Sunday, February 28, 2010

More junk archaeology from the U.K.

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Wall painting from the York social register,
Aprilis XVI, CCCXL


Archaeologists today sound more and more like the politically minded scientists spouting hysteria about man-made global warming. I have complained about their poorly founded announcements before -- see here and here. Besides cases of over-enthusiasm about ambiguous evidence and headline chasing, we now have archaeologists who can be suspected of tailoring their discoveries to suit the prevailing multi-culti ideology. And nowhere does it prevail more than in the U.K.

From the Times:
Analysis of Roman grave reveals that York was a multicultural society

Archaeologists have discovered that wealthy black Africans lived in Roman Britain in one of the country’s earliest examples of multiculturalism.

Scientific research techniques have established that a lavish grave containing a woman’s skeleton, an ivory bangle, perfume bottle, mirror and jewellery, belonged to a North African member of York’s high society in the 4th century.

Scientific analysis of isotopes from the teeth revealed that water she drank during her childhood had contained minerals likely to have been found in North Africa. Skull measurements have also established that the “Ivory Bangle Lady” was black or of mixed race.

It is perfectly possible that a black or mixed race woman lived in Eboracum (modern York) in the fourth century. Why not? The Roman empire was famously far reaching and had cities in North Africa. Travel and trade were still widespread even in the troubled fourth century (if the archaeological dating in the story is correct).

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But "wealthy"? "High society"? "Absolutely from the top end of York society"?

Come on. That is quite a stretch from the details included in the story. "There were no signs of a violent death, and muscle markings showed that she had not lived a strenuous life, suggesting that she was affluent." The archaeological political correctness establishment is going to have to come up with something better than that to convince me. If any reader knows what kind of "muscle markings" exist after 17 centuries, and how they can show the subject had not lived a strenuous life, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Her sarcophagus, which was made of stone, a sign of immense wealth in Roman Britain, was discovered in 1901 in Bootham, York.
One wants to know more. Was the sarcophagus carved with exterior designs, which certainly would indicate immense wealth? If it was just a plain stone box, was that actually so unusual as to be a mark of only the upper class? Did any pre-political archaeologist exclaim, when the sarcophagus was unearthed in 1901, "Great Scott! Gentlemen, we've found the resting place of one of our kingdom's earliest aristocrats"?

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I think this quote gives the game away:

Hella Eckardt, who carried out the study, said: “Multicultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times. Analysis of the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ and others like her, contradicts assumptions about the make-up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants were of low status, male and likely to have been slaves.”
See? Britain has always been multi-cultural! We had African society queens when the ancestors of you Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and Normans hadn't yet learned to walk on two feet! So shut up about immigration, you pathetic traditionalists.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Obama to U.S.: Don't be defensive

National defense? He don't need to show you no stinkin' national defense.

Your blogger is convinced that if the Bower-in-Chief thought he could pull it off, he would replace all our armed forces with ACORN goons. We've grown accustomed to his nominees and appointees who seem to have been hand picked for inability and being contrary to their supposed missions. Now he wants a Coast Guard commander who will turf out counter-terrorism efforts. AP reports:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's pick to lead the Coast Guard wants to make major cuts to the agency's counterterrorism mission over the next five years.

An internal memo from Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., Obama's nominee to become Coast Guard commandant, says that starting in 2012, he would slash funding for programs in the agency's homeland security plan, including patrols and training exercises.

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The memo was "sensitive — for internal Coast Guard use only." I'll bet. This is just between us, ladies, no sense getting Congress steamed up. It might leak out to those tea bag people.

In the memo, Papp said he wants to eliminate teams that are trained to respond to and prevent terror attacks. These teams also train other Coast Guard forces on counterterrorism operations. … He says in the memo that other federal agencies are better at this type of mission.

That would be the U.S. Department of Agriculture? The Disability Employment Policy Office?

He also calls for cuts to the Coast Guard's largest homeland security operation, which patrols critical infrastructure and other sensitive security structures on or near waterways. And he would decrease the number of specialized units stationed in key coastal areas where an attack could be devastating. Obama has already proposed closing five of the 12 specialized units in 2011.

And renaming it the Cost Guard?

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I've probably said it before, and I'll probably say it again. This country could not win World War II if it were fought today. I'm not sure it could win the Spanish-American War. We couldn't even call it World War II. It would have to be something like "the War Against European and Asian Extremist-Made Disasters."

An exaggeration? Consider: We have now been sacrificing American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. (And yes, for the record, that was down to George W. Bush, not Obama.) Almost seven years. It took four years to see off Germany and Japan, two of the most powerful countries on earth at the time — not implying that we accomplished it by ourselves, of course, but at least in the Pacific we did the heavy lifting.

But we were a serious country then. Most of our citizens were peace loving, even strongly isolationist in some areas when the European war broke out. Once we were in, though, we were in. We understood that Cincinnatus could get back to his plowing when the war had been won.

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What's the score in the Middle East? At a cost of a thousand lives and many more cases of lost limbs, disfigurement, and paralysis, we've killed a lot of Taliban and other unsavory types. To what end?

Nation building. A social work program on tank treads. Midnight basketball for at-risk tribal areas.

Speaking of defense, which the Coast Guard doesn't want to do, the Missile Defense Agency has unveiled a new Obamacare-for-incoming-missiles logo.

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I won't go so far as Frank Gaffney and claim that it "appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo." Maybe it's just another of those almost-abstract logos that have been "in" for decades in the corporate world. It probably cost the taxpayers no more than a few million dollars to redesign the insignia.

From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, the new logo is an improvement on the old one (see the link above), which looks like it was created in a 5th grade classroom. What seems strange to me is that the words "Missile Defense Agency" and "Department of Defense" are entirely missing. Just as, according to Gaffney, our missile defense may be if present trends continue.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Change you can't refuse

King Barack (Big JuJu) Obama's messianic obsession with making the government the gatekeeper of your health care marks him as the most dangerous president the United States has had in our lifetimes, and possibly ever. It's not just that "health care reform" — a nebulous, ever-shifting plan that possibly no senator or congressman has read in its entirety — is designed to ultimately place every American at the mercy of government paper processors for their very lives. That's bad enough.

What is even worse is the way this demented administration has shut out every external reality, taking no heed of the evidence that this is a deeply unpopular plan, one that has so far failed of passage despite King Barack's mob having to bribe members of his own party (Senators Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson) with special favors for their states, paid for out of taxpayers' money, to vote for it.

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From ABC News:
White House officials today publicly made it clear that should Thursday’s bipartisan health care reform summit not result in a legislative kumbaya, with Democrats and Republicans setting aside differences to come together on a bipartisan bill, Democrats are likely to pursue a legislative path for finishing up the bill that includes using controversial “reconciliation” rules in the Senate, requiring a majority vote instead of the 60-vote threshold that has become par for the course.
Maybe the "reconciliation" strategy is technically legal. It is still an all-out assault on the opposition, the kind of gloves-off attack King Barack won't allow against real enemies in Afghanistan. The man-god will call Republicans to the table this week to work out an agreement of the "be reasonable, do as I say" kind. Should that fail, as it almost surely will, then it will be time to call in an air strike.

Onward to the inevitable triumph of socialism! Victory at all costs! Unconditional surrender of the American people the only goal!

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Despite its decline in quality under the Murdoch reign, the Wall Street Journal can still marshal words to powerful effect at times:

"The President's Proposal," as the 11-page White House document is headlined, is in one sense a notable achievement: It manages to take the worst of both the House and Senate bills and combine them into something more destructive. It includes more taxes, more subsidies and even less cost control than the Senate bill. And it purports to fix the special-interest favors in the Senate bill not by eliminating them—but by expanding them to everyone.

The bill's one new inspiration is a powerful federal board that would regulate premiums in the individual insurance market. In all 50 states, insurers are already required to justify premium increases to insurance commissioners, who generally have the power to give a regulatory go-ahead, or not. But their primary concern is actuarial soundness and capital standards, making sure that companies have enough cash to pay claims.

The White House wants to create another layer of review that will be able to reject any rate increase that is "unreasonable or unjustified." Any insurer deemed guilty of such an infraction by this new bureaucracy "must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable." In other words, de facto price controls.
Nothing could make clearer the mindset of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis: any problem caused by real-world factors is an opportunity for the government to step in and rule by decree.

That's what's alarming. What's sad is that the present U.S. health care system does have problems that need attention. Insurance companies have too much control over medical practice: they drive doctors barmy with paperwork and make them spend half their time (or their staffs' time) justifying treatments their training and experience tell them their patients need. Malpractice suits can result in ludicrously large jury awards or force doctors and hospitals to settle so as to avoid further litigation costs.

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We should eliminate all barriers to insurance companies competing nationwide and put sane limits on their control of treatment. Reform tort laws to make legal compensation for actual malpractice reasonable, not a million dollar lottery, so that a large portion of the country's health care spending doesn't go to tort lawyers. We don't have to destroy our health care system, which with all its troubles is among the world's best, to fix it.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The New World Disorder

Attention must be paid, but once again your blogger is on the installment plan.

Argentina to nationalize pension funds (Tip of the lid: Powerline.)

The United States is not Argentina. We have no history (yet) of dictatorship, nor even under Chicago Rules have we reached Argentine levels of corruption. That should not breed complacency, however. For all its problems, Argentina is, or was, a middle-class country with mostly European ancestry. During its indebtedness and hyperinflation crisis of the late '90s, citizens were unable to remove any significant money from their own bank accounts. Last November, they woke up to find that their private pension funds had been nationalized.

"The United States must soon raise taxes or cut government spending to curb its debt, and failure to act will risk a crippling dollar crisis as investor confidence ebbs, a panel of experts said on Wednesday," the China Post reports. China seems to be starting to dislike the taste of U.S. Treasuries, our main public debt instrument. In November, it cut back on its Treasury holdings by $34 billion. That still leaves the Chinese with $755 billion in U.S. debt holdings, not to mention Japan's $769 billion, hanging like a sword of Damocles over the land of the free.

Raise taxes? As if. Reduce spending? Congress is a menagerie of creatures who have long since discovered that the surest way to be re-elected is to buy votes. As de Toqueville said, a republic can last only until its office holders discover that the public can be bribed with its own money.

But wait! Think of the billions upon billions of dollars in 401(k), 403(b), and other retirement accounts. No need to freeze the accounts. Just pass a law requiring their holdings to be exchanged for Treasurys and a government annuity. Your savings become Ameribonds! When it's time to collect your payments, the government will see that you get exactly the same amount as everyone else. Equality, now and forever!

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Lightbulb bill aimed at asserting state rights

States to Congress: 'Don't tread on me ... '

The 10th amendment ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people") may be rising from the dead like Lazarus.

For more than half a century, the federal government has extended its grip over issues that have nothing to do with national defense, income taxes, or interstate commerce: sometimes by acts of Congress, sometimes by the rule of "activist" federal judges and the Supreme Court. This judiciary, all its members appointed for life, is the sole possessor of the nuclear option, the supposed right to declare local and federal laws unconstitutional, a right found nowhere in the Constitution. Since it is not part of the checks and balances originally devised to limit the power of any branch of the government, there is no constitutional process for overriding it. If by some divine intervention Congress and the states passed a Constitutional amendment restricting the Supremes' absolute power, could the justices rule that placing limits on their authority is unconstitutional, null and void?

Frank Miele, author of an excellent weekly column for a Montana paper, writes: " …
the whole idea of the federal system was to limit the power of central government, by ensuring that states and their people would maintain sovereignty over themselves. If the courts determine now that states cannot protect their own citizens from an unconstitutional encroachment by the federal government, then we need more than a tea party; we really do need a revolution."

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Muslims turning to home schooling in increasing numbers
Martinez and her six children, ages 2 to 12, are part of a growing number of Muslims who home-school. In the Washington area, Martinez says, she has seen the number of home-schoolers explode in the past five years.
One trusts that "explode" refers to the numbers, not jihadist home schoolers.
"My children are extremely aware that they are Muslim, and they are extremely aware that other people aren't," said Abdullah, whose wife, a Malaysian immigrant, started to home-school their son last fall. Two of the couple's younger children, ages 10 and 6, remain in public school; their fourth child is 3. "There is a mainstream culture, and my kids aren't a part of that mainstream culture . . . and to hear, 'We don't do this, we don't do that,' how are they feeling when they're sitting in that chair? Home schooling really takes the pressure off."
Can anyone, even a Washington Post true believer, read this and actually maintain the party line that Muslims are no different from previous immigrant groups, needing only a little encouragement to "assimilate"? (Yes, being Washington Post retards, they can.)

Am I suggesting Muslims should not be allowed home schooling? Even though it is a thoroughly divisive element that is almost sure to turn out some jihadists? No. We allow Christian parents the right to home school, how can we deny Muslims the same right? That would simply be trying to resolve the problem at the wrong level. As I've written many times before, once you enforce multi-culturalism and allow, even encourage, Muslim immigration, you cannot draw any lines against the expression of their own culture and value system. After all, we've welcomed them to come and colonize us. The only logical and effective line to draw is before that.

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Transsexual cabaret performer vomits on Susan Sarandon

Performance art reaches new heights.
“Apparently [Sarandon] got a big kick out of it. She squealed with surprise and loved it when several handsome gentlemen wiped it off of her. She had a ball! I saw her assistant downstairs afterward, and he was moved by it! She was in great spirits,” Wood told the New York Press.

Wood explains that vomiting on people is fitting is this establishment. “[It was a] fitting time for an outrageous act: the third anniversary of The Box [the New York lower east side club]. Everybody wants to offer safe and ordinary, not The Box!"

And it's not the first time the transsexual performer has engaged in this kind of thing.

“I threw up on someone several weeks ago. They went to the manager and said, ‘That tranny just threw up on me.’ The manager said, ‘How cool is that!’ He said if that happened to me, I'd call my friends and we'd all be there tomorrow!'"
If the National Endowment for the Arts hasn't yet given this performer an outreach grant, it's past time. Acts like hers should not be limited to the elite like Susan Sarandon. The underserved populations, victims of racism/sexism/xenophobia/uncoolness deserve equal vomit reception time.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nervous about "service"

Michelle Obama urged her young audience at something called the Florida Campus Compact Awards Gala at something called the Freedom Tower — such grandiloquent names usually promise trouble — to dedicate their lives to "service." (Tip of the hat to American Thinker.)

Mme. Obama had a lot to say about being committed to "service-mindedness."

But first, she said this: "And I also want to thank someone who I got to party with on Tuesday -- (laughter) -- and I think you exaggerate by saying we could win any salsa contest." And this: "I want to recognize the superwoman at my table, Dee Dee Rasmussen, your Executive Director -- (applause). I learned a lot about all her good crazy [
sic], because in addition to running this organization, she is raising three kids on her own."

Am I a hidebound stick in the mud for cringing at the wife of the president of the United States talking about herself "partying" and "win[ning] any salsa contest?" Am I nitpicking about that ungrammatical "her good crazy"? Perhaps a transcriber made an error, but does the White House not have anyone on board who reads these speeches before they're published on the official web site?

Let us leave that, however, and get to her First Ladyship's message.
Whether the issues are climate change, or keeping our communities safe, to providing desperately needed health care in underserved communities and desperately needed teachers in underperforming schools, these issues are critical. … So young people are volunteering through their schools, and their churches, their synagogues, and their mosques. They are concerned about the environmental implications and the ethical implications of the products they buy and the lifestyle they're -- lead. These young people are thinking about the world, and there's a growing sense among this next generation that maybe service is a little cool -- and that's okay.
Am I a hidebound stick in the mud for cringing at the wife of the president of the United States saying "maybe service is a little cool" — uh, never mind. She continues:
But the question is, how do we harness all that energy and all that excitement? How do we show these young people that service can be more than just something that you do once in a while, that it can be more than just something that you do for a year or two after you graduate, but service can be a way of life, it can even be a career? How do we contend with the traditional definitions of what success should look like, those beliefs that still hold sway over so many young people -– the idea that success means money, or power, or prestige, and that it comes with a nice house and a fancy car? How do we counter those voices that tell them, "Well, if you don't get paid a lot money for what you do, then maybe what you do really isn't that valuable." Or voices that say, "Well, that's awfully nice that you want to do service, but when are you going to get a real job?" (Applause.)
I was not invited to deliver an address in the Freedom Tower party central, even though I would willingly have touched on the subject that so moved Mme. Obama. It's understandable. Time is short, climate change is long. Had I been invited to supply a few words to American's young gung-ho volunteers, I might have said something like this:

"Service. It is a beautiful concept. Something — call it a spiritual impulse, or conscience, or just rational self-interest — tells me that we are not put on this earth to be masters, but to be servants. Not servants of the powerful, but servants to our fellow creatures, including the least of our brothers and sisters.

"So I applaud your ambition to be of service. I would only ask that you think a little more deeply than you already have about what service actually means.

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"The first thing you might consider is the results of the service you want to accomplish. Not just the immediate results, but the big-picture, long-term results. When you help rescue people from conditions brought about by their own folly, negligence, or stupidity, it can feel good. They're not necessarily bad people. They may not thank you, may take your 'service' for granted, but still — you're helping, and you say you don't expect gratitude, which if true (don't kid yourself, please) is virtuous.

"But if you help those who do not help themselves, you are keeping in motion a vicious cycle. It's what economists call 'moral hazard.' You are encouraging dysfunctional behavior by demonstrating that it has no negative consequences, that someone will always be there to rescue the irresponsible from themselves. Not only are you denying the objects of your service the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, but you are placing an added burden on society as a whole, which is where the cost lands. People who have behaved responsibly end up paying for relief of those who haven't.

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"Michelle Obama wonders, 'How do we contend with the traditional definitions of what success should look like, those beliefs that still hold sway over so many young people -– the idea that success means money, or power, or prestige, and that it comes with a nice house and a fancy car?'

"I'm not telling you that you should measure your success or worth only by the money you make, or prestige, or power. I will say, though, that at your time of life, it is a good idea for you to work at a job where you make a good income. Skip the prestige and power if you like, but make money.

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"How can I say something so crass? Well, it's like this: when someone is paying you to do a job — unless you work for a government — that is an objective sign that you are doing something valuable for one or (more likely) several people in an organization. Those in positions above yours have judged you in unsentimental, even ruthless, terms and decided you are worth your title and reward.

"You are earning a salary, not feeding off a grant. These days, a grant means nothing about your abilities. It only reflects that you or someone you are affiliated with meets political criteria or is of the 'correct' ethnicity. But earning means you are
competent at something. Don't underestimate how much that affects how you feel about yourself. You know you are respected for accomplishment, not for holding the right political attitudes, saying the right words.

"Besides, being in a position where you have to earn your keep teaches you things you need to know if you are to 'serve' successfully. Those things may not be what you imagine. You learn that just because you say something, people don't have to accept it. You learn about compromise, tact, different kinds of people. You develop the ability, and come to understand the importance, of 'selling' your ideas, not just proclaiming them. Eventually, you get it that others as well as yourself have something to offer, and it might come from longer experience than your own.

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"Michelle, with all the respect she is due, wants you to feel pride in 'serving,' being a volunteer and so on. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a good reason. Pride and honest service are ever at war.

"Her implication is that you are a step or two closer to sainthood than those slugs who work at 'real' jobs. Their object is, ugh, money. Well, listen up. Only a society that makes money can afford to help unfortunates. It takes surplus wealth to do good effectively. There are many countries that have few economic strivers, captains of industry, capitalist pigs. By and large, they are the countries that depend for their very survival, year after year, on aid from countries run on the system you are taught to despise.

"If you would serve, then paradoxically, I recommend you ignore charity organizations for now. Make money. Try to afford a decent house and a decent neighborhood to live in. You'll be serving your family, and even if you have none, you will be a better person for knowing you're financially independent. Most of all, you'll develop skills and experience that will help you help others in the future, which you can't do until your own feet are on the ground.

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"At some point, you can begin to wisely integrate social service into your career. Eventually, maybe you'll want to give up your job and 'practical' work, becoming truly humble and monastic, as people are urged to do in the final stage of life in Hinduism, and live to serve others.

"If you are very lucky, you will by then know what service is actually all about. It starts with a climate change in your soul."

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anti-Cables

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Life goes on. We Americans live in a country that, by rights, should be holding out a tin cup to reduce our deficit, but instead spends like there's no tomorrow (does somebody know something?); an elocutionary doof of a president insists on force feeding the populace with "change" the majority doesn't want; as if our schools haven't been dumbed down enough, one state has proposed to stop teaching any history before 1877 -- of course, nothing happened before that except slavery, which is obsessively covered in every other class; &c.

But ... life, civilized life, does go on. The consolations of art have lifted people above political strife and the ring of sword on sword since at least the Graeco-Roman world, and today's possibilities are in some ways greater than ever before.

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I can't read a note of a musical score, but listening to music on my audio system, and sometimes watching and listening on my audio-video system, are among my favorite forms of uplift. And the better the quality of the systems, the more solace or excitement, depending on the need of the moment, I derive from them.

This brings me to the latest upgrade of my audio-video system: Anti-Cables.

Anti-Cables? Well, they are speaker cables, running from the Marantz SR-4002 multi-channel receiver to the Focal Chorus 807V main speakers. But the company has chosen the Anti-Cables name because they are different in design philosophy from other audiophile speaker cables.

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They are offered as serious "high end" cables for very expensive (as well as less expensive) audiophile systems, and were reviewed favorably in The Absolute Sound, where obsessive-compulsive, cost-is-no-object aficionados gather.

High-class cables are mostly of the "fire hose" type: thick cords containing multiple copper (sometimes silver) strands in complicated and exotic configurations, surrounded by a pillow of insulation intended to avoid unwanted interactions, plus artistically woven outer sheaths.

Anti-Cables are, in contrast, about as simple as can be: very pure 12-gauge copper with a thin, festively red coating that serves as insulation. They're about the thickness of coat-hanger wire, but much more flexible. Coiled up, as they are for shipping (also recommended to take up any extra wire when installed), they look like a big version of the "Slinky" I played with as a kid.

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You shape the wires from your power source to your speakers. Paul Speltz, the designer, recommends twisting the + and - cables around one another. One feature of the semi-rigid design is that they will stay off the floor, which some say results in a sonic improvement.

Anti-Cables cost -- are you ready for this? -- 10 bucks per foot-pair. (That is, a seven-foot pair goes for $70.) In audiophile circles, speaker cables selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars are not uncommon. I have seen ads for some priced above what I paid for my first car.

I am not in that financial league, and if I were, I'd rebel against spending so much on cables; even an audiophile needs perspective. Besides, at some price point (the wizards of sonic absoluteness disagree where) the law of diminishing returns sets in. The only times I've heard a system with truly big-ticket wires were at dealers' demo rooms. The cables seemed to work pretty well.


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So, what difference have the Anti-Cables made in my system? Wires are not supposed to sound like anything, of course, just to let the current through with as little mischief as possible. Cables (like all components) should ideally "disappear."

But improvement can be described. I hear more "presence," definition, separation of instrumental lines, nuances. In short, the experience is more musical. For DVD soundtracks, the upgrade is probably equivalent, although generally not as important for dialogue as for music.


By the way, the Anti-Cables didn't replace crummy lamp cord; their predecessor was Straight Wire Rhythm II, recommended to me as a quality product (and it is).

With any system improvement, the drawback is that bad recordings, such as those that are multi-miked and poorly mixed, or some of old vintage, sound worse, not better. But most of the CDs I've played through the Anti-Cables reveal new details and depths.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Odds and sods

I normally devote each posting to one topic. But with two feet of snow surrounding Reflecting Light world headquarters and beginning the second week of being unable to get any farther than the curb, your blogger is feeling a fraction scattered. So scattered is what this posting will be.

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Arizona quits Western climate endeavor.

Arizona will no longer participate in a groundbreaking attempt to limit greenhouse-gas emissions across the West, a change in policy by Gov. Jan Brewer that will include a review of all the state's efforts to combat climate change.

Brewer stopped short of pulling Arizona out of the multistate coalition that plans to regulate greenhouse gases starting in 2012. But she made it clear in an executive order that Arizona will not endorse the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for consumers and businesses.

Good for my old home state. This is a regional, not a federal, plan, but we will see more of this, states going their own way. And some of them will tell the Beltway Mob to go pound snow. The best way to deal with the Washington beast isn't to try to kill it, but to ignore it.

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Obama report: 95,000 jobs to come each month.

The Obumble administration's economic messages are beginning to resemble those of the Soviet Union, a new five-year plan every five days, fantastical statistics dished out with a straight face. The truth is what they say it is, in other words, pravda.

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Elderly patient was abandoned in a storeroom for two days in a National Health Service hospital.

Confused and in pain, 80-year-old Doris McKeown is kept in a hospital cupboard [what we Yanks call a closet] while she awaits emergency surgery. The pensioner was stored away for 48 hours in a tiny windowless room, with only shelves of hospital supplies for company.

On the door outside was a sign saying 'Dignity in Care'.

Government-run health care may sound good in theory, like so many other quasi-Marxist plans. Somehow, the reality never matches the golden promises. Governments can operate small, very focused endeavors efficiently (e.g., the Manhattan Project). But vast and complex schemes are inevitably beyond the ability of bureaucrats to manage, and end up in the slime of budgetary politics.

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Al-Jazeera invades Canada and threatens America.

The headline is sensationalistic and overblown, but the substance of the story is disturbing.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved a request to add Al-Jazeera English (AJE) to the list of television satellite services for distribution in Canada. Supporters of the Arab government-funded propaganda channel hope that acceptance in Canada will lead to more cable and satellite carriers in the U.S. picking up the incendiary network.

A group called "Canadians for Al-Jazeera" organized public pressure on the CRTC to approve the entry of AJE into the Canadian media market. Although the group's leader, Walied Khogali, is described in news reports as a Canadian, he identifies himself on his Facebook page as a fan of Barack and Michelle Obama, Students for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. He supports "the Red Movement" that mainly acts to protest Israeli policies and promotes the "I love Allah" T-shirt and the "Bush shoe thrower" from Iraq.
Once you accept Muslim immigration, you have to accept everything that goes with it: special prayer rooms and foot baths in public places, hatred of Israel (and often Jews in general), self-segregation, and propaganda TV channels straight from Saudi Arabia, home of the most hard core Islam. These aren't fringe phenomena. They are a central part of the Muslim outlook. It makes no sense to invite Muslims to colonize your country and then try to draw various lines, like prohibiting the burqa. Islam is welcome to its part of the world; it should not be part of the Western world.

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State Department abandons arrested Baptists. So says the unreliable American Spectator. I'll tell you what: I have to look in the back of the basement, behind the boxes for household items and long-forgotten souvenirs of the past, to dig up much sympathy for these American clowns. They were indulging themselves in compassion showmanship and practicing what would be called kidnapping in any civilized country. Depend on it, if the Baptist band had their way, these kids would have been adopted in America. Bad for them; bad for America.

Of course they believed they were doing God's work, rescuing victims. That may be more emotionally appealing than helping Haiti rebuild itself by working within the country, if they so desired and were accepted by Haiti, but it is stupid humanitarianism. Sod them. I hope they spend a few more weeks in jail before they're quite rightly booted out of the country.

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Suspicious test scores widespread in state.
One in five Georgia public schools faces accusations of tampering with student answers on last spring’s state standardized tests, officials said Wednesday, throwing the state’s main academic measure into turmoil.
Well, what do you expect? When school district budgets depend on students' test scores for federal aid, you get a travesty of education. At best, schools will "teach to the test," priming students with whatever they need to know to get good scores. At worst, which if proven is the case here, school bureaucracies will do whatever it takes to fiddle the scores.

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Air India pilots, crew scuffle, leaving cockpit unmanned.

Never fly on the national airline of a country where people believe in reincarnation.

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Arab ambassador discovers bride is bearded and cross-eyed behind veil.

The envoy had only met the woman a few times, during which she had hidden her face behind a niqab, the Gulf News reported.

After the marriage contract was signed, the ambassador attempted to kiss his bride-to-be. It was only then that he discovered her facial hair and eyes.

This comment practically writes itself. I'd bet a considerable sum that if anyone had previously complained to the ambassador about forcing women to wear veils, he would have indignantly defended the practice.

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Avatar, a liberal Bible, recommended for conservatives.

I haven't seen the picture and probably won't; not out of deep principle but because I don't have a lot of time on my hands (except now, when I can't get to a movie theater!) and movies have become ridiculously expensive. Nevertheless, some of the criticism in rightist circles seems to border on hysteria, for instance the note from Yago Campos (see link above). I sent the following comment to Lawrence Auster, which he has not published:

Mr. Campos writes:

"Atheism has to be depressing, because you as a human have no higher value than a dog or whale (or a worm). Which also explains the insane animal rights movement."

Atheism is probably depressing for many of the poor souls who profess it, but that's because it posits an alien universe, the human mind as no more than a computer, and a lack of any higher spiritual meaning. I don't think a lot of atheists lie awake at night feeling worm-like.

Some religions (Buddhism, Jainism) teach compassion for animals, if that's what Mr. Campos means by "animal rights"; others (Islam) do not; Christianity has no theological position and has historically not been very concerned about the well-being of animals. It is unlikely that a God's-eye, worldwide survey would reveal atheists, agnostics, or pro forma believers to be any less caring about animals than the religious or spiritual.

Mr. Campos is probably thinking of PETA when he says "insane." I've never cared for the term "animal rights," because it raises irrelevant questions of where those "rights" come from. But there is a welcome movement to stop animal cruelty in "factory" farming, pit bull fighting, etc. Not because humans have "no higher value" than a dog, a whale, or a worm -- and who is to say whether God the Creator values some species over others? -- but from a recognition that animals are sentient beings who can feel pain, and some of which have emotions (ask any dog or cat owner).

I ... don't find Mr. Campos's other arguments against it convincing.

"In Avatar, the whole world is connected by a biological neural network or some such nonsense, and there is a conscience-like thing that controls the whole nature of the planet. The white human-like beings are capable of communicating with that conscience (i.e. god, Gaia or whatever you may call it)."

I don't know what a biological neural network is, but "a conscience-like thing that controls the whole nature of the planet ... god, Gaia or whatever you may call it," while awkwardly phrased, sounds something like spiritual awareness. What's wrong with that?

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Good on yer, mates!

What a surprise from Australia, which I thought was seriously listing to port.
CANBERRA: Australia tightened its migration rules Monday in favor of English speakers and professionals, saying the country has been attracting too many hairdressers and cooks and too few doctors and engineers.
My eyes must have bulged like balloons when I read that. Common sense on immigration, as a government policy?

Can you imagine the uproar if any American politician said, "We've been attracting too many day laborers and taco vendors and too few doctors and engineers"? The mainstream media would turn the howitzers on him before he took another breath. That's the price of uttering a Forbidden Thought in a country oppressed by a multi-culti Establishment.

"You've got to say if they don't have the English-language skills, don't have the trade skills and can't get a job, then really they should not be eligible for permanent residency," [Immigration Minister] Evans said.

The new policy will favor applicants who score highly in an English language test. Moreover, immigrant numbers in certain jobs could be capped for the first time.
We'll see if Australia can stick to its new principles when the inevitable shrieks of "racism" and "xenophobia" start. But it's a heartening step. Good going, Aussies.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

The money is the message

"U.S. aid cutback plan sends the wrong message," says the headline in the Miami Herald.

Columnist Andres Oppenheimer says:
If President Barack Obama's foreign aid budget request for 2011 is a reflection of his priorities in world affairs, it looks like the president is saying "adios'' to Latin America.

The administration's foreign aid request to Congress for next year calls for a 13 percent increase for Africa, a 7 percent increase for the Middle East and a nearly 60 percent increase for South and Central Asia, mostly for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. By comparison, it requests a nearly 10 percent cut in aid for Latin America.

Oppenheimer is offended.

Now, as I was reading the administration's foreign aid proposal, I couldn't help thinking -- taking a line from columnist Lluis Bassets of the Spanish daily El PaĆ­s in a recent article about how the Obama administration looks at Europe -- that Obama does not see Latin America as a problem, nor as a region that can help solve any problems.

He may be right that Buraq doesn't give a rat's bum about Latin America, other than those "migrants" he can welcome to the Democrat party's reserve army, to be swept up and bused to the polling stations when His Worship needs a few thousand or a few million votes.

But what a strange conception -- well, actually, it's the received wisdom in Liberalland -- Oppenheimer has about foreign aid, money siphoned from the ever-shrinking American middle class.

If Latin America is a problem (and how patronizing is that?), might I dare suggest that Latin Americans are the best people to fix it? If it is doing so flaming well that it can "help solve problems," why does it need, or deserve, any aid?

The budget request also calls for more foreign assistance for Zambia ($395 million) and Cambodia ($74 million) than for Guatemala ($67 million), which is reeling from a severe drought.

Let the bidding begin. Who's the most wretched? Guatemala leads with a severe drought. Top that if you can, Cambodia! Zambia, show us your disease! Don't be shy, the prize is worth it!

"It's a myopic view of the world,'' says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a New York-based group that represents multinationals doing business in Latin America. "Guatemala is falling apart, right on the border with our strategic partner Mexico.''

Mexico, our strategic partner? The country whose government publishes brochures giving illegals tips about how to slip into El Norte? A corruptocracy that is, for practical purposes, at war with the United States? It is Eric Farnsworth who has a myopic view of the world. Representing "multinationals doing business in Latin America" will do that to you.

Peter Romero, a former State Department head of Latin American affairs and most recently an Obama campaign advisor, told me that a nearly 10 percent cut in foreign aid to Latin America won't make that much of a difference because most of the region does not rely heavily on aid. "But, politically, it sends the wrong message,'' Romero said. "People will say Obama is not paying attention to the region.''

I suspect attention is not the kind of payment he has in mind.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Looking out my front door

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Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band.
Won't you take a ride on the flying spoon?
Doo, doo doo.
Wond'rous apparition provided by magician.
Doo, doo, doo, Looking out my back door.

-- Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Looking Out My Back Door"

This was the view from my front door, actually, about three hours ago. There's been considerable accumulation since then, and the sky is still dumping snow. Those white hills in the photo are our cars.

I've seen nought like it, ever, anywhere.

The good news is that the power has gone out only briefly, then popped back on. We have AC to read, surf the net, and watch DVDs by. The thermostat works. So under the circumstances, it's all good news.

If you're reading this in Palm Springs or Brazil, you don't know what you're missing.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Geert Wilders trial: triumph or tragedy

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When Winston Churchill wrote his account of World War II, he titled it Triumph and Tragedy.

Tragedy? The Allies had won a complete, absolute victory. The cost in lives was horrifying, of course, but the aim had been achieved: unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. But Churchill had more geopolitical savvy than his allies. He knew that, by the decisions forced on him -- principally by the United States -- much of Europe that could have been saved was now in the hands of, or vulnerable to, the Soviet Union.

"The Russian domination of Central Europe was a disaster not only for the peoples of that portion of the continent but for all of the continent, for a long time to come ... ," John Lukacs wrote in 1945: Year Zero. "It meant the end of a certain kind of civilization, in the defense of which Churchill had gone to war. It meant that the kind of Europe which Hitler had attempted to replace by force could not be restored."

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Although Soviet Communism was eventually defeated, after more than 40 years of Cold War, the kind of civilization Churchill wanted to save never revived. Not even in his own Britain, which is now socially and to some extent politically Marxist. Nor in the European Union.

Geert Wilders, a brave man, is on trial in Amsterdam for warning against the pending Muslim conquest of Europe. I won't summarize the details here -- you can read about them at Gates of Vienna. I'll just try to say a few words about the big picture.

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Old Europe died in 1945. A lot of it was physically destroyed, but buildings can be rebuilt, and in fact some have been re-created exactly as they were before the bombs struck. But Europe's sense of itself, its individual nationhoods, its links with a past going back to the Roman empire, are gone.

What passes for Europe now is generic; its values include secularism, scientific materialism, making money, and entertainment. Its so-called leaders agree that its indigenous citizens are cursed with a terrible past best left behind as quickly as possible. The quickest way is population replacement. And the Third World, especially the Muslim portion, is happy to abandon their wretched homelands for Europe's pleasure garden. But not to abandon the tribalism and belief systems that caused the morbidity of their states of origin.

The New Europe is to be, officially, anything and nothing. Unofficially, in reality, its future is Islam unless the tide is turned soon.

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Geert Wilders, like a few others such as the late Oriana Fallaci, has protested this fate. Straight out. Unapologetically. Had he been more evasive, more guarded, more "academic," he might have merely been scorned by the leftist EU Establishment. But like another European of many centuries ago, he has said in effect, Here I stand. I can do no other.

Arguing about whether the trial procedures are "fair" is to miss the deeper issue. Wilders should not be on trial. Not even if you welcome a Muslim Europe. He represents the feelings of many Europeans, or he would not be prominent enough for the EU bureaucrats to feel threatened by him. But if Wilders's views represented no one but himself, he should not have the state arrayed against him.

In the kind of civilization Churchill believed he was leading his nation at war to preserve, Wilders would have the right to profess his ideas anywhere, from any park where a few people gathered to listen or in front of TV cameras transmitting his words into every home that cared to tune in.

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The trial, by focusing attention on the Eurocrats' criminalization of free speech, might begin a great resuscitation of the lands that were the matrix of the Western world. We can hope. It hardly needs to be said that the media, both in the United States and Europe, will give scant and biased coverage to this new Inquisition.

But even in Europe, individuals still put themselves on the line for the right to express Forbidden Thoughts. At Gates of Vienna there is a video of Wilders's supporters gathering outside the court house in what must have been a bone-chilling Amsterdam dawn with a wet sea wind.



This reprehensible trial will turn out to be Wilders's triumph. Or part of the West's tragedy.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Bow wow wow

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Bend it like Barack.

No, no, Barack! This is an American you're bowing to! Maybe her name, Pam Iorio, confused you into thinking she was a foreign potentate. You really must get a grip on this protocol thing, man.

Repeat after me: Saudi prince = 120 degrees head-down attitude. Kenyan king = 90 degrees. Iranian president = 75 degrees. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed = go easy with this one; you know the kind of thing people will say.

But never, ever bow to an American. You are their Great Leader, Martin Luther King and that old white prez, Jim Washington or whatever, rolled into one. The world is your bag, not those fractious Yanks who don't grasp the wisdom of your plans for them.

So remember, if you find yourself starting to come on humble to a domestic bod, even if it's not one of those hicks clinging to their guns and religion, stop! Assume the appropriate stance: chin up, Mussolini style, eyes looking down on the person with distaste, like a cordon bleu chef spotting an overcooked leg of lamb.

Don't thank me, you're quite welcome. Who do I see about becoming your Toll Collection Czar?

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