Metallica, “For whom the bell tolls”

A nice video for one of my favorite Metallica songs, “For whom the bell tolls”. It combines scenes from the 1943 movie based on the eponymous Ernest Hemingway novel with live footage of the band playing the song. The latter is slightly out of sync, as the band were playing at a faster tempo than on the studio track.

Musicians and amateur musicologists, a few notes below the “Read more” fold.

Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. (John Donne, Devotions upon emergent occasions, Meditation XVII)

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2010 Census winners and losers

Paul Caron, a.k.a. the Taxprof, has the following useful table of the House seat winners and loser states from the 2010 Census (see also here: and here):

 

The table speaks for itself. Note one state absent in both columns: California. As Michael Barone points out, his is the first census in which California did not gain any congressional seats since it was admitted to the Union!

 

Xmas video: George Winston, “December” [repost]

[Repost from last year, as life is dumping too many surprises on me to let me blog.] With best wishes from this Jew to his Christian readers. George Winston is often pigeonholed as a “New Age” pianist, but he himself rejects the label, preferring to call his style “rural folk piano”. Technically, he’s head and shoulders about any “New Age” pianist, it must be said.

The video below couples some seasonal imagery with two tunes from the “December” album. “Joy” is mostly a fantasy arrangement of the tune of Bach’s “Jesu meine Freude” (known to English-speakers as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”), the final movement of cantata BWV147 — you’ll recognize the melody coming in at 0:52. “The holly and the ivy” is a very Winstonian arrangement of a traditional Xmas carol. Both tracks are transposed to Ab major: having absolute pitch, I freely admit to being a sucker for anything in that key (or its relative F minor).

Have a wonderful holiday! And for an eloquent statement on how a Jew views Xmas in America, read this nice post by “Ayatollah Ghilmeini”.

FAIL to the Chief: 0bama dumps his job on Clinton

While I was traveling, the White House saw possibly the most surrealistic event in the history of the US Presidency (or at least since we have media documentation).

Ed Driscoll (whose title I couldn’t resist swiping) sums it up :

Mr. I’ll Stop the Rise of the Seas handed the presidency to one of his predecessors on Friday.  During a press conference in the White House briefing room, the President of the United States handed the bully pulpit over to Bill Clinton.  Obama and Clinton had just held a closed door meeting regarding the Bush tax cut deal and presumably discussed what Obama must do now that he faces a Republican majority in the House. The pair of presidents decided to hold an impromptu press conference.  A few minutes in, Obama walks out, leaving Clinton to hold court with the White House press corps.

Clinton hasn’t been POTUS now for about 10 years, but he showed that he’s still the wonk he always was, citing facts and figures and selling the Obama deal better than Obama has bothered to try.  But Clinton’s performance isn’t the most important part of the story.  The important parts are what Friday’s moment says and what it symbolizes.  As a former President of the United States, Clinton is entitled to be addressed as “Mr. President,” and that’s of course how the press addressed him, which only added to Friday’s confusion: With Obama off to meet his wife and attend a Christmas party, Clinton got to play President for a Day.

Adds Ed Driscoll:

[…W]hat does this moment from Friday communicate to the world?

I doubt that the symbolism of Friday’s presser was intentional. I don’t think that Obama believed that his walking out would be seen as the abdication of leadership that it was. Like the Greek columns and the Berlin speech, Obama probably intended to the imagery to say one thing, but it accidentally said something else entirely. Friday’s press conference struck me as another sign of disrespect for the office he holds, and another of Barack Obama’s misuses of the power with which he has been entrusted. He intended to show unity with the former and still popular President, but actually told the world that he’s no longer up to his job and won’t even bother trying to pretend he is. Roger wrote over the weekend that it showed that America doesn’t have a leader now. That’s right, and it’s very dangerous.

The image that Obama broadcast on Friday was one of serious, and perhaps incurable, weakness. The moment looked like what happens in a corporate setting, when an experienced hand steps in to temporarily take over for a inexperienced executive who has botched a big job and needs time to get his mind right. What happens next in the corporate world is that the junior exec gets some training, or gets sidelined, or gets fired. But we’re not talking about a junior exec. There’s no training available, no sideline to run to, and his contract lasts a couple more years.

Obama has taken the presidency to a moment of such weakness that we have to reach back to Watergate for a comparison, but Obama’s moment wasn’t brought on by scandal. It’s the result of his personality and his lack of preparation for the job, “first class temperament” notwithstanding. And it’s also the result of how he views the job, as a symbol of authority rather than the fact and exercise of authority.

Kim Jong-Il and his successor son are watching, as are Vlad Putin, the Chinese Communists, al Qaeda, the mullahcracy in Iran and every other potential threat or challenger on the planet. If Obama can’t handle his own party or a simple press conference, can he handle Somali pirates, Hugo Chavez or that shopworn 3 am crisis?

On Friday, when he exited the stage and left Bill Clinton temporarily in charge, Barack Obama told the world that he can no longer handle any of that.

No-one at the bridge

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson: Our “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” moment

Mao’s great leap to famine

Via Insty, a withering indictment by historian Frank Dikötter of the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” (into the abyss) at that [sarc]Christofascist Dominionist Teabagging Right-Wing Rethuglican rag[/sarc], the New York Times:

The worst catastrophe in China’s history, and one of the worst anywhere, was the Great Famine of 1958 to 1962, and to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the “Great Leap Forward” that Mao Zedong launched in 1958.To this day, the party attempts to cover up the disaster, usually by blaming the weather. Yet detailed records of the horror exist in the party’s own national and local archives.

Access to these files would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago, but a quiet revolution has been taking place over the past few years as vast troves of documents have gradually been declassified. While the most sensitive information still remains locked up, researchers are being allowed for the first time to rummage through the dark night of the Maoist era.

From 2005 to 2009, I examined hundreds of documents all over China, traveling from subtropical Guangdong to arid Gansu Province near the deserts of Inner Mongolia.

The party records were usually housed on the local party committee premises, closely guarded by soldiers. Inside were acres of dusty, yellowing paper held together in folders that could contain anything from a single scrap of paper scribbled by a party secretary decades ago to neatly typewritten minutes of secret leadership meetings.

Historians have known for some time that the Great Leap Forward resulted in one of the world’s worst famines. Demographers have used official census figures to estimate that some 20 to 30 million people died.

But inside the archives is an abundance of evidence, from the minutes of emergency committees to secret police reports and public security investigations, that show these estimates to be woefully inadequate.

In the summer of 1962, for instance, the head of the Public Security Bureau in Sichuan sent a long handwritten list of casualties to the local boss, Li Jingquan, informing him that 10.6 million people had died in his province from 1958 to 1961. In many other cases, local party committees investigated the scale of death in the immediate aftermath of the famine, leaving detailed computations of the scale of the horror.

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.

Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement.

[graphic detail of unspeakably barbaric execution methods omitted]
Starvation was the punishment of first resort. As report after report shows, food was distributed by the spoonful according to merit and used to force people to obey the party. One inspector in Sichuan wrote that “commune members too sick to work are deprived of food. It hastens their death.”

As the catastrophe unfolded, people were forced to resort to previously unthinkable acts to survive. As the moral fabric of society unraveled, they abused one another, stole from one another and poisoned one another. Sometimes they resorted to cannibalism.

But this begs the same question as with that other “harvest of sorrow”, Stalin’s collectivization campaign in the Ukraine:  was this tragedy a bug or a feature of the program? Frank Dikötter argues the latter:

[…] The term “famine” tends to support the widespread view that the deaths were largely the result of half-baked and poorly executed economic programs. But the archives show that coercion, terror and violence were the foundation of the Great Leap Forward.Mao was sent many reports about what was happening in the countryside, some of them scribbled in longhand. He knew about the horror, but pushed for even greater extractions of food.

At a secret meeting in Shanghai on March 25, 1959, he ordered the party to procure up to one-third of all the available grain — much more than ever before. The minutes of the meeting reveal a chairman insensitive to human loss: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

Read the whole thing. ddd

To this day, there is little public information inside China about this dark past. Historians who are allowed to work in the party archives tend to publish their findings across the border in Hong Kong.

There is no museum, no monument, no remembrance day to honor the tens of millions of victims. Survivors, most of them in the countryside, are rarely given a voice, all too often taking their memories with them to their graves.

Insty adds:

Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should [suffer]  the consequences of their behavior.

Amen. I somehow doubt that the victims care whether they were victims of a genocidal regime or “merely” another democidal one.

Belgian court introduces novel legal concept: “wrongful life”

On the C2 morning thread, commenter (and attorney) “buzzsawmonkey” shares this unbelievable news item:

Belgian Court approves “wrongful life” action; permissible for doctors to kill the disabled if they “should not have been born.”

“buzzsawmonkey” adds:

At the end of the film “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Spencer Tracy, as the head of the tribunal that has convicted a number of Nazi judges, meets with the jurist Emil Janning (Burt Lancaster), the only one of the convicted who had displayed a moral sense.  Janning says, “You must believe me; those millions of people.  I didn’t know that it would come to that.”   Tracy replies to him, “It had come to that the first time you condemned a man you knew to be innocent.”

The same thing is happening now: if the state [i.e., Belgium — Ed.] can decide arbitrarily whether a life “should” have come into being on the basis of disability, the devaluation of life from something owned by the person to something on loan from the state is in place.

The only question remaining is how rapidly this will descend into horror, not if it has.

Dogfight in the sky: terrier forces emergency landing

Weird news item of the day:

A dogfight in the skies over New Jersey forced a packed airliner to make an emergency landing yesterday.

A 12-pound Manchester terrier — apparently channeling Snoopy’s Red Baron — got loose on a US Airways flight and declared war on the passengers and crew, rampaging down the aisle, biting anybody in her way.

Mandy and her owner, an 89-year-old woman who said she was too embarrassed to be publicly identified, had boarded Flight 522 in Newark for a ride to Phoenix.

The pooch had been in a carrier under her owner’s seat. But when Mandy’s dog tranquilizers wore off, the elderly woman put the carrier on her lap and took her best friend out of it.

When Mandy refused to calm down, a man seated nearby tried petting her.

Then Mandy made her great escape.

First, she bit the man. Then she darted off, barking madly.

A heroic stewardess tried to put herself between Mandy and the passengers.

But she was no match for the hot-dogger and became a casualty herself.

The pilot made the emergency landing so Mandy’s two victims could get medical attention — treating all 122 passengers to a surprise visit to scenic Pittsburgh.

They cooled their heels for an hour before everyone — except Mandy and her owner — got back aboard.

The pair were put on a later flight.

US Airways pinned the blame on the woman.

“This passenger let their dog out of the carrier even though they’re not supposed to do that,” groused Valerie Wunder, an airline spokeswoman. “She was told not to.”

Mandy’s owner was questioned by Pittsburgh cops — who decided not to file charges.

Wunder said the airline had not decided what, if any, action would be taken against the woman, but doubted she’d be banned from future flights.

She had no comment on whether Mandy — whose ticket cost $100 — would be welcomed back.

This is what an actual Manchester Terrier (one ancestor of the recently popular Jack Russell Terrier and his American cousin, the Rat Terrier) looks like: