Daily Archives: October 12, 2009

As Obama retreats, Russia flexes its muscles

“Yesterday tanks, today, gas”. Russia plans new pipeline that will allow it to control eastern block. The concept of “no one nation more powerful than another”, extolled by Obama and dreamed of by liberal naiefs, depends on Russian cooperation. Too bad Putin doesn’t share that vision.


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Chicago is another world

The WSJ has an article on a Chicago hot dog joint that’s run into problem with its name, “Felony Franks”. Although the owner hires ex-convicts, thus providing jobs to the otherwise unemployable, neighbors aren’t happy. The article is interesting (I love the description of one critic as a “self-employed employment consultant”) it’s the window into Chicago politics and the control a single alderman can exercise over even a tiny business that I find disturbing. Welcome to Obama World, eh?

Felony Franks encountered friction even before it opened in July. Last year, after securing building permits from the city, Mr. Andrews visited Robert Fioretti, the alderman who represents the area around Felony Franks. “I don’t like the name,” Mr. Andrews recalls the alderman saying.

Mr. Andrews needed Mr. Fioretti’s approval to install a sign in an empty frame that juts from the building. He estimates he could bring in 15% to 20% more revenue with more visibility from passing cars. When the sign company he had paid $1,700 told him permission had been denied, Mr. Andrews called the alderman’s office. A staffer, he says, told him Mr. Fioretti wouldn’t approve the sign because he didn’t like “Felony Franks.”


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This sounds like fun, but so too would be serving as First Mate on the Titanic

Laid off when the Rocky Mountain News folds, reporter buys his own paper in Santa Rosa New Mexico. Santa Rosa is close to where my ancestor Albert Fountain and his seven-year-old son Henry were murdered in 1896 and, at least when I visited in 2000, it didn’t seem to have approved with age.

It’s a nobel attempt, but if print newspapers can only survive where there is no Internet, I suspect this guy won’t be seen as a trailblazer for long.

UPDATE: Oops – I just checked my memory via Google maps and I was thinking of Tularosa, not Santa. But I did pass through Santa Rosa when hitchhiking west on Rt. 66 back in 1970, and don’t recall much of note there. No girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me, for instance.


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That wasn’t light at the end of the tunnel, it was an oncoming train

WSJ: Foreclosures hit top tier real estate markets.

New data suggest that foreclosures are rising in more expensive housing markets.

About 30% of foreclosures in June involved homes in the top third of local housing values, up from 16% when the foreclosure crisis began three years ago, according to new data from real-estate Web site Zillow.com. The bottom one-third of housing markets, by home value, now account for 35% of foreclosures, down from 55% in 2006.

[Moving Up chart]

Foreclosures are rising in more expensive markets as home values in those areas fall, leaving more homeowners with mortgages that exceed the value of their properties. Prime loans accounted for 58% of foreclosure starts in the second quarter, up from 44% last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Subprime mortgages accounted for one-third of foreclosure starts, down from one-half last year.

The prime category includes so-called exotic mortgages that were increasingly used to buy more expensive homes, including interest-only mortgages that allowed borrowers to defer principal payments during an initial period. Borrowers often aren’t able to refinance out of these products because the drop in home values has left them with little equity in their homes.

Default rates are particularly high and expected to rise on option adjustable-rate mortgages, which allow borrowers to make minimum payments that may not cover the interest due. Monthly payments can increase to sharply higher levels after five years or when the outstanding balance reaches a certain level. A study by Fitch Ratings found that 46% of option ARMs were 30 days past due last month, even though just 12% of such loans have reset to higher monthly payments.

Zillow estimated that nearly one in four homes with mortgages was worth less than the value of the property at the end of June. Mr. Humphries said he didn’t expect to see foreclosure volumes level off until later in 2010.


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Destroying America

It starts early in our schools and continues until the kids are thoroughly indoctrinated. I find this process of cultural suicide fascinating in an appalled way.

TAMPA, Fla. — Jeffrey Kolowith’s kindergarten students read a poem about Christopher Columbus, take a journey to the New World on three paper ships and place the explorer’s picture on a timeline through history.

Kolowith’s students learn about the explorer’s significance — though they also come away with a more nuanced picture of Columbus than the noble discoverer often portrayed in pop culture and legend.

“I talk about the situation where he didn’t even realize where he was,” Kolowith said. “And we talked about how he was very, very mean, very bossy.”

Columbus’ stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe his namesake holiday on Monday. Although lessons vary, many teachers are trying to present a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations.

“The whole terminology has changed,” said James Kracht, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development. “You don’t hear people using the world ‘discovery’ anymore like they used to. ‘Columbus discovers America.’ Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?”

In Texas, students start learning in the fifth grade about the “Columbian Exchange” — which consisted not only of gold, crops and goods shipped back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, but diseases carried by settlers that decimated native populations.

In McDonald, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, fourth-grade students at Fort Cherry Elementary put Columbus on trial this year — charging him with misrepresenting the Spanish crown and thievery. They found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.

“In their own verbiage, he was a bad guy,” teacher Laurie Crawford said.


The students were forced to stand in a cafeteria and not allowed to eat while other students teased and intimidated them — apparently so they could better understand the suffering indigenous populations endured because of Columbus, Korten said.

We are taxing ourselves to pay the salaries of these people. Amazing.

UPDATE: Here are two people, InstaPundit and Eliot Morrison, saying things much better.

HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY: Many in the West will demonstrate their fierce originality and intellectual independence today by condemning Christopher Columbus using the same shopworn cliches they used last year. For those of a different bent, I recommend Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus, which takes a somewhat different position. Here’s an excerpt:

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Morison’s book is superb, and I recommend it highly as an antidote to the simplistic anti-occidental prejudice of today — which, as Jim Bennett has noted, has roots that might surprise its proponents:

This is primarily an effect of the Calvinist Puritan roots of American progressivism. Just as Calvinists believed in the centrality of the depravity of man, with the exception of a minuscule contingent of the Elect of God, their secularized descendants believe in the depravity and cursedness of Western civilization, with their own enlightened selves in the role of the Elect.


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Maybe Joe Biden selected it

Our newest president has hung a plagiarized artwork on the wall of the White House. It’s a direct copy of a 1953 Henri Matisse work but this one is by a “black artist”, so, under the soft-bigotry of lower expectations, that’s alright. I hope the artist remembered to pay her taxes, at least.

Matisse, Alma, or vice versa

Matisse, Alma, or vice versa


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New York Times: “Never mind!”

A most intriguing correction appeared in the Times yesterday. My question is, if the Polish prime minister didn’t say what the Times originally said he did, then who did? Did the reporter make it up out of broadcloth? Did a little bird whisper in his ear? Inquiring minds want to know.

An article last Sunday about reaction to the arrest of the filmmaker Roman Polanski misstated the response of the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk. Mr. Tusk has said Mr. Polanski should seek Polish consular help; he has not “heroized the director as a great artist victimized by vengeful bureaucrats in America and toadying Swiss.”

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Harvey Weinstein, Angela Houston: “Let him go!”

1968 hijacker arrested in New York.


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Could Monty Python succeed today? Doubtful

So says Brit Jeremy Clarkson. I think they’d flop in the U.S. too.

Novel Writing is at the very heart of what makes Monty Python so brilliant. The notion of Thomas Hardy writing his books, in front of a good-natured bank holiday crowd in Dorset, while cricket-style commentators and pundits assess every word he commits to paper is a juxtaposition you don’t find in comedy very much any more.

To get the point you need to know that while Hardy may be seen as a literary colossus, there’s no escaping the fact his novels are dirge. We see these attacks on intellectualism throughout Python. To understand the joke, you need to know that René Descartes did not say, I “drink” therefore I am. You need to know that if you cure a man of leprosy, you are taking away his trade. And that really Archimedes did not invent football.

I first noticed the loss of generational knowledge fifteen years ago when I was coaching smart college kids in LSAT preparation. I’d refer to something I assumed was common general knowledge: Henry the Fifth’s St. Crispin speech, say, or the European upheaval of 1848, and receive blank stares: if it wasn’t on MTV, they’d never heard of it. No Bismarck, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther (do you recall Bill Clinton saying, “it’s like Martin Luther King said, “I’m here because I can’t do anything else”? He did, and he went to Yale, I hear.) 

You can’t make a joke or debate point that references events older than twenty years any more because no one under fifty will get it. That’s not only sad, it’s troubling. As Edmund Burke said, “flies of summer”. 


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Thus proving he’s an artiste

Polanski finds jail depressing – lawyer. Unlike the great unwashed like you and I, who would relax and be happy at the prospect of three hots and a cot. Free the Zurich One!

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