August 31, 2008

"True conservatism"

...The Church has from the beginning lived amid the world, and has had to face the characteristic social and intellectual movements of each successive age. The first thing that strikes one from the days of the very first heretics—the Gnostics—to the days of the Church's last assailants—the Agnostics—is her attitude of uncompromising resistance to rival theories of life, which strove to dictate to her nd bend her to their will...

The second phenomenon is that all the systems she opposed contained elements which were good and true. And from not one did she fail ultimately to assimilate something, in most cases a great deal, once their aggressive character had been broken by their resistance. 'She broke them in pieces,' writes Cardinal Newman, and then he significantly adds, 'she divided the spoils.'

When I ascribe this double phenomenon in Church history, of resistance and subsequent assimilation, to the conservative principle of the Church, I may at first appear to maintain a paradox. It may be urged that the first attitude—of opposition to aggressive novelty—is an exhibition of the conservative principle; but that the second—the subsequent assimilation of portions of what was rejected—is not. To this I would reply that to identify Conservatism simply with the rejection of what is extraneous and new in form is to identify it with a principle of decay. To preserve a building we must indeed resist those who would pull it down; but we must also repair it, replace what is worn out by what is new, and fit it to last in the varying conditions of life. True conservatism involves constructive activity as well as resistance to destructive activity. Periodical reform and reconstruction belong to its very essence...

--Wilfrid Ward, from his essay The Conservative Genius of the Church
Posted by John Weidner at 5:56 AM

August 30, 2008

The best joke of the year...

Mark Steyn, of course, sees the joke...

First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy...

...Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" - a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn't just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won't need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she's lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we're often told it's easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.

Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she's been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Sixth (see Kathleen's link to Craig Ferguson below), I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.

This is the best joke of the year! Maybe the decade. Us intellectual conservatives have been debating about identity politics and leftist nihilism endlessly, without much success. Who reads boring arguments? And we have been thinking John McCain hasn't been really seeing things clearly enough for our taste. But the party-loving wise-cracking flyboy is wiser than we. And the pie in the face of the pompous fat lady---perfect.

Sarah is a joke that everyone can see at a glance. She is worth a thousand issues of National Review...
Obama, Palin, Three Stooges-1
As I said in a comment to a previous post....

...In postmodern literary terms, what we are doing is subverting the narrative. The text we have presumes a hierarchical distinction of canonical forms whose dialectic cannot be resolved without inverting the bourgeois typos and collectively redefining and reifying the paradigm.

In other words, we are playing with your heads, you silly stuffed-shirts...


Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM

August 29, 2008


Jay Nordlinger writes, at The Corner:

Will Sarah P. be considered a woman — by the media, by the “chattering classes”? That is a question worth pondering. Possibly, she’ll be considered just a conservative Republican. Did anyone ever consider Mrs. Thatcher a woman — in a political-electoral context? Are black conservatives considered black? Are Cuban Americans considered Hispanic?

One of my favorite facts about a recent Supreme Court case had to do with this last question. The case was the University of Michigan Law School case (relating to race preferences). According to documents submitted, an admissions officer questioned whether Cubans should be counted as Hispanic, saying, “Don’t they vote Republican?”....

The feminazis will hate her like poison, and will try to say she's not a "real woman." Good luck with that!

Lexington Green:

....In fact, as I think about it, this is the first moment when I have not been absolutely certain McCain would lose.

McCain is also showing, as he has generally, that he is very aggressive and confident, almost cocky. His congratulation message to Obama was classic. It showed class and it showed fearlessness, and a certain condescension to Obama. It reminds me of David Hackett Fischer’s depiction of the Backcountry selection process for leaders: Tanistry. The Border Scots selected a Thane based on age, strength and cunning, not mere seniority. McCain is a backcountryman by ancestry. They are wily and they are fighters. McCain already seems to be inside Obama’s OODA loop. Making this pick the day after the Donk convention, to steal the buzz, is tactically perfect.

Apparently Palin talks like a hick. She calls herself a “momma” unironically, instead of a mom or a mother. This will cause her to be mocked and jeered at in states the GOP is already going to lose. But it cannot hurt with blue collar voters in WV, OH, PA and MI, which are states Obama could lose....

I don't think Lex quite gets America, if he thinks an old Jacksonian is at a natural disadvantage. Inside his OODA Loop, yeah. Yesterday a graceful congratulation to Barack, then less than 24 hours later, Ker-Whaaap! Ha ha ha. So who do you like, the tough sneaky old fighter or Mr Nuance from Harvard?

And Palin will be mocked as a hick? I can't wait. There are few better indicators of political success in the USA.

Ladyblog: "She has children named “Track”, “Bristol”, and “Willow”. It’s like NASCAR meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 PM

Good move, I'm thinking...

Jennifer Rubin writes:

Sara Palin ...Who is Sarah Palin? She is 44 years old, a former mayor, and the first-term governor of Alaska who ran on an anti-corruption platform. She is a strong advocate of offshore drilling. She is the mother of five including a child with Down Syndrome. In her tenure as Alaska governor she has pursued ethics reform, budget reduction, and natural gas development. In short, she is unlike anyone on either ticket and unlike anyone ever to be on a major party’s ticket. Two large questions loom: How will she handle questions about national security? Will she help McCain?

As to the first question, Palin will argue that in fact Obama has no more experience than she does, and that Palin has the advantage of sharing McCain’s views (and thus being right) on the surge, Russian ambitions, and meetings with state terror sponsors. The VP debate against Biden may be dicey, but the McCain camp knows full well that a vice-presidential debate isn’t going to make or break their candidate. In short, McCain is hoping that Palin is good enough on this score for a number two pick against a Democratic ticket headed by a man with virtually the same meager national security credentials.

As to the second, Palin has much to offer McCain. On a non-political level few can doubt her Q-factor. (She will be the first former beauty queen to run on a national ticket.) The daughter of a teacher and mother of five, she has an ebullient personality and an excellent TV presence. The Right will be entranced: a pro-life hunter with a passion for domestic energy development? And in the battle for “change” she has the record of reform and the identity of a complete Washington outsider. Finally, as a lifelong NRA member, an outdoorswoman, and a western governor she may provide extra help in mountain and western states such as Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico which are certain to be in play.

On the policy front, Palin can make the case that the Democratic program of higher taxes, more spending, and a government takeover of health care is a proven loser. She will argue that she can bring practical experience from as far outside the Beltway as one can get. And, of course, the presence of a woman on the ticket creates instantaneous excitement and puts into play Clinton voters looking for a new champion...

Me, I think she has the most important national security qualification of all. She believes in America, and won't be too nuanced to fight when necessary. If she had been president on 9/11, she would, I am confident, have done the right thing, just as President Bush did...

Charlene just called her "the anti-Hillary!" I love it. My only complaint is that this looks a bit like identity politics, which I utterly despise. Part of me would prefer that presidents be grumpy old white men.

* Update: I recommend this profile of Sarah Palin, by Beldar. From back in June´┐Żnow that's thinking ahead!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 AM

August 26, 2008

Looks like someone hit a nerve....

From a "Daily Kos" diarist:

...The recent William Ayers ad plays on the theme of Obama-is-the-enemy and highlights the Republican platform in 2008. Some Republican Billionaire and accomplice of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth paid for the Ayers ad

Fortunately for us, the Obama campaign is making good on its promise to prevent McSame's efforts to extend the reign of Bush through the same old lies and tricks.

From Politico: Obama’s campaign has written the Department of Justice demanding a criminal investigation of the “American Issues Project,”

Furthermore, the Obama camp has also written 2 letters to news networks

Here is the key of the whole article from Politico and the essence of the message from our most excellent Presidential nominee:

"The Obama campaign plans to punish the stations that air the ad financially, an Obama aide said, organizing his supporters to target the stations that air it and their advertisers."....

Wow! Something tells me there's more to this Ayers story than we've heard yet. Maybe stuff like this, by Jonah Goldberg:

....Consider Bernadine Dohrn, Ayers' wife and the co-host of Obama's career-launching fundraiser. When she was in the Weather Underground she was one of those members typically fascinated with Charles Manson (I discuss this briefly in my book). Speaking of Manson's famous murders she exclaimed, "Dig It! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach! Wild!” In appreciation, her Weather Underground cell made a threefingered “fork” gesture its official salute...

Dig It!

Posted by John Weidner at 12:46 PM

We are in a pivotal time...

I'm very sleepy this morning, so I'm just having fun with a silly "journalist." Whose historical horizon seems to be measured in months...(Thanks to Orrin)

AP Essay: Why this campaign matters
Associated Press Writer


Take note.

-This is an election at a pivotal time, a tenuous period in the United States and across the world. Tenuous! All might dissolve into wispy nothingness any minute...

Here, people struggle to fill their cars with gas, their tables with food, their children with knowledge. Oh, the struggles of the little people in the Bush Depression. They worry about job layoffs, home foreclosures and shrinking pensions - and they have reason to, given cheaper overseas labor, Why didn't we see it coming? a credit crisis and havoc on Wall Street Dow's up again, honey. Wildfires scorch the West, we's scorched! floods pound the Heartland Nevah before! and tropical storms slam the Gulf Coast. It's like the End Times. The scars of Hurricane Katrina linger. Only where Democrats are in control So do those of Sept. 11. Ditto

Elsewhere, the United States leads wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions fighting in the trenches There's chaos in Pakistan. Good; wake 'em up! Russian troops occupy tiny Georgia. next stop, Berlin! Iran test-fires missiles, while North Korea grudgingly begins nuclear disarmament. Grudginly! You're really scraping for tenuous stuff there, Liz. Al-Qaida and the Taliban plot in the shadows. To which we have chased them. Genocide consumes Darfur. Evil, but how exactly does that make things tenuous here? Poverty and disease blanket Africa. Unprecedented! Israelis and Palestinians struggle still. I'm feeling more tenuous every minute. China's influence grows, as does that of the rest of Asia. Asia! Who would have dreamed? The U.S. dollar trades near record lows.

Everywhere, a changing climate threatens irreparable harm to the environment, to animal species, frankly, to the world as we know it. Good point. Frankly, the possibility of global cooling is scary! Cures for cancer and other deadly diseases remain elusive. It's a pivotal election folks!...will we chose the right candidate....or will there be deadly diseases?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 AM

August 24, 2008


David Harsanyi writes:

Biden on Haditha
In June 2006, straight-talking Joe Biden went on Meet the Press and demanded accountability from the administration for the so-called Haditha massacre. Biden spoke about the incident as if the accused marines were guilty (before a trial) and called on the administration to proceed — and to be treated — as if there were a cover-up at the highest levels of government.

Well, it turned out Biden was wrong about Haditha. Eight of the Marines charged for the “massacre” and “coverup” have already been exonerated. (One case is still pending.)...

[Thanks to
Glenn R]

He writes that Biden ought to admit he was wrong and apologize, especially since Biden demanded apologies and admissions of mistakes from the administration. In fact demanded that the Secretary of Defense should be fired immediately!

I completely agree with Harsanyi, but I don't think that's what's most important here.

There are claims made on us by things that are higher and more important than our selves. Of course the highest is our duty to God. But there are also claims on a lower level that work in an analogous way, and are mysteriously tied to each other. One of these is the duty we owe to our country. Especially in a case where ones country is not just a nation or a volk or race, but is based, like the United States, on ideas handed down from our forefathers.

And the claims of our country are strongest in time of war. We have then, all of us, an especial duty to put our selfish interests second to the needs of our land. This will involve for some people putting their lives at risk. Others owe different sacrifices. Politicians have a duty to put their political advantage second to the needs of war. (No, I'm not saying they can't criticize, but any criticism must be constructive, and done with the utmost care.)

This is a duty. There is no evading it.

An example of this is our four great wars of the Twentieth Century. All of these were Democrat wars. Democrat presidents led us into WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. And in each of these wars the Republican Party was a loyal opposition, and gave up many opportunities to criticize. No Republican stood up in the Senate and pointed out that Belleau Wood or Iwo Jima or Slapton Sands or LZ Bitch were blunders that threw away lives needlessly. No Republican demanded that Stimson be fired for the Battle of the Bulge. Why not? Because it would have undermined the war effort and the confidence of our troops.

When Joe Biden condemned the Haditha marines, declared them guilty before the incident had even been investigated, he violated this solemn rule. In fact what he did was to commit treason, just as much as if he had given secrets to the enemy. He voted to send those men into battle in the Iraq Campaign, and then he betrayed them. He sent American men and women to risk death in war, and then he turned around and spit on them.

This is close-to-certain evidence that he is a nihilist. That he puts nothing higher than himself. Why do I say that? Because the claims of higher things are tied to each other. Each one teaches us about the others. I put my children's welfare higher than my own, and this is a very easy thing for a parent to do. But that duty teaches me a lot about how to undertake other solemn duties. (As a Catholic I would say that these things are somehow linked sacramentally. The small things touch on the greater things, and vice versa, in ways that are supernatural and mysterious.)

Mr Biden's casual flouting of a solemn duty is strong evidence that he acknowledges no higher duties of any sort. Of course I could be wrong about this, but I would be surprised to learn that he has some philosophy or cause or set of deep principles that he holds sacred, that he would sacrifice his own interests for. And I think that what he is says a lot about the party and the type of people who have put him forth as a possible Vice-President.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

“People of Earth! Stop Your Bickering"

I liked this column by Jonah Goldberg, No Change. I do have to mention that this item

...Perhaps therein lies the answer to this supposed mystery. Indeed, perhaps there’s no mystery at all, and Obama’s problems are the same problems Democrats always have at the presidential level: He’s an elitist...

was pointed out here last April:

...I think my dear wife just captured Mr Obama's essence perfectly. She said, "He's a white liberal elitist."

I think Charlene hit the nail more squarely. Anyway, Jonah's piece has some great lines...

...Ask the typical Obama supporter why this should be so [tied in polls with McCain] and you’ll get a range of answers. Some just stare at the poll numbers the way my late basset hound would look at me when I tried to feed him a grape: with pure unblinking incomprehension. Others act like the guy who sits alone with his shopping bags at the public library, muttering about Fox News conspiracies and how Karl Rove-like aliens are doing terrible things with probes of proctological exactitude. Still others just shake their heads at the racism of anyone who could possibly have a problem with a very left-wing politician with almost no experience, who often sounds like his campaign slogan is: “People of Earth! Stop Your Bickering. I Am From Harvard, And I’m Here To Help.”...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:00 AM

August 23, 2008


Pretty funny, really. The guy who has never DONE anything, just talked talked talked talked............picks a running-mate who has...........yes, exactly.

And also he picks the closest thing the Dems have to a "neo-con" hawk. Someone who voted for the Iraq Campaign! Well, I told you that it doesn't matter who's president, George W Bush has set the template of the Global War on Terror, much like Truman did for the Cold War, and that's the way we will proceed from here on out....

Mostly I think this is just so revealing of the empty souls of the "Left." To accomplish anything one must, at least in some obscure way, believe in something. For a person to possess the awesome power available to a member of the United States Senate, and to do nothing of note with it—that's just stupefying!

It says as clear as day that you have nothing inside. You are hollowed out.

And if a large segment of society thinks these hollow men are fit to be President and Vice-President........what does that say about them?

You read it here first...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

New Banner

As you see, I just put up a new banner picture. Feel free to say what you think.

It only captures a little of the mysterious charm of the light and fog at that moment. My daughter and I were driving home from Marin County, and pulled off into Merchant Road in the Presidio as soon as we got off the bridge, and ran out to a point to take pictures...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

How to tell the genuine from the phony...

...It's a matter of what you DO, not what you say...

I have a few times quoted things by blogger Juliette Ochieng (Baldilocks) but hadn't followed her recently—too many bloggers in the world, too little time. But I was fascinated by this article (Thanks to Rand) about how her life story is amazingly intertwined with Obama's, and how she is trying to make right a failed promise of Mr Obama. (You might want to make a donation.) I recommend the article.

She says that her efforts are not a political stunt, and I believe it. This is the kind of thing that real people, especially Christians, do all the time. I was just thinking about a friend of ours, a surgical nurse, who goes once a year with a surgical team to a hospital in Guatemala. The hospital was founded by an American doctor who visited the town, and decided to help it... (She says they just love the work. Two weeks of pure medicine, with no insurance companies, no parasite-lawyers, no bureaucracy.)

...In August 2006, Senator Obama toured Kenya, his first trip to his father's nation. Thousands of Kenyans welcomed him, international media followed wherever he went, and glowing stories flowed forth.

One spot he visited was the recently renamed Senator Obama Kogelo Secondary School in Nyang'oma-Kogelo, a village in equatorial western Kenya where Obama's roots go deep: His father, Barack Sr., was born there. His 86-year-old step-grandmother, Sarah, still lives there in a brick shanty with a tin roof and no running water.

Almost exactly two years ago, Barack Obama visited the school built upon land that, decades ago, Obama's grandfather donated. In anticipation of Obama's visit, the school changed its name to honor the village's most famous progeny, Barack Jr.

The school had only four classrooms. It lacked water, functioning bathrooms and even electricity. A third of its students were orphans. Its extreme need made Senator Obama's speech there all the more riveting for the village residents.

"Hopefully, I can provide some assistance in the future to this school and all that it can be," Obama said. Looking directly at the school's principal, Yuanita Obiero, and her teachers, he added, "I know you are working very hard and struggling to bring up this school, but I have said I will assist the school, and I will do so."

In the two years since, Obama has experienced a meteoric political rise, becoming the Democratic flag-bearer, authoring a best-seller and last year, with his wife, Michelle, earning $4.2 million. He bought a luxury home. Last year, he gave $240,000 to charities.

But apparently not to the Senator Obama Kogelo School. "Senator Obama has not honored the promises he gave me when we met in 2006 and in his earlier letter to the school," Principal Obiero has told the London-based, conservative tabloid EveningStandard. "He has not given us even one shilling. But we still have hope."

As the Standard reports it, Principal Obiero explained, "We interpreted his words as meaning he would help fund the school, either personally or by raising sponsors or both, in order to give our school desperately needed modern facilities and a face-lift."

Enter Baldilocks, who lives in a rough area of Los Angeles, is the caregiver for an elderly relative and worries, like most people, about her bills. She hasn't got millions and didn't attend an Ivy League school.

But she was embarrassed by her fellow Luo-American, Barack Obama. She rushed to fill the financial void, forming a California nonprofit to funnel money to the African school. With a flair for drama, she named it "Save Senator Obama Kogelo School" and held a mini fund-raiser. She's raised $3,500, so she's a long way from the $750,000 she wants to raise within two years...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 AM

August 22, 2008

Same old same old...

Same lefty BS I've been hearing all my adult life---the little jabs about how [insert communist/socialistic country] does something or other better than America. Cuba has wonderful health care, people of X truly enjoy life, Euro product Y has je ne sais quoi, Chinesians don't suffer from individualism... Little jabs and sneers always delivered with a certain glow of satisfaction....

Here's a recent one from Barackmo:

Everybody's watching what's going on in Beijing right now with the Olympics , Think about the amount of money that China has spent on infrastructure. Their ports, their train systems, their airports are vastly the superior to us now, which means if you are a coporation deciding where to do business you're starting to think, "Beijing looks like a pretty good option."

Well, Mr O, China recently had an earthquake. And hundreds of schools collapsed, killing thousands of children. But government buildings did NOT collapse--they were well built. And people like me were outraged and horrified. THAT'S what WE think about when the topic of Chinese infrastructure comes up.

And I think we can guess now that it's not what YOU think of when that subject comes up.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

August 20, 2008

To understand the Left, read Lewis Carroll...

So who's blocking "alternative power?" "Renewable energy?" Greens. Leftists. Democrats. No surprise there; once you abandon the use of logic, anything is possible...

WSJ, August 18, 2008: Wind Jammers

In this year's great energy debate, Democrats describe a future when the U.S. finally embraces the anything-but-carbon avant-garde. It turns out, however, that when wind and solar power do start to come on line, they face a familiar obstacle: environmentalists and many Democrats.

To wit, the greens are blocking the very transmission network needed for renewable electricity to move throughout the economy. The best sites for wind and solar energy happen to be in the sticks -- in the desert Southwest where sunlight is most intense for longest, or the plains where the wind blows most often. To exploit this energy, utilities need to build transmission lines to connect their electricity to the places where consumers actually live. In addition to other technical problems, the transmission gap is a big reason wind only provides two-thirds of 1% of electricity generated in the U.S., and solar one-tenth of 1%.

Only last week, Duke Energy and American Electric Power announced a $1 billion joint venture to build a mere 240 miles of transmission line in Indiana necessary to accommodate new wind farms. Yet the utilities don't expect to be able to complete the lines for six long years -- until 2014, at the earliest, because of the time necessary to obtain regulatory approval and rights-of-way, plus the obligatory lawsuits.

In California, hundreds turned out at the end of July to protest a connection between the solar and geothermal fields of the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles and Orange County. The environmental class is likewise lobbying state commissioners to kill a 150-mile link between San Diego and solar panels because it would entail a 20-mile jaunt through Anza-Borrego state park. "It's kind of schizophrenic behavior," Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently. "They say that we want renewable energy, but we don't want you to put it anywhere."....

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

August 19, 2008

Random amplifications....

This piece by Alan Sullivan got me thinking a bit this morning...

The world is a complex place. To understand the strained relations of major powers, imagine a four dimensional space, with four forces competing in it.

I'd call it a three-dimensional space. The two dimensions of the map where powers maneuver like a game of Risk, and the third dimension being economic growth and globalization, where the successful can maneuver above the map, and touch and transform almost every spot—power flows from the earbuds of an iPod! And terrorists get to move above the map too.

The first and predominant force is the liberal democratic alliance. Culturally, economically, militarily, it is far superior to the other three. Its population is largest of the four forces, and its polities are the most resilient. It includes the sole superpower and several lesser powers: Europe, India, Brazil, Japan. Although there are tensions in the group, it is impossible to imagine them warring with one another under the present dispensation.

This group has many "virtuous" feedback loops, so they will probably end up absorbing everything. And, alas, one huge negative loop, which is the temptation that comes with prosperity and comfort for people to not grow-up. The temptation to nihilism. "Growing up" is the willingness to accept suffering, in a higher cause than the self. Things like marriage, children, dedication to causes or philosophies, service to the larger community, especially in war---these all involve suffering, and giving up some of the pleasures of the self. (And also receiving deeper joys and satisfactions that the self-centered person can't really perceive.) And, all of these "growing-ups" are "types" or patterns of the real growing-up, which comes with faith in God.

We can see this all around us, though most people don't want to take notice.

The second force is a rising regional power with global aspirations: China. A fifth of all humankind lives there; a substanial fraction more, in the neighboring lands, has fallen increasingly under the sway of China’s authoritarian model and the material success of its ancient empire reborn. But China’s growing national wealth depends upon trade, and the linkage of global economies keeps China fairly circumspect in its international behavior.

China is trapped. It can't stay in the "cheap labor" economy; those jobs are already flowing to poorer countries, and its population is graying rapidly. China's economy must mature, but that requires flexibility and the rule of law. The same transition that the other "Asian Tigers" made, but it will be much harder for a fifth of the world's population to change...

The third force — Russia and its subject principalities — is allied with the second through a shared ideological heritage from communism. To some extent it competes with the second force for influence with anti-liberal countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran. To some extent it cooperates in opposing democratic expansionism, which has made inroads alarming to authoritarians since the fall of Russia’s Soviet empire. As an energy producer, Russia is a rogue state with nothing to lose.

Rogue states kept alive by oil. That's bad juju for Planet Earth. But that problem could be easily ameliorated. We have enough oil here in the US to drastically lower world prices, but we are blocked from extracting it. (Oil shale alone = 2 trillion barrels!) The Dems are to blame, but in a larger sense I blame us Republicans. Democrats are insane; so blaming them is like blaming 3-year-olds. Republicans are supposedly the grownups, but we had a majority in Congress and squandered that opportunity like fools.

The fourth force is Islamic internationalism. The umma, another fifth of humankind, seethes with an old dream of global domination for its faith. Yet Islam faltered in its drive for conquest centuries ago, and stagnated for centuries more. Now oil wealth has awakened this slumbering power and brought the dream into consciousness. Islam is disorganized and polycentric, which is actually an advantage for maneuver among the other forces.

They are in a panic. "Global domination" is bluster. Planting a modern Western country in the middle of their cocoon drove them nuts, but now every Internet connection is like a little Israel in the midst of the faithful. They fear the changing world-views of their children. And they fear apostasy. The very death of Christendom with its slumberous state churches and "mainline churches" may mean the return of real Christianity. And no group is so vulnerable as the Muslims, with their lean loveless parody of the Church. [Link, link]

Four forces. You cannot understand our world with studying their interaction. Each force has a weakness. The liberal democracies lack strategic thinkers and shy from confrontation. China takes the long view, yet its imperious rigidity limits its gains. Russia is reckless, and always moves too soon. Islam is blinkered by its doctrines. All true.

I see no way for the three illiberal forces to combine successfully and overcome their common foe. Nor do I see a way for the liberal democracies to evade large-scale and continuing conflict with the other forces. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world, yet paradoxically we rise. Look at the achievements of the last few centuries. One must balance them with losses, failures, and horrors, but still: look at the wonders wrought by humankind! Amen, brother!

In our conflicts with these three the West should be like parents bringing along unruly teenagers, with love, and tough-love when necessary. A messy process I can tell you. And that is exactly what we are trying to do in IRAQ, and exactly why the West's legions of perpetual adolescents hate the Iraq campaign with insane fury. And hate George W Bush, who is (yes, yes I know, he's not perfect) the father telling the kids it's time to act like grown-ups, and start dealing with messy problems...

And that's also why it is not correct to say that we are "at war." We are not at war with anyone, since there are none of our "enemies" we would not welcome into friendship and comity if they decided to drop their twisted ways.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:09 PM

August 17, 2008

Uh, about that arctic ice...

Thanks to Tim Blair, an interesting bit of news. Things may not be quite as we've been told...

....The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado released an alarming graph on August 11, showing that Arctic ice was rapidly disappearing, back towards last year’s record minimum. Their data shows Arctic sea ice extent only 10 per cent greater than this date in 2007, and the second lowest on record. Here’s a smaller version of the graph:....

....The problem is that this graph does not appear to be correct. Other data sources show Arctic ice having made a nice recovery this summer. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center data shows 2008 ice nearly identical to 2002, 2005 and 2006. Maps of Arctic ice extent are readily available from several sources, including the University of Illinois, which keeps a daily archive for the last 30 years. A comparison of these maps (derived from NSIDC data) below shows that Arctic ice extent was 30 per cent greater on August 11, 2008 than it was on the August 12, 2007. (2008 is a leap year, so the dates are offset by one.)...

...The Arctic did not experience the meltdowns forecast by NSIDC and the Norwegian Polar Year Secretariat. It didn’t even come close. Additionally, some current graphs and press releases from NSIDC seem less than conservative. There appears to be a consistent pattern of overstatement related to Arctic ice loss...

I feel so torn. A real cooling trend would be bad for our world, and people might starve. But the humiliation of the people who are using global warming as an excuse for a lefty power-grab would be an excellent thing for mankind.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 PM

True with a capital T...

VDH, good as always:

More on the Warren Interview—St. Nuance

One is struck by Obama’s postmodern worldview. There are no absolutes, just nuances and contexts that preclude certainty. Evil for Obama: “A lot of evil’s been perpetuated based on the claim that we were fighting evil.” Could he be specific where we have perpetrated “a lot of evil?”

Again, the gut instinct for Obama—whether talking about our “tragic history”, or the need for more “oppression studies” or evoking our sins in front of the Germans—is always to start out with the premise of a flawed America, rather than appreciation of the vast difference between us and the alternative. Never a word here about evil abroad, or bin Laden or Dr. Zawahiri. No, instead, we need humility about that “lot of evil” perpetrated by you know whom.

Somehow he is pro-choice, but anti-abortion, for man/woman marriage, but not in the legal sense, not for merit pay, but for rewarding good teachers—all this is in the manner he was against the Russians and for them while for and against the Georgians. His mushy responses were emblematic of the therapeutic style—empathy with everyone, judgment on no-one. We may soon be back to Jimmy Carter, paralyzed how to divvy up the White House Tennis Courts among feuding subordinates. He can’t say much pro or con on abortion, other than there is an ethical and moral element to the issue. And any of you who deny that, well are just darn wrong. He is against late-term abortion— but only if the mother’s life is in danger. And so on.

After watching some of this, I don’t think Obama will be having many town hall debates with McCain. However undeniable his calm and presence, he is simply incapable of extemporizing. A written transcript of this interview would be embarrassing, since it would be largely streams of meandering—and, but that, ah, you know, that, and, with uh, uh, I don’t think, ah, ah, that, that, I think, that, that, on, on, an issue…”

It's no wonder Obama is the Dem candidate; he IS contemporary liberalism. There is nothing solid inside him. No principles, no guiding philosophy, no core values. No moral absolutes.

Nothing that could ever let him be pinned down. And his real audience is those like him: millions of "hollowed-out" people. And they know he's one of them. They, like me, listen and hear nothing---but that's exactly what they want to hear!

And Obama's advantage over the equally nihilist Hillary Clinton is his magnetic style that can make it all sound good. His listeners can feel like they are good and superior people, without actually committing to anything being True with a capital T.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:31 PM

"so that we act ...The rest will follow in time"

JH Newman portrait, engraving by R Woodman, after portrait by Sir WC Ross...Now what do we gain from thoughts such as these? Our Saviour gives us the conclusion, in the words which follow a passage I have just read. "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given him of My Father." Or, again, "No man can come to Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him." Therefore, if we feel the necessity of coming to Christ, yet the difficulty, let us recollect that the gift of coming is in God's hands, and that we must pray Him to give it to us. Christ does not merely tell us, that we cannot come of ourselves (though this He does tell us), but He tells us also with whom the power of coming is lodged, with His Father,—that we may seek it of Him.

It is true, religion has an austere appearance to those who never have tried it; its doctrines full of mystery, its precepts of harshness; so that it is uninviting, offending different men in different ways, but in some way offending all. When then we feel within us the risings of this opposition to Christ, proud aversion to His Gospel, or a low-minded longing after this world, let us pray God to draw us; and though we cannot move a step without Him, at least let us try to move. He looks into our hearts and sees our strivings even before we strive, and He blesses and strengthens even our feebleness. Let us get rid of curious and presumptuous thoughts by going about our business, whatever it is; and let us mock and baffle the doubts which Satan whispers to us by acting against them. No matter whether we believe doubtingly or not, or know clearly or not, so that we act upon our belief. The rest will follow in time; part in this world, part in the next. Doubts may pain, but they cannot harm, unless we give way to them; and that we ought not to give way, our conscience tells us, so that our course is plain. And the more we are in earnest to "work out our salvation," the less shall we care to know how those things really are, which perplex us. At length, when our hearts are in our work, we shall be indisposed to take the trouble of listening to curious truths (if they are but curious), though we might have them explained to us. For what says the Holy Scripture? that of speculations "there is no end," and they are "a weariness to the flesh;" but that we must "fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." [Eccles. xii. 12, 13.]...

