Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paris In the Springtime

My beautiful bride and I travelled to Paris last month, accompanied by her sister and her sister's husband. We threw the trip together at the last moment and spent seven lovely days there. We also met up with my wife's cousin Vincent, his wife Florence, and their three beautiful children while we were there. Vincent had stayed with us in the summer of 1999 for five weeks when he was a university student and he and I have kept in touch ever since. It was great to see him and finally meet his beautiful family.

Paris is the greatest city in the world. I used to reserve that honor for New York but no longer. There is a sweetness, a loveliness, to Paris that sets it apart from any other great city I've encountered, though Rome comes close. New York has granduer, greatness, energy, but, of course, Paris has no shortage of those. It's that "la dolce vita" aspect of Paris that sets it apart. It has to do with the quality and abundance of the city's green spaces, its parks and gardens; with the sidewalk cafe life that allows for companionship and community; with the Parisian's attitude that life is to be enjoyed, savored. The attitude is contagious; I spent the week giddy with delight.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blame It on Rio

Or in Mark Sanford's case, Buenos Aires. The man is an embarrassment. My initial reaction to a politician being caught in an extra-marital affair is that it's none of my business, nor anyone else's outside of the main actors - the politician, his spouse, and family. But as we learn more about Sanford's behavior during this episode the more I believe the man is unfit for office. Having an affair is one thing. I'm not one of those conservatives who believes a man must be morally upright to be effective in office. There are too many examples from history that prove otherwise. But Sanford's betrayals went beyond the merely private realm. He lied to his staff about his whereabouts, who then repeated the lie to the press. He went incommunicado for six days and was prepared to stay that way for a full ten days had he not learned people were asking questions. When he arrived home he did so with the apparent intention of covering up his behaviour with more lies if necessary. His behavior throughout these past few weeks are those of a man who has lost control of himself, one who has fallen so helplessly in love that he has now thrown caution to the wind. Further evidence of this loss of self-control are the emails he wrote to his lover. I started to read them but stopped after the first one. It was too much - I felt embarrassed for him. I'd feel embarrassed for any man who would write such dreck, never mind a middle-aged high-profile governor in whom much has been entrusted. Clearly the man has lost interest in his life and career and is ready to give it all up for his lover. He should resign and go away.


I mentioned to my brother earlier this week that I didn't think we should be shadowing the North Korean ship suspected of carrying illegal arms. He was surprised and asked why. Because, I told him, I had little faith that the Obama administration would actually board the ship. Instead, we'd turn around and leave with our tail between our legs. So this then, from Ed Morrissey, comes as no surprise to me:

If the Obama administration didn’t see that threat coming from miles away, then they are even more clueless than I’d imagined. Instead of Obama looking tough, Kim has shown the world that he can bully the US into retreat at any time. He exposed Obama as a paper tiger.

Read the whole thing and then go pour yourself a stiff drink.

The Beginning of the End Of the "Global Warming" Myth?

UPDATE: Cap-and-trade being pulled? No sooner had I posted this that I saw this over on The Corner.

Kim Strassel's has an excellent article in this morning's WSJ regarding the growing doubts about "global warming" (hat tip Jonah Goldberg over at The Corner):

The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)

The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.

Credit for Australia's own era of renewed enlightenment goes to Dr. Ian Plimer, a well-known Australian geologist. Earlier this year he published "Heaven and Earth," a damning critique of the "evidence" underpinning man-made global warming. The book is already in its fifth printing. So compelling is it that Paul Sheehan, a noted Australian columnist -- and ardent global warming believer -- in April humbly pronounced it "an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence." Australian polls have shown a sharp uptick in public skepticism; the press is back to questioning scientific dogma; blogs are having a field day.

Read the whole thing.

Unfortunately, evidence doesn't always trump ideology: the Democrats cap-and-trade bill, which will raise all our taxes significantly and which even its supporters say will do little about "global warming", is scheduled for a vote today or tomorrow. Sanity regarding this issue may be returning to the population at large but raving lunacy remains the MO for the majority of our elected representatives.

Fifteen Books in Fifteen Minutes

This meme has been floating around the Internet the past few weeks. I saw it first on Terry Teachout's site, then again at Patrick Kurp's Anecdotal Evidence. The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

Here are mine:

Pauline Kael's I Lost it at the Movies
Greil Marcus's Mystery Train
H.V Morton's A Traveller in Rome
Janet Flanner's Paris Journal 1944-1965
Ian McEwan's Atonement
Edwin O'Connor's The Edge of Sadness
John Williams' Stoner and Augustus
Joseph Epstein's In a Cardboard Belt!
Peter Devries's Madder Music
Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers
Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France
Jean-Francois Revel's How Democracies Perish
Paul Johnson's Modern Times
Keeping The Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought
George F. Will's The Pursuit of Virtue & Other Tory Notions

The Kael and Marcus books I included because they introduced to me when I was very young (I read them both for the first time when I was a teenager) a different way of thinking about two of the things I love most - movies and music. In particular, they allowed me to see that no movie, no music, no art, is created in a vacuum, that everything is influenced by what came before it, and that seeing or identifying these influences in a work made us enjoy it all the more. Most importantly they taught me that a work doesn't necessarily have to be art to be enjoyable. Indeed must of what we love the most in these fields could justifiably be termed trash (Ms. Kael, of course, would later expand on this critical aesthetic in her famous essay, Trash, Art, and the Movies - "It’s preposterously egocentric to call anything we enjoy art—as if we could not be entertained by it if it were not; it’s just as preposterous to let prestigious, expensive advertising snow us into thinking we’re getting art for our money when we haven’t even had a good time.") Finally, both books introduced me to works I may otherwise never have encountered, works that I now love.

The Morton and Flanner books I include because they are among my favorite books about two of my favorite places. Both books gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the cities they chronicle.

The McEwan, O'Connor, and Williams novels I include because they all moved me deeply, are beautifully written, and, like the rules above state, have stuck with me. Seldom does a week go by that I don't reflect back on at least one of these wonderful books.

The Epstein and Devries books I include for they both combine a wonderful sense of the comic with a deep sense of humanity. Essentially, both these men make me laugh out loud, over and over again, page by page. Their comic vision is the product of their deep and generous understanding of human nature. (I should mention that these books were picked almost at random from each author's voluminous catalogue. Almost any of Epstein's collections of essays or Devries' novels could be substituted in place of those I've chosen. It is through the bulk of their work that their talent and spirit can be seen most clearly.)

The Ellis book I include because, better than any book I know, it brought to life the men of the founding generation along with a giving me a fuller understanding of the issues those men dealt with. It is a profoundly brilliant book which I would recommend to anyone.

The Burke, Revel, and Johnson books I include because they made clear to me the nature of totalitarianism in the modern world. I read them all in my twenties and they instilled in me a belief that free people must be constantly vigilant of their freedoms. At this moment in history, in the United States of America, perhaps we should all be reading these books.

The final two books I include because they were the two books most influential in my becoming a conservative. They taught me the fundamentals tenets of conservatism in common sense language using the issues of the day. Reading them both were a for me a kind of epiphany: they created a harmonic convergence out of what previously had been just a jumble of stray thoughts. I've never been the same since.

No Tears

I agree almost completely with Jonah Goldberg's reaction to Micheal Jackson's death. The media furor and adoration is unseemly. Yes, he was a pop star who once captured the imagination of a large segment of the population, but the life he lead should not be celebrated. In a more grown-up age the tone of the media coverage would be more somber than celebratory, reflecting the fact that this terribly talented man lived a terribly tragic and wasteful life.