Archive for May, 2012
21 May 2012

Misissippi Fife and Drum Blues

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The New York Times attends a very special event in rural Mississippi.

Tamke and I are at the annual Otha Turner Family Picnic, a legendary jam session that takes place every summer behind a tumbledown sharecropper’s shack deep in Mississippi’s hill country. The interracial crowd is a few hundred strong and drawn from nearly every stratum of local life — bikers, college kids, workingmen, toughs, gentlemen farmers. And then there are a couple dozen like me: urban cosmopolites eager to hear the deepest roots of the blues. Tamke calls himself “a redneck,” and he’s attacked me because I’m from The New York Times. Shouting into my ear over the music, Tamke makes me his megaphone for what he wants the outside world to know: “Our races have melded together, we share everything,” he says, voice trembling. “We love each other.” He’s squeezing my skull so hard it feels like it might pop, and it’s clear that he’s under the influence of something very powerful. The moonshine or the music, I don’t know. Finally, when it seems something is about to crack — my neck, or Tamke’s tenuous hold on sanity, or both — he lets me go. “It’s sacred,” he says, choking up. “It’s ancient, man.”

“It” is fife and drum, an African take on colonial English marching songs, and one of the oldest forms of distinctly American music, played by the slaves of Jefferson’s Monticello and still played today — by one family, once a year, at this, one of the last of the traditional farm picnics celebrating the end of the growing season.

Hat tip to Tom Weil.

21 May 2012

Barack Obama’s Changing Life Story

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Doug Ross tracks the changes to the biography Barack Obama provided, in third person form, to his literary agent.

On June 27, 1998, the website read: [Emphasis added] “BARACK OBAMA was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. His first book is DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE.”

The Obama entry remained unmodified (e.g., June 6, 2002) until sometime around December 9, 2004, when it was modified to read: “BARACK OBAMA is the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, and was the dynamic keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. His first book, DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE, is a New York Times bestseller.”

On February 10, 2007, Senator Barack Obama formally announced his candidacy for the Presidency.

On April 3, 2007, the website read: “BARACK OBAMA is the junior Democratic senator from Illinois and was the dynamic keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. His first book, DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE, has been a long time New York Times bestseller.”

Sometime between April 3rd and April 21st, a member of the Obama campaign staff (or Obama himself) noticed the discrepancy in birthplace that would presumably disqualify the Senator from office.

On April 21, 2007, the website read: “BARACK OBAMA is the junior Democratic senator from Illinois and was the dynamic keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Hawaii to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. His first book, DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE, has been a long time New York Times bestseller.”

On June 14, 2007, the website read: “BARACK OBAMA, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is currently campaigning to become the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. He was born in Hawaii to a father who was raised in a small village in Kenya and a mother who grew up in small-town Kansas. Barack’s father eventually returned to Kenya, and Barack grew up with his mother in Hawaii, and for a few years in Indonesia. Later, he moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University before moving to Chicago, where he became a community organizer. He went on to earn his law degree from Harvard, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. His first book, DREAMS FROM MY FATHER: A STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE, has been a long-time New York Times bestseller.”

Old media’s feeble handling of this issue — parroting the laughable assertion that clerical errors caused Obama’s birthplace to be incorrectly listed, when former clients and the agency’s policy itself states that authors provide the biographical briefs — is pathetic.


Mark Steyn theorizes about the meaning of all the confusion about Obama’s birthplace.

When it comes to conspiracies, I’m an Occam’s Razor man. The more obvious explanation of the variable first line in the eternally shifting sands of Obama’s biography is that, rather than pretending to have been born in Hawaii, he’s spent much of his life pretending to have been born in Kenya. After all, if your first book is an exploration of racial identity and has the working title “Journeys in Black and White,” being born in Hawaii doesn’t really help. It’s entirely irrelevant to the twin pillars of contemporary black grievance — American slavery and European imperialism. To 99.99 percent of people, Hawaii is a luxury-vacation destination and nothing else. Whereas Kenya puts you at the heart of what, in an otherwise notably orderly decolonization process by the British, was a bitter and violent struggle against the white man’s rule. Cool! The composite chicks dig it, and the literary agents.

And where’s the harm in it? Everybody does it — at least in the circles in which Obama hangs. At Harvard Law School, where young Barack was “the first African-American president of The Harvard Law Review,” there’s no end of famous firsts: As The Fordham Law Review reported, “Harvard Law School hired its first woman of color, Elizabeth Warren, in 1995.” …

In 1984, when “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee” was cooking up a storm, the young Obama was still trying to figure out his name: He’d been “Barry” up till then. According to his recently discovered New York girlfriend, back when she dated him he was “BAR-ack,” emphasis on the first syllable, as in barracks, which is how his dad was known back in Kenya. Later in the Eighties, he decided “BAR-ack” was too British, and modified it to “Ba-RACK.” Some years ago, on Fox News, Bob Beckel criticized me for mispronouncing Barack Obama’s name. My mistake. All I did was say it the way they’ve always said it back in Kenya. But Obama himself didn’t finally decide what his name was or how to say it until he was pushing 30. In the shifting sands of identity, he picked his crabs carefully.

“I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then,” says Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people — his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. . . . So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

In a postmodern America, the things that Gatsby attempted to fake — an elite schooling — Obama actually had; the things that Gatsby attempted to obscure — the impoverished roots — merely add to Obama’s luster. Gatsby claimed to have gone to Oxford, but nobody knew him there because he never went; Obama had a million bucks’ worth of elite education at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard Law, and still nobody knew him (“Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him”). In that sense, Obama out-Gatsbys Gatsby…

21 May 2012

$225,000 Lamborghini With Unskilled Driver

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How embarrassing!

20 May 2012

Obama Mysteries


click on image for larger version

Hat tip to Roger Kimball

20 May 2012

New Steak Cut


Gizmodo has the news on a new cut of steak that before long will be coming to the meat counter near you.

A self-proclaimed Meat Geek has teamed up with Oklahoma State University to devise the first new style of steak in years.

“The Vegas Strip Steak is the latest and perhaps last steak to be found from the beef carcass,” said Jacob Nelson, a value-added meat processing specialist (and owner of the best job title of all time) at the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center of Oklahoma State University. The Vegas Strip is the brainchild of Tony Mata, of industry group Mata & Associates, who approached Nelson and the FAPC for help developing the cut. “Initially, the cut was labeled as undervalued,” Mata told the Drovers Cattle Network. “Whenever we can take a muscle and turn it into a steak rather than grinding it or selling it as a roast, we are adding value to the carcass.”

The steak itself weighs in at about 14 ounces and can be portioned out as small as 4 ounces. The taste, tenderness, and flavor are reportedly akin to a New York Strip or Flat Iron cut. “The tenderness of the Vegas Strip Steak is comparable to the New York Strip Steak,” said Mata. “It does not require aging or marinating to achieve tenderness and its visual appeal enhances the steak eater’s overall enjoyment.” …

Most interesting is the fact that this new cut of meat apparently counts as intellectual property, replete with its own licensing and a patent on the cut’s fabrication. Mata and Gresh have yet to reveal where, exactly, the cut comes from but they’ve already lined up national suppliers so we should be getting a taste of Vegas at the local butcher shop soon.

20 May 2012

Animated History of Europe

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From a Bulgarian source, an animated history of Europe from the Early Middle Ages showing how countries and empires came and went and boundaries changed. Look at what happened to Lithuania!

19 May 2012

Ten Foreign Words


I hate the slideshow format, whose only purpose is to extract as many clicks as possible out of you to up that website’s stats, but this one does have some amusing offerings worth a look. Example: (German) Backpfeifengesicht “a face in need of a good slap.”

19 May 2012

Amusing Photo

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click on picture for larger image

This came my way on Facebook without attribution or explanation. I tried researching it with small success. The photo clearly comes from Russia, and that front goose looking sideways is a Photoshop addition.

19 May 2012

A Fox Lives in Pimlico

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The Baltimore Sun reports that today’s Preakness is going to have an additional, non-ticket-buying spectator. A red fox has taken up residence in the Baltimore race course grounds.

Dickie Small grew up fox hunting with his family in Baltimore County, and the veteran horse trainer has occasionally seen the skittish red or gray creatures running around various tracks over the years. So the sight of a red fox at Pimlico Race Course early one morning last month did not make Small blink.

The difference with this fox became quickly apparent — it kept coming out of its den, almost on a daily basis.

“If it rains, it stays in,” Small said Friday. “And sometimes it oversleeps.”

It has been spotted several times this week on or near the track as exercise riders took their horses out for an early morning workout. There have been rumors, at this stage unfounded, that one brave soul has been feeding the fox cat food.

“Most of the horses treat it like it’s a dog, they ignore it,” Small said. “Most of the riders don’t pay attention to it either. But one boy was scared and kept saying, ‘Get away, get away.’ He ended up getting dropped [fell off his horse] and had to walk back.”

Jack Sisterson, assistant trainer for Kentucky Derby champion I’ll Have Another, said he saw the fox Friday for the second time this week.

“He stays on the grass [of the turf track] and will put his paw or whatever you call it on the turf, but when the horses come by, he’ll jump back on the grass and sort of hang out watching,” Sisterson said. “It’s kind of amusing.”

Track officials don’t appear too concerned about the fox making a surprise appearance during Saturday’s running of the 137th Preakness Stakes. The last fox to have an impact on the race was Sly Fox, the 1898 champion.

In fact, Small said as more people showed up this week for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the fox seemed to be content staying in its den. Small thinks the fox lives somewhere near the infield — “around the tote board,” he said — and would likely be sleeping off a feast of trackside flowers by the time the tens of thousands begin to show up for the big race.

18 May 2012

Orange County Mystery

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Orange County Health Care Agency photo of the two rocks picked up on San Onofre State Beach

LA Times:

The case of an Orange County woman severely burned after rocks collected last weekend from San Onofre State Beach ignited in her pocket has puzzled scientists, who say they’ve never seen anything like it and aren’t quite sure how it happened. …

The 43-year-old San Clemente woman, who remained hospitalized Thursday with second- and third-degree burns, visited the northern San Diego County beach last Saturday with her family, authorities said. Her name has not been released.

Her children collected rocks, including two that were distinctive — one was large and a marbled gray; the other much smaller and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green.

Both of the beach stones were streaked and flecked with bright orange.

The mother put the rocks in her right pocket and went home. Then they suddenly ignited.

Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from her shorts. She had second- and third-degree burns from her right knee to her right thigh, with second-degree burns on her hands. Her husband also had burns on his hands from trying to help her.

The Orange County Health Care Agency examined the two rocks, and tests revealed a “phosphorous substance” on the rocks, which now have been sent to a state laboratory for further testing, said Tricia Landquist, an agency spokeswoman.

That discovery, however, has only added to the mystery.

Scientists wondered: How does a chemical like phosphorus wind up on a Southern California beach? And why did a substance so volatile not burst into flames sooner?

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

18 May 2012

The Fraudulent Promise of Collectivist Statism

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Hugh Kingsmill, “The Genealogy of Hitler”, section 1, The Poisoned Crown (1944):

Most of the avoidable suffering in life springs from our attempts to escape the unavoidable suffering inherent in the fragmentary nature of our present existence. We expect immortal satisfactions from mortal conditions, and lasting and perfect happiness in the midst of universal change. To encourage this expectation, to persuade mankind that the ideal is realizable in this world, after a few preliminary changes in external conditions, is the distinguishing mark of all charlatans, whether in thought or action.

18 May 2012

Inside Story Worse Than the Rumors

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John O. Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President

Michael A. Walsh, in the New York Post, spills the beans on the damaging leak which has seriously compromised relations between British and American intelligence services.

So that “CIA coup” in Yemen against another al Qaeda underwear bomber turns out to actually have been a joint Saudi-British intelligence operation — which apparently was prematurely terminated thanks to flapping lips on this side of the Atlantic.

So the leak didn’t just blow our chances to nail the notorious bomb designer behind the plot, Ibrahim al-Asiri, and put the life of the double agent in mortal danger for no reason.

It also seriously damaged Langley’s relationship with its foreign counterparts, who now understand that operational security and the lives of their operatives mean nothing to us (not in an election year, anyway).

Which makes it even more important to find out: Who leaked?

The betting starts with former CIA official John Brennan, the White House’s deputy nationalsecurity adviser for counterterrorism. Shortly after details about the operation leaked to the Associated Press via unnamed “officials,” Brennan took to the airwaves to crow publicly about how the wedgie bomber was “no longer a threat to the American people.”

And the AP admitted it cleared its story with the feds in advance.

The uncharitable immediately saw this naked self-aggrandizement as a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to take political credit for something it had almost nothing to do with.

Read the whole thing.

17 May 2012

Rare $3 Coin Expected to Fetch Four Million

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The Daily Mail:

A $3 cold coin is expected to fetch $4 million when it goes up for auction next month.

The 1870-S is one of just two ever made and is one of the rarest coins in US history.

It was discovered in a San Francisco bookshop in 1997 by a European tourist, who found it glued to the inside pages of a souvenir book.

The collector sat on his unbelievable find for 15 years, before bringing it to auction at the Four Seasons Auction Gallery outside Atlanta, Georgia.

The coin was produced by the San Francisco mint on special order of the mint superintendent, originally meant to be placed in the cornerstone of a building in the city.

It was made from a special cast that had a unique ‘S’ hand-carved into it. The ‘S’ is what makes the coin so rare.

When the coin in the cornerstone was damaged and removed, a second copy was cast.

That duplicate is on display at the American Numismatic Association Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2007, it was valued at $4 million.

Appraisers aren’t certain of the origin of the coin that is going on the auction block next month.

It could be the original that was taken from the cornerstone of the building. Or, it could be a third copy that was made and never reported.

photos of book & coin

I’ve found old stamps, stock certificates, and letters and inscriptions from famous people (Lord Grey of Fallodon and Siegfried Sasoon) in old books myself.

16 May 2012

Universal Education, the Democrat Party, and the Modern City

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Dan Greenfield describes the symbiotic relationship of three key manifestations of modernity.

Universalizing college has not universalized education; it has not made us a better educated country, only a dumber one. Universal education has led to dumbed-down education and meaningless degrees. The only way we could keep moving more and more students up the ladder was by making the ladder as short as possible. Promotion, populist education and educators who barely knew more than the students have taken care of the rest.

A college degree was once a mark of distinction, now it’s a checkmark even for jobs that don’t have any innate reason for requiring it, and fortunes have been spent by government and students just to “stay in place” with the jobs of yesterdays high school graduates going to tomorrow’s college grads.

The primary purpose of a degree in many fields is to provide demonstrable proof to prospective employers that you aren’t an idiot. A high school degree once served that purpose. Now not even a college degree does. But with a surplus of job-seekers, it’s a useful way to winnow down the stack of applications to people who can analyze the heteronormative subtext of a detergent commercial and have few options for employment because of their massive student loan debt.

Treating college as the new high school hasn’t benefited students who waste four years of their lives and pick up staggering debts which make it harder for them to buy homes and start families, but it has benefited the liberal arts infrastructure, which, despite the liberal spin, is just as good at handing out useless degrees with no career path as any for-profit college. And it has benefited the Democratic Party, which rightly sees college campuses as recruitment grounds and liberal-voter-training seminars. …

Manhattan, home to Barnard, its sibling Columbia, NYU, Pace, and dozens of others, has one leading line of work, the restaurant business. The restaurant business doesn’t require a degree, just the willingness of pretty white people with student debt to wait tables at below minimum wage, and of some of the city’s three million illegal aliens to work illegally in the back. The city used to make things, now it makes sandwiches for Chinese tourists going to see a Disney musical on Broadway. Students dissatisfied with the low wages are, according to the erratically reliable New York Post, working at strip clubs. Fidel Castro boasted, that in Cuba, even the prostitutes have university degrees. Adopting the socialist degrees for everyone approach means we can now say the same thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

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