Friday, November 21, 2014

The nihilist in the White House

Peggy Noonan is always worth reading. Here she is, in her "Declarations" column for tomorrow's Wall Street Journal:

The president’s executive action on immigration is an act of willful nihilism that he himself had argued against in the past. It is a sharp stick in the eye of the new congressional majority. It is at odds with—it defies—the meaning and message of the last election, and therefore is destructive to the reputation of democracy itself. It is huge in its impact but has only a sole cause, the president’s lone will. It damages the standing of our tottery political institutions rather than strengthening them, which is what they desperately need, and sets a template for future executive abuse. It will surely encourage increased illegal immigration and thus further erode the position of the American working class.

A barn full of warbirds

This crusty gentleman coordinated the aerial stunts for the 1969 film Battle of Britain -- and he took the planes as payment! Here he is with one of his two Bf-109 Messerschmitts, the lead fighter of the German air force from its intervention in the Spanish Civil War almost to the end of the Second World War. The planes sat in a Texas barn all these years, but now have been sold to American and European collectors.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The presidential state

So it has come to this: the president of the United States, a onetime professor of constitutional law, has done away with the Constitution of the United States. What need do we have of Congress, when Mr Obama by executive action can rewrite any legislation that it passes? Why not simply do away the laws, and create new ones on the fly? That's what he has done on the subject of immigration.

To add to my creepy sense that America is falling into an abyss, the New York Times this morning applauds the action. The president had to do it, the Gray Lady argues, because Congress wouldn't act. Never mind that legislation is a Congressional prerogative, and that it is elected by the people, most recently on the second Tuesday of this month. Congress be damned! The people be damned!

We have seen this president scold the Supreme Court. He will be in the White House for two years and two months yet, time enough for him to jettison the judiciary as well. What then will be left of the United States of America, whose laws he has twice sworn faithfully to execute?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Europe rules!

Not all the world's money, brains, and enterprise has gravitated to China. Here's a photo taken by the European space voyage, Rosetta, showing a ball of ice 317,000,000 miles away from its launch pad, just before it settled down on the surface of a comet with the ungainly name of  67P/Churyumov-Geasimenko. The comet is a bit more than two miles in diameter. What a shot!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

China rules

How in the world did Xi Jinpeng pull that off? And what do you suppose he's saying to Putin?

"Well, the Japanese emperor got him to bow, so we thought it would be a hoot to get him to wear a Mao jacket. One thing led to another, and ..."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The war that never ends

Seventy-five years on, the bodies of Polish soldiers -- thrown into mass graves -- are still being found at Lviv in western Ukraine. As the Polish city of Lwow, it was attacked and nearly surrounded by the German army in September 1939, with the Soviet Red Army completing the encirclement soon after. Lwow surrendered on September 23, and its defenders were sent to Russian prison camps, with the officers later murdered in the Katyn Forest massacres. The dead were buried in nearby forests, their graves often concealed by rubbish dumps.

So far, fifty bodies have been unearthed from seven pits. The speculation is that they are soldiers of the 98th Regiment of the Polish army's 33rd Division, which fought its way to the relief of Lwow but lost most of its men before the survivors reached the city on September 19.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Remembering the Wall

Twenty-five years ago -- on Sunday, November 9, 1989 -- the Berlin Wall came down. What a world-changing event that was, on the scale of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Russia threw an "iron curtain" across Europe soon after the end of the Second World War, consisting of barbed wire, watchtowers, machine guns, and remotely triggered shotguns, to keep the captive peoples of the East from escaping to the West. Nevertheless, 3,500,000 people made the dash to freedom. In 1961, therefore, a high concrete barrier was erected wherever the border went through a city or town, most notably Germany's great prewar capital of Berlin. Desperate people tried to scaled the Wall, or to tunnel beneath it, or to smash through in a truck or car, with an estimated 100 would-be escapees (along with 9 East German border guards) dying in the attempt.

The Wall began to shake in the spring of 1989, with a reformist government in Moscow unable or unwilling to send troops and tanks to crush rebellions, as the Red Army had been doing since 1945. With incredible rapidity, the whole apparatus of repression began to fall apart, first in Poland, then in Hungary, and finally in East Germany itself, the worst of the lot. Realizing that the police no longer dared to shoot them, young German rebels climbed the Wall and straddled it, painted graffiti upon it, and attacked it with sledgehammers from both sides. So the Wall came down, metaphorically and literally, and everything that Lenin and Stalin had built upon the bones of tens of millions of people tumbled with it.