Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Pinnacle of Irony

From an IBD editorial discussing the Federal spending I posted about yesterday:
More brutal was last week's assessment of Russia's Pravda, the former house organ for the Soviet communist regime: "The American descent into Marxism is happening with breathtaking speed."
Sorry, I can't top that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

From the "World Gone Insane" File

Madness. Sheer, unadulterated madness.

Via Veronique de Rugy at NRO we have this little gem:

"According to USA Today, this $546,668 per Household in federal obligations represents a 12% increase or an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt, and other government promises."
USA Today reports that key federal obligations are:

• Social Security. It will grow by 1 million to 2 million beneficiaries a year from 2008 through 2032, up from 500,000 a year in the 1990s, its actuaries say. Average benefit: $12,089 in 2008.

• Medicare. More than 1 million a year will enroll starting in 2011 when the first Baby Boomer turns 65. Average 2008 benefit: $11,018.

•Retirement programs. Congress has not set aside money to pay military and civil servant pensions or health care for retirees. These unfunded obligations have increased an average of $300 billion a year since 2003 and now stand at $5.3 trillion. . . .

That's quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.

"We have a huge implicit mortgage on every household in America — except, unlike a real mortgage, it's not backed up by a house," says David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general, the government's top auditor."
It's enough to make one want to whip out the Uzi. Of course, you couldn't possibly even identify, much less wipe out, enough of the perpetrators of this outrage to make a difference. What to do? Your guess is as good as mine...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ida, The Missing Link?

The Independent news story on a recently publicized fossil (it was discovered 26 years ago) insists it's not the missing link between homo sapiens and earlier primates. True or not, it sounds like a fantastic find from which scientists are learning a lot. Indications are that it is very likely genuine and not a hoax. Hard to believe, given how well preserved it was when found, but after more than a year of tests the evidence is pretty good.
What is so special about the fossil?

There are several features that make Ida stand out, other than the almost miraculous preservation of about 95 per cent of its skeleton. The first striking anatomical feature – other than the absence of a penis bone or bacculum, making Ida unmistakably female – is the animal's opposable thumbs, which she used for climbing trees and picking up items of food such as berries and fruit. Opposable thumbs on a five-digit hand are a signature feature of monkeys and apes and were essential for the precision grip needed to make and handle tools, a key development in human evolution.

What else have we learnt about her?

Other anatomical features include the presence of a distinctive ankle "talus" bone in Ida's foot, another link to human anatomy. Only the human talus is obviously bigger, according the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo, which was involved in the scientific analysis of the fossil. Further interesting features of its anatomy are the absence of a "toothcomb", a fused row of teeth in the middle of the lower jaw, and a "toilet claw", a grooming claw on the second digit of the foot. These features are attributes of lemurs but absent in monkeys and apes, indicating Ida's transition to anthropoid primates.

Furthermore, Ida's fingertips end in nails rather than claws, which is another link with monkeys and apes. Her eye sockets housed large, forward-pointing eyes that probably gave her good 3-D, binocular vision. Her big eyes would have been useful for a lifestyle of night-time foraging.
Amazing stuff, evolution...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quote of the Day - Eisenhower

I never shared President Eisenhower's concern over the "military industrial complex." Still, I'm not insensible to the tendency of some businessmen to take advantage of political pull to increase profits. What's especially interesting though, even tragic, about this quote is the final sentence.
The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist... There is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.
Adherence to that one insight would have eliminated 90% of the economic disasters of the past year that have, even now, not yet fully played out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Progressive Anti-Goals and How They Get Away With Them - Part I

People tend to focus on politics and politicians because those are the most obvious forces destroying liberty. But, the Progressives, today's smiley-face version of Facism-lite, are just a political type. There's a broader group — the Anti(s) — that want much more, and much worse.

Their fundamental goal is to transform modern American culture. Their method is more than simply to use the forms of capitalist, voluntary trade to enslave us by a slow progression of fascist regulation to take over businesses. The true Anti uses "cover" philosophies to hide their tracks as they march through the institutions, on their way to completely transforming America down to the root.

The environmental movement, for example, uses the cover of science to advance a radical, Luddite (and, hence, inherently anti-technology) agenda. The socialists in the Federal government use the cover of 'needed regulation' in order to nationalize the financial sector of the economy. The "organic Constitution" legal theorists use the rational forms of rights protection to undermine the rule of law.

All these types know that the American public is not quite ready - perhaps still a generation away - from being willing to openly accept statist chains. So, there's still a need for cover. But they want more than just to take over industry, more than to establish dictatorship, the way Soviet Marxists did a hundred years ago. They want to entirely eliminate the American philosophy as a reality by changing the American mentality.

The destruction of freedom is just the tip of the iceberg. They want to erase from the citizens the memory of a country that was once self-reliant and competition-embracing, proud and honorable. They want more than to overturn two decades of 'Reaganism', more even than to marginalize Madison and his achievements (not to mention the dozens of giants who built America - like J. J. Hill, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford).

They want to re-make the country into an irrelevancy, an historical artifact where no one remembers its history. They want to eliminate the very idea and fact of a people proud of the heritage of individuality, their focus on hard-won achievements, their "can do" attitude.

The only way they can achieve this is by systematically decomposing the American philosophy and re-writing its history, by changing what is said in university classrooms, over the airwaves, and in the dominant publications, driving - as much as possible - any genuine opposing viewpoint out of the public limelight.

They've already largely done that, succeeding through 100 years of activism. We've arrived. Welcome to Progressive America.

The centuries-old works of Michelangelo, Raphael, and others are still venerated in Italy. Yet, there are now two generations of Americans who know the name, face, and views of the pipsqueak Barack Obama but have never heard of Commodore Vanderbilt (mid-19th century transportation innovator), Frank Whittle (early 20th century jet engine pioneer), or even Nancy Wilson (singer, still living, whose records sold as well as the Beatles in the 1960s).

A country that doesn't remember and celebrate its glorious past – either through ignorance, indifference or, worse, denigrating and apologizing for it — is hardly likely to find the strength to create a shining future. It's not too late, but the clock is ticking.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Film Review: Persuasion (2007)

How to Ruin Classic Literature in 3 Easy Steps

Hire mediocre actors and give them a dull script, then put in charge the most pretentious director in the history of cinema. The net result is the ruin of a powerful novel by one of literature's greatest writers.

Most Austen adaptations are quite good; this version is dreadful in every respect. The camera work is awful, full of long, swirling shots to no purpose. The acting suffers the same problem with pauses long enough to squeeze in another scene between. The music is incessant and badly chosen, like spending an evening at a Wyndham Hill piano concert. The pace is as if the director tried to make a film not of the early 19th century but in it. He also seems to have confused Austen's Persuasion with Dicken's Bleak House and the mix-up is no benefit to the audience. The combination creates a funeral dirge devoid of Austen's wit, insight, humor, and drama.

We can only be thankful that the planned production of A Passage to India, scheduled to be directed by the same amateur and starring the same lead actress, has been canceled due to lack of funds. Pity it wasn't owing to the producers having screened this film and come to their senses.

If you like Austen, or simply want to avoid being bored and irritated by unending narcissism for nearly two hours, pass. Pick up the 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds instead, which is excellent in every respect.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TARP Arm Twisting Documented

Recently released Treasury documents strongly suggest that former Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke arm-twisted major bank CEOs to take TARP funds whether they wanted or needed them or not.
We don't believe it is tenable to opt out because doing so would leave you vulnerable and exposed.

If a capital infusion is not appealing, you should be aware that your regulator will require it in any instance.
Of course, it will never happen in this Administration, but both Paulson and Bernanke should be brought up on charges relating to this threat. If proven, each should receive the maximum prison sentences such crimes carry.

Beyond the legal issue, both should be run out of any responsible office, if not the country. They are worse than Bernie Madoff in their perfidy and the practical damage they've done to the economy.

However, it takes no prescience at all to predict that no unpleasant consequences will come to either man. Quite the reverse; Paulson will continue to be ignored while Bernanke is lionized by the press. Both will receive huge fees on the lecture circuit later.

The Federal government has passed the point of caring about morality or enforcing the law, unless the issue aligns with Progressive goals. For that reason alone all Progressive politicians and policies should be expunged from American life. That, too, won't happen, at least not until there is a sea change in the culture. When it comes, we can only hope it's a flood large enough to wash away 100 years of pragmatist evil.

[Hat tip: John Hindraker at Powerline]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Progressives Love-Hate Relationship with Money

Though he doesn't use the word, and may not be clearly aware of the fact and all its implications, Roger Kimball of Pajamas Media does a nice riff on how Progressives have a love-hate relationship with money. He uses Obama and his ambiguous attitude toward it as an example. He also quotes, approvingly, the antidote.
Anthony Trollope’s observation, which he puts into the mouth of Plantagenet Palliser, in his novel Can You Forgive Her? Responding to a character who announces that he lacks “mercenary tendencies, Palliser says:

“There is no vulgar error so vulgar,–that is to say, common or erroneous, as that by which men have been taught to say that mercenary tendencies are bad. A desire for wealth is the source of all progress. Civilization comes from what men call greed. Let your mercenary tendencies be combined with honesty and they cannot take you astray.”
Bra-vo, Mr. Trollope. Kudos, too, to Mr. Kimball who fills his article with all kinds of erudite and accurate observations about Rousseau and others.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Combat Pragmatist Progressives

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial lays out a clear, logical case why choosing a 'pragmatic' Supreme Court justice is unprincipled and wrong. Not surprisingly, Progressives have gone on the attack in the comments in reply. I encourage you to make your voice known on this all-important topic. It won't sway who is chosen as the next SCOTUS, but it might set the villains back on their heels to know that those who advocate individual rights are prepared to defend them.

Obama Seeks More Chains For Credit Card Companies

Obama continues his fascist drive to completely dominate the financial services sector of the economy. Here he whines about people who apparently are so clueless they don't know that credit cards come with high interest rates, fees, and other contractual commitments that require one to be alert when applying. The lip service to self-responsibility displayed during the whining is paper thin, like the rest of his faux asides about common sense values. This package deal is exactly how Progressives provide cover for their evil. Is anyone fooled?
"You shouldn't have to fear that any new credit card is going to come with strings attached, nor should you need a magnifying glass and a reference book to read a credit card application. And the abuses in our credit card industry have only multiplied in the midst of this recession, when Americans can least afford to bear an extra burden,"
The Pretender is often accused of being a socialist. I think the label is inaccurate. Socialists are much more honest about their goals.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Feds Not Serious About Alternative Energy

All energy technology research should be carried out by private firms; the Feds have no business at all being involved in funding, directing, or choosing alternatives in this field. That said, since they're in it, it would be helpful if they chose wisely. Here is more evidence, as if any were needed, of how completely unserious the DOE is about the subject.

U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars
Developing those cells and coming up with a way to transport the hydrogen is a big challenge, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in releasing energy-related details of the administration’s budget for the year beginning Oct. 1. Dr. Chu said the government preferred to focus on projects that would bear fruit more quickly.

The retreat from cars powered by fuel cells counters Mr. Bush’s prediction in 2003 that “the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.” The Energy Department will continue to pay for research into stationary fuel cells, which Dr. Chu said could be used like batteries on the power grid and do not require compact storage of hydrogen.

The Obama administration will also establish eight “energy innovation hubs,” small centers for basic research that Dr. Chu referred to as “Bell Lablettes.” These will be financed for five years at a time to lure more scientists into the energy area.

“We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science papers, but solutions — but it will require some basic science,” Dr. Chu, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in physics, said at a news conference.
Right. Like solar and wind power that, despite decades of subsidized research and constant Green hectoring, are little further along than they were 20 years ago.

This is exactly what one would expect, unfortunately, when juvenile-minded Progressives are in authority who are more interested in pushing their foolish social engineering agenda than solving problems. The only potentially bright side is that, in the unlikely case that they have any money left at the end of the next 3 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days, private businesses might actually make more real progress without the Feds nudging them in the solar plexus all the time.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Steyn Quote of the Century

"In its boundless ambition, the Left understands that the character of a people can be transformed: British, Canadian, and European elections are now about which party can deliver 'better services,' as if the nation is a hotel and the government could use some spritelier bellhops."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Andrew McCarthy on Detainee Policy

Andrew McCarthy, one of the world's foremost experts on prosecuting jihadists, wrote a letter declining AG Holder's invitation to participate on a Task Force on Detention. His reasons are illuminating, not to say thrilling.

My dull title aside, I urge you to read the entire letter. It is the most intelligent, even heroic, writing I've read on the subject anywhere. The whole letter is worthwhile, but here's a snippet:
The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants—or what the Department now calls “individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.”

I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear—most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany—that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States).

Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president’s first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers—like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy—may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.
It only gets better from there, but I'm always sensitive to copyright so I'll leave off quoting the rest.

Walking to the Plate on SCOTUS

A warm-up exercise on the upcoming Supreme Court appointment.

Michelle Malkin reports some comments from legal analysts made on possible SCOTUS nominations. Here is one sample:
Judge Sotomayor’s personal views may cloud her jurisprudence. As Judge Sotomayor explained in a 2002 speech at Berkeley, she believes it is appropriate for a judge to consider their “experiences as women and people of color” in their decisionmaking, which she believes should “affect our decisions.”
My guess is that of the three discussed, Obama will like her, but want someone even more contemporary Progressive. Feminism and racism is so '70s.