Joseph Epstein at The Atlantic asks, “Is Franz Kafka overrated?”
How 8 famous writers chose their pen names. George Orwell…
When Eric Arthur Blair was getting ready to publish his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, he decided to use a pen name so his family wouldn’t be embarrassed by his time in poverty. He chose the name George Orwell to reflect his love of English tradition and landscape. George is the patron saint of England and the River Orwell, a popular sailing spot, was a place he loved to visit.
It’s not unusual for Mark Steyn to have me weeping with laughter on a weekly basis, but he’s outdone himself this time. On the President confusing George Osborne with Jeffrey Osborne (known for his song “On the Wings of Love”) at the G8 Summit, Steyn comes up with a hilarious mash-up of the song and Obama’s speech…
Although Obama’s confusion went largely unreported in America, the BBC’s enterprising Eddie Mair got Jeffrey Osborne on the line and inveigled him into singing George Osborne’s best-known words — “Tax cuts should be for life, not just Christmastime” — to Jeffrey’s best-known tune. The following day Mangue Obama — whoops, my mistake, Mangue Obama was the prime minister of Equatorial Guinea from 2006 to 2008, and has a way smaller and less incompetent entourage — Barack Obama departed for Berlin (the German city, not the American songwriter or British philosopher)…If the BBC’s mash-up of Jeffrey Osborne’s 1982 Billboard hit and Chancellor Osborne’s recent speech at the Mansion House in London was something of an awkward fit, you could slip large slabs of “On the Wings of Love” into Obama’s telepromptered pap and none of the 27 Germans still awake would have noticed the difference:
Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live. Come take my hand and together we will rise, on the wings of love, up and above the clouds, the only way to fly . . . Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be, just smile for me and let the day begin. You are the sunshine that lights my heat within, and we can reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking, because we are angels in disguise, we live and breathe each other, inseparable . . . The effort to slow climate change requires bold action. For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods . . . coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise, you look at me and I begin to melt, just like the snow when a ray of sun is felt. . . . This is the future we must avert. This is the global threat of our time. . . . That is our task. We have to get to work. We’re flowing like a stream, running free, flowing on the wings of love . . .
The wings of love don’t seem to carry Obama as far as they used to. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews blamed the lackluster performance on the sun’s glare affecting his ability to read the text. That’s how bad it is: Global warming melted his prompter…Der Spiegel, which is the very definition of mainstream media in Germany, described the president’s Berlin stop as a visit by “the head of the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented” — and under the headline “Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism.” Obama isn’t a “soft” totalitarian so much as a slapdash one. His apparatchiks monitor the e-mails of both Jeffrey and George Osborne, but he still can’t tell one from the other. Likewise, in Syria as in Libya, “the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented” can’t tell a plucky freedom fighter itching to build Massachusetts in the sands of Araby from your neighborhood al-Qaeda subsidiary whose health-care plan only covers clitoridectomies.
In a futile effort to not die, CNN is re-launching Crossfire and it’s going to be terrible. On the bright side, the Republicans should win all the arguments since it’s Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp, both annoying but at least pretty intelligent, versus 9/11 truther Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter, who makes a living being a heinous liar.
Chris Stevens’ Benghazi diary reveals his brooding, yet hopeful, final days. So sad.
Check out some of the ridiculous pork in the immigration bill.
Politico laments the disaster that is Obama’s second term. Have we ever had a President who is neither feared nor respected nor liked on the world stage or at home?
Obama does not instill fear — one of the customary instruments of presidential power. Five years of experience, say lawmakers of both parties, have demonstrated that there is not a huge political or personal cost to be paid for crossing the president…Obama cannot count on friendship. There are plenty of politicians who would love the political and psychic benefits of favored status from the president. But Obama’s distant style and his insular West Wing operation have left congressional Democrats resigned, many said in interviews, to the reality that they will never be insiders and, therefore, have no special incentives to stay on Obama’s good side. Obama is not buoyed by the power of ideas.
Bret Stephens has a great piece on Obama’s impotence abroad.
At this writing, Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive National Security Agency contractor indicted on espionage charges, is in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin’s spokesman insists his government is powerless to detain him. “We have nothing to do with this story,” says Dmitri Peskov. “I don’t approve or disapprove plane tickets.” Funny how Mr. Putin always seems to discover his inner civil libertarian when it’s an opportunity to humiliate the United States. When the Russian government wants someone off Russian soil, it either removes him from it or puts him under it. Just ask investor Bill Browder, who was declared persona non grata when he tried to land in Moscow in November 2005. Or think of Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, murdered by Russian prison officials four years later…Now the U.S. finds itself in an amazing position. Merely to get the Taliban to the table for a bogus peace process, the administration agreed at Pakistan’s urging to let Mullah Omar come to the table on his owns terms: no acceptance of the Afghan Constitution, no cease-fire with international forces, not even a formal pledge to never again allow Afghanistan to become a haven for international terrorism. The U.S. also agreed, according to Pakistani sources, to allow the terrorist Haqqani network—whose exploits include the 2011 siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul—a seat at the table. Yet having legitimized Haqqani and given the Taliban everything it wanted in exchange for nothing, the U.S. finds itself being dumped by its own client government in Kabul, which can always turn to Iran as a substitute patron. Incredible: no peace, no peace process, no ally, no leverage and no moral standing, all in a single stroke. John Kerry is off to quite a start.
And from the editors of IBD…
The U.S. simply isn’t much feared or heeded anymore. Not by rivals Russia and China. Not by Hong Kong, which shares what once were our government’s economic values. And not by a leftist Latin American nation such as Ecuador, which defaulted on more than $3 billion in foreign debt, enjoys unreciprocated free-trade privileges with the U.S., and, according to Adam Issacson’s Just The Facts website, enjoyed well over $250 million in U.S. aid under Obama. Why would they? We break promises to those we commit to liberate, as in Iraq. We drag out the fighting in Afghanistan, then leave the job half-finished. We promise a missile shield to the Czechs and Poles, then renege.
Obama is going to bypass Congress, do climate change legislation by executive order, because apparently this is a dictatorship. He is bound and determined to kill the coal industry, which is just mean in a bad economy with few jobs. Not to mention there is no cheap form of clean energy to replace it, science now shows that warming has stagnated over the past 16 years, we have already reduced our carbon emissions to 1992 levels (which was the goal), and China and India build a new coal plant every week, so we won’t be helping the planet much, but we’ll be screwing ourselves. But it’s all for the children, of course. From the editors of NRO:
Global warming, contrary to the predictions of the best climate models, is not accelerating. It is slowing, and some estimates show it having been reversed. The warmest year on record was 1998, and there has been significantly less warming in the last 15 years than there was in the 20 years before that. The Economist, which supports measures to control greenhouse-gas emissions and has been a reliable hotbed of warming alarmism, conceded: “There’s no way around the fact that this reprieve for the planet is bad news for proponents of policies, such as carbon taxes and emissions treaties, meant to slow warming by moderating the release of greenhouse gases. . . . They will become harder, if not impossible, to sell to the public, which will feel, not unreasonably, that the scientific and media establishment has cried wolf.” If only President Obama simply had cried wolf. Instead, the president announced that, on behalf of “all of humankind,” he is in effect directing the EPA to take over the American economy. New power plants will be subject to emissions controls, and existing plants will have to be retrofitted to comply with new standards. New restrictions on heavy trucks will affect the movement of freight and goods across the country. New subsidies will be handed down for politically connected energy firms, and federal lands will be set aside for their use. New federal impositions will affect the construction of factories, commercial buildings, and private homes…Every economic activity involving energy or transportation — which is to say, every economic activity — will be affected by the president’s global-warming program. Consider the president’s thinking: While the value of vaccinations is undisputed among scientists, he believes that it requires more research, because people who are prone to lunatic theories about vaccines vote Democratic. But when it comes to the climate, he acts not only as though there were no scientific questions in dispute but as though capital-S Science had corporately blessed his policy agenda…Even if we had absolute scientific certainty, we would also have another kind of certainty: that China and India, and many other countries, are not going to radically reduce their peoples’ standards of living to accommodate Barack Obama’s policy preferences.
Why did the National Zoo lose its red panda (which has been found)? The sequester, duh, says ThinkProgress based on no evidence at all. If we want to keep our pandas behind bars, you better pay up “millionaires and billionaires.”
You can now get your HHS e-cards, so you can tell your loved ones to stop being fatties and pricks (yes, of course they have anti-bullying e-cards, why would you even ask me that?)
More commentary on yesterday’s SCOTUS Voting Rights Act decision. Yes, the country has fundamentally changed for the better over the past 40 years, and bravo to the Supreme Court for recognizing that we have grown up. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions…but I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind…We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” It is ironic that the Left has become the status quo party. From Jonathan Tobin at Commentary…
Why then are political liberals and the so-called civil rights community so riled up about the decision? Some are merely offended by the symbolism of any alteration in a sacred piece of legislation. But the reason why the left is howling about this isn’t so much about symbolism as it is about their ability to manipulate the law to their political advantage. Under the status quo, enforcement of the Voting Rights Act isn’t about reversing discrimination so much as it is in applying the political agenda of the left to hamper the ability of some states to enact commonsense laws, such as the requirement for photo ID when voting or to create districts that are not gerrymandered to the advantage of liberals. By ending pre-clearance until Congress puts forward a new scheme rooted in evidence of systematic discrimination going on today, it has placed all states on an equal footing and made it harder for the Obama Justice Department to play politics with the law. It has also given racial hucksters that continue to speak as if a nation that has just re-elected an African-American president of the United States was little different from the one where blacks couldn’t vote in much of the country…The reality of 2013 is that even the left is hard pressed to find anyplace in the country where anyone who is legally entitled to vote and wants to exercise their franchise is being prevented from doing so. Stating that is not to deny that racism still exists in some quarters of American society anymore than any other species of hatred. Nor does it imply that our electoral system is perfect or incapable of betterment. But to leave in place a legal formula that treated some states differently than others solely because of history is not only absurd, it is unconstitutional discrimination. In a country where, as it was argued before the court, Mississippi may have a more healthy voting rights environment in some respects than Massachusetts, preserving the battle lines of the fight against Jim Crow is not only meaningless, it actually hampers efforts to combat illegal practices…But the main interest of those dedicated to preserving the status quo wasn’t in preventing states from denying a right to vote that is not in question. It was in holding onto their capacity to use federal law to prevent some states from passing voter ID laws that have been wrongly branded as a form of discrimination or voter suppression. The vast majority of Americans—including the members of those groups that civil rights advocates claim will be injured by voter ID laws—think these measures are merely a matter of common sense to ensure the integrity of the election system. But by disingenuously waving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow, the left has sought to brand race-neutral laws like voter ID a form of racism…Neither this decision nor the debate that will follow it will affect the ability of Americans to vote because that is a right that is no longer in dispute. What it will do is send a reminder to Americans that we have moved on from our unhappy past and that if we are to protect voting rights, it must be done on the basis of reality rather than sentiment or symbolism. That will make it harder for the left to accuse their opponents of racism without basis. But an American society that has thankfully moved on from this debate will be better off for it.
If you want more of a primer on redistricting race and the Voting Rights Act, I highly recommend this very accessible and informative piece from National Affairs, which actually dates a couple years back.
Buddhism, known to be one of the more peaceful religions, is moving into a scary realm of violent extremism. Meet the Buddhist monk who calls himself the “Burmese bin Laden.”
Are atheists better at dying than the religious? A new survey suggests yes.
A growing body of evidence seems to support the idea that the nonreligious have an easier time coping with death than do the religious, at least with their own mortality. Religious people appear to be more afraid of death than are nonreligious people. Nonreligious people are less likely to use aggressive means to extend their lives and exhibit less anxiety about dying than do religious people. That seems remarkably counterintuitive since the nonreligious are much less likely to believe in an afterlife, which is supposed to help people cope with death. But factor in that religious people are contemplating their eternal fate and it begins to make more sense. Even if they have done everything their religion says they are supposed to do, there is always a bit of uncertainty about where they might end up. As a result, religious people appear to have a greater fear of dying than do nonreligious people.