    -- John Henry Newman, Sermons Plain and Parochial, Vol 1, #16
Posted by John Weidner at 5:13 AM

August 16, 2008

Science shenanigans...

A blogger calling himself Bishop Hill has written a fascinating post on the machinations behind the famous and influential "hockey stick" model of historical trends in global temperatures. (Thanks to AOG, who notes, sadly, "...But, then reality set it. The ‘hockey stick’ has been generally discredited for a while, and it’s either used without regard to its provenance, or redacted out of talking points as if it never existed so as to also erase the sordid history behind it. They’ve moved on to some other foundation, which will also be abandoned once it cracks..."

This is just a morsel, to give you the flavor of Bishop Hill's post:

[Please note, dear coz, that I'm not hereby proposing any scientific judgement on whether the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming is true or false. Just pointing out a tiny bit of the miching mallecho that underpins it...]

...In the background, howevrer, much had been happening. Suddenly in September 2007, and with the IPCC report published, the CC paper suddenly appeared, preceded in the same journal by another paper by the same authors. What had happened was that Wahl and Amman were quietly allowed to rewrite their rejected GRL paper and submit it to Climatic Change instead. All reference to the rejected GRL paper in the CC paper could be replaced by reference to the new paper, (which I will call the Jesus paper, in light of its extraordinary resurrection and for lack of any less confusing name). With identical authorship, and a maze of cross-references between them, the two CC papers were carefully designed to make understanding how their arguments relied on each other as difficult as possible.

...The beauty of this approach was that it allowed for retention of the original acceptance date for the CC paper, and hence its inclusion in the IPCC process. It did leave them with the embarrassing problem that a paper that was allegedly accepted in March 2006 relied upon another paper that even the journal itself said was only received until August (and in reality, is was even later than that) Readers should note that this matters because unless the paper was accepted by the journal by the deadline, it should not have been accepted by IPCC for inclusion in the Fourth Assessment Report. But the IPCC needed the CC paper and despite the inconsistency being pointed out to them, the IPCC they waved the objections aside as irrelevant.

The CC paper argument leads from the text, to the appendix and then onto the Jesus paper. At places in the Jesus paper the argument referred back to the CC paper creating a neat, if logically flawed, circular argument. One notable feature of the CC paper and the Jesus paper was that they relegated some of their key argumentation to their Supplementary Information (SI) sections, online appendices to the published papers. In particular, the Jesus paper stated that the statistical discussions and more precisely, the establishment of RE benchmarks could be seen there. To have key arguments in the SI was most unusual and it quickly became apparent why it had been done: the SI was nowhere to be seen. Even the peer reviewers appear not to have had access, and once again, Amman refused McIntyre's request for the data and code. His reply to this request was startling (and remember that Amman is a public servant):

"Under such circumstances, why would I even bother answering your questions, isn’t that just lost time?"

Again, everything fell silent. For the next year nothing more was heard of the two papers. McIntyre pressed from his blog for release of the SI and the politicians were able to quietly take advantage of the political space created by the IPCC report. Then, just a few weeks ago, and entirely unannounced, Wahl and Amman's Supplementary Information suddenly appeared on Caspar Amman's website, some three years after that first press release announcing the refutation of McIntyre's work. With it, and a godsend to McIntyre, was the code used to establish the benchmark for the RE statistic. With no more than a few days work, McIntyre was able to establish exactly what had been done....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM

August 15, 2008

Somebody, somewhere, likes this guy a lot...

Pamela Geller has a fascinating piece in American Thinker about her research which has turned up huge numbers of clearly fraudulent campaign donations the Obama campaign is receiving from overseas. Such as half a million dollars from people who list themselves as "unemployed!" (I've pasted a few samples below the fold, for your entertainment.)

But what's equally interesting is the response of the "news" media. Which has been to ignore the facts about Obama, and gin up phony stories about...McCain! Gettin' nervous, guys?

If I were a Democrat, I'd be concerned and ashamed about this pile of stinking stuff. (But most of those who are capable of shame have already become Republicans.)

....Obama's overseas (foreign) contributors are making multiple small donations, ostensibly in their own names, over a period of a few days, some under maximum donation allowances, but others are aggregating in excess of the maximums when all added up. The countries and major cities from which contributions have been received France, Virgin Islands, Planegg, Vienna, Hague, Madrid, London, AE, IR, Geneva,Tokyo, Bangkok, Turin, Paris, Munich, Madrid, Roma, Zurich, Netherlands, Moscow, Ireland, Milan, Singapore, Bejing, Switzerland, Toronto, Vancouver, La Creche, Pak Chong, Dublin, Panama, Krabi, Berlin, Geneva, Buenos Aires, Prague, Nagoya, Budapest, Barcelona, Sweden, Taipei, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Zurich, Ragusa, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Uganda, Mumbia, Nagoya, Tunis, Zacatecas, St, Croix, Mississauga, Laval, Nadi, Behchoko, Ragusa, DUBIA, Lima, Copenhagen, Quaama, Jeddah, Kabul, Cairo, Nassau(not the county on Long Island,lol), Luxembourg (Auchi's stomping grounds), etc,etc,etc,

Half a million dollars had been donated from overseas by unidentified people "not employed".

Digging deeper, all sorts of very bizarre activity jumped at us. Dr and JJ continued to break it down and pull data from various sources. We found Rebecca Kurth contributed $3,137.38 to the Obama Campaign in 112 donations, including 34 separate donations recorded in one day,

How about this gibberish donor on the 30th of April in 2008.

A donor named Hbkjb, jkbkj

City: Jkbjnj Works for: Kuman Bank (doesn't exist)

Occupation: Balanon Jalalan Amount: $1,077.23

or the donor Doodad, The # of transactions = 1,044

The $ contributed = $10,780.00

This Doodad character works for FDGFDGF and occupation is DFGFDG

The more questions we answered the more questions we discovered.

Thousands of Obama's foreign donations ended in cents. The "cents" did not make sense. And we compared McCain donation documentss to Obama's. McCain's records are nothing like Obama's. McCain's are so clean. No cents, all even dollar amounts. But Obama's contained thousands of strange, odd amounts -- evidence of foreign contributors, since Americans living overseas would almost uniformly be able to contribute dollars. Still no media...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:52 AM

August 14, 2008

Besotted with the candidate...

Walter Shapiro:

...Five days after Edwards flat-lined on "Nightline," I am still embarrassed by how badly I misjudged him both in print and in my personal feelings.

Beginning with a trip to North Carolina in the spring of 2001 to scout this first-term Senate phenom, I chronicled his dogged pursuit of the presidency both as a newspaper columnist and for Salon, as well as making him (and Elizabeth) central figures in my book on the 2004 Democratic primary campaign. My wife (a magazine writer who developed her own friendship with Elizabeth) and I had several off-the-record dinners with the Edwardses, including an emotionally raw evening in Washington two weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

Without overstating these bonds, I naively believed that I knew Edwards as well as I understood anyone in the political center ring. Yet I never saw this sex scandal coming -- partly because I accepted the mythology that surrounded the Edwardses' marriage and partly because I assumed that any hint of a wandering eye would have come out during the 2004 campaign. But then Rielle Hunter and the National Enquirer brought us all into the real world...

What malarky. You were besotted with Edwards because he was (or was pretending to be) a liberal Democrat. And Edwards almost certainly paid flattering attention to the guy who was writing a book about his campaign. You dolt, Edwards and his wife almost certainly coldly planned how to woo you, and knew what your weaknesses are. That's what trial lawyers do with a jury. They study every scrap of information available on each juryman, and, like chameleons, tailor the message, and paint their very selves, to fit them. (I know about this stuff; my dear wife's on the other side, the good side, fighting scoundrels like Edwards every day.)

Everybody who retained any objectivity could see that he was a phony, and were not surprised by this. When a guy talks populism and green-ism while building the biggest mansion in the county, there's a 99% chance that he's a sham. When a guy spends minutes in front of a mirror fluffing his hairdo, there's a 99% chance that he will not resist the sexual temptations available to a celebrity.

And when you make millions as a trial lawyer, it means you are skilled at convincing people of things that just ain't so.

Most importantly, what you are comes out in your life. If you are real, then a presidential campaign will bring lots of stories to the surface, from people who were impressed with the candidate's actions long before they could be helpful in any campaign. If Edwards really cared about that poor little girl supposedly shivering because she could not afford a coat, he would have been spending time working with groups who help the poor. And doing so long ago, before it might gain him any advantage. (And if Shapiro were a real journalist he would have taken note that cheap coats are available at any thrift store, and that people just give old coats away by the ton. The story was always bogus.)

Of course every candidate has to be something of a fake, and present himself in a contrived way. But there should be some congruence between the campaign persona and the real man or woman. Bush wasn't faking his love of sports; he bought, with great difficulty, a team. He wasn't just pretending to be a Texan, he showed it by frequently escaping to the Texas summer heat, to the dismay of reporters. And there have been plenty of stories about him caring for the ordinary people far beyond what the photo-op required. (Read this, for instance.)

* Update: Also, a candidate has an obligation to his party and his supporters. An obligation to campaign in the best way he can, so as not to waste the donations and energy that have been given to him. To not squander the belief that simple people have. Building a mansion while playing the populist card was a betrayal in this sense. He could have just waited a few years, but self-indulgence ruled. He was openly betraying millions of supporters, and that should have been a wake-up for poor Mr Shapiro.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

August 13, 2008

What do these items have in common?

NY Sun:

The Obama campaign's conference call yesterday on Republicans who back the presidential bid of the Democrat from Illinois showcased quite a crew...

What do they have in common? I should be very tactful here, and use diplomatic circumlocutions so as to be politically correct, and not "hateful," as lefties are always claiming about us conservatives. But, oh, the heck with it. They are pro-terrorist Jew-haters. That's the kind of people who are "drawn" to Barack.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

August 12, 2008

Boring is good...

Nibris Kazimi:

....But here's a quick note on all that's happening in Iraq concerning the Provincial Elections Law, the Oil Law, and Kirkuk: the question that everyone should be asking is "Will this political turmoil lead to violence?" and answer is that the potential for increased violence is minimal.

It's politics, folks. Why should Americans involve themselves in the nitty-gritty details of Iraqi politics? It is all being sorted out in heated bargaining and deal-making. Should Iraqis concern themselves with the pork-barreling and congressional re-districting of the U.S. Congress? No, they shouldn't.

The Iraq story is getting boring, and that's a good thing. The 'analysts' and 'experts' who staked their reputations on the idea that Iraq is a failed state are feverishly hoping that the embers of violence would catch fire anew so that a certain presidential candidate may win and they'd get to keep their fake status of self-styled 'expertise'. My own reading of the situation is that is futile to go delving into the ashes of a failed insurgency that hasn't got the wherewithal to burst aflame again....

It's hardly more than hunch, but I've had a certain confidence in the Iraqis since we started getting educated about them back in 2002. A confidence I certainly don't feel about certain other Arab Middle East nations and groups. Bloggers pass around stories, and the stories about Iraqis are often like meeting people one would like to know. My bet is that the Iraqis will keep their democracy, although it will be a rough-edged thing.

I worry however about Iraq having so much oil. That seems to be a curse on nations. When the government gets a lot of it's income from selling oil or other natural resources, it doesn't have much reason to encourage its people to be the sort of free and enterprising population that creates real wealth, and thus yields tax revenues. It doesn't need to serve the people, so as to dispose them to be willing to pay taxes. To some extant, it doesn't need the people at all, and can hurt them with impunity. A temptation few politicians can resist over the long run...

My advice to Iraq might be to give its oil profits directly to the people, and then support the government by taxing them.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:54 AM

August 11, 2008

The world changes, people lag behind....

Good news for the future of our army...

....Most of today's Army generals rose through the ranks during the Cold War as armor, infantry, or artillery officers who were trained to fight large-scale, head-to-head battles against enemies of comparable strength—for instance, the Soviet army as its tanks plowed across the East-West German border.
The problem, as many junior officers have been writing over the last few years, is that this sort of training has little relevance for the wars of today and, likely, tomorrow—the "asymmetric wars" and counterinsurgency campaigns that the U.S. military has actually been fighting for the last 20 years in Bosnia, Panama, Haiti, and Somalia, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2006 and again in 2007, the Army's promotion board passed over Col. H.R. McMaster, widely regarded as one of the most creative strategists of this "new" (though actually quite ancient) style of warfare. In Iraq, he was commander of the unit that brought order to Tal Afar, using the classic counterinsurgency methods—"clear, hold, and build"—that Petraeus later adopted as policy. When I was reporting a story last summer about growing tensions between the Army's junior and senior officer corps, more than a dozen lieutenants and captains complained bitterly (with no prompting from me) about McMaster's rejection, seeing it as a sign that the top brass had no interest in rewarding excellent performance. The more creative captains took it as a cue to contemplate leaving the Army.

This was why many Army officers were excited when Petraeus was appointed to chair this year's promotion board. Rarely, if ever, had a combat commander been called back from an ongoing war to assume that role. It almost certainly meant that McMaster would get his due. (Some referred to the panel as "the McMaster promotion board.")

McMaster did get his star—but so did many others of his ilk. That's what makes this list an eyebrow-raiser.....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

August 9, 2008

"It was...dogma that saved the sanity of the world."

This is a bit from GK Chesterton's Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox which is very worth reading...

.....Many medieval men, who would indignantly deny the Albigensian doctrine of sterility, were yet in an emotional mood to abandon the body in despair; and some of them to abandon everything in despair.

In truth, this vividly illuminates the provincial stupidity of those who object to what they call "creeds and dogmas." It was precisely the creed and dogma that saved the sanity of the world. These people generally propose an alternative religion of intuition and feeling. If, in the really Dark Ages, there had been a religion of feeling, it would have been a religion of black and suicidal feeling. It was the rigid creed that resisted the rush of suicidal feeling. The critics of asceticism are probably right in supposing that many a Western hermit did feel rather like an Eastern fakir. But he could not really think like an Eastern fakir; because he was an orthodox Catholic. And what kept his thought in touch with healthier and more humanistic thought was simply and solely the Dogma. He could not deny that a good God had created the normal and natural world; he could not say that the devil had made the world; because he was not a Manichee. A thousand enthusiasts for celibacy, in the day of the great rush to the desert or the cloister, might have called marriage a sin, if they had only considered their individual ideals, in the modern manner, and their own immediate feelings about marriage. Fortunately, they had to accept the Authority of the Church, which had definitely said that marriage was not a sin. A modern emotional religion might at any moment have turned Catholicism into Manicheanism. But when Religion would have maddened men, Theology kept them sane...

....In this sense St. Thomas stands up simply as the great orthodox theologian, who reminded men of the creed of Creation, when many of them were still in the mood of mere destruction. It is futile for the critics of medievalism to quote a hundred medieval phrases that may be supposed to sound like mere pessimism, if they will not understand the central fact; that medieval men did not care about being medieval and did not accept the authority of a mood, because it was melancholy, but did care very much about orthodoxy, which is not a mood. It was because St. Thomas could prove that his glorification of the Creator and His creative joy was more orthodox than any atmospheric pessimism, that he dominated the Church and the world, which accepted that truth as a test.....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 PM

I could be wrong...

Russia has invaded Georgia. So where are the giant puppets?

Where is the "anti-war" movement? Where the protests?

Perhaps they just haven't had time to get organized yet. I walked past the Russian consulate on Green Street today, and all was sleepy.

But perhaps the "pacifists" just need a few days to gin up the protest machinery. Right?

It would be wrong to judge them harshly so early in the game. Wrong to indulge my suspicion that they are horrid frauds who are only anti-America, and don't give a damn if distant foreigners live or die.

Perhaps they will surprise me.....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:03 PM

August 7, 2008

It's the fighter who can make peace...

I recommend thus post by Greyhawk, The British Invasion, about the British occupation of Basra in Iraq. I won't quote from it, since it is itself just a long series of news quotes. Starting out with the Brits very disdainful of the crude Americans who know so little, and ending up with the Brits crawling off in disgrace while we and the Iraqis clean up the bloody mess and bring PEACE.

Short version: You whop the bad guys with the big stick first, then you speak softly.

Short version of underlying British problem: It's hard to whop the bad guys if you have lost the belief that you are the good guys.

Short version of application to Christian practice: Those Jews that Jesus told to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile? They were dangerous men! In fact they were berserks who repeatedly rebelled against Rome, fighting to the death for what they believed. And every Roman knew it.

If they had been like today's pink-t-shirt nihilists, like our fake-Quakers and hippy-dippy peaceniks, Jesus would NOT have given them that advice, since it would have just encouraged evil. It's the fighter who can make peace.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 AM

August 5, 2008

Analogy to the Inquisition...

I got another e-mail on the subject of the Inquisition, in response to my post here.

...I'm OK with people calling some beliefs heresy, but killing people for it just feels over the line, especially for someone saying they are fully authorized agent of Jesus. If that's what being a Catholic is, that's a deal breaker for me. Is it still OK to kill heretics?...

No. Absolutely not. And to a considerable extant it never was. I don't think this was ever a part of Catholic dogma or doctrine.

What you have to realize is that until recently religions were the "political" groups. And a person who secretly believed something different from the state religion was often a political danger. Someone who would fight in a rebellion, or assassinate the monarch. If you read a bit about the Wars of Religion, you will see a lot this. There was back then no concept of a "loyal opposition." (In the religious sphere that's actually something that developed in the 17th and 18th Centuries out of the bloodbath of the Thirty Years War.)

And many accounts of the Inquisitions don't give you that context. They leave you to imagine that a bunch of cruel Dominicans were simply imposing their religion on peaceful folk, when in fact the real movers were usually governments worried (often with good reason) about fifth-columnists.

There is something of an analogy in what the Communists in the earlier 20th Century were to us. A Communist back then was NOT just someone with a different philosophy, he was often a secret agent for Lenin or Stalin. For the Comintern. If an American "converted" to Communism, there was a good likelihood that he would no longer be loyal to our country, and might work actively to subvert it. A splendid book to read, to understand the period, is Witness, by Whittaker Chambers.

This justified measures that were not normally acceptable in American tradition. It has never been right in America to blacklist or harass people because of their political beliefs. The "McCarthy Era" is often portrayed by liars as if it were just that, but in fact it was about hunting down people who were secret agents of a totalitarian conspiracy. One that was responsible for at least 100 million deaths in the 20th Century. Of course many of those who were harassed were not working for the Soviet Union, and had no real desire for the triumph of tyranny.

Innocent people were persecuted. BUT, the responsibility for this rests entirely on those traitors who concealed themselves among those who were, as you might say, "loyal communists." If someone was dragged in to testify before HUAC, and maybe had their career ruined, they usually are portrayed by liberal historians as people who were crushed by America, by cruel red-baiters, etc.

Bullshit. The responsibility rests with those who were hiding among them, using them as cover for their attempts to destroy our country. The most famous of these of course was Alger Hiss. And due to the fall of the Soviet Union we now have access to archives that show that Hiss was in fact a Soviet spy. But for 50 years he was pictured by cynical leftists as an "innocent victim" of men like Chambers and Richard Nixon. In fact the opposite was true. Hiss was guilty as hell, and was working hard to give us our own American Gulag Archipelago. And Chambers and Nixon were true American heroes, fighting ugly subversion with necessary roughness.

The "McCarthy Era" is usually portrayed as a period of madness, and analogized to the Salem witch trials. (Or the Inquisition!) The difference is that in the 20th Century there really were witches, and if they had achieved their ends people like you and me might be routinely rounded up at gunpoint and sent on that long march to nowhere....

Posted by John Weidner at 12:31 PM

August 4, 2008

"under the skin of the post-moral left"

I was just rummaging deep in the archives and found this quote from Melanie Phillips, which bears posting again, since it is very close to certain of my own themes...

...Such people often think of themselves as liberals. But authentic liberalism is very different. For it was at its core a moral project, based on the desire to suppress the bad and promote the good in the belief that a better society could and should be built. What has happened in recent decades is that this moral core which upholds social norms and discriminates against values that threaten them has been replaced by a post-modern creed of the left, which has tried to destroy all external authority and moral norms and the institutions that uphold them, and replace them by an individualist, moral free-for-all —the creed which has led to the moral relativism and denial of truth that lie at the core of the anti-war movement.

Where Sullivan is absolutely right is to call Bush a liberal. For in repudiating the corrupted values of both the post-moral left and the reactionary appeasers of the right, Bush has indeed exhibited the classic liberal desire to build a better society, along with the characteristic liberal optimism that such a project can and must succeed.

And this is surely why Bush is so hated by the left. For this hatred wildly exceeds the normal dislike of a political opponent. It is as visceral and obsessive as it is irrational. At root, this is surely because Bush has got under the skin of the post-moral left in a way no true conservative ever would. And this is because he has stolen their own clothes and revealed them to be morally naked. He has exposed the falseness of their own claim to be liberal. He has revealed them instead to be reactionaries, who want both to preserve the despotic and terrorist status quo abroad and to go with the flow of social and moral collapse at home, instead of fighting all these deformities and building a better society....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:10 PM

August 3, 2008

"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition"

A reader wrote to me, concerning yesterday's post:

....This quote mentions, "the medieval Albigensians and Cathari" and says, "Gnosticism can't handle the Incarnation". Since the Inquisition killed and tortured them and burned their books, it's my understanding we only know what they thought and practiced through what the Inquisitors said about them.

I'm not a Catholic (or a virulent anticlerical). To me, the Inquisition seems evil and an enormous contamination of the Christian teachings and I've never seen that explained away successfully. Maybe in a future post you might touch on that a little. Maybe I've got the facts wrong, or maybe there's some positive take on it I've missed...

Neither the Cathari nor the Inquisitions are things I have deep knowlege about. But hey, that never stopped me, a few thoughts...

I've learned some things about the inquisitions just from dabbling in history. (There were various inquisitions; they were local institutions, not an arm of the Church as a whole.) I think it is pretty safe to say that they were not nearly as bad as the grim legends make them out to be. They have mostly been portrayed by Protestants or by "Enlightenment" historians who had a big big ax to grind against the Church. (Rather like Leftists today have an ax to grind against the USA, and turned the fairly minor abuse of abu Ghraib into the worst thing ever, while ignoring real torture happening all around the world.) The savage torturing and murdering of Catholics by the Tudors and Stuarts gets little mention in history books, while everybody has shivered with horror about those dreadful dungeons of the Inquisition.

The methods and ethics of the inquisitors were the same as were used in all judicial processes of their time. It's not like the civil courts back then were any less oppressive. Probably just the opposite. I have read that the Spanish Inquisition was in fact quite scrupulous and just by the standards of its age. And that over several centuries of operation it only killed about 3,000 people--that's not exactly mass slaughter. Also, anyone convicted of a first offense could recant and go free. (But if you were caught in heresy again you were toast.) That's rather better than what you could expect from the average medieval king and his justices.

And it was done for what they considered a very good reason---heresy could lead people to eternal damnation, and could spread rapidly if not stopped. Torquemada would have said that it is WE who are cruel and unjust in allowing people to imperil their souls with false doctrine! I don't agree with the usefulness of his tactics, but the logic is perfectly correct. If I could save your soul from the fires of Hell by a bit of brutality, then I as a Christian would be obligated to do so! As it happens the Church teaches that this won't work, so I can focus my energies elsewhere, like torturing people with blogposts.

My wife Charlene is currently reading a book about the Cathars, The Perfect Heresy. She says we actually know quite a lot about them, because the inquisitors kept careful records, including transcripts of testimony. We don't, however, know for sure where Catharism came from. There was a very interesting book a few years ago, Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, which revealed a extraordinary amount of detail about everyday life in a medieval French village---because the whole village had been hauled in and interrogated about their religious practices, and the bulky transcript then sat in the Vatican for 600 years until a historian mined it.

The Perfect Heresy looks like an informative book, though marred, to my casual perusal, by the assumption of the author that orthodox Christian faith is something people did back in the Middle Ages, and which no modern person would take seriously....

"Albigensian" (from the city of Albi) and "Cathars" were names invented by their enemies, by the way. They called themselves "good Christians."


Posted by John Weidner at 10:33 PM

A different and overlooked tradition...

I was quite fascinated by this essay, Conservative Internationalism, By Henry R. Nau (Thanks to Orrin Judd).

Since World War II international relations specialists have debated two main traditions or schools of American foreign policy, realism and liberal internationalism. Realism identifies with Richard Nixon and looks to the balance of power to defend stability among ideologically diverse nations. Liberal internationalism identifies with Franklin Roosevelt and looks to international institutions to reduce the role of the balance of power and gradually spread democracy by talk and tolerance. Generally speaking, conservatives or Republicans were considered realists — Eisenhower and Ford — while liberals or Democrats were seen as liberal internationalists — Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter.

This debate broke down with Ronald Reagan. He opposed both the realist containment strategy of Richard Nixon and the liberal internationalist human rights campaign of Jimmy Carter. He adopted a strategy that used force or the threat of force assertively, as realists recommended, but aimed at the demise of communism and the spread of democracy, as liberal internationalists advocated. Reagan improvised and succeeded brilliantly. The Cold War ended, the Soviet Union disappeared, and the United States emerged as the first preeminent “global” power in the history of the world. Even former critics now concede that Reagan was on to something.

But what tradition did Reagan represent? The debate between realists and liberal internationalists leaves no explanation for Ronald Reagan ’s eclectic foreign policy choices and the extraordinary outcomes he achieved. The conventional foreign policy traditions don’t fit. Realists and liberal internationalists try to claim Reagan but they distort and miss the novelty of his contributions. Others conclude he is unique and “has become a transcendent historical figure,” not terribly relevant to contemporary debates. Still others argue Reagan’s foreign policy had nothing to do with ending the Cold War and subsequently wound up in the hands of Reagan impostors, the neoconservatives in the George W. Bush administration, who ran it into the ground in Iraq.

This essay rejects all of these conclusions. It argues instead that Ronald Reagan tapped into a new and different American foreign policy tradition that has been overlooked by scholars and pundits. That tradition is “conservative internationalism.” Like realism and liberal internationalism, it has deep historical roots. Just as realism takes inspiration from Alexander Hamilton and Teddy Roosevelt and liberal internationalism identifies with Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, conservative internationalism draws historical validation from Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. These four American presidents did more to expand freedom abroad through the assertive use of military force than any others (Lincoln doing as much or more to expand freedom domestically by force). But they expanded freedom on behalf of self-government, local or national, not on behalf of central or international government, as liberal internationalists advocate, and they used force to seize related opportunities to spread freedom, not to maintain the status quo, as realists recommend. All of these presidents remain enigmas for the standard traditions. The reason? They represent the different and overlooked tradition of conservative internationalism....

Fascinatin' stuff. On Jefferson especially. I will look at him with much more favor henceforth. And Polk too. He spread freedom to a vast part of the globe, which has flourished ever since, even as the adjacent lands he did not annex have languished in poverty, injustice and cruelty...

And as regular readers will guess, I think George W Bush is acting in the same tradition, and deserves the same respect and gratitude we give to Ronald Reagan.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 PM

August 2, 2008

Stuff counts....

George Weigel, from his excellent book Letters to a Young Catholic

...We've spoken before about the bedrock Catholic conviction that stuff counts. Chesterton fervently believed that, although it took him until age fifty-two to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Thus, even in his pre-Catholic years, GKC was an ardent defender of the sacramental imagination—the core Catholic conviction that God saves and sanctifies the world through the materials of the world. You've probably heard it said the Catholicism is uneasy in the world, that Catholicism demeans the world and the flesh. Don't believe it for a second.

Catholicism takes the world, and the things of the world, far more seriously than those who like to think of themselves as worldly. Water salt and oil are the tangibles by which sanctifying grace is conferred in the sacrament of baptism; bread and wine are the materials through which Christ gives his body and blood to his people in the sacrament of the Eucharist; in the sacrament of matrimony, the consummation of marital love completes the vows exchanged at a Catholic couple's wedding; oil brings healing in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, as it conveys the gift of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation. None of this happens by Harry Potter-like wizardry, but because the world was sacramentally configured by God "in the beginning.".....The ordinary stuff of the world is the material God uses to bring us into communion with the truly extraordinary—with God himself.

The ancient enemy of this sacramental imagination is what we might call the gnostic imagination. Gnosticism, one of the first Christian heresies, is remarkably resilient, even protean. It crops up time and again, generation after generation, in slightly different guises and disguises: from the Manichees who once seduced Augustine, through the medieval Albigensians and Cathari, and down to the present. Whenever and however it appears, thought, gnosticism teaches the same seductive and devastating message: stuff doesn't count; the material world is a distraction (even a wicked distraction); what counts is the gnosis, the arcane knowledge, that lifts the elect, the elite, out of the grubbiness of the quotidian. Gnosticism can't handle the Incarnation—the truth that God enters the world in the person of his Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to redeem and sanctify us in our humanity, not to fetch us out of it. And God does that because, as in the beginning, God understands that his creation is good, even very good (Genesis 1:31)....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:05 PM

August 1, 2008

Change for the good...

From The HSA Revolution That’s Already Here, Posted by John Berlau

The new book America’s Health Care Crisis Solved has been praised as providing a detailed, free-market solution for healthcare’s future. This it does, but what’s almost as fascinating about the book is its description of what is going on in the present, with consumer-driven health savings accounts (HSAs). Almost without notice, HSAs have grown dramatically and have solved for millions of Americans the problem of healthcare’s lack of portability.

First, some background. In the 2003 law that was rightly derided for massively expanding Medicare with a new prescription drug benefit was a separate section that let many more working-age people to take advantage of HSAs. This provision allowed any adult under 65 to open a savings account for medical expenses that receives much of the same special tax treatment as employer-based health care.

As a result of this change, you can qualify for an HSA by getting health insurance with at least an $1100 deductible for individuals or a $2100 deductible for families. So long as you don’t have another insurance policy, you can get a tax deduction for contributing up to $2900 for an individual or $5800 for a family to an HSA. Or your employer can contribute some or all of that amount. In either case, the money grows untaxed and can be withdrawn tax-free for health-care expenses....

(It's worth reading the rest.) My belief is that the Medicare prescription drug benefit was going to happen one way or another, but President Bush wisely used it as a bribe to get what was really important, HSA's.

HSA's were blocked for decades by Democrats. I feel about this not only the general contempt I always feel for those who cling to socialism long after history has proved it to be an evil catastrophe, but also personal loathing, since if I'd been able to contribute small amounts to an HSA back when I was young and never got sick, my account would by now have grown tax-free to be a large cushion for the expenses to come in old age.

But no, the @#$%^ collectivists can't endure to have people controlling their own health care. It must be done by big coercive bureaucracies, or not at all. (Charlene and I have an HSA, but it's too late in our lives for it to really grow--the money that goes in soon goes out for this and that. But at least it's pre-tax.)

I think that perhaps anyone who is a registered Democrat should not be allowed to have an HSA. They support the party of evil, so why they should they profit from the good that good men do? Seems fair, hmmm?

Thank you again, President Bush.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM