June 30, 2008

Neat things happening...

I use Google SketchUp Pro, a marvelous 3-D drawing/drafting program, in my work, and back in March of 2006 when Google bought SketchUp I speculated on what was cooking:

...So maybe the plan is to model every building on earth, and incorporate them all into Google Earth! Then you could take a virtual stroll down any street, enter any (public) building....Links and databases could be associated with places..."walk into" a restaurant, and see the menu, the hours, maybe even make a reservation for a specific table that has a nice view...

Well, that seems to be just what's going on. I just noticed this post on the Official Google SketchUp Blog:

....With our new Google Cities in 3D Program, we've made it easier for communities to "get themselves on the map". The program provides a way for local governments to share whatever 3D data they have, allowing them to appear in the 3D Buildings layer of Google Earth. Sound interesting? This post on the Google LatLong blog has all the juicy details....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:33 PM

June 29, 2008

The purity-codes of an ersatz religion....

Reading this WSJ article on the absurd contortions of the Dems trying to keep their convention undefiled by the corrupting grossness of the Great Satan, I don't know whether to cry or to hoot with laughter and throw globs of organic waste at the next Prius that drives by....

...To test whether celebratory balloons advertised as biodegradable actually will decompose, Ms. Robinson buried samples in a steaming compost heap. She hired an Official Carbon Adviser, who will measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed. The Democrats hope to pay penance for those emissions by investing in renewable energy projects.

Perhaps Ms. Robinson's most audacious goal is to reuse, recycle or compost at least 85% of all waste generated during the convention.

The Trash Brigade: To police the four-day event Aug. 25-28, she's assembling (via paperless online signup) a trash brigade. Decked out in green shirts, 900 volunteers will hover at waste-disposal stations to make sure delegates put each scrap of trash in the proper bin. Lest a fork slip into the wrong container unnoticed, volunteers will paw through every bag before it is hauled away.

"That's the only way to make sure it's pure," Ms. Robinson says...

They will "hover at waste-disposal stations." To ensure purity! Wow. Wouldn't that make some very funny campaign commercials? I think Republicans should sponsor, in honor of the Dem convention, a national "Laugh at Looney Lefties Day."

....Republicans are pushing conservation, too.....But Matt Burns, a spokesman for the Republican convention, looks on with undisguised glee at some of the Democrats' efforts -- such as the "lean 'n' green" catering guidelines.

Among them: No fried food. And, on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include "at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white." (Garnishes don't count.) At least 70% of ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel burned during transportation. "One would think," says Mr. Burns, "that the Democrats in Denver have bigger fish to bake -- they have ruled out frying already -- than mandating color-coordinated pretzel platters."...

Makes me want to have chicherones and Coors beer for dinner....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 AM

Jerusalem

I haven't blogged yet about our trip to the Holy Land. Really, I'm not a good enough writer to express what feel. And what I feel will tend to be regarded as crazy by most people, since I believe that there is, all around us, much that is real without being in any way observable by natural or scientific means. I am very much not a Nominalist, and Nominalism is the factory-default setting for people in our culture. (In fact I'm coming to suspect that the common thread in all the things that creep me out, and that I blog against, such as Communism, Postmodernism, Nihilism, Deconstructionism, "Progressivism" and the like is....Nominalism. Here's a summary on that subject)

And the unseen realities are not off in some woo woo "spiritual realm;" they interpenetrate our world at every point. The eyes of Faith can, to some extent perceive them. And yes of course I'm aware that such subtleties can be just self-deception, just products of the imagination. BUT, but, going up to Jerusalem...It's like having pondered hints of the unseen that are sort of like faded postcards of Yosemite...and then actually going to Yosemite. Words are useless. The reality is awesome....

Anyway, I just blog for the fun of it, so it doesn't matter what I write. Pass by, or pay attention. SO, attendez! (And thank you Mary Anderberg for prodding me.) In the picture below you are standing on the Mount of Olives. You are looking west. In the foreground is the Jewish cemetery. (The world's most expensive, by the way. You could easily pay a million bucks to rest your bones there.) It's hard to realize it in the picture, but the hillside is steep, especially past those spiky junipers. You can walk down that walled road on your right and you will go down to the Garden of Gethsemane hidden below the brow of the hill.

Mount of Olives, looking west over Kidron

The Valley is the Kidron Valley. Above the spiky trees you can see its other slope. There are the remains of old terraces of olive trees, then a road, then the Moslem Cemetery, and then, the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Which on this side are where they have been for more than 2,000 years. (They've been rebuilt a few times, but in the same place.) Behind the wall you see a lot of greenery. That is the Temple Mount. It is a broad plateau built up over what was once a hill by the construction of vast retaining walls, the largest of them built by Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C. Before AD 70 the plateau was covered by the Temple Complex, and, where that gold dome is, The Temple of Jerusalem. The gold dome is on the Dome of the Rock, a Moslem shrine (Not a mosque.)

When you look at that dome you are looking at the center of the world. Not the scientific center, but the real center. That's the very hill where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. The very place where King David planned, and Solomon built the first Temple...

Or, more accurately, you are looking at what used to be the center. 2,000 years ago the center was moved. Look to the left and a little above the dome. You will see a small grey shape, below the tallest building on the horizon. That's the grey dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (It's not really small—just distant.) That's the place where Jesus of Nazareth was killed, buried, and rose again to life.

In Roman days it was a knob of rock just outside the city walls, with quarries, and also with the rock-cut tombs used by those who could afford them. A good conspicuous place for making an example of those who don't appreciate the benefits of big government....

Now I had none of this geography clear in my head when I went to Jerusalem. Perhaps I dozed off in Sunday school, but I had never got the hang of how things fit together. Saliba, our splendid guide, would always get us going early in the mornings to miss the crowds. So we wandered onto the Temple Mount when almost no one else was there. That in itself was a moment of a lifetime. But then we walked to the Dome of the Rock, and Saliba pointed out that you could draw a straight line between the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden of Gethsemane, and it would pass exactly though the Temple. You can see it. That just made my hair want to stand on end.

If I maintain my energy perhaps next Sunday I'll walk you downhill, down the walled road that's on the right side of the photo...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:52 AM

June 28, 2008

Reform implies form...

...We need not debate about the mere words evolution or progress: personally I prefer to call it reform. For reform implies form. It implies that we are trying to shape the world in a particular image; to make it something that we see already in our minds. Evolution is a metaphor from mere automatic unrolling. Progress is a metaphor from merely walking along a road--very likely the wrong road. But reform is a metaphor for reasonable and determined men: it means that we see a certain thing out of shape and we mean to put it into shape. And we know what shape...
      -- GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

(Thanks to DREADNOUGHT)

Posted by John Weidner at 3:27 PM

June 27, 2008

"To his credit, Senator Obama has been very artful"

From a talk by Ward Connerly, (Thanks to Alan)

....In my private life, where I began, I worked at the Redevelopment Agency of Sacramento. That was my first job out of college. And my job was to go out and buy properties for the Redevelopment Agency that we would put into more productive uses through the power of eminent domain but in a different context, by defining a neighborhood, and I always had some misgivings about redevelopment process, but nonetheless, a guy's got to eat, and I had a young family, so I went to work right out of college for the Redevelopment Agency.

That's where I learned something about community organizing. My great enemies were community organizers. I have never met in 40-some years a community organizer who was not a socialist.

Now, I don't like to stereotype, but I want to tell you that when you are a community organizer, you have to have a certain view of the world, a certain view of things that puts you at variance with free enterprise, puts you at variance with the notion of individual rights, makes you want to redistribute the wealth. That's what community organization is.

The country seemed surprised by Reverend Wright and Father Phleger's comments. I don't know why you're surprised because if you've had one debate about affirmative action on a college campus, the rhetoric of institutional racism, the nation just heard it with Phleger and Reverend Wright. The problem is the media doesn't understand the debate enough to be able to ask the right questions of Senator Obama, not whether you think the rhetoric is divisive.

You know, when I first got involved in all of this, some of my fellow Republicans would say, "We can't support that because it's divisive." Not a question of divisive. Public policy is divisive. The question is, do you agree or do you disagree with the merits of the issue?

So when Senator Obama says it's divisive, he is very artfully avoiding the question of whether he agrees or disagrees with the inherent philosophy. And what Phleger and Wright are saying is that view of the nation in which whites, basically white males, are inherently evil and don't want to share the good life with anybody else and that the order has to be changed in our nation, change -- change -- so that all of this is reconfigured, this is a defining moment.

To his credit, Senator Obama has been very artful. He has not shucked and jived his way by saying, "I don't agree with the inherent philosophy." He has been artful, and if we let him get away with it, shame on us. But there is a profound change that is being offered to the American people, a profound change about our economic system, about the relationship between the government and its citizens, and if we embrace that, our kids and our grandkids are going to have a tough life from here on out because America, as we know it, folks, will not be the same. It will not be the same....

"Artful." In other words, he's trying to slip a fast one past us. Connerly is saying that being "artful" is better than flat-out lying. I'm not so sure myself. It's like sin. The flagrant sinner is in a better position than the person who thinks, "I'm a good person so God, if there is a God, will surely approve of me." The sinner can see that he's in trouble and repent! The other guy has wrapped himself in dangerous falsehoods that he probably wont be able to see past.

It's the same with Obama's "artfulness." It's designed to prevent serious thought and criticism. To prevent the country from debating and voting on the real issues.

As is much of today's leftist rhetoric. Leftists don't debate the ideas in question, they criticize the delivery. It's "divisive," it's "polarizing," it's "hateful," or "hate speech." It's "contemptuous," it's "questioning my patriotism." It's "censorship."

Well, for the record, I think there are some things that should be hated, that should be treated with contempt. And therefore there is nothing intrinsically wrong with pouring scorn upon them. And if someone doesn't like it, let them debate fairly.

Obama, if he were honest, would possibly talk lot like Wright and Phleger. It would be hateful, but that would be a good thing. The issues could be debated openly. (Or maybe if Obama were really really honest he would say, "I want to be president because I, to myself, am the most important thing in the universe, and my hungers are paramount.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:39 AM

June 25, 2008

Go for it, Israel...

The Wall Street Journal, on the possibility of Israeli strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities...

....Those exercises – reportedly involving about 100 fighters, tactical bombers, refueling planes and rescue helicopters – were conducted about 900 miles westof Israel's shores in the Mediterranean. Iran's nuclear facilities at Bushehr, Isfahan and Natanz all fall roughly within the same radius, albeit in the opposite direction. The point was not lost on Tehran, which promptly warned of "strong blows" in the event of a pre-emptive Israeli attack.

The more important question is whether the meaning of Israel's exercise registered in Western capitals. It's been six years since Iran's secret nuclear programs were publicly exposed, and Israel has more or less bided its time as the Bush Administration and Europe have pursued diplomacy to induce Tehran to cease enriching uranium.

It hasn't worked. Iran has rejected repeated offers of technical and economic assistance, most recently this month. Despite four years of pleading, the Administration has failed to win anything but weak U.N. sanctions. Russia plans to sell advanced antiaircraft missiles to Iran and finish work on a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, though spent fuel from that reactor could eventually be diverted and reprocessed into weapons-usable plutonium. Chinese companies still invest in Iran, while the U.N.'s chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, has repeatedly downplayed Iran's nuclear threat...

Diplomacy hasn't worked. WELL OF COURSE IT HASN'T WORKED! Diplomacy works as an alternative to force. If you are too sick and corroded inside to be willing to use force, then why should anyone bother to give you anything at the negotiating table? And if you can't solve problems through diplomacy, what do you get? War!

Weakness leads to war. Pacifism leads to war. Quakerism leads to war.

This one won't be an actual war, just a surgical strike on certain facilities. But there will be casualties, including civilians. That's because the evil Iranian regime has placed it's nuclear bomb facilities to make this happen. Which is a war crime, by the way. Not that they will get any blame for it. Our morally-depraved "liberals" will place all the blame on Israel, as always. How dare the Jews defend themselves against nuclear attack?

Well I say, go for it, Israel. You will only be doing what the US should have done years ago. And doing the world a huge favor.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:25 PM

June 24, 2008

An RJ reader does us proud!

Regulars will have noticed that yesterday our friend Ethan Hahn commented for the first time since about last March. You may possibly have wondered where he was.

Well, I knew, but I couldn't tell. Until now. Here's Robert Ethan Hahn, of the United States Army Reserves...

Robert Hahn

Is that totally cool, or what! He tells me that Random Jottings helped inspire him for this adventure....I think he's being too kind; anyway it's he who inspires me right now.

Here's another picture. (He's preparing to fire a "Rumsfeld," one of our new anti-satellite bazookas...)

Robert Hahn, basic training

Posted by John Weidner at 6:16 PM

What's missing from this picture....

From an AP story about the floods in the Mississippi Valley, Flood victims say FEMA is doing a heckuva job .....

...Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina turned FEMA into a punchline, many homeowners, politicians and community leaders in the flood-stricken Midwest say that so far, the agency is doing a heckuva job _ and they mean it.

Up and down the Big Muddy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is being commended for responding quickly and surely....

What's missing? It's a long article about how well FEMA is doing, but no mention of.....President Bush. Surprise surprise.

Remember how our fake-leftists reacted to the (supposed) failures of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina? Remember how it "proved" that Bush was a failure as President? Remember the pitiful fake outrage: Bush....sniff....promised to...to..to... PROTECT US!....sniff sniff sob.

Jackasses. Of course none of those cowards are going to now give Bush any credit for a success.

When rotten people hate you, it's a sign that you are doing something right. (Of course if being hated by scoundrels is a sign of worthiness, then Bush is probably the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But I don't want to go out on a limb here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:13 PM

June 23, 2008

Roger Kimball is going to stop playing in a rigged game...

Encounter Bids The New York York Times Farewell
BY ROGER KIMBALL | JUNE 23RD, 2008
Beginning today, June 23, 2008, Encounter Books will no longer send its books to The New York Times for review. Of course, the editors at the Times are welcome to trot down to their local book emporium or visit Amazon.com to purchase our books, but we won’t be sending gratis advance copies to them any longer.

“But wait,” you might be thinking, “I don’t recall the Times reviewing titles from Encounter Books.” Precisely! By and large, they don’t, at least in recent years. That’s part of the calculation: why bother to send them books that they studiously ignore?

In the last month, Encounter has had two titles on the extended New York Times best-seller list: Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer, and Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, by Andrew C. McCarthy. But that list is the only place you will find these books mentioned in the pages of The New York Times. We’ve also published other brisk-selling books that the Times has ignored—Guy Sorman’s Empire of Lies: The Truth About China in the Twenty-first Century, for example, or Philip F. Lawler’s Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture, or Bruce Thornton’s Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow Motion Suicide or Caroline Fourest’s Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan, to name just a few recent titles.

Not, I hasten to add, that Encounter’s experience is unique. Consider, to take just one example, Mark Steyn’s book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, published in 2006 by Regnery. This is a brilliant book about one of the most pressing issues of our time—the threat of radical Islam and the West’s loss of cultural confidence. It perched for weeks on the Times’s bestseller list. But that was the only place in the Times you would see the book mentioned because the Times’s editors chose to ignore it.

In favor of what, you might ask? Well, there are reviews of books about people like Ron Jeremy, a porn star, and then there are reviews of books like Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. And let’s not forget Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America and The Surrender: The Beauty of Submission, a meditation on the joys of sodomy by a former ballerina, both of which got full reviews in the Times (actually, The Surrender got several notices). Not that the Times is monomaniacal. In the current issue of the Book Review, there is a review of a book by a University of California linguist that endeavors to explain “how the right wins and keeps power: by framing issues and controlling minds.” I knew there had to be some reason......

Good for Roger. How I despise The Paper Formerly Known As The Paper Of Record (to use Rand Simberg's appellation). Their collapse can't come fast enough for my taste. I read the statistics of their declining circulation and revenues, and smile, and think of the Far Side cartoon where some dinosaurs are sitting around chatting, and one is holding his hand out in puzzlement to catch a falling snowflake....

           

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 AM

Fraudulent from the beginning...

By Bridget Johnson, PJ Media, The silence of the world grows deafening as Robert Mugabe mercilessly crushes those who dare to oppose him

If you want to challenge Robert Mugabe — who once claimed that he’d be president until 100 years of age — you’ll be lucky to come out of the experience alive.

That’s what makes opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai a true survivor. Tsvangirai’s party announced Sunday that he will pull out of his presidential runoff race against Mugabe in the midst of mounting violence and intimidation...

The world is silent because the western liberals who mobilized the West to bring about the downfall of the white governments of South Africa and Rhodesia—now called Zimbabwe—never gave a damn about the African people involved. It was always just a proxy for domestic politics. A little morality play where the bad guy is the redneck sheriff down south, opposed by the brave and good leftists. It was all about them feeling good about themselves, and laying the propaganda-foundations for taking power.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:46 AM

June 22, 2008

I want you to look at this picture and DESPAIR!...

This AP article, Everything Seemingly is Spinning Out of Control, is really too stupid to waste time on, but it's a sleepy afternoon. What really bugs me is what whores journalists are. If the editor asked this person he would write a similar piece on how hopeful and improving things are, and how confidence is strong. (And he will, once a Dem gets in the White House.)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. [Happened before, will happen again. Each time with more problems because more people build in flood-plains.] Polar bears are adrift. [And Antarctic ice is at a record maximum] Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. [Actually they are still high compared with just a few years ago] Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. [Yet we seem to afford them] Wars without end rage in Iraq, [What a moron. We are clearly winning in Iraq] and Afghanistan and against terrorism. [All wars are "without end"...until they end.

Horatio Alger, twist in your grave. [Stupid remark. Alger's stories were about triumphing over adversity, not enjoying lotus-land. So how is alleged adversity going to make him spin?]

The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance. [If this is the "thesis" of this essay, where's the evidence? The fact that we have problems is NOT evidence that we feel "powerlessness."]

The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year's presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order -- and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, ''Yes, we can.'' [This is completely illogical. A message of change and "Yes we can" is the opposite of a sense of hopelessness.]

Even so, a battered public seems discouraged by the onslaught of dispiriting things. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll says a barrel-scraping 17 percent of people surveyed believe the country is moving in the right direction. That is the lowest reading since the survey began in 2003... [Actually I believe current polls show a majority of Americans happy about their own personal prospects.]

An ABC News-Washington Post survey put that figure at 14 percent, tying the low in more than three decades of taking soundings on the national mood.

..."It is pretty scary,'' said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn. "People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven't been. And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through. If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change.'' [This is evidence of.....of....what? Midwest Derangement Syndrome? Is "things are going to get better" supposed to mean no more tornados?]

Recent natural disasters around the world dwarf anything afflicting the U.S. Consider that more than 69,000 people died in the China earthquake, and that 78,000 were killed and 56,000 missing from the Myanmar cyclone. [So? What's the point? You think earthquakes in China are a new thing?]

Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire. [A "world gone haywire" measured from what baseline? What is the normal non-haywire steady-state? When did it happen?]

Floods engulf Midwestern river towns. Is it global warming, the gradual degradation of a planet's weather that man seems powerless to stop or just a freakish late-spring deluge? [It's something that happens every few decades, clot-brain. You can look it up.]

This is too silly to keep on with. Let me just provide some actual evidence against the idea that floods in the Midwest are shocking novelties, and mean that our world is coming apart at the seams. This picture was taken May 11, when we were visiting our son Rob in Grand Forks, ND, for his graduation. He and I are standing level with the town around us, and least 20 feet above the level of the Red River, which you can see behind us. (For that 1997 flood I blame Clinton!)

Grand Forks Floods monument

Flood monument in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:14 PM

"Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential"

    Matthew VIII, 28 ff.

Rabbi, we Gadarenes
Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
Of the planned release of aggressions.

We have deep faith in prosperity.
Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
Is palpably non-essential.

It is true that we go insane;
That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
At all but the lowest levels.

We shall not, however, resign
Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
We had rather You shoved off.
    -- Richard Wilbur

Posted by John Weidner at 8:43 AM

June 21, 2008

Cowardly liar....

Reuters: Obama says Republicans will use race to stoke fear

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said on Friday he expects Republicans to highlight the fact that he is black as part of an effort to make voters afraid of him.

"It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy," Obama told a fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"...

What a vile and despicable accusation. Neither McCain nor any Republicans of prominence have brought race into the campaign. Nor are they going to. (Nor would it do any good, since any racists we might be appealing to probably already have some slight awareness of the color of Mr Obama's skin.)

And it is doubly vile because the only ones who have brought race into politics so far are involved in the Democrat primary. Actually the only real racism in the primary was the fact that neither candidate could slam the other as had as they should have because of fear of being called "racist" or "sexist." The real racism today is contained in the identity politics that leftists practice. It is racist to go light on a candidate because of his race. Or gender.

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me." That's totally bogus. We are planning to make people worry—even be afraid—of where Obama's policies will lead the country. There's nothing wrong with that. Who would bother to try to make people afraid of Obama himself? That would be giving him more substance than he has.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:58 PM

June 20, 2008

Volcano update...

Alan Sullivan continues to cover Chaitén, which continues to erupt.

...At Chaitén the first stage of dome-building was estimated at 37 cubic meters per second. It has now accelerated past fifty. No wonder the photos are so striking. This is an event outside historic parameters. It is consistent with the large magma chamber implied by the initial earthquakes. But the eruption is rhyolitic. This is a comparatively rare lava with a high silicate content and relatively low sulfur content. Only a few rhyolitic dome formations have been observed. There is virtually no basis for prediction. There is no way to know the significance of recently increased seismic activity and very rapid dome growth. Certainly it seems ominous.

At the least, one must wonder about the mechanical stability of the huge, teetering dome. A simple landslide could release internal pressure and trigger an explosive eruption that would destroy the edifice. It is also possible that rapid evacuation of the magma chamber could lead to a larger collapse of the entire caldera floor. This would probably induce an eruption with serious global consequences. We can only watch and wait.

"Serious global consequences" is no joke. On the other hand there's not much we can do about it! But at least Random Jottings has not failed to keep you informed. The dome is bulking-up at 50 cubic meters per second. That's hard to imagine. An old pick-up truck I used to own would hold about one cubic meter of soil.

Alan links to some awesome pictures....

....The Volcanism Blog has published an awesome aerial photo sequence from June 17, when the weather was clear. The eruption was increasing in intensity. The photos show steam emission at locations near the dome base, thick fume rising off the dome itself, and intense ash pluming from the new crater. The old crater may have been choked off by growth of the dome, which would explain pressure buildup sufficient to blast a new crater. But the base fumaroles, though small in comparison, may be more significant. They could imply the fracturing preliminary to dome collapse, as the partially emptied magma chamber undermines the massive and growing lava pile. Such a collapse would trigger explosive release of all the remaining pressure in the magma chamber, and perhaps also the deeper conduit that feeds it. Recall that we had reason from the pattern of the initial earthquake sequence to suspect that magma chamber was very large.

I’m not a geologist, and these are no more than half-educated speculations. It seems to me there is ample reason for concern, even some degree of alarm. We are not speaking of a model based on dubious data. We are witnessing a natural process which, in the geological record, has often led to world-class eruptions. This phenomenon coincides with — and could significantly amplify a period of global cooling...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:03 PM

June 19, 2008

Phantasms....

I was reminded of something when I saw this piece, on how companies are investing less in China, because costs have become too high. (Or, delicious irony, "building highly automated factories" in China!)

A commenter on my recent post "The libertarian dream turns into the totalitarian nightmare..." wrote: "...I am concerned for this wonderful country. Why can't I find "American Made" on the market shelves? Why are the companies moving to other countries?.."

My hasty answer:

....I suspect your definition of "American made" is out of date. Suppose you buy a kid a plastic toy for $10, and it says "Made in China."

What probably happened is that China got a crummy 50¢ for the object. and American workers got $9.50 for adding value of a more intangible sort. For advertising, for the entertainment industry that lives of advertising, for insurance and legal work, for trucking, for sales clerks and store managers, for government regulators. For a zillion jobs that go into getting that Barbie Doll into your hands.

It's really 95% "American made;" we just exported the low-end low-pay jobs, and kept the better ones. And the Chinese got money to buy our movies and software and Boeing jets, (if we do a good job making and selling them.)

I'm always intrigued by the way, in the Information Age, intangible things tend to become more "real" than actual physical objects. If a factory in China burns down, (or just loses favor with foreign companies) information can can be sent immediately to companies in Vietnam or Malaysia, and soon containers full of Barbie Dolls or shoes or tools will be flowing towards America, and no one will notice the difference. But if the designers, and the designs, and the CAD/CAM files were lost, then there would be big problems....

It's the same here. When the World Trade Center towers were destroyed on 9/11, most of the companies with offices there had good back-up systems, and the business they were doing was switched to other locations. In some cases offices on the other side of the planet. And all the physical stuff regenerated almost immediately. That is, new offices were leased, truckloads of cubicles and computers and fax machines were assembled, and Dilbert's world is made anew within a week or two....

Big buildings take a little longer, but the essence is the same. The irony is that the 9/11 attackers thought they were dealing us a big blow, but, except for the symbolism of it (another intangible) they destroyed phantasms. The real stuff was much too tough and resilient to be hurt by bombs!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:47 AM

June 18, 2008

Hilarious...

Beware the Chicago boys: Obama's vow of love for free markets gives reason to fear a replay of Bill Clinton's 1993 U-turn (Naomi Klein, 6/13/08, The Guardian)

Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC: "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed the 37-year-old Jason Furman, one of Wal-Mart's most prominent defenders, to head his economic team....

Delightful, to think of all the leftizoids who will be sucking on this little lemon!

And they tend to love Obama because they think he's magical. If Obama is elected, then things will just happen. There won't be any hard work and discipline needed, the world will just change. (It's like, who could oppose him? That would be racist!) But reality lurks, ready to pounce on even those who eat in the trendiest restaurants.

There are lot of people whose whole economic philosophy is: "Big corporations are icky." (And the really wierd thing is that they can be people who actually know a lot about economics! I love reading tech writer Daniel Eran Dilger, who is totally lucid in explaining what big corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Sun etc are up to. But he recently wrote: "Obama’s campaign is known for its grassroots outreach to individuals, as opposed to the typical political campaigns catering to corporate lobbyists...")

And I guess the "big corporations are icky" crowd are going to have some painful shocks if they think a corrupt Chicago pol will make evil economics just magically disappear. Or maybe they won't; human capacity for self-deception is unlimited, and, at least in the news media, ickyness WILL disappear if a Dem is in the White House.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:14 AM

June 16, 2008

"The temerity to act upon faith"

Spengler, as usual, sees below the surface...

Acting on faith in politics means exactly what it does in personal life: to do what is right even when it is dangerous to do so, when received opinion howls against it, and when the ultimate consequence of such actions cannot be foreseen. After Pope Benedict XVI showed unprecedented courtesy to visiting American President George W Bush last week, much has been written about the Christian faith that binds the pope and the president.

It is not only faith, but the temerity to act upon faith, that the pope and the president have in common. In the past I have characterized Benedict's stance as, "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it." (See Ratzinger's mustard seed Asia Times Online, April 5, 2005.) Despite his failings, Bush is a kindred spirit. That is what horrifies their respective critics within the Catholic Church and the American government, who portray the president and the pope as destroyers of civilizational peace. The charge is spurious because there was no civilization peace to destroy, but like many calumnies, it contains an element of truth.

Never before did a pope descend to the Vatican gardens to greet a national leader as Benedict did for Bush, returning the unprecedented deference that the president showed in meeting the pope's plane at Andrews Air Force Base in April. More than mutual courtesy is at work here; the two men evince a natural affinity and mutual sympathy. Prelates in the Vatican's permanent bureaucracy fumed at the warmth with which Bush was received, the Italian daily La Repubblica noted June 12, given that the US president "is very distant from papal exhortations condemning war", the Iraq war in particular.

Benedict XVI, like his predecessor John Paul II, disagrees with American policy in Iraq, but not the way that the European or American left would like. "There was not a word from the papal throne about the possibility of an attack on Iran during the coming months, the catastrophic results of which terrify all the bishops of the Middle East," Marco Politi fulminated in La Repubblica June 14. "In the Holy Land, the Holy See is being towed behind the snail's pace [in peace negotiations] of Washington and the Israeli government."

Despite his position on Iraq, Benedict's critics within the church regard him as a civilizational warrior as dangerous as the US president. Bush might denounce "Islamo-facism", but continues to believe that Islam is a "religion of peace". Muslims suspect that the pope wants to convert them, a threat they never have had to confront in Islam's 1,500-year history...

"Convert them." That's the "other shoe" that's finally dropping. If our Faith is true, then there is no way it does not require the conversion of the nations. We are not able to live in "peaceful coexistence" with Islam or Buddhism or Hindooism. Why? Because we have what those people need. We have the Living Bread. If someone is starving in front of you, and you are holding a loaf of bread, what must you do? Can you say, "Isn't peace wonderful, pal?" and walk away?

A couple of other bits from Spengler's column..

...Bush was magnificently right to conduct a punitive expedition against Saddam, but horribly wrong to wade into the mire of nation-building. He should have found a cooperative dictator to replace Saddam and marched out, as American neo-conservative historian and political commentator Daniel Pipes suggested at the time...

My money says Spengler's wrong on this. Bush is operating on the level of "Grand Strategy" here. He's playing the same deep game Benedict is, but in a more secular realm. The risks are high, but the stakes are higher. If freedom is "God's gift for all men," as Bush says, then we have, (on a much lower plane) the bread they need. My guess is that it was no more likely that Bush would install a "friendly dictator" in Iraq and then scoot, than it would be for Benedict to acquiesce in the "detente" which Dall'Oglio wishes to keep with the various tyrants of the Islamic world.

...Why should Muslims fear Benedict?

For the first time, perhaps, since the time of Mohammed, large parts of the Islamic world are vulnerable to Christian efforts to convert them, for tens of millions of Muslims now dwell as minorities in predominantly Christian countries. The Muslim migration to Europe is a double-edged sword. Eventually this migration may lead to a Muslim Europe, but it also puts large numbers of Muslims within reach of Christian missionaries for the first time in history....

Very true. But globalization is doing the same to the Muslim heartland. Opening it up. Success in a global economy requires openness and freedom, as China is learning. If Iraq can become any kind of democracy (it will doubtless be a very flawed and rough one for a long while) then Bush has cracked open the Arab world.

....Bush chose Iraq simply because existing United Nations Security Council resolutions provided a pretext in international law...

At a conscious level, perhaps. It makes perfect sense. But I suspect something else was going on. I think Iraq is different. This is nothing I have evidence for; just an impression gained from ten-thousand dust-motes of information that I have seen floating in cyber-space since 2002, and which seem to form some sort of pattern. I suspect that if knowledgeable people had contemplated the Arab Islamic world in the year 2000, and pondered where change might start, where new things might be catalyzed, where the diamond might be cleaved with a single blow, they would be drawn inevitably to Iraq. That's my suspicion.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

Go for it, President Karzai...

One of the really stupid and violence-producing aspects of the world we live in is the common assumption that terrorist thugs can use certain countries as bases for attacks on other countries, but that they can't be counter-attacked, because their bases are in a "sovereign" nation we are not at war with. (This idea would have been laughed to scorn long ago, except that it dovetails perfectly with lefty nihilism, which hates above all things our believing in anything enough to fight for it.)

But one of the good aspects of war is that it slowly burns away falsehoods. What's left may be ugly, but it is true. (ref: Sherman, Grant, Patton, Epaminondas, Chatham, Wellington.) One of the most shocking and radical blows of the War on Terror has been the way President Bush has re-defined sovereignty as requiring democratic legitimacy. That's much a bigger deal than invading Iraq, but his opponents watch the hand that the magician waves in the air, and don't see the real move. The lie that is our old idea of sovereignty is being burned away, and high time...

Karzai threatens to chase militants in Pakistan

President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan soldiers into Pakistan to fight militant groups that operate in border areas there to attack Afghanistan.

His comments, made at a news conference in Kabul, are likely to worsen tensions between the two countries just days after American forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on the border while pursuing militants.

"If these people in Pakistan give themselves the right to come and fight in Afghanistan, as was continuing for the last 30 years, so Afghanistan has the right to cross the border and destroy terrorist nests, spying, extremism and killing in order to defend itself, its schools, its peoples and its life," Karzai said.

"When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same," he continued....

The frontier provinces of Pakistan are waging war on Afghanistan, right now, while crossing their fingers and claiming to be at peace. Tolerating the situation means that that war will continue indefinitely. To do so is to reward the aggressors. The path to peace is to punish the criminals. Being, myself, a real pacifist, not a fake one, I say it is time to put a stop to it.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 AM

June 15, 2008

The Church has members as a human body has arms and legs...

...There is little that is given or secure in a denomination; the denomination is constantly being remade by its members. Christianity as denomination has no distinctive, fixed form, given to it by Christ; it adapts its form, its institutional structures, to the patterns of the age…. In much of American denominational Christianity today, institutional process is more important than binding doctrinal reference points; anything can change. The denominational community’s boundaries are ill defined, even porous, because being nonjudgmental is essential to group maintenance. Religious leadership is equated with bureaucratic managership; bishops and other formally constituted religious leaders are discussion moderators whose job is to keep all opinions in play, rather than authoritative teachers.

A denomination is something we help create by joining it; according to Vatican II, however, the Church is a divinely instituted community into which we are incorporated by the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist). Denominations have members like voluntary associations or clubs; the Church has members as a human body has arms and legs, fingers and toes. A denomination has moving boundaries, doctrinally and morally; the Church, according to Vatican II, is nourished by creeds and moral convictions that clearly establish its boundaries. The structures of a denomination are something we can alter at will; the Church, according to Vatican II, has a form, or structure, given to it by Christ. Catholicism has bishops and a ministerial priesthood, and Peter’s successor, the Bishop of Rome, not because Catholics today think these are good ways to do things but because Christ wills these for his Church...

    -- George Weigel

       

Posted by John Weidner at 5:58 AM

June 13, 2008

Great post...

Bookworm writes Say it loud, say it proud: I am a racist!

When I vote against Obama on November 4, 2008:

  • It won’t be because Obama wants to withdraw from Iraq, which I think will weaken America’s interests beyond repair, it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because Obama thinks that a nuclear Iran is no threat to the Western World, it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because I think it’s an incredibly stupid idea for the most powerful nation in the world to approach evil totalitarian dictators as a supplicant, it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because I hate the idea of a President who will subordinate America’s interests to the UN (as he inevitably will), it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because Obama has the thinnest resume ever in the history of Presidential candidates, it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because I think Obama’s Leftist connections (Ayres, Dohrn, Soros, Pfleger, Wright, etc.) show him to be either stupid about or complicit with an agenda antithetical to basic American values, it will be because I’m a racist.
  • It won’t be because Obama consistently chooses as advisers people who have opted for the wrong side in the completely binary debate about Israel’s right to exist, it will be because I’m a racist....

There's more, plenty more!

Posted by John Weidner at 3:38 PM

June 12, 2008

Get on the bandwagon...

I read that this is an Obama campaign slogan: “Let’s Unite for Our Common Purpose.”

Would you care to elaborate, Mr O, on what, precisely, our "common purpose" might be? And just exactly when we all got together and agreed upon it? I guess I didn"t even get the memo about the convention where the "common purpose" was voted in....

It's actually a great campaign line for such a Rorschach candidate....Millions of people will hear it and sigh, "He understands me! Finally, someone who is in deep sympathy with my ideas..."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 PM

June 10, 2008

FDR Lied....Or should have if it had been necessary.

The Rockefeller Report supposedly substantiates the "Bush lied" line of leftist propaganda. But the actual report demonstrates the opposite, as this editorial in the WaPo (no friends of Bush they) shows...

.....But dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment. So, you think, the smoking gun must appear in the section on Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorism.

But statements regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda "were substantiated by the intelligence assessments," and statements regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." The report is left to complain about "implications" and statements that "left the impression" that those contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation....

Now the "Bush lied" story has always been bullshit, among other reasons because all the Dem leaders are on the record as saying exactly the same sort of things about the dangers posed by the Iraqi regime. And they had access to the same intelligence. Still, it's nice to see the Post confirm it.

But I have always thought that the whole controversy is based on a false and very pernicious philosophy. One that in fact causes war. I think the basic Western default "common wisdom" response to terrorism is the very reason terrorism exists and works. It's a game played by rules that ensure that the game will go on and on.

Imagine that Iran sent a plane and dropped a bomb on some American base, and killed some of our people. We would say that that is an act of war. We would, at the very least, bomb them in retaliation, and make no apologies about it. But suppose Iran covertly supports a terrorist group that sends a suicide bomber and kills the very same Americans. We are supposed to pretend that nothing much has happened. If we suspect an Iranian connection and bomb Iran's Presidential Palace in retaliation, world opinion would say that we are starting a war!

That's crazy. And that kind of thinking is the reason there are terror-supporting nations. They fund and arm terror groups because they can get away with it. Our enemies can attack us without much fear of retaliation. So they do. It is the lack of response that promotes terrorism. We reward them, rather than punishing them.

And the way our "conventional wisdom" works is by declaring the terror-supporting nations innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. That's what the "Bush lied" campaign is all about.

But Saddam was openly a supporter of terrorism. He was paying bounties for Jews killed. (Some of whom were Americans.) We are in a global war on terrorism. We have a perfect right to attack any terror-supporters and terror groups. Just as we had a right to attack nations that were aiding the Axis during WWII, even though we were not technically at war with them.

The only way to stop terrorism is to stop playing the silly game of "we can't hit back unless we prove beyond doubt that you hit first." That encourages covert attacks. that rewards them. The way to peace is to smack hard any country that even looks like it might be supporting terror groups.

IF Bush lied about the dangers of Iraq (he didn't) it is only because of a crazy system that protects Iraq. We should be taking out obdurate terror-supporters, and if it took a lie to get us doing what was right, then it was a noble deed. He shouldn't even need to ask permission. We are in a war, Iraq was clearly on the other side, President Bush is Commander in Chief, so he should be able to order the invasion of Iraq without any fuss.

President Roosevelt didn't go to Congress for permission to invade North Africa, even though we were not technically at war with French Morocco. He just did it. And if he had not had a loyal opposition party, if he had had a disloyal opposition, an anti_American opposition, as we do now, then he might have had to lie to get permission to attack. And if so, then his duty would have been to lie.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 AM

June 9, 2008

"Tyranny is the opposite of authority"

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

It is not a question, therefore, of there being authority, and then tyranny, which is too much authority; for tyranny is no authority. Tyranny means too little authority; for though, of course, an individual may use wrongly the power that may go with it, he is in that act disloyal to the law of right, which should be his own authority.
      --GK Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 12:07 PM

June 8, 2008

We taught them to act that way...

Glenn posted this quote by Norm Geras...

...You couldn't ask for a clearer symbol of the double-edged character of [African] nationalism. At one time a powerful force in the fight for liberation from colonial rule and in the long struggle against apartheid, African nationalism has, in the hands of Mbeki and other African leaders rallying round Mugabe, been transmuted into an apologia and defence of the most blatant criminality and oppression. The US ambassador, representing a country widely derided in liberal circles for its role in international affairs, bears witness to the crimes of the Mugabe regime; the man standing at the head of a nation that won the world's admiration for getting rid of an odious racist system disgraces that legacy.

What is missed here is that the defense of "the most blatant criminality and oppression" was always a part of the Western fight against apartheid. (And also against colonialism.) At least among liberals. Why?

Remember how we heard over and over that South Africa did not have majority rule? I sure do. But the fact is, at that time NO African nation had majority rule. All African countries other than South Africa were ruled by dictators or very small elite groups. None of the anti-apartheid activist types found this objectionable. They implicitly defined brutal tyranny as "majority rule," so long as the Head of State had dark skin! An evil lesson.

The fact that South Africa had an illegal immigrant problem, with black people fleeing to SA from much worse places, did not matter to them at all. Few or no Western "activists" announced that South Africa was just the first problem, and that after it was solved they would turn their efforts to bringing majority rule to other African nations. They didn't care.

So the West has in fact "taught" Africans that dictatorship or one party rule are acceptable. And we are still teaching the same lesson. Those who are upset about Mugabe's oppression are few, and tend not to be the same people who were outraged by the lack of "majority rule" in SA.

The activists never really cared about Africans at all, not as people like us. Their fun was in attacking white conservatives. One those were gone they dropped the whole subject.

* Update: Western leftists have "taught" the same lesson in the Middle East. They "care" about the Palestinians only to the extant that they are injured by Israel. Arab regimes have treated the Palestinians far worse than Israel has, without any protest from the sort of Westerners who wear kaffiyas. (For instance, in 1992 Kuwait booted 30,000 Palestinians out of their homes and out of the country. And protests came there none!)

* One more Update: And right here in the USA. The Civil Rights Movement was, and is, only interesting to leftists to the extant that it can be used to bash conservative whites. Once the "rednecks" were gone, the fun was mostly over. Festering problems within black communities, such as corrupt politicians, crime, poor work and study habits, and anti-white racism are not priorities. If the choice is between fixing inner-city schools, and placating the teachers' unions who bankroll the Democrat Party, the pickininnies get tossed to the sharks every time.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

June 7, 2008

Perhaps I owe Mark Morford an apology...

It's possible I was too negative towards Mark Morford in my post this morning.

It's not true that Mr Obama has never accomplished anything. He did in fact have one "Profiles in Courage" moment, when he went out on a limb, and took a stand that was not politically necessary. It was due to "unique high-vibration integrity," I'm sure. (I've copied an article about it below the fold.)

Hey Morford, why don't you show the article to those people you've been talking to? The "enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence." Could you please bring us some specific reactions from those "spiritually advanced people," those "philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order?"

I'd like to hear their take, being myself just a cowed-by-religion member of the the armies of BushCo darkness. Enlighten me!

Obama More Pro-Choice Than NARAL
by Amanda B. Carpenter
Posted: 12/26/2006

Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) portrays himself as a thoughtful Democrat who carefully considers both sides of controversial issues, but his radical stance on abortion puts him further left on that issue than even NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In 2002, as an Illinois legislator, Obama voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected babies that survived late-term abortions. That same year a similar federal law, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, was signed by President Bush. Only 15 members of the U.S. House opposed it, and it passed the Senate unanimously on a voice vote.

Both the Illinois and the federal bill sought equal treatment for babies who survived premature inducement for the purpose of abortion and wanted babies who were born prematurely and given live-saving medical attention.

When the federal bill was being debated, NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement that said, “Consistent with our position last year, NARAL does not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act ... floor debate served to clarify the bill’s intent and assure us that it is not targeted at Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to choose.”

But Obama voted against this bill in the Illinois senate and killed it in committee. Twice, the Induced Infant Liability Act came up in the Judiciary Committee on which he served. At its first reading he voted “present.” At the second he voted “no.”

The bill was then referred to the senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, which Obama chaired after the Illinois Senate went Democratic in 2003. As chairman, he never called the bill up for a vote.

Jill Stanek, a registered delivery-ward nurse who was the prime mover behind the legislation after she witnessed aborted babies’ being born alive and left to die, testified twice before Obama in support of the Induced Infant Liability Act bills. She also testified before the U.S. Congress in support of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

Stanek told me her testimony “did not faze” Obama.
Posted by John Weidner at 1:08 PM

"I'm feeling those good vibrations"

Hard upon discovering the WaPo editorial I just blogged-up, about Obama re-alligning his foreign policy positions to something amazingly Bush flavored, I read this by Mark Morford, in the SF Chron. The juxtapose is just too too delicious...

I find I'm having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans [We are just puddles of misery] and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I'm having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell's the big deal about Obama?

I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.

Warning: If you are a rigid pragmatist/literalist, itchingly evangelical, a scowler, a doubter, a burned-out former '60s radical with no hope left, or are otherwise unable or unwilling to parse alternative New Age speak, click away right now, because you ain't gonna like this one little bit. [Click away? No way brother, you are making my day.]

Ready? It goes likes this: Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway. [Chariots of the Gods? Remember that one?]

This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae - or no antennae at all - to all those who just don't understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.

To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?

No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity. [Chicago politics seems to bring that out in people.]

Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence [Intuitively. Not one of them can make a principled argument for any of this.] - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord. [So Mark, shall we put some money on it? My $100 says it's gonna be "vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores" all the way down.]

Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious [meaning having a creed that can actually be pinned down], mind you, but deeply spiritual [meaning indistinguishable from nihilism] ) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies [Ooops] or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul. [How about the soul of the Democrat Party? As a kind of, you know, "test case?" Do we see peace? Philosophy? Sweetness and light? Anybody evolvin' there?]
The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. [Poor poor Frodo, crawling across Mordor.] And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history. [So you would think—Obama is 46 years old—that Mr Morford would now be pointing to some actual "lightwork" that Mr Obama has actually accomplished. If a person is, like, radiant, and he's been involved in public life for a couple of decades, SOMETHING ought to have happened. Right? Hmm? Something, uh, luminous? I'm sitting here, just waiting to be impressed. Mark?]

Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me. But you gotta wonder, why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long, is so vital to our national identity? [Maybe because we are narcissists who value feel-good emotions over actual facts?] Yes, the assassination canonized his legend. The Kennedy family is our version of royalty. But there's something more. Those attuned to energies beyond the literal meanings of things, these people say JFK wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name. It's because he was just this kind of high-vibration being, a peacemaker, at odds with the war machine, the CIA, the dark side. And it killed him. [He was killed by a Communist "Progressive," who hated it when he got tough on St. Fidel. Ooops, sorry, that's too literal. Stupid of me. I'm SO "not attuned to energies beyond the literal meanings of things."]

Now, Obama. The next step. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land [smokin' ruins as far as the eye can see] and embarrassed the country [Euro elites and Middle East tyrants, PLEASE forgive us for being Americans] and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp [Speak for yourself, pulpy pal] and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp,[?] we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.

Let me be completely clear: I'm not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. [Coulda fooled me] I'm not saying the man's going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren.

Please. I'm also certainly not saying he's perfect, that his presidency will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of politics-as-usual. While Obama's certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn't hard to stand far above and beyond the worst president in American history. [Hey Morford, want to put another C-note on what the history books end up saying?]

But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to me, in a way, it's not even about Obama, per se. There's a vast amount of positive energy swirling about that's been held back by the armies of BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod, is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama's candidacy. People and emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically drawn to him. It's exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know, completely reversed. And different. And far, far better. [That's too intrinsic for me to even comment on. But Mark, would you care to set a few specific benchmarks, so we can eventually come to some judgement on all this?]

Don't buy any of it? Think that's all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls-- and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you're talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? [Yep] I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself. Not this time.

Dick Cheney on a Segway

I am evolving! It's a new way of being on the planet!

[By the way, I have nothing against: "...The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture..." It's real, it just happens to be discoverable in the Church founded by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. And not in "swirling vibrational energies." Rather it's about giving up self-love, and taking up ones cross, and following.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

Toldja... "The sensible options for defending them are relatively limited"

From the Washington Post this morning...

IN THE HEAT of the Democratic primary campaign, some on the left were inspired to believe that Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) offered a far-reaching transformation of U.S. foreign policy, "the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades," as one particularly breathless article in the American Prospect put it. Yet, when Mr. Obama opened his general election campaign this week with a major speech on Middle East policy, the substantive strategy he outlined was, in many respects, not very much different from that of the Bush administration -- or that of Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). That's not a bad thing; rather, it's a demonstration that there is a strong bipartisan consensus about America's vital interests in the Middle East and that the sensible options for defending them are relatively limited....

Do read it all and smile. The re-positioning on Iraq will come soon, depend on it.

President Bush has created the template for fighting the War on Terror, just as Truman set our course for the Cold War. Future presidents will be limited to filling in the details. Even pygmies like Obama. If they are smart, they will just read Random Jottings.

Or, better yet, listen to this deep old file....

Dick Cheney on a Segway

Posted by John Weidner at 6:58 AM

June 6, 2008

"And every hour a score is born, a dozen dies."

      IDEAL
When all my gentle friends had gone
I wandered in the night alone:
Beneath the green electric glare
I saw men pass with hearts of stone.
Yet still I heard them everywhere,
Those golden voices of the air:
"Friend, we will go to hell with thee,
Thy griefs, thy glories we will share,
And rule the earth, and bind the sea,
And set ten thousand devils free;--"
"What dost thou, stranger, at my side,
Thou gaunt old man accosting me?
Away, this is my night of pride!
On lunar seas my boat will glide
And I shall know the secret things."
The old man answered: "Woe betide!"
Said I "The world was made for kings:
To him who works and working sings
Come joy and majesty and power
And steadfast love with royal wings."
"O watch these fools that blink and cower,"
Said that wise man: "and every hour
A score is born, a dozen dies."
Said I: --"In London fades the flower;
But far away the bright blue skies
Shall watch my solemn walls arise,
And all the glory, all the grace
Of earth shall gather there, and eyes
Will shine like stars in that new place."
Said he. "Indeed of ancient race
Thou comest, with thy hollow scheme.
But sail, O architect of dream,
To lands beyond the Ocean stream.
Where are the islands of the blest,
And where Atlantis, where Theleme?"
      -- James Elroy Flecker

[Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 10:44 AM

June 5, 2008

"The libertarian dream turns into the totalitarian nightmare..."

In one sense, much of my blogging is just wasted electrons, since I'm often arguing against liberalism, which is incapable of arguing back. Or even thinking clearly. I've never once, since 11/2001, been given a real argument by a leftist. The poltroons carp and sneer, but don't dare think, or express their philosophy clearly

But I have often been counter-punched by my libertarian readers. Actually been forced to think to defend my hasty posts. Thank you, friends!

And in that spirit, this is a criticism of libertarian thinking that puts clearly things I've sort of groped towards...

R.R. Reno, in First Things, writing about the book Nation of Bastards: Essays on the End of Marriage, by Douglas Farrow...

...In other words, in the old system, the state presumed the existence of a substantive, natural reality that required legal adumbration: the union of a man and a woman, and the children resulting from their sexual relations. Now the Canadian government sees that it must intervene and redefine marriage and parenthood in order to give fixed legal standing to otherwise fluid and uncertain social relations. When the gay friend donates his sperm to the surrogate mother hired by a lesbian couple, the resulting “family” is a purely legal construct, one that requires the power of state to enforce contracts and attach children to adoptive parents.

The result is the opposite of the libertarian dream of freedom. As Farrow observes, with gay marriage we are giving over the family to the state to define according to the needs of the moment. The upshot, he worries, will be a dangerous increase in the power of the state to define our lives in other realms once thought sacrosanct. “Remove religiously motivated restrictions on marriage,” he writes, “and it is much easier to remove religiously motivated restrictions on human behavior in general, and on the state’s power to order human society as it sees fit.” The libertarian dream turns into the totalitarian nightmare. Who can or cannot be a spouse? That’s for the state to decide. To whom do children belong? It’s up to the state to assign parents as its social workers and judges think best...

One of the big "projects" of Enlightenment thinking was (and is) to try to construct morality without religion. "Morality without dogma." As far as I know, it's never worked, never happened. What really happens is that secularists retain a lot of Jewish and Christian morality, and fool themselves into thinking that that's what people can come up with as a matter of course, using reason, without needing religion.

Same with libertarianism, which is an off-shoot of this project. The libertarian assumes that people, if they are free to choose, will choose the good. But in fact each generation of libertarians re-defines "the good" down to whatever reduced level of morality prevails at that moment. A libertarian of fifty years ago would have said that people, if free to choose, will—most of them—form stable marriages of a man and a woman, and raise several children, and act wisely in a variety of similar ways, without those hectoring preachers and restrictive laws. And indeed they did, back then.

Libertarians now probably say that we shouldn't worry; if people are free to choose they will, most of them, marry other human beings. Or at least form caring relationships that can be expected to last for a period of several years.

And I'll bet that fifty years from now, libertarians will be scoffing at those stick-in-the-mud theists with their fear-mongering about the rise of cannibalism-as-entertainment. "Just let the market-place work, and people will choose the good. Most of them, anyway."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 AM

If you really want to be of public service...

Thomas Sowell writes...

EVERY YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME, big-government liberals stand up in front of college commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible -- become big-government liberals.

That isn't how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for "public service," as distinguished from narrow private "greed." There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen -- over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.

What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want -- not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.

You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer-- if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.

Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of getting thousands of things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost. That's what a man named Richard Sears did a century ago. In the process he rose from near poverty to become one of the richest men around....

Thinking about commencements, the last of our three children just graduated from High School. One naturally feels both pride and sadness at these milestones, and at having our kids grow up and become more independent. (She will start at UC Santa Cruz in September—she's very excited!)

But one aspect of their youth that none of us Weidners will miss at all is school-mandated "community service." It grated upon all of us. And I don't think that we are any less inclined to want to want to help people than other Americans. But involuntary voluntarism is offensive. And the treacly sentiments that go with it are doubly offensive.

And most irritating of all is that the whole process assumes that one has bought-into various liberal pieties. Which you are never allowed to question. Or, actually, saying "never allowed" puts things too clearly. Think of a world where the entire concept of questioning underlying liberal assumptions doesn't exist, and any attempt to do so would be seen as crazy. Not to mention jeopardizing ones chances of getting into college!

Charlene asks, "When did this community-service thing start? I never heard of it when I was in school." These things are fads; they just grow. Why are so many women wearing incredibly-unflattering hip-hugger pants now? Do you think they did any thinking? Of course not. As well ask a school of minnows how they plan their route. Unconsciously I think educators, like leftist politicians, know that the poor and hapless are a precious resource, which needs to be conserved and nurtured, so as to justify big government and anti-Americanism. If one could help homeless people get jobs and get off the street, that would not be "community service."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

June 4, 2008

If this be failure, make the most of it...

Orrin Judd, writing about someone who claims: "...The main idea that propelled the conservative movement's political success -- that replacing the government with free-market forces would make everyone better off -- simply hasn't worked in practice..."

...Household net worth at the end of 2007 was $57.7 trillion and, as we avoid this supposed recession too, the American economy will have grown for 25 uninterrupted years since the conservative movement's success began. In addition, abortion has been significantly curtailed, we've added almost a hundred million new Americans, life expectancy is at record levels, crime rates have fallen precipitously, etc., etc. etc.. And not only have we liberated scores of nations but we are in one of the most peaceful epochs in human history and global GDP is growing at 4 or 5%. Little wonder that every country in the Anglosphere and nearly every party (with the conspicuous exception of the post-Bill Clinton Democrats) has adopted Third Way politics.

If this is what failure looks like, six billion folks need a whole lot more.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

June 3, 2008

Tip-toe around a little problem...

Yet another Dem lays the groundwork for blaming Obama's coming defeat on racism. It's got to be racism; a repudiation of Leftism or infanticide or "change" can't possibly happen in a country that is eager for higher taxes, racial quotas, feminism, and more government control of everything! Of course Mr Cohen has to tip-toe around a wee teensy little problem....This is a primary, and no Republicans are involved. (Thanks to Hugh)

....I tell them, for I am wont to please, that this campaign is indeed great when, as history will record, it is not. I have come to loathe the campaign.

I loathe above all the resurgence of racism -- or maybe it is merely my appreciation of the fact that it is wider and deeper than I thought. [And it is all among DEMOCRATS. You Lefties have, for decades, been delighted when you could claim (usually dishonestly) that Republicans are racist.The biter is bit.] I am stunned by the numbers of people who have come out to vote against Barack Obama because he is black. I am even more stunned that many of these people have no compunction about telling a pollster they voted on account of race -- one in five whites in Kentucky, for instance. [You "opinion leaders" have TAUGHT them to think in terms of interest groups, not individual worth. And now you are surprised?] Those voters didn't even know enough to lie, which is what, if you look at the numbers, others probably did in other states. Such honesty ought to be commendable. It is, instead, frightening...

[We've been POUNDED with racialist propaganda for half a century. By people like you, Mr Cohen. Everything must be judged in terms of RACE. Or gender, or sexual orientation. (I know this; I've raised three children in SF. My daughter once said that at her school, "Black History Month comes four times a year!") But a lot of us—mostly Republicans—believe that God values every human being equally, and doesn't give a f*** whether they are black or white. We REJECT your leftist racism. We spit upon it. We judge people by their merits, and would have judged Colin Powell or Condi Rice in exactly the same way we chose between McCain and Romney.]

...I acknowledge that some people can find nonracial reasons to vote against Obama -- his youth, his inexperience, his uber-liberalism and, of course, his willingness to abide his minister's admiration for a racist demagogue (Louis Farrakhan) until it was way, way too late. But for too many people, Obama is first and foremost a black man and is rejected for that reason alone. This is very sad. [It is not "sad," it is evil. And it is your evil. Now you have to face it.]

I loathe what has happened to Hillary Clinton. This person of no mean achievement has been witchified, turned into a shrew, so that almost any remark of hers is instantly interpreted as sinister and ugly. All she had to do, for instance, was note that it took Lyndon Johnson to implement Martin Luther King's dream, and somehow it became a racist statement. The Obama camp has been no help in this regard, expressing insincere regret instead of a sincere "that's not what she meant.".... [I could go on and on here, but I've got to get back to work. You get my drift...]

* Update: Remember when Obama gave his fake-apology speech on race, and said, I think, "We need to have a national dialog on race?" Something like that?

Well, we've had a "national monolog" on race for the last 50 years, with liberals endlessly haranguing us ordinary white Americans, who are supposed to hang our heads and shuffle our feet, and feel guilty about how horrible we are. Well, maybe, just maybe, this Obama campaign may be the catalyst for a true dialog. And some people may at last be able to answer back. Starting with answering back to the claim that liberals are "morally superior beings" because they "wave the bloody shirt" of the Civil Rights Movement all the time.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:05 AM

Curs...

Christopher Hitchens on Douglas Feith's War and Decision

....Bertrand Russell's principle of evidence against interest—if the pope has doubts about Jesus, his doubts are by definition more newsworthy than the next person's—doesn't really justify the ocean of coverage in which the talentless McClellan is currently so far out of his depth. For one thing, he doesn't supply anything that can really be called evidence. For another, having not noticed any "propaganda machine" at the time he was perspiring his way through his simple job, he has a clear mercenary interest in discovering one in retrospect.

If you want to read a serious book about the origins and consequences of the intervention in Iraq in 2003, you owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy of Douglas Feith's War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. As undersecretary of defense for policy, Feith was one of those most intimately involved in the argument about whether to and, if so, how to put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein. His book contains notes made in real time at the National Security Council, a trove of declassified documentation, and a thoroughly well-organized catalog of sources and papers and memos. Feith has also done us the service of establishing a Web site where you can go and follow up all his sources and check them for yourself against his analysis and explanation. There is more of value in any chapter of this archive than in any of the ramblings of McClellan. As I write this on the first day of June, about a book that was published in the first week of April, the books pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe have not seen fit to give Feith a review. An article on his book, written by the excellent James Risen for the news pages of the New York Times, has not run. This all might seem less questionable if it were not for the still-ballooning acreage awarded to Scott McClellan...

Read it all.

What cowardly dogs liberals are. At least those who run those newspapers. They have heaped invective upon Douglas Feith, mentioned him thousands of times, and then, when he tells his side of the story, they do their best to make sure no one gets to hear it. They pretend he isn't "newsworthy." Scrubs.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

June 2, 2008

Sunspots....still waiting....

I'm too busy to blog up my own thoughts, and anyway you've already read them, but...

This, by Alan Sullivan, is worth a look...

Cap and trade is a raw grab of power and wealth — aptly termed the largest redistribution scheme since the income tax. “Redistribution” is too mild a word. This crazy plan must be stopped. But how? The critical mass of idiocy has been reached. The reaction is going nuclear.

There are still no sunspots; oceans and atmosphere are cooling; sea level is steady to falling, measured by 3000 Argo buoys. The greenhouse model is flawed in its basic mathematics. Anthropogenic global warming is a fraud. Yet a bizarre cabal of economic dolts and puritanical ninnies is about to foist ruinous burdens on everyone. This not a climate crisis, but a political one: moonbats and dingbats are taking over the Republic.
Posted by John Weidner at 11:48 AM

June 1, 2008

A lull.......in the news coverage.

From the WaPo. Kudos to them for noticing, even if they are more than a year late...

The Iraqi Upturn: Don't look now, but the U.S.-backed government and army may be winning the war.

THERE'S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks -- which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war. [Not odd at all. Predictable. The news media's side is losing, so there's a news blackout.] While Washington's [meaning trendy-leftoid Washington] attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have "never been closer to defeat than they are now." [The US and her allies traditionally keep fighting until we hit on a war-winning strategy. Then we WIN. The good guys, that is. So how can it be so surprising when we do it again?]

Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. [They are "waging war against Americans." The Post has said it. So where are the anti-war activists? Where are the pacifists?] It is -- of course -- too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama....[Many people (those not blinded by hatred of Bush and America) were noticing a shift in the wind in EARLY 2007. So how stupid is it that the press is just now STARTING to wise up? And your brain-dead Dem politicians are still clueless? Do they all deserve to be fired? Yes.]

...Gen. David H. Petraeus signaled one adjustment in recent testimony to Congress, saying that he would probably recommend troop reductions in the fall going beyond the ongoing pullback of the five "surge" brigades deployed last year. [Let's all hold our breath waiting for the "anti-war" Left to thank him.] Gen. Petraeus pointed out that attacks in Iraq hit a four-year low in mid-May and that Iraqi forces were finally taking the lead in combat and on multiple fronts at once -- something that was inconceivable a year ago. As a result the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki now has "unparalleled" public support, as Gen. Petraeus put it, and U.S. casualties are dropping sharply....

...When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success. [Sullen silence, peevish carping, or re-writing history are the usual plan for lefties in these situations. See: Cold War, End of.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 PM

"A thought followed by a resolve, a resolve followed by an act"

Virtue is not, like riches, power or glory, a privileged or exceptional thing; it is the reign of order in every soul that wills it, the spontaneous fruit of love, which is the common fund of our nature, and the most lowly hut is an asylum as open to it as the palace of kings. A thought followed by a resolve, a resolve followed by an act: such is virtue. It is produced when we desire it, it increases as quickly as our desires, and if it costs much to him who has lost it, he has always in himself the ransom which will bring it back again...
--
Lacordaire

I put another piece on virtue below the fold...

By Will Duquette...

....St. Paul tells us, “Test everything; hold fast to what is good.” Intellectually, and practically, Catholicism seemed to do this. As an example, consider virtue. Or, rather, a virtue. Bravery, say. What is it? According to the Catholic tradition, which goes back to antiquity (to Aristotle, as a matter of fact), a virtue is, simply enough, a good habit. If you have the virtue of bravery, that means that you are in the habit of standing firm in times of danger, even though you are afraid. If you have the virtue of honesty, that means that you are in the habit of telling the truth, even though it might benefit you to lie.

This is important. This description of virtue not only tells me what virtue is; it tells me how to get it. How can I become brave? By getting in the habit of behaving bravely. And how can I do that? By choosing to stand firm when the going gets tough. I can start with small things, indeed I’ll have to start with small things. Major battles don’t come every day. But if I can get in the habit of standing firm, then when the crisis comes and there is no time to think, I can trust that my established habits will take over and I will do the right thing. The same applies to honesty, chastity, or any other virtue.

Now, this is basic moral philosophy. But despite my having been a Christian my entire life, and having been actively involved in a church for all of my adult life, I’d never heard virtue described in that way–to the extent it was talked about at all.

But the Roman Catholic writers I was reading all seemed to take it as a matter of course. They referred to it, and they all seemed to be on the same page. And when I thought about it, so was C.S. Lewis. In his writings, though, he tends to avoid using the standard well-known terms so as to present the material freshly, as he does in The Abolition of Man where he spends an entire book writing about the Natural Law and never once uses the term. For this is basic moral philosophy, and it used to be that everyone knew it. And yet I hadn’t, despite having every opportunity. But the Catholic bloggers and writers did.

This is a humble example, but it illustrates my point. The Catholic tradition tests everything and holds on to what is good. I don’t mean to imply, by the way, that every Roman Catholic knows these things, or that the definition of virtue is preached in every parish. But this wealth of knowledge is readily available if you look for it, and it’s all of a piece. It hangs together....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:38 AM