April 30, 2006

The good, the salubrious, the vital, the hopeful...

Roger Kimball writes, in the New Criterion's blog,

So much distasteful rubbish is foisted upon us today in the name of culture that it is easy to fall prey to despondency and think: "The game's up! Our culture is rotten to the core. Cyril Connolly was right when he complained that it was `Closing time in the gardens of the West.'" It's easy, but it's mistaken. Really, if you look, there are plenty (well, some) bright spots in our culture. And if it is important to expose the rotten bits (and that is important), it is also important to celebrate the good, the salubrious, the vital, the hopeful. It's not just that despair is a sin, as the Doctors of the Church remind us: it's also that there really are plenty of things worth admiring if only we have the patience to see them.

To that end, I herewith inaugurate an occasional series of musings I shall denominate Bright Spots: good things, promising things in our culture that have been unfairly neglected or are as yet insufficiently known. My first offering is The Harlem Studio of Art, a classically-oriented art school and atelier in the upper reaches of Manhattan. Directed by Andrea J. Smith, the Harlem Studio offers students something almost unheard of today: rigorous training in modeling, one-point perspective, cast drawing, and all the other technical aspects of art that, based in Renaissance practice, one used to assume would be part of an artist's training but, for at least the last five or six decades, have gone the way of good manners and other accoutrements of civilization....(Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:59 PM

The word "war" doesn't mean what it used to mean.

One of the sins of Donald Rumsfeld, in the eyes of many, was the canceling of the Crusader artillery system. Crusader is what we are not doing. What's more interesting is what we are doing. Jason van Steenwyck writes:

The artillery is getting a new weapon: The Excalibur features a precision-guided warhead as small as 50 pounds, with a near vertical drop to the target. It's about time.

The Army has depended on Air Force CAS for far too long, while the Air Force has steadfastly resisted creating and fielding munitions that are suitable for close-in urban combat...

...Our M109 Self Propelled Howitzers are largely gathering dust. It's a fine system - but the enemy rarely chooses to engage or allow himself to be engaged in open areas where our artillery and Close Air Support can be effective. Many of our cannoncockers have been relegated to quasi-infantry and quasi-police tasks on the ground in Iraq.....

An artillery shell that weighs 50 lbs! (23kg). I could lift it with one hand.

Think about that.

And those big dogs not barking in the night.

Think about them.

And there are lots of related things I've blogged over the last few years, about us not using the destructive force we have. Bombs filled with concrete instead of explosives. The incredulity of people in Kabul when we dropped bombs into housefulls of Talibs, without harming the neighbors. Or the attack of our Israeli brothers on Jenin, which, despite the filthy leftist campaign of lies about it, was an act of extraordinary humanity. The Israelis could have flattened that neighborhood with impunity, but instead sent soldiers to fight (and die) house-to-house to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties.

The same is true of most of our actions in Iraq. In 2004 I blogged this: "....He informed us that a large number of the residents of Fallujah, before fleeing the battle, left blankets and bedding for the Marines and Soldiers along with notes thanking the Americans for liberating their city from the terrorists, as well as invitations to the Marines and Soldiers to sleep in their houses...."

The image in most of our minds when we hear the word "war" is some pointless mass slaughter, some Belleau Wood, with poor fellows being mowed down in their thousands by machine guns. But war is not like that any more.

War is no longer All Quiet on the Western Front. It's like this. And this, It's, well, like Seven Samurai.

  • War is hope for the poor and oppressed.
  • War is the best of the young men and women of the Anglosphere and Israel risking their lives to shield the weak from savages.
  • War is anti-war! The worst blood-lettings of our time are the internal wars of failed nations and regions. Our wars aim at ending cruel slaughters and genocide. Our wars save far more lives than they cost, as has clearly happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • War is building and teaching. Our soldiers turn to doctoring or school-mastering or election monitoring with ease.
  • Our wars are just wars. They do not aim at conquest or enrichment or glory.
  • War now is not what we learned in the 20th Century.
  • Nor is it the 30 Years War, or the Peloponessian War. (But it is stunningly similar to THIS.)
  • War is not sending conscripts to pointless slaughter.
  • War is not leveling cities, and leaving the survivors huddled in bombed-out basements.
  • War is not sending millions of refugees trudging to distant camps. (Unless the UN is involved.) Our wars are opportunities for refugees and exiles to return home and help their homelands.

War is a Christian duty in this time.

(This photo was taken by Michael Yon. I blogged it here.)

War as Christian Duty. This article by Darrell Cole explains it well.
....This strikes a discordant note among many. How, we are asked, can an act of force be loving? The short answer is that force becomes an act of love when it seeks to resemble God’s use of force. In practice this means, among other things, that acts of force must never involve intrinsic evil (such as intentionally killing innocent people, for instance).

The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches—contrary to today’s prevailing views—that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 AM

April 29, 2006

Readin', writin' & spreadsheets..

Pedro noticed my post on the budget of NYC schools, and has run some numbers for an imaginary for-profit school. NY City looks pretty bad.

Why? Notice one ratio in particular. He assumes 18 teachers and 5 administrators. I have no figures, but I bet if you exmined NY, you would find 18 teachers to 18 non-teachers.

That, I suspect, is the budgetary black hole.

Note: One can express these matters in terms of budgetary efficiency. One could alternatively say that the Democrat party has sold its soul to the teacher's unions, and in return for massive contributions, is working to blight the hopes, and often literally destroy the lives, of millions of poor and minority children. I might have titled this post Kindermord.

But that would be right-wing hate-mongering. Can't have that, of course.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:24 PM

April 28, 2006

Tall cases...

I haven't blogged much lately, because I've been rushing to complete this project so my customers can show it off at a big party this weekend...

Tall bookcases in Cherry
They have a few points of interest. The wood is cherry, darkened with a dye and finished with shellac. I used shellac because it dries quickly. But I relied too much on that, and stupidly left the shelves stacked up while I installed the cases. And they stuck to each other and left ugly marks in the finish! Fortunately shellac is easy to repair, because a new layer will melt into the previous one, so I could fix things with a brush.

Also they are about 9 1/2 feet tall, which added complications, like having to disassemble the cases to get them into the room. But unlike most of my jobs, this was a brand new building and everything was plumb. In fact I couldn't quite believe it, and made the base 1/4" short, expecting to shim it level over the ups and downs of the floor. But there weren't any!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 PM

April 26, 2006

My days of feeling special are over...

Being a long-time user of SketchUp has always made me feel like I was a step above the common rabble. Then last month @last Software was bought by Google. What was going to happen to my most important app? And to my self-esteem?

Big doings. Google is giving SketchUp away for free! (Windows version, Mac coming soon.) Now any Tom Dick or Harry can be as cool as me. Well, not quite. The Pro version will still do a few things that the free version doesn't.

The big Google conquest-of-the-Galaxy plan is still mysterious and opaque, but this is surely a part of it.

(Here's what the SketchUp crew themselves have to say.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:03 PM

April 25, 2006

Argumentum ad Ruinam

I put a bit of dog Latin in this post, suggesting we should add to the list of logical fallacies "argumentum ad collapsium," to counter those people who claim that whatever we happen to be doing is fatally wrong, because all empires or great powers of the past have fallen.

I asked Dr Weevil to supply the right phrase, and he was kind enough to respond...

'Collapsium' is not good Latin. You want 'Argumentum ad Ruinam'. Latin 'ruina' is more specific than English 'ruin' and means basically 'collapse, falling down'. Hope this helps.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 PM

“statistical deception”

Here's a translation of a fascinating article on Joseph Ratzinger as young professor of theology in the 1950's and 60's. (If anyone still needs a corrective to the hateful caricatures of him, read this.) It's a portrait of a teacher, a man of rare wisdom and charm.

But this bit of prescience made my hair stand up...

...Bonn in those years was the almost accidental capital of Adenauer’s Germany. In the divided land, whose eastern states were behind the Iron Curtain, economic and civilian rebirth was proceeding at a dizzying pace. In the 1957 elections, the Christian Democratic Party had won an absolute majority in Parliament. After the Nazi nightmare, the German Church, with deserved pride, offered an essential contribution to Germany’s new beginning.

In an atmosphere that could have encouraged triumphalism, the young professor-priest Ratzinger had just written an article in 1958 for the magazine Hochland some reflections arising from his brief but intense pastoral experience as a chaplain in the parish of the Most Prescious Blood in Bogenhausen, an haut-bourgeois section of Munich.

In that article, he uses the term “statistical deception” for the cliché that described Europe as “a Continent that is almost totally Christian.” The Church in the postwar modern world appeared to him instead as “
a Church of pagans – no longer, as in the past, a church of pagans who have become Christian, but a Church of pagans that still call themselves Christian but who have really become pagans.”

He tells of a new paganism “which is growing ceaselessly in the heart of the Church and threatens to demolish it from the inside.”...
(thanks to Amy Welborn)

1958! Who else saw it? No one I've read of.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:04 AM

April 24, 2006

Yet another one...

Some thoughts on a preposterous article by yet another retired army guy, Lawrence Wilkerson. Yet another who made sure he skimmed all possible cream from his career, then retires and suddenly discovers that the government he was a part of is evil and needs to be denounced! It's not really worth fisking, (or you reading) but hey, it's therapy for me! Wilkerson writes:

....As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
He never said it. And it doesn't make any sense anyway. (Thanks to PowerLine)
In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.
There ought to be added to the list of logical fallacies something like "Argumentum ad Collapsium." That fact that all "great powers" have declined or fallen tells us nothing about the present moment.
From the Kyoto accords to the International Criminal Court, from torture and cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners to rendition of innocent civilians, from illegal domestic surveillance to lies about leaking, from energy ineptitude to denial of global warming, from cherry-picking intelligence to appointing a martinet and a tyrant to run the Defense Department, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting terrorism, has put America on the radical path to ruin.
This is just the list of Democrat talking points. You might be able make a case for any of them, but to present them as "self-evident" is pretty silly. And to claim that things like "appointing a martinet" are self-evidently "the road to radical ruin"....beyond silly.

Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.
Can this guy possibly know so little of our history and law? Crazy. And this is not some brain-dead columnist from the Boston Globe. He was Secretary of State Powell's chief of staff!
Moreover, fiscal profligacy of an order never seen before has brought America trade deficits that boggle the mind and a federal deficit that, when stripped of the gimmickry used to make it appear more tolerable, will leave every child and grandchild in this nation a debt that will weigh upon their generations like a ball and chain around every neck. Imagine owing $150,000 from the cradle. That is radical irresponsibility.
Suppose you lived in The People's Republic of Bormenia, and had no hope of advancement or freedom, but could become an American citizen by assuming a debt of $150,000. Would you do it? I sure would. The silliness of this is evident if you think of the debts people assume to buy homes or get a degree. (And your real share of the debt is proportional to your wealth. The rich pay most of the taxes that service our debts.).
This administration has expanded government - creation of the Homeland Security Department alone puts it in the record books - and government intrusiveness. It has brought a new level of sleaze and corruption to Washington (difficult to do, to be sure). And it has done the impossible in war-waging: put in motion a conflict in Iraq that in terms of colossal incompetence, civilian and military, and unbridled arrogance portends to top the Vietnam era, a truly radical feat.
Pretty obviously silly. Homeland Security is mostly a grouping of agencies that already existed, sleaze is a Dem specialty. And any historical comparisons with our other wars make the Iraq Campaign look stellar, as I've often pointed out.
In Eugene Jarecki's documentary Why We Fight, Richard Perle, head theoretician for the neo-Jacobins who masquerade under the title "neoconservatives," claims that America was changed forever by 9/11. He tells us that those attacks are responsible for all this radicalism. The Jacobins were members of a radical political club during the French Revolution that instituted brutal repression in what became known as the "reign of terror."....
No evidence, just name-calling. And the neocons were never running things, we just used them and their policies; not surprising since their warnings about the bankruptcy of the other policies were shown to be correct by 9/11.
....First, it was Mr. Perle and people such as he who put us where we are today, not the terrorists of 9/11. A somnolent Congress assisted - a Congress that, as Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia said as the Senate failed to debate in the run-up to the Iraq war, was "ominously, ominously, dreadfully silent."....
Wait a minute. Where was Lawrence Wilkerson when this was going on? He was part of the administration. He was Chief of Staff to the guy who made the case for invasion before the UN! He pushed these very policies. Talk about "ominously, ominously, dreadfully silent." Damn peculiar, if you ask me. I'll bet he took a "principled stand" by leaking secrets to reporters. Somebody ought to have tapped his phone.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:21 PM

April 23, 2006

The "Decent Left" game...

Orrin Judd, commenting on an article about the Euston group, writes

Note the core problem that Mr. Hutton and the most good-intentioned members of the Decent Left can't overcome: they accept the notion that you can be a liberal in good standing but oppose replacing a genocidal tyrant like Saddam with a parliamentary democracy on principle. They want to sleep with Evil but wake up virginal in the morning.

There can't be a "Decent Left." Here's the first sentence of the article:

To be on the left is to be both temperamentally inclined to dissent and to be passionate about your own utopia, which can never be achieved. Condemned to disappointment, you rage at the world, your party and your leader...

It's all right there, folks. Though the author does not make explicit a couple of teensy-weensy little things. One of which is that it is always necessary to build any "utopia" by the force of the state. Leading to incarceration or death for those who oppose utopia. Leading, as one of John LeCarré's* characters put it, to: "boiler suits and a long march to nowhere." The other little thing is that since people don't want to be forced into "utopia," to be a leftist is to be opposed to democracy. They may play for a while at being friends of democracy, but it's always just a pose. It never includes support for the possibility of the voters rejecting leftist utopias. Which they will always do in the end.

Back when the right was more reactionary and isolationist, it was easier to play the "Decent Left" game. The decent types could work with the totalitarian types in opposing American support for some fascisitic authoritarian regime, they could all call for democracy, and paper over the fact that most leftists were aiming for another Castro or Mao, and had no interest in democracy.

It's not possible any more. George W Bush has ended the game. He is openly and passionately pushing for democracy, from an explicitly Christian and free-market vision. And from an explicitly American and optimistic vision, that does not imagine that people will embrace democracy in order to install any lefty "utopias."

The Left hates Bush, and America, for good reasons. And any coalition lead by the "decent left" is doomed to failure.

*Le Carré seems to me to be some sort of "decent lefist" himself, which would explain his bitterness and rage against President Bush.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:28 AM

April 22, 2006

"a darling cause of the corporate-philanthropic-society set.” Barf..

Richard John Neuhaus writes:

Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, a distinguished educational expert, notes that the budget for public schools in New York City is over $17 billion. That’s about $15,000 per pupil. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of New York is closing 14 Catholic schools because it cannot support them on a tuition of $3,000 per year. Nobody disputes that the Catholic schools provide, by every measure of achievement, a much superior education.

Yet Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unlike his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, has had not one generous word to say about the invaluable role of Catholic schools. Instead, he has been enlisting the fancy billionaire set to kick in with $300 million of additional funding for the government schools. The New York Times recently described a gathering of “fashionistas, artists, wealthy businessmen or their wives [who have] turned public education into a darling cause of the corporate-philanthropic-society set.”

Of course none of their children go to public schools....

....Why don’t the fashionistas, billionaires, and politicians listen? I am second to none in opposing the reckless invocation of racism in explaining social wrongs. But what is the right word for the studied indifference to the plight of black, Hispanic, and other non-white children who are consigned to a school system that systematically excludes the majority of them from educational opportunity, and thus from the opportunities and responsibilities of full participation in our common life?

For the thousandth time: The social justice imperative for the urban poor and underclass is the provision, whether through educational vouchers or other measures, of school choice. It would also provide needed competition for the public school system which, no matter how many more billions are poured into it, has demonstrated over the decades that it has no incentive for change.....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

From the place we are now...

Hale put some comments about Libertarianism into the last post, and I started to respond, and things got out of control...and so here's another post! [Get a life! --ed. Yer lookin' at it!] Hale wrote:

"A lot of the social ills you rail against aren't really something the government can do much about, either to encourage or discourage. And when it does try to "manage" society, it runs into something called "the Law of Unintended Consequences'....."

Well, yeah. From the place where we at are now, that's true. But in the past there was a generally agreed-upon public morality and a base set of rules and virtues. And government was just one of a constellation of institutions and individuals that worked together to push people toward conformity. Within that world government was very effective, because the cop on the beat was on the same page as the priest and the teacher and the mayor and the newspaper editor and all the neighbors.

There was still a lot of that consensus when I was growing up. If any of us kids got out of line, any nearby grownup would probably come down on us hard. Everybody agreed on the rules, so anybody could enforce them. Government was often a threat "in reserve." And it could act in a flexible non-bureaucratic ways, say by just harassing the hell out of those who overstepped the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Or think of how it used to be hard to get a divorce. This was government "pushing morality," but it was just a supplement to commonly held social and religious beliefs. So it was not "oppression," and was effective.

But we hosed that world of shared values, and it's true that government can't do much in our present situation. "You can't get there from here." (It was the leftists, socialists, who did most of the deconstruction, because the old institutions were impediments to total government control. They wanted people "atomized," so they would be dependent on the state. They still do, but now it's mostly a reflex, not a philosophy.)

I think libertarianism was mostly a reaction to the new situation, not a cause. But...

BUT, I also think libertarianism has always taken the old situation for granted, as something that would just "continue to exist." Rather like teenagers acting wild and foolish, because they feel confident that the grownups will stay sober and hold everything together. Libertarianism always seems to assume that if we legalize [insert social pathology], it won't make a big difference because most people will continue to act as they always have.

Well, I'm saying that we have tested that assumption, and it is now looking like it is false. And that the bills are coming due. And that neither Libertarianism nor Leftism has anything useful to say at this point.

The traditional rules and virtues were, I think, like a rope made of many weak strands, that twisted together became very strong. And it is easy to mock any particular strand, and say it's silly and can surely be dispensed with. And easy to mock traditionalists and moralists who predict that the loss of one strand will lead to disaster.

The disaster is now. That rope kept most people acting in certain ways. Such as getting married, working hard, having children, sticking with spouses, sacrificing for family, eschewing behaviors and pleasures that might undermine families. In much of the developed world we have cut many of the strands, and we are discovering that the assumption that people would just carry on as usual is false. In Italy or Germany the maternity hospitals are almost empty.

And we are getting some other unpleasant surprises. It's just been assumed that people will always be willing to defend their country or their civilization when they are attacked. Been assumed that it won't really matter if we cease to encourage fusty old concepts like duty and honor and patriotism and self-sacrifice, because people will still do what's needed. Now we look at places like Spain or the Netherlands, and say "Nope. Wrong."

Is there any way to go back to where we were? Probably not. But we may be able to repair some of the damage, and preserve the remnants, and evolve new forms. I don't have any great plan, but I think that wise people should be thinking about where we ought to go, and always be pushing against the currents that drive us away from it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

What does this MEAN?

Washington Times: Russia's population is declining rapidly, with almost half of Russian families childless, a senior member of Russia's lower house of parliament has said.

Yekaterina Lakhova, chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on women's affairs, said Thursday, "Today, almost half of the country's 41 million families have no children at all," RIA Novosti reported.

Addressing parliamentary hearings on family policy, Lakhova said that 34 percent of Russian families have only one child, 15 percent have two children, and less than 3 percent have more than two children.

She added that the Russian birthrate is 1.34 children per woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.14, causing a steady decline in the population growth rate.

U.N. statistics say that at this rate Russia's population will be 101.5 million by 2050, shrinking by almost half from the over 143 million population of today.

What is this telling us? What does it mean?

This is destruction worse than the Black Death!

And what do left-leaning people say about it? I've never read any serious thoughts from them (Desperate attempts to wave it all away, yes.)

Us right-wing nuts have lots to say. And they add up to a harsh condemnation of the underlying ideas of the sort of people who read the NYT, listen to NPR, and go to "anti-war" protests. But they never respond on this level.

Do they think about it? Do they dare?

And "libertarians." What does their philosophy say? Demographic collapse in Europe seems to correlate with many things they seem to favor. Freedom, unhindered by public or government morality, to buy drugs and pornography and prostitution, to obtain divorces, contraception and abortions, to commit suicide, to live alternative "lifestyles," to mock and ridicule traditional institutions and values...These are all things that governments, perhaps closely allied with churches, have often forbidden in the past.

So libertarians have, in many developed countries, have got a lot of the things they want. (Or seem to want--I'm sure libertarians will leave comments about how misunderstand they are.) Are we better off? Isn't it time for some assessment of results?

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 AM

April 21, 2006

They're all Dems, you know...

Fox — A CIA officer has been relieved of his duty after being caught leaking classified information to the media.

Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not provide any details about the officer's identity or assignments. It was not immediately clear if the person would face prosecution. The firing is a highly unusual move, although there has been an ongoing investigation into leaks in the CIA.

"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."...

Very interesting. This has been so long in coming. And one hopes it is just the beginning of the push-back against these scoundrels.

Liberals used to run the circus. They pretty much controlled everything in government and public life. And now they are like a continent that has sunk, leaving islands where there once were peaks. (Think giant flightless birds.) Beleaguered Islands...State. CIA. Older generals and colonels. The Civil Service...

And their mindset is just fascinating. The sense of entitlement. Maybe I should change my metaphor. They are like monarchs banished after the revolution. Sitting in their shabby courts-in-exile, plotting coups and assassinations. It never even occurs to them that they might be doing something wrong. Why, the kingdom can hardly be said to exist unless the rightful king is on the throne, supported by the ancient nobility. Any amount of bloodshed and chaos is an acceptable price to pay to put things right.

The CIA has been at war with the Bush Administration from the beginning. And I'd guess that this guy just caught never felt he was doing anything wrong by violating his oath and betraying his country. No more than Louis XVII would feel bound by an oath made to the Jacobins.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 PM

The more I learn, the more of a Rumsfeldian I become..

Penraker has an interesting historical summary of the campaign to "get Rumsfeld." It started long before Iraq, and well before 9/11...

Here's one item I didn't know:

...About Five days after the war began, there was a flurry of media reports claiming that we did not have enough troops, that because of that, we had gotten bogged down, and now were in danger of losing. Only Five days in!

The media howled for a while, and got slammed for doing so. Then, they revealed their sources: "retired generals" were feeding them this stuff. "We have all these retired generals coming to us and telling us that the whole operation is in jeopardy. What are we supposed to do, not report it?"

The retired generals strike again. It even seems this time that they did not care what effect this had on the men in the field, they were out to use every blip in the news cycle to complain about things. Very, very disturbing....

I remember slamming the media for those utterly disgusting accusations that we were "bogged down," and "in danger" five days into the campaign! Now I discover it was the "retired generals" sabotaging our forces. For them to do it is ten times worse than for the media. They know better.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:11 PM

April 20, 2006

"deeply intricate Mac and web nerdery"

My favorite Macintosh pundit, John Gruber, is trying something awesome...

There’s no other way for me to start this other than by firing away: Last week I left my full-time job at Joyent, for the sole reason so that I can write Daring Fireball as a full-time job.

Two years ago, when I made tentative steps in this direction, it was like I put the idea out there and then poked it with a stick to see what happened. What I’m doing now is like jumping out of a plane with this idea as my parachute.

When I launched the membership program two years ago, I wasn’t sure whether it would be a failure, a bonanza, or something in-between. Ends up it was something in-between. I mean that in a good way, because it was way more successful than I honestly expected. But it was also less than I had sort of secretly hoped.

What I wanted was for this to be easy — for the revenue from the memberships and t-shirts sales to amount to something that, when combined with the money from a modest dose of advertising, would clearly constitute a reasonable full-time salary.

But there’s a reason why you can’t say, “Wow, look at all those people supporting their families with their weblogs devoted to deeply intricate Mac and web nerdery,” or, really, why there aren’t that many people supporting themselves full-time from their weblogs, period. That reason is because it isn’t easy....

I've taken a membership, and wished him the best. Lots of what John writes is too intricate for me. Angels dancing on the heads of GUI pins. (Though this, on the "brushed metal" look in Mac applications, is hilarious.) But he also sometimes writes things that make confusing developements in the world of Apple "make sense" to me. which is very very satisfying. (In this, as in everything in my life, I'm an oddball, because I'm a generalist. The specialists are in way deeper than me, and everybody else is not much interested at all. So I have nobody to talk to. But there is always......The Blog. You must suffer....)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:18 PM

April 19, 2006

The most practical thing...

...But there are some people, nevertheless — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them...

    --GK Chesterton, from Heretics
Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 PM

Quote for you...

Charlene passed on to me my quote of the day, by Jonah Goldberg:

The week the deranged president of Iran again calls for the annihilation of Israel and once again denies the Holocaust ever happpened James Carroll draws the only logical conclusion: Bush is a lunatic and this administration is run by "deeply frustrated, angry, and psychologically wounded people."

Yeah, and if Iran turns Israel into a smidgeon of burnt-on crust, why, it will because WE have projected our "psychologically wounded" American and Republican evil onto them, and forced them to act contrary to their normally sweet natures. Blehpfff, I say.

And how many decades have we been hearing that being conservative is some kind of psychological disorder? If you can't argue with facts and logic, just say that your opponent is crazy. Stupid weakling lefties.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:40 AM

Who are the owners, and what do they think?

I've been wondering why we haven't seen more things like this:

Morgan Stanley Investment Management said Tuesday it withheld votes for the Times' director nominees because it believes the company's board and management have become unaccountable to shareholders.

The firm, which says it owns more than 5% of the Times' Class A stock, called for the elimination of the dual-stock structure that leaves control of the board with minority shareholders led by the founding Sulzberger family. The Times and a number of other big media outfits have left voting control in the hands of founders, under the rationale that long-term owners look after the long-term interests of the business rather than chasing short-term profit. But Morgan Stanley said the company has failed to keep up its end of the bargain..(Thanks to Michelle Malkin).

What was the bargain? The Sulzberger family sold shares of their company to the public. Their duty, as managers, is to act in the interests of those owners. By treating the Times as their own little political toy, they are guilty of fraud..

....Morgan Stanley added that it believes that "other long-term institutional shareholders have also withheld their votes for the company's Class A director nominees." The Times couldn't immediately be reached for comment....

Couldn't be reached for comment? Maybe The Times is out of the office today...How indignant those clowns would be if some Republican "couldn't be reached for comment."

...New York Times Co. stock has dropped 52% since its peak in June 2002, Morgan Stanley says. But "despite significant underperformance, management's total compensation is substantial and has increased considerably over this period," Morgan Stanley says....

I'll bet the NYT has run articles or editorials criticizing various big businesses for giving management fat raises even as profits are falling. I'd also guess the Sulzbergers don't think of themselves as capitalists, but more like caretakers of a shrine or church...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:28 AM

April 17, 2006

If you want to know what those satanic Republicans are aiming for, read this...

The evil plot revealed...(emphasis mine, to help reveal the "hatefulness" of this stuff.)

An obscure paragraph added to the Revenue Act of 1978 by an unknown author has drastically changed the way Americans save for retirement and, possibly, how they vote.

Over the past 25 years, since a 38-year-old retirement consultant in Philadelphia got IRS approval to establish the first tax-deferred account system, 401(k)s have exploded, dramatically increasing the nation's investor class and boosting individuals' total savings.

Economic and political analysts say 401(k)s have enriched millions of American workers, particularly lower-income people, and their longer-term impact on the economy, especially investment capital formation, and the electorate is now coming into fuller view...

... Since 1990 total worker assets in 401(k) plans have grown by an average of 13 percent per year, from $385 billion to an estimated $2.1 trillion in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI).

More than 43 million U.S. workers participated in 401(k)s at the end of 2004 -- up from 10 million in the mid-1990s -- representing nearly a third of the entire 144 million work force....

....Mr. Beach thinks the true savings rate in the U.S. is at least 15 percent when money being put into 401(k)s and other tax-advantage investment vehicles is added to traditional savings measures. There's more...

"Mutual stock funds are all counted as investments even though they are savings. You're talking about $4 trillion in actual savings when you lump all this together. I think the savings rate is really high," he said.

A recent ICI study of 401(k)s found that workers overall emerged from the bear market of the past several years with significantly increased retirement assets.

"By year-end 2004, the average account balance among 401(k) participants who had held accounts since at least 1999 increased by 36 percent, despite experiencing one of the worst bear markets for stocks since the Great Depression; rising 15 percent in 2004 alone," the study said....(Thanks to Orrin Judd)

This is what the President would like to do with Social Security, too. It's what Democrats call "destroying Social Security." And they are right. We want to destroy it and destroy poverty and dependence on government at the same time.

Democrats LOVE THE POOR. So much, good Christians that they are, that they want to keep them poor permanently. (Of course Democrat leaders make sure they themselves aren't poor; you can bet they have their own investments, even as they protect ordinary workers from such things.)

...Several bills dealing with tax breaks for investors were moving through Congress. One of them is the pension reform bill that passed the House on Dec. 15 by a 294-132 vote. One of its key provisions would encourage employers to automatically enroll new employees in 401(k) plans, making all workers employed by businesses with such plans regular investors unless they choose to opt out.

That provision, which has received relatively little attention in political circles, would effectively turn most of the nation's work force into investors with a growing personal stake in Wall Street and the corporate economy, economic analysts such as Mr. Beach said.

When economists at ICI calculated the effect of automatic enrollment, their model projected that the participation rate would rise to 92 percent of eligible employees. Notably, they found that the "positive impact of automatic enrollment on participation rates proved even stronger among lower-income workers

Such dirty tricks these Republicans are up to! (And that, my fellow conservatives, is why you should warmly support Republican candidates even when they are not entirely to your liking. Even John McCain. VOTE! Because stuff like this is happening under the radar all the time, and would stop dead if Democrats were in control.

...Meantime, the biggest question that looms over the growth of 401(k) accounts is whether they will provide future workers with enough income for a comfortable retirement over a longer life span, as 401(k) plans increasingly replace the old defined benefits plans that many businesses have been eliminating in an era of corporate cost-cutting.

Economists at ICI, which represents the investment industry, say their studies show that 401(k) plans are on track to provide between half to two-thirds of a worker's income in the decades to come.

"We developed a model in which we simulated a full career for a worker and took them to age 65 in 2030 and 2039 to calculate the income-replacement rate in retirement," Ms. Holden said. "We found that it would replace about half of their income among those in the bottom quartile and about two-thirds of their income" among higher earners...

That should be plenty for retirement, since older people are past a lot of life's big expenses, such as child-raising, and they will also have SS. And if Republicans can push through more of their cruel destroy-the-poor policies, they will be more likely to own a house, and to have a fat HSA to help cover medical expenses...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 AM

April 16, 2006

Change is going to happen...

Sanger M put some criticisms into comments on my recent post on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and they've inspired me to just a bit more blogging...

"...this is NOT what soldiers are for. Soldiers are for fighting, or at least being able to fight, and so are therefore a deterrant..."

Sanger, nobody is going to play the game with us anymore. No army is going to attack us. If one did it would be destroyed in days. Our ability to deter is so great that it has simply changed the rules the world operates by.

On the other hand, we keep getting dragged into fights. And they are ALL in what TPM Barnett calls "The Gap;" the disfunctional and impoverished Third World globe-girdling slum belt. We can't ignore the Gap anymore, the world is too small, our economies are too inter-twined, and the destructive power of terrorists is too great. Therefore the only Grand Strategy available to us is to engage with the problem spots and try to bring those countries into the functioning world.

...a lot of soldiers are just plain aggravated at the civil affairs side of the job. An army is for fighting, not peacekeeping, which is nothing more than a glorified guard's job...

Tough That's the job we have now, and our military is of necessity going to be doing it, partly because the State Dept. and USAID and our european allies aren't willing to do their part, but mostly because the lines between "civil affairs" and war have almost disappeared. The guy helping with the sewers is almost as likely to get into a fight as the one patrolling on the "front line." Mostly there is no "front line" anymore. And a lot of the new tasks, far from being "glorified guarding," are leadership tasks requiring the highest levels of human skill and political wisdom.

We had a foretaste of this new world in the second half of 20th Century, when the huge armies of NATO and the Warsaw pact never fought, though millions of men spent their whole working lives preparing to do so. But all the while messy little countries no one had heard of before kept turning into battlefields or tension-spots, usually ones where much of our fire-power was useless.

The situation is much worse now (from your traditional soldier viewpoint). We are fighting terror groups so amorphous and protean that we sometimes are not sure they exist at all. They blur confusingly into criminal gangs and tribes and religious groups.

That's just the way the world is now. Soldiers who can't adjust to it should get out. They are working for "the people," and their job is whatever the people of America ask of them. Our military is going to change, because it has to. And, like any bureaucracy, it is resisting change stubbornly. In many cases such resistance is successful, but in the case of the US military the new needs are so compelling and deadly that change is going to happen, though it means steamrollering those who resist.

I'm not in the military and can't judge the specific reforms Rumsfeld is pushing, though they sound logical. But it is obvious that big changes are needed, and that a strong hand is going to have to force them.

And sneering at Rumsfeld as a "civilian" is just stupid. It is extremely rare to find anyone with such a breadth of leadership skills as he has. Congressman, ambassador, White House Chief of Staff, both the youngest and the oldest SecDef ever, and a businessman who has taken large floundering corporations and turned them around to high profitability. No general can match him in skills, and probably few in sheer smarts.

And we need all those skills. War is just not a "separate realm" anymore. It's intermingled with everything else.

Also, here is a Lt Colonel with a different view:

...I would beg to differ with that assessment by Mr. Ignatius. I am a combat arms officer, a combat veteran of the Global War on Terror, currently serving on the faculty of one of the Staff Colleges.

My assessment from extensive and continuous contact with young field grade officers, most of which are combat arms branch, combat veterans, is that Secretary Rumsfeld is considered the finest Secretary of Defense of the last forty years. This is in addition to my "peer group", of which many of us maintain contact with each each other regardless if we are in CONUS or SW Asia.

Maybe Mr. Ignatius has limited his conversations to Officers assigned in the Beltway. Yes, "beltway types" unfortunatly also exist in the military.

However, I can tell you that beyond the Beltway in dusty and dirty places like Ft. Benning, Ft. Stewart, Ft. Hood, Ft. Campbell and Ft. Bragg, where officers wear BDUs instead of Class Bs that there are tens of thousands of Officers, Commissioned/Warrant/Non-Commissioned, that would go to hell and back for this Secretary.

He pushes us to what we "think" is our limit, then shows us we have another ten percent to give. Secretary Rumsfelds nickname among many is the "110% Secretary." Former Secretary Cohen, a good man whom I respected, would have been considered the "90% Secretary" as he never was able to get us to give "all."
Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 PM

Happy Easter...

I'm pretty tired, we went beforetimes to the Easter Vigil last night so Charlene could help set up, and didn't get home until late. But it was worth it. Very moving.

I hadn't been to one before, and so had never heard the traditional hymn, The Exsultet. Here's a little part of it, which hopefully will display side-by-side...

...This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave...

...Haec sunt enim festa paschalia,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occiditur,
cuius sanguine postes fidelium consecrantur.

Haec nox est,
in qua primum patres nostros, filios Israel
eductos de Aegypto,
Mare Rubrum sicco vestigio transire fecisti.

Haec igitur nox est,
quae peccatorum tenebras columnae illuminatione purgavit.

Haec nox est,
quae hodie per universum mundum in Christo credentes,
a vitiis saeculi et caligine peccatorum segregatos,
reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati.

Haec nox est,
in qua, destructis vinculis mortis,
Christus ab inferis victor ascendit...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

April 15, 2006

San Francisco Stairways #2

I've driven past these steps, at 17th St and Clayton, a thousand times and never stopped. They don't look like they lead anywhere interesting.
SF stair, 17th to Upper Terrace

But I was wrong....

They led me to a cute tiny hilltop park on Upper Terrace, with a mystery monument whose inscription has worn away...
Upper Terrace2
And then to another set of stairs going down the other side...
Upper Terrace3
The whole area's awesomely charming...
SO, am I completely happy? Well, no. What was missing from the picture? Children. I walked about 10 blocks and didn't see a single lost toy, or a child's car-seat in any car.
This sort of thing always leads me to melancholy Blue State meditations. Although in this case it's probably mostly a matter of economics. You gotta be a DINK to be able to afford a house here.

Stair to Upper Terrace map

Posted by John Weidner at 12:32 PM

April 14, 2006


NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 PM

Keep in mind...

You've probably noticed the people who are saying that, if we attack Iran, the Iranian-led terror groups will attack our troops in Iraq? Keep in mind that these are the same people who have been insisting that the "insurgency" is a purely domestic Iraqi movement, that arose only because of our horrid blunders...

(Of course, even if it is true that we face attacks in Iraq---I suspect it is a lot of wishful thinking---that's a reason to favor an attack, not avoid it. The idea that in a war you should avoid attacking because you might be counter-attacked is suicidal idiocy.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:41 PM

A new age....

Dafydd writes interestingly about the retired generals who have been recently castigating Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld...

...Even before the Iraq War, Secretary Rumsfeld embarked upon a revolutionary reformation, not only of how we fight wars but also the entire organization of our military forces. He is pushing towards smaller units, more unit independence (moving command decisions down the ranks), much greater reliance on Special Forces, and a reorganization of units to be self-sufficient rather than specialized.

It's hardly surprising that some men who have invested so much of their lives in one particular way of running a war would be
angry, rebellious, and confused by a completely different way of running a war... or that some of them would lash out at the symbol of that change. They are no different from vice presidents at General Motors or IBM who furiously denounce splitting those companies into self-reliant business units instead of the normal corporate divisions they've had for twenty years...

It's not just the generals, of course, it's all sorts of stasists. And all those people who adored the lardaceous Powell Doctrine because it made it almost impossible use our military for anything. The sort of people who quote General Shinseki as some sort of prophet who foresaw that we would (in their opinion, not mine) need more troops for the occupation of Iraq, conveniently ignoring the fact that Shinseki (and the culture of 90's generals he belonged to) always thought we needed more troops, whatever the mission, and believed that the forces that captured Iraq in a mere 3 weeks were also "insufficient."

Dafydd's comparison to General Motors is apt, because it is exactly the change from the Industrial Age to the Information Age that is the underlying problem in both cases. It is interesting to compare the ways that terrorists are now operating, with modern business conditions where old style companies can suddenly be confronted by competition from "virtual corporations" who aggregate the services of many independent contractors, possibly without any "bricks and mortar" presence at all... And Rumsfeld is that rare and charming sort of person whose ideas and worldview didn't "lock in" after his first big crisis-of-life was overcome. How I admire him.

Rumsfeld is especially appealing to me, embedded as I am among people who are desperate to to believe that nothing has changed since 1973. People especially of my generation, and here's this guy from my father's generation happily upsetting old fogies and outraging stuffed shirts...
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld serves Christmas dinner in Mosul
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
serves plastic turkeys to soldiers in Mosul, Iraq,
December 24, 2005

(thanks to Gateway Pundit)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:26 AM

April 12, 2006

This seems like a good idea...

The Seattle Times: British Columbia bill would allow apologies without legal fallout

The Associated Press. VANCOUVER, B.C.– Sorry may soon no longer be so hard to say in British Columbia.

The provincial government on Tuesday became the first in Canada to propose legislation that would allow people and organizations to apologize without risking liability for damages or other penalties. Under the measure, evidence of an apology would not be admissible in legal proceedings.

"There are times when an apology is very important and appropriate, but the legal implications have long been uncertain," provincial Attorney General Wallace T. Oppal said in the legislature....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:28 PM

April 10, 2006


This is an expansion of a comment of mine to this post which deals with the Catholic Church and nuclear weapons.. Ethan posted this in a comment:

Actually, the Catechism is a little broader than you're thinking. This from paragraph 2315:

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

I think the Church is on the wrong tack here, though it is just following "conventional wisdom." The CW in this case is so exceedingly conventional that it is almost impossible for most people to escape it. If you challenge, them they just think you are talking nonsense.

But in fact, nuclear weapons are the greatest force for peace in the world (or possibly the second-greatest, after globalization.) They have put an end to global war, to regional wars, and pretty much to war between nation states. Certainly between developed states, which could if desperate, produce nukes even if they did not have them at the start of the war.

"Far from eliminating the causes of war." But nuclear weapons, and the massive conventional armaments of the Free World do just that. The main cause of war is aggression by evil states and dictators. None of them so far have risked it. And even more important, that aggression is almost always abetted by other nations, who allow situations to develop out of sloth or complicity. The threat of nuclear war (either facing nukes or having to decide to use them) concentrates minds wonderfully.

"Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples..." Actually, just the opposite has happened. Much of the development and prosperity in our world is a by-product of the Cold War. The United States (and its allies) bustled around being "policemen" in odd corners of the world, because they feared that conflicts could escalate or spread, and because failing to check communist aggression might act like the appeasement that led to WWII. But our presence allowed nations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Chile to flourish in an environment of safety, growing their economies and developing democratic institutions.

I'm sure someone is about to leap in now and denounce our horrid bombing of Japan. But that was actually a great mercy, which brought to an immediate end a bloody war, and almost certainly saved millions of lives. America-hating leftists love to detach Hiroshima from its context, and present it as some sort of meaningless slaughter. In fact it occurred in the midst of of desperate battle, with Japan under a relentless air attack that killed far more people than the nukes did. And Japan still had several million men under arms, almost all of whom would have fought to the death if ordered. And we were preparing huge forces for the invasion of Japan, which, if the invasion of Okinawa is any indication, would have been one of the most destructive events in human history.

"Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict." I've never seen any evidence for this. And it does not make any logical sense. (I think it is a leftover from the CW after WWI, which held that the war was caused by "Merchants of Death," etc. Which is historical nonsense.) And we've seen cases where the opposite is true. America was forced into WWI precisely because we did not arm, causing Germany to calculate that unrestricted sub warfare would win the war before America could build forces big enough to make a difference. (It was a very close thing, but under-estimating the USA is always a mistake.)

And there is one other thing. I think about this often, and I've never heard anyone else mention it. The timing of the invention of the Atomic Bomb was almost strangely fortunate. A little earlier, and WWII would have been a "nuclear war." A little later, and we would not have ended that war with the terrible lesson of destruction that was Hiroshima. We might have been much less careful with nuclear weapons.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 PM

One change after another...

One of the neatest things about blogging is how it forces me to clarify my thoughts. And one thing I've discovered is that the interest that underlies most of my other interests is change. Not so much the Glenn Reynolds "Nano-machines, Life-Extension, Heh!" variety, but more what we need to do or BE to deal with change. To ride the wave and not be drowned.

We are already being flung into changes that would have been science fiction in the time of Jules Verne. Just having countries where virtually no one is poor or hungry is flabbergasting from a historical perspective. And we already see clear evidence that such change can be destructive, as witness demographic collapse and economic stagnation in Western Europe. And when you look at that, and then look at those countries that seem to be doing better, you see a couple of obvious possibilities for tools we might want to have in our societal toolkits if we are being sent in a time machine into the future...And the two big possibilities are the culture of the Anglosphere, and monotheistic religion...

This morning Charlene passed me this story, which has one of those possibilities in a context of amazing change...

....Carlos Charco bought a turban, tunic and sandals on the first day of a short mission trip three years ago in a West African country.

He wanted to blend into this Sahara Desert region, far from Mexico's Pacific coast, where he grew up. Far from the San Antonio seminary where he was studying Christian theology.

The new duds and his mestizo features — black hair and brown skin — matched those of the Arab community there. Nearly everyone assumed he was Muslim.

"It was an advantage as a missionary that I'm not white and my eyes were not blue or green," said Charco, a San Antonio pastor who's preparing — along with his wife, Viviana, of South America — to be missionaries in a Muslim country.

They are part of a rising evangelical movement of Latin-American missionaries going to areas that are the least Christianized in the world....

I remember how it was only a couple of decades ago that I was amazed to discover that American Protestants were sending missionaries to Central America, and were meeting with great success. I had just assumed that anything south of the border was a Catholic stronghold where Protestants would probably be tarred and feathered, or just laughed at. Protestants going there seemed as outlandish then as sending Christians to Muslim countries does now!

Now Latin America is sending out thousands of missionaries to other places...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 AM

April 9, 2006

I can't restrain this guy much longer. He's a wild man!

The Bush administration is planning to use nuclear weapons against Iran, to prevent it acquiring its own atomic warheads, claims an investigative writer with high-level Pentagon and intelligence contacts.

President George W Bush is said to be so alarmed by the threat of Iran's hard-line leader, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, that privately he refers to him as "the new Hitler", says Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal...[

I'll bet dollars to your donuts that this was leaked intentionally. And we'll be hearing more.

The game is called good cop/bad cop. I'll guess Jack Straw is playing good cop right now. "Mahmoud, my friend, you gotta give me some help here. This guy is crazy! He's gonna fry you like Donbalaan! Rumsfeld's pinned the map to the dart board. I seen it. I wanna help you man, but you gotta give me something to show!"

If pacifists and leftists actually cared about peace, they would be playing this up like mad, instead of undercutting it. Playing their parts. But they are either phonies, or they are just stupid. And if we actually have to use military force because Tehran calculates that Bush is politically unable to act, well, the appeasers will have started yet another in their long list of wars.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 AM


Uh, what's that you were saying? About how Bush's policies were driving away our traditional allies, and making us hated around the world? From Jim Geraghty, in the Washington Times:

....To call Mrs. Merkel a breath of fresh air is an understatement. Addressing German legislators on March 29, she shocked Berlin's staid foreign-policy establishment with a stirring address outlining a tough-minded determination to stand up for German principles abroad.

She cited the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faced the death penalty. (Rahman is now safely in Italy.) Mrs. Merkel was among those applying the most diplomatic pressure on the Afghan regime, along with officials in the United States and Italy. Mrs. Merkel declared it "appalling" and was among the first to telephone Afghan president Hamid Karzai and twist some arms diplomatically.

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Mrs. Merkel has taken a much tougher line than her predecessor. She compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler. After he threatened to wipe Israel off the map, Mrs. Merkel declared, "Iran has blatantly crossed the red line. I say it as a German chancellor. A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust, cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany."

She also denounced Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and the recent unfree, unfair elections in that country, and demonstrated much more idealism and fire in the belly on issues not related to the war on terror. She strongly defended a controversial plan to send German troops to Congo, where they are scheduled to monitor that country's parliamentary elections in June.

Perhaps most strikingly, Mrs. Merkel ripped into a widespread and disingenuous perspective among German political elites, who loudly call for thorny international crises to be referred to the United Nations, knowing that in all likelihood the United Nations will do nothing....

... And now, with Mrs. Merkel restoring good relations with Washington, the anti-American chief executives in Europe are fewer....(Thanks to

And her approval ratings are at a historic high.

And let's see. She was supposed to be paralyzed because she was not elected with a real majority. But she's leading. Who else does that remind me of? Stephen Harper? You're right, but there's someone else. Bush, in 2001. He was supposedly going to be ineffective, because he didn't have an electoral mandate. How wrong we were. He started leading from his first day in office, and began accomplishing things almost immediately.

The first month of the Bush Administration was, politically speaking, the high point of my life. From near-despair to bliss in a week or two! To see similar things happening in other countries is deeply satisfactory. (Is there any long-term hope for Germany? I remain mostly skeptical. But maybe I've moved from 100% skeptical to 98%.)

And of course there's a reason why Bush or Harper or Merkel can make bricks without straw. They are drawing upon traditional values and strengths that do not grow old or tired. The leftist programs of welfare and appeasement squander the social and moral capital built up in more virtuous times, and then slowly fizzle into torpor and nihilism.

I'm not likely to be less skeptical about Germany any time soon, because I suspect that the deep source of strength that underlies Western Civilization is faith in God, and I have heard of no signs of a resurgence of that in Germany.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

April 8, 2006

Tip, for earthquake season...

I encountered a good tip in a newspaper today. When circuits are busy, use text messaging...

...Burt Benrud, vice president of New Orleans' renowned Café du Monde who was on hand at the small business celebration, said he did not know to try text messaging when his family evacuated to Alabama, but luckily the teenagers in the group did.

"Everybody had a cell phone, but all of the circuits were busy," said Benrud. "It was the members of our fourth generation who figured out they could text message each other."

A text message takes up less room on the network and is more likely to get through,” said Joe Farren, Director of Public Affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, “The text message is the best way to communicate in an emergency....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

"nothing more pernicious when attained by bad measures"

"They ought to have reflected . . . that as there is nothing more desirable, or advantageous than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchased at the price of liberty."
      -- Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 19, 1774.

I just happened upon this quote in an old post, from 11/2002, wherein I noted that I had been blogging for one year...It's kind of cool that I can go back to old posts from then and find nothing I would disagree with now...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:03 PM

April 7, 2006

San Francisco Stairways #1--Mosaic Steps...

San Francisco is a hilly place, and one of its charms are the many stairway walks to be found here. At least 350. Some of them are exceedingly beautiful places, lined with charming gardens and old houses that are sometimes only accessible via the stairs. There's even a book on the subject, Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.

The various stairs in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood are utilitarian concrete affairs, fun to climb but not attractive. Except this one, at 16th Ave at the top of Moraga St, which has recently been transformed...

Mosaic-covered steps in SF
The tiles of sea creatures you see inset in the design all have names of different neighbors, or local businesses....Here's a link to the project.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:27 PM

April 6, 2006

Good 'n bad bombs...

BRIGGSDALE, Colorado (AP) -- Three pacifist nuns who were jailed for an October 2002 protest at a missile silo returned to the site, vowing to continue their nonviolent resistance to the nuclear armaments.

A helicopter circling overhead monitored the nuns' visit to the silo, about 26 miles northeast of Greeley. The visit drew about 30 people."...

So sisters, isn't time to give Lop Nur a turn? Or maybe take a trip to North Korea, or Siberia? There are lots of other nukes in the global pond.

What's that you say? Those are good nukes? Not tainted with the diabolical touch of America? Not contaminated by Democratic Imperialism? Of course. Of course. How stupid of me not to realize....

And I bet their jails are not so comfy....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

April 5, 2006

Mac/Intel stuff. Not of interest to most...

Lots of people are writing right now about Boot Camp, the Apple software that lets you install Windows XP on one of the new Intel Macs. It's awesome, but I don't have anything special to add to the discussion...

But I was most interested today in some stuff that probably won't affect me for a few years...multiple threads running on multi-core Intel processors!

Mac OS Rumors: A critical component of not only Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard," but also the Cocoa/Carbon for Windows package (more details in linked article above) will be new code co-developed with Intel that helps break up tasks into multiple threads -- therefore achieving considerably better efficiency on the next generation of multi-core Intel processors. The results we've seen on systems with up to 16 cores of Intel's next-generation "Conroe" desktop CPU architecture were amazing...

...The problem is, simply, getting all of those cores to have the maximum possible positive effect on the performance of each application. When simulating the realistic workloads of almost every kind of user, more than four cores rapidly lost any effect because there just weren't enough threads, efficiently enough balanced, to make good use of more CPU's.

Leopard changes this in every way that Apple and Intel have been able to devise. The techniques employed include tricks that both companies have been holding at ready for years, and some new things that have been developed in the past year or so to specifically address the way the "Core" (Yonah, Merom and Napa-Merom) and Codename 'Conroe' architectures work. Most of it goes beyond our technical competency; we're sure that the folks at Ars Technica will have a lot to say about this in the next few months as more details leak about the hardware and software involved in these enhancements...

Wild stuff. 16 cores. 32 cores. The mind reels. And it tends to support those who said that having Apple and Intel working together was at least as important for Intel as for Apple. Intel needs exciting new developments in computing, to give people a reason to buy the most expensive new chips. Commodity Wintel box makers don't have any interest in such stuff. Nor does Microsoft.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 PM

April 4, 2006

They carry medallions in their pockets...

One of the things that pisses me off most, when I think of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is all the phonies and liars who claimed to be "heartbroken," or "So disappointed in America," or "I'm so sad our military has lost its honor" or "this country is not what it used to be."

How do I know they are phonies and liars? Am I just making wild accusations, or do I have evidence? (OF COURSE I have evidence! I ALWAYS have evidence. You read Random J, you get the straight dope, with no BS.)

IF, if if if, those people did, as they claimed, care about America, and about the honor of our military, etc etc., then they would also be looking for the GOOD in America, and the GOOD in our military, and stories like this would recieve wide publicity. This is from The Faith of the American Soldier, by Stephen Mansfield, page 156:

....It worked. Both through the reforms that the military enacted to correct the scandals, and through the proactive ministries of the new chaplains, Abu Ghraib has been transformed. Chaplain Taylor explained that there have been no further abuses and that, in fact, the prison has become a model success story. Attendence at chapel services reaches into the hundreds. Now, many of the soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib with the 391st [Military Police Battalion, from Columbus, Ohio] carry medallions in their pockets that express their pride in the opportunity to live down the negative stigma of the prison. The slogan on the coin defines their newfound sense of mission. It says simply, "Restoring America's Honor."....

"Restoring America's Honor." Well, you could have predicted it. But they won't get any praise from media or leftiests or "pacifists", because this story doesn't fit the Party Line. And the harpies who gorged on Abu Ghraib don't want America's honor restored. They hate America. When Abu Ghraib hit the news, they swelled up to twice their size, and their eyes glowed, and they made little smacking noises with their lips (metaphorically speaking).

And, by the way, they were also liars and hypocrites when they claimed to feel sorry for the poor prisoners. At the same time the scandal was happening, hundreds of those prisoners were being killed or maimed by mortar attacks on the prison by terrorists. None of the sob-sisters ever mentioned that, or gave the slightest bit of criticism to the terrorists. They never do.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:07 PM

Sullivan, desperate arguments...

Andrew Sullivan has a strange bit of madness I just had to address. He writes:

One of the emerging memes on the social right is that you judge a society by its fertility rate.
Misleading. But that is indeed one of the factors we use in "judging" societies, because it seems to be very meaningful
...It's argued that Western Europe is a failure because its population is aging and will soon begin falling; ditto Russia and Japan. The implication is that modern secularism, with its encouragement of individual freedom, ignores the injunction to go forth and multiply, and is thereby doomed to the dustbin of history.
This is the OBVIOUS implication of what we are seeing. Let's see if Sullivan comes up with some actual arguments against this, rather than just waving it away with his hand...
...But check out this interesting graphic of reproduction rates. Look where the highest birth-rates are: Niger, Yemen, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Afghanistan, to name a few. A quick hands up: who wants to move there?
The argument is NOT about where one might want to live. And nobody denies that the highest birth-rates are found in poor and backward countries. But think for a moment about living somewhere where you don't see many children, and where most of those you do see have no idea what it's like to have siblings, cousins, uncles or aunts. That's what Italy and Spain are becoming like. Think of lonely old people, think of no youth movements of renewal and new beginnings and crazy optimism...I'm not sure that war-torn Afghanistan, full of poor but bright-eyed children, doesn't look better to me...I think I might rather chose to live there.

...At one end, high birth rates are an indication of social collapse and desperation:
High birth rates are associated with backwards societies, but that's not "social collapse."
...people are having kids in order to maximize their survival chances. Maybe there is some spiritual benefit to living in such dire need, but I fail to see a simple connection between high birth rates and social health.
The claim is NOT that living in dire need is spiritually beneficial, but that there may be spiritual pathologies associated with societies with birth rates below replacement. Pathologies associated with prosperity.
...In fact, declining birth-rates are almost always a sign of economic and social success, not failure, as we're seeing in China and India.
It's true that "declining birth-rates are almost always a sign of economic and social success," but that doesn't address the question of whether too much such success can ultimately destroy some societies. Or maybe all societies. And China has HORRIBLE demographic problems looming on its horizon.
... As long as the infrastructure exists for maintaining economic growth, the number of people in a given society is not that important an issue. Fewer may well be better.
Infrastructure? Huh? What? Infrastructure does not create economic growth, people do. Sullivan is writing economic nonsense. Germany, France and their neighbors currently have almost no economic growth. And this at a time when the world's economy as a whole is growing strongly. Their percentage of the world's GDP is shrinking. And no NEW products or industries are being created in Western Europe. (Can Sullivan POSSIBLY be this ignorant of economics? Not only does nfrastructure not bring growth, it doesn't bring stability--your state-of-the-art floppy disc factory turns into an economic negative in no time at all.
...I'd rather live in Germany than Kazakhstan, wouldn't you?
The comparison of Germany and Kazakhstan means nothing; Germany is coasting on the momentum of a past in which people worked hard, invested, had lots of children, and went to church. But arguably it is also now entering a death spiral, and has no future at all. I myself would rather live in India than Germany. India has a future, and is becoming more and more alive and exciting!
...Yes, there comes a point at which demographic imbalance with too many old people can strain a system.
Strain? You fool, all Western European countries are BANKRUPT! There is no possibility they can meet their un-funded pension and old-age liabilities, and even minor reform is now politically impossible.
...But this is a transitional problem, not a permanent predicament.
Transitional!! What madness. Transition to WHAT? What, PRECISELY, Mr Sullivan, is going to slow the downward trend?
....Wealthier societies with fewer people and continued growth are - or should be - a goal for most of us, not a threat.
Growth? What growth? Where is it going to come from? Your magical "infrastructure?"
...They help spread wealth more widely, will eventually ease environmental strain, and make for more comfortable living in a less crowded Western Europe or Japan.
No, they are already a drag on the world's economy, and there's nothing comfortable about a world of lonely old people growing ever poorer. And words cannot convey my contempt for that environmental argument. Maybe Sullivan should join with Pianka in hoping for airborn Ebola to kill billions!
...Numbers don't equal wealth or military power, given technology and the new brain-driven engines of economic growth.
No numbers don't equal it. But youth and growth and entrepreneurial energy and a focus on the future DO. And that's what Sullivan's "comfortable" societies don't have.
...Instead of bemoaning population decline, why not celebrate it?

Sullivan's predicament is patent. His only issue is Gay Marriage. However sincere and well-meaning he may be, in pursuit of it he has allied himself with people who seek to destroy traditional institutions, such as families, churches and community groups, because they wish to ATOMIZE people, in order to make them dependent on government, to further the advance of socialism. (Ironically, they have mostly forgotten what goal it is they pursue. They are no longer socialist revolutionaries, but the destructive meme lives on and on,)

Sullivan can neither ignore this issue (which condemns his crew starkly) nor does he dare try to make a rational case against it. He is waving it away with a flip of his hand. But the problem is not going to go away.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:30 AM

April 3, 2006

You are not "ready" to hear this...

...Something curious occurred a minute before Pianka began speaking. An official of the Academy approached a video camera operator at the front of the auditorium and engaged him in animated conversation. The camera operator did not look pleased as he pointed the lens of the big camera to the ceiling and slowly walked away.

This curious incident came to mind a few minutes later when Professor Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us. Because of many years of experience as a writer and editor, Pianka's strange introduction and the TV camera incident raised a red flag in my mind. Suddenly I forgot that I was a member of the Texas Academy of Science and chairman of its Environmental Science Section. Instead, I grabbed a notepad so I could take on the role of science reporter.....

So what, exactly, are we not ready to hear? Us in the "general public?" Hmmm?

You just might want to read the story and find out what our wise and good liberal elite scientists have in mind for us little people....

(Thanks to O Judd.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:34 AM

A slander with few parallels...

I haven't yet read Hugh Hewitt's new book Painting the Map Red, but Betsy Newmark has posted a quote that is right on target...

...The attempt to scare America into voting against Republicans because of the absurd charge that their followers want a "theocracy" may be the biggest electoral mistake of the past fifty years. It is simply impossible to persuade majorities of Americans that they and their neighbors want mullah-style government because they and theose neighbors oppose gay marriage or think that devout Catholics can make great great judges. The deep offense given to people of faith upon being charged with extremism and kinship with the Taliban and the Iranian mullahs is sinking deeper and deeper into the consciousness of the American electorate.

It is a slander with few parallels, and the rote denials of religious bigotry when confronted with the record can not undo the deserved reputation of the left, and especially leading pundits of the left, for religious bigotry....

I think he's correct in thinking that the accusation is incredibly stupid electorally. (It's so stupid as a reality that it's not even worth arguing with. The idea that the Religious Right, which includes Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, the few Jews who are still serious, and a variety of other flavors, could institute a "theocracy" is so ludicrous only a liberal could imagine it.)

But I'm sure it's "sinking deeper and deeper into the consciousness" of a lot of other people besides us that going to church on Sunday is considered, by our sophisticated neighbors, to be weird and old-fashioned. Unless it's to some "hollowed-out" mainstream denomination that has substituted liberalism for Christianity, and espouses "justice" and "peace" as a replacement for the Gospel.

Actually it's liberalism (Big Government Liberalism, not Classical Liberalism) that's old-fashioned. It gelled around 1974, and hasn't had a new idea since...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 AM

We are all cheek-by-jowl now...we are "juxtaposed"

Glenn Reynolds posted this, from one of his readers, Fred Butzen:

You write, "... you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one."

That is half correct. Large numbers of paleo-conservatives (e.g., W. F. Buckley) would be much happier with a Kissingeresque put-in-a-strongman-and-nail-down-the-lid strategy for the Middle East. They want no war at all.

What the paleos don't understand is that since 1989, the world has changed utterly. Societies that are in juxtaposition influence each other and, sooner or later, arrive at an equilibrium; with the advent of globalization and the Internet, all societies now are juxtaposed. Bush grasps what so many of his critics on the right miss: either we will make them more like us, or inevitably they will make us more like them.

Iraq is the first step on a long road to making them more like us. It may be too little, it may be too late; but it's a strategy, which is more than the isolationists of the left or right are offering...

Juxtaposed is the right word. Ignoring what goes on on the other side of the globe doesn't work any more. The world has become too small. We are all cheek-by-jowl now. It would be possible for some Mullah in Iran to read these words and e-mail a fatwah in my direction in a matter of a minute or two. (Sigh. I don't think anyone will ever take me that seriously.)

The world has changed, from what it was when I was young. And while it is obvious that liberals are hapless and clueless about it, the same can be said about a lot of conservatives. "Paleo-conservatives" is a good term. They have a mental picture of what is "normal," and all they want is to go back to that place.

Doesn't work any more. Normal is gone. What conservative principles and writings and traditions should be, is a toolkit for dealing with abnormal situations. Which is all we are going to get from here on out. "We have heard the mermaidens singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 AM

"Too soon"

Ed Driscol has a fascinating post on how the elites of Hollywood and Manhattan, who are eager to "bring up subjects" when it is something that Red-State American won't like, are very unhappy to see trailers of a movie about Flight 93.

"It's too soon," they say. Yeah, right. And it was "too late" to put pictures of the WTC on the news about a day after it happened.

What it's "too soon" for is reminding people that America is at war, and that the coastal elites have decided they are not part of this country, if it is actually going to care enough about itself to fight back. (Thanks to InstaPundit)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 AM

April 2, 2006

We are all on our last cruise...

...We sail in leaky bottoms and on great and perilous waters; and to take a cue from the dolorous old naval ballad, we have heard the mermaidens singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more. Old and young, we are all on our last cruise. If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for God's sake pass it round, and let us have a pipe before we go.

        -- Robert Louis Stevenson, from his essay
Crabbed Age and Youth.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:44 PM

Not like the cartoons...

John Allen has a very good piece on the Pope's first year...

....Thus the L'Unità cartoon showed Benedict XVI at the same window, saying, "Tonight, when you go home, I want you to give your children a spanking, and tell them that this spanking comes from the pope."

It perfectly crystallized the expectations many had of this allegedly draconian, Darth Vader figure. Many people expected that if Ratzinger were elected on a Tuesday, by Wednesday priests would be saying Mass in Latin with their backs to the people, and one would hear a great flushing sound across the Catholic world as all the dissidents and liberals were washed out of the system.

The most striking thing about Benedict's first year, therefore, is how relatively little of this sort of thing we've seen....
Posted by John Weidner at 2:04 PM

April 1, 2006

Notes from "The Decade Taste Forgot"

Remember these guys? La Revolution? The campesinos marching, the fall of El Presidente, the young men in berets seizing power, the mass executions, land-confiscations, the adulation of Western...

Oooops, sorry, that was some other revolution! I get them confused. But after all it was 30 years ago...
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
(Thanks to Mike Evangelist)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 PM

The raft of state...

From an article bout Secretary of State Rice's trip to England, 'Tactical Errors' Made In Iraq, Rice Concedes:

...But in response to a question about whether the administration had learned from its mistakes over the past three years, she said officials would be "brain-dead" if they did not recognize where they had erred.

"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure," Rice said. "But when you look back in history, what will be judged is, did you make the right strategic decisions."...

This is so right, so smart, that it makes my head spin to think that brain-dead lefties will probably seize on it as an admission of something being wrong.

  • Every big difficult undertaking will involve lots of mistakes.
  • Every war America has ever fought started with lots of mistakes.
  • Doing anything in this new millennium is likely to include mistakes, because we are all of us groping our way through a trackless and shifting landscape.
  • In almost anything you attempt, it is better to get the strategic decisions right, as opposed to the tactical ones. A drunk weaving his way down the right street to get home is better off than an intrepid hiker taking the wrong street.
  • In the long run, those who leap into problems and experiment and learn from failures are going to get farther than those masterminds who devise perfect plans to avoid all mistakes. To borrow a metaphor, the first group is like a raft that moves slowly and unglamorously. The second is like a ship that moves with speed. Until it hits a rock. Then it sinks.
Posted by John Weidner at 1:56 PM