Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Love Your Love The Most

Eric Church, "I Love Your Love The Most."

Showing Off, Jay?

One of the more pleasant experiences in conservative commentary is Jay Nordliner's Impromptus column in National Review Online.

Tucked inside are such gems as this:
Show-off sentences? Couple of weeks ago, I wrote, “Recently, I was riding through Nîmes with Tony Daniels. (I know, that’s a show-off sentence.)” A reader contributed,
A few years ago, my wife was visiting with some friends who love to travel. At one point, one of them — who works for the World Bank and seems to have been everywhere — started a sentence with, “When I was in Zanzibar . . .” We all agreed that was a great line.

More recently, I saw one of the Apollo astronauts on a video talking about his experiences. He said, “When I was on the moon . . .”
As Bill Buckley would say, beat that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The University Presidency

Victor Davis Hanson writes an excellent and blistering appraisal of the Obama presidency:
If you are confused by the first nine months of the Obama administration, take solace that there is at least a pattern. The president, you see, thinks America is a university and that he is our campus president. Keep that in mind, and almost everything else makes sense.
A few excellent paragraphs:
For many in the academic community who have not worked with their hands, run businesses, or ventured far off campus, Middle America is an exotic place inhabited by aborigines who bowl, don’t eat arugula, and need to be reminded to inflate their tires. They are an emotional lot, of some value on campus for their ability to “fix” broken things like pipes and windows, but otherwise wisely ignored. Professor Chu, Obama’s energy secretary, summed up the sense of academic disdain that permeates this administration with his recent sniffing about the childish polloi: “The American people . . . just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act.” Earlier, remember, Dr. Chu had scoffed from his perch that California farms were environmentally unsound and would soon disappear altogether, “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.”

It is the role of the university, from a proper distance, to help them, by making sophisticated, selfless decisions on health care and the environment that the unwashed cannot grasp are really in their own interest — deluded as they are by Wal-Mart consumerism, Elmer Gantry evangelicalism, and Sarah Palin momism. The tragic burden of an academic is to help the oppressed, but blind, majority.
This paternalistic (in a politically correct way, of course) instinct applies to all.
On most campuses, referenda in the academic senate (“votes of conscience”) on gay marriage or the war in Iraq are as lopsided as Saddam’s old plebiscites. Speech codes curb free expression. Groupthink is the norm. Dissent on tenure decisions, questioning of diversity, or skepticism about the devolution in the definition of sexual harassment — all that can be met with defamation. The wolf cry of “racist” is a standard careerist gambit. Given the exalted liberal ends, why quibble over the means?
There's a reason the term "progressive" hs come back into vogue - it is a hearkening back to the supposed glories of the Progressive Era of American politics, an era so wonderful that the United States spent the 1920s trying to forget about it.
Michelle Obama during the campaign summed up best her husband’s wounded-fawn sense of sacrifice when she said, “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics.”

Academic culture also promotes this idea that highly educated professionals deigned to give up their best years for arduous academic work and chose to be above the messy rat race. Although supposedly far better educated, smarter (or rather the “smartest”), and more morally sound than lawyers, CEOs, and doctors, academics gripe that they, unfairly, are far worse paid. And they lack the status that should accrue to those who teach the nation’s youth, correct their papers, and labor over lesson plans. Obama reminded us ad nauseam of all the lucre he passed up on Wall Street in order to return to the noble pursuit of organizing and teaching in Chicago.
"Stop annoying me so. I am here to help."
Many of the former Professor Obama’s problems so far hinge on his administration’s inability to judge public opinion, its own self-righteous sense of self, its non-stop sermonizing, and its suspicion of sincere dissent. In other words, the United States is now a campus, we are the students, and Obama is our university president.
Read the whole thing.

P.S. Does this mean VDH is on double-top-secret probation now?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Crossing the Bar

Crossing the Bar

    Sunset and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!
    And may there be no moaning of the bar,
    When I put out to sea,

    But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound or foam,
    When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.

    Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell;
    When I embark;

    For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my pilot face to face
    When I have crossed the bar.

