Sunday, August 28, 2011

“I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived.”

Mark Steyn:

The Desperation-of-Deprivation Myth

Television, we’re told, favors strong images — Nixon sweaty and unshaven, Kennedy groomed and glamorous, etc. But, in this instance, the security guard’s analysis, shared by three-quarters of the panel, was entirely at odds with the visual evidence: There was no “impoverished society.” The preceding film had shown a neat subdivision of pleasant red-brick maisonettes set in relatively landscaped grounds. There was grass, and it looked maintained. Granted, it was not as bucolic as my beloved New Hampshire, but, compared to the brutalized concrete bunkers in which the French and the Swedes entomb their seething Muslim populations, it was nothing to riot over. Nonetheless, someone explained that these riotous Mancunian youth were growing up in “deprivation,” and the rioters themselves seemed disposed to agree. Like they say in West Side Story, “I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived.” We’ve so accepted the correlation that we don’t even notice that they’re no longer deprived, but they are significantly more depraved.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Taman Shud: The world's most mysterious cold case?

Nice write-up at the Smithsonian's site on a real puzzler.

The Body on Somerton Beach

And the only thing that seems to have changed since then is that a story that began simply—with the discovery of a body on the beach on the first day of that southern summer—has become ever more mysterious. In fact, this case (which remains, theoretically at least, an active investigation) is so opaque that we still do not know the victim’s identity, have no real idea what killed him and cannot even be certain whether his death was murder or suicide.

What we can say is that the clues in the Somerton Beach mystery (or the enigma of the “Unknown Man,” as it is known Down Under) add up to one of the world’s most perplexing cold cases. It may be the most mysterious of them all.


Today marks the anniversary of the Miricle on the Vistula when Poland defeated the Red Army at Warsaw. More here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'd say "yes, but..."

Kaus poses a question that might get him in hot water with the MSM and Journolisters:

Is Obama intellectually incurious?

Both Bush and Obama seem to be incurious but in very different ways.

I think that GWB shared this trait with Sir Robert Peel:

Like all intelligent men who are not in any way creative, Sir Robert Peel was dangerously sympathetic towards the creations of others. Incapable of formulating a system, he threw himself voraciously on those he came across, and applied them more vigorously than would their inventors.

Obama strikes me as one of those people who divide knowledge into two categories: those things he knows, and those things that are unimportant. After all, he is the candidate who reportedly told a key staffer:

"I think I'm a better speech writer than my speech writers. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm a better political director than my political director."

On the specific issue of the economy, i think we are seeing the result of a curious mixture of cold cynicism and naive faith. I discussed the cynical part here. The naive faith was the belief that the economic problems of January 2009 would take care of themselves (with maybe a little help from Keynes). He, and his team,thought the economic crisis provided more opportunity than danger.

Why we still hate Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda and Her Friendly North Vietnamese Intelligence Officer

The point here is not that Jane Fonda was a witting agent of the North Vietnamese communists, because there is absolutely no evidence for such a charge. It is that she knowingly placed herself in a position in which a hostile intelligence service could exploit her fame and her contacts for both covert intelligence collection and covert propaganda operations, and that, according to the North Vietnamese themselves, one of her close contacts was a covert intelligence officer whose entire purpose in 1972 was to exploit people just like her. To imagine that he would not at least try to manipulate and exploit her is naive in the extreme.

Sometimes the slope really is slippery

Miriam's Ideas points out that George Orwell warned gun registration in Britain would eventually lead to confiscation and citizen disarmament.

George Orwell was right

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rachel Maddow endorses the Hollywood blacklist

I admit, i wasn't paying a lot of attention to cable "news" when Juan Williams got borked at NPR. I caught this gem from MSNBC when Williams did an interview last month with CSPAN.

First i just love the arrogance of the handoff between Big Keith and his dashing protege.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now to explain the NPR firing Juan Williams and how that is anything but a First Amendment issue, the 4,932nd time this has come up in the last two years—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I intend to just keep repeating it and eventually it will stick.
OLBERMANN: We have to stamp it on people‘s foreheads backward so they can read it in the mirror.

Apparently only stupid people had a problem with NPR's actions. The whole controversy was nothing more than a misunderstanding of the first amendment. Lucky for us, Rachel Maddow will keep setting us straight no matter how long it takes.

MADDOW: The short-hand headline for what happened with Mr. Williams today is Juan Williams fired from his job because of those comments about Muslims.

To be more precise about it, to be more accurate, it should be noted that Juan Williams had two jobs and he lost one of them. He lost his job on National Public Radio, which said his comments were, quote, “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.”

So, Juan Williams is no longer working for National Public Radio. That‘s true. But he most certainly did not lose his job at FOX News. In fact, today, Juan Williams was given a raise at FOX News as a result of this whole thing. Quote, “FOX News handed Williams a new three-year contract Thursday morning, in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary.”

Well, nearly $2 million. Mazel tov.

FOX News chief executive, Roger Ailes, said of Mr. Williams, quote, “He‘s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by FOX News on a daily basis.”

If you mean freedom of speech in a legal sense, constitutional sense, let‘s be clear here. This is not a First Amendment issue. Juan Williams has the right, every American citizen, has the right constitutionally to say anything that he wants. All of us do. That‘s what the First Amendment does.

The First Amendment does not guarantee you a paid job as a commentator to say what you want. Your employment as a person paid to speak is at the pleasure of your employer. In this case, it displeased Juan Williams‘ employer, at least one of them, for him to have reassured the FOX News audience he too is afraid of Muslims on airplanes and that‘s not a bigoted thing. That comment did not fly with one of the people who was paying one of the organizations that was paying Mr. Williams to say what he thinks. And so, Juan Williams lost that job.

This is not a First Amendment issue. This is an issue of what your employer is OK with.

"This is an issue of what your employer is OK with."

For sixty years the left has wailed about the horrible injustice of the Hollywood blacklist. Now, thanks to Maddow, we can see that there really was nothing to worry about.

"This is an issue of what your employer is OK with."

That really cuts to the heart of the matter with the Hollywood 10. The studios and their customers decided that they were NOT "OK with" employees who were slavish followers of bloody Joe Stalin. No big deal according to the standard set down by Rachel Maddow.

Or so one might think. As this post points out, Maddow has a somewhat schizoid take on the blacklist seasoned with a shaky grasp of the historical facts.

Maddow does exhibit some serious chops when it comes to side-stepping hard questions while pretending to answer them. She reduces the whole question to a narrow legalistic point. The questions about NPR's liberal bias and lack of ideological diversity get shunted aside. The broader issue of free discussion versus "thought crimes" is never addressed. And then she just marches right into a nice piece of Fox bashing.

The sad thing is, she is supposed to be the reasonable, smart lefty at MSNBC.

NOW defends Michelle Bachman

Little Miss Atilla is not really impressed.

Here Comes NOW . . .

Guess merging with Arianna's plantation wasn't a magic bullet after all

AOL reports disappointing ad growth

AOL Inc reported a surprise second-quarter loss on Tuesday, citing weaker-than-expected advertising growth that sent shares of the company plummeting as much as 31 percent on Tuesday.

Another chapter of history now needs a re-write

Leftist Terrorist Turned Neo-Nazi Says Was Stasi Informant Too

Horst Mahler, a former far-left lawyer now doing time in prison for Holocaust denial, has admitted to another strange twist in his head-spinning political career: He worked as an informant for East Germany's secret police -- the Stasi -- from 1967 to 1970.

Mahler has made a point of outraging the German public since the '60s. A former lawyer for the radical-left Red Army Faction (the "Baader-Meinhof gang"), he now belongs to the NPD, Germany's largest far-right party. On Sunday evidence emerged that he was an "inoffizieller Mitarbeiter" (IM), or unofficial collaborator, for the Stasi during three crucial years of his left-wing agitation. He's reportedly admitted to state investigators that the reports are true.

Near the end of the Cold War, conservatives claimed that the Soviet Bloc was sponsering terrorism. All the right-thinking people pooh-poohed the idea.

Now, after the fall of Stalin's empire, the evidence of Soviet support (if not direction) grows and grows.

Turns out the smart guys were wrong.

A lot of people owe Claire Sterling an apology.

Like a drunk stumbling through a maze in the dark

Sometimes I despair when I listen to what passes for political debate read what passes for political journalism. We are mired in the worst economy since the Great Depression, yet neither party has the vision or courage to address the grave problems that we face. Instead, they cling to their talking points and tired nostrums.

Tax the rich!
Reagan! Tax cuts!

This piece in the New Yorker suggests that the problems we face are deep-seated and novel (at least for this generation).

Mastering the Machine
How Ray Dalio built the world’s richest and strangest hedge fund
Dalio was one of those who saw disaster earlier than most:

Searching for historical precedents, Bridgewater put together detailed histories of previous credit crises, going back to Weimar Germany. The firm’s researchers also went through the public accounts of nearly all the major financial institutions in the world and constructed estimates of how much money they stood to lose from bad debts. The figure they came up with was eight hundred and thirty-nine billion dollars. Armed with this information, Dalio visited the Treasury Department in December, 2007, and met with some of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s staff. Nobody took much notice of what he said, but he went on to the White House, where he presented his numbers to some senior economic staffers. “Ray laid out the argument that the losses he foresaw in the banking system were astronomical,” a former Bush Administration official who attended the White House meeting recalled. “Everybody else was talking about liquidity. Ray was talking about solvency.”

His warnings ignored in Washington, Dalio issued more jeremiads to his clients. “If the economy goes down, it will not be a typical recession,” his newsletter said in January, 2008. Rather, it would be a disaster in which “the financial deleveraging causes a financial crisis that causes an economic crisis. . . . This continues until there is a reflation, a currency devaluation and government guarantees of the efficacy of key financial intermediaries.” As the crisis deepened, Dalio continued to assess it far more accurately than many senior policymakers did. When the government allowed Lehman Brothers to collapse, he despaired. “So, now we sit and wait to see if they have some hidden trick up their sleeves, or if they really are as reckless as they seem,” the newsletter said on September 15, 2008.

What's worrisome is that he is convinced that the current problems are not going away any time soon:

This spring, he told me that economic growth in the United States and Europe was set to slow again. This was partly because some emergency policy measures, such as the Obama Administration’s stimulus package, would soon come to an end; partly because of the chronic indebtedness that continues to weigh on these regions; and partly because China and other developing countries would be forced to take drastic policy actions to bring down inflation. Now that the slowdown appears to have arrived, Dalio thinks it will be prolonged. “We are still in a deleveraging period,” he said. “We will be in a deleveraging period for ten years or more.”

Dalio believes that some heavily indebted countries, including the United States, will eventually opt for printing money as a way to deal with their debts, which will lead to a collapse in their currency and in their bond markets. “There hasn’t been a case in history where they haven’t eventually printed money and devalued their currency,” he said. Other developed countries, particularly those tied to the euro and thus to the European Central Bank, don’t have the option of printing money and are destined to undergo “classic depressions,” Dalio said.

If leverage got us into this mess, then it makes sense explore ways in which we can avoid such problems in the future. Simon Johns suggests reforming the tax code which now favors debt over equity.

Could Tax Reform Make the Financial System Safer?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Loose lips sink ships

In From the Cold raises a delicate but important question.

Too Much Chatter

But did recent disclosures about the bin Laden raid give the Taliban an edge in downing that Chinook? So far, a definitive link hasn't been established. Indeed, our enemies in Afghanistan have been observing our special forces for almost a decade, and they've clearly learned a great deal about our tactics and techniques. We also know that Taliban gunners routinely attempt to engage our helicopters with RPGs, their preferred weapon-of-choice. Unfortunately, the enemy gets lucky once in a while, with deadly consequences for our troops.

Still, we can't completely dismiss the notion that the recent focus on special ops missions has at least affirmed our operational tendencies for enemy planners. For example, The New Yorker piece explains the use of quick reaction forces (QRFs) to supplement the primary team, providing additional airlift and fire support as necessary. When one of the HH-60s crashed while attempting to insert SEALs inside bin Laden's compound on 1 May, a Chinook from the QRF was quickly dispatched to pick up the operators and the chopper crew, once the raid was complete.

There is plenty of evidence that our enemies use open source intelligence when they plan operations. (See two examples here and here.) The attack on FOB Chapman in December 2009 demonstrated that even al Qaeda gangs in remote Waziristan have fairly sophisticated intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities.

The never-ending victory lap for taking out bin Laden has put much once secret information into the public record. This puts our forces at risk.

It is time for it to stop.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Heads on pikes

This leaker deserves a public horsewhipping.

The Harm of Leaking KIA Information to the Press

One of the most despicable reactions I have seen from the US to this incident was the fact that the initial press reports quoted an unnamed government official as confirming that the KIAs were from Seal Team 6 and the 160th Avn. Bde., which is the special ops aviation unit. This unnamed person requested anonymity because the families of the KIAs had not yet been notified.