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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: October 2008

Cassandra

October 31st, 2008 - 5:29 pm

Erica Jong speculates on the outcome of an Obama electoral loss in terms which set the standard for the word hysteria.

Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can’t cure her ailing back for all the stress that has reduces her to a bundle of nerves.”

“My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium.”

“After having stolen the last two elections, the Republican Mafia…”

“If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it’s not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets.”

“Bush has transformed America into a police state, from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the Patriot Act.”

Beer, boys, beer. It’s time to drink a beer. Even in the unlikely event that what Erica Jong predicts happens, I would rather die drunk than die insane.
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Morality is class morality

October 31st, 2008 - 2:23 pm

Although its value has been poo-poohed over the years, the concept of morality has not been so easily disposed of. Noted historian Paul Johnson declares that morals are at the heart of the current financial crisis in a philosophical sense. Writing in Forbes Magazine, Johnson says:

The financial crisis, detonated by greed and recklessness on Wall Street and in the City of London, is for the West a deep, self-inflicted wound. The beneficiary won’t be Russia, which, with its fragile, energy-based economy, is likely to suffer more than we shall; it will be India and China. They will move into any power vacuum left by the collapse of Western self-confidence. If we seriously wish to repair the damage, we need to accept that this is fundamentally a moral crisis, not a financial one. It is the product of the self-indulgence and complacency born of our ultraliberal societies, which have substituted such pseudo-religions as political correctness and saving the planet for genuine distinctions between right and wrong and the cultivation of real virtues.

But the importance of morality goes beyond being a figure of speech or a nod to piety, Karl Okamoto, at the Drexel School of Law, believes that we need to incentivize morality in transactions by making changes to regulation, otherwise our financial system will continue to be subverted. Okamoto writes we are in this mess because we have failed to control “moral hazard”.

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The excluded middle

October 30th, 2008 - 2:27 pm

Israel has been described as the “canary in the coalmine” — a reference to an actual canary who was kept by miners to serve as an early warning system against the buildup of toxic gases because the canary would sicken before the larger men would — because it is an example of a liberal Western society facing an existential threat.  One of the questions the Israeli canary can be used to answer is what happens when a society becomes culturally polarized so that each part of it conceives of a different duty to a different nation. Caroline Glick describes the growing threat of a ‘Jewish Army’ in Israel.

Religious Zionists today make up about seven percent of the total population of the country. But their sons comprise twenty percent of IDF combat soldiers, nearly a quarter of the IDF’s junior officer corps, and fifty percent of its company commanders.

The growing prominence of religious Zionists in all combat arms of the IDF is a consequence of a now two-decade trend among religious Zionists in Israel to serve in combat units – the more elite, the better. A contrary trend among upper middle class secular youth not to serve in the IDF at all renders the contribution of the religious youth all the more noticeable to the general public and all the more crucial for the IDF.

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The First Amended

October 30th, 2008 - 1:44 pm

When Kevin Rudd successfully ran against John Howard it was widely claimed there was very little difference between them. Both were said to be in the mainstream and the distinctions between them one of style rather than fundamentals. But if there were no difference there would have been no point in the elections. Today, one of those possible differences may have emerged. The Herald Sun reports that “Australia will join China in implementing mandatory censoring of the Internet under plans put forward by the Federal Government.The government has declared it will not let internet users opt out of the proposed national internet filter. The plan was first created as a way to combat child pornography and adult content, but could be extended to include controversial websites on euthanasia or anorexia.”

And now, riding up in order to save the world from the creeping shadow of censorship comes the cavalry. Or should that have been the Calvary? “US tech giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and a coalition of human rights and other groups unveiled a code of conduct aimed at safeguarding online freedom of speech and privacy.” This coalition is called the Global Network Initiative. Eweek writer Larry Seltzer says:

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They stand there like a stone

October 29th, 2008 - 2:35 pm

A copy of Geert Wilders speech, given at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, on September 25, 2008 was sent to me by a reader. Here’s a link online. It’s titled “America as the Last Man Standing”. In it Wilders suggests that Europe has significantly changed, and will continue to change beyond recognition, due to the demographic changes.

I come to America with a mission. All is not well in the old world. There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very difficult to be optimistic. We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe. This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West. The danger I see looming is the scenario of America as the last man standing. The United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, facing an Islamic Europe. In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: who lost Europe?

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The persistence of evil

October 28th, 2008 - 3:18 am

Possibly the only thing the British SOE did that was worth a damn during World War 2 was assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was bright, athletic, musically trained son of a composer who also turned out to have an aptitude for cruelty, blackmail and secret policework. When his family was bankrupted by the economic collapse of Germany following its defeat in the Great War, Heydrich did what several ambitious, ruthless and brainy men of period did. He attached himself to a rising star: the Nazi movement. Soon he was in his element. He helped crush the SA.  By 1939 the 35-year old Heydrich commanded the “SD, the Gestapo, and the Criminal Police” and was widely expected to succeed Hitler himself. At the apex of the Third Reich’s fortunes, with its armies at the gates of Moscow Heydrich was made Hitler’s proconsul in occupied Czechkoslovakia. He now had his own country to play with.

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Thirty

October 27th, 2008 - 2:06 pm

Dean Barnett, a blogger, talkshow host and sports fan died from complications arising from cystic fibrosis. Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard makes the announcement for his paper:

It’s my sad duty to report that our good friend and valued contributor Dean Barnett passed away today. He was a remarkable man–principled, witty, and to all of us, a model of grace and courage. We mourn his passing and cherish his memory.

The incidentals outlive life by a little. The mail arrives for a while; magazines keep coming until the subscriptions are cancelled. The more vibrant a life, the more threads hang in the air almost as if they were waiting for someone to complete them. There are manuscripts unfinished, chores half done.  In the 1956 version of the Dambusters, the camera focuses on a clock that keeps ticking in room whose occupants will never return from that last mission over Nazi Germany. Sometimes relatives put off cleaning out the room or packing up the effects of the deceased because it almost seems as if they’ll come back. Just you wait.

The time to clean up comes when we realize that even memory is not necessary for love.  Nothing is futile. Just you wait.

If you have any favorite links to his posts, please put them in comments.

Goosey goosey gander

October 26th, 2008 - 7:36 pm

Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw talks dollars and cents by comparing the McCain and Obama tax plans to the status quo. He presents a straightforward calculation anybody can follow. But through the magic of television and the news and despite the armies of pundits, most readers will be seeing the numbers for the first time. That’s sad.

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Sunday roast

October 26th, 2008 - 2:41 pm

Open thread. Is capitalism — or at least capitalism as we knew it — dead? Has freedom simply become too burdensome to bear? Isn’t it better if we simply struck a deal with Russia and Islamic fundamentalism and just got along?

Waging peace

October 25th, 2008 - 9:52 am

There have been some attempts to radically change the way government does business. One current proposal is truly extraordinary. GovTrack has this entry for H.R. 808, “A bill to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence,” sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH]. The bill was introduced February, 2007. It aims to establish a new Department of Peace and Nonviolence with the following offices:

Office of Peace Education and Training.
Office of Domestic Peace Activities.
Office of International Peace Activities.
Office of Technology for Peace.
Office of Arms Control and Disarmament.
Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution.
Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights.
Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace and Nonviolence.

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