Archive for May, 2010
31 May 2010

Memorial Day 2010

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WWII Victory Medal

All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
(No wartime photograph available)


William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps


Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps


Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps

31 May 2010

Obama Threefer

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Jennifer Rubin, at Commentary, is moved by Obama’s handling of the Sestak scandal to see in him a combination of key characteristics of several of his predecessors.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

I certainly see in him the self-rigteousness combined with pettiness of Jimmy Carter myself. He’s trying to be FDR and LBJ and possibly Vladimir Ulyanov, to boot. But, it’s the Nixon comparison that features the note of incongruity. Obama depicts himself as holier-than-thou, high-minded, and above all that, but the crooked and sleazy Chicago pol keeps peeking through. He may yet wind up wearing Richard Nixon’s hunted look.

31 May 2010

Read During the Virginia Hound Show

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This was the weekend of the Virginia Hound Show. I realized yesterday that, beyond the pleasure of watching fox hounds in the ring, at no other kind of venue could one routinely overhear so many distinctively amusing conversations.

The book I carried along to read while waiting for my wife, A Long Way to Go by Marigold Armitage, daughter of Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris echoed the live scene around me. Though the novel’s setting is Ireland not Virginia, the topic under discussion and the sense of humor was very much the same.

And who was-out?” asked Aunt Emmy.

We were all gathering round Conor like well-trained hawks to a lure. The hold that fox hunting has over its disciples it as frightening as it is fascinating. Conor would tell us that Paddy Casey had been trying to sell his grey horse and the lad had given it a crucifying fall over wire; that the puppy Aunt Emmy had walked was still inclined to babble; that they had gone away very fast from Killanure and several people had been left; that Mike Harrington’s English horse had flown a stone-faced bank—”the sight went from my eyes to see the lep he made”; that hounds had split on a fresh fox, but Tommy had managed to stop them; that Euphemia Coke had jumped a “hell of a big, dirty drain like Becher’s Brook” on her four-year-old by Tartan; and on these words we would hang, wide-eyed, like children learning about Father Christmas. I had often tried to analyse this fearful fascination; to work out for myself exactly what the black magic consists of, and I had come to the conclusion that it must because fox hunting provides, mentally and physically, the perfect form of escapism, the perfect reaction from the dreary twentieth-century myth of Progress and the perfectibility 0f man. To begin with, even before one has got on one’s horse, there is the dressing-up in traditional clothes—and anybody who does not enjoy dressing up is fit only for treasons, stratagems and spoils—and not really even for those since he will not enjoy being in disguise. Then, I do not believe that M. Sartre himself could deny the romance implicit in the sight and sound of galloping horses, and the power and glory of being a part of this speed and strength and, if one is lucky, in control of it—this rare sensation might have even seduced Oscar Wilde if he had once tried it—might indeed, yet, seduce a Sitwell. Add to this that ancient, incalculable, irresistible lure, the spice of authentic danger, and you have the perfect, the complete, sweet, oblivious antidote, which will for the space of forty-five minutes from Kilquin Gorse raze out the written troubles of the brain as if they had been written on a slate and a damp sponge had been passed across them.

“In this the patient must minister to himself,” and a psychiatrist prescribing three days’ hunting a week would, I am sure, have the very greatest success. For no one— not if he has drunk too much the night before; not if he has lain awake with a mind reeling restively amongst the Metaphysics of Donne, the philosophy of Seneca, and the psychology of Jung—only to find at 2 a.m. that Soneryl has the laugh on them all; not if he has woken groaning, Suspecting cancer of the liver and hating the sight of his boots; not even he will fail to be healed by the splendid immediacy of the moment when the little black horse (grabbing cunningly at his bit in the hope of getting his head free enough to buck on the far side) faces the stone-faced bank which Mike Harrington’s horse has just flown with such superb disregard of the law of gravity—whilst behind, advancing in a crescendo of bounds and snorting like a steam engine, Euphemia Coke’s four-year-old is showing unmistakable signs that if you and the little black horse do not jump both quickly and cleanly there is every possibility that you and the little black horse will yourselves be jumped upon, heavily and hideously, by Euphemia Coke and her four-year-old.

So Conor held us spellbound with his commonplace tale until they had again marked him below at Murphy’s and the bitches had sung hopelessly above his cosy ramifications in the big double bank.

30 May 2010

Pomposity Harpooned

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David Brooks, who effectively embodies the New York Times idea of what a conservative ought to be, draws upon that firm foundation of learning elite schools (in his case, University of Chicago) provide members of the establishment commentariat like himself, clears his throat and begins the chin stroking, contrasting the French Enlightenment (radical people Brooks disapproves of) with “the British Enlightenment and Edmund Burke” (read: David Books himself).

When I was in college I took a course in the Enlightenment. In those days, when people spoke of the Enlightenment, they usually meant the French Enlightenment — thinkers like Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire and Condorcet. …

But there wasn’t just one Enlightenment, headquartered in France. There was another, headquartered in Scotland and Britain and led by David Hume, Adam Smith and Edmund Burke. …

Paine saw the American and French Revolutions as models for his sort of radical change. In each country, he felt, the revolutionaries deduced certain universal truths about the rights of man and then designed a new society to fit them.

Burke, a participant in the British Enlightenment, had a different vision of change. He believed that each generation is a small part of a long chain of history. We serve as trustees for the wisdom of the ages and are obliged to pass it down, a little improved, to our descendents. That wisdom fills the gaps in our own reason, as age-old institutions implicitly contain more wisdom than any individual could have.

Burke was horrified at the thought that individuals would use abstract reason to sweep away arrangements that had stood the test of time. He believed in continual reform, but reform is not novelty. You don’t try to change the fundamental substance of an institution. You try to modify from within, keeping the good parts and adjusting the parts that aren’t working.

If you try to re-engineer society on the basis of abstract plans, Burke argued, you’ll end up causing all sorts of fresh difficulties, because the social organism is more complicated than you can possibly know. We could never get things right from scratch.

Then along comes Kathy Kattenburg, who cruelly demonstrates just how superficial is Brooks’ intellectual veneer, how weak his grasp of actual facts, and (as Burke would have said) how muddled his understanding and has fun delivering this well-deserved comeuppance.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

30 May 2010

Socialism Fails Again

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As the world economy lurches toward an increasingly likely double dip, Monty Pelerin sees one decidedly positive result from this financial crisis.

The end of democratic socialism is at hand. The welfare states of the U.S. and Europe are financially out of control, spent and unsustainable. They have reached the point that Margaret Thatcher defined as the end of socialism: They have run out of other people’s money. These areas of the world are about to change dramatically.

Victor Davis Hanson has a piece in National Review Online focused on Europe. His comments, while directed at Europe, are also applicable to the United States. Hanson states:

    Five years ago, the European Union’s account of itself resonated with end-of history triumphalism. In organic fashion, democratic socialism would spread eastward and southward, recivilizing the old Warsaw Pact and the Balkans through cradle-to-grave entitlements, state unionism, radical environmentalism, and utopian pacifism.

How quickly the dreams of just a short time ago have been shattered. Now the once-smug EU struggles desperately to survive. The financial problems of Greece and several other countries threaten its very existence. Incredibly, in spite of this experience, the U.S. marches in double-time toward the goal that Europe is now being forced to abandon.

The myth of Socialism should have been abandoned long ago. In the 1920s, Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that Socialism and its close relative, Interventionism, were not capable of long-term management of an economy. The Soviet Union and a host of other highly socialized economies provided subsequent empirical support for Mises’ theoretical argument.

Despite overwhelming evidence, Socialism does not go away. Like a vampire, it reappears and seemingly cannot be terminated. Like the vampire, it sucks the life out of each economy it touches. Despite experience, each new generation seems to produce gullible people lured by the siren song of socialism. Each generation seems destined to battle these false promises anew.

Read the whole thing.

29 May 2010

Korean War: Round Two?

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Donald Kirk, in Asia Times, delivers a guide to the likely flashpoints on land and sea.

In the duel between North and South Korea, the question now is who will pull the trigger first? The answer may be neither, but don’t count on it. The dueling now focuses on two quite different flashpoints.

The first is the West or Yellow Sea, where North Korea has vowed to open fire against any South Korean vessel intruding in its waters.

One issue there is how to define which waters are North Korean. The North refuses to recognize the Northern Limit Line, set by the United Nations Command after the Korean War (1950-1953) and challenged by North Korea in bloody gun battles in June 1999 and June 2002. A North Korean boat was sunk in the former incident, killing at least 40 sailors on board. Six sailors died on a South Korean patrol boat in the second battle.

It’s almost June again, the height of the crabbing season in the fish-rich seas and the month when the North is most likely to threaten South Korea’s defense of the line, including islands wrested from North Korean troops in the Korean War. …

If the Yellow Sea is an obvious battleground, however, almost anywhere along the 248-kilometer-long demilitarized zone that’s divided the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War could erupt in gunfire. That’s possible quite soon if South Korea makes good on its notion of switching on mega-loudspeakers capable of spewing forth propaganda for the benefit of tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers within shooting distance.

North Korea has said it will respond to the verbal volleys with live fire targeting the loudspeakers. The North Koreans presumably know where they are since they used to shout out the propaganda until both sides agreed to stop the shouting six years ago. That was at the height of the decade of the “Sunshine” policy of North-South reconciliation initiated by the late president, Kim Dae-jung, in 1998.

South Korea’s conservative president, Lee Myung-bak, has turned the clock back on Sunshine since his inauguration a decade later, in 2008. This week he suspended North-South trade, cut off most humanitarian aid, barred South Koreans from visiting the North and opened a global diplomatic offensive in which he’s trying to get the rest of the world, notably China, to go along with condemnation of North Korea and strengthened sanctions.

The diplomatic campaign won’t upset the North Koreans nearly as much, however, as propaganda falling on the ears of their own troops. Lee faces a serious test of nerve. Will he dare order the loudspeakers to blast away knowing the North Koreans may take potshots at them?

And if the North Koreans do fire, will South Korean gunners fire back at the North Korean positions? There’s no telling when the shooting would stop, or whether North Korean troops would try to challenge the South Koreans on the ground.

29 May 2010

Regulation and the Oil Spill

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The BP Oil Spill produced throughout the echo chamber of the American left a familiar narrative featuring some nefarious corporation jeopardizing the public interest accompanied by hints of lax regulatory supervision all leading to the conclusion that, once again, what is vitally needed is beefed-up progressive government riding to the rescue to curb the excesses of unbridled free market capitalism.

Libertarian Sheldon Richman, in the Freeman, explains that the reality of the current situation is far more complex.

[T]his is not just a simple matter of regulation. More fundamentally it’s a matter of ownership. The government has proclaimed itself the owner of the offshore positions where oil companies drill. In a free market those positions would be homesteaded and managed privately with full liability. In the absence of a free market and private property, built-in incentives that protect the public are diminished if not eliminated. Bureaucrats and “political capitalists” are not as reliable as companies facing bankruptcy in a fully freed market. …

Negligent or not, BP is a player in a corporatist system that for generations has featured a close relationship between government and major business firms. (It wouldn’t have surprised Adam Smith.) Prominent companies have always been influential at all levels of government — and no industry more so than oil, which has long been a top concern of the national policy elite, most particularly the foreign-policy establishment. When state and federal governments failed in the 1920s to put a lid on unruly competition and low prices through wellhead production quotas (prorationing), the oil companies turned to Franklin Roosevelt and the federal government, winning the cartelizing Petroleum Code, significant parts of which were revived after the National Recovery Administration was declared unconstitutional. In the 1950s, when cheap imports depressed prices, the national government imposed quotas on foreign oil. Venezuela was the chief target at the time. (In 1960 OPEC, a “cartel to confront a cartel,” was founded.) Republican or Democratic, energy policy is not made without oil industry input.

In this context there’s less to the contrast between government regulation and corporate self-regulation than meets the eye. Self-regulation in a corporate state does not constitute the free market. When companies are sheltered in any substantial way from the competitive market’s disciplinary forces, incentives turn perverse. Moreover, “state capitalism” and the corporate form – with its agency problem – can produce the temptation to cut costs imprudently in order to make the next quarterly report look attractive to shareholders.

“Putting profits before people” is a feature of state, or crony, capitalism not the free market.

29 May 2010

Literary Abuse

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Katherine Mansfield

Michelle Kerns, in the Telegraph, collects 50 colorful examples of abuse of fellow authors by well-known writers.

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

Examples:

William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

E.M. Forster’s Howards End, according to Katherine Mansfield (1915)

Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of ‘Howards End’ and had a look into it. Not good enough. E.M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea.

And I can never be perfectly certain whether Helen was got with child by Leonard Bast or by his fatal forgotten umbrella. All things considered, I think it must have been the umbrella.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.


E.M. Forster

28 May 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

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“I missed him even before he was gone.” Steve Bodio remembers long-time Audubon magazine editor Les Line, who evidently had a Weatherby cartridge board and a poster of a Smith & Wesson Model 29 in his Manhattan office.

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Progressive Amnesia: James E. Calfee responds to the attacks on Rand Paul for “not understanding” that state coercion of private businesses was necessary to end segregation by pointing out that the system of racial segregation in public accomodations known as “Jim Crow” was not created by the individual decisions of private business owners. It was put into effect by government through a series of laws passed by Progressive era legislators which were then upheld by the Supreme Court.

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NYT: White House Used Bill Clinton to Ask Sestak to Drop Out of Race.

18 USC Section 600: Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

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Peggy Noonan:

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: “Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust.” Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: “We pay so much for the government and it can’t cap an undersea oil well!”

27 May 2010

Obama Appeals Court Nominee Thinks Sexual Sadism A “Mitigating Factor”

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Robert N. Chatigny

Barack Obama has nominated to the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert N. Chatigny, who is famous for having served as counsel defending Woody Allen against charges he had molested one of his minor stepchildren and even more famous for surviving a complaint of judicial misconduct when, after his rulings rejecting the competency of a serial killer to decide to refrain from opposing his own execution had been vacated by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, he intervened personally to arm twist the murderer’s attorney to ignore his client’s desires and file for a stay of execution.

Chatigny actually threatened to have the attorney disbarred if he did not oppose the execution, asserting that Michael Ross “never should have been convicted. Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death because his sexual sadism, which was found by every single person who looked at him, is clearly a mitigating factor.”

American Spectator article

Washington Times

27 May 2010

Why Urban Mayors Like Gun Control

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Shannon Love, at Chicago Boyz, explains (quite correctly) that it’s all about shifting the blame.

A lot of the big urban areas of the Northeast have turned into war zones. Virtually, without exception, they place the blame on lax “gun control”… laws for their sky-high murder rates. I wonder if their voters have ever asked themselves why their mayors are so obsessed?

I think the answer is simple: It give the mayors external actors to blame so they don’t have to answer for their own incompetence.

Think about it. What is every one of those mayors really saying when they talk about disarming the citizenry? They’re really saying, “Hey, it’s not my fault our city has become a shooting gallery, it’s the fault of those rednecks three states over! You can’t blame me because I can’t control what those rednecks do! Oh, if only we could overturn two centuries of Constitutional law we would have safe streets! Until that happens, don’t even think of voting me out! It wouldn’t be fair!”

Apparently, the urbanites’ regional, racial and class bigotries make them more willing to blame people outside of their communities than to accept responsibility for the safety of those very same communities. The mayors and the rest of the failing big-city pols have figured out that the age-old practice of blaming outsiders is the sure path to political job security.

The problem in the big cities of the Northeast isn’t guns. If guns caused problems, it’s rural America and pro-gun states like Texas that would be murder horror shows, not the Northeast cities crammed with people too self-righteously moral to accept the responsibility of protecting their loved ones and their communities. When young black men are safer in small, gun-packed southern towns than they are in northeastern urban areas, you know something has gone seriously wrong in the big city.

No, the problem in the Northeast’s urban areas is an unusually large population of individuals who chose to kill and a political and criminal-justice system that cannot or will not contain them. It is ineffective law enforcement that drives high murder rates, not access to guns.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.

26 May 2010

“Pan Tadeusz”

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Walenty Wankowicz, Mickiewicz na Judahu skale (Mickiewicz on the cliff of Yudah), 1828

The masterpiece of literature in the Polish language is Adam Mickiewicz‘s epic poem/novel Pan Tadeusz (1834).

(Pan is Polish for “sir or lord.” Tadeusz is the Polish version of the personal name Thaddeus.)

I happened to find a link on Facebook this morning to a really excellent reading of the poem’s opening lines, which proves (surprisingly to me) that Polish can be a beautiful language.

2:21 video

Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! Ty jesteś jak zdrowie.
Ile cię trzeba cenić, ten tylko się dowie,
Kto cię stracił. Dziś piękność twą w całej ozdobie
Widzę i opisuję, bo tęsknię po tobie.

Panno święta, co Jasnej bronisz Częstochowy
I w Ostrej świecisz Bramie!
Tymczasem przenoś moją duszę utęsknioną
Do tych pagórków leśnych, do tych łąk zielonych,
Szeroko nad błękitnym Niemnem rozciągnionych;
Do tych pól malowanych zbożem rozmaitem,
Wyzłacanych pszenicą, posrebrzanych żytem;
Gdzie bursztynowy świerzop, gryka jak śnieg biała,
Gdzie panieńskim rumieńcem dzięcielina pała,
A wszystko przepasane jakby wstęgą, miedzą
Zieloną, na niej z rzadka ciche grusze siedzą.

Lithuania, my fatherland! Thou art like good health:
How much one should prize thee, he only can tell
Who has lost thee. Your beauty and splendour I view
And describe here today, for I long for thee.

Holy Virgin who shelters our bright Częstochowa
And shines in Ostra Brama!
Meanwhile, bear my soul heavy with yearning’s dull pain,
To those soft woodland hillocks, those meadows, green, gleaming,
Spread wide along each side of the blue-flowing Niemen,
To those fields, which by various grain painted, there lie
Shimmering, with wheat gilded, and silvered with rye;
Where grows the amber mustard, buckwheat white as snow,
Where, with maidenly blushes, clover flowers glow,
And all as if beribboned by green strips of land,
The balks, upon which scattered quiet pear trees stand.

There is a superb film of Pan Tadeusz made in 2000 by Andrzej Wajda.

Culture.pl’s Adam Mickiewicz page.

Hat tip to Roman Skonieczny de Ostoya via Anna Borewicz-Khorshed.


Francisek Kostrzewski, Grzybobranie (Mushroom picking, Book III, Pan Tadeusz), 1860

26 May 2010

Obama: Thin-Skinned and Self-Righteous

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In a characteristic performance, President Obama held another meeting with Republican senators in one more search for the kind of bipartisanship which would consist of Republicans supporting his policies. When Republicans pointed to his own partisanship, Obama became angry and proceeded to scold his opponents.

The Politico:

Senators and other sources inside the meeting described the gathering as “testy” and “direct” — and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) accused Obama of acting two-faced by asking for GOP support on regulatory reform only to push forward with a bill supported mainly by Democrats. Others felt that the meeting may have made already tense relations between the two parties even worse.

“The more he talked, the more he got upset,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said. “He needs to take a valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans and just calm down, and don’t take anything so seriously. If you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re attacking their motives — and he takes it that way and tends then to lecture and then gets upset.”

There may be doubts about Obama’s American citizenship, but regarding his membership in the self-infatuated liberal elite, there can be no doubt whatsoever. He shares the establishment perspective that there is only one legitimate political position on any issue: its own. If you don’t agree with Obama, if you don’t support his regulatory and redistributionist policies, you are a bad person. If you criticize him, you are in bad faith.

25 May 2010

Yearning for Dictatorship

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Tea Party Protests, Republicans in Congress voting no, and democrats losing elections are really coming to represent altogether too much dissent for our friends on the left. Last week, Woody Allen wished aloud that Obama could be dictator for “a few years” so that “he could do a lot of good things quickly.

This week, Thomas Friedman, on Meet the Press, expressed the same kind of frustration with votes in Congress, checks and balances, and public opposition to the “good things” and “right solutions” which he understands with his own privileged insight to be necessary and desirable.

MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, David, it’s been decimated. It’s been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don’t like where you’re going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control—really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that’s really what, what it’s come down to. So I don’t—I, I—I’m worried about this, it’s why I have fantasized—don’t get me wrong—but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don’t want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

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