December 31, 2006

Belloc on New Years...

Hillaire Belloc.
Hillaire Belloc

A New Year has this useful thing about it... it makes man remember and regret his follies and his sins. Never forget the great saying that when a man comes towards the end of the downward slope and sees before him the open gates of the marble tomb, he finds on either side of him two groups of companions. They talk to him continually and leave him no peace: on the right side his follies; on the left his sins. If we did not become familiar and conversant with these ultimate companions we should make very poor wayfaring with them at the end. And as, before the end, we lose all other friends and fellowships, let us at least be conversant with these and learn to know them each by name ...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

For Sunday, a little pome from about the year 800...

This life is naught but a struggle for good men.
The holy book hath sung it in your ears.
The son the father loves most tenderly
He chastens most: and so God proves his saints
By hard blows here, and recompense of joy hereafter.

So take it not to heart, my brothers,
This inconsistency of earthly things,
      The swirling eddies.
So was and so shall be this changing world,
And let none think that he is sure of joy.
He lies bedridden now, who coursed with stags
Over the ploughed lands: age was far away.
And this man tugging at his ancient tatters
To hide his shivering legs
Slept under purple once.
The eyes are dim and fogged with length of days,
That counted dancing atoms: the right hand
That swung the sword and brandished
      the stout spear
Is shaky now, and finds it hard enough
To carry to the mouth a piece of bread.
Beloved, let us love the lasting things
Of heaven, than the dying things of earth.
Here time brings change, and nothing
      canst thou see
But suffers alteration: there abides
One sole unchanging everlasting day...

For He that cast down raiseth up again,
He maketh sore and bindeth up,
He woundeth and his hands make whole.
Breaketh in shards and buildeth up again.
By day and night entreat in holy prayer
The kind Christ, that He keep you everywhere;
And if ye learn the things that please Him best,
Then let your hand do what the heart hath willed.
So Heaven itself shall be your shield and buckler,
And God's own hand protect and be your guide.
    -- Alcuin

Alcuin (died 804) was a noted churchman, scholar, and confidant of Charlemagne.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 AM

December 30, 2006

“He scaaaares me,”

Dean Barnett shares some of my frustration with a certain American irresolution and fuzzyness in the War on Terror in recent times. But, he also sees the other side of the question...

...But President Bush has his strengths. The weak-kneed among us, like the NewYork Times editorial board and the president’s father, never knew what to do with Saddam Hussein. George W. Bush did – kill him. At his best, Bush shows a focus and a harshness that scares the stuffing out of the rest of the world.

Our enemies were watching last night. I bet Bashir Assad was picturing his neck in that noose, knowing full well that George W. Bush’s ire would be something that John Kerry, Arlen Specter and any other sympathetic Senatorial dhimmis would be unable to save him from. Kim Jong Il and a host of loonies in Iran probably took notice as well. For them, the sad fact is that they remain alive only at the pleasure of George W. Bush. I doubt that thought gives them much comfort.

I’VE NEVER OFFERED THE FOLLOWING SPECULATION in print, primarily because I didn’t want to jinx things. But I think the main reason we haven’t had a repeat of 9/11 or something worse in over five years is because George W. Bush scares the s**t out of his enemies. When domestic liberals whine, “He scaaaares me,” they really mean it. The world’s bad people feel the same way. The American reprisals to a terror attack that took place under George W. Bush’s watch would likely be swift, brutal and disproportionate....

"Swift, brutal and disproportionate.." That describes our response to 9/11. And it was exactly the right thing to do. We didn't just pursue al Qaeda, we invaded and deconstructed TWO terror-supporting Muslim countries. One of them in the very heartland of Arab culture and history. There's not the slightest doubt that we freaked-out our enemies (and we got to fight a lot of al Qaeda thugs to boot). And that's what we are supposed to do. This is a WAR.

Our actions are supposed to be "swift, brutal and disproportionate..." In fact, this is traditional, and there's even a old-fashioned locution to refer to this concept. The term (and this is a very specialized and technical word; you Democrats and fake-pacifists will probably be in over your heads here) is: WINNING.

Many of you have probably been taught that war is a thing to be cherished and coddled, like an endangered species. Pacifists for instance. But war is very destructive, in fact it is harmful to children and other living things, and it is better to bring them to an end. Dean mentions in his piece several little-known techniques to get to the condition called "winning." Such as "focus," "harshness," and scaring the bejeezus out of terrorist animals and genocidal tyrants...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:03 PM

Anybody know this RSS stuff?

A company that's aggregating blog content wants to include Random Jottings. But they need an RSS feed that provides everything on each post, including HTML formatting.

A friend made this feed for me, but it doesn't include things like hyperlinks, blockquoting, italics, line breaks, etc. And we don't know how to do that.

Any experts out there?

Posted by John Weidner at 10:24 AM

Striking out on his own...

I've long enjoyed the posts by Peter Burnett at Brothers Judd blog, and I've quoted him from time to time. Now he has a blog of his own, Diversely We Sail...

...My goal is to combine serious political and social commentary of a conservtive flavour with what I hope will be light-hearted, literate and even literary insight into the quirky and befuddling cultural zeitgeist we middle-agers must pretend to understand in order to be noticed by our kids. Gigantic curses at the barbarian menaces of statism, rabid atheism and imperialist scientism will be mixed with incisive commentary on things like Britney's new carefree fashion trends, Dr. Phil's latest drivel and the charming conceit of the modern young that they have anything interesting to say. Who said the decline of Rome wasn't fun to watch?...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 AM

December 28, 2006

I'm all agog...

This article, Holland's Post-Secular Future, by Joshua Livestro (Thanks to Amy) is just fascinating. Even though you frequently read here about the decline of Europe, I'm also always hungy for any signs of renewal. I'd be thrilled if things turned around. I've blogged two or three possibilities over the years, but they've always seemed like too little, too late. Mere crumbs. But this looks like more than a crumb. Maybe a snack. (And of course I'm aware that connecting the general European decline with the decline of Christianity is just a hypothesis. Maybe it's a symptom, not a cause.)

....According to Bakas and Buwalda, God is back in Europe's most notoriously liberal country. Or rather: The Dutch are moving back to God. It seems an implausible hypothesis. After all, Europe was supposed to have entered the realm of post-Christianity, to use C.S. Lewis's term--a state of eternal unbelief from which there is no return. And yet, Bakas and Buwalda claim, the Dutch are turning back. Take the almost unnoticed reintroduction of crucifixes and other religious artifacts into the classrooms of Catholic schools throughout the country. Years of gradual but seemingly unstoppable secularization have given way to a reaffirmation of old religious identities. The change is also starting to affect the attitudes of pupils at these schools. In a recent newspaper interview, a head teacher at a Catholic secondary school in Rotterdam observed, "For years, pupils were embarrassed about attending Mass. Now, they volunteer to read poems or prayers, and the auditorium is packed."

There's also the remarkable critical and commercial success of a number of openly Christian writers. Holland's most prestigious literary prizes were awarded in 2005 to books dealing in a sympathetic way with Christian issues of faith and redemption. The Libris Literatuur Prize went to the Catholic author Willem Jan Otten for his Specht en zoon (Specht and son) while the AKO Literature Prize was awarded to Calvinist Jan Siebelink's Knielen op een bed violen (Kneeling on a Bed of Violets). Siebelink's novel sold nearly 350,000 copies in its first year, making it the single bestselling Dutch-language book of the past decade--apart, that is, from a new Bible translation published in 2004, which sold more than half a million copies (in a population of 16 million people).

The success in the Netherlands of the so-called Alpha Course program--a sort of Christianity 101 for beginners--is another case in point. The Alpha formula, first developed at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, aims to provide small groups of interested people with an introduction to Christianity through a series of meals-with-discussion evenings. Since its inception in 1997, 120,000 people have taken the Dutch version of the course. The number of related courses is growing by around one hundred a year. Prison Alpha, Business Alpha, Student Alpha, Youth Alpha, and more recently the Alpha Marriage Course: Collectively, they seem to have struck a chord in Holland's secular society. Jan Bakker, national coordinator of Alpha Holland, admits he is as surprised as anyone about the success of the program: "There are still those who laugh at Christianity. But there's a growing group, most of them young people, who are genuinely interested, for whom this is all completely new."

There's statistical evidence to back up the "new orthodoxy" hypothesis....

The article also has interesting stuff on Islam in the Netherlands....

....They're symbols of Dutch Islam's remarkable growth over the past 30 years, from less than 1 percent of the population in 1970 to 6 percent today. According to SCP predictions, that growth is set to continue to around 7.5 percent in 2020--a significant increase, to be sure, but nowhere near the apocalyptic figures predicted by those who fear Holland will become a majority Islamic country by the end of the 21st century. One reason it won't is that Islam, at least in its Dutch variant, is not a proselytizing faith. When asked about the importance of proselytizing, Dag volunteered that, on his list of priorities, trying to convert the indigenous Dutch population comes "just about last." Even the most optimistic estimates of Dutch Muslim organizations put the number of converts to Islam at no more than a few hundred a year. With immigration from Islamic countries grinding to a halt and birth rates among the Muslim community further approximating average Dutch birthrates with each new generation, it seems unlikely to say the least that visions of a caliphate in Holland will come to pass in this century--or the next, for that matter.

Since they don't seem to be interested in spreading the good news of Muhammad, the main priority of the Islamic communities in Holland will be to fight off the twin challenges of apathy and apostasy. Apathy is not yet a challenge in a community that defines Islam largely in cultural rather than religious terms. But once the third and fourth generations of offspring of the original immigrants start to replace the first generation, these cultural ties will start to lose some of their binding force. At the same time, it's far from clear that Dutch Islam will be able to keep religious liberalism at bay indefinitely. With government sponsorship--and the accompanying demands of gender neutrality--of university-based imam training courses about to become a reality, the day is not far off when the first feminist and gay imams will start preaching in mosques in Holland. There is no reason to assume Islam will be any better placed to deal with this liberal onslaught than mainstream Christianity was in the 1950s and '60s....

One of the things that's kept Christianity alive in America is that we've never had a state church. so the denominations are all in competition, and any that become slack or complacent are culled by a sort of "darwinian" pressure. something of a similar situation may grow in Europe as the state and "mainline" churches shrink and become irrelevant. And of course having a mosque built in your neighborhood tends to concentrate the mind too...Read the whole thing. The world is stranger than we think...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:21 PM

December 27, 2006

This sure stimulates my ire...

Here's a piece in the Washington Post by David Ignatius, about how our troops are spending Christmas. I thank him for giving America's heroes a little attention, but really, the mere idea of thanking a journalist for paying attention to our soldiers in wartime is INSANE. Have you ever looked at old magazines or newspapers from during WWII? Old copies of LIFE? They were stuffed with stories and pictures of our men and women in uniform. Or read a collection of Ernie Pyle's work? That's what Americans do.

And this particular bit from Ignatius' article is just SICK...

....This holiday season, America is struggling through a searing national debate about Iraq. The horror of the war feels immediate, even to people who've never been near Baghdad, but less so the humanity of the thousands of American soldiers who are serving there. That's part of the Iraq disconnect: The war dominates our political life, but the men and women in the midst of it often are nearly invisible. We see them in thumbnail photos in group obituaries but not as real, living people.

If you read soldiers' blogs, and I've looked at several dozen over the past few days, you see a recurring anger that the media aren't telling their story. So I'll let a few of the military bloggers speak for themselves....
[Thanks to Penraker]

Let's take that quote again, with a bit of venting....

....This holiday season, America is struggling through a searing national debate about Iraq. [Cliché—debate is no more intense now than six months ago. And mainly that's how the press wants to FRAME the story. THEY want to undermine America, and they project this onto the country and claim there's a "searing debate."] The horror of the war feels immediate, [Because that's all that gets reported] even to people who've never been near Baghdad, but less so the humanity of the thousands of American soldiers who are serving there. [And you are going to tell us WHY this is? Or is this something that "just happens," like the weather?] That's part of the Iraq disconnect: The war dominates our political life, but the men and women in the midst of it often are nearly invisible. [They are invisible because you foul TRAITORS in the "news" media have deliberately made it them invisible.] We see them in thumbnail photos in group obituaries but not as real, living people. [Oooooh. Speak for yourself, toad. If I ran the circus, you'd see them as real people, all right. Because the whole slimy lot of you fake-journalists would be rounded up at gunpoint and EMBEDDED. And if you did a good job cleaning latrines, you might, after six months or a year be allowed to go out with the troops and do some reporting. You don't know what reporting is, but our average soldier or Marine is more intelligent and clear-thinking than you, and I'm sure they could teach you.]

If you read soldiers' blogs, and I've looked at several dozen over the past few days, you see a recurring anger that the media aren't telling their story. [You noticed this only 3 or 4 years after I did. I'm SO impressed, chomsky.] So I'll let a few of the military bloggers speak for themselves. [They've been speaking for themselves, and bloggers have been listening, for YEARS now. You are late to the party, you condescending jackass. You should get down on your knees and thank these people. They go out daily with guns looking for fights with crazed killers�monsters who would love to kill YOU. Before you start throwing your elite-media crumbs to the peasants, you might think a bit about a guy named Danny Pearl.]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:02 PM

December 26, 2006

"And now we're wondering if we didn't create a monster..."

An interesting piece about climatologists having some second thoughts, So what happened at AGU last week?

....I wasn't so much interested in the details of climate science at this year's AGU. What I was (and am) interested in is seeing the conference as a whole. My interest in AGU has strayed from the hardrock science, moving into something more to do with feelings and hunches. That's right, feelings. Hunches. Intuition. The squishy, soft underbelly of the human mind; the part we want to ignore in pursuing geophysical data analysis. What I want to know is attitude. More than the state of the science, I now want to know about the state of the scientists....

...What I see is something that I am having a hard time labeling, but that I might call either a "hangover" or a "sophomore slump" or "buyers remorse." None fit perfectly, but perhaps the combination does. I speak for (my interpretation) of the collective: {We tried for years – decades – to get them to listen to us about climate change. To do that we had to ramp up our rhetoric. We had to figure out ways to tone down our natural skepticism (we are scientists, after all) in order to put on a united face. We knew it would mean pushing the science harder than it should be. We knew it would mean allowing the boundary-pushers on the "it's happening" side free reign while stifling the boundary-pushers on the other side. But knowing the science, we knew the stakes to humanity were high and that the opposition to the truth would be fierce, so we knew we had to dig in. But now they are listening. Now they do believe us. Now they say they're ready to take action. And now we're wondering if we didn't create a monster. We're wondering if they realize how uncertain our projections of future climate are. We wonder if we've oversold the science. We're wondering what happened to our community, that individuals caveat even the most minor questionings of barely-proven climate change evidence, lest they be tagged as "skeptics." We're wondering if we've let our alarm at the problem trickle to the public sphere, missing all the caveats in translation that we have internalized. And we're wondering if we’ve let some of our scientists take the science too far, promise too much knowledge, and promote more certainty in ourselves than is warranted.....

...I realize that many of you will disagree with the notion that we are overplaying our hand, or are not giving full voice to our uncertainties. I'm not sure the answer to this question myself. But I write all this because I sense a sea change in attitudes amongst climsci people that I know as good scientists without agendas. These are solid scientists, and some told me in no uncertain terms that we are not giving full voice to uncertainties; others implied as much. Therein lies the tension. Where we go from here is anybody's guess, but I tend to agree with the Oracle in the second Matrix movie: we already know the answer to that question, our task is to understand why we are going to do what we are going to do....(Thanks to Rand)
Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 PM

A Christmas essay (for Boxing Day, a little late)

PowerLine pointed me to this fine essay, Christmas in Christendom, by the late Dr. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, originally printed in 1967...

  Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.


A note of haste sounds clearly in the staggering text of St. Luke: the shepherds run to the new-born God as would an army of men, upon the breaking out of peace after a long war, run to their hearths and to their own.

The early Church was in a hurry to celebrate Christmas. Pagan antiquity had become bankrupt spiritually and intellectually by the time that God deigned to become Man. Philosophy had failed. The handful of sages who had made Greek episteme their own and who actualized the lofty moral precepts of Stoicism lived out their lives in a quiet desperation, convinced that human existence is little more than the lot of a condemned prisoner who waits in his cell upon the call of the executioner. A cold wind full of despair whistles through Marcus Aurelius’ contention that “it is possible to be a good man, even in a palace.” the final irony of classical antiquity consisted in its having wrought civilization out of barbarism as it chiseled palaces out of stone quarries: it had to suffer stoically, as does a man a burden or a secret tragedy, the very glory that it created.

So it was a very tired and sad world that hurried to the Good News of Bethlehem: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Observers from another world would presume that the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, and their promise of a final victory over the tomb, would have fixed the eyes of the men of this time upon a distant but guaranteed salvation — and blinded them, consequently, to the world. And this did happen, of course: the flight of the monks to the Egyptian desert, the severe and often savage asceticism of the early Fathers, the joy of the martyrs as they elbowed aside their fellow Christians in the colosseum and then embraced the lions in the service of a final crown — all bespoke a contempt for this world by men whose faith was so palpable that things visible were but a pale screen between them and an Eternity they already experienced in the flesh.

But Christianity — formed as is its Cross of a cluster of tensions that are never resolved — while permitting and even encouraging this flight from the world, simultaneously exalted Creation as the work of God, and therefore judged it to be very good indeed, as did the Father when He rested on the seventh day. Although the “world” might be very evil (the terminology is Pauline), “Creation” was sacred. And it was Christmas that made possible a better yet, that concentrated within itself — this distinction...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM

Cool tool...

My collegiate son is studying Classical Greek, and showed me this web site, The Unbound Bible. It lets you compare bible passages in an astonishing range of versions and languages. You could, for instance, see side-by-side the same verse in Armenian, Amharic, Africaans and Aramaic....

Sample from Unbound Bible

Posted by John Weidner at 5:01 PM

December 24, 2006

Not an end in itself...

Nowadays it is sometimes held, though wrongly, that freedom is an end in itself, that each human being is free when he makes use of freedom as he wishes, and that this must be the aim in the lives of individuals and societies. In reality, freedom is a great gift only when we know how to use it consciously for everything that is our true good.
    — John Paul II
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 PM

Back to the ridiculous for a moment...

Hugh writes:

....What the paper's [the Boston Globe] staff doesn't seem to understand is the incredible lift they are giving the Romney campaign. There is no surer signal to the GOP base of a candidate's conservative principles, competence and electability than an early and sustained attempt to damage him by the MSM [mainstream media]. One of the reasons that Senator McCain is viewed with such distrust by the Republican base is the fawning coverage he receives from the Beltway-Manahttan media elites. One of the reasons Rudy Giuliani has credibility with base despite his views on abortions rights etc is that the MSM clearly fears him. Negative MSM coverage of Republican candidates is like a divining stick pointing towards those Republicans the Democratic Party fears the most.....

If McCain is nominated I'll vote for him, but still consider him puke-worthy. For this and other reasons. I can imagine he's enough of an egotistical fool to imagine that the Gasping Media will still fawn on him once he's running against a Democrat. If that situation happens one looks forward with a certain schadenfreude to his bewilderment when they turn on him like the animals they are.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:48 PM

Merry Christmas to all who serve on Freedom's Wall...

Thank you, from the Weidners...

