Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sickeningly debased journalism specimen of the week

So Her Messiahness is on her way to Copenhagen to join the Failed Messiah in a mission of critical importance, bagging the Olympics for sweet home Chicago. We can take it as given that the word has already reached the F.M. through the back channels: the city of broad shoulders and corrupt politics has been chosen. Mr. and Mrs. F.M. will smile, pose for the adoring multitudes, and modestly allow as how proud they are to have used their hope and audacity to have brought about this towering success.

That, however, is not our text for today. I want to bring to your attention a particularly noteworthy example of the adulation of our mainstream journalism for the Supernal Couple. Some are born narcissistic (F.M. Obama); some achieve narcissism (the mainstream media); and some have narcissism thrust upon them (the rest of us, courtesy of the media).

The Fawning Journalist Prize is hereby awarded to Nancy Armour, "AP national writer":
With only two days until the 2016 games are awarded, there’s no time to waste.

Mrs. Obama arrived here Wednesday morning to lend her support to Chicago’s efforts to win the 2016 Summer Olympics. As head of Chicago’s delegation—and her husband’s representative until he arrives Friday—she plans to meet with as many IOC members as possible to try to persuade them to pick her hometown over Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

Ms. Armour leaves little doubt that Michelle Obama's immense influence should clinch the deal by bestowing her presence on the minor nobility of the Olympic committee. After all, as Nancy Armour writes,

… there are few people better to sell Chicago’s bid than Michelle Obama. Funny, gracious and incredibly accomplished, she’s one of the few people who can rival her husband’s popularity.

Part of that is unarguable. Gaming the affirmative action system all the way to a berth in the White House without otherwise doing anything of note is a pretty incredible accomplishment.

The U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Laurie S. Fulton, was there to greet her, as were Daley and his wife, Maggie, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey and Marty Nesbitt, one of the president’s good friends. Kai Holm, president of the Danish Olympic Committee, also was there.

Mrs. Obama planned to meet with IOC members later Wednesday and Thursday, and also has a meeting scheduled with Rogge. She’ll attend Chicago’s welcome bash—along with Oprah Winfrey—and has lunch plans Thursday with the Danish queen.

A word of advice to the Danish queen: Your majesty, don't be nervous. Her Messiahness is just a regular person. You needn't be afraid of her. Just remember to bow, not to speak before she speaks, and when she signals the audience is over with a nod of her head, back out of the room while still facing her. Then you can go back to your palace and paste the moment in your dream book!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Olympic weight throwing champion


Our ship of state's Captain Queeg is about to go on another trip, that is, another ego trip. This time he will be heading to Copenhagen in aid of charming the selection committee into bringing the 2016 Olympics to (where else?) Chicago.

The Emperor Obama probably believes his touch can cure leprosy. He certainly believes his speech-making talent, which enables him to offer gift wrapped packages with nothing inside, will work its magic for any purpose. You got your theocratic loons playing with nukes? Give speech no. 4. You got a recalcitrant country who doesn't get the wisdom of government-run medicine? Give speech no. 2. You got some embarrassing friends like Preacher Man Wright and Green Man Van Jones and those ACORN mobsters? Give speech no. 10. Works like a stimulus. Just be sure to cue up the right speech on the teleprompter.


I hope this isn't belaboring the obvious, but … why is the president of these Untied States (sic) swanning around lobbying for Chicago to be blessed with the Olympics? Is it anything more than another demonstration of his imagined popularity that can sweep all resistance off the board? Something to show for his nine months in office which have accomplished nothing except to make his country look weak and foolish (even more so than his predecessor managed) in the eyes of the world?

Well, maybe the Olympics committee will be easier for Obama to impress than any of the country's threatening regimes and friends. Make that former friends.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome to America

Maybe I'm running this subject into the ground. If so, I apologize. Like the weather, it will change soon.

But I continue to be gobsmacked at finding myself living in a country that will not take the simplest, easiest, cheapest, and most effective measure to prevent jihadist terrorism, right here at home.

Consider this exhibit, from the New York Daily News. It's headlined "Enemies within: America must face the threat posed by homegrown terrorists."
Homegrown terror, so lightly dismissed by so many for so long, is sprouting perilously from American soil. Najibullah Zazi, indicted this week on charges of plotting an Al Qaeda bomb strike, is the terrifying face of a strain of radical, violent Islam within the U.S.

His case history documents how terrorists can fade into the fabric of the country's pluralistic population and how easily they can fashion explosives out of readily available products.
"Homegrown"? Since when is Islam a "homegrown" American politico-religious system? But the Daily News follows the liberal rulebook. Which means it has to pretend Islam is as American as hot dogs. And that "pluralistic" population, meaning in this instance multi-cultural, that mad bombers can easily fade into is precisely what the Daily News and its ruling Ministry of Propaganda are forever celebrating.

The paper proceeds to list other "enemies within":
  • Brooklyn-born Betim Kaziu was charged Thursday with attempting to join a Pakistani-based Al Qaeda affiliate in hopes of killing U.S. troops.
  • Jordanian Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday in Dallas for putting what he believed was a car bomb in an office-tower garage.
  • Michael Finton, a 29-year-old Illinois man who idolized American Taliban John Walker Lindh, was arrested Wednesday on charges of plotting to bomb a federal courthouse.
  • Long Islander Bryant Neal Vinas was busted in July for allegedly training with Al Qaeda in Pakistan, joining rocket attacks on U.S. forces and giving "expert advice" on the subways and Long Island Rail Road.
  • Three U.S. citizens and a Haitian immigrant were charged in May with conspiring to plant 37 pounds of explosive at two Bronx synagogues.
  • Three illegal-immigrant brothers from Macedonia were sentenced in April to life for plotting in 2007 to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J.
That's why the see-something-say-something rule must be reinforced. Why authorities must educate sellers of beauty and hair products that can be perverted to evil. Zazi bought loads of such stuff in Colorado. Why New Yorkers must accept the mild intrusion of even more bag inspections in the subways. And why Congress must not weaken Patriot Act provisions that enable authorities, with warrants, to wiretap and seize records of terror suspects.
Our first response must always be, "Welcome to America!" Then, after giving these barbarians time to, as the Daily News puts it, "fade into the fabric of the country's pluralistic population," we can fight back by "saying something" when we "see something" -- as if terrorist plotters sit down at a picnic table in Central Park to assemble their nutcase souks, sorry, I mean suitcase nukes.

Beauty and hair products sellers of America, stand tall! You are our first line of defense against the violent jihad!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't pay for white teeth, but you'll pay for our stupid immigration policy


Can somebody tell me why every other Web page has an ad for teeth whitening? You'd think it's now our no. 1 national industry. Maybe it is. Could be it's the one thing we do better, or cheaper, than China.

Let us return briefly to our subject of yesterday, viz., the U.S. opening the gates for immigrants with explosive tempers, waiting for them to go to ground and then trying to catch them, preferably before they blow some of us up.

The field has widened since last we met. This is from the Springfield, Illinois, paper:

Over the two years that authorities tracked Michael C. Finton, accused Thursday of trying to bomb Springfield’s federal courthouse, they gave Finton plenty of chances to drop the idea. According to a 25-page affidavit filed in support of the charges against Finton, however, he would not be deterred. … On Thursday, Finton, who authorities said also used the name “Talib Islam,” was brought before a federal judge in the same building he allegedly had targeted. …

Finton reportedly told the government source that he “would rather die as a shaheed (Arabic for martyr) than to try to live his life here. He said his goal was to do something that was going to be a catalyst for establishing a Muslim Caliphate. He said he wanted to be (sic) a historical event.”

We take you now to Dallas.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday after he parked a vehicle laden with government-supplied fake explosives in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story tower in the 1400 block of Ross Avenue at North Field Street, authorities said.

The arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began after an agent monitoring an online extremist Web site discovered Smadi espousing jihad against the U.S. more than six months ago.

As for our diversity pin-up from yesterday, Najibullah Zazi, even the New York Times is forced to grit its gray teeth and admit, "Terror Case Is Called One of the Most Serious in Years."

Documents filed in Brooklyn against the driver, Najibullah Zazi, contend he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb — hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid — and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects.

If government allegations are to be believed, Mr. Zazi, a legal immigrant from Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended a Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind of chemicals he had bought.
A lot of these numbskull jihadis seem like they would have trouble opening a can of beans, never mind carrying out another 9/11. But it may be that they are the only ones we catch. Who knows how many others, a little brighter, are working out their plots in serene isolation from FBI snoopers? Thanks again, open borders industry.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The United States is recruiting jihadists

Najibullah Zazi, al-Qaeda
explosives representative

This chap, welcomed to the United States with open arms as far as I can tell, was looking forward to repaying the favor.
… The Daily News has learned that prime terror suspect Najibullah Zazi has confessed he was a jihadist hell-bent on murderous mayhem, the sources said. … "Operation Nexus" took on an extra urgency after raids on Queens apartments Zazi visited turned up knapsacks and cell phones. The exact targets are not known, but the find raised the specter of simultaneous blasts like the 2004 attack that killed 191 commuters in Spain.
The Daily News identifies Zazi as "an Afghan national who moved to Denver from New York six months ago." Afzali is described by the AP as "a legal permanent resident from Afghanistan."


The media are treating it as another crime story, with the explosives aspect giving it an extra little thrill. Maybe somebody is pitching a treatment for a TV movie based on it at this very moment. Nobody seems the slightest bit interested in asking the obvious question.

Why the hell were these two sickbags admitted to the United States? And at least one, the imam, given permanent residency?

We're recruiting terrorists. We invite them to settle here, and then let the bad'uns among them play a game of "Catch Me If You Can" with us.


The answer to the obvious question is also obvious. The Liberal Establishment wants as many Third World immigrants as possible to further its plans for population replacement. It wants a new country of the poor and ignorant, with no grounding in U.S. history and traditions, that will be granted citizenship as soon as the law can be forced through. Such a new America will be easier to manipulate than one with traditional ideas of individualism and property ownership that give it some feeling of security.

Our Failed Messiah is particularly, shall we say, empathetic with Muslims. But that would not matter if the Liberal Establishment didn't already have as its first commandment, Thou shalt not discriminate, nay, not for any reason whatsoever. Everyone is equal. Everyone is the same.


So, year after year, we go through this farce of rolling out the welcome wagon for all kinds of characters we would be smart to send back to the psychopathological backwaters they arrived from. Then we have the police and FBI running around trying to catch the ones with eyes to cause a little ruckus, à la 9/11.

The U.S. is playing a game of three-card monte, with itself as the sucker. "Hey, friend, how about a little game of chance? Guess which thimble the terrorist is under, and you win a prize, an extra week before you're dust."

Very exciting. Makes for good media stories about the hunt, about plots broken up, cool shots of the handcuffed perps being marched into the van by those guys with the blue FBI jackets.


Then it's on to the next investigation of the next terrorist cell, or the members they didn't roll up in the latest bust. Good fun. Until, sooner or later, the security lads and lasses don't connect the dots in time, and a few thousand people die from bombs and radiation.

I know, I know: Most Muslims aren't terrorists. True but irrelevant. The issue is national security. That comes first. We shouldn't give a toss if it isn't "fair" or it offends Muslims.

One thing you can be sure of: other cells are here, and probably more members are being recruited all the time. By your government, in the name of diversity and multi-culturalism.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Listening to spirits

For the afterworld, press 1.

R.A. Symonds has a page on his Web site that includes this proposed device to enable spirit communication to take place electronically rather than through human mediums.

Although suggestions for such an invention come up from time to time among those interested in psychical research, none has ever been built so far as I know. The notion that Thomas A. Edison worked to design a "spirit communication device" is unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, recent advances in electronic voice phenomena and instrumental transcommunication show some promise in using modern recording technology to communicate with spirits on the Other Side.


Symonds's site strikes me as the proverbial curate's egg ("parts of it are very good"). He — if it is a he — throws everything into the hopper in typical New Age fashion: some of it thoughtful and well researched, some that seems to me intuitively valid, and plenty of pitches for dubious products and books. I do not know what, if any, electronics background he has. He describes the proposed afterlife communication device:

An electric field emanating from a charged capacitor attached to a very, very sensitive microphone inside a glass vacuum chamber or bell jar would have to be used in this case. … The vacuum is necessary to reduce influences from air vibrations and to allow dramatically increased sensitivity to the finer and highly rarified electrical field particles (electrons), vibrations or variations which are hopefully much more likely to be influenced by spiritual entities and/or energies. My greatest hope is that I would be able to capture a clear, natural sounding voice using this method.

If Arthur Ellison were still here, he could probably take a look at Symonds's diagram and in about 30 seconds offer a sound opinion about whether it was likely to work. My guess is not; if something this relatively simple was theoretically valid, Dr. Ellison or someone like him would have built one.

For now, mediumship seems to be the best source of information from those who have passed through the transition called death. Probably the best group of recorded mediumistic communications are those transmitted through Leslie Flint. I have listened to only a fraction of the tapes (they are long, my time available is short) and am certainly not about to offer a categorical opinion about their veracity or whether the voices are those of the putative deceased persons. But most of what I've heard is impressive in one way or another.


Mediumship, especially direct voice mediumship (where the voice is said to be that of the discarnate communicator, not the medium's own), has definite problems. Most "messages" are trivial, rambling, or spiritualist boilerplate. Where they can be compared with recordings or memories of the living communicator, the direct voices and languages often do not match.

Does that mean mediumistic communication is invalid? No — it means it's difficult. The spirits are in a different realm from ours, on a different vibrational level. They don't have physical vocal cords. Richard Hodgson, an early investigator for the Society for Psychical Research, concluded based on his experimental work with mediums:
If, indeed, each one of us is a spirit that survives the death of the fleshly organism, there are certain suppositions that I think we may not unreasonably make concerning the ability of the discarnate spirit to communicate with those yet incarnate. Even under the best conditions for communication which I am supposing for the nonce to be possible, it may well be that the aptitude for communicating clearly may be as rare as the gifts that make a great artist, or a great mathematician, or a great philosopher.


Again, it may well be that, owing to the change connected with death itself, the spirit may at first be much confused, and such confusion may last for a long time; and even after the spirit has become accustomed to its new environment, it is not an unreasonable supposition that if it came into some such relation to another living human organism as it once maintained with its own former organism it would find itself confused by that relation.


The state might be like that of awaking from a prolonged period of unconsciousness into strange surroundings. If my own ordinary body could be preserved in its present state, and I could absent myself from it for some days or months or years, and continue my existence under another set of conditions altogether, and if I could then return to my own body, it might well be that I should be very confused and incoherent at first in my manifestation by means of a human body. I might be troubled with various forms of aphasia [inability to speak] and agraphia [inability to write], might be particularly liable to failures of inhibition, might find the conditions oppressive and exhausting, and my state of mind would probably be of an automatic and dream-like character.
This makes sense, and many mediums and psychical researchers have said something similar. Communication with those on the other side is difficult for us, but probably nowhere near as difficult as it is for them.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

You can play the race card, but the game is over

Like those Japanese soldiers on remote Pacific islands still fighting for Emperor Hirohito while Americans were watching ads for Toyotas on Sony color TVs, the race warriors are determined to carry on the fight. Perhaps fight is the wrong word: they are like Pavlov's dogs, demonstrating conditioned reflex.

We'll pass over Jimmy Carter, whose unstill mouth and inoperative brain have been reported widely enough in the past week that he needs no further comment. Let us pause to examine a couple of other examples of racial pathology that the mainstream media, in their moribund delirium, have published in an effort to save America's soul for their fossilized version of liberalism.


You don't have to be a Yank to play this game. Consider Dani Garavelli, in Scotland on Sunday:
THE very fact Jimmy Carter's suggestion – that some of the opposition to President Barack Obama's policy is driven by the colour of his skin – has caused such ructions is a reminder of just how close to the surface racism in America lies.

I mean, on one level, it's not very contentious is it? To suggest that, in a country the size of the USA – a country whose entire history is based on racial oppression – a proportion of the population might have an inherent bias against an African-American president?
Er, what level is that where such a statement is "not very contentious"? A level somewhere near the floor of the Marianas Trench where dwell the blind bottom feeders who believe America is a country "whose entire history is based on racial oppression"? Inherent bias, indeed. Pot. Kettle. Black. Oops, there I go, my unconscious racism rising half a millimeter to the surface and making an unconscious (for once) play on words.
... there are other undercurrents which seem to suggest there are groups or individuals seeking to make an issue of Obama's colour.

There's nothing very ambiguous about the Photoshop image of Obama in tribal dress which has been circulating on the net, nor about right-wing chat show host Rush Limbaugh's reference to "Obama's America: where white kids get beat up on buses while the black kids cheer on." (Limbaugh was referring to an incident in which children had been fighting over a particular seat in a bus.) And then there are all the references to Obama being a socialist – an accusation which seems innocuous enough on this side of the Atlantic, but which has a potency in the States, given that it's the term used to try to discredit civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.

Many of those who have joined the "tea party" protests are genuinely concerned about big government, higher taxes and the fiscal stimulus package, but, as a predominantly white movement, they are being joined by white supremacist hangers-on with slogans such as "I want my country back" and placards reading "White slavery".
Here is Rush Limbaugh's account; take it or leave it. I don't know. But Ms. Garavelli would place "socialist" outside the bounds of legitimate controversy because it was (she says) used to discredit civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King. We cannot carry signs that say "I want my country back" without revealing ourselves as white supremacist hangers-on. I was at the Washington tea party (has she ever been to one?) and saw no signs reading "White slavery."

Presumably, since all of us white brutes have internal racism jamming our circuits, we should restrict any criticism of the Messianic Warbler to something along the lines of, "Excuse me, Mr. President, begging your pardon -- I have your permission to speak? Thank you, thank you -- I wonder if I might raise a question about your last statement."


Our next witness is Raina Kelley in Newsweek, the dentist waiting-room magazine which recently assured us that witchcraft is -- excuse me, I mean racism is so insidious that even babies emerge from the womb ready to shout "Get to the back of the bus!" if only they could form the words.

Ms. Kelley's column is headlined, "Play the Race Card: Why Avoiding the Issue Won't Help." Avoiding the issue? Would it were so, on all sides! If there is any issue that has not been avoided for the past 40 years, primarily by the likes of Ms. Kelley, it's hard to imagine what it would be.
Let me say this clearly so there are no misunderstandings: some of the protests against President Obama are howls of rage at the fact that we have an African-American head of state. I'm sick of all the code words used when this subject comes up, so be assured that I am saying exactly what I mean. Oh, and in response to the inevitable complaints that I am playing the race card—race isn't a political parlor game. It is a powerful fault line in a nation that bears the scars of slavery, a civil war, Jim Crow, a mind-numbing number of assassinations, and too many riots to count. It is naive and disingenuous to say otherwise.
Naive and disingenuous -- aren't those words rather self-contradictory? -- though I may be, I'm quite willing to concede she is saying just what she means. Whatever that is. Apparently when anyone "inevitably" complains that she is playing the race card, her comeback is that she is entitled to play it. Trumps, she wins!
When "Tea Party" leader Mark Williams appears on CNN and speaks of "working-class people" taking "their" country back from a lawfully elected president, he is not just protesting Obama's politics; he is griping over the fact that this country's most powerful positions are no longer just for white men.
Tell it like it is, Ms. Kelley! Besides her analytical powers, she is psychic, able to look into Mr. Williams's mind and know what evil lurks there.
No, I do not believe that everyone who disagrees with Obama is racist. But racists do exist in this country, and they don't like having a black president.
But Brutus says Caesar was non-racist, and Brutus is an honorable man.
So color me [are you sure you want to use this expression? -- Editor] a little offended when the "mainstream media" suddenly discovered that there might be a racial element to the attacks on Obama.
Suddenly discovered? They've been beating that drum since Obama emerged from the Chicago Vote Manufacturing Co. and became their ikon.
There are few souls brave enough to say what they think about race relations outside the privacy of their homes or the anonymity of the Internet.
Maybe that's because few people want to lose their jobs trying to speak their minds or be cursed by people like you as racists.
But rather than deal with the discomfort of talking about race, we've continued to follow outdated rules about what words can be said by whom or, even worse, to stay silent.
All right, Ms. Kelley. Consider the above my little contribution to overturning outdated rules about what words can be said by whom. And if you think I'm griping over the fact that this country's most powerful positions are no longer just for white men, I can't help myself. I'm a victim of Racist Birth Syndrome.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Whither SACD?


Ten years ago it was the future of home music reproduction. Today it's … well, that gets complicated.

First a quick chalk talk for non-audiophiles who have wandered in. Super Audio CD (SACD) is a recording, storage, and playback medium based on a much higher sampling frequency than the standard ("red book" in audiophile lingo) CD. For a quick rundown of the principles and specs of the SACD format, the Wikipedia entry is here.

Why does SACD matter? Two reasons:

1. Assuming the recording doesn't have major flaws, the SACD sound reproduction is more lifelike and natural.

2. SACD offers the capability to add extra channels. SACDs aren't necessarily multi-channel; older recordings transferred to SACD can be stereo or even monaural. But modern SACD recordings typically have five channels: the standard left and right, plus a center, plus two surround, also called satellite.
You can add a subwoofer if you like very deep bass to massage your internal organs. Ideally, the music fills out your listening space similarly to what you hear in a live music venue, with a wider soundstage in front and the extra ambience of reverberation.


Full disclosure: I'm hooked on SACD.

The thing is, SACD never caught on in a big way. It wasn't for lack of promotion: Sony and Philips got behind it with lots of expensive advertising. Audio dealers weren't shy about touting its virtues. Early adopters mostly swooned over it.

But there were problems right from the kick-off. The first generation of SACD players was expensive, in the $500-plus range, when prices for standard CD players had already hit bedrock. And to get the full benefit, you had to buy more speakers. Then there was the software problem.

Aside from the Golden Ear audiophile contingent, most people weren't willing to shell out a lot of money for a player until there were plenty of SACDs available. But with the higher cost of pressing SACDs, most labels were not pawing at the starting gate to release titles in the unproven medium. Those that tried to bring out a reasonable selection — again, notably Sony and Philips — released
SACD remasterings of their most popular titles, including some that were decades old, like the inevitable Miles Davis Kind of Blue.


Launching SACD with the heavy-hitter albums seemed to make marketing sense. On the other hand, the labels were asking people to buy albums that many already had (in red book editions). To many music "consumers" (I'm afraid the term is all too appropriate), it was foolish to spend $20 for an SACD version of a CD that already sounded cracking good to them.

The timing was bad, too. Younger people didn't have the "high fidelity" bug their elders had. They'd grown up with boomboxes and the Walkman and would soon discover MP3. The sound quality was abysmal on those portables, but their users didn't know it or didn't care. And who can define what a "realistic" rock album is? The music is all electronically processed. An electric guitar or keyboard can sound like practically anything. Fidelity to an original source, a prized commodity in acoustic music like jazz and classical, is nearly irrelevant to plenty of rock and hip-hop listeners.

Hell, the new rage among Gen-Yers is black discs. Yes, 12-inch LPs, with all their warps, scratchy surfaces, and limited frequency range. They're like, edgy.


From a mass marketing standpoint, SACD has been a failure. Another case of quadrophonics. The rise and fall of a new Betamax. Both the trade press and the mass media have pronounced obsequies over the medium.

Hyperion, the superb English classical label, has thrown in the sponge. They will no longer make new SACD recordings. The writing on the wall?

What's ironic is that everyone who has a home theater set-up — a phenomenon that has gone mass-market since SACD was introduced — has the speaker configuration to play back SACD. All you need is an SACD player that also reads DVDs, which most of them do. Maybe SACD was launched a few years too soon. Or maybe our computer-centric culture with its download mentality just doesn't care about realistic musical sound.


However, I come to praise SACD, not to bury it. And I'm not alone. Despite its lack of star billing, the format is far from dead. Labels with a commitment to audio quality — notably Chandos, BIS, PentaTone, and Channel Classics — still issue some of their titles in SACD.

And while the format's greatest strength is in classical and jazz, plenty of rock albums that were excellently recorded in stereo, such as Steely Dan's Gaucho, are out in SACD now. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is said to be a real knockout. I have the SACD version of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, which is streets ahead of its earlier incarnations.

An excellent site,, is the best place to get acquainted with what's available. It lists 5,522 SACDs that can be ordered. I trust that an innovation that is so technically superior still has a future.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't short the Joie de Vivre Index

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has had a good idea. Well, come on, everybody has one, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn from time to time, what?

M. Sarkozy suggested that the wealth of a nation can't be measured in purely materialistic terms like gross domestic product. If that's socialism, make the most of it. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president two years ago on a pledge to boost France's economic prosperity. Now he is suggesting a different way to measure that prosperity -- one that includes factors such as vacation time, health care and family relationships.

From now on, to gauge the economy's health, France will consider well-being in addition to the classic measure of gross domestic product, Mr. Sarkozy said Monday in a speech at the Sorbonne, part of the University of Paris.

One of the things I like about the French is that they value work-life balance. Okay, they don't like work that much. They balance a little work with a lot of life. So they have six weeks of vacation a year, and why not? True, France can't afford such extravagance since it's taken in a nation-within-a-nation of immigrants who on the whole don't contribute much and need a lot of tax money to keep them fed and mosqued, but that's a different issue entirely.

The French appreciate little daily pleasures that contribute to well-being: manners (the formal "Bonjour, madame/monsieur"), le vin, unhurried good meals (too unhurried for me; I go mental sitting in a restaurant for two or three hours). French women, especially parisiennes, take no end of trouble over their appearance, and the results are admirable.

So M. Sarkozy has a good point, and what does he do with it?

The so-called Stiglitz commission has been working at the French president's behest for 18 months on recommendations for measuring well-being. In its report, the group -- which includes 1998 Nobel laureate Amartya Sen among its two dozen members -- said tracking household income and consumption would provide a better indication of living standards than GDP. In the longer term, the panel said, governments must pay more attention to sustainability to determine what level of well-being can be maintained for future generations.

That's right. In statist-bureaucratic standard operating procedure, he appoints a commission on well-being. To find ways of measuring well-being!

It would probably never occur to Professor Sen (according to his Wikipedia entry, he received the Nobel gong for "his work on welfare economics"), but when you measure well-being by "household income and consumption," you aren't striking out in a new direction. Non, pas du tout! You're just looking at the old economics of getting and spending, the nonstop hamster wheel, from a slightly different angle.

The commission didn't propose a single composite indicator to replace GDP. Instead, it suggested that each country design its own basket of indicators, including such factors as unemployment, insecurity or inequality.

So France's basket of indicators wouldn't take notice of Chartres cathedral, the French literary tradition, or the taste of ripe brie. What kind of "indicator" would register those on an economist's graphs?

Much easier to sample the population's responses to a survey that can be computer-tallied and analyzed. Monsieur, on a scale of 1 to 10, how insecure are you? Are you feeling (a) more equal or (b) more unequal than you did last week?

"What we measure affects what we do," said Mr. Stiglitz, who also spoke at the Sorbonne. "If we have the wrong measures, we will strive for the wrong things."

On that, at least, we can agree.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Witness: Tea Party in Washington, Sept. 12, 2009


It was important to be there. Still, I have to confess I wasn't especially looking forward to it. I dislike crowds, speeches, the public transportation I would need to get there. I wasn't even entirely sure of the sponsors or their bona fides.

My concerns about the journey on the Washington area Metro were fully justified. Metro management didn't have sense enough to run more trains because of the expected large jump in ridership or to suspend maintenance work for the day, which caused hundreds of people packed into each train to become rather too intimate with one another during long stationary periods. But hey, the Metro functionaries were government workers. They were in charge, we were at their mercy. Not a bad illustration of what government-run health care would be like.


Once out of the underground purgatory and joining the other pilgrims at the beginning of the walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol grounds, my spirits lifted. There was no doubt that this was a big deal. Because of the delay, the march had already started, but new participants were materializing at the starting point. Many wore patriotic-styled costumes, and/or were carrying flags ("Don't Tread on Me" was popular), banners and signs. I felt a little embarrassed dressed in ordinary clothes, as if I were letting the side down.

I guess it was about a mile to the Capitol, along the wide avenue empty of traffic except for police and emergency vehicles, and there were no gaps in the stream of participants heading toward that majestic dome visible at the far end. This part of Pennsylvania Avenue is lined mostly with dignified, or at least large and imposing, buildings: the old Romanesque revival Post Office, the Federal Trade Commission, the brutalist modern FBI building, the Greek temple Archives, the National Gallery.

As we neared the Canadian embassy, a piece of clumsy modernism that looks like it was designed by a committee (perfect symbol of a country with no widely shared identity), I saw observers on its roof. What, I wondered, would these Canadians think as they watched the thousands walk by to protest, among other things, the proposed national health scheme -- much like the one they profess to hold dear? But when I got closer I could see they were security guards, ubiquitous in Washington.


There was
a palpable camaraderie among the marchers. Despite the signs many carried expressing anger, their mood was upbeat. Lots of meeting-and-greeting as people spotted others from their home state. I stopped periodically to write down some of the messages on signs, mostly handmade, people were carrying:

Beware of governments bearing gifts.

Government health care = a sick idea.

Go green: recycle Congress.

Obamacare is a grave mistake.

Shovel-ready project: Obamacare R.I.P.

Don't tell Obama what comes after a trillion.

I was tired of yelling at my TV, so here I am.

No money left to make a sign.

Arriving at the area near the west front of the Capitol, I looked around at the numbers who had already settled in. I'm not sure I have ever seen so many people in one vista. The mainstream media will almost surely mis-underestimate the size of the crowd -- they'll probably settle on a number like 10,000 which they'll copy from one another -- but I'm here to tell you it was a far greater figure. It's almost impossible to say what the accurate measure was, but the huge Capitol lawn was filled, the parking lot behind that was filled, there were people all around the huge pool.


The crowd was so dense that it was hard to get close enough to the speakers to hear what they were saying, even with amplification. I gradually made my way forward and listened to a half dozen or so speeches. One or two, by members of the organizers, were rousing in part; others were standard talking points. Dick Armey was suffocatingly dull.

Mostly, though, I just wandered around the gathering to see what kind of people had shown up (from every state in the union, a speaker said). At this moment, I expect an Obama coat-holder columnist is sitting in front of a monitor (just as I am) and writing that the tea partyers weren't representative, didn't "look like America," were old and -- wait for it -- white. Few blacks and Hispanics were to be seen, they say.

I can't dispute that as a generality. There were people of all ages, but the demographics certainly skewed to 40-plus. They learned American history in school when it was something to be proud of. Most were probably reasonably prosperous; it costs a bomb to fly to Washington, especially if you spend a night or two in a hotel. I saw only a handful of blacks or identifiable Hispanics, which is regrettable.

(But there was a young woman carrying a sign that said: "Latinas can be conservatives too." I made a point of catching her eye and giving her a big smile, which was returned. And I think I will always carry in memory a mental snapshot of a pretty teenage girl wearing a T-shirt decorated with words from the U.S. Constitution in the original 18th-century script.)


Though I go out of my way normally to avoid huge gatherings, this one was as comfortable as any such thing can be. I mentioned some of the waggish slogans earlier, but others were thoughtfully worded and serious. Thomas Jefferson was quoted a lot, as was the Constitution.

How much will this tea party of tea parties influence the political debate? In the short run, I'd guess not much. Few if any Senators and Congressmen were in attendance, and besides, everyone in Washington is used to marches and demonstrations. It gets to be just background noise. But being there surely gave a huge psychological and emotional boost to the participants. They looked around and saw legions of others who were there for the same reason, a connection with what they felt as the essence of America.

For nowhere else on earth could such a gathering happen. Sure, not a day goes by when people aren't waving signs and shouting somewhere in the world, agitating for more benefits, more laws, more guarantees, for their own tribe ruling instead of someone else's tribe. The Tea Party marchers were aiming for a uniquely American goal: less government, more individual liberty. To take responsibility for themselves, their families, and their country. Such a large rally for those purposes would be inconceivable in Britain, France, Canada, you name it.

One woman bore a sign that said, "Don't make me come back here next year." I don't want to either, but if we have to, we will. You can set your clock by it.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The unquiet graves

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

— Lt. Col. John McCrae (1872–1918)

The remains of the English dead who fell in the Great War still rest serene in Flanders fields. Not so fortunate are some of their countrymen in the land that was once their home.


This is the former burial yard of St. John the Evangelist and Apostle Church in Manchester, England. The earth moving machine is digging up and destroying old grave markers surrounding the Victorian Gothic house of worship. (Tip of the hat: Philip M. at View from the Right.)


The former church is now a mosque. No infidel tombstones will be permitted to mar the property. They are not being moved, just crushed into rubble.

John McCrae, who died while serving King and Country, ended his poem:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Now, then

I can see the fuschia. Gorgeous.

In the early 1960s, United States Steel produced illustrations of what the future — presumably sometime about now — would look like. (Tip of the hat: The Ministry of Type.) "Naturally, the implication is that we will be using lots and lots of steel, and will continue to use it to make sleek, shiny cars," the droll caption in The MOT says.

It would be too obvious to go into a riff on the present state of the U.S. automobile and steel industries. But the past-future design aesthetics are worth checking out. They remind me of some exhibits at the 1964-65 World's Fair (I worked there for a season as a tour guide), such as the General Electric pavilion where we were shown a house of the future that did everything automatically and gave you a back rub. It was a pretty optimistic time, even for a few years after JFK's assassination, with the gathering disaster in Vietnam not yet registering for most people.

The artist, identified by The MOT as Syd Mead, did his considerable best to make things to come look attractive. The use of pastel colors is enticing. The traffic signs are far more attractive — as well as easier to understand at 70 mph, with their color coding — than the actual ones on the New Jersey Turnpike or any of today's interstates.

Interestingly, none of the abbreviations (BSTN, NYRK, NEW JRSY) he imagined has come into use in an age when abbreviations and acronyms are all around us. Maybe that's because there are accepted short forms of New York (NY) and New Jersey (NJ), and what's the point of saving two letter spaces in Boston?

Admiring the new Autosaurus.

If things had gone according to Syd, we'd now have genetically engineered horseoids or perhaps mutant creatures caused by radiation. And pre-crushed cars. Until the 1970s it was assumed that cars would just keep getting more aerodynamic — longer and flatter. And they did until they couldn't get any flatter without causing an epidemic of curvature of the spine. This buggy seems to be jet powered, if those big outlets aft are for exhaust.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!

This is one dazzling image, but as in some of the others, the details are hard to interpret. What are these spherical items all over the picture? What to make of the "high society" couple next to the car? And the magenta Arabian Nights babe at the far right?

Urban renewal — who left those people there?

Things go better with steel. Well, the building is no sillier than most of our contemporary hi-fashion architecture. I'd say Syd Mead got that one right.

"Uh, Joe … are we coming or going?"

Okay, so the Soviet Union has left an atom bomb as a calling card. Who cares? When they see our sleek emergency response gear, they'll die from envy.

"You say there's a leak in which tire?"

Once the cargo — steel, would be my guess — is unloaded, the driver-pilot will activate the rotor (inside the large orange cylinder), retract the wheels, and it's up and away.

In the deep purple night …

Notice how in this vision of the future it's machines that are the turn-on? And people are incidental? Anyway, insofar as you can make them out, this group seems to be having a cocktail party just before flying off in their private saucer. Strange: the women are attired in evening dress, the men wearing uniforms out of The Merry Widow. You can't deny the artist credit for his odd vision, nor for his brilliance as a colorist. I love the pervasive neon glow and the Whistler-like nocturne of the landscape in the background.

Aside from the warmth of the hues, these pictures don't represent a world I'd particularly like to live in. But the palette is enough to make me a little nostalgic for a future that has passed, probably never to return.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Who will be left standing in Eurabia?


Some observers think that Europe is destined for civil war as Muslim birth rates (immigration is only the rocket launcher; fecundity is the fuel) bring Islam into majority or near-majority status. At that point, the theory is, the indigenes will suddenly realize that their backs are to the wall, their governments have sold them out, and their only choice is fighting or dhimmitude.

What seems to me more likely is that Europe will be divided between Muslim and decidedly non-Muslim countries in close, uncomfortable proximity; not unlike communist and capitalist (or democratic socialist) countries in the Cold War. EU or no EU, Europe is anything but united at any level other than the international cadre of professional politicians. European tribes and nations have had all the years since the break-up of the western Roman Empire to learn to dislike one another. And that's only when they weren't trying to rip each other's lungs out, which happened as recently as the cataclysm that began 70 years ago. Some people alive today can remember it. Europe won't "fall." It will fracture.

There's no way to know for sure, obviously, but it's interesting to speculate on which European states will wind up on which side of the Muslim-non-Muslim split by, let's say, 2025. Based on current trends, my guess would be that the teams will look something like this:


Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands: How can you doubt it?

Britain, France, Spain: Not as certain, but considering their track record to date, they'll go along to get along. Britain in particular has created a society of government dependents I can't imagine fighting for anything. They'll grumble, but do what they're told.

Defiantly Non-Muslim

Italy: Knowing what I know of Italians, they'll take a stand and win. They gave Savonarola about three years, if I recall my Renaissance history, before they tired of the bonfire of the vanities. Even their own home-grown fascist Duce couldn't make them trade la dolce vita for efficiency. Italy is the only country in Europe making a serious effort to deport illegal immigrants. I don't think they're about to let a bunch of imams drape their women in black tents.

Denmark: My money is on this feisty little country, even when the EU does everything possible to sell it down the river.

Former Russian-satellite countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, et al.): They remember only too well what a grim totalitarian state feels like. They're not about to return to one.

Greece: Been there, done that. Greeks have a strong historical memory. The Turks were yesterday, Alkibiades was last week to them. Greece will become Muslim when snakes play soccer.

Iffy, could go either way

Finland: Doesn't seem to be quite the pushover that its Scandinavian neighbors are, but symptoms of dhimmi behavior are appearing.

Ireland: Hard to imagine Ireland as Muslim, but its political class has taken their tone from their British counterparts.

Scotland (which is almost certainly destined for independence from the U.K.): Another flaccid welfare state, but may still have some red corpuscles.

Switzerland: Too busy counting their money to be bothered about population replacement?

If you have a different prediction, I'd be happy for you to comment.