November 28th, 2014

It’s Black Friday: skip the crowds and buy at Amazon through the neo-neocon portal

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday. The day to wait patiently in store lines for bargains—in-between bites of turkey salad sandwich, doses of Tums, and the ritual of making turkey carcass soup.

But neo-neocon readers needn’t wait in those lines if you (act of shameless self-promotion coming up) just use neo-neocon as the portal for your Amazon holiday gift purchases. Click on any of the Amazon widgets in the right sidebar (or go here if for some reason the widgets aren’t showing), and everything you buy during that visit will send a tiny bit of money my way, and it won’t cost you one extra cent. What’s more, a helpful reader has come up with a way to make neo-neocon your permanent portal for Amazon, so you won’t have to remember each time you want to buy something. Hope this works:

All I did was open amazon using your port, then copied the URL when it opened, then closed and reopened my browser, pasted in the URL and opened amazon that way, then. bookmarked it, then closed out and went back in using the new bookmark and then ordered. Hopefully the bookmark will ‘stick”.

So you can relax and just enjoy eating those leftovers to your heart’s content. And I hope that you, unlike me, have access to pecan pie. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with stupendous food, but no pecan pie, alas. However, that’s a small price to pay for all the other wonders.


[NOTE: This post is a slightly edited version of a previous post.]

November 27th, 2014

Thankful for Thanksgiving



I happen to like Thanksgiving. Always have. It’s a holiday for anyone and everyone in this country—except, of course, people who hate turkey. There are quite a few of those curmudgeonly folks, but I’m happy to report I’m not one of them. Even if the turkey ends up dry and overcooked, it’s nothing that a little gravy and cranberry sauce can’t fix. And although the turkey is the centerpiece, it’s the accompaniments that make the meal.

My theory on turkeys is that they’re like children: you coax them along and just do the best you can, but as long as you don’t utterly ruin or abuse them, they have their own innate characteristics that will manifest in the end. A dry and tough bird will be a dry and tough bird despite all that draping in fat-soaked cheesecloth, a tender and tasty one will withstand a certain amount of abuse.

One year my brother and I were cooking at my parents’ house and somehow we set the oven on “broil,” an error that was only discovered an hour before the turkey was due to be done. It was one of the best turkeys ever. Another time the turkey had turned deep bluish-purple on defrosting and was so hideous and dangerous-looking it had to be abandoned. Another terrible time, that has lived in infamy ever since, my mother decided turkey was passe and that we’d have steak on Thanksgiving.

Since I like to eat, I am drawn to the fact that Thanksgiving is a food-oriented holiday with a basic obligatory theme (turkey plus seasonal autumnal food) and almost infinite variations on that theme. Sweet potatoes? Absolutely—but oh, the myriad ways to make them, some revolting, some sublime. Pie? Of course, but what kind? And what to put on it, ice cream, whipped cream, or both?

For me, there are three traditional requirements—besides the turkey, of course. There has to be at least one pecan pie, although eating it in all its sickening sweetness can put an already-sated person right over the top. The cranberry sauce has to be made from fresh cranberries (it’s easy: cranberries, water, and sugar to taste, simmered on top of the stove till mushy and a bright deep red), and lots of it (it’s good on turkey sandwiches the next day, too).

The traditional stuffing in my family is non-traditional: a large quantity of cut-up Granny Smith apples cooked in fair amount of sherry as well as a ton of butter till a bit soft; and then mixed with prunes, almonds, and one Sara Lee poundcake reduced to crumbs by crushing with the hands.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that has a theme that is vaguely religious—giving thanks—but has no specific religious affiliation. So it’s a holiday that unites. It’s one of the least commercial holidays as well, because it involves no presents. It’s a home-based holiday, which is good, too, except for those who don’t have relatives or friends to be with. One drawback is the terribly compressed travel time; I solve that by not usually traveling very far if I can possibly help it.

The main advantage to hosting the day is having leftovers left over. The main disadvantage to hosting the day is having leftovers left over.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, filled with friends and/or family of your choice, and just the right amount of leftovers!

[NOTE: This is a repeat of a previous post, slightly edited.]

November 27th, 2014

Thoughts on Turkey Day: why don’t we eat swans anymore?

A while back, Ann Althouse asked the question “why don’t we eat swans anymore?”:

And it’s not because they don’t taste pretty darn good:

“If you want to know how it tastes, it’s “delicious — deep red, lean, lightly gamey, moist, and succulent.”

