Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slipping out of control in Alexandria, Egypt

And now the Islamists come to the end.

Clip of Cairo protests from French TV

Brave journalist...

...filing his report from an overcrowded paddy wagon.

The suburbs

While en route to looking up some other things, I found a few liberal fulminations against "suburbia". My attitude is, if liberals hadn’t spent the last 50 years decriminalizing crime, treating city services as a jobs program for democrat voters, raising the poor against the middle class, then maybe the cities wouldn’t have been so dire, sparking the exodus to the suburbs. Urban planners should spend more time respectfully listening to suburbanites, rather than just trying to sweep them back into the ant pile.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Heavy flooding in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

No one seems to be covering this in the Western press. But look at these amateur videos from YouTube:

(This one goes dark for about a minute, and then comes back on.)

Yes, that is a car carrier being swept away.

I've worked flood relief before, so my heart goes out to the people who are going to be mucking out for months to come.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A friendly note to visiting lizardoids

If you want to visit my blog, go ahead and visit! I don't mind, and I'm such small fry I doubt anyone at LGF would mind, either. I'll tell you, though: when you visit through a Google search, and then view Google's cached version, I can still see you. Viewing the cached page does not shield your visit from view. Plus, I still receive the webpage hit on the counter, not that I'm too hung up on that (I once had google ads for about a year before I ditched it, losing all of probably thirty-five cents). There's no need to go through all the cloaking contortions, because they do me no harm, and they don't seem to work anyway. So go ahead, you're welcome to visit here and come & go as you please. I won't tell.

Monday, January 24, 2011

TV vs Internet

"TV's power is serenely impervious; it does all the talking, and we can only listen or turn it off. But the internet is at least partly us; we write it as well as read it, perform for it as well as watch it, create it as well as consume it. Watching TV is a solitary activity that feels like a communal one, while the internet is a communal experience masquerading as solitude."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

We need to redistribute the wealth...

...because the rich are, like, harshing my mellow:

But recent research does suggest two other reasons why the rise in inequality is a problem. One is that rich economies seem to provide disproportionate and growing returns to the already wealthy. The other is that inequality may literally be making people miserable by increasing stress and the hormones it releases.

Time to rethink the repeal of health care reform. If we can banish the specter of socialism by tranquilizing the envious, then it may be worth the costs after all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Health insurance, car insurance...okay, here's the difference

I am required to buy auto insurance, and rightly so, if I drive my vehicle on the publicly maintained roads. If I keep it on my own property, I don't.

This is *not* the same thing as health insurance. We don't assume that the government can require you to buy health insurance just for rolling out of bed and taking a deep breath of government air. At least, we haven't up to now.

Clear now? Good. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Operation Desert Storm plus 20 years

I remember when Saddam invaded Kuwait; I knew right then there was going to be war. Thirty years prior to that, Britain had sent troops to Kuwait, to head off a threatened Iraqi invasion. Now here it had happened for real.

I remember during the run-up to the attack, I was in a restaurant. George Bush was on TV, giving a stern speech full of threats of "significant consequences" and such. A fellow sitting next to me, three sheets to the wind, turn to me and said "Bush ain't playin'!"

I also remember a monthly progressive opinion journal, maybe The Progressive, or Mother Jones, which announced a series of issues entitled Voices Of Reason. The series would consist of leftists denouncing the war, for as long as it went on. Fortunately, the war was over before the first issue hit the news stands. Ha!

Should George Bush have gone in and toppled Saddam? Well, it's been said that peacekeeping is the strategy of drawing a war out to its longest possible duration. But the agonies of the past seven years would surely have descended on us and the Iraqi people back then, had we gone with regime change at that time. Sadly, we can't just launch a barrage of JDAMs and make the whole world come out right.

The air war was viciously one-sided, and the ensuing ground war was a 100 hour romp, a tremendous boost to American morale. Months later, I went to a baseball game in Atlanta. There was a military show of equipment outside the stadium, tanks and attack helicopters. During the game, the helicopters took off, circled the stadium, and flew away. They drew the biggest roar of the day from the crowd.

Thanks to all who served.
Thanks to all who served.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cathy Hornyn's NYT article "Pushing Fashion Boundaries in an Era Without Any"...

...found here, brings to mind this 1975 quote from novelist Philip Roth:

When I was first in Czechoslovakia, it occurred to me that I work in a society where as a writer everything goes and nothing matters, while for the Czech writers I met in Prague, nothing goes and everything matters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Further thoughts on Amy Chua's Chinese mothers superiority article in the WSJ

A few more random reactions...

I once had a conversation with an Ethiopian mother at my school's skate party. She was a war / famine refugee, who had been evacuated to Europe & then moved to America. She expressed dissatisfaction with the school, and talked about what it would take to get the child into a better one. I was struck: A few years previous, this woman had been wandering in a lawless desert, eating Purina Famine Chow tossed from the back of Red Cross trucks. Now here she was trying to keep her child from falling into middle-class mediocrity in America. Man...sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see our virtues & faults anew. You've gotta respect people who glom onto this country's blessings, like cornbread sopping up gravy.

In South Korea, the day of the national college entrance exams is so important that:

* It's not uncommon for students to go to school, and then to private study halls in the evenings, studying their eyes out, and, if their parents can afford it, get private tutoring on weekends. (I know one such family that only gets all together at breakfast and 10:00pm during the school year.)
* The power company adds extra staff, to avoid power outages
* The national airline re-routes its flights, to keep from buzzing the schools
* Police provide escorts to students, dashing home & back if they forgot their tickets.

No, they don't emphasize creativity very much. But their shrewd choices of which western traits to copy, and the sheer volume of work they demand of themselves, has lifted them from a war-ravaged dictatorship to the 13th biggest economy in the world in just a few short decades.

Mao and the communist Chinese regime waged war on China's confucian heritage for decades, quite apart from the tens of millions of Chinese they killed. It's a miracle that as much of their culture has survived as it has, testifying to its resilience and deep, ancient roots in the people. I'm glad they ditched the female foot-binding, under Western influence, but the family cohesion is a wonderment, in our modern Western age of open marriage and jiffy divorce.

Oh, and is she right? Well, it's hard to argue with the academic success that the statistics point to. And the much-noted suicide rates among these ramrodded young people might usefully be placed against suicides of aimless, undirected Western youth, drowning their ennui in drink and drugs. But the Western heart revulses at the notion of children being engineered rather than raised. John Stuart Mill was consciously raised to be a prodigy, and he was. But there was only one of him, and anyway he had a mental breakdown at age 20, and later wrote about how stunted and deformed his childhood was. And early 19th Century Britain was no touchy feely encounter group, certainly.

In my childhood, nailed to the Gemara [a section of the Talmud], I led the life of a sage, and it was only later, when I was older, that I began to climb trees.
-- Isaac Babel
The mother loves her child most divinely, not when she surrounds him with comfort and anticipates his wants, but when she resolutely hold him to the highest standards and is content with nothing less than his best.
~ Hamilton Wright Mabie 1846-1916

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MSNBC refrains from jumping to conclusions

I was flipping around the news channels today, and alighted on MSNBC, discussing Jared Loughner's possible motives. The anchorette kept stressing how it was impossible to know what was in his mind, how it was too early to speculate, etc. It wasn't too early to pin the blame on the Tea Party & Sarah Palin, while the victims were still on the way to hospital, apparently. But listen at them now...proggy creeps.

Myself, I'm satisfied that the killer was a complete, knee-gnawing, maniac, no doubt picking up Radio Saturn on his bridgework. It's too bad he didn't get the help he apparently needed earlier on, but damned if I'll sit still for an "innocent until proven crazy" defense. Nor for any more criminalization-by-association of conservative ideas.

Amy Chua's "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" in the Wall Street Journal

Here, and NPR's take here. A quote:

Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable — even legally actionable — to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty — lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. ... Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently

"In Disney movies," she says, the [studious kid] always has to have a breakdown and realize that life is not all about following rules and winning prizes, and then take off her clothes and run into the ocean or something like that. But that's just Disney's way of appealing to all the people who never win any prizes. Winning prizes gives you opportunities, and that's freedom — not running into the ocean."

This style of parenting can backfire in modern day America. The education system here is conceived if not run by proggs. If children are held to concrete standards instead of airy-fairy fogbanks of cheap, meaningless praise, if they are required to respect their parents instead of regarding them as ATMs, servants, and maybe sometimes tolerable companions, if they are taught that their opinions are not epiphanies, that they are *very* like other people, that actions have consequences, hard work has rewards, that adolescence is not the same as adulthood and adulthood is not optional--then they might not grow up to be proggs. Can't have that, can we? The education system will find a way to keep these kids down, like denying them entrance to top universities, by way of racial admission quotas.

But another variable to keep in mind is that it's immigrants vs natives. Immigrants are a highly motivated fraction of the population of their old culture, whereas the natives are a top to bottom mix of the new. Not exactly an even comparison, here.

Yet another issue, which I've seen remarked upon in Korean blogs which I frequent, is that this Stakhanovite approach to schoolwork does not enhance critical thinking skills. Leave aside for a moment that "critical thinking skills" is often American wackademic-speak for leftwing goodthink. What compensates for the unimaginative testing--in Korea I've heard that the college entrance exams are mostly multiple choice--is that the sheer volume of work builds academic "muscle" and a fearsome work ethic, which is put to good use later in life. If they don't crack first.

America is a big, free country, unlike most Asian countries. There are plenty of opportunities for the outstanding, and lots of cushion for the mediocre. So ramrodding children like this is probably not necessary for them to have an adequate life. But, few parents I know wish mere adequacy for their children, out loud at least.

An interesting article, and an interesting-sounding book, and an interesting round of reactions in the blogosphere.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Rep. Gabrielle Cliffords shooting

48 hours rule, folks. We'll all still be here to insult and be insulted after the facts come out.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Best of Proggy Peace & Luv from 2010

RIP Denis Dutton

Farewell to Denis Dutton, the late proprietor of Arts and Letters Daily, one of the pioneering opinion journal portals on the web. It was remarkable how he and his associates could post three so well chosen links to slickzine think pieces each day. As Paul Harvey used to say, someone will take take his job. No one will take his place.