Archive for May, 2012
31 May 2012

Obama’s Polish Gaffe

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It is not really difficult to understand Poles being offended, when at the presentation of a posthumous American valor award for Jan Karski, a Polish officer who risked his life obtaining knowledge of the Holocaust and then carried that information to the Western Allies, President Barack Obama referred to Karski being “smuggled into a Polish death camp.”

The Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania served as homeland to the overwhelming majority of European Jewry for six centuries until that country was invaded, wiped from the map, and occupied by Prussia, Austria, and Russia at the end of the 18th century.

Jews lived for all those centuries in Poland-Lithuania as a self-governing estate under the protection of royal charters which granted Jews privileges and immunities nearly equal to those of the noble estate.

The witches’ brew of demagogic populist ideologies of the late 19th century, Socialism and Nationalism, impacted occupied Poland and Lithuania, as they did the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, dividing classes, ethnicities, and religious groups, but the so-often-alluded-to Polish antisemitism was far less virulent than elsewhere. During the Nazi-era persecution of the Jews, Poles themselves were on the receiving end of nearly equivalent scale murder and atrocities, but nevertheless Poles, like Karski, did much more on behalf of the Jews than citizens of any other occupied country.

Routine reference to “Polish death camps” by the ignorant and reflexively biased naturally deeply offend Poles.

Hat tip for the image above to Kaj Malachowski.

31 May 2012

Photo of the Queen

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(click on picture for larger image)

I think this photograph of Queen Elizabeth firing a fully-automatic assault weapon from a shooting rest is real, but I don’t think it is quite recent.

From ISI via John Brewer(Facebook).

31 May 2012

Where Environmentalism Really Wants To Go

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“Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death.”
— John Keats

In Mother Jones, Clive Thompson describes with relish the coercive fantasies of a variety of leftist sophisters, economists, and calculators, who theorize on the ways and means to end the growth and expansion of the human population and economy, and who yearn for stagnation and retrenchment.

What would just a world be like? Thompson quotes Peter Alan Victor, a environmental sophister at the University of Toronto and a former senior economist at the World Bank named Herman Daly.

Americans would need to scale back our energy consumption to 1960s levels (assuming we stick to a predominantly fossil-fueled economy). Victor, for his part, points out that 1983 was the last year that “the world economy was just at the level of the capacity of the planet to support it.” Since then, of course, world population has exploded and global resources have dwindled even further.

Beyond these big-picture parameters, none of the experts has really crunched the numbers to envision what daily life might be like in a no-growth world—though they agree that it’s something people had better start thinking about.

For starters, they say, Western consumption rates would need to shrink disproportionately so that citizens of countries like India and El Salvador could enjoy a lifestyle upgrade. Why? The no-growthers argue that a world with fewer yawning inequities between the rich and poor would be more stable; but quite apart from that, their models require stabilizing world population, and raising the economic lot of the poor is a proven way to do that.

Given the shift in wealth needed to accomplish this, Americans would need to turn back the clock to well before 1983; in fact, we’d be pretty lucky even to find ourselves where we were in 1960—when the median family made $35,994 in today’s dollars (versus $61,932 in 2008).

Hardly the plenitude we’re accustomed to. Still, technological advances mean that your dollar buys a lot more than it did back then. For a couple of bucks, you can score a pocket calculator that does things it once took a million-dollar university machine to accomplish. “We’re better at making things now,” Victor says, so our living standards would be considerably higher than this figure suggests.

In a no-growth economy, as Daly points out, we would still consume new stuff—just at a much slower pace. People might need to develop a renewed appreciation for durable goods that require lots of labor to make but ultimately use fewer resources than their throwaway counterparts. We would also have to evolve away from “positional” consumption—feeling good because you possess something the Joneses don’t.

So maybe hipsters won’t be buying the latest iPhone every 12 months­. Or perhaps we’ll seek more fulfillment through activities with a lighter footprint—sports, music, hiking. The vexing reality is that the no-growth thinkers simply don’t know how things would shake out. We don’t have any realistic examples to learn from, after all. In the past, the only no-growth societies were agrarian or consisted of hunter-gatherers.

But these great minds are willing and eager to take us right back there. We need only surrender the necessary authority to credentialed experts in Environmental Witch-Doctory like themselves.

