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What’s Going On?



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On the roads, on the streets, there are at least 45 percent more people out in the New York metropolitan area–and have been for at least the last hour–than there should be/usually are. Something going on no one told me about?

Eu Constitution Watch



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One of the intentions of the EU’s constitutional convention was, allegedly, to stimulate interest in the EU’s evolution among its ‘citizens’. Here’s how it’s going in Spain:

“A recent survey by Real Instituto Elcano, a Madrid-based foreign affairs think-tank, found only 1 per cent of Spaniards knew the goal of the convention was to write a constitution. A full 90 per cent of the respondents in the survey had never even heard of the convention.”

From the Financial Times, May 31.


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Samuel, The Fetus



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You gotta love when Newsweek has to admit what medicine is showing us more and more about life in the womb.

Web Briefing: July 11, 2014

Hometown



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Here’s my column from Saturday’s Dallas Morning News, in which I discuss the impact having a local guy arrested as a serial killer suspect is having on my small Louisiana hometown. Note especially how this thing is taking an O.J. turn, with at least some black folks there saying Derrick Lee couldn’t possibly be the killer, and that this thing sounds like a white put-up job. Also, since I wrote this, townspeople have turned media-savvy. A cousin of mine who teaches elementary-school special education mentioned in the teacher’s lounge the other day that in the time she had young Derrick Lee in her class, one of the finches in the classroom birdcage turned up dead in the cage, with its neck broken. A day or two later, CNN phoned my cousin, wanting to know about Lee’s possible history as a torturer of small animals.

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The Red and The Blue



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Country music stations are dropping singer Daron Norwood’s popular single “In God We Trust” because it contains the name of Jesus. Just who do these radio programmers think the country music audience is? Broadcast executives have, I would imagine, the same blue-state mentality that sees those who object to filthy, degrading, misogynistic and violent lyrics in hip-hop music as threats to free speech, and probably racist to boot.

Mark Steyn



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He’s been to Iraq and back and writes about it here.

Speaking of...



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…the photos of the week: here and here and here and here .

Don’t Worry, Be Happy



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Tony Blair suggests we’ve found more than Iraq than is being publicized.

Wahhabi Watch



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From this week’s Economist:

“Not even Cambodia’s obscure Muslim community has escaped the zealots’ attention. The Cambodian Islamic Development Council, a Muslim NGO, estimates that at least 10% of local Muslims now follow the puritanical Wahhabi sect, thanks to aggressive Saudi Arabian proselytizing. On May 28th, Cambodian authorities charged an Egyptian and two Thais with plotting terrorist attacks in Phnom Penh for Jamaah Islamiah.”


The Saudis, again.


Timothy Garton Ash



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Ramesh, that’s a disappointing piece by Timothy Garton Ash, but no surprise. He’s been beating the EU drum for a while now. Credit where’s credit’s due, however. Back in the 1980s Garton Ash was one of the good – indeed, great – guys over Eastern Europe. His writings from that era are still well worth reading.

McLitigation



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Kathryn, Raspelli is wrong, but it’s really, really, dumb of McDonalds to sue the guy.

Comedies of The 1980s



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There’s more than a touch of High Fidelity about all this list making, but if we are on the subject of great 1980s comedies, how about Roxanne (remember the scene in a bar where Steve Martin lets fly with the insults?), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (an essential Reagan-era text), Zelig , Heathers, Trading Places and, of course, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

And the 1990s? They didn’t do so badly. Why no mention of The Mask, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie), Flirting with Disaster, The Full Monty, Clueless, Scream, To Die For, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks and that strangely unsung conservative classic Blast from the Past?

Movie humor is alive and well. What’s more, each of those decades can boast one TV comedy that will live on for years – Cheers in the 1980s and, of course, Seinfeld in the 1990s. Simpsons viewers please contact Jonah.

Finally, here’s a tip from 1941 – try a Hellzapoppin’ : quite amazing – and unfairly neglected.


Comedies (1)



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Jonah, I’m disappointed that Beavis and Butthead Do America didn’t ‘make’ your 1990s list.

Huh huh huh huh…

It’s quite funny – in its own way…


Rave On



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Or not. Joe Biden has always been something of an idiot. Now we know that he’s a dangerous idiot. Here’s Jacob Sullum on Biden’s latest legislative contribution to this country.

“For years volunteer groups like DanceSafe have been passing out fliers at raves and night clubs with advice on how to avoid dangerous overheating — drink water, take frequent breaks, abstain from alcohol (which compounds dehydration). Event sponsors have helped by providing bottles of water and ventilated “chill out” rooms, measures intended not to encourage drug use but to reduce drug-related harm. Under the new law, however, such sensible precautions could be seen as evidence that the host or owner knew guests would be using drugs, exposing him to $250,000 or more in civil penalties, a criminal fine of up to $500,000, and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe.


The Sweepings of The Abbatoir Floor



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In France, apparently, there’s not much discussion over Diamond Giscard’s proposed EU ‘constitution’. Why? Well according to my ‘France guy’ (you know who you are) the French have now decided that it’s not going to go through, so further debate is just a waste of time. Encore du vin, SVP.

That’s only a little bit less optimistic than the Maginot Line, I fear.

In more realistic Britain, the debate continues, much of it focused on the proposed Article 10 (EU law “shall have primacy over the law of the member states”). In a sense (and that’s an important qualifier) this has been true since the UK joined the EEC (as it then was) in 1973, but this was not something that was widely understood by the public at large. A positive side effect of the current controversy is that this is now beginning to change.

The Economist takes up the story:

“In Downing Street they are uncomfortably aware that polls suggest that only 10% of the British people accept the proposition that EU law should override British law. It is rather as if, having happily consumed factory-made sausages for 30 years, consumers are now being asked to read the ingredients on the side of the packet and consider carefully if they want to keep reconstituted udders.”

Eeeeew


My compromise? Keep the sausages and junk the primacy of EU law within the UK except as an explicit (and unilaterally revocable) derogation of British parliamentary authority.


Kazimir Malevich



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This week’s New Yorker includes an interesting – and, in one respect, somewhat unusual – review of a new show at the Guggenheim featuring the work of Kazimir Malevich, the father, if that’s the term, of suprematism.

Normally the story of the early 20th Century Russian avant-garde is told as a fairly simple morality tale (I wrote on a related topic here). These artists were, we are told, the heralds of a new world, who found themselves allied with Lenin in a brave, doomed, attempt to build Utopia. Ultimately, the legend goes, the revolution was betrayed by Stalin. With the ideals and the idealists of 1917 dead or dispersed, the free spirits of the avant-garde found that they were no longer acceptable to the regime. And it wasn’t only their art that was in danger of annihilation. Dull socialist realism (all those farm workers, factories and Red Army men) replaced innovation, and the squares, blocks and jagged montages of those adventurous early years were consigned to the scrap heap, final proof that the once bright Soviet dawn had turned dark.

The truth, of course, is very different. Stalin didn’t betray Lenin’s legacy, he enshrined it, enforced it and enabled it to endure. And as for those freethinking artists? Well, they were content enough to collaborate with communism amid the corpses and jailhouses of the early Soviet state, and they were also quite prepared to shut out those artists who did not conform with the ‘progressive’ notions of the revolutionary era.

Malevich was a genius, but the fact of that genius should not be allowed to obscure his role as a propagandist for, and accomplice in, a system that was barbaric from the beginning. He was no more “just an artist,” than Leni Riefenstahl “was just a photographer”. The New Yorker’s reviewer (Peter Schjeldahl) at least begins to touch on the awkwardness presented by the (all too often ignored) historical record:

“Artists who transformed all given modes of visual art …could hardly avoid hubris. They had an unfortunate habit of scheming against one another, as well as against any artists whom they deemed outmoded….”

And then here:

“The Revolution was dining on its children, just slowly enough to make them, in desperation, compromise their principles one by one.”

It’s a start, but it still lets Malevich off too lightly – as he himself would well have understood. For me, his finest work dates from the late 1920s (and is not, alas, featured in the Guggenheim show). A native of Kiev, Malevich knew about the havoc that was descending on the Ukranian countryside. His response was oblique, in code as, almost certainly, it had to be. He painted a series of images of peasants. So far, so Soviet, you might think, but look more closely. Beneath the bright colors there is a sense of unease or something even worse. The images themselves are faceless, haunting. These are portraits of the doomed, anonymous, archaic, finished, victims of a system that Malevich had once served all too well.


Malaysia



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Some Muslims are, however, fighting back against the zealots.

Encouragingly, the same piece in the Economist records how “Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s organization, is leading a campaign against two Malaysian state governments’ plans to adopt full-blown Islamic law.”

Federal or Not?



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Tony Blair has been making great play out of the fact that the word ‘federal’ has been removed from the latest draft of the proposed EU ‘constitution’. That’s an almost meaningless gesture. Much more important is the fact that the constitution retains the old, lethal and legal, goal of ‘ever closer unity’. When Britain first joined the EEC, its citizens were told that those three words were just so much Continental drivel. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Those three little words have been some of the most powerful engines of federalization – they need to go.

I Am a Fool



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For not mentioning Rushmore. One of my favorite movies.

Best Movie



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Among the best comedies of the 1980s: Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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