July 31, 2007

Good news is no news...

A good example, by Noel Sheppard, of how to dissect a bit of typical media bias. this one from—surprise—AP...

....In fact, in an article that, from the title, one would think would be about the declining death toll, and how things from a military standpoint might be improving in Iraq, the piece devoted seven of the first nine paragraphs, and more than 50 percent of the total print space, on political problems in the embattled nation.

And, when Salaheddin finally elaborated on the reduced death toll in July, it was curiously pessimistic....

—  —  —  —  —  —

....Hmmm. So, this was the lowest death toll since November, and since before the surge began. You couldn't find someone to quote who thought this was really good news, Sinan? Or that it was proof that the surge was working?

Oh. That's right. The surge wasn't even addressed in this piece. Instead, it was referred to as a "five-month-old security crackdown."

And, of course, Salaheddin nicely avoided any reference to President Bush having orchestrated this "five-month-old security crackdown" against the wishes of the left and their media minions.

I guess it's verboten at the AP to connect the president with good news in Iraq regardless of how much your article downplays it.....

"Five-month-old security crackdown." Sheeesh. Even if we had no other news about the shift in strategy and tactics labeled "the Surge," (which, by the way, started June 15) we would know it was working well just by the reluctance to name it. Sort of the opposite of news articles about politicians caught in wrong-doing: If the party affiliation is not mentioned, you know it's a Dem.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

Dispatches...

Don't miss Michael Yon's latest dispatch. We should always keep in mind how damn lucky we are that Information Age technology allows information to bypass the old gatekeepers, and gives us alternative sources besides the lies and dirt we get from the Gasping Media.

He never tries to paint a rosier picture than he sees, and he takes you there like nobody else...

...The foodstuffs are handled through the Ministry of Trade. LTC Fred Johnson was using force of will to get a frightened and inertia-laden local civil leadership to mount a convoy to Baghdad. He brought along an Iraqi journalist because he knew food distribution was a critical battle, and any victory could be hugely accentuated by getting it into the Iraqi media. Most of the Western press was now leaving Baqubah just when the real story began unfolding. Western media mostly missed the initial fight because they missed the signs, and then left immediately after seeing there was no brawl. 3-2 SBCT made no pretension of hiding their motivations for inviting me: they knew I was apt to stay around even if there was no fighting. They are a smart lot....

If you happen to have a few extra bucks, you might just give him a donation. He's supported by readers, and by some sales of his famous photographs....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 AM

July 30, 2007

News from the Front...

Too busy, so I'll quote another blogger...

Dave Price at Dean's World...

So, as has been widely reported, new Pew polling finds Muslim support for suicide bombings has fallen dramatically.

Hmmm, how could that have happened? Where has the world media's attention been focused the last few years, where lots and lots of suicide bombings have been killing Muslims? Must be that place the NYT has taken to calling
Mesopotamia.

But weren't we told American invasions of
Khorasan and Iraq were radicalizing Muslims and creating terrorists? Seems instead they've actually been de-radicalized, especially by events in Babylonia.

By now it's obvious to all but the most thick-headed or information-deprived observers that not only are Americans not looting and pillaging either country, they're the ones driving the effort to make them decent places to live (and spending lots of blood and treasure to do so).

Meanwhile, the splodeydopes are just killing Muslims as best they can. Apparently they're not winning many hearts and minds with that strategy...
Posted by John Weidner at 1:03 PM

July 29, 2007

The Real Lion...

Some interesting thoughts about Harry P...

....It has been widely observed that J.K. Rowling owes a creative debt to Christian fantasists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (apart from their fondness for initials). It's odd now to remember that, at the same time, some parents have objected to the magic depicted in the Harry Potter books as a glorification of satanic practices. For "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" confirms something else apart from the well-thought-out-ness of Ms. Rowling's moral universe: It is subtly but unmistakably Christian.

The principal Hogwarts holidays have always been Christmas and Easter, but it took five books before Ms. Rowling really began tipping her hand. In Book Six, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," she addressed concepts of free will, the power of love, and the sanctity of the soul. But in the final volume she gently lays it all out. The preciousness of each human life; bodily resurrection after death; mercy, forgiveness and redemption; sacrificial love overcoming the powers of evil--strip away the elves, goblins, broomsticks and magic wands and these are the concepts that underpin the marvelously intricate world of Harry Potter.

There are clues throughout. At one point, Harry is led to a weapon that will enable him to destroy the Horcruxes when he finds them: "The ice reflected his distorted shadow and the beam of wandlight, but deep below the thick, misty gray carapace, something else glinted. A great silver cross . . ."

Two unattributed New Testament quotations recur in the story after Harry sees each on a tombstone in the village where he was born and his mother and father died. He discovers on the Dumbledore family tomb "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," from Matthew. And on the grave of his own parents, he finds this, from I Corinthians: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." On seeing it, Harry feels momentary horror: Does it imply a link between his parents and Voldemort's followers? Hermione gently sets him straight: "It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry. It means . . . you know . . . living beyond death. Living after death."....

I'm not sure what I think about this, but it is plausible. However, my guess is that Rowling is just dabbling in a Christian direction because if one is playing with deep questions of life and death and meaning, there aren't many other places to go. It will be interesting to see what she does next. I've never heard rumor of her having any faith, but if she follows the logical path she's on....well, these things sneak up on you. I'd opine that Rowling is showing a sentimental attachment to some leftover shreds of Christian tradition, rather than the real Lion. Read this for contrast. (More thoughts below)

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

One thing I find fascinating about the Harry Potter books is that they not about magic. At least not in the way it is usually portrayed. The "magic" in the book is more like some esoteric technology, and Rowling could have fit the very same plots into pure science fiction. The stories could have been about an unusual boy selected to go to a secret "Star Fleet Academy," and learn to use light sabers and matter transporters. And become pals with Ron Solo and Leia Granger.

The magic in the books does not seem to have any effect on people's souls, beyond the ways that anything we do affects our inner selves. Being a Slytherin and dabbling in black magic is bad for you, but no more so than, say, getting hanging out with a bad crowd and starting to commit non-magical crimes. The Death Eaters have gone bad, but it's not their magic that corrupts them. Rather, they are like people who join some socialist group and have to commit atrocities, which make them become more and more evil. Nor does anyone have to bend their souls in either a good or bad direction in order to be able to practice magic.

Nor is there any "Fairyland" in the books, no transcendent or otherworldly aspect to the magic. There's no mysticism involved. And HP is not like those fantasies where the magic itself has a deep or world-changing meaning. The Earthsea Trilogy, or The Serpent Mage are examples. But Rowling closed off that option from the beginning.

A Catholic aspect of HP is that Hogwarts has always included the good and the bad. There's never any suggestion that the Slytherins might be excluded from the "church,", or that the Gryffindors might split off to form a smaller and purer "denomination." And in the last book Dumbledore is revealed to have been rather flawed as a youth, and his good qualities seem to have grown from his sins. This is like many a saint, and not like a "Gandalf."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 AM

July 28, 2007

Yes, it's a double standard! Good.

IHT: Three years after President George W. Bush urged global rules to stop additional nations from making nuclear fuel, the White House will announce on Friday that it is carving out an exception for India, in a last-ditch effort to seal a civilian nuclear deal between the countries.

The scheduled announcement, described Thursday by senior American officials, follows more than a year of negotiations intended to keep an unusual arrangement between the countries from being defeated in New Delhi.

Until the overall deal was approved by Congress last year, the United States was prohibited by U.S. law from selling civilian nuclear technology to India because it has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The legislation passed by Congress allows the United States to sell both commercial nuclear technology and fuel to India, but would require a cutoff in nuclear assistance if India again tests a nuclear weapon. India's Parliament balked at the deal, with many politicians there complaining that the requirements infringed on India's sovereignty.

Under the arrangement that is to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush has agreed to go beyond the terms of the deal that Congress approved, promising to help India build a nuclear fuel repository and find alternative sources of nuclear fuel in the event of an American cutoff, skirting some of the provisions of the law.

In February 2004, Bush, in a major speech outlining new nuclear policies to prevent proliferation, declared that "enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." He won the cooperation of allies for a temporary suspension of new facilities to make fuel, but allies that include Canada and Australia have also expressed interest in uranium enrichment.

The problem is a delicate one for the administration, because this month American officials are working at the United Nations Security Council to win approval of harsher economic sanctions against Iran for trying to enrich uranium. India is already a nuclear weapons state and has refused to sign the treaty; Iran, a signer of the treaty, does not yet have nuclear weapons....

The world is changing. France and Germany are the past, India is the future. We need India, she needs us, and George W Bush is nurturing the relationship. Transition periods are painful for the old and brittle (which is, psychologically and spiritually, almost all Democrats and Europeans) but the History Train has already pulled out of the station.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:07 AM

July 27, 2007

Death can strike at any moment....

The explosion at Scaled Composites is a big deal for our family, because my brother-in-law works there. Fortunately, he was not there at the time it happened, but if he'd been at work, he would likely have been close to the blast. Pray for the dead and injured!

Here's my post on the time we were there to watch SpaceShipOne win the X-Prize...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:58 AM

A bit of a follow-up on a old story...

From Michelle Malkin...

One of the most useful roles of the blogosphere is its service as an open-source intelligence-gathering medium. You can draw on the expertise of people around the world at the touch of a button. We saw this with typography experts during the Rathergate scandal; Photoshop experts during the Reutersgate debacle; and military experts during the Jesse Macbeth unmasking.

Now, it’s the statisticians and math geeks’ turn. Remember that massively-publicized 2004 Lancet Iraq death toll study? It was cited in nearly 100 scholarly journals and reported by news outlets around the world. “100,000 Civilian Deaths Estimated in Iraq” blared the Washington Post in a typical headline.

There were attempts made by lay journalists to debunk the 2004 study (as well as the 2006 follow-up study that purported to back up the first). But none of those dissections comes close to a damning new statistical analysis of the 2004 study authored by David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. I read of Kane’s new paper at this science blog and e-mailed him for permission to reprint his analysis in its entirety here so that a wider blog readership could have a look. He has given me his permission and adds that he welcomes comments and feedback....

....An interesting side note: as Kane observes in his paper, the Lancet authors “refuse to provide anyone with the underlying data (or even a precise description of the actual methodology).” The researchers did release some high-level summary data in highly aggregated form (see here), but they released neither the detailed interviewee-level data nor the programming code that would be necessary to replicate their results.....

I've written about this BS before.

...It's the same with that widely disseminated figure of 100,000 killed in the American occupation of Iraq. Statisticians have thoroughly debunked the number, though liars are still pushing it. But common sense tells us it's bogus. 100,000 bodies are hard to hide. There would be big piles of them lying around for significant periods of time. You can be sure Kevin Sites would have snapped pictures, and the MSM would have given them all possible publicity.

And 100,000 dead means at least a quarter of a million wounded! In a place the size of California. Where are they? I doubt if Iraq has even 10,000 hospital beds. There would be wounded people scattered everywhere...

I'm sure the fake-pacifists will still be pushing the fake numbers long after I'm dead and gone.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:26 AM

July 26, 2007

Writers needed...

Charlene and I were invited by Cinnamon Stillwell to meet last night with some of the 9/11 NeoCons, a local group of bloggers and conservatives. I happened to sit next to Ed Driscoll, who you've probably read. They are having a West Coast blog Fest August 18, which we will probably have to miss.

Cinnamon, by the way, is in need of writers for one of her projects. She's doing the West Coast coverage of CampusWatch...

Mission Statement
Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. Campus Watch fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds...

She says there's heaps of information freely available on the web, she just needs people to write it up. (Here's her latest piece.) So, if you've been needing an opportunity to fight the decline of just-about-everything, and this subject interests you....

Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. Campus Watch is currently looking for writers to do paid pieces focusing on California and Western State colleges and universities. Articles should be 750-850 words, research-based and concentrated solely on Middle East studies academia. If interested, please contact Campus Watch Northern California Representative Cinnamon Stillwell at stillwell--AT--meforum.org. For past examples, go to: http://www.campus-watch.org/docs/type/research.
Posted by John Weidner at 2:49 PM

The 'Baghdad Diarist'?

Dean Barnett writes about how The New Republic's "Scott Thomas" has now revealed himself. Fascinating stuff. For one thing, he publishes a letter about himself in TNR, without a single answer to the specific criticisms that have been made!

That is like all the pro vs anti-war arguments of the last 6 years in a nutshell.

Also, the guy had a blog! Fool.

Also, Hugh notes that apparently TNR has a blog (who knew? Who cared?) and none of the "journalists" who post there are even mentioning the controversy! Ha ha ha.

There's lots more at Michell Malkin.

* Update: When I started blogging, way back in 2001, I imagined that I was participating (in a very minor way) in a great debate. A debate between Left and Right, between pro and anti-war, between conservative and liberal. But it never happened! Debating leftists is like punching Jello. I thought there were two competing philosophies, but the big discovery I made is that there's nothing inside leftists. No core beliefs or ideas. Like Joyce Little put it, they are clothes with no emperor inside.

I predict that this "Scott Thomas" matter will never be cleanly resolved, that it will just fizzle out in vagueness and frustration, exactly like John Kerry's despicable Vietnam accusations. Defenders of our country and our military will continue to make factual and philosophical arguments, but it will be like trying to beat up a blob of Jello.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:36 AM

July 25, 2007

Save a billion lives, get no respect...

"Norman Borlaug has saved more lives than any person currently living. Indeed, he may have saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived."

Naturally, Leftists and "Helpists" and Greens hate him, and hinder his work.

Do read this piece on Borlaug, The Most Important Person You’ve Never Heard Of, by Pejman Yousefzadeh. My dad, who was a horticulturist and farmer, knew about this stuff, and I remember him telling me when I was young that the starvation we heard about in various Third World countries could be avoided. I didn't quite get it then; the idea that the world's population was doomed to expand faster than the food supply was just too pervasive. I thought he was foolishly optimistic, but it was the simple truth.

Pejman includes a quote from an InstaPundit reader:

...It's not because he spent his life serving the poor, per se. Press accounts are filled with stories about those who serve the poor. It's that Mr. Borlaug didn't serve the poor by giving away other people's money, or by demanding that other people give away their money. He served the poor by DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY, which in the view of the press is just as evil as making money, if for no other reason than someone makes money from the developed technology.

Think about it: You seldom see accolades afforded all the brilliant researchers at GE Medical Systems, Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo, Medtronic, or you name it, for precisely the same reason...

I think that's part of it. But I think it's more than that. Borlaug gets no credit, because he solved the problem. Journalists will laud you for helping the poor, as long as they stay poor! They love Mother Theresa, but she didn't upset the "natural order" of things. If she had found some way of lifting poor people into middle-class affluence, and they stated buying cars and computers and eating KFC, and imagining they were equals of the elitists in the helping bureaucracies, she would have been an object of scorn.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:19 AM

"gutless weasels possuming a ride"

I liked this bit of unalloyed scorn for some people who deserve it. Uncle Jimbo on the New Republic and their ilk...

...While the left makes noises that they think mean they support the troops, they don't really, and they do believe the dregs of society theory of military recruiting. Jon Carry didn't misspeak when he said those non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in his beloved cultural elite, will end up stuk in Irak. He was simply stating the common wisdom on the left, our troops are killers, sometimes under orders, sometimes just to satisfy their blood lust.

Well there is also a bit of assumed wisdom on our side as well. That is that most journalists are gutless weasels possuming a ride on the backs of better men and women than themselves. They are parasites whose sole function seems to be advancing a narrative of evil America, cause of all that is ill with this world. There is no problem they are unwilling to lay at the feet of greedy rapacious America, busy killing brown people all over the planet, and now even slaughtering Gaia herself. Damn us!

Well I for one am sick of it. I've had a bird's eye view of how our military operates and for an instrument of war it does one hell of a lot of good. Obviously it is a killing machine, but it is the most finely calibrated one ever deployed, and one that takes enormous steps to ensure that civilians are not harmed by it's actions. That alone distinguishes us from the rest of the world's armies. Look at the excremental record of UN "Peacekeepers" in comparison. The one thing the UN guarantees is a huge increase in child rape. Our forces on the other hand will likely be found giving vaccinations, digging wells or building schools. So Bite me Franklin Foer, not only are you a crap editor by even the low standards of journalism, but you are an ill-informed punk who allowed yourself and your rag to be used to smear a group of people who collectively and individually dwarf your moral and ethical stature. And as for Scott Thomas, I won't bother to do more than call you a liar and a remind you that eventually you will brag about this to someone and you will be unmasked. Just keep that in mind as you look over your shoulder for the rest of your miserable life. I sense some old school wall to wall counseling in your future troop.

Me, I'm predicting that "Scott Thomas" will never be unmasked, because he's a fiction, like a lot of "anonymous sources." Lefty journalists just make stuff up, and then they write, "Many are saying..." or "sources in the administration indicate...." Frauds.

We are at war. SOMEBODY is acting badly, and should be punished. Either we have some bad soldiers, or some traitor journalists. Mr Foer should be hauled in front of a Congressional committee and forced to up-chuck under penalty of perjury. It will never happen, alas.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

July 24, 2007

Sarkozyites...Perhaps interesting...

I'm actually getting interested in what Sarkozy's doing in France. Slightly.

....But Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France, may be different. So far, all indications are that at least one key component of his promises—a significant package of tax cuts—will be passed into law. Other measures, particularly proposals designed to crack down on massive strikes—the favored pressure tool by unions to stop reforms—are in store as well.

The French House approved a 10 to 13 billion Euro per year tax cut package on July 16th, while the Senate is set to review it starting the 25th. And while the House was busy reviewing the tax cut package, the Senate reviewed ways to make it more difficult for unions to organize paralyzing strikes...(Thanks to
Orrin.)

My own belief is, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, that the dividing line between good and socialism runs through every human heart. And that that's the place where the real battles are fought. Good laws and good government are important, but only to the extent that they encourage, or at least fail to discourage, the practice of virtue by the citizens.

If the French people have reserves of strength and virtue in their souls, then things like freeing them from some of the the suffocating blankets of socialism will encourage these virtues to grow. If not, not.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 AM

July 23, 2007

We had it and we threw it away...

PowerLine has a good post on how the three leading Democrat candidates have made statements in Iran, such as this one from Clinton...

...We cannot permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. We also must not let go unanswered its state sponsorship of terrorism. We must not stand silent in the face of brutal repression of women and minorities. And we must not tolerate threats to the existence of Israel...

But, none of them mention the possible use of force. Only diplomacy, or sanctions, or "engagement," or "working directly with Russia and China."

This is blatantly stupid, in two ways. One, you've said we "cannot"... "must not," blah blah blah. SO, what do you do if your diplomacy doesn't stop the things you said we "must not" allow? Is "must not" a lie? What. Do. You. Do?

Two, diplomacy works as an alternative to force. If you don't have a credible threat of force, then your adversary doesn't have much of a reason to make diplomatic concessions. It's the possibility of force that makes him scramble to find some diplomatic way out of whatever problem is on the table.

Renouncing force makes the use of force more likely, not less. Pacifism causes wars.

If you oppose war, if you want peace, then the best stance is to be perceived as aggressive, pugnacious, even a bit crazy. If I have a dispute with my next-door neighbor, and he's a hippie pacifist dweeb, I'm likely to brush him off. If he's erratic and combustible, and I worry that he might burn my house down, then..................how am I going to act, huh? You fill in the blank.

And the twisted thing is, we had this advantage! After March of 2003, the world looked at us as a bunch of crazy cowboys who might do anything. And as a result, our enemies started scrambling to make nice, and tyrant brutes like Mubarak and Assad trembled when Condi frowned. Omar Khadaffi imagined himself being dragged out of a spider-hole, and decided WMD's weren't worth the risk. Diplomacy was working!

We had it, AND WE THREW IT AWAY! Or rather, traitor Democrats threw it away, by undercutting our nation's foreign policy and making it obvious that they would drag down to defeat any attempt by the administration to make any serious use of force. Now our diplomacy no longer works. For instance, a large part of our current problems in Iraq stem from the massive flow of terrorists and deadly munitions over the borders of Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Those countries are in fact making war on us, killing American soldiers (and huge numbers of Iraqis). And they feel free to do it because they have little fear of retaliation.

They are waging a covert war. and it is a war caused by pacifism. Caused by people like Clinton, Obama and Edwards. War caused by people who claim to be for peace. And it is murderous war partly caused by people—the very thought makes me want to puke— who claim to be Christians.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:30 PM

Where-to-go....

Take a look at N.Z. Bear's revamped Victory Caucus. It's very impressive.

I've been able to write with confidence about the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, because I follow New Media sources that give a better picture than what we get from the perverted Old Media. (Or, as one of the Fadhil Brothers termed them long ago, The Gasping Media.)

But now there's a really good aggregator of these sources.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 AM

July 22, 2007

"slapped him clean out of his seat..."

From The Church and the Culture War, by Joyce Little, 1995...

... I have said so much about what is not a Catholic sentence that I think it only fair, in conclusion, to give an example of a sentence that is truly Catholic. And I am going to turn to a real expert on the subject, Walker Percy. He was a Catholic who knew what the Catholic faith is. He was a novelist who knew what words are all about. He was a medical doctor by education and thus knew all about diseases and how to recognize them in their symptoms. And he was an astute physician of our age, having diagnosed the "modern sickness" as "the disease of abstraction".

Happily, he also contributed to the "Writing Catholic" article and has supplied us therein with not just one but two truly Catholic sentences. The major point of his contribution is that the Catholic faith better serves the novelist than does any other religion or philosophy, because of its recognition that man is a pilgrim journeying through a world that is both sacrament and mystery rather than an ego absorbed with itself in a world of abstractions and illusions. What, concretely, does this mean? Percy tells us what it means: ''Show me a lapsed Catholic who writes a good novel about being a young Communist at Columbia and I'll show you a novelist who owes more to Sister Gertrude at Sacred Heart in Brooklyn, who slapped him clean out of his seat for disrespect to the Eucharist, than he owes to all of Marxist dialect."

Now there is a Catholic sentence—direct, concrete, specific, vigorous, and colorful. And every one of us, even those of us who have never been to Brooklyn or indeed have never been in Catholic schools, know all about Sacred Heart and Sister Gertrude and just what she is capable of meting out when her high standards of respect for the Eucharist are violated. And we all know just as well how deeply indebted we are to her today for whatever reverence we have been able to retain for the Eucharist through the many intervening and difficult years in which we have had to endure that abstractive process known as "liturgical renewal".

As for the second sentence. Walker Percy tells us: "In the end, 10 boring Hail Marys are worth more to the novelist than 10 hours of Joseph Campbell on TV." For those of you who know anything about the phenomenon of Joseph Campbell, you will recognize that to be truly a Catholic sentence....

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

A moment of concern...

We recently had an ecumenical service at the parish, and a very splendid thing it was...

CATHOLIC SAN FRANCISCO: Peace, reconciliation, unity are themes of June 28 event at St. Dominic Church
An evening of sacred music and sacred readings featuring themes of peace and reconciliation June 28 St. Dominic Parish was capped by exhortations from leaders of San Francisco's Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities for their traditions to continue pursuit of mutual understanding and unity.

Following their remarks to a nearly full church, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasimos and Archbishop George H. Niederauer lit in unison the final candle of a candelabra which had served as symbol of growing unity during the evening. Between choral offerings, pairs of youngsters — one Greek Orthodox, one Catholic — would walk to the altar area and each light a candle on either side of the candelabra.
Titled "Litany for Peace: An Ecumenical Evening of Sacred Readings and Music," the program featured three choral ensembles — the Solemn Choir of St. Dominic Church and the choirs of San Francisco's Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church...

Archbishop and Metropolitan Light Candle
Photo by Arne Folkedal
�2007 ArneFolkedal@gmail.com, used by permission. [Thanks!]

The little awkwardness for me was that I built that platform they are standing on. And all I had been told was that it was for the children, to help them reach the candles! Of course I had made it very sturdy, I know how to do this stuff. But still I felt a bit queasy when I realized that these two important guys were about to stand on it together... "The early 21st Century seemed to be experiencing a new dawn of ecumenism, until the catastrophic incident in San Francisco..."

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

July 21, 2007

Seismic shift?

Dean Barnett has a great article in Weekly Standard, The 9/11 Generation...

....Regardless of their backgrounds, the soldiers I spoke with had a similar matter-of-fact style. Not only did all of them bristle at the notion of being labeled victims, they bristled at the idea of being labeled heroes. To a man, they were doing what they saw as their duty. Their self-assessments lacked the sense of superiority that politicians of a certain age who once served in the military often display. The soldiers I spoke with also refused to make disparaging comparisons between themselves and their generational cohorts who have taken a different path.

But that doesn't mean the soldiers were unaware of the importance of their undertaking. About a month ago, I attended the commissioning of a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. The day before his commissioning, he had graduated from Harvard. He didn't come from a military family, and it wasn't financial hardship that drove him into the Armed Forces. Don't tell John Kerry, but he studied hard in college. After his commissioning, this freshly minted United States Marine returned to his Harvard dorm room to clean it out.

As he entered the dorm in his full dress uniform, some of his classmates gave him a spontaneous round of applause. A campus police officer took him aside to shake his hand. His father observed, "It was like something out of a movie."

A few weeks after his commissioning, the lieutenant sent me an email that read in part:
I remember when I was down at Quantico two summers ago for the first half of Officer Candidates School. The second to last day I was down there--"Family Day," incidentally--was the 7/7 bombings. The staff pulled us over and told us the news and then said that's basically why they're so hard on us down there: We're at war and will be for a long time, and the mothers of recruits at MCRD and at Parris Island right now are going to be depending on us one day to get their sons and daughters home alive.

When I was in England last week, I talked to an officer in the Royal Navy who had just received his Ph.D. He was saying he thought the larger war would last 20-30 years; I've always thought a generation--mine in particular. Our highest calling: To defend our way of life and Western Civilization; fight for the freedom of others; protect our friends, family, and country; and give hope to a people long without it.
It is surely a measure of how far we've come as a society from the dark days of the 1960s that things like military service and duty and sacrifice are now celebrated. Just because Washington and Hollywood haven't noticed this generational shift doesn't mean it hasn't occurred. It has, and it's seismic....

Oh, let it be so, let it be so. Sometimes things like this make me feel hopeful, and then other times I think we are trapped in a sort of ratchet, and that even though there may be upswings, each one is lower than the one before. And to make things more confusing, the upswings are often reactions to the bad things that happen, and so the bad things are in some way good things! I probably won't know what's going on until the Judgement Day.

Dean's article is sub-titled: "Better than the Boomers." Let it be so, let it be so...

I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days...
[link]

Posted by John Weidner at 1:17 PM

Sufficient for the day is the snarkiness thereof...

Dr Weevil:

The theory taught in graduate schools of modern literature is like mortadella: it’s expensive, imported, beautifully packaged, made with loving care by experts who have devoted their lives to their work and do it very well . . . but it’s still bologna.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 AM

The other side of the coin...

Regulars here know that I don't get too worked up on the issue of the death penalty itself. But I am a bitter opponent of the dishonesty and moral obtuseness of "anti-death penalty activists." [ link, link, link.]

I have several reasons, and one of them is that, in the propaganda of the activists, the victims always vanish. The little people who were slaughtered (and the communities devastated) are less than dirt to the lefty "activists" and journalists and fake-pacifists, even as they invariably give us saccharine portraits of the killers.

The same thing is frequently done in the case of terrorists. I recommend, as an inoculation, this post at PowerLine, about HBO's and the NYT's portrait of a pretty young Palestinian girl in an Israeli prison....juxtaposed with a letter from the parents of another sweet young lady, who was slaughtered by that pretty monster. And who is, of course, a non-person to the NYT, and of no interest to activist crowd. Her death penalty will merit no candle-light vigils by the nihilists.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:02 AM

July 20, 2007

fiskiting...

Once again, can't resist...

Bush's Cognitive Dissonance, By Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, Friday, July 20, 2007

One hopes the leader of the free world hasn't really, truly lost touch with objective reality. But one does have to wonder.

Last week, George W. Bush invited nine conservative pundits to the White House for what amounted to a pep talk, with the president providing the pep. Somehow I was left off the list -- must have been an oversight. But some columnists who attended have been writing about the meeting or describing it to colleagues, and their accounts are downright scary.

National Review's Kate O'Beirne, who joined the presidential chat in the Roosevelt Room, told me that the most striking thing was the president's incongruously sunny demeanor. Bush's approval ratings are well below freezing, the nation is sooooo finished with his foolish and tragic war, [Only if you think you and your lefty pals are "the nation"] many of his remaining allies in Congress have given notice that come September they plan to leave the Decider alone in his private Alamo -- and the president remains optimistic and upbeat. [It never enters your darkest dreams that Frodo might just toss the Ring into Mt Doom and then go home to Texas, content that he has done his duty, which is all any man can do. (You won't understand that, it's a Red State thing)]

Bush was "not at all weary or anguished" and in fact was "very energized," wrote Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report. He was "as confident and upbeat as ever," observed Rich Lowry of National Review. "Far from being beleaguered, Bush was assertive and good-humored," according to David Brooks of the New York Times. [It's so FUNNY, the way leftists keep expecting Bush to be "anguished," and then feeling BEWILDERED because he isn't! It's a subset of their bewilderment that the country is no longer what it was when their world-view gelled, somewhere around 1973. Guess what, I'm not "anguished either. I laugh at you, and spit upon your ideas.]

Excuse me? I guess he must be in an even better mood since the feckless Iraqi government announced its decision to take the whole month of August off while U.S. troops continue fighting and dying in Baghdad's 130-degree summer heat. [Uh, make that "fighting and winning." You have read the latest reports, haven't you Mr Robinson? The Iraqi parliament might as well take some time off and see how things develop.]

It's almost as if Bush were trying to apply the principles of cognitive therapy, the system psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck developed in the 1960s. Beck found that getting patients to banish negative thoughts and develop patterns of positive thinking was helpful in pulling them out of depression. However, Beck was trying to get the patients to see themselves and the world realistically, whereas Bush has left realism far behind. [Do we see transference here?]

"He says the most useful argument to make in support of his policy is to show what failure would mean," Barone wrote of the president and Iraq. "It would mean an ascendant radicalism, among both Shia and Sunni Muslims, and it would embolden sponsors of terrorism such as Iran. Al-Qaeda would be emboldened and would be able to recruit forces."

Excuse me again? This is what Bush believes would happen? Hasn't he noticed that these catastrophes have already befallen us? And that they are the direct consequence of his decision to invade and occupy Iraq? [No, they are a direct consequence of your Iranian and al Queda buddies PROVOKING radicalism and violence, because they are shit-scared of the possibility of a democracy in the heart of the Caliphate. As are you. When my enemies react with desperation, it probably means I'm doing something right.]

At a news conference last week, someone tried to point this out. Bush replied with such a bizarre version of history that I hope he was being cynical and doesn't really believe what he said: "Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That's why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, the clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course. . . . It was his decision to make."

Let's see, we have learned that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. That means Bush is claiming that Saddam Hussein "chose" the invasion -- and, ultimately, his own death -- by not showing us what he didn't have. [That is the simple truth. If the inspectors had had really free access, they would have found no WMD's and probably aborted the invasion. Of course it is likely that by then Saddam himself wasn't sure whether he had them or not! His generals thought Iraq did. And, to be precise, UN 1441 mandated that Iraq account for the weapons found in 1992, not show it had none. Funny how I've yet to see a single lefty mention that little fact.]

"Bush gives the impression that he is more steadfast on the war than many in his own administration and that, if need be, he'll be the last hawk standing," wrote Lowry. The president says the results of his recent troop escalation will be evaluated by Gen. David Petraeus, wrote Barone, and not by "the polls."

Translation: Everybody's out of step but me. [That's how great leaders are seen sometimes. But in fact he is in step with an enormous number of people. Wapo just doesn't want to admit we exist.]

One of the more unnerving reports out of the president's seminar with the pundits came from Brooks, who quoted Bush as saying: "It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist."

It's bad enough that Osama bin Laden is still out there plotting bloody acts of terrorism, convinced that God wants him to slay the infidels. Now we know that the president of the United States believes God has chosen him to bring freedom to the world, that he refuses to acknowledge setbacks in his crusade and that he flat-out doesn't care what "the polls" -- meaning the American people -- might think. I'm having trouble seeing the bright side. I think I need cognitive therapy. [OK bigshot, why don't you take a poll of Americans and find out how many of us believe that freedom is a "gift of the Almighty?" Oh, and while you are at it, ask how many agree with the Washington Post, that life is meaningless, and there is no god, and that fighting for a better world is equivalent to terrorism?]

Posted by John Weidner at 12:56 PM

Local lore...

Cinnamon Stillwell, on a bit of the rich cultural diversity of San Francisco...

...So when I went off to the Rainbow Grocery protest, [in 2002] I took along a sign that read, "Rainbow Hates Jews." Because at the heart of the unfair singling out of Israel among all nations, not merely for criticism, but for persecution and, ultimately, annihilation, is nothing more than hatred of Jews.

As usual, my fellow protesters didn't quite see it that way and I received more than a few disapproving looks from those quarters. But it was a Rainbow Grocery employee who really couldn't handle the truth, as they say. She and several other employees had been circling around my sign and looking ever-more shocked by the minute, she marched up to me and declared, "I'm offended by your sign!" I suppose that was the signal for me to crumble in abject embarrassment (this is, after all, a city where giving offense is seen as the ultimate crime), but instead, in a wonderfully satisfying moment, I responded slowly and with great emphasis, "I don't care!" An astounded bystander couldn't seem to believe her ears and starting laughing. The Rainbow employee looked completely stunned and after I added, "I'm offended by your Jew-hatred," she stomped off in a state of perpetual indignation. Adding to the triumphant nature of the experience, Rainbow called off the boycott soon after, although it has reared its ugly head more than once since.

This story is just one little vignette among many other funny and outrageous moments of street theater from my counter-protesting/protesting days, but I never forgot it. And when I stumbled upon an article in the current issue of J: The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California (to which I have contributed in the past) titled "Alleged anti-Jewish tirade at Rainbow sparks probe," it all came back.

It seems freelance writer and Sephardic Jew David Alexander Nahmod got a taste of the sort of "open mindedness" and "diversity" San Francisco is famous for when he had comments such as "Jews need to be killed, it's the only way to get them off Palestinian land" and "You’re just a stupid Jew" hurled at him by a woman working at the checkout line of, you guessed it, Rainbow Grocery....

As ever, I find myself much more interested in what's going on under the surface than in the actual events. Why does Rainbow hate Jews? (I will take it we are agreed that the Palestinians are just a transparent excuse; When Arabs oppress Palestinians nobody at Rainbow Grocery cares.)

I won't bore you again with my theories, but isn't it just fascinating to watch this stuff in action? And fascinating to watch our liberal Jews ignore it. (Sort of like those movies, where the people decide to go in and explore the haunted house. And then they split up, and go in different directions...)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:08 AM

July 19, 2007

Lies, damn lies, and the New Republic...

From Powerline...

Last night we noted the New Republic's "Shock troops" article by the pseudonymous "Scott Thomas" portraying the disgraceful behavior of American troops in Baghdad. Michael Goldfarb has called for help from readers who can shed light on the veracity of the New Republic article. Goldfarb has already updated his post to include messages that tend to undermine the New Republic article. One is from Stuart Koehl, who addresses the story of the crazed Bradley driver running over a dog...

These lefties are not only liars, they are STUPID liars. EVIL stupid liars. There is no way a Bradley Fighting Vehicle could run over a dog. It's a tracked vehicle, similar to a tank. Or a bulldozer. Have you ever stood next to a big bulldozer in operation? It's very noisy, loud enough that you would have to shout to be heard. No dog is going to go close to one. And a Bradley is even noisier, with 20 tons of armor to move. On a quiet day you could hear one a mile away. So what dog is going to just stand there and let this roaring, and rather slow and clumsy, machine run over him? Or many different dogs, according to the story. Including a dog who was sleeping and didn't have time to get away! Bullshitters. I spit upon them.

The other horror stories about our sociopath soldiers are equally unlikely. check them out, you will see.

Hugh Hewitt:

...Aside from the manifest implausibilities in these accounts, the story seems a little too perfectly calculated to tug at our hearts and provoke outrage. Note that the victims are women, the disabled, children and house pets. Perfect. Or certainly too perfect to fact check. And given the fact that the soldier/author needs anonymity to tell his tales out of school, fact checking would be impossible anyway....

"To tug at our hearts and provoke outrage" This all reminds me of that shit-stupid lie that brain-damaged (by political correctness) lefties were circulating a year or two ago, about how female US soldiers were so afraid of being raped that they wouldn't use the latrines at night, and so were not drinking water, and ended up dying of dehydration! (Needless to say no names or evidence ever surfaced.) How they hate our military! NihilistsI Our troops are the real Christians of our time, risking their lives to help the helpless and bring peace and order to war-torn hell-holes. They are the Good Samaritans of our time, and lefty nihilists, whose whole lives are a "passing on the other side of the road," hate them because they hate and fear belief above all things.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:26 AM

July 18, 2007

Bluff called...

Captain Ed on the big democrat surrender snooze...

...So what did this accomplish? Nothing. After midnight, most of the Senate disappeared. It turned into nothing more than a huge bluff, and Reid lost.

Here's what Reid wanted. He knew that he didn't have enough votes for a quorum; he only has 49 Democrats available, with Tim Johnson's disability. Reid counted on Republicans forcing an end to the session by having a single member present to challenge for a quorum. No votes could take place without one, including the instruction motion to the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest recalcitrant members and drag them back to the chamber. That would have allowed Reid and the Democrats to accuse Republicans of dodging the debate, calling them cowards to take the spotlight off of their insistence on retreat.

Many expected the Republicans to do just that, but it turns out that Mitch McConnell is a little smarter than Harry Reid. Instead of denying Reid a quorum, the Republicans showed up for the debate, perhaps charged up by John McCain's earlier speech on the floor. Once Reid figured out that the Republicans would not give him the satisfaction of walking out the door, he caved. In fact, Reid didn't even bother to attend his own No Snooze Until We Lose party after the first instruction motion, choosing to hit the sack instead while Republicans took the podium all night long.

The cloture vote has been scheduled for around 11 am this morning. The overnight session has done nothing except to annoy Republicans into a more unified caucus, and to make Harry Reid look like a fool....

Ha ha. Life ain't all bad...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:57 AM

Put up or shut up...

Remember how all the leftists condemned Bush for being a "unilateralist," and not respecting the wishes of the UN? And International law? and the International Community?" Remember? Any "Democrats" reading this, do you remember? Well, are you gonna respect these guys?

By Betsy Pisik - Washington Times — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged U.S. policy-makers yesterday to exercise "great caution" in considering any rapid withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.

"It is not my place to inject myself into this discussion taking place between the American people, government and Congress," said Mr. Ban, who was expected to repeat the message during meetings on Capitol Hill today.

"But I'd like to tell you that a great caution should be taken for the sake of the Iraqi people," he said at a U.N. press conference. "Any abrupt withdrawal or decision may lead to a further deterioration."...

...Other international critics of the war are also warning that a premature U.S. departure from Iraq could have devastating consequences.

"I hated the Iraq war, [but] a hasty withdrawal would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for U.S. interests," International Crisis Group analyst Joost Hiltermann said in Washington yesterday. He argued in favor of a regional approach to Iraq's problems.

Several Arab diplomats and leaders of relief agencies also have warned that Iraq would devolve into chaos with massive casualties if the American troops left too soon...(Thanks to Betsy N).

Of course our fake-leftists won't care a fig about the "Internationals" if it means doing what they don't like. It was always a foul lie. for them the only purpose of all the "international" crap (and likewise Just War theory) is to attack and hinder the US and Israel, and anything else they feel free to ignore.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 AM

Charming new idea...

John McBride, at Ars Technica:

...Microsoft has filed another patent, this one for an "advertising framework" that uses "context data" from your hard drive to show you advertisements and "apportion and credit advertising revenue" to ad suppliers in real time....

....The application, filed in 2006, describes a multi-faceted, robust ad-delivering system that lives on a "user computer, whether it's part of the OS, an application or integrated within applications."

"Applications, tools, or utilities may use an application program interface to report context data tags such as key words or other information that may be used to target advertisements," says the filing. "The advertising framework may host several components for receiving and processing the context data, refining the data, requesting advertisements from an advertising supplier, for receiving and forwarding advertisements to a display client for presentation, and for providing data back to the advertising supplier."

....It would inspect "user document files, user e-mail files, user music files, downloaded podcasts, computer settings, computer status messages (e.g., a low memory status or low printer ink)....

....The patent makes no mention of any method by which an actual user might exert control, nor does it mention very real privacy or security concerns....

Such an exciting future we have ahead of us. Any day now our computers will just buy stuff for us (printer ink! drugs that enhance!) and then every day will be a wonderland of surprises. But alas, not for me. I'm just too parochial and stick-in-the-mud. A cyber-Mennonite. Maybe I should purchase one of those "Windows" machines, and get a life!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 AM

July 17, 2007

run towards, not away...

Thanks to Harold Sutton for pointing this one out to me, from National Review:

GOP Hopefuls Keep Distance From Bush; Republican Candidates Run from Bush; Republicans Backing Away From Bush. These are the headlines we have and will continue to see again and again throughout the remainder of the 2008 primary campaign and after every GOP debate. With approval numbers in the high 20s and low 30s, the president cannot expect the GOP candidates for president to run toward him, and on any number of issues the candidates are well within their rights and judgments to put daylight between the outgoing administration and their hopeful one.

But on one issue, the candidates should not run from the president, in fact they should run toward him and close any distance or doubt between them: the battle of our lifetime, the global war against Islamic terrorism and its battleground Iraq.

We propose they do so as soon as possible, in one press conference where they all stand united in one voice and say: “On this issue, on the war against Islamic terror, in the battle for Iraq, we stand with one voice and one policy: Victory. We support both the troops and the mission and you cannot divide that support. The troops and their generals believe in what they are doing, that they can win if they are given the necessary support. We believe them, we believe in them, and will do everything in our political power to help see them through to victory. On this issue, there is no daylight among the president, our servicemen and women in Iraq, and us. We will not support premature withdrawal or surrender.”

Let the press conference happen soon, as the House has just voted to stop the war in April of next year; the Senate is debating the very same; other politicians are arguing for an even sooner withdrawal; and the media is making heroes of a handful of Senate Republicans who are distancing themselves from the president on Iraq.

Let it take place at Ground Zero in New York. Politicizing the war? Hardly. That has already been done by those who have stampeded to the Senate and House floors, rushing to be the first with a new withdrawal plan for Iraq; or by declaring the war “a failure;” or “a meatgrinder;” or the lives of our soldiers “wasted” or “squandered;” or saying the president lied us into war; or by the attempted rewriting of history from the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (signed by President Bill Clinton) to what those who voted to authorize the war in 2002 did and did not say — did and did not mean — when they spoke in favor of and voted for the authorization of that force....
Posted by John Weidner at 1:12 PM

A lunatic air...

Hugh Hewitt:

Against the backdrop of stories like this one, Harry Reid's surrender sleep-over takes on an almost lunatic air --a rushing about by the lefties to legislate defeat before the clear facts of progress leading to victory become widely known and lastingly illustrative of the Dems' inability to be trusted with the country's national security.

What pathetic creatures. And our Republicans aren't much better. If they were they'd be having bedspreads PRINTED for the slumber-party with all the recent good news from Iraq which our pathetic news-media don't want you to know about...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 AM

Uzodinma Iweala

I strongly recommend a WaPo piece by Uzodinma Iweala, Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa:

....his is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. ....

.....Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth....

The sin that goes along with being "charitable" (in the current sense of the word) is Pride. If I help you, then I am superior to you. I'm strong, you are weak. I'm good, your virtues are not worth noticing. (Except gratitude. Another line from the article: "Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe.") Amen, brother.

If people really wanted to improve the lot of Africans, they would be campaigning for free trade. (Read this, by James Shikwati. And this: What Bono Doesn't Say About Africa.) Africa produces a huge amount of food, although it is often not in the right place at the right time. But it usually can't be sold on the world market due to trade barriers, which helps keep African nations too poor to just buy food when needed. They would also support this Bush Administration proposal to purchase food for famine relief from nearby countries, rather than shipping it from the US.

In a more general sense, they would be aiming to make Africans self-reliant and self-sufficient. Ha ha, what a joke. Hollywood liberals don't even want you and me to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. We should all be dancing our gratitude for crumbs handed out by celebrity gods and goddesses.

And it's all racist. The whole thing reeks of the assumption that Africans are and will always be inferior and needy. That's why I get a keen pleasure out of the current religious situation, with African bishops taking strong moral stands against the twisted sickness of certain Protestant denominations. and African priests and missionaries coming and helping rich but spiritually-slack Westerners.

The whole Africa fad is also a chance to indulge in the self-loathing that is characteristic of Leftism. We are responsible for Africa's backwardness, due to colonialism. Well, it's bullshit. There are plenty of parts of Africa that were only colonized in the 2Oth Century, or were never colonized at all�why aren't they paradisiacal?. And there is an idea that we stole Africa's wealth, in the form of natural resources. But this is economic bullshit. Resources are not the source of wealth. You don't have to look any farther than Nigeria to see that. People create wealth, and they tend to do so when there is good government, low taxes, and the rule of law.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 AM

July 16, 2007

Nasty surprises coming...

Dr Sanity writes:

...Ledeen [link] is also absolutely correct about the surrender monkey part of the post. Al Qaeda's secret weapon; the Jihadi's "aces-in-the-hole," are none other than the pathetic leadership of the Democratic Party and their dysfunctional puppet-masters on the left, who are absolutely desperate to make sure that America officially loses; because in America's defeat and humiliation, they sense victory for their petty political agenda. They hope to finally succeed (they think) in discrediting George W. Bush, their hated enemy, for all time.

But I think Bush has several nasty (at least for them) surprises in store before the end of his term of office. Whatever you think about the President, he is a man who means what he says; and he acts on what he says. You can disagree vehemently with his agenda, but he will not be deflected by negative polls or lack of popularity...

All true. And the general pattern of the Bush Presidency has been to deliver the "nasty surprises" sometime around September. (Some thoughts here.) Andy Card once drew a ton of flack for saying, in regards to Bush's apparent inactivity in August 2002, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.'' Which was, in fact, a sensible thing to say, since the president is not a dictator, ruling by decree. He has to "market" his policies. And he's done very well at it.

I was very disappointed last year, 2006, when nothing of the sort happened. Although, in fact, something was cooking. It was labeled "the Surge." And it's going to be a very nasty surprise for our terror-supporters if the President gets up in the Bully Pulpit and explains convincingly that violence in Iraq is on the road to extinction, and we've basically won. Peace is the last thing the pacifists want.

I would only disagree with Dr Sanity in that I think lefty hatred of Bush and the Iraq Campaign has much deeper roots than just politics. The WoT is hated because it's based on the idea that what we have and are is worth fighting for. To the nihilist, that's the ultimate reproach and irritation�they have nothing they would fight and die for. And Bush himself is the symbol of that.

More from the good doctor:

...When it comes to Iraq and the war on terror, Like Kristol, I will go out on a limb and say that this Presidency will be judged well by history for his actions--however imperfect--in the war against Islamic fascism. It is amazing what he has been able to accomplish militarily with so little loss of life (despite all the hysteria, troop fatalities are historically low in this war). And, perhaps even more significant, Bush has significantly changed the status quo in the Middle East. He has set forces in motion that had been static and perpetually stalled on the side of despotism. Some will argue that the stasis was a good thing, but I don't see it that way. If nothing else, the world has now had a good taste of what the jihadis have been plotting for the last few decades and have begun to appreciate the potential danger to freedom and Western civilization inherent in Islamic political ideology.

Thus, I will continue to support this imperfect President (and what President, pray tell, has been even close to perfect?); the troops fighting the war; and America...

My sentiments, exactly.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:15 AM

July 15, 2007

"Satan is never more successful than under the guise of an angel of light"

...The humanitarians are more dangerous in principle than the egoists, for they have the appearance of building on a broader and deeper foundation, of being more Christian, more philosophic, more generous and philanthropic; but Satan is never more successful than under the guise of an angel of light. His favorite guise in modern times is that of philanthropy. He is a genuine humanitarian, and aims to persuade the world that humanitarianism is Christianity, and that man is God; that the soft and charming sentiment of philanthropy is real Christian charity; and he dupes both individuals and nations, and makes them do his work, when they believe they are earnestly and most successfully doing the work of God.

Your leading abolitionists are as much affected by satanophany as your leading confederates, nor are they one whit more philosophical or less sophistical. The one loses the race, the other the individual, and neither has learned to apply practically that fundamental truth that there is never the general without the particular, nor the particular without the general, the race without individuals, nor individuals without the race. The whole race was in Adam, and fell in him, as we are taught by the doctrine of original sin, or the sin of the race, and Adam was an individual, as we are taught in the fact that original sin was in him actual or personal sin...

      -- Orestes Brownson, The American Republic, 1866

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 5:59 AM

July 14, 2007

This week's sham....

Hearing that the House had voted for a retreat in Iraq was very depressing. BUT, Amanda Carpenter looks at the details, and discovers—this will astonish you—that the Democrats are cowards and frauds, and the bill is yet another meaningless sham...

...Pelosi is publicizing that the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act would force President Bush to dramatically change his Iraq strategy. The fine print, however, states that Bush must first agree to it.

The first few lines of the bill demand that the administration redeploy troops from Iraq within 120 days and “complete the reduction and transition to a limited presence” by April 1, 2008.

Later, the language in the bill weakens. On page three, the bill calls only for a “reduction.” The next page specifies that the Armed Forces’ presence be reduced to “minimum force levels required to protect United States national security interests” by the April deadline.

How many troops would remain after this reduction?

In an email, Pelosi spokeswoman Nadeam Elshami said,
“The bill requires that number and purpose to be justified by the President. It would then be up to Congress to decide whether to fund the deployment.”...

Congress could, of course, stop funding the Iraq Campaign at any moment. but that would require them to take responsibility for the results. The ice-hearted animals could care less if another Cambodia occurs, if millions of brown-skinned foreigners die, as long as the responsibility is diffused. Cowardly dogs, I spit upon you!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

Signs of desperation...

I just noticed that Penraker has a long string of posts on how the WaPo is spinning the news from Iraq. See here, here, here, here, here, and here. They are really getting desperate!

An example is this one: Iraqi Military's Readiness Slips. Report Says That Since January, Fewer Units Can Operate Independently. They make a headline and a big deal about a slight drop in the number of units that are at Level One, glossing over the fact that if you are rapidly expanding your forces that is to be expected. It is not a bad sign. Officers, NCO's, specialists and equipment are being spread over much larger forces, so it takes time to catch up.

And more importantly, Level One is not important right now. (We've been through this crap before.) What's important is the number of units at Level Two, and that is steadily expanding. Level Two units can can operate independently except for American logistical and air support. And that's fine for our purposes at this point.

The deal, when the Senate unanimously confirmed General Petraeus, was that the results of the "surge in operations" (which only started 4 weeks ago) would be evaluated in September. Yet we are seeing a relentless drumbeat to declare it a failure right now. A curious thing! I'd say that leftists are getting very sweaty about what September might bring. Which makes me feel good.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 AM

Reports of his death perhaps exaggerated...

President Bush gave an interview to 10 conservative writers recently. Kate O'Biern and Rich Lowry have a report in NRO, He’s Not for Turning. Bush makes his case on Iraq.. Bush is not, perhaps, exactly Churchillian, but it's pretty good...

Forget the leaks and the speculation, President George W. Bush is not looking for a way out of the surge and the Iraq war. In a session with about ten conservative journalists Friday afternoon, a confident and determined president made it clear that he is going to see the surge through, and will rely on General David Petraeus’s advice on how to proceed come September, regardless of the political climate in Washington...Excellent. And I suspect all this may work out better than the pessimists expect.

...Pressed on whether the surge can be sustained despite all the difficulties, he said, “That’s the challenge, but I’m optimistic about it.” He said that back in January, “I suspect you’d be asked the same question, particularly since the outcry was quite significant.” But he went with the surge.

“How can he possibly do this,” he said, characterizing what critics of the war were thinking. “Can’t he see? Can’t he hear?” (At one point he acknowledged that these decisions aren’t easy — “You don’t know what it’s like to be commander-in-chief until you’re commander-in-chief,” he said.)

He explained “that last fall, if I had been part of this polling, if they had called upstairs and said, do you approve of Iraq I would have been on the 66 percent who said, `No I don’t approve.’ That’s why I made the decision I made. To get in a position where I would be able to say ‘Yes, I approve.’...

....He says he has four audiences when he broadcasts his commitment to the mission in Iraq: the American public; the American military and their families; the Iraqis (“because there are a lot of people who doubt America’s resolve”); and the enemy (“the enemy thinks that we are weak — they’re sophisticated people, and they listen to the debate”). As for that last audience, “I really think the additional forces into Iraq surprised them—a lot.”....I hadn't thought of it that way. Poor al Qaeda, they slaughter thousands of innocent men women and children, and then their newsmedia/Democrat/pacifist wing fails to carry out its part of the bargain, and there's MORE Americans coming! Suuuprise! I bet they were flummoxed!

....The president made his intentions clear Friday afternoon. He’s not going to abandon the surge, despite all the talk of his administration being willing to move to the Iraq Study Group model of the Iraq war. He views “this period as fundamental for deciding whether or not this nation is going to be secure throughout a lot of the 21st century. And therefore when it comes to the war in Iraq, as you know, I made a decision not to leave but to put more in, and I will support our troops and support Gen. Petraeus, his plan.”....Thank you. I'll depend on it.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

July 13, 2007

For us or agin us...

Orrin Judd quoted a few paragraphs by Camille Paglia...

[I] don't share your admiration of President Bush's post-9/11 speech about terrorism. His warning to the world -- "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" -- may please the ear with its syntactical symmetries, but it reveals a shockingly simplistic reading of geopolitics and indeed of life itself.

Camille dear, it was simplistic for a reason. And the reason wasn't "syntactical symmetries." If you can't even see that, you can't criticize intelligently. A big part of the strategy and tactics of the terrorists is to blur the distinctions between combatants. Both on a small scale, by mingling with non-combatants (a war crime, by the way, not that any of you lefties care) and on the scale of nations. Many nations allow terrorists to operate on their territory while pretending to be friendly with us. Bush is saying that this is no longer acceptable. Do you agree, or disagree?

...Since when did any nation -- even America, which I love -- become the dictatorial arbiter of morality?

It is not a question of morality, it's politics. But let's say that it is a moral claim. ANY moral issue will divide people into for-and-against. That's just a fact. If I say it is always morally wrong to drink alcohol, and you say it's OK in moderation, you are against me. And it is my duty to speak as an arbiter.

...On what authority did President Bush, imperfectly advised by incompetent or mendacious underlings, divide the human race into those with us or against us?

He didn't divide the world, he was just pointing out a divide that already existed, and which many people hoped would continue to be ignored or fudged. (That's why people want to frame terrorism as a law enforcement issue...to avoid hard choices.) Frankly, it should have been done many decades ago. We are in a war because we allowed terrorism to grow over a long period, because we didn't want to make tough choices. We accepted guys like Arafat talking peace in English and "Death to the Jews" in Arabic...We didn't want to call him on it, and the result was...the situation we are in.

...Who are we to demand or enforce such exclusivity and privilege?

It's a WAR! That's just what happens in wars. 9/11 changed a shadow-war into an open war, and war forces decisions whether or not Bush makes a speech. At the beginning of our Civil War a number of states tried to say they were neutral. Yeah, sure, how long did that last? "Who are we?" We are the strongest and the best of nations. We are, by default, the world's police. We are, by default, the only nation that can exercise global leadership. We are, by default, almost the only altruistic and moral nation.

Yes, yes, I know we have many human failings. That doesn't change the fact that the US has a large moral component to its foreign policy. And that non-Anglosphere nations fall woefully short in that regard, as we have seen with our erstwhile European "allies." It is reasonable, considering our position, to make some demands during a crisis. Moral demands, if you want to call them that.

...Why should our own self-interest take priority over that of all others?

Why not? That's what self-interest means! Seriously, to paraphrase the famous mis-quote of Alfred Sloan, what's good for America is good for the world. We are the champions of global law-and-order, freedom, democracy, free trade....All good things for us AND just what the poor and oppressed of the planet also need. The most important foreign aid program on the planet is the US Navy, because she keeps the sea-lanes open, so the trade that the world depends on continues to flow. It's in our self-interest AND the world's interest to fight for a peaceful and orderly planet safe from the threat of terrorism. Or perhaps you think that's NOT in the bests interests of the Earth? If so, what is? What are you FOR?

...This is hubris, the excessive pride that both the Hebrew Bible and Greek tragedy warned against.

No Camille, it's not hubris. It would be if we were literally dividing the world into for-and-against. But if you bother to look at what's actually happening, you will see that we are continuing to allow the situation to be fudged in many instances. We don't force Pakistan (or France) to be completely with us or against us. It would not be practical to do so. But this is now a concession on our part from a clearly announced position.

* Update: In a larger sense, I reject, with the utmost scorn and contempt, and sheer hatred, the moral relativism, (not you personally, but your belief) that says "Who are we to say what's right or wrong." Moral laws are objective facts, graven into the fabric of the Universe since the beginning.

It's like saying, "Who are we to say what the speed of light should be?" Phooey. I say it's 186,000 miles per second, and that lady, you are either for us or against us!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

July 12, 2007

Worst nightmares...

I highly recommend (no doubt everyone else will too) Victor Davis Hanson's The New York Times Surrenders: A monument to defeatism on the editorial page...

...We promised General Petraeus a hearing in September; it would be the height of folly to preempt that agreement by giving in to our summer of panic and despair. Critics called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a change in command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops. But now that we have a new secretary, a new command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops, suddenly we have a renewed demand for withdrawal before the agreed-upon September accounting—suggesting that the only constant in such harping was the assumption that Iraq was either hopeless or not worth the effort.

The truth is that Iraq has upped the ante in the war against terrorists. Our enemies’ worst nightmare is a constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate, surrounded by consensual rule in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Turkey; ours is a new terror heaven, but with oil, a strategic location, and the zeal born of a humiliating defeat of the United States on a theater scale. The Islamists believe we can’t win; so does the New York Times. But it falls to the American people to decide the issue...

And the left's worst nightmare is US victory in Iraq. The Iraq Campaign has exposed their pretensions to being "liberal" as a total sham. They are nihilists and reactionaries. And the only way to escape the harsh spotlight that is shining on them is for our liberation of Iraq to be discredited...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:23 PM

Here's a chance to make a difference...

Dean Esmay could use your help...

There is a reason hard-working volunteers set up this wiki. The only thing frustrating me now is that not enough people have signed up to help dispel the bullcrap that keeps being passed around about Saddam, Iraq, and America.

Cases in point:

1) Saddam was never "on America's payroll." 2) America did not supply Saddam with any significant amount of chemical weapons. 3) Saddam exploited a loophole in CDC/academic policy to obtain small amounts of anthrax and a few other bio-poisons that he later used in ways never imagined by those who supplied his regime. 4) Donald Rumsfeld once shaking the bastard's hands did not make him "our guy." 5) Saddam's military equipment was primarily Soviet, and secondarily French. What little he got from us (very little) was tertiary at best.

You can document all of this clearly.

After five years of repeating these facts, I've completely lost patience with doing it yet again for friends like Ali. Would some kind soul please, please, PLEASE sign up for this wiki and provide the documentation so I don't have to do it yet again???...

Poster: Daddy, What Did You Do In The Great War?

I bet some of you reading this could contribute a little to the wiki...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch...

One of the maddening, infuriating things about contemporary life is that in most ways this country is majority conservative, and leaning towards majority Republican. And yet liberals sit smugly in many legacy enclaves and act as if their ideas were not only the majority view, but the only sensible and "normal" and "modern" view---so much so that they need never engage in principled debate. (Which they would lose.)

I live in one of those enclaves, which adds to my ire. And another enclave is the "mainstream media," (MSM) which is almost entirely liberal and Democrat, and usually covers conservative or "Red State" or Christian matters like anthropologists visiting the Cannibal Isles. (The emblem of this was the decision at the NYT a couple of years ago to assign a reporter—one reporter—to cover all conservative matters. He was of course a liberal.)

The New York Times is the central spider of the MSM, in a very literal way, since all the local papers and TV news stations key off of the NYT, which gets to frame the stories and often decides what is "news" and what is not. When you watch the TV news (except perhaps Fox) you might imagine that all those glossy people study what is happening in the world and decide what is important. Nuh uh. Mostly the decisions are made by the NYT, and the WaPo and the AP. And none of them will never DEBATE, they just take it as read that they are at the the center of opinion, and have the intrinsic right to decide what we will know.

So it is with the utmost pleasure and pure delight that I read in Michelle Malkin that the NYT's credit rating has been lowered—yet again—and is barely above the level of junk bonds!!! It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of pompous frauds. Go boys, lead your whole vile treasonous industry down into the bone yard!

S&P Lowers New York Times Ratings To BBB/A-3; Off Watch 2007-07-11 12:18 (New York)
Rationale
On July 11, 2007, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its long-term corporate credit and senior unsecured debt ratings on The New York Times Co., to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’. The short-term corporate credit and commercial paper ratings on the company were also lowered, to ‘A-3′ from ‘A-2′. All ratings were removed from CreditWatch, where they were placed with negative implications on March 23, 2007, following the company’s announced plan to increase its dividend to shareholders. The rating outlook is negative....

Among the many reasons the NYT gang deserves to suffer is that the NYT is a business. With shareholders. The editors of the NYT have decided that their ideology is more important than anything else, including profits, and is worth excluding at least 60% of the population from their potential readership. But they don't OWN the paper! They have a duty, a responsibility to the owners to try to make a profit. They are in effect stealing from their shareholders.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

This round, it's not defeatists we are fighting, but fantasists...

Rick Richman was at the California Dinner of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The speakers were Natan Scharansky, and Hugh Hewitt, who he quotes:

...In 1978, when Mr. Sharansky was convicted wrongfully by an illegal regime, I was a graduating senior from Harvard, driving across the country to go to work for Richard Nixon in San Clemente. . . There are so many parallels between the election of 2008 and the election of 1980 that I observed from San Clemente, the Elba of America at the time.

I had gone out to ghostwrite a book for President Nixon . . . called “The Real War.” ...It was, perhaps, in 1978-1979 the lowest point of the Cold War -- the point at which America seemed least likely to even win a stalemate.

If you will recall, Cubans were throughout Africa and on the march; the Shah had fallen; shortly thereafter the Soviets would occupy Afghanistan; Americans were held hostage in Teheran; Mr. Sharansky was in the most infamous prison in the most dictatorial country in the world, on his way to exile eventually in Siberia. The future looked very, very bleak indeed... I had sat at my commencement, in the rain, listening to Alexander Solzhenitsyn tell us about A World Split Apart, and predicting that in fact the West would not survive. . .

Ronald Reagan’s candidacy was also in trouble. . . . Reagan was flaying [flailing?] around through early 1980 and it did not look, even though Carter was in trouble, that the Republicans could pull it together. . . . A lot of people think 1980 [was easy]. It was such a close thing if you go back and revisit it. . . . It did not in fact break until October 28 of that year. . .

I bring that up because I believe we are in for the same kind of election. I believe that 2008 is going to be as closely run and as difficult . . . but for a very different reason. In 1980 Ronald Reagan presented optimism . . . against Jimmy Carter’s resigned defeatism . . . a belief that we could not rally ourselves and perhaps we could get to some sort of separate peace. This time it’s not defeatists . . .

This [election] . . . is really against fantasists -- against people who do not believe that the threat is what it is. . . . Our fellow citizens and our friends also felt as badly as we did about the events of [9/11]. But increasingly they have come to believe that it was a lucky one-off, a fluke, a tragedy, as opposed to the first massive expression of a very sinister and very powerful will . . . intent not on peaceful coexistence . . . but on the relentless expansion of their radical vision of Islam.

The Republicans are going to be saying a very hard thing to hear -- that we are locked in an existential struggle . . . and that indeed it is going to be a long and difficult and often bloody 20-30 years ahead of us. That’s a very tough hard message to sell in 60 seconds . . . especially when Democrats insist on saying it’s not so, and that we can retreat from Iraq without the carnage following us home, and that we can pretend that the radicalization of the Islamic population in Europe is neither far advanced nor continuing....

Question is, can a nation long endure, when a large portion of its population is living in a rubbishing hippie dream-world where you "visualize" things to make them happen? And now we have a double-whammy, with many of our leaders in Congress "visualizing" failure in Iraq at the very moment when the tactics of General Petraeus (who they voted unanimously to confirm) are starting to take effect, and when all our people actually on the ground in Iraq are reporting very positive developments?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:30 AM

July 11, 2007

Pithy guy...

Thomas Sowell has another batch of his one-liners. My favorite:

"A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years," said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. If so, then we may be hearing about "diversity," "social justice" and "a living wage" for many years to come.

Oh, and one more...

Does anybody seriously believe that "hate speech" prohibitions will be applied to Muslims demonizing Jews, to blacks demonizing whites, or to women demonizing men?

And...

Wisdom and cleverness are very different things. My nominations for the three wisest presidents would be Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan. For the three cleverest -- FDR, Nixon and Clinton.

And...

"Nations are like men in that they prefer a fuss made in their behalf to real services rendered." Although de Tocqueville said this back in the 19th century, it may help explain why the black vote today is so overwhelmingly for the Democrats, when Democrats have done so little good for blacks and so much harm.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:28 AM

July 10, 2007

Good escape fiction...

Charlene and I both recommend The Peshawar Lancers, by S. M. Stirling. It's about an alternative future in which Britain and the Northern Hemisphere were devastated by meteor showers in 1870. Millions of English re-located to India, and re-constituted the British Empire. Now, 150 years later, technology is at about the level of our 1900, and the cultures have merged and blended in interesting ways.

It's a story of old-fashioned daring-do and romance, with splendid heroes and the most exceedingly evil villains...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:18 PM

You need to be able to run a rather large organization...

Patrick Ruffini, on McCain...

....Until today, John McCain had four highly capable aides who could have easily vied to be his Karl Rove. That was the problem. No one was really in charge. As a 24 year veteran of Congress, this shows how poor McCain's management instincts really were, and demonstrates why Senators rarely get elected President. Marc Ambinder essentially confirms this in the tick-tock:
The sources said that Nelson's position as campaign manager was precariously positioned from the start because McCain did not endorse a campaign structure that would have given Nelson absolute authority over messaging, finance and strategy. Republicans directly familiar with the negotiations to bring Nelson aboard said that McCain promised Nelson that no one but him would have the ultimate say in making and executing campaign decisions. But McCain did not follow through on those promises, these Republicans said.
Even a perfect campaign couldn't have nominated John McCain, but his reluctance to give one person ultimate responsibility for strategy certainly didn't help...

Even if McCain were not flaky on several important issues, the fact of his apparent lack of management skills ought to disqualify him.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:52 AM

Dreamliner...Go Capitalist oppressors!

Boeing recently rolled out the 787 Dreamliner, which they hope to start flight-testing in August or September, with first deliveries next May.

One thing that's really neat is the the carbon fiber composite fuselage is stronger than an Aluminum one, so the windows can be significantly bigger (27 cm by 47 cm, with a higher eye level) and the cabin pressure can be higher (6,000 feet instead of 8,000). Also the cabin humidity can be higher, because composites are not subject to corrosion!

So look forward to future air travel that's, well, not fun, but less of a misery!

Boeing Dreamliner cabin interior
Richard Branson, left, and Jim McNerney, chairman and chief executive of Boeing Co.,
pose inside a display of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner after a news conference in Chicago.
Photo: AP
Posted by John Weidner at 8:27 AM

July 9, 2007

Good corrective to the stuff you are hearing...

What Bono Doesn't Say About Africa, By William Easterly (Thanks to Orrin)

....It's a dark and scary picture of a helpless, backward continent that's being offered up to TV watchers and coffee drinkers. But in fact, the real Africa is quite a bit different. And the problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fueling support for patronizing Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help.

Let's begin with those rampaging Four Horsemen. Do they really explain Africa today? What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less; for example, annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades. That doesn't lessen the tragedy, of course, of those who are such victims, and maybe there are things the West can do to help them. But the typical African is a long way from being a starving, AIDS-stricken refugee at the mercy of child soldiers. The reality is that many more Africans need latrines than need Western peacekeepers — but that doesn't play so well on TV....

A lot of people have a vested interest in a "a helpless, backward continent." (Not least from the superiority implied by being the advanced people helping the poor wretches who can't help themselves.) My own Christian community is among them, and I suspect that they will not want to hear messages like this for the additional reason that African poverty is an easy problem. My estimate is that in our world prosperity is far more dangerous to souls and bodies than poverty, but is a much tougher nut to crack, or even to get a grip on. It's easy to drop a twenty in the collection basket to help the poor darkies, and feel like one has done something. What to do about our own world of prosperity, where we absorb nihilism and corrosive change and the "Culture of Death" through our pores?—That's tough! And baffling.

I put a bit more of the article below...

...Further distortions of Africa emanate from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's star-studded Africa Progress Panel (which includes the ubiquitous Geldof). The panel laments in its 2007 news release that Africa remains "far short" of its goal of making "substantial inroads into poverty reduction." But this doesn't quite square with the sub-Saharan Africa that in 2006 registered its third straight year of good GDP growth — about 6%, well above historic averages for either today's rich countries or all developing countries. Growth of living standards in the last five years is the highest in Africa's history.

The real Africa also has seen cellphone and Internet use double every year for the last seven years. Foreign private capital inflows into Africa hit $38 billion in 2006 — more than foreign aid. Africans are saving a higher percentage of their incomes than Americans are (so much for the "poverty trap" of being "too poor to save" endlessly repeated in aid reports). I agree that it's too soon to conclude that Africa is on a stable growth track, but why not celebrate what Africans have already achieved?

Instead, the international development establishment is rigging the game to make Africa — which is, of course, still very poor — look even worse than it really is. It announces, for instance, that Africa is the only region that is failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs in aid-speak) set out by the United Nations. Well, it takes extraordinary growth to cut extreme poverty rates in half by 2015 (the first goal) when a near-majority of the population is poor, as is the case in Africa. (Latin America, by contrast, requires only modest growth to halve its extreme poverty rate from 10% to 5%.)

This is how Blair's panel managed to call Africa's recent growth successes a failure. But the reality is that virtually all other countries that have escaped extreme poverty did so through the kind of respectable growth that Africa is enjoying — not the kind of extraordinary growth that would have been required to meet the arbitrary Millennium Development Goals...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

July 8, 2007

On Freedom


....Luke the Evangelist tells of how Jesus, "when the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51). In the expression "resolutely" we can glimpse the freedom of Christ. He knows, in fact, that in Jerusalem, death by the cross awaits him, but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself for love. It is in this, his obedience to the Father, that Jesus fulfills his own conscious choice motivated by love. Who is more free than the One who is Omnipotent?

But it was a freedom he didn't see as arbitrary or as one of dominion. It was one he viewed as service. In the process, he "restored" what freedom means, otherwise it would remain "empty" opportunities of doing or not doing something. And so in the life of man, freedom brings with it a sense of love. Who is actually more free? The one who withholds all possibilities for fear of losing, or the one who gives himself "resolutely" in service and so finds himself full of life thanks to the love he has given and received?...
-- Benedict XVI

[Link]

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

July 6, 2007

Just asking...

This LA Times editorial brought out the mischief in me:

A FAVORITE Washington fantasy this summer is that clever U.S. diplomacy might somehow succeed in splitting Syria from its current patron, Iran. The dream is a bipartisan indulgence — and probably quixotic. Instead, the United States and its allies would do better to turn quickly to the urgent matter of preventing war between Syria and Israel. [Why? I'm not saying we shouldn't do so, but why, exactly?]

War fears have been fanned by a notable Syrian arms buildup. Damascus has purchased surface-to-surface missiles, antitank weapons and sophisticated air-defense systems. It is also believed to have received Iranian funds to pay Russia for missiles and a reported $1-billion purchase of five advanced MIG-31E fighter jets. [So you are saying we should prevent a war until Syria completes its arms build-up? To make things more "fair" perhaps?] Syria denies Israeli reports that it is rearming Hezbollah, whose weapons stores were depleted during its war with Israel last summer. But a recent report to the U.N. Security Council warned that poor security along the Syrian-Lebanese border allows arms smuggling to Hezbollah to continue. [No sensible person doubts that Syria is re-arming Hezbollah terrorists. So why, EXACTLY, is it in our interest to prevent them getting what they deserve?]

Even more ominously, Syria has hinted that if Israel continues to spurn its offers to restart peace talks on the return of the Golan Heights, perhaps a war to retake the Golan might be its only option. [This is backwards. It is only the threat of war that forces Israel to hold on to the Golan. Without it they are much more vulnerable to Syrian attack.] The Bush administration has been opposed to Israeli-Syrian peace talks, which it sees as undermining its campaign to isolate and punish Syria. Israelis are divided on the matter, but so far their government has opted not to pursue talks — perhaps using U.S. resistance as a convenient excuse. [Perhaps. perhaps not. You have yet to present the slightest shred of evidence that Syria is interested in peace. They are the war-mongers here.]

At last month's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Bush finally stepped aside and said Israel was free to conduct whatever negotiations it wished with Syria — but the U.S. would not take part. That lessens prospects for peace, because an Israeli-Syrian pact is unlikely without U.S. mediation, or at least Washington's blessing. U.S. attempts to isolate Damascus have failed, and Syria's economy boomed last year despite U.S. sanctions and a steady decline in oil production. Is it worth risking war merely to keep Israel from talking to its longtime enemy? [We are already IN a war. It's known as the Global War on Terror. Syria is our ENEMY. It is a terror-supporting state, and the enemy of all peace-loving people. So WHY should we care if they are thrashed by Israel? Which side are you on here, Mr LAT?]

Meanwhile, opportunities mount for miscalculation. Israel does not want to appear weak in the eyes of Syria, nor does it want Damascus to fear an Israeli attack. Syria might not want war either, but it has reason for paranoia given its provocative role in supporting the Fatah al Islam militants and Hezbollah in Lebanon. [And it's in our interests for these evils to continue? Why?] Beirut or Gaza might easily provide the spark for a disastrous new Middle East war, perhaps fought by proxies. [Why would it be "disastrous?" Just asking.]

Some analysts say Syria would not go to war against Israel without Iranian approval. But who wants to gamble on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calculations of Iran's national interest? Diplomacy and deterrence [Sorry to throw a new concept at you, but deterrence is based on the threat of war. If you are afraid to go to war, you have little or no deterrence.] are a safer bet. [We are in a war on terror, and IRAN is the number-one terror supporting state. So WHY is it in our interest to prop-up their client, Syria? ]

x

Posted by John Weidner at 7:36 PM

Sweetness...

I finally got a chance to play with an iPhone, now that the crowds have left the Apple Store. Ten minutes at most, but that was enough time to try a lot of things.

It is beyond awesome. (Yes, yes, Scott, I knows about all the various things it won't do, and I'm sure that if I were away from WiFi the EDGE network would be a big negative.) I have a good phone, and Charlene has a Treo, but this is just another world.

You know that old SF cliché, about how any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? It was sort of like that. I was riffling through a photo collection by flicking it with my finger, and almost immediately lost any sensation of working with a machine, or with data, or files. Or pixels on a screen.

I took the picture below, first try, and e-mailed it to myself, without any feeling that I needed to consult the owners manual. I just did it. The keyboarding is weird, but I improved quickly. I bet someone soon invents a stylus that mimics the electrical qualities of human skin, to use with iPhones...I started tapping with the corner of my finger, to be more precise...

Photo taken with iPhone

Posted by John Weidner at 12:22 PM

"This situation is dripping with irony!"

Hugh Hewitt posted an e-mail...

Why is the UK importing all these foreign doctors?

One answer is because many of the good ones left when the powers that be decided that nationalized government-run medical care was the way to go.

I’ll give you 2 examples from one specialty, ophthalmology:

S___ was the son and grandson of family physicians in the north of England. When the UK opted for socialized medicine, Stuart decided it was a bad move, so he moved, eventually winding up in Orange County, CA. S____ is the inventor of [a key advance in eye care] and co-founder of [a major company]. The device that allows the recipient thereof to see objects at far, intermediate and near distances. It is under the control of the ciliary muscle in the eye, and mimics the function of the natural lens before birthdays get a hold of it and the arms become too short. It’s a remarkable lens, manufactured right there in Aliso Viejo.

But do you think a Brit can get one of these intraocular marvels? Not likely. He can come here to receive it and pay cash, but if he wants surgery done in the UK, he must sign up, wait for a very long time, then have a German ophthalmic surgeon who flies into England do his surgery since there’s such a shortage of English ophthalmologist. This situation is dripping with irony!

To understand the current situation, you have to turn the clock back 40 years and realize that we are now seeing one of the natural results of lousy policy...

Things are connected. When I was a boy there were big battles about "socialized medicine." (I suspect the free-market party won back then just by pinning that name onto the issue. And now the socialists are trying to win by giving their policy the name "single payer.") And the people who opposed said that it was a bad idea that would harm us over time, by eroding the incentives that lead to better medicine.

And those who were for various government interventions in health care took the position that changing the economics of the system would not affect how people act. That doctors, for instance, would still work and compete vigorously without the incentive of yachts and big houses and seats on the board of the museum.

But what fascinates me is that they could not say this explicitly. Because it is crazy. And they still can't. Leftists are still drooling over the possibility of getting health care totally into the government's control, but the plans—HillaryCare, ObamaCare, whatever— still assume that all the little human chess-pieces will continue to act just the same.

To be left-leaning in any way is to be tangle-up in lies. I can argue my positions at any number of levels. There are underlying ideas under the underlying ideas. And you are welcome to take a hammer and pound on any of them. And if they fail, I've learned something. Leftists/democrats/"Progressives"/Liberals...none of them can say the same...

x

Posted by John Weidner at 8:13 AM

July 5, 2007

Summer meltdowns...

From a NYT article on airline delays. Very bad. Just stay home.

...As anyone who has flown recently can probably tell you, delays are getting worse this year. The on-time performance of airlines has reached an all-time low, but even the official numbers do not begin to capture the severity of the problem.

That is because these statistics track how late airplanes are, not how late passengers are. The longest delays — those resulting from missed connections and canceled flights — involve sitting around for hours or even days in airports and hotels and do not officially get counted. Researchers and consumer advocates have taken notice and urged more accurate reporting....

..Moreover, in addition to crowded flights, the usual disruptive summer thunderstorms and an overtaxed air traffic control system, travelers could encounter some very grumpy airline employees; after taking big pay cuts and watching airline executives reap some big bonuses, many workers are fed up.

Some other airline delay statistics, meanwhile, are getting a fresh look, as well. After thousands of passengers were stranded for hours on tarmacs in New York and Texas this past winter, consumer advocates began complaining that Transportation Department data does not accurately track such meltdowns.

If a flight taxies out, sits for hours, and then taxies back in and is canceled, the delay is not recorded. Likewise, flights diverted to cities other than their destination are not figured into delay statistics...

Another factor not mentioned is that software now makes it possible to make schedules that use planes much more efficiently. That is, with planes spending less time on the ground. This helps make flying cheaper, but also makes the whole system more "brittle," because there are fewer planes sitting around airports that can be pressed into service if one breaks down.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 AM

July 3, 2007

"God Save our American States"

I've posted these before, but not for a few years...

From a letter by Abigail Adams to John Adams (who was in Philadelphia with the Continental Congress), July 21, 1776:

Abigail Adams...Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the multitude into King's Street to hear the proclamation for independence read and proclaimed. Some Field pieces with the Train were brought there, the troops appeared under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousands from the country). When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona [balcony] of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was paid to every word.

As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyful. Mr Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen...

And also from a letter, by John...

yyy
I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means....--John Adams

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

Long arm of the law...

It's not a war we're in, just cops 'n robbers. And Unca Sam's the cop on this world's beat. So sleep safe, enjoy your Fourth of July, support our troops and our allies, and thank God for America... Chinook lands on roof, Afghanistan

* Update: A reader e-mails that the photographer�s name was almost certainly U.S. Army Sgt. Greg Heath / 4th Public Affairs Detachment. He sent another photo of the same scene, which I may post soon...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:31 PM

Juggle the thoughts back and forth...

Scott writes:

....Other Official Left-Libertarian Blogger Henley Theories I’m interested in hearing addressed: if Iraq is Jihad U., a common-enough complaint and one easy enough for even a dumb hick like me to understand and potentially even buy into, wouldn’t there be whole lot more death-dealing being done in England and Scotland with this spasm of car-bombs? Are they saving the really bright Jihad U. graduates for something or someplace else?....

He's a hick all right. Urban sophisticates can believe two (mutually-exclusive) impossible things before breakfast. It's obvious that Iraq is generating legions of unstoppable terror-bombers (who would otherwise all be peaceful doctors), and also obvious that the War on Terror is a hoax intended to make George W Bush dictator of the world. If you can't think both these thoughts at once, flip rapidly back and forth between them...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:23 AM

No news is...

Charlene mentioned that there doesn't seem to be much news from Iraq in the "mainstream" news media these last couple of weeks. Good news is usually no news, when it comes to Iraq.

I imagine the "journalists" standing around their Teletype machines, crumpling the little sheets of paper in disgust, and muttering, "Whatsa matter with our guys? How hard can it be to blow up a mosque or a school, for pity's sake!"

 Man at Teletype machine

Posted by John Weidner at 6:53 AM

July 2, 2007

Just torn apart, animals and people...

You've probably already seen Michael Yon's photo essay on the discovery of a whole village slaughtered by al Qaeda. I can't better Michael Ledeen's words:

Yon's latest provides a clear picture of the terrorists' savage methods. Literally, because it's mostly photographs of what happened to a village that fell into the claws of al Qaeda. They just tore apart the villagers, their livestock, their children and women, and then boobytrapped the area to try to kill our guys, knowing that they would honor the dead...

It's grim stuff. You want to see evil? Just take a look. Makes me really angry.

And "Democrats" are people who want us to surrender to those animals!!! "Anti-war" activists are those who want to hand the poor people of Iraq over to them to be tortured and slaughtered. Just like they did for the wretches of South Vietnam and Cambodia.

And if we pull out, and the Iraqi's are being crushed and massacred, or possibly fighting back successfully, but with with much more bloodshed than there would be with our presence......then the fake-pacifists will define the ongoing carnage as "peace!" PEACE! And congratulate themselves on "ending the war." Just like those vile frauds preened themselves on "ending" the Vietnam War, even as millions were dying or being sent to concentration camps. They will blithely flush millions of brown-skinned people down the toilet if it helps elect Democrats and hurt America. God, how I hate them. Or rather, I try not to hate them personally, but I hate their ideas unreservedly.

And what a torment it is to be able to do nothing, except spit out my disgust in the blog. (And pray for peace. REAL peace, not appeasement and self-hatred leading to a bigger war down the line.) If I could transform myself to young-and-childless, I'd be SO totally in Iraq. So would Charlene, probably. I remember when we heard that a friend had been offered a job in Iraq. We just looked at each other and thought "that would be so cool."

But why, exactly, do we all obsess over the Iraq Campaign?

But why, exactly, do we all obsess over the Iraq Campaign? As wars go it's not even that big a deal. In past wars we've suffered similar numbers of casualties in single days! If human deaths are an issue, Darfur is much worse. If suffering bothers you, North Korea is much worse. The War on Terror is economically trifling, with our tax rates lowered yet government receipts steadily rising. And nobody's being drafted...

I'll tell you why I care. Iraq is the fulcrum of our world right now, and so it calls to us. The second-largest challenge of our time is the Islamic world. (No, I don't think we are "at war with Islam.") That misguided world is being racked over the space of a generation or two by changes that the Christian West worked through, with lots of bloodshed, over many centuries. And Iraq is the fracture-point where we have to hit them, to make progress in dealing with the problem. It's a center-point where change is possible, and from which change can radiate outward. (The astonishing transformation of Kurdish northern Iraq exemplifies the possibilities.)

And as for the the leftists and fake-Quakers? It is not the slightest bit odd that leftists everywhere hate the Iraq Campaign to something near the point of insanity. They hate it for many reasons (see this post) but I think the single biggest one is that, by taking on this momentous and very difficult project, we Americans are declaring our belief in ourselves and the rightness of our cause. And leftists are nihilists (as I've bored you by writing many times) and belief is what they are allergic to. Belief makes a claim on me, it says that there is something bigger than me me me, something I must serve. If, like all nihilists, your only creed is non servum, then you must make war on anything that makes a claim on you. Whether it's God, country, Truth, or unborn babies....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:02 AM

July 1, 2007

Some things you just don't forget...

...In a letter in the Pilot in 1900 he [Wilfrid Ward] compares infallibility to the Church's living memory. Just as human memory may be uncertain on a number of minor points yet absolutely convinced and indisputable on the great facts of one's past life, so with the Church's "memory." There are many minor matters in Catholic tradition on which no infallibility is claimed, on which research and evidence can do the same work in supplementing memory which they do for all of us in human matters. But by the Church's infallibility we mean that it is only on those great matters where she knows, that God will allow her to pronounce with certainty.

-- Maisie Ward, in
The Wilfrid Wards and the Transition, vol 1, p.407

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:20 AM