May 31, 2010

"As long as the light and warmth of life remain to us"

Deer in Arlington Cemetery, by Barry Scott, November 2005
Deer in Arlington Cemetery, by Barry Scott Photography, November 2005

(The Grand Army of the Republic was the fraternal organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. The GAR originated Memorial Day.)


General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of

JOHN A. LOGAN, Commander-in-Chief [Link]
Posted by John Weidner at 10:01 AM

May 30, 2010

Specialization is for insects...

Charlene spotted this Heinlein quote in the "A Word A Day" e-mail [Link]...
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

"The roots are the deep down things"

Father Dwight:

...One of my main points is that the ritual of liturgy with its signs, symbols, gestures, actions and language help us connect with the deep down root level of our existence. I liken it to a tree. Branches and leaves are the everyday life. Trunk is the level of our beliefs and values. The roots are the deep down things. This level of life is sub linguistic. This is where the language of myth and symbol and sign and gesture operate. These are the language of the depths.

How sad and stupid then, just when our shallow culture needs some real depth therapy more than ever, and the Catholic Church is the only religion that has the wealth of imagery, symbol, sign and gesture, action and sacrament, that so many Catholic priests and people have turned the liturgy into some sort of para-Protestant self help group.

The very thing we need the most i.e. sign, symbol, sacrament--in order to touch the depths is exactly what the relevant revolutionaries have abandoned. Out go the vestments and statues and icons and holy hours. Out goes the incense and processions and Eucharistic adoration. Out goes the rosary and candles and flowers and all those 'absurd' and 'irrelevant' Catholic devotions and in come the social workers, the lay ministers and the enthusiastic cantors....

An underlying Catholic assumption seems to be to be that the "deep down root level of our existence" is not that far from the Kingdom of God. We can touch it—or rather, it can touch us—in mysterious ways at any time. But God is hardly ever pushy or demonstrative. He might slam you with a vision, but that is rare. Usually it's more like a moment's eye-contact across a crowded noisy room. You can easily ignore it, and most of us do most of the time.

Another Catholic assumption is that God loves the physical world. (He created it, after all. And then said "It's very good." True. You can look it up.) We humans are hybrid creatures; both physical and spiritual. And we tend to think of the physical part of ourselves as tacky and inferior, and dream of existing mostly in the "spiritual" realm. This is called Gnosticism.

But God is delighted to interact with us in our physical selves, and the Catholic Church is chock-a-block with all sorts of physical oddments that seem to help us to do this. And they all drive gnostics crazy! Most Protestants are somewhat gnostic, and they go plumb nuts thinking that God could stoop so low as to give mucky sinners access to Grace through signs and symbols and material matter. From simple things like dipping a finger in Holy Water upon entering the church building, to the splendiferous one of allowing His own Blessed Mother to help with the work of Salvation.

* Update: Today's Old Testament reading seems apposite:

Thus says the wisdom of God:
"The LORD possessed me, the beginning of his ways,
the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
from of old I was poured forth,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
while as yet the earth and fields were not made,
nor the first clods of the world.

"When the Lord established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race."
    -- Proverbs 8:22-31 NAB

Rocky Mountains in the distance

Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

May 29, 2010

Poobahs of Manhattan...

Both Charlene and I were annoyed by Peggy Noonan's piece in the WSJ, : He Was Supposed to Be Competent :

...The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.

And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public's fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don't get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea....

It's not just that Noonan was wrong about Obama, and now turns against him without apologies to us, who told ytou long ago that he was incompetent. It's more the tone of her piece, the assumption that the pundits and poobahs of Manhattan are still the source of wisdom, and we should all wait for their opinions as presented in the "important" media outlets.

That's just SO Industrial Age. Sorry, Peg, but the socially unacceptable people from the heartlands were so far ahead of you you look like a dinosaur from the illustrations of my youth, sluggishly dragging your tail in the mud. In the old days one almost had to be in one of a few centers of power and influence to keep ones finger on the pulse of events. Now it seems like almost a disadvantage to be in NYC or Washington. It makes you stupider rather than smarter.

And the big papers and TV networks have lost most of their function. They were middlemen, and in the Industrial Age they were necessary. Information moved sluggishly, and they were places where it pooled. The newsroom of the NYT was one of the most important places on the planet, because few other places had the same access to information, and also because few other places had so much power to filter what went out to the ordinary world.

But those days are gone. If someone makes a speech I can usually watch it on a YouTube video almost immediately. I don't need the WSJ. I don't need any organization to collect information and put it together in an attractive package and dole it out to me once a day or once a week. I swim in a sea of information, often raw and direct and unfiltered.

I have, just sitting at the dining room table with a laptop, almost as much information available to me as Peggy Noonan has in Manhattan. And, possibly, just possibly, I can use it better than her, see it more clearly, because I'm not embedded in the reactionary world of the Manhattan elites.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:52 PM

May 28, 2010

Thiotimoline and the ice caps...

car covered with icicles

Willis Eschenbach:

...Google also revealed that the report of the study has been picked up by ABC News, NewsDaily, Yahoo News, New Scientist, Arab News, and ScienceDaily. It was featured on Joe Romm's global warming blog "ClimateProgress". It has been referred to in blogs and news reports from India, Australia, Russia, and China. It shows up on TweetMeme, Huffington Post, and Facebook. Even Scientific American has an article on it.

So at this point, it has gone round and round the world. It has been illustrated with all kinds of pictures of melting ice, and of global ice extent, and (inevitably) of polar bears. It has been discussed and debated and dissected around the web.

And with all of that publicity, with all those news reports, with all that discussion and debate ... as near as I can determine, despite Reuters saying it was published a month ago, the study has never been published anywhere.

Not only that, but nobody seems to have noticed that the study has never been published.

Well, that's not entirely true. Scientific American must have noticed, because they quietly removed the page where they had published the report ... but it is still in Google's cache....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:54 PM


Bishop Hill:

P Gosselin notes the rise in environmentalists demanding a suspension of democracy so that the wise ones in the green movement can put their ideas into practice. The BBC has apparently given them an episode of the Analysis programme to promote their views.

This idea raises a whole new concept of the environmentalists. No longer are they watermelons - green on the outside and red on the inside - they are something else - green on the outside and brown on the inside.

Gosselin wonders what kind of fruit this might be and can't come up with anything much. I think perhaps the word he is after is "pistachio".

It's a kind of nut.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

May 27, 2010

"Overarching them will be the divide between patriots and post-Americans"

Mark Krikorian, at The Corner:

...Notwithstanding recent events, the main political divide in the coming years is not going to be between right and left, big vs. small government, pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc. These fights will continue, of course, but overarching them will be the divide between patriots and post-Americans. Andy writes "We don't aspire to be citizens of the world. America suits us just fine." Well, post-Americans already see themselves as citizens of the world, and so there's no problem in siding with "foreign" governments against your "countrymen," because these are primitive, archaic concepts.

And we shouldn't make the mistake of assuming this divide neatly overlaps with right and left; a significant portion of the elite right, especially the libertarians and corporate people, are post-American, while a large share of the Democratic electorate, probably a majority, is still patriotic, however misguided we think they are about cap-and-trade or card-check or whatever. However, at the elite level — elected officials, foundations, big media, major donors, writers and other opinion leaders — the Democrats are openly the party of post-Americanism. This doesn't necessarily mean they're all anti-Americans like Bill Ayers or the Reverend Wright; I'd wager that very few are. Rather, they're post-American, meaning they might still like our country well enough but have moved beyond a parochial concern with its interests and people to a broader, more "enlightened" view of the world.

Among the Republican elite, on the other hand, and even more among conservatives specifically, there remains a strong patriotic strain. And this is the key to political success — framing issues to the degree possible as a defense of America's sovereignty and promotion of solidarity among Americans of all walks of life. This can be done badly, of course; Aristotle tells us that each virtue has two related vices, and it would be unhelpful to counter the Left's insufficient love of country with an excess of that sentiment on our part. But a sober, manly patriotism, one that loves our own nation without hating anyone else's, will be key to separating the Left from its voters....

The trouble is that patriotism has lost force partly because America is just too strong. We have no credible enemies, and haven't had sine the fall of the Soviet Union. 9/11 seemed impressive, and stimulated a spurt of patriotism, but since then al-Qaeda has skulked in the shadows. That's just nothing compared with real wars. Most people think of patriotism in terms of uniting against enemies, in terms of wars and armies.

But there are no more wars on Planet Earth. What we call "wars" now are just struggles and slaughters within failed states. Nation states no longer attack each other. Partly because weaponry has just grown too powerful, and partly because america doesn't let them. (It is a true statement: "No two countries, both of which have a McDonalds, have gone to war with each other.")

Patriotism tends to seem meaningless once you've "won" to the point where there is no possibility of losing. So I don't see it as a big vote winner for the future. (A similar problem afflicted Christianity once there was "Christendom." Once nobody was being thrown to the lions, the point seemed to be lost on the average unimaginative person.)

soldiers sleeping in the mud

Posted by John Weidner at 2:49 PM

May 24, 2010

Liberalism is a form of "middle class secular messianism"

From Liberalism and Zionism, by Benjamin Kerstein. It's a reaction to Peter Beinart's, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.

...It should be noted first that, ideologically speaking, Zionism is not necessarily opposed to liberalism; it does, however, assert that liberalism, in and of itself, is not enough. It is not enough to provide safety and security for the Jewish people, let alone the kind of cultural and political renaissance that Zionism sought to create. It is not a coincidence that Theodore Herzl was moved to found political Zionism by the Dreyfuss trial in France and the rise of organized political anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria. What drove Herzl—originally a liberal not unlike Beinart himself—was the realization that liberalism was failing, and inevitably would fail completely. The promise of liberalism in that era was that, if the Jews became good liberals, they would be left alone to pursue happiness as best they could. "But I do not think," Herzl wrote ominously, "that we will be left alone." For Herzl, the promise of liberalism, which for him was much as it is for Beinart, could only be realized for the Jews within the framework of a Jewish state.

That liberals then and liberals now find this uncomfortable should not be overly surprising. Liberalism has always been, generally speaking, a form of middle class secular messianism; an edifying millennialism for those with much money and many guns between them and reality. Once everyone becomes liberal, liberalism has always assumed, we will all be happy. Beinart, not unlike his predecessors, clearly believes more or less the same thing. Zionism asserts that not only will the Jews not be happy under liberalism and liberalism alone, but they will not even be capable of surviving the depredations of the modern world. For that, a stronger force is needed; namely, national independence and political sovereignty. Of course, there is a strongly messianic element to Zionism as well, especially in its religious form, but it is a competing and different messianism than that of liberalism. Liberalism asserts that for the Jews to be good and free, they must become liberal. Zionism asserts that for the Jews to exist at all, let alone be good and free—or liberal for that matter—they must first have a Jewish state.

It is worth asking what, one hundred or so years after Herzl, the verdict of history has been in regard to liberalism and the Jews. ...

Of course neither Kerstein nor Beinart will touch the possibility that the story is true, and the Jews might actually be God's Chosen People. I'd say that's the most parsimonious explanation for a lot of things we've seen over, oh, say, the last 2,000 or 3,000 years...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 AM

May 22, 2010

"The salvation of souls is the supreme law in the Church."

Interesting post, Signaturae Apostolicae Referendarius from Canonist Ed Peters.

...This morning it was announced that His Holiness Benedict XVI has appointed me a Referendarius (Referendary) of the Apostolic Signatura. As one of some dozen international consultants to the Church's highest administrative tribunal, it will be my privilege and responsibility to advise*, on an as-needed basis, the officials of that dicastery regarding matters impacting the administration of law and justice within the Church.

A number of persons have graciously conveyed their congratulations to me on this honor, and I am truly grateful for their kind words. But I want to underscore that I see this appointment not so much as an honor, but rather, as an invitation to serve more effectively the mission of the Church as the Speculum Iustitiae.

Even as I prepare, however, to place my training in canon and common law more readily at the service of the Church, I recall what Canon 1752 stresses, namely, that "the salvation of souls [is] the supreme law in the Church." Salvation is not, in the end, a work of law, but one of love. As such, it is a work toward which we all can, and must, contribute.

Ergo, oremus pro invicem! + + +...

"The salvation of souls [is] the supreme law in the Church."

Silly people sometimes opine that dogma and law are hindrances to faith and creativity. They we can accomplish more if we are free of such encumbrances, and just let "the spirit" work. Actually the opposite is the case. Dogma and law are supremely necessary; they can't be dispensed with without risking catastrophe.

Free verse, free love, free religion. Whenever you find them you find people who are slaves. Slaves to the intellectual fads of the moment. People who claim to be free from the chains of dogma and tradition and rules, and then act like a "herd of independent minds."

Now the Church can get carried away by fads too. Happens all the time. But she can never go too far, because her dogma cannot change. Chesterton pointed out how Medieval ascetics tended towards a hatred of the flesh and the material world that might have led them to be like Hindu fakirs and swamis. But they couldn't carry that line to disastrous extremes, because the Church teaches that the material realm is good. (Though tragically alienated from its creator.)

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

And that can't change. The Church, though she makes all sorts of human mistakes, is protected from error on these main points. The Pope and the councils are, in the core doctrines, infallible. People find that word distressing, but they don't understand it. Infallibility is not an arrogant claim, it is a humble one. It basically means that a pope can't teach heresy. A pope can be wicked, a pope can be stupid, he can be bigoted and vengeful and greedy, BUT, he cannot get up and say that the created realm is evil. Or contradict any other dogma. He is protected against that; it has never happened and it will never happen. Likewise for an Ecumenical Council.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:03 PM

"Back two spaces" in the board game of life...

A friend of ours, Kirk Kelsen, has written a good piece for the American Thinker, The Speaker Who Won't Speak with the People:

Kirk's attempts to engage Speaker Pelosi's staff in discussing the constitutionality of the health care bill seem naive to the point of being charmingly dream-like. Kirk, she's a demon from Hell, for pity's sake! Asking Pelosi about the Constitution is like asking Grendel to discuss table etiquette for a collation de minuit in a Mead Hall.

But Kirk is just dead-on on the way government regulations morph into government control even in supposedly private institutions. Finicky regulations multiply endlessly, and one says, "What is the purpose of this idiocy?" Well, the purpose is to train us to obedience to the welfare state. And to grind down any energy we might put into questioning the system.

Charlene and I recently applied for a mortgage pre-approval. I submitted recent bank statements, as is usual, and they were rejected! Why? Because they didn't have all their pages. I omitted the page that explains how to balance a bank statement, and also the page that said, "This page left deliberately blank." So, an hour or so wasted finding the statements online and sending them where they should go. My mood, after this and a lot of other hoop-jumpings-though? A kind of dull despair. Reform is impossible—most people can't even grasp what the problem is. (And it is possible that there is no there there. Some regulator may have frowned, and the obedient ant-workers of the "private" sector just imagined that all the pages were required, and spread the word that this is a new "regulation.")

...As massive new regulations blur the division between private business and federal government, choices will become limited to products supplied only by large corporations able to comply.

Or our choices disappear altogether.

Whether for banking or healthcare; or -- if Cap and Trade regulations become law -- selling a home or choosing what to eat, these transactions will be subject to a barrage of applications, either filled out by the citizen directly or shuffled upstream to companies supplying the goods and services we use, everyday. You liked trans-fats? Too bad. New York's Bloomberg regulations are going national.

But we'll get used to it. Engaging in federally restricted activities is like playing a board game: comply, and your application wends through a series of non-negotiable authorizations, albeit at glacial speed. Interrupt the normal process and it could be "back two spaces," so better to keep one's head down. Better, instead (as I did), to sign the Penalty of Perjury statement swearing that I am who I am, and wait for a bureaucrat to agree....

* Update: Interesting in this context are a couple of articles on doctors "dropping out" and working just for cash. Link, link.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 AM

May 21, 2010

To be a Democrat is to swim in a sea of lies...

Hugh Hewitt, The True Costs and Consequences of Obamacare:

Today's Politico carries word that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will soon try to rush through the "doctors' fix"--the long anticipated reversal of the pay cut for doctors on which the budget of Obamacare was balanced.

The price tag of the "fix" is $20 billion a year --which will no doubt grow in future years, so the cost of Obamcare is already $200 billion out of whack over ten years despite all the claims made when the bill was jammed through the House.

But that is not all. There's another $2.4 billion per year for hospitals in the new bill --another $24 billion to be added to the tab for Obamacare.

All of this was known --and denied by Obamacare boosters-- at the time of the jam down. And this is just the first wave of the costs of reality catching up with the rhetoric of "bending the cost curve" nonsense that was on the lips of every Obamacare proponent.

Other consequences loom. John Goodman writes in today's Wall Street Journal about the calculations now being done in every corporate office in America:...
Posted by John Weidner at 3:53 PM

May 19, 2010

Sounds about right to me...

American Thinker: Another Very Bad Night for Obama, Democrats, and the Media:

...You know it's bad night when a win is actually a loss. Perhaps the worst news of the night for Team Obama was the Democrat win in the special election in Pennsylvania for Jack Murtha's seat.

Huh? Yep, Mark Critz is a "Rush Limbaugh Democrat" who campaigned against almost everything Obama and Murtha support. Frankly, he was more conservative than the McCain campaign of 2008 and more apt to criticize Obama than is, say, Lindsay Graham. Republican Tim Burns had no one to run against, and the district is heavily Democrat by registration. This was hardly a race that can be celebrated by the Democrat leadership today. Critz is the type of Democrat that Nancy Pelosi was hoping to lose in November....

I read somewhere that Mark Critz is pro-life, pro-gun, opposes Cap n' Trade, and opposes ScrewtapeCare. It tickles me to think of all the lefties who are gritting their teeth and pretending to be pleased with their "victory" in PA-12. And the "journalists" who are writing stories about how the Republicans are in trouble, or have lost momentum. Dream on, dweebs.

A "Rush Limbaugh Democrat." Ha ha, there will be more. But of course a lot of them are fake "Rush Limbaugh Democrats." They are allowed to play that game to get elected, but it's understood that when the crunch comes, they vote with Nancy.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 PM

May 18, 2010

Amazing scientific shenanigans...

by Barry Brill at Climate Realists, Crisis in New Zealand Climatology:

...The New Zealand Meteorological Service, with its forebears, has been measuring and recording our weather since 1861. In 1992, it published a booklet containing a detailed history of all its weather stations, along with 140 years of climate data. In that year, NIWA [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] came into being and has now published most of the Met Service data online.

In 2007, the then Prime Minister announced her party's intention that New Zealand should lead the world in fighting climate change, and aim to be the world's first carbon-neutral country by 2025.

Earlier in 2007, NIWA produced a web page, followed by a printed brochure, with a graph showing that New Zealand had already warmed by an amount far in excess of global averages. The web page claimed a temperature increase of 1.1C during the 144 years of Met Service records, and a 0.92°C trend during the 20th century.

These are remarkable claims. They came out of the blue and do not accord with any written histories, or the personal impressions of our older generations. They don't square with "hottest day" records held in provinces and city archives. They were not accompanied by big changes in rainfall or winds or sea levels. In these claims, NIWA is a very lonely orphan.

Global warming during the 20th Century was 0.6C, with a margin of error of +/-0.2C. The Southern Hemisphere warming was less than half that level. But New Zealand warming, according to NIWA, was almost twice the global average - and with no error margins mentioned.

Referring to the NIWA web page, one finds that this major warming trend is the product of a single study involving only 7 temperature stations - out of the 238 stations which currently report to NIWA. [This is the "NIWA Seven-station Series" or NSS.] In response to a request under the Official information Act, NIWA has disclosed that this study was undertaken as part of a student's thesis some 30 years ago.

NIWA has no record of how the NSS came to be in their computers. The only reasonable inference is that the student himself, one Jim Salinger, must have added it when he became NIWA's Principal Scientist many years later.

How do we know the NSS is wrong? ...

[My emphasis] Well, read the whole thing if you are interested. What is especially odd here, to me at least, is that the science was being fudged 30 years ago. Deep-laid plans, eh?

Posted by John Weidner at 1:40 PM

May 16, 2010

Today's bitter laugh—Greece required to privatize health care system...

Tim Murphy put this gem in a comment at Alan Sullivan's blog, RealClearMarkets - Guess What Greece Has To Jettison?:

Policy Failure: Greece was told that if it wanted a bailout, it needed to consider privatizing its government health care system. So tell us again why the U.S. is following Europe's welfare state model.

The requirement, part of a deal arranged by the IMF, the European Union and the European Central bank, is a tacit admission that national health care programs are unsustainable. Along with transportation and energy, the bailout group, according to the New York Times, wants the Greek government to remove "the state from the marketplace in crucial sectors."

This is not some cranky or politically motivated demand. It is a condition based on the ugly reality of government medicine. The Times reports that economists - not right-wingers opposed to health care who want to blow up Times Square - say liberalizing "the health care industry would help bring down prices in these areas, which are among the highest in Europe."

Of course most of the media have been largely silent about the health care privatization measure for Greece, as it conflicts with their universal, single-payer health care narrative....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 PM

May 15, 2010

"Heaven and earth shall pass away"

..It is extraordinary how very little there is in the recorded words of Christ that ties him at all to his own time. I do not mean the details of a period, which even a man of the period knows to be passing. I mean the fundamentals which even the wisest man often vaguely assumes to be eternal. For instance, Aristotle was perhaps the wisest and most wide-minded man who ever lived. He founded himself entirely upon fundamentals, which have been generally found to remain rational and solid through all social and historical changes. Still, he lived in a world in which it was thought as natural to have slaves as to have children. And therefore he did permit himself a serious recognition of a difference between slaves and free men.

Christ as much as Aristotle lived in a world that took slavery for granted. He did not particularly denounce slavery. He started a movement that could exist in a world with slavery. But he started a movement that could exist in a world without slavery. He never used a phrase that made his philosophy depend even upon the very existence of the social order in which he lived. He spoke as one conscious that everything was ephemeral, including the things that Aristotle thought eternal. By that time the Roman Empire had come to be merely the orbis terrarum, another name for the world. But he never made his morality dependent on the existence of the Roman Empire or even on the existence of the world. 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.'

—GK Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925)..

(Thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:29 PM

May 14, 2010

Philosophical muddle-headedness...

This is a way of thinking that really bugs me. The example concerns religion, but the same woolly thought is seen in lots of purely secular realms of thought. (Such as politics.)...

...LONDON (RNS) A top British judge has ruled that Christian beliefs have no standing under secular law because they lack evidence and cannot be proven.

Lord Justice John Grant McKenzie Laws made the declaration on Thursday (April 29) in throwing out a defamation suit by Christian relationship counselor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples.

Gary McFarlane protested that he was fired because offering sex therapy to same-gender couples violates his Christian principles.

But Laws said "religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence." He added that to use the law to protect "a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified."

No religious belief, said the judge, can be protected under the law "however long its tradition, however rich its culture...

The philosophical confusion of this judge is profound. The fact is that most of the things he thinks or believes are also subjective, and can't be proven, either by natural science or formal logic. Including the proposition that things ought to be "provable!"

He's like the person who says, "I don't believe anything that can't be shown to be true by science." SO, where is the scientific "proof" that that statement itself is valid? You believe it, so it must have been shown to be true by science? Of course that proof is impossible. [Even without considering that natural science is inductive, and never proves anything.]

And he is confused in what he thinks constitutes "evidence." For instance part of the evidence for the truth of Christian faith is that large numbers of people testify that they have personally found it to be convincing and to work for them. He would doubtless reject that evidence. Yet if you asked him to give the evidence that his view of evidence is correct, he would use the exact same argument, in slightly different words.

Furthermore, everyone has a religion. That is, everyone has beliefs about life and the cosmos which they hold on faith. Secularism is a faith, because no one can prove its basic tenets. No one can prove there is no god, and no one can prove that people are, say, "better off" if they follow secularism. But I'm sure the judge thinks that his secularist faith should have "have standing under secular law." And I'm guessing he takes it on faith that the law is in fact secular. I'll bet that is not stated in English law.

And even more funny, anyone who attempts to prove that secularism works as a philosophy immediately begins to refer to moral or spiritual truths that don't come from secularism. That are usually mostly Judeo-Christian.

Actually there are no atheists. Every person who says there is no objective truth, or that morality is just whatever a particular culture says it is, has some moral evil about which they would say, "That is WRONG." And even if you pointed out that is is morally right within that culture, they would still think it wrong. Therefore they believe in objective moral truth. Self-described secularists and atheists denounce things as wrong all the time, and would not be impressed if you said that chattel slavery in the South of George Washington or Robert E. Lee was morally right and beneficial because that culture believed it to be so.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 AM

May 13, 2010

I like this guy, I ike him very much...

Blunt is good in my book. It's been a long time since I've heard such straight talk. Ladies and gentlemen, Governor Chris Christie...

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 PM

May 12, 2010

Frederic Bastiat nailed it...

Someone at The Corner, discussing the latest supreme Court nomination, and the way nominations now are so much about "empathy" etc., pointed to this excellent piece, The 'Unseen' Deserve Empathy, Too.

...But what about compassion and empathy? Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering; empathy is the ability to share in another's emotions, thoughts and feelings. Hence, a compassionate judge would tend to base his or her decisions on sympathy for the unfortunate; an empathetic judge on how the people directly affected by the decision would think and feel. What could be wrong with that?

Frederic Bastiat answered that question in his famous 1850 essay, "What is Seen and What is Not Seen." There the economist and member of the French parliament pointed out that law "produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them." Bastiat further noted that "[t]here is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen."

This observation is just as true for judges as it is for economists. As important as compassion and empathy are, one can have these feelings only for people that exist and that one knows about -- that is, for those who are "seen."

One can have compassion for workers who lose their jobs when a plant closes. They can be seen. One cannot have compassion for unknown persons in other industries who do not receive job offers when a compassionate government subsidizes an unprofitable plant. The potential employees not hired are unseen....

We see this all the time. Or, rather, it's there but we don't see it. We refuse to see it. For instance, appeasing terrorists or tyrants now may seem to bring "peace," but it kills others who are unseen because of time or space. We see and feel compassion for the poor Mexicans who come across the border, but we can't see the poor African who would like to come and can't. Nor do we see the lost possibilities when we fail to pressure Mexico towards economic reforms that might allow her people opportunities at home.

The list could go on and on...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:05 PM

May 11, 2010

Marriage not in such bad shape as you think...

...The 50 percent divorce rate is really a myth. The 20-year divorce rate for couples who got married in the 1980s is actually around 19 percent. Everyone thinks marriage is such a struggle and it�s shocking to hear that marriage is actually going strong today. It has to do with how you look at the statistic. If the variables were constant, then a simple equation might work to come up with the divorce rate. But a lot of things are changing. And it is true that there are groups of people who have a 50 percent divorce rate: college dropouts who marry under the age of 25, for example. Couples married in the 1970s have a 30-year divorce rate of about 47 percent. A person who got married in the 1970s had a completely different upbringing and experience in life from someone who got married in the 1990s. It's been very clear that divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and has been going down ever since.

I also think that there's a political agenda on either side of the spectrum. There's the built-in incentive to identify crises. If you're a researcher you can study them; if you're an advocacy group you can get funding and support. There's not a lot to be gained for your cause if you say, "Everything's pretty good right now." That doesn't generate a headline or supporters or grants. You see it in all areas of social sciences, but it�s part of the reason why this crisis of the American marriage has been overstated....

Well, I hope it's true. Of course one problem is that fewer people do get married. There a lot of couples just cohabiting, even having children without marriage. I'd guess that the real marriage statistic should include them—most such people would have gotten married in past times—and that the real statistics are therefore worse than they look...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:06 PM

May 9, 2010

Lefty bigots

I'm used to the mindless drone about conservative blacks not being "really black," etc. but this seems new to me: a politically conservative Jew isn't a Jew! Well, all I can do is spit with contempt with such idiocy, and suggest, with much better logic, that a liberal Jew isn't really a Jew.

Kevin D. Williamson:

I hate even to take notice of this sort of thing, but it is bothersome:
Along with Jonah Goldberg, one of the main guys who gets my goat is Eric Cantor. There's something unseemly about seeing fellow Jews turn into rightwingers.
Just as Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice are abominated for the crime of being black and conservative, Miguel Estrada for being Hispanic and conservative, Sarah Palin for being a woman and conservative, etc. Eric Cantor is to be held in contempt because he's a conservative and a Jew. I'm no Torah scholar, it is true, so perhaps somebody could explain to me why being Jewish precludes a belief in limited government, individual rights, free enterprise, traditional morals and manners, etc.

And why shouldn't Yglesias be considered a bigot for writing this? Unseemly, indeed.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

May 8, 2010

We were supposed to "outgrow" religion...

This always interests me. I picked up that "conventional story line of modernity" from reading science fiction as a boy. The imaginary futures were invariably religion-free. Frank Herbert's Dune was quite original and odd in imagining a future where religion was a dominant force. And even there the ruling elites of the galaxy were areligious. But I can see now that all the SF writers of my youth assumed a future where the virtues and morality of Christianity and Judaism would persist.

They just took them for granted. None of them imagined, for instance, a future where people would stop getting married, where 41% of children would be born out of wedlock. Nor did they imagine a situation where whole civilizations would be dying because people just stopped having children at all. The authors were incapable of seeing that they themselves retained a great deal of Judeo-Christian thought and behavior as habits. And that habits wear off over time...

...According to the conventional story line of modernity, "modernization" means secularization—the withering away of traditional religious belief and practice. On this reading of things, "religion" and "modernity" are a zero-sum game: the more modern you are the less religious you become; and the more religious you are, the less susceptible yo are to modernization. At the beginning of the twentieth century, advanced thinkers widely predicted that the new century then unfolding would witness a maturing humanity, tutored by science, lose it's "need" for religion. Religious belief and practice were for children, perhaps adolescents.. A mature adult humanity had no "need" of God.

We've already talked about what happened when those predictions held true—great swaths of the world were turned into an abattoir in the name of humanism. In the 1940's, the French theologian Henri de Lubac, who would later become an influential figure at the Second Vatican Council, tried to parse this strange lethal phenomenon , which he called "atheistic humanism." Atheism, of course, was nothing new; the village atheist and the radically skeptical intellectual had long been stock figures in the human drama. Atheistic humanism was something altogether different, Father de Lubac suggested. This wasn't a matter of skeptical intellectuals scratching their particular itches to discomfort the neighbors or impress the faculty tenure committee.This was atheism with a developed ideology and a program for remaking the world. And its prophets—prominent among them Comte, Feuerbach, Marx and Nietszche—all taught that the God of the Bible was an enemy of human dignity...

      -- George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic


Posted by John Weidner at 5:19 PM

May 6, 2010


Mark Tapscott, Who's Who of GOP Establishment mimics Dems' resurgence strategy:

...Politico's Mike Allen and Kenneth Vogel have an interesting story today on an effort that has been in the works for about a year in which an all-star list of Establishment Republican operatives are seeking to duplicate what the Democrats did in the past decade in order to regain congressional majorities and put somebody in the White House.

"The network, which doesn't have a name, attempts to replicate the Democracy Alliance, an umbrella group — founded in 2005 and funded by George Soros and other billionaires — and to borrow tactics from liberal groups established to help Democrats regain power after eight years of the Bush administration...

...Notably absent from the new GOP conspiracy – at least as described by Allen and Vogel – is evidence of an understanding that the Internet represents a paradigm shift in the essential context of national politics. There is also no evidence from the Politico piece that the Tea Party movement represents an "Army of Davids" uprising that is, frankly, fed up with establishment Republicans.

Instead, fund-raising, organizing and advertising are described as the main priorities of the group. There's nothing new in those priorities.

Establishment GOPers have always preferred to talk about money, organizing, and advertising rather than focusing on the substance of what the party's office-holders and candidates propose and actually accomplish....
Top down. Futile. Stupid. Borrring. Rove--ugh!—He should quit while he's behind. Sarah, save us from these Industrial Age dolts...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:34 PM

May 2, 2010

"Till I fill their hearts with knowledge, While I fill their eyes with tears..."

Mark Steyn, Police State:

Well, what else would you call a country where the cops threaten a man with arrest for putting an election sign saying "GET THE LOT OUT" in his window, and charge a Christian with "hooliganism" after he was overheard saying that he believed homosexuality was a sin?

Why the British put up with their capriciously thuggish inept constabulary is a mystery. But certainly a land where displaying the colors of the Union Jack counts as "racist" and expressing what remains the Church of England's official position on homosexuality gets you fingerprinted and locked up is not one that has any meaningful commitment to freedom of expression. The current election feels like a theatrical pseudo-campaign played out in the ruins of a civilization.

Yep. Game's over. But WE are the English now. We fought our revolution for the "Rights of Englishmen," and we still retain... well, some of those rights. And we still retain at least some of the Christian faith that was the basis and wellspring of those rights. The torch has been passed to the Americans, and the Australians. And perhaps to the other lands of the Anglosphere, though the news from Canada is not encouraging...

I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night—
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years—
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling

What's really cool is that we Americans have taken this mysterious compelling something, expressed in the phrase The Rights of Englishmen, and we made it universal in its applicability...

New citizens

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

May 1, 2010

Dies Irae

It's been nicknamed "Scary Jesus." It's a colossal mosaic, 3,600 square feet, titled "Christ in Majesty" that dominates the space above the altar of the great upper church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The Jesus in the National Shrine mosaic is a huge enthroned figure with muscular bare arms and fierce, frightening blue eyes. It's the Last Judgment, the "Day of Wrath," in mosaic form. [Link ]

Christ in Majesty, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC

GK Chesterton on the Jesus of the New Testament...

...We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well.

The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heart-breaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. The mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God. But nobody with his eyes open can doubt that it is chiefly this idea of compassion that the popular machinery of the Church does seek to carry. The popular imagery carries a great deal to excess the sentiment of 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.' It is the first thing that the outsider feels and criticizes in a Pieta or a shrine of the Sacred Heart. As I say, while the art may be insufficient, I am not sure that the instinct is unsound. In any case there is something appalling, something that makes the blood run cold, in the idea of having a statue of Christ in wrath. There is something insupportable even to the imagination in the idea of turning the corner of a street or coming out into the spaces of a marketplace, to meet the petrifying petrifaction of that figure as it turned upon a generation of vipers, or that face as it looked at the face of a hypocrite...
The Church can reasonably be justified therefore if she turns the most merciful face or aspect towards men; but it is certainly the most merciful aspect that she does turn. And the point is here that it is very much more specially and exclusively merciful than any impression that could be formed by a man merely reading the New Testament for the first time. A man simply taking the words of the story as they stand would form quite another impression; an impression full of mystery and possibly of inconsistency; but certainly not merely an impression of mildness. It would be intensely interesting; but part of the interest would consist in its leaving a good deal to be guessed at or explained. It is full of sudden gestures evidently significant except that we hardly know what they signify, of enigmatic silences; of ironical replies. The outbreaks of wrath, like storms above our atmosphere, do not seem to break out exactly where we should expect them, but to follow some higher weather-chart of their own.

The Peter whom popular Church teaching presents is very rightly the Peter to whom Christ said in forgiveness, 'Feed my lambs.' He is not the Peter upon whom Christ turned as if he were the devil, crying in that obscure wrath, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' Christ lamented with nothing but love and pity over Jerusalem which was to murder him. We do not know what strange spiritual atmosphere or spiritual insight led him to sink Bethsaida lower in the pit than Sodom. I am putting aside for the moment all questions of doctrinal inferences or expositions, orthodox or otherwise; I am simply imagining the effect on a man's mind if he did really do what these critics are always talking about doing; if he did really read the New Testament without reference to orthodoxy and even without reference to doctrine. He would find a number of things which fit in far less with the current unorthodoxy than they do with the current orthodoxy...
    – – The Everlasting Man (1925). [Link]
Posted by John Weidner at 4:36 PM

I hesitate to post this... For fear of jinxing things...

Patrick Ruffini, Why 2010 Won't Be Like 1994. (It'll Be Bigger.):

...Bailouts, stimulus, health care not baked in yet. Voters have not had a chance to render their judgment on the 50% expansion of government power and influence since September 2008. Both candidates for President in 2008 supported the TARP bailout. The stimulus was slipped in after the election, and Obama never campaigned on a package of that magnitude. 

Voters now strongly disapprove of the three great government expansions of the last two years -- TARP, the stimulus, and the health care bill. The political impact of these events has not yet been reflected in the partisan makeup of Congress in any competitive race except one -- the Massachusetts Senate special election.

The case for a tidal wave can be summed up as follows. There have been great changes in the country since the last election that voters resoundingly reject, and combined with still high unemployment and voter anxiety, the conditions are there for a much greater than usual counter-response. (In 1993-94, Bill Clinton was only able to trim marginally around the edges compared to the last months of Bush and then Obama, and the economy was much stronger than it is today.)... 

...The fact that Democrats were able to pad their majority in 2008 would not have happened but for the fact that Obama changed the electorate. As I noted right after the election, Republicans in Congress were killed by the fact that young people voted straight ticket -- for Obama and then for Democrats in Congress. ...

...Even if I'm being optimistic, there is a certain logic (that the netroots have employed in a few election cycles now) of more traditional "smart money" going into the most winnable seats, and the online grassroots playing to expand the map. This year the perfect opportunity to put such a plan in action. If it's true that no Democrat is safe, we need to be looking at the seats that aren't even on the Cook and Rothenberg reports, or at best, on the very edges, for potential pickup opportunities to invest in. In the 30 to 45 days of the cycle, there should be a moneybomb every day to one of these targeted districts designed to drag them into contention and create a "terrorism effect" for every Democrat on the ballot.

This first starts with good information. Earlier tonight on Twitter, I started a conversation about building a target list that would rank ALL 253 Democrat seats by likelihood of a Republican takeover, similar to what exists in Britain right now. Let's start thinking of where we can knock the Dems off balance and extend what are sure to be considerable gains...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:54 AM

On the oil rig explosion...

Some pictures and numbers I find amazing... The Gulf oil rig explosion – on the scene photos:

...The rig belongs to Transocean, the world's biggest offshore drilling contractor. The rig was originally contracted through the year 2013 to BP and was working on BP's Macondo exploration well when the fire broke out. The rig costs about $500,000 per day to contract. The full drilling spread, with helicopters and support vessels and other services, will cost closer to $1,000,000 per day to operate in the course of drilling for oil and gas. The rig cost about $350,000,000 to build in 2001 and would cost at least double that to replace today.

The rig represents the cutting edge of drilling technology. It is a floating rig, capable of working in up to 10,000 ft water depth. The rig is not moored; It does not use anchors because it would be too costly and too heavy to suspend this mooring load from the floating structure. Rather, a triply-redundant computer system uses satellite positioning to control powerful thrusters that keep the rig on station within a few feet of its intended location, at all times. This is called Dynamic Positioning.

The rig had apparently just finished cementing steel casing in place at depths exceeding 18,000 ft. The next operation was to suspend the well so that the rig could move to its next drilling location, the idea being that a rig would return to this well later in order to complete the work necessary to bring the well into production.

It is thought that somehow formation fluids – oil /gas – got into the wellbore and were undetected until it was too late to take action. With a floating drilling rig setup, because it moves with the waves, currents, and winds, all of the main pressure control equipment sits on the seabed – the uppermost unmoving point in the well. This pressure control equipment – the Blowout Preventers, or "BOP's" as they're called, are controlled with redundant systems from the rig. In the event of a serious emergency, there are multiple Panic Buttons to hit, and even fail-safe Deadman systems that should be automatically engaged when something of this proportion breaks out. None of them were apparently activated, suggesting that the blowout was especially swift to escalate at the surface. The flames were visible up to about 35 miles away. Not the glow – the flames. They were 200 – 300 ft high....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 AM