Monthly Archives: August 2013

Weekend Links

Political correctness literally killed at Fort Hood. From NRO:

The Hasan case should also have Americans marching in the streets. Beyond the horrific events of November 5, 2009, Hasan’s case contains within it a microcosm of the entire domestic and global threat we face from jihadism and Islamism…During his time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, before he was transferred to Ft. Hood, Major Hasan was exceedingly vocal in his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He openly opposed those wars based on his religious views. But nothing was done. Two years before the Ft. Hood attack, Major Hasan gave a PowerPoint presentation at Walter Reed titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam.” But nothing was done. Some of his fellow officers complained about him to their superiors. But nothing was done. The PowerPoint contained statements from Hasan such as, “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.” It contained violent excerpts from the Koran. And Hasan’s PowerPoint concluded with a quote from Osama bin Laden: “We love death more than you love life.”…Hasan’s record at Ft. Hood includes telling his medical supervisor there that “she was an infidel who would be ‘ripped to shreds’ and ‘burn in hell’ because she was not Muslim.” But nothing was done. Nidal Hasan made personal business cards; they mentioned no affiliation with the United States military but underneath his name on the cards, listed his profession as “SOA,” or “Soldier of Allah.” But nothing was done. And, finally, Hasan was in frequent e-mail contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Muslim cleric who, even then, had been implicated in at least two other terrorist plots in America and had since fled to Yemen. But nothing was done. Indeed, taking all of this into account, it is difficult to imagine just what more Nidal Hasan could have done to broadcast his lethal views and intentions…After the slaughter, the chief of staff of the Army was asked about Muslims in the military and said, “Our diversity, not only in our army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” The Army’s top officer put “diversity” on a higher moral plane than innocent life. If we needed the faintest clue as to why Hasan kept being promoted and passed along, here it was: The politically correct ethic in the Army was one where any perceived threat against ethnic diversity in our military would be treated as worse than a threat against our troops, even on our homeland. Who would have thought such a postmodern view would take root in our nation’s military? But it has. Even the Pentagon’s after-action report gave support to this politically correct, multicultural triumph of ethics. In the 86 pages of the “Lessons from Fort Hood,” not once does the name Nidal Hasan get mentioned. Instead, he is referred to indeterminately, as “a gunman” — just like any other random perpetrator of homicide. But Hasan’s name is not the most glaringly absent name, phrase, or term in the report. The word “Islam” appears once, and its appearance comes only in a buried endnote, in the title of one of many scholarly papers. The word “Muslim” appears nowhere in the report. Nor does the word “jihad.” …Until we fully grasp what the millions of radical Islamists around the world and in America intend for us — death — we will be facing the same truth Winston Churchill had to deal with in Europe, much too late: Fascism in any form, be it political, theological, or both, is simply not something we can sleep through — not if we plan to survive it…For the sake of nothing less than our very survival, however, unless we take Hasan and all that he stands for, and all that led up to his actions, as seriously as we take much more frivolous cases and issues in our society, we will never win the domestic and the global war radical Islam has declared on us. Nidal Hasan knows this, as do the rest of our enemies. We still don’t.

Mother Jones has a great piece on how we blew Fort Hood, as well.

Here’s a great takedown by Ed Morrissey of yesterday’s ridiculous “If You Send Your Kids to Private School, You’re a Bad Person” Slate piece. Money quote:

Frankly, this is one of the most honest expressions of what liberals believe to be the purpose of public schools I’ve ever read.  It’s most certainly not about educating children, but about social norming … down to the lowest common denominator. Rather than finding ways to provide poor children an effective and productive education so that they can compete better for jobs and wealth down the road, we just need to make sure everyone gets the same lousy education.

The anti-fracking movement has officially jumped the shark. Mischa Barton has signed on to make an anti-fracking zombie movie. The last time Mischa Barton did anything good was this fantastic film, which is now featured frequently on Lifetime. You should stop while you’re ahead, Mischa.

When it comes to Obamacare, ignorance is bliss for young Americans.

Jason Riley on why unemployed blacks should cheer background checks.

The Obama administration took one on the chin earlier this month when a federal court ruled that companies may use criminal-background checks in hiring without being guilty of racial discrimination…The meat of the ruling, however, is the court’s blistering takedown of the government’s “expert” report, authored by an outside statistician who attempted to establish that Freeman’s criminal-background checks disproportionately harmed black job-seekers. Judge Titus described the report as “an egregious example of scientific dishonesty,” its analysis “laughable,” “skewed” and full of “cherry-picked data.” He concluded that the “mind-boggling-number of errors” rendered the EEOC’s “disparate impact conclusions worthless.” There are “simply no facts here to support a theory of disparate impact resulting from any identified, specific practice.”…An October 2006 study in the Journal of Law and Economics, “Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers,” found that “employers that check criminal backgrounds are in general more likely to hire African Americans,” according to Harry Holzer of Georgetown University and his two co-authors. “[T]he adverse consequence of employer-initiated background checks on the likelihood of hiring African Americans is more than offset by the positive effect of eliminating statistical discrimination.” These researchers surmise that employers who can screen for prison records are less likely to rely on prejudice when hiring. Blacks aren’t the only beneficiaries. Analyzing “employer willingness to hire other stigmatized groups of workers (such as workers with gaps in their employment history),” they found the same pattern. The results, they wrote, “suggest that in the absence of background checks, employers use race, gaps in employment history, and other perceived correlates of criminal activity to assess the likelihood of an applicant’s previous felony convictions and factor such assessments into the hiring decision.”

The Daily Caller hates pandas, loves America.

Oh, it’s ON now, little tyrant.

This chimpanzee won $10,000 in an art competition. What did you do today?

Great column, as usual, by Continetti.

What is the difference between these two conflicts? In the former one, the United States was a participant. And America’s actions produced the current end state that, while not optimal, is better than the status quo ante. The dictator of Iraq, his family, and his party are dead or disbarred. They will never again threaten their neighbors, gas their people, or restart their weapons programs. The world never will have to worry about Saddam Hussein becoming a nuclear power. Nor will the world have to worry, at least for the time being, about ethno-sectarian genocide in Iraq, about al Qaeda turning Anbar and Diyala Provinces into Salafist strongholds and training grounds, about an Iraq partitioned irrevocably and dangerously into three squabbling nations. In the latter conflict, the Syrian conflict, America has not participated at all…As I write this, after Assad has crossed the red line for the second time, the Obama administration is engaged in an oh-so-public debate over how best to respond. The president has offered to demonstrate proof of the chemical attack and the Assad regime’s culpability in it, while also saying any use of force will be “proportionate”—a “shot across the bow” (i.e., an intentional miss) that won’t target weapons caches but military facilities likely to be empty, and won’t influence the outcome of the civil war. Think about that: The president of the United States is saying he will deploy force only in so far as it has no actual effect on the situation on the ground. Instead the point is to “send a message” and, he hopes, deter the further use of chemical arms by a dictator who has used them on multiple occasions while slaughtering his people wholesale and turning his cities into piles of concrete, pipe, and ash. This, we are told, is how President Obama plans to heed “the lessons of Iraq.” And yet that raises the question of what the lessons of Iraq actually are. The Iraq war, as I recall, was meant to prevent the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction by a murderous dictator, and to prevent the possible transfer of such weapons to terrorists seeking to use them against the American homeland. Well, in Syria, there is no question that the dictator has weapons of mass destruction, or that he has used them, or that they might fall into the hands of al Qaeda elements. None of those things have happened, or will happen, in Iraq because we intervened. In Syria they already have happened, stand a good chance of happening again, and in the case of terrorists capturing WMD could happen if America continues to sit on her hands…Syria already is Iraq. It is Iraq if Saddam had remained in power, and it is Iraq if America had left prior to the surge. It is the worst of both worlds, and it grows worse by the day…Just do not tell me that inaction is heeding the lesson of Iraq. The lesson of Iraq is that America was willing to pay a high price to guarantee that the world’s worst tyrant would never lay his hands on the world’s worst weapons. The lesson of Iraq is that with the right resources and the right strategy, America defeated al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias and brought a level of peace and, yes, freedom to Iraqis that they never before experienced. The lesson of Iraq, which we are seeing right now, in real time, is that in the absence of American commitment, freedom diminishes and al Qaeda reappears. Nor are the lessons of Iraq the only ones we should be heeding while we contemplate the mess in the Middle East. There is also the lesson of September 11, 2001. That lesson is simple. You may try to ignore evil. But it will not ignore you.

According to Josh Rogin, Obama refused to send gas masks to the Syrian opposition for over a year.

George Will on how Obama went off prompter and got us into war.

The administration now would do well to do something that the head of it has an irresistible urge not to do: Stop talking. If a fourth military intervention is coming, it will not be to decisively alter events, which we cannot do, in a nation vital to U.S. interests, which Syria is not. Rather, its purpose will be to rescue Obama from his words.

Sex boxes. Need I say more?

James Joyce-inspired art.

“Literally.” We’ve been using it wrong for centuries…literally.

Power-hungry men. Ambitious couples. Broken moral compasses. Pia Catton explores why Macbeth is so popular right now.

On a conceptual level, Mr. Ashford finds that “Macbeth” has special meaning in a time when instant fame is attainable. Macbeth and his wife see their path to glory, and they dive for it. “We do live in a world of people getting these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. That’s what happens to the Macbeths,” Mr. Ashford said. “It’s a couple in the middle of their life. This is an opportunity.” Another parallel observed by Mr. Gualtieri, whose solo “Macbeth” was up against Mr. Cumming’s, is “Breaking Bad.” In an essay on the commentary website, Mr. Gualtieri wrote of Macbeth and “Bad” antihero Walter White: “Both men know good from bad and struggle with their choices. Both know there are consequences. Both have powerful wives who influence their decisions (though in vastly different ways).” These days, any discussion of men choosing illegal or inappropriate behavior inevitably brings up Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. The comparison isn’t perfect (prostitutes and “selfies” are smaller gestures than killing your way to kingdom), but what’s pertinent is that voters have shown willingness to shrug off wrongdoing. “The time is right for ‘Macbeth’ because our culture encourages public glory over personal integrity,” said Mr. Gualtieri. “Macbeth throws away his honor, his integrity, for his ambition.”…Two things draw audiences to “Macbeth” no matter what, he said. First is the couple’s lust for political control. “There is always a fascination with the desire for power and the fear of corruption of power,” he said. Second is Shakespeare’s depiction of the Macbeth marriage. “They sacrifice everything to give to each other,” Mr. Moss said. “That’s why people go and see ‘Macbeth’ over and over instead of ‘Richard III.’ It has the tragedy of the family.”

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Filed under Literature, Politics, Uncategorized

Afternoon Links

Check out this Harry Potter fashion line. Very sexy. Going to have to get some of this stuff.

Alternative Shakespeare book covers.

Mona Charen on Reagan, Obama and The Butler…

Buried in a New York Times story about the economy was this arresting statistic: Median family income for black Americans has declined a whopping 10.9 percent during the Obama administration..That’s not the only bad news for African Americans. The poverty rate for blacks was 25.8 percent in 2011. The black labor-force-participation rate, which rose throughout the 1980s and 1990s, has declined for the past decade and quite sharply under Obama to 61.4 percent. The black unemployment rate, according to Pew Research, stands at 13.4 percent. Among black, male high-school dropouts, PBS’s Paul Solman reports, the unemployment rate is a staggering 95 percent…The press resolutely ignores these figures, while the propaganda arm of the Democratic party in Hollywood serves up distorted history to distract and pacify the public. The latest entry appears to be The Butler, which misrepresents President Reagan (as I gather from those who’ve seen it) as, at best, insensitive to blacks, and at worst as racist. Eugene Allen, the actual White House butler on whom the film is supposedly based, kept signed photos of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in his living room (pictures of the other presidents he had served hung in the basement). According to a 2008 Washington Post profile, Allen served eight presidents for 34 years until his retirement. He did not, as the movie portrays, resign to protest Reagan’s policies on civil rights or South Africa. His wife happily reminisced to the Post about the time the couple were invited by the Reagans to attend a state dinner in honor of the West German chancellor. “Drank champagne that night,” Mrs. Allen recalled with pleasure. The film apparently depicts the invitation as tokenism. The filmmakers also insert a horrific childhood “memory” for Allen — his mother being raped and his father shot by a white landlord. Didn’t happen…Would it interest black moviegoers to know that under Ronald Reagan’s policies median African-American household incomes increased by 84 percent (compared with 68 percent for whites)? The poverty rate dropped during the 1980s from 14 percent down to 11.6 percent. The black-unemployment rate dropped by 9 percentage points. The number of black-owned businesses increased by 38 percent and receipts more than doubled. Obama’s economic record is dismal because he is inflexibly attached to the wrong ideas. Hollywood is of course free to worship at his tattered shrine. But to smear Reagan — a man who deeply loathed bigotry in any form and actually improved the lives of all Americans including blacks — in an attempt to prop up the drooping Obama standard is contemptible.

Italian scientists are planting vineyards with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described by Virgil.

What fresh hell is this, Slate? Parents should be able to send their kids to whatever school they want, you statist freak. Luckily, we have Sonny Bunch at the Free Beacon to do some expert trolling. Absolutely hilarious. “In conclusion, the next time you hail a cab, think about how terrible you are, how you’re destroying your city, and why you deserve to die in a fire.”

The one and only Ms. Camille Paglia with an epic Miley Cyrus takedown.

Most of the media backlash focused on Cyrus’ crass opportunism, which stole the show fromLady Gaga, normally no slouch in the foot-stamping look-at-me department. But the real scandal was how atrocious Cyrus’ performance was in artistic terms. She was clumsy, flat-footed and cringingly unsexy, an effect heightened by her manic grin. How could American pop have gotten this bad?…Pop is suffering from the same malady as the art world, which is stuck on the tired old rubric that shock automatically confers value. But those once powerful avant-garde gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture establishment to rebel against. On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today…What was perhaps most embarrassing about Miley Cyrus’ dismal gig was its cutesy toys — a giant teddy bear from which she popped to cavort with a dance troupe in fuzzy bear drag. Intended to satirize her Disney past, it signaled instead the childishness of Cyrus’ notion of sexuality, which has become simply a cartoonish gimmick to disguise a lack of professional focus. Sex isn’t just exposed flesh and crude gestures. The greatest performers, like Madonna in a canonical video such as “Vogue,” know how to use suggestion and mystery to project the magic of sexual allure. Miley, go back to school!

What a goddamn clusterfuck our Syria policy is right now. After practically declaring war all week, the State Department has now admitted that they have no hard evidence that the chemical attack was carried out by Assad. The Administration has also been leaking like a sieve all week, which has created this fresh hell. What’s Mr. “Rogue IRS Agents in Cincinnati” going to say when Assad claims he doesn’t have control over rogue people in his government? That it’s unbelievable? Jesus god, I wouldn’t count on these people to know how to sit on the toilet the right way, much less resolve an international crisis. And the hypocrisy of the Left this week has been a sight. “Assad is doing the same things Saddam Hussein did, but it’s different, because Bush!” The same people who insisted on video evidence of Saddam Hussein personally putting sarin gas into missiles are now satisfied with third-hand rumors in Syria. Obama says we should act because, if unchecked, Syria’s chemical weapons could be used against America. I’m old enough to remember when that was crazy talk! Congressional approval for bombing another country? What’s that? The Constitution? Meh. The UN and NATO? Never heard of them. I felt a great disturbance in the Force yesterday when The New York Times published an op-ed with the headline, “Bomb Syria, Even If It Is Illegal.” Had that been published during the Bush years, the Left would have had a mass hemorrhage. There’s silence from the anti-war crowd, as well. Ironically, much of the anti-war caution is coming from Republicans, who have learned some lessons over the years and who also know this Administration doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to foreign policy. I’m on Team Ramesh Ponnuru on this one. We blew it. We should have intervened two years ago to get rid of Assad, weaken Iran and secure those chemical weapons. The only options now are to do nothing, which is probably the best idea, or to bomb hard and kill Assad. But then what happens to the chemical weapons? Al-Qaeda grabs them? There’s the third option, the dumbest option, which, naturally, Obama seems to be leaning toward. That is bombing just enough to “send a message” and “save face,” or as one U.S. official put it, “just muscular enough not to get mocked.” Gee, that’s great strategic wisdom. If we do that, we’ll end up just killing civilians and possibly endangering Israel and ourselves. Meanwhile, the UN is being helpful as always, with the Secretary General imploring everyone as recently as yesterday to just “give peace a chance.” WHAT PLANET ARE YOU LIVING ON?

Meanwhile, Andrew McCarthy explains why the Founding Fathers might have been ok with impeaching such a lawless president. By the way, I’m not endorsing impeachment, but this article is a good thought-provoker on what “high crimes and misdemeanors” actually means, so I’ll quote it at length.

Impeachment is not a legal matter; it is a political remedy. But law is how the Left strangles politics. Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw the enervation of democratic society at the hands of the Left’s vast, hyper-regulatory administrative state. In parallel, the political vitality of a once self-determining culture is suffocated by the ubiquity of the litigator’s trick bag…The Framers did not believe free people needed lawyers to figure out how to govern themselves. The standard they gave us for removal from high public office is so simple that obstetricians and even wind-bags should have no trouble grasping it…The Framers settled on “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a standard that had been used by the British parliament for centuries. The concept is not rooted in statutory offenses fit for criminal court proceedings. Instead, it involves damage done to the public order by persons in whom great public trust has been reposed. In Federalist No. 65, Hamilton described impeachable offenses as those

which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominatedpolitical, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.

A useful article published by the Constitutional Rights Foundation is more concrete about the Framers’ understanding:

Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery. Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.

Jon Roland of the Constitution Society emphasizes the political aspect of impeachment that distinguishes it from technical legal procedures. It was immaterial, he explains, whether the cited offenses “were prohibited by statutes”; what mattered was “the obligations of the offender. . . . The obligations of a person holding a high position meant that some actions, or inactions, could be punishable if he did them, even though they would not be if done by an ordinary person.” In that sense, a president is like a soldier, whose duties make him punishable for actions that would not be offenses if committed by a civilian: such things as abuse of authority, dereliction of duty, moral turpitude, conduct unbecoming, and the violation of an oath.  President Obama, of course, has sworn to uphold the Constitution and is bound to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” (Art. II, Sec. 3). In stark contrast, he has usurped the lawmaking power of Congress by unilaterally amending some statutes and expressly refusing to enforce others — not because they are arguably unconstitutional but because he disagrees with them on policy grounds. For years, he has ignored the law requiring the executive branch to propose Medicare reforms when the program’s trustees issue a warning about inadequate funding. He has made recess appointments when Congress was not in recess. He has flouted judicial rulings, including those invalidating the work of illegally appointed officials. His Justice Department openly and notoriously flouts the Constitution by enforcing the civil-rights laws in a racially discriminatory manner. His administration has knowingly transferred firearms to murderous Mexican criminal enterprises, predictably resulting in the killing of at least one federal Border Patrol officer. He has sued sovereign states in order to extort them into acceptance of his gutting of immigration and voter-identification laws. After willfully empowering jihadists in Libya by instigating an unprovoked, unauthorized war against a regime the United States regarded as an ally and was funding, the president and his State Department were shockingly derelict in failing to protect American personnel they recklessly kept stationed in Benghazi despite repeated attacks. When American installations there were predictably besieged yet again by jihadists on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the commander-in-chief compounded his default by abandoning Americans who were under lethal attack, failing to take action to attempt to save them. As a result of this serial malfeasance, four American officials, including the United States ambassador to Libya, were killed — a scandal the administration has exacerbated by stonewalling congressional investigations; attempting to defraud the public into believing an obscure anti-Muslim video provoked the siege; and shamefully jailing the video producer in a transparent effort to prop up the fraud and in violation of the producer’s constitutional rights. The president, moreover, oversees an administration that has turned the IRS loose to harass his political opponents, frustrating their capacity to organize prior to the 2012 election. And Obama has stood behind his attorney general despite the latter’s citation for contempt of Congress and multiple episodes of false congressional testimony — most recently in connection with the investigation of journalists covering the administration. With a record like this, George W. Bush would long ago have been impeached and removed…The Framers intended impeachment as the ultimate accountability. Without at least the credible threat of it, there is no realistic checking of a president who seems increasingly disposed to abuse his awesome powers, in fulfillment of a promise to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America. Maybe we are already transformed. The Framers did not see impeachment as outlandish; it was a realistic response to an imperious executive’s seeking to upend our constitutional order — the specter of which gripped the constitutional convention with fear. In today’s America, there is more political peril in engaging the question of impeachment than in doing the things that make the question relevant.

In South Africa, a deadly new drug is being made with HIV medication.

Charles C.W. Cooke addresses the absurd need the Left has to label everything racist.

Yesterday we approached peak “racist,” moving one step closer to that welcome point at which the frivolous, often downright ludicrous, accusations of prejudice that invariably punctuate our national discussions will begin to deliver diminishing returns and an exhausted American public will stamp its collective feet and shout, “Enough!” The media’s interminable focus on the gyrating non-entity that is Miley Cyrus was dippy enough before the ugly legion of the professionally offended arrived to make it somehow worse. Afterwards it was unendurable, bringing to mind that refrain of tired conservatives everywhere: “Can a society this stupid really survive?” Chief among the purveyors of critical inanity was The Nation’s Aura Bogado, a woman who is so obsessed with race and sex that her takeaway from the Manning trial last week was that “Bradley Manning was found guilty of wanting to make the world a better place for women of color like me” and claiming in an open letter that Manning’s statement had improved upon the Declaration of Independence. Reacting in a similar vein to the MTV Video Music Awards, Bogado ranged from the incomprehensible assertion that “White is the new Miley” to the self-parodic confession that “Every time I see ‪@MileyCyrus slap that black woman’s butt, I think about the way that enslaved blacks were whipped for white entertainment.” If this is true, I would suggest Bogado seek professional help. During her act, Cyrus wore a skin-colored latex bikini, ran a foam finger down another performer’s crotch, and “twerked” (a dance move in which one shakes and twists ones hips in a sexual fashion). Tasteful or not, none of these things has anything to do with race — let alone with slavery. It takes a particularly depraved mind to link a glorified pop concert to the transportation and subjugation of an entire class of people. It is reasonable to conclude that those that are capable of so doing lack even the most basic political judgment…New York Magazine‘s Jody Rosen went on to observe, apparently without irony, that “a doctoral dissertation could (and will) be written on the racial, class, and gender dynamics of Cyrus’s shtick.” But of course it will. Graduate liberal-arts schools, the only places in the country in which such preposterous nonsense can make it far enough past the hysterical laughter to gain any respect, are primarily devoted to teaching students to discover things that are not there. This is not just an academic instinct, but a financial one too. To ensure the future of the college, the faculty must ensure that America’s debt-laden and probably unemployable perpetual students feel as if they have gained something concrete from their efforts, and, in the modern era, this something is the ability to see in a dimension that nobody else can. (This is a skill that is apparently better suited to inviting universal mockery on the Internet than to ensuring success in the job market.)

Zimbabwe is planning to build a “Disneyland in Africa.” Lucifer help us all.

Apparently, no one wants to be a drone pilot. From PopSci…

The Air Force can’t get enough people to volunteer for the training…Drones are usually chosen for jobs that are “dirty, dangerous, or dull”—with dull being the key word here. Some surveillance drones require round-the-clock shifts, and the very stressful work is so time intensive that drone pilots often cannot take advantage of additional training and education, which in turn dampens their prospects for career advancement, according to the study. Burnout also seems to be a major concern, as drone pilots quit at three times the rate of manned aircraft pilots…One way to increase the number of drone pilots would be for the Air Force to alter its requirements for pilots. The Air Force only allows commissioned officers to fly drones, and commissioned officers must have a bachelor’s degree in addition to technical training. By contrast, the Army allows warrant officers, who only need a high school diploma or GED, to fly both unmanned aircraft and helicopters. Or, it just might be that actually flying through the air will always be more awesome that piloting an aircraft from the ground.

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Filed under Around the World, Literature, Politics, Uncategorized

Poem for the Week

I know I’ve posted this poem before (text, not audio), but a chemical weapons attack can’t occur in the world without the haunting words of Wilfred Owen coming to mind.

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August 27, 2013 · 5:58 pm

Afternoon Links

To the English major, life is sweeter, more tragic, more intense, says Mark Edmundson.

The English major reads because, as rich as the one life he has may be, one life is not enough. He reads not to see the world through the eyes of other people but effectively to become other people. What is it like to be John Milton, Jane Austen, Chinua Achebe? What is it like to be them at their best, at the top of their games? English majors want the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who—let us admit it—are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than they themselves are. The experience of merging minds and hearts with Proust or James or Austen makes you see that there is more to the world than you had ever imagined. You see that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than you had thought…The English major believes in talk and writing and knows that any worthwhile event in life requires commentary and analysis in giant proportion. She believes that the uncommented-on life is not worth living…The English major wants to use what he knows about language and what he’s learning from books as a way to confront the hardest of questions. He uses these things to try to figure out how to live. His life is an open-ended work in progress, and it’s never quite done, at least until he is. For to the English major, the questions of life are never closed. There’s always another book to read; there’s always another perspective to add…Love for language, hunger for life, openness and a quest for truth: Those are the qualities of my English major in the ideal form. But of course now we’re talking about more than a mere academic major. We’re talking about a way of life. We’re talking about a way of living that places inquiry into how to live in the world—what to be, how to act, how to move through time—at its center. What we’re talking about is a path to becoming a human being, or at least a better sort of human being than one was at the start. An English major? To me an English major is someone who has decided, against all kinds of pious, prudent advice and all kinds of fears and resistances, to major, quite simply, in becoming a person.

Elliot Abrams absolutely nails it in his piece, Obama’s “citizen of the world” presidency.

This global citizenship we all share would, at first glance, seem to reflect a genuine concern with how average men and women and families are living around the world. Such a concern ought to lead to two sets of policies: one to help them overcome political oppression, and one to help them meet the daily challenges of poverty and disease. And here is the second innovative aspect of Obama’s foreign policy: the startling absence of concern on either front. On the human-rights side, administration policy has been marked by indifference. When the people of Iran flooded the streets to protest the theft of their presidential election in June 2009, President Obama was silent for 11 days. This was an early sign that “engagement” was to be with regimes and rulers, not populations—not even, as it turned out, with Muslim populations, and not even with Muslim populations rising up in protest…So does “global citizenship” instead mean people-to-people assistance, avoiding politics and military action to aid the millions facing poverty and disease? Such an approach might well justify engagement with certain regimes we would otherwise seek to isolate, and in any event it would show deep solidarity with fellow human beings whatever their religion, nationality, or politics. But the Obama administration has shown no interest in such an approach. Its maligned predecessor developed vast programs to stop the spread of malaria and AIDS. PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) had spent $18 billion by the time George W. Bush left office, and even in the view of Bush skeptics has saved millions of lives. By contrast, Obama largely ignored Africa during this first term, leading to news stories with terms like “unmistakable sense of disappointment,” “widespread cynicism on the continent,” and “positively neglectful.” If “global citizenship” requires assisting people who are poor or sick, the key post for advancing it in Africa is that of assistant administrator for Africa at the Agency for International Development. Obama left that post vacant for more than three years. Similarly, the post of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom was vacant for half of the president’s first term—another indication of his interests and priorities. The pattern, then, is one of considerable indifference to the fate of the poor, the persecuted, and the oppressed. They are allocated their fair share of rhetoric, but their plight does not much impinge on policy. Now, such an approach can theoretically be defended—as a return to realpolitik after the excesses of the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” and in the face of America’s economic and fiscal crisis. Hardhearted, perhaps, but realistic: This is the age of limits. Such would be the defense. The problem is that a realpolitik policy would build on American alliances to maintain and magnify American power. It might downplay ideological or ethical matters and marginalize human rights (wrongly, in my view), but it would do so in an effort to secure and advance the American national interest. Is that the Obama approach?…Practitioners of realpolitik would be seeking to strengthen existing alliances, as the first Bush administration’s foreign-policy team did at the close of the Cold War. That has not been the Obama way. In 2009, the administration left allies in the Czech Republic and Poland high and dry by canceling a ballistic missile defense site in Eastern Europe in an effort to curry favor with Russia. Lech Walesa, the great anti-Communist Polish leader, and others criticized the policy reversal and worried about American efforts to tilt toward Moscow rather than Warsaw and Prague. And those East European politicians who had run risks to defend the American proposal on missile defense in 2007 and 2008 learned a painful lesson about sticking their necks out for Washington. But closer allies have faced the same lack of respect as well. The British learned that the bust of Winston Churchill was removed from the Oval Office as soon as Obama arrived. Then they learned what the new team thought of them and of the so-called special relationship. During the visit of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, a State Department official notoriously said: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”…So the Obama administration is pursuing neither an idealistic foreign policy based on altruistic considerations of “world citizenship,” nor a realpolitik policy designed to maximize American power and influence in an age of limits through careful assertions of power and the strengthening and utilization of alliances. What foreign policy is it pursuing, then?…For Obama, national power is an improper goal. In 2013, he returned to Berlin and this time said about people striving for freedom—he named Israelis, Palestinians, Burmese, and Afghans—that “they too, in their own way, are citizens of Berlin.” As Matthew Continetti wrote in the Washington Free Beacon: “If everyone is a citizen of Berlin, then the concept of ‘citizen,’ which implies rootedness, partiality, particularity, has no meaning. If we are citizens of everywhere, we are also citizens of nowhere.” Just as the British were told they were not special, so we Americans must learn that we are not special, either—except perhaps that we are more dangerous because we are more powerful. Thus we require more strenuous efforts from our leaders to hold us back, as Obama is doing. American leadership is a dangerous narcotic, one that can make us feel good for a while but will in the end bring tragedy to us and to many others around the world. Obama’s task is to explain this to us and, using the powers of office, keep us away from this drug for eight years and diminish our capacity to use it when he is gone…And while this is happening, from Washington come not cries of alarm but the self-satisfaction of an administration that believes we are moving closer each year to our proper place in the “international community.” Who does not feel a growing sense of unease, then, and who does not feel rising alarm? The answer may be the president who is the author of these policies, for they are doing just what they were meant to do. If not reversed, they will produce an America that is a “citizen of the world” like all the others, shorn of the ability to lead and believing that leadership means little more than hubris and risk. For Barack Obama, this will mean his foreign-policy ideas have won the day.

Paris hotels are attempting to lure people via literary themes.

Change in Iran will come via the bravery and creativity of its young women. (By the way, how beautiful are Iranian women? It’s ridiculous.)

Shakespeare gets funky and fresh during the summer.

Zarqawism lives on even after Zarqawi is dead: Iraq’s al-Qaeda nightmare returns.

Two years later, the head of NASA still tears up when he talks about ending the shuttle program.

“The gut-wrenching, really hard work of operating a shuttle, preparing it for each flight, was done by the massive contractor workforce, and that was United Space Alliance (USA). When we finished the last flight, Atlantis was the cleanest vehicle we ever had. They were very proud of that. They wanted to make sure that, if somebody changed their mind, Atlantis would be able to turn around and go fly again. You had no idea—no idea—of the loyalty of the workforce. Those were contractors, and they worked right until the very last day as if they were getting ready to fly again. I remember running on the beach down at the Cape, where my wife and I had gone down for STS-135 [the final mission of the shuttle program]. You always run into people. I was up one morning running on the beach, and I passed this young couple. They were middle aged, and they stopped me and they said, ‘Are you Charlie Bolden?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘We work for USA.’ And I figured, oh my gosh. These guys are going to give me some sob story and they’re going to make me really feel bad. But they said, ‘We just want to let you know, we are as proud as we can be. We voluntarily decided that we’d take a buyout, because we feel there are people who have not had the experience we had. We’ve done all we can do. We just want to thank you for having had the opportunity.’ And I, right there on the beach, I kind of just collapsed. They are just incredible people. And not many people in government, except maybe military, have an opportunity to be around people like that—who are that dedicated, that motivated and that flexible to go with programs that we evolve because the Congress or the White House or somebody else says let’s go do that. So I’m a blessed person to have an opportunity to be around them and work with them.”

Your feel-good story of the day…

After a year and a half behind barbed wire as a prisoner in World War II, 2nd Lt. David C. Cox had just about reached his breaking point. Deliveries of Red Cross parcels to Stalag VII-A had all but ceased, and the U.S. Army bomber co-pilot and his fellow POWs were subsisting on scanty rations of bug-infested soup and bread. Outside the wire, Adolf Hitler’s forces showed no signs of giving up. Cold and hungry, the North Carolinian made a difficult decision. He slipped the gold aviator’s ring — a gift from his parents — off his finger and passed it through a fence to an Italian POW, who handed back a couple of chocolate bars. He would never again see the ring. But it did not disappear. Last week, about a dozen family members and friends gathered in the living room of David C. Cox Jr.’s Raleigh home and watched as he slit open a small yellow parcel from Germany. The 67-year-old son dug through the crinkly packing material and carefully removed a little plastic box. “And here it is,” he said with a long sigh as he pulled out the ring. “Oh, my goodness. … I never thought it would ever happen. I thought it was gone. We all thought it was gone.”…The story of how the ring made it back to the Cox family is a testament to a former enemy’s generosity, the reach of the Internet and the healing power of time…

Click the link to read the whole story…and have a box of tissues next to you.

Don’t have time to make coffee before work? Problem solved with “Handpresso,” a small, car-based espresso machine, so you can make coffee during your commute!

Check out the surreal architecture that was dreamed up, but never built, in the great city of Chicago.

Not a single student in Liberia passed this year’s university admission exam.

Here’s a map of the 35 places in Syria most likely to get hit with a U.S. cruise missile.

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Happy Hour Links

10 awesome bottle openers from around the world.

A dentist who bought the late John Lennon’s tooth wants to use it to clone the Beatle.

Owls have maps in their brains. They use them to catch their dinner.

Canada spent half a mil on a stealth snowmobile, in the hopes of conquering the Arctic, I guess.

How to ruin a state in five easy steps. Kevin D. Williamson explains…

Make work expensive. The nine states with the highest personal-income-tax rates lost $100 billion in AGI from 1995 to 2010. The nine states without any personal-income tax gained $146 billion…Attack lifetime savings. Florida is a good place to live and a great place to die. Its lack of a personal income tax is attractive, and so is its lack of an estate tax. By way of contrast, Minnesota imposes a significant estate tax, one that is more rapacious than the federal levy: Whereas the federal tax excludes $5.25 million per person, Minnesota excludes only $1 million. And if you try to give away some of your assets before you kick off, Minnesota imposes its own gift tax, too, at 10 percent. Minnesota lost nearly $4 billion in AGI from 1992, with the largest amounts going to Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin (which recently eliminated its estate tax), Texas, and Colorado…Run up your state’s long-term liabilities. That means fat pensions for unionized state employees funded mostly by hopes and dreams and fairy dust…Tax fanciful things. Maryland is the innovation leader here, with the ingenious leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley having decided to levy a tax on rain. Already down $7 billion in AGI largely ceded to Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, Maryland has declared war on economic development, with its rain tax levying charges on every square inch of impervious surface — rooftops, parking lots, driveways — that will produce runoff in the event of rain…Don’t just be crazy — be California crazy. California is running out of things in the present to tax, and its future does not look terribly bright, so it has resorted to taxing the past. A combination of judicial shenanigans and legislative incompetence resulted in California’s reneging on tax incentives that had been offered to some businesses — and then demanding the retroactive payment of taxes for which businesses had never been legally liable. Small-business owners, some of whom had sold their businesses years ago, suddenly got demands for taxes running well into the six figures. And, California being California, it had the gall to charge those businesses interest on taxes they had never owed.

Miley Cyrus on last night’s VMAs was one of the worst, most horrifying things I’ve ever seen, but did you also know it was racist? THE LEFT IS INSANE.

Apparently, we are getting ready to take military action against Syria. Too bad it’s too late.

If, as many think, the president orders some sort of a strike on Assad’s forces or that of his Iranian and Hezbollah allies that are currently winning the war in Syria by a clear margin, perhaps he thinks he will have vindicated his reputation as a man of his word since he has taken so much heat for letting Assad cross his “red line” earlier this year with impunity. But short of a shower of cruise missiles that would decapitate the Syrian regime and completely change the course of the war there, it’s likely that any American action now would be more about Obama’s self-regard than anything else. Having passed on the chance to deal with the situation in Syria when minimal action might have ended Assad’s reign of terror without opening the gates to the al-Qaeda-related forces that currently play a huge role in the opposition, it’s just too late for a single show of force to make a difference…In the coming days we may be treated to the spectacle of a demonstration of American power in Syria. Expect the usual photos out of the situation room in the White House as the president and his team are depicted waiting for news of the strike and the subsequent celebration in the manner which we saw when the president took credit for the heroism of the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden. But nobody should mistake such theatrics for a coherent policy. President Obama didn’t create this mess by himself, but he worsened it with rhetoric that he chose not to back up with action. So now that the world turns to the United States and ponders what it will do about Assad’s atrocities three years on, all Washington can offer is a gesture that is unlikely to make a whit of difference in Syria. At this point, even a full-fledged American decision to get involved in the military effort to oust Assad may be too little, too late.

Agreed. Obama blew it and if he’s just going to lob some cruise missiles in now to save face, which would possibly result in civilian casualties, then we shouldn’t bother. If we’re going to do more than that and put a thumb on the scale against Assad, how will Russia and Iran react and who the hell will be in charge when he falls? Al-Qaeda? If you think no one could possibly be worse than Assad, you’re wrong.

If we do strike, the lion’s share of the work will be borne by the Navy. Here’s how it might work…

In the early 2000s the U.S. Navy took four old nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, removed their atomic rockets and transformed them into undersea arsenals, each packing up to 154 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles that can be launched while the sub is still underwater. These so-called “SSGN” submarines—two based on each U.S. coast—also carry Navy SEALS with their special mini-subs for infiltrating enemy coasts plus, it seems, small aerial drones…It was the USS Florida that opened up the Libya intervention two years ago, firing more than 90 cruise missiles to destroy dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s air defenses, clearing the way for NATO air strikes. “Never before in the history of the United States of America has one ship conducted that much land attack strikes, conventionally, in one short time period,” Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge crowed. As recently as this spring Florida was back in the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s patrol area, centered on the Mediterranean. The 560-foot vessel returned to her base in Georgia in June and her sister vessel USS Georgia apparently took her place on deployment. But then in July a Navy photograph depicted Florida departing base for routine operations.” Meanwhile Georgia was last publicized patrolling the Indian Ocean…The U.S. Defense Department has specifically mentioned four vessels in connection with a possible assault on Syria—all of them 500-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class destroyers deployed with the Sixth Fleet. The USS Mahan, USS Gravely, USS Barry and USS Ramage, each packing a mix of 90 surface-to-air and cruises missiles, are all in the Med…Indeed two of the Navy’s thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are within a quick jaunt of Syria. The USS Nimitz and USSHarry S. Truman—each with around 70 jet fighters, support planes and helicopters plus several additional destroyers, cruisers and submarines—are both listed as being with the U.S. Fifth Fleet as of Aug. 23. The Fifth Fleet patrols the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

The Road: A Comedic Translation.

Yes, that’s what Saudi Arabia needs. Thousands of cluster bombs.

Oh, shut up, Central and South America.

Are left-handed people smarter? Obviously.

This spring, a group of psychiatrists from the University of Athens inviteda hundred university students and graduates—half left-handed and half right—to complete two tests of cognitive ability. In the Trail Making Test, participants had to find a path through a batch of circles as quickly as possible. In the hard version of the test, the circles contain numbers and letters, and participants must move in ascending order while alternating between the two as fast as possible. In the second test, Letter-Number Sequencing, participants hear a group of numbers and letters and must then repeat the whole group, but with numbers in ascending order and letters organized alphabetically. Lefties performed better on both the complex version of the T.M.T.—demonstrating faster and more accurate spatial skills, along with strong executive control and mental flexibility—and on the L.N.S., demonstrating enhanced working memory. And the more intensely they preferred their left hand for tasks, the stronger the effect…The Athens study points to a specific kind of cognitive benefit, since both the T.M.T. and the L.N.S. are thought to engage, to a large extent, the right hemisphere of the brain. But a growing body ofresearchsuggests another, broader benefit: a boost in a specific kind of creativity—namely, divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively. In one demonstration, researchers found that the more marked the left-handed preference in a group of males, the better they were at tests of divergent thought. Left-handers were more adept, for instance, at combining two common objects in novel ways to form a third—for example, using a pole and a tin can to make a birdhouse. They also excelled at grouping lists of words into as many alternate categories as possible. Another recent study has demonstrated an increased cognitive flexibility among the ambidextrous and the left-handed—and lefties have been found to be over-represented among architects, musicians, and art and music students (as compared to those studying science). Part of the explanation for this creative edge may lie in the greater connectivity of the left-handed brain. In ameta-analysis of forty-three studies, the neurologist Naomi Driesen and the cognitive neuroscientist Naftali Raz concluded that the corpus callosum—the bundle of fibers that connects the brain’s hemispheres—was slightly but significantly larger in left-handers than in right-handers. The explanation could also be a much more prosaic one: in 1989, a group of Connecticut College psychologists suggested that the creativity boost was a result of the environment, since left-handers had to constantly improvise to deal with a world designed for right-handers. In a 2013 review of research into handedness and cognition, a group of psychologists found that the main predictor of cognitive performance wasn’t whether an individual was left-handed or right-handed, but rather how strongly they preferred one hand over another. Strongly handed individuals, both right and left, were at a slight disadvantage compared to those who occupied the middle ground—both the ambidextrous and the left-handed who, through years of practice, had been forced to develop their non-dominant right hand. In those less clear-cut cases, the brain’s hemispheres interacted more and overall performance improved, indicating there may something to left-handed brains being pushed in a way that a right-handed one never is. Whatever the ultimate explanation may be, the advantage appears to extend to other types of thinking, too. In a1986 study of students who had scored in the top of their age group on either the math or the verbal sections of the S.A.T., the prevalence of left-handers among the high achievers—over fifteen per cent, as compared to the roughly ten percent found in the general population—was higher than in any comparison groups, which included their siblings and parents. Among those who had scored in the top in both the verbal and math sections, the percentage of left-handers jumped to nearly seventeen per cent, for males, and twenty per cent, for females. That advantage echoes anearlier sample of elementary-school children, which found increased left-handedness among children with I.Q. scores above a hundred and thirty-one.

Karl Rove disproves the notion that Republicans don’t have a replacement plan for Obamacare.

Many congressional Republicans, such as Oklahoma’s Sen. Tom Coburn and Wyoming’s Sen. Mike Enzi, have long advocated making health insurance completely portable so workers can take their plans with them from job to job. This means giving individuals who buy coverage for themselves a tax advantage similar to the one that employers enjoy when they cover employees. That change also could make coverage more affordable for the self-employed and even universal for all workers. In the House, Republicans such as Texas Rep. Sam Johnson and Louisiana’s Charles Boustany (a cardiovascular surgeon), want to allow smaller companies to pool their risk to get the same discounts from insurance carriers that bigger companies do. Others, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, want to spark increased competition by allowing health-insurance policies to be sold across state lines, as are auto insurance policies…Defensive medicine—the use of unnecessary tests and procedures to ward off malpractice suits—cost Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $55.6 billion in 2008, according to a 2010 study in Health Affairs. Thus Texas Rep. Lamar Smith has championed medical liability reform at the federal level to rein in junk lawsuits, despite qualms that the issue should be left to the states. Texas Reps. Mike Burgess (who practiced obstetrics and gynecology) and Joe Barton have introduced bills to establish transparency in pricing and medical outcomes so patients can compare the costs for procedures at area hospitals and their relative success in performing them…Republicans have put these and other ideas into comprehensive reform packages. Georgia Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has introduced a comprehensive alternative to ObamaCare that includes many of the GOP’s reforms. Tennessee’s Phil Roe, a retired OB/GYN, will introduce a new ObamaCare replacement package next month when Congress returns. Mr. Enzi first introduced a comprehensive bill including GOP reform proposals in 2007 and has updated it regularly. The president and his liberal posse have a fundamental, philosophical objection to conservative ideas on health care. They oppose reforms that put the patient in charge rather than government, that rely on competition rather than regulation, and that strengthen market forces rather than weaken them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently called ObamaCare “a step in the right direction,” but noted that his goal is “absolutely” a single-payer system in which government delivers all health care. When he was running for president in 2008, Mr. Obama admitted he “would probably go ahead with a single-payer system” if he was “designing a system from scratch.” It’s no surprise that he professes not to have heard any good ideas from Republicans.

Lamar Smith explores the EPA’s game of secret science.

To cite a few examples of where the EPA would like to take the country, the agency is moving forward with strict new limits on ozone that by its own estimates will cost taxpayers $90 billion per year, which would make the regulation the most costly in history. Other examples include a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard for power plants (previously known as “Utility MACT”) that the EPA estimates could cost up to $10 billion a year. Yet more than 99% of the EPA’s health-based justifications for the rule are derived from scientific research that the EPA won’t reveal. Taxpayers are supposed to take on faith that EPA policy is backed by good science. We know this much: Virtually every major EPA air-quality regulation under President Obama has been justified by citing two sets of decades-old data from the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II…For two years, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, of which I am the chairman, has sought to make this information available to the public. But the EPA has obstructed the committee’s request at every step. To date, the committee has sent six letters to the EPA and other top administration officials seeking the data’s release…The federal government has no business justifying regulations with secret information. This principle has been supported by two of the president’s own science and technology advisers, John Holdren and Deborah Swackhamer. “The data on which regulatory decisions and other decisions are based should be made available to the committee and should be made public,” said Dr. Holdren in testimony before the committee last year. Executive-branch rules dating to the Clinton administration require that federally funded research data be made publicly available, especially if it is used for regulatory purposes. The data in question have not been subjected to scrutiny and analysis by independent scientists. And the EPA does not subject its cost-benefit claims to peer review. This means we have no way of evaluating the quality of the science being used to justify the agency’s claims.

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Music Monday

Loving this song lately.

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August 26, 2013 · 7:15 pm

Afternoon Links

LOL. This is so good. Congressmen and women as the witches and wizards of Harry Potter.

Apparently, the BBC initially rejected Colin Firth for the role of Mr. Darcy in the now iconic BBC version of Pride and Prejudice because he was a ginger.

Very graphic photos from yesterday’s horror show in Syria.

If you can accept this argument with a straight face, you are probably mentally ill.

Well, who else is going to punish people for winning prizes on game shows if not the government?

There is no such thing as a free lunch … or an all-expenses paid trip to Acapulco. That’s what “The Price Is Right” contestant Andrea Schwartz found out when she scored $33,000 worth of prizes, including a shiny red Mazda 2 compact car, a pool table, and a shuffle board table…”Yeah, you don’t just drive off the back lot with the car like I thought the entire time I was growing up,” Schwartz said in a recent interview with the A.V. Club. “After the show, you fill out some paperwork and basically sign your life away. You say that you’re going to pay the taxes on it. If you win in California, you have to actually pay the California state income tax ahead of time.” Uncle Sam will want his cut as well, and if the prize is big enough, it could even bump you into a higher federal tax bracket, further chipping away at your win…While it’s not news that people pay taxes on winnings, there are a couple of reasons it can be more jarring on The Price Is Right. You aren’t guaranteed to be a contestant–you’re sitting in the audience one minute, and then the next, you’re playing for the showcase. Plus, the show awards trips and products that you may not be interested in. That $5,000 BBQ? You don’t need it, and might not pay as much for it on the open market if you did—but you’re still on the hook for taxes on the full retail value. Schwartz’s car was shipped from Los Angeles to a dealer near her home in Reno, Nevada. Before she could claim it, she had to pay $2,500 in taxes. Luckily, she had won $1,200 in cash playing the show’s Plinko game and also had some money in savings – but not all contestants have the resources to even collect their winnings.

Marion Cotillard (you may remember her from Contagion and Inception) has been cast to play Lady Macbeth in a new film version of the timeless play. I think she will make an excellent Lady Mac. She looks the part and it’s the most important casting in any Macbeth production. Speaking of “the Scottish play,” Kenneth Branagh is going to make his New York stage debut with Macbeth in June 2014.

Branagh’s arrival will be the latest in a string of high-profile takes on the Scottish play. It will follow Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “Macbeth,” starring Ethan Hawke, which starts previews Oct 24. It also comes on the heels of last season’s solo adaptation by Alan Cumming.

Bret Stephens has a good Egypt piece in the WSJ.

On the subject of Egypt: Is it the U.S. government’s purpose merely to cop an attitude? Or does it also intend to have a policy?…An attitude is a gorgeous thing. It is a vanity accountable to a conscience. But an attitude has no answer for what the U.S. does with or about Egypt once the finger has been wagged and the aid withdrawn. When Egypt decides to purchase Su-35s from Russia (financed by Saudi Arabia) and offers itself as another client to Vladimir Putin because the Obama administration has halted deliveries of F-16s, will Mr. Graham wag a second finger at Moscow? Perhaps he will. Our diminished influence in Egypt may soon be reduced to nil, but at least our hands will be clean. Or we could have a policy, which is never gorgeous. It is a set of pragmatic choices between unpalatable alternatives designed to achieve the most desirable realistic result. What is realistic and desirable? Releasing deposed President Mohammed Morsi and other detained Brotherhood leaders may be realistic, but it is not desirable—unless you think Aleksandr Kerensky was smart to release the imprisoned Bolsheviks after their abortive July 1917 uprising…Bringing the Brotherhood into some kind of inclusive coalition government in which it accepts a reduced political role in exchange for calling off its sit-ins and demonstrations may be desirable, but it is about as realistic as getting a mongoose and a cobra to work together for the good of the mice…What’s realistic and desirable is for the military to succeed in its confrontation with the Brotherhood as quickly and convincingly as possible. Victory permits magnanimity. It gives ordinary Egyptians the opportunity to return to normal life. It deters potential political and military challenges. It allows the appointed civilian government to assume a prominent political role. It settles the diplomatic landscape. It lets the neighbors know what’s what. And it beats the alternatives… Politics in Egypt today is a zero-sum game: Either the military wins, or the Brotherhood does. If the U.S. wants influence, it needs to hold its nose and take a side…As it is, the people who now are most convinced that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim aren’t tea party mama grizzlies. They’re Egyptian secularists…It would be nice to live in a world in which we could conduct a foreign policy that aims at the realization of our dreams—peace in the Holy Land, a world without nuclear weapons, liberal democracy in the Arab world. A better foreign policy would be conducted to keep our nightmares at bay: stopping Iran’s nuclear bid, preventing Syria’s chemical weapons from falling into terrorist hands, and keeping the Brotherhood out of power in Egypt. But that would require an administration that knew the difference between an attitude and a policy.

Great Rich Lowry piece on Ted Cruz and the fear he strikes in the hearts of liberals.

Cruz is different — a Princeton and Harvard man who not only matriculated at those fine institutions but excelled at them. Champion debater at Princeton. Magna cum laude graduate at Harvard. Supreme Court clerkship, on the way to Texas solicitor general and dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class….One of the left’s deepest prejudices is that its opponents are stupid, and Cruz tramples on it. Chris Hayes of MSNBC actually says he fears Cruz’s brilliance. So should congressional witnesses. At hearings, Cruz has the prosecutorial instincts of a … Harvard-trained lawyer. Watching Attorney General Eric Holder try to fend off Cruz’s questioning on the administration’s drone policy a few months ago was like seeing a mouse cornered by a very large cat. Cruz hasn’t played by the Senate rules that freshmen should initially be seen and not heard. In fact, he joined the upper chamber with all the subtlety of a SWAT team knocking down a drug suspect’s front door. For people who care about such things — almost all of them are senators — this is an unforgivable offense. At another hearing, this one on guns, as Cruz says the highest commitment of senators should be to the Constitution, another senator can be heard muttering that he doesn’t like being lectured. Chairman Pat Leahy (probably the mutterer) eventually cuts him off and informs him he hasn’t been in the Senate very long. Cruz lacks all defensiveness about his positions, another source of annoyance to his opponents, who are used to donning the mantle of both intellectual and moral superiority.

George Orwell’s letter on why he wrote 1984. I quote part of the letter below:

“You ask whether totalitarianism, leader-worship etc. are really on the up-grade and instance the fact that they are not apparently growing in this country and the USA. I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase…One must remember that Britain and the USA haven’t been really tried, they haven’t known defeat or severe suffering, and there are some bad symptoms to balance the good ones. To begin with there is the general indifference to the decay of democracy…Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history2 etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side…If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer.”

U.S. commanders are “planning for the worst” as Afghan fighting season winds down.

There are sharks in the Potomac River. IT’S HAPPENING. SHARKNADO!!

Camille Paglia is so great to hear from, especially because I usually totally disagree with half of what she says and completely agree with the other half of what she says, like this…

“It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts. I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately…Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win…While it’s a big relief not to have feminist bullies sermonizing from every news show anymore, the leadership vacuum is alarming. It’s very distressing, for example, that the atrocities against women in India — the shocking series of gang rapes, which seem never to end — have not been aggressively condemned in a sustained way by feminist organizations in the U.S. I wanted to hear someone going crazy about it in the media and not letting up, day after day, week after week. The true mission of feminism today is not to carp about the woes of affluent Western career women but to turn the spotlight on life-and-death issues affecting women in the Third World, particularly in rural areas where they have little protection against exploitation and injustice.”

Someone did something horrible to Queen Elizabeth’s swan.

Jonah Goldberg makes the scary observation that Joe Biden could beat Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary because he actually has a better record than her.

if Biden runs and if it looks for even a moment that he might steal the prize from Hillary, the Clinton machine will go bat guano crazy and attack Biden either directly or via legions of sock-puppet proxies. The problem is that the substantive differences between Hillary and Joe are negligible. If anything, Joe has a better record of accomplishment on Hillary’s issues. Let me say that again. Joe Biden has done more for women (as defined by feminists and liberals) than Hillary has by far. He authored the Violence Against Women Act. He (dishonorably) torpedoed Judge Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, he embraced gay marriage before Obama and Clinton etc. He’s also got a better record — by far — than Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, her supposed strength as a former Secretary of State with a million frequent flier miles. He was also Barack Obama’s partner when they passed a disastrous healthcare reform law. Hillary was Bill Clinton’s partner when he failed to pass a disastrous healthcare reform law…In short, the idea that Hillary can attack Joe on policy grounds seems far-fetched to me. Of course, they could get bogged down in an idiotic proxy fight over an obscure issue the way Hillary and Obama did in 2008 over the insurance mandate…But odds are Team Hillary would respond with the childlike rage that has become the hallmark of MSNBC style argumentation. How dare Joe Biden stand in the way of “Madam President!?” “Joe Biden hates women!” We might even see liberals suddenly become very troubled by Biden’s past statements on race or whatnot. When political activists have no place substantive to go but their sense of entitlement is off the charts, you can expect them to get nasty quickly. That’s the thing about irrational positions, people defend them irrationally. The smarter spinners will try to bait Biden into saying something stupid, which should be about as hard as baiting a bear with a huge bowl of ice cream, smoked trout and Captain Crunch. Seriously, does anyone think that he won’t say something stupid or crazy when Hillary gets under his skin? I mean the guy can be playing checkers and the pressure will cause him to shout “Fellini made movies about clowns! CLOWNS!” His sense of entitlement to the Oval Office has got to be off the charts as well. And while right now I’m sure he thinks he can keep everything civil and cordial with the Clintons, that will only stay true so long as he’s not a threat. If he starts racking up wins in the early primaries (a significant if, I grant you), Bill Clinton even more enraged than he was when he missed his chance to be a judge at the Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest. Once both sides start hurling mud, both Biden and Hillary are likely to look like stale defenders of the status quo – a status quo that stinks by the way. That’s important to keep in mind as well. Defending the Obama record works in Democratic primaries, and having Hillary and Joe fight over who deserves more credit for it will create enormous opportunities for liberal upstarts, eager to exploit everything from Obama’s deportation policies to domestic surveillance. It will also create even greater opportunities for Republicans promising a fresh start after eight — or even 16 — years of economic stagnation.

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