Hat tip to Troy Senik.

31 May 2012

Rooting For the Koch Brothers to Win at Cato

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CATO’s Massachusetts Avenue building in DC

I was reading this morning The Washingtonian’s gossipy account of the ongoing Ed Crane-Koch Brothers struggle for control of Cato Institute. The saga was a predictable enough story revolving around the often-inevitable friction produced by the interaction of colorful personalities and over-sized egos.

“Why can’t we all just get along?” I was wondering to myself until I came up to the part of the account describing what is usually spoken of as “the Koch Brothers’ nefarious attempt to pack Cato’s board with non-libertarians.”

In December 2010, Charles Koch called the first meeting of Cato’s shareholders since 1981. Cato now had four shareholders: Charles and David Koch, Ed Crane, and William Niskanen, Cato’s aging chairman emeritus. The Kochs used their shares to appoint two new directors to Cato’s board: Nancy Pfotenhauer and Kevin Gentry.

Crane and Niskanen were stunned. Pfotenhauer was a former spokesperson for Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign. She had supported the Iraq War and the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy—positions that run counter to libertarian ideals. Kevin Gentry was vice chairman of the Virginia Republican Party and a top executive at the Charles Koch Foundation.

“Whatever they are, they are not libertarians,” says Bob Levy, Cato’s board chairman.

And, then I blew my top.

I have always considered myself a libertarian. Regular readers here will observe the appearance of regular postings indicating a strong sentimental attachment to Ayn Rand. I’m opposed to Big Government, most taxes and regulation, and all victimless crime laws. If it were up to me, we’d roll just about all of our ways of doing things right back to the point they were at before the Progressive Movement came along. In my ideal America, the federal government would occupy a campus the size of one of those affluent California high schools and you could buy heroin from vending machines with gold coins featuring images of Indians, mythical beings, and Big Game animals.

But, lo and behold, I find today that, according to Ed Crane and the merry band of liberaltarians at Cato, if you are not a peace creep/pacifist and a subscriber to the homosexual political movement’s complete agenda, you have been re-defined, at some point in time when I wasn’t paying attention, as “not a libertarian.”

Well, Go, Koch Brothers! is all I have to say. The sooner control of so-called libertarian institutions is returned to libertarians who are still part of the Conservative Movement the better.

My own opinion is that the left-leaning soi disant libertarians who eagerly hasten to defend the supposed rights of terrorists and the cause of America’s overseas enemies, the kind of libertarians who embrace the use of government for coercive social engineering, the kind of libertarians who prize moral latitudinarianism and egalitarianism above liberty represent essentially a kind of liberal fifth column, functioning most effectively in confusing the issues and dividing the opposition to statism and the Jacobin left.

30 May 2012

Inadvertent Self-Contradiction Department

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This month’s American Rifleman has a feature article on “special edition” rifles and pistols from a company called American Legacy Firearms, a company that clearly was founded on the principle that nobody ever went broke by underestimating the taste or intelligence of the average American consumer.

With spectacular unintended irony, American Rifleman’s Assistant Editor Joseph Kurtenbach quotes American Legacy founder Steve Faler’s alleged mantra: Life’s too short to shoot an ugly gun.

It would be difficult to find any guns uglier in the history of world arms-making than these two utterly tasteless and totally garish “NRA special edition” models.

Supposedly collectible “commemorative model” firearms represent, in general, a kind of industry tax on the foolish and aethetically-impaired. Typically, they rapidly depreciate in value, occupying a special category of non-collectibility all their own. What makes an out-of-print gun collectible is historical significance and associations combined with rarity. Collectible value can be significantly increased as well by a weapon’s technical interest and beauty.

Taking a garden-variety, purchasable-anywhere-off-the-shelf gun, slapping on a load of bad mechanically-applied engraving and some hideous gold-plating creates an eyesore, not something anyone will ever down the road pay a premium to own.

Special editions numbered in the 5000s, of course, are special only in name and marketing approach and never will be rare.

Priced at nearly two grand a pop, even with a chunk of money being donated to NRA, these excrescences represent as lousy an investment as shares in one of Barack Obama’s green energy companies.

The NRA ought to exercise a little rationality and taste and should decline to participate in or promote this kind of crap. The only thing American Legacy and American Rifleman this month are right about is that life really is too short to be owning ugly guns.

30 May 2012

The Archimedes Palimpsest

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“How do you read a two-thousand-year-old manuscript that has been erased, cut up, written on and painted over [i.e., a palimpsest]? With a powerful particle accelerator, of course! Ancient books curator William Noel tells the fascinating story behind the Archimedes palimpsest, a Byzantine prayer book containing previously-unknown original writings from ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and others.”

Archimedes Palimpsest website

Hat tip to Dot Porter.

30 May 2012

Greece Has It Coming

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Members of the Greek Communist Party demonstrating against austerity on May Day


Brill Freeza
, an American of Greek descent writing at Forbes, thinks that the left-behinds in the Old Country have a serious attitude problem and proposes an educational exercise to straighten them out.

It must be dawning on all but the most obtuse member of the banking elite that they can’t possibly steal enough money from German taxpayers to save the Greek government from default. Put it off, maybe, but collapse is inevitable.

Once this happens, what is the purpose of casting Greece into some selective temporary financial purgatory where the irrelevant Greek economy can continue embarrassing anyone foolish enough to lend their dysfunctional government a dime? Why not go all the way and give the country what many of its people have been violently demanding for almost a century?

Let them have Communism.

Hard as it is for young people to believe, Communism was once a major historical force holding billions of people in thrall. Outside the halls of elite universities, who still takes it seriously? Sure we have Cuba, where the Castro deathwatch is the last thing standing between that benighted penal colony and an inevitable makeover by Club Med. Then there is Venezuela, though hope is fading that Hugo Chavez will carry the Bolivarian banner much longer now that he’s busy sucking down FOLFOX cocktails while checking for signs that his hair is falling out. And frankly, a psychopathic family dynasty ruling a nation of stunted zombies hardly makes North Korea a proper Communist exemplar.

What the world needs, lest we forget, is a contemporary example of Communism in action. What better candidate than Greece? They’ve been pining for it for years, exhibiting a level of anti-capitalist vitriol unmatched in any developed country. They are temperamentally attuned to it, having driven all hard working Greeks abroad in search of opportunity. They pose no military threat to their neighbors, unless you quake at the sight of soldiers marching around in white skirts. And they have all the trappings of a modern Western nation, making them an uncompromised test bed for Marxist theories. Just toss them out of the European Union, cut off the flow of free Euros, and hand them back the printing plates for their old drachmas. Then stand back for a generation and watch.

The land that invented democracy used it to perfect the art of living at the expense of others, an example all Western democracies appear intent on emulating. Being the first to run out of other people’s money makes Greece truly ripe to take the next logical step beyond socialism.

Read the whole thing.

Domestically, we may need to adopt essentially the same philosophy with respect to our most pathologically deep blue states, places like California and Illinois.

Hat tip to Jim Geraghty.

29 May 2012

C.S. Lewis Poem

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Peter Nicolai Arbo, Hervors død (Hervor‘s Death), 1880

Cliche Came Out of its Cage
by C. S. Lewis

1

You said ‘The world is going back to Paganism’.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia’s fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it by the hearth the white-armed venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen’s children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears …
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

2

Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond will break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).

Hat tip to Max Jacobson and Tristyn Bloom.

29 May 2012

Melungeon DNA Results Reported

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Some claim that Abraham Lincoln descended from a Melungeon family via his mother, Nancy Hanks.

Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, Loretta Lynn and George C. Scott, Tom Hanks and Heather Locklear, and Steve Martin are all alleged by some sources to have Melungeon ancestry.

The Melungeons are an ethnic group, commonly described as a “tri-racial isolate,” resident in the Cumberland Gap neighborhood of Eastern Tennesee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. The Melungeons’ comparatively dark complexions and other exotic characteristics have been attributed to mixed Amerindian and Spanish or Portuguese descent. Other alleged origins included shipwrecked Turkish slaves or descent from Gypsies. One legendary account claims that they descend from a native people resident before the arrival of European colonists.

Recent research seems to offer a much simpler explanation: descent from African freedmen.

Yahoo:

[A] new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy [Not apparently yet available on-line] attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

Melungeon DNA Projects

29 May 2012

Bigger Than Stuxnet

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The Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky has discovered that a truly massive piece of malware has been lurking on computers in Iran and other Islamic locations for at least two years. The software discovered is believed to be state-sponsored, and everyone is refraining in print from finger-pointing at the United States.

Wired:

A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.

The malware, discovered by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, is an espionage toolkit that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years.

Dubbed “Flame” by Kaspersky, the malicious code dwarfs Stuxnet in size – the groundbreaking infrastructure-sabotaging malware that is believed to have wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. Although Flame has both a different purpose and composition than Stuxnet, and appears to have been written by different programmers, its complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals — marking it as yet another tool in the growing arsenal of cyberweaponry.

The researchers say that Flame may be part of a parallel project created by contractors who were hired by the same nation-state team that was behind Stuxnet and its sister malware, DuQu.

“Stuxnet and Duqu belonged to a single chain of attacks, which raised cyberwar-related concerns worldwide,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country.”

Early analysis of Flame by the Lab indicates that it’s designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes. It also opens a backdoor to infected systems to allow the attackers to tweak the toolkit and add new functionality.

The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.

Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”

“It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Flame appears to have been operating in the wild as early as March 2010, though it remained undetected by antivirus companies.

“It’s a very big chunk of code. Because of that, it’s quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” Gostev said. He noted that there are clues that the malware may actually date back to as early as 2007, around the same time-period when Stuxnet and DuQu are believed to have been created.

Read the whole thing.

28 May 2012

My Father’s War

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William G. Zincavage, Fall 1942, after graduating Marine Corps Boot Camp

Military Police, North Carolina, Fall 1942

First Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Solomon Islands Consolidation (Guadalcanal), Winter-Spring 1943
New Georgia Group Operation (Vella LaVella, Rendova), Summer 1943

Third Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Marianas Operation (Guam), Summer 1944

Fifth Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945 (Navy Unit Commendation)

North American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Four Bronze Stars
Good Conduct Medal

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While recovering from malaria after the Battle of Iwo Jima, he looked 70 years old.

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But he was back to normal in December of 1945, when this photo was taken shortly before he received his discharge.

28 May 2012

Memorial Day

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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

27 May 2012

America Today

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Hat tip to Norman Gregas.

27 May 2012

Obama Gets Mean While Looking Like a Loser

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On the campaign trail recently, people have been noticing a different version of the normally cool Barack Obama, this other Barack Obama is openly sarcastic and contemptuous of his opponent.

Lloyd Grove discusses Obama’s mean streak.

Increasingly in the past few weeks, especially since Obama formally declared his candidacy for reelection and the former Massachusetts governor has begun pulling even with him in public opinion surveys, the president is embracing full-frontal combat. Frank theorized that Obama is simply “annoyed,” much like Jon Lovitz’s Dukakis, that a man he considers his political inferior is suddenly in a position to beat him. “He has an edge to him, and the edge comes out when he’s feeling pressed,” Frank said.

“There are two kinds of fighting—narcissistic fighting and Oedipal fighting,” Frank went on. “Oedipal fighting is father and son rolling up their sleeves and duking it out. Narcissistic fighting is putting yourself above the opponent by putting him down. I think Obama does both. He knows how to be a narcissistic fighter and an Oedipal fighter. He knows how to argue about policy and argue with people. Be he also has this other part of him—and I don’t know where it comes from—that’s like this pocket of nastiness.”

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Meanwhile, in Britain, the Telegraph is already predicting disaster for Obama come November.

In 1980, Democratic president Jimmy Carter faced an uphill struggle for re-election. Yet, despite an index of inflation and unemployment far higher than Obama’s, he was actually doing slightly better in the polls. In March of that year, Carter led his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, by around 25 per cent. By May, Gallup gave him a lead of 49 to 41 per cent – higher than Obama’s today. Carter’s advantage evaporated in the months that followed, but he regained ground in October and by the last week he was running even.

None the less, Carter eventually suffered a landslide defeat. The scale of his humiliation was hidden by the fact that people were unwilling to commit themselves to the conservative Ronald Reagan until the very last minute. It was only when they went into the polling booth and weighed up all the hurt and humiliation of the past four years that they cast their vote against the president. It looks like Barack Obama will be the Jimmy Carter of 2012.

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