Archive for January, 2012
26 Jan 2012

Best Anti-Gingrich Line I Heard Today

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Someone from Yale conservative circles not more specifically identified was quoted as having remarked:

“When Ann Coulter calls you arrogant and hotheaded, you have a problem.”

Hat tip to John Brewer.

25 Jan 2012

Best State of the Union Comment

Dan in Philly observes:

Let me be clear, O is and always has been an ordinary political hack who was picked up by a brilliant campaign because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. This brilliant campaign ran him, and ever since he’s been trying and failing to lead the country. He’s been a failure from the beginning because he’s been a fraud from the beginning.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

25 Jan 2012

“Not As Lovable”

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Rich Lowry compares the GOP’s favorite unfaithful husband to his former adversary in the White House.

Newt is the Republican Clinton — shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadn’t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.

Steven Gillon, author of The Pact, a book about the Gingrich-Clinton interplay in the 1990s, was struck by their “unique personal chemistry, which traced back to their childhoods.” Both were raised by distant or abusive stepfathers and surrounded by strong women. Both were drawn to politics and wanted to serve, in Newt’s case on a vast, civilizational scale. Both were allegedly sleeping around on the campaign trail before they had won anything.

Yet their personalities are different. Growing up in an alcoholic household, Gillon notes, Clinton was a natural conciliator. Gingrich was given to defiance. Clinton was gregarious, a people-pleaser. Gingrich was bookish, a lecturer at heart. Clinton made his way in politics in the unfriendly territory of Arkansas; he had to dodge and weave and seduce. Gingrich climbed through the ranks of the House Republican conference; he stood out as a partisan provocateur.

And so he remains today. He utterly lacks the Clinton soft touch. No one will ever consider him a lovable rogue. Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator says he’s the “Bill Clinton of the Right with half the charm and twice the abrasiveness.” Republican voters lit up by his debate performances believe he’s the most electable candidate, even though the three recent national polls show him with a favorable rating in the 20s. Presidents dip that low after they lose a war or before they get impeached. Newt Gingrich starts out there.

And he ends by joining a growing chorus of pundits predicting doom, because Newt Gingrich is just too obnoxious to be electable.

I will readily admit that I am personally biased strongly in favor of excessively talkative, intellectually condescending guys with overly large waistlines, and it’s obviously true that Newt is never going to win the Mr. Congeniality award. Yes, the American voting public does have a decided preference for smooth and handsome guys with positive charisma.

But… I agree with the statements made frequently during the GOP debates that any of the candidates on that stage could defeat Barack Obama. Obama is going into next Fall’s election with an albatross of the US economy around his neck that nobody could overcome. Voters will be desperate and will find a way to justify voting for anybody offering change from the current administration and the current economic mess.

When things really go to pot, the voters will throw the bastards out and give the other side a chance. You doubt it? Let me remind everyone: they elected Richard Nixon twice. Newt Gingrich may not be Cary Grant, but compared to Nixon he is Mr. Charm.

Hat tip to Lynn Chu.

25 Jan 2012

That State of the Union Address

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A number of Cato Institute scholars fisk Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

25 Jan 2012

Girl Meets Gun

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Amanda Fortini

It’s a common journalistic meme: young and pretty urban female fashionista, for one reason or another, winds up visiting the real America, picks up a gun, tries firing at a target, discovers that shooting a gun is really fun, and then puzzles over the meaning and moral ramifications of it all.

Yet, these are nearly always interesting to read, especially since the gun-owning reader knows better than Amanda Fortini does that she has begun the process of conversion from deluded ignorance to realism.

My first thought is, I can’t believe how loud that was. I’m wearing earplugs, but you don’t just hear the firecracker noise in your ears; you feel it with your whole body. Even if, like me, you’ve never handled a gun, they figure so heavily in the entertainment we watch—from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to Sarah Palin’s reality show to movie trailers and video game commercials—that firing one for the first time is a weird combination of startling and banal. Guns are (pardon the pun) loaded with so much cultural baggage that you think you know what to expect. You don’t. TV gunshots sound and act no more like real gunshots than construction-paper snowflakes resemble real snowflakes.

My next thought is, I want to do that again! I have an immediate, exhilarated reaction. Partly it’s that what I’ve just done initially frightened me, so there’s a sense of a limit overcome. For many people I know, guns remain unreal—the accessories of fictional characters, or at least of the Other, not you and yours. Yet to fire a gun is to realize you can do it: You can operate one, understand how it works. Shooting gives me a rush that comes from a feeling of (admittedly incomplete) mastery.

Plus, the sensory experience of target shooting—readying your stance, controlling your breath, focusing on the target—is so absorbing that I can’t indulge my free-floating worries. I can’t have a self-conscious intellectual reaction when firing a gun. It’s almost meditative. At one point I glimpse a woman in her sixties dressed in a white polo, creased khakis, and pristine white sneakers—attire for a day of golf at the country club; she’s brandishing a Glock. I have to stop myself from laughing with delight.

As I shoot, I again experience the strange, paradoxical sense of an act that’s familiar and unfamiliar at once. I’ve seen Clint do this; I’ve seen Arnold do this; I’ve seen Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton do it. Shooting a gun is like smoking a cigarette or drinking espresso in a café in Paris or having sex on a Caribbean beach: You’ve watched it so many times on-screen that you experience your own actions as an echo. It’s impossible not to feel like a cliché.

24 Jan 2012

A Self-Correcting Revolution

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Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)

Paul A. Rahe optimistically contends that we are rapidly approaching a revolutionary moment, but the revolution that occurs with be a Montesquiean Counter-Revolution.

In a word,” Montesquieu explained, “a free Government, which is to say, a government always agitated, knows no way in which to sustain itself if it is not by its own Laws capable of self-correction.” In our case, as in the case of the English government, the ultimate guarantee of “self-correction” comes from the separation of powers, from public debate, and from free elections. We have institutionalized revolutions. Ours tend, in consequence, to be peaceful.

But they can also be dramatic. In his Spirit of Laws, with an eye on the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when James II lost the English throne and William of Orange replaced him, Montesquieu observed that if the terrors fanned by the party opposed to the English executive were ever “to appear on the occasion of an overturning of the fundamental laws, they would be muted, lethal, excruciating and produce catastrophes: Before long, one would see a frightful calm, during which the whole would unite itself against the power violating the laws.” Moreover, he added, if such “disputes” were to take “shape on the occasion of a violation of the fundamental laws, and if a foreign power appeared,” as happened with the arrival of the Dutch Stadholder William of Orange in 1688, “there would be a revolution, which would change neither the form of the government nor its constitution: for the revolutions to which liberty gives shape are nothing but a confirmation of liberty.”

We are not in the latter circumstance. No foreign power is about to appear, but we are witnessing an attempt to overturn “the fundamental laws.” We have a President who promised his supporters on the eve of his election that he would “fundamentally transform” America. We have had a series of Presidents who signaled the radicalism of their administrations and their intention to break with the past by calling them The New Freedom, The New Deal, The New Frontier, and The Great Society, and the current incumbent has let the cat fully out of the bag by naming his administration The New Foundation. As John Kass clearly recognizes and Kevin Williamson evidently does not, there is an enormous amount at stake in this election.

The good people of South Carolina recognize as much. They understand the crisis we face. They know that the administrative entitlements state was bankrupt before Barack Obama became President. They recognize that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are already unsustainable in their present form, and they sense that Obamacare will only add to our woes. In consequence, they are not looking for a temporizer. They want a standard-bearer who can reverse the course that we are now on.

Read the whole thing.

24 Jan 2012

India Agrees to Pay Iran Gold For Oil

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Mossad-mouthpiece DEBKAfile reports that the assault on the US dollar as reserve currency by America’s most prominent foreign adversaries (including our trading partner China) is about to get underway.

India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of the US dollar, debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources report exclusively. Those sources expect China to follow suit. India and China take about one million barrels per day, or 40 percent of Iran’s total exports of 2.5 million bpd. Both are superpowers in terms of gold assets.

By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank’s assets and the oil embargo which the European Union’s foreign ministers agreed to impose Monday, Jan. 23. The EU currently buys around 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports.

The vast sums involved in these transactions are expected, furthermore, to boost the price of gold and depress the value of the dollar on world markets.

24 Jan 2012

Syria, Always Part of Russia!

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Claire Berlinski shares a Turkish news report identifying one more vitally important, historically Russian territory which Moscow is determined to defend against “foreign interference.”

    Russia will never accept “foreign interference” in Syria’s internal affairs, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told a news conference on Tuesday.

    “No one can doubt the strength of the Russian-Syrian relationship,” based on their history and the interests of both people, Muallem said.

    “Russia will never accept foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs. That is the red line,” he added.

Yes, that would be Damascus, the ancestral homeland of the Russian people. You all knew Dostoyevsky was from Aleppo, right?… Russians have been indigenous to Syria since the Mithridatic Wars. Everyone knows that.

23 Jan 2012

Let’s Newt and Him Fight

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R.L.G., writing in the Economist, wants to see the real ideological opponents square off and come out swinging. I’m with him.

[W]atching Mitt Romney pivot to the centre with the smoothness of a consultant flipping to his next slide, a manoeuvre we can all expect him to execute the minute he wraps up the nomination, will be depressingly predictable. The perception that he will say whatever he feels he must to become president is not founded on sand. Mr Gingrich, by contrast, can almost certainly be counted on to be the same Mr Gingrich we’ve seen in the primaries. Say what you like about the man, but he has ideas, says arresting things, and most of all, would make the clearest possible contrast with Barack Obama in the general election.

While some people groan at his idea for a series of “Lincoln-Douglas” debates, for example, I’d relish the chance to see Mr Gingrich and Mr Obama have long and freewheeling exchanges. …

t I can very easily imagine Mr Gingrich repeating the “food-stamp” line in a general-election debate with Mr Obama several feet away. This would be a natural extension of his claim that journalists asking him questions about the story of the day was “despicable”. He is fearless, reckless, filterless; in any way, -less all of the things Mr Romney has too much of.

I want to see Mr Obama reply to “food-stamp president”, to the idea that annoying appeals courts should be de-funded, to the Gingrich claim that he is the most radical president in history, and so much more. I dread the scripted turns the election will take if Mr Romney is the nominee. I think America could use a straight fight between two boldly different visions of America. I don’t expect I’ll get my wish, but a journalist can dream, anyway.

22 Jan 2012

The Birkenhead Drill

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Lance Calkin, The Wreck of the Birkenhead, 1899

The recent wreck of the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, in which male passengers demonstrated that the age of chivalry was well and truly dead by trampling women in a rush for the lifeboats, quote:

An Australian mother and her young daughter… described being pushed aside by hysterical men as they tried to board lifeboats. …

Another woman passenger agreed, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.” Yet another, a grandmother, complained, “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”

has provoked a good deal of negative commentary.

Rich Lowry, at National Review, mocked the spirit of our times with a short essay titled: Dude, Where’s My Lifeboat?

Mark Steyn resisted the temptation of Abe Greenwald’s prediction (offered via Twitter):

Is there any chance that Mark Steyn won’t use the Italian captain fleeing the sinking ship as the lead metaphor in a column on EU collapse?

And instead, drew larger meaning and comparisons.

Abe Greenwald isn’t thinking big enough. The Costa Concordia isn’t merely a metaphor for EU collapse but – here it comes down the slipway – the fragility of civilization. Like every ship, the Concordia had its emergency procedures – the lifeboat drills that all crew and passengers are obliged to go through before sailing. As with the security theater at airports, the rituals give the illusion of security – and then, as the ship tips and the lights fail and the icy black water rushes in, we discover we’re on our own: from dancing and dining, showgirls and saunas, to the inky depths in a matter of moments.

Today the wealthiest nations in human history build cruise ships rather than battleships, vast floating palaces dedicated to the good life – to the proposition that, in the plump and complacent West, life itself is a cruise, sailing (as the Concordia’s name suggests) on a placid lake of peace and harmony. Since the economic downturn of 2008, the Titanic metaphor – of a Western world steaming for the iceberg but unable to correct course – has become a little overworked, the easiest cliché for any politician attempting to project urgency. But let’s assume they’re correct, and we’re heading full steam for the big ‘berg. When we hit, what’s the likelihood? That our response will be as ordered and civilized as those on the Titanic? Or that we will descend into the hell of the Concordia?

The contempt for “women and children first” is not a small loss. For soft cultures in good times, dispensing with social norms is easy. In hard times, you may have need of them.

And a variety of commentators remembered the better example set by the men of the Titanic, and by those of the Titanic’s predecessor’s on the HMS Birkenhead.

Mark Steyn and several others quoted Kipling’s Birkenhead poem,“Soldier an’ Sailor Too”:

To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too!

We’re most of us liars, we’re ‘arf of us thieves, an’ the rest are as rank as can be,
But once in a while we can finish in style (which I ‘ope it won’t ‘appen to me).


HMS Birkenhead Memorial erected at Danger Point in 1936.

22 Jan 2012

Shaolin Temple

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Polish photographer Tomasz Gudzowaty has a photoessay of Shaolin Temple monks meditating and practicing kung fu.

Hat tip to Visual News via Vanderleun.

22 Jan 2012

How Newt Won

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Byron York explains that this was a case of a nimbler, more effective campaign organization.

Gingrich’s defeat of Romney in South Carolina Saturday was absolutely dominating. Just a week ago, Romney had a solid lead over Gingrich in the polls. On Saturday night, he lost to Gingrich by 12 points — a huge and disastrous swing. Gingrich won 44 of South Carolina’s 46 counties.

How did it happen? For one thing, all the talk about Romney having a hugely superior ground organization turned out not to be true. “They did not do the retail politics that a Santorum and a Gingrich have done over time,” said Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. (Thomas was neutral in the race.) “I think Newt’s people, they had more on-the-ground staff, and they worked.” There were a lot of them, too; after Gingrich’s strong showing in the debates, said Susan Meyers, Gingrich’s media coordinator for the Southeast, “We have so many volunteers, our phones are melting right now.”

Gingrich’s campaign was also faster and more nimble than the Romney battleship. “There is a very strong contrast between the two campaign organizations,” said Gingrich adviser (and former George W. Bush administration official) Kevin Kellems. “In military terms, it’s speed versus mass. Newt Gingrich’s operation, and Newt Gingrich as a man, has a great deal of speed — intellectual speed, decisiveness. The Romney campaign is much more about money and size, having hired half of Washington D.C. And sometimes, speed beats mass.”

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Ed Rollins says that Mitt Romney never was a conservative and he can’t persuade people now that he is.

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Karl Rove
thinks Newt Gingrich can thank CNN’s John King.

After Newt Gingrich was declared the winner of the South Carolina primary Saturday night, Karl Rove suggested that the candidate has CNN’s John King to thank for his victory in the Palmetto State.

“Taking on the media is always good in a Republican primary,” Rove said on Fox News. “John King couldn’t have set up the question in a more positive way for Gingrich to just nail it and haul it right out of the park.”

But, certainly, Juan Williams deserves credit for an assist.

21 Jan 2012

“Jaws” — The Disney Version

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Hat tip to James Delingpole.

21 Jan 2012

Shakespeare in Original Pronunciation

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The plays and the sonnets do not only sound different. The plays speed up and the sonnets are found to have many more rhymes.

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