January 26th, 2015

To keep up with news from Argentina…

go to Fausta’s blog.

I wonder whether anyone believes Kirchner at this point.

See also this.

January 26th, 2015

Obama the shark

And middle-class savings smells like blood in the water to him, according to Glenn Reynolds:

When a government is desperate for cash, it goes after the middle class, because that’s where the money is. Yes, the rich are rich, but the middle class is far more numerous. And this has raised other fears. As McArdle also notes, if 529 plans aren’t sacrosanct, what about Roth IRAs? People have worried for a while that the government might go after retirement accounts as another source of income — to the point that there have even been calls for Congress to make such grabs explicitly off limits. But, ultimately, no one is safe, as what is enacted by one Congress can be repealed by another.

The truth is, in our redistributionist system politicians make their careers mostly by taking money from one group of citizens that won’t vote for them and giving it to another that will. If they run short of money from traditional sources, they’ll look for new revenue wherever they can find it. And if that’s the homes and savings of the middle class, then that’s what they’ll target.

Obama running out of other people’s money? Not quite yet:

January 26th, 2015

The calm before…

…the storm.

This storm is being hyped as the storm of the century. I’ve been in quite a few of those, but I guess they were in the previous century. So we’ll see.

I really, really, realy hope not to lose power. But I think it’s likely that I will.

[NOTE: Forecast here.]

[ADDENDUM: They give names to winter storms these days, and this one is called Juno. Here’s quite a bit about the Roman goddess Juno. Metaphoric significance?]

January 26th, 2015

So, what’s up with Sarah Palin?

Long-time readers here know I’ve never joined the Palin-bashing. I’ve always thought she was pretty smart, and that most of the negative hype about her was exaggeration and/or outright lying, based not only on political animus but also on class snobbery and a profound cultural gap.

That said, I’ve always acknowledged that articulation and gravitas are not her strong suits. Ever since Palin quit the governorship of Alaska, she’s lost gravitas rather than gained it. I always figured that was her decision to make, and that she had pretty much left electoral office behind in favor of becoming a media personality, a gadfly, and backer of people in the Republican Party who agree with her conservative point of view. And that’s fine.

Lately there’s been a lot of muttering in the press about a recent statement of Palin’s that she’s thinking of running in 2016. There was an ambiguous and teasing quality to it, though; was she baiting the press?:

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, said she stood by comments she made Thursday in Las Vegas to ABC News, where she first expressed enthusiasm about potentially competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I am. As I said yesterday, I’m really interested in the opportunity to serve at some point,” Palin said Friday, as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 rival, looked on…

Palin said, “It is a significant step, of course, for anyone to publicly announce that they’re interested. Who wouldn’t be interested? Who wouldn’t be interested when they have been blessed with opportunities to speak about what is important to this country and for this country?”

Still, Palin said that she is not yet ramping up a national political operation. Instead, Palin said, she is contemplating her political future and does not feel rushed to make a final decision.

Sounds to me like she’s not running. I hope she’s not running, just as I hope Romney’s not running. There are plenty of new, fresh, conservative Republican faces with a proven track record and none of Palin’s baggage (same for Romney’s baggage). Yes, the new ones have their own baggage, and that baggage will be taken full advantage of by the MSM, of that you can be sure. But I’d much rather see someone like Scott Walker—who seems to have given a galvanizing speech at the Freedom Summit in Iowa—run. Walker is that rarity, a conservative Republican with a proven track record in a blue state, who’s been through the fire and shown true political grit.

Speaking of speeches and the Freedom Summit (although as I’ve said many times I don’t like to listen to political speeches and haven’t watched the Freedom Summit ones), apparently even Palin-supporters thought hers was pretty rambling and incoherent.

Did anyone here watch both Walker’s and Palin’s speeches? What did you think?

January 26th, 2015

La Ronde of Netflix

I’m one of those people Netflix must love.

I have the cheapest type of account, it’s true, so they don’t get too much money from me per month. But they often get it for doing relatively little or nothing at all. Although I periodically watch movies and return them fairly quickly, I also go through long arid stretches when I can’t seem to find the time or the inclination to watch a thing, and that DVD they’ve sent me (I still use that system because my TV is too old for streaming) just sits on counter or desk silently reproaching me with my shameful waste of $7.99 a month.

I have odd taste in movies. I tend to gravitate towards obscure and/or foreign ones, mostly old. This time I had gotten the French 1950 movie “La Ronde” last summer and I only got around to watching it two nights ago, which is some some sort of record even for me. It had been so long since I put the movie in my queue (love that British word!) that by the time I saw it I could no longer remember where I’d heard of it or why I’d found whatever was said about it to be compelling enough to order it.

It’s an odd, odd flick. Did I like it? Not exactly, but sort of. It was—one of my favorite words—interesting. Although it was made in France in 1950 and based on an Austrian play from 1900, it’s still a bit shocking in its cynical treatment of human sexual interactions.

And that’s pretty much all the movie is about—human sexual interactions, albeit portrayed in a stylized manner (no nudity whatsoever, for example). Each sexual encounter is represented by a fade-to-black and some characteristic waltz music, and sometimes there are clever cinematic devices such as when a carousel breaks down to show a gentleman having a bit of trouble with his own—er—apparatus, or a narrator character taking a strip of movie film and cutting it up to censor the sex scene that has just been implied previously.

The movie features all sorts of innovative camera shots and angles, I’m told, but that’s not the sort of thing I ever notice or appreciate. I’m there for the story and the acting, and any film technique is secondary or tertiary or not even on my radar screen. In “La Ronde,” for example, I was floored by the stunning youth and beauty of Simone Signoret, who was in her late 20s at the time but looked even younger, but whom I had only known from 1965′s “Ship of Fools” where, although only in her mid-40s, she had played a burnt-out case opposite Oskar Werner (the movie was pretty bad, but I remember Signoret and Werner as touching, delicate, and fascinating, and I immediately fell in love with Werner).

Max Ophuls, director of “La Ronde,” was one of many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who enriched the cinema. The movie was based on the work of the Viennese (and also Jewish) Arthur Schnitzler*, and had been written only for his friends and considered way too scandalous to produce at the time (1900). Later it was given a performance that caused a huge outcry:

Schnitzler’s play was not publicly performed until 1920, on 23 December 1920 in Berlin and 1 February 1921 in Vienna. The play elicited violent critical and popular reactions. Schnitzler suffered moralistic and personal attacks that became virulently anti-Semitic. Schnitzler was attacked as a Jewish pornographer and the outcry came to be known as the “Reigen scandal.” Despite a 1921 Berlin court verdict that dismissed charges of immorality against the play, Schnitzler withdrew La Ronde himself from public production in German-speaking countries.

The play remained popular in Russia, Czechoslovakia, and especially in France, where it was adapted for the cinema twice, in 1950 and again in 1964. In 1982, forty years after Arthur Schnitzler’s death, his son Heinrich Schnitzler released the play for German-language performances.

Not till 1982!

As I said, by modern standards the sex in the film is non-existent, merely implied. But sex is the basic theme, and the people in it are portrayed as highly cynical about their “love” lives. If one person is in love the other isn’t. If both are in love it is rare and doesn’t last long. Often there is an exploiter and an exploited, or even two exploiters. Not exactly my cup of tea, but as I said—interesting. And compared to today’s films, really quite refined.

Next on my Netflix list: “Boyhood.” I think I’ll try to take less than six months to get around to watching it.

[*NOTE: I had never heard of Schnitzler before the other evening when I watched the film. Nevertheless, in one of those odd coincidences that life seems loaded with, after seeing the film I settled in to read some more of Victor Klemperer’s Nazi-era diaries, and promptly encountered a passage in which Klemperer related a humorous anecdote he’d heard about—Arthur Schnitzler!]

January 26th, 2015

It’s probably the very least of Obama’s flaws, but…

…really, the guy seems to be highly addicted to nicotine.

I would guess he still smokes cigarettes in private, too, “occasionally” or even more frequently, because his need for Nicorette gum when he can’t go near a ciggy seems to be profound. The latest example is the uproar his gum-chewing is causing during his visit to India, but it’s happened before.

Of course, some people quit smoking entirely and yet retain their dependency on Nicorette for years; it’s not an uncommon phenomenon, and it doesn’t seem to be much of a health hazard. So it’s possible that cigarettes really are a thing of the past for Obama and yet his need for nicotine remains powerful. But whatever’s going on with the president and his love affair with Nicotine, the overwhelming need for the substance belies his image of coolness, self-control, and of course is not especially PC (particularly if he’s still smoking cigarettes). The gum-chewing doesn’t gain him respect around the world, either. But the days of Obama and widespread world respect have long been over.

January 24th, 2015

Being wrong

I first started reading blogs some time around 2002. I immediately liked them, although I no longer remember the first blogs I found and I suspect most of them are now defunct. I liked the bluntness, the honesty, the humor, and the comments sections, all so different from the newspapers that had been my major news sources previously.

I remember one of those original blogs had a joke that amused me mightily at the time. It went something like this: Hey, I think I know what’s wrong. We thought it was 9/11/2001, but actually we got the year backwards; it was really 1002.

The idea was that progress was an illusion, and that somehow through some terrible time warp or wormhole we’d been catapulted to the Middle Ages, or what used to be called the Dark Ages.

That was a joke, but not really a joke either. I’ve had occasion to think of it many times since. It seems to be a common thought among people who live in times of jarring transition.

For example, there’s this quote from a letter by Henry James, written the day after World War I (or “The Great War” as it was known prior to #II) began:

The plunge of civilization into this abyss of blood and darkness… is a thing that so gives away the whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be, with whatever abatement, gradually bettering, that to have to take it all now for what the treacherous years were all the while really making for and meaning is too tragic for any words.

You can feel James thinking how could I, how could we, have been so stupid, so wrong, about what we were living through and where the whole thing was going?

The style of the following excerpt is as different as different can be from that of Henry James. It’s more telegraphic and journalistic. But the sentiment is the same, although this time it’s from Victor Klemperer, diarist of the Third Reich, a converted Jew married to an Aryan woman and living in Dresden during the Hitler era. A scant two months after Hitler became Chancellor, Klemperer wrote:

Mood as before a pogrom in the depths of the Middle Ages…We are hostages. The dominant feeling…is that this reign of terror can hardly last long, but that its fall will bury us…In fact I feel shame more than fear, shame for Germany. I have truly always felt a German. I have always imagined: The twentieth century and Mitteleurope was different from the fourteenth century and Romania. Mistake.

It’s that one short word that overwhelms me and creates that sock-in-the-gut feeling: “mistake.” I was wrong; wrong about something hugely important. Klemperer has no false pride—he realizes immediately the enormity of his error, and the error is hardly his alone. He was, after all, a professor (a position of particular prestige in Germany) who specialized in the literature of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, that “whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be, with whatever abatement, gradually bettering…”

Klemperer, and the Reich’s, “abyss of blood and darkness” was just beginning, but Klemperer could clearly see where it was ultimately heading. He was wrong about the duration—he was underestimating the human capacity for both evil and for endurance (including his own endurance and that of his wife who, though sickly and depressed, survived the war and an astounding amount of suffering both petty and profound). But he was right that its fall “will bury us”—the Jews of Germany, and Germany itself as a bastion of culture and learning.

I have also known that feeling of “I was wrong about something extremely important.” My political change was based on a realization that I’d been wrong. More recently I’ve been wrong about what the American people will tolerate and accept in a president.

I wonder what else I’m wrong about.

[ADDENDUM: I just remembered another case of someone realizing they’d been wrong about something political and very, very important. It involves author Azar Nafisi, who originally supported the 1979 Iranian revolution and lived to regret it. The quote is from her book Reading Lolita in Tehran:

In later months and years, every once in a while Bijan [the author's husband] and I would be shocked to see the show trials of our old comrades in the U.S. on television. They eagerly denounced their past actions, their old comrades, their old selves, and confessed that they were indeed the enemies of Islam. We would watch these scenes in silence…I turned and ask Bijan, Did you ever dream that this could happen to us? He said, No, I didn’t, but I should have.]

January 24th, 2015

This seems…

…like a good idea to me:

Arizona state lawmakers have made their state the first of what could be 18 in America to require teenagers to pass the U.S. citizenship test to graduate from high school.

It’s the test immigrants have to take before they can move from a green card to a voter registration card.

North Dakota could become the second before the end of January.

Critics (and some of those critics include those on the right) say it will emphasize rote learning to pass a test, rather than a deeper understanding of history and what makes this country great. But although I agree with them in principle, there’s nothing to stop schools from teaching those things, too.

This is a minimum requirement, not a maximum, and can act as a springboard to discussion of the deeper issues. When students graduate from high school not knowing what the three branches of government are, or the difference between the Senate and the House, the basics have been utterly neglected. The basics have to be put in place before students can even begin to understand anything about the wisdom of the Founders or who to write to if they’re perturbed about local government (the latter being one of the skills some educators would like to see taught).

Here’s one of the more disturbing statistics I’ve read in a long, long time:

The Center for Education Policy conducted surveys of school districts across the nation that showed the time spent on [subjects related to civics, such as American history) in elementary schools was reduced from an average of 2,239 minutes per week [*see note below] in 2000 to 164 minutes per week in 2008, a 93 percent decrease.

And I bet that 164 minutes consists mostly of America-bashing.

This decline is not the least bit accidental. And the effects have already been seen in the dumbing-down of the voting populace.

*NOTE As commenter “Paul in Boston” pointed out below, the figures quoted are almost certainly wrong, since the number of minutes stated for 2000 would constitute more or less a full work week. However, I can’t find a link to the research, so I can’t give you the correct figures.

January 24th, 2015

Yemen, schmemen: let’s hear about those balls

I confess it: I don’t care about Tom Brady’s balls. I understand that cheating is bad and that Brady/Belichick/ThePatriots may have done just that, although they deny it. But since I basically don’t care about football I can’t get in an uproar about it, try as I may, and try as the news media may to get me stirred up about it. And they’re certainly trying.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is. But I do understand why football fans care.

However, how on earth can this be more important than, for instance, the disturbing and dangerous chaos going on in Yemen, which is barely on the radar screen for the vast majority of MSM consumers? I know the answer to that, too, and it’s a human answer: people are tired of bad news from far-off Muslim countries they can’t place on a map. The Superbowl is up-close and personal, or relatively so, even though it’s more or less irrelevant to our geopolitical future.

I can hardly fault people for being people, can I? After all, some of my best friends are people.

January 23rd, 2015

Boehner’s invite and its meaning

I hadn’t thought of this, but Caroline Glick makes a good point about the significance of Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu:

With Obama’s diplomatic policy toward Iran enabling rather than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, members of the House and Senate are seeking a credible, unwavering voice that offers an alternative path. For the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been the global leader most outspoken about the need to take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, not only for Israel’s benefit, but to protect the entire free world. From the perspective of the congressional leadership, then, inviting Netanyahu to speak was a logical move.

In the Israeli context, however, it was an astounding development. For the past generation, the Israeli Left has insisted Israel’s role on the world stage is that of a follower.

As a small, isolated nation, Israel has no choice, they say, other than to follow the lead of the West, and particularly of the White House, on all issues, even when the US president is wrong. All resistance to White House policies is dangerous and irresponsible, leaders like Herzog and Tzipi Livni continuously warn.

Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu exposes the Left’s dogma as dangerous nonsense.

Glick makes some other important points, particularly in describing a way in which Obama may have inadvertently damaged his own position by insulting the motives of anyone who opposes him on Iran—including Democrats:

[Obama] has cast proponents of sanctions – and [Democratic Senator Robert] Menendez is the co-sponsor of a pending sanctions bill – as enemies of a diplomatic strategy of dealing with Iran, and by implication, as warmongers.

Indeed, in remarks to the Democratic members of the Senate last week, Obama impugned the motivations of lawmakers who support further sanctions legislation. He indirectly alleged that they were being forced to take their positions due to pressure from their donors and others.

Menendez, who is not only the co-sponsor of the bill but the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, didn’t pull any punches in return, saying that the administration’s talking points sound like they “come straight out of Tehran.”

That’s strong rhetoric for a Democrat vis a vis Obama. The question is, how many additional Democrats feel similarly? If there are enough of them, Obama’s veto could be overriden, which would be a first. It might even be a turning point.

If so, not a moment too soon.

You can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one:

Twelve Democrats in the Senate have in the past cosponsored legislation to impose sanctions on Iran. If they all continue to call for the sanctions, it would put the Senate close to the two-thirds majority necessary to override Obama’s veto; supporters would need just one more vote if all 54 Republicans support the bill.

[Hat tip: Nolanimrod.]

[NOTE: Paul Mirengoff of Powerline asks why Obama parrots Iran’s talking points. He believes that “Obama sees Iran as the rising power in the region, and sees a grand bargain with the clerics as the solution to our woes in the Middle East.” Mirengoff speculates that Obama believes this because it “appeals to his intellectual arrogance,” is “consistent with his laziness,” and because he admires “successful anti-American strongmen” (like most leftists do).

That all seems correct, but it probably doesn’t go far enough. I believe that Obama and his main advisor, Valerie Jarrett, are both simpatico with the Iranian regime.]

January 23rd, 2015

Obama’s spitting mad…

at Netanyahu:

“We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us.

“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,” he said.

Officials in Washington said that the “chickenshit” epithet — with which an anonymous administration official branded Netanyahu several months ago — was mild compared to the language used in the White House when news of Netanyahu’s planned speech came in.

That rings way too true for our juvenile, snarky president.

And at this point, “there will be a price” is pretty much an empty threat. Obama has already spit in Bibi’s and Israel’s face so many times, and so assiduously worked against its interests, that it’s hard to see what more Obama could be threatening. Maybe to make concessions to Iran in negotiations? You can see my point.

January 23rd, 2015

Alberto Nisman: death in Argentina

Prior to today I hadn’t followed the rumors about the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, but recent developments in the case are very alarming: first reported as a suicide, it appears it was far more likely to have been murder, and not any ordinary murder. Nisman was killed on the eve of giving testimony “regarding his government’s complicity with Iran to suppress the investigation of the 1994 Jewish community center bombing.”

That government, headed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (one of those implicated in the suppression of the bombing evidence), initially brushed Nisman’s death off as suicide. Now she’s singing a different tune, one of persecution—of Cristina Kirchner, who is now suggesting “that the prosecutor’s death was part of what she hinted was a sinister plot to defame and destroy her.”

Well, I suppose it’s possible that someone other than Kirchner killed him—after all, there’s no lack of other people and other countries who must have wanted him dead—chief among them, other officials in Argentina and much of the leadership of Iran, who had apparently been in cahoots in planning a coverup about the JCC bombing’s source:

…[T]he intercepted telephone conversations [Nisman] described before his death outline an elaborate effort to reward Argentina for shipping food to Iran — and for seeking to derail the investigation into a terrorist attack in the Argentine capital that killed 85 people.

Argentine prosecutors suspect Iran of shielding guilty parties in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

The deal never materialized, the complaint says, in part because Argentine officials failed to persuade Interpol to lift the arrest warrants against Iranian officials wanted in Argentina in connection with the attack.

There’s another good post about it all at Legal Insurrection, and Fausta has a lot of information, too (see also this). The LI post and Fausta both point out an interesting fact, which is that it’s been reported that Nisman’s 10-person security guard was mysteriously absent that day.

At this point I’d say there’s about a zero-percent chance that Alberto Nisman committed suicide.

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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