term it isn't immediately clear to me that Harold may well be doing exactly what I think he should be doing. If Harold is simply "stipulating" that throughout the discussion that follows he will be using a word to mean a very particular thing, then he is doing the correct thing. Recently, for instance, Harold wrote:
Hate is the willful desire to cause harm without right justification. Right justification is defense of self or defense of others.
I saw Harold's post on Facebook and immediately objected. To me this was (and is) far too limiting a definition for an extremely useful word like hate. Hezbollah hates Jews. George H.W. Bush hates broccoli. Inigo Montoya hates the man with six fingers. The three are all examples of hate. All are legitimate, but they don't all meet Harold's definition. Were we to agree with Harold's definition, we would also be forced to agree that G.H.W. Bush either does not really hate broccoli or that he is somehow wrong to do so. Who are we to judge another man's hatred of a particular vegetable? In the case of the relentless Sr. Montoya, are we sure he has no "right justification" for his feeling? By what standard would we say so? Or are we saying his feelings toward the six-fingered man are something other than hate? Montoya is after all crossing land and sea to track the man down so he can kill him; if that ain't hate, what is? Some of these propositions - all ridiculous - would somehow have to be 'true' if we agree with Harold's definition of hate.

Or such was my feeling. If all Harold was trying to do was simply stipulate that for purposes of the following discussion he was going to use the word "hate" in a particular way but, after the discussion, "hate" would have its normal meanings, then Harold was doing right and I owe him an apology. I hereby offer it.
* Harold and I used to post at a site called the Great Books of Western Civilization Café, back in the early days of internet bulletin boards. It was a terrific site, run by Ken Roberts in Canada. A number of smart people - with fundamentally different political, philosophical, and religious views - were all in the same place. Arguments often got hot but, by and large, people had to control themselves if they wanted to be taken seriously. Ken shut the site down. One reason, I think, was because of the increasing sovietization of Canadian speech laws. He understandably didn't want to be hauled before some kangaroo-court speech tribunal for a running a site where people sometimes expressed politically incorrect thoughts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

If you think the Tea Party is rude...

...you should see how they do it in Hong Kong:
Radical legislators have made hurling fruit and invective an eagerly anticipated ritual whenever the city's top officials appear in the chamber of the Legislative Council(.)

Did you know that India has an anti-missile shield?

I thought those things couldn't possibly work but it seems everbody that's anybody has one or is getting one.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Abortion: It's not just for women anymore!

From the Are-You-Kidding-Me? File:
Presumably a woman who feels male and wishes to undergo extreme surgery to gain some semblance of physical maleness should also retain a functional uterus and associated organs, perhaps cleverly connected to a decorative penis. An intriguing challenge for any ambitious surgeon.
Read the whole thing, provided you're not drinking anything that can shoot out of your nose when you start laughing.

(HT: Tim Blair)

Jews News - The Shanghai Ghetto

Did you know there was a Jewish ghetto in Shanghai and that the Chicoms are considering preserving it? And that a World War II Japanese diplomat was granted the honor Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel for saving European Jews, and that during WWII the Japanese military governor of Shanghai refused to turn over the German Jews in Shanghai to the Nazis?

The stuff floating around the backwaters of history is sometimes pretty amazing.

So, how can one tell if a senior North Korean official has actually been put against a wall and shot?

A little bit of North Korea talk from The Asia Times OnLine

Apparently there are always questions about whether the high NK officials we think were executed really were executed.
Those who do not deal with North Korea seldom realize how little outside observers know about its high politics. North Korean media stretch the definition of state secret to an extent that would likely appear excessive even to Joseph Stalin. There have been numerous cases where North Korean media chose not to report some very important (and, interestingly, very public) events that had a profound impact on the lives of every North Korean.
What a horrible place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Americanus ex machina

Last night I watched the Granada Television version of A Scandal in Bohemia, one of the early Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. I've been a Conan Doyle fan since I was a kid and I thought this first of the Granada Holmes productions was the best screen adaptation I've seen of the Sherlock Holmes legend.

The original story was published in 1891, and watching it last night reminded me of something I noticed a long time ago: when the plot required something extraordinary to happen, British Victorian writers, maybe instinctively, often conjured up an American to get the job done. Irene Adler, an American adventuress, is Sherlock Holmes' antagonist in A Scandal in Bohemia. And this chick from New Jersey takes Holmes to school. If memory serves, she is one of the very few (if not the only) antagonist that ever completely defeats Sherlock Holmes.

Also as a teenager, I read Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and loved it. (I was continually disappointed with screen adaptations of the Dracula story until Coppola's movie came out in 1992.) Again we see this odd literary phenomenon: at the height of the British Empire a platoon of Englishmen is desperately battling Dracula and his minions; their lives, their women, their very souls on the line; there are only seconds to go before the sun sets and all is lost. And a mortally wounded Texan staggers back into the fight, and with his dying breath and his trusty Bowie knife finally puts paid to the evil vampire. No wonder Dracula stuck around Europe for centuries, sucking blood and generally causing trouble; you Brits and Continentals had the wrong guys on the job. Y'all want a tough problem solved, y'all need to get yourselves an American. Preferably from Texas. (It occurs to me this theme is not limited to the last century, nor to fiction.)

According to Wikipedia, the "Latin phrase deus ex machina comes to English usage from Horace's Ars Poetica, where he instructs poets that they must never resort to a god from the machine to solve their plots." It's disappointing for the audience to have a character in a story saved at the last second by some sort of miracle out of nowhere. We feel cheated when such things happen. We expect the heroes of page and screen to solve their own problems. We do not want them to need the "god from the machine" to be lowered to the stage to take care of all the hard things for them.

It's interesting that foreign writers (at least British ones) use American characters in almost exactly such a way. Americanus ex machina? Who can out-think Sherlock Holmes? Who can kill the undead? Who can slip some cash to James Bond when he gets wiped out at the gaming table, or parachute 20 frogmen into the water on short notice when Bond finally finds the stolen nuke? One can almost see the author pulling at his hair, or the screenwriters staring blankly at the deadend on the story board:
Now what are we going to do? How do we work our story out of the corner we just wrote ourselves into? Quick, write an American into the story! They can do anything!
When you - absolutely, positively - need some ass kicked in a hurry, who you gonna call?

For all the condescension we get as Americans in the fashionable circles of international opinion, the occasional glimpse of the fantasy life of the non-American is gratifying. Even as the world loves to disparage us, the secret sometimes bubbles up into view in popular fiction. The world has long viewed the American as that missing je ne sais quoi that's required to set right what otherwise cannot be fixed.

We Americans of course know better. We can't always do all of that magic stuff (only sometimes) but it's nice to know that deep down inside, the rest of the world figures that when the impossible needs doing, it's good to have Americans around.

The Stipulated Scotsman

There is a debating maneuver called the "No-true-Scotsman" maneuver. Some refer to it as a logical fallacy. It goes like this:

- The speaker says: "No true Scotsman drinks wine."
- His interlocutor says: "This cannot be so. I know a guy name Ian MacGregor; he was born and raised in Edinburgh; we had dinner the other night, and he drank wine."
- The speaker then says: "Well, he may have a Scottish name, and have been born and raised in Scotland, but he nonetheless cannot be a "true" Scotsman.
- The interlocutor asks: "How can it be that a Scotsman, born and raised in Scotland, is not a "true" Scotsman?"
- The speaker replies: "Because you said he drinks wine, and no "true Scotsman" drinks wine.

What happened is that the speaker had a private (or "stipulative" or "stipulatory") definition of "true Scotsman" that he did not share with his interlocutor before he started the discussion. The interlocutor reasonably assumed he and the speaker were using plain English, and that words they were using meant what those words usually mean. In plain English, a Scotsman born and raised in Scotland is certainly a "true Scotsman." The speaker allowed the conversation to proceed to a certain point, and then whipped out his private definition of "true Scotsman" - a Scotsman that does not drink wine. The interlocutor of course had no way of knowing the speaker had a private, or special, definition of the term "true Scotsman" and so he innocently entered the conversation only to be frustrated by the speaker's stipulated definition. Lewis Carroll famously highlighted this irritating little debating trick when one of his characters grandly declared that a word meant exactly what he meant it to mean, no more and no less.

One cannot have reasonable, good-faith discussions with people that use the 'no-true-Scotsman'.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unclaimed bodies get ‘beggar’ tags

Most bodies found on the roads near Secunderabad Railway Station and in Gopalapuram and Market police stations are branded as beggars.
This article in the Deccan Chronicle reminds me of the vast gulf between a place like America, and much of the rest of the world. I worked for 18 months in Hyderabad and know the exact area where these bodies are being found. Many of them probably are beggars. But since many beggars in India actually work for someone else - there are fairly large syndicates of beggars in all major India cities - just because a body was a 'beggar' does not necessarily mean the person died alone and unknown.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Steyn on Japan


"Why is there no looting in Japan?" wondered a headline in the Daily Telegraph. So did a lot of other folks. Various answers were posited(.)

Most analysts overlooked the most obvious factor: Looting is a young man’s game, and the Japanese are too old.
For some reason this hits me as one of the saddest things I've read in a month filled with plenty of competition in the sad news department.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Steyn on Hitchcock on Strangers on a Train

There are few things more satisfying than reading one great describing the work of another great: Strangers On A Train

Five Myths About Why the South Seceded

For those occasionally subjected to Southerners' views concerning the causes of the Civil War, you might want to take some notes from James W. Loewen.