Spotlight

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-‘Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

Full piece here. -Koons gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment (an unfortunate photo ...

Update & Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

Koons has a retrospective at the Whitney going on right now: —————– ...

Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

—————– Koons’ site here.  Part 1 of a 5-part documentary above. I often ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

Some Friday Links-Your Data Has Been Massaged & Foreign Affairs

The Hoover Institution looks at the late Fouad Ajami’s book of essays:

‘Writing on Iraq, he suggests that many troubles in the Arab world can be linked to America’s limited understanding of the region, thirst for oil, and need to deal with terrorism. He provides a chilling look at the life of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, asserting that “the very normalcy of his upbringing and the old hedonism giving way to a sudden need for absolution are much more unsettling than the warning signs and the zeal of a true believer.”

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Megan McArdle At Bloomberg, Obamacare inflates its numbers. I feel sick:

When reality doesn’t line up with political promises, massaging the data to the point of absurdity becomes necessary.

‘The administration counted stand-alone dental plans in order to claim that 7.3 million people had signed up during the first open enrollment period. Without the addition of the dental plans, enrollment would have very slightly missed its target of 7 million enrollees. Moreover, simple arithmetic indicates that it is still counting them in its current claims about enrollment.’

Perhaps even some big data folks and (S)cience driven realists are realizing that when it comes to ideology and politics, technocracy and bureaucracy, the pursuit of truth is often left to bad masters.

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Andrew Michta At The American Interest: ‘Putin Targets The Scandinavians:’

Not a Cold War, really, but let’s have some strategy:

If you’re in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, you’re looking at Georgia, Ukraine and you’re own Russian populations, Putin’s actions and you’ve probably been thinking a lot lately.

‘As 2015 approaches, NATO finds itself confronted with the urgent need to address the fundamentals of deterrence and collective defense in general, and to go beyond the important symbols of “persistent rotations.”

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone that has.

Some Wednesday Links-P5 + 1, ISIS & Ticking Clocks

It might be worth revisiting this piece by George Schultz and Henry Kissinger now that the p5 + 1 preliminary negotiations have been extended for another seven months.

No deal is probably better than a bad deal, and perhaps this kind of dealing:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.’

Historic evolution?

I’m guessing it’s certainly true that some people in Iran (the Green Revolution) would like to be out from under the mullah-controlled, Basij supported deep state.  The ruling cadre has plenty of political enemies within Iran (across broader groups, from religious minorities to the politically and economically oppressed).

Yet, for our sakes, it’s tough to deal with shady bunch of fiercely nationalistic, former Revolutionary guard types in charge: Perfectly happy to get nukes, become the big dogs in the region, keep funding Hizbollah and doing all the shady, destablilizing things they’ve been doing, just now with nukes.

This would continue to be really bad for the Sunnis in Iraq, the Saudis, and the Israelis, among others, as well as pretty much all American interests.

Whether it’s aggressive, untrustworthy terrorist-funding types, to more moderate calculating, wheeling-dealing types buying time and maximum advantage, this was always a longer shot which required serious diplomacy.

I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect this approach always required experience, timing, testicular fortitude, and enough realist leadership that seems sorely lacking in this White House.

The clock keeps ticking.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Over at the nearly completely erased Syrian/Iraq border and to the Kurds left to fight for their survival.

The Turks really can’t afford an independent Kurdistan, but they probably really can’t afford an ISIS-controlled Islamo-thunderdome next door, either.  Erdogan has to keep his opposition down, and still ride the Islamically resurgent wave rolling throughout the region.

From VICE:

From this NY Times piece on the state whatever’s left of the Iraqi Army:

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“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army — not even one piece — because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it,” said Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi of the internal security forces, also a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar Province. “Our people will steal it.”

Repost-‘Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Here’s a great rant.

The galling part of this whole process is that it really has no impact on what we and our professors actually do in our classroom. Perhaps I should not say this publicly. The issue is not one of of being opposed to high standards. We already do have high standards. We believe strongly in pedagogy and teaching excellence. The issue is that the assumptions and thought process behind this sort of modeling is fundamentally wrong-headed, diminishing, rather than enhancing education.”

It can sure get in the way if you’re trying to teach or trying to learn.

uploaded by mattbucher

“Creativity” is probably not the best institutional goal.  The social sciences often have their own aims.

Addition:  I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

Also On This Site:  From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

and more broadly and philosophically:  Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’Repost-From Scientific Blogging: The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not

Awesome 80’s Badness-From The Running Man: Restless Heart (Running Away With You)

From a reader:

‘Think Foreigner’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ meets a standard Journey/Eddie Money-esque power rock ballad, chock full of all the standard cliches: ‘highest fever’ ‘roll the dice’  ”new horizon’ brand new start’ ‘hit the right spot

All of this tacked onto the end of Schwarzenegger’s pure uncut 80’s sci-fi action thriller…

Almost too much to bear.

Thanks, readers:

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***Before you mock, the movie’s theme was composed by Harold Faltermeyer, of Axel F fame, and is nothing to shake a stick at.  It takes real talent to put songs into your head and keep them there.  The vocalist and performer John Parr, of St. Elmo’s Fire fame was more than a one-hit wonder as well.

As posted:

Via David Thompson, if you don’t have time to watch Gymkata, this is the next best thing.

What if an Olympic gymnast, sporting a wicked mullet, went through a rigorous training montage, then on to a top-secret mission to secure the national defense in a distant, fictitious land?

They play for keeps in Karabal:

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Still looking for awesome badness on this blog.  If you think you’ve got some awesome badness, preferably 80’s awesome badness, send it my way.

That’s all there is to say about that.

Sunday Quotation: Arthur Schopenhauer

‘The doctor sees all the weakness of mankind; the lawyer all the wickedness, the theologian all the stupidity.’

-Arthur Schopenhauer

Some Friday Funny Links

Still funny in my opinion:  Who reads the newspapers?

But, still to me, even funnier:  Yes, that’s a Chinese brothel.

I could not find it for free, but you can check out the first few pages at the link:  Uncle Fred Flits By, by P.G. Wodehouse.

This is a classy joint.

Repost: From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

Full review here.

Vendler reviewed John Serio’s new “Selected Poems”  of Wallace Stevens.

“Stevens’s conscience made him confront the chief issues of his era: the waning of religion, the indifferent nature of the physical universe, the theories of Marxism and socialist realism, the effects of the Depression, the uncertainties of philosophical knowledge, and the possibility of a profound American culture, present and future.”

and

“Stevens’s poetry oscillates, throughout his life, between verbal ebullience and New England spareness, between the high rhetoric of England (and of religion) and the “plain sense of things” that he sometimes felt to be more American…”

See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume

Victimhood, Grievance, And Equality-Another Way?

On IQ and opportunity, the entirety of which can be found here:

Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  “innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

There’s a lot going on here, but notice Sowell doesn’t negate the injustice and historical legacy of slavery in the United States (a different, deeper and more raw discussion), but instead focuses in a more positive direction:  The never equal distribution of intelligence occurs naturally and is fostered and developed differently.  Across our society, never absolutely equally represented immigrant groups thrive and advance within different professions and with different skill-sets.

From this, young people, especially, can thrive not only when they have access to education (where all of our money can easily be wasted in over-promised, under delivering classrooms, though admittedly addressing some of the worst problems there are), but also out in the labor market, where small gains and new skills can be learned daily, where attitude matters, and where just showing up can be a valuable lesson learned.

**I realize this doesn’t address the black market, people learning useful, but criminal skills, and having to learn reasonable life skills that can conflict with even basic job requirements, whatever their background.

We’re all arguably better off when someone’s innate intelligence, acquired skills, drive and determination get them ahead, supposing their ability and effort isn’t put to criminal ends.

We’re all arguably worse off when getting ahead has even more to do than it does now with mere political patronage, redistributing the wealth of others, nepotism, and is dependent even more upon who you know rather than what you’ve accomplished and done for yourself.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Theodore Dalrymple, Moral Authority, and You’ve Got A Special Delivery From Putin

How do you preserve and conserve many laws and traditions and institutions likely worth preserving and conserving, and the authority necessary to maintain them with perhaps many people less connected in their lives and minds to those laws, traditions and institutions nowadays?

Are we becoming more individualistic?

Without that presumed moral fabric, and with more choice and opportunity available, will more Americans seek security and purpose in the secular ideologies so often leading to a rather Euro-statist secular authority?

Do you trust the institutional authority claimed by many standard secular liberal humanists on the way toward secular ideals?

How do the more often individualist and atheist libertarians find common ground with social and religious conservatives?

Do they?

Here’s Dalrymple:

‘One of the problems of modern society is the difficulty many people now have with accepting and obeying rules that they neither made themselves nor can they deduce from any of their own, self-chosen first principles, chief amongst which is the democratic one that a cat may look at a king. That is why, if you take the risk of asking a person who is behaving in a mildly antisocial way to desist, he will suddenly turn moral philosopher and demand an incontrovertible proof that he should not behave in that way.’

Speaking of authority, at least one Russian lawmaker thought it was time to take post-Soviet authoritarianism, self-serving ethno-nationalism, and Russia’s low birth-rate to the next level.

First, there was talk of encouraging hook-ups in tents at love camps, mixing sweet, young romance with coolly calculated demographic and political survival:

‘Remember the mammoths, say the clean-cut organisers at the youth camp’s mass wedding. “They became extinct because they did not have enough sex. That must not happen to Russia.’

Now for a more ‘personal’ solution.  Ladies, if you’ve seen Vlad on a horse, this really was a next logical step.

-Naturally, Putin still offers photo-ops of himself bare-chested:  embodying the virility, strength, and charisma that the Russian people will need going forward to conquer nature and vanquish all enemies.

A meeting of one of Vlad’s country jaunts was caught, miraculously, on tape and in English:

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You can’t enjoy the highs if you haven’t endured the lows, am I right?

***Bonus-1980′s tourist Putin meeting Ronald Reagan as a KGB member in Red Square.

***Double Bonus-Putin and Bush’s love affair in a GAZ M-21 Volga caught on tape.  Putin sent Medvedev out to keep the flame alive with Obama on missile defense.

To put it crudely as possible:  This guy knows more about love than a fate-tossed Ukranian mail-order bride.  You can’t entirely blame him either, as some of its working.

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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