Monday, January 30, 2012

Get it? Get it?

Red-faced promotional moment No. 2.

LarryD's moved Acts of the Apostasy.

Over two months ago....

[Whistling, avoiding eye contact...]

Sorry, Larry.

Red-faced promotional moment.

I've entirely neglected to point out that Rich Leonardi is blogging again. Along with a few friends of like mind.

Get thee hence to Over The Rhine And Into The Tiber.

Sorry, Rich....

Bye, bye, Hot Air.

Salem Communications' acquisition of the previously-excellent news aggregator/punditry site, Hot Air, is starting to show signs of being a disaster. Not because of the actual pundits at the site, but due to the studied lack of supervision of the commentariat. This has become a backbreaker for me. Here are exhibits A and B.

Exhibit A is found in response to this post about Isabella Santorum, the beautiful daughter of former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has the rare Trisomy-18 genetic condition.

Here’s where I disagree with Catholicism and agree with the Spartans — at least the Spartans as mythologized by Plutarch.

I hope she gets well and makes a full recovery. Failing that, I hope she dies in as much comfort as possible, and that this is not unnecessarily prolonged.

Random on January 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM

And then there's Exhibit B, offered in what should have been a celebration of a micropreemie's survival:

There is too much medical intervention in our society, both at the beginning and end of life. We are letting every weakling with a congenital disorder survive as [sic] reproduce, and striving to put death off unnecessarily generally. This is weakening our genome across the board. We ought to give natural selection a chance.

I hope this baby goes on to have a good life, but if it doesn’t, it will be largely our fault.

Random on January 23, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Eugenics--it's not just for Nazis and Spartans anymore. Coming soon to a death panel near you... And while we're at it, why don't we label some of the neighbors "Helots" and have at it?

Yeah, same anonymous jerk, what's the big deal? Well, here's the big deal: HA requires registration before commenting. Salem has opened the floodgates and a whole host of freakazoids of all stripes have wandered in. And they aren't supervised. The same clown appeared on the open-commenting Ace of Spades, was chewed to flinders by the "Morons" and then spat out by Ace himself, an open agnostic/atheist not afraid to wield a banhammer. Random is also fond of trying to hit you with some knowledge about racial issues, too, which won him a swat from Ace's electronic Mjolnir.

Sure, the dick jokes and foul language run rampant over at Ace, but it's a hell of a lot friendlier place to the sane than HA has become. Let alone the increasingly-virulent (and ever-more-unimaginative) anti-Catholicism permitted at Salem's blog toy. The latter is especially mystifying given the presence of two Catholic writers--Ed Morrisey and Tina Korbe.

It's increasingly obvious that HA has become more friendly to the economic conservatism/small-government-at-all costs wing, and less so to social conservatives. Sure, Korbe counterbalances this to some extent, but when you let the comments become a cesspit where eugenics is part of the conversation, that should be a heads up that there's a serious problem. The degeneration of the commentariat is a symptom, and HA's ownership better start heeding it. I'm not interested in a conservatism where eugenics is part of the discussion. Apparently, Salem's mileage varies.

Anyway, goodbye to all that. Have fun re-founding the agoge.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Very interesting quiz about our dividing national house.

How Thick Is Your Bubble?

View user's Quiz School Profile
Score » 11 out of 20 (55% )

On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 9 and 12.

In other words, even if you're part of the new upper class, you've had a lot of exposure to the rest of America.

Quiz SchoolTake this quiz & get your score

Background on the quiz via The Corner.

Don't make me feel sorry for Mitt Romney.

If you ask, I don't make much of a secret for my disdain for Romney the politician. I think his political commercials should end with "I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve of this message--at this time." But I think some of the attacks on his business experience are overblown.

For example, he's paying a lot more in taxes than is commonly claimed.

And he only makes slightly more per day than Jon Stewart.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Hurricane of November.

When I was around 9 or 10, a friend of mine said his uncle had told him a mini-hurricane once formed on one of the Great Lakes. Knowing, like most Michiganders, that the Lakes were formidable bodies of water, and knowing, like most fifth graders, bupkis about meteorology, it made sense.

Much later on, after learning something of the mechanics of hurricane formation, I discounted it. The Lakes aren't tropical bodies of water, and cyclonic formation isn't very likely. "Mini-hurricane" meant "big storm," like the one that had claimed the Edmund Fitzgerald when I was six.

As it turns out, my friend's uncle was right. In November 1913, an "extra-tropical cyclone" very likely formed over Lake Huron as part of a unique merging of two fronts with a jet stream coming down from Canada. The result: The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, also known as the "White Hurricane."

By the time it blew itself out, after four horrendous days, nineteen ships were wrecked, twelve of them sunk by the waves, including then-new steel freighters, and more than 275 sailors (including men and women) died.

While not as well known as the Fitzgerald's gale (though Lightfoot's classic understandably ensures it), the White Hurricane is worthy of a retelling, and three authors have taken cracks at it. Sadly, only one is currently in print, but the other two are readily available from used book sellers.

The best from a technical standpoint is David G. Brown's White Hurricane. Brown does a masterful job of explaining what was--and was not--known by weather forecasting back in 1913. The jet stream would not be discovered until a generation later, which would radically change forecasting. In the meantime, the Weather Bureau (the precursor to the National Weather Service) did its best with barometric pressure and understanding of fronts. All told, Brown makes a good case that the Bureau did as well as it could with the tools of the time to warn about the Hurricane, going so far as to warn the shipping companies with personal phone calls.