My answer to the question is that we don’t eat swans anymore because they’re too pretty, they dance too well, and they ask you not to shoot them (I was unable to format the following video so that it started at the proper point, which is around 3:45, but I suggest you start watching there, and fullscreen mode might be best):

Makarova was a magical Odette, and Nagy a wonderful prince and partner, and I had the great good fortune to see them dance in this very production many times. This pas de deux in the second act of “Swan Lake” is a brilliant exploration of the ballet’s themes of fear, flight, dawning trust, and loving surrender. Note, for example, the subtle part where the Prince goes around Odette as he tries to catch her as she tries to escape (around 5:00). I’ve never seen a prince do it better than Nagy does it here.

But there’s a common misconception about Odette, the Swan Queen, one that I’m exploiting in this post. People believe she’s a swan, but she is not a swan. She is a woman under a spell that makes her a swan by day and then allows her to turn back again to a woman by night, albeit a woman who retains some of her swannish (as opposed to swinish) nature. It is by night that she and Prince Siegried meet, so PETA can’t complain.

Some of the role’s great practitioners emphasize the woman aspect of Odette somewhat at the expense of the swan—Margot Fonteyn (fourth act pas de deux here with Nureyev), and Galina Ulanova (second act pas de deux here). Some do the opposite, and are much more swan than woman. Natalia Makarova, shown in the above clip, was wonderful for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that she gave equal measure to both swan and woman, becoming a sort of chimera of the two.

[NOTE: Here’s a previous post featuring clips of one of my absolute favorite moments in the entire ballet, the instant when Odette changes from woman back to swan.]

November 27th, 2014

Excellent advice to the media on how to avoid another Ferguson

Wouldn’t it be nice if the media would take this advice from Robert Tracinski to heart?:

1. It’s not a story until there are facts (and claims aren’t facts)…

2. Forensics is a science…

3. People are individuals, not symbols…

4. Legal procedures and privileges exist for a reason…

5. You are not the story…

Those five points are just the rough outline; you have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor of this excellent article.

Only problem is—and it’s a biggee—the media doesn’t want to avoid another Ferguson. They love the Ferguson story, the Trayvon Martin story, and the Rodney King story of yore. If such stories don’t emerge naturally, the media will create them, not avoid them. The media errors that Tracinski lists in his article are not really errors at all, they are purposeful propaganda techniques and rabble-rousing, combined with a not-immoderate degree of MSM self-puffery.

November 27th, 2014

Treatment for neuropathic pain on the horizon?

This link at Drudge caught my eye: “Scientists discover ‘off-switch’ for pain.”

That would certainly be something to be thankful for.

But then I thought, “Well, I bet it doesn’t apply to neuropathic pain.” I have a special interest in neuropathic pain, because I suffered from it for many years:

We all know what pain from an injury feels like. But if you’re fortunate, you don’t know—and will never have to learn from personal experience—what neuropathic pain is like.

Nerves ordinarily conduct pain impulses when tissues are damaged, but that sort of pain corresponds to the degree of injury and is time-limited. Once healing occurs, the pain (or almost all of it) goes away. Neuropathic pain is different; it arises from injury to the nerves themselves. They become disordered in a host of ways, and the quality of the pain impulses is quite different from that of the more familiar types of pain, and has a marked tendency to become chronic…

Not that much is known about nerve pain today, and it remains exceedingly difficult to treat. But about twenty years ago, when I began to deal with it myself, it was the relative Dark Ages of pain control.

When I hurt my arms it was terrifying; the pain felt like nothing I’d ever had before, and it was with me 24/7. The best I can do to describe it is to say that among its many horrific qualities was the feeling of having sustained a severe sunburn on the entire surface of both arms. But with a real sunburn, there are salves and ointments to apply, you know why you’re hurting, and you know that in a few days the pain will go away.

This pain was different. It waxed and waned in odd and erratic fashion, although it tended to be at its worst at night, which made sleep nearly impossible and the nights a long drawn-out torment. It wasn’t just the burning, either. There was also tingling and stabbing pain and severe achiness and exquisite sensitivity and weakness and pressure and all sorts of odd sensations that gave me the feeling that my body had become a sadistic trickster bent on driving me mad

What’s more, although most pain is a warning sign that something is being damaged (stove, hot, get away!), neuropathic pain appears to have no reasonable purpose at all. No tissue is being harmed, and yet the pain goes on and on and on. You can see why a successful treatment for neuropathic pain would be a boon to humankind.

