December 31, 2008

So, If high gas prices meant that were being ripped off by Big Oil...

...do low gas prices mean the oil companies are doing something good? Just kidding; of course all oil companies are always horrid. Just ask a Democrat.

We're Spending $1 Billion Less a Day on Gas!:

...CNBC's Mary Thompson broke down the numbers she received from Kloza Friday: when gasoline peeked on July 11, we were spending $1.613 billion a day to fill our tanks. The combination of lower prices and lower consumption brings that down to $611.5 million today.

And, the news might get better because wholesale gasoline is currently trading around $0.80/gallon, which means that some parts of the country could see prices at the pump approaching $1 in the next few weeks.

Of course, we shouldn't ignore huge declines in what we'll all pay to heat our homes this winter. Heating oil a year ago was $2.64/gallon. Now it's $1.25, or down over 50 percent.

Maybe more important, this is down from a July peak of $4.15. And, natural gas has plummeted from $13.60 in July to $5.80 today, which means we're all getting a HUGE cut in heating costs not only from last year, but also based on what was being forecast just five months ago.

This seems worthy of some holiday cheer, although it's likely most media outlets won't care until after Inauguration Day when they'll be able to give the new president all the credit....

Actually, what's really silly about the lefty evil-oil-companies paranoia is the WE own them. Ordinary people. As Peter Drucker pointed out long ago, the majority of shares of publicly traded American companies are held by pension funds and mutual funds, which are middle class investment vehicles. (The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America)

Most of the "progressives" who were bellyaching about Dick Cheney and oil companies are really capitalists whose 401-k's and pension funds depend on companies like Haliburton making profits. And you can bet they wouldn't like it one little bit if their slice of capitalism were socialized.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

December 30, 2008

Richard Cohen - the intellectually insulated man

I'm a bit bugged by this piece by Richard Cohen - George W. Bush as an Avid Reader:

....The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle. Absent is Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 'Imperial Life in the Emerald City,' Tom Ricks's 'Fiasco,' George Packer's 'The Assassins' Gate' or, on a related topic, Jane Mayer's 'The Dark Side' about 'extraordinary rendition' and other riffs on the Constitution. Absent too is Barton Gellman's 'Angler,' about Dick Cheney, the waterboarder in chief.

Bush read David Halberstam's 'The Coldest Winter,' which is about the Korean War, but not on the list is Halberstam's 'The Best and the Brightest,' which is about the Vietnam War. Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies, plotted not written, and lacking the beauty of worldly cynicism. I recommend Giuseppe di Lampedusa's 'The Leopard.' Delicious.

My hat is off to Bush for the sheer volume and, often, high quality of his reading. But his books reflect a man who is seeking to learn what he already knows. The caricature of Bush as unread died today -- or was it yesterday? But the reality of the intellectually insulated man endures.

The "intellectually insulated man" here is Cohen. Things haven't turned out the way he expected, but does he re-think? Does he question his own assumptions?

If he would do a bit of reading himself, he would find out that it is normal in war for things to get tough. Americans always get tougher, and win in the end. You can't expect to win all the battles.

He would see American war leaders such as Pershing, Lincoln, or Marshall trying out various generals and different tactics, until they find what's needed--often after tens or even hundreds-of-thousands of casualties!

He might discover that Americans have liberated captive peoples from fascist and communist dictators before, and that the Iraq Campaign has been very cheap and easy on a historical scale. Korea was worse by an order of magnitude. And we've fought guerilla and terrorist enemies before, and many have been harder nuts to crack than al-Qaeda. And that, in fact, the Iraq Campaign has now moved into conditions that should be described not as "debacle," but by an old-fashioned word that leftists hate--victory.

And there have been plentiful signs that Bush was smart and intellectually curious from the beginning. I remember arguing the subject with various lefties back in 2001--and discovering that they were "intellectually insulated," and absolutely did not want to hear anything that might shake their world-view.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:03 PM

Puzzling things...

Madoff the Jew: The Media's Hypocritical Obsession With the Fraudster's Faith, by Phyllis Chesler:

...Most Jews do not recognize themselves in what Madoff did; they still expect to be judged on their own merits. I doubt this will happen. I think� Jews will be judged as if we are all guilty, whether or not we are innocent or poor, and whether or not we fight for justice for Palestinians or for justice for murdered Chabadniks in Mumbai. Here's one reason why.

For days now,� I have been following the media coverage of the Madoff scandal. I could not help but note that the New York Times kept emphasizing that he is Jewish and moved in monied, Jewish circles; not once, but time and again, in the same article, and in article after article. 'Tis true,� alas, 'tis true, the rogue is a Jew: But how exactly is Madoff's religion more relevant than Rod Blagojevich's religion?� The Times has not described Blagojevich� (or Kenneth Lay of Enron) as "Christians," nor do they describe the Arab or south Asian Muslim terrorists as "Muslims."....[Thanks to Bookworm]

That last sentence is misleading. If there was some way to link Ken Lay with real Christianity, they would have leaped at it. Imagine if he had been a pro-life activist!

Still, the kind of Jew-hatred the Times is showing is strange. It is exceedingly likely that most of the Jews touched by the Madoff mess are not very Jewish, except as a cultural holdover. For most American Jews, their real "religion" is liberalism, and the percentage of them who read the NYT is probably far higher than the general population. Yet we se leftist anti-Semitism all the time, especially in the truly insane hatred of the state of Israel. Think how crazy it is--Israel is a tolerant democratic society where Muslim MP's can heckle the Prime Minister, who might well be a woman. Israel is a place that has "gay pride" parades--and yet the Left invariably prefers Muslims who oppress women and gays.

Equally puzzling is why American Jews continue to put up with this. Perhaps they have just transferred their stubborn religious faithfulness to the new faith of liberalism, and are refusing to be detered by persecution!

Also puzzling is the philo-Semitism of so many of us on the Right. We sure don't gain any tangible benefits! One of the oddest things I read this year was this piece about President Bush's speech to the Israeli Knesset on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel. The Israelis were quite embarrassed to be lauded as Zionists and the Chosen People. Not to mention those references to that quaint old thing, the Bible!

It's almost like nobody believes the current "non-Jewishness" of so many Jews is real. Like any day now they will pull off the mask and be the People of the Book again...

An excerpt from the article:

....nd most embarrassingly of all, what President Bush believes about the Jews is something that nearly all Jews once believed about themselves. It's aggravating to be reminded of the you you once were and would like to forget. Remember the time back in high school when you had great ambitions and thought you had a God-given talent that the world would hear about some day? Not really, because now, decades later, you've done everything you can to banish it from your mind -- which is why you cringe when you run into an old classmate who recognizes you and exclaims with a slap on the back, "Hey, it's you! I'll never forget the impression you made on me."

For many Jews, President Bush is like that classmate. They wish he hadn't recognized them.

The president, it was observed rather ruefully in Israel, gave a Zionist speech such as hasn't been heard from mainstream Israeli politicians for many years. If by that is meant that he invoked the Bible, rather than the Oslo "peace process" or his own "road map," this is certainly true. The Bible has long ceased to be bon ton in Israeli intellectual life. It has become politically incorrect for Israelis to think that just because some possibly imaginary progenitors of theirs had religious fantasies about God's pledging them a country, their contemporary thinking needs to take this into account. If an American president feels comfortable with such fairy tales, that's no reason why they should.

President Bush clearly believes the Jews are central to history in a way most Jews themselves no longer do. They find such thinking primitive. The only problem is that history itself shows signs of agreeing with the president.

This, really, is the astonishing thing about the country Mr. Bush addressed last week when he said, "Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again and America will be at your side": How central to everything it is. A tiny place with a population that wouldn't fill any of the world's ten largest cities, it finds itself in the middle of all the great conflicts of our times: The battle for democracy, the war against terror, the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, the campaign against nuclear proliferation. Practically every scenario for a nuclear Armageddon, ranging from that of the most wild-eyed preacher of the Gospel to that of the most cool-headed political scientist, revolves around Israel.

Perhaps it really is primitive to believe, as President Bush does, that this has something to do with the Jews being the people of the Bible. Certainly, most Jews themselves would like to think that it has to do with other things. They would rather not be at the center of anything. It makes them nervous when someone reminds them that, despite their best efforts, that's where they still are. The role of being a chosen people is big on them.

The president of the United States disagrees. That's part of the reason why many Jews will be relieved to see him leave office next January. It's not just stem-cell research, or even the war in Iraq. The man thinks too much of us. That's something we're not prepared to put up with...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:57 AM

December 29, 2008

Just in case you thought the future was going to be "business as usual"

www.sfexaminer.com -- Local News, Amateurs Toil With DNA In Their Homes:

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.

Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering -- a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:03 PM

"The people who make the lists turn out to be wrong about nearly everything..."


David Warren has a pretty good piece on those "person of the year" thingies in the Gasping Media. (Of course the whole idea behind "Person of the Year" stories is garbage, since it presupposes that people who possess wisdom and insight are likely to become "journalists.")
...As noted above, global warming alarmists are going out of fashion, owing to the collapse of their tenuous evidence, and the global cooling alarmists have yet to organize their fans. This eliminates all the leading climatologists except Reid Bryson.

The pioneer of modern climatology, Prof. Bryson has been blowing holes in man-made climate-change alarms for decades. He is the man who replied to the "retreat of the Alpine glaciers" hysteria by asking, "And what did you find when the snow melted?" (A silver mine, with all the tools stacked up for the next spring: i.e. the glacier was recent.) He should have been man of the year around 1999.

Among other leading "scientists and thinkers," it is the same story, endlessly repeated. The people who make the lists turn out, nearly invariably, to be wrong about nearly everything; the people who have been fairly consistently right never make the lists. It was typical of the year in which the Large Hadron Collider debuted as the most expensive dysfunctional white elephant in history, that the Nobel physics prize went to three particle physicists...
Do they still DO particle physics? Talk about clinging to the past!
....That is probably enough drumroll. We must get to business. Pass myself the envelope, please.

My selection for "Man of the Year 2008" is: Sarah Palin.

The citation reads: "For a politician of real accomplishment and promise, who has somehow managed, for the first time since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to cut through the verbiage and posturing of an election campaign, and look an electorate in the eye; a politician whose policy instincts are sound, whose wits are sharp, and whose moral vision is unclouded -- who drives all the right people crazy, across party lines."...

I'm looking forward to years of having her drive all the right people crazy!

She's a "living treasure" just for the way she reveals who is UNSOUND. The easy way to detect the phonies, on either the Left or the Right, is to note who hates Sarah.

I'm not referring to those who disagree with her, but to the multitudes who felt an instant visceral dislike. The kind of "conservatives" who suddenly discovered the importance of rule by Ivy-League elites. Or the "liberals" whose guilty consciences "saw" a Palin campaign focussed on abortion--which in fact I don't think she even mentioned on the campaign trail.


Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 AM

December 28, 2008

Faxes of faxes of faxes...

I often mention "hollowing out" --that is, the way meaning seems to drain out of modern people's lives leaving an outer shell with nothing much inside. And how people construct substitutes for what they've lost, and how meaning then drains away from those substitutes...

I haven't seen a better example than this NYT editorial, When Christmas Comes:

...But, really, Christmas needs no saving. It does not exist apart from what we make of it. And, on its own, it cannot save us, though it contains the gestures of generosity and thankfulness that are halfway to being a better person, a richer community. Christmas is all the better for being a simple place, nothing more, perhaps, than two red cardinals, male and female, against the backdrop of a snowy field. They are there every day. The only difference is that today it feels like Christmas.

So what IS this "Christmas" the editors are editorializing about? Heaven knows. It's like a document that's been faxed around so many times it's turned to a gray blur. Somebody long ago fudged-up "secular Christmas." And then somebody created a secular version of that still quasi-religious thing, and then the newer blander version was refined into a yet-more secular thing..... Finally we get to "Snowflake Day," when, for some forgotten reason, we feel sort of warm and fuzzy inside when the city puts snowflake decorations on the lamp posts along Main Street!

The underlying reason for the hollowing-out is that anything that has "meaning" is bigger then the self. And therefore it makes demands on us. So if people become self-worshippers, then they will try to get rid of meaning. Get rid of the solidity, the real-ness of things.

We see this process all around us, and it bewilders me how little people will "observe" it. Everything that is tough and chewy gets tenderized into pablum. Marriage, for instance, has been repeatedly faxed throughout my lifetime, becoming ever less demanding and real. People keep hoping and wishing it will be meaningful for them, while at the same time eagerly knocking off any sharp edges that might bruise them. What a sick joke. It should be re-named "White Dress Day." And the especial insanity is that each time the document gets faxed, the proponents of that particular iteration insist that it stands alone, that this faxing is a one-time thing, and the document will really be the same.

It's all kind of funny, but once you really "see" it, you see that people are sliding over the edge of a terrifying abyss. If you worship yourself you worship Moloch. The "self" will ask for the sacrifice of anything that rivals it. We all say, "Of course I would not do such-and-such! There are lots of things I would not sacrifice for my own satisfaction." Alas that "of course" is actually for most of us just a collection of habits that we have all inherited with our culture.

But the habits aren't "real," aren't solid, aren't something you can take to the bank. We tend, for instance, to feel a bit less selfish at Christmas, to think more about family and friends..........but, that's just a habit. And habits have a way of wearing off. Especially if people are trying to get rid of the underlying reasons for them. (The ultimate source, sometimes buried under many layers, is Jewish and Christian faith.)

The more the habits (not to mention the underlying reality) wear off, the more scary things are going to be.

...As unbelievers deny Revelation more decisively, as they put their denial into more consistent practice, it will become the more evident what it really means to be a Christian. At the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies. He must learn to exist honestly without Christ and without the God revealed through Him; he will have to leam to experience what this honestly means. Nietzsche had already warned us that the non-Christian of the modern world had no realization of what it truly meant to be without Christ. The last decades [the two world wars] have suggested what life without Christ really is. The last decades were only the beginning...
      -- Romano Guardini, from The End of the Modern World

"He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies." That's what we see all around us.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:49 PM

We don't "find" God, He finds us...

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

From an excellent essay by R. R. Reno, in First Things...

....After many rereadings of the Confessions, I have been mortified to discover that St. Augustine does not commend the great preoccupation of modern Christianity, the quest for faith. For him, the journey of his young adulthood was a futile circular movement. Imagining himself to be a seeker after God, he was in fact ever returning to himself. What began as a projected heroic journey ended in exhausted despair. Ten years after Cicero had ignited in him a love of wisdom, St. Augustine reports, “I had lost all hope of discovering the truth.” What seemed like a journey was nothing more than the huffing and puffing of a presumptuous soul that thought it could storm the citadel of God with earnest longing and good intentions. The upshot was paralysis...

....When one reads what Augustine actually wrote rather than what one imagines he must have written, the warning is clear. What had seemed a great and noble journey—to find God!—was, says Augustine, a series of delays and postponements. He had not struggled across spiritual deserts, nor had he climbed snowy mountain passes. By his own accounting, Augustine had spun endlessly, "turning over and over again," exhausting himself on "the treadmill of habit."

....Still, our inability is not a condemnation to stasis. There is a journey of faith for Augustine, but the guidance comes from God, not us. Far from finding God, Augustine confesses, “You pierced my heart with the arrow of your love.” Indeed, the arrows had already been loosed many times, but in his agitated desire to control his own destiny, Augustine had dodged and deflected them. Only after Augustine has recognized the vanity of his own efforts does the arrow of divine love strike its mark. In the silence of the garden, God’s Word finally reaches his heart. “The examples given by your servants,” Augustine reports, “burnt away and destroyed my heavy sluggishness.” Then and only then does his journey begin: to baptism, back to Africa, and to Hippo.

The general principle of Augustine’s own self-analysis is clear, and its relevance to the temptation to embark on our own searches for God is direct—even, and perhaps especially, when that search takes us across the strange terrain of denominationalism. “The soul needs to be enlightened,” he writes, “by light from outside itself.”.....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 AM

December 27, 2008

Zombies. They're back again. Can't kill 'em....

I don't know why I bother to repeat this kind of thing...it is about as inevitable as anything can be that Leftists are going to love a regime that hates America and promises to nuke some Jews. What an intoxicating thrill for our "pacifists!" (And they get the added frisson of betraying their supposed feminism and homo-philia. I suspect a lot of lefties get an almost sexual kick from doing these things that are so deliciously wicked and perverse.)

Anyway, read all about it. Code Pink Hearts Iran's Mullahs:

....Benjamin and Evans wrote daily accounts of their trip to Tehran on their blog — and wasted not a word on poor Fatemeh or on the tragedy of women's rights in Iran under the mullahs and their Sharia laws. Benjamin and Evans portray a rosy and unrealistic situation, where Iranians of all social classes and political persuasions welcome them enthusiastically, share their anti-war sentiments, and desire for peaceful and loving relations with the U.S. and all nations. Medea Benjamin, who lived for seven years in Cuba calling the Castro dictatorship "a paradise on earth," notices that in Tehran "public transportation is priced right -- 20 cents for the subway and 2 cents for the bus." She fails to mention that the Iranian currency sustained 700 percent devaluation since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and that inflation is at 23% according to governmental statistics and significantly higher than that according to World Bank estimates. Income per capita in Iran is $300 per year, a pittance when compared to other oil-rich nations in the Persian Gulf, like Kuwait ($26,000), United Arab Emirates ($25,000), or Saudi Arabia ($12,400).

Recently, an Iranian parliamentarian blurted out that almost 50% of Iran, the fourth most oil-rich country in the world, is living on or under $1 a day. This means there are some who are not able to satisfy their basic needs for food, clothing, and housing, let alone transportation, even if the public transportation ticket does "only" cost 20 cents of a toman, the Iranian currency....

By the way, while those limousine radicals were in Iran, a woman was executed there for the crime of killing her husband to prevent him raping their 14-year old daughter. Hung from the neck until dead. Let's all just hold our breaths, waiting for our anti-death-penalty "activists" to raise their voices in protest...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 AM

December 26, 2008

Essential reading for the serious person in our time...

Macklin Horton has an important post, on reading the book Witness, by Whittaker Chambers.

I haven't quite finished Whittaker Chambers' Witness, but I'm ready to declare that it's essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the 20th century and the spiritual battle being waged in the modern world generally�meaning, by "modern," roughly "post-Enlightenment"...

...At the end of The Lord of the Rings Sauron is defeated and destroyed. But we are given to understand�I can't remember whether it's in the book or in some remark of Tolkien's elsewhere�that his evil does not cease to exist, but rather spreads as a sort of vapor, dispersing itself throughout the world; from this time on, evil will not be so concentrated and easy to identify, but will work subtly and obscurely.

Something like that is the situation we're in after the fall of the great totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century, communism and fascism. Of the two, the evil of fascism has generally been easier to recognize, or at any rate more widely recognized, principally because of the Holocaust but also because its mythos is in general less appealing, especially to those who set the terms and tone of opinion in our society. Communism had a deeper and wider appeal, in part because it spoke, superficially at least, to more benevolent motives. But if it's possible to say that one is worse than the other, I would say that communism takes the prize, in part because it was more successful and thus able to murder more people, and partly because it was more consciously and systematically an assault on God. Communism involved a cold intention to remove from the universe any moral authority external to man, to seize that authority for man�for the handful of men worthy of it, on behalf of all the rest�and to exercise it for the purpose of creating heaven in the only place where it could possibly exist, in this life. (Fascism, in contrast, seems to have been less coherent.)...

...Like the cloud that was Sauron, communism as an all-explanatory philosophy and an all-encompassing program of action, both directed against God, has been dispersed. There is no single ideology or mass movement with both its coherence and its popularity at work today. But the basic idea�there is no God, and we're glad there isn't, because now we can get on with the business of solving our problems without interference from superstition�is everywhere. The intellectual and spiritual presuppositions of much of our political and social discourse are the same as those of communism...

The "debonair nihilism" of our age does not produce the titanic struggles that were going on when I was a boy, though the battle is just as deadly. Now the "vapor of evil" is everywhere and nowhere, as hard to fight against as blowing leaves. The story Chambers tells is a kind of analog of our own story...

I quoted a little bit from Witness here

...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to you all...

From the Weidners.

...2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
3. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
5. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
6. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this...
--The Book of Isaiah, Chapter 9
Posted by John Weidner at 8:46 AM

December 22, 2008

Iraq?

James S. Robbins - The Corner:

The number of daily attacks in Iraq has fallen almost 95% from levels a year ago. Also of note, the murder rate in Iraq in November was 0.9 per 100,000 people. That is lower than the rate from before Saddam was overthrown. For those keeping score, the 2007 murder rate in the US was 5.9 per 100,000. Can we declare victory yet?

Iraq? Somphin happnin' in Iraq? Impossible, we would hear about it on the news...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:53 PM

"And the answer is: This is my duty"

I've blogged about this before, but the story is bigger than I knew. A "clandestine operation" forsooth! This is what real men do. Christian gentlemen. Duty, always duty. The hollow men of our time, the Eloi--they find excuses to duck their duty to God and country and the world. They pretend to be "pacifists," or seize hungrily upon abu Ghraib (which was a trifle compared to the usual abuses that happen in war) as their out. Their cold empty hearts acknowledge no duty, except to themselves.

Washington Times: For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark.

Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.

On Monday, the president is set to make a more common public trip - with reporters in tow - to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, home to many of the wounded and a symbol of controversy earlier in his presidency over the quality of care the veterans were receiving.

But the size and scope of Mr. Bush's and Mr. Cheney's private endeavors to meet with wounded soliders and families of the fallen far exceed anything that has been witnessed publicly, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials familiar with the effort.

"People say, 'Why would you do that?'" the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. "And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be - to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."

Mr. Bush, for instance, has sent personal letters to the families of every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice. The task, along with meeting family members of troops killed in action, has been so wrenching - balancing the anger, grief and pride of families coping with the loss symbolized by a flag-draped coffin - that the president often leaned on his wife, Laura, for emotional support.

"I lean on the Almighty and Laura," Mr. Bush said in the interview. "She has been very reassuring, very calming."

Mr. Bush also has met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action and with more than 950 wounded veterans, according to White House spokesman Carlton Carroll. Many of those meetings were outside the presence of the news media at the White House or at private sessions during official travel stops, officials said.

The first lady said those private visits, many of which she also attended, took a heavy emotional toll, not just on the president, but on her as well.
Vice President Cheney with troops in Qatar, March 17, 2002
Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 AM

December 21, 2008

"Yearning for that far home that might have been."

    THE UNFATHOMABLE SEA

The unfathomable sea, and time, and tears,
The deeds of heroes and the crimes of kings
Dispart us; and the river of events
Has, for an age of years, to east and west
More widely borne our cradles. Thou to me
Art foreign, as when seamen at the dawn
Descry a land far off and know not which.
So I approach uncertain; so I cruise
Round thy mysterious islet, and behold
Surf and great mountains and loud river-bars,
And from the shore hear inland voices call.
Strange is the seaman's heart; he hopes, he fears;
Drawn closer and sweeps wider from that coast;
Last, his rent sail refits, and to the deep
His shattered prow uncomforted puts back.
Yet as he goes he ponders at the helm
Of that bright island; where he feared to touch,
His spirit re-adventures; and for years,
Where by his wife he slumbers safe at home,
Thoughts of that land revisit him; he sees
The eternal mountains beckon, and awakes
Yearning for that far home that might have been.
-- ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Posted by John Weidner at 5:20 AM

December 20, 2008

Art for art's sake...

Well at least it's not going out with a whimper...

(Thanks to Zannah)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 AM

December 18, 2008

Looks like being in the Loyal Opposition is going to be a lot of laffs...

There are so many funny things lately. I keep finding myself staring at the screen with a big grin. This one sounds like a classic dirty trick played on some Euro-nihilist terror-appeasers who really deserve it...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: US Military Praise 'Ludicrous': Steinmeier Rejects Doubts about Agents in Iraq :

...The parliamentary investigative committee had been meeting for hours by the time daylight began fading in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday in Berlin. But right at 3:24 p.m., Germany's normally unflappable Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier lost his temper. He had said a number of times throughout the day that his patience was growing thin. This time, though, he pounded loudly on the table.

Few were surprised by the display of frustration. Anticipation of Steinmeier's appearance before the committee has been growing all week -- ever since SPIEGEL published US military praise for the help provided by two German intelligence agents stationed in Baghdad in the run-up to the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, Steinmeier was chief of staff under then Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der, who had staked his political reputation on his opposition to the war. Now, he is the Social Democrat candidate for the Chancellery in next year's elections. Should the investigative committee find that Germany assisted the US invasion, it could seriously harm Steinmeier's credibility.

All of which helps explain Steinmeier's vehement rejection of the new claims that German intelligence played an important role in the Iraq War. Repeatedly, he called the investigative committee "na�ve" for believing that the new US military comments weren't politically motivated. He called US comments 'ludicrous' and 'outlandish.' He said that the military praise of German intelligence was 'poisoned.'

The comments Steinmeier was referring to, though, are difficult to brush aside. General Tommy Franks, who led 'Operation Iraqi Freedom,' told SPIEGEL that 'it would be a huge mistake to underestimate the value of information provided by the Germans. These guys were invaluable.'

General James Marks, who was in charge of pre-invasion reconnaissance, told SPIEGEL that the two German agents from the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, were 'heroes' who had helped save American lives. He said 'we trusted the Germans more than we trusted the CIA.'

Marc Garlasco, who was head of High Value Targeting at the Pentagon during the Iraq invasion, told SPIEGEL that 'it is rewriting history to deny that the BND helped us in US military and combat operations during the war.' He also said 'German (human intelligence) was far more robust and ever present than any of the garbage we got from CIA sources. The Germans were reliable, professional military people...

I think W should give the guy a medal. That would fix his wagon!

"...the military praise of German intelligence was 'poisoned.'" Well yeah.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:53 PM

Well, Wright's a prophet, doncha know...

Mary Katharine Ham, Liberal Logic: Wright vs. Warren

Let me get this straight:

A 20-year association with a radically leftist, anti-American, racist preacher whom Obama referred to as a spiritual adviser meant absolutely nothing about Obama's judgment or philosophy, and illustrated only the bigotry of those who dared criticize it.

A 20-minute association with one of the country's most well-liked, mainstream evangelical preachers who happens to support traditional marriage cannot be countenanced and illustrates only the bigotry of those who would dare allow it.

Got it.
Posted by John Weidner at 4:40 PM

How many Progressives does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

We had dinner with a crowd of liberals last night, which provided me with one moment of bliss. A guy told me, with great seriousness, that while the departure of Bush and Sarah Palin from the public scene was good for the country, it was going to be bad for comedians, who will not have anything to poke fun at anymore....


Posted by John Weidner at 1:16 PM

"One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing . "

The Phoenix, Take Back Barack:

.....Millions of us stood up and shouted, handed out fliers, talked to our neighbors, donated hard-earned money, and drove people to the polls for Change. We screamed, hugged, kissed, and cried when we learned Change had come to America. We knew Change wouldn't come overnight, that it would take time, but we were excited that we had elected a man who was open to Change, who said he wanted to consider real people's needs while in the Oval Office. We eagerly awaited the first hints of Change, as the president-elect's transition developed.

And now, we have reason to worry that Change is not coming to America after all. For nearly two years we were encouraged to 'Be the Change you want to see in America.' It is now obvious that we have a ways to go toward Being that Change. And so does President-elect Barack Obama. And that, above all else, needs to Change....(Thanks to Orrin Judd.)

I suppose I ought to feel pity for the starry-eyed who swooned over Obam, and worked hard for "Change," but the fact is, they are so STUPID they deserve to be winnowed out of the gene-pool by Darwinian selection. If a person has reached the age of 46 years, then you can see what sort of person they are. If they are one of the rare people who changes things, then they will have already changed something! Accomplished something.

Obama and "change" is like a person who has been a shy introvert all their life announcing that, if elected, they will be an effervescent extrovert. C'mon now, how likely is that? How STUPID would a person have to be to believe that?

Actually, I don't think they are intrinsically stupid. They are rendered stupid by bad ideas.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 AM

What's that definition of insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over?

William Katz:

....Oh, by the way, having bashed a sitting governor, Sarah Palin, as unqualified to be vice president, how will Democrats defend the qualifications of Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate?� Just asking.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 AM

December 17, 2008

I just like the way Jonah writes...

Jonah Goldberg:

...There's the enormous I-should-have-had-a-V8! moment as the mainstream press collectively thwacks itself in the forehead, realizing it blew it again. The New York Times � which, according to Wall Street analysts, is weeks from holding editorial-board meetings in a refrigerator box � created the journalistic equivalent of CSI-Wasilla to study every follicle and fiber in Sarah Palin's background, all the while treating Obama's Chicago like one of those fairy-tale lands depicted in posters that adorn little girls' bedroom walls. See there, Suzie? That's a Pegasus. That's a pink unicorn. And that's a beautiful sunflower giving birth to a fully grown Barack Obama, the greatest president ever and the only man in history to be able to pick up manure from the clean end...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM

December 16, 2008

Bolster the economy....shop!

If you are going to do some Christmas shopping at amazon.com, do me a favor and click-through using this link, or the one I just put on the sidebar. Then Random Jottings may get a wee cut of the proceeds. (Or even better, make that page your amazon bookmark! Then never think about the matter again!)

If you can't see the above ad, because of ad-blockers or some such, here's a link to take you to the amazon page.

* Update: Note, I bumped this post up from last month--the comments are old ones...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:54 PM

Giggle of the morning...

TIME: Cheney Lauds Obama's National Security Team.

Dick Cheney on a Segway

I bet Obam's secretly wishing he could keep someone else from the Bush team...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:47 AM

We brought peace to the planet, and nobody noticed...

Our friend in India, Bisaal, put a comment at this post. I'm taking the great liberty of expanding my answer into a post, since I don't have any other inspiration this morning.

Bisasl wrote:

The Vietnam intervention didnt work out very well.
USA still has a lot of Army stationed in North Korea.
And now you have Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
The question is what does US wants to achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am yet to see an "Exit strategy".
Perhaps Afghanistan is a ruse for Pakistan in some way and Iraq WAS a danger (still it was a great pity that US had to undertake such trouble to get rid of an unpopular tyrant).

Bisaal, take a look at this photo.

See North Korea shrouded in inspissated gloom? And South Korea and Japan blazing with light? We (and the Brits) made that possible. Peace, prosperity and democracy. We still have a couple of brigades stationed in SK, but so what? They ensure that neither NK nor China is going to even think of military aggression on the Korean Peninsula, which is the natural path towards Japan. (And our air elements there help ensure that China will never invade Taiwan, another place that shines at night thanks to us.) We are the pacifists, 'cause we keep the peace.

Vietnam was badly bungled, but we ended up with a South Vietnam that was defending itself successfully against North Vietnamese attacks---until the vile traitor Democrats who controlled Congress after the Watergate scandal suddenly killed our military aid to them, and condemned them to Communist tyranny. If that hadn't happened satellite photos of the region would probably show contrasts similar to Korea's.

What do we want to achieve in Iraq? Much the same. (And we are already a long way towards that goal--we are no longer doing much real fighting there.)

Afghanistan may be hopeless as a possible democratic state, but that's the region where global jihad is centered, and I suspect we are just whacking at the hornet's nest, in hopes of stirring up open trouble we can solve. (Reminds me of a joke I found hilarious when I was six years old: "How do you cure a cold? You stand in the rain until you get pneumonia, because we have a cure for that."

The most important part of what we and our allies have achieved is that the places we have conquered aren't dangers to the world anymore. But the crazy thing is, we did it so well that nobody can even see it! You don't see it! Possible aggression by Germany or Japan or Italy used to be a HUGE worry, not to mention a huge reality. That's GONE! So far gone you don't even notice it.

We brought peace to most of the planet, and now everyone just takes it for granted, and thinks peace is the normal state of mankind! We talk about wars now, but there aren't any wars--not real ones. In September 1918 America committed 1,300,000 troops to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. We suffered about 117,000 casualties, including 48,909 dead. Wars like that are extinct; the last one was the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980's. That was the last time nation fought nation in any serious way. (This is reason #67 why "liberals" discourage the study of history.)

What we call "wars" now are always internal slaughters and genocides within failed states. (This includes our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; in both cases the governments in power melted away like mist, and we were almost immediately faced with the job of creating democratic states.)

Of course our fake-pacifists hate America! Our "exit strategy" is victory--followed by peace.

* Update: Oh, and Bisaal.... what we do is an Anglosphere thing. Britain did lots of peace-keeping in the 19th Century. Our main allies in all the fights of the 20th Century have been Britain, Canada, and Australia. So guess who that progression is pointing to! Who's next?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

December 15, 2008

I can hardly write amidst such turmoil...

Matthew Hoy:

In a report out today, the Associated Press makes an assertion.
President-elect Barack Obama, relatively young and inexperienced, is facing a rapidly growing list of monumental challenges as he prepares to take the reins of a nation in turmoil.
I'd really appreciate it if someone with access to the Lexis/Nexis database would do a search to see if the media ever referred to Obama as inexperienced on its own � not as a report of GOP criticism � during the campaign.

My thoughts:

Hackneyed prose alert. "Monumental" is a word that should be used sparingly. If all your challenges are "monumental," then when one really is monumental, you will have to call it "hyper-monumental."

Did they ever give any incoming Presidents named Bush such sympathetic treatment?

"Nation in turmoil." What does that mean? I'd guess it means: "Nation under Republican leader." After January 20 you may look forward to soothing balm being applied to a prostrate nation's wounds, and the fallen lifting their heads and blinking in surprise at a new dawn.

They are laying the groundwork to explain failure. If a "young and inexperienced" person faces a long list of monumentals, well, "what can anyone do?"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 AM

You can't call them Nazis...they have a clinic!

This piece by the "Public Editor" of the NYT, Separating the Terror and the Terrorists, is about the reluctance of the Times to use the word "terrorist."

The namby-pamby-ism is just amazin'. I could write a long thoughtful screed on why obvious terrorists are not called terrorists, but really all it takes is a sentence. The Times, and most of our lefty "journalists," are like the isolationists before WWII trying to write about Nazi Germany. If you tell the truth (then or now) you are lining up for war alongside the United States and the Jews.

....The issue comes up most often in connection with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and to the dismay of supporters of Israel--and sometimes supporters of the other side, denouncing Israeli military actions--The Times is sparing in its use of 'terrorist' when reporting on that complex struggle.

The reluctance carried over when the Mumbai attacks began. Graham Bowley, who was writing for a Times blog, The Lede, said, "I'm aware very much of the sensitivity around the word, so I knew they had to be 'attackers'�" until the paper knew more. One of his editors, Andrea Kannapell, told me she was much more focused in the early hours on who the people were and what they were doing than on what to call them.

Readers like 'Bill' were having none of it, and as Jim Roberts, the editor of the Web site, read their comments, he began to think they had a point. 'Indiscriminately shooting civilians seems on its very face to be an act of terror,' he said. How, Roberts wondered, could you separate the act from the actor?

He conferred with Kannapell, Paul Winfield, the news editor, and Phil Corbett, Winfield's deputy. Winfield talked with Ian Fisher, a deputy foreign editor. 'Terrorist' became an acceptable term in the Mumbai story. 'We jointly decided we didn't need to be throwing the word around flagrantly, but we didn't need to run away from it, either,' Roberts said.

Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer, whose father, Leon, was shot and thrown from a cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists in 1985, wrote a letter to the editor asking why The Times was referring to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the shadowy group that apparently orchestrated the Mumbai attacks, as a 'militant group.' "When people kill innocent civilians for political gain, they should be called 'terrorists,'�" the sisters said.

Susan Chira, the foreign editor, said The Times may eventually put that label on Lashkar, but reporters are still trying to learn more about it. 'Our instinct is to proceed with caution, not rushing to label any group with the word terrorist before we have a deeper understanding of its full dimensions,' she said.

To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: 'You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic � is that person a terrorist? We don't want to go there.' I think that is right.....

My advice to Lashkar-e-Taiba: open a clinic. That will give the Times cover for its appeasement.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:55 AM

December 14, 2008

The future belongs to those who will fight for it...

I found this piece from The Australian, Obama May Have To Keep Neo-con Ideals, very revealing. For the obvious irony of course, but more for the underlying dilemma of the left--which won't go away because a lefty is in the White House... (I point the problem out in paragraph three.)

Ian Buruma writes:

WITH George W. Bush's presidency about to end, what will happen to the neo-conservatives? Rarely in the history of US politics has a small number of bookish intellectuals had so much influence on foreign policy as the neo-cons had under Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, neither of whom is noted for his deep intellectual interests. [They are both of them deeper thinkers than the press wants us to know. But more importantly, the job of a leader is NOT to be a clever intellectual, but to have the wisdom to chose the right policies. A wise leader uses intellectuals such as the neo-cons, none of whom should ever be president.]

Most presidents hope to attach some special meaning to their time in office. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, gave neo-con intellectuals the chance to lend their brand of revolutionary idealism to the Bush-Cheney enterprise. [Note how the author insunuates motives here--but he will not present any evidence for the sneer. The neo-cons had been saying for decades that our policies were failing, and we were heading for big trouble. Being right when everyone else was wrong tends to EARN one the job of cleaning up the mess.]

Writing for journals such as The Weekly Standard and using the pulpits of think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, neo-cons offered an intellectual boost to the invasion of Iraq. The logic of the US mission to spread freedom across the globe - grounded, it was argued, in American history since the founding fathers - demanded nothing less. [I'll fill you in on what's really going on. You can skip the rest of my stuff, but understand this: This "neo-con" notion of overthrowing tyrants and spreading freedom is linked in our history with certain leaders...FDR, Truman, JFK. It is the quintessential LIBERAL project. In fact it is fair to call the neo-cons Liberals, in the older sense of those who think that things and countries can be fixed.

They, and Bush, are the true liberals of our time. That's why they are hated by the Left. Because most leftists are no longer liberals, but are still wearing liberal garments as a disguise. Bush and the Iraq Campaign have shone a cruel spotlight on leftists, and revealed them as the nihilists they have become. You will never understand current politics until you grasp that liberals aren't liberal anymore. Baruma is tiptoeing around the problem in this piece.]

Objections from European and Asian allies were brushed away as old-fashioned, unimaginative, cowardly reactions to the dawn of a new age of worldwide democracy, [Which they were.] enforced by unassailable US military power. [The neo-cons never said any such thing. Rather, that democracy was something that would grow and take root if our power cleared it some space. Since this has happened many times in the post-WWII world, it's not an unreasonable proposal.]

The neo-cons will not be missed by many. [I'd bet money you are wrong.] They made their last stand in the presidential election campaign of Republican John McCain, whose foreign policy advisers included some prominent members of the fraternity. (Most were men.) None, so far, seems to have found much favour in the ranks of Barack Obama's consultants.  [Wait'll he actually decides to accomplish something. He'll need to find some thinkers who still believe that things can be fixed. Nihilists and "realists" won't cut it.]

Such clout as the neo-cons wielded under Bush is unusual in the political culture of the US, which is noted for its scepticism towards intellectual experiments. [And yet with a straight face Leftists will say that Bush is "anti-intellectual."]

A certain degree of philistinism in politics is not a bad thing. Intellectuals, usually powerless themselves outside the rarefied preserves of think tanks and universities, are sometimes too easily attracted to powerful leaders in the hope that such leaders may carry out their ideas.

But wise leaders are necessarily pragmatic because messy reality demands compromise and accommodation. Only zealots want ideas to be pushed to their logical extremes. The combination of powerful leaders with an authoritarian bent and intellectual idealists often results in bad policies. [Baruma's so close, but can't make the leap. The Iraq Campaign was extremely pragmatic. You can read my reasons here.]

This is what happened when Bush and Cheney took up the ideas promoted by the neo-cons. Both previously had been pragmatic men. Bush first ran for office as a cautious conservative, prepared to be moderate at home and humble abroad. Cheney was better known as a ruthless bureaucratic operator than a man of bold ideas. But he was obsessed with the notion of expanding the executive powers of the president. [He was, wisely, concerned to reverse the post-Watergate erosion of Presidential power. It was not an expansion. And each of our major wars has required the amplification of executive power. Bush has done nothing compared to Lincoln or Wilson or FDR.]

The combustible mix of autocratic ambition and misguided idealism took hold soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Even if, by some miracle, Iraq were to evolve into a stable, harmonious, liberal democratic state, the price already paid in (mostly Iraqi) blood and (mostly American) treasure is already too high to justify the kind of revolutionary military intervention promoted by the neo-cons. [ Nonsense. The price has been TRIFLING compared to our other experiments in freeing countries and helping them become democratic. About one tenth of the price for South Korea for instance---does the author think that was a mistake? Would he care to compare North and South Korea, and then apply the same standard to Truman that he does to Bush?]

Another casualty of neo-conservative hubris may be the idea of spreading democracy. The word, when voiced by US government spokesmen, has become tainted by neo-imperialist connotations. [The connotations exist only in the heads of lefty nihilists. To the oppressed peoples of the earth the dream is as sweet as ever. As witness the ENVY being expressed in Third World countries because here in America a corrupt governor has been arrested!]

Similar things have happened before, of course. The idealism of Japanese intellectuals in the 1930s and early '40s was partly responsible for Japan's catastrophic war to liberate Asia from Western imperialism. [What pernicious nonsense. This is the usual "moral equivalence" malarky of people desperate to deny that there are high ideals that impose a DUTY on them. ]

The ideal of pan-Asian solidarity in a common struggle for independence was not a bad one; it was commendable. [That "ideal" was never Japanese policy. Our ideals ARE policy.] But the idea that it could be enforced by the imperial Japanese army running amok through China and Southeast Asia was disastrous. [There is no comparison. We have not "run amok;" we have liberated just two countries, and helped them form elected constitutional governments. ]

Socialism, too, was a brave and necessary corrective to the social inequalities that emerged from laissez-faire capitalism. Watered down by the compromises without which liberal democracies cannot thrive, socialism did a great deal of good in western Europe. [Europe is DYING, you fool. Dying of socialism before our eyes. Every European country is in demographic collapse. Europe is bankrupt and decadent, no longer leading in ANY realm except bureaucratic regulation. Not in religion, nor ideas, nor movements, nor economic growth, nor innovation, nor the arts. No one goes to Europe for the exciting new trends. (Except to Vatican City.) Socialism has failed, always and everywhere.] But attempts to implement socialist or communist ideals through force ended in oppression and mass murder.

This is why many central and eastern Europeans view even social democracy with suspicion. Even as Obama is worshipped in western Europe, many Poles, Czechs and Hungarians think he is some kind of socialist. [They KNOW! They know the beast.]

The neo-cons, despite their name, were not really conservatives at all. They were radical opponents of the pragmatic approach to foreign strongmen espoused by people who called themselves realists. Even though the arch-realist Henry Kissinger endorsed the war in Iraq, his brand of realpolitik was the primary target of neo-con intellectuals. [To oppose "realism" does not mean you are not a conservative.]

They believed that aggressive promotion of democracy abroad was not only moral, and in the US tradition, but in the national interest as well. [They didn't just assert it, they made a case. Which leftists have never countered in any credible way. Instead they just pretend the theory has already been invalidated.]

There is a core of truth in this assertion. Liberals, too, can agree that Islamist terrorism, for instance, is linked to the lack of democracy in the Middle East. Realism, in the sense of balancing power by appeasing dictators, has its limits.

Democracy must be encouraged, wherever possible, by the most powerful democracy on earth. But revolutionary wars are not the most effective way to do this. [I've bad news for you pal. It's always going to be a bloody and messy business. Therefore it will only be done by those who still have beliefs they are willing to fight for. Therefore you Eloi are out of the game. You are useless and obsolete. The future belongs to those who will fight for it.]

What is needed is to find a less belligerent, more liberal way to promote democracy, stressing international co-operation instead of blunt military force. [It'll never happen. It's the same with nations as with individuals. Those who are willing to fight are real, all others are just fading shadows. You might notice that the "shadows"�people or nations� have at least two things in common. Lack of Christian or Jewish faith.......and socialism.]

Obama is unlikely to repeat the mistakes of the neo-cons. [He will have to folllow the template Bush has set for the WoT. But he will probably not do it as well.] But, to succeed, he will have to save some of their ideals from the ruins of their disastrous policies. [He is going to piggyback on Bush's successes, and try to claim them as his own.]

Posted by John Weidner at 6:28 PM

"The liturgy has no purpose"

From The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Romano Guardini...
...The Church, however, has another side. It embraces a sphere which is in a special sense free from purpose. And that is the liturgy. The latter certainly comprehends a whole system of aims and purposes, as well as the instruments to accomplish them. It is the business of the Sacraments to act as the channels of certain graces. This mediation, however, is easily and quickly accomplished when the necessary conditions are present. The administration of the Sacraments is an example of a liturgical action which is strictly confined to the one object. Of course, it can be said of the liturgy, as of every action and every prayer which it contains, that it is directed towards the providing of spiritual instruction. This is perfectly true. But the liturgy has no thought-out, deliberate, detailed plan of instruction. In order to sense the difference it is sufficient to compare a week of the ecclesiastical year with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

In the latter every element is determined by deliberate choice, everything is directed towards the production of a certain spiritual and didactic result; each exercise, each prayer, even the way in which the hours of repose are passed, all aim at the one thing, the conversion of the will. It is not so with the liturgy. The fact that the latter has no place in the Spiritual Exercises is a proof of this. The liturgy wishes to teach, but not by means of an artificial system of aim- conscious educational influences; it simply creates an entire spiritual world in which the soul can live according to the requirements of its nature.

The difference resembles that which exists between a gymnasium, in which every detail of the apparatus and every exercise aims at a calculated effect, and the open woods and fields. In the first everything is consciously directed towards discipline and development, in the second life is lived with Nature, and internal growth takes place in her. The liturgy creates a universe brimming with fruitful spiritual life, and allows the soul to wander about in it at will and to develop itself there. The abundance of prayers, ideas, and actions, and the whole arrangement of the calendar are incomprehensible when they are measured by the objective standard of strict suitability for a purpose. The liturgy has no purpose, or, at least, it cannot be considered from the standpoint of purpose. It is not a means which is adapted to attain a certain end--it is an end in itself. This fact is important, because if we overlook it, we labor to find all kinds of didactic purposes in the liturgy which may certainly be stowed away somewhere, but are not actually evident.

When the liturgy is rightly regarded, it cannot be said to have a purpose, because it does not exist for the sake of humanity, but for the sake of God. In the liturgy man is no longer concerned with himself; his gaze is directed towards God. In it man is not so much intended to edify himself as to contemplate God's majesty. The liturgy means that the soul exists in God's presence, originates in Him, lives in a world of divine realities, truths, mysteries and symbols, and really lives its true, characteristic and fruitful life.... [link to online version]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:54 AM

December 12, 2008

Rights become negotiable....

Charlene pointed me to these paragraphs from a piece in the Weekly Standard, Human Rights at 60:

....How did we arrive at this dismal state of affairs? The problem is not simply that human rights have become grossly politicized. The problem is that rights have been profoundly secularized--and severed from their deepest moral foundation, the concept of man as the imago Dei, the image of God.

Under the banner of 'multiculturalism,' the United Nations has produced a torrent of treaties and conventions, with ever-expanding categories of rights. In the process, the Western idea of rights as transcendent claims against a coercive state has been greatly weakened. Human rights are on the same footing as social benefits and economic aspirations. Thus, we have the spectacle of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development inviting North Korea--a regime that sustains itself by starving its people--to become a member in good standing. We have nations such as Iran claiming an 'inalienable right' to nuclear technology, language that in fact appears in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Where is Thomas Jefferson when you need him? When human rights are no longer considered the gift of nature and nature's God, human dignity is made more vulnerable to assault. When repressive regimes are rewarded with membership and voting privileges in U.N. bodies, the entire human rights project is debased. The political result is that fundamental rights--the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of religion--become negotiable. In the end, they become disposable....

That rights can be negotiable is exactly what the Fathers of this country opposed. "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament, and would be secured by the study of history, law, and tradition." -- John Adams

I despair about these and similar things. Our rights erode before our eyes because we won't think clearly about them. But of course it is always a small minority of human beings who will think clearly about ANY subject. If we are dependent on thinking we are toast, and that's always been the case.

Which is why � you liberals needn't bother reading this; you are probably too far gone to get it � which is why tradition is valuable above almost anything. Individuals don't think, but cultures slowly ruminate, with God's help, and codify wisdom in the form of tradition.

The wise person will consult tradition first, and cherish it because it will be in many ways wiser than he can ever be.

And those who wish to destroy us will attack tradition. Will sneer at it, and undermine it. For instance by inventing new "rights" to destroy the traditional Anglospheric belief that rights are inalienable, which is to say that they are bigger than us, and not something we create.

And the attacks being made on our rights and traditions are always disguised as things beneficial. Liberals today often assert that we have a "right" to health care. This is an extremely evil thing in itself (That's a subject for another post) but it is also a very insidious attack on our rights because who could dare be against health care? How could one be so cold-hearted as to be against such health? How easy it is to denigrate that person, to say they are heartless, and want people to die.!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 AM

December 10, 2008

Life in SF...

My wife the lawyer got in two new cases today....Ting and Tang!

Now she's humming some song about a witch-doctor.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 PM

Why I love Camille....

Camille Paglia, on, among many other things, Dick Cavett's absurd slam at Sarah Palin's English...

...Yes, that is the lordly Yale that formed Dick Cavett's linguistic and cultural assumptions and that has alarmingly resurfaced in the contempt that he showed for the self-made Sarah Palin in "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla." I am very sorry that he, and so many other members of the educational elite, cannot take pleasure as I do in the quick, sometimes jagged, but always exuberant way that Palin speaks -- which is closer to street rapping than to the smug bourgeois cadences of the affluent professional class.

English has evolved, and the world has moved on. There is no necessary connection between bourgeois syntax and practical achievement. I have never had the slightest problem with understanding Sarah Palin's meaning at any time. Since when do free Americans subscribe to a stuffy British code of veddy, veddy proper English? We don't live in a stultified class system. In the U.K., in fact, many literary leftists make a big, obnoxious point about retaining their working-class accents. Too many American liberals claim to be defenders of the working class and then run like squealing mice from working-class manners and mores (including moose hunting and wolf control). What smirky, sheltered hypocrites. Get the broom!...

"Get the broom!" Ha ha. "Street rapping." Well, it's true. Sometimes her cackle just makes my head spin, it comes so fast...but it always makes good sense.

Life is frustrating in many ways, but I take comfort in thinking that Sarah will be making effete liberal frauds squirm and suffer for years to come...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 AM

December 9, 2008

The big moment! The turnaround! What we've all been waiting for...

Rob Walker, at Slate, writes about the current ad campaign by GM to persuade us that they have really "turned the corner" this time. And notices that it all sounds familiar...

GM begs forgiveness, again:

....GM says that campaign is aimed at the apparently large segment of the car-buying public that simply won't consider its models. The company's North American president calls it 'a unique effort to reach those consumers whose perceptions of GM are out of step with today's reality.' I suppose that's reasonable, but let's say you're one of the thousands who did buy a GM car in the 1980s and 1990s. You, apparently, were a sucker. Your vehicle was not put together by a company with 'a true culture of quality in every division.' That's not what I'm saying--it's what GM is saying.

Or at least, it's what GM is saying now. Twenty years ago, as it happens, GM's then-chief executive was calling 1983 'the turnaround year we have been working for.' That was Roger Smith. Six years later he and GM President Robert Stempel reiterated that a 'turnaround' in 'product quality' and 'customer service' had been underway for 'some time.' When Stempel assumed the top slot alone a year later he assured us that GM's 'entire focus' was on customer satisfaction. Meanwhile GM's share of new-car sales fell from 44 percent of the U.S. market to about 35 percent.

Stempel was run out of Dodge (as it were) by the company's board about two years later, and GM announced that 'fundamental changes' in its business were underway. Market share dipped below 30 percent, but not to worry. In late 1994 the New York Times reported that the new president and CEO was saying that GM's North American operations 'had 'absolutely' turned the corner.' Another GM executive noted the carmaker's focus on the consumer ... and so on. Last year, for what it's worth, GM had about 28 percent of the domestic vehicle market...

Either they are making exciting, appealing cars, or they are not. That's the only question.

All the rest is meaningless if they can't do that. Improving "product quality" or "customer service" is management, and any company can make such improvements if it tries hard. But for a giant company to come up with that mysterious something that generates excitement...that requires something like generalship. Like Marlborough* calmly watching hours of inconclusive carnage on the battlefield, waiting for the wavering he expects in the French line as the redcoats grind them down, and then committing his reserves at the exact moment.

GM had a moment of opportunity when Saturn was launched. I remember how there was real buzz about a GM line of cars, and people were eager to show off their new Saturns to the neighbors. That was probably a moment for GM to ruthlessly sacrifice a couple of moribund older car lines, and fling its resources into the new models. But to do that the leader has to be a killer. Thousands of decent people--his own friends maybe--have to be thrown out of work. And the opprobrium that would fall on the guy who scrapped, say, Pontiac! Wow! Painful. (By the way it is the moral thing to be a "killer" at such a time. Inaction would be morally wrong. Like a doctor too soft-hearted to amputate a limb to save a life.)

[*I know, I know, nobody thinks about the Duke of Marlborough anymore. Or even smokes his cigarettes. "Will the last person who cares about history please lock the door? Mr Weidner?" I recall it was Voltaire who wrote something like: "Who has not heard of the Siege of Malta?" Pretty soon it will be: "Has anybody here heard of Voltaire?"]

       

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

December 8, 2008

"I should be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket, Watson..."

Reason #339 why liberals discourage the study of history... (Thanks to Glenn R.)

If each of us carried a gun--Times Online:

....Rhetoric about standing firm against terrorists aside, in Britain we have no more legal deterrent to prevent an armed assault than did the people of Mumbai, and individually we would be just as helpless as victims. The Mumbai massacre could happen in London tomorrow; but probably it could not have happened to Londoners 100 years ago.

In January 1909 two such anarchists, lately come from an attempt to blow up the president of France, tried to commit a robbery in north London, armed with automatic pistols. Edwardian Londoners, however, shot back -- and the anarchists were pursued through the streets by a spontaneous hue-and-cry. The police, who could not find the key to their own gun cupboard, borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by, while other citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns preferred to use their weapons themselves to bring the assailants down.

Today we are probably more shocked at the idea of so many ordinary Londoners carrying guns in the street than we are at the idea of an armed robbery. But the world of Conan Doyle's Dr Watson, pocketing his revolver before he walked the London streets, was real. The arming of the populace guaranteed rather than disturbed the peace.

That armed England existed within living memory....

I've read about incidents like this in Israel, where people pull out their pistols and chase down terrorists. Terrorism isn't a new concept. what's new is our populations of hapless "protected" people, who are taught to think that nothing's worth fighting for. Also new is the twisted idea that countries can safely wage covert war by supporting terrorist groups. In the past that would have been pointless, because they would have gotten open war pronto. Just another way that pacifism causes war and bloodshed.

The article also has this quote by Ghandi, which I had not seen before:

"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest"
Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 PM

December 7, 2008

Parasites...

Our letter to Amazon.com, regarding their: "Amazon Music's 12 Days of Holiday" promo... (Thanx to Mark Steyn.)

Please tell someone in charge who cares about your customers (if there are any) that we are people who spend a lot of money with you, and we are disgusted and offended by your "twelve days of holiday" promotion.

You probably have some BS line about "Christmas" being offensive to other faiths, but it isn't. It's only offensive to lefty nihilists. To YOU.

If you don't like "Christmas," why don't you have the HONESTY to stop having what are obviously Christmas promotions, from which you make a mint of money! And stop using a Christmas carol for advertising that is unwilling to use the word "Christmas."

John and Charlene Weidner

PS: Have a happy and Holy Christmas.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:06 PM

Insanity dissected...

From The Church and the Culture War: Secular Anarchy or Sacred Order, by Joyce A. Little...
...Today in America the imperial or autonomous self reigns. What more and more Americans seek, above all else, is the feeling that they themselves are in total control of their lives, that in some ultimate sense they are sufficient unto themselves, requiring nothing and no one else. Thirty years ago there was talk of the "me generation." We have now seen two "me generations", with a third already well on the way. These are the people who value above all things self-empowerment and seek as their highest goals self-actuaization, self-realization and self-fulfillment...

...These are the people who, if they are spiritually oriented, find a home in the New Age movement, which assures them they are gods unto themselves. "The self that God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving", we are told in the preface to A Course in Miracles , the basic text of the New Age. "Spirit is in a state of grace forever. Your reality is only spirit. Therefore you are in a state of grace forever."...
[...]

....This trivialization of all choices rests on a trivialization of all differences among people. This has resulted in the invidious habit of calling the way a person lives his "lifestyle." Those who speak the language of lifestyles betray by that language the meaninglessness they attach to all choices. As [Christopher] Lasch correctly notes, "They reduce choice to a matter of style and taste, as their preoccupation with 'lifestyles' indicates. Their bland innocuous conception of pluralism assumes that all preferences, all 'lifestyles,' all 'taste cultures.'...are equally valid."

In the final analysis, the imperial self, intent on exercising absolute freedom of choice, cannot accept any realm of objective truth or morality which would inhibit that freedom by requiring the self to conform itself to that objective truth. As the Pope [John Paul II] points out in Veritatis Splendor, "Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extant that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values." This notion that every person is the source of his own values is quite popular today. As the Pope observes, "Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others." (VS 32) The result of this subjectivism is not lost on John Paul II. "This ultimately means making freedom self-defining and a phenomenon creative of itself and its values. Indeed, when all is said and done, man would not even have a nature; he would be his own personal life-project."...

Excerpts don't do this great book justice. Read, as they say in Blogistan, the whole thing.

My thoughts below the fold...

To try to "fulfill" yourself is slavery. Your "self", a brutal taskmaster, will whip you ever onwards trying to make yourself into something wide and fat and tall, something that "matters." But that's crazy; the things that matter must, obviously, be very important things, and you are always going to be small in comparison to them. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Your quest is impossible.

Real freedom consists in being able to choose the good. And when you do, you will, necessarily, be a servant. That's the only thing that makes sense, once you chose the good. To serve it. And you are then more free because you have chosen not to be a slave to yourself. And happier too.

The craziest slavery of all is to try to escape slavery to your demanding self by.... your own efforts! Duh. Where does that get you? Think of the kind of people who go off on "spiritual quests." They spend twenty years freeing themselves from the Wheel of Existence, and then discover that Global Warming is the most important issue, and Mr Obama is "The One." And that they need to buy a Prius pronto, to break the entanglements of the material world... (The obligations and responsibilities that come with the good things of our world however--those they get "detached from" easily. The lil' swamis suck non-stop on the peace and prosperity of this great and good country, and Western Civilization, while attaining lofty spiritual detachment from giving anything back--even a word of thanks.)

Spiritually speaking, you would probably be better off joining the US Army, and striving cheerfully to do whatever shambolic tasks you are assigned.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:37 AM

December 5, 2008

If the animal-rights loonies don't like it...

....It's good by me!

I was just telling Charlene there's nothing to read on the blogs, and then Andrea came through. Thanks! ...

Yes, there is a Santa Claus:

And I'll bet he eats reindeer sausage.

I don't know about you, but my estimation of Ikea just went up a little from that report. I mean, I love their cheap Swedish-designed crap assembled into flat packs by Chinese political prisoners like anyone else, but selling reindeer meat during the holidays? That takes balls. I wonder if they have any at my local store... (Probably not, I do live near Disney World after all -- God forbid some tourist decide to stop by for Swedish meatballs and see that Donder and Blitzen are shrinkwrapped and ready for snacking...)
Posted by John Weidner at 8:40 PM

December 4, 2008

How likely is the "accident" theory?

A prominent SF Jewish gay pro-Israel activist goes to his Arabic class--which was cancelled, but he didn't get the message--and somehow forces open the door of an out-of-order elevator and falls down the shaft and is killed. Police are calling it an "accident."

Read here.

Of course they call it an accident. THEY DON'T WANT TO KNOW! Don't want to know they're at war.

Same as huge numbers of other people don't want to know. Like these:
...So why are so many prominent Western media reluctant to call the perpetrators terrorists? Why did Jon Snow, one of Britain's most respected TV journalists, use the word "practitioners" when referring to the Mumbai terrorists? Was he perhaps confusing them with doctors?

Why did Britain's highly regarded Channel 4 News state that the "militants" showed a "wanton disregard for race or creed" when exactly the opposite was true: Targets and victims were very carefully selected. Why did the "experts" invited to discuss the Mumbai attacks in one show on the state-funded Radio France Internationale, the voice of France around the world, harp on about Baruch Goldstein (who carried out the Hebron shootings in 1994), virtually the sole case of a Jewish terrorist in living memory?...

Especially sickening to me is that American Jews don't want to know. Or rather, liberal Jews. They've converted to a new secularist faith, and desperately wish that the crazy uncles in their mental attics would just go away, and stop the God talk, so they can assimilate in peace, and enjoy being Eloi.

FOOLS. If you are Jewish, there are millions of people on this planet who would enjoy killing you. Personally. With their own hands. And they don't care that you've discovered flower-power and you think weakness and passivity will make war go away and everyone live as brothers-in-insipidity.

And this would be less of an evil if "liberals" were only endangering themselves. But appeasment tends to get other people killed.
You may not be interested in war,
but war is interested in you.
    -- Leon Trotsky

* ALSO: I wrote a post a couple of years back, about the way police almost always label lone-wolf jihadis as anything except......Islamic terrorists. They are always said to be mentally disturbed individuals who were upset by their purely secular personal life.....even if they put a Koran in their pocket and start killing people. I can't find the post now. Does anybody remember any key-words I can search for?

* Update: Never mind, I found it. The key-word was "Bosnia." GO READ IT!
>

December 3, 2008

Our Secretary of State is cooler than your Secretary of State...

I haven't been wildly enthusiastic about Condi's diplomatic doings lately, but boy is that Lefty/Hollywood crapola about Democrats being artsy and cool and hip, and Republicans being dull and stodgy a bunch of silly BS! Especially when you hear it from ghastly woman-hating old harridans of "feminism" bashing Sarah, or wrinkled "stars" sucking up to the trashy Clintons...

Condi in black...



Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 PM

Moral choices are not made in a vacuum...

[Warning: A post that rambles away from the original topic.]

A stupid idea, from Robert Kagan...

....Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan...

What's wrong with this idea? The problem is that dealing with the Tribal Areas and the frontier regions as a whole will require fighting. Murderous savage combat. Aggressive fighting by small units, willing to take casualties, and inflict lots of them. [Actually, my guess is that the region will not be pacified by anything less than neutron bombs. Expect trouble for the rest of your lifetime.]

And we have discovered over and over the last few decades that there are no "international forces" that will fight. We have seen it with UN "blue helmet" operations--often gruesomely as the international forces stand by and let genocide happen. We see it right now in Afghanistan, where the "NATO forces" are meaningless as a whole. As always, the Anglosphere nations. Americans and Brits and Australians will fight. The French a little bit, the Germans or Dutch not at all.

The whole idea of "international institutions" is a fraud and a sham, and probably always will be. When significant things are accomplished in the world, it is because people believe in something. And the essence of an "international institution" is that it does not believe in anything. Why? Because it has to be a "lowest-common-denominator" of the belief of the national components. And then you have to reduce that by a factor of ten, because the people who run or promote such institutions are almost always going to be those who like a lack of belief.

It is (sorry to bore those who have already heard this) the draining away of belief in the hearts of the developed nations that is the core problem that has caused the terror war, and caused analogous problems like piracy in the Indian Ocean. Of course we were always destined for lots of ugly violent situations as globalization collided with Third World (especially Islamic) chaos and primitiveness. But a West that still retained belief in is own values would have been slamming down hard on things like terrorism or piracy when they first arose. And doing so would be morally correct. (Because, among other reasons, it is always the locals who suffer most when lawlessness is tolerated!) Those would have been actions similar to those of loving teachers or parents not allowing children to fall into crime or vice. It would be tough-love. The same thing works in analogous ways at every level. For instance, it is morally wrong for a city to let a race-riot develop, when killing a few rioters at the beginning would prevent it. Even if the rioters have legitimate grievances.

Focus for a moment on the magistrate who has to make the moral choice that a race-riot must be stopped at its first moment, even if deadly force is needed, and even if some innocent people may die. That's a very tough choice. It takes moral fiber. If he lacks it, then the result may be weeks of violence and killing, and the destruction of whole communities. Entire neighborhoods burnt down, and schools, homes, small businesses and churches gutted. We have seen this...

And the official doesn't make his choice in a vacuum. He feels the support--or lack of it--of the community and the culture. Unless he (or she) is very strong, support is needed. If only for the knowledge that he won't be hung out to dry for making a tough call! And therefore, brothers and sisters, it is WE who are really making that decision. It is OUR moral strength that is called into question. And we exert that strength mostly through a thousand smaller moral decisions. We communicate to our surroundings our integrity, and unconsciously we influence others, at their moments of moral choice.

And the ladders of influence go from the lowest rungs to the highest, and back down. The local magistrate who makes the hard choice to stop a riot instantly, before he knows how bad it will turn out to be, sends a message to national leaders who may have to chose to violently stop piracy before they know how big the problem is destined to grow.

I remember in my youth the first airplane hijacking, or at least the first one to grab the world's attention. And the reaction of officialdom was, "Give the hijacker what he wants, to save lives." We see now that that was a catastrophic decision, one that has caused thousands of deaths, and vast loss of treasure, and led directly to 9/11. And yet in a sense that decision was based on many previous bad decisions-- for instance deciding to give in to the demands of criminals who took hostages.

Sheer prudence and logic should have told us long ago that a policy of reacting to any hostage situation by instant deadly force would save many many lives in the long run. But prudence and logic are never enough. Not when the bank-robber is holding a gun to a child's head. Logic cannot generate moral law, and engrave it on our hearts. Moral law only can come from God, or from other sources of authority [Read this.]. Countless attempts to provide alternative man-made "liberal" sources of morality have all failed. And we see the results all around us.

Based on observation of the state of religious faith around us, I feel confident in predicting that these quasi-wars that afflict our planet will continue, and probably grow. Expect Mumbai.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 AM

December 2, 2008

Just another deception to be aware of...

Katherine Lopez on the oft-repeated myth that Saxby Chambliss ran a despicable commercial against Max Cleland. The myth is being brought up again because Palin is campaigning for Chambliss...

...Now, in Anchorage -- and no doubt all over MSNBC's talking-heads shows today -- the myth lives on. The ADN item accused: "In the best Karl Rove fashion, Chambliss the draft-evader attacked Cleland the war hero for being soft on terrorism. Distorting Cleland's votes about workplace rules for the new Homeland Security Department employees, Chambliss portrayed him as a tool of terrorists like Osama bin Laden."

Saxby Chambliss, of course, did not question Cleland's patriotism. He ran an ad that, yes, included images of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, as well as images of the American military. They were reminders we're at war. The ad attacked Cleland for voting 11 times against a homeland-security bill that would have freed the president from some union mandates in setting up the new department. Agree or disagree with the bill (which was co-sponsored by then-senator Zell Miller of Georgia, a Democrat), the non-union employee measure, or the establishment of the department itself (National Review wasn't a fan of the idea), but it was absolutely fair game for Chambliss to bring it up during the course of his campaign for Cleland's Senate seat.

As NR editor Rich Lowry has written of the incident, "If you can't criticize the Senate votes of a senator in a Senate race, what can you criticize?"...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 AM

December 1, 2008

Truer than ever...

"We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."
      -- George Orwell
Posted by John Weidner at 10:02 PM