Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Bottom of the Page: Stories of Note From the Blogroll

1.) Say what you will about Iraq. Before George W came along, there weren't too many 13 year old piano prodigies from Brooklyn visiting Baghdad to play with the national symphony. Now, there are: A Piano Crosses Baghdad

Karim Wasfi, director and conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony, was waiting in the lounge of the Rasheed Hotel one recent afternoon for two things: the arrival of a 13-year-old American pianist scheduled to headline a rare concert here; and the Steinway grand he was supposed to play.

The prodigy, Llewellyn Kingman Sanchez-Werner, was coming from New York. The piano was coming from the symphony's rehearsal space, just five miles away from the hotel. Mr. Wasfi was more worried about the piano.

Llewellyn will also be traveling to Rwanda for a performance this summer. This will be his second trip there. Makes those pop-stars out there whining about "fascism" seem even more wimpy.

2.) The Other McCain looks at the latest iteration of the Left's use of "science" to prove that the Jews are not from Israel: Science Validates the Bible

To a fundamentalist, there was kind of a “well, duh” reaction to this recent headline:

Studies Show Jews’ Genetic Similarity

It’s scarcely surprising to learn that members of an ethno-religious group – whose ancient scriptures advocate endogamy and proscribe marrying outside the group – would be genetically similar. What I didn’t realize, however, was that some revisionist historians have cast doubt on the Biblical geneaology of the Jews:

The two genome surveys . . . refute the suggestion made last year by the historian Shlomo Sand in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” that Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times.

So, for those of you keeping score:

Genesis, Exodus, etc. . . . . . 1
Revisionist historians . . . . 0

Didn't Arthur Koestler get caught up in one of these controversies? He did! And he was branded an anti-Semitic crank for the rest of his life as a result. Times have changed.(and Koestler's own book on the subject is back in print). Anyway, check out Stacy McCain for the much more plausible Biblical explanation for the origins of the Jews.

3.) Did you know that the new Karate Kid movie was not just filmed in China, but was also funded in part by Chinese money in exchange for government "input" into the script? (sad, but true Will Smith fans) In the spirit of the free exchange of ideas, Libertas is running a special review from an "officially sanctioned Chinese film critic" The Fresh Prince Of Beijing
With special assistance from the Sony corporation, we have made several changes to your original Karate Kid, a warmongering, Reagan-era film that was pock-marked – like the blemished faces of your pimply American teenagers – with the backward, revanchist rhetoric of that era. In our new Karate Kid, we no longer have young New Jersey teenager Daniel and his economically disenfranchised mother seek a new life in the state of California. Instead, we have young ‘Dre’ – played with scrappy insouciance by Jaden Smith (son of your American movie star, Comrade Will Smith!) – seek his fortune in a more suitable land of opportunity: mainland China. In the new Karate Kid, a heartless American automotive company in Detroit shifts the job held by Dre’s mother to Beijing. Since America offers no other possible job opportunities for her, she is forced to make the only economically rational decision: move herself and her son 10,000 kilometers to the (Far) East, even though they don’t speak Chinese!
There's more funny at the link. Btw, it's good to see Libertas back in action after a too-long hiatus, although I find it odd they seem to be going out of their way to knock their old associate John "Dirty Harry" Nolte.

4.) Via Instapundit, here's a Walter Shapiro piece about the odd dearth of local coverage in some of this year's hottest state-wide races: Nikki Haley And Rand Paul: Where Have All The Reporters Gone?
What we are witnessing in this election cycle is the slow death of traditional statewide campaign journalism. I noticed the same pattern (and the same nearly reporter-free campaign trail) in Kentucky last month as I covered libertarian Rand Paul's decisive defeat of the state Republican establishment in the GOP Senate primary. Aside from an occasional AP reporter, virtually the only print journalists whom I encountered at campaign events were my national press-pack colleagues from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and the Atlantic Monthly.
Newspapers like the Louisville Courier-Journal and The State, South Carolina's largest paper, have dramatically de-emphasized in-depth candidate coverage because they are too short-handed to spare the reporters. A survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) found that newsroom staffs across the country have declined by 25 percent since 2001.
OK, I get it. Newspapers are taking it on the chin and don't have the resources they once had. But, the papers are still publishing and they are presumably still employing reporters. Are there local stories in Kentucky and South Carolina that are so much more important than a governors race or Senate primary that no one can cover them? I doubt it.

I think this speaks to a lot of things, all of which are unflattering to the conventional MSM reporters. For one thing, state politics are a dead zone 90% of the time, so what ambitious reporter would want to move to Lexington, KY or Columbia, SC (or Sacramento, for that matter) when NY, LA or DC beckon?* And, let's just get this out there: these are Republican races where the GOP is running insurgent candidates who are capturing the zeitgeist, not to mention the attention of the voters. Who would want to cover that? Well, real reporters would, but that's not what we have these days.

*If that's your attitude, you should read Bob Novack's Prince of Darkness where he spent the early years of his career covering the Illinois legislature, and imbibed the peculiar politics of legislation so thoroughly that he got "called up" to DC to become one of the greatest observers of Congress in the post-WW2 era.

5.) Parapundit takes note of yet another depressing survey of the deteriorating condition of California's schools. We may have the highest paid teachers, but also have the 50th worst educated work force. The report also notes that (warning: taboo breaking imminent) if you controlled for the large number of immigrants who have entered the state, the number of Californians with high school diplomas would be above the national average: California Skills decay As A Result of Immigration
What most amazes me about this huge decline: It brings us no closer to a realistic elite public acknowledgment of innate limits of ability. Rather, the official fantasy gets maintained in the face of copious evidence against the secular religious faith in equality of ability. As John Derbyshire points out, in elite circles public protestations of faith in education to raise up poor performers continues unabated. It is remarkable that during the Middle Ages the Catholic Church abandoned its faith that the Earth was the center of the universe under the weight of far less evidence than the amount of evidence that exists today for the view that group differences in student performance are due to group differences in average ability. Our secular left-liberal defenders of their faith demonstrate far stronger public attachment to irrational beliefs than the Catholic Church did in a supposedly far less rational era of faith in the supernatural.

Too bad a lot of people would rather label one another as racists, rather than deal with these issues.

6.) And over at American Thinker, Roland Toy offers a unique "how I became a conservative" story originating from, of all things, a kids basketball league: How I Became A Conservative
A few days before the game, Jay's father called me. He and the other parents of his son's team were "very, very concerned." Even alarmed. Apparently, as the championship game neared, the boys were doing a lot trash-talking at each other. Surely we could all agree that the real reason for thecompetition was to teach the boys cooperation and sportsmanship. Playing the game would mean one of the teams would lose, which would lead the winning team to "bragging rights in the schoolyard." And that would not be healthy. It would undermine the real lessons to be learned about self-esteem and mutual respect.

He dwelled on these points for a while, finally landing heavily on the notion that this was a wonderful opportunity for us, as parents, to "frame the situation as a teaching moment." Eventually, he got to themoney point: He and the other parents of Jay's team wanted to cancel the championship game. After all, we could all agree that both teams were already winners, right?

Initially, I was nonplussed. But I heard myself saying something like, "You're way over-complicating this. The purpose of playing the game is to win it. And by the way, the winning team has earned bragging rights."
Naturally, the "concerned" parents were mostly college professors, while the "winners" parents were more, ah, productive members of society. Read the whole thing.

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