30 April 2008

Another Consverative's view of McCain

Well, after reading that wonderful little column by the Prince of Darkness himself praising an American hero that I linked to in the last post, here is another conservative's take on John McCain.

I wonder how many other conservatives feel that way about McCain?

ok - back to grading. I just needed a little break. Honest.


Labels: , ,

Karl Rove and an American hero

Even when I am at my cheeriest and most forgiving, willing to love all my fellow creatures, even on such a day I still despise Karl Rove and think that he ought to serve at least a few days in Hades. But today he has a column in the Wall Street Journal about John McCain and his stay in a North Vietnamese prison that I think everyone should be aware of. If I vote Democratic in the fall it won't be because I do not admire McCain as an authentic hero.

[A fellow prisoner] still vividly recalls Mr. McCain's sermons [as he was designated the 'priest' by the other POWs]. "He remembered the Episcopal liturgy," Mr. Day says, "and sounded like a bona fide preacher*." One of Mr. McCain's first sermons took as its text Luke 20:25 and Matthew 22:21, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Mr. McCain said he and his fellow prisoners shouldn't ask God to free them, but to help them become the best people they could be while serving as POWs. It was Caesar who put them in prison and Caesar who would get them out. Their task was to act with honor.

I was raised on a farm by very old fashioned people and the idea of honor was not alien to us (I think it actually is alien to most modern Americans - and that is not a criticism). This passage has some resonance with me.

This one too:

One night, a Vietnamese guard loosened his bonds, returning at the end of his watch to tighten them again so no one would notice. Shortly after, on Christmas Day, the same guard stood beside Mr. McCain in the prison yard and drew a cross in the sand before erasing it. Mr. McCain later said that when he returned to Vietnam for the first time after the war, the only person he really wanted to meet was that guard. [He doesn't say if McCain ever did meet that guy]

Unfortunately, this one did too, in a negative way. Read it and I'll explain.

... in 1991 Cindy McCain was visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh when a dying infant was thrust into her hands. The orphanage could not provide the medical care needed to save her life, so Mrs. McCain brought the child home to America with her. She was met at the airport by her husband, who asked what all this was about.

Mrs. McCain replied that the child desperately needed surgery and years of rehabilitation. "I hope she can stay with us," she told her husband. Mr. McCain agreed. Today that child is their teenage daughter Bridget.**

In the 2000 Republican primary campaign push polling in some parts of the south claimed that this child was McCain's illegitimate daughter by an African American woman. Nasty, anonymous, and effective. It was done on behalf of George W. Bush, though exactly by who, at whose suggestion, has never been reported.

But the heavy betting was always on Karl Rove.

* well if he remembered the Episcopal Book of Common prayer of course he sounded like a preacher.
** wonder how a President McCain would feel about the shenanigins with adoptions at the US embassy in Hanoi? One can only hope his famous temper would kick in.

Labels: , ,

29 April 2008

The Anti-Darwin crowd and Derbyshire

I thought that Dinesh D'Souza's last book had been savaged by the more rational of the folks over at The National Review, but John Derbyshire's rottweiler review of Ben Stein's movie Expelled is in a class by itself. It's not often you get to watch one conservative savage another with such heartfelt venom.

Here is one of the Derby's concluding paragraphs, which gives a hint at the tone:

The “intelligent design” hoax is not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism, to the sensibilities of those Apaches, made by people who lack the imaginative power to know the horrors of true barbarism. (A thing that cannot be said of Darwin. See Chapter X of Voyage of the Beagle.)

You can tell he's worked up butyou should read all of it to truly appreciate it. Though I can't say I disagree with him.


Labels: , ,

28 April 2008

Now this is SCIENCE!

From Belgium - a little experiment. The sheer scale of it is impressive.


Is there an SUV Graveyard?

Sort of like the legendary Elephant Graveyard? We may be headed that way, according to this AP News article. The article is interesting because it ties the cooling market for huge SUVs to something other than rising gas prices alone. There is the fact that baby-boomers have raised their families and are beginning to retire, the popularity of cross-over vehicles, the slowing of the construction industry (and hence the slowing of the pick-up market*), etc.

Anyway, it is fascinating. Could be an important change to our lives. If the high price of gas doesn't get you to economize somewhere, and your driving habits and choices is one easy place to begin, the rising cost of food will.

Here's the best quote from the article, I think:

Menicocci, a resident of the upscale Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay, recently placed his 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe with leather seats and 39,000 miles for sale on Craigslist for $16,000 — roughly $2,000 less than what his research determined was the Kelley Blue Book value.

He bought a 2003 Kia Spectra for $5,000 because he was tired of paying so much for gas with his heavy Tahoe. "I was wasting $30 a day compared to $10 a day," he said. [my emphasis]

"Everybody is like, `What is that? Is that the maid's car?'" said Menicocci, who sells marble and granite for a living. "But I don't care. At this point, I'm way past looks and appearances."

Mr Menicocci sounds like a smart, practical man: $30 a day versus $10. But why a used Kia when he could have gotten a used Toyota Echo with 40 mpg?

*the slowing of the pick-up market is much sadder to me than the slowing of the SUV market. The former were for working people to work with; the latter mainly so suburbanites could feel safe and make a statement about it. In college towns like mine, the locals drive pick-ups, the faculty drive either little cars or cheaper SUVs while the tourist drive big honking SUVs and Hummers.

Labels: , ,

27 April 2008

And here's another "Dawn" correspondent

Seems to be my day for reading Pakistani newspapers (I have a task to do that I really do NOT want to do so it is suddenly my civic responsibility to read up on world news). Here is another correspondent for the "Dawn" newspaper of Pakistan, this one reporting from India.

It seems that India is so vast that one part of the country (Bombay, or Mumbai) is having trouble with immigrants from other parts of India who won't learn the local language and assimilate! So Jawad's Naqvi's article is mainly about languages, their complexity and beauty, and the misuses a politically induced "language" law can lead to.

Labels: , ,

Muslim Rationalism

No, despite what you sometimes hear from some Americans, many of whom should know better, this is not an oxymoron. Usually when someone wants to make this point they will point to the wonders of culture, art, and science created in Al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. That, however, came to an end centuries ago. What about today?

It is tempting sometimes to think that the Islamic world has descended into irrationality, and often enough Pakistan can be used as an example. So just for your amusement here is a little column by Irfan Husain, a Pakistani journalist I sometime read. He is, at the very least, rational.

He even cites William of Ockham, a medieval Christian monk!

An antidote to this kind of muddled thinking is Occam’s razor, a philosophical device popular in medieval Europe. Although it predates him, it is ascribed to William of Okham (1285-1349), a Franciscan monk who preached a philosophy of simplicity: “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” Or in other words, all things being equal, the simplest solution is the best. Thus, by paring away the improbable, we are left with the most probable explanation for an event.

Nice touch. I use the 'razor' myself on occasion.

Labels: , ,

25 April 2008

My favorite bar is in the news!!

It seems that one of the richest congressman out there (a Republican btw) claims on his expense account that he slept one night at the Tune Inn in Washington DC, my home town. It is just down the block from the Capital Building and the Library of Congress. Now I have spent some late evenings in the Tune Inn, but I have never actually spent the night there. Nor can I imagine anyone spending the night there. In fact, it is known as "a storied dive bar" - and a certain number of the stories involve friends, colleagues and a few students my university has sent to DC.

But this story takes the cake.

ps: this is where James Carville and Mary Matalin supposedly went on their first date. Well, stranger liaisons have been sealed at the Tune Inn.

Labels: ,

21 April 2008

Thomas Frank is a genius!

By which I mean of course that he thinks as I do. As all right thinking citizens ought. He reveals this in an article he wrote in the Wall Street Journal (of all places when you see what he says). Now I have often been accused of being a reverse snob (by Carmen, for starters) but every single jot and tittle of this screed about class and the candidates makes sense to me. Read it.

And while I have no important book or any other public writings out to trash the way he refers to, I agree with the following whole heartedly.

If Barack Obama or anyone else really cares to know what I think, I will simplify it all down to this. The landmark political fact of our time is the replacement of our middle-class republic by a plutocracy. If some candidate has a scheme to reverse this trend, they've got my vote, whether they prefer Courvoisier or beer bongs spiked with cough syrup. I don't care whether they enjoy my books, or would rather have every scrap of paper bearing my writing loaded into a C-47 and dumped into Lake Michigan. If it will help restore the land of relative equality I was born in, I'll fly the plane myself.

for the record, it is a little known fact, but I prefer Courvoisier


Labels: ,

The Anglosphere marches on

This afternoon I had a brief conversation with one of my new colleagues - she told me that her native languages were Hindi, Marathi, and English. Meanwhile I have been listening to a book on my new MP3 player* called Think India, which touts the importance to America that India speaks, in large part, English. This last point may be exaggerated but it does bring up the importance of the Anglosphere** - that part of the world, especially the Internet world, that uses English as its main means of communication and shares other characteristics.

Now England's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has published an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for an enlargement of the Anglosphere.

In the last half-century the English language has become not only the language of Shakespeare and Twain, of J.K. Rowling and Cormac McCarthy, but of science, commerce, diplomacy, the Internet and travel.

So, finally, I propose that together Britain and America strive to make the international language that happens to be our own far more freely available across the world. I am today asking the British Council to develop a new initiative with private-sector and NGO partners in America, to offer anyone in any part of the world help to learn English.

Very interesting.

* And you thought I was a technophobe

** best book to read: The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations will Lead the Way in the 21rst Century by James Bennett.


Labels: , , ,

20 April 2008

"Amazing Grace" - amazing video

Africans, the 'slave scale.' musicology, Christianity. All extracted from five little black notes on the piano.

You should watch all of this (courtesy of Andrew Sullivan). It is probably the youtube video I have learned the most from.

I think I will dedicate this post to Jack and Elliot (the somewhat compulsive blogger)


Labels: , , ,

18 April 2008

Uh-uh. It's that time of the semester again

Which means I have lots of grading to do, which means Mora, the demon princess of procrastination and delay is back in the house. This could mean one of two things.

1. No more posts for awhile because I am busy getting the grading done.

2. More posts as I use the blog as an excuse to put off grading on the theory that the blog is something I simply must do.

We'll see.


Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away...

... a cute young man voiced his full throated faith in the American people.

Then he grew up and got a job with ABC.

Labels: , ,

Another political ad I like

It's all about that elitist pig Bruce Springsteen. The one who supports that other elitist, Barack Obama.

Me, I'm just waiting for David Brooks to explain what the little folks of small town America really want in their political debates. Not that he's an elitist or anything.

Labels: ,

16 April 2008

Why we attacked Iraq

Ever wonder why it was in our vital national interests to invade Iraq? Well, wonder no more. Here is one of the chief architects of that invasion explaining it all and pointing out that, in fact, it was a good idea after all.

It is, of course, not his fault that the people interviewing him clearly are stunned at his argument. Nor that 72% of the American people don't buy it either. And I for one do not believe that he is, as Josh Marshall claims, "the stupidest guy on earth."

That would be the guy who hired him.

Labels: , ,

06 April 2008

The Human/Animal divide returns

Here is a little film of an elephant attempting to paint a self-portrait. Not sure what to make of it. It may simply be a trick wrought through intense training. Is it self-expression, or merely a trick? Even if only the latter, it's a damn good one.

It may be that elephants are on a par with the chimps and bonobos we were talking about a few posts back.


04 April 2008

The price of good political advice

Mark Penn, political consultant mentioned in that last post, is the chief strategist for the Clinton campaign. I've always wondered what a political consultant was worth, especially one this inept. Now I know:

Penn's political consulting firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, has been paid $10.8 million so far by Clinton's campaign.

And worth every penny.

Update: Columbia, displaying more common sense than the candidate, fires Mark Penn. Seems they didn't like him saying that representing the Colombian nation "an error."

Labels: , ,

OK - now let's bash a Democrat

There are lots of good reasons to admire and support Hilary Clinton - and then there are lots not to. On the whole, I do not. But I will cheerfully vote for her to get the incumbent gang out of my home town (Washington, DC), but the latest flap is almost too rich in irony. Here's Patrick over at Andrew Sullivan quoting Al Giordano on Mark Penn's continuing to lobby for a foreign government - for a free trade pact! - while running Clinton's campaign.

I can’t remember a presidential campaign in my lifetime in which the top strategist moonlighted for corporate accounts during the heat of the primaries (if that’s really what he was doing with the Colombian ambassador, as claimed: note that the Embassy told the Journal that it didn’t know which hat Penn was wearing). The conflict of interest is staggering.

The fact that Clinton continues to relay on an incompetent like Penn who has seriously hurt her campaign time and again says something about her management skills - and her need for loyalty above all. It's worth reading the whole thing.

In a real sense Hilary Clinton and John McCain are both incumbents. And I think they all have to go.

but I could be wrong.


And, of course, the Bush State Department

The same clowns who caused so much emotional and financial pain to 20 some American families by refusing to let them bring their legally adopted children home from Vietnam are malicious bumblers on other fronts too. Remember the let's-all-look-at-passport-files for all three presidential candidates scandal? The one the State Dept and Condi Rice all swore up and down was only the result of some idle curiosity on the part of non-DOS contract employees?

Late breaking news implies this is another example of DOS bafflefarp and bullwhaaa:

The department intends to name a new acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services to replace Ann Barrett who will be stepping aside.

The official declined to offer an explanation as to why Barrett is being replaced, but the timing comes in the midst of a State Department Inspector General investigation into the passport breaches.

Call me suspicious, but why do I think that she was fired? For good reason?

These clowns have to go.

Labels: , ,

Bush's Pentagon in action

The Pentagon seems to have some big problems on its plate but never fault them for lack of attention to detail. Here they are cleaning up the Wikipedia entry of one of our fallen heroes. You know, the ones the Bush administration has so much respect for.

Labels: ,

03 April 2008

The poor academics

Now being an academic has turned into a put down for Obama over at the National Review quoting Michael Barone. I hadn't realized we had become so pernicious.

Well, OK - I did but I just don't like to admit it.

Labels: ,

Cheney bashing! What fun

Here is a quote about Dick Cheney from Lincoln Chafee's new book quoted in Dan Froomkin's column in today electronic Washington Post.

Daniel Heim writes in Roll Call about former Rhode Island Republican senator Lincoln Chafee's new book: "The former Senator describes a December 2000 meeting of Republican moderates with Vice President-elect Cheney. Chafee listened as Cheney swore off the moderate course he and Bush had just finished championing in their campaign.

"Hearing Cheney say 'the campaign was over and that our actions in office would not be dictated by what had to be said in the campaign,' Chafee writes, was 'the most demoralizing moment of my seven-year tenure in the Senate.'"

I am not sure, and it is a time honored political technique, but I believe this is called 'lying to the public.' Nevertheless, the blatant hypocrisy of it is breathtaking. Or would have been once. Of course, all three of the current crop of candidates will swear that they would do no such thing. And Brutus is an honorable man.

Labels: , ,

02 April 2008

Math and gambling

My favorite all time movie line is in a WC Fields movie. The Fields character is playing poker with some friends when his outraged wife pops up and demands to know if he is gambling.

"Ahhh, ... not the way I play it, no."

There is a new movie out that I have already seen the trailer for called '21' - the fictionalized account of a group of highly mathematical MIT card counters. There is a fascinating rumination of the trade of card counting on National Review Online, complete with an explanation of the origins of two crazy Czech brothers (played by Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd) from Saturday Night Live. I never realized math could be so rewarding.

01 April 2008

The 10 Worst History Films ... ever

Better make that "Within the last 10 Years" - which, come to think of it, for people these days in America is forever.

Anyway, here they are, with thanks to National Review Online for pointing it out.

Now if we were talking about EVER, read the last post and then add "Charge of the Light Brigade," "The Scarlet Empress" and my personal favorite "The Imperial Japanese Empire" (was there ever an empire that wasn't Imperial?).

Late Update: btw, did you notice that three of these turkeys involved Mel Gibson?

Labels: ,

On Historical movies, truly, deeply awful

Presented for your consideration: The Conqueror, the totally untrue story of Genghis Khan (nee Timujin) played by the totally ridiculous John Wayne on a really, really deadly piece of land.

It ends as all historical tales should end: 'But then they all died.'

btw, no one has ever bothered to keep track of the hundreds of Navajo extras playing Mongols horsemen who probably died from the same cause.


Labels: , ,

Obama and Cuba

Now that Raul is letting Cubans use their own cell phones we might want to reconsider our rather draconian (and counterproductive) Cuban policy.

Unfortunately the Obama campaign won't hear of it, which is odd when you consider Obama's willingness to negotiate with almost anyone. Electoral politics as usual.

Labels: , ,

Mr Sobrino's recurring nightmare

Posted by some guy named Patrick over on Andrew Sullivan and properly billed as "Lou Dobb's Recurring Nightmare."

Thank god Joey is leaning his ancestral tongue.

of course, this is just an amusing fantasy.


Labels: , ,