Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two lumps of coal and a bundle of switches

Mark Steyn, nice:

And how does the rest of the world, of whose tender sensibilities then Senator Obama was so mindful, feel about the collapse of American consumer excess? They’re aghast, they’re terrified, they’re on a one-way express elevator down to Sub-Basement Level 37 of the abyss with no hope of putting on the brakes unless the global economy can restore aggregate demand. What does all that mumbo-jumbo about “aggregate demand” mean? Well, that’s a fancy term for you — yes, you, Joe Lardbutt, the bloated disgusting embodiment of American excess, driving around in your Chevy Behemoth, getting two blocks to the gallon as you shear the roof off the drive-thru lane to pick up your $7.93 decaf gingersnap-mocha-pepperoni-zebra mussel frappuccino, which makes for a wonderful cool refreshing thirst-quencher after you’ve been working up a sweat watching the plasma TV in your rec room all morning with the thermostat set to 87. The message from the European political class couldn’t be more straightforward: If you crass, vulgar Americans don’t ramp up the demand, we’re kaput. Unless you get back to previous levels of planet-devastating consumption, the planet is screwed.

Missed the memo

Everything old is new again:

The former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin may have killed millions of his own people but this weekend he could be chosen by Russians as their greatest-ever countryman.
Among the revisionisms discussed:

"Stalin made Russia a superpower and was one of the founders of the coalition against Hitler in World War II," says Sergei Malinkovich, leader of the St Petersburg Communist Party.
Founded the coalition via an alliance? Tricky guy that Stalin...

Friday, December 26, 2008

What Progressives Mean when They Want you to Rage Against the Machine

Why is it that the strange little world of leftism always look like the last days of Rome?

The probable appointment of Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of former President John Kennedy, to fill Secretary-of-State nominee Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat is both laughable and yet a parable for our bankrupt times.

Consider aristocratic entitlement. Ms. Kennedy apparently spends a great deal of her time divided between her Park Avenue Upper-East-Side Manhattan townhouse and her hereditary estate on Martha's Vineyard. She has had no real experience with the ordinary lives of New Yorkers, either a few dozen blocks away in Harlem (despite a sudden ad hoc lunch last week with the Rev. Sharpton at a soul food diner) or the state's rural towns to the north.
Hope and Change alert!
Ms. Kennedy is about as undiverse as one could imagine. She was educated at exclusively private schools among those of her like race and class. Her financial security is due to either inheritance or marriage; there is no evidence of a self-employed stellar legal or business career. But there is plenty of evidence that Ms. Kennedy reflects the current Democratic Party's obsession with celebrity and Hollywood-like imagery--as we see from the recent politicking of everyone from Oprah to Sean Penn, the Senate run of comedian Al Franken, and the messianic cult that surrounds Barack Obama, from his vero possumus Latin seal to his mass rallies with Greek temple backdrops.
Why the mocking tone? Clair Berlinski sums it up quite nicely in her recent book review of Bernard-Henri Lévy's "Left in Dark Times". We watch and we watch the left, waiting for them to have what I like to call a BHL moment where the ideology of the left can be put in a context where it can say something about what it purports to want to advance. They have a lot to say about the fate and comfort of the individual - but the question is as always when they paln to show it in some sensible action or even live by it themselves?
Lévy rightly scorns the relativist who has “nothing against the stoning adulterous women in Afghanistan. Nothing against mutilating the genitals of young girls;” he rightly acknowledges that the Left was blind to the evils of Stalinism and a host of other evils as well.
But he is largely alone in this, and something of an iconoclast. Sadder still he is taken by those on the left not for what he says about the lack of leadership in the face of illiberalism and the human misery that it brings, to be an opportunist playing both sides of the street. One wonders what the Caroline Kennedys of this world perceive in those matters at all. Nonetheless:
But Lévy cannot bring himself simply to reject and renounce the Left. Like a battered wife who insists from her hospital bed that she cannot leave her husband because he sends her such exquisite roses, Lévy’s beautiful memories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King prevent him, too, from petitioning for divorce. No, he argues, the Left is still the place for the pure of heart; it must only remember what it stands for, to wit, the instinct to support the Dreyfuses of the world, the “good memory of antifascism,” the lessons of anticolonialism and antitotalitarianism. This is well-meant, vaporous and empty. We remain with the question: Is it the Left or the Right that supports the Dreyfuses of the world and opposes colonialism, fascism and totalitarianism?
Berlinski though does well to describe that thing I call that Levy-esque realization.
I read these sections to a Turkish friend (I live in Istanbul) of half-formed but vaguely Leftish political sensibilities, prone, like most Turks, to believing the worst of America and raised in a climate where the proposition “Israel is the world’s worst nation” is taken as a self-evident statement on the order of “the Armenians had it coming.” When I came to the passages in which Lévy denounces the moral disgrace, the appalling apologetics, the sheer imbecility of a Left that would dismiss the suffering of the persecuted of Darfur on the grounds that to admit it might encourage the Americans—the Empire—to intervene, I saw something in his eyes that I had not seen before: a visceral and emotional understanding.

Though that viceral reaction is still just a matter of mood, and not yet a mature emotion or philosophy, it's the beginning of some more genuine relationship with what the left convinces itself is a force behind their views, and not just another evasive explanation of why their class of socially adept elite should be concidered the dramatized heroes trying to profiteer from class warfare.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Because It’s so Easy to Fill Empty Little Heads with Evil

5 minutes pour Hitler, 5 minutes pour les juifs is the logic behind the stunt. Perhaps it’s out of a desire to destroy the conventions that they had some anxiety about in youth, or out of simple weakness, this bright lot feel a need to provide an “alternative message” to Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas address on Channel 4. The Queen reflects on the year past and looks to give the listener a thought on the temperament of the year to come, but all the empty heads of the chattering class see is a bible thumper who must be “balanced out”.

To do that UK's Channel 4 has a “alternative address” set for Christmas day. Despite the tortured logic, they present their hero in that exercise. The message is to be given by the most unlikely friend of the shallow agnostics and feelies of the world, an orthodox muslim, none other than Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. A new honorary citizen of the UK, I suppose, and hero to those inclined toward “progress” and building a bridge to 1939.

As if there was really some need to “balance” Christmas, a celebration held dear to Christians worldwide, as though the “alternative” to that day didn’t already exist. In fact there are 364 “alternative” days to Christmas, and no other days of religious obligation to any other religion for which those who promote themselves as wise and reasonable, thoughtful and fair, seek an “alternative”.

The fiery Iranian leader, who has angered Western countries with his sharp comments on Israel, nuclear power, and the role of the United States in the world, will be delivering the Alternative Christmas Message on Britain's Channel 4.

The network, which calls the event a "traditional alternative to The Queen's Christmas Day broadcast," issued the preliminary text.
Behold, that’s their religion. Not Ahmedinejad’s, but that of the casual, thoughtless left. The symbolic trappings of what they think are ‘human understanding’ is to offer a platform to the leader of the most illiberal government since that of the Taliban. The “fiery” part is something they all can identify with and aspire to, I suppose. All you have to do is throw a cheap phrase about something like ‘the oppressed’ for whom AJad is more than willing to create many more of, and you have their ear.
President Ahmadinejad's address will focus on spiritual messages of seasonal
goodwill, but also contains an attack on "bullying, ill-tempered and
expansionist powers".

The speech is being promoted as an alternative to the Queen's traditional 3pm speech, but will be broadcast at 7.15pm.
Sure. That’s what Christmas is all about to these folks looking for “alternatives” to something they don’t get involved in anyway - earthly things, power struggles, fiery calls to evaporate their enemies, etcetera, etcetera.

The countervailing response is just as simple: seek an “alternative” to anything and everything these ‘men without chests’ hold dear. And they will fall for it, even after they tut-tut in the face of people pointing out the obvious. Since hating happy, normal people makes them feel smart, that too will be brushed off as a perfunctory thing that they needed to quiet the ‘intolerant’ slack-jawed peasants of this world that they must suffer on their way to the march to support their favorite “oppressed peoples” of the week.

It’s really simple: repeat, repeat, repeat, until we find ourselves wishing each other a “merry whatever.”

Today I was wished a “Happy Holidays” [sic] by someone. I relpied: ”Oh, really? What holiday is that, exactly?” We eventually got past a dim stare and a pregnant pause to a mention of Christmas on Christmas eve, on with the relief that they were “allowed” to wish it. Allowed, as if in this fine state society is in now that we congratulate ourselves for ‘liberating’ ourselves from anything fake we can invent, we are convinced that Christmas may not be mentioned at Christmas.

Remove all doubt as to just what it is that the Fuehrer of Iran is promoting: advertizing for islam on the airwaves of ‘the infidel’ on the day that matters most to those his proponents call ‘cross worshippers’, and to exploit the moment to construct the doubt necessary for his adarice for personal power.

"All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.

"Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity's rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ."

Will the luvvies who seek an “alternative” to Christmas for Christmas day be quick to find their virtues in his intentions? No. They don’t have to, because they already found it long ago, and gave the likes of Ahmedinejad the tools and platform to learn it from them. But for a moment, they might make an exception and actually not quickly look down and away at the mention of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It’s for the Children!

Along with all the usual lefty self-promotion about a new day, the evils of anyone who doesn’t agree with them, the love of children, blah-blah-blah, and the usual implausible claims and platitudes. These are the winds of hope and change coming to Washington:
A member of John Kerry's "band of brothers" pleads guilty to possessing child porn.

Remember Wade Sanders? He was one of the "band of brothers"--Swift Boat veterans who supported John Kerry's presidential campaign and appeared onstage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention before Kerry's "reporting for duty" speech.

On the campaign trail, Sanders was one of Kerry's nastiest surrogates. In August 2004, he likened the president to a "trapped animal." In September, he compared Karl Rove and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth chief John O'Neill to Josef Goebbels. He repeatedly referred to the president and his men as "chicken hawks," an especially nasty term because it is slang for a child molester as well as a derisive term for a nonveteran who favors a strong defense.
So much love and caring for humanity there, what with the left having that monopoly over it that they always seem to claim. If you haven’t heard more about the Sanders’ story to date, it’s because the press coverage has been limited largely to providing cover to a fellow traveler, and vessel for any other sort emotions as complex as a shoe-throwing.
Sanders, who also served as a deputy assistant Navy secretary during the Clinton administration, continued his anti-Bush campaign even after Kerry's defeat. In a December 2004 op-ed for the San Diego Union-Tribune, he lectured the president on "the heavy responsibility of command"
As opposed to Sanders’ inability to grasp the responsibility of actually being a man.

Two of Ohio's Joe the Plumber Snoops Quit While Another Is Fired

The Director of Ohio Jobs and Family Services Department resigned, as did an assistant, the ACFC informs us, while the Deputy Director of Child Support Enforcement was fired outright; all because of the improper use of state computer systems for attempting to 'dig dirt' on Joe the Plumber.

Meanwhile, the state prosecutor is asking questions…

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Meat, Glorious Meat

Try wearing this when you’re out on that date with the lecturesome vegetarian. Bust open the peevish little world of always being irate about others’ behavior! You know they want it!

Meet the Pretenders

Strange as it is, there are two men claiming the throne of France. I’ve even met a pair of bloggers whose subject of discussion is the advancement of the idea that some royal family should be reinstated. My sense is that a frustration with the loony state of public discussion and public policy is what compels them, but on the other hand – compared to the shallowness of European political thought, it isn’t that bad an option.

"Maybe one day the monarchy will be restored in France," said Prince Jean as he strolled around the gardens of the Palais Royal in central Paris. "The prince can't just sit back and wait. He must make his mark."

Europe has many families descended from old monarchies. But most are happy just to enjoy the social status their backgrounds confer.
Which is a lot like being a trade union rep or being in one of the syndicated industries that have whole lines of business inefficiently stitched-up.
Prince Jean does his best to live like a king.

He has no official status and little public recognition, and he has to work for a living. He has been a financial consultant, and he now works full time promoting French heritage.

But he still carries out a program of "royal" engagements, aided by a staff of 30. He tours France 10 times a year, meeting mayors and visiting factories, where he says people see him as a reminder of French history. He also makes an annual overseas visit. He has discussed foreign policy with Vatican officials, has performed a tribal dance with Houma Native Americans in Louisiana, and traveled to the North Pole to raise awareness of climate change.
As kings will do, I suppose, when they aren’t encouraging the oxidation of ferrous metals into the atmosphere.
Prince Jean says he is a modern royal, and he cultivates an appropriately modest, varied lifestyle. He rides around Paris on a rusty bicycle, and his favorite movie is "Beverly Hills Cop II." In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, windsurfing and collecting ornamental knives. If aides address him as "Your Royal Highness," he tells them: "Just call me 'Prince Jean.'"
This is the funny part though: voting with their feet, the public shows an unstated fondness for symbolic leadership, happy to let another anti-meritocracy in the form of a never-changing cadre run things. There is also a taste for hearing excessive drama in the stating of positions in the sense that a radical sounding idea leaves an impression that progress of some kind – that mythical gentle and magical age some carry around different ideas around in their heads about, is just around the corner – if we could only just imagine it. Hope and change, in the style of a mass of imagined members of an underclass cramped into a rotting gilded shanty.

Nonetheless as fashion would dictate, these two “houses” manage to squabble.
Rival Claim

The current Bourbon pretender to the French throne is Prince Louis Alphonse Duke of Anjou, who lives in Venezuela. His adviser, Jacques De Bauffremont-Courtenay, Duke of Bauffremont, declined requests for an interview with Prince Louis, but said that this lineage gave his man the best claim to the French throne.

He said that in addition to the Orléans' less-direct lineage, they had helped trigger the French Revolution by hoarding a shipment of grain sent from the U.S. in 1788. The grain was intended to relieve a famine, and a year later the starving peasants revolted.
Something they continue to do to this day. To quote Mel Brooks’ finest opus: “the peasants are revolting!” “Yeah. They stink on ice.”

The very fact that a society that avers socialistic taglines and vocabulary, but still names “Lord Mayors” and clings has a symbolic shield for every village, reveals a cognitive dissonance. It either that or a strange desire to have it both ways, or as we are more likely to find evidence of: a desire to believe in notions of equality, but being so wanting to cling to a protector and so untrusting of peoples’ choices that you conclude that a iron fist is a comfort. It’s like finding a warm-fuzzy in licking the boot that kicks you.

But the thing that is repelled against by the appeal to the notion of reinstating monarchies, the seeming chaos in society, is the same reaction that the thugs on the barricades and the skinheads in the back alleys find as pretext to act. And yet it’s that action that motivates others still to say the kids ain’t alright – which of course

they aren’t.
Every Three Days a Cemetary Get Vandalized

"Abject", "scandalous", "deeply shocking": the political class has strongly condemned the desecration whose cemetery Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (Pas-de-Calais) was the target on the night from Sunday to Yesterday, for the third time in less than twenty months. More than 500 grave markers of Muslims and a dozen Jewish graves have been vandalized. Swastikas and various messages insulting Islam and the Minister of Justice Rachida Dati have been tagged in black paint. At the mention of these acts, perpetrated on the day of Eid el-Kebir, Nicolas Sarkozy denounced a "repulsive racism."

The desecration took place between rounds of a gendarmerie patrol at around 1:45 a.m. and the arrival of a veteran at 8 a.m. The Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs, Jean-Marie Bockel, announced the installation of eight cameras around the Muslim section of the cemetary.

Last September, a dozen skinheads had been arrested after the desecration of 148 headstones.
”Classes” fending off violence by “classes”. A ubiquitous state where far and wide gangs are obsessed with race and class.

Of course the “progressives” quietly hope for a new Robbespierre to lead them to deliverance of social sameness with a regime of life-controlling regulations no different than an iron fist, and the neo-fascists look for the same warmth of being treated to the socialism of being treated like a boarding school student.

Centuries have passed, and the pretentions remains the same. Centuries have passed, and a great many Europeans still confuse responsibility with authoritarian power. It looks almost like it's that disssonance and frustration that still drives people to take shelter in the strange and hostile ideologies of neo-marxism and neo-fascism, and others to take comfort in recreating the distant past which yearns for a similar result: one where in a strange way there is no resentment for others' success or good fortune because all us peasants are equally miserable, or that an elite can justify it's power based on their thinking themselves indispensible.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reality continues to re-surface

Sometimes an article blogs itself:

Organic farmers have asked the Government for permission to take a "holiday" from strict organic standards in an attempt to survive the recession.
So what then is the point of organic farming sans the organic farming bit?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chart a course for adventure

Life imitates the Onion, Monty Python, and Zissou:

For many sea anglers it could be the end of the line. The European Union wants to impose quotas on recreational fishermen limiting the number of fish they may catch.
Assuming the sextant is ratched-up tight this story will follow the per as usual EU-course: Publication; Silence; Denial-followed-by-Enforcement (at least for those countries choosing to play pretend).

Rather like carting around a bond company stooge on the voyage (without the charm of course).

Just in Case Some Unpleasantness Starts Between Russia and Ukraine…

Lest French citizens should feel nonplussed about an (admittedly speculative) official lack of (tough and determined) response in the event of hostilities breaking out between Russia and the Ukraine, Le Monde 2 has an article and a photo essay — all of which (photos, save one, perhaps) tend to emphasize the unity of what used to be one country — pointing out that the inhabitants of the Crimea feel a lot closer to Moscow to Kiev…

Commemorative Graphic Novel for Peter Madsen's Valhalla Series

Up in the great white North, Peter Madsen is bringing his 30-year-old graphic novel series, Valhalla (TV report in Danish), to a halt, which has given rise to a surprise party for the author, along with Thierry Capezzone's commemorative album by two dozen colleagues of his (including one by yours truly in collaboration with Sam Ménétrier)…

Although Peter Madsen is best known for bringing to life the Nordic gods of the Viking sagas and other trolls, he has also done stories about a God of a quite different character (along with the story of Job and a book series about the three most important feasts in the Christian religion)…