April 30, 2005

Garden furniture project update...

Here's the whole set finally finished...On my screen the Redwood looks more pink than it really is, and of course they will all soon be brown...

Some of my redwood garden furniture

Posted by John Weidner at 5:03 PM

April 29, 2005

About HSA's...

In a comment on the post about HSA's below, our friend Andrew Cory asked some good questions. I started to write a comment, but now I've just made it a new post...

What I want to know is:
How much are HSA’s costing these people compared to employer-sponsored care?
Are HSA’s giving comparable coverage to employer-sponsored healthcare?

Also if you wouldn’t mind defining HSA’s a bit better in your post-- I have a vague notion of what they are, but no concrete idea...

Good questions. I don't have any answer to the first. But I think HSA's cover almost anything--it's your choice. We've used ours for eyeglasses and teeth-whitening.

As for the definition, an HSA is a Health Savings Account (formerly called Medical Savings Account). It works in conjunction with a health insurance policy that has a high deductible, which is expected to cover the really big health problems.

Imagine having insurance with a $2,000 deductible--you pay everything up to a total of $2,000 a year. AND, you put $2,000 into your HSA. (Or an employer can do either of these) You use that HSA to pay your out-of-pocket medical expenses...(You get a checkbook or a VISA card to pay with)

Your HSA contribution is not taxed, much like an IRA contribution. And it is invested in an interest-bearing account or a mutual fund, and can grow tax-free like an IRA. Unlike insurance, it's not "use it or lose it." It's your money, and you can add more every year. It's an especially good deal for young healthy folk, who can accumulate a big nest egg to use when they are older and creaky-er.

The big advantage is that people have a powerful incentive to spend wisely and to try to stay healthy, which they don't if someone else is paying. Will this make a big difference in overall health care costs? We shall see.....

Also, the situation tends to be non-bureaucratic--your doctor is working to please you, not an HMO, and will often be able to avoid the considerable frustration and overhead of dealing with HMO's and insurance companies. And employers can provide health coverage without the considerable trouble that setting up a "plan" entails.

And, perhaps most important in the long run, with an HSA you become a more autonomous person taking more responsibility for yourself, rather than being a dependent on government or some big organization. (Of course since Democrats have fought and blocked this concept for decades, it's possible that they prefer that people be weak, and dependent upon government or large bureaucratic organizations. But no, I won't think such an ill thought about them.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:38 PM

"Weidner's Law"

I've become fascinated by the way the "Bush lied about WMD's" argument is being hear more and more. You would expect "less and less," since the thing is done, and sensible people should be dealing with where we are now.

But dealing with "where we are now" is just what America-hating lefties can't touch. It's becoming ever clearer that where we are now is in the midst of a success of world-changing scope. In fact, perhaps it should be a general principal. Call it "Weidner's Law:" Anybody still harping on "Bush lied about WMD's" is tacitly admitting that the Iraq Campaign has been a huge success.

This is from a frenzied anti-Bolton column in the WaPo by Richard Cohen, comparing Bolton with Dick Cheney:

...But taking the nation to war for false reasons is not a minor blip. It is an unpardonable feat of hubris for which, on a daily basis, Americans die in Iraq. American voters, though, have been oddly forgiving (see the last election), and the Bush administration has neither apologized nor fired anyone for getting things so very, very wrong. The conclusion is inescapable: This was not a war for the wrong reason; this was a war for any reason...(Thanks to Bill Quick)

Well, gee, maybe Americans are "oddly forgiving" because they are now seeing just how very very right Bush was. Or even that (a point fatuous liberal brains probably can't even process) when your country is attacked, then you need to fight. And we need leaders who are willing to fight. And that it's better to fight a poorly chosen battle than none at all.

Myself, I think it flatters Bolton to compare him with Cheney. And if he's even one tenth the man Dick Cheney is, and if his efforts are even one tenth as successful as the Iraq Campaign has been, then Bolton will be in the books as one of the best of his time...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:39 PM

40% have no prior coverage...

The "fiscal conservatives" who decry Bush's spending increases usually refuse to deal with the possibilities of the "Ownership Society." For instance, if you challenge them to reply-to or critique the idea that the unfortunately large Medicare increase also brought us HSA's, which have the potential to transform health care, they just keep squeaking "medicaremedicaremedicaremedicaremedicaremedicare."

Well, they may be right. I think they are blinkered, but it's hard to defend something that's still fairly theoretical. On the other hand, the fact that they avoid arguing the question makes me suspect that they don't have much ammo in their lockers...

Here's some data that I find very interesting:

Who's Using HSAs
04/26/05 09:28 AM
New data from Assurant Health provides some insight, consistent with what we've seen in the past, on who is taking advantage of Health Savings Accounts:

Remember that HSA-opponents said that only the young, single, and well-off would use HSAs. That has not been the case:

73% of HSA purchasers are families with children;
35% of HSA purchasers are from households of four or more people;
57% of HSA purchasers are over age 40; and
40% of all HSA purchasers have high school or technical school training as their highest level of education.
And the argument that HSAs would just pull the "cream" out of other insurance options hasn't proven true, either. About 40 percent of those who have applied for Assurant's HSAs do not indicate any prior coverage.

Put simply, this consumer-driven option has done exactly what its proponents said it would: lower the cost of care by bringing consumers back into the loop for non-catastrophic care and, in turn, helping many who find traditional insurance too expensive find an alternative that fits them better.

(Thanks to O Judd)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:29 AM

April 28, 2005

if his son ask for bread

Mrs P has a good piece on the Episcopal train-wreck....

...Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? (Mt 7:7-9)...

...Many moons ago I happened to be in a minivan seated next to the retired Episcopal Bishop of Colorado, the Right Reverend William Frey. Several years earlier, Bishop Frey had lost the election for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to Bishop Edmund Browning. After winning the election Presiding Bishop Browning decided during his time at the top the full integration of the active homosexual life into the Episcopal Church would happen. As this did not happen, Browning's successor, Presiding Bishop Griswold, is finishing the job for him. Had Bishop Frey won the Presiding Bishop election, it is possible that the Episcopal Church would not be on its current schismatic path today.

Realizing I was sitting next to a somewhat historical figure and he couldn't escape, I asked Bishop Frey all the questions I could think of, poor man. Among them was, what he thought was the gravest aspect about the acceptance of the active homosexual lifestyle into the Church. He told me, "I am concerned that homosexuals have come to us, the Episcopal Church, asking for bread. We have given them rocks instead....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 AM

April 26, 2005

Isn't there some law against saying things like that?

The bishops of the United Church of Secularism are probably having a cow right now. Their cozy theocracy is being challenged by a rival religion, one they thought they had driven underground lo these many years...

In particular, Janice Rogers Brown's nomination for the federal appeals bench has now gone to the Senate. And what did she have to say yesterday?

...The Advocate quoted Brown as lamenting that America had moved away from the religious traditions on which it was founded.

"When we move away from that, we change our whole conception of the most significant idea that America has to offer, which is this idea of human freedom and this notion of liberty," she said.

She added that atheism "handed human destiny over to the great god, autonomy, and this is quite a different idea of freedom…. Freedom then becomes willfulness."...

Her remarks are worth reading. I don't think this is any sort of "Profiles in Courage" thing. It might even make it harder for the filibusteros to stop her since they've been insisting that the accusation that they are showing religious bigotry in opposing judges is just absurd Republican fantasying. We shall see.

(Thanks to Captain Ed)

Posted by John Weidner at 12:52 PM

April 25, 2005

All the evidence suggests the opposite...

Ross Douthat has an article of great clarity in TNR disputing the idea that the Catholic Church should become more liberal...

...and all the while insisting--often from major op-ed pages and tenured positions at Catholic universities--that all of the Church's difficulties, from declining vocations to dwindling mass attendance to the sex-abuse scandals, would be solved if only Catholicism were to become more in step with the modern world.

It's an appealing notion, particularly to people whose lives and beliefs already conform more closely to modern mores than to traditional Catholic teaching. But it has almost no empirical support. All the evidence suggests the opposite--that a more liberal Catholic Church would be far weaker, smaller, and less influential even than the wounded and divided Body of Christ that Benedict XVI will govern.

The problem for liberals is that their preferred path to the Catholic future has already been tried, and with less-than-encouraging results. In America, the Church's decades-long slide in mass attendance and ordinations to the priesthood is at its worst not in Catholicism's more conservative precincts but in the liberal-minded dioceses and religious orders--the places where implementing the spirit of Vatican II has meant ignoring the actual Vatican on matters of liturgy, theology, and morality. The once-rigorous, now-latitudinarian Jesuits, for instance, have seen ordinations slow to a trickle, whereas self-consciously traditional orders like the Legionaries of Christ (and, of course, the notorious albino monks of Opus Dei) are growing rapidly. When a
recent survey compared 15 "progressive" dioceses to 15 "orthodox" dioceses, it found that the proportion of priests to practicing Catholics in conservative dioceses actually grew slightly between 1956 and 1996, while the proportion in the more liberal dioceses steadily dropped....

When one reads Andrew Sullivan moaning about the Church and gay marriage, one always wonders why he doesn't just become an Episcopalian. They'd probably make him a Bishop! Probably it's like Groucho's old joke, that "any club that would let me in isn't worth joining." He wants a church that stands for something, that demands adherence to the ancient moral standards and doctrine...except for one teensy little exception.

(Thanks to Juddblog)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:41 PM

#179: Who's oblivious?

P. Krugman


The obvious question to ask Paul Krugman after reading The Oblivious Right (04/25/05) is: who's oblivious? He trots out all of his favorite polls and think-tank research to show how bad things are with the U.S. economy. Only the corporate interests are benefiting, says he. But when it comes to the uncomfortable fact that President Bush just won re-election six months ago with expanded majorities in both legislative branches, his only explanation is that Bush exploited the Iraqi war. How lame! Elitists always claim to be for the little guys, but then blame them for being duped when they lose at the polls.

We suggest a better test of how well the economy is doing. Krugman should go to the shopping mall next Saturday morning and see if he can find a parking place within 200 yards of Home Depot. Must be all those CEOs taking up the spaces. Or he should try to rent a beach house this summer within 6 blocks of the water. He'd find he waited too long and those "corporate interest" beat him to it.

There's one howler:

"Democracy Corps, the Democratic pollsters, say that there is a "crisis of confidence in the Republican direction for the country." As they're careful to point out, this won't necessarily translate into a surge of support for Democrats."

Well, why the heck not? Are they going to vote Green?

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:32 AM

April 24, 2005

Sunday morning...

Charlene and I and our daughter went to St Dominics today for a fine choral mass in honor of Pope Benedict. It was a treat.

We're not Catholic, though Charlene grew up in the Catholic church. We're just not on the same wavelength with a lot of contemporary catholicism, but St Dominics is a very impressive parish. They even included a prayer for our troops! That was a new one for us in San Francisco.

Being a Protestant, I'm always taken aback because Catholics can't or won't sing. The choir and organ were excellent, but the congregation...mush. Maybe the new Pope will make a difference, he's very much a part of the rich religious musical tradition of his homeland

Posted by John Weidner at 7:17 PM

Just my usual snark, ignore it if you wish...

Living as I do in a narrow-minded community, I have to keep my mouth clamped shut most of the time. So I do my arguing and answering-back here on the blog. This is a piece from the SF Chronicle, Bush More Certain Than Ever on Iraq War...You've heard all this before, just my usual blah blah blah, but here goes:

Washington -- Two years after his much-maligned "mission accomplished'' speech aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush and his foreign policy team are trumpeting developments in the Middle East as a vindication of his Iraq policy.

The mission to topple Saddam WAS accomplished. The mission of the USS Abraham Lincoln WAS accomplished. A mission is not the same as a war or a campaign, you blockhead. This line of hokum belongs in the "plastic turkey" file.

The orderly selection of a new government in Iraq, the announced departure of Syrians from Lebanon, the election of a new Palestinian leader, and elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have breathed life into a foreign policy that many predicted would be the president's undoing.

You HOPED it would be his undoing, because you would gladly sacrifice America's interests to defeat Republicans. But instead it's a triumph and you are LOSERS! Exactly what you deserve.

Hardly a day goes by without Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or another senior administration official speaking publicly about the "march of freedom'' and the success of the Iraq invasion in securing peace.

It's true.

"There's a movement toward freedom around the world,'' Bush said in an interview with a Lebanese television station this past week. "I believe that a true free society, one that self-governs, one that listens to the people, will be a peaceful society -- not an angry society.''

It's true true true.

The notion that the world is more peaceful as a result of the U.S. invasion, let alone that the mission was a success, is far from universally accepted.

You hate it of course, but still it's true.

In the two years since Bush declared an end to "major combat operations, '' thousands of Iraqis and nearly 1,500 Americans have died; U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $200 billion to secure the peace; troops discovered no weapons of mass destruction, which was the principal reason stated by Bush to justify the attack; and a majority of Americans now say they disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq.

Democrat wars have killed Americans by the hundreds of thousands, and often accomplished NOTHING. Your Kennedy/LBJ war in Vietnam killed 50,000 Americans and then Democrats turned it all over to Communist butchers. Korea killed 40,000 Yanks, and left Communists still in charge of North Korea. Bush has liberated 50 million people from hidious tyrannies and started the transformation of an entire region at a very small cost. A triumph of America and its allies.

Yet the perception by critics that the mission is unproductive, or a debacle, shows no sign of resonating at the White House, where, quite to the contrary, it is evident that Bush feels emboldened by the past two years' experience.

As he should be.

Bush's words suggest he views himself as a transformational figure, able to use the example of American democracy, and the might of the U.S. military, to reshape the governance of an entire region. Rather than serve as a caretaker of a humble foreign policy, a role Bush advocated as a presidential candidate in 2000, he speaks of spreading freedom -- "Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world'' -- around the globe.

He IS a transformational figure (and is also transforming things here at home) while you lefties have NOTHING to offer. No warmth, no joy, no hopes, no loyalty to your country, no plans for ANY transformations. Nothing but sneers and obstruction and failed policies from the 20th Century. You are USELESS.

"The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded, alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one of the great moments in the history of liberty,'' Bush recently told troops in Fort Hood, Texas. "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a crushing defeat to the forces of tyranny and terror, and a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.''

That's exactly what seems to be happening.

Bush always mentions that much hard work lies ahead. His handlers have been careful not to repeat the display of the "mission accomplished'' banner that hung from the aircraft carrier behind his May 1, 2003, speech -- and became a rallying cry to opponents who decried as delusional his optimism about Iraq.

And now we can see clearly who was deluded and who was not.

Yet there is a tone of vindication as administration officials defend a policy that prompted anger and scorn from people and many governments around the globe.

Why shouldn't people who have been vindicated feel vindicated? And the "anger and scorn" were carefully orchestrated by governments and the press who themselves have NOTHING positive to offer the world.

The decision to topple Hussein "was not a popular decision, but a decision that now, I think, people are beginning to see has unlocked the possibility of a different kind of Middle East, most especially as they saw Iraqis voting on Jan. 30 and as people in Egypt and Lebanon and other places saw Iraqis voting on Jan. 30,'' Rice told editorial writers earlier this month.

"You can continue to talk about neoconservatives or non-neoconservatives or realists or whatever you want to talk about, but you cannot deny that something is happening in the Middle East that wasn't happening even six months ago," she said. "And, I'm sorry, it didn't just happen by chance.''

Thank you Condi. Exactly right.

Some limits to the democratic developments are rarely mentioned by administration officials. The elections held in Saudi Arabia, for example, didn't permit women to participate. Analysts around the world will be carefully watching what Bush says to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when they meet Monday at the president's Texas ranch.

No matter what wonders happen you just raise the bar. If women start voting in Arabia you will sneer because there are no handicapped-access ramps.

Nevertheless, "the developments have led them to believe that their assumptions were confirmed,'' said Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution who was tapped by Bush to be a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from January through April of 2004.

Our assumptions HAVE been confirmed.

"They learned that military force can be effectively applied to solve major national security challenges to the U.S. -- and that the world will come around,'' said Diamond, who returned from Iraq critical of the U.S. postwar efforts.

Yep. That's right. But what we really learned (or rather confirmed what we knew all along) is that using force ONCE has now made all our diplomatic efforts a hundredfold more effective, and makes it LESS likely that we will need force in the near future. We fought the Iraq Campaign to promote PEACE, and that's exactly what's happened.

"Where would we be today if we hadn't gone into Iraq?'' asked former Secretary of State George Shultz, one of Bush's early foreign policy tutors. "Saddam Hussein would still be ruling the roost. He'd be somewhat of an Arab hero. We'd be saying, 'Why didn't you do something when you had a chance?' ''
Even some critics have begun to openly discuss whether Bush might have gotten it right. Editorials in France's Le Monde and Germany's Der Spiegel have praised Bush, and the Independent of London recently ran a banner headline across its front page asking: "Was Bush right after all?''


"It is at least imaginable to me that Bush might pull this off,'' said Stanford history Professor David Kennedy, who twice voted against Bush and held a fund-raiser for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

He has pulled it off

Kennedy said it was too early to know whether the roots of democracy would take hold in Iraq and the region, but "if that happens, Bush will go down in history as a bold, innovative leader who stared down the opposition.''

Such expressions do not stand in the way of a vigorous opposition to the war. by people who would gladly toss the Middle East back on the trash-heap if it would help them politically...

California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who returned from Iraq three weeks ago, described the stifling security -- machine guns and Black Hawk helicopters - - necessary for the most basic transport around the country.

Because we are under attack by TERRORISTS, you dimwitted senatorial toad. It's a WAR. Fighting in a war is not evidence of failure. They hate what we are doing, and unfortunately so do you. We are SUPPOSED to be fighting them. YOU won't fight for our country and our values, because you don't believe in them. That's why your party will be in the minority for the next couple of generations.

"It's not a place where you can come close to any kind of normalcy,'' Boxer said. "It's a disaster.''

That's not how the Iraqis feel. Most of them poll as optimistic about the future. And most of them ARE living close to normally, and hate the terrorists who are trying to derail their country. YOU should be hating them too, and wishing for their destruction, instead of parroting their propaganda. (And how utterly stupid it is for a visiting US Senator to be protected by heavy security, and to conclude thereby that IRAQIS can't live normally.)

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, characterized Bush's description of a region marching toward democracy as propaganda aimed at mollifying Americans.

OK, so, how long does it have to keep marching before we notice that Zogby is peddling propaganda aimed at helping terrorists and tyrants?

"We don't have democracy. We have a civil war in the making. We have a very volatile situation that can explode at anytime,'' said Zogby, whose organization has polled extensively in the Middle East. "The rest of the Arab world hates us even more than they did, if you can imagine that.''

Pure sick pathetic delusion. The REAL "Arab world" is starting to emerge from under the heels of the thug dictators. Millions marching for freedom in Lebanon. Millions of Iraqis waving purple thumbs.

The danger, Zogby warned, is that the administration has come to believe its own rhetoric, which blinds it to potential course corrections.

Course corrections such as "abject surrender."

"If you keep thinking, and you keep telling people, 'it's going right, we're doing fine,' then you can't see problems when they occur," Zogby said. "You keep doing the same thing you're doing wrong.''

This is probably incomprehensible to lefty defeatists, but we do see problems as they occur. Then we SOLVE THEM! Because we are going to WIN. Our "exit strategy" is VICTORY.

At least rhetorically, Bush has learned not to declare victory while American troops remain in danger...

It is victory. We are in the mopping-up stage.

...And he is unlikely to dress in a flight jacket and invite cameras to record his landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier the way he did two years ago...

It was a flight suit, not a jacket, and it is REQUIRED SAFETY EQUIPMENT when flying high-performance jets. (And he changed out of it after landing) How you lefty creeps hate our brave troops and hate it that the President doesn't abase himself before you and do penance for the sin of believing in America.

...Yet he often repeats words like the ones he spoke to the sailors returning from battle: "Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.''

Exactly right. Thank you President Bush. May God continue to watch over you, and this, the greatest country in the world.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

"on the eve of Passover"

From The Jerusalem Post:

The decision by Britain's 40,000 member Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two Israeli universities on Friday has ignited scathing condemnation from Jewish communities worldwide and has prompted the immediate resignation of Jewish academics from the AUT.

In a blitz procedure timed - on the eve of Passover - to exclude Jewish members from the conference, the AUT rushed through two motions to boycott Haifa and Bar Ilan universities, exhibiting an unprecedented escalation of a campaign by British academics to target Israel.

A jovial executive union meeting heard unanswered orations by Sue Blackwell and Shereen Benjamin, both lecturers at Birmingham University. The academics labeled Israel as a "colonial apartheid state, more insidious than South Africa," called for the "removal of this regime," and depicted Israeli universities as "repressing" academic freedom....

....The speeches were met with rapturous applause from the audience, before AUT executive president Angela Roger cut short the session and moved to deny a right of reply to opponents of the motions. The session was then directed towards a vote, and a "lack of time" was cited as the reason preventing challenges to the motions from being heard....

"Rapturous applause" huh? No surprise there.

If there are any leftish Jews reading this, and you are tempted to imagine that this is just a move of sympathy for Palestinians, answer a couple of questions. Like, "How come these people never have "sympathy" when the Palestinians are oppressed or mistreated by other Arabs? And how come they never notice the plight of any other oppressed groups in the Middle East?

The whole Palestinian question is, for Western leftists, a chance for some Jew-bashing without being, ha ha ha, "anti-semitic." And those poor stupidest of saps, the Jewish lefties, have to just slide along with this, or make weak protests about how everyone should be willing to "just get along, and talk to each other."

Posted by John Weidner at 9:53 AM

April 23, 2005

Two great men...

Katherine Lopez writes,

A journalist in Rome e-mails me:
I just got back from a press conference with Jeb Bush and the rest of the Presidential delegation.

An Italian journalist asked about Dowd's column ("in your newspaper, the New York Times..." "I would just like to make it clear that it is not MY newspaper")

Jeb said that Dick Cheney should be proud to be compared to Pope Benedict, and Pope Benedict should be proud to be compared to Dick Cheney.

I think Jeb has it just right...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:06 PM

April 22, 2005

"they knew why they had come..."

I noticed this in Richard John Neuhaus' Rome Diary [link, April 15] :

...And then a word about those millions of people, mainly young people, who came to the funeral last Friday. I have seen several accounts, and heard worldly wise reporters, describing the "rock star" attraction of John Paul. In fact, the crowds, stretching more than three miles beyond St. Peter's, were wondrously solemn and prayerful. The Legionaries of Christ and other religious orders posted priests all along the way and there was a brisk business in confessions around the clock. One Legionary priest tells of his non-stop hearing of confessions--from five o'clock in the afternoon until six o'clock the next morning. The mayor of Rome said that not one serious crime was reported in the city during the days when millions were waiting up to 26 hours to view the body. That is hard to believe, but that is what he said.

John Paul went to the world and the world came to him, and they knew why they had come...

Is it at all surprising that trendizoid leftists are foaming at the mouth and squirting blood from their eyes? Who have they got that millions of young people would pilgrimage to see or honor? It's an interesting thing that until recently the Democrats and the left have been assuming that they are the natural party of "the young." You know, Rock the Vote, and all. Hmmm, I haven't heard much of that cackle lately. [See two photos--made me smile.]

And of course the left is "modern." (And the Pope is "old fashioned.") That's an even odder thing. "Modern" objects are being sold as antiques these days! "Modern" has many iterations; it becomes obsolete almost as often as software. Modern 1.3 was traveling to Stalin's USSR and saying "I've seen the future, and it works!" Ha ha ha.. There's a reason the history is not a popular subject on the Rive Gauche. Too many "modern" machines have been tossed into the sticker patch as rusty junk.

Do you want to live or work in a modern building? How about "post-modern?" Blehh.

Let me make a prediction. I've been reading a lot about Benedetto in the last few days. I predict that he will be every bit as exciting to the world as John Paul was. And when he dies there will be no fewer pilgrims at his funeral. (Hey, he loves cats, Mozart, traditional church music and liturgy, Christmas cookies, and books. Reading about him I can imagine becoming Catholic myself.) I suspect he's a giant.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:49 PM

April 20, 2005

We are "seekers of truth"

I was going to "fisk" this column by William Raspberry, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. It's too loony. In fact demented. He STARTS with the assumption that the mainstream media are trusted as "seekers of truth," because they are non-partisan!!! And then argues that the "in-your-face right-wing partisanship" of Fox News may shatter this idyllic situation, to the detriment of us all.

To argue with this would be like trying to have a logical discussion with somebody about whether a foil hat will really keep CIA broadcasts from being picked up by ones tooth fillings.

(Thanks to Tim Blair)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM

then heads for Burning Tree...

I'm no fan of Pat Buchanan, but this is right on

...Eighteen news organizations have not assigned reporters to the "DeLay story" because they are morally offended by the idea his family worked on his campaign or he has gone on trips paid for by nonprofits. If every member of Congress who ever traveled abroad on someone else's credit card were to be driven from office, you could not get a quorum in either House. You might have trouble putting together a softball team.

No, the Left is after DeLay because -- on tax cuts, right-to-life and reigning in renegade jurists -- he is relentless. He is not an old-school Republican who votes right, then heads for the first tee at Burning Tree. And when it comes to raising cash from lobbyists and fat cats for the GOP to wage war against the Democratic Party, few have it down to a science like "the Hammer." Like Gen. Grant, the Hammer has a reputation for inflicting heavy causalities, which is why the left wants him gone.

But why is the right letting him twist in the wind?...

Good question.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:15 AM

April 19, 2005

their usual deep and subtle analyses...

The reactionaries are not happy with the election of Benedict XVI, and will no doubt give us their usual deep and subtle analyses, such as: Conservative = fascist. Or: German = Nazi. Here's a bit of ammunition you might stockpile to refute them, an article from the Jerusalem Post...

Ratzinger a Nazi? Don't Believe It
...If he were truly a Nazi sympathizer, then it would undoubtedly have become evident during the past 60 years. Yet throughout his service in the church, Ratzinger has distinguished himself in the field of Jewish-Catholic relations.

As prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger played an instrumental role in the Vatican's revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under John Paul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation, the 2000 document outlining the church's historical "errors" in its treatment of Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, a milestone theological explanation for the Jews' rejection of Jesus.

If that's theological anti-Semitism, then we should only be so lucky to "suffer" more of the same.

As for the Hitler Youth issue, not even Yad Vashem has considered it worthy of further investigation. Why should we?...

Thanks to Captain Ed.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:57 PM

April 18, 2005

Mac OS-X tip...

In cocoa programs, if you don't know how to spell a word you can type in a few letters, then hit f-5. (Or Option-Escape) You get a list of possibilities...

But what, to me, passes all understanding, is why software developers create cool features and then don't tell anybody! I've never heard of that, and the people at this forum hadn't. So odd.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 PM

UN game. Oh for joy....

UN Game Teaches Kids to Feed the Hungry
Peter Cohen, MacCentral.com

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has released a game called
Food Force. Available for download for free, the game is compatible with Macs and PCs. The WFP's goal in releasing Food Force is to educate players about world hunger and the work the aid agency does....

The mind reels with the possibilities. I haven't played the game, but I can imagine it. Game points are charmingly called "dollars." Accumulate enough points in your "Swissaccount," and you can move ahead in this exciting game. Win the shiniest Toyota Landcruiser. Move to the penthouse of the only five-star hotel. Work on your tan. Give press conferences explaining how you caused those aircraft carriers to appear and deliver supplies. Pursue the all-important game tasks of "coordinating" and "planning" international "efforts."

Of course, since this is a children's game, certain important UN activities, like giving starving children food in exchange for sex, will have to be expressed with euphemisms. In the game it's called "making new little friends." Give them food tokens and they will reward you by singing "It's A Small Small World."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 PM

April 17, 2005

Rip van Winkles...

Michael Kinsley has an article suggesting that the neocons pulled the wool over our eyes....

...[neocon Jeanne] Kirkpatrick thought that U.S. power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, such as Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Carter sat on his hands, she complained. Now we have an administration that -- wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically -- claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it....

...Plenty of explanations are available. The collapse of the Soviet Union (which the neocons did not predict -- their theme had been that the Soviet Union was getting stronger and stronger while the United States diddled) surely changed the calculus. The seemingly easy spread of democracy over the past couple of decades may have disproved Kirkpatrick's pessimism.

But all these explanations require an admission of error, something the neocons are not very good at. They are selling certainty. [Thanks to PowerLine]

The problem with Kinsley's article is that it assumes that the necons were placed in cryogenic sleep about the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, were thawed out in 2001, and have played us a dirty trick by secretly changing their positions while they dozed.

But in fact they were in power for 12 years, holding various positions in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. And while they were dealing with the world's problems they learned some new tricks. There was nothing secret or sudden about it. The big change came, as has been amply discussed, with the fall of Philippine President Marcos, when the decision was made to encourage democracy instead of propping him up. Done for the practical and tough-minded reason that this was more likely to prevent a communist take-over.

The Reagan Administration went on to apply that idea in Latin America, with the truly astonishing result that, by the time Bush I left office, all but one Latin American head-of-state was competitively elected! Far from owing anybody an admission of error, the men of the Reagan and Bush I teams, including several well-known neocons, ought to be showered with Nobel Peace Prizes, and all the rewards and praise we can offer.

The people in deep sleep were the news media, at least as far as recognizing these accomplishments. They are the ones waking like Rip van Winkle, and saying, "Whaa? Neocons? Aren't they supposed to be for propping up friendly dictators? Did I miss something?"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 PM

There is no elephant in this room. It's invisible. And it isn't really here...

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on the growing democracy movements in the Middle East. The article is also PREPOSTEROUS in the way it tries desperately to pretend that what's happening has nothing to do with a certain George W. Bush. (Thanks to PowerLine)

Of course the fact that people can talk openly of democracy in places like Egypt or Lebanon has everything to do with various tyrants being very nervous about President Bush's next move, and being unwilling to crack down on protesters lest Condi frown at them. She's playing the "good cop" right now in the classic fashion: "You gotta give me something, or I don't think I can restrain Officer Neocon from beating you up."

And the need for spin by the WaPo is obvious. The Post and the rest of the Gasping Media did everything in their power to prevent all this from happening. They've used every dirty trick they had to keep appeasers and "realists" in power, and to undermine their own county in time of war, and to convince people that our campaign in Iraq was mere folly and waste...

They were clearly on the side of the bad guys, and are now scurrying to bring out a revised edition of reality.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 AM

April 16, 2005

History is the best revenge....

Victor Hansen has channeled my thoughts and written the piece I would write, if I could write...a good roasting of people like Madaleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft, whose FAILED Middle East policies have somehow given them the moral authority to sneer and carp and denigrate Bush's policies...

...For the last year, such well-meaning former "wise people" have pretty much assured us that the Bush doctrine will not work and that the Arab world is not ready for Western-style democracy, especially when fostered through Western blood and iron.

But too often we discuss the present risky policy without thought of what preceded it or what might have substituted for it. Have we forgotten that the messy business of democracy was the successor, not the precursor, to a litany of other failed prescriptions? Or that there were never perfect solutions for a place like the Middle East — awash as it is in oil, autocracy, fundamentalism, poverty, and tribalism — only choices between awful and even more awful? Or that September 11 was not a sudden impulse on the part of Mohammed Atta, but the logical culmination of a long simmering pathology? Or that the present loudest critics had plenty of chances to leave something better than the mess that confronted the United States on September 12? Or that at a time of war, it is not very ethical to be sorta for, sorta against, kinda supportive, kinda critical of the mission — all depending on the latest sound bite from Iraq?...

That "sound bite" crack is so true. The terrorists shape their attacks to accommodate the news media, the news media performs its part in the symbiosis and fills our TV screens with smoldering rubble, and then the ponderous figures of the old establishment do some mental adjustments and say things starting with: "It's becoming increasingly obvious that [fill in the blank]."

(And us bloggers have spent the last few years writing about news that the Gasping Media ignored, news which painted a rather different picture.)

Well, history is the best revenge. Scowcroft will little more than a footnote in future books with titles like Geopolitical Revolution: The Age of George W. Bush. Ha ha ha...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 AM

April 15, 2005

More mass graves found in Iraq...

You know all those "Realists" and State-Department-appeasers and "anti-war-activists" and euros and "international community" types and all the others who are AGAINST a muscular and idealistic (ie: Neocon) US foreign policy? Ever wonder what they are FOR?

This is what they are for:

....If the estimated body counts prove correct, the graves would be among the largest in the grim tally of mass killings that have gradually come to light since the fall of Hussein's government two years ago. At least 290 grave sites containing the remains of some 300,000 people have been found since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago, Iraqi officials say.

Forensic evidence from some graves will feature prominently in the trials of Hussein and the leaders of his government. Those trials are scheduled to start this spring.

One grave near the southern city of Basra appears to contain about 5,000 bodies of Iraqi soldiers who joined a failed uprising against Hussein's government after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Another, near Samawah, is believed to contain the bodies of 2,000 members of the Kurdish clan led by Massoud Barzani, now the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party.

As many as 8,000 men and boys from the clan disappeared in 1983 after being rounded up in northern Iraq by security forces at the command of Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as Chemical Ali. It remains unclear, however, how the victims ended up in the south....[

if you press them they always say "Of course we are against Saddam...BUT.." And they get all huffy if you suggest they are "effectively" pro-Saddam. But they were and are--if they were honest they would admit that they would gladly sacrifice a million or so Iraqis if it would put the Democrat Ancien Regime back in power...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:35 AM

#178: The proper name for this system is "Scientific Socialism..."

P. Krugman


Paul Krugman seems to have finally tired of flogging Social Security reform (after nearly ten columns) and has turned his attention to issues of U.S. health care in The Medical Money Pit (04/15/05). Again, he is revealing his position on these matters slowly (so as to maximize the number of columns), but his agenda is clear. He wants a classic single-payer system in which the government uses monopsony power to control prices paid to providers.

Monopsony is the opposite of monopoly where the buyer, rather than the seller, holds all the high cards. But to make it work successfully, the monopsonist (the government, in this case) must set prices just high enough to keep providers working, innovating and entering the provider network. That's quite a trick as it turns out. Krugman likes to cite data showing U.S. consumers pay more than the rest of the developed world for health care. But he ignores the fact that most of the medical innovation occurs here also and the rest of the world gets a free ride – just as they free ride our military spending, our protection of world shipping lanes and, in general, our international police work.

Imagine a single-payer system applied to other "necessities of life" such as transportation, housing or clothing. Everyone gets free transport, but the government decides what the cars look like, how much they cost, sets train schedules and routes, locates airports, etc. The proper name for this system is Scientific Socialism and it was tried and failed over a fifty year period from Eastern Europe to China after WW II.

Why anyone would think that health care, of all life's necessities, would respond better to Scientific Socialism is a mystery to us. The only sure thing in such a system is that consumers will over demand, providers will under supply and rationing will occur. When the price system is not allowed to do the rationing, then rationing takes the form of waiting for service or poorer service. Worst of all, innovation may slow because incentives for research are too low. Of course, socialists have an answer to all this, but we say they had their chance in the greatest experimental lab of all – the real world. And they blew it. Think East Germany in the 80s, or Cuba now.

It would be nice if Krugman dealt with some of these issues in the coming weeks, but that's not likely. If he does, we will comment.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

April 14, 2005

Giving the game away...

in OpinionJournal's Best of the Web yesterday, on the Bolton hearings:

...TheWashington Post's Dana Milbank gives the game away, though:
Most Republicans skipped the hearing, leaving Democrats largely unchallenged as they assailed Bolton's knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve.
That would be the U.N.--but of course the
American ambassador to the U.N. is supposed to serve America, not the U.N. ...

"The game" has been obvious all along. The UN is sacred, and criticizing it is verboten. Polite people make no mention of the rampant sexual exploitation of children, the corruption, with tens-of-billions embezzled, the anti-semitism, the coddling of dictators and inability to fight genocide and other crimes against humanity....But hey, that's nothing, because the UN serves a noble purpose...it hinders the Imperialist designs of the United States, and so every good Democrat should support it....Slimeballs.

Read more here about what a cruel sham the hearings are.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:07 PM

April 13, 2005

Thanks, Dan...

Dan Gerlernter, a high school senior, has a great article in The Weekly Standard, What it's like to be the only Republican in your high school, about his debates in his predominently liberal school...

...As I was writing this article, I chatted online with one of my best friends, a liberal who spent part of his summer working in Washington as a page in the House of Representatives. He asked what my article was about. To put it briefly, I said, "It's about kids who don't love their country." He answered: "Do they have to love their country? Is that a requirement?"...

No, it's a PRIVILEGE, you lefty idiot!

The anti-Americanism of the Left is no accident. It's always there. No matter how many millions of people we liberate from brutal tyrannies, we will ALWAYS be the bad guys. Why? Because at the heart of all leftish thinking is hatred of the marketplace. And symbolically (and very much in reality) Americans and Jews are the marketplace. They represent free markets, in goods and ideas and politics. It's improper these days to be overtly anti-semitic (though the taboo seems to be eroding) but being anti-Israel is an obvious stand-in for anti-semitism, which explains the lunatic obsession with the problems of the Palestinians, while ignoring much larger human-rights problems in the Arab world. Being anti-American is always "cool."

...The most striking feature of my political debates is the utter ignorance of traditional values--whether American or Christian or Jewish--shown even by intelligent students. The typical student thinks that morality is a simple matter of doing what is "good for people," and that the way to do this is to vote for Democrats, since the Democratic party stands for "making things better."

Why do students talk and think this way? As computer geeks used to say, garbage in, garbage out...

For something really puke-worthy, read Dan's descriptions of his textbooks. (Hint: Carter good, Reagan bad.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 AM

April 12, 2005

gold- and silver-wrapped threads....

I recommend this New Yorker article, Capturing the Unicorn, by Richard Preston. It's about the famous Unicorn Tapestries, and a project to clean and refurbish them (fascinating in itself), and to photograph them digitally. The photography was done but then no software could manage to stitch together the small and very detailed digital images, which fill 200 CD's, into pictures of whole tapestries.

...In 1992, I wrote in this magazine about two mathematicians named Gregory and David Chudnovsky The Chudnovskys, who are brothers, were born in Kiev They are number theorists—they investigate the propertie of numbers—and they design and work wit supercomputers. The Chudnovsky brothers insist that the are functionally one mathematician who happens to occupy two human bodies...

The two brothers undertook to produce the images on a supercomputer they had built from mail-order parts.

..."We thought to ourselves that it would be just a bit of number crunching,” Gregory said

But, David said, “it wasn’t trivial.”

The brothers had a fairly easy time setting up the tiles on It. When they tried to fit the puzzle pieces together, however, they wouldn’t join properly—the warp and weft threads didn’t run smoothly from one tile to the next. The differences were vast. It was as if a tapestry had not been the same object from one moment to the next as it was being photographed...

...The tapestries, they realized, had changed shape as they were lying on the floor and being photographed. They had been hanging vertically for centuries; when they were placed on the floor, the warp threads relaxed. The tapestries began to breathe, expanding, contracting, shifting. It was as if, when the conservators removed the backing, the tapestries had woken up. The threads twisted and rotated restlessly. Tiny changes in temperature and humidity in the room had caused the tapestries to shrink or expand from hour to hour, from minute to minute. The gold- and silver-wrapped threads changed shape at different speeds and in different ways from the wool and silk threads....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 PM

April 11, 2005

a ship of pearl...


This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

      by Oliver Wendall Holmes (1809-94)
Posted by John Weidner at 4:17 PM

April 10, 2005

The quicksands of instability threaten us...

Al-Jazeera: The United States must reassure Syria and Iran about its intentions rather than trying to destabilize them, a former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate said. The U.S. retired general Wesley Clark said that President George W. Bush's policy towards Syria and Iran encourage the two states to work against the U.S. interests in Iraq, and endangers the U.S. forces based there.

Our forces are in danger! You probably thought this was peacetime, but ol' General Wesley is gonna set you straight--we are in danger of slipping into WAR!

"If you want to succeed in Iraq, you should isolate the battlefield. That's a basic rule of military strategy," Clark told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

The poor twerp hasn't even guessed that the battlefield might be bigger than Iraq, and that we might WANT to tangle with Iran and Syria, and even see them "destabilized." Don't tell him, he'll die of fear...

The former general ran unsuccessfully for president last year and has taken a leading role among Democrats as a critic of the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Funny thing how many Democrats do that. Job of the Loyal Opposition, and all, I guess. They are lucky this isn't wartime--If it was, their duty would be to SUPPORT US foreign policy, just as Republicans did in those few trifling conflicts that Democrats have led us in (Little affairs like WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.)

Clark also said that he fears the Bush administration's rhetoric would lead to the collapse of Syria's regime, saying that the U.S. is not prepared to handle that possibility.

Well of course we are not prepared. Our shattered troops are in retreat, our economy is the worst since Herbert Hoover, and we don't have the French to mentor us.

"We're going to destabilize at a greater rate than we can stabilize," he said. "I think this committee should be holding hearings right now on what the United States should do if Syria collapses, because that's clearly the policy."

Quick, send General Wesley as a Special Envoy, to prop up Assad with money and weapons...Why, if Syria collapes, it might turn to supporting terrorism...

Former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle rejected the idea of reassuring Iran and Syria, claiming that the two states fear U.S. success in Iraq because it threatens their governments. "That's the last thing we should be doing," he said. "We will get no help from countries whose interests are diametrically opposed to our own."

Foolish Richard Perle. Doesn't he understand, they want to help us, but we have to REASSURE THEM.

Bush claims that Iran is covertly developing an atomic weapons program, and has pressured Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

Oh no. Don't let Syria do that...then Lebanon will be destabilized too! This is terrifying....

(Thanks to Byron Preston.)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:52 AM

April 9, 2005

Day on the water...

Charlene and I had a great day today. We were out sailing on the Bay with friends. Beautiful weather, a total treat.

Charlene at the helm...
Here's Charlene taking a turn at the helm. The boat is a Sabre 36, and that's the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 PM

April 8, 2005

every possibility covered...

BBC: The French government has destroyed 162,000 copies of the EU constitution because the phrase "incoherent text" was printed on a page by mistake...

...A new, expunged version of the full 232-page text is being printed...

Glenn Reynolds says "Heh." But what amazes me is that last sentence. There are, you know, countries in the world that have done this constitution business successfully. already. In fact, come to think, my own country hasn't done too badly in that regard.

And you would imagine that the EU would have consulted with countries that have constitutions and asked them what works. "Hey guys, you got any hot tips on how to write a constitution???"

Ha. That obviously didn't happen. Even the most Europhile American would blink at 233 pages!! You can buy our constitution as a little pamphlet you can tuck in your shirt pocket. See, a constitution is supposed to be a general framework, and then voters elect legislators whose job is to fill in the details. Perhaps that seemed too chancy to someone....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 AM

April 7, 2005

Maybe for our next house...

Via Baldilocks, here are some people who are hoping to build themselves a hobbit hole. They've started a web site to gather information and inspiration.

I think it's a cool ambition. The form has real potential...

Gandalf returns to hobbiton
Illustration by John Howe...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 PM

Didn't want to know...

If you want to see, under a microscope, just how our "intelligence failures" happen, I recommend this article on the assassination attempt against the Pope. (Thanks to Lastango.)

Read how the NYT and the elite media instantly ran with the story that Mehmet Ali Agca was some sort of neo-fascist right-winger. And refused to touch the evidence of his Bulgarian connection. (If you read the story it might sound familiar. Agca goes penniless to Bulgaria yet stays in a first-class hotel and comes out with $50,000. Does it perhaps remind us of Terry Nichols making multiple extended trips to the Philippines despite having no apparent income? Hmmm? What, you haven't heard that tale? I wonder why...)

They didn't want to know.

It was the despised middle-brow Reader's Digest that broke the story. And even after they did the Gasping Media tried their best to bury the story.

And our precious CIA didn't want to know either. It resolutely ignored the most blatant evidence. And even when the Bulgarian connection became clear, it didn't want to make the obvious inference of Soviet involvement.

Why? You know why. For the exact same reason the networks never show the falling towers of the World Trade Center, or the people jumping to escape the flames. Because they are appeasers. Because they know that if the American people know what's going on, they will demand that the United States defend itself. They will vote for leaders who favor strong defense.

And because all these issues pose the question: What do you believe in? What will you fight for?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

April 6, 2005

Makes my head spin...

I listened to the radio for a few minutes while running errands, and heard something that was astonishingly clueless. Rush Limbaugh played a clip of Christiane Amanpour covering the solemnities in Rome, and she said something like:

"...to me, this seems like a moment of great crisis for the Church. It has to find a way to become relevant if it's to survive the next few centuries, or even generations."

I can think of a lot of things to write, but maybe I'll just bang my forehead against the desk a few times...

* Update: Jim Geraghty has many more CNN quotes...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:21 PM

American tradition...

A pleasant thought, the horrid Jimmy Carter snubbed!

..."The other thing that people forget is that Carter has treated President Bush very badly. He has openly criticized the President in a manner that President Clinton has not," says a Bush administration source. "He has traveled around the world bad-mouthing this president and this country's policies. I would be surprised if a single person gave a thought to including him in the delegation."

By long-standing American tradition, a former President does NOT disparage the President. I happen to know that George HW Bush and Barbara have exercised iron discipline in that regard in order not to voice what they thought of Clinton. Carter's conduct has been a disgrace.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

April 5, 2005

A fun project...

I made this garden chair for Charlene. A little table will join it eventually. It's made of Redwood, and will soon darken, and eventually weather to the color of the fence you see in the background...

Redwood garden chair
This job was fun because I could be much more relaxed about the details than if I was working for a customer. I made no drawings and only took a few measurements from other chairs. And a lot of the wood was re-sawn from some 4x4 scraps I had lying around, which was very satisfying and parsimonious... (the plants are mentioned below)

The very large fern you see behind the chair is Blechnum chilense. Blechnums typically have upright fertile fronds, which are not green and which carry the spores. The shriveled-looking things you see standing straight up are fertile fronds. And behind the frond that the sun is shining on is another fern, Blechnum nudum, which has the charming common name of Fishbone Water Fern.

Those twisty branches you see against the fence belong to a climbing rhodie, Rhododendron fragrantissimum. (Whose flowers are indeed very fragrant.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 PM

I think with pure logic, YOU are driven by fear...

I found this article at Brothers Judd, and it really embodies a certain viewpoint that cries out for discussion...

Culture of Life is a Culture of Fear, by Ira Chernus

The tragic case of Terri Schiavo writes a new chapter in the ongoing American saga that is often titled “the culture war.” It’s no longer just about a so-called “right to life.” The Christian right insists that it’s about a “culture of life.” They’ve been waving that slogan around for years. Now mainstream America is getting used to it. Those of us who actively oppose the Christian right had better get used it, too. We’re going to be hearing a lot about this “culture of life” from now on.

“Culture of LIFE?” we ask, with justified outrage. These same people who claim to be the guardians of life are the first to demand the death penalty for murderers, indiscriminate bombing for Afghanis, Iraqis, and anyone else they don't like, etc., etc. The hypocrisy is so blatant, it hardly seems worth spelling out the details.

You know the arguments to come are going to be persuasive when the author starts with ludicrous lies. Of course no one advocates bombing "anyone we don't like." (If we do, I have a little list.) And our use of bombing in recent conflicts has been astonishingly precise. Have you noticed how leftists love to refer to the invasion of Iraq as "bombing Iraq?" Makes it sound like Operation Arc Light, and lets them ignore the fact that Americans are fighting bravely to liberate the oppressed, while leftists sit on the sidelines, or worse. (And these guys are oh-so life-loving when it comes to murderers, but notice they never mention the victims.)

When they talk about a “culture of life,” though, the right-wingers are trying to tell us that we’re missing the point. The debate is not about life, it’s about CULTURE. Everyone agrees that life is good. But the United States is split by a deep cultural divide about what makes a life good. Once we bring that divide into focus, the “culture of life” side begins to look a bit more logically consistent. And those of us who oppose them begin to see more clearly just where the lines need to be drawn.

No, the debate is about life, and also about our culture. And NOT everybody agrees that life is good. Some people believe that SOCIETY is good, and that individual lives should be sacrificed to help society. Chernus seems to have some of that belief, without ever clearly focusing on what he believes.

Underneath the debate about the end of life, we find the same issue that underlies the debates about abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, and all the other hot-button social issues of the day. The basic question that ties together all these issues is one that is all too rarely addressed or even spoken: How should we acquire our moral values? It may sound like the stuff of a college philosophy course. But it’s really the stuff of the headlines about the late Terri Schiavo and all the other battlegrounds of the “culture war.”

OK, watch what's coming. He's gonna tell us how wrong conservatives are in the way they "acquire our moral values." But he WON'T be clear on what HIS way of acquiring them might be...

On one side are the religious and social (no, they aren’t all religious) conservatives who wave the “culture of life” banner. Basically, they are people who are afraid of uncertainty, ambiguity, and change in the realm of moral values.

Watch this too: There's NOT going to be a paragraph that starts, "On the other side..." That would be his side, but he doesn't want this debate framed too clearly.

Their position is simple:

* moral values must be universal, timeless, unchanging truths
* we should receive them from religious traditions or authority figures
* once we get fixed truths, we should stick with them, no matter what

Notice that he has excluded from discussion the possibility that there actually ARE "timeless, unchanging truths." Debate, but some things are off-limits. And where's the paragraph that begins: "Our position is..."?

A society that doesn’t believe all this is in great danger, they warn. Why? Listen to a delightful story told by George W. Bush’s friend Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention. Land recalled what his wife said when Bill Clinton became president: “She said, ‘The people that were sitting around [in the ‘60s] in Volkswagen vans, smoking pot with peace symbols on their vans and hanging around their necks, are running the country now, aren't they?’ I said, ‘Yes, they are.’ Basically, it breaks down to this enormous fault line. On one side of this fault line, you have people who have a traditional view of morality: Some things are always right; some things are always wrong; and if you accept a society in which that's not true, then anything becomes possible.”

That’s just what thrilled those people sitting around in Volkswagen vans, smoking pot with peace symbols. Anything becomes possible -- even a world of peace and love.

The fact that they were thrilled didn't make them right. Lots of things are NOT possible. Quite likely including a world of peace and love.

For the right-wingers, though, the idea that “anything is possible” is terrifying. No, it's just stupid. Their “culture of life” is really a culture of fear. Care to offer any evidence for that? They believe that human nature is basically selfish, competitive, and aggressive. No, no, no. That's YOUR VIEW, the left-wing view. You guys always complain that people are too selfish or competitive or aggressive. (Of course you don't call it "human nature;" progressive schooling or re-education camps can eradicate such icky things.) We conservatives think man is basically good and made in the image of God, but is stained with Original Sin, so that, in the words of Paul, "That which I would do, I do not do."

If anything is possible, who can predict what crime or evil will happen next? How can anyone feel safe? The world would be spinning out of control. We need fixed rules that come from unquestionable authority. That’s the only way to keep us all from running amok.

"Who can predict what crime or evil will happen next?" He writes that as if it's obviously silly. Perhaps he hasn't got to the 20th Century yet in the history book...

You can’t get that kind of certainty if you leave the rules up to human choice, the conservatives insist. People are “flip-flops.” They change their minds to suit their whims. They think with their hormones. They do all sorts of dangerous things, if we let them. That’s why we have to agree with our president, who says: “The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a personal opinion, but an eternal truth.” That’s why we need to believe in an eternal higher authority.

That doesn't follow logically. One can believe in "eternal truth" without thinking people are 'flip-flops," and vice versa. And Chernus slides past the problem of whether perhaps it's TRUE that people are flip-flops, and what that might entail...

From this very abstract point, it’s an easy step to the impassioned “defense” of Terri Schiavo’s life. Who gets to decide when someone dies. Is it the “flip-flop” human mind? Or is it the eternal will of the ultimate unquestionable authority, the good Lord Himself? For a conservative, that’s a no-brainer. Once you let the human mind decide when people die -- or which fetuses come to term and which don’t -- anything is indeed possible. The world feels like it’s spinning out of control. It’s hard enough already for most people to feel they have any control over their lives. A world with no eternal authorities might make it feel impossible.

Frankly, I don't think most people are defending Schiavo because they they think the world is slipping out of control. And Chernus offers no evidence for this. Whereas if you asked them if this is a MORAL issue, and whether they are concerned about the moral climate of our country, 97% would say yes.

And also, if you try to pin a person like Chernus down on the question "Is removing Schaivo's feeding tube MORALLY wrong or right?", you will never get a clear answer. They always skitter away into talking about "rights," or the law, or practical issues, or whether conservatives are hypocrites...

Of course, a world where some eternal authority tells us all what to do is not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind, as far as many of us can tell. We believe that a nation built on freedom has to free the mind to discover moral values for itself. That means moral values will indeed be different at different times and in different places. People will disagree. There will be conflicts. That is unavoidable.

Warning: Slippery reasoning here. There is a difference between "eternal authority tells us all what to do" and "eternal authority tells us what is right." One can know what is right and still have to wrestle with difficult decisions every day. And in fact the Founding Fathers DID believe that there are eternal moral truths, based on scripture. They write about this frequently. And they never ever expect that these will tell us exactly what to do, or demand robotic obedience.

So why not make a virtue out of necessity? Why not embrace the conflict as a sign of a healthy, creative diversity in society? We trust that people who have their basic human needs met can learn to get along reasonably. The problem is not human nature. It’s a society with skewed priorities that denies so many people their basic needs.

This is nonsense. It's another version of the argument that all problems are caused by poverty and social ills. But almost everyone in our country has their basic needs met, yet they show no propensity to always get along. The 9/11 bombers were middle-class Saudis who had never worried about their basic needs.

Chernus is a professor at CU, and this is a perfect example of how the lack of intellectual diversity at such places has crippled their ability to think and argue. I'm sure that in the faculty lounge at CU he can say, "The problem is not human nature. It’s a society with skewed priorities that denies basic needs..." and nobody will say, "bullshit." But it IS bullshit. If some redistributionist regime took over here, and guaranteed every living American $25,000 a year and a new car, would we suddenly all "get along reasonably?" No way. In fact it's beceause our basic needs are met that we have the leisure to worry and argue about moral questions.

But if we trust the free mind to find the truth, we have to consider all points of view -- even the “culture of life.” Do they have a persuasive point to make? To figure it out for yourself, you might want to take a college philosophy course, or three or four. You’ll have to start way back with Plato and Aristotle. Great minds have been wrestling with this one for thousands of years, and they haven’t come to any consensus yet. Either side might be right.

But that’s just what the right-wingers can’t admit. It’s the “might be right” that scares them and drives them nuts. They need a “MUST be right” to feel safe, to feel that their own lives are under even minimal control.

I have yet to hear anyone offer even a SHRED of evidence that "right-wingers" are driven nuts by fear. Actually, a lot of them try hard to hear God wants from their lives, and then follow it. Which is actually a very courageous and scary thing to do. (More than I could.)

We can’t let them inscribe their fear-driven beliefs onto our laws. No compromise on that one. And we ought to encourage them to join us in a civil discussion about the issue. All the while, though, it won’t hurt to remember that they are frightened and hurting.

Funny, I don't feel "frightened and hurting." I wonder if this guy is PROJECTING. Methinks he doth protest too much about other people being frightened. And inviting a civil discussion of a "no-compromise" position...Huh? You could say that's the theme of this whole piece: "Let us sit down and civilly discuss why YOU are wrong."

We also have to continue the agonizing discussion about the specific issues concerning the end of life. Now that technology can keep people alive almost indefinitely, we are in a brave new world with no simple clear-cut direction ahead. The disability rights movement rightly reminds us how easily the masters of technology can get control over us if we are not vigilant. The advocates of individual liberty and death with dignity rightly remind us that we can keep our individual right to our own death as well as life only if we are vigilant. There are no easy answers here, either.

Chernus is presuming that certain moral issues are already decided, such as an "individual right to our own death." He says '"there are no easy answers," and yet he slips his own answers in as if they are settled issues. This is the mushy thinking of the academic monoculture.

We can’t carry on that debate constructively, though, until we first disentangle it from the great cultural debate about how we get our moral values. Perhaps that clarification would move us all a small step beyond our fears.

This is exactly what I suspect Chernus will NOT debate. He will never say just how he decides on HIS moral values. They just arise somehow out of the leftish consensus.

What seems to me to be going on is that "progressives" accept traditional Judeo-Christian morality, pretend that it is merely what logic demands, and then each generation DISCARDS 10% of it. And then laughs at anyone who suggests that there might be some kind of slippery slope. They are sort of like a declining corporation that periodically has "re-organizations," each of which leaves it smaller than before.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. He can be reached at chernus@colorado.edu

Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 AM

April 3, 2005


My post on The Ownership Society that got all the attention started with criticizing an article by Ryan Sager. Turns out, Ryan has a blog, and mentioned me here. I posted a comment, and I think I'll post it here too, because it expresses some of what's on my mind...

I will be interested if you return to the subject. My point (probably not expressed well) is not that the Ownership Society is a sure thing, but that people like you need to address it if you are going to criticize the Administration for over-spending.

Burden of proof? I can't prove anything; the proof will only be whether it works. But it might be useful criticism if we were to establish some metrics. I would suggest for instance, that you could call HSA's a failure if they remain a mere niche in the health care world. And a success, or trending that way, if they continue to grow in popularity, start to be offered to employees instead of insurance, and start changing people's perceptions of how they pay for health care.

It might be fair to say that Private Accounts will be a failure unless they grow due to popular demand, and unless they trend over time to something like the status of 401-K's, which are de facto things you own, although de jure they are gifts of the government, and could be regulated out of existence.

Also, I'm not advocating huge spending increases as a usual trade-off--I think (hope) that that was what happened in the first few years of the administration, when it was almost impossible to get anything out of Congress without big concessions. Remember, when Bush was first elected, a lot of people thought he would be unable to accomplish ANYTHING, due to the disputed election and a closely divided Congress....

In a broader sense, there's no way to prove something will work, when what it's intended to do is start a long-term trend. We will have to wait and see. But I imagine the same questions were asked of some proto-socialist who asked his friends to make concessions to get the very first government welfare boondoggle. "Why are you abandoning The Revolution to gain this silly little program to give shoes to the children of red-headed coal miners? You say it's going to start a trend? Oh sure. Suuuure it is. And government's going to grow until it controls almost everything? Say comrade, have you ever thought about buying a nice big bridge?"

Posted by John Weidner at 11:49 AM

Write about Pope, lead with Hans Kung...

It's well known that the big papers write obituaries of important people ahead of time and keep them on hand, so they can publish them quickly when needed. The New York Times was just a little too fast on the draw, and has been caught in a really slimy example of media bias. All their trendy-lefty disdain of the Pope was crafted and ready-to-go, but they planned to have someone talk to the primitives to provide "balance..."

...Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life.

"The situation in the Catholic church is serious," Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, who was barred by from teaching in Catholic schools because of his liberal views, wrote last week. "The pope is gravely ill and deserves every compassion. But the Church has to live. ...

In my opinion, he is not the greatest pope but the most contradictory of the 20th century. A pope of many, great gifts, and of many bad decisions!"

Among liberal Catholics, he was criticized for his strong opposition to abortion, homosexuality and contraception, as well as the ordination of women and married men...

PowerLine has a screen-grab of the page, caught before it could be corrected...The attitude is something we see all the time. It would be OK if the times billed itself as "Manhattan's liberal newspaper." But they are considered to be the pre-eminent paper of the country, and all the MSM takes its cue from them. Yet much of this country they neither know nor care much about. Not only do they have no conservatives in the newsroom, I bet they have no believing Catholics. (Or if there are they have to conceal their beliefs.)

I bet they have a canned obituary of President Bush on the shelf, which dwells gloatingly on every American failure, and has a line: "need quote from some supporter."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

April 2, 2005


Pope John Paul II with President Reagan...The truth is that Whitman's wild picture, or what he thought was a wild picture, is in fact a very old and orthodox picture. There are, as a matter of fact, any number of old pictures in which whole crowds are crowned with haloes, to indicate that they have all attained Beatitude. But for Catholics it is a fundamental dogma of the Faith that all human beings, without any exception whatever, were specially made, were shaped and pointed like shining arrows, for the end of hitting the mark of Beatitude. It is true that the shafts are feathered with free will, and therefore throw the shadow of all the tragic possibilities of free will; and that the Church (having also been aware for ages of that darker side of truth, which the new sceptics have just discovered) does also draw attention to the darkness of that potential tragedy. But that does not make any difference to the gloriousness of the potential glory. In one aspect it is even a part of it; since the freedom is itself a glory...

-- GK Chesterton, from Is Humanism a Religion?

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

April 1, 2005

What's the thinking behind the Ownership Society?

The Ryan Sager article mentioned by Glen Reynolds today is a type of attack that's really starting to bug me.

...This represents a fundamental shift in the direction of the Republican Party and a threat to its traditional alliances. The shift is self-evident. Instead of being the party that tries to rein in entitlement spending, the Republican Party is now the party of the $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription-drug benefit. Instead of being the party that is opposed to even having a federal Department of Education, the Republican Party is now the party of extensive intrusion into local schoolhouses by Washington, D.C....

There's something missing here [I'm partly quoting myself from a recent post about Bill Quick's similar argument. Sorry, time is short]. I don't like the lard either, but in both cases Bush traded (and this was at a time when we didn't control the Senate) spending increases for important components of the Ownership Society. The Medicare bill included HSA's, and NCLB included the parental-choice provisions.

What's the thinking behind the Ownership Society? First, that shrinking the government isn’t going to happen. Not now, not never. Every law, subsidy, tax-break or program creates a constituency that will fight to preserve that bit of big government. It’s a trap that liberals have created for us, and no number of grumbling fiscal conservatives will ever get us out of it.

BUT, there is a way out of the trap. Even though Social Security (to take just one example) is a big-government program, any diversion of dollars into Private Accounts is, effectively, shrinking government. And that creates a trap of the opposite sort, one that will make people want more and more privatization as they start to see their accounts grow. (Or, similarly, more and more choice over which school your kids go to. Or more ability to just choose any medical service you want and pay it yourself without consulting any bureaucracy)

That’s why the Left is fighting private accounts so bitterly. Sager most likely doesn't agree with the strategy, but he ought to be aware of it. Bush has yielded on spending increases to gain long-term benefits of Choice and Ownership. I think Bush's plan is clear enough that Mr Sager has an obligation to try to refute it. I notice that these libertarian types never mention Social Security when they complain about Bush. Nor do they mention the Faith Based Initiatives, that put government spending into the hands of local groups.

I wonder if Mr Sager has an HSA?

* Update: Glenn Renolds writes:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting discussion in Weidner's comment thread, one that would make interesting fodder for any journalist/pundit writing on this topic. Lots of small-l libertarians and fiscal-conservative types feeling left out, and lots of social-conservative types delighting in heaping scorn on them, which strikes me as a poor way to maintain a coalition.

I think he's being a teensy bit unfair to my mostly reasonable commenters. But my own point is that folks like Ryan Sager are missing out on something that's (possibly) really GOOD. For fiscal conservatives. Whose efforts so far (and I've been something of a FC since at least the time of Gerald Ford) have yet to accomplish much of anything. After four decades or so perhaps it's time to be open to a different approach. At least not to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. I'd like to see some thoughtful critiques of the whole concept of the Ownership Society. I've yet to see any.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM