Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't miss this one

MKH exposes the pointy underbelly of free needle programs.

A compassionate and logically flawless liberal initiative leading to unintended consequences? Who knew! (well, besides them)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

um, what?

The following is transcribed verbatim from yesterday's Montreal Gazette. It may be the most wtf item I've ever seen. The short version, from the headline: "bar workers play volleyball to raise funds for sex ed." Bar workers? Volleyball? Sex ed? Um, wtf? My favorite thing about the item is the completely matter-of-fact description, as if the writer found nothing unusual in the slightest about bartenders (again, i'm sorry, but wtf?) playing volleyball to raise dental dam awareness among the youth of the city.

[The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, August 27, 2007; Julian Armstrong]

[the first story is a touching one: "Teen raises $11,000 for cancer patients" Then comes this, as the very next item]

"A beach volleyball tournament between teams of bar and restaurant employees has raised more than $10,000 to finance sex education in Montreal-area high schools.

Sponsored for the second year by the Head and Hands agency, the recent tournament in Jeanne Mance Park had 10 competing teams from bars and restaurants on and off the island. The winning team was Tokyo/Pistol. Blizzarts came in second, Chateau du Lac third.

Funds will be donated to the agency's Sense Project, which aims to provide community-based sex education for secondary school students between the ages of 14 and 17.

The project was designed to fill a gap in the curriculum when sex education was cut by schools. The program is designed to give young people the information and emotional tools needed to make smart choices, thereby reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections."

Ah, bartenders - never letting anything, not even the chance of sunburn, get in the way of their love for the children. Next week: reformed sex offenders play shuffleboard to raise funds for a kiddie park!

Update: Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for the link!

Monday, August 27, 2007

"The contemporary liberal is in large measure a conservative"

A line I came across, from 1971. "[H]is desire for social change is balanced by a mounting apprehension that the most essential traditional values are being undermined and ultimately will be abandoned."

Friday, August 24, 2007


Sorry I've been gone, I'm on vacation, blogging will be light for another week or so.
Anyway, Udolpho's back, and he said what I was gonna say, anyway:

" It's getting tough to make a coming of age movie in an age when by my estimation adolescence now lasts until you're in your late thirties."

(via RC)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Culture Matters

This is priceless. It's all gold, but I think my favorite part is the cruel, cruel insult: "an African Margaret Thatcher." Wow, and I thought the comparisons of Bush to Hitler were harsh! But seriously, folks, does anyone doubt that if Africans were even remotely capable of producing a leader like Margaret Thatcher, their biggest problem today would likely be the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray conversion debate? And Angelina would be off adopting Canadians or something.

Anyway, Bono's outburst reminded me of this great Ambivablog post. One of the Easterly quotations that lept out at me:

"The ideology of Development is not only about having experts design your free market for you; it is about having the experts design a comprehensive, technical plan to solve all the problems of the poor. These experts see poverty as a purely technological problem, to be solved by engineering and the natural sciences, ignoring messy social sciences such as economics, politics, and sociology."

Sociology. It's not just about markets, not just about institutions - it's about people.

Which brings me to this fascinating new book:

"As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

'Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,' Dr. Clark writes."

Thrift? Hard work? What!? Where was the UN? Where was Bono? Where was Sachs???

Oh, yeah:

"Many commentators point to a failure of political and social institutions as the reason that poor countries remain poor. But the proposed medicine of institutional reform 'has failed repeatedly to cure the patient,' Dr. Clark writes. He likens the 'cult centers' of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prescientific physicians who prescribed bloodletting for ailments they did not understand."

Modern historians, meanwhile, are appalled to learn that individuals might actually matter:

"Historians used to accept changes in people’s behavior as an explanation for economic events, like Max Weber’s thesis linking the rise of capitalism with Protestantism. But most have now swung to the economists’ view that all people are alike and will respond in the same way to the same incentives. Hence they seek to explain events like the Industrial Revolution in terms of changes in institutions, not people."

Institutions, not people. Charity, not culture. Transfers instead of transformations. No wonder Africa is doomed.

(by the way, these modern historians don't understand how people succeed because they refuse to even acknowledge success - they look at the West and see not an Industrial Revolution, but centuries of racism, patriarchy, hegemony, imperialism, and war-mongering. As for Africa, it has to them no identity except as a victim of all of the above.)

(oh, and one more thing: there's a very good chance I'll end up teaching in Africa at some point. Before you roll your eyes, that's different! Actually living with a community, and teaching its children, is different than throwing money at it. You know, that whole fish story. And no, I don't think it will actually matter, but nothing really does, and sometimes you just have to keep pushing those boulders up those mountains)

In conclusion, when it comes to the troubles with Africa today, just keep in mind this simple slogan: It's not the economy, stupid!

"The Tory Party never was a 'right-wing' party, let alone a 'rightwing' one."

Remember this? Well, as the line goes, say it better with Hitchens:

"There never was a Tory swing to the right. The Tory Party never was a 'right-wing' party, let alone a 'rightwing' one. Nor will it ever be. It was an effective machine for putting well-bred gentlemen into office, and would always do what was necessary to achieve that end. Now it is an ineffective one. There was, on the other hand, a very significant change in Labour, from being a reformist working class-based party, to being a middle-class radical party bent on profound social, moral and cultural change. That required a new form of opposition - one that both understood what New Labour was about, and fundamentally disagreed with it. The Tories had got used to being vaguely, habitually against the Old Labour package of union rights and nationalisation. They thought the old slogans and habits of mind would carry on working against the new version.

They never cottoned on to how important comprehensive schools and political correctness were. The party that does grasp these things, and is prepared to combat them, has yet to come into being, but the omens are, for the moment, surprisingly good."


Yep. Me, too.

And ditto on the green card!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Week Away

One week (well, only four days now, actually) away from vacation. A week at home, glued to the couch. And you know what that means. Yes, that's right: CSI Miami!

I [puts on sunglasses] can't wait.


(I posted this in the comments over at Rain in the Doorway, but thought I should put it up here, too.)

I came across this video (no embed, sorry) some time ago because I love old Russian songs, and it really creeped me out. Still does. Note how the spotlight isn't used to highlight anyone on the stage, but pans back and forth across the audience instead! Reminds me of when my dad was finishing up med school in Budapest right after the war, and said the Soviets took over classes to lecture on communism and videotaped the audience to make sure everyone was paying attention (my dad wasn't, he and the guy next to him were whispering the whole time, and he found out they were being videotaped since they were called in to get a talking to from the authorities and shown the tape of themselves!)

DL vs. DB

Via Treacher at The Daily Gut, an absolute must-read interview. Some d-bag p.c. white reporter (for The Onion! I mean, come on, aren't they of all people supposed to have a sense of humor?) interviews DL Hughley and won't get off his back about how he offended black women in his joking about Imus ("obviously the joke came at a very sensitive time for black women"). But DL won't have none of it, and speaks truth to power! It's an amazing interview, almost rivaling the Hirsi Ali CBC one for the sheer clueless, self-righteous preening of the interviewer.

Here's the transcript of what DL said on Leno, btw.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"religion is not primarily about God"

"but about the sacred"

Please, please, please read this essay by Roger Scruton! Excuse my enthusiasm, but this is my thing, I wrote like fifty papers on this exact topic, on the persistence of sacred myths in secular literature, I am thrilled to see Scruton write such a wonderful piece on the topic.

Some more key quotations:

"A myth does not describe what happened in some obscure period before human reckoning, but what happens always and repeatedly. It does not explain the causal origins of our world, but rehearses its permanent spiritual significance."

"you could subtract the gods and their stories from Greek religion without taking away the most important thing"

"According to Girard, the need for sacrificial scapegoating is implanted in the human psyche, arising from the attempt to form a durable community in which the moral life can be successfully pursued. One purpose of the theatre is to provide fictional substitutes for the original crime, and so to obtain the benefit of moral renewal without the horrific cost."

"The experience of the sacred is not an irrational residue of primitive fears, nor is it a form of superstition that will one day be chased away by science. It is a solution to the accumulated aggression which lies in the heart of human communities."

" the experience of the sacred can be suppressed, ignored and even desecrated (the routine tribute paid to it in modern societies) but never destroyed. Always the need for it will arise, for it is in the nature of rational beings like us to live at the edge of things, experiencing our alienation and longing for the sudden reversal that will once again join us to the centre."

There's much more, please do check it out! (h/t: ALDaily)

UPDATE: Here's something I wrote a while back on Moby Dick which I think is relevant:

"Finally, at the chapter’s end [the chapter 'The Whiteness of the Whale'], he discovers the answer, and the answer to Melville’s central question about the ongoing human reliance on mythology: Ishmael’s greatest fear is not that the whale represents any one thing, but that it represents nothing. He senses that there is nothing there for it to signify, that there is nothing meaningful in the 'heartless voids and immensities of the universe,' nothing except a pointless and inevitable 'annihilation' (282). It is not a specific sinister meaning that he fears, but the absence of any meaning at all; it is 'atheism from which we shrink' (282). The chapter ends with his fear that color (and thus meaning) is but an illusion that the human mind imposes on a colorless (meaningless) world, that beauty and purpose are not innate to nature but 'only laid on from without' to mask 'the charnel-house within' (283). Like those who insist on masking the blinding whiteness of the sun with colored glasses, so Ishmael senses that humans mask the emptiness of life with myths of meaning. The 'Albino Whale' is the symbol of this blinding whiteness, of the indifference of the universe to man’s storytelling, and that is why he is so feared and why he must be killed.[1]

Melville’s Moby Dick portrays mankind’s fundamental need for meaning, which it creates through myth. The only thing more frightening than an inescapable fate is no fate at all, and Melville shows that men will drive themselves to madness and death in the creation of myth, rather than face the void of an existence deprived of meaning. But there are some funny parts, too!

[1] The irony being that Moby Dick has already become a myth in himself. This shows that myths will never die: even thoroughly anti-mythical figures will end up being thought of in mythical terms. "

UPDATE 2: And an excerpt from an introduction to a paper on Melville and James:

"Rather than have their unwitting heroes inadvertently play into the hands of inescapable fate, their protagonists are deliberately and self-consciously mimetic. This is not Oedipus, fulfilling the prophecy of the gods despite himself, but a modern-day protagonist in a world without manifest gods or fate nonetheless choosing to live as if prophesied. This idea of accepted, even expected, fate permeates Melville’s Billy Budd and is present to a lesser extent in James’ The Portrait of a Lady. In either case, classic, ancient tragedy – the inability to escape the fate assigned by the gods – is supplanted by the absurd, modern kind: the enthusiastic acceptance of divine fate in a world without gods."

UPDATE 3: Thank you to Ambivablog for the link and the kind words! Please see her post for links to much better posts on the topic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Vampire Squid from Hell

No, really.

How I Built My Resume Over Summer Vacation

First they came for our childhood, then they came for our adolescence. A great essay in the WSJ (via the invaluable ALDaily).

I would say that adulthood is next, but I feel like that's been missing for quite some time already.

"Just know that I'm sending my daughter to high school in a suit of armor every day."

"I don't know the exact rules for the era in which women dress like hookers, shrug off one-night stands and dance by grinding their butts against the groins of various strangers at dark nightclubs."
From Bill Simmons' Mailbag (scroll almost all the way down).

Steyn on Camelot

Check it out. (Via RC)

Friday, August 10, 2007


Don't miss The Daily Gut sidebar, where I found this story (and the related Gregalogue) .

UPDATE: Different topic, but another great Gregalogue.

Jews and Japan

Wow, very interesting, I never heard about any of this.

I haven't quit blogging

Sorry; put away the champagne! Enjoying the last weeks of summer, nothing new to write about, just check out the blogs in the sidebar, that's all you need. I have one week left at Harvard, my last week here ever, so I've just been spending time with friends, blogging will probably remain light to non-existent until I get home.

UPDATE: Now that's what i call perfect light summer vlogging.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Not-So-Dangerous Book for Boys

Beyond parody. Then again, what isn't, these days? Another hilariously pathetic detail from the original article is that there is even an internet station set up in the camp so the scouts can all keep checking their email.

The story does leave us with a very difficult question, though, one that is at the heart of conservatism. The Boy Scouts changed their name to the Scouts in the 60s, and who can argue with that? I'm an obsessive when it comes to women's equality, and I despise misogynistic institutions with a true vehemence, from the finals clubs [Harvard's frat houses] in my backyard to, well, basically the entire Muslim world. But (there's always a but!), I probably have to admit that this departure from tradition, this decision to change something as fundamental as the very name of the organization, likely jeopardized the institutional resistance to further, less savory, changes. In other words, it probably wasn't that long a slide from girl scouts to vegan pacifist scouts. So, how can we insist upon some changes and put our foot down over others? Is there any way to stop the ball once it starts rolling? I have no idea! But this is why I fear change. I also fear bright lights and loud noises.


I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this (via HotAir). They (the Republican politicians) know this is stupid, know it makes no economic sense, know it's outright wrong, but they do it anyway - because they don't want to seem mean. God forbid they stand up for their principles and tell some charity off; no, they must embrace it, pander to it, in order to get some good press (which they aren't gonna get anyway) and the votes of a few bleeding hearts (who aren't gonna vote for Republicans anyway).

This issue came up at Harvard earlier this year, when the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) voted to endorse the STOP campaign (Students Taking on Poverty, your basic socialist nightmare). I don't want to repeat myself, so I figured I would just post an excerpt from an email I wrote to the Republican open list in response (The Salient, btw, is the campus conservative publication - real conservative, nothing to do with the gladhanders in the HRC):

"The HRC, just like the GOP, appears to be made up of a bunch of incredibly nice and polite individuals. The national republicans just grin wider whenever the dems attack them with lies, Bush and his White House never ever fight back and rebut even the most blatant slanders, the Republican leadership goes out of its way to pander to minority groups, and the HRC dutifully and kindly follows their example. I personally find this distateful and politically autistic, but attacking party republicans for gutlessness is like attacking birds for flying (i'm sorry i can't be more witty, i'm on day two of my hunger strike and feeling woozy). My only major problem with the HRC is that their desire to be all things to all people, their kindness towards their political opponents, and their willingness to join up with campaigns like STOP does not extend to some conservatives themselves. That is to say, there is apparently nothing on this campus they are willing to vociferously denounce except The Salient."

Shorter version: For God's sake, Republicans, grow a pair!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

New York Times, I apologize

I made fun of you over your story on The New Victorians. I suggested, on my own blog and in the Althouse comments, that this supposed trend, which appeared laughably false on its face, was just the latest example of a reporter from your renowned newspaper making up a story (I mean, a "tale") based on an inspired concoction of overheard anecdotes, shoddy analysis, and completely unrepresentative close personal acquaintances. However, I must now eat my words. I can be a big man, and I will admit when I'm wrong. You see, a reporter from Washington City Paper did something your reporter did not do - that is, engage in actual reporting. This devoted young journalist may not work for the Times, or for a newspaper of any prominence at all for that matter, but she would not be dissuaded. "I may not write for The Paper of Record," she surely thought, "I may not Print all the News that's Fit to Print, and I sure as blazes ain't no Grey Lady, but, gosh almighty, I will do whatever I have to do to get this story - and if that means actually talking to and spending time with my subjects, then so be it! Even if - yes, even if - they aren't my old college pals! Indeed, I will dare to throw all caution to the wind and even try to read their private correspondence!" She did all this, and more, knowing that it was all in vain, knowing that her story would never, could never, make it onto the most-emailed list at the Times.

Yet, and this is why I must apologize, her conclusions are the same. Go, read them for yourselves. See the New Victorians at work and at play. Bask in the candlelit glow of their refined dinner soirees, pinch the cheeks of their happily spoiled offspring, feed gourmet treats to their lovingly groomed french poodles, gasp at the rebellion against their free-loving elders. Demeaning sex-crazed lives lived in an alcoholic haze? The stuff of legend and Tom Wolfe novels! No, these young adults are too busy being upwardly mobile, too focused on playing catch with their sons, to even momentarily contemplate casual sexual encounters. Go forth, New York Times, and cast your eyes upon the new generation. Behold: The New Victorians!

Oh, wait.

(major profanity warning at that link, btw)

h/t to my dear friend Meghan over at Modestly Yours.