But what was coming was far beyond what anyone, sailor or meteorologist, had ever seen. 90 mph sustained winds, waves topping 35 feet and whiteout squalls making navigation all but impossible, turning southern Lake Huron into a killing ground (the storm would also claim ships on Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Erie, sparing only Ontario during the onslaught). As Brown explains, there's no "running before the storm" as can can be done on the oceans--you quickly run out of lake and have to turn, which during the White Hurricane was a serious capsize risk.

Where Brown trips up slightly is in not personalizing the loss of certain ships--e.g., the first ship lost, the Leafield on Lake Superior, is briefly mentioned without context. Overall, Brown is a solid historian, showing a critical eye for mariner's tales, the occasional hoax and the tendency of newspapers to exaggerate for effect. The prose is serviceable, if occasionally a bit dry. But while he avoids speculation for the most part, he ends with a reasonable hypothesis to explain one of the persistent mysteries of the Hurricane: why the body of John Groundwater, the engineer of the doomed Charles S. Price was found wearing a lifejacket from the tragic packet freighter Regina.

Robert Hemming's Ships Gone Missing is an earlier account which nicely fills in the gaps in Brown's narrative. Hemming is a very good prose stylist, and he manages to work in anecdotes about all the lost ships, however briefly. He also has an appendix describing later storms, up to and including the Fitzgerald.

Finally, Frank Baucus' Freshwater Fury gives the first person accounts of the Hurricane. This is very valuable, as it includes the remarkable tales of survival of the James H. Sheadle (which made four turns during the storm and yet survived the death zone in southern Lake Huron) and the J.F. Durston, which smashed its way north to Mackinaw over the same grounds, encased in tons of ice but still afloat. The seamanship of both crews was nothing short of extraordinary, and in the former case was still questioned in a fit of idiocy by the company's ownership.

In addition, it contains the description of the loss of the Argus, which was crushed by waves as a surviving ship watched helplessly three miles away, battling for its own life. The silent horror of the other ship's bridge haunts. The body of the Argus steward's wife would later be found in the Captain's lifejacket, a sign that chivalry was alive and well. Hard to picture Captain Schettino doing the same, alas.

Take, read, and--fair warning--prepare to be chilled. The stories are often tragic, if occasionally interspersed with humor. The latter includes the case of the Worst Son of the 20th Century, who, incorrectly reported as having died during the storm, thought it would be a great joke to show up at his own funeral.

To this day, five of the wrecks have never been found, with the most recent find, that of the Wexford, dating to 2000.

Frederick Douglass and Irish emancipation.

Donald McClarey at the American Catholic is always worth reading, but he absolutely knocks it out of the park with his history posts. This one is no exception, chronicling the meeting of the liberator of Ireland and the Elijah of emancipation.

Not so by the way, Douglass' Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass is a must read. He revised it over time (the 1845 version protected those who helped him escape), and I have only read the first. But it is a work of remarkable power, and a searing indictment of those who do evil under a lacquer of piety.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Legislator-Lobbyist Complex at Work.

Countrywide Chris Dodd's latest disgrace, shilling for SOPA.

Note carefully how the hard-nosed journalists at MSNBC dutifully rub his tummy.

I keep hoping I'll wake up.

The frontrunners for the 2012 Republican nomination are (1) a thrice-married lobbyist most recently on retainer for Fannie Mae, and (2) a one-term governor of Massachusetts who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy.

I have that straight, right?

I miss the smoke-filled rooms and surprise compromise candidates.

Bull. And also, shit.

The latest experiment in "Why the Hell Not?" is underway in a Michigan federal court.
"The undisputed sociological and psychological evidence demonstrates that unmarried persons, straight, gay or lesbian, are no less loving, caring and effective parents than those parents who are married to each other. In addition, there are very significant legal benefits for children having two legal parents rather than one," the couple's lawyers, Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar, wrote.

There are some things so stupid only a lawyer could mouth them. There is, after all, the rather gruesome track record of reality:

While there are no national statistics available from the federal government, a survey by the Child Welfare League of America bore out the state data, finding that anywhere from one-tenth to one-third of all child fatalities were caused by unrelated adults in the home.

"If you're looking at abuse overall, the natural parents are far more likely to be the perpetrators than anyone else," said Kevin Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Prevent Child Abuse America.

But, according to Walter Smith, director of Family Resources Inc., a local child-abuse prevention agency, ."it's very common, either because of a breakdown in attachment, or failure to create one" for live-in lovers to become involved.

"They don't love the kid," said Martin Daly, author of a number of Canadian studies on the issue. "A lot of stepmothers and boyfriends regard the kid as undesired baggage who they wish had never been born. The child remains a resented nuisance at best."

Daly is the co-author of a 1999 Canadian study that found that an American child living with one genetic parent and one step-parent or a live-in companion was 100 times as likely to suffer fatal abuse as a child living with two genetic parents.

And a number of other studies, in fact, strongly suggest that children being cared for by an unrelated adult are at far greater risk of injury or death than may have been previously believed.

A 1993 British study found the incidence of abuse was 33 times higher in a household where the mother was living with an unrelated boyfriend. And a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics of 175 Missouri children under the age of 5, who were murdered between 1992 and 1994, found that the risk of a child's dying at the hands of an adult living in the child's own household was eight times higher if the adult was unrelated.

You're going to say that, hey, these are adoptive parents, it's different. Maybe. Or maybe [bracketing the gay marriage issue for the nonce] people who can't commit to each other legally aren't in the best place to be committing to the care of children via adoption.

But what the hell--throw the dice. It's not like lives are at stake or anything.

A rough stretch.

  Forgive the vagueness and ambiguity, but I am going through a tough patch at the moment. July was full-stop awful, and August, while bette...