By Daniel Foty
1. The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest - "an annual award that challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels" - has been won by Sue Fondrie, a professor at the University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh:
Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.
Before too long, that will also be a news report from the Lowell Mountains....
2. Well, this was supposed to be a heart-warming story. Baseball has really caught on in (of all places) Uganda - and this year, remarkably, a Ugandan Little League team qualified for the Little League World Series (held in late August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania); this is the first time that a team from Africa has managed to qualify. You have to go through the photo-essay in that link to get the details; but just to note one photo in particular, isn't this just beautiful? This was a nice story until Friday - when the constipated bureaucrats at the State Department managed to mess it all up by inexplicably denying visas to the team. Nice going - a wonderful moment, and a great opportunity for some free good will.... and they foul (pun intended) it all up. (At press time, I'm hearing that the core problem was "discrepancies" in the ages of the youngsters in their paperwork - apparently something that's been done in the past with criminal activity. If the folks doing the paperwork for the youngsters messed up, bad on them - but one thinks that some folks at the embassy in Kampala could perhaps have been pro-active for a special situation like this.)
3. Staying with baseball, this is what an $80 hot dog looks like.
4. Some newly-released color photos taken in London during the period of German bombing raids in 1940 - 1941.
5. Proof that the metric system is dangerous.
Meanwhile, the Lockerbie bomber has been appearing at delirious pro-Gadhafi rallies. Remember the Lockerbie bomber? He was returned to Libya because he was terminally ill and only had three months to live. That was two years ago. It's amazing what getting out of the care of the Scottish National Health Service can do for your life expectancy.
7. The Russian Orthodox Church is confronting the ghastly, criminal, mass-murdering Soviet/communist past:
"Many are trying to tell us that that period should be forgotten together with the great number of victims," head of the Synod Department for Church-Public Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said at the ceremony.
The Church, the public, veterans and political repression victims "must do their best so that no one and nothing is forgotten," he said.
Society cannot live a calm life or "have a decent future" unless it learns the lessons of history, "condemns morally, politically and legally the committed crimes and restores the good names of people who were oppressed only because they were clerics, nobles, Cossacks, well-to-do and hardworking farmers, merchants or belonged to other social groups declared enemies of the people," he said.
Russia will not have a decent future unless "the criminals - Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Uritsky, Sverdlov - who organized the Red Terror and Stalin repressions, are named," he said.
"We know for sure that the hands of those people were stained with innocent blood and all of their merits, real or imaginary - and there are both real and imaginary merits - do not justify what they did. Our society, state and people must not only know but also declare that," he said.
That roster of ghouls could also be expanded - both inside Russia (e.g., Dzerzhinsky, Beria, Kaganovich....) and outside Russia (e.g., Mao, Castro, Ceausescu.... Hoxha....)....
8. Sino-skeptic corner. As you might have heard, there was a horrific accident last Saturday night involving China's new high-speed rail network. A train lost power (apparently due to a lightning strike) and ground to a halt on the tracks; another train came speeding along in the darkness and crashed into the first train - killing at least 39. What's also shocking, though (and very telling about the true state of China), is what happened within a few hours - as the Chinese government issued "instructions" that were supposed to be followed in reporting on the disaster:
The central propaganda department issued directives to media on Sunday for coverage of the accident.
"The major theme for the Wenzhou bullet train case from now on will be known as 'in the face of great tragedy, there's great love'," the department said, according to a copy of the directives posted on a web site called the "ministry of truth", that regularly posts copies of government orders.
"Do not question, do not elaborate."
Reporters with state media who saw the directives confirmed to Reuters the propaganda department's media guidance on the crash.
The department also told media not to "investigate the cause of the accident", and reminded journalists that "the word from the authorities is all-prevailing".
Many in China itself recognize this for what it is:
One popular comment circulating around the Chinese internet said: "When a country is corrupt to the point that a single lightning strike can cause a train crash [...] none of us is exempt. China today is a train travelling through a lightning storm. We are not spectators; all of us are passengers."
This isn't an "emerging superpower" - it's a Potemkin village writ large. Further analysis to that point here (a bit long, but worth the read).
9. Chart corner. First, the education bubble (which is similar to a chart that Art cited yesterday). And second, given certain things that have been in the news lately, a reprise of taxable income totals collated by actual income level; anyone who thinks (or hyperventilates) that our various governments can solve their fiscal problems via increased taxation will have to explain how their ideas are consonant with that chart.
10. Need a job? This USA Today story provides a simple answer to that question. (The original - and in-print - version of the story provided a simple opening with that three-word question and a straightforward three-word answer - but for some reason that opening flourish has been removed from the on-line version.) Given Friday's release of horrid GDP numbers, that advice seems even better today.
11. Along the same general lines, here's something that's equally frightening:
According to the latest daily statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance of $73.8 billion at the end of the day yesterday [Wednesday - ed.].
Apple's last earnings report.... showed that the company had $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June.
In other words, the world's largest tech company has more cash than the world's largest sovereign government.
That's because Apple collects more money than it spends, while the U.S. government does not.
Funny how that works, isn't it?
12. I'll give the last word on all these messes to Mark Steyn:
.... preference for collectivized mediocrity over individual achievement....
.... their ability to conjure hitherto unknown crises to obsess over....
Yep. And that last, of course, leads into the weekly "green corner"....
13. Another tenant of "green" theology - "organic" farming - also turns out to be all belief and no reality.
14. And yet another tenant of "green" theology is in the same boat; "CAFE" is what happens when people with big egos and no engineering experience don't mind the latter and let the former run amok.
15. And what will our future "green economy" look like? This exchange between a reporter and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard tells the tale:
REPORTER: Ms Gillard, you mentioned earlier that under your carbon pricing plan, renewable energy would gradually take the place of existing energy sources. How realistic is that, and over what time frame?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh, I think it's very realistic. We see right here that an entire business can be run on solar energy to melt and shape several scented candles every day, so there's no reason to think that in the near future all of Australia's major manufacturing industries won't be switching to clean energy alternatives.
REPORTER: What major manufacturing industries are you thinking of?
PRIME MINISTER: All the ones that will still be open in a couple of years. Kite making, wind chimes, healing crystals, reiki classes, whalesong CDs, papier-mache protest puppet construction.
(Yes, we jest - we think. But watch what happens when it becomes painfully obvious that "renewable" (sic) energy can't handle the economy; we'll be lectured and flogged as to how the economy must "adapt" (sic) to "renewable" (sic) energy. You know, things like how there's something wrong with you if you expect the supply of electricity to actually be reliable and available....)
16. To finish on a slightly more enjoyable note, over the past week South Africa has been hit with a strong bout of "global warming." It started earlier in the week as snow fell over the higher-terrain regions of KwaZulu-Natal province and Free State province (great "adaptability" headline on that second one, by the way), including the Drakensburg region. By Friday morning, snow was falling in and around Johannesburg. (All of those links include some lovely snow photos, but there's also a small gallery here.) I have to run down to Pretoria (again) in a couple weeks for some meetings; I'm wondering if I should bring some skis for getting-around....