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Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Triumph of the Will

March 31st, 2010 - 8:19 am

and the Jack and the Jane. Of the ordinary person.

A wag once said that only royalty and people with tapeworms could speak as “we”. He forgot bloggers. Although a weblog is commonly supposed to be an intensely personal vehicle free from the strictures of a supervising editor, in reality a weblog must eventually share authorship with its readership. The recent deletion and rapid restoration of the Belmont Club article from Wikipedia is a case in point.

For the record, I never made any representation or appeal to Wikipedia for either its original inclusion, its subsequent deletion and its eventual restoration. These events were caused by the “we” rather than the “I”.


Into the Memory Hole

March 30th, 2010 - 5:44 pm

[The deleted Belmont Club entry has been restored. The article is back on Wikipedia. The undeletion is a vindication of the Wiki philosophy that "all bugs are shallow to many eyes" and a testament of the ability of an active online community to resist its elimination from an index. Both are the different aspects of the same thing. It is the feedback power of the Internet that makes so different from the old media. A single author may be marked for deletion, but the same cannot be done to hundreds or thousands of commenters without creating a "disturbance in the Force". The return of the entry was entirely due to the Belmont Club readers and of course, to Wikipedia itself. With that, this thread will closed. What follows is for the record only.]

The Belmont Club’s entry in Wikipedia has been deleted by an editor named Nihiltres on the grounds that its entry “reads like and is an advertisement for a blog/web page. I do not see how it belongs in an encyclopedia. It is neither newsworthy or notable”. That entry read as follows.


The Man in the Mirror

March 29th, 2010 - 3:20 pm

Mirrors which systematically distort images perform two functions. The first is to show us freaks because we want to see them. Funhouse or carnival mirrors are said to pander to the public’s sense of cruelty. People like to stare at grotesques even when it is themselves. The second purpose is political. Propagandists have long known that nothing rivets a public’s attention like monstrosities. “When you encounter a person whose nose, mouth or eyes are distorted in a way you have never encountered before, you instinctively lock on. Your gaze remains riveted, and your brain stays tuned for further information.” And if you are told it is something to be hated and feared, you will believe it until further notice. The Nazis portrayed the “Eternal Jew” as sickly and malformed; their films showed groups of Jews emerging from doors juxtaposed with rats fleeing a sewer. This made it so much easier to justify the extermination of Jews in their millions.


The Girlie Men

March 27th, 2010 - 6:02 pm

A study described by the Wall Street Journal concludes that women from “healthy countries” don’t like he-men. Respondents, mainly white women in “Argentina, Sweden, Russia, Australia and the United States,” were presented with pairs of photos each representing the same man. But in one the image had been subtly altered to create a more “feminine” appearance. The authors say that in countries with an efficient health care system the women tended to choose the feminine-looking image.


A Whole New World

March 26th, 2010 - 3:17 pm

The NYT reports that Barack Obama has fulfilled another key part of his foreign policy vision. It writes:

President Obama finalized a new arms control treaty with Russia on Friday that will pare back the still-formidable cold war nuclear arsenals of each country. The agreement brings to fruition one of the president’s signature foreign policy objectives, just days after he signed into law the most expansive domestic program in decades.


The Birds

March 26th, 2010 - 2:22 pm

A South Korean naval vessel sank with more than 100 aboard “and Seoul was looking into whether it was due to a torpedo attack by the North, South Korea’s YTN TV network reported.” Seoul later backpedaled on speculation saying a flock of birds may have been responsible for radar returns which prompted South Korean return fire. They also said the ship may have run around or been the victim of an internal explosion.

The vessel in question was ROKS Cheonan, a 1,200 ton corvette armed with Harpoon antiship missiles, 76 mm cannon and torpedoes. It sank in the vicinity of Baengnyeong Island, the site of several clashes between North and South Korea.


The Gathering Storm

March 26th, 2010 - 5:43 am

This year was was the first in which Social Security payments exceeded contributions. The NYT says “analysts have long tried to predict the year when Social Security would pay out more than it took in because they view it as a tipping point — the first step of a long, slow march to insolvency, unless Congress strengthens the program’s finances.” Well wonder no longer. The year is 2010.

But analysts are still undecided about when Euro will begin to unravel. The Greek debt crisis, which a top Chinese banker called “the tip of the iceberg” continues to rise menacingly, with Italy and Spain glimpsed not far beneath. The Eurozone may survive for now, but perhaps only if sweeping new EU controls are approved over member economies and Greek load is spread beyond Europe to the International Monetary Fund. Europe needs a bigger bureaucracy and more shoulders to hold up Greece.  And it can’t afford to do so alone; and naturally the burden must be partly borne by the American and Japanese taxpayers, who are themselves in shaky condition. The IMF is the lender of last resort; but the agency itself is operating in deficit. Never mind. The important thing is that Greece needs another loan that it will never repay to keep its public sector going, so the hat must be passed around. After all, if Greece could repay its debts, would it be borrowing?


“It’s For the Children”

March 24th, 2010 - 2:43 pm

But whose children? The Washington Post says the discovery of a special list through which the Chicago elite might have gotten their kids into good schools shows how a system can be gamed to provide one kind of service for the haves and and another for the have-nots.  “Public” systems run on guidelines and not all of them are published. Chicago faced a resource allocation problem. According to the WaPo most Chicago schools “face huge academic challenges” which meant that many parents didn’t want their kids in ordinary schools.  They were “dissatisfied with neighborhood schools” and so need to “jockey for a limited number of slots in well-regarded magnet schools, out-of-boundary schools or selective public schools that base admissions on criteria such as grades and test scores.” But the VIPs couldn’t really be expected to line up. One solution: a front door and a backdoor.  That’s why Duncan’s list was secret, referring to a special list maintained by current Secretary of Education who then ran the Chicago school system. It contained a list of connected parents and special schools. Some school officials they denied there was any correlation between these two columns whatsoever. If there was a backdoor the rear entrance had no visible signs.

“We didn’t want to advertise what we were doing because we didn’t want a bunch of people calling,” CPS official David Pickens admitted to Tribune reporters Azam Ahmed and Stephanie Banchero, who broke the story.


What you can and can’t have

March 23rd, 2010 - 2:58 pm

Gerald Ford once observed that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” Not everyone would agree with Ford but what about a weaker form of the statement? “Any government able to redistribute your money is able to tell you what do with it.” Now that the State is in healthcare it is talking about what you can and can’t ask your doctor to do. In detail. Should health care provide money for Viagra? Barbara Boxer makes the argument that if it does then it should also provide money for abortions.

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Alright. Viagra is good and maybe abortions are good from Senator Boxer’s vantage. Now what about sex offenders. They’re people too? Shouldn’t Obamacare provide Viagra for sex offenders. After all people who’ve “paid their debt to society” shouldn’t continue to be punished by using health care as a weapon. Believe it or not the issue is being debated in the Senate, because unless sex offenders are specifically excluded, they’ll get Viagra too.


Someday I’ll Meet You Again

March 22nd, 2010 - 4:01 pm

Megan McArdle is willing to bet that there will no improvement in infant mortality or death rates over the next decade beyond those trends which were already established before its enactment. Nor will any of the reductions in bankruptcies nor costs claimed by health care “reform” advocates be observed. McArdle is waiting to see whether anybody will take her up. I think someone should. After all if health care “reform” is an improvement then its benefits should be measurable. If it’s not measurable then its not an improvement. But maybe she’s not broadminded enough.

Those who are reluctant to take up the McArdle bet are offering up another benefit. The President has “saved” his Presidency and shown that he could succeed where Bill Clinton could not. That doesn’t mean they’ll take McArdle’s bet; it only means they’re changing the currency of scorekeeping. They’re bringing history into the picture. Barack Obama has achieved something “historic” and that has a value which transcends mere death rates or dollars and cents.  David Frum appears to share McArdle’s doubts about healthcare “reform”‘s efficacy while adopting the historical political scorecard. Frum argues that by not playing nice with Obama, the Republicans passed up a chance to mitigate the bill’s worst features.