February 28, 2009

Cool hobby...

Pensioner spends 30 years building amazing model of Herod's Temple ... but admits he won't be around to finish it | Mail Online:

...Brick by brick, tiny figure by tiny figure, Alec Garrard has painstakingly worked for 30 years on an astonishing recreation of Herod's Temple.

But despite spending all that time and effort the retired farmer believes he won't finish it in his lifetime as he keeps finding things to add to it.

In contrast, legend has it that the original construction of the entire complex lasted only three years, although historians believe it took far longer.

It was his fascination for religion and buildings which first started Alec on the Biblical project which now measures 20ft by 12ft and is housed in a seperate building in his garden.

His version is so impressive that some of the world's top archaeologists and experts from the British Museum have come to view it....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 PM

February 27, 2009

Notgeld - "emergency currency"

You might want to take a look at these pictures of "private money" used in Germany in the 30's. It's interesting both historically and artistically... (Thanks to Shrine of the Holy Whapping.)

Notgeld - Pre-Inflationary German Currency - a set on Flickr:

My wife's family lived in Germany until 1936, when they were lucky enough to leave. My wife's grandfather collected thousands of bills produced by the different towns and companies to make front to deflation first and inflation later and provide certain stability to workers and residents."Notgeld" (emergency currency) was provided by cities, boroughs, or even private companies while there was a shortage of official coins and bills....

...Some companies for example couldn't pay their workers (cashless pay wasn't very popular back then...) because the Reichsbank just couldn't provide enough bills. So they started to print their own money - they even asked the Reichsbank beforehand. As long as the Notgeld was accepted, no real harm was done and it just was a certificate of debt. Often it was even a more stable currency than the "real" money, as sometimes the denomination was a certain amount of gold, corn, meat etc.

And they made it very pretty on purpose: many people would start to collect the bills, and the debt would never have to be paid. Also it was printed on all kinds of material: leather, fabric, porcelain, silk, tin foil...

I will try to slowly scan an extensive collection of these bills in the coming months (I have several thousand of them!).

It may also seem timely, at this time of massive deficits and stimulus spending with no end in sight, to look at some of the possible effects of our actions from a historical perspective. Scrip can be marvelous stuff, and was also used in some cities in the US during the Great Depression. Importantly, it is not legal tender, so the only people who deal in it are those that want to. It is very stable and debt free. To keep it flowing, sometimes it is set up to lose 2% of its value every month, which keeps people from hoarding it....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

February 26, 2009

Former enemies

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to this Bloomberg piece, Former Iraq Enemies Share Raids as America Prepares to Withdraw. It's interesting to me for several reasons. One is that I think this is the analog, on the level of nations, of the Christian command to love ones enemy. Our contemporary fake-pacifists try to play Christianity as justifying their appeasement of tyrants. But the problem is, they are loving someone else's enemy--and looking on with ice-hearted indifference as the poor someone-else gets shredded like a pi�ata..

Another piece of crap that stories like this give the lie to is the despicable falsehood spread by America-hating toads that we are fighting the War on Terror for revenge.

Feb. 24 -- Capt. John Bradley, patrol leader of a U.S. field-artillery unit, sat with Col. Mohammed, an Iraqi Army officer, sharing tea and ambitions to wipe out rebels.

Mohammed explained how they would raid a roadside-bomb factory together in Mosul. Bradley offered computer discs of city maps to help.

It was a military love-in a long time coming. After the U.S. led an invasion of Iraq in 2003, American administrators disbanded Saddam Hussein's troops as an incorrigible remnant of dictatorship. Now, Mohammed, a Hussein-era vet who asked that only his first name be used for security, was planning forays with a solicitous American counterpart. "We’re here to back you up," Bradley said.

The performance of Iraq's army, rebuilt in the past five years into a force of 210,000 strong, is fundamental to the country's stability. U.S. soldiers, which number 140,000, are scheduled to withdraw from cities by the end of June and from the whole country by late 2011. President Barack Obama is pondering Pentagon proposals to pull out earlier: perhaps 23 months from now or even by mid-2010.

As the clock runs down, the U.S. is shifting responsibility for counterinsurgency to Iraqis, replacing Americans with recent enemies as the vanguard of pacification.

Officers who served under Hussein have quietly enlisted in the army, and on Feb. 15, Iraqi leaders invited more to return from exile and join up. Former Sunni Muslim rebels have been recruited to police troubled neighborhoods in Baghdad and towns in western Iraq. Desert tribes that once blew up oil pipelines to undermine the American occupation now guard them....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 PM

February 25, 2009

Somehow I feel better about the War on Terror, long term...

From a note from my son the linguist. (He's the one who used to be my son the pilot, until he changed his field.)

Here's a little tid-bit of Arabic grammar for you guys to read over and thank the high heavens you never decided to take this language yourself.

Arabic has some peculiarities when it comes to its nouns.

For nouns:

You have the singular form, the dual form, and the plural form.

If you have 1 of something, use the singular form.

If you have 2 of something, use the dual form.

If you have 3-10 of something, use the plural form.

If you have 11-100 of something, use the *SINGULAR* form.

If you have 101 or more of something, then go back to the plural form.

In Arabic, to say "I have 15 books," you would literally say: "I have 15 book."

Yes, little intricacies like that make Arabic fun and interesting, but at the same makes one want to bang their head through the wall, thankfully for some reason my brain has decided to just stop asking "Why?" which most people would do when faced something strange like that, which eventually leads them to give up the language.

It is best, I've found, in cases like these to just not ask why the language has this little peculiarity or another, and just trust native speakers when they tell you that the way you are saying it is correct. There are plenty of things in English that really don't make sense when you stop to think about them.
Posted by John Weidner at 4:13 PM

The vision thing...

Orrin Judd
...The President has been handed a great gift, an economic contraction that's unusual enough these days that he could use it to enact to some big legislative changes. But, instead, all he offered was: the McCain-Lieberman-style cap-and-trade program, despite the collapse of Europe's; a promise to reduce health care spending while pumping money into the industry; a promise to reduce the cost of education while pumping more money into that system; and tax increases on the tiny fraction of the population that already pays 60%+ of them? We've been pretty disparaging of the notion that this guy has any vision of what he wants to do with the presidency, but even so, this is laughably small potatoes for a "day of reckoning."

Obama is the extremest example of that common problem, the politician who just wants office. He "wants" it to fill some void in his soul, or some hunger for public validation of his importance. Unfortunately that "want" squeezes out out of a tiny soul other wants, like wanting to build a better world or dreaming of solving some great problem or undertaking some important reform.

Bush senior was a similar figure, and I still gnash my teeth in frustration thinking of how, after the Gulf War, he had 90% approval ratings and political capital to burn......and had nothing in mind to accomplish with them! What a tragic waste. He was a very competent administrator, but should never have been given a leadership position. His son is a hundred times more a man.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:37 AM

February 24, 2009

"Ambitious world leaders are like top chess players"

John at Power Line writes about an opportunity he had to watch one of the great chess masters play against 50 amateurs simultaneously. Viktor Korchnoi surprised him by playing with extreme aggression, though he is famed for his cautious defensive style...

...Korchnoi's aggressive style was mirrored, in miniature, by the master I used to play against in college. Mediocre chess players play cautiously. They don't know what exactly will happen if they send their pieces careening down the board, but experience says the consequences are likely to be bad. Really good players--Korchnoi was an extreme example--understand exactly why it is that sheer aggression is usually punished. If their opponent is not skillful enough to position his pieces precisely correctly, all-out, headlong attack is the strategy of choice. Weaknesses invisible to the average player are ruthlessly exploited.

I've always thought that a broader lesson could be drawn from these observations. Ambitious world leaders are like top chess players. If they see that their opponent has positioned his forces flawlessly, so that aggression will be repelled, caution is the order of the day. But God help an amateur. A hint of weakness may unleash a relentless assault; an assault that will come as a surprise to anyone who does not understand thoroughly the forces that are in play....

I'd guess we are going to see some interesting real-world examples in the not-too-distant future...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

February 23, 2009

Flaily flaily...

Tim Blair:
Reader Becky M. notes a climate change ... change:
I was forced to have lunch with two repulsive and rabid environmentalists the other day.

A most unpleasant experience, but I did learn something.

The correct terminology for the phenomenon formerly known as global warming and later as climate change is now to be referred to as "climate disruption." By using "climate disruption," one effectively blocks the "knuckleheads who point to headlines about 'record cold,' etc."
They've already ditched "climate crisis", then. And extreme weather. Can't these clowns make a brand stick? Perhaps we should offer a superior, enduring title -- "weather" might work -- in comments. Otherwise we're going to be hit with New Coke versions of global warming until the End of Days.

"Climate disruption." I'm all agog to see what will happen when it really starts to sink in the the planet is cooling. (Yes, yes, of course the current decade-long cooling trend could reverse. I'll take your bet, if you want to put money on that.)

On the one hand, the chomskies have a lot of credit invested in global warming, so cooling could hit them hard. On the other hand, they don't think or reason (and have no character or honesty) so they will surely try to flip to "Global Cooling Hysteria" without any intervening moment when things are considered OK.

Really, I'm not just being snarky; this very much interests me.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:20 PM

Misses the real question....

Randy Barnett:

...Fair enough. But even with this admonition in mind, I will modify my claim only slightly: No avowedly creationist Republican candidate will be elected President of the United States. Not. Gonna. Happen. And if that creationist Republican candidate is far superior with respect to governing philosophy and executive experience and skills, as he or she may well be, it will be so much the worse for the country. Sorry Bobby, Tim & Mark. Republicans: Do NOT try this electoral experiment. Please!...

(Thanks to Glenn)

My guess is that Randy is off the mark here. The real issue has little to do with science*. (I am by the way a Catholic, and I think Creationism is quite silly. Darwinian evolution is the best model of biological science we have so far, and is not in conflict with Christian faith.)

The real issue is that natural science is commonly used--in a way that has nothing scientific about it--to attack Christian and Jewish faith. We absorb from the culture around us a vague idea that science (or history) has already answered the questions, and have clearly shown that there is no god, etc. Of course science doesn't say anything of the sort.

And this should be of concern even to, say, non-believing libertarians, because the same bogus methods are used to attack things like our civil liberties. Or our belief in our own Western civilization. How so? These things have always been supported by a quasi-religious assumption that they have authority, as things handed down from revered ancestors.

If you say that rights are "inalienable," for instance, you are expressing something analogous to religious faith. Something that can be destroyed by pushing the fraudulent idea that "science" has already debunked all those old fuddy-duddy notions, and that "experts" should be given a free hand to improve and bring-up-to-date. (Experts connected with government, of course.)

A Creationist is attacking an important problem with the wrong weapon. But I would gladly vote for a Creationist if the alternative were someone who vaguely implies that science has rendered things like nations and free speech and human dignity and economic freedom obsolete.

[*As an example of the sort of misuse of science I'm thinking of, I recently read some conservative secularist declare something like "we have no need of improbable events like virgin births..." But an action by God is inherently outside the realm of things we can assign probabilities to. The statement is absurd and meaningless, but many people will take it as good sense.]

Posted by John Weidner at 11:28 AM

February 22, 2009

"The worlds of the sacred and profane are bound together"

Jean Richafort - Requiem in memoriam Josquin Desprez

I found an interesting thought here...

...The title of this post is derived from a recurring line in Richafort's Requiem, written in honor of Josquin des Pres. The melody and text come from a chanson by Josquin entitled Faulte d'argent: "Faulte d'argent, c'est douleur non pareille." (Lack of money, there is no greater sorrow.)

To give an idea of the mind of the late middle ages and early Renaissance, the chanson is about a man who lamentably discovers he lacks the money to pay a prostitute. Richafort baptizes the bawdy lyric by inserting it into his Mass for the Dead; the death of the loved one is the sorrowful event. The worlds of the sacred and profane are bound together, perhaps in the same life, just as the worlds of the living and dead are joined.

I enjoy telling people the story behind the Richafort Requiem, because it perplexes our modern sensibilities: we assume that the sacred and profane are irreparably sundered. One is either a saint or a sinner, either alive or dead; once a sinner, always a sinner, once dead, dead forever. Our forbears withstood paradox better than we do.

Just as the absent brother, be he absent through geographical separation or death, is not infinitely distant, he is not, like the missing coin of St. Luke's Gospel, irretrievably lost. He will be found again, and when he is, the widow will share her joy with her friends and neighbors; so, too, will we rejoice when we are reunited...
Posted by John Weidner at 5:20 AM

February 21, 2009

The cool kids swim TOWARD the sinking ship...

Plan of Steele. How Mr Steele became the Chairman:

...By Brad Todd

In 1977, David Norcross began his career in national politics as New Jersey's representative on the Republican National Committee. That same year, Reince Preibus was preparing for kindergarten.

For a full generation, Norcross has been part of the�RNC's cadre of kingmakers. But on Jan. 30, the Preibus generation took over, as the young Wisconsin GOP Chair�along with a new guard of young Republican leaders�helped Michael Steele score an upset victory to become the new face of the RNC.

That Steele won the chairman's race didn't surprise many Republican activists across the country. The telegenic former Maryland Lieutenant Governor has developed a national following with his Fox News commentary. And those of us who had seen Steele behind-the-scenes of his 2006 Senate race knew him as a free spirit whose first instinct is to rethink campaign conventions. An insurgent campaign in a time of internal party unrest fit his personality well.

But Steele's Jan. 30 win did shock the old bulls of the Republican establishment. Unlike most�if not all�of his predecessors at the RNC, Steele's war counsel wasn't stocked with the old guard. Norcross�like Bush consigliore Ron Kaufman, legendary Ohio party boss Bob Bennett and Karl Rove prot�g� Terry Nelson�was working the floor of the Capital Hilton for another candidate. Rove's hand-picked incumbent Mike Duncan and South Carolina Chair Katon Dawson were more conventional men, more comfortable to the lobby-law wing of the GOP hierarchy.

The core of Steele's winning coalition were the RNC's newer members�people like Preibus and mostly-unknown state party chairs like Jim Greer of Florida and Bob Tiernan of Oregon. Half of Steele's 21-person "whip team" on the committee rose to their current Party leadership roles after the disastrous election of 2006. They're the brave ones who swam toward the sinking ship....
Posted by John Weidner at 1:06 PM

February 20, 2009

Leftism is murder...

You've probably already seen this video from Reason TV, Slumdog Thousandaire, since it was just posted by Glenn. If you haven't, it is worth a look...

We think of the victims of socialism in terms of people being shoved into boxcars bound for the Gulag, or Auschwitz, or the Chinese Laogais, or to Castro's labor camps. But another batch of victims--surely to be counted in the tens-of-millions--are the countless poor people in India. How many of them have died because of poverty? There's no way to know, but the number must be huge. The founders of the state of India were socialists. And the explosion of wealth and growth and middle-class status we have seen since India's economy was only partially liberalized in the 90's is clear evidence that vast numbers have died from poverty that was completely unnecessary!That could have been ended decades earlier.

If you are a socialist of any sort, you are a murderer.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:54 PM

February 18, 2009

"We can run from our moral duty but we can't hide"

Bush's Greatness, by David Gelernter, in the Weekly Standard:

...Bush's greatness is often misunderstood. He is great not because he showed America how to react to 9/11 but because he showed us how to deal with a still bigger event--the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 left us facing two related problems, one moral and one practical. Neither President Clinton nor the first Bush found solutions--but it's not surprising that the right answers took time to discover, and an event like 9/11 to bring them into focus.

In moral terms: If you are the biggest boy on the playground and there are no adults around, the playground is your responsibility. It is your duty to prevent outrages--because your moral code demands that outrages be prevented, and (for now) you are the only one who can prevent them.

If you are one of the two biggest boys, and the other one orders you not to protect the weak lest he bash you and everyone else he can grab--then your position is more complicated. Your duty depends on the nature of the outrage that ought to be stopped, and on other circumstances. This was America's position during the Cold War: Our moral obligation to overthrow tyrants was limited by the Soviet threat of hot war, maybe nuclear war.

But things are different today. We are the one and only biggest boy. We can run from our moral duty but we can't hide. If there is to be justice in the world, we must create it. No one else will act if the biggest boy won't. Some of us turn to the United Nations the way we wish we could turn to our parents. It's not easy to say, "The responsibility is mine and I must wield it." But that's what the United States has to say. No U.N. agency or fairy godmother will bail us out.

Of course our moral duty remains complicated. We must pursue justice, help the suffering, and overthrow tyrants. But there are limits to our power. We must pick our tyrants carefully, keeping in mind not only justice but our practical interests and the worldwide consequences of what we intend. Our duty in this area is like our obligation to show charity. We have no power to help everyone and no right to help no one. In the event, we chose to act in Afghanistan and Iraq to begin with--good choices from many viewpoints....

"If you are the biggest boy on the playground and there are no adults around, the playground is your responsibility." That's simply the way it is. We didn't ask the job, it just fell to us.

The complaints that we are oppressors amassing an empire because we are oil-stealing bullies are just stupid crap from nihilists who are desperate to avoid all moral duties. Including the duty of patriotism and love for this greatest of all countries.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:01 PM

February 17, 2009

The Manchurian Podium...

This story about a new press-conference podium with built-in computer screen to feed words to the supposedly eloquent Obama made me laugh.

Can you just imagine the SNL skit that could be made, with someone like our friend Andrea hacking into the Obam's magic podium, and feeds the poor creature conservative good-sense during his "press conferences?"

The American Spectator : In All Fairness:

...One wouldn't know it from reading the Washington Post or New York Times, but some inside the White House don't think that President Barack Obama hit a home run with his first national press conference last week.

"It looked scripted beyond the scripted part, the speech," says one former communications adviser, who has been feeding notes and suggestions to the White House team and worked with them on the inauguration. "Every president has gone into one of these things knowing that there were some pre-arranged questions or journalists to be called on, but this one was pretty ham-handed."

To that end, he says, the White House is looking to install a small video or computer screen into the podium used by the president for press conferences and events in the White House. "It would make it easier for the comms guys to pass along information without being obvious about it," says the adviser. The screen would indicate whom to call on, seat placement for journalists, pass along notes or points to hit, and so forth, says the adviser.

Using a screen is nothing new for Obama; almost nothing he said in supposedly unscripted townhall events during the presidential campaign was unscripted, down to many of the questions and the answers to those questions. Teleprompter screens at the events scrolled not only his opening remarks, but also statistics and information he could use to answer questions.

"It would be the same idea with the podium," says the adviser.

Obama had a teleprompter set up for his remarks last week, before taking questions, but the White House couldn't use the teleprompter for anything but the remarks, because the journalists were so close to the screens. Further complicating matters, teleprompter copy can't be easily updated in real time, in a setting like a White House press conference...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:28 AM

February 15, 2009

Of course it's improper to critique a book just from a review....

...but liberal thinking just doesn't compute, and I'm willing to bet money this stuff wouldn't make more sense if I read the whole thing...

Beliefs - The New Atheism, and Something More - NYTimes.com:

...Mr. Aronson proposed that neither it nor the other [atheist] books under review provided "the most urgent need" for secularists today: "a coherent popular philosophy that answers vital questions about how to live one's life." [It can't be done. You've been trying for several centuries now.]

A "new atheism must absorb the experience of the 20th century and the issues of the 21st," he wrote. "It must answer questions about living without God, face issues concerning forces beyond our control as well as our own responsibility, find a satisfying way of thinking about what we may know and what we cannot know, affirm a secular basis for morality, point to ways of coming to terms with death and explore what hope might mean today." [Tall order! You've rejected authority, so if you succeed, what authority will validate your success? It will just be a theory, competing with ten-thousand other theories.]

"Living Without God" (Counterpoint, 2008) is now the title of Mr. Aronson's own effort to provide such a popular philosophy. It is meant to take up, he writes, where books like "The End of Faith" leave off.
Mr. Aronson makes a good argument that Americans are far more secular -- or at least less religious -- than is often recognized. But, he says, contemporary secularism has lost the buoyant confidence it once gained from "its essential link to the idea of Progress, which promised so much and came to such grief during the 20th century." [Nuh uh, pal. Secularism and "Progress" caused the grief of the 20th century. YOU killed a hundred-million or two people in pursuit of various secular paradises. It doesn't work to pretend that these things just happened out of the blue. The blood is on your hands.]

"To live comfortably without God today," he says, "means doing what has not yet been done -- namely, rethinking the secular worldview after the eclipse of modern optimism." [That optimism was itself a transference of the HABIT of Christian Hope to the secular realm. But the habit's wearing off. Now you are realizing you are bankrupt. ]

Indeed, "religion is not really the issue, but rather the incompleteness or tentativeness, the thinness or emptiness [couldn't have described it better myself], of today's atheism, agnosticism and secularism. Living without God means turning toward something." [Well fancy that! Let me just guess--it's going to be a very amorphous "something." Characterized by... incompleteness or tentativeness, thinness, emptiness... Right? C'mon pal, surprise me! Invent a secular worldview that has even one one-hundredth of the gritty REALNESS of the Church Catholic.]

For Mr. Aronson, that "something" is not the ideal of an autonomous individual striding confidently into the dawning future but the drama [drama??] of an interdependent humankind embedded in complex systems of forces, knit into networks of natural environment, historical legacies, social institutions and personal relations. [What a load of galumpfh. "Embedded in complex systems of forces." What does that MEAN? Embedded like bees in a hive? Like raisins in a cookie? If you have complex systems, then decisions need to be made. Who makes them? How do people set priorities and goals?

What if your priority involves my being eliminated for the good of the whole? Hmmm? What if people don't WANT to be knit into networks? Every revolution starts with wooly-headed intellectuals sketching vague paradises of happy embeds. But the kulaks prefer not to be embedded in the collective farm. So then the ruthless rise to the top, and start forcing people into the mold. And probably sending guys like Aronson on that long march to nowhere.]

From this larger story of interdependency, he draws a ground, not surprisingly, for responsibility and morality: a recognizable left-of-center commitment to collective struggle against "domination, inequality and oppression, rooted in scarcity." [This one sentence has enough lunacy to write a whole essay on. To take just one, morality requires drawing lines. Saying X is immoral, and it is wrong to do it. Period. But just proposing your own morality gives no authority to draw hard and fast rules. How can you? What justifies your rule over someone elses?

And, importantly, who DEFINES things? Liberal morality tends to say "I can do what I want if I don't hurt someone." BUT, it's the liberal himself who is defining what "hurt" is. And who is a "someone." So they can define an unborn baby as "not human," and murder it. Or define the entrepreneurs who provide society's wealth as "parasites" and zeks, and expropriate them, or send them to the camps.]

More originally, he argues that this interdependence should summon gratitude -- gratitude "for," even if not "to." Giving thanks, he recognizes, has been central to religion, and secular culture needs to be enriched with an equivalent.... [There is no equivalent. Gratitude is, in its essence, humble. You can't be grateful for something you think you deserve; you are grateful for a gift. You must acknowledge something bigger and better than oneself. But that's a religious attitude. No one's ever going to feel gratitude to "complex systems of forces."]

I suspect that the recent spate of atheist books is not because atheists think they are winning, nor that, as some have suggested, they think they are losing. I think we are at the moment that Guardini predicted, back in the 1950's. (link) They are staring into the abyss. They are finally realizing what it's like to live without God, or without anything greater than the self.


Posted by John Weidner at 6:37 PM

Since W left, there is only one world leader...

...Only one giant among the pygmies...

From a good article about B-16, Pope provocateur:

...No doubt Pope Benedict XVI has had some harsh words for his advisers, who let him down badly in the handling of this episode. Yet three weeks out, the Holy Father can take satisfaction in how this will be resolved. Today in Rome he will grant a special audience to American Jewish leaders, and address them about the Shoah. Meetings hastily cancelled by the chief rabbinate of Israel are back on, plans are proceeding for a papal visit to Israel in May, the German Chancellor who publicly rebuked Benedict has now acknowledged what everyone knows, that the Pope is a friend of the Jewish people and does not endorse Holocaust denial.

Even more extraordinary, the breakaway group to which Bishop Williamson belongs, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), has moved publicly and decisively to distance itself from anti-Semitism (a long-standing problem in far-right French culture). More remarkable still, the SSPX first silenced Williamson, and then relieved him of his duties as rector of their Argentine seminary.

The breach in Catholic-Jewish relations is quickly mending and more change has been wrought in the SSPX on matters related to Jews in the last three weeks than in the last three decades. The cunning plan of a master strategist? Not likely this time; mistakes are mistakes. But the Williamson imbroglio does point to a distinctive feature in the style of Benedict XVI.

Since he arrived in Rome more than 25 years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has repeatedly and deliberately been provocative, kicking up enormous media storms on sensitive subjects. His calculated risk is that his interventions will not move the debate one way or the other within the given parameters, but change the parameters of debate altogether.

He is willing to play with fire in order to bring both heat and light; the obvious danger is that on occasion the fire scorches the Vatican itself.

We first saw this clearly in his 1985 interview book The Ratzinger Report. Commenting 20 years after Vatican II, Cardinal Ratzinger deliberately used the word "restoration" to speak about what was necessary to correct post-conciliar abuses. It sparked a fevered debate in the Church and earned criticism from other bishops, but his remarks framed the debate for the synod of bishops that year -- the synod which called forth Ratzinger's single most important work, the Catechism of the Catholic Church... [Thanks to Orrin Judd]

Real leaders shake things up. Push through big changes without worrying too much about breaking things. Then the pygmies wring their hands and deplore the messiness and violence that change requires. And the bean-counters scurry to clean up the loose ends and tidy away the smoking rubble. And soon the the revisionist historians claim it was all just the inevitable trend of history, and there's no such thing as a great man.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:56 AM

February 13, 2009

Knowing Dems, it could be true....

Good suggestion from Mr Judd:

Republicans ought to just start claiming there's all kinds of sensational stuff in the bill�sex change money for death row inmates; grants to study alien abductions; etc.�and watch Democrats scramble around trying to read the bill.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM

February 10, 2009


From Big Hollywood...

....Here are some other wonderful facts according to Hollywood:

  • Apple, Inc. supplies well over 98% of computers in the USA.
  • All good cops are tormented creatures in one way or another. 90% plus are divorced but have amazing relationships with their kids, usually teenagers.
  • "Religious types", regardless of religion, are one step away from acting out violently, and usually do! Christians seem the most hair-triggered in this regard. Also, abject fear drives 100% of a "religious type's" decision making process.
  • Conservatives by nature have something to hide.
  • The rate of drug use at high-end private high schools is 70% plus.
  • Most corporations have assassins on the payroll.
  • Liberals and minorities are always sincere and innocent, unless of course they cavort with Republicans or Corporations.
  • Abandoned warehouses are always available for holding hostages.
  • And lastly, raising children in a traditional family is by far the worst possible thing for them.

Any corporation worth its salt should have an assassin or two! What's the fun of being a capitalist oppressor if you can't snuff a few opponents?

Posted by John Weidner at 4:07 PM

February 8, 2009

Shadow Warrior...

Another good one from Mr Judd:

...Both the Left and the Right have radically misunderstood the clear signals from Mr. Obama's personal history. He has moved through a number of institutions without leaving any noticeable mark on them. He is, after all, a legislator without a single piece of legislation to his name. He wants to be president in order that it will be said that he was president. That is the entire extent of his ambition. Until he moves on to the UN anyway...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:49 PM

February 7, 2009

"They are taken away perchance to other duties in God's service"

Death is much on our minds here. An exceptionally talented and vibrant young woman of our parish was killed in an automobile accident last week. Rachel wasn't a personal friend of ours, but our paths kept crossing. She was in my R.C.I.A. class. She sang in the choir at the mass we attend. She was a grad student in music at SF State, and helped our son Will get through the convolutions of counterpoint class. We saw her baby, Violet, baptized last year.

She was only 22. She had some mind-boggling tattoos. We went to her funeral today--the music was awesome, as you might expect when a splendid choir has lost one of their own. I was glad Will and I could help out a little, as ushers...

Newman wrote...

...Further still, consider our Saviour's words: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." He does not tell us, why it was that His absence was the condition of the Holy Spirit's presence...

...Moreover, this departure of Christ, and coming of the Holy Ghost, leads our minds with great comfort to the thought of many lower dispensations of Providence towards us. He, who, according to His inscrutable will, sent first His Co-equal Son, and then His Eternal Spirit, acts with deep counsel, which we may surely trust, when He sends from place to place those earthly instruments which carry on His purposes. This is a thought which is particularly soothing as regards the loss of friends; or of especially gifted men, who seem in their day the earthly support of the Church. For what we know, their removal hence is as necessary for the furtherance of the very objects we have at heart, as was the departure of our Saviour.

Doubtless, "it is expedient" they should be taken away; otherwise some great mercy will not come to us. They are taken away perchance to other duties in God's service, equally ministrative to the salvation of the elect, as earthly service. Christ went to intercede with the Father: we do not know, we may not boldly speculate,—yet, it may be, that Saints departed intercede, unknown to us, for the victory of the Truth upon earth; and their prayers above may be as really indispensable conditions of that victory, as the labours of those who remain among us. They are taken away for some purpose surely: their gifts are not lost to us; their soaring minds, the fire of their contemplations, the sanctity of their desires, the vigour of their faith, the sweetness and gentleness of their affections, were not given without an object...

[Parochial & Plain Sermons, vol. 2, Sermon 18. Link.]

Rachel and Violet
SF Chronicle photo, by Mike Kepka (Link)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 PM

Funny Obama-fantasies...

Is the Honeymoon Over for Barack Obama? -- New York Magazine (thanks to Orrin Judd):

... The quick end of that sweet and blissful interval comes as something of a shock. There were five good reasons to expect that Obama's runway would be longer and less littered with obstructions than usual. The first was the smoothness of his transition and the superstar-laden lineup he installed. [Superstars? What a joke! Here is a comparison of Bush and Obama cabinet picks. ] The second was the scale of the economic and financial crisis that confronts the country, which would seem to have raised the political cost of rank obstructionism [Obstructionism in the defense of sanity is no vice! And how 'bout the political cost of dithering incompetence?]. The third was the consensus from left to right that supersize action was required [but super-size Democrat political pork? Consensus on that? Nah.]. The fourth was the magnitude of Obama's electoral victory and the mandate it ostensibly bestowed [Bush had almost as big a victory in 2004. I bet you didn't say HE had a mandate. Anyway, to have a mandate you have to run on something. ]. And fifth were his skills as a communicator, which even his staunchest foes were apt to compare to Ronald Reagan's [Dream on, dweeb. Name ONE single instance where Obama has communicated difficult concepts so ordinary people could suddenly grasp them.] (my emphasis).

That these five factors have produced something less than a nirvana-like political environment can be blamed on an array of villains. [Oh, right. Anyone who opposes the messiah is a "villain."] The irresponsibility of congressional Republicans regarding the stimulus. [Since we think it is bad policy, it would be irresponsible NOT to oppose it.] The ham-fistedness of congressional Democrats [It's not ham-fists, it's an utter inability to put country ahead of buying votes.] (and their propensity to paint targets on their backs). The economic illiteracy of almost every talking head on cable. [And writers at New York magazine.] But there's no denying that the bulk of the blame must be laid at the feet of the Obamans, who have squandered or let lay idle almost every political advantage they possessed at the outset...
[The political advantage was always a mirage. Actually Obama himself is a sort of mirage. He's never accomplished anything of note, never taken a strong stand on anything (except for infanticide), never revealed his philosophy or core values--I myself don't think he has any. He's an amiable con-man, but now he's in territory where reality tends to bite hard....]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 PM

They all laughed when I said Charlene and I hope to be tourists in Iraq soon...

Iraq: Basra is less dangerous than Manchester, British general says - Telegraph:

...Maj Gen Andy Salmon told The Daily Telegraph that following months of steady improvements in the security situation in Iraq's second city, the rate of violent crime and murder in Basra has fallen below some major British cities.

"On a per capita basis, if you look at the violence statistics, it is less dangerous than Manchester," he said, hailing a "radical transformation" in Iraq's prospects.

Since an Iraqi government offensive largely routed violent insurgent groups in Basra last May, British officials in Iraq say that the city has become ever more secure and stable and the Iraqi security forces increasingly competent. In the latest sign of progress after years of insurgent attacks on British and Iraqi forces, local elections last month passed off without significant violence.

"In a nutshell, Basra is stable," said Maj Gen Salmon.

The general, a Royal Marine Commando, also jokingly compared Basra and Stockwell in south London where he once lived. Asked where he would rather spend a Saturday night, he replied: "Downtown Basra, in the restaurants, enjoying myself."...

Saddam Hussein was a fascist dictator--in some ways more cruel and evil than Hitler. It is a mark of the utter insanity of our times that "liberals" and "pacifists" were determined to keep him in power, and then determined to allow al-Qaeda and Saddam's Ba'athist thugs to rule Iraq with terror and torture. All the while reviling the President of the United States for being "nazi," and a "Hitler!"

I'm probably boring everyone by repeating myself, but the utter moral bankruptcy of the left is a continual astonishment to me. And even more surprising is that people don't see it. Leftists can continue to present themselves as "anti-fascist," even though none of them would lift a finger to save people from real living breathing Hitlers.

Seven Iraqis who lost hands
These seven Iraqi men had their hands chopped off on orders of Saddam Hussein. We brought them here to receive the latest in prosthetic limbs.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 AM

February 5, 2009

False devils....

Chesterton portrait by Zach Brissett
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.

-- G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News 9/11/09

(Sketch by Zach Brissett)
Posted by John Weidner at 12:23 PM

February 4, 2009

If the dog catches the car...

Orrin Judd::

It's not just that this [stimulus] plan is a political disaster...but that he isn't doing anything else. During his first 100 days George W. Bush was pushing through--or pushing for--tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, SS Reform, abortion limits, CFR, missile defense, killing Kyoto, the FBI, a hemispheric free trade zone, attacks on Saddam Hussein, etc. Mr. Obama, by contrast, is doing just one thing and doing that badly...
I often think about the speculation of Christopher Hitchens, that Obama had no expectation of winning the nomination on this go-round. Now he's a dog in the embarrassing position of having caught the car he was chasing. And he's doubly hampered because, I speculate, he's never really dreamed of doing anything. He has no cause; there's nothing he believes in. He's like a talented writer who has nothing to say.

Now me, I'm a nobody, but I often think of things I'd do if I had the power. Because I care, because there are many things that I consider bigger than me, and worth sacrificing for. I'm sure I'd make a lousy leader of anything, but if I was suddenly catapulted into a position of power, I'd start scribbling a list of things I would like to do, and I'd quickly have a a page full.

And the "stimulus" plan isn't even Obama's--it's Pelosi's, gawd help us. I could come up with an interesting stimulus plan, so why can't Obama? Absurd. The guy's an �ber-nihilist.

George W Bush in the Texas Air National Guard
George W Bush in the Texas Air National Guard

* Update: sometimes when my daughter's in a certain state of mind she signs her e-mails: "flaily flaily." I thought of that, and then Obama, and now I can't think of the poor guy without "flaily flaily."

Posted by John Weidner at 12:19 PM

February 3, 2009

Remember "Bush epic fail?"

I remember well the foul dishonesty with which lefty-bloggers and "journalists" used Hurricane Katrina as a club to beat President Bush. Now we see how much they really believed what they wrote, as Obama gets a disaster of his own.

I'd say it is time for a lot of people on the Left to apologize. But that would be what adults do; we can't expect it from "liberals." The Anchoress puts things well:

More Ice storm & More | The Anchoress:

...The severe ice storm that has crippled parts of the midwest and devastated Kentucky is getting a little more attention from the press than it has since last Tuesday, when the storm hit. This is the Monday after. Time Magazine writes a professional-sounding piece that is completely devoid of emotion, mentions President Obama exactly once (in passive voice) and never ever strays into unfair wonderings such as "why isn't more being done," or "where is the President, why isn't he present here," or "how can the president stay warm, eat steak and watch football when scores have died, half a million remain cold and helpless, without power, water, heat and sometimes without food?" No one is asking why there are no pictures of bodies for the press to print. Wolf Blitzer, who famously (and terribly) cried of the Katrina displaced, "they are so poor, and so black," is not standing in teeth-chattering frost declaring, "these people are so cold, and so white..."

That would also be a terrible thing to say, and I think playing the racism card is stupid, but the point is, when Katrina hit, the press pulled out every stop they possibly could - including the racism canard - to identify that disaster with a "Bush epic fail." They ignored his early pleadings to Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco to evacuate. They ignored his declaring NOLA and surrounding areas as Disaster Areas even before Katrina hit, so the fed could immediately get to work. They ignored the proper jurisdiction of emergencies (local, then state, then fed) and the extreme incompetence of the Louisiana leadership and made Katrina all about "what Bush did or didn't do." By contrast, the press seems to be going out of its way to insure that Obama is not associated with this week-long drama at all.

We"ve heard that "Bush ate cake", while people suffered. (Obama ate steak and watched the Super Bowl). Bush did not quickly enough go to the disaster area to survey it and hug people and cry. (Obama - like the derided Bush - is wisely staying away so as not to impede relief efforts, but he remains un-derided). Bush dared to praise FEMA, even though FEMA was late because flood conditions and Gov. Blanco prevented them from doing much at first. Obama...hasn't said much of anything....

The main responsibility for disaster response is always local. That should be obvious. My criticism of Bush is that he should have used to mandate of 9/11 to make FEMA more of a goad to improve local response capability, rather than trying to place more responsibility at the federal level.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:52 PM

February 1, 2009

It's the "anti-torture" crowd that is promoting torture...

Apparently the Obama Administration is banning "harsh interrogation techniques," but preserving the option of rendition!

The twisted logic of this just stupefies me. It's like chopping off a painfully injured limb to avoid the danger of becoming addicted to painkillers.

The simple fact is that waterboarding someone is a thousand times more humane than shipping them off to Jordan to be tortured. Am I right? Any liberals reading this, am I not right? Hmmm? People undergo waterboarding voluntarily. We use it on our own troops in training.

But "liberalism" is about making liberals feel good, not about actually helping human beings.

LAT: Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool The role of the CIA's controversial prisoner-transfer program may expand, intelligence experts say.

The CIA's secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.

But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street...

"...taking suspected terrorists off the street." Jeeez. That's what Guantanamo was for. Gitmo is in fact a far more humane facility than ordinary American prisons. European penologists have visited it and reported that it is better than anything they have back home. A thousand times better than what a prisoner will get if shipped to Egypt. But since the evil Bush started it, it has to go. And who cares how much people suffer. Not liberals.

And liberals care nothing about the suffering of the victims of terrorism. In Iraq al-Qaeda has set off powerful bombs in pet markets, where people take children to see the animals. Think about it, you leftists who despise America for extracting information that can stop terror attacks.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:38 PM

"agnosticism slips out of one's hands like a soap bubble"

Benedict XVI, from Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures: ...The true way to call agnosticism into question is to ask whether its program can be realized. Is it possible for us, as human beings, purely and simply to lay aside the question of God, that is, the question of our origin, of our final destiny, and of the measure of our existence?...

...Even if I throw in my theoretical lot with agnosticism, I am nevertheless compelled in practice to choose between two alternatives: either to live as if God did not exist or else to live as if God did exist. If I act according to the first alternative, I have in practice adopted an atheistic position and have made a hypothesis (which may also be false) the basis of my entire life...

...Let us leave this question here: it is clear that the prestige enjoyed by the agnostic solution today does not stand up to closer examination. As a pure theory, it may seem exceedingly illuminating. But in its essence, agnosticism is much more than a theory: what is at stake here is the praxis of one's life. When one attempts to "put it into practice" in one's real field of action, agnosticism slips out of one's hands like a soap bubble; it dissolves into thin air, because it is not possible to escape the very option it seeks to avoid. When faced with the question of God, man cannot permit himself to remain neutral. All he can say is Yes or No--without ever avoiding all the consequences that derive from this choice even in the smallest details of life. Accordingly, we see that the question of God is ineluctable; one is not permitted to abstain from casting one's vote...

Thanks to Macklin Horton, who adds, "...I've never heard anyone say 'I don't know whether there is a God or not, so I'm going to become a Catholic.' No, a commitment to agnosticism--as opposed to agnosticism still open to the alternative-- is a form of atheism."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 AM