Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
December 9, 2010 - December 2, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

For a Change:

Some Good News

What Q's been up to lately in the weapons game.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING. This post is really only a pointer to an article everyone should read every word of. I guarantee you it's the best news you've heard since the November election. It's about the sabotage that has seriously damaged and delayed the Iranian nuclear program. Without dropping a bunker-busting bomb or firing a single shot. A few short teaser quotes:


In the 20th century, this would have been a job for James Bond.

The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.

But in the 21st century, Bond doesn't get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Iran's nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe...


The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.


At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges' control panel.

At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant's massive steam turbine.


The nuclear facility in Iran runs an “air gap” security system, meaning it has no connections to the Web, making it secure from outside penetration. Stuxnet was designed and sent into the area around Iran's Natanz nuclear power plant -- just how may never be known -- to infect a number of computers on the assumption that someone working in the plant would take work home on a flash drive, acquire the worm and then bring it back to the plant.


Masking itself from the plant's security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no malfunctions in the operating system.

Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.


One additional impact that can be attributed to the worm, according to David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Studies, is that “the lives of the scientists working in the facility have become a living hell because of counter-intelligence agents brought into the plant” to battle the breach. Ironically, even after its discovery, the worm has succeeded in slowing down Iran's reputed effort to build an atomic weapon. And Langer says that the efforts by the Iranians to cleanse Stuxnet from their system “will probably take another year to complete,” and during that time the plant will not be able to function anywhere normally.


So. Whodunnit? Find the best guess here.

You're welcome...

Men's Hats

There was a whole episode of Justified about the hat.

FOLLOW-UP. As sometimes happens, I wrote a post that inadvertently brought up a whole new, probably more interesting topic. In this case, it's men's hats. I'm sympathetic but also cautious and skeptical. The hat thing can be done, but it has to be absolutely right. There's no margin for error. A few weeks ago I saw a man in the newest Jag convertible sportscar wearing a beret. He simply glowed with the coolness he thought he was exuding. He looked like a smacked ass. Kind of like that self-important, self-proclaimed genius on Mythbusters:

A month or so ago, a family outing took us to the Cowtown rodeo (cool), where my son-in-law got his first mass exposure to cowboy hats. He was infatuated. He tried on several in the presence of his wife, who shrugged and turned thumbs down every time. Subsequently, he bought one somewhere else. I haven't seen it. It might be cool. It might not. I can tell you the missus loves Raylan's hat (above), but she hasn't exactly been agitating for me to get one like it. So there you go. I admire the aspiration toward hattedness, but I'm also mindful that it's incredibly risky. Which is also cool. Men are risk-takers or they're not, you know, men.

There's no doubt that the best bet is the fedora, which is an excellent way to bring out your inner Bogart. Yet it's also extremely problematical. For example, who doesn't love this version?

It's handsome as hell, but it's also a beautiful copy of the model worn by Indiana Jones. You see the problem. I'm truly sensitive to the fact that (as one of our commenters pointed out) men may actually need hats to protect their progressively more, uh, unprotected scalps from the dangers of the sun. I don't envy them the decisions they have to make. I'd like to be able to offer positive guidance, but the best I can muster is a few clear vetos.

1. No berets. You'll just have to imagine the boldface type and flashing colors behind that sentence.

2. Nothing short-brimmed like the old guys at Walmart and in creaky Dodge Darts driving 40 in a 50 mph zone wear.

3. I hate the new floppy-brimmed camo hats troops wear in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sorry. I understand the utility. But there's absolutely nothing cool about them.

4. I'm pretty thoroughly opposed to the old sports caps worn by fanciers of 60s British roadsters.

5. Baseball caps should be worn by baseball players. Only baseball catchers can wear them backwards, underneath their facemasks.

I guess everything else is okay. I mean, tophats are gorgeous and ennobling, but where can you wear them? And Panamas make every man into a possible spy until he leaves the tropics. It's complicated. Do what seems right for you. As long as you bond with the hat and your wife or girlfriend doesn't giggle when you put it on.

I know. Pretty lame, eh? I'm open to more sophisticated analysis if you have it to offer.

Yup. I've got the trenchcoat. But not the hat. Maybe I should. Or not.

THE COWBOY HAT ADDENDUM. I've seen them all my life, but here's the first real disquisition I've seen on the subject. Courtesy of commenter Allen:

Hats should be both functional and provide a sense of individuality to the wearer.

Berets? Never. It's an affectation unless you are serving in the military. Speaking of which, when the US Army went to the black beret for everyone it was an "everyone is special" moment common to kindergarten. Damn it, I earned my black beret, lo, those many years ago.

Hats should also fit the local climate and culture. A nice fedora in New York City doesn't wear the same in Santa Fe.

Choosing a cowboy hat, as with how best to train a horse, is a much debated subject with fierce adherents on all sides but some common principles.

You need several; as with clothing, different occasions require different hats. If you are into the western horse thing, you need a riding hat. Never clean it unless you like to be seen as the ever constant greenhorn. It should also have stampede strings where you are allowed to flex your stylistic urges, mildly.

You should have both a summer and winter cowboy hat for more formal occasions, like taking your lady out on the town. I prefer a black one in the winter and a white one in the summer. These hats must be kept scrupulously clean and blocked.

The hatband is where you are allowed to express yourself, but it should be something personal. For the black one I have the skin from a Mojave Green rattlesnake that my lady killed when it came too close to her children. For the white one a multi-color horsehair braid that I was given by a member of the tribal council that I have dealings with.

Finally, you need a cowboy hat for outdoors work. Your riding hat will do nicely, but I prefer a light straw cowboy hat with plenty of ventilation.

There is one last caveat. If your lady sees you in any of these hats and frowns or laughs, never wear it again.

I think I covered the last point for all hats in all walks of life above. But maybe it's even more serious in this instance. Thank you, Allen. You're a hat man. I'm not. I bow to your superior experience and expertise.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Four B's of Men's Fashion

Whatever you do, pay no attention to THIS guy.
The world's leading spokesman for 'neutrals' and
'Everything goes with everything else.' uh, Wrong.

HISTORY MATTERS. Since nobody cares about new Obama theories, I'm going to talk about something important. Men's fashion works in decade cycles. The 1950s were a freak show of beige suits, wide lapels and loud, short ties. The 1960s were reactionary and far spiffier, lots of dark suits, narrow lapels and skinny ties that reached almost to the belt. The 1970s were a complete disaster -- double-wide lapels, doubleknit suits, and a psychotic mixing of patterns among suits, shirts, and ties. The "greedy" 1980s were another highpoint, a classic Wall Street look of white shirts and tailored suits with lapels and ties of just the right width. Then the 1990s came, and the question seemed to be, 'How much seventies stuff could we get away with now?' Answer: Pretty much everything except doubleknit, only less with the width, please. Result: awful.

Which brings us to the 2000's. By the book, it should have been a good-looking decade for menswear. But it wasn't. Isn't. Tailoring, lapels, and tie width have returned to esthetically correct proportions, but there's something going on with patterns and colors that shouldn't be. Men have somehow gotten the idea that everything goes with everything. It's not true. The fabrics are great, the stripes and windowpane checks and argyles are all nice enough, but it's suddenly become the rage to dress like a cuisinart of patterns and colors. Bright pink ties with busy shirts and gangster-striped suits. Some of the suits even have four or five buttons, and the firmament is beginning to collapse. What's going on?

Gayness. Metrosexuality. Herd instinct. Men who need help.

Why I'm offering some rules. I call my prescription the "Four B's." What does that mean? Beau Brummel and Brooks Brothers. It was Beau Brummel who laid down the foundation of all modern menswear, postulating that men are not male birds; their impact should consist of themselves, not their duds. He counseled black as the default male color, solid, stolid, and never wrong. Brooks Brothers interpreted Beau Brummel for the twentieth century: dark blue suits, white shirts, and quietly elegant ties incapable of distracting from the character of a man's face. They were right, with a few very minor exceptions. Hence, my rules for the coming decade, which I can only hope will make the 2000s an anomaly rather than the beginning of a pernicious new trend.

1. It's really hard to improve on a white shirt.

Let's face facts. Men aren't any good at dreaming up 'outfits.' Forget all that metrosexual talk about 'neutrals' and the appropriateness of mixing stripes, checks, etc, as long as there's some difference of scale. Men can't do that. We wind up looking as if we'd been dressed by our wives or girlfriends (best case) or our mothers (worst case). The only 'neutral' we can or need to understand is a white shirt. The only thing that forgives us automatically for all our other combining decisions. And, yeah, I'm deliberately and ostentatiously excluding the blue shirt and the white collar with some other color shirting (Brit Hume take note), because as we get older, every deviation from the utmost simplicity makes us look like we're trying to be younger than we really are. And when we're young, it's still wrong to put on something that makes the world think, "He's young enough to get away with it." Which means we're not really men yet. See? Also: forget the button-down collars. The one thing Brooks Brothers got consistently wrong. In old age, William F. Buckley looked like the oldest prep school senior in history.

2. Avoid suits that cause people to see the pattern before they see you.

Maybe you want to look like a racetrack tout from a Damon Runyon story or a gunsel from a Raymond Chandler novel. Stifle that urge. It's a character defect. Men are not a package or a fashion statement. If there's anything to them, they're themselves. The only thing anyone should ever think about your clothing is that you're well dressed, not dressed up. If they see you approaching and think, "Wow. The stripes on that suit are killer" rather than "Here's Bill, looking great again," you've screwed up.

3. Ties are not your natural enemy, but they sure can be.

Remember that the knot of your tie is just below your face. Women have labored for thousands of years to get men to look into their eyes before ogling their breasts. Ties should not be substitute breasts. I have chuckled for decades about the term 'power ties,' be they yellow, salmon, or -- as in our day -- poisonous pink. So-called power ties are nothing but men's cleavage. They're not about power at all; they're about sexual ego, which should flow not from fabric but the eyes. Women who display cleavage also make up their eyes to return the attention where it belongs. Men can't do that. Result: Power ties make you look like a damn peacock, bird brain highlighted. How to pick a tie? Muted elegance of pattern, quality of fabric, and -- if you must make a statement -- a neutral metallic like silver that says you'll learn nothing about this man unless you meet his eyes and face. Also: Never pink. An absolutely ironclad rule with no exceptions. Windsor knots okay with Windsor collars, double Windsors never, under any circumstances. Finally, the new ego statement of disdaining a tie, like that creep on the Fox Business Channel, is the biggest loser statement of all. It's like not wearing pants, the first thing anyone notices about you and a thing that's bound to catalyze automatic judgments before they see anything of you as an actual person. It's obnoxious, moronic, and rightly frowned upon.

4. Don't draw disproportionate attention to any part of your attire.

This is a follow-on to the previous rule. Wearing a suit with no tie is an example of this rule. But so is wearing flashy suspenders with no suit jacket. You are not what you are wearing. Every time the first thing someone notices about you is what you're wearing or not wearing, you become a woman, subject to the same arbitrary judgmentalism. When they move into fashion critique mode, you become an object, not a person. For the same reason, do not affect Gucci loafers or a Rolex watch. (Gaudy accessories are always gaudier on men.) They should always observe that you are nicely appointed, not that here are some spectacular accessories containing a male of the species.

5. Always err on the side of simplicity.

I've covered the white shirt part. This is analogous. Don't mix dramatics. If your suit has a pattern people might notice, wear a solid color tie. When you dress for business, don't wear any loud or bright colors. You're not Beyonce and you shouldn't be. If you're casually dressed up for a party and your slacks have a pattern, wear a blazer and a solid color tie. If your blazer is camel colored, wear a red tie. Period. If you feel compelled to wear a red vest with your camel blazer, wear dark slacks and a tartan tie. Don't mix patterns.People will talk.

6. Color rules for men are absolute.

Blue suit? Black shoes. Brown shoes brand you, quite literally, as a Nazi. (Why did the Nazis have such great uniforms? Because Germans have the worst color sense of any people in the western world. If you doubt me, go to Germany. The Frankfurt Airport alone will precipitate esthetic nausea. Probably why they've been such a problem for the rest of us.)  Don't mix browns or beiges with black. Ever. Don't wear black suits. (Sorry, Beau). They make you look like an undertaker. If you wear a black blazer, your tie can be any color but brown or beige. If you wear black slacks, your shoes and socks must also be black. In that case your sportcoat can be any color but brown or beige, and your tie the same. Why? Because if you have a brown tweed sportcoat, why are you also wearing black shoes? Don't wear pastels. Ever. They're for women. Period.

7. Don't ever try to be cute or whimsical.

It always makes you look like an asshole. No matter how you think you look in some specific context, imagine how you'd look at a 7-11 in the ghetto. Don't wear corduroys with whales on them. Don't wear prismatic sportcoats or trousers. If you must wear leather, be prepared to back it up or don't put it on. Period.

8. Don't ever wear white sneakers.

Men don't do that.

9. Denim is a two-edged sword and time is not on your side.

Some older men can wear jeans. Most shouldn't. Why? Because men's asses get flat and awful, and whether you think you're telling the world how youthful you are or not, the world sees an old guy with a flat ass and a Viagra prescription.

10. Clothes make the man, but only if there was a man inside to begin with.

Yeah. You can wear whatever you want -- all my rules aside -- but you better have a face and eyes to back it all up. I call this one the Alpha Rule. I wear whatever I want. Why? Because I mostly follow my own rules AND I never go anywhere anymore. Because I have nothing left to prove.

Thing is, I know a bunch of you are saying, 'This doesn't apply to me' because they wear tracksuits everywhere and jeans so huge nobody could ever mistake them for Beau Brummel, and all I have to say to you is this: They're ALL judging you, every moment of every day. The same way you judge women, with the flick of an eye, everyone is also judging you. Not whether they'd jump in the sack with you or not, but whether they'd trust you, hire you, or believe in what you have to say. If you short-circuit their appraisal process by the way you dress, you're making yourself a loser. Because there's no upside to men's fashion. It's all downside. Everything they notice about the way you dress is a distraction from the only thing you have to offer: what's behind those eyes of yours.

Best example? Barack Obama. Best dressed politician since JFK. What did he achieve by his wardrobe? Only transparency. His beautiful suits and faultless taste never became an issue separating us from his character. A luxury no woman has.

P.S. In case you think I've been too harsh, here are are two hints, one from my long departed dad and one from the master of all punks. 1) There's no such thing as being over-dressed for an occasion; and 2) You can't ever have enough leather jackets and coats if your preference is denim pants.

P.P.S. If you're a punk, boots and boot chains are also necessary. If you can pull it off. Which reminds me of the InstaPunk fashion code, one rule only: Dress like a toff from the waist up and like a biker from the waist down. It's worked for me since long before most of you were born.

P.P.P.S. Uncharacteristically, this post was vetted by three longtime friends and commenters. All of them wanted pictures to illustrate my points, not that they disagreed with my analysis or my rules. Which is why I'm soliciting those images from you. Go for it. I'll post an Addendum if you'll offer up pictures tied to specific parts of the post. Deal? A couple wanted bad examples from network, cable news, and sports shows. A third wanted GOOD examples -- how men should look -- from Brooks, J. Peterman, etc. Do what you will. I'm stunned by how seriously they all took a post I regarded as a day off. Shows what I know.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


The Mandarin Model

Obama's our very own China Girl.

CHINKS.2.1-10. I'm just playing with ideas here, but I think they're worth some thought because they offer a different perspective on the inexplicable activities of the bizarre administration that seems intent on transforming America into something else. But what else?

That's my starting point. Some questions nobody's explained to my satisfaction:

1. What's behind the feverish, almost frenzied hatred by the American left for all things traditional in our history and culture?

The corollary of this question is one I have asked here before: What's the "liberal" vision no one on the left ever seems able -- or willing -- to articulate to us backward common folk? You know, the vision that justifies their seeming disgust with the very existence of human beings, especially self-empowered Christian human beings, on planet earth. What is it exactly that they don't want to share with us? And why do they get so exorbitantly offended when commoners like us describe their economically punitive motives as "socialist" or "marxist"?

I think I know the answer. Fear of the exponentially increasing uncertainties associated with the progress that flows from free human enterprise. In the Internet Age they have come to see basic human freedom as an inevitably implosive anarchy which must be stopped. Except at the fringes, they're not actually suicidally opposed to their own species. And it's not that they misunderstand the superior potentials for change and progress associated with capitalism. Which is also to say that they are not guilty of the baffling crime of illogic we usually indict them for: believing that the failed economic models of Marx and Lenin and Mao and Castro are truly more efficient, equitable, or conducive to mass prosperity. It's that they have come to regard prosperity itself as the prime threat to the survival of humanity on earth. Prosperity propels unlimited innovation, geometrically increasing change, and the potential for untold catastrophes through unintended consequences. The motivating human liberalism by which they all claim to be inspired has made them Luddites.

With supreme irony, the people who call themselves progressives fear continued progress as the worst of all dangers to humanity. Their modestly arrogant (or arrogantly modest) objective is simply to halt progress as most of us define it and convince us that older simpler days were morally superior.

Only they're trying to make this reactionary cultural argument via blog, cellphone, tweet, and podcast. Without blowing their cover as far-seeing, forward-thinking idealists.

That's the reason for the frenzy. They can't cop to a retro pessimism their brave liberal predecessors would scorn. They're all the boy with his finger in the dike, trying futilely to hold back the deluge of the future that ordinary human hope, aspiration, hard work, and determination will unleash like a murderous tsunami on all of us.

Truth is, if you want to see grim pessimism, look first to the self-proclaimed smartest and most thoughtful among us.

[The explanation of why highly educated Jews support Obama despite his unmistakeable anti-Jewish prejudice. Jews are, as always, the archetype of objective, intellectual cognitive dissonance. They're the most fervently anti-Jewish because they know how much they can accomplish in impossibly short increments of time. If you're terrified of the risks of progress, anti-Jew is the only way to go.]

It's also the reason for all the duplicities. Because even their lies are analogous to their secret truths. Well, maybe they'll concede in private that they've overstated the threat of Global Warming, but they had only the best intentions. The accelerating curve of human change absolutely has to be slowed down, and this was an argument they thought even the stupid people might accept. AGW is only a symbol of a greater danger that is (to them) absolutely true and absolutely perilous: Mankind cannot survive the leaps and bounds of progress of another American Century. Why they show no perceptible guilt when confronted with their obvious lies.

2. If our president is really a socialist-Marxist by upbringing, why is he working hand-in-glove with Wall Street financiers, why do those financiers continue to work hand-in-glove with him, and why does he sometimes seem to fulfill the definition of early 20th century European fascist as much as late 20th century European socialist?

I told you I'm playing with ideas here. But it should be clear by now that Obama is not Chavez or Castro. He may be redistributing income, but he is not appropriating capital or blatantly nationalizing industries in the same way that even the Brit and French socialist parties once did. That's why it's even possible to make the fascist argument -- government joins hands with corporate oligarchies to control the economy even as it pretends to be on the side of the working man. Yet it doesn't quite work, does it? Fascism tends to be nationalist. It postulates external enemies and uses its partnerships with corporate capital to create jobs very directly, usually by pumping capital assets into manufacturing jobs associated with armaments. That's how Hitler and Mussolini put their depressed nations back to work. Why fascism leads inevitably to war. On the other hand, if Obama is a secret Marixist, why has he connived in the illusions that Wall Street, Detroit auto companies, and other beneficiaries of the TARP fiasco are actually repaying their debts and returning to market competition (uh, not really)? How does it help a Marxist ideologue to promote the idea that free market capitalism is making a comeback after an unfortunate but decidedly temporary intervention of government?

These questions are pertinent even if repayment of TARP funds and the restoration of free market principles are illusory. The narrative does not support the Marxist argument, and the specific means and results are not consistent with the fascist argument.

Which brings us back to the frequently leveled charge of incompetence. Except that the Obama administration has not been particularly incompetent. The ObamaCare bill alone is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed since the Johnson administration, and the trillion dollar stimulus bill is not far behind it in terms of consequence. No administration has succeeded in spending so much taxpayer money or accumulating so much government power, including the incredibly portentous federalization of student loans, since FDR. And despite broken promises regarding Guantanamo, Iraq, and income taxes, there is no pundit who can proclaim with certainty that Obama will not be reelected in 2012.

Furthermore, the Obama administration has been spectacularly diligent at using federal agencies -- by some means fair but mostly foul-- to begin bypassing congress and other democratic American institutions in extending government controls into areas where the legislative and even the judicial processes have historically failed (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). If they succeed, the result will be a loss of personal liberty and legal recourse by individuals unprecedented in American history. Note that even partial and incomplete successes will stifle American initiative and the freedom of the individual. If your aim is merely expansion of government, that's hardly incompetent. It may be sinister, unconstitutional, and downright terrifying, but it's hardly a definition of incompetent, which would be "unable to do what you intend because you lack the skills or intelligence or experience required."

Again, I think I have a possible answer to the contradictions. Contrary to many of the speculations, including ours, Obama is not an ideologue in the purely political sense. He is, rather, a post-ideologue, what we might call a pragmatic messiah.

3. What is the real meaning of Obama's background, mission, and sense of himself as an anointed savior?

I think I've been asking the right questions all along. (I'll leave it to you all to make the appropriate citations.) I never thought his goal was defined in European terms. If he was a muslim child in the far east, he was also an American visitor in the most heavily populated region of the world, where the American economic model was proliferating in ways no one could have foreseen, with one country after another bursting to life in terms of capitalist economics, technology, and common aspiration. He was a witness to the unbounded, and unregulated, consequences of the American Way unleashed on a world that had long been governed more by tradition than freedom.

As a result, I don't think he is as much an enemy of America as he is of the American Way leading the world into a technological chaos we're not prepared for. I don't think he's as much a Marxist as a Luddite. I don't think he's as much a totalitarian Maoist as a Mandarin.

Running the country in ancient China involved passing written tests, not Kung Fu.

I do think he's planning to slow it all down, dumb it all down, knowing full well that his rockhead putative allies have it in their power -- via stultifying regulations and stagnating economic policies -- to recreate something like the old Chinese dynastic cycle, in which a durable professional bureaucracy staffed by expert "Mandarins" ultimately forced every new emperor into the mold of his predecessors. Here's an overview of China and a modernist interpretation of that country's history he can't, as a student of Marxism, be wholly unfamiliar with. One trenchant quote.

Naito Torajiro argued that China reached "modernity" during its mid-Imperial period, centuries before Europe. He believed that the reform of the civil service into a meritocratic system and the disappearance of the ancient Chinese nobility from the bureaucracy constituted a modern society. As noted above, some world-systems analysts such as Janet Abu-Lughod thought China invented capitalism during this period with the rise of a monied economy and the invention of paper currency.

The problem associated with this approach is the subjective use of "modern" and "capitalist". The old nobility had been in decline since the Qin dynasty. While the exams were meritocratic, most examinees were of the gentry background. Expertise in the Confucian classics did not guarantee competent bureaucrats who could manage public works or prepare a budget. The early capitalists theory is also unsound in that merchants were at the bottom of the four occupations due to Confucianism's hostility to commerce. The social goal was to invest in land and enter the gentry, ideas more similar to the physiocrats than that of Adam Smith.

I repeat, it's well documented that Obama's a student of Marxism. Which means he probably knows more than you do about this:

During a four-year period from 1958 to 1962, Mao Zedong oversaw the deaths of about half of all the people who died during all of the famines of the twentieth century. In his haunting new book, Frank Dikötter carefully weighs the available archival evidence and “conservatively puts the number of premature deaths at a minimum of 45 million”...

Mao’s famine was a consequence of a fantastical initiative, a “Great Leap Forward” into Communism, that he believed would turn China into an economic powerhouse, catapulting over its rivals in the Communist and non-Communist blocs...

In his sickening hubris, Mao had meddled with centuries-old traditions of Chinese rural livelihood. Like Stalin did in the Ukraine in 1932-1933, he also used terror to exacerbate the suffering. When crop yields in the communes came up short, local party officials, terrified of being purged as 3.6 million others were during the Great Leap, fudged the numbers. Beijing then used these phony stats to determine how much grain should be expropriated from the farms (for the hungry in the cities, for impressionable governments in Cuba, Albania and elsewhere in the developing world, for the feasts that would mark the tenth anniversary of the Chinese Revolution in 1959, and so on). When the communes could not produce the food demanded by the state, rampaging cadres (themselves worried about being purged) were unleashed to find the grain hidden by those now branded “class enemies.” Dikötter estimates that 6 to 8 percent of the famine’s victims (at least 2.5 million people) were tortured to death or summarily killed by cadres.

Why he may no longer be a Marxist.

Obama thinks he knows better. He'd prefer being a Mandarin to being Mao. He's not a communist internationalist. He's an emperor. He thinks the best way to save America -- much like the equally unclothed Ron Paul -- is to isolate his nation as much as possible from the world at large, abandoning overt attempts to control other nations, and reestablish a dynastic bureaucracy of the kind that used ordinary paperwork to suppress Chinese innovation for centuries and keep the people safe by only modest oppression. Obama may be positively inspired by the fact that it was a dynastic custom of the Chinese census never to report more than 60 million as the population. Stasis is preferable to dangerous change. He sees himself as Ch'in (builder of the Great Wall), the oppressor who in a few brutal years laid down the framework for 2,000 years of stability and relative freedom from outside interference (Change we can believe in?). I'm thinking that's the real long-term "vision" of so-called American progressives. They don't really hate us. They just fear and mistrust our vitality as a contagion that could destroy the world as they want to keep it.

It's the residue of Obama's Marxism we should be skeptical about. The belief that history and human destiny are still somehow controllable by the pronouncements of the smartest rationalists. Ch'in equals Mao, except that Mao had every reason to know better what he was doing. The last things Obama doesn't understand: 1) He can't be Ch'in OR Mao without losing his soul, because no mere man is a messiah, and 2) Just how many of us remain eager for the adventure of human life, whatever highs and lows it brings. His arrogance is not that he regards himself as smarter than all human ingenuity and aspiration, but that we need to be protected from these things by a dull, depressive bureaucrat of life like him.

And I think he's looking forward to a monument like the one Ch'in established for himself:

We can only hope he doesn't intend to bury exact likenesses
of American troops with the arid body of his own damn self.

Clay armies. What a perfect symbol for a messiah with feet of clay.

Worth a thought or two by two or three of you on Pearl Harbor Day?

P.S. Two birthdays that also coincide with Pearl Harbor Day. My grandfather's (1885)  And Tom Waits (1949).

Don't ask why this particular song. The lyrics never know what the music means.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Number One?

The Auburn University Campus. Just because it's a parking garage,
don't be making assumptions that will upset the NCAA. They know.

THE INTEGRITY OF COLLEGE SPORTS. I wish I understood what this controversy about Heisman candidate Cam Newton was all about. But I don't. The record shows that he's legally registered as a student at Auburn  University, where he has an athletic scholarship. What's the problem, anyone? There's no unfair recruiting here. Cam Newton had to meet the same admission criteria as every other Auburn student:

It's a very demanding admission test. Ask anyone.

If you want verification, write Auburn University, a.k.a. Famous Alabama Artists School of Matriculation, P.O. Box 1948, Auburn, Alabama, 123432. The university president, Dr. Knute Lombardi, Phd., will be happy to respond to all inquiries personally. He'd like you to know beforehand, though, that his school's graduates average $2 million a year in income in such specialties as NFL football, fine art, and, uh, other kinds of art. Auburn University employs tenured professors in numbers approaching double digits, and they have published the usual number of peer-reviewed papers you'd expect in such subjects as middle linebacking for big bucks, tracing with crayons, waving at mom on camera, tricking the idiots at the NCAA, and identifying your NFL locker without actually being able to read. 

Auburn University also once had a Roads Scholar. Something involving an armadillo at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

Finally, the issue with Cam Newton has all been a huge misunderstanding. He is a completely legal and legitimate college athlete under NCAA rules. His athletic scholarship is valued at precisely the $505,206.45 a year Auburn charges its 70 students for tuition, board, books, and fees (subject to refunds after the NFL draft). If you've been wondering why you never met an Auburn graduate at your place of work, wonder no more. They're above your pay grade.

Any further questions?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Science Day:


What if they were all smart, logical, and could recognize us individually?

DREXELITES. Intelligence is a function of human scientists. You can pretty much prove that to yourself by the alacrity with which human scientists have always explained away signs of animal intelligence. Consciousness, logic, and real problem-solving ability are unique by-products of an evolutionary accident associated with the only hairless primate. Any signs of these properties in other species is easily explained away by projection -- the desire to see ourselves in species we're fond of -- most of whom do not have PhDs from Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge. QED.

Apes and dogs are skilled imitators, driven wholly by instinct, and when we think we see signs of reason, love, humor, and even deception in their behavior, we are imputing to them what are probably Judeo-Christian delusions designed to reinforce fallacious assumptions about meaning in the universe. Truth? They're all dumb as rocks. Dogs lick us the way they lick their private parts, and what they learn they learn to get their next meal or a better place by the fire.

Unless not all animal intelligence is a function of some desire to please a human who owns all the available comforts. Exhibits IV through VI.

Crows don't want to be our pets. Evidence suggests they don't like us very much at all. But if they're this smart, isn't it possible that smart is a property of life, the universe itself, and the process by which life comes into being?

No. Of course not. I apologize. Only scientists possess intelligence. Otherwise, why wouldn't they grant that some humans beside themselves might possess it also? Since that's a non-starter, it's pretty obvious they know better, as they have ever since they decided Isaac Newton himself couldn't hold a candle to their own miraculously superior insight about the nature of existence.

Here endeth Science Day.

Science Day:

Uh, Life is Cleverer
Than We Thought...

DREXELITES. All right. So space travel isn't about NASA anymore. NASA is about, uh, evolution. Come again? Exhibit III:

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.

Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.

Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?"

So life isn't what they've been telling us it is. That's cool. But doesn't it make the whole subject a shade less deterministic and accidental than they've been insisting it is? Like, maybe life will find a way to be? And what the hell is life anyway? If it actually, uh, wants to be, independent of the rigid chemical rules organic chemists have been insisting on for two centuries, then shouldn't we be looking harder for some kind of intention or intelligence inside the chemistry?

Nah. I didn't mean to overspeak myself. I'm sure they have a perfect explanation for any deviations from orthodoxy up their sleeve. Intelligence cannot, will not, won't ever be involved in the basic life process. It's simply an emergent property of a certain freakish kind of mammalian brain.

Forget I said anything. I already have.

Science Day:

Secret Space Travel

DREXELITES. Well, at least scientists in the academy and government are, at heart, principled altruists. They're here to serve us all, meaning humanity as a whole, even us dummies, and they would never deliberately keep us in the dark about what they're doing with all that grant money and government support. Because if there's anybody anywhere who wants to protect us from the mindless machinations of the military, it's scientists. Exhibit II:

The U.S. Air Force's secrecy-shrouded X-37B unmanned spaceplane returned to Earth early Friday after more than seven months in orbit on a classified mission, officials said.

The winged craft autonomously landed at at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Vandenburg spokesman Jeremy Eggers said.

"It's very exciting," Eggers said of the 1:16 a.m. PST landing.

The X-37B was launched by an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 22, 2010, with a maximum mission duration of 270 days.

Also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, the Boeing-built spacecraft was originally a NASA project before being taken over by the military.

The Air Force has not said whether it carried anything in its cargo bay, but insists the primary purpose of the mission was to test the craft itself.

"We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission," program manager Lt. Col. Troy Giese said in a statement.

"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office," Giese said.

Eggers said the craft is expected to return to space next year.

"I understand they are looking to do that in the spring of 2011," he told The Associated Press.

Officials have made public only a general description of the mission objectives: testing of guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection and autonomous operation in orbit, re-entry and landing.

However, the ultimate purpose of the X-37B and details about the craft have longed remained a mystery, though experts said the spacecraft was intended to speed up development of combat-support systems and weapons systems.

Well, they'd tell us everything if they didn't have a good reason for keeping us ordinary folks in the dark. You know. There are times when they just know better. Like with Global Warming and all.

But they'd let us know if it was important. Right?

Science Day:

Global Warming Meltdown

DREXELITES. While Washington, DC, is seized with the incredibly complex dilemma of whether or not to raise taxes on entrepreneurs during the weakest, most jobless economic recovery since WWII, I've decided to devote today to our leading candidate for new national religion -- science. Because scientists know so much, and they're so smart and open and sharing and wise in the ways of nature and social organization. We'll get through this hard patch because we have them to tell us what to do, how to do it and why, which is that they're the only ones we can really trust to know what's what in this great big universe of ours.

One slight problem is that like our superlatively brilliant president, they can lose their audience when the facts don't quite measure up to the condescending lectures. Exhibit I:

Scams die hard, but eventually they die, and when they do, nobody wants to get close to the corpse. You can get all the hotel rooms you want this week in Cancun.

The global-warming caravan has moved on, bound for a destination in oblivion. The United Nations is hanging the usual lamb chop in the window this week in Mexico for the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, but the Washington guests are staying home. Nobody wants to get the smell of the corpse on their clothes.

Everybody who imagined himself anybody raced to Copenhagen last year for the global-warming summit, renamed "climate change" when the globe began to cool, as it does from time to time. Some 45,000 delegates, "activists," business representatives and the usual retinue of journalists registered for the party in Copenhagen. This year, only 1,234 journalists registered for the Cancun beach party. The only story there is that there's no story there. The U.N. organizers glumly concede that Cancun won't amount to anything, even by U.N. standards.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, who wrote and sponsored the cap-and-trade legislation last year, says he'll be too busy with congressional business (buying stamps for the Christmas cards and getting a haircut and a shoeshine) even to think about going to Cancun. Last year, he joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi and dozens of other congressmen in taking staffers and spouses to the party in Copenhagen. The junket cost taxpayers $400,000, but Copenhagen is a friendly town and a good time was had by all. This year, they're all staying home, learning to live like lame ducks.

The Senate's California ladies, cheerleaders for the global-warming scam only yesterday, can't get far enough away from Cancun this year. Dianne Feinstein says she's not even thinking about the weather. "I haven't really thought about [Cancun], to be honest with you," she tells Politico, the Capitol Hill daily. She still loves the scam, but "no - no, no, no, it's just that I'm not on a committee related to it." She's grateful for small blessings.

Barbara Boxer, who was proud to make global warming her "signature" issue only last year, obviously regards that signature now to be a forgery. She would like to be in Cancun, but she has to stay home to wash her hair. She's not even sending anyone from her staff, willing as congressional staffers always are to party on the taxpayer dime. "I'm sending a statement to Cancun." (Stop the press for that.)

This is another lesson that Washington's swamp fevers inevitably subside.

Well, maybe they can invent some new facts the dummies in the American populace will like more.The saddest thing is the impact on our sainted Speaker of the House:

The only global-warming news of this week was the announcement that the House Select Committee on Global Warming would die with the 111th Congress. Mrs. Pelosi established the committee three years ago to beat the eardrums of one and all, a platform for endless argle-bargle about the causes and effects of climate change.

Awww. Our sympathetic requiem for Pelosi's Planet Passion:

With all that silicone in her chest, Globular Warming was the best we could do. She was HOT. Right up until the meltdown. Sad.

P.S. Hotair has its own poll up today. Go ahead. Answer it. All the questions are dumb, but we might as well chime in too. (When they ask about the biggest issue of the past year, they don't even list Health Care as a choice.) They pretend they want to know which other websites they should listen to. Guess who I said.

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