July 31, 2008

Send the worms to the mud.

An Affair of Honor, by James Bowman

There is something screamingly funny about the media’s lecturing John McCain about the impropriety of his saying in New Hampshire last week that "This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." Joe Klein of Time wrote: "This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad." Sad? I’ll just bet he’s shedding tears about it. Likewise David Wright of ABC News, who said to Senator McCain in an interview: "But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country."

For the last five years and upwards, the media have been saying as scurrilous things or worse about President Bush, and routinely reporting without comment or challenge the words of his fiercest critics — who accuse him of "lying" in order to take the country to war in Iraq. In all that time, I cannot recall an occasion when a reporter came back at one of those critics with the suggestion that the president might have gone to war in good faith and therefore on behalf of "what he honestly thinks is right for the country."...

There is a special deep noxious level in Hell waiting for the nihilist worms who claimed that "Bush lied," when he was saying the very same things that all major Dem leaders said, and all the leaders of the major nations said, and all the intelligence services of the major nations said...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:32 PM

July 30, 2008

John Yoo should be shot for this....

(Thanks to Tim B)

The lawyers for the Bali bombers plan to lodge a constitutional court challenge against the way their clients are to be executed...

...Lawyer Mahendra Data said that because their clients may be shot twice before they are dead, there is a potential for them to experience pain...[link].

They "might experience pain!" How dreadful. How barbaric! What is the world coming to? (It's all Bush's fault, torturing people around the globe, just because they want to blow people into bloody shreds of hamburger.)

But talk about "Western cultural imperialism" corrupting the indigenous cultures of the world. Now we got crazed Islamic killers going the ACLU route. (They should never have let in KFC.) Hey stupes, you are supposed to be MARTYRS!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 AM

July 28, 2008

They're scared....

This WaPo piece is a good example of the news-media trying to 'frame" an issue to help their candidate.

The head and sub-head:

McCain Says Obama Plays Politics on Iraq
Some Fellow Republicans Question Tactic

The only "fellow Republicans" quoted are Senator Hagel, who travelled with Obama on the recent trip, and an anonymous "strategist." And the whole thrust of the piece is to distract attention from McCain's charges, and focus it on whether McCain is being "churlish," whether he's "lashing out," and to suggest he is calling Obama "unpatriotic." (Needless to say the subject of patriotism was never mentioned by McCain.)

The Post is right to be worried. Not only was the dropped hospital visit very revealing in itself, but it also it reveals some real management problems. One would think the Obama campaign would be hyper-sensitive to any issues regarding war and patriotism and our military. An hour or two of Obama's time spent at Landstuhl could surely have been spared.

And even odder, how come Obama has not, as far as I know, visited any of our wounded in Washington DC? That would seem like an obvious and easy political move, to insulate him from charges of indifference...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 AM

"When heroes arise"

Charlene recommends this piece by Andrew Klavan in OpinionJournal, What Bush and Batman Have in Common...

....There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell....

....Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."....

Well, she also recommends the film, but so does everybody else. She told me she thought it was the first film that really deals with the War on Terror. My guess is that it's the second; the first being the Lord of the Rings movies. I recollect John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) writing sardonically that Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) didn't even realize he was playing George W Bush...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 AM

July 27, 2008

A couple of quotes I liked...

Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.
    -- Evelyn Waugh

...But if a convert is to write of conversion he must try to retrace his steps out of that shrine back into that ultimate wilderness where he once really believed that this eternal youth [the Catholic Church] was only the “Old Religion.” It is a thing exceedingly difficult to do and not often done well, and I for one have little hope of doing it even tolerably well.

The difficulty was expressed to me by another convert who said, “I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else.”...

    -- GK Chesterton

Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 AM

July 26, 2008

My latest oddball project...

Our son Will is singing with the Lamplighters in this summer's performance of The Mikado. (He's in the chorus, plus he's the understudy for Nanki-Poo.) And the director wanted to ornament the drama with a Taiko drum.

So they arranged to borrow a drum, in exchange for providing a stand for it. Which is where I came in. The stand was initially going to be a simple affair of two-by-fours bolted together, but somehow, once i was kinda committed to the project, it.......grew. And grew. The stand ended up having through-tenons, held in by pegs that can be removed so it can be disassembled. I'll stain it and finish it when there's a break in the rehearsals.

Here's Will giving drum and stand a trial run, at Emeryville Taiko...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:37 PM

July 25, 2008

Questions for Samantha...

I was thinking of fisking this piece, The Democrats & National Security, by Samantha Power, in New York Review of Books. There's lots to correct, but really, the piece is self-contradictory; there's no point in attacking it. In fact it's kind of comical, in the way it misses the essence of the subject.

It's about the possibility of Democrats reversing the traditional Republican advantage among voters on national security issues and military matters. But all the arguments and assumptions of the article are leftist arguments and assumptions. It amounts to saying that ordinary Americans will trust Dems with national security any minute now---as soon as we start thinking like the people who subscribe to the NY Review of Books.

To be trusted on defense, it's not enough to have a clever policy. There's a certain other quality one must possess...

Samantha, dear, let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you got a lump in your throat when you heard The Star Spangled Banner? Hmmm? Or when thinking of Pearl Harbor, or the Bataan Death March? When was the last time you were outraged because a hero who was given the Medal of Honor was ignored by the press? Eh? When was the last time you said that the President should be given honor and respect as Commander in Chief, even if one disagrees with his politics?

And your friends. When accusations are made, how often do they give American troops the benefit of the doubt? How often do they suspect that the grunts probably acted correctly, and are being smeared by the press? And is their first instinct to support our leaders in time of war? And what do you kids do on Memorial Day to honor those who have fallen in service of our country? On what days do you fly our flag?

When you hear, Samantha, of someone taking a job in Iraq, or joining the reserves, do you feel envious? Hmmm? Like us ordinary Americans do? And maybe a little bit guilty that you are not also standing on Freedom's Wall?

Is "Freedom's Wall" a phrase you would feel comfortable using? Comfortable among your friends? And your readers at the NY Review of Books? Hmmm? You know, the sort of Democrats who are going to, as you say: "advance a distinct twenty-first-century foreign policy that voters will prefer and trust them to execute?" That doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it? Wouldn't it be more poetic to say that you are going to "Stand on Freedom's Wall and defend America?"

Try saying that. Say it out loud. Among your pals. Try it on for size, since you are "auditioning," shall we say, for the part of "trusted with national security."

Or say this:

“We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

It was a Democrat who said that. Can you say it?

Posted by John Weidner at 11:35 PM

Gold in the fire....

Presidential campaigns always bring lots of stuff out in the open. People from the candidates' pasts come out of the woodwork. Of Republicans they tend to tell stories of kindness, decency and courage. [link, link] For Dems we get the women who've been groped, the money-men going to prison, the former comrades who say "not fit to be President.") Charlene recommends this piece, by a guy who spent 5 years in Communist Progressive prisons with McCain.

“Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.” That was retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s condescending assessment of John McCain’s military service. Clark’s words have great weight because he was speaking as a key political/military advisor to Barack Obama.

If Gen. Clark had been talking about me, his remarks might be true. After all, I rode in a fighter plane and got shot down over North Vietnam. In no way do Clark’s words apply to McCain. I know, because I was a firsthand witness to his singular leadership and courage. In the years I spent as a POW in North Vietnam, I saw McCain inspire and lead under trying circumstances that Gen. Clark has not the imagination to understand.

As for the role of a president, I was fortunate enough to serve as a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Seeing him in action, and seeing John McCain in action, I know they are equals in character, ability and political courage.

I met John McCain in a POW camp in Vietnam. He told me his father and grandfather read history every evening. Since our release, I have done the same. From my study of history I know what we need in a leader....

(And no, I have not become a gushing McCain fan. I still have many points of disagreement with him. But the fire of this campaign is so far revealing McCain to be the real coin. And Barackmo is looking more and more like a thin layer of gilt over nothing at all.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

July 24, 2008

"Arrested development and star-struck immaturity..."


....What is fascinating about the tingly-leg press is that they are exhibiting the very symptoms of arrested development and star-struck immaturity that they always accuse America in toto of suffering. The usual critique of the elite media is that we are a nation of mindless followers, who go from one fad to another, and value looks, youth, and pizzazz over substance.

But the current spectacle suggests something worse — that the press who claims they know better and are more sophisticated are, in fact, far more infantile than most Americans, and essentially Access Hollywood, People Magazine, and the National Enquirer dressed up with network logos and NY-DC bylines.

After all, few conservatives ever said that Reagan made their leg tingle. Had a candidate Reagan (remember the fury at the contrived Michael Deaver photo-ops) or even Clinton (remember the irritation at the run-on speeches and habitually late/missed appointments) created his own seal, lobbied to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, or run a campaign tour overseas as if it were a Presidential summit (replete with Freudian slips about already being coronated President), or made Bush's nuclear gaffes seem minor in comparison, he would have been crucified by self-righteous haughty reporters. If one were to take Obama's recent deer-in-the-headlights comments, stutters, pauses, contortions, and false starts when asked about the surge, and put them into the mouth of Dan Quayle, well, case rested......

Just in case you haven't seen it, here's a funny video, "Obama Love," from the McCain campaign...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:59 AM

July 22, 2008

Thoughts to think by the gas pump...

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today published proposed regulations to establish a commercial oil shale program that could result in the addition of up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from lands in the western United States....

...The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is only publishing proposed regulations at this time because the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008 prohibits the agency from using FY2008 funds to prepare or publish final regulations. The President has called on Congress to remove the ban on finalizing oil shale program regulations...

...The largest known deposits of oil shale are located in a 16,000-square mile area in the Green River formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Shale formations in that area hold the equivalent of up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Federal lands comprise 72 percent of the total surface of oil shale acreage in the Green River formation....

That is to say, in plain English, that Democrats are blocking the extraction of petroleum in the US. How much petroleum? 800 billion barrels...what does number that mean? Hmmm? Well children, the human race has used, to date, about 1 trillion barrels of oil. So the Green River Formation, by itself, is equal to about 80% of all the oil we've ever used on earth. Arabia ain't in it!

Posted by John Weidner at 3:26 PM

Signature missing...

An interesting piece of carbon-skepticism, from someone in a position to know...

....I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I've been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

There has not been a public debate about the causes of global warming and most of the public and our decision makers are not aware of the most basic salient facts:

1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.

Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever.

If there is no hot spot then an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming. So we know for sure that carbon emissions are not a significant cause of the global warming. If we had found the greenhouse signature then I would be an alarmist again....

It's worth reading the rest.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:03 AM

July 21, 2008

John who?

An editorial written by Republican presidential hopeful McCain has been rejected by the NEW YORK TIMES — less than a week after the paper published an essay written by Obama, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned...[link]

Well, why not? He's obviously not newsworthy; nobody they know is voting for him...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:05 PM

Why am I not surprised?

So now we discover that most of the "homeless" who infest San Francisco's streets aren't homeless at all...

A long overdue civil grand jury report released Wednesday says that the city should be proud of getting over 4,000 homeless people into housing since 2004 but distressed at the scene on the streets.

Panhandling, public drunkenness and street loitering are still an unpleasant reality downtown.

The mayor and others are now admitting what the grand jury reported - that a majority of those on the streets are not homeless. The head of the city's homeless program, Dariush Kayhan, estimates that 50 to 75 percent of street people live in supportive housing.

"We just warehouse addicts," said the grand jury's Stuart Smith. "Granted, it is a nicer place for them, but it doesn't address the problem."

In short, the jury is reflecting the views of many San Franciscans who made the choice to live here. They understood that housing and taxes would be higher, and so would the cost of a meal in a restaurant. They understand and believe that the city needs to provide for its poorest homeless residents and don't begrudge what the grand jury says is $186 million a year in city funds spent to finance homeless programs.

But, they ask, can't someone stop the panhandling? And, given all the programs and services, is it unreasonable to ask those who are being given supportive housing to start making some effort to be self-sufficient?....

It's unreasonable to ask if you are a liberal.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:40 AM

July 20, 2008


JH Newman portrait, engraving by R Woodman, after portrait by Sir WC Ross...For is not this the error, the common and fatal error, of the world, to think itself a judge of Religious Truth without preparation of heart? "I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine." "He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice." "The pure in heart shall see God:" "to the meek mysteries are revealed; " "he that is spiritual judgeth all things." "The darkness comprehendeth it not." Gross eyes see not; heavy ears hear not.

But in the schools of the world the ways towards Truth are considered high roads open to all men, however disposed, at all times. Truth is to be approached without homage. Every one is considered on a level with his neighbour; or rather the powers of the intellect, acuteness, sagacity, subtlety, and depth, are thought the guides into Truth. Men consider that they have as full a right to discuss religious subjects, as if they were themselves religious. They will enter upon the most sacred points of Faith at the moment, at their pleasure,—if it so happen, in a careless frame of mind, in their hours of recreation, over the wine cup. Is it wonderful that they so frequently end in becoming indifferentists, and conclude that Religious Truth is but a name, that all men are right and all wrong, from witnessing externally the multitude of sects and parties, and from the clear consciousness they possess within, that their own inquiries end in darkness?...
      -- John Henry Newman, Oxford University Sermons #10


Posted by John Weidner at 5:19 AM

July 19, 2008


Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root...
      -- G.K Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

July 18, 2008


Like many people who started reading blogs "back in the beginning," I miss Steven den Beste. He used to throw splendid doses of cold water on various areas where fuzzy-thinking is common. One of them is alternative energy sources. He's posted a summary that is worth reading, if you think wind power or some such is in the near future going to take away our need for power generated by coal, oil and nuclear. (den Beste has serious health problems, by the way, that's why he now limits himself to lightweight blogging.)

....I don't blog about that kind of thing anymore. I never enjoyed blogging about energy, anyway, because for too many people "alternate energy" is more about religion than about physics. They believe that if we are just creative enough, we can overcome fundamental physical limitations -- and it's not that easy.

In order for "alternate energy" to become feasible, it has to satisfy all of the following criteria:

1. It has to be huge (in terms of both energy and power)
2. It has to be reliable (not intermittent or unschedulable)
3. It has to be concentrated (not diffuse)
4. It has to be possible to utilize it efficiently
5. The capital investment and operating cost to utilize it has to be comparable to existing energy sources (per gigawatt, and per terajoule).

If it fails to satisfy any of those, then it can't scale enough to make any difference. Solar power fails #3, and currently it also fails #5. (It also partially fails #2, but there are ways to work around that.)

The only sources of energy available to us now that satisfy all five are petroleum, coal, hydro, and nuclear.

My rule of thumb is that I'm not interested in any "alternate energy" until someone shows me how to scale it to produce at least 1% of our current energy usage. America right now uses about 3.6 terawatts average, so 1% of that is about 36 gigawatts average.

Show me a plan to produce 36 gigawatts (average, not peak) using solar power, at a price no more than 30% greater than coal generation of comparable capacity, which can be implemented at that scale in 10-15 years. Then I'll pay attention.

Since solar power installations can only produce power for about 10 hours per day on average, that means that peak power production would need to be in the range of about 85 gigawatts to reach that 1%.

Without that, it's just religion, like all the people fascinated with wind and with biomass. And even if it did reach 1%, that still leaves the other 99% of our energy production to petroleum, coal, hydro, and nuclear.

The problems facing "alternate energy" are fundamental, deep, and are show-stoppers. They are not things that will be surmounted by one lone incremental improvement in one small area, announced breathlessly by a startup which is trying to drum up funding...

It's impossible to argue with most of the people who talk about "alternate energy;" They want to believe, and just don't hear anything like this. Plus, most people can't think. The average person, even with a university degree, can't think clearly about these things, and doesn't want to. For instance, the concept of scaling is basic to all technical discussions. But how many people will even understand, not to mention respond intelligently, if you tell them their favorite scheme "won't scale?" (It doesn't have to be a technical subject; there are things that work in small groups but not in large groups. Or small countries, but not large or diverse countries.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 AM

July 17, 2008

There's no sucker like an Obama supporter...

Dick Morris has a nice run-down of recent Obama flip-flops. Of course any candidate—any person—should change a position now and then. A person with principles should be expected to stick with those principles, or do some serious explaining if he feels he has to change one. Positions, however, can be changed as new facts emerge, or as one thinks them out...

But none of that applies to Barackmo. His whole public career is signally lacking in any sign of principles or deep core values...

....Obama has carried flip-flopping to new heights. In the space of a month and a half, this candidate - who we don’t really yet know very well - reversed or sharply modified his positions on at least eight key issues:

• After vowing to eschew private fundraising and take public financing, he has now refused public money.

• Once he threatened to filibuster a bill to protect telephone companies from liability for their cooperation with national security wiretaps; now he has voted for the legislation.

• Turning his back on a lifetime of support for gun control, he now recognizes a Second Amendment right to bear arms in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

• Formerly, he told the Israeli lobby that he favored an undivided Jerusalem. Now he says he didn’t mean it.

• From a 100 percent pro-choice position, he now has migrated to expressing doubts about allowing partial-birth abortions.

• For the first time, he now speaks highly of using church-based institutions to deliver public services to the poor.

• Having based his entire campaign on withdrawal from Iraq, he now pledges to consult with the military first.

• During the primary, he backed merit pay for teachers - but before the union a few weeks ago, he opposed it.

• After specifically saying in the primaries that he disagreed with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to impose Social Security taxes on income over $200,000 and wanted to tax all income, he has now adopted the Clinton position....

Actually, I take it back. Liberal Obama supporters are mostly NOT suckers. They are getting exactly what they want. They have no principles, and they increasingly hate anyone who does. As witness Joe Lieberman. Obama is perfect for them. A cypher, an empty man, who won't make them uncomfortable...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:53 AM

Humor theory...

Orrin Judd pins down the peculiarity of the New Yorker-cover kerfluffle...

It's probably useless trying to explain humor theory to people who acknowledge that their ideology forbids them to kid about the guy, but ask yourself a really basic question: what is it they were supposed to be satirizing?

In their derangement, the Left imagines this massive campaign to portray Senator Obama as a crypto-Muslim Medinian Candidate. And, indeed, there were a few hints to that effect from the Clinton camp, but they were more desultory than systematic and Republicans would rather attack from the playbook that always works: he's just a garden-variety Northern liberal. Why confuse the issue?

Effective satire requires an established and recognizable template that you can subtly play off of in order to show the humor inherent in the original. But for anyone outside the lunatic fringe--of both parties--this magazine cover is the original, the first time we've seen the accusations. Thus, it isn't satire but a statement.

Satirizing the perception of Obama as an elitist, or McCain as a loose cannon, works, because these perceptions of the person are really there to be satirized. Satirizing Obama-as-Muslim or Michelle-as-Angela-Davis, does not work, because there's no original to poke fun at. That's not the way us hateful right-wingers see them.

Rush Limbaugh made a joke recently, discussing the cover, and the Obama campaign's reaction, and concluding, "And who gets upset over cartoons? MUSLIMS!" It was a good joke, and funny precisely because no one is really worried about Obama being a Muslim.

Me, I think the Obamas are absurd because they are both white liberal elitists trying to be ghetto. Sort of like those hoodlem-esque rappers who get unmasked as having grown up in suburban comfort. And the same goes double for the fans. Supporting Barackmo is about as meaningful and "authentic" as a "Free Tibet" bumpersticker on a Volvo.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

July 16, 2008

More lies from our "intellectual elites"

Remember all theose sob-stories about how America is responsible for the destruction of Iraq's treasures? They've mostly turned out to be dirty lies. Now another one bites the dust....

So Much for the 'Looted Sites' By MELIK KAYLAN, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2008; Page D9
A recent mission to Iraq headed by top archaeologists from the U.S. and U.K. who specialize in Mesopotamia found that, contrary to received wisdom, southern Iraq's most important historic sites -- eight of them -- had neither been seriously damaged nor looted after the American invasion. This, according to a report by staff writer Martin Bailey in the July issue of the Art Newspaper. The article has caused confusion, not to say consternation, among archaeologists and has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Not surprising perhaps, since reports by experts blaming the U.S. for the postinvasion destruction of Iraq's heritage have been regular fixtures of the news.

Up to now, it had seemed a clear-cut case. It stood to reason that a chaotic land rich with artifacts would be easy to loot and plunder. Ergo, the accusations against the U.S., the de facto governing authority, had been taken on faith. No one had bothered to challenge the reports, the evidence or the logic, not least because many ancient sites were in hostile terrain and couldn't be double-checked. By implication, the U.S. had been blamed for that too: After all, the presiding authority is effectively responsible for allowing no-go areas to exist where such things can occur.

Yet, paradoxically, there always was thought to be enough evidence to adduce blame. "We believe that every major site in Southern Iraq is in serious danger," Donny George, the former head of the Baghdad Museum, was quoted as saying in the New York Times in 2003. A recent book by Lawrence Rothfield of the University of Chicago's Cultural Policy Institute carried the estimate that, every year, roughly 10% of Iraq's heritage was being destroyed.

One of the foremost specialists who went on the trip, Elizabeth Stone from Stony Brook University, actually quantified the damage with the help of satellite images -- just before going. Alarmingly, and prematurely it seems, she concluded that nearly 10 miles of land had been looted and hundreds of thousands of objects had been taken. Confident statistics of this kind have been regularly tossed around, yet one wonders how such calculations can be made, not least by viewing the remains of illicit digs from satellite pictures. When looters attacked the Baghdad Museum in 2003, the news media put the number of destroyed and looted objects at 170,000 -- a figure equal to the entire collection. It emerged later that most of the important pieces had been successfully hidden away. Others were soon found. The number of missing objects that is cited has since fluctuated between 3,000 and 15,000, with the figure never taking into account the systematic semiofficial looting and frequent substituting with fakes that occurred in Saddam's time.

Considering the political impact of such data, one would expect the experts to approach the subject with scientific circumspection, using numbers sparingly and conservatively. Too often they seem to have done the reverse. So now, as a matter of course, their method, their probity in sifting the evidence -- do they have a political agenda? -- has come into question...

OF COURSE they have a political agenda. They are America-hating Bush-hating lefty liars. Like a lot of academics, they are dishonorable scoundrels who will bend the evidence to fit the political agenda.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:35 PM

Neither tough nor principled...

Joe Lieberman responds...

...Senator Obama this morning said that he wants a foreign policy that is “tough, smart, and principled.” This afternoon, I ask: was it tough when Senator Obama voted to order U.S. forces to retreat from Iraq on a fixed timeline—regardless of the recommendations of our military commanders, regardless of conditions on the ground? Was it smart when Senator Obama opposed the surge and predicted that it would fail to improve security? Was it principled when Senator Obama said that he would order U.S. troops to retreat from Iraq, regardless of the humanitarian consequences for millions of innocent Iraqis—even genocide? Was it tough and principled when Senator Obama said he would be open to changing his plan for Iraq after going there and talking to General Petraeus—only to change that position a few hours later after being heatedly criticized by organizations like Moveon.org? I say respectfully, the answer to all of those questions is no.

Senator Obama also said this morning that he wants a foreign policy that recognizes that we have interests “not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi and Tokyo and London.” But what Senator Obama does not seem to recognize is that—in an interdependent world—what happens in Baghdad affects our interests in Kandahar and Karachi and Tokyo and London. What Senator Obama does not seem to understand is that—had we taken the course he had counseled and retreated from Iraq—the United States would have suffered a catastrophic defeat that would have left America and our allies less safe not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi and Tokyo and London...

Thank you Senator Joe...

It is good to remember that ALL our big Twentieth Century wars were Democrat wars. WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam... and in ALL of the them Republicans supported America as a LOYAL opposition. This was hard for us, because we had to refrain from many of the criticisms that might have helped us politically. For instance, we've been hearing Democrats howling about mistakes made by the Administration. Well, the mistakes made in the Democrat wars dwarf anything that's happened now. There were mistakes that caused casualties in the tens-of-thousands, in the space of weeks or days. But no Republican leader undermined our war efforts by publicly pillorying the administration.

To be loyal in war time does not mean "no criticism,' but it does mean only constructive criticism within the context of general support for our country and the success of our military.

The Iraq Campaign is not "Bush's war," it is America's war. It was voted for by the Congress of the United States of America. Once that happens, to undermine our troops, to undercut our war efforts for mere political advantage is treason. Sorry, I know that's a harsh word. But I'm a very minor blogger, not influential, and I don't have any reason to pussyfoot.

What the Dems have been doing is treason. What Obama is doing is treason. To encourage our enemies by publicly promising retreat is treason. And, of a certainty, these actions have killed, and will continue to kill, American troops. The blood of our soldiers is on their hands.

To vote Democrat at this particular time is to vote for traitors. It is morally wrong.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 AM

July 15, 2008

Pretty darn strange recession we're having....

Wall Street Journal...

Trade Data Boost Second Quarter GDP Estimates
Today’s data on May international trade prompted several economists to boost their tracking estimates of second quarter GDP growth. Macroeconomic Advisers boosted its estimate to 3.3% (annual rate) from 3% as did HSBC. Morgan Stanley raised its estimate to 3.9% from 3.8%. GDP grew just 0.7% in the first quarter.

Although the trade deficit rose to $60 billion in May, as expected, from $58.5 billion in April, the real trade deficit — which adjusts for changes in prices and is what affects real GDP, was flat. That suggests the real deficit will be narrower in the second quarter from the first, implying a significant contribution to second quarter growth after subtracting from it in the first.
Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 PM

"The power of hope and the limits of fear"

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to this Tony Snow quote in the WSJ...

Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

Slippery deal...

Dafydd has a good post on some attempted "legislation by bureaucrats" that leftists tried to slip under the radar...

...Today, President George W. Bush did something that shocked some of us: With a sweep of his presidential hand, he rejected the attempt by a low-level advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency to force the administration to regular carbon dioxide (which we all exhale) as a "pollutant," defying both the Democrats and the Supreme Court...

Good for him.

This was, of course, an attempt by Democrats/collectivists to create an "establishment" of their (Global Warmist) religion. Without of course allowing voters any say in the matter, and without requiring the Dems in Congress to actually stand up for something and pass legislation. (Too bad they didn't try, it would be fun to watch them write into law that your every exhalation is destroying the planet, and your breath is an affront to Gaia. Hey, they could market an abortifacient mouthwash!)

Thank you President Bush. (Though how I wish, as always, that George W Bush were a communicator, and could take on these evils in open conflict, asking the American people for help and understanding. But that isn't Bush.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:20 AM

July 14, 2008

The self-described "tolerant."

Andrew Breitbart writes in the Washington Times about Republicans staying in the closet in Hollywood: Spielberg, Tear Down This Wall:

....While it is true that the ratio of Obama-to-McCain bumper stickers in West L.A. is about 250-to-1, there are untold closet Republicans in the entertainment industry who dare not advertise their beliefs in movie studio parking lots. (Unfortunately, car keying is a tactic wielded liberally by the self-described "tolerant.")

But in this land of superficiality and augmented assets, the inconvenient truth is that, in Hollywood, absolute conformity to the Democratic Party is a well-constructed facade. The environment is not so much unfavorable to the Grand Old Party as it is utterly totalitarian. There's simply no lifestyle choice that receives a worse response at dinner parties.

Convicted murderer? Has anyone optioned the rights to your story?

Avowed Marxist? Viva la revolucion!

Scientologist? Do you take Visa or Mastercard?

Syphilitic drug abuser? Let's talk!

Conservative? You should go.

Only proclaiming one's self a practicing Christian is met with greater disdain - making Christian Republicans the gold standard in Hollywood pariah status...

...When asked recently what it was like to work with "Republican" Clint Eastwood (the question speaks volumes), Angelina Jolie, a "surge" supporter who also wants to produce Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," surprised Entertainment Weekly with her answer: "Actually, we don't disagree as much as you'd think. I think people assume I'm a Democrat. But I'm registered independent and I'm still undecided. So I'm looking at McCain as well as Obama."

You hedge, girl....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

July 13, 2008

Confusing Aslan with the White Witch...

From an interesting interview with Tracey Rowland, author of Ratzinger's Faith:

Pope Benedict XVI ...MercatorNet: I noticed that Benedict's first encyclical contained a joke – not a great joke, to my mind, but it must have been a Papal first. You get the sense that Benedict wants to present Christianity as a joyful way of life. How is he doing that?

Rowland: Yes, this is true. When he was a young priest he was astonished to run across so many people who thought of Christianity as a set of rules and regulations which had to be followed in order to avoid eternal damnation. The word he uses for this is ‘moralism’. He often reminds people that Christianity is not primarily an ethical system, it is participation in the life of the Trinity, and in particular, an encounter with the Person of Christ. It is meant to be enriching and joyful. He doesn’t deny the possibility that some people might end up in hell, but he thinks it is rather neurotic to think of Christianity as an insurance policy against eternal damnation. He regards the various prohibitions in Jewish and Christian teaching as merely the flipside of the actualisation of a great 'yes’.

He therefore tries to focus on the positives, on what an authentic Christian spirituality can be. He often appeals to beautiful works of art and music as epiphanies of God’s glory and illustrations of what can be created by those who have faith. He wants people to fall in love with the beauty and truth and goodness of Christian Revelation, rather than living in fear of it. It’s as though proponents of moralism have confused Aslan with the White Witch. His focus on the works of Christian art and the beauty of the lives of Christian saints is his antidote to the moralist mentality....

Posted by John Weidner at 3:36 PM

"The day-spring from on high"

From The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes.


  1. Meditation and Adoration

Through the tender mercies of our God
the day-spring from on high hath visited us.

Glory be to the, O Lord, glory to Thee
  Creator of the visible light,
      The sun's ray, the flame of fire;
  Creator also of the light invisible and intellectual:
      that which is known of God,
      writings of the law,
      oracles of prophets,
      melody of psalms,
      instruction of proverbs,
      experience of histories:
    a light which never sets.
God is the Lord,Who hath shewed us light:
      bind the sacrifice with cords,
      even unto the horns of the altar.

By Thy resurrection raise us up
  unto newness of life,
    supplying to us frames of repentence.
The God of peace,
  that brought us again from the dead
    our Lord Jesus
  that great Shepherd of the sheep,
    through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make us perfect in every good work
    to do His will,
working in us that which is pleasing in His sight,
    through Jesus Christ;
    to whom be glory for ever and ever....

Lancelot Andrewes was among the most important of the translators who produced the King James Bible. He was an Anglican bishop, a friend of Casaubon, and one of the greatest scholars of his time. His book of Private Devotions is one of the more astonishing productions of the age of Shakespeare and Donne, and can still be used with great profit. He spent a lifetime collecting passages from scripture and the prayer book, and from the saints and fathers, and modified them and wove them together marvelously into his book of devotions. He has the odd distinction of being an undistinguished writer who produced a great work of literature...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 AM

July 11, 2008

I volunteer YOU...

Apparently Barackma has been proposing a push for "voluntarism," or some such.

Charlene would like me to mention how repulsive we think obligatory voluntarism is. Having three children, we've been treated to a ton of that stuff by schools. Both for parents and kids. (I kinda liked one school, which said that our "donation" to the "annual campaign" was set at $400, and we will get a bill. That's honesty, and there was none of our time wasted on fund-raisers and galas and similar idiocy.)

It's not just the work (often pointless) but also the saccharine sentiments that go with it. If I'm in the mood to be philanthropic, or whatever, I'd prefer to do it all on my own, without any liberal fluff-brains telling me I'm saving the planet or helping the poor victims of capitalism...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 PM

July 10, 2008

Better "a second of freedom...than an eternity of slavery."

French philosopher André Glucksmann writes an eloquent tribute to Ingrid Betancourt...

....From the outset, Betancourt has congratulated the Colombian army and President Álvaro Uribe for the military operation that saved her. She praised not only its impeccable success but also—as she deliberately pointed out—its daring, for any military operation risked going awry for some unforeseen reason and leading to the execution of the hostages, as has sometimes happened in earlier attempts. Unlike her family members—who, she is careful to emphasize, have always so feared losing her that they distrusted and criticized Uribe’s adventurism and militarism—Betancourt congratulates the Colombian president. To be sure, Operation Checkmate could well have ended in bloodshed; but Betancourt had long wished for it, ready to face death if necessary. This had become a matter of principle for her. Better, she said, “a second of freedom,” even deadly freedom, than an eternity of slavery. She had attempted five escapes, and in retribution the guerilla fighters had chained her up by the neck. “I always avoided imagining my wife’s living conditions,” her husband said. “Now I know she lived like a dog.”

Betancourt’s choice, which she has proclaimed loud and clear since her first breaths of free air, is the result of mature reflection: rather the possibility of a bloody outcome than the life of a dog. She does not tell us that anything is better than death; she says rather that freedom is worth any price....

('course he doesn't mention that she considers her release a miracle of the Virgin Mary... but hey, he's a Philosophe. His perspective is a bit limited.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:40 PM

Dangerous if provoked

Paul at PowerLine:

A new Gallup poll on religious belief and preference for president contains much to reflect upon. Like David Hazony, I took particular note of the views of Jewish voters. According to the poll, Jews who see religion as important in their daily lives make up 39 percent of the Jewish vote (an interesting fact in itself). These voters divide evenly between McCain and Obama. However, among the remaining 61 percent, Obama trounces McCain, 68 to 26 percent. When you add it all up, McCain gets about 33 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to 24 percent for President Bush in 2004.

You might think that even Jewish voters for whom their religion isn't terribly important would have serious reservations about a candidate who worshipped for 20 years under the spiritual guidance of a raving hater of Israel, and who himself apparently sympathizes with the Palestinians and, at least until political considerations intervened, favored transforming U.S. Middle East policy accordingly. But it seems that they don't, and I can't say I'm surprised.

I found the 39% surprising also. But otherwise, nope, no surprise.

The two countries Leftists hate are Israel and America. (They usually don't admit it, but watch how their eyes light up when an excuse to criticize those countries comes.) This doesn't make much sense until you realize (because you read Random Jottings) that most leftists or "liberals" are really nihilists. They no longer believe in anything bigger than themselves. And what the nihilist hates is belief. It is an irritant, in a way analogous to how you might be irritated by some snooty person assuming they are socially superior to you, for no discernible reason. The nihilist senses that the believer has a certain je ne sais quoi, but what is it? He suspects we may be laughing at him. Yes, we are.

Israel and America are perpetual irritants to Leftists, because they symbolize belief. They do so in the most concrete way, by being willing to fight for themselves and their interests. They are the only remaining developed Western nations of whom it can be said, "Dangerous if provoked." (And the same irritation extends to the religious belief itself. The term "fundamentalist" is flung around promiscuously.)

A large part of secular Jews fit that category, and they are not going to be much bothered that Obama tends to surround himself with Jew-haters. (Who, if challenged on their anti-Semitism, probably reply, "I'm not one of those anti-Semites who thinks the Jews are secretly controlling the world for their own benefit. I'm just pointing out that ISRAEL is secretly controlling the world for its own benefit.")

Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 AM

"A patently permanently imperfect world"

I have nothing much to say on current topics, so I'll just pull this quote, by Joseph Epstein, out of the "stack of stuff..."

....The first time I encountered valet parking at a private residence was a number of years ago at the home of a multimillionaire in Los Angeles. His house, in Brentwood, was lavish and elegantly furnished. The paintings upon his walls, the sculptures in his garden, I was told by an art critic who was with me that evening, could not have been worth less than $15 million.

The man who lived in all this splendor turned out to be tall, with a discouraged slouch and a grim, almost stricken, look on his face. His politics, I believe, put the bend in his back, the permanent grimace on his face. Although the sumptuous trappings of his quotidian life gave no clue to this, he was, lifelong, a man of the Left. As such he had certain expectations of the world; and the world--shocking to report--let him down daily. He was entitled to, if perhaps not going so far as to say he deserved, his sour look, his grumpy disposition, the invisible but for him quite real black flags that hung over and doubtless spoiled each of his Degas, Henry Moores, Motherwells, Frankenthalers.

But a conservative brings no such expectations to his life. He takes the world as given, a place always full of sin, silliness, and a rich surplus of stupidity--but also much goodness and mirth. The conservative fancies he views the world, as the philosophers say, as in itself it really is. Utopia is not his idea of a good time; it is not, for him, an idea at all but an illusion. If he is sensible, he understands the need to alter social arrangements that are cruel or grossly unfair. But the installation of perfection in a
patently permanently imperfect world is not something he has signed on to deliver. This in itself ought to bring a smile to his face.

The barbarians may well be at the gates, but then they always have been. Besides, the gates are a damn good place for barbarians to be. "And now," writes the poet Cavafy, "what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution." Without barbarians, after all, conservatives themselves, in the realm of ideas, would be out of existence. So let us attack our barbarians with wit, mock them with laughter, greet their pretensions to superior virtue with a knowing smile. The duty of a conservative, try to remember, is to be cheerful....

Good advice. Cease never to laugh at them....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 AM

July 7, 2008

"Sprint to the finish"

I've been sort of agreeing with the CW that President Bush is a "spent force." Perhaps even, as Alan speculated, psychologically wounded by the loss in 2006. Possibly I was being too pessimistic...

From Asia Times (thanks to Orrin), Bush carves out a legacy in Asia, By M K Bhadrakumar:

....Bush is undeterred. He meant what he said during Christmas 2006, "I'm going to sprint to the finish." Free of electoral pressures and the tyranny of popularity rating, the sprinter is gaining in velocity. Just as experts began concluding Bush's missile defenses were dying with his presidency comes the news from Washington last Tuesday regarding a US-Poland deal for a future missile shield. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be arriving in Warsaw this week for follow-up. Not only that. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Lithuania had agreed to consider hosting a missile interceptor base if the US deal with Poland fell through. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrel explained that "prudent planning requires that we simultaneously look at backups, if necessary. Lithuania would geographically serve as a good alternative." Now, that is how legacies are planned - tenaciously, silently, prudently - until the scaffolding gets removed. Russian commentators were gloating just recently that Moscow's diplomacy had successfully buried Bush's missile defense plans. What appears unthinkable, however, is that Bush's finest legacies may yet be coming - from Asia, the continent that is "reshaping our world today", to use Rice's recent words.

Rice's speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on June 18 gave away that the Bush administration was working hard. Rice underlined, "The United States, contrary to much of the commentary, is actually in a stronger position in Asia than at any other time." She counted the calming of tensions across the Taiwan Strait; reaffirmation and "modernization" of traditional alliances with Japan and South Korea; recasting of relations with China and Russia; and finessing of a new global security agenda with Australia and an "enhanced partnership" with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations as major diplomatic gains of Bush's foreign policy in Asia.

Rice said the US's "strategic accomplishments in Asia" also included "partnerships with a newly democratic Afghanistan, a democratic Pakistan, and an historic transformation of our relationship with the rising democratic power, India". But the bulk of her speech related to North Korea problem, underlining Washington's expectation Pyongyang will soon make a "verifiable, complete and accurate" declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and materials so that Bush claims a legacy.

As Bush heads toward Japan for the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, he anticipates he's likely wrapping up two Asian legacies - and if luck holds, three. Beware the lame duck. As the Washington Post summed up, "George W Bush's presidency seems exhausted and irrelevant, but that's a dangerous illusion. The Decider remains in command ..." Clearly, North Korea has begun disabling its plutonium production facility at Yongbyon under the watchful eyes of US inspectors. Rice's consultations in Beijing last week galvanized the process. The White House announced that Bush proposed to attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Summer Olympic Games in August.

Meanwhile, a second Asian legacy for the Bush era is also gaining traction. On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the G-8, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inform Bush that New Delhi has decided to give the final push to the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the US....

Trading a de-fanged N Korea for a visit to the Olympics is smart, if that's really what happened. Good move, Condi. So maybe soon we can say, Axis of Evil: two down one to go.....

Posted by John Weidner at 11:17 AM

Scum de la scum...

Scott at PowerLine notes:

...By my count via a Google News search, there is a grand total of three or four newspaper stories covering the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military... [I blogged that story here]

The news-media is on the other side in this war. I hate them. I smile every time I hear about lay-offs at newspapers, and the increasing marginalization of the "network news." They deserve it utterly. They all deserve to be eating in soup kitchens and sleeping in the streets. Traitors. Nihilists. Pie-crusts.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

The flip-side of the story...

NY Daily News:

A young undercover city detective spent four years in the shadowy world of terrorist wanna-bes - taking part in jihadist discussions and training in parks in the dead of night - to get a handle on the homegrown threat.

At great personal risk, he participated in everything from prayers at a mosque to martial arts training under cover of darkness to watching jihadist videos, with many of the activities laced with talk of killing, according to a source familiar with the undercover's investigations.

His experiences paint a vivid portrait of the potential for local terror. While the picture is in no way indicative of the city's Muslim population as a whole, it provides insight into its most radical element.

The detective spent his time interacting with informal groups of youths and men who shared extremist views - and his experiences illustrate what police say is the potential for radicalization of some elements in the community.

He reported that after prayers at a neighborhood mosque, there were often private classes that included discussions about bombing different areas.

The men discussed violent jihad in bookstores, private houses and on buses en route to paintball and shooting-range events.
He was invited to join in "bonding" activities like working out at a gym and martial arts training in parks at night, during which the group discussed ideological justifications for killing Westerners....

It's good to be aware of things like this.

But, as always, what really interests me is the invisible flip-side to the story. If you think of radical Islam as a pressure, tending to expand and grow, there is also a partial vacuum that is encouraging that growth. Drawing it forth.

Let me ask you, why isn't this kind of story in the NYT or the WaPo? It would sell papers. It would be good for business. Why? It is because they and their readers don't want to know.

Leftists often complain about how Bush is destroying the Constitution to wage perpetual war, etc etc blah blah. But if you know anything about our history you know that what is conspicuously absent in this war is tough quasi-lawless action against domestic subversion. If Bush had been acting like Abraham Lincoln (scaled-up to our greater population) there would have been tens-of-thousands of suspicious characters imprisoned, beat-up, roughed-up, kicked-out, disappeared, or hanged at Gitmo. "Terrorist wanna-bes" wouldn't dare go from a mosque to "paintball and shooting-range events." And I say that it is the absence of that fear that is like a vacuum drawing-out violence and terrorism.

My point here is not about whether we should be doing such stuff (that's a different topic), my point is that there is that there is something missing in the souls of maybe 30 or 40 percent of Americans, such that they are repelled by the thought of taking decisive and tough action in defense of our country (and won't give it political support). Something that wasn't missing before. Wilson and FDR were liberals, but they never hesitated to take ruthless action in defense of our nation. Wilson for instance shut down hundreds of newspapers.

And my theory, which I've often mentioned, that it is really the absence of ALL belief that we see here. That most liberals today aren't liberals at all, they are nihilists. That belief in anything (except themselves, and perhaps family) has drained away, leaving them like HD Wells' Invisible Man, wrapping themselves in bandages to conceal their emptiness.

It's not only liberals who are running on empty, but "liberalism" is the most useful set of bandages right now. It allows one to puff up the all-important self without demanding any real commitment. Liberal or New-Age religios now performs the same function. To inflate the ego by being too "spiritually advanced" to believe in anything.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:26 AM

July 6, 2008

Minor fisking...feel free to skip...

It's silly of me to waste time fisking a Boston Globe editorial, but it's my equivalent of watching mindless TV shows when too tired to do anything constructive. This one's from a week ago, which makes it doubly absurd, since Obam's flip-flops have already made it obsolete...

FEW AMERICANS, whatever their political persuasion, will mourn George W. Bush's departure from office. [Me will. And I bet lots of others, once they get a load of whoever comes next.] Democrats and Republicans alike are counting the days until the inauguration of a new president will wipe the slate clean.

Yet in crucial respects, the Bush era will not end Jan. 20, 2009. The administration's many failures, especially those related to Iraq, [where we are trouncing al-Qaeda, ha ha!] mask a considerable legacy. Among other things, the Bush team has accomplished the following:

  • Defined the contemporary era as an "age of terror" with an open-ended "global war" as the necessary, indeed the only logical, response; [It is the logical response.]
  • Promulgated and implemented a doctrine of preventive war, thereby creating a far more permissive rationale for employing armed force; [It's about time! It was appeasement and reluctance to squash terrorists that got us INTO this war.]
  • Affirmed - despite the catastrophe of Sept. 11, 2001 - that the primary role of the Department of Defense is not defense, but power projection; [Neither—the job is to fight such wars as we happen to get into. In fact we should go back to the old name: Dept. of War.]
  • Removed constraints on military spending so that once more, as Ronald Reagan used to declare, "defense is not a budget item"; [Actually, as a % of GDP our defense budget is much lower than Reagan's. But defeating the Evil Empire was a bigger job than chasing rag-head banditti.]
  • Enhanced the prerogatives of the imperial presidency on all matters pertaining to national security, effectively eviscerating the system of checks and balances; [Well, Congress keeps giving Bush what he asks for...is that what you mean?]
  • Preserved and even expanded the national security state, despite the manifest shortcomings of institutions such as the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff; [So you advocate abolishing them? I could get behind that idea.]
  • Preempted any inclination to question the wisdom of the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, founded on expectations of a sole superpower exercising "global leadership"; [Does this sentence even make sense? I'm sure it adds up to Europe-Good America-Bad, but how to parse it I don't know.]
  • Completed the shift of US strategic priorities away from Europe and toward the Greater Middle East, the defense of Israel having now supplanted the defense of Berlin as the cause to which presidents and would-be presidents ritually declare their fealty. [Defending Berlin? From what? ]

By almost any measure, this constitutes a record of substantial, if almost entirely malignant, achievement.

Bush's harshest critics, left liberals as well as traditional conservatives, have repeatedly called attention to this record. That criticism has yet to garner mainstream political traction. [Maybe 'cause he's just doing what the situation obviously demands] Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, [it does] whether preventive war works, [it does] whether the costs of "global leadership" are sustainable, [easily] and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century. [Too late, pal. They are already on the Globalization train. They will be assimilated.]

Now only two candidates remain standing. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama both insist that the presidential contest will mark a historic turning point. Yet, absent a willingness to assess in full all that Bush has wrought, the general election won't signify a real break from the past. [You poor booby. Bush has set the template for a generation to come. It won't matter who's president, you'll still be stuck with him, just like the Brits are tuck with Thatcher. And the template is rejection of nihilism. That means rejection of YOU. The USA is rejecting you.]

The burden of identifying and confronting the Bush legacy necessarily falls on Obama. Although for tactical reasons McCain will distance himself from the president's record, he largely subscribes to the principles informing Bush's post-9/11 policies. McCain's determination to stay the course in Iraq expresses his commitment not simply to the ongoing conflict there, but to the ideas that gave rise to that war in the first place. While McCain may differ with the president on certain particulars, his election will affirm the main thrust of Bush's approach to national security. [And he WILL be elected. And you appeasers will be rejected.]

The challenge facing Obama is clear: he must go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed, thereby helping Americans discern the correct lessons of that misbegotten conflict. [it's hilarious to fisk this thing a week late, with Obama now slithering towards the Bush center with such alacrity!]

By showing that Bush has put the country on a path pointing to permanent war, ever increasing debt and dependency, and further abuses of executive authority, Obama can transform the election into a referendum on the current administration's entire national security legacy. [Legacy = victory.] By articulating a set of principles that will safeguard the country's vital interests, both today and in the long run, at a price we can afford [We SO poor.....you wish.] while preserving rather than distorting the Constitution, [You should research what Lincoln Wilson and FDR did in their wars! Bush ain't in it.] Obama can persuade Americans to repudiate the Bush legacy and to choose another course. [which would be.....LOSING! Yeah, Run on it, Barack baby!]

This is a stiff test, not the work of a speech or two, but of an entire campaign. Whether or not Obama passes the test will determine his fitness for the presidency. [Well, looks like he's not fit.]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 PM

Jerusalem 2

Last Sunday we stood on the Mount of Olives, looking over the Old City of Jerusalem. I pointed out the narrow road on the right side of the picture. Walk down the road—it's quite steep—and you come to the Garden of Gethsemane. It may not have looked much different in the time of Jesus. Olive groves can be pleasant places, and rather garden-like even without any improvements.

Path in the Garden of Gethsemane
It would be a good place to slip away to at night to pray, as Jesus did. To pray in his agony, knowing he would soon die a terrible death. And it was here he was arrested. The place which tradition says was the actual spot is now covered by a church, The Church Of All Nations, or Basilica of the Agony, about a hundred feet from here. (We are just north of the road, the basilica is on the other side.)

And here is our dear friend Father Francis Goode, about to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass right in the garden. Let me tell you that was an amazing moment! We are there early, and all is quiet and peaceful.
Fr Francis, Mass, Garden of Gethsemane
Behind him you see one of the gates of Jerusalem, the Golden Gate. But observe, it is walled up. You can't go in! Legend says it will open only on the Judgement Day. Jesus and his followers might have stood at this very spot and seen the morning sun strike the golden ornaments of the Temple. Just a few days before his death Jesus did a shocking thing, turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. I follow N.T. Wright's explanation that this was a brief symbolic act such as Hebrew prophets were wont to do. But also a kingly act, because it was kings who built the Temples (this was the second Temple, and you could also call it the third since it had been greatly rebuilt and expanded by King Herod the Great) and kings who cleansed the Temple. It was an announcement, which he had avoided before, that he was the Messiah, the coming king who would restore all things, liberate the Children of Israel, and usher in the Kingdom of God. He would have been well aware that the powers would have to destroy him after that. And in submitting to death, he made the Perfect Sacrifice as our Great High Priest.

We believe that Christ has three aspects, Priest, Prophet and King. These are seen, among other ways, in the Mass, when our priest, acting in persona Christi, sits in a chair as King, stands in the pulpit as Prophet, and stands at the altar as Priest. Those whose minds are dimmed by Protestantism and Nominalism will no doubt refer to these as "figures of speech," or metaphors. No, sorry, they are real, as real this chair I'm sitting in. You can say they are metaphors that have come to life. They do that, wherever the Kingdom breaks in upon our world. And if you see it, if you are bowled over one day, as I was, to see metaphors become real things (sort of like waking up in a fairy tale and hearing trees and animals talk) well then you cease at that moment to be a Protestant....

If you are the rare sort who wants to understand these things by delving into history, I give my highest recommendation to N.T. Wright's three books that comprise his Christian Origins and the Question of God.


Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 AM

July 5, 2008

How to lie like a journalist #2338

Here's an interesting article on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's claim that terrorism has been defeated in his country.

But, slipped into the second half of the article is something that seems newsworthy enough for its own article: AP Exclusive: U.S. Removes Uranium From Iraq. It's about how Iraq is shipping Saddam's yellowcake Uranium to Canada, where a company has purchased it for peaceful use.

That's sneaky. And typical. Leftists really really need to downplay the simple fact that Saddam was indeed pursuing nuclear weapons, and had said openly that they were intended for use against Jews. This obvious truth puts those who opposed his overthrow in the same moral position as anyone who tried to prevent us from stopping Hitler from killing Jews.

But what I found especially interesting were the last two sentences, because they are an example of lying without saying anything that is factually untrue. A Satanic skill...

....And, in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Saddam's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

Accusations that Saddam had tried to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger - and an article by a former U.S. ambassador refuting the claims - led to a wide-ranging probe into Washington leaks that reached high into the Bush administration.

Factually true but totally misleading. In fact, a sneaky dirty lie. You would never guess from reading this that the 9/11 Report showed that the "former U.S. ambassador" lied in that very article, and had previously told the CIA exactly the opposite; that he thought Saddam HAD tried to buy Yellowcake from Niger. You would never guess that that "wide-ranging probe" found that the leak was not in the White House, as had been eagerly hoped, but in the State Department, done by a person who was not friendly to the Administration.

You would never guess that huge numbers of leftists demonstrated that they were despicable frauds when their torrents of faux outrage over the unspeakable crime of "outing a CIA agent" evaporated the instant it was found that the culprit wasn't someone whose fall might hurt the Bush administration. It's also misleading because it is presented in the form of commonly-accepted background information that needn't be scrutinized.

And mostly it is a form of lie because it is deliberate smoke and mirrors to distract us from what we should be pondering. Which is that the Iraq Campaign is pretty much justified by the facts in this article: That a mad and violent dictator was stockpiling Yellowcake with plans to make nuclear weapons.

However, slipped into the second half of the article is something that seems newsworthy enough for its own article: AP Exclusive: U.S. Removes Uranium From Iraq. It's about how Iraq is shipping Saddam's yellowcake Uranium to Canada, where a company has purchased it for peaceful use...

...But what I found even more interesting were the last two sentences, because they are an example of lying without saying anything that is factually untrue. A Satanic skill...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:49 PM

Awesome new gadget!

I have a very exciting new woodworking machine, the Matchmaker, by Woodtec. I've made a little video of it in action.

I can't write an actual review, since I've just started using it. But here are some preliminary thoughts:

It's a nice solid machine. I like it so far. This didn't show up in my video, but I was moving that control stick using only my little finger!

I've had a little slippage of the stops that limit side-to-side motion. (But I'm working with very big boards.)

The router mounts by removing the base and guide-rods of a big plunge-router, then sliding the router body onto the machine's own rods. That wasn't clear to me when I bought it. Disassembling the router was a pain; I had to call Hitachi to ask how to do it. I'm pretty sure I will never remove the router to use on other tasks. So I'd say you should budget for a dedicated router.

The manual is adequate, but not great. (My experience has always been that the more expensive the machine, the more wretched the instructions. The cheap consumer-level machine costing hundreds of $ has, necessarily, crystal-clear instructions. Then I upgrade to a big professional contraption that costs thousands, and end up wasting hours figuring out stuff that could be explained in a single sentence.)

The video that comes with it is a VHS cassette! Good grief, is that a time warp, or what? I certainly can't watch it. Uh, guys, I really really appreciate your old-fashioned inventive iron-mongering genius, but there is this new thing called the Internet. With web videos. And, may I be so bold to suggest, FAQ's. Answering questions by telephone is SO Twentieth Century.

But these are quibbles; it's a grand gadget.

Also, I mis-spoke on the video; it's not a gate post, it's the stile of a gate.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:57 AM

July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

I came upon this old photo and scanned it. It's hard to imagine these three are now driving cars and going to college! The picture is taken on the balcony of our house. We are very lucky to live on our quiet circle, with grass and shaggy trees in the middle...

Our children pledge allegiance

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

Keep THIS to throw in their faces...

There's a common line of sly leftist insinuation, that paints our troops as "victims." You know, rubes, under-educated dupes "sent off to die for oil," and similar dirty lies. (If only we were stealing oil; It's a killer to fill up my truck these days!)

The next time you hear that stuff from America-hating Obama-loving types, you might fling this story from Bob Krumm back at them....

BAGHDAD – How are you spending your 4th of July holiday? While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.

Petraeus, reiterating earlier remarks made by Command Sergeant Major Hill, said that the unprecedented ceremony sends a “message to friend and foe alike.” He told those assembled that it is “impossible to calculate the value of what you are giving to our country . . . For no bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you makes as a custodian of our nation’s defenses.”

Last year Gen. Petraeus, along with Senator John McCain, presided over a similar Independence Day ceremony. Then only 588 servicemen reenlisted. This year’s event, more than twice as large, saw the equivalent of two battalions extend their service in America’s military....

Also, remember, to the "liberal," the "soldiers as victims" meme is just a proxy for the bigger story--that we are all victims! No one should stand tall. Except for government bureaucracies, of course.

* Update: Ethan Hahn sends a link to a picture of the event, from this article, on the official MNF-Iraq web site.

1215 service members re-enlist in Baghdad

1,215 Servicemembers from all over Iraq gather in the Al Faw Palace rotunda on Camp Victory, to re-enlist and celebrate America’s Independence Day, July 4, 2008. Photo by MNF-I Public Affairs.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:51 AM

July 3, 2008

Day of Deliverance...

John Adams, with the Continental Congress, in a letter to Abigail, his wife, on the occasion of our declaration of independence:

yyy..."But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it.—The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished.—Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.—This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.

Abigail AdamsBut the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, [the actual date of the resolution in Congress] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. -- I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.—I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

You can see a scan of the letter here.


Posted by John Weidner at 5:38 PM

"I have a little list"

Hugh Hewitt has a good summary on Mr Obama, ready for discussions while standing around the barbecue enjoying the sizzle: Obama In Focus On The Fourth...

I recommend it.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 AM

July 2, 2008

Shoulda known it was a fake...

I wrote yesterday about Mr Obama's embrace of Faith Based Programs. How-ev-er, there's a catch. Obama will, generous fellow that he is, allow your group to be based on faith. But you can't discriminate in hiring, say, by discriminating in favor of those who actually, like, have faith. That would be wrong.

Terry Eastland at the Weekly Standard Blog...

....A key issue in the eight years of Bush’s faith-based initiative has concerned the authority of religious entities as employers: May they take religion into account when hiring people to do the work that government funds? On numerous occasions Bush has asked Congress to pass legislation confirming such authority--on the argument that otherwise the character and mission of faith-based organizations would be compromised. With Congress refusing to do that, Bush has used executive orders to try to secure that authority. In announcing his faith-based initiative yesterday, Obama made clear that he sides with Congress. Which is to say that under Obama religious charities would not be allowed to consider religion when making their hires. In other words, a Methodist charity could not hire only Methodists or otherwise make Methodism a ground for an employment decision.

Obama’s position on this matter is likely to weaken his effort to appeal to religious conservatives. Especially since he also supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (known as ENDA), which would make sexual orientation a forbidden basis for employment decisions--including, necessarily, those made by religious charities taking federal dollars....

The idea that a Catholic charity should hire Catholics, or a Jewish charity should hire Jews, is reasonable. (And in practice such organizations are normally very diverse and tolerant, and are rarely white-supremicist pre-millenarian death-cults.) The opposition by collectivists like Obama has nothing to do with preventing discrimination. It's all about destroying faith.

By the way, I'm by no means sure that Faith-Based is a good idea. I wrote in a comment in that previous post:

I've never decided what I think about Faith Based Programs. On one hand it is indisputable that many of then do a better job, for less, than secular alternatives. And the interpretation of the constitution that claims we can't give funds to them is both both false and stupid.

On the other hand, while I see no plausible danger of faith-based groups corrupting the republic, I see a big danger that government funds may corrupt the groups. If you start sending me a fat monthly check, I'll probably start to discover that your ideas have a lot more merit than I had previously supposed... (I'll try the experiment, if anybody's willing) ;-)

Plus what government agency is going to.........discriminate? Say against nice innocent faith-based Wahabbist groups? Or Scientologists? Or Wiccans? They may do so at first, but then a Dem gets in the White House, or donations are made to congressmen.....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:48 PM

July 1, 2008

They all laughed...

..when I suggested that George W Bush was the visionary and that following presidents would have to follow the templates he created...

AP / JENNIFER LOVEN: Obama to Expand Bush's Faith Based Programs
Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith...

The grownups lead, the children follow...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:03 AM