February 27, 2010

The mission of the laity...

From a talk by Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, at Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Reading the Signs of the Times: Dominican Education and the Challenge of Contemporary Culture:

...All of this was deliberately discarded, and it is now the case that most Catholic universities are indistinguishable from any other. As a consequence, the positions of Catholic alumni on social questions, even on issues that directly reflect the Church's moral teaching, do not differ significantly from the rest of the population....

....Why was Catholic education so thoroughly abandoned? In my judgment, the reason is to be found in a profound sense of inferiority that pertained on the part of Catholic educators in the 1950's and 1960's. This is seen in the participants of the Land-O-Lakes Conference held in Wisconsin in 1967 around the topic "What is the nature and role of the contemporary Catholic university?"

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame, chaired the conference that included the presidents or academic deans of Boston College, Georgetown, Fordham, the Catholic University and other Catholic institutions. At the center of their deliberations was an assertion: "The Catholic university participates in the total university life of our time, has the same functions as all other true universities and, in general, offers the same services to society."[iii] Behind this assertion was an assumption: that the Catholic university had not been acknowledged to participate fully in the university life of our time, to perform the same functions as other true universities or to offer the same services to society. We should notice this, crucial fact: that the definition of a true university was assumed to be other than the Catholic institution and that to become truly a university, a Catholic university must look to the non-Catholic institution as its standard or model....

...No thought was given to what had been the purpose of a Catholic university, which was not merely to put Catholics as an immigrant population on an equal footing with Protestant and secular populations, but to give Catholic students access to their own intellectual tradition and the European and Western culture that it had shaped...

...So little was left of anything distinctively Catholic in the curriculum of Catholic universities that some have begun to initiate programs in something called "Catholic Studies" in an attempt, one presumes, to imitate the non-Catholic institutions that have instituted similar programs.

There have, I think, been two principal consequences of the general collapse of Catholic higher education. First, it has compromised our ability to entrust the whole of the Catholic tradition to the generations that have followed my own. Second, it has had the ironic effect of clericalizing the Church, of marginalizing the contribution to the Church that most properly belongs to the laity

...This task of evangelizing the culture and its institutions is pre-eminently a lay responsibility. While the pastoral care of souls may not require creativity in the secular spheres of human life, the application of the Gospel to the initiatives and institutions that make up our contemporary world requires that fundamental questions concerning man and woman and the world must be explored and answered. Ironically, in their concern to accommodate Catholic education to the world, the Catholic institutions have rendered a real engagement with secular concerns far less likely. As a consequence, since Vatican Council II the Church has turned inward almost exclusively focused upon the care of the Catholic community, and a good part of the reason for this is that we have not formed our young people for the sake of the mission to secular society. The concern of the pastoral care of the community is that of Bishops, priests and deacons –of clerics– and in my lifetime the Church has become more clerical, not less...[my emphasis]
Posted by John Weidner at 5:23 PM

February 25, 2010

"Scientific four-flushers"

From The Big-Science Poker Game, by Douglas Cohen,

In poker a four-flusher cheats by claiming to have a flush, five cards all of the same suit, when what he really has is four cards of the same suit and one bad card. Sometimes the card is known to be bad, and sometimes the four flusher just gets excited, failing to check his hand closely. If another player notices the bad card, the four flusher will say that an honest mistake was made, and -- who knows? -- maybe that is exactly what happened. What non-scientists often do not realize is that the way we support non-profit research turns many scientists into scientific four flushers because, like rich poker players who must remain friends, they have little incentive to look for the hidden bad cards.

Teams of professional scientists, no matter what their field of research, always know that next year's paychecks depend on making the case for more funding. I have worked in groups of this sort for thirty years and know how financial pressure warps the values of those working in an institutionalized "Big Science" environment.

If a scientist or engineer in a Big-Science project is worried about the soundness of the research and alerts a Big-Science manager about possible problems, the scientist or engineer will usually be ignored. After all, checking something nobody knows for sure is wrong can only cause trouble in the short term, and what manager likes that? In my first Big-Science job, the supervisor told us that our research should be "success oriented". Success-oriented research -- it sounds good, who can be against it? But in practice it means that research should aim at creating a funding story that is likely to bring in more money. Four flushers flourish in this sort of environment because nobody wants to find hidden cards -- they might be bad ones. Big Science managers who don't worry much about hidden cards are more likely to impress their colleagues because it's easier to give a sincere presentation when you think everything's OK. Society can live with this sort of scientific four-flushing as long as an actual product has to get built. Then, if the project leaders are basically correct about all the hidden cards being unimportant, and the product works, the project is a success. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 AM

February 22, 2010

An uphill battle for Palin.........

But can Palin be elected?, By Joshua Livestro:

Time Magazine: For several decades, it has been an article of faith among politicians and political analysts that no candidate can win a U.S. presidential election unless he can dominate the broad center of the spectrum, that all candidates on the edges of the left or right are doomed. Barry Goldwater's "extremism . . . is no vice" campaign of 1964 provides the classic evidence, reinforced by George McGovern's 1972 defeat in 49 out of 50 states. And since G.O.P. Front Runner Sarah Palin relies upon a base of support that is on the far right wing of the Republican Party, some experts have long declared that if she wins the nomination, the G.O.P. would simply be repeating the suicidal Goldwater campaign.


National opinion polls continue to show Obama leading Palin by an apparently comfortable margin of about 25%. They also show that more moderate Republicans like Romney would run better against the President. This suggests that Palin is not the strongest G.O.P. choice for the 2012 election and that she clearly faces an uphill battle....

BUT ,there's a catch! Read on...

...I may have changed a few names here and there. It's not actually Gov. Palin this Time Magazine article's talking about here, but Ronald Reagan. Yes, the Gipper was really running 25 points behind Carter as late as March 1980 - a mere eight months before the election. Simple statements, no experience in DC politics or foreign affairs, supported only by the rightwing fringe - completely unelectable, that Reagan fellow, wasn't he?
Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 PM

February 21, 2010

"That awful, never-dying duel"

[Word Notes: "Awful" here has its old meaning of "awe-inspiring." And "apologia" does not mean: "apology," It comes from the Greek apologeisthei, "to speak in one's own defense." The title of Newman's famous book, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, means "a defense of my life."]

...it will at first sight be said that the restless intellect of our common humanity is utterly weighed down [by the authority of the Church], to the repression of all independent effort and action whatever, so that, if this is to be the mode of bringing it into order, it is brought into order only to be destroyed. But this is far from the result, far from what I conceive to be the intention of that high Providence who has provided a great remedy for a great evil,—far from borne out by the history of the conflict between Infallibility and Reason in the past, and the prospect of it in the future. The energy of the human intellect "does from opposition grow;" it thrives and is joyous, with a tough elastic strength, under the terrible blows of the divinely-fashioned weapon, and is never so much itself as when it has lately been overthrown.

It is the custom with Protestant writers to consider that, whereas there are two great principles in action in the history of religion, Authority and Private Judgment, they have all the Private Judgment to themselves, and we have the full inheritance and the superincumbent oppression of Authority. But this is not so; it is the vast Catholic body itself, and it only, which affords an arena for both combatants in that awful, never-dying duel. It is necessary for the very life of religion, viewed in its large operations and its history, that the warfare should be incessantly carried on.

Every exercise of Infallibility is brought out into act by an intense and varied operation of the Reason, both as its ally and as its opponent, and provokes again, when it has done its work, a re-action of Reason against it; and, as in a civil polity the State exists and endures by means of the rivalry and collision, the encroachments and defeats of its constituent parts, so in like manner Catholic Christendom is no simple exhibition of religious absolutism, but presents a continuous picture of Authority and Private Judgment alternately advancing and retreating as the ebb and flow of the tide;—it is a vast assemblage of human beings with willful intellects and wild passions, brought together into one by the beauty and the Majesty of a Superhuman Power,—into what may be called a large reformatory or training-school, not as if into a hospital or into a prison, not in order to be sent to bed, not to be buried alive, but (if I may change my metaphor) brought together as if into some moral factory, for the melting, refining, and moulding, by an incessant, noisy process, of the raw material of human nature, so excellent, so dangerous, so capable of divine purposes.

St. Paul says in one place [2 Cor. 10:8] that his Apostolical power is given him to edification, and not to destruction. There can be no better account of the Infallibility of the Church. It is a supply for a need, and it does not go beyond that need. Its object is, and its effect also, not to enfeeble the freedom or vigour of human thought in religious speculation, but to resist and control its extravagance. What have been its great works? All of them in the distinct province of theology:—to put down Arianism, Eutychianism, Pelagianism, Manichæism, Lutheranism, Jansenism. Such is the broad result of its action in the past;—and now as to the securities which are given us that so it ever will act in time to come...
    -- John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Chap 5. [Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

February 20, 2010

Silly stuff...

small b-w image of Sara Palin

Can Sarah Palin translate celebrity into real political power?:

Well, it's kind of silly to call her a "celebrity." Just imagine that she was somehow removed from the realm of politics, and could give no political speeches, or do anything political. Would people still be interested in her? Would paparazzi be following her to get shots for People Magazine? Of course not.

By Dan Balz, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sarah Palin has proved that she can draw a crowd. What she has yet to demonstrate is that she can translate the appeal of a phenomenon into a political force that can attract or mobilize sizable numbers of voters....

Rick Perry's typical rally was 200 people; with Palin by his side he attracted over 9,000. It's a pretty dubious notion to say that she's not going to affect votes. I'd say the burden-of-proof is on the nay-sayers.

..."Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can't be both," said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. "Right now, she is a figure like [George] McGovern or [Barry] Goldwater, two candidates who led the most intense movements in our country's political history, but who couldn't win the middle."...

Totally silly. McGovern was leader of a movement that America didn't want. If America had favored his movement, then he could easily have been both. And Goldwater never tried to be a movement leader. Cliff White organized the movement, seizing upon Goldwater as its rather-reluctant figurehead.

...Democrats regard Palin as mostly a Republican problem, someone capable of throwing the Washington political community into a lather with a Facebook posting or a tweet, but not yet a credible potential presidential candidate or leader of a broad-based opposition...

What a lie. Whistlin' past the graveyard. As Rush says, "They always let us know who they are afraid of." And it is obviously Palin. No other Republican draws one tenth the attacks she does.

...Palin has many detractors, even within the GOP. They deride the content of her tea party speech as being long on grievance but short on substance. They mock her for the notes scribbled on her palm during that appearance and what they see as inconsistencies in her statements...

Right. They mocked Reagan for telling cornball stories he read in The Readers Digest. How did that work out, huh experts? I'd bet you a hundred bucks she did that writing-on-the-hand thing deliberately, just to pull their chains.

...But as one GOP strategist, who declined to be identified in order to speak more freely about her, put it, "Palin has a following that is thoroughly uninterested in experiences on issues and instead is completely motivated by attributes. They'll take her authenticity over her ideas every day of the week."...
Rubbish. I've been to a Tea Party, flab-wit. Tea-partiers and Sarah Palin are both very much about ideas, and they have no need to make a big song-and-dance about them because they are the same ideas. Elitists of both Left and Right think of ideas as something that involves putting experts (like themselves) in charge. When conservatives say, "Let's let ordinary citizens make their own choices," they say we have no ideas. They can't "see" ideas that involve putting experts out to pasture.
...But the others should be paying close attention, Castellanos said. "Mitt Romney, Pawlenty and every other Republican contender ought to be worried," he said. "An authentic, populist voice has emerged as the anti-Obama and that voice doesn't belong to the Republican establishment. It belongs to Sarah Palin."...

So why didn't you put that quote at the top of the story, Mr Genius Political Reporter? "Burying the lede" is the common term I think.

...Those in Palin's circle said there is no single person to whom she turns most often for advice. There is no Karl Rove to George W. Bush, or Lee Atwater to Bush's father. "It's not like there's this last person she talks to before she goes to bed to get her marching orders," said one person knowledgeable about her operation who declined to be identified in order to share information. "It's her instincts and her thinking that's driving this."...

They sneered at Bush for supposedly being a lightweight led by Karl Rove. "Bush's Brain" they called Rove. Now they give Palin no credit for NOT having a Rove. Stupid. In fact both of them are smart politicians who win elections by courting the derision of elitists.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:29 PM

Devastating critique...

Andy McCarthy, on the malicious attack by the Justice Dept's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)

...For whatever reason, when the Justice Department released its report to Congress, inevitably ensuring that it would be made public, it did not release a crucial letter to OPR written by the Bush Justice Department's two highest officials, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip. That letter, dated January 19, 2009 (the last full day of the Bush administration), shredded OPR's initial Draft Report and the process by which OPR's preliminary conclusions about ethical misconduct were reached.

I have obtained a copy of that letter and I am releasing it here on NRO this morning. It can be found here.

Messrs. Mukasey and Filip are both distinguished former federal judges, and their 14-page analysis of OPR's shoddy work is withering. The letter ought to be read in full, but here are some highlights:...

I'm posting the highlights below. Man, just read a few paragraphs. This has been a truly ugly persecution of good Americans.

[Highlights] After taking nearly five years to complete a nearly 200-page, single-space report, OPR withheld it's work from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General until December 23, 2008 – right before the Christmas and New Year's holidays, and four weeks before the conclusion of the Bush administration, so that DOJ was then busy with transition to the new Obama administration. OPR did this with an eye toward releasing the report on January 12, 2009. This schedule would have ensured no meaningful review by top DOJ officials, and no meaningful opportunity for comment on the report from counsel for the Bush OLC attorneys whose work was criticized (even though OPR had made a commitment that there would be an opportunity for review and comment).

The original OPR draft report proceeded, as Mukasey and Filip put it, "seemingly without any consideration of the context in which the OLC opinions were prepared"—namely, in the aftermath of a catastrophic attack on the United States in which almost 3000 Americans were killed, and under circumstances where the OLC lawyers were under "virtually incomparable and extended pressure" to provide guidance to the intelligence community.

The OPR draft report, after taking nearly five years to review the law, derided the Bush OLC lawyers for failing to cite Khanuja v. I.N.S., a Ninth Circuit case interpreting the UN Convention Against Torture. However, Khanuja is an unpublished opinion, and under Ninth Circuit rules (which are well known to Justice Department lawyers), the citation of unpublished opinions is prohibited and lawyers who disregard this rule may be sanctioned for ethical misconduct.

Despite having had nearly five years to do its own legal analysis, OPR relied heavily on the work of academic critics of the Bush administration without (a) any explanation of why their work was somehow authoritative, and (b) balance in the form of views of other academics and commentators who had defended the professionalism of the OLC lawyers. For example, in critiquing the work of Bush OLC lawyers John Yoo (a legal scholar and tenured professor of law at the prestigious University of California Bolt School of Law) and Jay Bybee (an accomplished lawyer and now a federal appellate judge), OPR relied extensively on Professor David Luban. As Mukasey and Filip noted, though obviously a thoughtful and prolific scholar, Prof. Luban is not an attorney, has never practiced law (he is a trained philosopher), and is a vigorous critic of the Bush administration and the War on Terror generally. There was no mention of this background and Prof. Luban's patent potential bias in OPR's Ddraft Rreport.

The OPR draft report claimed it was "unreasonable" for the Bush OLC lawyers, in construing the concept of "severe pain" for purposes of the federal torture statute, to rely on Congress's use of the term "severe pain" in a health care statute. But there was no direct precedent for the meaning of "severe pain" in the torture statute, and, as Mukasey and Filip observed, "it is a common practice for lawyers to look to other sources for guidance in interpretation when there is no direct precedent" – and that is exactly what the OLC lawyers explained that they were doing, in addition to turning to dictionary definitions, another common practice.

The OPR draft report, on the basis of no evidence, questions not only the methods but the motives of the Bush OLC lawyers, claiming that they attempted to reverse a refusal by DOJ's Criminal Division to decline prosecution for future violations of the torture statute. As Mukasey and Filip recount, "Notably, the Draft Report presents no evidence that the OLC attorneys even opposed the Department's decision to decline prosecution; to the contrary, OLC was tasked with drafting the written notice refusing to decline prosecution of future statutory violations."

OPR privately acknowledged to Mukasey and Filip that there was no direct evidence that the OLC opinions reflected anything other than the OLC lawyers' "best legal judgment at the time." Yet, astoundingly, that fact was not mentioned a single time in OPR's draft report – a report that was centrally about whether the OLC lawyers had provided their best legal judgment.

It was the OPR Draft Report that recommended the re-examination by DOJ of various declinations to prosecute incidents of detainee abuse. Those declinations were reviewed "independently by two sets of prosecutors, first in the Counterterrorism Section ... and later in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia"; they were arrived at based on case-related considerations that had nothing to do with the information examined in OPR's Draft Report; and, indeed, the review by the career prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia occurred in 2005 – long after the 2002 OLC memos had been withdrawn by DOJ. (ACM note: Attorney General Holder ordered a review of these declinations anyway, just as OPR recommended.)

OPR's draft report recommended that later OLC memos be reviewed, alleging that there was "pressure ... to complete legal opinions which would allow the CIA interrogation program to go forward." As Mukasey and Filip recount, this allegation "misinterprets the only evidence it cites." In fact, Stephen Bradbury, the well-regarded OLC chief behind those memos, stated repeatedly – both in sworn testimony and in interviews with OPR – that "he was never pressured to reach any particular result in his evaluation of the CIA's interrogation program."

The OPR report urged that the Bradbury memos be reviewed by the Justice Department despite the fact that they had already been personally reviewed by Attorney General Mukasey, pursuant to a request by Congress.

The OPR faulted OLC for failing "to consider and address the moral and policy considerations triggered by the issues." Yet the precise job of OLC is to provide strict legal advice, shorn of policy and other considerations. Moreover, as Mukasey and Filip concluded, OPR's suggestion would run afoul of the D.C. Bar's ethical rules, which counsel that a lawyer is to provide technical legal advice when asked for purely technical legal advice – only where a client is "inexperienced in legal matters" should guidance go beyond "strictly legal considerations." Nothing in the profession of lawyering makes one expert in matters of morality and policy, and the point is to avoid a situation in which the lawyer's personal predilections are masqueraded as legal requirements.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:55 AM

The Blue Beast...

Jim Geraghty, History Is Calling, but the Phone Keeps Ringing at 3 a.m.:

...It's not sustainable. Of course, as I said earlier this month, "unsustainable is the new normal." We're having a reckoning, but President Obama isn't all that interested in it; he wants to believe that a full, thriving economic recovery, along with rejuvenated tax revenues, is just around the corner.

I'm willing to bet that Walter Russell Mead's grocery list is full of fascinating historical allusions, but he's hit some similar notes in a few lengthy posts about what he calls "the blue beast" — a social model that defined our country for much of the last century, based upon large, stable entities — unionized oligarchies, big corporations, an ever-growing civil service, lifetime employment, etc. But that era has come to an end, and much of our political debate in the past decades is about trying to artificially extend the lifespan of the blue system by taking from the non-blue parts, or moving on to some other way of doing things:
Democratic policy is increasingly limited to one goal: feeding the blue beast. The great public-service providing institutions of our society — schools, universities, the health system, and above all government at municipal, state and federal levels — are built blue and think blue. The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party thinks its job is to make them bigger and keep them blue. Bringing the long green to Big Blue: that's what it's all about...

(There's more. I recommend reading it.)

"Based upon large, stable entities." That was the model of the Industrial Age. The reason was to have an organization that could transmit information reliably. Industrial Age organizations all worked vertically. Information was gathered at the bottom, and passed to the next layer to be organized and consolidated into reports, which were then passed up to the next layer. The retail level reported to the district, which reported to the region, which reported to headquarters, which reported to the top brass. Then instructions went back in the other direction.

In the old days the people on the sales floor might discover something important. Perhaps "Housewives are bored with pastels this Spring; they are asking for bright solid colors." But it could take a month for the news to pass up the levels. And then months for instructions to be pondered and then passed down to buyers and designers and the advertising agency. And months more before that resulted in finished goods and ads.

Today the top brass may be scanning blogs and forums, and noticing the new trends quickly. Designers can send CAD files to factories, which may be able to shift production immediately. And the factory can be anywhere. The designer might be in San Francisco, the ad agency in London, the factory in Indonesia. UPS might contract for warehousing and fulfillment. And if the company is a lively one, every part of it will be able to simply vibrate with the moods of the market, and change instantaneously if needed.

But that's only where competition forces people to move quickly. Few of us act that way naturally. In the public and quasi-public sectors of our world the Industrial Age model still prevails. And as the pubic sector has become cut-off from the spirit of the age, it has become cancerous. [link]

If you are aware of these changes you start to see them everywhere. For instance in the way David Brooks or Peggy Noonan whine about the loss of respect for elites and grand old institutions. But the "blue-blood establishment" of old was just another of those "large, stable entities." It was like GM, but the product was not cars, it was the "top brass." Its product, in the form of Ivy League grads, could be slotted into leadership positions in government, or industry, or the academy, or the press, or the "mainline" churches. Even unions! Those were all among the "large, stable entities" of the Industrial Age, and their leadership style was much the same.

One of the biggest problems of our age is to somehow transform all the public and quasi-public institutions into Information Age organizations.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

February 18, 2010

"What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!"


Do you remember — can we e'er forget? —
How, in the coiled-perplexities of youth,
In our wild climate, in our scowling town,
We gloomed and shivered, sorrowed, sobbed and feared?
The belching winter wind, the missile rain,
The rare and welcome silence of the snows,
The laggard morn, the haggard day, the night,
The grimy spell of the nocturnal town,
Do you remember? — Ah, could one forget!

As when the fevered sick that all night long
Listed the wind intone, and hear at last
The ever-welcome voice of chanticleer
Sing in the bitter hour before the dawn, —
With sudden ardour, these desire the day:
So sang in the gloom of youth the bird of hope;
So we, exulting, hearkened and desired.
For lo! as in the palace porch of life
We huddled with chimeras, from within —
How sweet to hear! — the music swelled and fell,
And through the breach of the revolving doors
What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!

I have since then contended and rejoiced;
Amid the glories of the house of life
Profoundly entered, and the shrine beheld:
Yet when the lamp from my expiring eyes
Shall dwindle and recede, the voice of love
Fall insignificant on my closing ears,
What sound shall come but the old cry of the wind
In our inclement city? What return
But the image of the emptiness of youth,
Filled with the sound of footsteps and that voice
Of discontent and rapture and despair?
So, as in darkness, from the magic lamp,
The momentary pictures gleam and fade
And perish, and the night resurges — these
Shall I remember, and then all forget.
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

February 17, 2010

I could spend all day fisking this one...

Tom Friedman, Global Weirding Is Here:

But I'll just mention what occurred to me when I read this part...

... In my view, the climate-science community should convene its top experts – from places like NASA, America's national laboratories, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, the California Institute of Technology and the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre – and produce a simple 50-page report. They could call it "What We Know," summarizing everything we already know about climate change in language that a sixth grader could understand, with unimpeachable peer-reviewed footnotes....

This reminds me of the days when pundits friendly to the Republicans were saying, "Why doesn't President Nixon just fire those little people who were responsible for that silly Watergate burglary, so he can avoid being distracted from the big issues facing the country!"

Posted by John Weidner at 8:18 AM

February 15, 2010

Being "anti-torture" kills...

This news is bad for the war, but it also points up the serious moral error of the anti-torture (so-called) crowd, who have gummed-up the interrogation process to the point where the administration would rather just kill people. To put it simply, the only reason to snatch terrorist leaders rather than kill them, is to squeeze info out of them. Therefore the Mark Shea types are effectively putting a gun to the heads of people like Saleh Ali Nabhan and executing them.

And the moral error is double because every one of those anti-torture types, if offered the choice between death and water-boarding, would himself chose the latter. But they are making the opposite choice for other people, and condemning them to death. And feeling smug about it!

And they are triply wrong, because they, and pacifist types in general, are always slippery about their own responsibility. None of them ever comes out and honestly says, "My policies will result in deaths, and I take responsibility for that." And quadruply wrong because the brute fact is that Islamic terrorists kill about 10 Moslems for every Westerner. So the small extent to which the pacifistic crowd does acknowledge that they want less done to protect us still leaves most of the iceberg underwater: A little less protection for us is a lot less for wretched folk in the Third World.

This is a specific instance of my more general point that the sort of people who call themselves "pacifists" are always engaged in turning someone else's cheek. They are happy to let some niggers in Pakistan do the suffering and dying, while they toddle home to a comfy bed. And if hoodlums are breaking their back door at night, they instantly call the cops, to come with guns and protect them! I'll believe there is such a thing as "Christian pacifism" when I start to hear stories of pacifists dying rather than protecting themselves.

Washington Post Confirms We Are No Longer Capturing & Interrogating High-Value Terrorists:

The Washington Post reported yesterday morning front-page, above the fold that the Obama administration has stopped capturing and interrogating senior al-Qaeda leaders, killing them instead with Predator drones. This confirms my story last week in Foreign Policy, "Dead Men Tell No Tales," explaining the danger of this approach.

The Post tells the story of a senior leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa named Saleh Ali Nabhan who was located last September. The White House was given the choice of either killing him or capturing him alive for interrogation. The military wanted to take him alive. But the White House chose instead to take him out. A senior military officer is quoted as saying: "We wanted to take a prisoner. . . . It was not a decision that we made."

The Post adds: "The opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever."

And the paper quotes a senior military officer explaining why the opportunity to interrogate this senior al-Qaeda leader for intelligence was sacrificed: We "don't have a detention policy or a set of facilities" to hold high-value terrorists.

A former intelligence official briefed on current operations tells the Post that killing, instead of capturing terrorists is far from ideal, saying "now there's an even greater proclivity for doing it that way."...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 AM

February 14, 2010

Jerusalem AND Athens...

John Henry Newman, on what universities ought to be...

...but, ever since the fall of man, religion is here, and philosophy is there; each has its own centres of influence, separate from the other; intellectual men desiderate something in the homes of religion, and religious men desiderate something in the schools of science.

Here, then, I conceive, is the object of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in setting up Universities; it is to reunite things which were in the beginning joined together by God, and have been put asunder by man. Some persons will say that I am thinking of confining, distorting, and stunting the growth of the intellect by ecclesiastical supervision. I have no such thought. Nor have I any thought of a compromise, as if religion must give up something, and science something.

I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating for is, that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons. I want to destroy that diversity of centres, which puts everything into confusion by creating a contrariety of influences. I wish the same spots and the same individuals to be at once oracles of philosophy and shrines of devotion. It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. It will not satisfy me, if religion is here, and science there, and young men converse with science all day, and lodge with religion in the evening. It is not touching the evil, to which these remarks have been directed, if young men eat and drink and sleep in one place, and think in another: I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap, if I may so express myself, an ornament and set-off to devotion. I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual...

This is supremely Catholic. (And my idea of heaven, but I guess I'll have to wait 'till I get to Heaven to get it.) As George Weigel wrote,

...You can call it the "Catholic both/and": nature and grace, faith and works, Jerusalem and Athens, faith and reason, charismatic and institutional, visible and invisible...

And Pope Benedict:

"Catholicism, perhaps a bit simplistically, has always been considered the religion of the great 'both/and;' not of great exclusions, but of synthesis. In fact, 'Catholic' means precisely 'synthesis.'" [Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 PM

February 13, 2010

At sundown to the garden door...

For my garden-loving spouse...


Friend, in my mountain-side demesne
My plain-beholding, rosy, green
And linnet-haunted garden-ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look
Nor crisp and ruddy radish, nor
Pease-cods for the child's pinafore
Be lacking; nor of salad clan
The last and least that ever ran
About great nature's garden-beds.
Nor thence be missed the speary heads
Of artichoke; nor thence the bean
That gathered innocent and green
Outsavours the belauded pea.
These tend, I prithee; and for me,

Thy most long-suffering master, bring
In April, when the linnets sing
And the days lengthen more and more,
At sundown to the garden door.
And I, being provided thus.
Shall, with superb asparagus,
A book, a taper, and a cup
Of country wine, divinely sup.
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson, La Solitude, Hyeres.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 PM

Must read...

American Thinker: Dear Mr. President: Why We Are Not Hiring:

...But first, I must add that every time you step up to the microphone -- for example, your impromptu presser on Tuesday -- the painful decision to shut down my business of eighteen years is validated by your words. And I should thank you for that.

For the record, that decision was formalized on November 5, 2008. Check your calendar.

Some fifteen months later, I can say that it was the best business decision I have ever made. With your hands on the levers of the government and the economy, I wanted to have as little at risk as possible.

Don't get me wrong -- it was a torturous and gut-wrenching decision that went against every fiber of my being. I had to betray deeply rooted entrepreneurial instincts and set some more mundane material goals. And while it might seem extreme, I think my mindset speaks to the real reason businesses are not hiring now.

So what is that mindset?

It's not complicated. I am neither a swooning David Brooks enamored of your pant crease nor a silver-spoon trust-fund baby like Christopher Buckley. I've simply had some twenty-five entrepreneurial ventures -- with a good number of strikeouts to be honest -- and real-world experience told me exactly who you are and exactly what the business climate under your rule would be like....

This piece is just dead-on right. I can say that as one who grew up in an entrepreneurial family and worked in the family business. And Charlene and I are both small business owners (very small, to be sure). And both of us are averse to hiring people, for various reasons that mostly have some connection with government.

One of the structural weakness of the modern world is that many businesses are so big that the people who work in them have little sense of being "in business." They are just doing a job in a big organization—many of could easily move to government or a non-profit or a university and do the same job. A file clerk at Microsoft does not think of herself as part of free enterprise or capitalism; probably does not even make the connection.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 AM

February 12, 2010

To be meanly-mouthed is to be a LIAR...

Shaun Waterman, Washington Times, Terror reviews avoid word 'Islamist':

...Two new documents laying out the Obama administration's defense and homeland security strategy over the next four years describe the nation's terrorist enemies in a number of ways but fail to mention the words Islam, Islamic or Islamist.

The 108-page Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, made public last week by the Department of Homeland Security, uses the term "terrorist" a total of 66 times, "al Qaeda" five times and "violent extremism" or "extremist" 14 times. It calls on the U.S. government to "actively engage communities across the United States" to "stop the spread of violent extremism."

Yet in describing terrorist threats against the United States and the ideology that motivates terrorists, the review - like its sister document from the Pentagon, the Quadrennial Defense Review - does not use the words "Islam," "Islamic" or "Islamist" a single time....

Sick. If the Islamic terrorists don't hit us hard just to express their contempt for this sort of death-wish nihilism, they are far bigger wimps that I imagine. America deserves to be attacked, for tolerating such weak-kneed gutless womanish crap.

We will be hit, and then President Palin will take office and chase those flea-ridden scumballs howling back to their caves...

Terrorists turned to grease spot in Yemen.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:56 PM

February 11, 2010

Bar Area conservatives... hello?

Charlene and I have already RSVP'd to attend this meeting, described by Bookworm:

Are Bay Area conservatives willing to emerge from their seclusion? Bay Area Patriots ("BAP") certainly hopes so. On Sunday, March 7, 2010, in Mill Valley, California, BAP is hosting a Conservative Groupa-Palooza that BAP hopes will be the largest gathering to date of that beleaguered species: the San Francisco Bay Area conservative. BAP encourages conservative groups and individuals to attend. You can learn more about it and RSVP (for a pretty nominal fee) here.

I have a few predictions:

1. The Groupa-Palooza will be well attended.

2. The conservatives in attendance will achieve something approaching euphoria simply because they can be open about their political views.

3. There will be fringe, crackpot groups attending, such as Ron Paulians, just to name one of the less savory groups that self-affiliates with the conservative party. There will also be some Birthers who haven't yet acknowledged that the birth certificate ship has already sailed.

4. No matter how small the percentage of fringe groups in attendance, those are the only groups that will get media attention....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 PM

I'd post similar stuff about other politicians, except...

...except that I haven't seen any, since the days when President Bush used to visit our wounded and the families of the slain. (Like Governor Palin, he made no attempt to get publicity out of it.)

by Brigadier General (R) Anthony J. Tata, Palin Visits Walter Reed: Our Wounded Warriors Unite Us:

...Military men and women are nimble, used to changed plans, and the governor is a woman who knows what is important and accordingly makes on-the-fly course corrections as well. She upended her Sunday calendar, postponing a book event in Iowa, so that she could see our wounded at Walter Reed. She blew into the foyer at Walter Reed with her father, mother, aunt, husband and infant son, and she was quickly in Soldiers' rooms, sitting with them, hugging the wounded, chatting with the families, holding the children, signing her books, giving away every ounce of energy she had in every room. I was impressed.

As the leader of thousands of troops in combat, I've been honored to visit hundreds of wounded and had the privilege of burying too many friends and fellow warriors. Accordingly, my "insincerity detector" is pretty good and I give Governor Palin high marks. She was in the moment with those Soldiers and families. All wrapped in one person, she was leader, mother, friend, grateful American, and grieving parent.

Indeed, she slipped emotionally between comments such as, "I can see my son in you," and "I can't thank you enough for everything you've given to our great country." Her son, Track, is an active duty Soldier in the combat infantry brigade in Alaska. Clearly, she could see her son in these Soldiers because he had been driving around Iraq leading the commander's security team into the most dangerous areas, and she had been living every mother's impossibly difficult job to pray for the best and know that the worst was possible. She has walked a mile in their shoes.

Hers were quiet words, spoken in the confines of a small hospital room with the wounded Soldier, his or her family present, and perhaps Todd Palin or Chuck Heath, the governor's father, in the background....

Can you even imagine Mit Romney acting like that? He's a fine gentleman, and all, but...

Another interesting bit. She's not the only person who's "the real deal":

..The good people at the USO Metro began working with Walter Reed staff to secure a visitation time. Other VIPs were moving through the hospital that weekend with Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen being two of the most notable. It was Kennedy Center Honors night and what many Americans do not realize is that several film, television, and music industry stars regularly pass through with no fanfare. Jason Acuna ("Wee-Man") was a recent big hit with the wounded troops and their families...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

February 7, 2010

What's not to like?

Roger Kimball, from Small earthquake in la-la land, or, Why is Sarah Palin Smiling?:

....The hatred and contempt lavished upon Sarah Plain, from certain conservatives as well as from the Left, presents a dispiriting and, to me, hard-to-fathom spectacle. That is, I understand that the Left would regard her as a political threat and would therefore dislike her. But why the contempt? And why the contempt (and hatred) from the Right? I have several times explained why I admire Sarah Palin. Please note that I did not say I want her to run for the Presidency. But what (a locution that comes up often among her admirers) a breath of fresh air she is! Here you have a woman from a working-class background who, by dint of her own energy and ambition, becomes Governor of her state—a good Governor, too, by all accounts not tainted by The New York Times. She espouses good conservative principles: self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense. And, on top of all that, she is a courageous and loving mother to a passel of children.

What's not to like? That she chose to keep and love a Down Syndrome child? That sets the teeth of many on edge, I know, though they are loathe to come right out and admit it. Granted: She's not a lawyer. She's not from the Ivy League. She's not part of the Washington Establishment. Heavy liabilities, what? I acknowledge that her performance in front of Katie Couric and other barracuda-like interviewers was poor, embarrassing even. But put that and all the other charges in the scale on one side, then put her virtues on the other: which side wins out? Stefan Sirucek thinks he can simply indite the name "Sarah Palin" and all right-thinking (that is, left-leaning) people will scoff and hold their noses. Maybe they will. But the aroma of rancidness and decay you sense is not emanating from Sarah Palin's side of the aisle. The question is, when will the left-wing commentariat notice that the winds of opinion, to say nothing of the winds of political energy, have changed decisively against them? Scott Brown should have told them something. But Scott Brown was an impossibility. Or so they told themselves....

Even if she didn't have a hundred other virtues, the way Sarah makes a certain sort of people SUFFER would make me love her forever. It's sort of like, wherever she goes, pompous fat people slip on banana peels, and sour-pusses bite into lemons....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 PM

February 6, 2010

Flying saucer churches....

Fr Dwight Longenecker, Beautiful Church Beautiful Bride:

A comment on the post on beauty makes a good point. Churches should be beautiful because the Church is the bride of Christ and should be 'without spot and wrinkle, as a bride adorned for her husband.' The liturgy refers to Psalm 45 where the splendor of the king and his queen are praised and refer this to the church which is the bride of Christ and therefore the Queen of the King in the Kingdom of heaven.

If a church building is a symbol and sacramental of the Body of Christ, then each element in the building points to the organic Body of Christ. The imagery of the people of God being a temple or a building built up and dwelt in by the Holy Spirit pervades the New Testament, and we can build up a complex analogy with each believer being a living stone, the Lord being the corner stone, the apostles and prophets being the pillars and foundations...

If this is so, then a beautiful and glorious church building not only points us to the glory of the celestial city, but also to the supernatural beauty of the church, which is the result of grace perfecting the nature of each of the redeemed. I am just dipping my toe into this rich theology of sacred architecture, and musing while I wait for my plane, but the question then arises, what were they thinking when they built Catholic Churches that are carpeted arenas, flat flying saucer churches with amplification systems rather than acoustics and a meeting hall rather than a temple?

I think I know what they were thinking and it doesn't smell Catholic to me.

Too right. On a symbolic or unconscious level I have little doubt it was anti-Catholic.

I would add that the same things happen analogously in the secular realm. For instance the founding fathers of our country had a deep affinity for Republican Rome. The fact that many of our public buildings and symbols are Roman in style, or use Latin, is no accident. The authority that our system and its founding documents have over us is bound up in this symbolism, along with a collage of our history and culture.

To build American government buildings like this....

...Is to symbolically destroy a country you hate.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 PM

You don't have to be smart to get the best deal...

Save Money, Whether You Shop Here or Not - Stephen Spruiell - The Corner on National Review Online:

You benefit from Wal-Mart whether you shop there or not.

In most goods and services there are very few active consumers. What happens is, everybody selling a good is affected by Wal-Mart. You benefit from that wherever you are. So many of those who oppose consumer-driven health care use the perfect as the enemy of the good. You're not going to shop for health care if you're hit by a bus. That's not the point. The point is you're served in a health-care system that's been tightened up, both from a cost and quality point of view, by the fact that some consumers, for many procedures, are shopping around, and not just on price.

The reality is that if I'd known what I know about this hospital, it's not where I would have put my father. It's not that I would have been able to discover that when he got sick. It's that in the same way that I can find out about almost any business that I choose, their quality record and their pricing, I want the same thing for health care. It doesn't mean that if you're hit by a bus you pick up the phone and call ten hospitals.

And I think this misunderstanding of how consumer economies actually work is crucial to a mistake that's made a lot, which is that it's much better to have some big, financially interested institution make a decision on your behalf because you're not smart enough. You don't have to be smart enough to get the best deal on most things in our economy, because some people care enough to create the Wal-Marts of the world. And that's all that happens, is that once there's a Wal-Mart, you'd better be competitive with Wal-Mart, or you're out of business.

It's a simple point that somehow people have a hard time grasping. If only 10% of the people are careful shoppers, then all prices (or the price/service combo) will tend towards those of the most appealing outlet. When I shop at Target I don't worry about comparative prices, because I know that there are people at Target who do nothing but watch that prices are comparable with the competition. They make sure I'm not going to buy pork rinds for 4.99 and then later feel cheated and angry when I discover that everybody else sells them for 2.99! Therefore I don't have to think much about the issue.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:17 PM

February 5, 2010

Meaningful lives...

Jay Nordlinger has a good quote from a reader...

Way back in the '70s, Ralph Nader gave a speech to students at my university in which he urged us not to go to work in corporate America after graduation because doing so would serve only to "make AT&T a little bit bigger." Instead, he challenged us to do something "more meaningful" with our lives.

I was all ready to sign up for the Peace Corps when it occurred to me that AT&T employees were doing more than just making their company a bit bigger. They were enriching lives by enabling loved ones to talk to one another. They were creating wealth by providing a fast and inexpensive way to transmit information. They were saving lives by enabling people to call fire departments and hospitals.

It then occurred to me that if all of AT&T's employees were marooned on a desert island, people throughout the world would be hurt. On the other hand, if all of the world's consumer advocates were marooned...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 AM

February 4, 2010

Baiting traps...


Michael Leiter the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the United States sometimes chooses to allow people into the country who are on the federal government's Terrorist Watchlist. We choose to allow them in, terrorists... on purpose.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), the ranking minority member of the committee, said at the same Jan. 20 hearing that the government should suspend the U.S. visas of anyone whose name appears in its master database of all people with suspected connections to terrorism and then put the burden on them to prove "they do not intend to harm this nation or its citizens."
In that same hearing Leiter said he did not know exactly how many people on the Terrorist Watchlist entered the United States in 2009 but that it was probably a "very significant number." He than added that "when people come to the country, if they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

The government of the United States is using its citizens as a target to lure bad guys to our shores? There is something very wrong with that...

Wrong? Not necessarily. In this sort of covert warfare we might sometimes need to do stuff like that. BUT, it would be wrong if you were using US citizens as bait, and then not acting decisively to nullify the threat. Either by killing the terrorists or locking them up indefinitely at Gitmo.

It would be immoral to use us little people as bait and then fail to act with maximum force. As happened recently with the knicker bomber.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM