March 31, 2009

Another day, another lie...

JustOneMinute: We Get Pensive On Pensions:

...Inspired by a Boston Globe story and aroused by the indignant yet underinformed Josh Marshall, lefties are aghast that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation switched "much of" (per the Globe) or "most" (per the unflappable Josh Marshall) of its portfolio from safe bonds to risky stocks last February, prior to the stock market wipe-out (see "FEEL THE RAGE", below). However, our friends on the left are so intent on bashing Bush and his appointees that they have overlooked some good news, which I will bury for a while....

In fact it was just a proposal; nothing was done about it. The whole story is bullshit.

But you can depend on it that you will be hearing the lie decades from now as an example of the abhorrent horridness of the Bush Administration. (And of course if the PBGC had done something smart, something that increased their portfolio, that would have nothing to do with Bush and his greedy minions. In that case the agency would have been independent!)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 AM

There was another President who embraced evil at Notre Dame...

Here's a historical note on the beginnings of the situation we are now in. (Short version: pacifism kills.)

Jeffrey Lord in American Spectator: Jimmy Carter's Spirit of Notre Dame:

...Perhaps more importantly than Carter's personal political fate the speech signaled his decision to abandon his party's identification with the policies of military strength and American exceptionalism championed by Democrats from FDR to JFK and LBJ. Instead, Carter chose to move the country towards the more left-leaning foreign and defense policies advocated by 1972 nominee Senator George McGovern. The results were decidedly not approved of by the American public....

...The most notable single sentence in Carter's Notre Dame speech was this one:
We are now free of that inordinate fear of Communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear.
Carter went on to insist that it was time to govern with a "wider framework of international cooperation" because "the world today is in the midst of the most profound and rapid transformation in its entire history." He also added this about the American approach to the Soviet Union in the Carter era: "Our goal is to be fair to both sides, to produce reciprocal stability, parity, and security." In other words, in Carter's view, a view widely held among leftward-leaning elites, both the United States and the Soviet Union had genuinely competing claims. They were morally equal to each other.

The speech was the lead story in the news the next day. By the time Carter left the White House after four years of promoting moral equivalence, the world was in murderous chaos....

"Murderous chaos." That's for sure. And we are still in it. Read the whole thing.

And by the way, not that any leftist would care in the slightest about mere human beings, but the policy sneered at as "embracing any dictator" has proved to be the correct one. The countries where "right-wing" dictators held back Communism are now mostly prosperous and democratic. Where Communism took hold there is unending poverty and tyranny, and the border guards keep people in, not out. Compare Cuba and Chile. Or North and South Korea. Or Taiwan and China.

And both the Notre Dame outrages are really about the same issue. Human beings are to be sacrificed to leftist theories.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:44 AM

March 30, 2009

Cool discoveries...

The Ancient World's Longest Underground Aqueduct - SPIEGEL ONLINE, by Matthias Schulz:

Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it.

When the Romans weren't busy conquering their enemies, they loved to waste massive quantities of water, which gurgled and bubbled throughout their cities. The engineers of the empire invented standardized lead pipes, aqueducts as high as fortresses, and water mains with 15 bars (217 pounds per square inch) of pressure.

In the capital alone there were thousands of fountains, drinking troughs and thermal baths. Rich senators refreshed themselves in private pools and decorated their gardens with cooling grottos. The result was a record daily consumption of over 500 liters of water per capita (Germans today use around 125 liters). However, when the Roman legions marched into the barren region of Palestine, shortly before the birth of Christ, they had to forgo the usual splashing about, at least temporarily. It was simply too dry.

But that didn't stop the empire's clever engineers. They soon figured out a way to put things right. In the former Roman province of Syria (located in modern day Jordan), researchers are currently studying a sensational canal system. It extends mostly underground over a distance of 106 kilometers (66 miles)....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:59 AM

March 29, 2009


Liberalism is like this: Purporting to offer middle ground between radical individualism and collectivism, what it really gives us is a diabolical synthesis of the two, a bureaucratically managed libertinism. Conservatism, which sees the family rather than the individual or society as a whole as the fundamental social unit, is the real "third way."
      -- Edward Feser
Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM

"Last chance"

[This is a re-posting of a piece from 2006]
I was writing in the last post about the book God's Choice : Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, by George Weigel. Charlene and I are both enjoying it, learning a lot of stuff that you won't get from the press. There's a lot they don't want you to know. It rather looks to me like the situation we have here in domestic politics and culture, with press and leftists frantically demonizing conservatives to try to hide their own reactionary emptiness and bankruptcy.

It's much the same with Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger. The same sort of people hate him not because he really is a reactionary, but because he was a leader in the other group of reformers of Vatican II and after. (He is, interestingly, the last major figure of Vatican II still active in the Church.) Here's a little snippet, to give you a slight flavor of what I'm reading...

...Ratzinger agreed with those who thought that the church of the past few centuries had shrunk itself, theologically and spiritually, and that Vatican II's task was to "usher Catholics into a larger room." The reform Ratzinger imagined would have two dimensions, usually described in Council argot by a French term and an Italian term. The reform required ressourcement—a "return to the sources" of Catholic theology in the Bible and in the early Fathers of the Church, where, as Nichols writes, "the Christian religion took on its classic form" from men such as Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom. Ressourcement, it was believed, would free Catholic theology from the cold logic and bloodless propositions of the neo-scholastic system; and having been liberated in that way, theology would revitalize Catholic life. That revitalization was the second dimension of the kind of reform Ratzinger imagined: the famous aggiornamento, or "bringing up to date" of the Church's practices, structures and methods of encounter with modern culture and society...

...the biblical and patristic ressourcement would allow the aggiornamento of the Church in the modern world to be a genuine, two-way dialog, with the Church offering fresh insight to modernity, its aspirations and its discontents....

...The problems came, in Ratzinger's view, when aggiornamento lost its tether to ressourcement—when the "updating" of the Church did not begin with a return to the sources of Catholic intellectual and spiritual vitality...Instead of building Nichols's larger room in the Church, an aggiornamento unmoored from ressourcement stripped the room of a lot of its furniture...unleashing what a later generation would have called Catholic "deconstruction": the new question became, "How little can I believe, and how little must I do, to remain a Catholic?"...

"Two-way dialog, with the Church offering fresh insight to modernity." Think about that one a moment. In liberal culture, such a statement is unimaginable. It's the stuffy old Church's job to listen to modern culture, and get up to date. A position which was reduced to banality by certain clueless TV commentators at John Paul II's funeral, who said things like, "This may be the last chance for the Church to become relevant." (I kid you not, they really said that.)

Uh huh. Gotta become relevant to the secular rationalist world, or....or what? Thing is, the secular welfarist world is dying. Literally dying in Europe and Japan, which are facing demographic collapse. Someone recently pointed out that by 2050, 60% of Italians will not know the experience of having brothers or sisters or aunts or uncles or nephews or nieces. And spiritually dying---dead--producing no exciting new ideas or movements, no compelling art, taking no risks, believing in nothing enough to fight for it (which fits a lot of Blue State America too). While the Catholic Church, and the non-liberal Protestant Churches are growing vigorously, and still produce people willing to die for their faith. (And, just as meaningful, to put aside a lot of personal pleasures, and follow God's command to be fruitful and multiply.)

I suspect there's "a last chance to become relevant" happening for somebody, but it's not who the Hollywood script says it is...

* Update: Ressourcement, by the way, started with John Henry Newman. As did most of the themes of the Council. When I go on and on about Newman, I'm not pursuing antiquarianism, or wasting your time with things that have no "relevance" to today.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 AM

March 27, 2009

Don't turn the lights off!

I've heard that some environmentalist flakes are promoting an "Earth Hour," where people are supposed to turn off their lights for an hour and sit in the dark and meditate on how horrible they are for breathing out CO2, and maybe lay some plans to save the planet by killing their children before they are even born. As I'm sure you can guess, I have nothing but contempt for such twisted atheist malarky.

(And it's not even smart on its own terms; it won't make any environmental difference at all. But Leftism is about feeling good, not about actually accomplishing anything.)

As an alternative, there's Human Achievement Hour! The video below is so-so, but I don't have time to make my own. Celebrating human achievements with rock music has gotta be this week's worst idea. Bach, it should have been

Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 PM

"Obama's question deserves an answer"

As Schiller's saying goes, "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." One example that especially bugs me is the refusal of my young liberal friends to SEE Social Security. They are working hard at low-paying jobs, and giving a lot of their paychecks to the government in exchange for a promise of some crummy future payments by the government. They are just clueless about what the same money could do if we had private SS accounts. They are being robbed of millions of dollars, but don't have the education and the imagination to see it. They can't see the lines extending on the graph to, say, the year 2050.

[That's just ignorance. What's vile and evil are the older liberals who are putting their own money in 401-k's and IRA's while doing all they can to deprive the little people of similar benefits.]

Now the current economic crisis will give lefties a chance to say, "See, we told you private accounts wouldn't work." But that's just wrong. (My guess is that they would have made sense even during the Great Depression.) Here's someone who has actually run the numbers...

Andrew G. Biggs, Retirement Math - (Thanks to Orrin )

During the election campaign Barack Obama told prospective voters, "If my opponent had his way, millions of Americans would have had their Social Security tied to [the] stock market this week. Millions would have watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes. ... Imagine if you had some of your Social Security money in the stock market right now. How would you be feeling about the prospects for your retirement?"

Obama's question deserves an answer. How would personal Social Security accounts have fared in the current market? Surprisingly, careful analysis shows that even individuals retiring today would have increased their total Social Security benefits by holding a personal account. Here's why...
It's the last simulation that's the kicker...
...Of course, not every worker would hold an account his whole life. If President Bush's 2005 reform plan had passed, many workers would enter the markets precisely as they began to decline. Surely these workers would see big benefit reductions? Under the Bush plan, only workers under age 55 as of 2005 would have been eligible for accounts, so no current retirees would have held accounts. Nevertheless, I ran a third simulation: workers would retire today but begin accounts at different ages. What would have happened to the worker who started an account at age 62, then retired only three years later? At last, we find someone who lost money: Total benefits for such an individual would have declined by 0.1%.

The point here isn't that stocks are a free lunch. In an efficient market the higher returns paid to stocks are nothing more than compensation for their higher risk, and we don't know that future market returns will be as good as those in the past. But accounts do provide a valuable tool to prefund future retirement income and reduce cost burdens on tomorrow's workers. And these numbers put the lie to President Obama's exaggerations of the risks of investing retirement savings in the market....

Posted by John Weidner at 7:46 AM

March 26, 2009

Contrary to Reason...

Charlene recommends this post from ShrinkWrapped: Scientists and Morality. I started to blog my agreement, but was sidetracked by this paragraph...

...Scientists spend their working lives pursuing a rational understanding of the world around them. They are often both ignorant of, and intolerant of, the irrational. Because they pursue a rational understanding of the world they typically do not recognize their own irrationalities. This can be a problem when scientists venture into discussions of politics and morality....

Christians do NOT think that morality or faith in God are irrational. Not one little bit. (Well, actually, there is a modern splinter-movement, calling itself "Protestant," that has abandoned reason for a make-stuff-up-as-you-go approach. Perhaps the author is influenced by them. But the result of that experiment is that there are 30,000+ different Protestant groups--all claiming to have "the truth!" Nuh uh.)

I can't really blame people for not understanding this, since I am only starting to discover it myself. I'd heard the general idea of our catholic faith being based on reason, but, as a former Protestant I assumed that it meant that there was a glaze of philosophical justification painted over the totem pole. Turns out, not so. Christian faith is based on deductive reason in exactly the same way a proof in geometry is. Reason can prove to even a pagan like Aristotle that there must be one all-good and all-powerful god, and also the basics of traditional morality. (In addition to this other things are revealed. We are given additional information by God such as the Trinity or the Incarnation.)

That's why I've been recommending [link, link] the book The Last Superstition by Feser. He refutes the "new atheists" with a clear explanation of the metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas, which has been a huge "ah ah" moment for me. (And no one has ever refuted their logic, by the way. Modern philosophers have just tagged it "Medieval," laughed at Aristotle's mistakes in physics—which his metaphysics is not based on—and moved on.)

Scientists today have no philosophy that ties their work into the wider world, or helps them even think about such things. The result is that scientists are vulnerable when they try to extend their discipline into realms like politics or morality. They don't even notice that AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) has become a quasi-religion, and they excommunicate heretics and take things on faith, all the while telling themselves that are just "doing science," and are being hindered by "irrational" people.

And they don't understand that Secularism and Materialism are "faiths" just as much as the conventional religions. They can make "scientific judgements" on, say, the value of human lives compared to endangered species...and not realize they've left the realm of things that natural science can speak about.

Mr Shrinkwrapped also writes something that I've tried to get at before:

...Note the assumption that the greatest danger now resides in the alliance between science and business, ie the profit motive. Many, perhaps most, scientists are liberal by temperament and intellectual insularity. They have generally focused far more on their areas of expertise than on the political and moral dimensions of their work. Since liberalism has gained a monopoly (in the popular press and especially in academia) on morality, the assumption is that government run programs will be protected form the dangers of avarice. Government research is therefore, somehow more pure than business supported research. (We see this all the time when research supported by business is always reported in ways conducive to accepting that such research is tainted by its funding whereas government supported research is never considered tainted by the analogous human desires that determine its course and contents.)...

One can be avaricious for all sorts of things besides money. I suspect that many a scientist would kill (if there was an easy fool-proof way to do it) to be known for a significant discovery. Or to have a big lab full of top-notch post-docs. Or to be invited to important conferences. This is just as much greed and covetousness as wanting to earn millions of dollars. And it can corrupt people in just the same way. Actually, one could live like St Francis, and give the clothes off your back to the shivering poor... and still be a greedy miser. If, for example, what you coveted most was being considered "saintly."

And of course even in government-funded science there are potential big monetary-equivalent rewards. A "science star" might be flown first-class to a posh resort to mingle with rock-stars and shake hands with Al Gore or Prince Charles. That's worth enough money to corrupt almost anyone.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:38 AM

March 24, 2009

Two Obamas...

neo-neocon: What's behind Obama's Teleprompter addiction? (thanks to Rand):

...The late great Dean Barnett was one of the first to not only notice this but to understand what it might signify besides a simple desire for fluency. Writing in February 2008 about a speech Obama had made a few days earlier, Barnett shrewdly observed [emphasis mine]:
....But...[w]ith no Teleprompter signaling the prepared text, Obama failed to deliver the speech in his characteristically flawless fashion. He had to rely on notes. And his memory. And he improvised...

Virtually every time Obama deviated from the text, he expressed the partisan anger that has so poisoned the Democratic party. His spontaneous comments eschewed the conciliatory and optimistic tone that has made the Obama campaign such a phenomenon...[T]his different Obama was a far less attractive one...
Barnett noticed—as many had, even at the time—the enormous difference in articulateness between Teleprompter-Obama and Obama unplugged (the latter is the title of Barnett’s article). That was the easy part. The more discriminating observation Barnett made was between the message of Teleprompter Obama and the message of ad-lib Obama. The two were not just different in degree—they were profoundly opposite in tone and essence. Ad-lib Obama was far more angry and more radical—indeed, although Barnett doesn't mention it, this Obama resembled the angrier and more radical Michelle Obama, in her earlier campaign remarks that drew so much controversy.

Obama is addicted to his Teleprompter not only because he knows he sounds better—smoother and smarter—with it than without. The deeper reason for his reliance on it may just be that he differs so profoundly from the persona he wishes to convey that he quite literally cannot trust himself to speak without it....

Until recently it was a given that the Dems could not elect a Northern liberal president. They've only succeeded with Southerners since JFK (who wasn't very liberal by today's standards). And Obama was only elected by sneakiness—if America had known what he was really like he wouldn't have stood a chance.

It's not just being liberal that's the problem, it's that most liberals don't interact with conservatives. They stay in their lefty comfort-zones and talk to each other. And get their comfort-news from the NYT. But if you are going to be a Democrat governor of Arkansas or Georgia, then you need to be able to work with conservatives and Christians. You need to know what they are thinking, even if you don't agree.

Poor Barack is just clueless. He's spent his entire life in big-city Lefty cocoons. He doesn't know stuff.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:24 AM

March 23, 2009

Enemies of democracy...

Roger L. Simon, The MSM should resign over Obama's failure:

...The election of Barack Obama was orchestrated by our mainstream media. They anointed him. They should suffer the consequences.

But what we have instead is an orgy of finger-pointing. The four New York Times columnists referenced in the Politico article above are simultaneously ganging up on the man they thought, only eight weeks ago, was a combination of the cat's meow and the bee's knees. Nary a word of self criticism in their attacks. No surprise there - and don't expect it in the future, any more than you will get an honest apologia from Messrs Frank and Dodd over Fannie and Freddie. Just like the politicians, these columnists are men and women (Dowd) who are concerned first and foremost about their jobs and power. They won't do anything to jeopardize that. They've had that power for a long time, thinking it was permanent; but now that they see it might not be, they are holding on to it for dear life. Their jumping off the Obama bandwagon so early is a sign of what deep trouble he is in. And they desperately don't want to be blamed for it.

But they will be blamed - by us and by other people. They deserve to be. Their day is over. While pretending to be the friends of democracy, they have been the enemies of it. Their views have been so monolithic serious debate nearly vanished in this country. Only now, in the ferment of a still relatively tiny Tea Party movement, do you see the stirrings of bona fide discussion. Let's hope there is more to come. And that the mainstream media, even if they don't resign, will no longer be the gatekeepers.

There are few things that gratify my heart more than hearing of layoffs and shrinking revenues and ratings in the mainstream press. How I despise that gang of crooks. Their combination of arrogant self-rightousness and meagre intellectual and moral qualities is disgusting....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:33 AM

March 22, 2009

My own "Bridge to Nowhere"

The new Random Jottings banner picture above was taken this week, on a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge with my older son and his girlfriend. Streamers of fog were pouring through the Gate, and one minute we'd be in bright sun, and the next in inspissated mist, with the city and the towers of the bridge completely invisible. I just got lucky with the shot. (I won't comment on any of the eleven possible symbolic meanings...)

I've lived in San Francisco since the mid 70's, and I've yet to get bored with the bridge! There's always a different angle, a different light, to make it seem like you're really seeing it for the first time.

Here's a sunny moment...

Tower of Golden Gate Bridge

Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 PM

To repeat, it's a really good book...

I'm starting to re-read Feser's The Last Superstition. (I mentioned it last week.) By the time I got to the end I'd become fuzzy about some of the arguments from the beginning of the book, and the structure rests on them. So I'm starting over.

Here's a little more, from the first chapter, just in case some strange soul out there in the "audient void" still actually reads books to try to understand things...

...Nothing that follows will require of the reader any prior aquaintance with philosophy or its history, but the discussion will in some places get a little abstract and technical—though never dull, I think, and the dramatic relevance of the occasional abstraction or technicality to issues in religion, morality and science will amply reward the patient reader. Some abstraction and technicality is, in any case, unavoidable. The basic philosophical case for the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the natural law conception of morality is at one level fairly straightforward. But the issues have become ever more greatly obscured in the centuries since so-called "Enlightenment" thinkers and their predecessors first started darkening the understanding of Western man, and a nearly impenetrable philosophical smokescreen of unexamined assumptions, falsehoods, clichés, caricatures, prejudices, propaganda and general muddle-headedness now surrounds the average person's (including the average intellectual's) thinking about religion. It takes considerable intellectual effort to dissipate this kultursmog (to borrow R. Emmett Tyrrell's apt coinage).

The task is not unlike that which faces debunkers of popular but intellectually unsupportable conspiracy theories...

...Similarly, everyone "knows" that the cosmological argument for God's existence says "Everything has a cause, so the universe has a cause, namely God" and that this argument is easily refuted by asking "Well, if everything has a cause, what caused God then?"— except that that that is not what the cosmological argument says, and none of the philosophers who have famously defended the argument — not Aristotle, not Aquinas, not Leibniz, not anyone else — ever committed such a stupid and obvious fallacy. Everyone "knows" that to say that morality depends on religion means that God arbitrarily decides to command something or other ("just 'cause He feels like it," apparently) and the only reason to obey is fear of hellfire — except that that is not what it means to say that morality depends on religion, certainly not in the thinking of the many serious philosophers who have defended that claim. And so on and on...

...As we heard Quentin Smith and Jeremy Waldron complain above, apart from the few who make a professional specialty of arguing about religion, secularist thinkers are generally unacquainted with anything but absurd caricatures of traditional religious idea and arguments, are utterly unaware that anything other than these caricatures exist, and thus don't bother to look for anything but straw men to attack. They simply don't know what they are talking about, and they don't know that they don't know it...

Kultursmog! Great word. This kind of thing is worth studying just because kultursmog describes our world so very well. To think clearly about anything is an accomplishment. (One needn't, by the way, be interested in religion to appreciate Feser. His skewering of the muddled philosophy that underlies natural science is very good.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:12 PM

March 21, 2009

We "are called to the same most high dignity"

Pope Leo XIII on Socialism...

For, indeed, although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: "for what participation hath justice with injustice or what fellowship hath light with darkness?"

Their habit, as we have intimated, is always to maintain that nature has made all men equal, and that, therefore, neither honor nor respect is due to majesty, nor obedience to laws, unless, perhaps, to those sanctioned by their own good pleasure. But, on the contrary, in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts. The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, "from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named."...

...For, while the socialists would destroy the "right" of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven...
      -- Pope Leo XIII, Quod Apostolici Muneris

Leo XIII is a favorite of mine for various reasons, including that it was he who made John Henry Newman a Cardinal.

And he was the first Pope to have his voice recorded, and to be in a motion 1903!! (It doesn't sound like much--he was close to death at the time. But it's still a cool thing.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 PM

"Reason kept telling me all day my mood was out of season"


All day I have been tossed and whirled in a preposterous happiness:
Was it an elf in the blood? or a bird in the brain? or even part
Of the cloudily crested, fifty-league long, loud uplifted wave
Of a journeying angel's transit roaring over and through my heart?

My garden's spoiled, my holidays are cancelled, the omens harden;
The plann'd and unplann'd miseries deepen; the knots draw tight.
Reason kept telling me all day my mood was out of season,
It was, too. In the dark ahead the breakers only are white.

Yet I—I could have kissed the very scullery taps. The colour of
My day was like a peacock's chest. In at each sense there stole
Ripplings and dewy sprinkles of delight that with them drew
Fine threads of memory through the vibrant thickness of the soul.

As though there were transparent earths and luminous trees should grow there,
And shining roots worked visibly far down below one's feet,
So everything, the tick of the clock, the cock crowing in the yard
Probing my soil, woke diverse buried hearts of mine to beat,

Recalling either adolescent heights and the inaccessible
Longings and ice-sharp joys that shook my body and turned me pale,
Or humbler pleasures, chuckling as it were in the ear, mumbling
Of glee, as kindly animals talk in a children's tale.

Who knows if ever it will come again, now the day closes?
No-one can give me, or take away, that key. All depends
On the elf, the bird, or the angel. I doubt if the angel himself
Is free to choose when sudden heaven in man begins or ends.

    -- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

This show is in trouble...

Barack Obama Is a Terrible Bore, by Michael Wolff...

...Sheesh, the guy is Jimmy Carter.

That homespun bowling crap on Jay Leno, followed by the turgid, teachy fiscal policy lecture, together with the hurt defensiveness (and bad script for it) that everybody in Washington "is Simon Cowell... Everybody's got an opinion," is pure I'm-in-over-my-head stuff. Even the idea of having to go on Jay Leno to rescue yourself from the AIG mess is lame. Be a man, man.

The guy just doesn't know what to say. He can't connect. Emotions are here, he's over there. He can't get the words to match the situation....

...What happens when you move into the White House?

Well, shit, of course. The true secret of the power of language is in quickness. Barack Obama can't keep up. He evidently needs too much preparation. And then there's the organization. He's undoubtedly got too many people debating what he should say. That's the other secret of language: You've got to just go for it. Can't think too much about it. It's like hitting the ball. And then there's knowing who you want to be—which is different than knowing who you are. You're on the stage. You're acting. You've got to make yourself believable, cleverly make yourself up as you go along.

This guy is leaden and this show is in trouble.

True, but that's not the essence of the Obam's problems. THIS is the real lack:

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
      -- Margaret Thatcher

Flaily flaily!

Posted by John Weidner at 4:05 PM

Retroactive admiration...

Dr. Weevil: Prediction:

...I don't expect anyone except John Weidner and Orrin Judd to agree with me, but I want to put this on record, so I can gloat if it comes true:

If President Obama does not pull himself together and start acting like a president very soon -- and I doubt that he is capable of it -- retroactive admiration for the decency and (relative) competence of George W. Bush may spread so far and fast that Jeb Bush will have a real chance to be nominated and elected president in 2012. In what will surely be a crowded field, I would not put his chances of winning the nomination higher than 5% or 6%, but that's up from .001% in 2008, when it would have taken a meteor shower wiping out all the other candidates to outweigh pandemic Bush fatigue. I do think that whoever wins the Republican nomination in 2012 has at least a 75% chance of winning the election, and that Bush fatigue and even Bush hatred may (note: may) melt away, leaving only a slight, though extraordinarily foul, odor, like a very small piece of Limburger, or the spot on the road where a dead skunk lay before the highway department or a helpful vulture dragged it away....

Sounds good to me. Charlene and I just bought some   I  miss  W.    bumper-stickers (link). And, if Jeb were President, I would not have to add a new post category; I could just keep "President Bush!"

Of course I'd probably have the same frustrations with Jeb as I did with the President. I mean, the task of explaining things really shouldn't fall to me. Why do I have to give the world a list of 14 reasons to invade Iraq? I'm proud that those who read RJ are among the few who actually know what's happening in the world, but still....It does try my patience.

My guess is that Bush-hatred by the real lefties will never die. Sort of like Nixon-hatred. Come to think of it, there's a real parallel. Let me suggest that leftists hate Nixon because he was right about communists, and because he won the Vietnam War. Watergate was just seized upon ex post facto, to personalize the hatred.

Actually, there's a deeper parallel. Nixon was in many ways a liberal. Us conservatives were deeply unhappy with him on many issues. (remember FAP, wage-and-price controls, end of the gold standard? Probably few of you do--I alone have lived to tell thee!) And of course Bush too is in some ways a liberal. Especially in regards to that classic liberal project, overthrowing a fascist dictator and bringing democracy to oppressed people. They will never forgive him for that.

To a considerable extent my championing of George W Bush was only done because nobody else was presenting the positive side, so it fell to me. I could easily have been a much harsher critic from the right, if conservatives had been supporting the president as they should. But people were not being just. Leftists are unjust by nature of course, but many Republicans and conservatives were failing in this regard too.

What I would really like is a Sarah Palin who could articulate a conservative philosophy. But I doubt if she will hire me to get her up to speed....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

March 20, 2009

Today's joke...

I just saw a bumper sticker on the car of one of our liberal neighbors (very nice folks, by the way. Nothin' personal): "Unjust War. Unending Debt. The Bush Legacy Continues." Pretty hilarious, seeing that Iraq's now a democracy and safer than many big American cities, and Obam's busy tripling the National debt.

It should be repeated frequently: the Iraq Campaign was a splendid, successful and idealistic liberal project by a great liberal president. That's why nihilists-pretending-to-be-liberals hate it. It exposes them as the frauds they are...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:52 PM

"We are Socialists. We don't pretend to be Christians"

On Charity, by James V. Schall, S.J.

Bruce Fingerhut, the good director of St. Augustine's Press, sent me the other day the following amusing, but provocative citation: "Bertrand Russell, who, when asked why he did not give to charity, replied: "I'm afraid you've got it all wrong. We are Socialists. We don't pretend to be Christians.'" Needless to say, that witty retort contains a whole theology and a philosophy that deserve to be spelled out. The logic of classic socialism makes Christianity not only superfluous�everyone has everything by rights�but impossible�no one has anything to give.

Russell is right, of course. In a socialist world, no charity can exist because there can be no need that is unfulfilled by the commonality's duty. It is a world in which there can be no gratitude. I can thank someone for giving me what is really his. I cannot thank him for giving me what is by rights already mine. And if everything belongs to the community, how can I give it away? Or if I do give it away, how can it be anything but stealing from the commons on my part and receiving illicit booty on the receiver's part?...

Rush Limbaugh: Better He Should FailI remember an incident, maybe back in the 70's? The king of Sweden donated a large sum of money to charity. And Swedish leftists were outraged, and there was a big flap about it! It was treated as an insult to Sweden's socialistic state!

I'd guess that the recent proposal by the Obama administration to limit the deduction for charitable donations was not an accident. Charity is an area where any socialist will want to start squeezing out the private sector and gathering all "charity" into the hands of government...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 AM

March 18, 2009

We're a "vast and broken-hearted thing." Why wasn't I told?

I liked this piece by Noemie Emery, Palinphobes and the audacity of type:

Now that the Obama presidency is nearing the 60-day mark, it's time to thank those fastidious scribes on the left and the right who worked so hard to warn us against Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and the dire things that would surely occur if she ever got close to executive power.

How right they were to insist that she was unfit for high office. Let's just imagine what she might have done:

As president, she might have caused the stock market to plunge over 2,000 points in the six weeks after she assumed office, left important posts in the Treasury unfilled for two months, been described by insiders as 'overwhelmed' by the office, and then gone on to diss the British Prime Minister on his first state visit, giving him, as one head of state to another, a set of DVDs plucked from the aisles of Wal Mart, a tasteful gift, even if they can't be played on a TV in Britain. (Note, the Prime Minister, who is losing his eyesight, may even be blind in one eye).

As vice president, she might have told Katie Couric that when the stock market crashed in 1929, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went on TV to reassure a terrified nation. Or on her first trip abroad as Secretary of State, she might have, as the AP reported, "raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe...when she mispronounced her "EU counterparts names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe's," then gave the Russian minister a gag "reset" button, on which the word "reset" was translated incorrectly.

What a good thing that Palin, whom Christopher Buckley called "an embarrassment, and a dangerous one," wasn't in office to cause such debacles, and that we have Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton instead.

"This is not a leader, this is a follower," wrote ex-Reagan muse Peggy Noonan. "She follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine...she doesn't seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts."...

Poor Peggy. Sad case.

Alaska, by the way, seems to be weathering the financial crisis better than many places. I saw this headline: Alaska Dodges Banking Collapse, and thought it referred to some scary almost-disaster narrowly averted. But the article is merely about how Alaska financial institutions are in good health because they've mostly avoided risky loans and toxic assets. This has probably got nothing to do with Palin personally, but perhaps a lot to do with AK being the sort of place that produces people like her. I'd not be surprised if Wall Street hot-shots (yuppie Democrats most of them) feel the same contempt towards back-wood bankers that Beltway pundits feel about Sarah. So who's looking good now?

And I didn't know about the PM's vision problems. Way t'go, Barack. Give a blind man DVD's, to make him feel good.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 AM

March 17, 2009


We were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday. It's really an amazing place--extremely well done. These are just a couple of quickie videos I took. The first one is from the Sea Otter tank...

And these are some little jellyfish plankton. They are the most delicate bigger than your thumb.


Posted by John Weidner at 2:21 PM

Nudging the data...

Alan Sullivan pointed to this blog post, Kafka at Albany, about the investigation--or rather, non-investigation--of what looks like academic fraud. Fraud involving--you will be so surprised--climate-change and big federal grants.

I suspect there is a lot more of this than we will ever know. We won't know because most of it will be more subtle. Nudging the data rather than fudging. Quite probably much of it is unconscious--very few of us would not be influenced by knowing that finding one kind of data means we remain a "star professor" with a lab full of hot post-docs.....and coming up with a certain other sort of data means academic obscurity and possibly ostracization.

And there's this other thing going on. There is, I think, a lot of incentive towards slanting science due to the personal politics of the people involved. When certain science topics come up, everyone gets twitchy because we know the issues have political implications. One of my sisters is a scientist (smart, honest as they come, not involved in any controversial research) and a liberal. We normally don't mention politics! But climate science came up once in a e-mail exchange, and she made some complaint about Bush/Cheney... and I pointed out that she had in fact instantly turned the science into a political weapon. That ended that conversation pronto, but it's stuck in my mind.

Here's a bit of the post. Looks like a juicy bit of business. (Possibly equivalent to the milching malicho around the "hockey stick" climate-history data...)
...Last June I reported on the allegations of academic fraud levelled by a British mathematician, Doug Keenan, against Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of New York State University at Albany.

Dr Keenan alleged that in work that has come to be widely cited in climate studies, work that included the collation of data from temperature measuring stations in China, Professor Wang made statements that "cannot be true and could not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated."

In August 2007, Dr Keenan submitted a report (pdf) of his allegations to the Vice President for Research at Wang's university and an inquiry was initiated. In February 2008 this was escalated into a full investigation by the Inquiry Committee.

All this was summarised in my earlier post, together with quotations from Dr Keenan's allegation....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 AM

March 14, 2009

Chewed up and spit out...

I have to recommend a very good book, The Last Superstition, by Edward Feser. It's a debunking of the recent spate of "New Atheist" books, drawing on the classic arguments of Aristotle and Aquinas. I've long been aware that they, and other philosophers, had given proofs of God's existence, but I must confess I've never studied them. In fact, like many people, I had picked up a vague impression of what those arguments might be--impressions that are simply wrong! (For instance Thomas does not base any arguments on the universe needing a creator to get it started in the first place!)

The actual arguments are very interesting, and Feser presents them wittily, and with lots of snark at the lameness and ignorance of people like Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins. If there are any people with enquiring minds left in the world, they could enjoy this book even without being interested in the actual questions... just to appreciate clear thinking.

...But enough of this unpleasantness. Let us turn to Aquinas. To understand his arguments for God's existence, you need first to understand what is wrong with the way philistines like Dawkins read them, or rather misread them. Like many who are not familiar with philosophical modes of argumentation, Dawkins assumes that Aquinas is engages in a kind of empirical theorizing, "postulating" God's existence as a "hypothesis" to "explain" certain pieces of "data." That is, he thinks Aquinas's reasoning is analogous to the sort of reasoning a detective engages in when he infers from a cigarette butt and the size of a shoe print that the suspect was probably a six-foot tall smoker...

...When understood in this light, arguments for God's existence inevitably come to seem like what are called "God of the gaps" arguments: "Here is something science hasn't yet explained; probably God is the explanation." Dawkins, Harris, et al., come along and have little trouble coming up with some imaginative materialistic exlanation of the evidence in question, and even if the proposed explanation is unsupported or far-fetched, it serves rhetorically to undermine any confidence their hapless readers might otherwise have in the whole enterprise of arguing for God's existence.

But Aquinas does not argue in this lame "God of the gaps" manner, and neither do any of the great philosophical theologians referred to above (Aristotle, Maimonides, Duns Scotus, Leibniz, et al.). I will admit that some theists argue this way: Paley did, and "Intelligent Design" theorists influenced by him do as well. But their faulty methodology should not be read back into thinkers who would have had no truck with it. Why atheists are so fixated on Paley, I cannot say, unless it is precisely because he is such an easy target: If he didn't exist, atheists would have to invent him, or find some other straw man to beat. Aquinas, as is well know, always painstakingly considered all opposing arguments, and always made a point of attacking an an opponent's position at its strongest point. (This contrast is one reason I compare the moral character of the New Atheists so unfavorably to that of Aquinas, and it is a reason they will be hard-pressed to dismiss, � la Hume, as a mere "monkish virtue.")...

...What Aquinas is doing can be understood by comparison with the sort of reasoning familiar from geometry and mathematics in general...


Posted by John Weidner at 5:54 PM

March 13, 2009

Goodbye middlemen...

Power Line - SF Chronicle May Fold:

...The collapse of the newspaper industry continues apace; now it's the San Francisco Chronicle that is likely to be sold or even closed down in a matter of months. This follows Sunday's bankruptcy filing by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, just two and a half years after investors paid more than $500 million for the company.

We've known for a while that the newspaper industry is in desperate trouble, but it didn't occur to us until recently that it may be a leading indicator....

Mostly the dying of the newspapers is about the simple fact that the Internet kills middlemen. Newspapers are "middlemen" who gather up news from all about and package it for resale. But most people don't really want to buy 100 pieces of news to get the one that really interests them. We did it that way for centuries because there was no alternative, but it was always grossly inefficient.

Even if the paper goes "online," the same problem remains. Plus, the job of the "journalist" was always a kludge. Most of the time the reporter is writing about things he knows little about--he or she can't be an expert in more than a tiny fraction of the things covered. So everyone has had the experience of reading an article on the particular industry one works in, or the church you belong to--and cringing because the reporter is wrong on various details. And there are now some bloggers covering things who know a hundred times as much as any reporter about their specific subject.

I was sitting in an auto-body shop recently, and picked up an auto-body shop magazine, and there was mention of some controversy raging amongst the auto-body shop BLOGS! Too crazy!

Many of us conservatives like to opine that the Gasping Media is dying because they cold-shoulder conservatives, and generally publish a pack of lies to help Democrats and the general cause of nihilism. They do, and the bloodsucking parasites richly deserve to have Mr Pointy driven through their hearts. But, I have to guess that even if they were not despicable lefty frauds, their general decline would be much the same...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:52 PM

March 12, 2009

An even worse snub to a friend of America....

Big Lizard writes that before Obama's snubs to Gordon Brown, he had treated the PM of Japan even worse...

From a Japanes story on Prime Minister Taro Aso's visit. (Which I bet you didn't even know happened--I didn't.)

...It was unprecedented that there was no state lunch or joint press conference [sound familar?].

There was no private one-on-one meeting, which is what is needed to meet the requirement of a "summit."

Just before the meeting, President Obama talked about the importance of the U.S.-Japan friendship and strengthening the alliance for east-Asian security. However, Mr. Obama did not take any action to publicize the message.

Mr. Obama gave his first speech to Congress that same night. The U.S. government, public, and media attention were all on that speech; they paid little to no attention to the prime minister's visit.

This meeting reminded Japanese of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murakami's visit to the U.S. in January of 1995. However, even during that visit, Murayama was allowed to stay at Blair House, the official guest house. But not Aso; he was forced to stay in a hotel in a Washington DC suburb. The duration of the visit was less than half of Murakami's....

Rush Limbaugh: Better He Should FailThis is insane. Or rather, it is if you think of Obama as a normal president. If you visualize him as a lefty activist-type who would at most make a good president of a state university, THEN it makes perfect sense. Imagine the lefties you know--how many of them would have been pleased to learn that President Bush had strengthened our alliance with Japan? Or with India, which is a far more important accomplishment of the Bush Administration? I'd lay money that the PM of India would be treated the same way, if he visited now. Lefties are anti-American, and Obama is running true-to-form.

More and more I'm coming around to Rush Limbaugh's view. I was originally guessing that Obama would aim to be another Bill Clinton, leftish by inclination but aware that that is not what America wants. Therefore I would support his more sensible moves (similar to my support of NAFTA and welfare reform under Clinton) and argue against his unwise ideas. Now he's looking more like one of those horrid cowardly sneaks trained by Saul Alinsky to pretend to be moderate so they can infiltrate institutions, and then seize power for marxist ends. (If any "Alinsky-ites are reading, I spit upon you with the utmost detestation! Sneaks! Termites!..... Hermaphrodites!)

But it doesn't look like that's what Obama is going to be. So, it is the moral and sensible thing to hope he fails. If anyone is interested, that what I'm feeling at the moment. I hope he fails even worse than Carter, which is saying a lot!. Then at least a few people will wake up from their stupor.

[I put up this picture of Rush so as to be unambiguous about how I'm feeling. Since I'm not a moral coward like 98% of leftists are, I write clearly what I think, and if I change my mind, or turn out to be wrong, I will just say so.]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 AM

March 9, 2009

Parody--is it even possible any more?

Drudge Report: Chavez calls on Obama to follow path of socialism:

...Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday called upon US President Barack Obama to follow the path to socialism, which he termed as the "only" way out of the global recession. "Come with us, align yourself, come with us on the road to socialism. This is the only path. Imagine a socialist revolution in the United States," Chavez told a group of workers in the southern Venezuelan state of Bolivar....

...."Nothing is impossible. Who would have thought in the 1980s that the Soviet Union would disappear? No one," he said. ...

(Thanks to Richard Fernandez)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:54 PM

March 8, 2009

Same now as the year I was born.

From a piece by Thomas Sowell, "Not One of Us":

...Governor Palin's candidacy for the vice presidency was what galvanized grass roots Republicans in a way that John McCain never did. But there was something about her that turned even some conservative intellectuals against her and provoked visceral anger and hatred from liberal intellectuals.

Perhaps the best way to try to understand these reactions is to recall what Eleanor Roosevelt said when she first saw Whittaker Chambers, who had accused Alger Hiss of being a spy for the Soviet Union. Upon seeing the slouching, overweight and disheveled Chambers, she said, "He's not one of us."

The trim, erect and impeccably dressed Alger Hiss, with his Ivy League and New Deal pedigree, clearly was "one of us." As it turned out, he was also a liar and a spy for the Soviet Union. Not only did a jury decide that at the time, the opening of the secret files of the Soviet Union in its last days added more evidence of his guilt.

The Hiss-Chambers confrontation of more than half a century ago produced the same kind of visceral polarization that Governor Sarah Palin provokes today.

Before the first trial of Alger Hiss began, reporters who gathered at the courthouse informally sounded each other out as to which of them they believed, before any evidence had been presented. Most believed that Hiss was telling the truth and that it was Chambers who was lying.

More important, those reporters who believed that Chambers was telling the truth were immediately ostracized. None of this could have been based on the evidence for either side, for that evidence had not yet been presented in court....

The causes and people morph and change, but lefties are still working for Stalin. Same as the year I was born, when the guilty verdict was handed down in the Hiss trial. And I used to think that Whittaker Chambers' book Witness was sort of a period piece. Now I think of it in conjunction with Tolkien's words: "...and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat."

Witness remains one of the great American books.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:01 PM

"Like the tides of an invisible sea"

The Anchoress quoted this...

From Flannery O'Connor's letter to Alfred Corn on May 30, 1962:

Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It's there, even when he can't see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian sceptism. It will keep you free -- not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your intellect or the intellects of those around you...

Faith, by the way, is transparent. You can't see it, or touch it, but you know that it is there because you see other things more clearly--faith is sort of like the glass in a diving mask. You don't see the glass itself, but you see the underwater world much more clearly, so you know it is there.

Actually, the statement that "faith lets you see things more clearly" is true of pretty much everything. You can not, for instance, be a good scientist or engineer if you do not have faith in those disciplines. (I suppose it would be possible to do science merely as an intellectual game that you do not believe in, but it never happens.) The engineer has at some point in his life had a "conversion experience," which turns many small pieces of knowledge gained in life into a meaningful whole. (Or it could be, Catholic-wise, a series of small conversions throughout life.)

I love history, and I well remember my "conversion experience" the first time an entire period of history snapped into focus as a coherent whole, rather than a collection of interesting facts. It was dazzling. (The book was The Fatal Inheritance; Philip II and the Spanish Netherlands, by Edward Grierson.) Once that happened, then I could presume that any period of history would be found to be a comprehensible whole, if I cared to delve into it. Politics, art, clothing, military tactics, religion....all would be inter-related and meaningful. I could "see" the idea, because I had faith.


Posted by John Weidner at 2:11 PM

A happy interlude in our hectic life...

I was recently given a tip about a cool blog, Dominican History. It has a post on P�re Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P. , who founded the �cole Biblique, the famous Dominican research center in Jerusalem.

Which has kept me thinking lately of a couple of the happiest hours Charlene and I have spent in recent years. It was during our trip to the Holy Land last May. Our group visited the �cole, and Charlene and I loved it. It was like taking a step back in time to a happier, more civilized era. Especially, the gardens were a dream of peace for me. Not fancy or pretentious at all; rather dry and dusty and shabby, but the sort of place I could have just sat in or walked in all day.

I wish I had taken more pictures there, but this one gives at least a hint of the flavor of the gardens. That's our dear friend Fr. Francis Goode, looking a bit tired, but we all were on that fast-moving pilgrimage.

Fr. Francis in the gardens at the Ecole Biblique

Here's our motley crew being shown about by two of the faculty. That's Fr Olivier an the left, and Fr. Gregory on the right. The cool thing is, we know these men. They've stayed at our priory in San Francisco. It gave me a charming feeling of being part of the Dominican universe...

Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem

Here's the Church of St Stephen (the first martyr), which is part of the school. It was built in 1900 on the site of the 5th Century Byzantine church, which was destroyed in the 12th Century. You can still see mosaic floors from the old church. It is also the largest Christian church in Jerusalem, so the other flavors of Christians borrow it if they need to hold really big ceremonies.

St Stephen Church, Jerusalem

Here's a bit from the post on Pere Lagrange...

...He taught Church History and Holy Scripture for a while, then was sent to the Vienna University (Austria) to hone his oriental languages skills. There, on February the 5th, 1889, he was ordered to leave for Jerusalem. Right away, he sketched a working programme, and on November the 15th, 1890, in a former Turkish slaughterhouse, in which the rings the animals were to be hung from were still to be seen, he opened what he insisted on calling l'�cole Pratique d'�tudes Bibliques (Practical School for Biblical Studies).

Father Lagrange was a partisan of the encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII, inviting scholars to solve the difficulties created by a rationalist analysis of the Bible through an exegesis that would be at the same time rooted in tradition, but progressive. But some disliked his scientific approach and, as he was working doggedly to refute those who were questioning the essential data of Christian faith, he got censored and had to leave Jerusalem for a year, in 1912. Neither formally condemned nor rehabilitated, the Dominican remained heroically faithful to the Church. Through work and prayer, enlighted by his faith, and wih great scientific rigour, he put his intelligence to the service of the Gospel and the truth...
Posted by John Weidner at 5:40 AM

March 7, 2009

They're rich liberals...what do they care if pickaninnies suffer?


...New York's two US Democratic senators yesterday said they will vote against an amendment that would preserve a Washington, DC, school-voucher program that helps lower-income students attend private schools....
Their own children of course go to private schools, and don't have to endure the wretchedness of the inner-city schools that Dems impose on the little people they so despise. The teachers unions are the biggest contributors to the "Democrat" Party, so the destruction of whole generations of minority children is obviously a small price to pay for Schumer and Clinton and all the other Dems to retain power and wealth. Another sick fact is that in urban areas public school teachers send their own children to private schools in much greater percentages than the general population. Another sick fact. The vouchers provided to some DC kids are much less than the district is paying per-child for the public schools!
Posted by John Weidner at 6:23 PM

Me, I align with the trogs...

Peter Robinson, Neither Moderate Nor Centrist -

...A couple of implications here are worth noting. The first is that a deep, recurring pattern of American life has asserted itself yet again: the cluelessness of the elite.

Buckley, Gergen and Brooks all attended expensive private universities, then spent their careers moving among the wealthy and powerful who inhabit the seaboard corridor running from Washington to Boston. If any of the three strolled uninvited into a cocktail party in Georgetown, Cambridge or New Haven, the hostess would emit yelps of delight. Yet all three originally got Obama wrong.

Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away, or with Thomas Sowell, who occupies probably the most unfashionable position in the country, that of a black conservative.

Limbaugh and Sowell both got Obama right from the very get-go. "Just what evidence do you have," Sowell replied when I asked, shortly before the election, whether he considered Obama a centrist, "that he's anything but a hard-left ideologue?"

The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right. As our national drama continues to unfold, bear that in mind....
The fascinating flip-side of this is that the very same elite cuties all hated Sarah Palin.

<armchair psychologist mode> My guess is that Sarah, symbolically, is a pie-in-the-face to many peoples' hidden gnostic fantasy that their uber-coolness or crunchy-granola-ness show that they are shedding the dross of the material world and ascending to a higher spiritual state. To a sort of transcendental oneness that is glowing... golden... almost.... dare I say it? European! (Or, if not that good, at least not tacky!) Everything about her is the down-to-earth opposite of that sort of airy-fairy crap. </armchair psychologist mode>

I'd extend this and say that, on a symbolic level, the Palins' decision to not abort a Downs syndrome child was an extreme affront to our elites, and was more important than anything she actually said or did. (She's actually never been an anti-abortion crusader.) Sort of a declaration of war. Trig Palin symbolizes the utter intractableness of the fallen and broken nature of our material universe. Gnosticism in all its slippery and protean forms is an attempt to escape from this. To slough it off!

For the Palins to embrace, symbolically, the gritty ugly realness of things is to reject the deep underlying assumptions of almost every leftist or elitist worldview.

It is also exceedingly Catholic. Not in being anti-abortion (Catholics consider that natural law, not something Catholic) but in embracing the world and reality in the way it is, and not trying to squirm away from the pain and ugliness at the cost of distancing God's creation.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:43 PM

March 6, 2009


AFP: Iraqi detainees refusing to go home:

BAGHDAD -- An increasing number of Iraqi detainees are refusing to leave detention centres despite being eligible for release because they want to complete studies begun behind bars, a US general said on Sunday.

"In the last three or four months we have begun seeing detainees asking to stay in detention, usually to complete their studies," Major General Douglas Stone told a news conference in Baghdad.

The US military offers a wide range of educational programmes to the 23,000 or so detainees -- adults and juveniles -- being held at its two detention facilities, Camp Cropper near Baghdad's international airport and Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra.

Some parents of juvenile detainees, too, have asked that their children remain behind bars so they can continue their schooling, said Stone, the commanding general for US detainee operations in Iraq....

Actually, they only want to stay because they are captivated by Mr Obama. That must be it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:38 PM

Tip of the day...

If perchance you get back pain from sitting too long without enough lower-back support, this gadget called the Wonder-Roll works really well! Five stars I give it.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

March 5, 2009

Why there aren't any barbers anymore...

Riehl World View: Of Plumbers And Barbers:

...In the 70's and 80's many states merged their Barber and Cosmetology Boards into one. Suddenly a young man who could make a decent living as a Barber couldn't do a partly paid apprenticeship, taking just months to learn a career that could serve him for life. He had to pay to attend a Community College or private tech education program that could last two years, while making him learn a variety of skills he'd never employ. And he, or she was also taught to charge much more for the service.

And that doesn't include the regulation side, which went on to require every Barbershop to meet the standards of the largest women's Salon in terms of specialized sinks and facilities a traditional Barber would never need.

In states where this took place a career once dominated by men became a women's forte - which is fine, though many never have learned how to give a good Men's haircut. Costs of a haircut more than doubled, you could forget getting a nice shave if you wanted it. And businesses saw their overhead costs rise dramatically. And all because the government was just looking out for you....

I'd guess this is just another example of people being destroyed to advance leftist theory. It's a humble example, to be sure, but no different in kind from the many examples of whole countries destroyed, and millions slain. (Like this recent example.)

I don't know any details of how these decisions were made, but one would have to be blind not to realize that the barbershop would be an irritant to "feminists" and the general run of girly-men bureaucrats and academics. Think of it--a bunch of guys sitting around a totally male place, laughing and joking, talking about the game, or listening to Rush..... How the vegetarian-pacifist types must have hated it.

And it was so American...the striped pole, the big chairs, the piles of Sports Illustrated and Playboy. To relaxed shabbiness, and total disinterest in trendy decor and style. I'm sure the faculty lounge crowd recoiled in disgust. You know that.

So they destroyed it. In the same way, though on a miniature scale, that Stalin sent annoying tribes to Siberia, or Castro sends writers to labor camps.

They destroyed it, and we never got a vote. The last thing "Democrats" want is democracy. The nihilists will win in the end, because they are tireless ant-workers, always chewing away at all things tough and meaningful. The decisions are made in obscure bureaucratic corridors, and the battle is lost before the public even realizes there was a battle. And every augmentation of government power and size--you know, the ones done to "help people"--is really about moving more decisions out of private hands, and out of any possibility of people voting on the issues.

My sons will never know that old American institution, the barber shop. And so they will be a little less masculine, a little less confident in this brave new world where real existence is found in cubicles staring at computer monitors. They will have a little less fun--masculine fun. A sick irony; my son the singer knows barbershop quartets... but has probably never been in a barbershop! The barber shop will just be something old guys talk about, before time's river carries them away. Something grandpa bores you by going on about, like patriotism or the Federalist Papers, or the Bataan Death March.

And women will wonder, in the vague ineffectual way proper to their sex, why men are becoming somehow less satisfying, less interesting. Of course they won't wonder enough to actually DO anything, or re-think the crap they have been indoctrinated with--that sort of thinking is upsetting and can make one feel uncomfortable on Facebook!

If this was an influential blog, I might have to keep a civil tone, so as not to alienate readers and make dialog impossible. Since I'm just a very minor blogger, I can say what I like. Say what's true. Liberalism is evil. Leftism is evil. If you are a "Democrat," you are, at the very least, up to your waist in foul evil and nihilism and the destruction of all things good and true. I look on you worms with the utmost contempt!

* Update: Charlene adds that black hair braiding salons are now under pressure to adopt the same (utterly un-needed) "cosmetology" standards . But somehow this is an "institution" that liberals have some sympathy for preserving! I wonda why?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

March 4, 2009

I hope he fails too....if he's doing what it looks like he's doing....

Peter Wehner, at the Corner...

I have a few thoughts on the "controversy" about Rush Limbaugh saying he hopes Barack Obama fails -- a claim that, based on the lead in to his show last night, left CNN's Anderson Cooper (among a slew of other media commentators) aghast.

The argument Limbaugh is making is fairly simple to follow: Pres. Obama is proposing plans Limbaugh believes (with justification, in my view) will hurt our economy and hurt our country. If Obama fails in getting his plans through Congress, we will be better off. ...

....But those in the MSM are pretending that those who hope Obama's plans fail are really rooting against America. That is nonsense. Limbaugh wants America to succeed; as a conservative, he hopes Obama's astonishing liberal power-grab fails. It's really not all that complicated to understand.

What I wonder, though, is where Anderson Cooper and his colleagues were during the Iraq debate, when the surge was clearly beginning to work -- yet leading Democrats, one after another, said it was failing. This was a situation in which America was engaged in a war of enormous consequences and, if we had lost, it would have been a geo-political and humanitarian catastrophe. Yet anti-war critics -- including Senator Barack Obama -- insisted on promoting the narrative of America's failure in Iraq when the evidence was the opposite.

Where was the outrage then, I wonder?....

Yeah, and how about some outrage over leftists wanting Bush's plan to save Social Security to fail? (Of course they had an important reason to want it to fail---what could be worse for a Lefty than to have the little people become investors, and perhaps lose their dependency on their betters?)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:31 PM

March 3, 2009

I think the economy may be in trouble...

I went to Home Depot for some trifles, and I must have had a dozen or more salespeople greet me or ask to help me. Scary.

It reminded me of the old yarn from the 30's, where the farmer tells his wife that there must really be a depression, because the Saturday Evening Post just blew off the front porch! (For the historically challenged, the Saturday Evening Post was once the most popular American periodical by far. Since it was purely a source of entertainment, rather then news or information, it died soon after television arrived.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:55 AM

Another sucker wakes up.... sort of.

David Brooks, in the NYT, A Moderate Manifesto:

....Those of us who consider ourselves moderates -- moderate-conservative, in my case -- are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. [It was not thought, it was wishful thinking.] His words are responsible; his character is inspiring [Bet you can't name ONE thing he's done that shows exceptional character.]. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. ["on notice!" Don't be rash and hasty now.] As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget "contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal's dream of a new New Deal."

Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, "a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal." [He's a corrupt Chicago pol, and it's all about boodle and power for Dems.] On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama's experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it. ["unfit" only because it's got too many guys who think like Brooks, and too few who think like the excerpt from Limbaugh's speech which I've pasted below the fold.]

Those of us in the moderate tradition -- the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government -- [Hamilton would despise you bloated cream puffs] thus find ourselves facing a void. [the void is in your souls.] We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. [Yeah, right. Settle your spectacles firmly on the ears and bridge of the nose. Look grave. Very grave.] We're going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force. [You are a "centrists" precisely BECAUSE you are feckless and vapid. Perhaps you might try furling your umbrellas more tightly.]

The first task will be to block the excesses of unchecked liberalism. [Can't fight something with nothing.] In the past weeks, Democrats have legislated provisions to dilute welfare reform, restrict the inflow of skilled immigrants and gut a voucher program designed for poor students. It will be up to moderates to raise the alarms against these ideological outrages. [Conservatives have already raised the alarms. It's time for you to put up or shut up.]

But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision.... ["Sketch out." Doesn't that tell us all we need to know.]
Here's a bit of Rush's speech. Of course Republicans are "unfit" for office, if they believe this kind of rabid partisan hate-mongering. How embarrassing it must be for Mr Brooks in Manhattan to be even tenuously connected with such bigoted madness...
....Let me tell you who we conservatives are: We love people. When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don't see groups. We don't see victims. We don't see people we want to exploit. What we see -- what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don't think that person doesn't have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.

We want every American to be the best he or she chooses to be. We recognize that we are all individuals. We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. Liberty, Freedom. And the pursuit of happiness. Those of you watching at home may wonder why this is being applauded. We conservatives think all three are under assault. Thank you. Thank you.

We don't want to tell anybody how to live. That's up to you. If you want to make the best of yourself, feel free. If you want to ruin your life, we'll try to stop it, but it's a waste. We look over the country as it is today, we see so much waste, human potential that's been destroyed by 50 years of a welfare state. By a failed war on poverty. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

March 2, 2009

" the conscious atmosphere of corruption and payoff..."

From Maimon Schwarzschild, Not the Spirit of the New Deal:

....There are different streams of ideas on today's politcal left than there were in the 1930s. There is the idea that prosperity and growth are bad: bad for the "planet", hostile to the environment, vulgar, and linked to immoral individualism. There is the idea that a humbler, poorer, less powerful America would be a good thing. These are fundamentally pessimistic ideas, pessimistic about America at least: very different from the buoyant and self-confident (if sometimes, or often, misguided) outlook of FDR and the liberals and leftists who made the New Deal (and who went on to fight the Second World War.)

The spirit of the Obama-Pelosi "stimulus", and the conscious atmosphere of corruption and payoff that surrounds it, is consistent with today's negative, if not sour, leftist worldview. The New Dealers believed they were building a more "scientific" and much more prosperous world. There was a great deal of genuine idealism among them. Today's triumphant political class does not seriously imagine that it will promote economic growth and prosperity. The political class is, at best, ambivalent about whether it even wants such things. What today's political class wants is a massive transfer of power and money to itself. This is what the "stimulus", and much else that will follow, is openly intended to do. If there were a spirit of optimism and generosity and idealism about it, as there was among the New Dealers, there would at least be reason to hope that things wouldn't quickly degenerate into corruption. It seems to me that there is little such spirit, or none at all, today. ..
(Thanks to Chicagoboyz)

SO, are these people, in fact, liberals at all? I'd say Schwarzschild is missing the interesting part of the story, though he's right on the edge of it.

"the liberals and leftists who made the New Deal (and who went on to fight the Second World War.)" Right. They led a great war to overthrow fascist dictators, end genocide, and bring freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples. Today's leftists had an opportunity to do the very same thing. And what happened? They HATED it! Hated it even when things were going well, and millions of Iraqis were braving terrorism to vote in elections. Hated the man in charge (who was the real liberal).

I'd say what we see is NOT merely a "pessimistic outlook." It is nihilism. (Tune out if you've already heard me on this subject.) Leftists are like a church that keeps reciting the Creed every Sunday, even though all faith and belief has leaked away. "Liberals" are NOT liberals, and our world will not make sense as long as you keep thinking they are.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:20 AM