General Motors wants its freedom

Our little experiment in industrial socialism didn’t work quite as well as the Democrats are saying.  General Motors did not pay back the bailout, and the American auto industry is not exactly “roaring back,” as the President said.  The government still owns over a quarter of all GM stock.  The company wants the government to sell out, but if it does, such is the low stock price, taxpayers would lose billions.  From Market Watch:

The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors’ push for the government to sell off its stake in the auto maker, The Wall Street Journal reports. Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company’s reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions. Earlier this year, GM GM -1.41% presented a plan to repurchase 200 million of the 500 million shares the U.S. holds with the balance being sold via a public offering. But officials at the Treasury Department were not interested as selling now would lead to a multibillion dollar loss for the government, the newspaper noted.

via General Motors pushing U.S. to sell stake: report – MarketWatch.

Your lying eyes

Leftover from the Democratic convention, Peggy Noonan’s review:

Barack Obama is deeply overexposed and often boring. He never seems to be saying what he’s thinking. His speech Thursday was weirdly anticlimactic. There’s too much buildup, the crowd was tired, it all felt flat. He was somber, and his message was essentially banal: We’ve done better than you think. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?. . .

Beneath the funny hats, the sweet-faced delegates, the handsome speakers and the babies waving flags there was something disquieting. All three days were marked by a kind of soft, distracted extremism. It was unshowy and unobnoxious but also unsettling.

There was the relentless emphasis on Government as Community, as the thing that gives us spirit and makes us whole. But government isn’t what you love if you’re American, America is what you love. Government is what you have, need and hire. Its most essential duties—especially when it is bankrupt—involve defending rights and safety, not imposing views and values. We already have values. Democrats and Republicans don’t see all this the same way, and that’s fine—that’s what national politics is, the working out of this dispute in one direction or another every few years. But the Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed more extreme on the point, more accepting of the idea of government as the center of national life, than ever, at least to me.

The fight over including a single mention of God in the platform—that was extreme. The original removal of the single mention by the platform committee—extreme. The huge “No!” vote on restoring the mention of God, and including the administration’s own stand on Jerusalem—that wasn’t liberal, it was extreme. Comparing the Republicans to Nazis—extreme. The almost complete absence of a call to help education by facing down the powers that throw our least defended children under the school bus—this was extreme, not mainstream.

The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.

“Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception,” Ms. Fluke said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by the left, as a personable victim?

What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.

And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too.

via The Democrats’ Soft Extremism – WSJ.com.

Finding Richard III

Richard III was the last Plantagenet king of England.  In Shakespeare’s telling, in the play of that name, Richard was a hunchbacked villain, who murdered his way to the crown, had the child princes in the Tower of London killed, and met his rightful death at the Battle of Bosworth Field at the hands of Henry Tudor, the founder of the dynasty that would culminate in Shakespeare’s Queen.

Archaeologists have dug in the place where King Richard was supposed to have been buried.  They found the bones of a hunchbacked man, shot with an arrow, whose head had been sliced with a sword.

The body of an adult male has been excavated from what is believed to be ruins of the choir area of the Grey Friars church in Leicester. It’s now a car park in the city centre, but was used as a church in the late 15th century. Some records suggest that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was buried here.

So how do we know it’s him? Has the body got a hunched back?

We don’t know it’s him – yet – but yes, the skeleton does show signs of spinal curvature. Contemporary accounts, reinforced later by Shakespeare, described Richard III as being “hunchbacked”. The newly found body appears to have scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature that would have made the man’s right shoulder appear higher than the left shoulder. The classic “hunchback” is caused by kyphosis but there is no evidence of this in the Leicester skeleton.

Any other evidence?

Yes. The man who became this skeleton took a beating. He has a small penetrating wound to the top of the head, and a much larger wound where a slice has been cut off the skull at the side and back – consistent with the swing of a blade. On 22 August 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by blows that some accounts describe as being so violent they drove his helmet into his head.

The Leicester skeleton also has a barbed iron arrowhead stuck in its upper back. But the middle ages were violent times, so again this is only supporting evidence.

Can DNA testing determine if the body is Richard III?

Perhaps. The Richard III Society says it has located someone – Londoner Michael Ibsen – who is apparently the 17th great grand-nephew of Richard III, in the female line. Ibsen’s late mother Joy Ibsen is purportedly a direct descendent of the King’s eldest sister, Anne. Richard’s male relatives were executed.

Leicester University geneticists hope to extract mitochondrial DNA taken from the skeleton’s teeth and compare it with DNA from Ibsen. Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted only through the female line, so if Ibsen really is a direct descendent, his mtDNA can be compared with that from the skeleton.

via Is this Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king? – life – 13 September 2012 – New Scientist.

For more details and pictures, read this.   Here is a photo of the excavation site, with the location of the body, wrapped in a shroud, circled.  (Read what I just linked for why this is thought to have been Richard’s burial site.)

The spot (circled in red) where archaeologists believe they may have found the remains of King Richard III. The remains were found under a council car park of New St in the centre of Leicester.

HT:  Anthony Sacramone

A powder keg

Tensions in Israel are building over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  The USA has been trying to get Israel to stand down.  Meanwhile, a big fleet comprised of American, British, and other allied naval forces is assembling in the Straits of Hormuz for war games and to be there just in case war breaks out and Iran tries to shut off a major oil route:

Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.

Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.

A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.

In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.

The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.

via Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike – Telegraph.

Should Israel strike at Iran’s nuclear sites?  If they do, won’t that spark a bigger war?  Should the United States try to prevent Israel from taking that step or just stay 0ut of it?  And, to consider another flashpoint, what should America do, if anything, while Syria’s government is slaughtering its citizens who are trying to over the Baathist regime?

Google reposts anti-Islam video

The White House asked Google, which owns YouTube, to take down the 14-minute “trailer”–some people are doubting whether there even is a full movie–of The Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked anti-American riots throughout the Muslim world.  Google did take down the video temporarily, but then decided that it does not violate YouTube’s terms of use and put it up again.  See Google Won’t Rethink Anti-Islam Video’s Status – NYTimes.com.

The role of the video in the murder of the Americans in Libya has been challenged by evidence that the attacks were pre-meditated before the protests.  But see this for the eruptions in “Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Britain, East Jerusalem, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, the West Bank and Yemen.”

Google is still blocking the video in Muslim areas–so the rioters have likely not seen the thing–but it is available elsewhere.

As this article points out, websites and internet companies–as opposed to nations, courts, and governments–have now become the arbiters, the gatekeepers, the potential censors, and the enablers of free speech.

Hobbes vs. Burke

Catholic author George Weigel says that the current election amounts to a choice between Hobbes and Burke:

This is a contest, to take symbolic reference points, between Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Both were British subjects. Both had a profound impact on modern political theory. Both knew that religion and politics—Church and state—had been thickly interwoven into the history of the West, although here the deep differences between these two paradigmatic figures begin to sharpen: Hobbes tried to drive religious conviction out of the modern public square, while Burke fashioned a vision of political modernity that drew in part on the rich social pluralism of the Catholic Middle Ages.

In a Hobbesian world, the only actors of consequence are the state and the individual. In a Burkean world, the institutions of civil society—family, religious congregation, voluntary association, business, trade union and so forth—”mediate” between the individual and the state, and the just state takes care to provide an appropriate legal framework in which those civil-society institutions can flourish.

In a Hobbesian world, the state—”Leviathan,” in the title of Hobbes’s most famous and influential work—monopolizes power for the sake of protecting individuals from the vicissitudes of a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In a Burkean world, civil society provides a thick layer of mediation-protection, if you will-that cushions the interactions between individuals and life’s challenges.

A Hobbesian world is a world of contracts and legal relationships, period. A Burkean world is a world in which there are both contracts—the rule of law—and covenants: those more subtly textured human associations (beginning with marriage) by which men and women form bonds of affection, allegiance and mutual responsibility. . . .

Along one path, there is, finally, room for only the individual and the state. Along the other path, the flourishing institutions of civil society empower individuals and contribute to real problem-solving. In the former, the state defines responsibilities and awards benefits (and penalties). In the latter, individuals and free, voluntary associations assume responsibility and thereby thus make their contribution to the common good.Hobbes vs. Burke. It’s an old argument. It’s also the argument we shall have between now and Nov. 6.

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