And so, when I went to the article linked by Drudge, I was elated to see this:

In research published in the medical journal Brain, Saint Louis University researcher Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D. and colleagues within SLU, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other academic institutions have discovered a way to block a pain pathway in animal models of chronic neuropathic pain…

Now, that sounds great. Of course, there have been other promising agents that haven’t worked out. But anything that gives hope of an effective treatment for the scourge of neuropathic pain is good news indeed.

November 26th, 2014

Balance art

Here’s a nice change of pace. Patience, patience.

I find this astounding. I’m assuming it’s on the up-and-up; what do you think?

November 26th, 2014

Barack Obama, trolling Republicans

Jonah Goldberg posits that the real reason for Obama’s immigration edict is that he’s trolling Republicans:

The real goal is twofold: Cement Latinos into the Democratic coalition, and force Republicans to overreact. He can’t achieve the first if he doesn’t succeed with the second. It remains to be seen if the Republicans will let themselves be trolled into helping him.

I think it’s pretty clear that Obama’s executive action on immigration had multiple motives and goals, and that intimidating Republicans into cooperating by passing a comprehensive immigration bill was one of them. This would be a way to get what he wanted.

But if it didn’t work, he’d get what he wanted, anyway: an angry right, which he could frame as unsympathetic to suffering humanity; a compliant press, which would laud his power grab rather than criticize it; a grateful leftist base; and the voting loyalty of the Hispanic bloc.

Not bad for a day’s work.

The next important question is, of course, what will the Republicans do? I am willing to wait till the new Congress is installed and they are at full force to see—although, unfortunately, “full force” will not be full enough to either override a presidential veto or convict in the Senate after impeachment in the House. That limits Republican options to various sorts of defunding (which, if I understand it correctly, could be vetoed by Obama, especially if he doesn’t mind forcing a shutdown, which I believe he would welcome), and court cases in which I don’t think Congress will be found to have standing. That’s where the states come in; for example, Texas is planning a suit.

Many on the right believe that Boehner, McConnell, and the rest of the “establishment” Republicans would be only too happy to appease Obama (and the Chambers of Commerce) and give him what he wants in terms of immigration legislation. But I actually think that this executive action of Obama’s is less likely to earn their cooperation than before, not more. They have been disrespected by Obama, and their own Republican base is now more fired-up against anything that smacks of amnesty, work permits, or paths to citizenship.

I don’t know what Republicans really think, though, or what they’ll do. I always have assumed (and somewhere I have a post about it, although I don’t have time to find it right now) that the Republican leaders were undecided what to do about immigration, and that their own statements about how they wanted to pass a bill were political theater rather than statements of actual and specific intent.

What I do know is this: in order to stop the tyranny involved in an executive action such as Obama’s, and minus an opposition supermajority in Congress, the most important factor would be pushback from the president’s own party. After Watergate, for example, Nixon probably could have weathered an impeachment if Republicans had not turned against him and informed him of that fact. Similarly, if enough Senate Democrats were outraged enough by Obama’s action to make a two-thirds majority in the Senate for conviction, he’d be gone.

The way the system is set up, stopping tyranny or corruption is greatly eased if the integrity of our representatives trumps their party loyalty. Good luck with that; in the last fifty years, the only people I can recall demonstrating that sort of integrity in enough numbers to matter were the Republicans of the Nixon Watergate era. Prior to that, we have the time during the 30s when a significant number of Democrats opposed FDR’s court-packing scheme.

Now? I can hardly imagine it.

November 26th, 2014

The media and Brown: what’s wrong with this picture?

I was going to write a lengthy article describing how the media has distorted the facts of the Brown/Wilson case, purposely encouraging misperceptions that have led to outrage and destructive rioting. I was planning to list a whole bunch of articles, and then the omissions and/or lies in each one.

But I was overcome with a vast sense of weariness. I feel as though I’m in an ocean liner that’s taken on enough water to sink, and I’m equipped with only a teaspoon to bail it out while the entire crew is hard at work punching more holes in the hull. That may be a poor analogy, but I think you get the idea. Suffice to say that the entire MSM, the administration, the professional racemongers, and the left in all its glorious manifestations (including the preening, self-righteous Hollywood crowd, scrambling to outdo themselves in showing their allegiance with the Brown forces) were determined to make Michael Brown into the post-Trayvon martyr du jour.

No matter what the facts would reveal. Facts are for the little people.

Summary version of their general argument: Brown was unarmed. At one point, he was running away (briefly; he turned back and charged Wilson). Wilson, in the heat of being attacked by a really, really large and powerful and tremendously aggressive man, who had tried to beat him up and take his gun from him (although this last fact is usually omitted or trivialized), should have somehow figured out a way to stop him in the heat of a few seconds that did not involve shooting him.

In other words, just as in the Zimmerman case, their armchair-philosopher position is that white police officers and white-Hispanic neighborhood security watchers should just lay down and die rather than harm their aggressive black attackers. Whites have no right to self-defense when faced with an imminent threat from a black person.

However, it should go without saying—but I’ll repeat it anyway—that a person (white or black or whatever) who punches a police officer (white or black or whatever), tries to take his firearm, and keeps charging when that officer points the weapon at him and says to stop, ought to consider him or herself a dead person, because that officer has every right in the world to protect him/herself with the use of deadly or possibly-deadly force. This is particularly true if the attacker is a large strong person who could easily overpower the officer in the physical sense. Claiming that the attacker is “unarmed” is sophistry, because the attacker has shown no tendency to be deterred by the officer’s weapon and his/her own lack of weapon, and can easily disarm that officer and then will have a 100% advantage in terms of force. The only chance—the only hope—the officer has of staying on top of the threat is to actually use that weapon to stop the attacker.

In the Brown case virtually all the credible evidence seems to concur in absolving Wilson: the officer’s own testimony (which one would expect would be self-serving), the eyewitnesses (many of whom were black), and the forensic evidence.

But the court of public opinion is bound by no such constraints, unfortunately. And that court is determined to make this case conform to the Narrative. You know the drill. Racist America. Trigger-happy white cop. Gentle Giant.

[NOTE: Rich Lowry makes a good point:

…[W]e don’t try people for crimes they almost certainly didn’t commit just to satisfy a mob that will throw things at the police and burn down local businesses if it doesn’t get its way. If the grand jury had given into the pressure from the streets and indicted as an act of appeasement, the mayhem most likely would have only been delayed until the inevitable acquittal in a trial.]

November 25th, 2014

McCarthy on Obama as Alinskyite

As usual, Andrew C. McCarthy is clear and insightful. His is the best explanation of how Obama’s Alinskyite background works to direct his tactics:

…President Obama is an Alinskyite.

Alinskyites gauge the extent of their authority not by the limits of law but by the potential of raw power constrained only by political expediency. Once you grasp that, you have everything you need to know.

Alinsky’s theory of power involves co-opting the language and mores of the bourgeois society that community organizers seek to transform. The idea is that the radical in sheep’s clothing becomes politically viable. Upon acquiring power, he quietly but steadily ratchets the system in the direction of his goals. The key is never to get too far ahead of where the public is ready to go – at least while public opinion matters.

For the first six years between Obama’s assumption of office and the 2014 midterms, he was saddled with an immigration dilemma. His restive open-borders base wanted immediate, blanket amnesty, but the president knew that amnesty by executive fiat – particularly without assurances about border security – was (and remains) intensely unpopular. For all the Beltway chatter about the virtues of amnesty (under the guise of “comprehensive immigration reform”), the president knows that the House conservatives he derides for thwarting Washington’s schemes get elected because their opposition is popular with the voters back home.

For those six years, Obama played the Alinsky game of trying to appease his radical supporters while maintaining his mainstream credibility. He had three elections to worry about – his own reelection sandwiched between midterms. If, prior to 2012, he had taken the monarchical action he took Thursday night, he’d have been a one-term president. If he’d taken it before the election two weeks ago, a GOP landslide would have been assured, and even steeper than it turned out to be.

So Obama repeatedly told his base he could not simply declare an amnesty, not because he really believed he was hemmed in by law – after all, during that time he was rewriting Obamacare once a week. He did it because he needed to frame his politically expedient inaction in some story that his base might grudgingly accept, the public might find noble, and his opposition might be disarmed by.

The “rule of law” – that’s the ticket!

“I’m not a king,” said our notoriously modest king. But by Thursday night, Obama not only had no more elections to fret over; Mary Landrieu’s long-shot reelection bid – the chance to hold on to a Democratic seat in the Senate – had unofficially tanked. With no more reasons to delay or pretend, the president threw caution and the Constitution to the wind, proclaiming the amnesty he’d been insisting he was powerless to proclaim.

Indeed. And not just limited to immigration, of course. This is the way Obama operates in general. In a sense, America was not ready for it—not ready to understand it and head it off at the pass. But it another sense, America was ready for it—ready to be fooled by it.

November 25th, 2014

Justice for…[fill in the blank]

Let’s take a look at the classic depictions of Justice:


She wears a blindfold. And not because it’s Halloween. It’s because:

Lady Justice (Latin: Iustitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, who is equivalent to the Greek goddesses Themis and Dike) is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.

…Lady Justice is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her right hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her left hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.

…Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of identity, personal wealth, power, or weakness; blind justice and impartiality. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered. Justitia was only commonly represented as “blind” since about the end of the 15th century.

Reason. Justice. Objectivity. Beautiful words.

The crowds of peaceful demonstrators, and the mobs of opportunistic looters (some mix of the two), have as their rallying cry “Justice for Michael Brown.” To the first group, “justice” would have been Darren Wilson’s indictment, and then conviction. To the second, it means the payback of taking a lot of stuff for free and having the pleasure of destroying a lot of other stuff. But both pervert the meaning of the word “justice” into “it means whatever I happen to want as an end result.” Ends, not means.

Note that the crowds don’t say, “Justice for Darren Wilson.” That’s because those same crowds assume that the justice system already is not blind, and that it is always and automatically skewed in the direction of favoring the white man and the police. That actually used to be fairly uniformly true, many years ago, but it’s been a long time since it was. Nowadays when the tipping of the scales occurs, it can go in either direction, favoring either white or black, depending on the circumstances. But the goal, always, is not tipping but impartiality based on attention to evidence—both of which go to make true justice, as best we can achieve it in this flawed world.

Did I say “evidence”? In the Brown case, for many of the “justice for Brown” seekers, we don’t need no steenking evidence. But strangely enough, the grand jury probably felt it did need some, and the huge preponderance of the evidence happened to point in the direction of Wilson’s innocence.

November 25th, 2014

Understanding the nihilist in the White House

A new article of mine is up at PJ.

You’ve heard Obama called a nihilist. But is he? And if so, what type?

November 24th, 2014

Iran talks get nowhere

Of all the news that’s come out today—and there’s plenty of it—this just may be the most important, even though it’s couched as non-news:

The deadline for reaching a deal with Iran over its nuclear program expires today without the parties having reached a negotiated agreement. The negotiating period will be extended until July 1 of next year.

This development is being reported as “no deal,” but there actually is a deal of sorts here. According to the British foreign secretary, Iran will receive about $700 million per month in frozen assets. In exchange, it makes no concessions. Instead, the status quo is maintained with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.

In all likelihood, then, Iran’s economy will continue to expand. No longer will it experience the severe bite that caused it to come to the negotiating table. Thus, Iran will have even less incentive to make concessions than it has had in the run-up to the current stalemate.

Meanwhile, Obama will feel pressure to make additional concessions. Clearly, he wants a deal; otherwise he would have walked away in the face of Iran’s intransigence…

Obama’s desperation has already driven him to make a series of concessions. Lee Smith catalogues them.

Among the concessions are these:

1. Obama has offered Iran a 10-year sunset period. After 10 years, any deal would be void.

2. Obama has given up on its demands that Iran enrich no uranium at all.

3. Obama has abandoned the demand that Iran must dismantle its centrifuges.

According to Smith, there are also reports that Obama may have given up on demanding that Iran fully disclose its past activities, including possible military dimensions of the nuclear program.

Obama’s attitude towards Iran is craven, obsequious, and against the interests of the US. Exactly how this will end I do not know, but I strongly believe (and fear) that it is likely to be bad, perhaps on a major level.

One thing that seems clear to me, however, is that the Israeli leadership realizes that Obama is the enemy, and cannot be trusted in any way to help them. In fact, he may be actively harming them. Therefore they can expect nothing but trouble and double-dealing from him. They are on their own in regard to Iran, and must act accordingly.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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