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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Caging the Gyro

May 31st, 2012 - 4:33 pm

One of the central questions in the novel, The Great Gatsby is whether it is ever possible to fix the past. To make it all come out the way it should have. Nick and Gatsby were having a conversation about whether Daisy liked the party he threw. Gatsby wanted to start over again.

He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: “I never loved you.” After she had obliterated four years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken. One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house — just as if it were five years ago.

“And she doesn’t understand,” he said. “She used to be able to understand. We’d sit for hours ——”

He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.

“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

Nations sometimes want the same thing as Gatsby. To make the iniquities of history go away; to make up for slavery or dropping the Atomic Bomb on far away peoples a long time ago. And in so doing they unconsciously perpetrate new ones. Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy examines an interesting brief brought by Asian-Americans in Fisher vs Texas involving the University of Texas. “In the brief, four Asian-American organizations call on the justices to bar all race-conscious admissions decisions, arguing that race-neutral policies are the only way for Asian-American applicants to get a fair shake.”

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Smersh and Memory

May 30th, 2012 - 8:36 pm

One reason for Poland’s sensitivity to President Obama’s mistaken identification of Nazi extermination facilities as being “Polish death camps” lies in the historical fact that the phrase has been used so often. Wikiquote has more than a dozen examples of the use of the phrase by various individuals going back to the 1980s.

The users don’t actually mean that the death camps were operated by Poland. They just make it sound that way. For some reason, perhaps for reasons of cacaphonia more than anything else, no other country except Germany has had the “death camp” phrase affixed so readily affixed to its national name as Poland. Nobody knows why. Despite the popular belief that many of the Nazi extermination facilities were built in Poland, there were in fact comparatively few.

Most German Nazi concentration camps were located in the territory of Nazi Germany. A complete list, drawn up in 1967 by the German Ministry of Justice, names about 1,200 camps and subcamps in countries occupied by Nazi Germany. During WWII, Nazi concentration camps were also located in many European countries such Germany, Austria, Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Belarus, France, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Italia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Unlike with “Polish death camps”, the media did not attach geographical context in reference to camps located in other countries (for example “French concentration camps” or “Norwegian concentration camps”).

Still the phrase seemed to roll off the tongue. The Economist points out that “few things annoy Poles more than being blamed for the crimes committed by the Nazi occupiers of their homeland.”
[It has been pointed out privately and in comments below that most special purpose death camps, as opposed to other types of concentration camps, were in Poland. I regret the error.]

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What Trumps Clinton and Obama?

May 30th, 2012 - 11:19 am

“It appears that El Paso voters have tossed out Rep. Silvestre Reyes, ignoring the advice and endorsements of two presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton,” according to the Dallas News.  Maybe the voters are listening to other voices which are working to oppose incumbents who are entrenched in office.  The Washington Post reports: “President Obama endorsed Reyes, and former president Bill Clinton campaigned for him. But the eight-term congressman was targeted by an anti-incumbent super PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which spent $240,000 on the race. ”

Not long ago, Reyes, a Democrat, laughed off efforts by the Campaign for Primary Responsibility to work against his candidacy in a CBS video.

YouTube Preview Image

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The War of the Words

May 29th, 2012 - 4:34 pm

At least it’s been words so far. Those who have been following the exploits of left wing activist Brett Kimberlin should read Robert Stacy McCain’s account of the in-court arrest of his victim — yes his victim — at a Maryland court.

Aaron Walker, whose complaint against convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin became a conservative cause célèbre this past week, was reportedly taken into custody today after a court hearing in Rockville, Maryland.

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None This Tide

May 28th, 2012 - 4:07 pm

The New York Times has a Memorial Day article whose centerpiece is the photograph of a woman who asked that she be allowed to sleep on the floor beside the coffin of her husband, a Marine who had been killed in Iraq. The author, Lily Burana, writes,

But in this photo — the one that lives on and on online — he merely stands next to the coffin, watching over her. It is impossible to be unmoved by the juxtaposition of the eternal stone-faced warrior and the disheveled modern military wife-turned-widow, him rigid in his dress uniform, her on the floor in her blanket nest, wearing glasses and a baggy T-shirt, him nearly concealed by shadow while the pale blue light from the computer screen illuminates her like God’s own grace.

I believe this photo has had such a long viral life not just because it is so honest but also because it is so modern.

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Croatoan

May 27th, 2012 - 6:40 pm

“Sooner or later,” my wife said, “people will have to face up to the fact that the Internet will allow perversions and twisted ideas which are statistically rare to find each other and gather force. It will become a public safety issue in our lifetimes. Count on it.”

I thought a second before answering, “Well it is a matter of degree is it not? It began with the rise of the cities. Evil which could find no kindred spirit in homesteads found them at last in cities. Alone a perversion might find no resonance and die out. But in the cities the individual sparks could merge into a blaze:  the bigger was the city, the bigger the blaze.”

That conversation came to mind when the Miami Herald reported a naked man had been found atop another naked man eating his face on the MacArthur causeway in Florida. A motorcyclist pulled up and yelled at the man to stop. He simply raised his head to display a grisly mouthful. The motorcyclist called the police. A responding officer fired a warning shot which had no deterrent effect on the man feasting on the victims face. Finally the policeman shot the assailant multiple times.

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Friday Night Follies

May 27th, 2012 - 2:31 pm

Being sick with a flu has the benefit of enforcing a slight break in routine in the shape of enough space to watch two videos. The first was Conspiracy, a reenactment of the wartime conference in Wannsee, Germany during which the Nazi leadership planned out the extermination of the Jews. The second was the Battle of Marjah an HBO documentary following a Marine company tasked with winning the hearts and minds of a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.

No two military organizations could be more unlike than the Nazi killing machine of 1942 and the US Marines of 2010. While the Nazis casually planned  — and actually did kill thousands of civilians per day for nothing more than to satisfy a psychopathic obsession, Ben Anderson’s documentary follows the Marine assault into a Taliban base. The Taliban walk in the open, casually passing in front of  the Marines, completely secure in the knowledge of their immunities under the rules of engagement. They take up positions, arm up, and get set under the full view of drones while every request to engage them is denied by lawyers hundreds of miles away.

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And They Said He Was A Very Great Man

May 25th, 2012 - 1:08 pm

Looting and rioting is easy and fun. After all, Rich kids in Britain do it. It’s cool. “Laura Johnson, 20, was found guilty of burglary from an electronics store and handling stolen goods, and admitted driving fellow looters between targets … Johnson is described as “going off the rails” after a privileged upbringing, which saw her achieve nine GCSE A grades and four A*s at A-Level at the sixth form of St Olave’s Grammar, the fourth best state school in the country. She spent her teenage years in a country house in Orpington with her wealthy parents Robert, 56, and Lindsay, 55, who run their own marketing business.”

Celebrities do it. “The son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour defiled the Cenotaph before joining the baying mob surrounding Prince Charles and Camilla.” Gilmour was a student at Cambridge. “The son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour did not realise he was swinging from the Cenotaph because he had grown up in the countryside without access to television, a court has been told.”  Don’t people know it’s trendy to be rebellious? Who knows about what the Cenotaph is except the members of those dreadful clubs that the poor old pensioners belong to and stand for Last Post on Armistice Day?

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The Zinger Not the Song

May 25th, 2012 - 9:34 am

Today’s European disaster news has been dominated by reports that Catalonia, Spain’s “richest province” has 13 billion Euro in debts it can’t pay. The head of its autonomous government, Catalan President Artur Mas, says “we don’t care how they do it, but we need to make payments at the end of the month. Your economy can’t recover if you can’t pay your bills.” One is tempted to reply ‘who gives a damn?’ No Mas, Artur.

But nothing illustrates the level to which Spain sunk more than news that it’s Eurovision song contestant has been asked to intentionally lose because the country can’t afford to host the next event if she wins.

Bosses of Spanish public television have told Pastora Soler ‘to throw’ her entry as the Government battle to cut national debt and bring public spending under control. The 33-year-old singer said directors of state-run broadcaster TVE called her in to say: ‘Please don’t win. We don’t want to pay for it in 2013.’

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Crossing the Bar

May 24th, 2012 - 8:30 pm

When Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran told author Charles Brandt where, how, and when he put Hoffa down, he was near the point of death. Sheeran, who was suffering from cancer, said he had just enough time to square things with God. “During his final illness … he told me he had made his confession and received communion from a visiting priest … the following day, a week or so before he lost strength and stamina, Frank Sheeran asked me to pray with him, to say the Lord’s Prayer and and Hail Mary with him, which we did together.”

Hugo Chavez, facing the prospect of personal extinction, temporarily forgot his Marxism and begged Jesus to grant him life. Richard “the Iceman” Kuklinski, who worked as a hitman for the Mafia and killed and sometimes tortured people for fun, also got the urge to confess in face of a terminal illness.  Recently, a man confessed to murdering six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 after learning that he was dying from cancer.

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