Of cowboys and cow dung

March 30th, 2014

Peter Bogdanovich has a delightful piece on Scott Eyman’s new book about Duke Morrison, the American screen cowboy. One of the roles that transformed his career was about a tough cattle drive. Gotta get those cows to move their hind quarters quickly to their last roundup. That was then.

Sadly, this is now: Mark Steyn has a mooving commentary on America’s (and the West’s) current take on the bovine posterior. (BTW, if you’re interested in cutting government waste, every one of these horses’s patoots could be downsized.)

Unusual development in the SP

March 29th, 2014

If you don’t have a narrative of your own, you’re using the other guy’s narrative. Roger Simon says why that’s a bad idea, both stylistically and substantively. One fellow who is breaking the mold is Rand Paul. Whatever you think of his other merits, he’s doing something very unusual for the Stupid Party: going on Smiley and West (where he got a lot of respect from the call-in audience BTW), going to Detroit and then following up substantively on that trip, and to Berkeley, where he apparently got a standing ovation for torching the NSA. In each case he sought pretty successfully to use areas of common ground with his audience. As we said, unusual for the Stupid Party, but then again not as stupid as focusing over and over on 2 or 3 counties in places like Florida and Ohio to try to eke out 334,000 votes to just squeak by in an election.

Picture worth a thousand words…….and from “must” to “should” in 5 years

March 28th, 2014

Here’s the picture. (It’s not even the faculty lounge that’s doing America’s business; it’s the freshman dorm.) Here are Krauthammer’s thousand words (747 actually). Krauthammer’s piece raises a very interesting point about how things have changed over the last five years. Five years ago, the world was told what it “must” do — over two dozen times in the Cairo speech alone. Now, as Krauthammer points out, the operative word is not “must”, but “should”. As a mental exercise, try to imagine yourself lecturing a billion or more people on what they “must” do. Hmmmmm…

BTW, it’s not as though there are easy answers to these logical responses by Russia, etc, to America’s empty bloviating at this point, but speeding to energy independence, reversing course on Iran, not cutting the military, empowering a red-tape-cutting task force on the economy, and using Google and Yelp and GrubHub as metaphors for health care rather than the USSR — these could be a start.

Science, religion, etc.

March 27th, 2014

Fred Singer:

tipping points occur quite frequently in science. I have personally witnessed two paradigm shifts where world scientific opinion changed rapidly — almost overnight. One was in Cosmology, where the “Steady State” theory of the Universe was replaced by the “Big Bang.” This shift was confirmed by the discovery of the “microwave background radiation,” which has already garnered Nobel prizes, and will likely get more. The other major shift occurred in Continental Drift. After being denounced by the Science Establishment, the hypothesis of Alfred Wegener, initially based on approximate relations between South America and Africa, was dramatically confirmed by the discovery of “sea-floor spreading.”

Thomas Kuhn: “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced.” Precisely.

Then and now

March 26th, 2014

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

News flash from 13,978,000,000 years ago

March 25th, 2014

Telegraph:

the Bicep2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation) telescope at the Amundsen-Scott polar base in Antarctica has found conclusive evidence for the existence of gravity waves, colossal ripples in space-time that pervade today’s universe and which were formed when the cosmos was just 10 to the minus 35 seconds old – a length of time shorter than it would take the Starship Enterprise to cross from one side of a grain of sand to another.

If this is confirmed, it will be the final experimental vindication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It will show once and for all that the notion that our universe began with a colossal explosion of matter and energy 13,978,000,000 years ago – the Big Bang – is correct. But the implications are more profound even than that. The existence of gravity waves is the “smoking gun” for the controversial theory of cosmic inflation, the idea that right at the start of the universe, nearly 14 billion years ago, everything underwent a colossally fast period of expansion – the “B of the Bang”, if you like.

If cosmic inflation, which we need in order to explain several weird facts about our universe, is correct, then this provides strong support for the notion of the “multiverse”; the idea that what we see when we look up at the night sky is but a gnat on the back of the elephant that is the true totality of creation. The existence of gravity waves is strong evidence that “our” universe may not only exist alongside an infinite number of parallel worlds, but may itself be infinite in extent, containing endless copies of our galaxy – and indeed our world and you and me – located countless trillions of light years apart…

why do we need inflation? It was first proposed in the early 1980s by cosmologists led by Andrei Linde and Alan Guth (who were at the press conference yesterday, looking very happy) to explain some problems with the original Big Bang idea. The main one is that deep space looks much the same in every direction. There are no gigantic “gaps” – no galaxies in some places and agglomerations in others – which is what you would expect if you had a simple explosion of matter and energy. Instead, the idea behind inflation is that right at the start of the “Bang”, a period of unimaginable, hyper-fast expansion, billions of times faster than light-speed would smooth out the unevenness, much in the way that pulling on a crumpled sheet will make it flat and even.

The implications of inflation are mind-boggling. Few cosmologists believe that if inflation happened it would have produced a universe only as big as the one we can see. The observable “edge” of our universe, the so-called “Hubble Volume”, is a sphere of space about 93 billion light years across, containing maybe half a trillion galaxies, each containing roughly the same number of stars (altogether about as many stars as there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth). A magnificent entity.

But that vast ensemble only encompasses the parts of our universe close enough for light to have reached us since the Bang. Inflation suggests that the original expansion created a volume of space-time much, much bigger – according to some equations, infinite. And the most extraordinary thing about inflation is that as you rip apart space you create matter and energy. Not only is our universe probably infinite in size, but it is studded with an infinite amount of stars and galaxies.

Wretchard has lots more. This is quite a decade. It was only two years ago that the existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed.

Low, going lower

March 24th, 2014

In a world where this is considered normal, this is what you get. They sow not; neither do they reap. But they sure can complain and lecture.

Lighter side: Moonglow and a scene from Picnic.

Wheels within wheels

March 23rd, 2014

Henry Kissinger:

For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one…

Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century…Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia…

Ukrainians…live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939, when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian, became part of Ukraine only in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up.

Roger Kimball has lots more. This is certainly more complex than the US simpletons on either side of the issue make out.

(For today’s light reading, Clarice’s pieces are simultaneously funny and depressing.)

Liars and Idiots and Fine Gentlemen?

March 22nd, 2014

Some D: “a woman still earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man does.” Some R: “It’s not government, though, that creates jobs. Small business owners, entrepreneurs and innovators are the engine of job creation.” Blah, blah blah. Question: why not just go after the lie, with the obvious point that any businessman with a million dollar payroll would fire all the guys and hire all the girls if he could pocket another $230,000 by doing so? Answer: it’s called the stupid party for a reason. Final point, a little harmony: nice to hear on KPFK today that Ralph Nader is also fed up with all the lying.

From silly to pernicious

March 21st, 2014

This is mostly silly; hard to think anyone (outside of PhD’s in education) can believe such nonsense. This was pernicious, back in the bad old days of the USSR. Hey wait a minute. Haven’t those days just come back? Next stop: Azerbaijan?

Through a glass darkly no more

March 20th, 2014

Scott Johnson has a Tough Guy vs. Wimp visual that is pretty funny but misses an important point. The so-called wimp can be a tough guy — here and here are evidence as to whom he despises and is more than willing to act against. This is consistent with the standard religion of leftism by the way, that the US is an imperialist bad actor that has created enemies abroad and repression at home. Exactly what the faculty lounge is all about, but quite a bit more intense and ruthless. (BTW, these fellows and gals are often seriously lacking in historical knowledge, but they fill in the blanks with ideology; after all, truth isn’t about truth, it’s about a technique to get power to enforce equality of outcomes.)

Ah, but how did we get so far away from the America many of us know in our bones? The answers are the university and the media. 3% of Yale donations went to Romney, which is pretty good, by the way. The media are 12-1 against conservatives, which we think slightly understates the case. Still, it’s kind of shocking that things have gotten this bad this fast; yet we only have to look back to the cases of Iran and Honduras to see that the pattern was fully formed and evident years ago. But still, this far this fast? Well, citizens, pause to consider a breathtaking exercise in projection from five years ago, and consider what, unfettered, this level of narcissism has wrought. And there you have it, this far this fast…

“Foreign policy clip-joint”

March 19th, 2014

It is almost impossible to overstate the foolishness of US foreign policy these days. Wretchard gives it the old college try, but he can’t overstate it either. How can an entire establishment be so clueless as to squander most of what was so hard won from the 1940′s onward? No wonder Moshe Ya’alon is so vocal and direct in his criticisms. This didn’t begin well, and the only question is how badly it’s going to end.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

March 18th, 2014

George Will:

Here is Snyder’s distillation of a Welsh journalist’s description of a Ukrainian city: “People appeared at 2 o’clock in the morning to queue in front of shops that did not open until 7. On an average day 40,000 people would wait for bread. Those in line were so desperate to keep their places that they would cling to the belts of those immediately in front of them. . . . The waiting lasted all day, and sometimes for two. . . . Somewhere in line a woman would wail, and the moaning would echo up and down the line, so that the whole group of thousands sounded like a single animal with an elemental fear.” This, which occurred about as close to Paris as Washington is to Denver, was an engineered famine, the intended result of Stalin’s decision that agriculture should be collectivized and the “kulaks” — prosperous farmers — should be “liquidated as a class.” In January 1933, Stalin, writes Snyder, sealed Ukraine’s borders so peasants could not escape and sealed the cities so peasants could not go there to beg. By spring, more than 10,000 Ukrainians were dying each day, more than the 6,000 Jews who perished daily in Auschwitz at the peak of extermination in the spring of 1944. Soon many Ukrainian children resembled “embryos out of alcohol bottles” (Arthur Koestler’s description) and there were, in Snyder’s words, “roving bands of cannibals”: “In the villages smoke coming from a cottage chimney was a suspicious sign, since it tended to mean that cannibals were eating a kill or that families were roasting one of their members.” Snyder, a Yale historian, is judicious about estimates of Ukrainian deaths from hunger and related diseases, settling on an educated guess of approximately 3.3 million, in 1932-33.

Meanwhile, back in the late, great USA, via Bret Stephens: “What’s up, my dude!” the Canadian teen star says to the president of the United States. “What’s up, Biebs!” the president of the United States answers back.

And this: “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans.” The sole exception, he added, “was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans, mainly because I was out on the pitcher’s mound and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching.” Thanks for clearing that up

Once in a Blue Moon — not

March 17th, 2014

Roger Kimball explains why today’s problems are only the beginning for the prankster and the rest of us. Steyn rates Blue Moon. And it’s been almost fifty years, and we never knew that that’s what Eric Clapton was playing in 1967.

ACA = VA

March 16th, 2014

ACA = VA, more or less. This really wasn’t all that hard to figure out. So much for the BS. They think you’re stupid, particularly the Julias, and so far they’ve been right. But things may change

News from the insurance world

March 15th, 2014

Warren Buffett:

“I love apocalyptic predictions on it, because you’re right, it probably does affect rates. The truth is that writing U.S. hurricane insurance has been very profitable in the last five or six years. Now, the rates have come down very significantly, so we aren’t writing much, if anything, in the U.S.,” he said, adding that when it comes to weather impacts on Berkshire, “it hasn’t been true so far.”

He also likes Keystone. And in a weird moment, he revealed he bought his first stock just after Pearl Harbor.

“Sometimes-inefficient”

March 14th, 2014

NYT:

For industrial output, the expansion of 8.6 percent for the two months, compared with the same period last year, was the weakest since April 2009. Retail sales growth, at 11.8 percent, was the weakest since early 2011. Investment in fixed assets rose 17.9 percent, the weakest pace in more than a decade. The January and February figures were grouped together to reduce distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, which moves from year to year and can fall in either month. To some extent, the slowdown in China’s growth is the result of deliberate engineering by policy makers. Beijing realizes that the economy must shift away from exports and heavy manufacturing, and toward consumption-led growth,. At the same time, it is trying to rein in the sometimes-inefficient lending that has taken place during the last few years

Sometimes-inefficient lending? Could this rather inappropriate delicate tone have anything to do with China’s kicking NYT reporters out of the country?

Final point: check out the CSFB chart in this piece.

Don’t be a Silly Billy

March 13th, 2014

Imagining a public figure giving unusual responses to the media.

“You think that 9996 parts of the air have no power but that 4 bits are going to cause a catastrophe? Go out for a walk and don’t be a Silly Billy.”

“You think in the 21st century that human nature has changed since the days of Cain and Abel? Lose the progress metaphor and don’t be a Silly Billy.”

“You think that centralizing health care is a good thing? Learn something from Wikipedia and the app store and don’t be a Silly Billy.”

Must be better ways, but the tone ought to be scorn without anger.

The university, the media, and the rest of us

March 12th, 2014

Gallup has a poll showing what people from L to R and in-between care about. It’s a little surprising in that there’s so much agreement on important things. OTOH, here’s a typical college voting 26-3 in favor of nonsense. The media, of course, are just like the college kids: they’ve mostly never worked a day in their lives in the real world, i.e., the private sector. Too bad politics is downstream of culture.

Dots

March 11th, 2014

CNN:

The passengers are Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, and Pouri Nourmohammadi, 18. They entered Malaysia on February 28 using valid Iranian passports. To fly out of Malaysia, Reza and Nourmohammadi used passports that were stolen in Thailand, a booming market for stolen passports. The passports belonged to citizens of Italy and Austria…Authorities said they don’t know how Reza and Nourmohammadi came to possess the passports.

On Saturday, Reza used the Italian’s passport; Nourmohammadi used the Austrian’s. According to Thai police, an Iranian man named Kazem Ali bought one-way tickets for the men, describing them as friends who wanted to return home to Europe. While Ali made the initial booking by telephone, Ali or someone acting on his behalf paid cash for the tickets, police said.

The tickets were purchased at the same time from China Southern Airlines in Thailand’s baht currency and at identical prices, according to China’s official e-ticket verification system Travelsky. The ticket numbers are consecutive, implying they were issued together.

Both were for travel from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam via Beijing. The ticket for the man who was using the Italian passport continued to Copenhagen, Denmark. The ticket for the holder of the Austrian passport ended in Frankfurt, Germany.

We have no idea where this is heading, but there so far seems to be an absence of information on the 29 year old. The Daily Mail has a piece with many photos of those who were on the plane.