March 31, 2008

"Stultifying spiritual emptiness"

Spengler's latest offers us a clear view of what may really be going on with the Pope's baptism of Magdi Allam.

...Magdi Allam presents an existential threat to Muslim life, whereas other prominent dissidents, for example Ayaan Hirsi Ali, offer only an annoyance. Much as I admire Hirsi Ali, she will persuade few Muslims to reconsider their religion. She came to the world's attention in 2004 after a Muslim terrorist murdered Theo van Gogh, with whom she had produced a brief film protesting the treatment of women under Islam. As an outspoken critic of Islam, Hirsi Ali has lived under constant threat, and I have deplored the failure of Western governments to accord her adequate protection.

Yet the spiritual emptiness of a libertine and cynic like Theo van Gogh can only repel Muslims. Muslims suffer from a stultifying spiritual emptiness, depicted most poignantly by the Syrian Arab poet Adonis (see Are the Arabs already extinct?, Asia Times Online, May 8, 2007). Muslim traditional society cannot withstand the depredations of globalized culture, and radical Islam arises from a despairing nostalgia for the disappearing past. Why would Muslims trade the spiritual vacuum of Islam for the spiritual sewer of Dutch hedonism? The souls of Muslims are in agony. The blandishments of the decadent West offer them nothing but shame and deracination. Magdi Allam agrees with his former co-religionists in repudiating the degraded culture of the modern West, and offers them something quite different: a religion founded upon love....

It's worth reading...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 PM

Another day, another ducat....

Charlene was working—lawyering, you know—in a Hispanic neighborhood today, and saw a car with a couple of bumper stickers...

JESUS SALVE

and

Drugs: NO
Drink: NO
Burritos: YES!

(She spent a tedious day inspecting apartments in a matter of lawsuits over habitability. She said her one good moment was when she saw a stuffed dog hanging from a ceiling, and said, "Perro piñata!")

Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 PM

March 30, 2008

Old wisdom...

I've started a great book, Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion, by Peter Kreeft. The subject is the Virtues. "Classical virtue theory." A badly neglected topic. As the author puts it, "We have reduced all virtues to one: being nice. And, we measure Jesus by our standard instead of measuring our standard by him." (Well that at least defines what I don't like.)

The study of the Virtues is something I'm grossly ignorant of, as is most of the modern world. It used to be central. We've lost a lot. For instance I recently was given the advice that the way to combat a persistent sin is to practice the corresponding virtue. I don't even have a clue how to put that notion into practice! Luckily I'm among the Dominicans, who used to make the Virtues something of a specialty, so I'm at least on the right track.

A little excerpt:

...Meanwhile, while ethics languish, discussion of ethics flourishes. One of the most popular courses in high schools and colleges is ethics. But the kind of ethics that is usually taught is ethics without bite, without substance, without power, for ethics without a vision of what a good man of woman is, without virtues or vices, concentrates on doing instead of being, just as our whole modern society does. Such ethics never asks the two most important questions: What is man? and What is the purpose of his life on this earth?

C. S. Lewis uses the image of a fleet of ships to show that ethics deals with three great questions, not just one. First the ships need to know how to avoid collisions. That is social ethics, and it is taught . In the second place, they need to know how to stay shipshape, how to avoid sinking. That is the question of virtues and vices, and that is not taught. Finally, they need to know their mission, why they are at sea in the first place. That is the question of the ultimate purpose of human life. It is a religious question, and of course it is not asked, much less answered....

HOW can people not ask such questions? It just floors me to think that most of the people around me think of such things as "cans of worms" they don't want to open. I don't blame people for getting the wrong answers. But asking the wrong questions, or no questions, I find contemptible.)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:16 AM

March 29, 2008

strangest health story in many years?

Hugh Hewitt, on another recall of possibly-contaminated Heparin from China....

This remains the strangest health story in many years because it is so under-reported....

...The questions I have yet to see answered in a newspaper account (or anywhere for that matter):

Where and when did the 19 fatalities occur?

During what time frame did the "hundreds" of allergic reactions occur?

Are there possible long-term consequences from use of the adulterated heparin which patients have to be vigilant about?

Have all patients who received potentially contaminated heparin been informed?

Why are there still possibly-contaminated Heparin products on the market?

Either the 19 deaths and "hundreds" of allergic reaction numbers are inflated or conjecture, or this story has been terribly handled by MSM.

It's certainly odd how little we've heard of this.

My guess is that it's mostly political. There's no domestic political angle. If An American firm were at fault, this would be a big story. If Mr McCain owned stock in that company, it would be a HUGE story. (If Mr Obama were involved, it would be a story about "Republican smear tactics.")

But mostly I would guess it's a non-story because the media's instincts are always Tranzi. They don't want you to notice that there are certain differences between countries...since they are hoping to kind of merrrrrge things, under the supervision of elite post-nationalist bureaucrats. A group that would have considerable overlap with elite post-nationalist journalists.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:54 AM

Are we at the "willing suspension of disbelief" stage?

Alan Sullivan writes:

...Today BBC has a new datum from Antarctica. A section of ice shelf is breaking away. You have to read the article closely to find amid the language of alarm that the chunk is question is a small piece of a small shelf on the Palmer Peninsula — the one part of Antarctica that has been warming. The rest of the continent has been getting markedly colder for many years. This is not mentioned in the article. BBC provides no balance in climate coverage, only propaganda.

The “unprecedented warming” of the peninsula is probably a direct consequence of the continent chilling. With colder air over the great icecap, ocean storms round the perimeter get stronger. Those storms drive maritime winds over the north-jutting peninsula, causing a local warming. It has nothing to do with global climate, which is not warming, and has not been for nearly a decade. Curiously enough, BBC has offered readers no story on the startling data from the Argo buoy program, announced last week. It covered the launch of the system with green enthusiasm in 2000. Now not a word. Why? Because Argo finds no warming in the oceans, and zealots can abide no contradiction....

We are in an interesting situation here, where those following certain subject via the Internet are aware of a growing disconnect between what you "read in the paper" and what's actually happening on the ground. And the fascination is in wondering when "they" are going to be forced to acknowledge the new reality.

This is starting to feel a lot like Iraq in early 2007, when blogs started to pick up on stories about sheikhs in al Anbar turning against al Qaeda, and about the shift in our tactics to counter-insurgency. And our question became not: "who's going to win," but instead: "When are our lefties going to be forced to admit that their side has lost?"

I'm wondering if the "global warming" debate is approaching a point similar to when Hillary greeted Gen. Petraeus' report with her "willing suspension of disbelief" wise-crack. (McCain recently suggested it was high time she apologized to a great American. I kinda hope she gets the nomination just so McCain can rub her nose in it.)

This is sort of like watching a movie, where the characters have decided to explore the spooky mysterious old house How long will it be before something jumps out at them?... This is going to be fun.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 AM

March 28, 2008

Extraordinary delegation of authority....

Here's a cool piece on how WalMart (and other big-box retailers) performed prodigies of disaster-relief during Katrina...while Federal (and in Democrat areas, local) government did poorly. The secret was pushing authority into the hands of those on the scene.

President Bush missed a big fat opportunity, when things were being changed after 9/11, to strengthen local emergency-response agencies, instead of adding more federal bureaucracy.( I think he was rendered short-sighted from spending too much time in government, despite his successes in the private sector.)

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer -- and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.

"A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level," was Scott's message to his people. "Make the best decision that you can with the information that's available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing."

This extraordinary delegation of authority -- essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year -- saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. ...

[....]

...This benevolent improvisation contradicts everything we have been taught about Wal-Mart by labour unions and the "small-is-beautiful" left. We are told that the company thinks of its store management as a collection of cheap, brainwash-able replacement parts; that its homogenizing culture makes it incapable of serving local communities; that a sparrow cannot fall in Wal-Mart parking lot without orders from Arkansas; that the chain puts profits over people. The actual view of the company, verifiable from its disaster-response procedures, is that you can't make profits without people living in healthy communities. And it's not alone: As Horwitz points out, other big-box companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's set aside the short-term balance sheet when Katrina hit and acted to save homes and lives, handing out millions of dollars' worth of inventory for free.

No one who is familiar with economic thought since the Second World War will be surprised at this. Scholars such as F. A. von Hayek, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock have taught us that it is really nothing more than a terminological error to label governments "public" and corporations "private" when it is the latter that often have the strongest incentives to respond to social needs. A company that alienates a community will soon be forced to retreat from it, but the government is always there. Companies must, to survive, create economic value one way or another; government employees can increase their budgets and their personal power by destroying or wasting wealth, and most may do little else. Companies have price signals to guide their productive efforts; governments obfuscate those signals.

Aside from the public vs. private issue, Horwitz suggests, decentralized disaster relief is likely to be more timely and appropriate than the centralized kind, which explains why the U.S. Coast Guard performed so much better during the disaster than FEMA. The Coast Guard, like all marine forces, necessarily leaves a great deal of authority in the hands of individual commanders, and like Wal-Mart, it benefited during and after the hurricane from having plenty of personnel who were familiar with the Gulf Coast geography and economy.

There is no substitute for local knowledge -- an ancient lesson of which Katrina merely provided the latest reminder....
Posted by John Weidner at 1:15 PM

March 27, 2008

Language abuse....

I'm posting this excerpt, not because of the issues (interesting though they are) but as an interesting example of word use. In fact, as a deliberate assault on our language.

....But while the Democratic campaigns and women's organizations quibbled over which 100 percent pro-choice Senator, Obama or Hillary Clinton, would be the better president for reproductive health, many choice advocates missed what was percolating under the radar: The beginnings of a conservative smear campaign against Obama's very real history of support for reproductive freedom....

It's not a "smear campaign" if you are just telling the simple truth. If conservatives were exaggerating Obama's Pro-death record, if they were taking a few things out-of-context to make him look worse than he is, that would be a "smear campaign."

I recently wrote about Mr Obama's rather curious "spiritual advisor, and had a liberal complain that I was "demonizing" him, and why didn't I write about "substantive issues." I should have replied with Obama's voting record on the "Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act," (BAIPA), and seen how much he liked them substantive puppies. (I bet he would have called it a "smear campaign!" And then run away.)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:44 PM

Great Satan ascendent...

NYT:

...Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.

Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism...

That's because their side is loosing. Have some sympathy!

It must be crushing to be a "journalist" these days, and see your hopes and dreams crumble into ashes. Half a decade they've invested in Saddam, in al Qaeda, in Kerry, in the Ba'athists, in Cindy Sheehan, in Moqtada al Sadr, in Iran.......only to see evil triumph, and George W Bush's mercenaries swaggering the streets of Baghdad, laughing and smiling and handing out candy to all those horrid little pickininnies...

Heartbreaking.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:09 AM

March 26, 2008

"We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell."

A good poem for a time when some of my Spring hopes have been blasted....

WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

-- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 5:51 PM

"Don't be foolhardy"

Gerald Augustinus posted some comments from the National Catholic Reporter on the Pope's recent baptism of a prominent Muslim who has converted to Christianity...

They make, for me, painful reading. If you want to know WHY we are in a Global War on Terror, this one comment is worth thinking about:

This does seem to be a very dangerous political game for the Vatican to be playing. It is like poking a stick in their cave. It seems rather foolhardy.

Western Civilization is, more than anything else, Christian Civilization. And there is no moment and no place that is closer to the heart of Western Civilization than St Peter's at Easter. And there is no human being who has better right to claim to be the leader of our civilization, than Benedict XVI. (Think not? Name another.)

And there is nothing closer to the heart of all that is Christian, than the Sacrament of Baptism, especially baptism of an adult catechumen, one who may be risking martyrdom for the Faith.

There could not possibly be a better moment to stand bravely�defiantly�up for what we of the West believe in than this one. Stand up even at the risk of death and war. Ruat caelum fiat iusticia. Even an honest atheist should see that flinching away at this moment would be a grave error.

But what is the reaction of today's "Christian?" "Don't poke a stick in their cave."

Imagine the early Christians saying, "Best not poke a stick in Caesar's cave." Imagine the countless Christian martyrs saying: "Don't be foolhardy. Don't poke a stick at Mao/Hitler/Henry VIII/Emperor of China/Emperor of Japan."

Imagine Martin Luther saying, "Here I stand. Er, umm, on second thought, maybe not. It would be foolhardy to poke a stick in the Pope's eye."

Imagine the heroes of Lepanto and Vienna and The Siege of Malta saying, "Let's not poke a stick in the Sultan's eye. Better to be a live coward than a dead hero."

And the kind of thinking expressed in the comment is not only profoundly non-Christian, it is precisely the thinking that has resulted in WAR.

The War on Terror is not an affair of one nation trying to conquer another. It is a matter of violent crazy criminals growing bolder and bolder over the course of many decades, while the West has repeatedly flinched. Think of a violent gang in your town. And think of the authorities saying, "It's dangerous to poke a stick in their cave. Better to just leave them alone."

If any lefty Christians are reading this, THINK! You are the warmongers.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:01 AM

March 25, 2008

Tiresome little blighters...

Lorne Gunter: Perhaps The Climate Change Models Are Wrong...

...They drift along in the worlds' oceans at a depth of 2,000 metres -- more than a mile deep -- constantly monitoring the temperature, salinity, pressure and velocity of the upper oceans...

....When they were first deployed in 2003, the Argos were hailed for their ability to collect information on ocean conditions more precisely, at more places and greater depths and in more conditions than ever before. No longer would scientists have to rely on measurements mostly at the surface from older scientific buoys or inconsistent shipboard monitors.

So why are some scientists now beginning to question the buoys' findings? Because in five years, the little blighters have failed to detect any global warming. They are not reinforcing the scientific orthodoxy of the day, namely that man is causing the planet to warm dangerously. They are not proving the predetermined conclusions of their human masters. Therefore they, and not their masters' hypotheses, must be wrong.

In fact, "there has been a very slight cooling," according to a U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) interview with Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a scientist who keeps close watch on the Argo findings....

....The big problem with the Argo findings is that all the major climate computer models postulate that as much as 80-90% of global warming will result from the oceans warming rapidly then releasing their heat into the atmosphere.

But if the oceans aren't warming, then (please whisper) perhaps the models are wrong....

Actually, the real scandal about the models is that they are--all of them--tweaked to make them produce credible results. No one has ever just created a model from existing data and had it produce anything like our climate.

However, since all scientists are honest and pure of heart--secular saints, you might say--it is merely coincidence that all the models produce the results hoped-for by their political flavor. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a right-wing hate-monger.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:40 PM

Odd behavior...

Puzzling stuff about Mr Obama, from Richard L. Benkin, concerning bipartisan congressional efforts to free a moderate Muslim leader and freedom fighter....

...In fact, I approached about 15 percent of the House and a handful of Senators: Democratic, Republican, left, right, moderate; you name it. And every one of them reacted with support; every one of them, that is, except one. Who was the one lawmaker that took a pass on saving the life of an imprisoned US ally and opponent of Islamist extremism? That's right, my own Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

I first met with his staff in April 2005 in his DC office. Keep in mind this was the same week that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) spent hours learning about the case and then met well after "working hours" in a very difficult meeting with the Bangladeshi ambassador and me to secure Shoaib's release. I brought Obama's staff extensive documentation of the injustice, as well as other evidence of Shoaib's activities; we spoke for quite a long time, but they never called back. In fact, they ignored all my subsequent follow-up contacts. But it was, after all soon after his election; perhaps early disorganization was to blame.

Yet, I spoke personally with Obama 13 months later at a general meeting hosted by Obama and Durbin. To my delight, when my name was mentioned, Durbin responded immediately with praise and support, saying that it was "an important human rights case," and asked to see me privately about the matter. I spoke with to both him and Obama, who at his best moments looked quizzical and confused. While Durbin later sent a formal protest to the Bangladeshis, Obama never responded; nor again did he or his staff reply to my subsequent entreaties.

I spoke with Obama one other time about Shoaib's case, less than six months later. I reminded him or our last encounter, gave him an update on the case, and asked for his support in one of any number of ways. He hesitated a moment then held out his hand and said, "Well, we're sure happy for all the work you are doing." Propriety prevents me from verbalizing what I was thinking then. I offered to send him more information, which he asked me to do. And, guess what, I never heard back despite the reams of evidence I did send.

Barack Obama wants us to think that he has a special sensitivity to injustice and that his entire life has been about combating it. Yet, in this one concrete situation he faced, he failed to act. The fact that not one of the dozens of other lawmakers failed speaks volumes. The fact that support was never contingent on ideology speaks volumes. I often wondered if his refusal to act was strategic, ignorant, or simple cowardice. No matter, the impact on Shoaib Choudhury was the same, as it would be on any freedom fighter...

One has to wonder what was going on his head. It would seem like a no-brainer, to join in something like this...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 AM

March 24, 2008

A less-than-accurate description of the situation in Baghdad...

Michael Goldfarb gives a quote from a book I'm going to be reading soon, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President

...In 2002, the vice president had been briefed on fresh intelligence that members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad had made their way to Iraq and had begun setting up safe houses in Baghdad. Cheney found the report interesting, but odd. He had understood that Egyptian Islamic Jihad had merged with al Qaeda several years earlier. Ayman al Zawahiri, the group’s longtime leader, was now Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy. Cheney wanted to know why the report did not simply conclude that al Qaeda was setting up safe houses in Baghdad.

He returned the report to the CIA with a question: Would it be accurate to substitute “al Qaeda” for every mention of “Egyptian Islamic Jihad?” The answer did not come immediately, but when it did, the CIA finally acknowledged that members of al Qaeda were operating in Baghdad.

To Cheney, the episode was one example of many that demonstrated the unwillingness of some CIA analysts to take an objective look at Iraq and its support for radical Islamic terrorists, al Qaeda in particular. In this case, analysts were so determined to avoid reporting the presence of al Qaeda members in Iraq that they presented Cheney with a less-than-accurate description of the situation in Baghdad...

To me it is one of the most interesting things of our time, the way liberals (and the CIA is very liberal; it's not a place you will find any Republicans) are repelled, as if by some invisible magnetic field, from looking straight at Iraq. They know, and they knew then, back in 2002, that it was the biggest danger to them. That it would unmask them.

They'd been decrying fascism forever, and preening themselves on their anti-Hitler credentials, and then......comes George W Bush who says, "Bully! Let's all go together and overthrow a fascist dictator who makes Adolph Hitler look like a moderate." Ha ha. He got them, the vile phonies.

If President Bush (along with Vice-President Cheney) never accomplished anything else (in fact the list of his accomplishments is a long one) he would be a great president just because he exposed "liberals" and "pacifists" for the nihilists most of them are.

      Dick Cheney on a Segway

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 PM

Reporters no more?

From an interesting piece in PJ Media on whether reporters are an endangered species...

...This middleman function, with reporters serving as mere links in a news supply chain, was never needed until fairly recently. Before the printing press was invented, we were all receivers and transmitters of news, spreading it by word-of-mouth. Soon after its invention, multitudes of mostly one-man print-shops, as a sideline, printed newspapers to supplement this word-of-mouth process. These printers wrote their own articles blending facts with opinion, much like bloggers do today. Others also contributed, often without receiving compensation or attribution — citizens, gossips, letter-writing “correspondents” from other towns, and similarly-operating foreign and domestic newspapers whose stories were simply lifted.

Since this is what news looked like at the time of the Founding Fathers, they gave no particular mandate to reporters, a function that did not even exist at the time. The “freedom of the press” they cited in the First Amendment was not about “the press,” but about everyone’s right to freely use a printing press to express their views without government interference, supplementing the free speech clause that allowed everyone to express their views orally.

The first full-time reporter in America did not appear until the 1820’s, after steam engines were integrated into printing presses. Suddenly, newspapers had to be run like businesses to achieve consistently high circulation levels to pay for equipment and keep newsstand prices low. Reporters provided the needed constant flow of consistently well-written articles....

The term "reporter" usually means a generalist. His job is, for the most part, to find the person who has specific knowledge, and pass that knowledge on to the public. He's a middleman. If he is covering a fire, he will talk to witnesses and firefighters, and boil down their knowledge into a story. And he is a generalist, because the next day he may be covering a royal wedding or a prize fight.

The Internet tends to destroy middlemen. (Or actually it's a more general trend of the Information Age. When I was young, maybe in the late 50's or early 60's, my father was transitioning his nursery business from selling plants to wholesalers, to selling direct to retail nurseries and flower shops. This was probably a matter of easier flows of information. Freeways and better phone service meant that salesmen could cover more ground, and work directly with a lot of small businesses. So goodbye local wholesaler.)

If there is a big fire, the witnesses can now put information directly into the hands of consumers, say by posting it in a blog. So who needs reporters?

But a reporter can also be himself the person who has specific knowledge. If he covers a special beat, then he may have understanding that most people don't. So he is more than a middleman, he is able to create valuable information on his own. Which doesn't necessarily mean he will be able to sell it in an age that has torrents of free information "deflating the currency."
(Thanks to Rand)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

March 23, 2008

"Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."

cross, St Marys, Krakow

Cross, St Mary's Basilica, Krak�w, Poland

-- By Pope St. Gregory

...When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.... (Thanks to Argent)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:00 AM

March 22, 2008

In multiculturalist eyes, "understand" means "no criticism."....

William Katz:

When Urgent Agenda began - and that was only two and a half months ago - I promised to defend the English language. I've done too little in that regard, for which I offer apologies. However, let me now try a bit of redemption and discuss briefly the misuse of a word. The word is "understanding."

We're hearing that word every day. Barack Obama's campaign, we're told, is an attempt at "understanding" across racial lines. The intellectual elites tell us we must do more to foster international "understanding." The multicultural industry informs us that "understanding" other cultures is the key to going to Heaven.

But what do they actually mean when they say "understanding"?

What they often mean, without telling us, is "approval." The word "understanding" has been so abused and degraded that it often is a code word for appeasement. "Understanding" across ethnic lines is noble, but the word is often employed to shut down discussion. If we "understand," after all, we must not be "judgmental." Only those who don't "understand" are judgmental.

A true, honest multiculturalist will say that "we must understand other cultures, and they must understand us." But when have you ever heard the second part of that expression? In multiculturalist eyes, "understand" means "no criticism."

So be on guard when you hear the word. The definition of "understanding" may not be the one you would use. A message is often being sent. It is sometimes a dishonest message.

It's almost always a dishonest message. And it's extra-likely to be dishonest when the subject is race in America. The Civil Rights Movement was, like so many other revolutions and noble causes, two-faced. There were crowds of idealists moved by a noble cause, but the inner core was power-hungry leftists, who use movements and causes cynically.

And the Civil Rights Movement was always as much about destroying blacks as it was about freeing them. It is not surprising that we discover black leaders peddling racism and anti-Americanism. That was part of the "movement" from the very beginning.

If you teach someone—anyone—that they should have a sense of grievance and resentment and entitlement...you are trying to destroy them. You are destroying their character. You are killing their spirit. When Jeremiah Wright, and many other black leaders, tell their people that they are "owed," that they are "oppressed" and are entitled to feel resentment and sullenness, they are destroying souls.

Suppose I teach my children that the world is against them, that the world owes them a living, and that they are entitled to special favors to make up for all the blows that life offers to everyone......what would I be doing to them? Would I be helping them or hurting them? You know the answer. What if I taught them that they should not accept criticism?

The Civil Rights Movement (and many other movements) was always two-faced. And this can be seen from the beginning, in the implicit "bargain" offered whites (and blacks too), that we can be on the "right side," that we can be the good guys, as long as we don't criticize blacks.

This was, and is, a pernicious and destructive idea. We all need criticism. It is painful, but it is good for us. We need to get it, and to respond thoughtfully. (And that includes thoughtful rejection of criticism, if it is unwarranted.) The wise person says, "Hit me with your hardest shot. If my beliefs and actions are valid, then they will withstand the test. And if they are not, I should change." And we even need unfair criticism. It's good for us; teaches us to discriminate between valid and invalid.

But the subtext of the Civil Rights Movement was always that any criticism of black Americans was racist. That it was equivalent to those racist claims that "all blacks are shiftless and lazy." That was an evil idea. The leaders of the movement should have been requesting fair criticism.

Black (and other minority) Americans were hurt by this, but they were in fact just collateral damage. The real goal was to protect leftists from criticism, especially leaders.. To protect them from having to defend various quasi-socialist policies on the merits. They have been hiding behind this ever since. The subtext is always "Don't you dare criticize me, because I'm helping [fill in the grievance-group]. If you scrutinize me you are a [fill in the blank: racist/sexist/homophobe, etc.].

The prohibition on criticism of "oppressed" groups creates a penumbra that shields leftists in general. That's why two ludicrously under-qualified candidates are vying for the Democrat nomination right now. Neither of them would even be in the running if they were white males. But each offers the possibility of giving blanket protection to their supporters. Any criticism will be called sexism or racism. No defeat will have to be acknowledged on its merits; it was just evil white/male America destroying the good minority group, as usual. (The same thing would work for Al Gore, but the grievance-group would be Polar Bears.)

Guys like Obama are in the habit, when things get sticky, of trotting out the line about how America needs to have a "conversation about race." This is always a lie; what's envisioned is a monologue, where whites are supposed to shut up and be told how horrid they are, and how minorities need more loot to make up for racism. But If Obama is the nominee, then I can imagine a more honest conversation happening!

The odds are against it, to be sure. Americans have been subjected to decades of relentless propaganda to teach them that this is taboo. McCain won't do it; it would not be smart politics, and he's too moderate. But, the folly called "Campaign Finance Reform" has, thanks to Mr McCain, taken much of election campaigning out of the hands of parties and candidates!

In 2004, the obvious fact that John Kerry's "war hero" status was a sham was taboo to mention, by press, parties and candidates. But the Swift Boat Veterans were not part of that apparatus. (Dems like to claim that they were a plot by Rove, but if they had been they would have been much better-funded!) The Swifties didn't care that they were going to be slammed for daring to break a taboo.

We could see some new variants on the Swifties this year. None of the elites really want to turn over rocks and shine harsh lights on the Jeremiah Wrights. But there are lots of ordinary Americans who might scratch their heads and think, "America has fixed at least 95% of what was wrong before the Civil Rights era, and yet the bellyaching never stops. Something is fishy here. In fact, I think this is a pile of BS."

Same thing about feminism, if Hillary wins the nomination. There's more than a few Americans who would like to turn that rock over and see the ugly bugs squirm in the sunshine. Probably won't happen, but the potential is there. Politics tends to unleash forces like nothing else. The elites are compromised, and won't go against the taboos, but elites matter less in the Information Age. They have less control of the agenda. Information routes around them.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 AM

March 21, 2008

Just routine air-transport....

This is interesting to me. The V-22 was mired in controversy and problems for so long, that I kind of assumed it would never be operational. And yet here it is, working away, hardly even being mentioned. Cool.

I wonder how well it is actually working out? The concept is awesome, and I've always tended to think that even if cost a mint, and failed to meet expectations, we should be pushing ahead with it in order to learn enough to build better models later. And of course it fits well with "small wars," which is all we have now.

V22 transports Iraqi troops
Iraqi army soldiers from the 27th Iraqi Infantry Brigade, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division, prepare to go on a patrol March 18 in the Hawron Wadi, which is just east of Baghdad, after exiting a MV-22 Osprey. The Iraqi army has been training with Marines and Navy SEALS to conduct helo-borne operations such as patrols and cache sweeps. While on patrol, the soldiers looked for any signs of insurgent activity and talked to locals to see if they had seen anything unusual. GUNNERY SGT. JASON J. BORTZ / MARINE CORPS. From Frontline Photos, 3-19-08

Posted by John Weidner at 10:15 AM

March 20, 2008

Question for "Democrats"

In Mr Obama's speech, he said:

...To succeed in Afghanistan, we also need to fundamentally rethink our Pakistan policy. For years, we have supported stability over democracy in Pakistan, and gotten neither. The core leadership of al Qaeda has a safe-haven in Pakistan. The Taliban are able to strike inside Afghanistan and then return to the mountains of the Pakistani border. Throughout Pakistan, domestic unrest has been rising. The full democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people have been too long denied. A child growing up in Pakistan, more often than not, is taught to see America as a source of hate – not hope...

So, question for Dems, for liberals: WHY are you so disdainful of democracy in Iraq?

WHY did you prefer "stability over democracy" in Iraq? Even to the point of supporting the cruelest fascist tyrant ever?

Iraq just passed its provincial election law, one of the" benchmarks" leftists have been complaining about. WHY is no leftish person expressing happiness?

What is it about Iraq?

My theory is that Iraq is not only the central front of the War on Terror, it is at this moment the "central front" in the much larger struggle for the soul of the Western World.

President Bush, with a wicked cleverness we never dreamed he possessed, has posed, in the form of the Iraq Campaign, the perfect "put up or shut up" test for that vast part of the West that can be labeled "liberal."

  • You claim to be anti-fascist, so here's your chance to prove it.
  • You claim to be pro-democracy, so here's your chance to prove it.
  • You claim to oppose genocide, so here's your chance to prove it.
  • You claim to care about people who have no "homeland," here's the biggest bunch of all, the Kurds...

I could write a much longer list. Almost everything "liberals" claim to be for, Saddam was against. And when President Bush posed the question, "liberals" (most of them) failed on every count.

The test has been repeated, and "liberals" have failed, repeatedly. Not only did they fail to support, for Iraqis, things like a free press, women's rights, gay rights, worker's rights, the right to travel........they failed even to express pleasure when Iraqis gained any of those rights!

And when al Qaeda and many of the Sunni tried to destroy the new Iraqi democracy by a campaign of savage terror, "liberals" failed again. They were almost all of them in favor of handing the Iraqis over to the butchers. And now that Iraqis have turned strongly against terrorism, and American and Iraqi forces are working together to achieve a stunning victory over al Qaeda, "liberals" have failed yet again. They are not happy with our success at all.

From Obama's speech: "...And that is why Senator McCain can argue – as he did last year – that we couldn’t leave Iraq because violence was up, and then argue this year that we can’t leave Iraq because violence is down..."

Well, I would turn that sentence around. Mr O, whether violence is up or violence is down, you are desperate to get out of Iraq. Why? Whether things are going good, or going bad, whether we are winning or losing, you are desperate to get out of Iraq. Why? Some liberals, like you Mr O, claim they want to get tough in places like Iran, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.....other liberals don't want to get tough anywhere......but you are ALL of you desperate to get out of Iraq. WHY?

I think most liberals are writhing in agony because they are being put to the test over and over again. I bet Obama could have come out in favor of conquering Pakistan and making it an Imperial Protectorate, and no lefties would have minded, as long as he promised to get out of Iraq.

That's what that speech was really about.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:04 AM

March 19, 2008

Obama war speech

Ethan Hahn writes:

Did you see this speech? Man, was I thrilled when I read it. I think he's dead wrong on Iraq, misreading the current situation and married to a foolish policy of withdrawal - but if you look past the gratuitous and inaccurate rips on Bush and McCain, and the Iraq situation, it's a fantastic speech. He's engaging the Bush administration big-picture policy everywhere else. A surge in Afghanistan; strength with Al Qaeda in Pakistan, while supporting the moderate middle and democracy, along with increased engagement; military training missions across the world, supporting failed states, growing the military, standing tough against Iran (using the same ideas McCain used on Hugh's show the other day)...I still support McCain because he's on the same page, but without the artificial deadline in Iraq, and without the crazy economic populism (well...LESS crazy economic populism) - but this was a great speech...

What do you think?

It's a good speech. [You can read it here] And since I've criticized him for lack of substance, I should commend him for putting some real positions on the table.

If I were McCain, I'd thank him for his candor and make a counter-speech, billing it as a debate-at-a-distance, without pesky moderators! That would be interesting.

I don't find it very convincing; there's too many things in the speech that anyone would like to do, including Bush, but that are very hard. Make NATO more nimble? How likely is that? The problems of NATO are just the problems of Europe writ small, and there's not much the President can do about it.

"...Now is the time to meet the goal of cutting extreme poverty in half, in part by doubling our foreign assistance while demanding more from those who receive it.." Well, if you are really interested in cutting poverty you have to do things like allow poor third-world countries to sell their crops in the developed world. Tough stuff, especially if you are a protectionist. I bet McCain could do it better than Obama. But I could be wrong.

And of course I think he's simply wrong to say that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the "central front" in the war. But it's good that he's taken positions. As always with Obama one wonders if he really means it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 PM

March 18, 2008

Their job--slipping the Democrat past the electorate....

You know, it's the press that bugs me, much more than Mr Obama or Ms Clinton. Those two (& McCain) are politicians, they are mostly acting like politicians do. Since I have never for a moment thought that Mr Obama was really a "uniter," or had gone beyond partisanship, I'm only occasionally able to become outraged. The news-media, on the other hand, I despise from year's end to year's end.

Tim Graham at NewsBusters:

....Up until the Brian Ross report, CBS was the only network to do the barest shadow of a report that could make Obama's campaign a little more difficult. Even Reynolds left out a few details. Farrakhan won the "Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award" to a man who "truly epitomized greatness" -- in 2007. Where were the media on that? Doesn't this divisive minister of Obama's cause a serious problem for a candidate who's been sold as a uniter, not a divider?

Why, this late in the primary season, are we still discovering that they haven’t asked any of the hard questions? We are starting to see the same disturbing pattern we saw with John Kerry in 2004. The media didn’t see its job as vetting John Kerry as he told everyone he was the bravest of war heroes. When the men who fought with him on the swift boats told a different story, the media tried to ignore them.

The media was saying "print the legend," and suggested that when opponents try to vet the Democrat, when they try to do the job a supine media blatantly failed to do, it was then the media’s job to vet the opponents and question their sincerity, not vet the Democrat.

The news media doesn’t see its job as informing the electorate. They see their job as getting the Democrat past the electorate.

The real story about the Swift Boat Vets was that they had to pay to communicate with the electorate. Because the "journalists" had never bothered to ask them what they thought about their old comrade. And we are so used to their bias that we hardly notice that a big news story was simply ignored by the news-gatherers....

Posted by John Weidner at 12:57 PM

March 17, 2008

A quote to start the week...

From the National Post:

...Why aren't the Vietnamese more grateful to Tom Hayden? Recently, he returned for the first time in 36 years to the country that he and his then-wife Jane Fonda tried to save from American domination in the Vietnam war. The trip disappointed him. As he writes in the March 10 issue of The Nation, Vietnam has turned capitalist...

(Thanks to Orrin.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:05 AM

March 16, 2008

"It never leaves changing...till we are quite sick at heart:"

...To understand that we have souls, is to feel our separation from things visible, our independence of them, our distinct existence in ourselves, our individuality, our power of acting for ourselves this way or that way, our accountableness for what we do. These are the great truths which lie wrapped up indeed even in a child's mind, and which God's grace can unfold there in spite of the influence of the external world; but at first this outward world prevails. We look off from self to the things around us, and forget ourselves in them. Such is our state,—a depending for support on the reeds which are no stay, and overlooking our real strength,—at the time when God begins His process of reclaiming us to a truer view of our place in His great system of providence.

And when He visits us, then in a little while there is a stirring within us. The unprofitableness and feebleness of the things of this world are forced upon our minds; they promise but cannot perform, they disappoint us. Or, if they do perform what they promise, still (so it is) they do not satisfy us. We still crave for something, we do not well know what; but we are sure it is something which the world has not given us. And then its changes are so many, so sudden, so silent, so continual. It never leaves changing; it goes on to change, till we are quite sick at heart:—then it is that our reliance on it is broken. It is plain we cannot continue to depend upon it, unless we keep pace with it, and go on changing too; but this we cannot do. We feel that, while it changes, we are one and the same; and thus, under God's blessing, we come to have some glimpse of the meaning of our independence of things temporal, and our immortality....
      -- John Henry Newman,   from
Sermons Parochial and Plain, vol.1, #2

Posted by John Weidner at 7:22 AM

March 15, 2008

"To walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time"

From Lexicon of Computing. (Thanks to Pixy Misa)

FRACTAL WRONGNESS:

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet--in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums--your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

Yeah, and also in blog comments...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:07 PM

Turning over a rotting log...

OBAMA'S JEREMIAD. By Investor's Business Daily:

Election 2008: Imagine the uproar if John McCain's pastor used the "N"-word and asked God to "damn" blacks. Yet Barack Obama's pastor condemns whites, and liberal pundits bite their lip.

This newspaper was the first to draw attention to Obama's hate-mongering preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, and his black segregationist church in Chicago. Our January 2007 editorial, "Obama's Real Faith," exposed their preaching of a militantly anti-white and socialist doctrine called the "Black Value System," triggering a major story in the Chicago Tribune, which led to other stories.

Now comes the leaking of recently videotaped sermons by Wright angrily condemning whites as racists and America as evil. If you close your eyes, you'd swear you were listening to the hateful rantings of uber-bigot Louis Farrakhan. Like the Nation of Islam minister, Wright feeds his 8,500-member flock, including Obama and his family, legends about whites keeping blacks down by getting them hooked on crack and then locking them up. He even claims whites invented AIDS to destroy blacks.

Obama is not immune to such myths. Until recently, when he was informed it wasn't true, he repeated a favorite Wright line that "we've got more black men in prison than there are in college."

"The government gives (black men) drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," Wright thundered in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

Locked in a Jim Crow time warp, he claims America — which he affectionately calls "the US-KKK-A" — is "controlled by and run by rich white people." Never mind that institutionalized racism is a distant memory. Or that the most popular candidate in the country right now, according to some polls, is his top acolyte.

In 2006, Wright said from the pulpit: "Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God. And. And-and! God! Has got! To be sick! Of this sh*t!"....

If Mr Obama has been sitting in the pew for twenty years listening to this foul lying stuff, he not only does not deserve to be President, he does not deserve to be welcomed into the company of decent people. And if Democrats are not anti-American racists, they will repudiate him. Ha ha...I won't hold my breath on that one.

Of course in one sense he wasn't sitting in a pew, since this is not religion. It's politics. Mr Wright's church has been "hollowed-out," its faith replaced by politics, just as much as the many mushy white churches that have replaced salvation through the Lord Jesus with "peace 'n justice 'n the UN Millennium Goals."

And of course this is a perfect example of how the news-media hurts Democrats by trying to help them. Maybe, just maybe, certain Democrat Primary voters would have wanted to know this stuff. Hmmm? D'you think? Too late now, suckers. Maybe you Dems should think about telling the press to just report the damn news honestly, instead of trying to mold the country with their superior elite wisdom.

"When mystery no longer counts for anything, then politics necessarily becomes the religion"
      --Pope Benedict XVI, Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions, p. 126

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

March 13, 2008

"work together in pursuit of shared goals "

Here's the News Report from those foul lying traitors honest patriots you see on TV...

March 13, 2008 2:44 PM

ABC News has requested and obtained a copy of the Pentagon study which shows Saddam Hussein had no links to Al Qaeda.

It's government report the White House didn't want you to read: yesterday the Pentagon canceled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's availability and didn't make the report available via email or online.

Based on the analysis of some 600,000 official Iraqi documents seized by US forces after the invasion and thousands of hours of interrogations of former officials in Saddam's government now in US custody, the government report is the first official acknowledgment from the US military that there is no evidence Saddam had ties to al Qaeda.....

And, here's the first paragraph of the Executive Summary of the actual report...(Thanks to Steven Hayes):

Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist-operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some way, a "de facto" link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime...(my emphasis)

That's all you need to know. Saddam's was a terror-supporting regime. We are engaged in a global struggle against terrorism. For that reason alone we were perfectly justified in taking out Iraq. In fact there was no need to ask permission of Congress, just as FDR needed no special permission to invade French Morocco, (or Iceland, for that matter). The President could have just picked up the phone and told Rumsfeld to do it. And informed the public after the fact.

Wars are to fight. In a war you attack your enemies. Duh.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 PM

"A fatal threat to the terrorist organization..."

From Al-Qaida's Fading Victory: The Madrid Precedent, By Austin Bay

...Al-Qaida needed a Madrid Precedent. The "9-11 Precedent" hadn't worked as planned. Rather than perishing like a fire-struck Sodom or becoming "quagmired" in Afghanistan like the lurching Soviet military, the United States responded aggressively and creatively, and with an unexpected agility.

Moreover, America had chosen not merely to topple al-Qaida's Taliban allies, but had made the bold decision to go to "the heart of the matter" and wage a war for the terms of modernity in the center of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.
[Well put!]

Don't think that al-Qaida's leaders didn't know that stroke -- establishing a democracy in Iraq -- represented a fatal threat to the terrorist organization.

Al-Qaida's dark genius had been to connect the Muslim world's angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy sought to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline. The rage energizing al-Qaida's ideological cadres certainly predated the post-Desert Storm presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia.

In February 2004, al-Qaida's "emir in Iraq," Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, bluntly noted he faced defeat. Islamist radicals were "failing to enlist support" and had "been unable to scare the Americans into leaving." Once the Iraqis established their own democracy, Zarqawi opined, al-Qaida was lost. Moreover, a predominantly Arab Muslim democracy offered the Muslim world an alternative to al-Qaida's liturgy of embedded grievance. Zarqawi's solution to looming failure was to murder Iraqi Shias and ignite a "sectarian war."...

And "sectarian war" was itself a disastrous policy. When it failed, as it has in Iraq, the result was a whole nation waking up and realizing who the realbad guys are. Iraq is now immunized against al Qaeda and similar groups. (And, despite what some silly people say, they are probably immunized against friendliness to the world's #1 terror-supporting nation, right next door.)

It's pleasant for me to read this, confirming what I've been arguing for so long. (See #'s 1 and 2 on my list of reasons for invading Iraq.)

And one thing that has amazed me is how blind people are to the simple fact that the result of the Iraq campaign has been that our enemies have been forced to react to our moves, rather than us reacting to theirs. This is something that has been stunningly obvious for years now, but most people refuse to see it.

In any war, seizing the initiative gives you a big advantage. But it's much more important in irregular warfare, against a shadowy and elusive foe. The normal pattern in terrorist campaigns is that something goes ka-boom!, and then we scramble around looking for clues. Wouldn't it be good if we could somehow choose a place to fight, far from our own civilians, garrison it with our troops, plus lots of potential allies, and then force al Qaeda to come there and fight us!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:23 AM

March 11, 2008

The last WWI vet...

Bush thanks WWI veteran for 'love for America'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush met the last known surviving veteran of the first world war on Thursday, thanking the 107-year-old for his service and his "love for America."

Bush called Frank Buckles "the last living doughboy from World War I" and said the centenarian still has a crisp memory.

"Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times, and one way for me to honor the service of those who wear the uniform in the past and those who wear it today is to herald you, sir, and to thank you very much for your patriotism and your love for America," the president said, seated with Buckles in the Oval Office.

"We're glad you're here."

Buckles, who turned 107 last month, lied about his age to join the U.S. Army at the age of 16...

This seems so poignant and strange to me. When I was young, the gray-haired distinguished men who ran things were of the WWI Generation. Harry Truman, Ike, the presidents of big corporations. And the handsome young men who were just starting to get on in the world were the WWII generation. Now the men of the AEF are all gone. nd the men and women of WWII are pretty much out of public life. (Except one guy, named Josef Ratzinger!)

There was an old-timer who worked for my dad who fought in WWI. Well, actually, he told me that on his first day in France he got in a knife fight with another southern boy, and that was the end of his war! He chewed tobacco--that was a fascinating thing to a boy. And not snuff; he bit pieces off a chaw. And chewed, and then spit. A bit of history I'm glad to have seen, but don't miss....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

Information post—R.C.I.A.

[Note: This post is NOT aimed at my usual readers. I'm just dropping it into the Interweb as information for people around here who might be Googling the subject. Blogs are useful that way; they get high Google rankings because they change frequently. Or so I've heard.]

[Some search-terms: R.C.I.A. San Francisco, RCIA San Francisco, RCIA Program San Francisco, RCIA Program Bay Area, RCIA Program St Dominic's.]

R.C.I.A. stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is how you become a Roman Catholic, whether you are coming from another Christian tradition, or are not a Christian at all. It's also for Catholics who have never been confirmed, or who just wish to learn more. The program includes a weekly class, from September to the following Easter, when candidates join the Church. Attending the program doesn't commit you to anything--you can come and explore and see how you like it. You won't be put on the spot.

And our program at St Dominic's is simply the best. I kind of follow these things on the Web, and I've never heard of any RCIA half as good. Father Xavier, our pastor, and Scott Moyer, our Director of Adult Faith Formation, will give you more information and ideas than you can possibly absorb. You will learn what the Church is, and WHY. You will learn about Sacraments, moral reasoning, history, saints, prayers, and rites. You will find out what God is up to. You won't be bored!

I'm currently on my second time around. I entered the Church on Easter of 2007, and now I'm back in the program as a humble helper. And I don't feel like I've learned the half of it!

(We also have a very fine Landings Program. That's for Catholics who have drifted away from the Church, and wish to return. My wife Charlene helps out with that program.)

Contact Scott Moyer for info (scott@stdominics.org 415 674-0422) or feel free to e-mail me, John Weidner: weidners@pacbell.net.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:20 PM

Young girl traveling...

Tom Maguire:

By way of Ace I am watching this video in which Obama calls for the day that a young girl traveling abroad can say with pride that she is an American - that, we are informed, is the change he is working for.

I know that message lights Democratic fires, but my goodness - is that what he wants to present to the general public?...

It's the usual—casual—anti-Americanism of lefty elitists. How I hate it. I live in the middle of it, and I DESPISE it. "Lights Democratic fires." Oh yeah.

As far as I'm concerned, that one clip should disqualify Mr Obama from being President. If Obama's the nominee, I hope John McCain takes that clip and rubs his face in it!

Elite snivelers from Harvard hate America because she is bigger and greater than we. Because she makes demands on us--demands for loyalty and duty and service. They are nihilists, and want to worship only themselves.

For the American citizen, to love and serve our nation is a requirement. (This is an analog, on a much lower sphere, of the requirement that we love and serve God.) It is not optional. And it has nothing to do with nationalism. America is not a nation, in that sense.

She is an idea, and an authoritative tradition. There are few other nations that can claim this. Maybe none. Actually, you can see which. Just chart which countries leftists really really hate. Ummm....Oh yeah, Israel. And they hate and fear what England used to be, though they've mostly killed her by now. America and the Anglosphere are now England.

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.
      -- Abraham Lincoln, Eulogy on Henry Clay , July 6, 1852
Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

March 10, 2008

WE are always weak, THEY are always strong...

If you are peeved by that certain sort of pundit who opines endlessly that Iran is becoming preeminent and unstoppable in its region, and that Iraq is falling under Iranian sway—or maybe is already an Iranian client state....well, you must read A'jad's Endless Iraq Debacle, by Amir Taheri.

I found it grimly hilarious.

March 8, 2008 -- IT had been billed as a "triumph" for the Islamic Republic and "a slap in the face of the American Great Satan." However, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-day state visit to Iraq last weekend showed the limits of Iranian influence in the newly liberated country.

Weeks of hard work by Iranian emissaries and pro-Iran elements in Iraq were supposed to ensure massive crowds thronging the streets of Baghdad and throwing flowers on the path of the visiting Iranian leader. Instead, no more than a handful of Iraqis turned up for the occasion. The numbers were so low that the state-owned TV channels in Iran decided not to use the footage at all. Instead, much larger crowds gathered to protest Ahmadinejad's visit....

...The visit's highlight was supposed to be a pilgrimage to Karbala and Najaf, the "holiest" of Shiite cities in Iraq. There, Ahmadinejad was supposed to become the first Iranian government leader since 1976 to pray at the mausoleums of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali.

In the end, however, the tour was canceled amid reports that Shiite pilgrims, including thousands from Iran, were planning to demonstrate against his presence at the "holy" cities.

A more important reason motivated Ahmadinejad to drop his planned visits to Najaf - his failure to arrange an encounter with the leading ayatollahs of the "holy" city, especially Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the leading Shiite clergyman. For a president who claims that he's the standard-bearer of a global Shiite revolution, that was one photo-op to die for....[There's plenty more].

Perfect.

Actually, the idea that Iran is destined to hold sway over Iraq has always been really stupid. The Iranian government is only tenuously in charge of Iran. There's a certain mind-set that always assumes that WE have problems and weaknesses, but our enemies don't. Perhaps it's just because they don't believe in anything they can't actually see.

And the same people always assume that Iraq must be weaker than Iran, since Iraq is our ally. Actually, over the long haul elected governments are always stronger than tyrannies. They take much longer to decide to act, but when they do they can act decisively. And they are normally stronger economically. Democracies tend to be peace-loving, but when they are roused to war they are very dangerous.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

March 9, 2008

Pull of gravity...

This article from the WaPo about evangelical churches adopting traditional Catholic practices such as Lent, confession, ashes on Ash Wednesday... well, it made me smile. We Catholics know what's happening (don't tell anybody).

Chesterton put it rightly long ago:

...It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair..
-- GK Chesterton

[Thanks to Gerald]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:44 PM

Sunshine vitamin...

I found this piece on vitamin D and disease prevention.from Canada's Globe and Mail (Thanks to Glenn) intriguing. I've been taking extra Vitamin D for a few years, but this has a lot of stuff I hadn't heard of. A lot of this research is coming from Canada, and Scandinavia, where there are lots of people living at high latitudes who are not exposed to much sunlight. But nowadays we are all turning into zombies who sit inside and stare at computer screens.

In the summer of 1974, brothers Frank and Cedric Garland had a heretical brainwave.

The young epidemiologists were watching a presentation on death rates from cancer county by county across the United States. As they sat in a lecture hall at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore looking at the colour-coded cancer maps, they noticed a striking pattern, with the map for colon cancer the most pronounced.

Counties with high death rates were red; those with low rates were blue. Oddly, the nation was almost neatly divided in half, red in the north and blue in the south. Why, they wondered, was the risk of dying from cancer greater in bucolic Maine than in highly polluted Southern California?....

[...]

...A 2001 Finnish study found that children given 2,000 IU daily cut their risk of getting juvenile diabetes by 80 per cent.

The strong correlation between latitude and the incidence of multiple sclerosis has led researchers to suspect the trend is related to vitamin D status. In the U.S., for example, MS rates are four times higher in northern states, along the Canadian border, than in the southern parts of the country. Similarly, Australian research shows the incidence of MS increases the farther people live from the equator. The highest incidence rates in the world are found in Northern Europe and Canada....
....The simple answer may be that Vitamin D interacts with an unusually large number of our genes, working like a master switch to turn them on or off. Researchers believe a deficiency of the vitamin leads to a deficiency of the proteins manufactured under the direction of these genes, which then undermines key defences against seemingly unrelated diseases such as cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

John White, who has been studying the antimicrobial activities of vitamin D at McGill University in Montreal, says that "virtually every cell" in the human body has receptors for vitamin D and that hundreds of different genes may be regulated by it.

Vitamin D's most profound gene-influenced activity appears to be in keeping healthy the broad category of cells known as epithelium, which line the outsides of our organs and the surfaces of the structures in our body.

Even though these lining tissues amount to only about 2 per cent of the weight of our bodies, they are the source of about 85 per cent of cancers, those known as carcinomas.....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

We come, like Jacob, in the dark...

From Sermons Parochial and Plain, vol 4, #17, by John Henry Newman

....We come, like Jacob, in the dark, and lie down with a stone for our pillow; but when we rise again, and call to mind what has passed, we recollect we have seen a vision of Angels, and the Lord manifested through them, and we are led to cry out, "How dreadful is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

To conclude. Let us profit by what every day and hour teaches us, as it flies. What is dark while it is meeting us, reflects the Sun of Righteousness when it is past. Let us profit by this in future, so far as this, to have faith in what we cannot see. The world seems to go on as usual. There is nothing of heaven in the face of society; in the news of the day there is nothing of heaven; in the faces of the many, or of the great, or of the rich, or of the busy, there is nothing of heaven; in the words of the eloquent, or the deeds of the powerful, or the counsels of the wise, or the resolves of the lordly, or the pomps of the wealthy, there is nothing of heaven. And yet the Ever-blessed Spirit of God is here; the Presence of the Eternal Son, ten times more glorious, more powerful than when He trod the earth in our flesh, is with us....

       

Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 AM

March 8, 2008

"The sun is the primary driver"

Alan Sullivan has posted a very long piece on Climate. He's a weather-nut, has been studying this for a lifetime, and knows a lot. Well worth reading...

....But why are ice ages occurring now, and why at other times in earth’s history, has warmth predominated, with only a few previous cycles of widespread glaciation? At last the information from the various sciences offers a coherent explanation of paleoclimate, with which we can better understand the present, and take more educated guesses at the future.

There is one essential truth to emphasize: the sun is the primary driver. All other factors affecting climate are trivial in comparison, though sometimes they may briefly override the solar homeostasis. Virtually all Earth’s thermal energy derives from the sun; only the tiniest traces leach from the planet’s interior. But the sun’s output is not perfectly constant. Its immense thermonuclear furnace fluctuates, with short-term and long-term cycles. We scarcely understand the former, and the latter we don’t understand at all.

Our time-line of sophisticated solar study is very brief. Only in the last few years have instruments been deployed that can probe the sun’s innards more precisely. Even with super-computers, scientists will need some time to integrate the new information into theories that might help us comprehend Sol’s long-term behavior, and its peculiar short-term changes.

The first solar cycle known to astronomers was the sun-spot cycle, which was found to peak at eleven-year intervals. We have decent records of sunspot count going back to the 1500’s. They show something very odd: the Maunder minimum. During the 1600’s, the sunspot cycle collapsed, and hardly any sunspots were observed for the better part of a century. Then the cycle resumed and gradually sharpened. The peaks of the Twentieth Century appear to be the highest in the record, even when weighted for the limitations on the older counts.

The Little Ice Age happened during the Maunder Minimum. Europe and other parts of the world suffered crop failures and food crises. Winters were fierce; snows deep; ice covered the rivers; and we inherited pretty paintings of people ice-skating on canals of the Netherlands. This is not a coincidence. Solar radiance peaks with the flares that accompany sunspots. When solar storms quit entirely for decades on end, Earth’s energy balance changes. There is less input from the primary driver. The effects come promptly, and pass when the sunspot cycle resumes.....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:41 PM

Treason pure and simple

Michelle Malkin has a long long LONG report on the many ongoing attacks and harassment of military recruiters by leftists. It's worth reading. These things have nothing to do with any sort of legitimate free speech or democratic political action.

They are crimes, pure and simple. And treason pure and simple. And evil, pure and simple--this has no connection to any sort of real pacifism. (Which is apparently extinct—I don't expect our current crop of fake-pacifists to make any protest against lawless violence. Violence in favor of left-wing goals is always fine with those frauds.)

Leftists hate America, and hate the Iraq Campaign, and hate our military...for one reason. Those three have something in common. They each symbolize a willingness to fight for what one believes in. To the nihilist, belief is an affront and an irritant.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:02 PM

Standing up to the hoodlums...

Heartening news in the WSJ about the biggest scam in the world, the asbestos litigation quagmire. A judge and a defendant are actually standing up to those vile thieves! Charlene was involved in the litigation when I first met her, so I've learned a lot about that criminal enterprise.

....A building materials company, W.R. Grace was among the firms swept up in a second round of asbestos litigation in the late 1990s. Having chewed their way through asbestos manufacturers, trial lawyers went after companies that had only a marginal asbestos link. By blanketing these firms with an avalanche of claims they recruited, the tort bar pushed at least 30 of these second-tier players into bankruptcy.

Most companies then followed the usual asbestos bankruptcy script. They cut a deal with the plaintiffs attorneys, handing over a big sum to pay current and future claims. Federal bankruptcy judges happily went along, because most view their jobs as getting companies out of bankruptcy quickly and few want the hassle of investigating tens of thousands of individual asbestos claims.

Enter W.R. Grace, and its lead attorney, David Bernick, a veteran of the tobacco and breast-implant wars. Mr. Bernick has taken the unheard-of position that federal rules of evidence apply even in bankruptcy court. He has argued that the only way Judge Judith Fitzgerald can make a legitimate ruling on Grace's liability is for her to decide first how many claims have scientific merit. This is revolutionary stuff.

To her credit, Judge Fitzgerald has allowed Grace to investigate those claims, and present her with its results. The stakes are enormous. At the end of this process, Judge Fitzgerald will make a finding on W.R. Grace's ultimate liability. The plaintiffs claim it is as much as $6 billion, a figure that would make Grace insolvent. The company claims the money necessary to cover legitimate claims is closer to $500 million, a number that would allow it to rejoin the land of the living...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

March 7, 2008

Germans are good at following orders...

From Al-Qaeda Is Losing the War of Minds , By Peter Wehner,

On the way various influential clerics are turning against Jihadism. Such as Sayyid Imam al-Sharif ("Dr Fadl"), a former mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh, the "highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia." (The poor terrorist boobies will soon be reduced to using the Archbishop of Canterbury for religious leadership.)

...Not surprisingly, al-Qaeda’s stock is falling in much of the Arab and Islamic world. A recent survey found that in January less than a quarter of Pakistanis approved of Mr. bin Laden, compared with 46 per cent last August, while backing for al-Qaeda fell from 33 per cent to 18 per cent.

According to a July 2007 report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, "large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere [are] rejecting Islamic extremism". The percentage of Muslims saying suicide bombing is justified in the defence of Islam has declined in seven of the eight Arab countries where trend data are available. In Lebanon, for example, 34 per cent of Muslims say such suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified; in 2002, 74 per cent expressed this view. We are also seeing large drops in support for Mr. bin Laden. These have occurred since the Iraq war began.

Since General David Petraeus put in place his counter-insurgency strategy early last year, al-Qaeda has been dealt punishing military blows. Iraqis continue to turn against al-Qaeda and so does more of the Arab and Muslim world. In the past half-year an important new front, led by prominent Islamic clerics, has been opened. Militarily, ideologically and in terms of popular support, these are bad days for Mr. bin Laden and his jihadist jackals.

If we continue to build on these developments, the Iraq war, once thought to be a colossal failure, could turn out be a positive and even a pivotal event in our struggle against militant Islam. Having paid a high cost in blood and treasure and having embraced the wrong strategy for far too long, we stayed in the fight, proving that America was not the "weak horse" Mr. bin Laden believed it to be. Having stayed in the fight, we may prevail in it. The best way to subvert the appeal of bin Ladenism is to defeat those who take up the sword in its name...(Thanks to Orrin Judd).

Toldja so.

But wait, haven't we been in this situation before? Where we beat the stuffing out some murderous enemy, and then they suddenly discover that our ideas have merit?

I think it was in Lionel Davidson's thriller set in postwar Germany, Making Good Again, that somebody asks how a bunch of ex-Nazi's can ever form a democracy. And the answer was something like: "Germans are good at following orders. We've ordered them to become a democracy. They will obey." I always liked that. And it was true! Same thing with Japan.

And it will be true with the Islamic world too. They are good at following the "strong horse." That's us, if only we don't lose our civilizational self-confidence...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

They sense our soft underbelly...

From John Howard's Irving Kristol Lecture at the AEI...

....In the protracted struggle against Islamic extremism there will be no stronger weapon than the maintenance by western liberal democracies of a steadfast belief in the continuing worth of our own national value systems. And where necessary a soaring optimism about the future of freedom and democracy.

We should not think that by trading away some of the values which have made us who we are will buy us either immunity from terrorists or respect from noisy minorities.

If the butter of common national values is spread too thinly it will disappear altogether.

We should not forget that it is the values of our societies that terrorists despise most. That is why we should never compromise on them.

It is not only their intrinsic worth that should be staunchly defended. It is also because radical Islam senses – correctly – that there is a soft underbelly of cultural self-doubt in certain Western societies.

There are too many in our midst who think, deep down, that it is really “our fault” and if only we entered into some kind of federal cultural compact, with our critics, the challenges would disappear.

Perhaps it was this sentiment which led the Archbishop of Canterbury to make the extraordinary comment several weeks ago, that in Britain some accommodation with aspects of Sharia law was inevitable.

It is fundamental to the continued unity and purpose of a democratic nation state that there not only be respect for the rule of law but the state have but one body of law, to which all are accountable, and from which all are entitled to an equal dispensation of justice....

Like I said...but never so well.

* Update: The page from The Australian that I copied John Howard's speech from had a good example of our "soft underbelly" (and of why I hate "journalists.") There was a box displaying the latest headline, and it read: "Eight dead in school gunbattle." As if maybe two equivalent factions had starting shooting at each other. It should have read, "Terrorists Murder Eight Students in Cold Blood." But that would imply an acceptance of Western values. And imply that we ought to be defending them.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 AM

March 6, 2008

"It was always a shabby line of attack"

Jay Nordlinger:

In the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, we heard this from Democrats, constantly: You have to have worn the uniform, in order to qualify as president. Moreover, you have to have gone to war, in order to qualify as president.

Why did the Democrats say this? Because their nominees were Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom had been to Vietnam, for some months. And the Republican nominee was George W. Bush, who had merely flown fighter jets in the Guard...

...Okay, my question: Will we hear the same talk from Democrats in 2008? Will they say that you have to have been to war, in order to qualify as president? The Democratic nominee will be either Obama or Hillary; and the Republican will be McCain.

Um, I don’t think so.

It was always a shabby line of attack, that particular one. And I hope that, in retrospect, those who used it will blush a little.

Yeah, right, blush like Ananias. Now they will be back to "soldiers are baby-killers." Frauds.

And you know, I'm still royally pissed about the smears against President Bush's military service. Flying 102's in the Air Guard was more dangerous than the duty Kerry volunteered for--Swift Boats operating off the coast of Vietnam. (It was after he joined them that they were sent up the Mekong. Surprise!) It was certainly more difficult; the F-102 was the crankiest and most crash-prone high-performance jet we have ever put into service. And Bush got high marks for his piloting skill, and gave 2 1/2 years of active service.

Lordy, how I loathe lying leftists. Here are some FACTS on the subject: Link, Link, Link...................

Posted by John Weidner at 12:36 PM

Below the �irreducible minimum�

Stuff well worth reading:

Monday, 03 March 2008
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD — The top military commander in Iraq gave some insight yesterday into what he will consider as he prepares to report to the president and Congress in April on the way ahead.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, spoke with reporters accompanying Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting the country.

The security trend lines all are favorable, the general said. “Attacks have continued to go down. We’ve had a five-month period consistently of a level of attacks we’ve not seen since spring of 2005,” he said. “This past week was the fourth-lowest since October 2004.”

Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker will explain why they believe attacks have come down when they report to President Bush and Congress.

The general said he is encouraged by the statistics and what he sees around the country. “In fact, the level of attacks has come down in recent weeks below a level we thought might be the ‘irreducible minimum,’” he said....

I wonder if Hillary will come out with her stuff about "a willing suspension of disbelief" again. What an evil America-hating creature she is, like all leftists. Fortunately, her side is losing in Iraq.

Give it a read...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 AM

March 5, 2008

Vote for me, I'm sparkly...

I was just thinking about the squalid absurdity of Democrat identity politics, and the way both Obama and Clinton are running as representatives of identity groups, whose election will represent "justice" for a group. How I hate that stuff. it's un-American, and quasi-Marxist.

One of the formative moments of my life was when, back in the early 70's, having gone through the university without exposure to much solid intellectual fare, I encountered a quote by Peter Drucker. Alas, I've never found it again, but it went something like this: Christians believe that God values the individual, while socialists believe in the value of society, and are willing to sacrifice individuals—millions of them—to achieve "salvation by society."

Everything I've learned since then has just been filling in the details.

And also it occurs to me that the Republican habit of giving the presidential nomination to the senior man, to the one who's "next in line," is profoundly wise. On the surface it seems foolish, and one thinks of Bob Dole and winces. (But Dole, though a poor campaigner, was a deep old file, and would surely have made a better President than Clinton.)

I suspect there's a lot of gut wisdom involved in this. The wisdom of regular guys and gals, not clever-johnny theorists who write or blog. In the long haul, it's better to nominate seasoned old white guys (or white gals, if they resemble Margaret Thatcher) and avoid "stars" and fast-talkers and people with "charisma," whatever the heck that is. Bleccch.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:54 PM

March 4, 2008

Alternate title: "George W. Bush was Right"

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to this article in the NYT, Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics.

...When Muath was arrested last year, the police found two hostages, Shiite brothers, in a safe house that Muath told them about. Photographs showed the men looking wide-eyed into the camera; dark welts covered their bodies.

Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a distance.

“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.

Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.

“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”...

Well, there you go. Bush was right, and I was right. I've been saying for a long time that the violence of al Qaeda in Iraq would immunize people against radical Islam. I doubt if the administration intended for things to work out just as they have, but you might call it unconscious genius.

Some people claim that if we nurture democracy in the Middle East, the populations will just elect radical Islamists. No doubt some of them would do just that. But, there's nothing like having your fingers chopped off for smoking a cigarette to concentrate the mind.

And while I'm glad to see young Iraqis rejecting violence-preaching clerics, my advice to them would be to not discard their faith. The combination of peace, prosperity and secularism is deadly, as we see currently in Europe. Shi'ism at least is probably compatible with democracy, since it generally advocates a separation of church and state, at least until the Mahdi comes. The Iranian regime is an exception to the general trend of Shia theology.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:25 PM

Tough-love...

AOG writes:

Gateway Pundit has an article about various Islamic radicals threatening and / or encouraging the assassination of Prince Harry. What struck me as odd is that these radicals live in the UK. I am a fervent supporter of free speech, but even I think that kind of direct, personal, encouragement of political killing is over the line. As far as I know, saying something like that here about a member of the President’s family would result in an arrest and hopefully prosecution.

In my opinion, the proper course of action is internment, not prosecution. These things are not really within the scope of criminal law. This is a very different matter from, say, those leftists who have "suggested" that Bush ought to be assassinated. We are at war with Islamic radical terrorists, and these British radicals are, at the very least, giving them encouragement.

We are at war, and it is not our fault that our enemies are violating the laws of war. Our situation now is analogous to that which Lincoln faced. The uniformed armies of the Confederacy were, of course, fought openly and honorably. But, there were also large numbers of Confederate sympathizers scattered among the northern population, among whom were spies and saboteurs, and all sorts of ankle-biters and foot-draggers.

The situation required that Lincoln that Lincoln win the war. That was his Christian and American duty. And therefore it required that he use irregular methods against those who opposed us by irregular means. And for that reason he tapped telegraph lines repeatedly (no warrants), suspended Habeas Corpus, and had Lafayette Baker and the 1st DC Cavalry out kidnapping people and disappearing them into Old Capitol Prison. (Known locally as "Baker's Bastille.") And, yes, squeezing information out of them by methods you would not prefer over waterboarding. (Baker was, alas, far less clever than he thought he was, and the assassins who killed Lincoln gathered right under his nose.)

Our schoolchildren are subject, at least in California, to relentless propaganda about how wrong the US was to intern Japanese-Americans during WWII. This is a product of America-hating leftists. In hindsight it looks like Roosevelt was wrong—in practice—to intern them, BUT in principle he was absolutely correct. If he honestly feared that there were significant numbers of saboteurs among the Japanese-American population, who could not be easily identified, it would have been morally wrong not to intern that group. Roosevelt's duty—his Christian duty—was to win the war, and if the methods needed were irregular and brutal, then it was his duty to use them.

If the Western nations interned Islamic radicals who were inciting violence, the moral opprobrium would rest on the terror groups who use these people. Not on those doing the interning. There are laws and moral norms for waging war. Leftists tend to use these (and things like "International Law" and "Just War Theory") as if they only apply to America and her allies. Doing so is utterly dishonest and despicable. If the Islamic radicals mentioned above have gone so far as to actually encourage someone to assassinate Prince Harry, they are waging war. And committing a war crime. They could, with perfect legality, be stood up against a wall and shot. And that would arguably the morally correct thing to do, though in practice we would more likely give them a long comfortable vacation somewhere.

Our fake-pacifists often argue from Christian morality, saying in effect that we should "turn the other cheek" to terrorists or genocidal tyrants. This is false reasoning. Why? Because they are turning someone else's cheek! They don't suffer. They condemn some poor devil in the Third World to suffer, and then jump in the Prius and go home to a gourmet dinner and a safe (Thanks to our armed forces) night's sleep.

The analog, on the level of nations, to "turning the other cheek," is to flatten your enemy utterly, so he does not think of starting another war. And THEN to extend the hand of friendship, and give him aid and encouragement, and help him onto a better path. That's what we did after WWII. That's what Lincoln wanted to do after the Civil War.

And if any of you "pacifists" out there don't like what I write, don't sneer and carp, like scrubs. Make a case. Show me where my reasoning is wrong.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

March 3, 2008

Tax the rich!

Kruse Kronicle has a nice piece, based on Congressional Budget Office data, graphing how the Bush tax cuts resulted in the rich paying more taxes. And the poor paying less.

You probably already knew that, but he's got nice charts, and it is worth saving the link to use in arguments against Bolshies who claim that Bush "cut taxes on the rich."

....The 2005 total effective federal tax rate as a percentage of the 1979 rate:

  • Top Quintile = 101.2%
  • Fourth Quintile = 85.0%
  • Middle Quintile = 76.8%
  • Second Quintile = 60.1%
  • Bottom Quintile = 14.3%

As I showed in a post last month, the top 1% of taxpayers pay 40% of federal income taxes. The top 25% of taxpayers pay 86% of income taxes.

Finally, keep in mind the New York Times article two weeks a ago that pointed out that while the bottom quintile has $9,974 in income per household a year it spends $18,153. That means non-cash assistance (as well draws on savings in the case of retired or unemployed payers) nearly doubles the actual income of the bottom quintile.

Rather than populist outcry over "tax cuts for the wealthy," maybe we need to look at the whole package of consequences that come from tax policy. Is the final objective really to have all taxes paid by the top 1% of society?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

March 2, 2008

When truth goes chasing lies around the globe...

...It helps to have a bookmark to the facts. So keep this link on hand. (Thanks to Orrin.) Jonathan Last, in the Philly Inquirer...

A Democratic line is emerging about Sen. John McCain that is voiced daily by Sen. Obama (and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton) in the presidential campaign.

"Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for 100 years in Iraq," Obama says, "which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House." Or more directly, as Obama told a Houston audience, McCain "says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq."

Obama's claims are, at best, deliberately misleading. At worst, they are the type of politics-as-usual distortion that the Illinois senator usually decries. No one, in politics or the media, who voices the "100 years" canard is being fair-minded. So let's put it to rest now, once and for all:

On Jan. 3 in Derry, N.H., a voter prefaced a question to McCain by saying, "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years . . ." Here, McCain cut him off, interjecting, "Make it a hundred."

The voter tried to continue his question, but McCain pressed on: "We've been in . . . Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long
as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It's fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaeda is training, equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day."

McCain's analysis is, objectively speaking, exactly correct. Throughout history, U.S. troops have remained in the field long after the conclusion of successful wars...

He goes on to list all the many places our troops have remained long after our victories. Philippines, Japan, Germany, Italy, South Korea. Iceland, even!

And of course the really important point is, Why? Why are we still in most of those places?

A. It works. We want them to stay democratic and peaceful, so we stick around and keep our eyes on things.
B. It puts our forces close to various bad guys around the globe. Mighty handy, that's been. Mostly because it prevents wars. It is the real pacifism.
C. The whole way of picturing the US as just another nation or empire fighting this war and that is stupid. We are, actually, the cops on this planet. We are not fighting "wars" (in any classical sense of the word) at all. We are cleaning up bad neighborhoods. And if a police station is built right in the middle of gang territory, and the cops start aggressively patrolling and walking the beats--that just makes sense. It's good. It's good that we will have troops sitting right next to Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia. That's one of the many excellent reasons we are in Iraq.
Posted by John Weidner at 2:05 PM

"Embarked on a serious adventure"

...The day comes when one sees, all at once, that all those "abstract" problems which were perhaps difficult to understand are not mere schoolwork, boring for some, interesting or even exciting for others; one sees they are urgent problems, problems that pose the reality of life, that concern it wholly, and whose solution matters extremely. From that day on, philosophic reflection takes on a different character. It ceases to be a kind of work like any other. One no longer feels one has the right to get away from it systematically outside of the hours prescribed by the schedule; no longer the right moreover -- nor the inclination -- to close the door of one's inner life to it.

But on the other hand, one no longer has the right to treat it with the old flippancy, no longer the right -- nor the wish -- to build up and tear down for the fun of it; no longer the right to trust too readily one's own insights; no longer the right to start with no matter whom and no matter what basic discussions, at the risk of sowing the seeds of trouble in oneself or in others. Sincerity then appears as a virtue not only necessary but difficult. Embarked on a serious adventure, one has the duty of thinking about it prayerfully and of treating Truth with sovereign respect.

      --- Henri de Lubac, Paradoxes of Faith

(Quote found here)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:26 AM

March 1, 2008

A quote for this morning...

...As a conservative who reads a lot and takes an interest in history, I tend to accord some weight to the opinions of past generations. I do not subscribe to the fashionable belief that human beings suddenly got much smarter and more moral around 1965, and that everyone who lived prior to that date was a benighted ignoramus. There are plenty of people long dead who seem to me to have been very smart indeed — much smarter than I, in many cases. It is even possible that one or two of them may have been smarter than the editorialists at the New York Times. I don't know, I don't say this necessarily was so, only that I wouldn't altogether rule it out... [link]
--John Derbyshire
Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM