May 31, 2007

Various things I've been meaning to blog...

Dean Barnett on Romney:

...The fact that Romney has emerged as the candidate who most irritates the left is an unmistakably good sign for his campaign. Liberals by nature loathe their opponents. (Conservatives, on the other hand, mock their opponents.) The fact that Romney so angers adversaries like Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein, and the Boston Globe is a good thing; for whatever reason, the only Republicans who ever get into the Oval Office are the ones who really rub lefties the wrong way.

The Klein article also reveals a fundamental divide between the liberal media and a guy like Romney. Romney really does believe in the greatness of America and her people. That’s why, even though we face such enormous challenges, he’s still honestly optimistic. He radiates this optimism, and it drives some people nuts. Shouldn’t he be despondent about Gitmo like everyone else?...

"Believes in the greatness of America and her people!" Ooooh boy, how the chomskies are gonna hate him. I'm already looking forward to it...

Here's a fascinating Art Nouveau synagogue in Hungary.

JD Johannes on stuff he's seen happening in Iraq. You won't get the straight dope on TV, but it exists...

...Professor Fearon's thesis is well thought out, but the facts have changed on him. It is not his fault, but it shows the speed in which the situation on the ground changes.

Very few people know enough about Iraq to make coherent policy pronouncements. Most of what people think they know about Iraq is wrong. When I get home in a few weeks people will ask me, "how's Iraq?"

I will tell them, "I don't know, but I can tell you about the areas that I saw first hand and spent a few weeks living in."

Each area of operation is different. Khalidiyah is only 35 kilometers from Kharma and Kharma is only 33 kilometers from West Rasheed, Baghdad, but they are nothing alike. Anyone who says they can speak with definitive knowledge about all of Iraq is a fool or a liar or both...

A good piece on Clarence Thomas...He's another great man who drives the lefties into crazy hatred.

A good Memorial Day piece on how we no longer remember or celebrate our Medal of Honor holders...

Tony Blair...

...I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a UN-supervised democratic process.

And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

Why aren't they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is I could tell it was the first time he'd heard this argument...

More ugly scandals from the UN "peacekeepers." It's the Left's "abu Ghraib." And it goes on year after year, and no one is called to account. If you support the corrupt and evil organization called the UN, YOU are responsible.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 PM

May 30, 2007

Useful corrective...

...to the rubbish one hears about the rich getting richer, etc. (That can happen too, but that story is never accompanied by the fact that it is usually a correlative of strong economic growth. And that those happy places with less income disparity usually suffer from economic stagnation.)

The Rise Of the Bottom Fifth, How to Build on the Gains Of Welfare Reform
By Ron Haskins, WaPo

Imagine a line composed of every household with children in the United States, arranged from lowest to highest income. Now, divide the line into five equal parts. Which of the groups do you think enjoyed big increases in income since 1991? If you read the papers, you probably would assume that the bottom fifth did the worst. After all, income inequality in America is increasing, right?

Wrong. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study released this month, the bottom fifth of families with children, whose average income in 2005 was $16,800, enjoyed a larger percentage increase in income from 1991 to 2005 than all other groups except the top fifth. Despite the recession of 2001, the bottom fifth had a 35 percent increase in income (adjusted for inflation), compared with around 20 percent for the second, third and fourth fifths. (The top fifth had about a 50 percent increase.)

Even more impressive, the CBO found that households in the bottom fifth increased their incomes so much because they worked longer and earned more money in 2005 than in 1991 -- not because they received higher welfare payments. In fact, their earnings increased more in percentage terms than incomes of any of the other groups: The bottom fifth increased its earnings by 80 percent, compared with around 50 percent for the highest-income group and around 20 percent for each of the other three groups...(Thanks to Jimmy).

I don't mean to wave away the difficulties of those people in the bottom fifth. Their lives are very hard. But unlike any time in history before the 20th Century, the poor in places like America are not doomed to poverty. Actually, as has been said before, if you do three things, you won't be poor. Period. Those are: finish high school, delay having children until age 25, and be willing to work.

( Also, one should keep in mind that the statistics are deceiving, since we have a constant influx of new immigrants, and new young people, many of whom start out poor and gradually move up. The statistics might show the "bottom fifth" stuck where it was decades ago, but many of the individuals will have risen into another level.)

As a Christian, I must care about the poor. (And I do, more than most people seem to, although I'm not sure caring for them as a category counts!) But I have to say that I feel somewhat out of step with Christian thinking. To me it looks like we are "fighting the last war." We know how to defeat poverty, and, globally, poverty has been steadily decreasing. There is a bigger problem that's hardly on the radar.

I think that prosperity is killing far more people than poverty, and is creating far worse problems. If you think this is a kooky thing to say, you haven't looked at the demography of Europe, or Japan, or Canada. Or the church-attendance statistics. Prosperity has created two evil "Siamese-twins, the Culture of Death, and an insidious nihilism that seeps into everything. (And no, I am not saying we would be better off poor. Prosperity is our fate, and the only path we can take is straight on through.)

I could go on about all this, but it's time for me to get to work....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:43 AM

May 29, 2007

A bit more on Memorial Day...

Penraker, good as always...

The media is trying to turn Memorial Day into Grieving Day.

It much more suits their downward look on life.

Last night I watched part of the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C. There was a long speech by two actors, reading excerpts from letters from soldiers. It ended with the woman crying.

Today the Post has an article about grieving parents.

Memorial day is not Grieving Day. It is a thankful remembrance of how great these guys were, not how pathetic their deaths were, and how bad we feel now that they are gone. It is not about us, it is about them, and the magnificence of their sacrifice.

Pathos is the highest form of human existence in the media's eyes. If it cries, it flies. If it bleeds it leads. If it inspires, it is forgotten.

The day should be inspirational, not a downer. There has been a subtle shift in the society. We love grieving. This is not healthy. Not healthy at all.

I don't watch TV, but I bet I can guess what "Grieving Day" lacks, that Memorial Day has. MEANING. We honor our dead heroes on Memorial Day, and solemnly affirm that their deaths had meaning, that they served a high and worthy purpose, that they helped to preserve our nation and constitution, a noble experiment that has transformed the earth for the better.

But the Leftizoids who are the press, and who infect all our public institutions, do not believe any of those things. They wish to portray our wars as pointless tragedies.

They did the same thing with 9/11, morphing it into a "tragedy," requiring grieving and "closure." (I think anyone who henceforth uses the word "closure" should be flogged.) Something like an earthquake or tsunami. Why? Because those things have no meaning. Whereas a brutal unprovoked attack on a great and good and peaceful nation does have meaning. Tons of it. And it demands a response. It demands we take its meaning seriously. And if you are a nihilist, like our fake-"Democrats" and fake Quakers and fake anti-war activists, that's existential trouble that must be avoided at all costs.

Memorial Day is NOT a time to grieve. It is a time for hearts to swell with pride and wonder at how lucky we are that heroes would give their all to preserve our way of life for future generations...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:09 PM

May 28, 2007

They are in a quagmire...

Jules Crittenden on Iraq reporting...

I thought body counts went out with the Vietnam War. The AP is kicking off Memorial Day weekend with a fresh body count in Iraq.

How come no mention of Americans killed in Afghanistan since last Memorial Day?

The AP story leads with the number of new graves opened for dead American soldiers since Memorial Day last, but only those killed in Iraq. Why this slight? Are the dead in Afghanistan not worthy of respect in the eyes of the Associated Press? It is possible that this article is not about honoring the dead at all, or even about reporting the news, but just another thinly veiled editorial attack on the Bush administration? Would the Associated Press be so callous as to use American dead in this manner, as a political tool?

I’m beginning to get the impression there is nothing more important to the Associated Press in its Iraq reportage than the number of “American soldiers killed in this unpopular war.” That phrase, with a number, is typically trotted out no later than graph three in AP stories on Iraq. It’s as though the body count is the sole measure upon which all decisions and action must turn. There certainly has been no effort by the Associated Press, or other major news organizations on the ground in Iraq, to examine progress in anything but the most dismissive manner, with a quick revert to body count...

The exquisite irony is that the leftists here represented by the AP hate the Iraq Campaign bitterly, but they cannot make any principled argument against it, or any detailed proposal of their own for fighting the War on Terror! They don't dare try. They are stuck, they are so stuck. They whine and carp endlessly, but can't make a case. (We are just supposed to assume that a body count is some sort of devastating argument. But they never make any case about what body-count would be an appropriate price for achieving what goals.)

They hate the Iraq Campaign because, as I have written here, it shines a cruel spotlight on the way they have abandoned the liberal principles they still vaguely profess to believe. If you do not wish to fight to overthrow a fascist tyrant and one of the cruelest regimes in history, and to help a tortured people to grasp at a chance of freedom and democracy and normalcy, then you are NOT a liberal. (Liberal either in the classic sense, or the more recent mushy-socialist sense.)

And the next question that comes to mind is, "If you are not willing to fight for this, is there ANYTHING you consider worth fighting and dying for?

And friends, you can ask them that all day and all night, and (with the possible exception of their own hides or families) you won't get an answer.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:57 PM

Because of their sacrifice...

From the President's Radio Address:

...On Memorial Day, our Nation honors Sergeant Christoff's final request. We pray for our men and women serving in harm's way. We pray for their safe return. And we pray for their families and loved ones, who also serve our country with their support and sacrifice.

On Memorial Day, we rededicate ourselves to freedom's cause. In Iraq and Afghanistan, millions have shown their desire to be free. We are determined to help them secure their liberty. Our troops are helping them build democracies that respect the rights of their people, uphold the rule of law, and fight extremists alongside America in the war on terror. With the valor and determination of our men and women in uniform, I am confident that we will succeed and leave a world that is safer and more peaceful for our children and grandchildren.

On Memorial Day, we also pay tribute to Americans from every generation who have given their lives for our freedom. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, brave men and women have given up their own futures so that others might have a future of freedom. Because of their sacrifice, millions here and around the world enjoy the blessings of liberty. And wherever these patriots rest, we offer them the respect and gratitude of our Nation.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 AM

May 27, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007. "And the dead must be forgot"

From a Memorial Day address by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (who was himself thrice wounded in the Civil War) The Soldier's Faith, May 30th, 1895

...As for us, our days of combat are over. Our swords are rust. Our guns will thunder no more. The vultures that once wheeled over our heads must be buried with their prey. Whatever of glory must be won in the council or the closet, never again in the field. I do not repine. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top.

Three years ago died the old colonel of my regiment, the Twentieth Massachusetts. He gave the regiment its soul. No man could falter who heard his "Forward, Twentieth!" I went to his funeral. From a side door of the church a body of little choir-boys came in like a flight of careless doves. At the same time the doors opened at the front, and up the main aisle advanced his coffin, followed by the few grey heads who stood for the men of the Twentieth, the rank and file whom he had loved, and whom he led for the last time. The church was empty. No one remembered the old man whom we were burying, no one save those next to him, and us. And I said to myself, The Twentieth has shrunk to a skeleton, a ghost, a memory, a forgotten name which we other old men alone keep in our hearts. And then I thought: It is right. It is as the colonel would have it. This also is part of the soldier's faith: Having known great things, to be content with silence. Just then there fell into my hands a little song sung by a warlike people on the Danube, which seemed to me fit for a soldier's last word, another song of the sword, but a song of the sword in its scabbard, a song of oblivion and peace.

A soldier has been buried on the battlefield.

And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,
The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:
"Did the banner flutter then?"
"Not so, my hero," the wind replied.
"The fight is done, but the banner won,
Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,
Have borne it in triumph hence."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."

Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,
and the soldier asks once more:
"Are these not the voices of them that love,
That love--and remember me?"
"Not so, my hero," the lovers say,
"We are those that remember not;
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,
And the dead must be forgot."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 PM

"So limping, my soul, we will together go..."

(Thoughts for Sunday)

What are you, my soul, you lean and bloodless thing
Like a withered fig that has survived the winter?
In youth it was so different: then the blood
Sang along the veins and it was easy both to love and welcome love.
But when you are old grace conquers only by hard victories;
You are stiffened, crusted by the salt spray
After the long sea voyage.

The lanes of memory may be as green
As in the year's paradise of spring.
It is the immediate present that slips unremembered,
Yet in love's presence there is only this one moment—
A question not of time but of understanding,
As when beauty seeps through the crevices of the soul
Burning the dead wood and illuming the self's verities.—
This, only after a long journey.

So limping, my soul, we will together go
Into the city of the shining ones,
Of those whose crutches have been cast into the sea,
Whose love is garlanded across the festal stars;
And we with them will bow before the sceptred wisdom of a child.
The trembling broken years shall be restored
And these shall be our offering; for by them we shall know
Love has travailed with us all the way.
        ML., A nun of Burnham Abbey
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

May 26, 2007

War-dances, and similar...

One of my children asked: What's with "renewing marriage vows?" Don't people know how to keep a contract? I don't renew my library card unless it's expired...

I replied:

You are not using the right tools to analyze this stuff. The analogy is not to renewing a library card. The analogy is to Injuns war-dancing around the campfire before going into battle.

Why do such an illogical thing? Because on some deep level humans respond to ceremonies and rituals. And to a thousand other non-rational clues. For instance, young people often respond to the ceremonial of a high school graduation by taking on a new level of maturity. And their families respond by looking at them somewhat differently, and expecting more from them. None of this can be quantified or "proven," but it seems to be true.

The trouble for conservatives like me is that our belief that things like old ceremonies are valuable can't be demonstrated, so it is hard to defend such things in the "culture wars." For instance, people are forever inventing new ways to get married, such as underwater with scuba gear, or by fudging up a hippie "new age" marriage ceremony. I think these are REALLY bad ideas, that harm all of us, but I can't easily point to any specific harm done.

Actually it is very easy to forget marriage vows in the rush of events, like raising children, and so reminders are a good thing for anyone. You and I would both tend to avoid hokey ceremonies, but it might be better to endure them if it would do us or our spouses good.

(Being a Catholic is VERY good discipline for people in this regard, by the way, because it gives one daily practice in remembering what's really important in the midst of life's distractions. Often by means of ceremonies, ancient texts, smells, sights, postures, beads, music, etc. Crazy, like a war-dance, but it works. And doing it repeatedly works--we are our habits.)

My theory, by the way, is that a lot of the deconstruction of traditional ways that we see is, mostly unconsciously, socialism. That is, people want to destroy the old ties of families, clubs, churches, private schools, because what they really want is to atomize people, and have everyone dependent ONLY on the state.

I should explain again, though I'm probably wasting electrons, that I value things like ancient ceremonies NOT because I'm someone who wants to "turn back the clock," but because I think we are all being hurled at hideous speed into change and into the future, and we need these things as tools in our toolboxes precisely for coping with the new and the unexpected.

Imagine that someone grabs you and stuffs you into a time machine, and sends you 100 years into the future. There is no way to prepare for the specific things you will encounter. (And it is certain that they will be bewildering and frightening.) But you can be philosophically prepared by being grounded in universal truths and in authoritative traditions...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:58 AM

If they really wanted to fight al Qaeda, they'd be rarin' for a fight...

Andy McCarthy has a good word in The Corner....

...Senator Obama says: " It is time to end this war so that we can redeploy our forces to focus on the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and all those who plan to do us harm."

Senator Obama, are you proposing that we move U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, where you guys keep saying the "real" War on Terror is?

There is also a very good chance that bin Laden and some al Qaeda hierarchy are in Pakistan. When you say "redeploy," are you suggesting that we invade Pakistan?

Folks, let's not let these guys get away with this. By "redeploy," they don't really mean move the troops to where they say al Qaeda is. They don't want to fight al Qaeda. If they wanted to fight al Qaeda, al Qaeda is in Iraq — that is indisputable. Bin Laden has said repeatedly that Iraq is the central battle. You can argue about whether al Qaeda has been in Iraq all along or whether they are there only because we've drawn them there. Reasonable minds differ on that. But however they got there, they're there.

If you really want to fight al Qaeda, you stay in Iraq.

If you really believe al Qaeda is not in Iraq — that the real al Qaeda is only in Afghanistan and its environs — then you're on drugs. But, sure, fine, "redeploy" our troops ... to Afghanistan. But can we please have five seconds of honesty? You guys don't have the slightest intention of doing that. You don't want to go to Afghanistan. You want to go home.

When you say redploy, you mean withdraw. You don't actually want to "focus on the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11." You are content to bring the troops home and leave "the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11" to build a safe-haven in Iraq even as they continue to make mayhem in Afghanistan...

Wars are to fight. That's just what they are. Senator Obama (along with many other Democrats) is a foul and horrid liar when he says he "wants to fight the real War on Terror." If he were telling the truth, he'd be spoiling for a fight! Even without the question of Iraq, al Qaeda is known to be present in a variety of places. (From the WaPo: ...U.S. Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Central Command, has been warning Congress and the Pentagon for months that al Qaeda-affiliated groups are active in Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger....)

So where's the call to action from Mr Obama about this? Why isn't he urging us to get out the knives and go after these thugs? Why isn't he criticizing the Bush Administration for flinching from action in Mali? Of course he's not going to do that; everyone knows perfectly well that "fight the real War on Terror" is a lying code phrase for "don't fight; appease."

To be a "Democrat" is to live and breath lies. I doubt if Obama is any longer even aware of the boundaries between lies and truth. There is not a single area of policy where Dems do not have to use code words to give a wink and a nudge to convey that they are saying one thing but of course mean another.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:09 AM

May 23, 2007

Tattoo removal, a growth industry...

Andrea linked to a thoughtful blogger, Maclin Horton. A couple of small things I liked...


I Enjoy Being Right
I've been predicting for a while now that the tattoo fashion would lead to a profitable trade in tattoo removal.

My parents had a collection of cartoons from Punch that gave me many hours of pleasure in my youth. I think it was there that I saw one which has come to mind often since the fad began: a tattoo artist drawing something huge on a man's back and remarking "Of course it's the fellows who can take them off who make the real money." [Link]

And this is a thought I have often had myself...

One of my perpetual complaints is the treatment of the 1950s in popular lore, in journalism and entertainment. The way some of these people talk, you’d think they really do not understand that Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver were sitcoms, not documentaries, the silly pap of their time just as Desperate Housewives is of ours. Or even that physical reality was very much the same then as now: that colors, for instance, existed, and that human beings were physically the same creatures we are now, although they dressed differently. The usual view is that life was gray, repressed and miserable from roughly 1945 until 1964, when, as Philip Larkin tells us, sex was invented....

In "popular history," as in so much else, everything is adjusted to fit the perspective of us Baby Boomers. It's really stupid. All the "60's" fads were invented in the 50's or earlier, and just taken up into mass conformity in the sixties. And passed along into mass culture in the 70's, with hideous destructive effects...

Speaking of tattoo removal, there's a great SF book on fads, Bellwether, by Connie Willis. Very funny.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

Late to the party...

I haven't bothered to write about Macs vs.PC's in a long time. (Last one 2 years ago.) I'd just be stating what's become obvious. Knocking Microsoft now is like kicking the Soviet Union in 1989. Stating the obvious is boring. But what is interesting is that the "press" has started to catch on!

From a Macworld piece by Christopher Breen...

What was unusual about that coverage was that—for once—it didn’t portray Apple’s products as pretty but overpriced and Apple’s customers as artsy-fartsy kooks. Rather, the press seemed willing to entertain the notion that Mac users might be savvy consumers seeking quality and ease of use in an attractive wrapper.

As someone who has followed Apple for the better part of two decades, I’ve seen the company go through plenty of highs and lows...

....Through it all, one theme remained constant in the coverage of the company: Apple and its customers were an anomaly. This was frustrating. Knowing what the Mac was capable of, seeing how god-awful clunky Windows was, and glancing at the declining rate of Mac adoption, I’d wonder, “What am I missing here?”

It’s that disconnect between how I see Apple’s products and how the mainstream media portrays those products that’s changing....

When Apple started stumbling back in the 80's it was unfortunately cocooned by the press, which continued to crank out stories about Apple-as-fabulous-innovators blah blah blah for long after it was true. They finally switched the story-line to Apple-the-stumblebums-marginalized-by-the-Microsoft-powerhouse. They are now starting—years late— to catch on to the current story...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:46 AM

May 22, 2007

We see the same patterns over and over again...

Here's a report from UC Irvine. But it could easily describe a city or a country...

UCI Intifada: Preaching Terror on Campus

Yesterday, I visited the Crystal Cove Auditorium at UCI to hear Amir Abdul-Malik Ali, a radical Islamic activist sponsored by UCI's Muslim Student Union. As soon as I arrived I could hear his typical racist vitriol on how the Jewish people are the greatest threat to civilization; the same sentiment I had heard months earlier when I heard him at the front of the flag polls praising Hezbollah's war of attrition against Israel. This time it was different. As soon as I took my seat, with Sony camcorder in hand, many members of the audience gave me the stare of death. One guy sitting next to me told me to put my camera away. "The speaker doesn't want to be audio or video recorded, he said. I refused. So a band of thugs from the Muslim Student Union started to flood the aisles, blocked my camera view, and threatened to get the police If I didn't stop recording. The police never came. From talks with them afterward, they seemed unsympathetic to Mr. Ali and his army of spawns. Dean Edgar J. Dormitorio, in charge of security at the event, finally told me to go. So I succumbed to his wishes.

The intimidation didn't stop there. Members of the Muslim Student Union tracked my movements as I walked across the 1500 acre campus and stalked me to my next class. As soon as I sit down, I received similar stares. A man comes in class with his little sister, who I assume attended the Holocaust revival speech with him, and snaps a picture of me.

Why did the MSU’s thugs shove and demand that I empty the footage from my camera? We have all heard Mr. Ali preach hate before, what was different about this time? If they sponsor men like Mr. Ali, why are they so paranoid and embarrassed about what he has to say?

In the spirit of full dislosure, here is some raw footage of my struggle to capture the speech before I was forced to shut the camera off.

Anyone with a grain of sense will agree that allowing this sort of thing to go on without challenge or punishment will breed worse problems in the future. Letting bullies intimidate people while "security" looks on and does nothing will result in more thuggery. And sooner or later in violence. When this is done on a larger scale the eventual result is something people call war.

And what really infuriates me is that all the fake-Christians and fake-Quakers and fake-antiwar activists will ignore (or abet) all the steps that lead up to conflict. Then when things get violent, and authorities are forced to respond harshly, they will suddenly focus on the problem and act as if it just started.

And they will shed tears and talk about Gandhi and Jesus and how violence never solved anything! And how war never solved anything. When in fact they are responsible for the violence, because they are among those who ignored the beginnings of it. They refused to take notice when the problem was still small.

The Global War on Terror is exactly this situation on a larger scale. It grew over a span of many decades from small beginnings. mAnd at every step the "authorities," that is Europe, america the UN, etc, flinched from the task of slapping down bullies. And the result was that each subsequent stage was more violent and dangerous. Remember, more than 1,000 Americans were killed by Islamo-fascist terrorists before 9/11. We had a lot of excuses to respond with massive force when the terror groups were smaller and less well entrenched.

And we flubbed every one of them.

And that, Oh my brothers and sisters, is why we are wading in blood now. Pacifism kills. Pacifism is evil. (There may have been real pacifists in past times, but what calls itself pacifism now is really nihilism. It's the refusal to fight for what you believe, because you don't believe anything.) Ignoring lawbreaking is evil.

Like it or not, America is "the cops" on this planet. We just are, by default. There is no other alternative. (Europe and Japan should also be cops, but are paralyzed by nihilism.) And the GWoT is basically NOT a "war," but rather a crime situation that has been allowed to grow unchecked until it turns into something that looks like a war.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

May 20, 2007

EMR's...cool

The Economist writes:

The federal government is giving a push to EMRs, following the lead of the Veterans' Health Administration (VHA). Studies have shown that thanks in large part to its sophisticated national database, the VHA has fewer patient errors and better health outcomes than the health system at large, despite the fact that its patients tend to be older, poorer and sicker. George Bush wants a system of universal health-records by 2015. And Medicare, the government-run health scheme for pensioners, is shifting to a tiered reimbursement system in which it pays doctors more if they go electronic.

Employers are also keen on technology, since it promises to curb health-care costs and improve efficiency. Intel, BP, Wal-Mart and several other big companies got together last year to form Dossia, an independent, non-profit company that will develop an EMR system to give employees lifelong, portable medical histories. And over a hundred other firms including Dell, IBM and Microsoft now allow employees to manage their health affairs via WebMD, a big health-information website.

Wayne Gattinella, WebMD's boss, says the popularity of this corporate product persuaded his firm to develop a version for individual consumers, supported by “discreet” targeted ads for pills, devices or relevant consumer products. “The consumer will be the catalyst to drive doctors and community hospitals to adopt IT,” he says.

Intuit, known for its accounting software, is convinced the market is ready for health-care software too. But when it tested such a product last year, it found that users were frustrated at having to fill in so many forms and search for bills and records to which they did not have easy access. So it now plans to offer its software in conjunction with health insurers, so that payment data and other information can be filled in automatically.

Aetna, a big insurance firm, has taken a different path by acquiring ActiveHealth, a firm that provides EMRs for around 14.5m users and also scours those health records with decision-support software to spot signs of trouble (such as missed doctors' appointments or early warnings of obesity). Aetna plans to offer this software to its own customers...

Well, just add this to the list of things being accomplished by the failed/beseiged/dead-in-the-water/lame duck/not-conservative Bush administration.

EMR stands for electronic medical record. The real reason they are a big deal is that if you had your medical records in a standardized electronic form, and your doctor recommended treatment, you could get a second opinion just by sending an e-mail. And, more importantly, you could get BIDS for your treatment, from other providers, without them having to re-examine you. That should start to shake things up.

(Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

"A different way to be indispensable"

(Thoughts for Sunday)

From Why you pretend to like modern art By Spengler

After I wrote Admit it - you really hate modern art (January 30), many readers assured me that I was quite mistaken about them. Especially among the educated elites there are many who will go to their graves proclaiming their love for modern art, and I owe them an explanation of sorts. At the cost of most of few remaining friends, I will provide it.

You pretend to like modern art because you want to be creative. In fact, you are not creative, not in the least. In all of human history we know of only a few hundred truly creative men and women. It saddens me to break the news, but you aren't one of them. By insisting that you are not creative, you think I am saying that you are not important. I do not mean that, but will have to return to the topic later.

You have your heart set on being creative because you want to worship yourself, your children, or some pretentious impostor, rather than the god of the Bible. Absence of faith has not made you more rational. On the contrary, it has made you ridiculous in your adoration of clownish little deities, of whom the silliest is yourself. G K Chesterton said that if you stop believing in God, you will believe in anything....
[....]
...To be an important person in this perverse scheme means to shake one's fist at God and define one's own little world, however dull, tawdry and pathetic it might be. To lack creativity is to despair. Hence the attraction of the myriad ideological movements in art that gives the despairing artists the illusion of creativity. If God is the Creator, then imitation of God is emulation of creation. But that is not quite true, for the Judeo-Christian god is more than a creator; God is a creator who loves his creatures.

In the world of faith there is quite a different way to be indispensable, and that is through acts of kindness and service. A mother is indispensable to her child, as are husbands, wives and friends to each other. If one dispenses with the ambition to remake the world according one's whim, and accepts rather that the world is God's creation, then imitatio Dei consists of acts of love.

In their urge toward self-worship, the artists of the 20th century descended to extreme levels of artlessness to persuade themselves that they were in fact creative. In their compulsion to worship themselves in the absence of God, they produced ideas far more ridiculous, and certainly a great deal uglier, than revealed religion in all its weaknesses ever contrived. The modern cult of individual self-expression is a poor substitute for the religion it strove to replace, and the delusion of personal creativity an even worse substitute for redemption....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:42 AM

May 19, 2007

We've forgotten, they haven't.....

From Belmont Club:

Will IEDs Come To the West?
One of the first western journalists to interview Osama Bin Laden thinks IEDs will be deployed and used in Western cities regardless of whether the U.S. stays or withdraws from the war. There is no obvious physical or logistical reason why this can't can't true. Although it doesn't have the apocalyptic mystique of a nuclear weapons attack scenario, the use of IEDs in the West causing hundreds of casualties raise the same strategic questions. If the attacks are unattributed against whom shall we retaliate? If the attacks are attributed, shall we go after them? If we choose to appease or surrender to them, to whom shall the check be mailed?

It will be argued that any IED attacks on the West will be "blowback" for having invaded Iran or Afghanistan, or that the IED technology was proliferated as a consequence of the war. But this is a faulty line of reasoning because you can extend this argument to preclude any response on the grounds that terrorists might "learn" from any action taken against them and therefore it is best not to act against them at all...

"Here" includes America, a topic of interest to me. Since "IED" simply means "improvised explosive device," there's never been a reason why terrorists couldn't use them here. (IED's are also becoming more sophisticated, with armor piercing versions, but that's irrelevant to terror attacks on civilians.) And terrorists could surely cross our porous borders if they tried.

So why haven't they done so already? Three reasons, I'd guess. One is that mounting secret operations on foreign soil is difficult for any organization, and our home-grown terrorists don't seem to be a very impressive bunch so far. So al Qaeda or other groups would have to send in teams, and procure parts and explosives etc. All the steps are simple, but at each step somebody might get suspicious and tip off the FBI.

The second is that we are keeping them rather busy. We and our allies are hunting them round the globe. (And although decadent countries like France won't fight alongside us, they are perfectly happy to lock up terror suspects in nasty holes that make Gitmo look like a Sunday school.) And of course we were clever, and invaded Iraq, and that has presented al Qaeda with a dilemma that has absorbed most of its energy. Fudging up a "civil war" among people who really don't have their hearts in it is a bitch.

And the third is that, the last time they improvised an explosion on our soil, we punished them in a way they really hated. 9/11 was supposed to provoke either a weak cringing response, or an angry hasty lashing-out. Either would have been good for al Qaeda. Instead we cooly and methodically disassembled two Moslem countries, one of them in the Arab heartland, and put them back together with the beginnings of democracy and freedom and Globalization.

Our foolish politicians may live in an eternal present, where nothing exists but the sound-bites on tonight's TV news. They've forgotten, but you can bet that al Qaeda hasn't forgotten. And the terrorists are obviously aware of our politics, since they are butchering thousands of innocent people in order to dominate our news, and get Democrats elected. So they probably realize that terror attacks on our soil would almost certainly force even Democrats to fight back, or be tossed out of office.

The key geo-political fact of our times is that Europe's people and leaders are mostly nihilist, but the American population is only partly nihilist. Terror bombings in Europe (such as Madrid or the London Tube Bombs) will NOT rouse European nations to unity and vigorous action. Terror bombings in the US WILL rouse a large part of our people to demand that we fight back. Probably enough to tip the political balance and put the Republicans solidly in power. (Assuming we can come up with some politicians with guts.)

Key read: America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, by Mark Steyn. Oh, and there's another guy, who seems to be close to the heart of where I'd suggest that what you might call "anti-nihilsim" is really coming from...


Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 AM

May 17, 2007

You won't see it on the news....

...But we pass the word from blog to blog, like samizdat in days of yore. GatewayPundit writes on Iraq's observance of Mass Graves Day...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Iraqis Observe Moment of Silence to Mark "Mass Graves Day"

What if you had a mass grave day and no Western media noticed?
Wednesday marked the day back in 2003 when the first mass grave was uncovered in Mahaweel after the US & Allied Forces liberated Iraq.

The US didn't find 300,000 warheads.
The US found the remains of 300,000 Iraqis in mass graves instead.

Iraqi-American Haider Ajina wrote to tell about the moment of silence held Wednesday in Iraq commemorating those who died at the hands of the Baathists and especially during Saddam's years in power...

There's lots more, lots of pictures.

The simple fact is that the "War in Iraq" ended when the good guys invaded in 2003, and stopped Saddam's internal war against his own people. We were and are the peacemakers. And we immediately allied ourselves with the ordinary Iraqi people to try to stop the Ba'athists and al Qaeda who began waging a terror campaign against democracy and against the little people of Iraq.

And Western leftists, news-media, and fake-pacifists immediately allied themselves with the terrorists, and have worked tirelessly for their victory, because Iraq is a skirmish in the real war, for the souls of mankind, and in particular, at this moment, for the souls of Americans and Europeans.

And they hated and opposed the Iraq Campaign even before it was proposed by the administration. Why? Because of things like this...

victims from mass graves, Mussaib, Iraq
When people see the victims, it is hard to go along with the twisted fake-Quaker crap about how "war" is something done only by America and her allies, and "peace" is what Iraq had, and will have again if we pull out. (Just as the ghastly stories of the Boat People, and the millions of dead in Cambodia, give the lie to the crap about how the "peace movement" brought "peace" to Vietnam when the Americans pulled out.)

Of course the news media aren't going to mention Mass Graves Day. Their whole leftist world-view is based on lies, and the ugly truth will destroy them if it can get out.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:00 AM

May 16, 2007

It's like rolling over a rotting log...

Jonah Goldberg has a good op-ed in the LAT, Just how crazy are the Dems?

MOST FAIR-MINDED readers will no doubt take me at my word when I say that a majority of Democrats in this country are out of their gourds.

But, on the off chance that a few cynics won't take my word for it, I offer you data. Rasmussen Reports, the public opinion outfit, recently asked voters whether President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The findings? Well, here's how the research firm put it: "Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know and 26% are not sure."...

....We don't know what kind of motive respondents had in mind for Bush, but the most common version has Bush craftily enabling a terror attack as a way to whip up support for his foreign policy without too many questions.

The problem with rebutting this sort of allegation is that there are too many reasons why it's so stupid. It's like trying to explain to a 4-year-old why Superman isn't real. You can spend all day talking about how kryptonite just wouldn't work that way. Or you can just say, "It's make-believe."

Similarly, why try to explain that it's implausible that Bush was evil enough to let this happen — and clever enough to get away with it — yet incapable either morally or intellectually of doing it again? After all, if he's such a villainous super-genius to have paved the way for 9/11 without getting caught, why stop there? Democrats constantly insinuate that Bush plays politics with terror warnings on the assumption that the higher the terror level, the more support Bush has. Well, a couple of more 9/11s and Dick Cheney will finally be able to get that shiny Bill of Rights shredder he always wanted.

And, if Bush — who Democrats insist is a moron — is clever enough to greenlight one 9/11, why is Iraq such a blunder? Surely a James Bond villain like Bush would just plant some WMD?...

It's easy to refute the conspiracy theories with logic, but they were never based on logic, They are desperate psychological defense measures. The problem with these people is that belief and meaning have seeped away imperceptibly, to the point that they no longer even believe in belief, no longer believe that belief is a normal part of life.

9/11 threatens them at this very point, where they have no defenses. It said, unambiguously, that here is a case of Right and Wrong—and where do YOU stand?

It also said, to people steeped in a vague mush of anti-Americanism, "America, YOUR country, has been brutally attacked. Where do you stand?"

They hate this because they don't stand for anything, and millions of them have never before been put to the test like this. Never had such a spotlight shone upon them.

I feel like a bit of a prophet. On my very first week of blogging, November 12, 2001, I wrote:

A war begins. It's like rolling over a rotting log, the sun suddenly shines on a miriad of things both beautiful and creepy. We suddenly have a lot to say.
"They ought to have reflected . . . that as there is nothing more desirable, or advantageous than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchased at the price of liberty."
Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 19, 1774

Well, I still do have a lot to say. Lots of my blogging friends from back then have long since run out of steam.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

May 15, 2007

"But influence is a two-way street..."

One of the reasons I placed on my list of reasons to invade Iraq was...Iran. Right now we are focused on how the Iranian regime is fomenting violence in Iraq. But we hardly stop to wonder what Iraq is fomenting in Iran. And exactly why Iran might wish to make trouble for a majority Shi'ite state. I found this article very interesting..

.....Traditionally, Shiites have believed that clerics should stay out of politics until the return of the Mahdi, the last of the revered early Shiite imams, who disappeared in the ninth century. Shiites believe he went into hiding and will someday reveal himself.

Only he can establish a perfect Islamic state, according to traditional believers -- including some in the Tehran bazaar, whose influential religious merchant class backed the revolution but has since grown more skeptical of the ruling clerics.

"Only the Mahdi is the genuine leader," said Ghaie's brother Mohammad, 45, whose family, like many Iranian merchants, has lived in both Iran and Iraq over generations.

Expressing such opinions is dangerous: Several prominent religious scholars -- chief among them Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri -- are under house arrest or other official sanctions for opposing clerical rule or proposing limits on it.

The quietist philosophy suited disempowered Shiites, who through most of their history lived under Sunni powers. Shiites are a minority among Muslims and within all modern Middle Eastern states except Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain.

But now, in Iraq, Shiites are witnessing a new alternative: They can defend their rights at the ballot box, without establishing a religious state.

"We believe that politics is separate from religion," said Iraq's ambassador to Iran, Mohammed Majid al-Sheikh. "Of course there are debates about this. If Iran wants to take on these debates, it will benefit. And I could say that the experiment of Iraq will ripple throughout the Middle East."

Iran has worked hard to influence Iraq. US officials have accused it of fomenting violence there. Analysts say Iran welcomes low-grade chaos in Iraq in part to prevent the emergence of a democratic Shiite alternative that could embolden Iranian reformists, while at the same time courting Shiite Iraqis by presenting itself as a stable and benign neighbor.

But influence is a two-way street, especially between two countries whose shrine cities and capitals have been tied by trade and pilgrimage for centuries. About 1,500 Iranians go to Iraq on pilgrimage every day, Sheikh said. The Ghaie brothers went recently and were impressed to see the parade of Iraqi politicians visiting Sistani's modest house in Najaf -- voluntarily -- for advice.

Last month, the Iranian press reported, Jalaluddin Taheri, a dissident cleric who resigned as Isfahan's Friday prayer leader in 2002 after criticizing the regime as corrupt and autocratic, went to Najaf to pay respects to Sistani.

The representative of Iraq's most pro-Iran political party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, touted Iraq's freer system.

Majid Ghamas contended in an interview in his Tehran office that Iranians, because of their country's somewhat competitive elections, have more freedom than Saudis, Jordanians, or Egyptians.

"But not as much as in Iraq," he said, "now that we have a government that respects Islam and the rituals of Islam but does not impose Islam by force so that it becomes a rigid Islam."

But persuading the Iranian masses that their country should emulate Iraq would be an uphill battle.

"If there were security there, these changes [in Iraq] could be appreciated" by Iranians, he said. "But without security you cannot appreciate anything else."

The evil alliance of Democrats and despots and terrorists has, for the moment, derailed our efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East and other Islamic trouble spots. (The tyrants and terrorists at least have the excuse of not knowing any better.) BUT, ideas spread. No one can really hide the fact that Iraqis are voting for their leaders. And that Sistani is not setting himself up as a power.

Al Queda has succeeded in giving the Dems a congressional majority, and so Condi is no longer jetting about and leaning on the Mubarraks and Assads. But there is more to globalization than just McDonald's and KFC.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

May 14, 2007

He's back...

The family problem that's been keeping the Weidners from things like blogging is solved, at least the biggest part of it. I may tell you all about it someday...it's been.......interesting.

Now I'm back, but I can't think of a single thing to say...maybe tomorrow.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:27 PM

May 12, 2007

A snappish day I'm having...

PowerLine, on the Appeal for Courage:

...The Appeal was received yesterday in Washington by Minority Leader John Boehner and Senator Lindsay Graham. Did you read about it in your local newspaper? I didn't. Nor did I read about it on CNN, which, as best I can tell, has made no mention of the pro-Iraq war, anti-surrender petition signed by thousands of soldiers.

CNN did report on this, though: "Retired generals, Iraq veterans launch anti-war ads"....

....This is almost like a laboratory experiment, isn't it? A handful of veterans (including three out of several thousand retired generals) oppose the war: News. Thousands of active duty personnel urge Congress to support the war effort: Not news. That pretty well sums up the journalistic standard that has been applied to the conflict in Iraq...

Part of my being too-busy-to-blog lately involved long sitting in a waiting room, forced to listen to CNN (extremely rare for me) on a screen high on the wall. Big Brother had, of course, made no provision for control of volume or channel by people like me.

I hate them. Or rather I HATE THEM!

And really I don't, or at least try not to, hate those people personally, I hate their poisonous philosophy, and for that I make no apology. It is nihilism, it is utterly evil, it seeps and creeps into every crevice of our society. It is pure venom. It deserves to be hated.

And it is always disguised. It's disguised as "liberalism," as "caring for the poor," as Quakerism and pacifism and "civil rights" (with never any civil responsibility) and "equality" (defined by "diversity consultants")... You can't fight it because it never comes out in the open. You can't argue with it because it doesn't believe there is such a thing as Truth. And it ASSUMES, as if all reasonable people had already agreed, that we have no immortal souls, no duty to God, and that the transcendent does not exist.

One crumb of comfort I do have. Even if I had covered my ears, one sound would surely have penetrated. One word, over and over and over. IRAQ,

I'm more convinced that ever that the theory I wrote about here, is true. Their crazed desperation in attacking the Iraq Campaign is vivid evidence that I hit the nail on the head.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:33 AM

May 11, 2007

"You called for war until we had it. You called for Emancipation, and I have given it to you..."

To me, one of the chief evils of our time is that most people have come to expect a world of comfort and entertainment. A world where there's no need to make difficult choices, and above all, no need to seek Truth, and fight for it. This editorial from the NY Sun is a useful corrective. It tells of an incident in our Civil War, when the editor of the Chicago Tribune, Joseph Medill, went to Washington to plead for Illinois to be spared its draft contingent...(Thanks to PowerLine)

...."The War Department's blue-uniformed sentries came rigidly to attention as the president appeared," Mr. Wendt writes. Lincoln, he says, gave them a friendly "at ease" and led his visitors through the "chattering telegraph operations room," where he knew everyone by name, to Stanton's "vast cave of maps and charts," where Stanton glowered beneath dark oil paintings of Generals Knox and Dearborn. Stanton was none too pleased to see the same Chicagoans whom he'd shooed out of his office earlier in the day return with his boss. Medill made a game effort, reading from his own newspaper about how no other congressional district had put so many men into the war.

For months, Mr. Wendt explains, the Tribune had "acknowledged to its readers that after four years of the most brutal fighting known to man, even greater sacrifices would be required. The armies were devouring men on a scale not known before in military history, as new weapons outmarched generals' old tactics." Draft riots ensued, particularly in New York. The Tribune required an entire supplemental page, Mr. Wendt notes, just to list Illinois casualties among the more than 13,000 suffered by the Union at Shiloh.

When Medill finished his plea, Stanton nodded to his provost marshal, General Fry, who "read the sanguinary statistics of four years of fighting in a loud, sonorous voice," while Lincoln listened with his head bowed. Stanton then rejected the plea, saying, as Mr. Wendt paraphrases it, that there could be no city nor section nor state asking for special favor, not even Illinois. Medill left the meeting pledging to remain silent about it until the war ended. It would be 30 years before he could bring himself to write the account that Mr. Wendt quotes at some length.

"I shall never forget," Medill said of Lincoln, "how he suddenly lifted his head and turned on us a black and frowning face. ‘Gentlemen,' he said, in a voice full of bitterness, ‘after Boston, Chicago has been the chief instrument in bringing this war on the country. The Northwest has opposed the South as New England has opposed the South. It is you who are largely responsible for making blood flow as it has. You called for war until we had it. You called for Emancipation, and I have given it to you. … Now you come here begging to be let off from the call for men which I have made to carry out the war you have demanded. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. … Go home, and raise your 6,000 extra men."

Then, in Medill's own account, Lincoln turned on the great editor. "‘And you, Medill, you are acting like a coward. You and your Tribune have had more influence than any [other] paper in the Northwest in making this war. You can influence great masses, and yet you cry to be spared at a moment when your cause is suffering. Go home and send us those men.'" Wrote Medill: "I couldn't say anything. It was the first time I ever was whipped, and I didn't have an answer. …"
Posted by John Weidner at 12:06 PM

Wake up calls, but few wake up...

Life is too busy for much in the way of blogging, but I recommend VDH's piece Al Qaedism, Again

Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 AM

May 9, 2007

Think of a fallen log on the forest floor...

Captain Ed has an interesting post on this article, about the growing "marriage of convenience" between the left and Islamist groups.

...It's the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact for our age. The Left, with its insistence on multiculturalism and the end of religion in public discourse, has begun to ally itself with the most xenophobic religion on the planet, one which insists on transcendence in temporal matters above all other law. Its leaders now praise the same groups that target and kill civilians, oppress the media, openly practice anti-Semitism, and routinely stone those who have the audacity to date without permission from their families.

In the case of Noam Chomsky, this seems particularly egregious, but not terribly surprising. Chomsky can talk about Enlightenment ideals out of one side of his mouth, as he did in Imperial Ambitions, and then warmly support Hamas, which completely rejects those ideals of freedom, liberty, and individual conscience. In that book, he told David Barsamanian that "No other industrialized country has anything like the degree of extremist religious beliefs and irrational commitments like you see in the United States," and yet he has aligned himself with violent religious extremists like Hamas, and does so on the television network of the equally violent and extreme Hezbollah.

People like Chomsky love Hamas and Hezbollah not for their supposed "Enlightenment ideals," but for their hatred of America. That's the one thread that follows through all of these alliances between the Western Left and the Islamist nutcases who, on a philosophical basis, should be their ultimate nightmare. The people who drop brick walls on homosexuals get praise and support from the Chomskys of the world because the US cannot decide between allowing civil unions or gay marriage. Chomsky frets over the fact that "Large majorities are convinced of miracles, the existence of the devil, and so on," but then praises those who believe that infidels are agents of Satan and must be destroyed in jihad.

What we see is a class of people who hate America and who now grope for an intellectual basis to align themselves with America's opponents and enemies.

This is puzzling only if you think that the Left is still following a leftist philosophy. That they still believe in something. But the belief is gone, and few people seem to have noticed.

One of the most important phrases you should know, if you want to understand our world, is HOLLOWED OUT. Think of a fallen log on the forest floor. Sometimes you see one, and it looks solid. But insects and decay have eaten out the inside, and left only a shell of bark supported by dusty fibers.

We live in a time of rapid change, and we adjust to new conditions, but mostly not openly. Our thoughts gradually change, and later our behavior changes, without apparent reason. This is hugely frustrating to anyone who is concerned with the way our world is changing and moving , because we can't grapple with the underlying change, just the outward changes. No one admits to the interior transformation, so how can one argue about it?

The quote above is about a change in behavior, one that makes people like me want to grab the chomskys and shake them and scream, "What are you doing? Why? How can you say one thing and do the opposite?" But it's useless, because the real issue is the underlying change in philosophy, and Leftists refuse to acknowledge it, much less debate it. In fact they've been hollowed out, their old ideas are gone, but they still talk the talk.

One of the really wierd things about our time is that we see the "hollowing out" in nested layers. The phrase was originally coined for Christian churches that have had their faith drain away, replaced by mushy leftism. "Liberation Theology" is an extreme example, but the more common one is the Mainline Churches, where the leadership is indistinguishable from the general run of lefty activists. But now the leftist faith which hollowed out many churches is itself hollowed out, drained of the meaning it once had...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:26 PM

May 7, 2007

Ugly stuff...

Excuse me for ranting a bit, you've already heard me on this, but it's therapeutic to vent ones feelings...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- American soldiers discovered a girls school being built north of Baghdad had become an explosives-rigged "death trap," the U.S. military said Thursday.

The plot at the Huda Girls' school in Tarmiya was a "sophisticated and premeditated attempt to inflict massive casualties on our most innocent victims," military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

The military suspects the plot was the work of al Qaeda, because of its nature and sophistication, Caldwell said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The plot was uncovered Saturday, when troopers in the Salaheddin province found detonating wire across the street from the school. They picked up the wire and followed its trail, which led to the school. Once inside, they found an explosive-filled propane tank buried beneath the floor. There were artillery shells built into the ceiling and floor, and another propane tank was found, the military said.

The wire was concealed with mortar and concrete, and the propane tanks had been covered with brick and hidden underneath the floor, according to a military statement. Soldiers were able to clear the building.

"It was truly just an incredibly ugly, dirty kind of vicious killing that would have gone on here," Caldwell said...

Actually, it's late, I'm drinking some excellent scotch, and I just deleted a buncha venomous clever rants I had written this morning. Do they do any good? Naah. Can you fill in the blanks from your imagination? Of course you can! RJ readers are smart.

But spreading the truth around is a good thing, or so I surmise. Here's a healthy dose of it. Those who have ears, will hear. And oh my brothers and sisters, THINK about this stuff. A school for little girls. All in their little uniforms, all to be shredded like hamburger. And think about the state of mind of people who can IGNORE this. Who want "business as usual." Who want the illusion of "peace," and will sacrifice those children...

Here are some old Random Jottings images....

Boy at suicide bombingstudents and teacher return to school in Abu Grahib, Iraq, 4/26/03

Posted by John Weidner at 11:05 PM

Boom, and it's all gone...

Tim Blair links to blogger Joni, in the town of Greensburg, Kansas, destroyed by a tornado...

This is what my hometown of Greensburg, Kansas, used to look like. It's a small, rural town in Southwest Kansas. Last night, a tornado swept through the town, killing at least 7 people, and destroying most of the town. (News reports are saying 90% of the town was destroyed or damaged.) Every church in town, including the one my parents and my sisters' family attend, was either severely damaged or destroyed. The roof of the small hospital collapsed. My family lives a few miles north of town, and none of them were injured. Three family members worked in Greensburg, and will be dealing with the devastation left behind. Thankfully, several relatives and friends are known to be safe. I'm sure more details will come out as time passes. Right now, they are evacuating the entire town (what's left of it), for people's safety, and to enable safety and rescue efforts to go forward.

Please pray for Greensburg, Kansas, my family, and the surrounding community. How do you rebuild an entire town?

The picture of the town as it was before was very affecting to me. I've been in that sort of country town many times. I've never lived in one; it's hard for me to imagine what growing up in a small town would be like.

But still, I can picture it. I said to myself, there will be a train line, with grain elevators beside it. The streets will be a grid, and there will be one called "Main Street." And in one direction all the streets will be named after trees. Well, you can look on Google Maps, and there they are! And there are streets named after presidents, and after states. I guessed there might be a "Euclid Avenue," but I don't see one...

The fast-growing Southern California suburb I grew up in had a small agricultural town at it's center, like something preserved from an earlier age. It was in the process, in one sense,of being destroyed as thoroughly as if a tornado had hit, though many of the buildings were still there. There were housing tracts with one corner "notched," where an old farmhouse still stood, weathered, overgrown, with decorative trimwork that contrasted oddly with the 50's architecture all around it. And there were still many groves in my youth, citrus and avocado. And there were still old-timers around, and some barns, and funny little Caterpillar tractors that could disc an orange grove. The ground under the avocados was always covered in big crackly dry leaves, that would make a racket as you walked over them.

More pix here. Flabbergasting.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 AM

Not exactly heroic...

John at PowerLine has a good point about the Fred Thompson phenomenon...

...Second, the last five years have been a critical time in our nation's history. From 2002 to the present, men like George Bush, John McCain, and many others have been fighting a very difficult battle on behalf of our country. Not Fred Thompson: he preferred to leave the Senate to live the very sweet life of a minor television celebrity. There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it's not exactly heroic, either...

I really don't know anything about Mr Thompson, and since I don't watch TV I really don't even know what he looks like! But I do know that virtue isn't a matter of what you feel, or think, or believe. It only exists in what you DO. What you do with whatever resources you possess, whatever challenges you happen to be presented with.

Most of us can't be among the heroes who hunt down terrorists. that's a job for the few. But the main front of the War on Terror is right here at home, where nihilists and appeasers wage ceaseless propaganda war against America, and against the whole idea that there's anything worth fighting for. And it would seem like Mr Thompson, as a respected celebrity, has been in a position to render important service to his country over the last five years...

Your country, the best and greatest nation that has ever existed on earth, is under attack, and you fail to rush to her aid. What does that mean? What does that say about a person?

.
Poster: Daddy, What Did You Do In The Great War?
Posted by John Weidner at 5:50 AM

May 6, 2007

Sunday reading....

Charlene and I have been greatly enjoying a new book by one of my heroes, N.T. Wright. (That's his authorial moniker; in conversation he's referred to as Tom Wright, or Bishop Wright—he's the Anglican Bishop of Durham.)

It's called Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. It's an attempt to do something like what CS Lewis did in Mere Christianity. I recommend it. Actually, it has a sort of intellectual clarity that might appeal to the curiosity of someone with no great interest in religion. If an author wanted to explain Christianity adequately, it would be much easier to write a long complicated book than a short and simple one, as Wright has done. It's an impressive performance.

(Also, if you are interested in this stuff, Wright has posted his personal appreciation and criticism of Mere Christianity: Simply Lewis: Reflections on a Master Apologist After 60 Years.)

I posted an excerpt from the new book below...

...Discovering Help in Prayer

Help is at hand not least in those who have trodden the path ahead at us. Part of our difficulty here is that we moderns are so anxious to do things our own way, so concerned that if we get help from anyone else our prayer won't be "authentic" and come from our own heart, that we are instantly suspicious about using anyone else's prayers. We are like someone who doesn't feel she's properly dressed unless she has personally designed and made all her own clothes; or like someone who feels it's artificial to drive a car he hasn't built all by himself. We are hamstrung by the long legacy of the Romantic movement on the one hand, and Existentialism on the other, producing the idea that things are authentic only if they come spontaneously, unbidden, from the depths of our hearts.

Frankly, as Jesus pointed out, there's a lot that comes from the depths of our hearts which may be authentic but isn't very pretty. One good breath of fresh air from the down-to-earth world of first-century Judaism is enough to blow away the smog of the self-absorbed (and ultimately proud) quest for "authenticity" of that kind. When Jesus's followers asked him to teach them to pray, he didn't tell them to divide into focus groups and look deep within their own hearts. He didn't begin by getting them to think slowly through their life experiences to discover what types of personality each of them had, to spend time getting in touch with their buried feelings. He and they both understood the question they had asked: they wanted, and needed, a form of words which they could learn and use. That's what John the Baptist had given to his followers. Other Jewish teachers had done the same. That's what Jesus did, too, giving his disciples the prayer we began with at the start of this chapter, which remains at the heart of all Christian prayer.

But notice the point.There's nothing wrong with having a form of words composed by somebody else. Indeed, there's probably something wrong with not using such a form. Some Christians, some of the time, can sustain a life of prayer entirely out of their own internal resources, just as there are hardy mountaineers (I've met one) who can walk the Scottish highlands in their bare feet. But most of us need boots; not because we don't want to do the walking ourselves, but because we do.

This plea, it will be obvious, is aimed in one particular direction: at the growing number of Christians in many countries who, without realizing it. are absorbing an element of late modern culture (the Romantic-plus-Existentialist mixture I mentioned a moment ago) as though it were Christianity itself. To them I want to say: there is nothing wrong, nothing sub-Chrisrian, nothing to do with "works-righteousness," about using words, set forms, prayers, and sequences of prayers written by other people in other centuries. Indeed, the idea that I must always find my own words, that I must generate my own devotion from scratch every morning, that unless I think of new words I must be spiritually lazy or deficient—that has the all-too-familiar sign of human pride, of "doing it my way": of, yes, works-righteousness. Good liturgy—other people's prayers, whether for corporate or individual use—can be, should be, a sign and means of grace, an occasion of humility (accepting that someone else has said, better than I can, what I deeply want to express) and gratitude. How many times have I been grateful, faced with nightfalls both metaphorical and literal, for the old Anglican prayer which runs,
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, 0 Lord;
and by thy great mercy
defend us from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of thy only Son,
our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I didn't write it, but whoever did has my undying gratitude. It's just what I wanted...
Posted by John Weidner at 4:24 PM

A shadow of hope...

From a review by Msgr. Eric Barr of the Anamchara Blog on the new book by Tolkein, The Children of Hurin.

If you have read the Silmarillion you have already read this tale in more fragmentary form. I read it long ago, and remember the story of Turin being one of the most harrowing things I ever encountered. But I didn't understand what Tolkien was getting at...

...In our world, we like to think of ourselves as the masters of creation, flawed but not really sinful. Ask a friend if he or she sins and they will tell you they make mistakes but "sin?"--not so much. The Western world values "niceness" above all other virtues and raises tolerance to an almost oppressive level. We must accept anything and everything because each of us is the ultimate decider of what is right and wrong. Ambiguity rules our hearts and assuages our consciences. What is good for you may be wrong for me and vice versa. Too much reflection and we may think badly of ourselves. The problem is: not enough reflection and when our sins come home to roost and we must face them, then we may just give in to despair.

Critics will say our world is nothing like the one Tolkien created in his mythology, but they would be wrong. It is exactly like it--peopled with characters who are much like us, convinced that they can look evil in the eye and conquer it; convinced that if we just all tolerate everyone's take on the truth, we can do anything we want; convinced that salvation rests in our own virtue and courage. Just like the heroes in Tolkien's story, we do not reflect on our weakness for fear that such reflection will drag us down and tear us apart. The irony is that a little reflection on personal sin, balanced with humility usually leads to a chastened and wiser person who goes forward better for the examination of conscience. If we keep running away from the evil within us, then it becomes most dangerous when we are forced to face it. That fact destroyed Turin and Hurin, his father, and may very well destroy us...
...Turin is a kid who grows up with an absent father, who happens to be a hero, and deals with the fear of terror every day. His father, Hurin, captured by the Satanic figure of the story--Morgoth--is held in thrall in Middle-Earth's version of hell. As Turin's world breaks apart (Morgoth stretches out his hand to conquer his family), he flees to the Elves where he is fostered by the Elven King. Yet, as he grows into adulthood, he remains a man apart, a loner, given to flashes of anger and compassion, in the grip of emotions he doesn't understand. In his hatred of Morgoth, he dances with the Dark. His loathing is very close to a perverted form of love, for his very self finds its only meaning in relationship to this terrible evil force. Elves and men who try to befriend him, women who try to love him are pushed away in favor of his lust for revenge...

— — — — — — —

...Never has Tolkien shown so powerfully, the existence of Original Sin. This is an unredeemed world, long before the advent of Judeo-Christianity, and in this graceless time no human, despite his or her inherent goodness, has the power to successfully confront evil. Neither elves nor men can destroy Morgoth; sin has weakened them too much. Indeed, though not told in this tale, it takes the angels of Middle Earth, the Valar, to thrust Morgoth outside the world's bounds. Humility is the lesson of this story. If humanity is to succeed in conquering evil, it must look elsewhere for salvation. It will not come from man, or elf, or anything in this creation. Critics see only tragedy in this story, but there is a shadow of hope, an unseen answer that Tolkien is pointing to. It will not be found in the later Lord of the Rings tales, but will only be found, as Tolkien has written elsewhere, in the Gospel with the Incarnate God who came to earth to save a fallen humanity and cosmos. Tolkien the Catholic is alive and well in this newly published story. A parable for our times, this cautionary tale warns us of thinking ourselves as gods, as masters of the universe...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:29 AM

May 5, 2007

Body language...

I was going to send you to the We Win, They Lose petition. But I discovered that they have a widget that allows me to embed it right here...

You no doubt recall the words of Ronald Reagan, who, when asked how the Cold War should be viewed, said: "We win, they lose." Painful words for leftists and fake-pacifists and "realists," who viewed communist slavery as an inalienable right for hundreds of millions of people.

More and more I think that it's the state of our spirits and psyches that really drive the world. And that Reagan changed history less by anything he did, than by his face, his smile, his very body-language...all of which were the very opposite of the nihilism that infects our age.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:46 AM

May 4, 2007

Something for me to think about today...

From an essay by Daniel Larison, in New Pantagruel...

It has been one of the great, failed projects of conventional American conservatism to encourage the fiction that the Christian civilisation conservatives admire and the Enlightenment civilisation that destroyed it are part of a real continuity. For the purposes of this essay, I take it as a given that conservatism is, or at least ought to be, the persuasion and mentality that seeks good order and that in a Western society a conservative’s understanding of good order is unavoidably defined significantly and primarily by the Christian intellectual tradition in general and by the received teachings of the early Fathers of the Church in particular....

[....]

...However, this American conservatism was never entirely committed to rejecting the French Revolutionary model of society and its conception of humanity, at least not when similar ideas had already established themselves in Anglo-American culture by means that were really no less excessive and revolutionary in the seventeenth century. American conservatism could readily abjure an offensive Continental radicalism to which it was not really connected while embracing the fruits of an equally philosophically offensive, but more politically moderate English radicalism drawn from the English Puritan Revolution that had created the Anglo-American political consensus of almost three centuries.

For an American, even one inclined to recognise the deep roots of American order in Israel and antiquity, these three centuries must seem nearly an eternity—indeed, they are virtually the whole of our historical experience on this continent. From an American perspective, circa 1775, the legacy of Whig usurpation, violence and abstraction was already in some sense "traditional" and relatively well-established in precedent—the rights of Englishmen our ancestors claimed were, in the sweep of history, fairly new and based on contractarian and rights theories just as speculative and ahistorical in their own way as any imagined in France, but they had acquired a certain respectability and stability through their institutionalisation and their ready application in colonial life. The accidental seventeenth-century alliance between Dissenting and Reformed Christianity, the parliamentary cause and a philosophy of natural rights grew steadily stronger in the course of the Stuart dynasty, which in turn lent an unusual plausibility to the accommodation of Enlightenment claims and Christianity in English and American societies.

The results were the virtually universal Anglo-American embrace of political liberalism of one stripe or another and the tendency towards the unhealthy and rather odd identification of the "causes" of liberalism and Christianity, which profited from and deepened the secularisation of Anglo-American cultures here and in Britain. It is not surprising, then, that it was not until American Catholics, for whom the mythical alliance of Protestantism and political progress was always as nonsensical as it was often offensive (for what it implied about the Catholic church and Catholic nations), began fully to come into their own culturally, politically and intellectually that this largely unexamined accommodation continued unabated. It is perhaps also not surprising that American conservatism found its early champions in intellectuals (e.g., Weaver, Kirk, Burnham) whose journeys typically began on the left or far left, as these men had already taken the assumptions of the liberal age to their logical and unavoidably absurd conclusions and then recoiled in contempt at what they had found waiting for them...
(Thanks to Orrin)

"...recoiled in contempt." Precisely the right attitude.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

May 3, 2007

Very appropriate...

...Bush signed the veto with a pen given to him by Robert Derga, the father of Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Dustin Derga, who was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005. The elder Derga spoke with Bush two weeks ago at a meeting the president had with military families at the White House.

Derga asked Bush to promise to use the pen in his veto. On Tuesday, Derga contacted the White House to remind Bush to use the pen, and so he did. The 24-year-old Dustin Derga served with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion 25th Marines from Columbus, Ohio. The five-year Marine reservist and fire team leader was killed by an armor-piercing round in Anbar Province...[Link].

I could write a whole heap of things right now, but they've all been said. Which itself is the subject of a great blog-post by VDH:

....All that has come and gone, and we are left in the end with the verdict of the battlefield. The war will be won or lost, like it or not, fairly or unjustly, in the next six months in Baghdad. Either Gen. Petraeus quells the violence to a level that even the media cannot exaggerate, or the enterprise fails, and we withdraw. For all the acrimony and hysteria at home, that in the end is what we face—the verdict of all wars that ultimately are decided by the soldiers, and then either supported or opposed by the majority at home with no views or ideology other than its desire to conform to the narrative from the front: support our winners, oppose our losers. In the end, that is what this entire hysterical four years are about.

Win Iraq in the sense of a government stabilizing analogous to Kurdistan or Turkey, and even at this late hour, pundits and politicians will scramble around to dig up their 2002-3 quotes supporting the war, while Hollywood goes quiet and turns to more sermons on Darfur.
Sad, but true.

One prays for victory, but also for clarity, which is much more elusive. There are TWO wars going on. One between MNF and al Qadea plus Ba'athists. The other one is for the soul of the West, between nihilists and those who still believe that life has meaning, and that there are things worth fighting for.

The "anti-war" gang wants us to lose in Iraq, but not because they actually care about what's happening there. (You can easily see that from their writings and statements.) What they care about is the message that the "independents" take away from this conflict. They want the message to be that believing and fighting for ones beliefs always ends in confusion and waste and failure.

And it is perfectly possible that we may unambiguously win in Iraq, and yet the message that ordinary Americans and Europeans take away is that we have merely created confusion and chaos. That's the message our evil press is pushing relentlessly, that Iraq is a place of chaotic "sectarian violence," without clear meaning.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

May 2, 2007

It was a different world...back in 2005

Atlas Shrugs has an interview with Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, who recently quit blogging because of hostile attention from the police...

...SANDMONKEY: "Any kind of democratic reform in the country [Egypt] for the past 3 years has been rolled back specifically because there is no more pressure coming from Washington anymore."

ATLAS: Why? What happened to the pressure in Washington?

SANDMONKEY: You know what happened to the pressure in Washington. The Democrats won the Congress. There is no more pressure coming from Bush because he is not able to push people anymore to do those things. He is not able to push the Egyptian government anymore because the American public is suddenly not interested in reforming the Middle East because of what's going on in the Iraq. So suddenly the Egyptian government is not afraid of the American pressure. They are doing whatever they want to do. They are beating up demonstrators, they are cracking down on activists, they are changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties once and for all and they are using proxies to take down bloggers....

"beating up demonstrators...cracking down on activists...changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties." Gee, sounds like the kind of crap Lefties say about Bush's "fascist" America. Only this example is REAL. It's real, it's brutal, and it's what you get when you vote for "Democrats."

We were, for a while, pressuring Egypt and other Middle East tyrannies towards more freedom and democracy. Go back and read this post of mine from 2005. It was a different world.

Bush's foreign policy is idealistic, it wants to create a better world. BOTH because that's a good thing in itself, and also to make us and the world safer. But he can only do it from a position of strength. These things need to be supported by both parties. They SHOULD be supported by both parties; it is traditional in America that "politics stops at the water's edge." Of course on lots of small issues it doesn't, but when a president, especially in time of war, pushes an important foreign policy initiative, there is absolutely no excuse for the opposition party to undercut him.

Especially when it is an attempt to make a better world in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values.

It is wrong, it is EVIL, it is sick and twisted. Even if they are opposed to the Iraq Campaign, the Democrats should have made it absolutely clear that they are firmly in support of the President on these and other foreign-policy goals. But they are too sick and evil to care.

I'm doubly bitter about this because of the many times I pointed out that the Iraq Campaign, whether right or wrong, was going to lead to huge peaceful diplomatic gains. Why? Because diplomacy is the "good cop" that only works because there is the "bad cop" of war waiting to take over if the good cop can't extract some concessions. The fact that we looked like a country that might unleash crazy violent regime-change at any moment was a huge incentive towards peaceful change.

And the fact that we now look like a country that is paralyzed and won't respond to provocations is exactly why Egypt and Syria and Iran and many other countries can thumb their noses at us and crack down on any glimmers of freedom. And this is creating the seeds of future wars.

Pacifism KILLS. Right now the fake-pacifists and fake-Quakers and fake-Christian "peacemakers" are hugging themselves with glee because Bush and Rice have been forced into retreat. Domestic politics and anti-Americanism are all that's real to them. They care nothing for the realities of peace-making.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:42 AM

May 1, 2007

Long processes...

From City Journal, a good piece on the Broken Windows theory in action..

...In the early nineties, the chief of New York City’s transit police, William Bratton, put the Broken Windows theory into practice. With Kelling as consultant, Bratton began to go after the fare evaders, aggressive panhandlers, pickpockets, and other petty (and not so petty) criminals who had turned the subway system into what he called “the transit equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.” Bratton also had cops enforce anti-loitering laws to steer the homeless away from the subways and toward social services. Homeless advocates and civil libertarians fought him every step of the way, but Bratton prevailed, bringing order to the chaotic system. Sure enough, not only did minor crime plummet; serious crime did, too, and ridership soared. In nabbing low-level offenders, Bratton also discovered that many of them were wanted for much more serious crimes.

A few years later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose Bratton as his top cop and charged him with leading a similar revolution above ground. The rest, as they say, is history...

...Bratton is now the chief of police in Los Angeles, where he has successfully employed many of the tactics that worked in New York....
(Thanks to Orrin)

My off-the-top-of-the-head guess is that LA will be a much harder nut to crack than NY. But I sure wish them well. Notice how, as with every important reform, the opposition comes from the Left. The reactionaries of our time.

Also, cases like this can only be understood as things working over a long period of time. The "homeless advocate" may focus on one moment, and see cops rousting poor bums from the tiny comfort they can find in the subway. Looks bad. But in fact this is one instant in a process that extends backwards in time through decades of neglect, and also forward in time towards improvements that may take decades to become apparent. To focus on one moment is to tell a lie.

WE see the exact same thing in debates about the War on Terror.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:22 AM

Things that grate...

From Stanley Kurz's review of the new film Indoctrinate U...

...I don’t want to give anything away, but I was struck by the scientist who said that her students were able to figure out her politics simply by noting what she did not say. Just by teaching her subject, without adding extraneous leftist political harangues, she had revealed herself to be a closet Republican. You won’t believe what happened when the faculty found out about her politics. But the full horror story is almost less disturbing than the reality of that single observation about silence. Particularly in some of the non-science disciplines, it really has gotten to the point where mere silence on matters political is enough to reveal you as the enemy.

Will Indoctrinate U get seen? I don’t think there’s any doubt that a significant audience for this movie exists. But to overcome their own pressures of political correctness, distributers need to be reminded of that. So to prove that there is in fact an audience for this film, a website has been set up where you can register your interest in seeing Indoctrinate U. There you can also catch a trailer of the film. (Thanks to Rand)

Interesting the sensitivity to these things by the students. They've been subject to brainwashing since kindergarten, so they know the lie of the land. I often wonder how they will turn out. My own kids have a healthy aversion to political correctness and lefty indoctrination. It seems to grate on them. (They also find it grating that I like to recycle stuff. I have to explain that I don't really believe the crap about how it's going to "save the planet." It's just a conservative virtue. One called thrift.)

"it really has gotten to the point where mere silence on matters political is enough to reveal you as the enemy." I've heard that in places like many "sociology" departments, merely being liberal is not enough! It is tacitly required that all faculty be politically active leftists. Of course the discipline of sociology is an extreme case, since it has never contributed anything of use to anyone. It's practitioners must be aware, on some deep level, that they have carried "being useless" to an unprecedented extreme.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:02 AM