    Lord Tennyson

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Surrendering Missile Defense, Guaranteeing Disaster

At this point, one can only conclude that the Obama administration is choosing to be stupid.

Today, the administration announced their intentions to abandon the plans for a European-based missile defense system, moving instead to a much heavier reliance on sea-based anti-ballistic missiles.

Now I can already hear some say, "Why should I care? It's Europe." Well, for starters, it's not just about Europe.
A senior GOP Senate aide said that the effect of the administration's switch to short- range systems, such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), was that the program would no longer have any capability to defend the U.S. homeland and would only be able to protect parts of Europe.

"The important fact here is that if you go with the land-based SM-3s, you don't protect the United States," said the aide. "It changes the nature of the debate," the aide continued. "Why should the U.S. spend 6 or 7 billion dollars just to protect Europe? That's going to be a completely different argument."

"The Cable," Foreign Policy magazine
So, in essence we lose the first line of defence against a ballistic missile launched against the East Coast. And we do have assets in Europe worth protecting.

But the overall message is even worse - we have essentially abandoned those Eastern European nations (Poland and the Czech Republic espescially) that have been bullied by Russia ever since this plan was announced, and have withstood it because we asked them to. The United States has abandoned them, and the Obama administration has deliberately stuck a knife in their backs.
What signal does this send to Ukraine, Georgia and a host of other former Soviet satellites who look to America and NATO for protection from their powerful neighbour? The impending cancellation of Third Site is a shameful abandonment of America’s friends in eastern and central Europe, and a slap in the face for those who actually believed a key agreement with Washington was worth the paper it was written on.

Nile Gardiner, The Telegraph
But is gets better, as this also provides another example of the Obama administration's historical blindness. For you see, today is the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland in 1939.

Meanwhile, former Polish President Lech Walesa said he was deeply disappointed by the new US administration's plans. "The Americans have always only taken care of their own interests and they have used everyone else," Walesa told Polish news station TVN24. He said Poles must rethink their own view of America and start thinking about their own interests.

Lech Walesa, Der Spiegel interview, September 17, 2009

The blog Closing Velocity has much more.

The Obama administration needs to have a more intelligent global strategy than merely doing the opposite of whatever Bush did. Grow up, boys and girls. You have just placed millions in greater jeopardy than they were before, and severely damaged our relations with Eastern Europe. And please - try to remember history began before 1960.

Notes: For More Information

Closing Velocity

Jules Crittenden

P.S.: Why do I feel worse, not better? ("Biden: Iran Not a Threat." And in other news: "IAEA Says Iran Can Build A Bomb.")

P.P.S.: Still not feeling better. Again from the Telegraph: "Analysis: Barack Obama's missile shield decision will be cheered in Russia." Swell. One more give-away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cluck Old Hen

Alison Krauss & Union Station!

And some good news: they are back in the studio, working on a new album expected in early 2010.

Remembering, 2009

FDNYWTC - Cox & Forkum

Eight years ago, a quiet and clear September morning was torn asunder by a handful of zealots dedicated to a fanatic, who proceeded to kill as many as destroy as much as their limited resources allowed.

Eight years later, we seem to have forgotten.

We have forgotten the 3000 that were murdered, the thousands hurt, the landmarks obliterated.

We have forgotten the terror we felt, as we waited for the next inevitable blow to fall... which never happened, in large part due to efforts made by many whose names we shall never know.

We have forgotten the empty skies we saw that night.

Now, we seem to have lapsed into denial, even as we have soldiers, marines, and allied troops engaged in fierce combat in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. We allow the fools to take control, to waste our attention on pointless illogical conspiracy theories, themselves unwilling to accept that a group that has declared repeatedly for our destruction would find a way to follow through on years of threats. We mistakenly assume that our enemies' patience and attention span is as short as ours. We forget that the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

Such mistakes doom us to similar and greater disasters in the future. Remembering is the first step to preventing them.

But we seem to prefer our diversions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Death In Iraq

Mark Steyn reposted this column a while ago. I ask his forbearance, and reproduce it in its entirety here, if for no other reason than you remember this name: Fabrizio Quattrochi.

A Death in Iraq
from SteynOnline, October 12th 2004
FOR THE FIRST time in all my years with the Telegraph Group, I had a column pulled today. The editor expressed concerns about certain passages and we were unable to reach agreement, so on this Tuesday something else will be in my space.

I’d written about Kenneth Bigley, seized with two American colleagues but unlike them not beheaded immediately. Instead, sensing that they could exploit potential differences within “the coalition of the willing”, the Islamists played a cat-and-mouse game with Mr Bigley’s life, in which Fleet Street, the British public, governments in London and Dublin and Islamic lobby groups in the United Kingdom were far too willing to participate. As I always say, the point is not whether you’re sad about someone’s death, but what you’re prepared to do about it. What “Britain” – from Ken Bigley’s brother to the Foreign Secretary – did was make it more likely that other infidels will meet his fate.

I suppose the Telegraph felt it was a little heartless. Well, tough. This is a war, and misplaced mawkishness will lead to more deaths. In August 2001, I wrote as follows about the first anniversary of 9/11, when coverage was threatening to go the way of Princess Di and mounds of teddy bears:

Three thousand people died on September 11th, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of their children, parents, siblings and friends. Those of us who don’t fall into those categories are not bereaved and, by pretending to be, we diminish the real pain of those who really feel it. That’s not to say that, like many, I wasn’t struck by this or that name that drifted up out of the great roll-call of the dead. Newsweek’s Anna Quindlen ‘fastened on’, as she put it, one family on the flight manifest:

Peter Hanson, Massachusetts
Susan Hanson, Massachusetts
Christine Hanson, 2, Massachusetts

As Miss Quindlen described them, ‘the father, the mother, the two-year old girl off on an adventure, sitting safe between them, taking flight.’ Christine Hanson will never be three, and I feel sad about that. But I did not know her, love her, cherish her; I do not feel her loss, her absence in my life. I have no reason to hold hands in a ‘healing circle’ for her. All I can do for Christine Hanson is insist that the terrorist movement which killed her is hunted down and prevented from targeting any more two-year olds. We honour Christine Hanson’s memory by righting the great wrong done to her, not by ersatz grief-mongering.

That’s the way I feel about Kenneth Bigley. Here’s the column the Telegraph declined to publish:

WHETHER OR not it is, in the technical sense, a “joke”, I find myself, with the benefit of hindsight, in agreement with Billy Connolly’s now famous observation on Kenneth Bigley – “Aren’t you the same as me, don’t you wish they would just get on with it?”

Had his killers “just got on with it”, they would have decapitated Mr Bigley as swiftly as they did his two American confreres. But, sensing that there was political advantage to be gained in distinguishing the British subject from his fellow hostages, they didn’t get on with it, and the intervening weeks reflected poorly on both Britain and Mr Bigley.

None of us can know for certain how we would behave in his circumstances, and very few of us will ever face them. But, if I had to choose the very last last words I’d want to find myself uttering in this life, “Tony Blair has not done enough for me” would be high up on the list. First, because it’s the all but official slogan of modern Britain, the dull rote whine of the churlish citizen invited to opine on waiting lists or public transport, and thus unworthy of the uniquely grisly situation in which Mr Bigley found himself. And, secondly, because those words are so at odds with the spirit of a life spent, for the most part, far from these islands, first as a “ten pound pom” in Oz and New Zealand, and later in more exotic outposts of empire. Ken Bigley seems to have found contemporary Britain a dreary, insufficient place and I doubt he cared about who was Prime Minister from one decade to the next. Had things gone differently and had his fate befallen some other expatriate, and had he chanced upon a month-old London newspaper in his favourite karaoke bar up near the Thai-Cambodian border and read of the entire city of Liverpool going into a week of Dianysian emotional masturbation over some deceased prodigal son with no inclination to return whom none of the massed ranks of weeping Scousers from the Lord Mayor down had ever known, Mr Bigley would surely have thanked his lucky stars that he and his Thai bride were about as far from his native sod as it’s possible to get.

While Ken Bigley passed much of his life as a happy expat, his brother Paul appears to have gone a stage further and all but seceded. Night and day, he was on TV explaining to the world how the Bigley family’s Middle East policy is wholly different from Her Majesty’s Government – a Unilateral Declaration of Independence accepted de facto by Mr Blair’s ministry when it dispatched Jack Straw to Merseyside to present formally his condolences to the Bigleys, surely the most extraordinary flying visit ever undertaken by a British Foreign Secretary. For their pains, the government was informed by Paul Bigley that the Prime Minister had “blood on his hands”. This seems an especially stupid and contemptible formulation when anyone with an Internet connection can see Ken Bigley’s blood and the hand it’s literally on holding up his head.

It reminded me of Robert Novak of The Chicago Sun-Times back in May, quoting “one senior official of a coalition partner” calling for the firing of Donald Rumsfeld on the grounds that “there must be a neck cut, and there is only one neck of choice.”

At pretty much that exact moment in Iraq, Nick Berg’s captors were cutting his head off - or, rather, feverishly hacking it off while raving “Allahu akhbar!” - God is great. The difference between the participants in this war is that on one side robust formulations about “blood on his hands” and “calls for the Defence Secretary’s head” are clichéd metaphors, and on the other they mean it.

Paul Bigley can be forgiven his clumsiness: he’s a freelancer winging it. But the feelers put out by the Foreign Office to Ken Bigley’s captors are more disturbing: by definition, they confer respectability on the head-hackers and increase the likelihood that Britons and other foreigners will be seized and decapitated in the future. The United Kingdom, like the government of the Philippines when it allegedly paid a ransom for the release of its Iraqi hostages, is thus assisting in the mainstreaming of jihad.

By contrast with the Fleet Street-Scouser-Whitehall fiasco of the last three weeks, consider Fabrizio Quattrocchi, murdered in Iraq on April 14th. In the moment before his death, he yanked off his hood and cried defiantly, “I will show you how an Italian dies!” He ruined the movie for his killers. As a snuff video and recruitment tool, it was all but useless, so much so that the Arabic TV stations declined to show it.

If the FCO wants to issue advice in this area, that’s the way to go: If you’re kidnapped, accept you’re unlikely to survive, say “I’ll show you how an Englishman dies”, and wreck the video. If they want you to confess you’re a spy, make a little mischief: there are jihadi from Britain, Italy, France, Canada and other western nations all over Iraq – so say yes, you’re an MI6 agent, and so are those Muslims from Tipton and Luton who recently joined the al-Qaeda cells in Samarra and Ramadi. As Churchill recommended in a less timorous Britain: You can always take one with you. If Tony Blair and other government officials were to make that plain, that would be, to use Mr Bigley’s word, “enough”.

And, if you don’t want to wind up in that situation, you need to pack heat and be prepared to resist at the point of abduction. I didn’t give much thought to decapitation when I was mooching round the Sunni Triangle last year, but my one rule was that I was determined not to get into a car with any of the locals and I was willing to shoot anyone who tried to force me. If you’re not, you shouldn’t be there.

Perhaps it’s easy to say that. Ken Bigley, after all, was blasé about personal security. Tootling around Iraq in his very conspicuous SUV, he told chums, “I’m not afraid. You only die once.” In the end, he revised his insouciance, grasping for a shot at a second chance. I know the Ken Bigley on display these last few weeks is not the measure of the man. But that’s all the more reason why in dangerous times and dangerous places one should give some thought to what they used to call a “good death”. None of the above would have guaranteed Mr Bigley’s life, but it would have given him, as it did Signor Quattrocchi, a less pitiful end, and it would have spared the world a glimpse of the feeble and unserious Britain of the last few weeks. The jihadists have become rather adept at devising tests customized for each group of infidels: Madrid got bombed, and the Spaniards failed their test three days later; the Australian Embassy in Jakarta got bombed, but the Aussies held firm and re-elected John Howard’s government anyway. With Britain, the Islamists will have drawn many useful lessons from the decadence and defeatism on display.

Thursday, September 03, 2009