April 30, 2009

We are what government says we are...

William C. Duncan - The Corner on National Review Online:

The New Hampshire Senate has just voted 13-11 in favor of a bill that would redefine marriage in the state. This was an amended version of a same-sex marriage bill already approved by the House, so it must now go back to the House for approval before going to the governor. The "concessions" in the Senate version distinguish civil and religious marriages (was that a question?) and allow married couples to choose to be designated as "bride," "groom," or "spouse." One senator is quoted as saying this generosity is "respectful to both sides of the debate" although bill opponents might be forgiven for sensing a patronizing note in this.

One of the many aspects of "gay marriage" that no one seems to care about is that it is a huge expansion of government power. Government never had this power in the past; it has always merely adumbrated the common traditional ideas. One would think that "libertarians" would be concerned, but I haven't seen it.

If I might adapt a common phrase, "The power to define is the power to destroy." Allowing the state to define marriage—and thus implicitely to define almost any personal matter—is a far greater step towards tyranny than the nationalizing of banks or auto companies. Why? Because those economic experiments will probably be given up in the future when their failure becomes evident. But we can never go back to the original state of things where no one even imagined the state could change what marriage or families or personal relationships should be. Or what "grooms" or "spouses" are.

Even to politically fight against gay marriage is to implicitly agree that we are what government says we are.

I don't expect leftists to be able to think clearly, but the acquiescent stupidity of "libertarians" just stupefies me. The same people who—rightly—decry government intervention in the marketplace, and point out that this will inevitably tend to grow and become oppressive, sit supinely while government decides what a family is. And they imagine that this is making them more free.

Equally stupid is the common assumption that of course no one will go any farther in defining stuff. This is the end of the project! This is the only change that will be made! Fools. (One might ponder this: Toppling the last taboo: Is incest merely a relic of a decrepit moral system?) Well, I'm telling you now, they will be back for another redefinition of marriage soon enough. Don't come bleating to me like sheep saying, "I didn't expect this to happen!"

* Update: Underlying the disastrous idea of government defining us is the deeper folly of thinking we can define ourselves. That seems like freedom on the face of it, but the problem is that we then define ourselves according to the common ideas of the moment. We subject ourselves to the tyranny of the crowd. There is no objective standard, no baseline, and so we are soon trapped in a labyrinth of fun-house mirrors. The distorted image becomes the definition of what is "real," and then the next mirror distorts reality in another direction, and that becomes what's "real," and then another...

Then I tear my hair out saying, "Can't you SEE that you've become Gumby! (And people look at me like I'm some kind of nut.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

April 29, 2009

It would be like us still having the Whig Party...

I'm pretty sure this historical analogy by Michael Barone, Specter's party switch is all about winning, does not really work...

...When Churchill left the Liberals, they had led governments for 16 of the preceding 18 years. They never did so again. A party in decline should adapt its basic philosophy to new policies and positions in order to win over voters, rather than stand on principle and expel heretics.

Arlen Specter will never rise to Churchillian heights and will probably be, as Churchill was after 1924, as uncomfortable in his new party as in the old. But he also seems likely to have, as Churchill did, the last laugh....

Parliamentary democracies tend to have many small parties, and in fact the Liberals were sliding back then into being a permanently small also-ran party. Our system makes having two parties almost obligatory.

Why? Imagine a third party that got 20% of the vote in each and evey district in the country. How many people would it send to congress and to state-houses? Quite possibly none! That gets discouraging in a hurry.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:19 AM

Just for the record...

How Bush Prepared for the Outbreak - WSJ.com:

...Swine flu has presented the Obama administration with its first major public-health crisis. Fortunately for the Obama team, the Bush administration developed new tools that will prove critical in meeting this challenge.

Under President Bush, the federal government worked with manufacturers to accelerate vaccine development, stockpiled crucial antivirals like Tamiflu, war-gamed pandemic scenarios with senior officials, and increased the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) sample identification capabilities. These activities are bearing fruit today....

I'll add it to my list of Bush accomplishments...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM

Slips out... Bush kept us safe.

In the course of a dishonest (see below) editorial bashing the Bush administration for its supposed torture and brutality, Thomas L. Friedman lets this slip:

...I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — particularly in Iraq. Al Qaeda knows that if it can destroy the U.S. effort (still a long shot) to build a decent, modernizing society in Iraq, it will undermine every U.S. ally in the region.

Conversely, if we, with Iraqis, defeat them by building any kind of decent, pluralistic society in the heart of their world, it will be a devastating blow. Odd as it may seem, the most dangerous moment for us is if Al Qaeda is beaten in Iraq. Because that is when Al Qaeda's remnants will try to throw a Hail Mary pass — that is, try to set off a bomb in a U.S. city — to obscure its defeat by moderate Arabs and Muslims in the heart of its world....(From A Torturous Compromise - NYTimes.com)

If you think that, Friedman, WHY weren't you giving President Bush warm support in that very effort, hmmm? Why weren't you pointing it out when it would have actually helped?

And that last sentence. If al-Qaeda had attacked us before Obama was inaugurated, would you have called it a "Hail Mary pass" to "obscure its defeat?" Not likely. You would say, "Bush didn't keep us safe! Snivel...whine...snivel." You are just preparing your talking points for the likelihood that Obama's feckless weakness gains us an attack.

Friedman's "torture" bashing is dishonest because it conflates interrogation with all deaths and injuries of detainees. Some of which were crimes, to be sure, but had nothing to do with interrogation. And of course gives zero positive weight to the fact that our guys were detaining, at the risk of their lives, terrorists which less moral groups would have just killed on the spot. Especially since in Iraq a lot of detainees were quickly released by Iraqi judges.

And of course gives zero weight to the fact that our opponents commit war crimes every day. They intentionally destroy those rules of war which protect detainees (as a side effect of their main purpose which is to protect non-combatants). Yet of course the liberal criticizes only US forces. (Why? See here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 AM

April 28, 2009

What have you done for me lately?

David Freddoso:

...If we take Specter's word, then the GOP has become intolerant of moderate politicians like himself. On this score, Specter appears to have a severe case of amnesia. Exactly five years ago, the national Republican Party swooped into Pennsylvania and saved him from certain defeat at the hands of Rep. Pat Toomey (R). Valuable presidential time was sacrificed on his behalf. Also sacrificed for Arlen Specter was the reputation of his conservative colleague, Rick Santorum (R), who never recovered. From that moment forward, he lost his core constituency, and was easily defeated two years later by a pro-life Democrat.

Without essential help from the party that is so intolerant of people like him, Arlen Specter would already be a former senator today. It is not the party but the voters who have stopped tolerating Specter.

If we take Specter's word, then conservatives act in bad faith when they become involved in the political process and try to elect the candidates of their choice. Conservatives should become less involved in the political process and stop challenging people like Arlen Specter. They should not organize — whether through groups like the Club for Growth or otherwise — nor should they participate in the political process, nor donate to nor vote for candidates whom they prefer...

Generally, when someone describes themselves as "moderate," it means they have no character. (Moderate measures may be called for, but if so, if they are the Good, and one should support them passionately.) What a scrub this guy is. Next thing you know, he'll declare he's a pacifist.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:19 PM

"Is it ever just for us NOT to war against such regimes?"

Orrin Judd:

...So where Mr. Douzinas's intended audience, Europeans, have to answer his ridiculously easy question in the negative--wars can never be just, by definition, because their atheism excludes justice--we face a quite different question here in America. Particularly given the ease with which we can effect change once we turn our attention to states where unjust regimes prevail--Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, Southern Sudan, etc.--the genuinely difficult moral question becomes: is it ever just for us not to war against such regimes? Do we implicate ourselves in the injustice when we fail to remove the dictatorships in Syria, Cuba, North Korea, Burma, the PRC, etc? Does the universal applicability of our Founding impose some moral obligation upon us to advance the march of Liberty wherever and whenever we can?

That's a pretty awesome burden and it's easy to see why the massively self-absorbed seculars want no part of it. But it isn't one that the residents of the City on the Hill can ever dodge more than briefly...

I sometimes wonder what might happen if St Thomas Aquinas (noted for explaining Just War Theory, along with almost everything else) came back, and was asked about the "War on Terror." My guess is that he would say that it is not a war at all. No armies are arrayed against us; we fight against no prince.

Rather, our situation is like dealing with infestations of quasi-revolutionary robber-bands. Lestai. Brigands! And he would say that we don't need to indulge in a lot of head-scratching about what is the moral course of action. It is obvious we should quickly go smoke them out and string them up before they loot and pillage nearby towns.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:26 AM

April 27, 2009

Something to save for next year...

I'm late with this, but it might be worth a look. Pretty funny. (And pretty mendacious, since I doubt any of these people have apologized, and most of them are still spouting any BS that helps the Left, science be damned. Notice the last "prediction.") Earth Day predictions of 1970: (Thanks to Alan. 1970 was the first "Earth Day")

"We have about five more years at the outside to do something."
• Kenneth Watt, ecologist

"Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."
• George Wald, Harvard Biologist

"We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."
• Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

"Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."
• New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
"By...[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,"
• Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

"Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."
• Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

"Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half…."
• Life Magazine, January 1970

"At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable."
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones."
• Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

"By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’"
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct."
• Sen. Gaylord Nelson

"The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age."
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Posted by John Weidner at 10:09 AM

April 24, 2009

Testing Obama...

At Least 60 More Are Killed in New Attacks in Baghdad - NYTimes.com:

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers struck outside the gates of the holiest Shiite site in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 60 people and wounding scores more, according to preliminary reports from police officials....

They aren't doing this because they have any hopes of restoring the Caliphate in Mesopotamia. Or of frightening Nouri al-Maliki!

Nuh uh. This is aimed at one place. Washington DC. They know perfectly well who the weak sisters are. They know who's been traveling the globe apologizing for America's horridness, and threatening to prosecute those who have kept America safe for eight years.

This is what "pacifism" and appeasement get you. The moral and pacifist thing for Obama to do right now is to poke al-Qaeda in the eye with his eye-poking stick. Give them a brutally painful lesson.

But he won't. So you may expect things to get worse. The next test will be bigger...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:49 PM

Yet another comment on a comment....

I started to comment on a comment by my friend Dave T, at this post, but it grew longer and longer, and I decided to make it a stand-alone post because I don't want to waste electrons on Earth Day:

What Dave's given here won't lead to an honest debate [on so-called torture]. There is something askew, something missing.

Think about the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza. Put aside the question of who was right or wrong, and think about the fact that the whole Western world was riveted by the conflict. Why? It was tiny on a global scale, yet it was treated like the biggest of things. Treated as a much bigger deal than, say, the death of a million people in Rawanda. Why? The Middle East has multitudes of oppressions and attacks, but no one cares if Turks kill a bunch of Kurds, or Iranians oppress the Ghashghai. Why is Israel important? It is weird, yet everyone takes it for granted.

I won't keep you in suspense. The reason is that there are only two countries that are real to the average Western Leftist. The USA, and Israel. To most liberals, this planet is like some vast dark warehouse where the only lights are America and Israel. All the other places are only seen if one of us two comes near. Only exist at that moment.

I could cite hundreds of examples, but I'll just give you two. (Extrapolate! You can do it.)

Example: The French are much rougher on terror suspects than we are. Gitmo is a playpen compared to their jails, but no one cares. (This is not just a matter of us Americans giving priority to our own supposed sins; European Lefties obsess over Guantanamo just as much as we do.) Also the French have made numerous military incursions into Africa in the post-colonial period, but no one asks them to obey "international law," or ask permission of the UN. Why? Why do no "pacifists" protest? No one pays the least attention. The US is real, from a Left perspective, and France is not. Why?

Example: In 1992 30,000 Palestinians were kicked out of their homes and sent into exile. Quick, how many of you reading this can name the country that did the deed? Hmmm? And for bonus points, describe the protests that convulsed the globe as liberals and "pacifists" took to the streets demanding justice, and calling on the UN to take action. Well, you can't describe the protests because there weren't any. All those Libs who say they "care" about the Palestinians? They are liars.

Yet....not exactly liars. To them there is no lie, because only Israel is real. Nothing happened to the Palestinians in 1992 because they were not hurt by Israel. Kuwait does not exist to them! It's not real!

We see this stuff all the time, but we don't notice it. I feel like that obnoxious kid pointing out that the Emperor is naked.

Look at the quote by "IOZ" that Dave posted. It is, to put it bluntly, delusional. Crazy. It paints a world where nothing moves except the United States. No one else acts, or speaks, or has any effect on anything. The entire rest of the human race is just a deer in the headlights.

And Dave's own comments assume that the US is the only moral actor that can be considered. The only one that exists. I've followed Dave's writing for many a year, and he has never subjected other countries to intense moral scrutiny. Oh wait, I'm wrong! Actually, it did happen, just once. The country was......Israel! He once heaped harsh moral censure on Israel for striking back against a terror bomber by bulldozing a house. SO, get this, terrorists turn women and children into shredded meat, Israel responds without killing or injuring any person....and who does our supposed pacifist condemn? I've been shaking my head at the sheer craziness of that one for years.

Trying to reason with such a worldview is a waste of time. It's like telling a paranoiac that nobody's trying to get them. The simple fact is that America, which would really like to stay home and enjoy the good life, has been forced into the position of being the decent cop in a rough neighborhood. Of course we slap some wise-guys around, but it's necessary if hoodlums are to be kept from taking over and making things a million times worse.

We water-boarded a few people (and do so routinely to our own troops such as Navy SEALS in training) in the course of fighting against people who interrogate using electric drills to drill into people's heads and knees. That's the context that somehow goes missing when you try to debate with leftists. If poor brown-skinned fellows get tortured or massacred in distant corners of the globe, they don't care. They posture all the time about how "caring" they are, but they. DO. NOT. CARE. It's not even real to them. Therefore what America is doing in the WoT is not real.

Actually they don't even care about the real living breathing America or Israel! These are only important to them as symbols. Remember your college psych class? Symbols, right? Important, psychologically. And spiritually. (Actually in the Catholic worldview symbols can actually "come alive" and be real! Awesome life-changing stuff, but that's for another day.)

So what's going on, symbolically speaking? Well, you have to understand first that liberals are not liberals any more. (Sorry if you've heard this already.) Once upon a time liberalism was a philosophy that people believed in, would fight for. (Imagine Harry Truman or JFK being asked if it's morally right to fight to topple a fascist dictator, and bring democracy to oppressed people! They would have laughed to think one would even need to ask such a question.) Liberalism was a sort of religion, in the sense that it was bigger than the individual.

But that belief has drained away, and left nothing inside. Nothing but self-worship. Nihilism. NOTHING. Now people like IOZ or Dave are wearing liberalism as a kind of disguise.

But if you put yourself in the center, if you make yourself god, then you will hate and fear rival gods. Countries of course are not normally anything like gods. BUT, there are two countries (guess which) on this planet that are something analogous to gods, in the sense that they are really ideas, ideas that demand our service and belief. They are the only two countries you can easily join by accepting their idea. If you dig it, if you "get" the constitution and the Declaration and the Federalist Papers and similar things, then you are an American. Even if you never set foot on US flag territory! (And here's an interesting piece on becoming an Israeli.)

But the nihilist hates and fears belief. He is always against God (sometimes cloaking this in a religious disguise) because being a Christian or a Jew means being a "servant of the Word," or "bearing the yoke of Torah." If you worship yourself you can't be no servant! And on a much lower, but analogous, plane, being an American or an Israeli means being the servant of an idea. It means putting yourself second.

When Leftists rant interminably about the sins of Israel and America, (ignoring everything else in the world) what they are really saying is, "Don't you dare make a claim on me! Don't you dare suggest that anything could be more important than ME! I'm never going to be a servant!" They scrabble endlessly to find excuses to avoid duty, hence the way they savor any mistakes made by... you know who.

This is, I more and more suspect, a very unhappy state of existence. But the empty soul doesn't realize he's unhappy. Why? Because he's like that paranoid, who also doesn't think he's unhappy. He thinks everything would be FINE if only those people weren't trying to kill him! WE know that he's unhappy. He's obviously deeply unhappy. But he can't see it himself.

And the biggest pity is that it's all so unnecessary. People imagine that being a servant to things greater than the self is a kind of death. That it will be a misery. But it is just the opposite. It's hard to demonstrate this point when you look at the big ideas, but the cosmos works by analogies, and there is a small-scale analog close at hand that most people can understand. That is the family. You could look at me as a wretched slave to my wife and children, and in a way I am. But while I've lost big-time as an autonomous individual, I've gained enormous dignity and respect-worthiness as a member—a servant—of my little family. And gained far more than I've lost in richness of life. (And of course we see a lot of people who look on the family in the way Lefties look at America. And call abortion a "blessing," and being unattached "freedom.")

And all the other analogous things work just the same way, up and down the ladder of importance. They look like death to the self, but they are really where the self can be what it wants to be, and was always intended to be, the servant of greater things. Poor IOZ, he thinks he's declaring truths, but he looks to me like some poor ragged wretch walking down the street screaming paranoid fantasies.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:49 AM

April 23, 2009

Just for the record...

You might keep in mind this article from the Washington Post, December 9, 2007, Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002. (From a good piece by Hugh Hewitt.)

This is similar to the abu Ghraib scandal, in which members of Congress knew of the problem months before it hit the news, knew it was being corrected and the guilty were due to be punished...then, when those pictures surfaced, they suddenly discovered that betraying their country with fake outrage would be a big partisan winner.

Same with "torture." Democrat leaders never gave a damn about waterboarding. Not until America was in difficulties. Then the dirty turncoats jumped-ship to what looked like the winning side—al Qaeda.. Leftist fake outrage about torture is treason pure and simple.

And any talk or action now about prosecuting Bush administration officials for things Congress was in agreement with at the time, and declined to make illegal....is not only vile injustice, but treason.

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort. ...

...Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Individual lawmakers' recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:18 AM

April 22, 2009

"Questions better batted down than answered"

Byron York, in the Washington Times, on the hysterical reactions to the tea party protests: In Time of Victory, Why Is The Left So Angry?

...Then there is the question of self-image. Watching Garofalo and Olbermann discuss the tea parties, it was impossible to avoid the sense that they saw themselves as two good people talking about many bad people. "One of the things about narcissism is that it looks like people who are just proud of themselves and smug, but in fact narcissism is a very brittle and unstable state," Anderson told me. "People who are deeply invested in narcissism spend an awful lot of energy trying to maintain the illusion they have of themselves as being powerful and good, and they are exquisitely sensitive to anything that might prick that balloon."

Again, the tea parties could represent a threat. What if the protesters weren't racists, weren't violent, weren't mentally defective? What if their point was legitimate, or even partly legitimate? Those are questions better batted down than answered....

"Narcissism is a very brittle and unstable state." That sure fits with what I'm seeing around here in Pelosiville. Psychologically it is much wiser and less stressful to believe in Original Sin, and acknowledge that your group and you yourself are prone to error and failure, and that paradise on Earth is not achievable.

Think of the liberals who imagine themselves as still riding the wave of transformative energy of the 1960's and the civil rights movement. They may tell themselves things are going great, but of course nothing has actually gone according to the hopes raised at that period. (I was there—I know.) So the poor liberal has to repress.

The same with the saps who thought things would be better to the extent that we became more "European." How has that worked out? Consciously they may still believe it, but sub-consciously they have to be aware that Europe is somehow not setting the world afire these days. Same with those who think socialist regimes will produce happiness etc. None of them, if they get sick, are going to ask to be flown to Havana! They know, though they may not admit it to themselves.

And it's the same with the Obama regime. Vast clouds of nebulous hope have been frothed-up in front of us, but it's already clear that reality is not going to fit the vague dreams and schemes. It reminds me of a recollection I read by someone who was in the JFK administration, right at the beginning. Apparently they were worried about what they would do in the second term, after they had solved all the country's problems!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:52 AM

April 21, 2009

"Smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension"

A symptom ...or a root cause? - Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online:

...It occurs to me that the best chance of saving the US newspaper industry would be if The New York Times collapsed. America's stultifying monodailies are far more homogeneous than almost any other English-speaking media culture. A big part of this is the Times, and the horrible conformity it begets. The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it's the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent, even though smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension would hardly seem an obvious winner for second-tier cities and rural districts. Its columns and features are reprinted coast to coast. Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly. The net result of the industry's craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be - and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.

If the Times closed, what would the mainstream media left behind do? Why, they would have to think for themselves. And some of them would still die. But some of them might get ...lively, and iconoclastic, and one day even ...readable. Not all of them: There would still be plenty of near parodic thumbsucking pomposity for those whose bag that is. But there would be other kinds of papers, too. As the J-school bores say (but rarely do), celebrate diversity!

Just a thought....

I don't imagine it would really help much. Most journalists are second-raters who desperately need to feel superior to somebody. If the NYT vanished they would just ape something else with "New York" in its name. They would rather die than become interested in ordinary people enough to write things that ordinary people would really like. There are such writers, but management would have to go out and hunt for them, and fire a bunch of "journalists"....And that will never happen because newspaper management has the same disease.

Historical note: Until recently only a small percentage of people went to college or university, and there were plenty of smart people who couldn't manage to do so. Usually because they didn't have the dough. (Now we have stupid people going to college, because the seats need to be filled.) Becoming a reporter was a kind of blue-collar thinking-man's job. So there were lots of journalists who didn't feel any need to show they were superior to the swining masses.

There also used to be be some top-notch union leaders who had no other route upwards from the working class. I think the Reuther brothers missed the chance for college because of the depression. And I imagine the literary figure of Jeeves was based on some real-life butlers. Again, because for smart but poor people it might be the only path into "management."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:16 PM

April 20, 2009

Commenting on a comment...

I started to answer a comment by our friend Bisaal at this post, and decided to just make my answer—or rather, partial answer—a post in itself.
I am not clear on this subject at all but are you saying that rough work works so it is OK to do it now and then?.

Mark Shea I don't think radiates any partisan hatred or venom. He is consistent: anything that deviates from Church preaching is to be rejected.

Had the Catholics consistently followed this principle, a lot of past trouble eg World Wars might have been avoided.

Maybe you will object, that this goes against Prudence and thus Catholic States never applied such standard to themselves. But perhaps USA needs to set higher standards for itself.

The virtue of Prudence is crucial for Moral Reasoning. (For all people, not just Christians. Moral law exists objectively, applies to all of us, and can be apprehended by reason.) Prudence is not optional. It is not a "lower standard." It is not some sort of fudge-factor added on so that people can compromise with the strict demands of doing what is just. ALL good deeds and good things can be bad if done at the wrong time or place or situation. The beautiful poverty and service of St Francis would have been an evil thing if he had left a wife and children to starve to death!

There is NO situation—either personal or societal—to which one can simply "apply Church teachings" without considering Prudence.

And therefore there is no complex situation where one can simply take one small aspect and demand that people do the moral thing, without considering the whole. Prudence demands looking at the whole picture.

Therefore, if a moralist is going to try to influence people on how we should fight the "War on Terror," then he or she must consider the situation as a whole, and think through things. Think about questions like how, in general, this new kind of war can best be fought. And how those tactics and strategies fit in with moral principles.

As an example, people need to ponder how Christian "Just War" thinking should be applied to a new sort of war Aquinas never imagined. Another example: one needs to think about how our words and actions will be seen by others, and what behavior they will elicit. Are we tempting people to wrong-doing? (I'd say that Mr Shea is broadcasting messages that encourage terrorism.)

There are lots of similar things that need to be considered to decide what the moral way to deal with our world situation is. I don't follow everything Shea writes, so I may be doing him an injustice, but, it looks to me like he has cherry-picked those issues he happens to be interested in, and opines on them without ever articulating a philosophy of how the situation as a whole should be seen, and how dealt with. This is morally wrong; it is a failure to exercise Prudence.

In fact he not only has the duty to think through the whole situation, he also has the duty to encourage criticism and discourse. The way he sneers at those who disagree with him is itself a moral failure—it is doubling-down on his basic failure of Prudence. I wouldn't even consider challenging Shea's ideas at his blog, because I've never heard of him making reasoned responses like this one I'm trying to write. (Bisaal is doing me a favor by criticizing me, by prodding my reasoning, and I'm grateful.)

And I think Shea is partisan because his attitudes and the issues he in interested seem to match precisely those of far-left political activists. You can SEE this. The issues that make his cheeks glow and his eyes sparkle match up closely with groups like moveon.org or Code Pink. And he never seems (I don't read everything he writes, so I may be mistaken) to work up a sweat over the victims of terrorism, or over the war crimes that groups like al-Qaeda commit every day.

Who are the REAL Christians today? Well, I've blogged my opinion on one that often enough. Try this post. Or this....

(photo by Michael Yon, of a child deliberately slaughtered by terrorist madmen.)

(And now I've really got to get to work, and I haven't even addressed torture specifically. Oh well, another day)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

A Quote for you...

Charlene liked this quote, from a great piece by Kathy Shaidle:

...The Left is very concerned about something they like to call "social justice", which I define as the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 AM

April 19, 2009

"Truth's priority over goodness in the order of virtues"

Cardinal Ratzinger on Newman. From Conscience and Truth: (paragraphing added)

...For Newman, the middle term which establishes the connection between authority and subjectivity is truth. I do not hesitate to say that truth is the central thought of Newman's intellectual grappling. Conscience is central for him because truth stands in the middle. To put it differently, the centrality of the concept conscience for Newman, is linked to the prior centrality of the concept truth and can only be understood from this vantage point. The dominance of the idea of conscience in Newman does not signify that he, in the nineteenth century and in contrast to "objectivistic" neo-scholasticism, espoused a philosophy or theology of subjectivity. Certainly, the subject finds in Newman an attention which it had not received in Catholic theology perhaps since Saint Augustine. But it is an attention in the line of Augustine and not in that of the subjectivist philosophy of the modern age. On the occasion of his elevation to cardinal, Newman declared that most of his life was a struggle against the spirit of liberalism in religion. We might add, also against Christian subjectivism, as he found it in the Evangelical movement of his time and which admittedly had provided him the first step on his lifelong road to conversion.
Conscience for Newman does not mean that the subject is the standard vis-a-vis the claims of authority in a truthless world, a world which lives from the compromise between the claims of the subject and the claims of the social order. Much more than that, conscience signifies the perceptible and demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject himself. It is the overcoming of mere subjectivity in the encounter of the interiority of man with the truth from God. The verse Newman composed in 1833 in Sicily is characteristic: "I loved to choose and see my path but now, lead thou me on!" Newman's conversion to Catholicism was not for him a matter of personal taste or of subjective, spiritual need. He expressed himself on this even in 1844, on the threshold, so to speak of his conversion: "No one can have a more unfavorable view than I of the present state of Roman Catholics." Newman was much more taken by the necessity to obey recognized truth than his own preferences, that is to say, even against his own sensitivity and bonds of friendship and ties due to similar backgrounds.

It seems to me characteristic of Newman that he emphasized truth's priority over goodness in the order of virtues. Or, to put it in a way which is more understandable for us, he emphasized truth's priority over consensus, over the accommodation of groups. I would say, when we are speaking of a man of conscience, we mean one who looks at things this way. A man of conscience, is one who never acquires tolerance, well-being, success, public standing, and approval on the part of prevailing opinion, at the expense of truth. In this regard, Newman is related to Britain's other great witness of conscience, Thomas More, for whom conscience was not at all an expression of subjective stubbornness or obstinate heroism. He numbered himself, in fact, among those fainthearted martyrs who only after faltering and much questioning succeed in mustering up obedience to conscience, mustering up obedience to the truth which must stand higher than any human tribunal or any type of personal taste. Thus two standards become apparent for ascertaining the presence of a real voice or conscience. First, conscience is not identical to personal wishes and taste. Secondly, conscience cannot be reduced to social advantage, to group consensus or to the demands of political and social power....

"...not a matter of personal taste or of subjective, spiritual need." That is very important. When I first became a Catholic a friend said something to the effect of: "That happens to be what works for you. My [insert Protestant denomination] is what works for me." But if you are a Catholic it is of great importance to simply NOT think in those terms at all. Don't look for "what works for me." The working of the Church is objectively true, like a car takes you places whether you like its style or not. Ex opere operato.

And it is our duty to be in communion with God's Church even if the local manifestation is repulsive. Charlene and I love our parish intensly, but suppose we moved to some small town where the only parish was similar to what Fr. Dwight described recently:

...Then in becoming a Catholic I had to give it up. The churches we attended were dull modern auditoria. Some of them not too bad, many of them awful. The liturgy was often the usual modern Catholic Howdy Doody show with felt banners, priests walking around with a hand held mike being folksy. The music was torture. Plump middle aged ladies strumming guitars, beardy weirdy men in sandals standing at a keyboard swaying to the beat. Bad music. Heretical words. Excruciating.

But we had to be Catholic. So we made the sacrifice. The beauty, the reverence, the dignity, the sublime music, the architecture, the learning, the glories of Anglicanism: all of it went on the altar...

Yeah, like he said. Charlene and I would still faithfully attend Mass, even if we hated every minute of it. And when I considered becoming a Catholic, I dug that almost immediately. I take a little bit of pride in that.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:19 AM

April 18, 2009

Somehow I don't think I'm "diverse."

Peter Kirsanow:

Celebrate Diversity ...
except veterans, small-business owners, practicing Catholics, gun owners, talk-radio listeners, tea-party attendees, Texans, smokers, limited-government proponents, pro-lifers, taxpayers, NASCAR fans, Boy Scouts, oil-company employees, secure-border advocates, capitalists, global-warming agnostics, Cuban refugees, school-choicers....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

April 17, 2009

I call them heroes...

John Hinderaker at Power Line, About Those "Torture Memos":

...You can read the memos here. If you do, you will see that DOJ's lawyers grappled carefully and fairly with issues that are, by their nature, both difficult and distasteful. I find much to agree with in the memos and little, if anything, with which I disagree from a legal standpoint. Several things about the memos are striking: the concern that is shown for the health and well-being of the detainees; the very limited circumstances under harsh interrogation techniques were used (only when the CIA had reason to believe that the detainee had knowledge about pending terrorist attacks, among other limitations), and confirmation of the fact that thousands of American servicemen have been waterboarded and subjected to the other techniques in question, as part of their training--a practice that continued at least up to the dates of the memos.

I think the opinions were correct in substance; in any event, CIA officials were obviously justified in relying on them. In this context, the Obama administration's announcement that it will not prosecute the CIA personnel involved is evidently grandstanding. Of course they won't be prosecuted: to do so would be a double-cross of the worst sort, and the likelihood of getting a conviction would be nil. The fact is that the CIA officials who extracted valuable information from captured al Qaeda leaders--information that we have every reason to believe prevented successful terrorist attacks--are heroes. Their task was a thankless one, but, based on all the information we have, including the newly-released DOJ memos, they performed it well....

They are heroes. Exactly. They do the rough work necessary to protect us, while the fake-liberals who sneer and stab at them continue to luxuriate in the safety we have. And would howl in outrage if any danger actually approached them. Frauds. Pigs.

And none of the "anti-torture" crowd acknowledges that the US and Coalition militaries ended (at a painful sacrifice in dead and wounded) torture by the Saddam regime that was a million times worse than even what America is accused of. None of them ever said "thank you" for our ending (while "liberals" sat fat and safe, and never lifted a finger to help the suffering) the mass-production torture that was going on in Iraq. They are frauds, all of them. Their "concern" about torture is pure enmity against America and Bush. (I especially despise Mark Shea in this, since he is a well-known Catholic writer who just radiates partisan hatred and venom. What a twisted disgrace to our faith.)

* Update: [link] "Most prominent among those briefed on waterboarding was Nancy Pelosi. According to the Post’s interviews, members of the Congressional oversight committees understood that they had to weigh the limits of inhumane treatment of people known to have Al Qaeda connections against the threat of new attacks. They believed that these techniques struck the right balance in the circumstances. Yet I haven't heard of any serious call for prosecuting Speaker Pelosi or any of her colleagues for complicity in torture."

Posted by John Weidner at 12:55 PM

"The wells of culture had run dry..."

I recommend this column by "Spengler," who reveals his identity at last. He is David P Goldman, and has now become an associate editor of First Things:

...Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers. I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.

I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

In this world of accelerated mortality, in which the prospect of national extinction hung visibly over most of the peoples of the world, Jew-hatred was stripped of its mask, and revealed as the jealousy of the merely undead toward living Israel. And it was not hard to show that the remnants of the tribal world lurking under the cover of Islam were not living, but only undead, incapable of withstanding the onslaught of modernity, throwing a tantrum against their inevitable end...

...Exile among the fleshpots of Wall Street had its benefits, but I had other ambitions. My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness. The things I had been raised to love were disappearing from the world, or changing beyond recognition. The language of Goethe and Heine would die out, along with the languages of Dante and Pushkin.

Europe's high culture and its capacity to train universal minds had deteriorated beyond repair; one of the last truly universal European minds belongs to the octogenarian Pope Benedict XVI. In 1996, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had said in an interview published as Die Salz der Erde, [Published in English as: Salt of the Earth] "Perhaps we have to abandon the idea of the popular Church. Possibly, we stand before a new epoch of Church history with quite different conditions, in which Christianity will stand under the sign of the mustard seed, in small and apparently insignificant groups, which nonetheless oppose evil intensively and bring the Good into the world." The best mind in the Catholic Church squarely considered the possibility that Christianity itself might shrink into seeming insignificance.

Renewal could not come from music, nor literature, nor the social sciences. The wells of culture had run dry, because they derived from faith to begin with. I was raised in the Enlightenment pseudo-religion of art and beauty. Initially I looked at faith instrumentally, as a means of regenerating the high culture of the West. Art doesn't exist for art's sake.

The high culture of the West had its own Achilles' heel. Even its greatest cultivators often suffered from the sin of pride, and worshiped their own powers rather than the source of their powers. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the classic Jewish sources. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 AM

April 16, 2009

Emma Sky

Nibras Kazimi, at his blog Talisman Gate:

...The "Sky" I'm referring to is Emma Sky. I've been watching her rise for some time, and couldn't tell whether this was a remarkably deft penetration of the American decision-making process courtesy of the 'cousins' across the pond, or that it was just an accident of history when mediocre characters, thrust into the eye of history, begin making irresponsible and ill-conceived choices. I'm still wavering between the two.

Sky has maneuvered herself into becoming General Ray Odierno's brain.

Sky has been recently quoted as saying:
"It is a fascinating society," she said of Iraq. "They have got things here that we have totally lost in the West: the appreciation of each other, whether it is the family, the clan or the tribe; values that aren't capitalist."
How foolish is that? What toxic mix of cluelessness and self-righteousness is necessary to allow someone to string together these words? Is Emma Sky arguing for a pre-capitalistic society for Iraq? Wheres the sense of irony here?

But I'll hand it to her, she has been quite clever in rallying the ranks of her fellow travelers among the western media (think Tom Ricks), as well as the left-leaning think-tankers. She's managed to manipulate them into adhering to a disciplined message about Iraq, one that is heavily colored by her politics....
"Values that aren't capitalist." When you hear that, don't imagine that the speaker has a non-capitalist economic philosophy, such as socialism or syndicalism or some such. "Capitalist" is a code-word for the dreadful state of affairs where the little people do what they want without being guided by their betters who have taste and style. Sky's "anti-capitalism" is exactly the same philosophy as the quote in yesterday's post:
"..Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class," Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, "and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected..."

Sky doesn't really care about "the family, the clan or the tribe;" what's important is that these people are still poor and unsophisticated (and "colorful"), and therefore may be amenable to being guided by people like Ms. Sky. As soon as they start to attain self-confident middle-class status she will drop them.

(Much like our own intelligentsia used to dote on poor wretches in Appalachia, and gourmandised on their folk music and folk art. And congratulated themselves on being caring (with the taxpayers' $'s) and on being cool and "genuine" while listening to recordings of some old granny singing hymns of a faith they in fact despise. And of course once those people managed to escape from dire poverty, they were "rednecks," they were "spoiled by capitalism," and deserved to be sneered-at or ignored.)

It goes without saying that Sky hates "Zionists," and is not fond of Kurds. "..toxic mix of cluelessness and self-righteousness..." Well put.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:02 PM

April 15, 2009

What us schlubs need is "inspired tutelage..."

Fred Siegel, in FrontPage Magazine, has a very worth-reading history of the origins of American liberalism...

...The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. "Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class," Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, "and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected." Alienated from middle-class American life, liberalism drew on an idealized image of both organic pre-modern folkways and the harmony to come when it would re-establish the proper hierarchy of virtue in a post-bourgeois, post-democratic world....

....Croly, said literary critic Edmund Wilson memorializing him, "was a kind of saint." In another age he might have become the "founder of a religious order." Instead he founded The New Republic, which became the primary political organ of the new liberalism. Croly, whose sanctimony was sometimes mocked as "Crolier than thou," told Edmund Wilson that "he saw his culture as mainly French." He was the first child in the United States whose parents christened him, so to speak, into the mid-nineteenth-century French intellectual August Comte's "Religion of Humanity." Comte's concoction was designed to create a scientific, progressive, and comparably hierarchical alternative to Catholicism.

To attain that "religion of humanity," Croly called for a Rousseau-like "reconstruction" of American ideals "on a platform of possible human perfectibility." "What a democratic nation must do is not to accept human nature as it is, but to move it in the direction of improvement." The people in this picture "are not sovereign . . . even when united in a majority." His hope, however was that under inspired tutelage they can "become sovereign . . . in so far as they succeed on reaching and expressing a collective purpose," and that purpose was a strong unified nation in which religion and politics were melded into "the religion of humanity," which would be "a religion based not on conjecture but fact." The famous closing lines of The Promise read: "The common citizen can become something of a saint and something of a hero" if "his exceptional fellow-countrymen" are able to "offer acceptable examples of heroism and saintliness."....

Do read it. And when I write, as I often do, that "liberals" aren't liberals any more, this is the kind of thing I'm referring to. (And I'm sure you can already guess that I think that every morsel of the above quoted ideas are profoundly evil and dangerous. I don't need to spell it all out, right?)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:20 AM

April 14, 2009

So why do you CARE?

One of the squirrelier things I've stumbled on today is this: Happy Easter - To hell with the Vatican edition...

The old celibates and child molesters at the Vatican have said no to a US Ambassador who supports abortion and stem cell research. Vatican blocks Caroline Kennedy appointment as US ambassador...

...Now I'm not sure why we even need an ambassador to a church but I think my friend Jazz gets it right.

"The broader point there, though, is the truly bizarre concept that foreign entities should be rejecting ambassadors because of policy differences between them and the person selected. Perhaps our ambassador to Venezuela should only be someone who supports Castro, hates America and wants Russian missile installations throughout Central and South America? Here's an idea... let's have an ambassador to England who wants the United States to forfeit its independence and go back to being a territory of the U.K.

A quick note to our Obama bashing pundits who are cackling with glee over this: ambassadors, by definition, are representatives of our nation and, in particular, of the positions and views of the current administration. The current administration happens to be pro-choice, and to the extent that should ever come up in discussions, they need to represent those views. All they really need is the ability to communicate well and be, well... diplomatic. They deliver messages, gather information and facilitate relations behind the scenes."

This is a false analogy. For a better analogy, think of the old days when we would send ambassadors to communist countries. They never were upset that our ambassadors were mostly capitalists. BUT, suppose we had sent an ambassador who was a prominent Communist who believed fervently in the right to private property! THAT they might well have objected to, since it would be a clear attempt to subvert Communist beliefs using fake Communists.

More interesting would be what the nomination of that "pro-private property communist" would have said about us. It would have said that we believed in Communism, and needed to subvert it within its own philosophical framework.

That's what Obama (and the quoted bloggers) are revealing about themselves. They know exactly who their real opponent is, and they CARE. Same thing with Obama's HHS picks, Daschle and Sibellius. Pro-abortion Catholics both of them. Why did he choose them?

This all reminds me of the way satanic cultists will steal consecrated hosts from a Catholic Mass to use in their ceremonies. Why do they care?—why not just BUY communion wafers from a religious supply company? The satanic-types are admitting that what happens in the Liturgy, in the central Christian Mystery, is real! (also interesting is that nobody steals communion bread from Protestants! The Devil knows what's what.)

Also, if one is honestly interested in diplomacy, then the reaction to being told that one's ambassador is unacceptable is to say. "Thanks, we almost made a big mistake." It's not diplomacy Obama's pursuing here in his sneaky cowardly way, it's war.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:56 PM

Ha ha. I got under somebody's skin...

As I mentioned here, I have an "I miss W." bumper sticker on my truck.

I left my vehicle in a parking lot this morning, and came back to find a note stuck in the door, which read:

Dear GOP
(Grand Old Pedophiles)
Thank you for supporting "W."
We Liberals LOVE it!

Feelin' a little nervous, pal?

(I suspect this is just a morsel more confirmation of my theory that liberals hate Bush because he is a real liberal, and exposes them as being fake liberals. But whatever it is, I bugged somebody!)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:23 AM

April 13, 2009

Worst-case view...

The admirable Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post, Surviving in a post-American world:

...Like it or not, the United States of America is no longer the world's policeman. This was the message of Barack Obama's presidential journey to Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iraq this past week.

Somewhere between apologizing for American history - both distant and recent; genuflecting before the unelected, bigoted king of Saudi Arabia; announcing that he will slash the US's nuclear arsenal, scrap much of America's missile defense programs and emasculate the US Navy; leaving Japan to face North Korea and China alone; telling the Czechs, Poles and their fellow former Soviet colonies, "Don't worry, be happy," as he leaves them to Moscow's tender mercies; humiliating Iraq's leaders while kowtowing to Iran; preparing for an open confrontation with Israel; and thanking Islam for its great contribution to American history, President Obama made clear to the world's aggressors that America will not be confronting them for the foreseeable future.

Whether they are aggressors like Russia, proliferators like North Korea, terror exporters like nuclear-armed Pakistan or would-be genocidal-terror-supporting nuclear states like Iran, today, under the new administration, none of them has any reason to fear Washington.

This news is music to the ears of the American Left and their friends in Europe. Obama's supporters like billionaire George Soros couldn't be more excited at the self-induced demise of the American superpower. CNN's former (anti-)Israel bureau chief Walter Rodgers wrote ecstatically in the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, "America's... superpower status, is being downgraded as rapidly as its economy."....

If someone has a good argument against this, I've yet to hear it. We saw this kind of thing under Carter. Jay Nordlinger called Carter "the first anti-American president," and I think that was the simple truth. And now we have the second one. The good news is that the Left has to rely on sneakiness to gain power in America. (Carter's disguise was "Christian southerner;" Obama's is "post-partisan post-racial hopey-changy smoke-screen." Neither guy would have been elected if his real views were known.) The bad news is that Obama was more clearly a Leftist, and still got elected.

Leftists are almost always anti-American. (For reasons I've blogged often, and will repeat if anyone needs me to.) The huge question is, is America becoming anti-American?

Glick suggests that those countries who have been our friends and relied on our support should get off the dime and start working with each other to fill the void....

...THE RISKS that the newly inaugurated post-American world pose for America's threatened friends are clear. But viable opportunities for survival do exist, and Israel can and must play a central role in developing them. Specifically, Israel must move swiftly to develop active strategic alliances with Japan, Iraq, Poland, and the Czech Republic and it must expand its alliance with India....

...For the past 16 years, successive Israeli governments have wrongly believed that politics trump strategic interests. The notion that informed Israel's decision-makers - not unlike the notion that now informs the Obama administration - was that Israel's strategic interests would be secured as a consequence of its efforts to appease its enemies by weakening itself. Appreciative of Israel's sacrifices for peace, the nations of the world - and particularly the US, the Arabs and Europe - would come to Israel's defense in its hour of need. Now that the hour of need has arrived, Israel's political strategy for securing itself has been exposed as a complete fiasco.

The good news is that no doubt sooner rather than later, Obama's similarly disastrous bid to denude the US of its military power under the naive assumption that it will be able to use its new stature as a morally pure strategic weakling to win its enemies over to its side will fail spectacularly and America's foreign policy will revert to strategic rationality.

But to survive the current period of American strategic madness, Israel and the US's other unwanted allies must build alliances with one another - covertly if need be - to contain their adversaries in the absence of America. If they do so successfully, then the damage to global security induced by Obama's emasculation of his country will be limited. If on the other hand, they fail, then America's eventual return to its senses will likely come too late for its allies - if not for America itself....

She's dead right. But I'm not too optimistic. Another way of putting the above is that India and Israel (especially) and Japan, Iraq, Poland, and the Czech Republic should.....grow up! But asking democracies to do that? It doesn't happen very often.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

April 12, 2009

Have you ever been to a clambake?...

...."Wait without hope," wrote TS Eliot, "for hope would be hope for the wrong thing." If you frame Easter in the terms of the perceived problem, you belittle it. Whether you think in terms of pie in the sky (at best a thoroughly subChristian concept) or a better society, all you get is a happy ending after a sad or sinful story.

And whatever Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were doing in writing the final sections of their books, they were not telling the story of Jesus's resurrection as a happy ending. They were telling it as a startling new beginning. Easter morning isn't a slow, gentle waking up after the difficult operation. It's the electric shock that brings someone back to life in a whole new way.

That's why the Easter stories tumble out in bits and pieces, with breathless chasings to and fro and garbled reports - and then, stories like nothing else before or since. As the great New Testament scholar EP Sanders put it, the writers were trying to describe an experience that does not fit a known category. They knew all about ghosts and visions, and they knew it wasn't anything like that.

Equally, they knew the risen Jesus wasn't just a resuscitated corpse, still less someone who had almost died but managed to stagger on after all. They had the puzzled air of people saying, "I know this sounds wacky, but this is truly how it was." They were stumblingly describing the birth of new creation, starting with Jesus but intended for the whole world.

It sometimes seems that the church can hardly cope with this any more than the world can. Perhaps that's why, after 40 days of Lent, many churches celebrate Easter for a few hours and then return to normality. But nothing can be "normal" after Easter. New creation has begun, and we are summoned to get on board. We should at least have an eight-day party, or even a 40-day one.

And if Easter is all about the surprise of new creation, there is every reason to suppose that it will ripple out into the world in ways we would never imagine. Gangsters and drug-dealers get radically converted and set on fire with God's love, while pale churchmen drone their disbelief and warn against extremism.

Extremism? What can be more extreme than God raising Jesus from the dead after the world has done its worst to him? Supposing the power of that event were to be released into the world, into local communities, into ordinary lives, here and now? What might that look like?...

      -- NT Wright (Link)

"That's why the Easter stories tumble out in bits and pieces, with breathless chasings to and fro and garbled reports..."  Exactly. And what does that mean? Well, for one thing it means that nobody just made the story up while sitting at a desk wondering how to get a new "religion" started. It's just too messy and even slightly comical a story. Various scholars have opined that the disciples had some sort of "spiritual" experience, and then later interpreted it as something concrete like a resurrection. Pahhh! That's just stupid. (And I know what they are up to because I used to feel the same embarrassment about Easter, and used to wish that Jesus had been more like, say, Lao Tze.)

And the thing that has always tormented gnostics—and we have more of them now than ever—is that there's nothing "spiritual" about the Passion and Resurrection. It's all so grittily real and physical, it's kind of a pie-in-the-face to all the lofty "spiritual" types. Have you ever been to a clambake?...

...When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead...

Well, Charlene and I have been there, by that very sea. Who knows, maybe on the very same spot--this picture is taken near Caperneum. It's an awesome place, but it also resembles San Diego County to a disappointing degree. And it's nothing like a Zen monastery. If you want "spiritual," go trekking in the Himalayas.

Francis and Shelley by Sea of Galilee
Our friends Fr. Francis Goode and Shelley Goodale by the Sea of Galilee...


Posted by John Weidner at 5:29 AM

April 11, 2009

I would normally just blast the squalid hypocrisy of the Obamanoid's, but...

...even more aggravating is the STUPIDITY of the general population of the world who took the attacks on Guantanamo seriously. If you fight a war, you will have to lock up prisoners, right? Unless you want to just shoot them on the battlefield, right? And you know who to lock up, and how long, only if your enemy follows the LAWS OF WAR, and does things like wearing uniforms, and having ranks and serial numbers, and keeping combat away from civilians.

If an enemy like al-Qaeda does not do such things, then they are committing war crimes. And if we lock up people without being perfectly sure that they are in fact combatants, it is because of al-Qaeda's war crimes. Not because we are doing anything wrong, but because we've been forced into doing things in an imperfect way.

The leftists who heaped criticism on the Bush Administration for Gitmo committed a vile injustice. Which they are now compounding by following—as logic demands—the very same policies. There's nothing I can do about it, except express my utmost contempt for the horrid lefty worms who took part in such a loathsome betrayal of decent Americans. And did so not out of conviction, but to gain political power.

Likewise, it is not our fault if the detention is of indefinite duration. Imagine if our enemies in WWII had been almost impossible to clearly defeat, because they could magically disappear whole armies, and then emerge in a year or two in a distant place to start fighting again. What would have been the fate of any prisoners we held? They would have been kept in indefinite detention, right? Am I right?

Now think of the above fantasy, and imagine that the Republicans orchestrated a huge clamor against Presidents Roosevelt or Truman. Enough so that they seriously hindered the Allied war effort, and forced the administration to release prisoners. Who subsequently returned to the fight and killed American soldiers. What would that be called? What's the word we are groping for???

Obama Administration Will Appeal Court Ruling Which Allows Habeas Petitions for Certain Captives in Afghanistan:

...The Obama administration has announced that it will appeal a recent Federal District Court decision, which held that three captives at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan could challenge their status as "enemy combatants" in United States courts. The District Court held that the Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which allows Guantanamo Bay detainees to file habeas corpus petitions, also gives Bagram detainees access to United States courts. The Obama administration opposes the petitions and has announced that it will appeal the District Court's ruling.

Civil liberties advocates blasted the Bush administration for subjecting Guantanamo Bay captives to indefinite detention and for denying them access to federal courts. The outrage over Guantanamo Bay among President Obama's liberal base and among the populations of certain United States allies (particularly in Europe) probably explains why President Obama's first set of executive orders included a provision directing the closure of the controversial detention facility.

The Obama administration, however, has taken the position that Supreme Court's reasoning in Boumediene does not confer habeas rights to Bagram detainees. This is the same argument that the Bush administration made.

This logic, however, could support the capture and transfer of individuals to Bagram, where they could face prolonged and indefinite detention and denial of access to United States courts. Bagram could become the functional equivalent of Guantanamo Bay....
Posted by John Weidner at 2:07 PM

April 10, 2009

Happy Paschaltide...

The Easter eggs on the banner above were painted by Charlene and our daughter Betsy!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

"globally consistent, computer-readable format"

L. Gordon Crovitz Says Transparency Is More Powerful Than Regulation - WSJ.com:

...It didn't get much attention, but earlier this month Congress got a lesson on the potential of better disclosure. "Today's financial crisis was driven in part by a lack of accurate, easily usable information to give investors what they need to make informed, responsible decisions," testified Mark Bolgiano, chief executive of a nonprofit technology and accounting consortium called XBRL US. "The value of toxic asset-backed securities remains a mystery because information on the underlying loans and ongoing viability of those loans and the securities themselves was not collected consistently and even if it had been, it would not have been in a usable, portable form."

XBRL sounds complicated, but eXtensible Business Reporting Language is simply a new technology language that allows data to be easily extracted, searched and analyzed. XBRL is already being used for some equity disclosures, tagging financial information into a globally consistent, computer-readable format.

Philip Moyer, who runs the Edgar Online service that distributes SEC data, studied more than 500 mortgage-backed securities priced between 2006 and mid-2008. He found there were only 600 relevant data points needed to assess the risk of a mortgage, which is many fewer than the tens of thousands of factors used to report on stocks. "This crisis has proven that lack of transparency ultimately destroys a market," Mr. Moyers said.

The good news is that with the innovation of XBRL, tracking debt instruments is no longer a technological challenge. Instead, it's a political challenge....

It's a political challenge, and unfortunately our biggest deficit is in political leadership. This is an area where a crisis shouldn't be wasted. Perhaps if XBRL were re-packaged as something that might destroy capitalism?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:05 AM

April 9, 2009

Kick a "journalist" today...

The curious case of 200 nearly identical MSM headlines:

The following headlines have appeared in newspapers within the last 24 hours. This is not an inclusive list....
(There follows a buncha headlines, all with the "report" that x-million people in that state lack health insurance.)
...There are more. I just stopped listing them because I grew weary -- so weary -- of the physical labor associated with cutting and pasting.

All of the stories were marketed by a liberal "advocacy group" called Families USA .

According to Discover the Networks, Families USA is a member of the "Progressive States Network", which works closely with (you guessed it) ACORN and the SEIU. These ultra-partisan groups have truly one agenda: big government.

During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama spoke to a conference of Family USA activists and promised, "I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country."

Data from the Census Bureau debunks the lie continually promoted by the mainstream media of the legendary 47 million uninsured Americans:...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 AM

April 8, 2009

The Left doesn't care about gays...they're just cannon fodder in the real war

Dafydd asks a great question. There are surely far more homosexuals affected by the ban on their openly serving in the military than there are gays who really want to get married. And far less justification for a ban. So, where is the Left? Why are no "liberals" clamoring for lifting the ban?

...At a guess, I believe that at least a hundred times as many gays serve (more or less secretly) in the military as want to get married to members of the same gender, and an even larger number are veterans or would like to serve in the future. At a guess, if about five million legal American residents are homosexual (loosely defined -- say 2% of men and 1% of women), easily as many as a million could be directly adversely affected by the policy. (I cannot imagine that anywhere near ten thousand gays and lesbians seriously intend to get married.)

And Congress or the president could enact that change right this very minute; I don't think Republicans could possibly muster 41 votes to filibuster a bill to lift the restriction, even if they wanted to -- and assuming congressional action is even required; it's possible that all it would take is an Executive Order from the Commander in Chief.

The Left could do it in a snap, even against unified Republican opposition (which I doubt could be mustered anyway). So why don't they?

Well, I didn't plan to leave that hanging as a rhetorical question. As anybody who has read more of this blog than just the seven paragraphs above knows, I ask because I think I know the answer -- which is simply this...

Democrats and liberals couldn't care less about gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites, or any other such subgroup. They only champion the gay (or blacktivist, or feminist) agenda when a particular policy serves the larger agenda of the hard Left: the destruction of traditional Western culture and its replacement by secular humanism.

Simply and brutally put, destroying traditional marriage advances that liberal agenda, so liberal Democrats pursue it with a passion; but allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not advance that vile agenda -- so liberal Democrats truly could not care less...

There is really only One War. The only thing different now is the openness of the fight. (And yes, you are choosing sides even when you think you are neutral.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 AM

April 7, 2009

World turned upside down...

Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online:

...The North Korean test, about which our new president has issued the feeblest of rote protests, is the flip side of the post below. The western world has no will. So we approach a state in which the planet's wealthiest jurisdictions, from Norway to New Zealand, lack any capacity to defend their borders, and the planet's basket-cases, from North Korea to Sudan, will be nuclear powers.

We'll see how that arrangement works out.

It's deeper than just "lack of will." Even those without the will to act should be able to see an insane situation when it is right in front of their nose, and at least feebly bleat that someone ought to do something. It's not lack of will, but intentional blindness. They don't want to SEE. The implications are too disturbing...


Posted by John Weidner at 10:21 AM

April 6, 2009

Anybody remember card catalogs?

My daughter sent me this...

"Google Classic" postcard

It's pretty funny, but also interesting to me because, well, that's the way it was...

Back in the misty past, like the 1980's or 90's. Back before the earth began to cool, there used to be a service for searching for rare and out-of-print books. You would go to a used-book store and ask for something. They would offer to search for a book they didn't have, for a small fee. Then they would mail in the query which would be printed on a weekly list that was mailed to all subscribing stores. Booksellers all around the country—or maybe the world—would peruse the list and try to spot something they had in stock. Then they could send a card to the store that searched for it, and they in turn would contact you with an offer.

It seemed impressively efficient at the time. Similarly, at the public library I used to fill out a one-page form and pay a couple of bucks to do an inter-library loan request. Now I can, via the SFPL's web page, search a wide variety of libraries in the region, and click to request a book. (Don't use the service if you are absent-minded. They charge a dollar a day for late books.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 AM

April 5, 2009

The proper frame of mind for troubled times...

Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver men from the necessity and preserve them in peace. For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace be obtained. Therefore, even in waging war, cherish the spirit of the peacemaker, that, by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace; for as our Lord says: 'Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.'
      — Saint Augustine
Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 PM

On the frontier...

....To come at the answer to this we may hark back to Catholic theology itself, which is sacramental. That is, the Church, in keeping with the whole scriptural rendering of things, teaches that in the realm of salvation the physical world has not been huddled offstage, so to speak, but has been swept in, along with the whole creation, to the precincts of the holy, so that physical things (bread, wine, water) may become the very points at which the unseen and eternal touches the seen and temporal.

It is a natural religious tendency to huddle the physical offstage: hence the great appeal of all forms of gnosticism. We mortals like to think of ourselves as "spiritual", which of course we are; but in our eagerness to think thus, we often blithely jump out of our flesh-and-blood selves and talk as though we were pure spirits, disembodied. The poor flesh is left on one side, both in our imaginings and in our religious exercises. For nonsacramentalist Christians, it is permitted to sit or stand perhaps, since how else shall we dispose ourselves for religious gatherings. We may speak and sing and listen, since these activities indicate what is in our thoughts and our hearts, but let us not kneel or bow or make physical gestures like the sign of the Cross, or sprinkle things with holy water and hail our olfactory nerve-endings with incense: all of that is too heavily physical, and we know that the physical has been set aside by the New Testament.

No says the Church. No says the Bible. No says our humanity. The New Testament was inaugurated not by the Word of God arriving through the ether, but by that very "Word" arriving and lodging in the womb of a woman.nd then this coming of the Word to us proceeds on its way with a Visitation, when its cousin, also in the womb, leaps in recognition, and with a Circumcision, and hunger and fatigue and tears, and finally thorns and flogging and Crucifixion.

Very physical, this New Covenant. But of course then things rise to a pure spirituality surely? Yes, if we mean by this that a New Creation is now inaugurated. But if we mean that all is now restricted to thoughts and spirits, and the human intellect and will, then no. A body comes back from the dead; whatever this body is, it is not a phantom. It has wounds, not illusionary wounds; and it can eat..... The very words real and physical and literal are "born again", so to speak, when they appear in this New Creation: but they are not empty metaphors. They summon us to the mystery that presides over this frontier between the seen, as we are accustomed to it, and the unseen, which reaches beyond our mortal imaginings.

And it is on this very frontier that Christian gathering for worship occurs. It matters that the people—embodied men and women and children—show up...
From, On Being Catholic, by Thomas Howard
Posted by John Weidner at 5:18 AM

April 4, 2009

A morning quote...

Response to Ted Olson's Endorsement of Harold Koh - Andy McCarthy - The Corner on National Review Online:

...This is an argument about policy, not personality, honesty or qualifications. The mainstream media did not vet President Obama. His transnational progressive positions were not scrutinized — and even though the President is even now on an important trip, crafting new global regulatory arrangements with other heads of state, we still have not gotten anything approximating an examination of Obama's views. Bluntly, the public has been better informed about Gov. Sarah Palin's handling of the Alaska State Police than about their President's fondness for international redistribution of wealth, international treaties, and the transfer of national sovereignty to transnational bureaucracies and tribunals.....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 AM

April 2, 2009

Now this is customer service!

Charlene is starting to use a new legal billing program, The Tussman Program. She's really happy so far. Because of the complexity and unfriendliness of her old software, she had an expert coming in to do her billing every month. Now she's just doing it herself.

She sent them a question today...

Hi there: I bought the program and started using it yesterday and everything is mostly going quite well. One thing (I'm sure there's an easy answer to this one but I can't find it in the tutorials): I'm a solo and the only person who will be billing in the program. Can I set it so that every time I open a charge slip it will automatically put me in as the "staff member?"...

And got a quick answer...

From David Tussman: ...No way to specify a default staff member but I will add that feature. Check with me in a few days and I should have it ready...

Very cool.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:02 PM

It's unlikely you have one of these gadgets sitting in your garage.....

...But probably somebody does somewhere. Anthony Watts (His blog Watts Up With That? is an indispensable source on the subject of global warming) writes....

Readers: Your help needed to recover old satellite imagery:

...As WUWT readers know, I covered a fascinating project on 3/31 here showing how a team of dedicated technical archaeologists are trying to get old AMPEX 2" reel to reel data recorders functional again so that they can recover thousands of moon and earth images from the 1960's that would otherwise be lost to history. There is a current scientific interest in the images, as some may help determine the extent of polar ice during those years.

I've offered WUWT as a vehicle to help find parts and manuals. You may have access to these things and not know it. Ask around, especially with the old-timers in your department, and check your dusty basements and storage areas. - Anthony...

...The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), is a NASA ESMD funded project to recover the original Lunar Orbiter analog data which was recorded on an Ampex FR-900 2" video instrumentation recorder. As far as we know, we have the last surviving drives of this type in the world. We have retired Ampex engineers working with us on this project but the FR-900 was a limited use machine (exclusively the U.S. government at the FAA, USAF, NASA).

What we need is to find any possible source of documentation (we know about the Stanford Archive and have been there many times) for the FR-900 or the possibility of actual machines.

There are similar machines with the numbers FR-901, FR-902, FR-950 that are close enough that we can use any information on them....
Posted by John Weidner at 3:54 PM

Traditions exist for reasons. Often good reasons.

From an e-mail from one of my sons....

...But now on to the heart of this email: I read that Mrs. Obama touched the Queen while visiting her. Apparently it is Etiquette to not touch the Queen. Unless the Queen extends her hand to you, you are supposed to just touch it, not firmly shake it. Why is that? When did this tradition start? Do you know if there is there something similar with other monarchs around the globe? Or with His Holiness Pope in Rome?...

In the past, before this new-fangled democracy business muddled things up, one would always treat anyone of higher rank with respect. Which included avoiding anything that smacked of "familiarity." Touching someone says, in body language, "I'm your equal."

There was a whole language of gesture, ceremony, pomp, and display, most of which we've forgotten. And the messages conveyed by this language had big political implications. One could "read" a political situation by observing subtleties of posture. Allowing familiarity by an inferior could be dangerous—a signal that one was uncertain, insecure, hesitant. A political enemy might decide this was the time to strike.

Nowadays in political conflicts one can just take a poll! Or ask focus groups. Or make a speech in Iowa and see how the world reacts.

But this only applies to domestic politics. You can't do that kind of thing in international relations. On the international stage gestures of strength and confidence—or weakness and uncertainty—are still critically important. Because they are "read," by friends and enemies alike.

Traditions usually embody wisdom learned in the past. It is not a minor thing that traditionally in America we have believed that "partisanship should end at the water's edge." It's extremely important. If we look divided, or weak, or confused, we invite attack by enemies. And we are telling friends we can't be trusted. That's why Obama's bumbling diplomacy is a deadly serious matter.

I'm sure all my readers have seen the film Russian Ark, since I recommended it. Think back to the scene of the reception of the Persian delegation. Ponder that elaborately staged performance, its beauty, splendor, grace and power. That was not just done for swank, it was a political message. It said Russia is strong and young and confident. Like an athlete whose strength and gracefulness intimidates the competition.

(The exact same thing is seen in bad neighborhoods, where the rule of law and electoral politics have broken down. The gangster projects power and confidence with his flashy cars and babes, his attentive entourage, his bold gestures in defying the law. If he stumbles or looks confused in any way, watchful eyes will note, and his position my be challenged. And if you touch him with familiarity in public you might end up sleeping with the fishes! The same applies to the forces of law and order. Imagine a dramatic raid by the police, and the gangster led off in cuffs looking helpless! That might be a game-changing display. Earth is a kind of bad neighborhood, and we are the cops.)

That's why it was wicked folly for Democrats to attack and weaken President Bush in his works of diplomacy and warfare in the War on Terror, and the Iraq Campaign particularly. That was warmongering. It heartened our enemies, and made the Iraq Campaign longer and more bloody. It made future conflicts more likely. It invited future 9/11's.

And that's why Obama's disgraceful performances with the PM, and now the Queen, make our situation in the world more dangerous. Britain usually stands with us in world crisis, but now it is certain that our relationship is being re-calculated in Whitehall and London. You don't to stand shoulder to shoulder with a nation led by erratic goofballs...

* Update: To me an even more interesting question is WHY are so many Democrats making elementary mistakes in this field. Stupid obvious mistakes. My theory is—sorry to repeat myself—that the morphing of liberals into nihilists is to blame. The nihilist hates those things which have a claim on us. Which are bigger than the individual. Things that make claims of duty and respect, to which we should put our selves second. They trash the great traditions and customs of our civilization in the same way they vandalize our traditions of art and architecture, the same way they malign America and Israel, the same way they crucify God as a daily routine.

And now poor Obama is like a dirty child who has always scorned manners and courtesy, and finds himself visiting a polite household. He's spitting on the floor not because he's trying to express insult, but because the habits of trashiness are all he, and his group, ever let themselves learn. It's the same with Clinton. How could anyone make an official visit to the Western Hemisphere's most important religious shrine, and not bother to learn the story of it? She's learned a few things, but deep down she's a child of dirt. She showed precisely the same inner squalor, and hatred of the good and beautiful, when her husband was getting started in Arkansas politics and she offended people by still wearing hippie sandals.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

April 1, 2009

I suspect this is a bit silly...

Crew in Moscow to Simulate Part of a Flight to Mars - NYTimes.com:

...In a small step in the direction of Mars, the international crew is embarking on a simulated flight to the planet to test the limits of human tolerance for the isolation and monotony of interplanetary travel.

"It is really like a real space flight without the weightlessness and the danger to our lives," said Sergei N. Ryazansky, a cosmonaut-in-training who will lead the mission. "On the inside, we will have a lack of incoming information, so it’s the science of sensory deprivation."...

... On a mission to Mars, astronauts will have to contend with communication gaps of as long as 20 minutes.

"Working in such conditions requires that a person be able to check himself, evaluate his condition in relation to the crew and in relation to mission control and be able to correct himself," said Boris V. Marukov, the experiment’s director and a former crew member on the International Space Station. "He will be a psychotherapist for himself."...

I'm pretty sure there are no technical reasons why a Mars crew could not have high-bandwidth communications with Earth. Un-manned flights don't have them now because there is no need to add the extra weight and power-requirement.

So a Mars mission could communicate with all the Internet tools we have today, except for the delays. Those would be frustrating, but I don't think we are talking "sensory deprivation" here. And anyone who has children nowadays learns that Internet communications can provide a lot of our human needs for closeness and conversation. If my daughter is bored and discontented I'll suggest she invite some of her friends over. "Whatever happened to Susie?" I'll say. "You two used to be such good friends." And the answer is likely to be, "We still are; I see her on Facebook.." And they do--they even post little videos (probably mostly giggles and words-not-in-complete-sentences).

You could run a small business while flying to Mars. Or "meet" people of the opposite sex. Or be active in political debates. You could upload the latest movies and music. Read the NYT.

Even being physically present with people can be different these days. Charlene and I will sometimes sit on the sofa, each of us active on our laptops. Even sending each other e-mails, because that's a fast way to send a link to an interesting web page! Last year we were sitting together, and I read an interesting product review, clicked to Amazon.com, and ordered her birthday present with "One-Click." And she didn't even know.

I have Internet friends I've never met in person. Some of them are commenters on this very blog. And aren't blogging and commenting themselves just a sort of time-delay conversation?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:25 AM