(These pictures are from Army Times Frontline Photos, Christmas 2004)

Capt. Clace Perzel rides a military motorcycle side-car dressed as Santa Claus, Ghazni province, Afghanistan
Capt. Clace Perzel, left, rides a military motorcycle side-car dressed as Santa Claus after distributing Christmas gifts at his base in Ghazni province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. Christmas 2004. Musadeq Sadeq / AP Photo

Chief Warrant Officer Mike Marcotte greets his daughter as he returns from Iraq
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Marcotte, of South Kingstown, R.I., greets his daughter Abigale, 3, and his wife Marybeth, in North Kingstown, R.I., as he returns from Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, on Saturday. Christmas 2004. Joe Giblin / AP Photo

Game of dominos, Bagdhad, Christmas 2004
Army Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Gailliard, left, of Charlestown, S.C., leans over Staff Sgt. Donnie James, of Fayetteville, N.C., during a game of dominoes with Pfc. Vorasane Phothisane, of New Iberia, La., in Baghdad, on Sunday. Christmas 2004. Jacob Silberberg / AP Photo

Posted by John Weidner at 11:33 AM

The most significant Christmas Eve in American history...

This is a piece by Stanley Weintraub, from the December 23, 2004 LA Times. He is the author of General Washington's Christmas Farewell: A Mount Vernon Homecoming, 1783 (Thanks, as so often, to Orrin Judd.)

We don't associate George Washington with Christmas Eve, or Christmas itself, yet the most significant Christmas Eve in American history occurred in 1783, when Gen. Washington, then 52, headed home to Mount Vernon after nine years at war — and turned his back on ruling the states like a king.

The American Revolution effectively ended at Yorktown in October 1781, but in the fall of 1783 the defeated British still held a few positions as bargaining chips for negotiating the peace. Although a treaty acknowledging American independence had been signed, ships carrying the documents were still at sea when Washington gathered up his remaining troops in November at West Point and headed for New York City, to take over as the last Redcoats embarked for Britain.

Equally important to Washington was his desire to have Christmas dinner with Martha, to bring yuletide gifts to his wife and his step-grandchildren (he had no children of his own) and to return to being "a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac … under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life."

That his imagery recalled the biblical book of 1 Kings is an irony he may not have recognized. He was renouncing the idea raised by his admiring countrymen — who had long lived under monarchs, the common form of rule everywhere — that George III be replaced by their own George I.

"Had he lived in days of idolatry," a colonist had written in 1777, "he would have been worshiped like a god." Abigail Adams wrote of Washington's "Majestik fabrick." To one poet he was "Our Hero, Guardian, Father, Friend!" To another he was "First of Men." And, by 1778, a Pennsylvania German almanac had referred to him as "Father of his Country."...

A brigadier general wrote to Washington, echoing sentiments in the press, that the colonies should merge as a monarchy, with him as king. Washington responded: "I must view this with abhorrence and reprehend [it] with severity."

Philadelphia artist Benjamin West, painting in London on the commission of the king, told George III that despite Washington's popularity, the general chose to return to his farm in Virginia. The king was astonished. If Washington does that, said His Majesty, he will be the greatest man in the world.

In December 1783, the general made good his word.

Crossing the Hudson from New York on Dec. 4, Washington began his journey home and away from public life. He rode through villages and towns in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Americans watched expectantly for his arrival, banquets and balls were planned in his honor along the way. When less formal crowds gathered, he stood atop the wagon carrying his belongings and thanked his countrymen, even those he knew had been less than loyal to the American cause, for supporting the new nation.

At Annapolis, Md., where the weak and disunited Confederation Congress was meeting, Washington planned to showcase his retreat from public duty and public life. He would return the official 1775 parchment appointing him commanding general. The occasion was to be a piece of theater to emphasize the nation's civil foundations.

The adulation along the way delayed his arrival in Annapolis to Dec. 22. There he penned his parting address for delivery the next afternoon — the only valedictory he would ever give in person. (The "Farewell Address" of 1796, written largely by Alexander Hamilton to mark the end of his second term as president, was never spoken. It was published in a newspaper.)

On the evening of the 22nd, Washington was honored once more at a banquet and ball, this one punctuated by 13 patriotic toasts and ceremonial salutes by cannon. Late that night, he returned to his lodgings and reviewed his speech. Apparently no longer sure that he would or could bar the door to further public service, he deleted two phrases suggesting finality: "an affectionate and final farewell" and "ultimate leave."

The address the next day at the Maryland State House was a solemn occassion. "The glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command," Thomas Mifflin, president of the Confederation Congress, told Washington, "it will continue to animate [the] remotest ages. You have defended the standard of liberty in this new world."

Up and down the former colonies, newspapers would report the remarkable events. "Here we must let fall the scene," the New Hampshire Gazette closed its report. "Few tragidies ever drew more tears."

It would not be Washington's final act, as he had hoped — although with less and less assurance as he neared home. From retirement, he watched the nation drift toward disunity, and then answered the call to lead first the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and then, by unanimous vote of the first electoral college, the republic.

After serving two terms and with the nation now set on course, he would retire, this time for good, from the public stage.

But none of that was known on Dec. 24, 1783, when Washington's party crossed the Potomac to Virginia. Winter twilight came early. Up the slope from the river, Mount Vernon, with its three shuttered doors in the white west front and its many green-shuttered windows, now candlelit, beckoned.

The next day, as a heavy snowfall locked the plantation in snow and ice, Washington at long last celebrated a festive and unmilitary holiday. There he confronted, he later wrote, just one challenge: an "Attack of Christmas Pyes."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

December 23, 2006

It's not too late!

Posted by John Weidner at 2:20 PM

"from those who had laid the foundation for all things to come"

We often refer to Orwell's Newspeak, which is the concept of destroying words or their meanings so that people will not be able to form certain concepts. He pictured it, in the book 1984, as the open policy of a tyranny, and we tend to imagine that it doesn't happen here and now. But in fact the destruction of language is commonly seen, and I just stumbled on an example in a very good book Charlene and I are reading.

The author is writing about the difference between authority and power. And I realized when I read it that the word authority, in its real meaning, has almost been obliterated from common discourse. (I myself, as a Catholic with a love of history, have something of a feel for the word, but would have been hard-pressed to use it as a sharp weapon. And if I do so now I will have to define it, or risk being misunderstood)

...St. Augustine long ago remarked, "If you ask me what time is, I can't tell you; if you don't ask me, then I know." Much the same thing turned out to be true regarding my own knowledge of authority. When I first took up this subject, I knew what authority was. Once, however, I started really working on it, I discovered I did not know. Furthermore, few who write on the subject bother to define the word. And, to make matters worse, many writers use "power" and "authority" interchangeably, as though they were synonymous or as though authority were a variant of power, i.e., legitimate power as opposed to illegitimate power.

Hannah Arendt is one of the few writers to raise and answer the question of what authority means. As she points out, while the Greeks had no specific word for or concept of authority, the Romans had a well-developed notion of it which was closely linked to their understanding of religion and tradition. In fact, religion, tradition and authority formed what Arendt calls the "Roman trinity".

The religious element in this trinity was the founding of Rome itself, understood not simply as a political but even more as a primordial religious event for which the gods were responsible. Authority, which is rooted in the Latin words auctoritas and augere meaning authorship and augmentation, was directly connected to and dependent upon this founding event. Since the gods had authored or instigated the creation of Rome, it was imperative that their wishes regarding its well-being be consulted at all times. Those invested with authority were thought to have the ability to augment or interpret the will of the Roman gods regarding all decisions having a bearing on the life of the city.

This authority was derivative or representational, since those in authority did not have that authority in their own right but only insofar as they represented the founding fathers who, because they had established the city in accordance with the will of the gods, were both eyewitnesses to and participants in that event and the first, therefore, to be invested by the gods with the authority to carry out their will. In the words of Arendt,
Those endowed with authority were the elders, the Senate or the patres, who had obtained it by descent and by transmission (tradition) from those who had laid the foundation for all things to come, the ancestors, whom the Romans therefore called the maiores. The authority of the living was always a derivative, depending upon the auctores imperii Romani conditoresque, as Pliny puts it, upon the authority of the founders who no longer were among the living.

The book is The Church and the Culture War, by Joyce A. Little. It is not about the actual battles of our current culture war, but about the theological and philosophical issues beneath it. (I'll have to add it to my list of great books I initially avoided because their titles mislead me. Such as Death Comes for the Archbishop or Bleak House!) I give the book five stars. Alas, it is out-of-print. It is Catholic, but would it be of interest to anyone who is trying to think clearly about the ongoing attacks on our civilization.

By the way, the word Newspeak itself is under attack by our contemporary creators of Newspeak. I once read an egregious left-wing propagandist who wrote that Newspeak is a characteristic of fascism, and gave as an example a Bush Administration statement something like, "the goal of the war is peace." This was supposedly like the Newspeak definition "war is peace." But of course it is not like that at all. The Bush statement is logically clear, and so if you don't like it you can argue against it. You can criticize it. It does not blur or confuse concepts.

Whereas using the term Newspeak in this way does blur the concept of Newspeak. In fact it tends to blur it towards meaning "any statement leftists don't like." This is similar to the way the word "hate-mongering" is used to mean "criticizing leftists." Rush Limbaugh is accused of hate-mongering not because he demands anyone be lynched or tarred-and-feathered, but because he uses argument and ridicule against his opponents....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:14 PM

File under: If only everybody could just get along...

It's probably just an example of the mechanical and clich�d writing of the journalist so-called, but this headline seems to capture the liberal mind perfectly...

Tiger that attacked keeper at San Francisco Zoo had no history of violence (Associated Press, December 23, 2006)
(Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:37 AM

December 22, 2006

Tyranny is the opposite of authority...

Tyranny is the opposite of authority. For authority simply means right; and nothing is authoritative except when somebody has a right to do, and there is right in doing. . . . Moreover, a man can only have authority by admitting something better than himself; and the bully does not get his claim from anybody but himself.

It is not a question, therefore, of there being authority, and then tyranny, which is too much authority; for tyranny is no authority. Tyranny means too little authority; for though, of course, an individual may use wrongly the power that may go with it, he is in that act disloyal to the law of right, which should be his own authority.
    --GK Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 7:00 PM

"Compassionate antigovernment conservatives"

There's an interesting piece in Newsweek by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson...

....As antigovernment conservatives seek to purify the Republican Party, it is reasonable to ask if the purest among them are conservatives at all. The combination of disdain for government, a reflexive preference for markets and an unbalanced emphasis on individual choice is usually called libertarianism. The old conservatives had some concerns about that creed, which Russell Kirk called "an ideology of universal selfishness." Conservatives have generally taught that the health of society is determined by the health of institutions: families, neighborhoods, schools, congregations. Unfettered individualism can loosen those bonds, while government can act to strengthen them. By this standard, good public policies—from incentives to charitable giving, to imposing minimal standards on inner-city schools—are not apostasy; they are a thoroughly orthodox, conservative commitment to the common good.

Campaigning on the size of government in 2008, while opponents talk about health care, education and poverty, will seem, and be, procedural, small-minded, cold and uninspired. The moral stakes are even higher. What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing. What achievement would it contribute to racial healing and the unity of our country? No achievement at all. Anti-government conservatism turns out to be a strange kind of idealism—an idealism that strangles mercy.

But there is another Republican Party—what might be called the party of the governors. It is the party of Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who has improved the educational performance of minority students and responded effectively to natural disasters. It is the party of Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who mandated basic health insurance while giving subsidies to low-income people. Neither of these men embrace big government; both show convincing outrage at wasteful spending. But they have also succeeded in making government work in essential government roles—not a small thing in a post-Katrina world....

I think Gerson is both right and wrong. (There are a number of wrong things I'm not getting into here, but do feel free to comment...) For instance, "What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare?" I'd say, A LOT, since government itself causes many of the problems, and because economic growth is the first essential, if people are going to escape from the trap of the "underclass."

But there is also a lot that government needs to do, since these are people enmeshed in complex situations that government can't avoid. (Certain people I could think of ought to spend some time sitting among the hapless creatures in the waiting area of an inner-city hospital emergency room before they make pronouncements about "getting government off people's backs.") Only government can chose between competing groups and visions—that's never going to end. And government will always be responsible for law, for order, for safety, for education and health care... (Regular RJ readers are saying "wait a minute, we could offer some suggestions here." I'm getting to that.)

However, in every one of these government areas there are improvements or better methods that antigovernment conservatives could offer. But to offer them effectively they have to care. They have to get involved in the problems to have any impact. They need to be—dare I say it—compassionate. There, I said it. And if you are a conservative who cares, and you become say, a state governor, well you have all these tools—governmental tools— to hand, and there are these horrid problems....So you tend to morph into a "compassionate conservative."

But that's not exactly what's really needed. What we need I think are compassionate antigovernment conservatives.

But that's not exactly it either. I think the word antigovernment has a bad flavor. After all, government is us. This is a democracy. If I have a problem with government, I can e-mail my supervisor (San Francisco's aldermen are called supervisors, due to our odd situation of being both a county and a city) and get prompt results. He wants my vote. So government doesn't seem to be the alien monster that anti-government conservatives portray. And yet, the most common sort of situation that arises will pit me and our supervisor against something that feels rather like a strangling alien monster, the bureaucracy. In which fight it is quite possible that we will lose. I could tell you stories.

Perhaps what I'd like to see are compassionate anti-bureaucracy conservatives. And it often feels to me like many conservatives are groping in that direction. Yet we rarely seem to be able to make it explicit. I think that's what Bush's "Ownership Society" is about. For instance, privatizing Social Security is not "getting rid of government," it's getting rid of a bureaucracy. And getting rid of dependence on that bureaucracy. Same with school choice, or HSA's, or favoring 401-k's over traditional pension plans. These are the right ways to move, but I could just weep with frustration because this anti-bureaucracy idea is rarely made explicit—it should be a crusade! And the crusade should be about saving souls! Not in a religious sense, but about saving people's character and spirit from being destroyed by dependence and lack of responsibility. (It's also a religious issue, since the desire to be cocooned from life's dangers, and loss of faith seem to be intertwined.)

Maybe I'm just weird. This stuff seems so obvious to me, but it's not obvious to a smart guy like Gerson....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:11 AM

December 21, 2006

"Talmudic atavism"

Mark Steyn, reviewing a book by David Pryce-Jones, Betrayal: France, Arabs and the Jews. Steyn is worth reading, as always. The lesson of history as revealed in our time is the same lesson as of old: We cannot by our own efforts disentangle ourselves from our sins. And, as of old, the Jews are our litmus paper...

....but then spools backwards across the centuries to build a case for France's present predicament as a monument to the vanity and strategic stupidity of its diplomatic class. There is a lot of anti-Semitism on display -- not the offhand anti-Semitism of your average languid English toff of similar vintage, but something more corrosive and obsessive. There is, in that sense, a direct line between those French emissaries in Russia and Germany blaming Bolshevism and Nazism on "Talmudic atavism," and Daniel Bernard, M. Chirac's ambassador to the Court of St. James's, announcing airily at a London dinner party in 2001 that the problems of the world can be laid at the door of "that shitty little country" Israel. From "Talmudic atavism" to "shitty little country" may mark a deterioration in Gallic rhetorical élan but at least its prejudices remain inviolable.

If you had vaguely assumed that the now routine comparisons of Israelis to Nazis derived from an antipathy to Ariel Sharon or the post-1967 transformation of the Zionist Entity from plucky embattled underdog to all-conquering military behemoth, it's sobering to be reminded that the French were doing the Israelis-are-the-new-Nazis shtick within 10 minutes of the end of the Second World War. Jews, wrote the consul general René Neuville in a lengthy cable from Jerusalem in 1947, are "racist through and through . . . quite as much as their German persecutors." The dispatches of Pierre Landy, French consul in Haifa, rely heavily on "the Israeli Gestapo" and similar formulations. In public, the political class was usually more circumspect, though not always. President de Gaulle famously raged at a press conference that the Jews were "an elite people, self-assured and domineering" with "a burning ambition for conquest." In the ensuing controversy, M. le Président assured the Chief Rabbi that he'd meant it as a compliment....

"...within 10 minutes of the end of the Second World War." I wasn't aware of that, although the history of French anti-Semitism is a long and dishonorable one. The name Dreyfus springs to mind. And the French tendency to counter its European enemies by allying with the Ottomans is a very ancient one.

It is a bitter thing to reflect upon the way I grew up with the idea that anti-semitism was something from the ugly past, no longer known among enlightened folk. And now we see it everywhere. Usually in the thinly-disguised form of "anti-Zionism" or extreme sympathy with the so-called Palestinians. And many Jews are as blind today as they were in the 1930's.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

December 20, 2006

A great American says goodbye...

Washington Post, Dec. 15 — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld bade farewell to the Pentagon on Friday with a combative valedictory speech in which he warned against hoping for “graceful exits” from Iraq and said it would be wrong to regard the lack of new attacks on American soil as a sign that the nation is safe from terrorism.

“Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, standing at a lectern with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at his side, “but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative as well.”

It was a clear parting shot at those considering a withdrawal from war that would define his legacy and perhaps that of the president.

“A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power,” Mr. Rumsfeld said in a buoyant but sometimes emotional speech....

Obvious stuff, but in this decadent age it must be said again and again. Weakness, or the perception of it, is provocative--of bloody wars and terrorism. The war criminals of our time are the appeasers and fake-pacifists. And the world-weary moderns whose civilizational-self-loathing and nihilism prevents us from defending our civilization promptly when trouble arises, thus causing small problems to exponentiate, and rivers of blood to be shed.

Donald Rumsfeld is one of the great men of our age, and we are very lucky to have had him—both as the youngest-ever Secretary of Defense, and the Oldest ever. Both times with a very young and lively mind.

And he's right to warn against "graceful exits," which is squeamish-talk for cut-and-run. We are the good guys in the War on Terror, we are the cops of this planet. We are fighting evil, we are fighting crime, and the only moral position is to pursue victory relentlessly. To do less is to betray billions of people for whom we are a beacon of hope, and who will be the main victims of the terrorist animals...

We are in the position of Christian knights of old, whose duty was to protect the weak from barbarians.

SecDef Donald Rumsfeld serves Christmas Dinner to troops, 12-2004

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 PM

I forgot to mention it until (probably) too late...

...but this would make a GREAT Christmas gift for anybody interested in American history...I give it five stars!

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It's about Lincoln and the three men who were the front-runners for the Presidential nomination of the new Republican party in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. They and almost everybody else considered Lincoln a bumpkin and a minor figure.

But Lincoln was a far shrewder politician than they, and astonished the country by winning the nomination and the presidency. And then proceeded to put all three into his cabinet. All of them, especially Seward, expected to be the powers behind the weak man on the throne. All were quickly disabused, and discovered in Lincoln a commanding personality who won their affection and welded them into a winning team...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:45 PM

There are those people who believe that little things matter....

I liked this bit, which was written by a commenter at Amy Welborn's blog. You don't have to be interested in the religious aspect of this to appreciate the philosophical divide among people. I myself am among those who think the little things are crucial, and if I could live life as I wished...well, I'd have to live at least 10,000 years to have enough time to get all the details properly savored and squared away...

Amy writes:
"The recognition - the profound recognition - that the little things exist at the service of the greater—the life-changing presence of Jesus Christ in the world..."
This is a good insight; one of the central divides that I'm finding as I grow older is between those people who believe that little things matter and those who believe that they are...well, just little things....

...There is a wisdom in the small things that is hidden from the big minds, almost an inability to see the importance of the little stuff unless we can directly see the big changes linked to it...and even then only admitting to it with grumbling. The joy of the world as God created it is that not only do the little things point to and affect the big things, but even the littlest thing has a value that the Lord does not miss in his count of all things. Only a God-made-infant could arrange a world in which the most common of all people is offered, each day, the chance to participate in the salvation of the world by the careful love of so many little things.

The small things are important because, at the very least, we seem to have a God who is deeply amused at making the little things matter...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

December 18, 2006

a moonbat among moonbats...

An economist friend has sent me some thoughts on Pinochet, responding to the comment thread here. I'm keenly grateful—thanks!

First of all Greg Palast is a moonbat among moonbats. He used to write for the UK’s Guardian and was a lefty even by their standards. His most recent claim to fame is arguing that Kerry won Ohio because if you count 100% of the Ohio ballots that were disallowed as votes for Kerry, he would have squeaked out a win. ‘Nuf said.

His comments on Pinochet are a combination of omissions, selective dates for comparisons and various other distortions. Notice that one economic term Palast never uses is “inflation.” When Pinochet took power from Allende in 1973 inflation was between 120 and 200 percent per year. The economy was in collapse. He cites the low unemployment rate of 4.3% in 1973 when Pinochet came in compared with 22% 10 years later. First of all it is easy to have low unemployment when everyone works for the government, but beyond that, his comparison date, 1983, was chosen to correspond to an international recession/debt crisis (not unlike the Asian crisis 10 years ago) in which Chile was entangled. No doubt they were excessively vulnerable (too much domestic debt denominated in foreign currencies) and they had to do things differently in the future. But they learned and did do a better job of controlling international debt. As a prime example, they came through that late nineties debt crisis which impacted Brazil and especially nailed Argentina in good shape.

The closest analogy I can think of to a Pinochet following an Allende in Chile was Reagan following Carter in the US. And we have the advantage of an established institution, the Federal Reserve Bank that, if properly run, can do much of the heavy lifting. But even then it was a struggle getting Carter’s 18% inflation down to the middle single digits in 10 years. As you may recall things were pretty ugly here in the early 80s. So imagine what it was like to tackle inflation of 150% plus the rest of a screwed up list of socialist initiatives. Pinochet didn’t get it all right all the time and he certainly broke quite a few eggs to make his omelet, but as Frank Perdue used to say (to mix a metaphor) “it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”...
...Meanwhile, back on the chicken farm, Pinochet instituted a land reform package that was enormously successful. Allende had wanted to use the land confiscated earlier from large landowners (about one-half Chile’s arable land) to start a Soviet style large state-farm system. Pinochet used the land to establish family farms and solidify property rights. To me property rights are the bedrock of a market economy.

It’s probably true he moved too fast on banking reform and that led to some of the hot money inflows that contributed to the vulnerability in 1983. But, as I said, he didn’t always get it right the first time, but banking reform had to be tackled sooner or later for Chile to enter the global economy. And indeed it has entered.

Like all dictators Pinochet overstayed his “welcome” and was either kicked out or persuaded to resign (I don’t recall the details). Nevertheless, the subsequent democratically elected governments seem to have kept most of his reforms. If there is a more robust, freer and faster growing country in SA I don’t know what it is. As for the Palast claim that poverty doubled under Pinochet I find that hard to believe. Maybe they did what welfare agencies do in this country when they begin to run low on poor people, just change the definition and create some more of them.

Finally, there has been a debate for years over whether you can have economic freedom without political freedom (think Singapore). Milton Friedman thought it was economic freedom that was the prerequisite and that political freedom would eventually follow. Seems to have worked in Chile. It also seems to be working in Eastern Europe and much of the Former Soviet Union. Palast should have been with me in the mid-nineties when I was in Eastern Europe accompanying a friend working on a library project. The number of books on scientific socialism that were being swept out the doors was amazing. They were stacked high in corridors awaiting disposal – not for doctrinal reasons, but for disinterest and irrelevance.
Greg! It’s never worked. It will never work
A Soviet style large state-farm system! Oh yeah, that's "compassion for the poor" all right...and I well remember the bloodbath it took for Reagan to wring-out inflation. And Thatcher too. You could probably cherry-pick statistics from back then and "prove" that they were disasterous leaders. But in fact the result was superb economic growth, and we are still cruising on the momentum that Reagan started.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 PM

December 17, 2006

Cowards who won't debate...

I think Jimmy Carter is the perfect exemplar of contemporary American leftism.

He writes a blatantly pro-terrorist book, claims it's meant to "provoke debate," claims that schools with Jewish students won't invite him to appear...and then, when he gets an invitation to appear AND debate at a little place called Brandeis—perhaps you've head of it?—he refuses to go because he won't debate with someone—a little guy named Dershowitz, perhaps you've heard of him?—who is too "ignorant" to be worth talking to.

Right. OK. "'That ain't my style,' said Casey. ..."

It reminds me of those Democrat politicians back in 2002 solemnly intoning: "We need to have a national debate on Iraq!" As if no one was talking about the subject, and they were brave souls daring to mention the unmentionable.

So, if they had really wanted a debate, what would they have done? What does one do? You present your position, with all its attendant facts and logic. You challenge people to show you where you are wrong, or to present better ideas. You. Start. A. Debate. Which is exactly what they didn't want. And didn't do. They didn't want a debate, just as Carter doesn't want a debate.

And ever since then we've been hearing lines like, "We've never had a national debate on Iraq." What pure BS.

I am very sensitive to this because, in my much much smaller sphere I've been trying to debate lefties about Iraq and a variety of other subjects, and I've never succeeded. Since November 2001! And I know there are at least a few chomskys paying attention, 'cause if I make a mistake they appear and cry "Gotcha!" and puff themselves up as if they had delivered a crushing blow to us "Rethuglicans." Imbiciles. Moral cowards. Babies.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:40 PM


Too busy to blog...we're having a little Christmas party today. I'll post this Sunday item a bit early...


Adeste Fideles
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte
Regem angelorum
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Cantet nunc io
Chorus angelorum
Cantet nunc aula caelestium
Gloria, gloria
In excelsis Deo
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Ergo qui natus
Die hodierna
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factus
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

December 16, 2006

good question...

Victor Davis Hansen...

....Does running for President allow a candidate to freelance at a time of war by talking to our enemies and triangulating against the president? Why is Gov. Richardson talking to North Koreans, or Sen. Kerry trying to talk to the Iranians, or Sen. Bayh to the Syrians? Wouldn’t that be like a Tom DeLay talking to Milosevic to undermine Clinton during the Kosovo bombing? Or Trent Lott dealing with the Taliban as Clinton sent cruise missiles against them?

Perhaps in the interest of fairness, readers can cite past examples where Republican Senators and Presidential candidates went abroad, undercut Democratic foreign policy at a time of war, and made statements that were welcomed by our enemies. I know Senators of both parties talked to Saddam in 1989-90 and often nearly empathized with him, but we were not yet at war with him.

Nota bene: Senator Nelson just returned from talking in Mr. Assad’s Syria—the serial murderer of Lebanese reformers, the clearinghouse for Hezbollah, the refuge for the killers of Americans in Iraq—with assurances that Syria wishes to be a stabilizing factor in the region.

Sen. Kerry in Cairo just praised Hosni Mubarak, lauding him by chastising President Bush’s failure to listen to this voice of reason and his criticisms of the United States. And why not listen to such advice, since this autocrat has been the recipient of billions in American aid, while squelching all reform for some thirty years in the bargain?...

Well, the anti-American vote is very important! That is, it's important if you are running in a Democrat primary. Or you can run as "moderate;" then you just need to not be seen as pro-American. What animals. And the really ugly irony is that these frauds will justify their hatred of our country by claiming that we........ support dictators!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:58 PM

December 15, 2006

emergent design...

This made me laugh. It's from a blog, the (fake) Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Here is Steve explaining why the long-rumored Apple iPhone has not appeared....

...Anyhoo, once we've got the ad campaign, then we get to work on the product. But we don't start with the actual technology. We start with design. Again, different. Jon Ive will bring me, say, fifteen iPhone prototypes. These are all beautiful phones, better than all of the phones on the market today. But you know what? For Apple they're not good enough. Not even close. I take them into my meditation room and just look at them. I go into a kind of trance. And here's the key part: I don't think about them. I don't think about anything. Not so easy to do, to think about nothing. Try it and see. But after years of practice I can empty my head and get into this non-thinking state in about fifteen minutes. I'll spend a few hours just sitting there, non-thinking about the fifteen prototypes, and gradually, very gradually, I begin to become aware that one is emerging from the others as the best of the bunch. When that happens I'm done. (And I'm usually so exhausted that I just go home and sleep.)

I'll send the "emergent design," as we call it, back to Jon Ive and tell him to start all over, making a hundred or so new prototypes that branch off from this one. From those hundred they will winnow down the pool, relying on their own meetings (which can get quite heated, believe me) plus some contributions from consultants that we bring in to check out things like the feng shui, emotional balance, interior and exterior harmony, and so forth. When they've got another batch of fifteen "winners" they bring them to me, and I return to the meditation room once again and empty my mind and choose the next "emergent" design....
(Here's a link on Ive. Cool guy.)
Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 AM

December 14, 2006

We were right, they were—and are—wrong...

...Wrong I dare say it? AGAIN! There, I said it.

[Washington Post] ....It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right...

Actually, all the stuff about Pinochet has been obvious and well known since like, forever. What's interesting to me is that presumably lots of leftists are going to read this stuff—it's in the Washington Post—but none of them will start to...think.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 AM

December 13, 2006

It being the shortest day and all...

  by John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
    The sun is spent, and now his flasks
    Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
        The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
    For I am every dead thing,
   In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
       For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
   I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
    Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
       Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
   Were I a man, that I were one
   I needs must know; I should prefer,
      If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
   At this time to the Goat is run
   To fetch new lust, and give it you,
       Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is
Posted by John Weidner at 4:43 PM

Killing a strawman is like killing a zombie...

Dafydd has a good post, where he lights into Dean Barnett for saying that Iraq doesn't have "an Islamic Jeffersonian democracy..." Aside from the points that nobody claimed we going to have any such thing, and the the USA itself is not a "Jeffersonian Democracy", he writes...

....It's just about the biggest straw-man argument lobbed against Bush's Iraq policy, used only by right-wingers and libertarians who want to heap scorn upon the very idea that non-Europeans could possibly have a functioning democracy... and I sincerely believe it to be racist in its very essence....

....It's violent and bloody; but so was Greece during their civil war from 1946 to 1949, during which they finally crushed the Communist insurgency. The Britannica says that more than 50,000 combatants were killed during those three years, plus many tens of thousands of non-combatants who got in the way -- and that may not even count those who died in the first phase, 1942-1944....That is, more Greeks were butchered during that war than all but the most hysterical estimates of Iraqis killed since the liberation. Yet nobody today says that Greeks are incapable of governing as a democracy.....

....hus, Dean Barnett's sarcasm notwithstanding, the Iraq democracy is faring far better than the pessimists (like Barnett) could have imagined. Iraq is not even in a civil war; yet Barnett has the bizarre idea that a functioning democracy somehow doesn't count if there are a lot of deaths... but only when we're talking about non-Europeans. When countries whose citizens are of European extraction experience years of violent bloodshed, we still allow them to be called democracies -- whether it's Greece, the United States, or Northern Ireland.

I suspect that Dean is not even aware of his double standard; he's a nice guy, with his head well-screwed-on anent other topics. But he just reacts viscerally (via the reptilian part of his brain) to the very idea of democracy in an Arab country.....

I think that's true. And there's something else at work I think. A sort of decadent idea that violence and slaughter and war are things of the past that no one has to steel themselves for any longer. That they are things we don't have to tough through. It may turn out that democracy isn't going to work in Iraq, but that's for the Iraqis to settle, and it hasn't failed until they give up on it.

And also, the idea that our campaign in Iraq has "failed" because of casualties is just stupid. The WoT has averaged 620 US military deaths a year. But our military loses over 500 a year just from accidents! And around 300 a year from suicide and disease. Our current casualties are light. Especially compared to past wars!

(And NO, I am not going to insert the usual boilerplate line: "of course every death is a tragedy blah blah blah.") That's become an absurd bit of political correctness, with anyone who advocates vigorous prosecution of the War on Terror feeling the need to grovel and snivel about how much they care about casualties. Well, we do care, but it's totally beside the point.

Every major decision, political, public, private, involves accepting casualties or the risk of them. As voters and Americans, it is our job to make decisions that are going have the side-effect of killing people. About 40,000 Americans die every year in automobile accidents. (Do Cindy Sheehan and the fake-pacifists weep over that slaughter? Of course not, not a tear.) If I vote for bonds for a new highway, I'm voting to kill a certain number of people in exchange for benefits to the community as a whole. That's life. We should be very careful and responsible about such things, but also we should be tough! That's what life is about. We are all going to die. (Tomorrow, on a cosmic time-scale.) Get tough and get serious!

I'm really thinking that all this sniveling about casualties in Iraq is because we don't want to face our mortality, and life's grim responsibilities. Wake up, world. Every week 10,000 pickaninnies die in Darfur. And you are claiming the a hundred dead in Baghdad is unendurable? What nonsense.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:48 PM

December 12, 2006


Thomas Sowell:

....The issue before the High Court is whether local authorities have the legal right to make students' race a factor in deciding which school to assign them to attend.

The parent of a white student is complaining because he is not allowed to go to the school near where he lives but is instead being assigned to a different school far away, in order to create the kind of racial mix of students the local authorities are seeking, in the name of "diversity."

Those of us old enough to remember the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education will see a painful irony now, since that case began because a black girl was not allowed to go to a school near where she lived but was instead assigned to a different school far away, because of the prevailing racial dogmas of that day.

The racial dogmas have changed since 1954 but they are still dogmas. And flesh-and-blood children are still being sacrificed on the altar to those dogmas....

You can really learn a lot about the sick reality of this by focusing on that one word, "diversity."

It goes back to the Bakke Case, where Justice Powell's decision opined that while schools could not use racial quotas, they could use diversity as a factor in admissions. Back then the word "diversity" had a diversity of meanings. It might have meant religious, economic or political diversity. It might have meant a diversity of skills, or talents or backgrounds. But our lefty pals immediately seized upon the word, and, with extreme dishonesty, changed its meaning to racial diversity. In fact, to racial quotas.

And that's what it means to this day. If your school has a "diversity coordinator," that means a person who attempts to implement the correct racial quotas. (And who decides what is "correct?" Left-wing activists, with no input from people like you and me.)

And none of this is intended to help minorities. It is all about self-appointed "elites" getting to bully people, and feel superior, and destroy the local communities which stand between people and their would-be masters in the state. And above all, the diversity gauleiters love it that we don't get a vote...

Posted by John Weidner at 4:33 PM

December 11, 2006

Good guys in the machine.....

I really liked this post by Glenn Reynolds...

A GUY WHO WORKS AT PFIZER wrote me about my book -- nothing really relevant here -- but in my reply to him I wrote:
BTW, we love Pfizer in my house because your exotic anti-arrhythmic drug Tikosyn has changed my wife's life. It's genuinely a miracle drug for her.
He emailed back:
I will pass your thanks along to the guys in the lab. You have no idea how much this kind of message matters to them --and to all of us. We KNOW there's a pony in there somewhere but some days it's not easy to remember that.

It's kind of sad that such a small email means so much, but I suppose that these guys get a lot more criticism than praise, despite the miracles they produce. But it occurs to me that -- while so-called "Big Pharma" may not be perfect -- drug companies have done a lot more to make my life better than their critics have. Maybe someone should point that out more often.
UPDATE: Related thoughts from TigerHawk.

How sick I get of leftist hate-mongering, such as the ritualistic portrayal of big oil or pharmaceutical or defense companies as "greedy" and evil and corrupt. That stuff is just stupid shit, and the people who come out with such blather are living in lies. (It is of course possible to make reasoned criticisms, with evidence and logic. But those are few and far between on the Rive Gauche.)

Those companies are all just collections of people, who by and large are trying to do a good job and leave the world a better place. Their profits, averaged over time, are reasonable, and comparable to those of, say, hippie save-the-earth-and-pat-ourselves-on-the-back companies like Ben and Jerry's or your local organic-food supermarket. (Actually, the whole idea of "profits" as the left sees them is a delusion--Peter Drucker explained this long ago. Read and learn.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:38 AM

December 10, 2006

You can skip this book note, unless... happen to be a history/religion nerd like me, in which case you might find Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham totally thrilling. You really don't even need to be interested in early Christianity to enjoy learning a lot of stuff about how things were done in the ancient world. That, for instance, Greek and Roman historians thought that the highest expression of their craft was to be what we would call oral historians, artfully arranging the testimony of those who had seen what happened....or even better, what they had seen with their own eyes. And how they would often heap scorn on historians who only used written records!

But if you know a little about how scholars have long viewed the evolution of the Gospels and early Christian writings, then this book will be an eye-opener. Bauckham points out that, while all the specific conclusions of Form Criticism have been discredited, we are still totally stuck in the form critic's general schema that the Gospels percolated up like folk-tales or "collective memory" out of communities of early Christians, and were shaped by the various needs of those groups. Groups who were not really much interested in recounting what actually happened.

I won't try to summarize the author's arguments, but he makes a convincing case that, in fact, eyewitnesses were treasured as repositories of the facts of Jesus' life, and that the four Gospels were either written by eyewitnesses, or taken directly from their stories. And also that certain eyewitnesses were not named in Mark, which was written first, but were mentioned by name in the later books, because they were still alive when Mark wrote, and could be put in danger. Such as Bartimaeus, or a certain chap who cut off another feller's ear.

Personally I just love delving into the mucky details of how things work, and what happens behind the scenes. What makes it all tick. I would love this kinda stuff even if I were an atheist...

[As I've mentioned before, if you are about to buy that $6k flat-panel TV you've been dreaming about, click through to with one of my little ads and then spend, and help buy Tiny Tim Weidner a new pair of crutches ;-) ]

Posted by John Weidner at 4:53 PM

December 9, 2006

"Don't mince matters...Give it to them good and strong"

For Sunday, a bit of one of the all-time great conservative essays, Isaiah's Job (here's the whole thing) by Albert J. Nock...

...I referred him to the story of the prophet Isaiah....I shall paraphrase the story in our common speech since it has to be pieced out from various sources. . .

The prophet's career began at the end of King Uzziah's reign, say about 740 B.C. This reign was uncommonly long, almost half a century, and apparently prosperous. It was one of those prosperous reigns, however like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington where at the end the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash.

In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are,'' He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you,'' He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.''

Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job in fact, he had asked for it but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so, if the enterprise was to be a failure from the start, was there any sense in starting it?

"Ah,'' the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it''....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:19 AM

It's good to have an authoritative answer on what it means...

The report of the Iraq Surrender Group, that is...

...In his weekly radio broadcast, Bush said the bipartisan group's report presented a straightforward picture of the "grave situation we face in Iraq." He said he was pleased the panel supported his goal of an Iraq that can govern, sustain and defend itself, even though that will take time. And he said he was glad the bipartisan panel did not suggest a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"The group declared that such a withdrawal would `almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence' and lead to `a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization and a threat to the global economy,"' Bush said, quoting the report, which was issued Thursday.

"The report went on to say, `If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return,"' Bush noted....[Link. Thanks to Orrin]

As Dean Barnett recently pointed out, the only time a "bi-partisan committee" is useful is when there is a consensus on what needs to be done, for which politicians need cover. Military base-closings are a good example. Everybody knew we had far too many bases, but no politician dared agree to cutting the one in his district. So the bi-partisan committee makes the choices, and every politician "puts up a fight to save Fort Comanche," and then accepts the inevitable.

If there is no consensus, then the results of a committee are going to be mush. Pure mush. Just like the 9/11 commission...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

December 8, 2006

A "strong woman" who really was strong...

Jeane Kirkpatrick has died. When you hear the silly line about Hillary Clinton is a "strong woman," (quick, list her bedrock beliefs!) compare her to Kirkpatrick. I don't have time to write, but this is from the AEI's web page:

AEI senior fellow Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who joined the Institute in 1978, died yesterday. As a young political scientist at Georgetown University, Kirkpatrick wrote the first major study of the role of women in modern politics, Political Woman, which was published in 1974. Her work on the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which was formed in the aftermath of the Democratic Party's tumultuous 1968 convention and changed the way party delegates were chosen, led to Dismantling the Parties: Reflections on Party Reform and Party Decomposition, which AEI published in 1978.

Yet it was an essay written for Commentary magazine in 1979, "Dictatorships and Double Standards" (later expanded into a full-length book), that launched her into the political limelight. In the article, Kirkpatrick chronicled the failures of the Carter administration's foreign policy and argued for a clearer understanding of the American national interest. Her essay matched Ronald Reagan's instincts and convictions, and when he became president, he appointed her to represent the United States at the United Nations. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was a member of the president's cabinet and the National Security Council. The United States has lost a great patriot and champion of freedom, and AEI mourns our beloved colleague...

Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 AM

First as tragedy, then as farce, then as Diane Sawyer....

Via Kathy Shaidle, this, from a great annual column by Marvin Olasky on some of the worst from our "journalists."

...Children are starving in North Korea because of a real dictator, but ABC's Diane Sawyer, reporting from a school there on Oct. 19, said, "It is a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school. Ask them about their country, and they can't say enough." The clip showed a North Korean girl saying, in English, "We are the happiest children in the world."

Later, Sawyer said to the class: "You know 'The Sound of Music'?" Children's voices chorused, "Yes." Sawyer then sang with the class: "Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden son." Anchor Charles Gibson intoned, "A fascinating glimpse of North Korea."...

Un. Be. Leivable. How long? How long have fatuous western leftists been traveling to communist hell-holes to be shown the "model collective farm" or that "special" school or community where all the peasants or workers smile for the visitors? Can we say since somewhere in the neighborhood of 1917?

And it STILL GOES ON! The same stupid shit still goes on, despite being mugged by reality a thousand times. Dimwitskis STILL go to special collective farms where pretty plump-cheeked peasant girls smile for western cameras. (You think I'm kidding, right? Link.) They STILL aid mass-murdering dictators while telling themselves they are promoting "peace" and goodwill among nations.

And stupider yet, they still persist in thinking that a place like N Korea is a nation. And that one can influence it by interactions with "the people." It's not a nation of course, it's a slave-state owned by a regime. And one of the reasons we should be really grateful for President Bush, is that he has updated the 'Westphalian System" to recognize this fact. Part of the Bush Doctrine is that sovereignty is dependent on democratic legitimacy. This is desperately important, because the old system has been hijacked by despots and bandit-gangs who shelter their enormities under our normal tendency to allow nations to decide their own destinies.

And invariably get support from self-loathing westerners. (There's an Islamic terrorist version of the happy collective farm, by the way. The western journalist is kidnapped, then released unharmed a few weeks later, to report on how warm and loving and non-individualist the captors were.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:36 AM

December 7, 2006

Suck-up to dictators, throw trouble-making Jews under the bus...

That's what the Iraq Surrender Group is all about. I'm too busy tired and pissed to write about it--Hugh Hewitt is worth reading.

The far right and the left both like this thing, so I spit upon it. And I think I hate "Blue-blazer Republicans" more than I hate the chomskies.

Friend of Israel emblem

* UPDATE: Dafydd has a lot of good thoughts. [Part one. Part two.] Worth reading. Short version: The dicta were written by the Democrats, but the holdings (ie: the actual recommendations) were written by the Republicans of the group...

* Thinking about Mike's comment, I suspect that the Dems needed a paper defeat. Remember the old Vietnam line, "Let's declare victory and leave?" The Dems want to declare defeat and stay! They don't want the political hot-potato of cut-and-run, they just need something to give to their drooling fake-pacifist supporters. Hopefully this will satisfy the peaceniks, and they'll now let the grown-ups get on with the War on Terror.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 AM

Happy birthday, Rob!

December 7th is actually a happy day for the Weidners. Our oldest son was born on this day, 21 years ago. (After a drive across town through a howling rainstorm at 2 in the morning!)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:36 AM

For The Glorious 7th Of December...

From Strategypage, how the headlines might read if today's fake-journalists were covering WWII. (Thanks to Rand)

5, Not 2, Sunk at Pearl Harbor

Victims' Families: Pearl Rescue Efforts "Disgraceful"

"Writing Off" Philippines, Sources Say

$500,000 from Manila Bigwigs

The Chicago Tribune did actually print this story. Fortunately, the Japanese didn't see it. Tribune owner Robert McCormick was sternly told never to let this happen again, and it never did.

Critics Charge "Stunt" To Help Dems in '42 Elections

Military Experts Agree This Is Where We'll Land....
Catholic Bishops Condemn Secret "Manhattan Project"

Monty to Be Fired in SHAEF Meltdown
British papers which did report, inaccurately, tensions between Ike and Monty, were stepped on hard by the British government.

Experts: Suicide Tactics May Be War-Winner – Fleet Demoralized

Bond Drive Collapses After Controversy

B-29 Crews Laugh, Take Photos as Thousands of Children Die

Sources Say Hiroshima Strike Had No Military Purpose
Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

December 6, 2006

More than awesome...

NewScientistSpace: It is a feat millions of times more impressive than finding a needle in a haystack. The new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted about a dozen spacecraft on the Martian surface and, incredibly, taken pictures of such sharpness that scientists have been able to identify individual rocks that were first photographed by the Viking landers in 1976.

The new series of pictures released late on Monday show both of the Viking landers, never spotted from orbit before, as well as their nearby heat shields and backshells. These are the top and bottom covers of the capsules in which the rovers decended through the Martian atmosphere to land...

You can see a Viking parachute still lying where it fell 30 years ago!

Thanks to Alan Sullivan...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:44 PM

More lies to help the other side...(Or, Sweden down the Memory Hole)

From PowerLine:

The top headline on Yahoo News reads: "Gates Says U.S. Losing Iraq War." Here is the screen shot; click to enlarge:

Only that's not what Gates said. The Associated Press story that Yahoo News links to carries the milder headline, "Gates says U.S. is not winning Iraq war." And if you read the story, you find that what Gates actually said is that "he believes the United States is neither winning nor losing, 'at this point.'"

The "not winning" theme is likely to dominate news coverage; the New York Times headlines, "At Hearing, Gates Says U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq." Here, too, if you keep reading you find that Gates said "the United States is not losing the war either."...

Question: does the Old media want us to lose the Iraq Campaign?

Short answer: Yes. But they imagine losing will be like losing was in Vietnam. That is, a big moment of triumph for Democrats and for the NYT, with all those millions who get murdered and imprisoned safely off-stage, where the American people can't see them.

(Bear with me my brethren for covering ground I've been over before, but I'm right in the middle of this nootziness. I'm confronted with it every day. I'm in a city where 83% of the population thought that John Kerry—poster boy of 70's fossilization—was a good choice for President! I've got to vent a bit.)

To the Left, every war is Vietnam. And I'm not talking about a metaphor or something. More like a dementia. They really believe it. Remember how two of the most splendid lightning-victories in our history—the overthrow of the Taliban and the 3-week blitzkrieg through Iraq—were both labeled as quagmires! Within mere days!

It's lunacy, and also part of a larger lunacy—the derangement involved in trying to preserve a world-view that gelled around 1973. Preserve it even though the world has in fact changed drastically, and that world-view no longer corresponds with reality. Mark Steyn caught the outlook perfectly, as the idea that everything is going to become like Sweden. Younger people may find this hard to grasp, but trust me, I was there. It was a commonplace in the 60's and 70's that the Swedes, and other Euro-socialists, had figured it all out, and it was only a matter of time before us primitivo Americans would shed our coarse old ideas and move Swedenwards, as "progressive" types already had.

And we humans always want to display our inner selves in our outward appearance. Back then the emblem was to drive a Volvo or a Saab (plus guilt-free sex, wearing clogs and eating Blix).

But funny thing, the Symbolic Volvo has been traded in for a symbolic Prius. Yet the change has not been publicly remarked upon, at least not that I've heard. No Leftist admits to dumping Sweden down the Memory Hole, sort of like the memory of an old girl-friend from ones college days. Sweden has obviously failed as a model to emulate, but nobody's talking about it. That has to be extracting a psychological toll. It is massive denial.

What does Jane Liberal think, as she drives around in the tired rusty Volvo station wagon she can't afford to trade in for a Prius? I can't even imagine what she thinks, I doubt it's thinking at all. Just crazy anger, and BUSH is to blame!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

December 5, 2006

This is what our Leftists support...

J Post: A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Just Swords of Islam issued a warning to Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip over the weekend that they must wear the hijab or face being targeted by the group's members.

In pamphlets distributed in various parts of the Gaza Strip, the group also claimed responsibility for attacks on 12 Internet cafes over the past few days.

The warning was directed primarily against female students in a number of universities and colleges who do not cover their heads in line with Islamic tradition.

The group said its followers last week threw acid at the face of a young woman who was dressed "immodestly" in the center of Gaza City. They also destroyed a car belonging to a young man who was playing his radio tape too loudly.

Addressing female students, the group said: "We will have no mercy on any woman who violates the traditions of Islam and who also hang out in Internet cafes." (Thanks to Tim Blair)

When you see our lefty lack-wits wearing kaffiyas, this is where the path they are on is headed. They won't admit it to themselves, but it's true. They have had ten thousand opportunities to choose between Palestinian thuggery and Israeli openness and tolerance and democracy. And they always go with the worst. They always go for anti-Semitism. It's no accident, and they aren't going to change now. (Here's a good link)

And we won't see any of our professional "feminists," or "human rights" organizations denouncing this stuff. (It's not just mental rigidity. If you are a card-carrying "feminist," there's a lot of loot involved. Organizations and politicians usually show that they care about women not by caring about women, but by hiring a certified "feminist." If you say nice things about Israel or criticize Palestinian murderers you will be tossed off the gravy train.)

Leftists are not going to turn aside from their path, because they have no brakes. There's no institution, no built-in safety mechanism that can call a halt. Newman noted this 150 years ago, in battling against liberal religion. No brakes. It's the same with "liberalism" [in its modern, not classical sense] in general. And libertarianism. (And we sure see Newman vindicated now, looking at today's Anglican gay/female/divorced bishops. A Moslem is next, I bet you.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

December 3, 2006


Orrin, on comparisons of the accomplisments of George W Bush and Ronald Reagan...

....We of a certain age can recall when even the Right had turned on the Gipper for meeting with Gorbachev, raising taxes and losing the Senate, while the Left had Iran-Contra to brandish about. But, as with Reagan then, W has already accomplished so much that irrespective of the final two years of his presidency he'll eventually rank with the great or near great, not the failures. Even setting aside foreign affairs -- where both the emerging special relationship with India and the liberalization of the Middle East will rank as historic achievements -- Mr. Bush has on the credit side of the ledger: multiple tax cuts; HSAs; the vouchers and anti-Darwinist measures in NCLB; the Faith-Based Initiative; abortion and bio-engineering limitations; civil service reforms and competitive-sourcing of federal jobs; retirement reforms; commencing the deconstruction of the 20th Century military; economic growth in every year of his presidency (though he, like Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior owes that mostly to RWR); two major appointments that could positively influence the country for years (Chief Justice Roberts, who has the potential to be a conservative Earl Warren, and the deflation hawk Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke); and more I'm likely forgetting off the top of my head.

The Left and far Right don't hate guys like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush because they're ineffective, but precisely because they are so successful in enacting measures that their opponents (and putative allies) abhor. W, thanks mostly to a Republican House and Senate, was able to get more done than Reagan was and will, as a result, rank even higher one day....

I'd say this list is about right. There are things I'm worried about at present. Mostly I'm worried right now about the appearance of an administration that's run out of steam. But even if Bush sits on his hands for the next two years, he'll still be viewed by history as a transformative president.

There's a larger lens you can use to look at almost everything Bush has done. We are entering a new era. The Industrial Age is over, and all sorts of ideas and institutions associated with it are brittle, rigid, and they are cracking and crumbling. And Bush has, both in real and symbolic ways, been helping us to shed the old skin. Think of him scuppering Kyoto, the ABM Treaty, ICC, Arafat. And updating Westphalia, and openly saying we will defend Taiwan. And at least proposing to privatize Social Security. He's been rather brutally scraping off all sorts of stupid 20th Century cruft. It's quite proper that leftists should hate him, because their entire mental landscape is a desert of failed 20th Century hogwash.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:31 PM

"Beyond, we dare not look..."


Our fathers all were poor,
Poorer our fathers' fathers;
Beyond, we dare not look.
We, the sons, keep store
Of tarnished gold that gathers
Around us from the night,
Record it in this book
That, when the line is drawn,
Credit and creditor gone,
Column and figure flown,
Will open into light.

Archaic fevers shake
Our healthy flesh and blood
Plumped in the passing day
And fed with pleasant food.
The fathers' anger and ache
Will not, will not away
And leave the living alone,
But on our careless brows
Faintly their furrows engrave
Like veinings in a stone,
Breathe in the sunny house
Nightmare of blackened bone,
Cellar and choking cave.

Panics and furies fly
Through our unhurried veins,
Heavenly lights and rains
Purify heart and eye,
Past agonies purify
And lay the sullen dust.
The angers will not away.
We hold our fathers' trust,
Wrong, riches, sorrow and all
Until they topple and fall,
And fallen let in the day.
Edwin Muir
Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 AM

December 2, 2006

Quote doo joor...

John Podhoretz, on the Baker Report...

....But then, that's Baker for you. Give him a problem and he'll tell you your best hope of solving it can be found in sucking up to an Arab dictator....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:59 AM

Leftists, this is YOUR Abu Ghraib...

Captain Ed notes:

Almost from the first days of this blog, I have noted the continuing scandal of the United Nations peacekeeping efforts and their chronic sexual abuse of female refugees, many of them young girls. Despite over two years of these stories, the UN still has done nothing to purge itself of the disgusting practices of sexual exploitation and extortion. The BBC reports today that yet another peacekeeping mission has turned itself into a pimping expedition:

10.000 headlines have tarred American forces with the scandal of Abu Ghraib (without of course making much note of how the problem was already being corrected when it became public, and that it was obviously not typical of our troops.)

Well, all you leftists and Tranzis and "Democrats," this is YOUR Abu Ghraib. YOUR crime. YOU are doing it. You aid it, you abet it, and you COVER IT UP. YOU are doing this.

And it's chronic, ongoing, and is neither being widely reported nor corrected. And the people in charge never pay the price, never go to prison, never lose their jobs.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

December 1, 2006

Meanwhile, while we've been feeling safe and lucky...

....Our friends and allies in Israel are bearing the weight of murderous attacks by terrorist filth...

Renata reports...

No kids!!!
Until last year, during disengagement - where the stress made me burst up in tears - I've had cried only once since I started working as a journalist, nine (!) years ago. I remember October 1998. I was a police affairs correspondent for "O Povo" newspaper and between a crime and another I was asked to help the newsroom and cover a little party at the Cancer Hospital in Rio to celebrate children's day. Many actors and celebs got there to hang out with the kids and try to make their (maybe last?) days better.

Got there pissed off as I always prefered the "action". Slums, crime, police, riots, death and that kind of "nice'(ugh!) things. Once I got into the auditorium... I felt sick... Much sicker that when I used to be when seeing dead people assassinated and even mutilated in Rio's slums. Sick to see so many young children suffering so much. The hair falling, the signs of the tumor risked in some of their faces and heads. Many of them receveing infusions. Wheel chairs. And they were so happy because of the party. So many smiles... I hated myself for a moment. I hated complaining about my life, problems and challenges. Felt guilty. Felt a stupid. Thanked God for my life. I guess it's been the first time I did it. And I cried. My eyes flew and I couldn't stop crying.
... ... ...

Nine years later, that sensation came back again yesterday. I travelled to Sderot, the Israeli Southern city bombed daily by Qassam missiles thrown from the Gaza Strip. Many wounded and one dead this week. I prepared a report on life these days, mainly kid's life. Oh God... Why kids? Why the hell do I have to handle with them? Got to the conclusion I'm a very strong woman, but kids are the only thing that can disarm me. I prefer wars, crimes, blood or anything else... But please don't put a kid suffering beside me. I can faint, I guess....

Sderot is our front line too, though we are too blind to see it. The terrorists warm up on the Jews, and then hit the gentiles. Most importantly, they learn what they can get away with! We teach them. Ma'alot taught them that they could get away with Beslan.

We and Israel together should have said NO to the very first terror attacks. Our position should have been that this in not allowable, even if we have to kill a hundred for every one of us that dies. We were stupid and weak and "pacifist," and the result is that hundreds of thousands of people have died, or will die. Maybe millions. This is called "peace." Ain't it wonderful.

Don't miss her post, if only for her pictures of heaps and piles of rusting terrorist rockets that have fallen on this little settlement...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:01 PM

So this means war, right?

ABC News: WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2006 — U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran...

Well, one-sided war. They get to kill us, we get to offer them bribes to pretend to not be making nuclear weapons. Of course this means the Jews are going to get fried. But hey, what's that in the big picture, compared to allowing an American administration to kick the can down the road for a few more years?

I hope that's not what's going to happen. In the past I would have been prepared to declare that Bush is not the guy to do that. Lately I'm not so sure. We seem to be so passive.

THIS IS A WAR! We are supposed to attack our enemies. That's not bad, that's good. We are the good guys. They are the bad guys.

By "bad guys," by the way, I'm referring to the Mullahs, not the ordinary people of Iran. We are basically on the same side as the ordinary Iranians in all this. They would love to be liberated from their tyrants, and to enjoy freedom and democracy. Which is why an attack on Iran would not be a "war" in any traditional sense, just as our attack on Iraq was not a war. (We were not fighting against a nation. The Iraqi army melted away, and even in that initial 3-week conquest, most of the real fighting was against irregulars and jihadis. Here's an example.) This is why I never refer to Catholic Just War doctrine. It doesn't apply to the present world situation. We are not in a war, by any traditional definition. We are in what is more like a campaign against brigands and robber-bands.

And for all those leftists and fake-pacifists who keep telling us that our nuking Japan was the worst thing that ever happened (I think differently). Here's your chance! Your chance to support efforts that are likely to prevent future nuclear attacks! Uh, what are you waiting for? What's that you say? You're on the other side? Well fancy that! Whoever would have guessed...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM