November 29, 2010

Never ridicule windows...

I'm browsing an old friend of a book, The Path to Rome by Hillaire Belloc, 1902. It's a tale he lived and wrote when he was a young and poor writer, and made a vow to walk from Toul to Rome. The charm of the book is inexpressible. It was the making of Belloc, and had a huge literary influence. He was writing in the time of the "Decadents," and the Aesthetic Movement, and Wilde and Beardsley and Pater, and others of the same weedy reedy type.

And the world was really ready for a change, and didn't know what sort of change it wanted, until Belloc gave it to them! The young poets of the next generation went off to the trenches with The Path to Rome in their knapsacks.

...The very first thing I noticed in St Ursanne was the extraordinary shape of the lower windows of the church. They lighted a crypt and ran along the ground, which in itself was sufficiently remarkable, but much more remarkable was their shape, which seemed to me to approach that of a horseshoe; I never saw such a thing before. It looked as though the weight of the church above had bulged these little windows out, and that is the way I explain it. Some people would say it was a man coming home from the Crusades that had made them this eastern way, others that it was a symbol of something or other. But I say—

LECTOR. What rhodomontade and pedantry is this talk about the shape of a window?

AUCTOR. Little friend, how little you know! To a building windows are everything; they are what eyes are to a man. Out of windows a building takes its view; in windows the outlook of its human inhabitants is framed. If you were the lord of a very high tower overlooking a town, a plain, a river, and a distant hill (I doubt if you will ever have such luck!), would you not call your architect up before you and say—

'Sir, see that the windows of my house are tall, narrow, thick, and have a round top to them'?

Of course you would, for thus you would best catch in separate pictures the sunlit things outside your home.

Never ridicule windows. It is out of windows that many fall to their deaths. By windows love often enters. Through a window went the bolt that killed King Richard. King William's father spied Arlette from a window (I have looked through it myself, but not a soul did I see washing below). When a mob would rule England, it breaks windows, and when a patriot would save her, he taxes them. Out of windows we walk on to lawns in summer and meet men and women, and in winter windows are drums for the splendid music of storms that makes us feel so masterly round our fires. The windows of the great cathedrals are all their meaning. But for windows we should have to go out-of-doors to see daylight. After the sun, which they serve, I know of nothing so beneficent as windows. Fie upon the ungrateful man that has no window-god in his house, and thinks himself too great a philosopher to bow down to windows! May he live in a place without windows for a while to teach him the value of windows. As for me, I will keep up the high worship of windows till I come to the windowless grave. Talk to me of windows!...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM

Hawks and conservatives were right. As usual.

The Wikileaks affair is too crazy for me. I'm afraid I'm too much of a sober-sides to savor it. On the one hand, it's the obvious time for assassinations to occur, and after hearing all my life about how the horrid CIA was a hotbed of assassins, I'm feeling a bit let down.

On the other hand, al lot of the info that's been revealed merely confirms that us knuckle-dragging conservatives have been right ll along about various things...

Jennifer Rubin:

I would strongly concur with J.E. Dyer's observation concerning the leaked cables:
Its true value lies in confirming what hawks and conservatives have been saying about global security issues. China's role in missile transfers from North Korea to Iran; Syria's determined arming of Hezbollah; Iran's use of Red Crescent vehicles to deliver weapons to terrorists; Obama's strong-arming of foreign governments to accept prisoners from Guantanamo — these are things many news organizations are reporting prominently only because they have been made known through a WikiLeaks dump. In the end, WikiLeaks's most enduring consequences may be the unintended ones.
You can add to the list of the hawks' confirmed truths: the enthusiastic support of the Arab states for a more vigorous U.S. response to Iran, the mullahs' possession of more advanced technology than previously acknowledged, and the recognition by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates that "reset" has been a disaster for democracy in Russia....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:25 PM

Monday morning quote...

Thomas Sowell :

The political left's favorite argument is that there is no argument.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:18 AM

November 28, 2010

My list of reasons for climate skepticism (All from Random Jottings archives)

This list, taken from my own blog's science archive, is mostly compiled for my own satisfaction, and to have my ammo dry if anyone challenges me. It is also a cool example of how a blog can be an information storage device.

1. Argo [Link]

2. "Climategate" [Link, link, link, link]

3. Severe problems with weather stations. Pursued by Anthony Watts. [Link, link link, link]

4. Hiding data very common among warmists. [Link, link

5. This overview of ice-core temperatures over tens-of-thousands of years. [Link]

6. The "greenhouse signature" is missing. [Link]

7, Global temps have stopped rising significantly since 1998 [Link]

8. Sunspots [Link, link, link]

9. Skeptics frequently attacked, though skepticism is essential to true science [Link, link]

10. "Hockey Stick" refudiated [Link, link, link, link]

11. Medieval Warm Period airbrushed out [Link]

12. Warmist leaders have large "carbon footprints." [Link]

13. Computer models "tweaked" [Link, link, link]

14. No one "peer reviews" scientific software. [Link]

15. Uncertainty of climate science kept hidden [Link]

16. Hurricanes at 30-year low. [Link]

17. Climate alarmism invariably tied to attempts to increase government power [Link, link, link]

19. Higher carbon levels in past didn't lead to warming [Link]

20. Antarctic ice increasing, "Ice free Arctic" didn't happen. [Link. link, link, link, link]

21. Polar Bear fraud [Link]

22. Methane has not appeared [Link]

23. massive journalistic malpractice [Link, link, link]

24. Wikipedia fraud [Link, link]

25. E.M. Smith's summary [Link]

26. Slippery name changes, "Global Warming > Climate Change > Extreme Weather > Climate Disruption [Link]

27. Many many environmental disaster predictions have turned out to be bogus [Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

November 27, 2010

If Martin Luther had been elected pope...

...As an Evangelical I had always thought that the claim of papal infallibility was a power grab on the part of the pope. It would give any pope the power to fashion things just to his liking. What I came to see, however, is that the truth could not be more opposite. Infallibility is an entirely conservative doctrine. It means that no present or future pope can change (contradict) any dogma that has been accepted by the Church throughout her history... In an era where people have come to desire change for its own sake, this teaching assures us that the original dogma of the Church will be protected through the ages...
    -- David B. Currie, in Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic

"Papal Infallibility" sounds preposterous to modern ears, but it simply means that the pope is protected from teaching heresy. That's all. Popes can, and have, been bad or misguided in all sorts of ways. But even the worst of them has never even tried to change the basic doctrines of the faith. That's pretty amazing when you think of it

And this is nothing for a pope to brag about. It has nothing to do with him being wise or virtuous. If Martin Luther had been elected pope, he would have immediately ceased his wicked contumacy and become an orthodox Catholic.

You may think I'm telling a stretcher, but in fact there was one pope, Vigilius, who was a heretic when elected. He had been a leader among the Monophysites. He was strong-armed into the office of pope by the Empress Theodora, and the two of them were probably complicit in the deaths of the two previous popes. Yet upon election Vigilius immediately renounced heresy and preached orthodox Christianity, even though he knew it would cost him his life.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:49 PM

Don't bother reading SF...

Charlene recommends...

Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions:

...The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.

When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

And finally, after the job was done, the worm would have to destroy itself without leaving a trace.

That is what we are learning happened at Iran's nuclear facilities -- both at Natanz, which houses the centrifuge arrays used for processing uranium into nuclear fuel, and, to a lesser extent, at Bushehr, Iran's nuclear power plant.

At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemans that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges' control panel.

At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner called "digital warheads," targeted the Russian-built power plant's massive steam turbine....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:07 AM

November 26, 2010

Good wholesome slam...

I haven't forgotten the ongoing war against the ongoing scientific and political fraud that is AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). But the fighting has settled down into trench warfare, and there haven't been many short and pithy quotes to blog. Here's James Delingpole at his best...(thanks to Climate Realists)

Motes, beams and the University of East Anglia:

An email reaches me from the office of Sir Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. Apparently in my blogs I have expressed "inaccurate and vituperative views" about certain members of his hugely distinguished and globally admired seat of learning, and unless I apologise and retract he will report me to the Press Complaints Commission.

As you can imagine I am keen as mustard to soothe the wounded feelings of Sir Edward and his world-renowned staff, but not if it means retracting statements which are patently true. For example, Sir Edward takes exception to my description of Prof Phil Jones, the head of his Climatic Research Unit, as "disgraced, FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method-abusing." Clearly poor Sir Edward has not been kept in the loop by his minions, so I'd better break the sad news about something really quite embarrassing that happened to his university last year. It was a story called Climategate and involved numerous leaked emails, many of which showed the aforementioned Prof Jones in a not-altogether flattering light....

Read on, and be reminded of how ugly the Climategate e-mails really were. And remember, if anyone complains that these items are being unfairly "taken out of context," they look much worse if you place them in context!

I have lots more "warming" posts here.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:27 AM

November 25, 2010

We should understand just how rare in human history our blessings are...

Mark Steyn on Thanksgiving... (The pictures shows ballots being delivered by donkey in Afghanistan)

Speaking as a misfit unassimilated foreigner, I think of Thanksgiving as the most American of holidays. Christmas is celebrated elsewhere, even if there are significant local variations: in Continental Europe, naughty children get left rods to be flayed with and lumps of coal; in Britain, Christmas lasts from December 22nd to mid-January and celebrates the ancient cultural traditions of massive alcohol intake and watching the telly till you pass out in a pool of your own vomit. All part of the rich diversity of our world. But Thanksgiving (excepting the premature and somewhat undernourished Canadian version) is unique to America. "What's it about?" an Irish visitor asked me a couple of years back. "Everyone sits around giving thanks all day? Thanks for what? George bloody Bush?"

Well, Americans have a lot to be thankful for. Europeans think of this country as "the New World" in part because it has an eternal newness which is noisy and distracting. Who would ever have thought you could have ready-to-eat pizza faxed directly to your iPod? And just when you think you're on top of the general trend of novelty, it veers off in an entirely different direction: Continentals who grew up on Hollywood movies where the guy tells the waitress "Gimme a cuppa joe" and slides over a nickel return to New York a year or two later and find the coffee now costs $5.75, takes 25 minutes and requires an agonizing choice between the cinnamon-gingerbread-persimmon latte with coxcomb sprinkles and the decaf venti pepperoni-Eurasian-milfoil macchiato. Who would have foreseen that the nation that inflicted fast food and drive-thru restaurants on the planet would then take the fastest menu item of all and turn it into a kabuki-paced performance art? What mad genius!
But Americans aren't novelty junkies on the important things. "The New World" is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree "the Old World" can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists. We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany's constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy's only to the 1940s, and Belgium's goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it's not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The US Constitution is not only older than France's, Germany's, Italy's or Spain's constitution, it's older than all of them put together. Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent's governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of "the west"'s nation states have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they're so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas – Communism, Fascism, European Union. If you're going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich.

Even in a supposedly 50/50 nation, you're struck by the assumed stability underpinning even fundamental disputes. If you go into a bookstore, the display shelves offer a smorgasbord of leftist anti-Bush tracts claiming that he and Cheney have trashed, mangled, gutted, raped and tortured, sliced'n'diced the Constitution, put it in a cement overcoat and lowered it into the East River. Yet even this argument presupposes a shared veneration for tradition unknown to most western political cultures: When Tony Blair wanted to abolish in effect the upper house of the national legislature, he just got on and did it. I don't believe the US Constitution includes a right to abortion or gay marriage or a zillion other things the left claims to detect emanating from the penumbra, but I find it sweetly touching that in America even political radicalism has to be framed as an appeal to constitutional tradition from the powdered-wig era. In Europe, by contrast, one reason why there's no politically significant pro-life movement is because, in a world where constitutions have the life expectancy of an Oldsmobile, great questions are just seen as part of the general tide, the way things are going, no sense trying to fight it. And, by the time you realize you have to, the tide's usually up to your neck.

So Americans should be thankful they have one of the last functioning nation states. Because they've been so inept at exercising it, Europeans no longer believe in national sovereignty, whereas it would never occur to Americans not to. This profoundly different attitude to the nation state underpins in turn Euro-American attitudes to transnational institutions such as the UN. But on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens – a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan – the US can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply. Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in – shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy – most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base. If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only a shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the US soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.

That said, Thanksgiving isn't about the big geopolitical picture, but about the blessings closer to home. Last week, the state of Oklahoma celebrated its centennial, accompanied by rousing performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's eponymous anthem:
We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
Which isn't a bad theme song for the first Thanksgiving, either. Three hundred and fourteen years ago, the pilgrims thanked God because there was a place for them in this land, and it was indeed grand. The land is grander today, and that too is remarkable: France has lurched from Second Empires to Fifth Republics struggling to devise a lasting constitutional settlement for the same smallish chunk of real estate, but the principles that united a baker's dozen of East Coast colonies were resilient enough to expand across a continent and halfway around the globe to Hawaii. Americans should, as always, be thankful this Thanksgiving, but they should also understand just how rare in human history their blessings are.

From The New York Sun, September 19th, 2007.
Posted by John Weidner at 3:49 PM

Cutting through the fog... No Substance to Establishment Attacks on Governor Palin:

... Palin had a very interesting and, I would argue, insightful response to Barbara Bush's tasteless and classless dissing.
I don't want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because i don't think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and I want to say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition.
[Note that supplementary clause in the middle. That's been left out of the quotes I've seen, thus making Palin seem to be sneering.]
Governor Palin makes an excellent point here. By correctly identifying the Bush's as "blue-bloods", she has, in her inimitable way, cut through all the fog that surrounds the Republican establishment's efforts to stop her. I have yet to hear one conservative criticize any of her policy prescriptions. It's not like she hasn't been sharing them repeatedly over the past year. Via Facebook, op-eds, and television appearances we've heard more solid policy prescriptions and refudiations of Obama's policies than all the other potential Republican candidates combined, multiplied by five (at least).

Monetary policy: check. A common sense political strategy for the new Congress: check. An energy policy that would actually move us toward energy independence: check. Iraq: check. Taxes: check. Union thuggery: check. Obama's hypocrisy and incompetence: check and check. Media bias: check. Racism: check. Obamacare, check: Cap and Tax: check. Peace through strength: check. Israel: check. Securing the border: check. Financial reform: check. The ticking time bomb of lavish tax-payer financed pensions for state employee unions: check.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Many beltway Republicans continue to insist that Governor Palin lacks substance, and needs to go back to Alaska, "put her head down", and study the issues. How can anyone claim that she hasn't been doing just that with a straight face? Show me one other prominent Republican who has weighed in on half as many important issues facing our country over the past two years as Governor Palin. In fact, why limit ourselves to prominent Republicans? Show me any Republican who has been as out front on the important issues of the day as Governor Palin. The fact is, that's impossible because there isn't anyone. Those who continue to aver that she needs to study the issues are living in an alternate reality.

The fact is, her positions on the issues are right there for everyone to see and, more importantly, are unassailable. If they weren't, the GOP establishment, whose goal is "stopping Sarah Palin", would be using those positions to do just that. But they aren't. Their modus operandi is to pretend she has no substantive positions on the issues and therefore shouldn't run...

What's fascinating and infuriating for me is that I can argue with someone who claims Palin is "unqualified" to be President by citing a long list of actual accomplishments.... and it makes no difference at all! (This comment thread is an example.)

My guess is that most of the opposition to Palin along the right side of the spectrum is, perhaps unconsciously, about the great and perennial divide between those who think the common people should rule, and those who, in one form or another, trust to elites or establishments. My thought is that there is a lot to be said for real elites, as long as what's needed is business-as-usual.

When a situation calls for radical change, as I think the case is now, then elite types and "blue bloods" are disqualified. They are part of the old paradigm, pretty much by definition. And the new paradigm, as it starts to emerge, seems ugly and awkward, and it is mostly the domaine of outsiders and oddballs.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:39 AM

November 22, 2010

The power of symbolism...

I recommend—you've probably already seen it—this piece on Governor Christie, Conservatives' Serious—and Sudden—Infatuation With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — New York Magazine.

HOWEVAH, I really must point to this morsel of gratuitous Palin-bashing, as a fascinating example of the mysterious currents running under the surface of political life right now...

...Less than a year into his tenure, Christie is no longer just a popular governor; he has become a national Republican star. His focus on fiscal issues and his reluctance to wade into the culture wars—during his gubernatorial campaign, he declined Palin's offer to stump for him—have endeared him to members of the GOP's sane wing. "The breakthrough he's scoring in New Jersey is hugely promising," says David Frum, a conservative writer who fears that the Republican Party is being swallowed by the tea party. At the same time, Christie's combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who's fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. "People just want to be treated like adults," Christie says. "They just want to be told the truth. They know we're in tough times, and they're willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice."...

What boggles my brain is that Governor Palin has never been a "culture warrior." She has never campaigned or governed on culture issues. She is, obviously, very pro-life, but as a mayor and a governor she never did much about it. Nor did her Vice-Presidential campaign have any "social values" angle. She kept trying to talk about "fiscal issues" and energy issues like drilling in ANWR, and all that a certain sort of person could hear was abortionabortionabortion.

Well, that's the power of symbolism. Because she is, of course, symbolically the strongest pro-life voice on earth, after the Holy Father. To campaign for Vice-President of the US with a Downs Syndrome child in her arms is symbolically more powerful than anything she could do in a lifetime of campaigning and talking.

And boy does she make a certain sort of person squirm! Ha ha. Poor David Frum.

And actually the tea parties are not "culture warriors" either. They are all about overweening Federal government, about taxes, spending, etc. Yet again, the Frumblians see the tea parties, and something makes them see... what? I'd say something they've got a guilty conscience about...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 PM

November 21, 2010

A riddle for you!

MASTER of human destinies am I!
Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace — soon or late
I knock, unbidden, once at every gate!
If sleeping, wake — if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury, and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more!

(For the answer, click below)

OPPORTUNITY. A poem by John James Ingalls (1833-1900) [Link to info on Ingalls]

Posted by John Weidner at 4:53 PM

Objectively, not subjectively....

By George Weigel, Please pass the ontology:

A philosophically-minded young friend recently sent me a fine rant, after having watched a presidential candidates' cattle call on CNN. The discussion had focused on religion. Several candidates, who identified themselves as Catholics, had indicated that their Christianity was rather easily bracketed when they put on their hats as public servants. "Does ontology mean nothing to these people?" my friend asked. "Do they even know what it is?"

Well, no. They don't.

And that's a problem.

By "ontology," my correspondent was using the technical vocabulary of philosophy to re-capture an image once familiar to generations of Catholics from the Baltimore Catechism, the image of an "indelible mark" imprinted on the soul by certain sacraments. This image of the "indelible mark" was intended to convey a basic truth of Catholic faith: that the reception of certain sacraments changed the recipient forever, by conferring on him or her a new identity — not in the psychological sense of that overused term, but substantively. Or, if you'll pardon the term, ontologically.

Baptism is a sacrament with what we might call ontological heft. To become a Christian through baptism is qualitatively different from becoming a citizen, a member of the Supreme Court bar, a Detroit Tigers fan, a collector of vintage Volvos, a bourbon drinker, a member of the Democratic or Republican parties, a lifelong student of Dante, or a trout fisherman. When one becomes a Christian through baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, one is changed in a fundamental way: as St. Paul taught those rowdy Corinthians), one becomes a "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17).

That ontological change in baptism (and I swear that's the last time I'll use the o-word) incorporates a Catholic into the Church. The Church is not incidental to our identity as new creations in Christ; we don't "join" the Church the way we join the Rotary, the Kiwanis, the American Association of University Women, the A.M.A., the American Legion, or my beloved Society for the Restoration of Lost Positives ("ept," "ert," etc.). Being a Catholic Christian engages who-I-am in a substantively different way than any other aspect of my "identity" — not because I think that's the case, or because I feel that's the case, but because that is the case: objectively, not subjectively. Baptism has real effects; it changes us forever...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:15 PM

November 19, 2010

Interesting book...

Charlene and I both enjoyed the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham. His thesis is that the ability to make fires and cook food was a far larger factor in human evolution than has been supposed. Specifically, it was cookery that caused the jump from Homo habilis to the much larger-brained and more modern Homo erectus.

Today chimps and apes spend a large part of their time and energy just in chewing raw food. And a lot of their internal energy in digesting it. In fact chimps will often discard energy-rich meat because the chewing is just too frustrating. Cooked food is much more chewable and digestible, and can be eaten quickly. Brains make enormous energy demands on the body—your brain is about 3% of your weight and uses about 20% of your energy. Cooked food made possible a smaller gut, and that made energy available for larger brain of erectus.

The author also argues that fire allowed early humans to safely sleep on the ground, rather than in trees as chimps do. This allowed us to evolve away from tree-climbing towards being better walkers and runners. And warmth at night let us do away with fur, and so we became able to be long-distance runners, without over-heating.

And the entirety of our social life was changed, to revolve around the hearth and food cooked by wives for husbands and families. For all other primates food gathering and eating is mostly an individual activity.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 PM

Living well is the best revenge...

Today's good line. Sarah Palin, from Facebook...

"May we always be happy, and may our enemies know it!"

Ha ha. Suffer, you horrid ankle-biting weasels!

Posted by John Weidner at 5:53 PM

November 18, 2010

He's a massacree dog that knows no fear...


It's wonderful dogs they're breeding now:
Small as a flea or large as a cow;
But my old dog Tim he'll never be bet
By any dog that ever he met.
'Come on,' says he, 'for I'm not kilt yet.'

No matter the size of the dog he'll meet,
Tim trails his coat the length o' the street.
D'ye mind his scar an' his ragged ear,
The like of a Dublin Fusilier?
He's a massacree dog that knows no fear.

But he'd stick to me till his lastest breath;
An' he'd go with me to the gates of death.
He'd wait for a thousand years, maybe,
Scratching the door 'an whining for me
If myself were inside in Purgatory.

So I laugh when I hear them make it plain
That dogs and men never meet again.
For all their talk who'd listen to thim
With the soul in the shining eyes of him?
Would God be wasting a dog like Tim?

      -- Winifred Mary Letts
Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

November 17, 2010

Is "Moderate" the new "Progressive?"

Word Note logoDiogenes is rightly sarcastic over this line, in an article about the election of Archbishop Dolan to the presidency of the US Conference of Bishops...

Washington Post: ...Victim advocates spoke out against Kicanas, but the more significant opposition came from conservatives, who considered him too moderate in tone....

Don't "conservatives" usually oppose those who are too **ahem** "liberal?"

This interests me especially in the way Leftizoids are slippery about defining themselves. The word "liberal" is itself a deception. As I wrote here, about Hillary Clinton referring to herself as a "progressive"...

...That's the problem when you start to tell lies. You get all tangled up. The lie started, as you probably already know, when various New Dealers were asked if they were Socialists. They didn't want to admit that (though it was true, and a bunch of them were Communists, foul secret agents of Stalin) so they dubbed themselves "Liberals." Thereby giving the word a new meaning that was very different from the classical meaning of Liberal.

Of course the word Liberal soon came to mean "Quasi-socialist." So now our current crop of quasi-socialists label themselves "Progressive." So cute. And now, now we see Hillary squirming away from that word!! If you tell one lie, you have to tell more lies to cover up the first one...

To me the deep problem with lying is that once you start, you begin to live in fear. If you mis-represent yourself, then you can never be sure what people think about you. And if you lie very much, then you will start to lose track of what's true in general, and you will really be afraid. Including afraid to admit to yourself that you have a problem, so more palaces of lies are built to cover that up.

If you've read me on the subject of Nihilism, you know that I think that many "liberals" (and some conservatives too) are living in very elaborate lie-palaces indeed.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:29 AM

November 16, 2010

Dodged a bullet, we did...

William A. Jacobson, The Murkowski-Castle Senate Would Have Been A Disaster:

...If Republicans had taken control of the Senate in the mid-term elections, that long-shot win would have been razor thin, probably only by one seat.

The Senate would be controlled by those who were willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder or those with their own agenda. In the last Democratic controlled Senate, the votes on the cusp (Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman) were able to use that leverage to their advantage.

In Republican terms, we would be witnessing in the upcoming Senate two years of the Lisa Murkowski or Mike Castle Senate, a time of bitter sniping by bruised egos with personal vendettas. (I don't put Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe in the same category.)

Murkowski, the likely winner when the counting is done in Alaska, is chomping at the bit to divide the party by gratuitously attacking Sarah Palin.

Two years of such a Senate controlled by Republicans would have destroyed all of the gains of the mid-terms, and would have demoralized the Republican Party heading into 2012, much as the gamesmanship needed to win over Nelson, Landrieu and Lieberman were a disaster for Democrats...

Amen, brother. I would have preferred that that poisonous insect Murkowski had been stripped of committee seats and refused admittance to the Republican caucus the instant she decided to run against the winner of the primary. Give her to the Dems. I supppose that's impractical, but how often must we be stabbed in the back by Rinos? Quamdieu Domine?

Posted by John Weidner at 11:01 AM

November 15, 2010

A common statistical deception...

By Ramesh Ponnuru - The Corner - National Review Online:

The liberal columnist assails the Speaker-to-be for asserting that we have "the best health care system in the world." Boehner's assertion isn't one I'm especially interested in defending, but Cohen's attack is mistaken. Cohen's top reasons for thinking we have a crummy system are our relatively low life expectancy and our relatively high infant mortality rate.

As conservatives and libertarians have pointed out time and again, the health-care system is not the reason for these statistics. Here's the way I put it a couple of years ago: "In this country, a premature delivery followed by death would be counted toward the infant-mortality rate; not so in some other countries. And whatever we think of our health-care system, it is not to blame for the fact that America has a lot of car wrecks and homicides. When health economists Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider adjusted for these factors, the U.S. had the highest life expectancy of any developed country. (And they didn't correct for obesity rates, which would make our advantage look even bigger, just like our waistlines.)"

I've never heard of a "liberal columnist" going to another country when they have a serious health problem. (Though Obama's workin' on it.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:10 AM

November 13, 2010

"I will pour out my spirit on all flesh"

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Joel 2:27-29

Posted by John Weidner at 6:24 PM

November 11, 2010

The real community organizer...

Richard Fernandez, Competing Visions:

... Sarah Palin may actually lack what it takes to be a successful president of the United States. She may not have what it takes to be a queen. But she has in abundance what Barack Obama, who styles himself a "community organizer," notably lacks. Palin has the ability to generate leaders other than herself. That quality was in evidence in the recent campaign when she successfully encouraged others, some of whom had never been in public life before, to throw their hats in the ring and run for office. And many of them won.

Writing in the National Review, Palin found satisfaction in the achievements of others. That is the key attribute of a real "community organizer," while the supposed Alinskyite, who is actually nothing like a classic organizer, was struggling with little apparent success to get beyond his "gift"; to get beyond himself...

So where are the exciting young Dems who are running for office because they were inspired or encouraged by Barry Obama? It's particularly telling that the interesting new minority candidates are Republicans.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:15 AM

November 10, 2010

More Sikhs!

I was looking for something for vets Day, and stumbled on this. Army gets 1st Sikh enlisted in 30 years - Army Times:

By Susanne M. Schafer - The Associated Press

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The first Sikh to become an enlisted U.S. soldier in nearly three decades said Wednesday he's eager to move on to training as a combat medic and defend his new homeland on the battlefield.

"When the bullets begin flying, it doesn't concern anyone what religion you are. I bleed the same color," Spc. Simran Lamba, 26, said after his graduation ceremony from basic combat training.

Sikhism, a 500-year-old religion founded in India, requires its male followers to wear a turban and beard and keep their hair uncut. Army policies since 1984 had effectively prevented Sikhs from enlisting by barring those items. But Lamba was granted a rare exception because he has skills the Army wants — the Indian languages Hindi and Punjabi.

Before him, two Sikhs joined the Army as medical officers earlier this year. But Lamba is the first enlisted man since the policy barring religious articles of clothing.

Lamba said his black turban, full beard, unshorn hair and religious beliefs posed no problems during his 10 weeks of training.

"I am proud to be a Sikh, I'm proud to be a U.S. citizen, and proud to be a U.S. Army soldier," he said.

During training, he wore a camouflage turban under his Kevlar helmet. He used petroleum jelly to get a tight grip between his beard and gas mask, and was able to keep his hair clean under all conditions, meeting all the military's concerns about training and appearance.

And besides, the Sikhs were founded as a warrior group who were meant to fight against injustice and inequality Lamba said, so adopting Army values were an easy fit for him.

"The Sikhs are warriors in Indian culture. Once our soldiers heard that, they were all for him," said Lamba's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Bryan Hernandez....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 PM


I recommend this blog post, Armarium Magnum: Hypatia and "Agora" Redux. It's a good debunking of the film Agora, which seems to be purely an exercise in anti-Christian propaganda. It is also valuable because the author is not a Christian, and can't be accused of bias.

This post is also good, Agora and the Dangerous Silliness of Really Bad Film History.

Short version: Early Christians were not anti-science or anti-philosophy, they were not "book-burners," Hypatia was not a "proto-Galileo," and was a philosopher respected among Christians and pagans alike, the temple called the Serapeum was destroyed in 391 AD, 24 years before Hypatia was killed, the Library of Alexandria had evaporated centuries earlier.

My question is, why do atheists need to tell lies to support their worldview? Insecurity, I'd guess. The faithful are subject to doubts, including the faith of atheism.

* Update: This seems to fit...

...A deeper and far more unsettling answer, however, is that the popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real.

The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the "dark ages," finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago in Northern and Western Europe.

As people opened their eyes, religion (equated with ignorance and superstition) gave way to science (equated with fact and reason). Parochialism and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science. The story provides a blueprint for how to remake and better the world in the image and interests of the West's secular elites.

Unfortunately, as a theory of history, that story has had a predictive utility of approximately zero...(Richard A. Shweder, NYT, November 27, 2006)
Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 AM

November 8, 2010

Trust us, we are the liberal intelligentsia...

A President At Bay - Walter Russell Mead's Blog - The American Interest:

...All pundits, including yours truly, get it wrong sometimes, and normally there would be little point in dwelling on past blunders. But it this case, it is worth exhuming these vaporous and embarrassing stupidities for a few moments. Many of our nation's intellectual leaders wonder why the rest of the country isn't more respectful of their claims to be guided by and speak for the cool voice of celestial reason. That so many of them gushed over Barack Obama with all of the profundity of reflection and intellectual distance of tweeners at a Justin Bieber concert should help them understand why their claims of superior wisdom are sometimes met with caustic cynicism.

A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama. They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality. Worse, the disease spread to at least some members of the White House team. An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades. It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.

They did not perceive just how wrong they were; nor did they understand how the error undermined the logical case they wanted to make in favor of a bigger role for government guided by smart, well-credentialed liberal wonks. Give us more power because we understand the world better than you do, was the message. We are so smart, so well-credentialed, so careful to read all the best papers by all the certified experts that the recommendations we make and the regulations we write, however outlandish and burdensome they look to all you non-experts out there, are certain to work. Trust us because we are always right, and only fools and charlatans would be so stupid as to disagree.....

They may be smarter than me, but who fell for Mr Obama? Hmmm, Peggy?

Posted by John Weidner at 5:29 PM

November 7, 2010

"The decisive element is not this or that person, but all mankind"

FromThe Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam...

...It is clear therefore, in the light of the redemption, that the Church did not come into being only when Peter and John and Paul became believers. It became objectively existent when the divine Word united His nature with human nature in the unity of His person. The Incarnation is for Christians the foundation and planting of that new communion which we call the Church. The Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God came into being as objective reality at the moment when the Word was made flesh. Apart from the Greek Fathers it was especially St. Augustine, the great and saintly doctor of Hippo, who perceived this connection between the Incarnation and the Church and by its means established anew the supernatural sublimity of the Church's nature.

We must take this connection to heart if we would appreciate the Catholic conception of the Church in all its profundity. Only so shall we understand why the idea of community is its dominant idea, and why the community cannot be the product of the faithful, a creation of these or those persons, but must be a supra-personal unity, a unity which permeates and embraces the whole of redeemed humanity. As such a unity the Church is nothing vague or undefined, but the actual inner unity of redeemed humanity united with Christ. In the Catholic conception of the Church the decisive element is not this or that person, but all mankind.
Two important consequences follow from this. One of these has already been developed, the fact, namely, that the organ of the redeeming spirit of our divine Savior, its incarnation and manifestation, is not the individual personality, but the community as community. The spirit of Christ is realized in the community. Therefore the visibility of the Church does not consist merely in the visibility of its individual members, but in the visibility of its compact unity, of its community. But where there is a community, a comprehensive unity, there is distribution and co-ordination of functions. That is the second consequence that follows from the mystery of the Incarnation. The Christian unity is no mere mechanical unity, but a unity with inner differentiation, an organic unity. The Body of Christ, if it be a true body, must have members and organs with their special tasks and functions, which, each in its measure, serve the development of the essential form of the body and which therefore serve one another.

When St. Paul, the first apostle to formulate the expression "Body of Christ," develops this conception in the twelfth Chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, he already stresses this point and speaks of the organic functioning of this body: "Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all . . . For as the body is one and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body: so also is Christ.... God indeed hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracle-workers, then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches." It is therefore the view of the apostle that the community is of its nature differentiated, that the body works as a unity through a diversity of organic functions, that the unity of the whole attests the unity of the spirit of Jesus. It is true that St. Paul does not distinguish the various functions of the one organism with theological precision. Such precision came with later developments and with the speculation that sprang from them. Time made it clear that some of the gifts, such as those of the apostolate, of teaching, and of government, belong to the nature of the Church and could not be discarded; whereas others, such as the gifts of prophecy, miracles and tongues, were the manifestation of a superabundant Christian life, and to be regarded not as structurally necessary to that life, but rather as signs and expressions of it.

But the fundamental thought, that the Body of Christ is and must be an organic body, that it works by its very nature in a manifold of functions, and that this manifold is bound together by the one Spirit of Christ into an inner unity: this thought is native to St. Paul, and it is the heritage and fundamental principle of the whole Christian Gospel....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:43 PM

November 4, 2010

Frum the trash-heap of history...

Charlene recommends The Winner: Rush Limbaugh, in The American Spectator. It's about the Alynski-ite attack by the White House and its press minions on Rush, starting in January 2009. It's worth reading. I particularly liked the rubbing it in on the absurd David Frum, who so obviously was positioning himself as a leader of a new tamed conservatism...

...BUT MURPHY, DOUTHAT, AND BROOKS were pikers when it came to former Bush speechwriter David Frum. Handed the cover of Newsweek for a lengthy article titled "Why Rush is Wrong," in a remarkable piece of writing Frum seemed to be an eager participant in a trash-for-cash article that is standard-operating-procedure for sunshine conservatives seeking approval from the liberal media. Frum chose for his venue a failing national news magazine that had traded its own reputation to the far-left in return for a soon-to-be sale by the Washington Post for -- literally - one dollar and millions in debt. The story was not only a Frum version of the personal insult-laden Alinsky strategy, also scolding Reaganites, it repeatedly insisted Rush was a distinct liability to any conservative or Republican victory -- in 2010 or any other election year.

According to Frum, who larded his three-alarm Rush-warnings throughout a piece filled with personal insults that appeared designed to appease the Washington social crowd, Rush Limbaugh was "kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally." If the GOP listened to Limbaugh it would never win women voters who "trust and admire" Obama. Rush's CPAC speech was a terrible liability that was certain to lose votes: "Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush's every rancorous word --we'll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time." It was idiocy to be listening to Limbaugh, as so many conservatives seemed to be doing: "But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership?" And finally, the GOP could not possibly win in 2010 because "Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach."

This morning, Rush Limbaugh stands vindicated....

Well, my response at the time was this...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

November 3, 2010

The word's on the tip of my tongue...

Reader Ethan Hahn e-mails...

This morning's NY Times editorial discusses the lessons to be learned from the Republicans picking up 60ish seats in the House - that Obama has to explain his vision better, pander to his base, and stiffen the spines of his party leadership.

Seriously. They wrote that.

Through my local library I have access to the historical NY Times database, so I pulled up their editorial from the 1982 election, where Democrats picked up just 27 seats (see the enclosed pdf) - the lesson for Reagan? He has no choice but to move to the center.

Funniest thing I've read in a LONG time...

Oh, and my condolences on the debacle your state has become...

Debacle. Gee, that's precisely the word that I was groping for.

I could fisk the piece, but everyone can guess what I'd say. I particularly like that to the NYT, opposing ObamaCare is not "substance," only obstructionism. "Progress" is a juggernaut, that no man may stand against....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:18 AM

November 2, 2010

If you read RJ, this probably applies to you...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:35 AM

November 1, 2010

It fits the 70-Year Cycle theory perfectly...

Election 2010: A correction, not a revolution | Washington Examiner:

...So the GOP could easily gain 60 seats in this election without making any incursions onto Democratic turf.

This math should dampen the triumphant Republican talk, but it should also worry the Democrats.

The bad news for Republicans: This election isn't really redrawing the map, and it doesn't represent a fierce reaction against the Democrats. Instead, the country is returning to where it was politically before the Republicans threw away their majority in 2006 and 2008 through overspending, two wars, and rampant corruption.

The bad news for Democrats: This suggests that America really is a Republican country, with 2006 and 2008 as aberrations. It appears that the Democrats are a narrow regional party, contrary to the post-2008 conventional wisdom they had become the dominant national party....

I'm writing this post mostly for my own satisfaction; I doubt anyone else cares. But I blogged about the 70-year cycle of party dominance for a while, and then I shut up as things moved Dem-ward in 2005 or so. But that movement is looking increasingly like an aberration, as the article agrees.

The theory says that America became a Republican country starting about the year 2000. (From 1860 Republicans were dominant, and then the Dems starting about 1930.) Each cycle is about two political generations. The 70 years before 1860 don't have today's parties, but they fit otherwise, with the Revolutionary generation and then a follow-on generation stuck in old habits of thought. And then a problem that needed a new political alignment to solve.

Here's a bit I wrote in a post back in 2004...

...The book [The Nemesis of Reform] is about how the Republicans reacted to the realignment that made the Democrats the majority party in the 1930's, after Republican dominance since the Civil War. I probably won't find time to write about the book in any way that does it justice. But I've encountered a number of interesting items that seem to parallel things that are happening now.

One is that the Republicans reacted to the move leftward of the country and the Dems by moving further right! The polarization of politics increased. This was disastrous for the Republicans electorally. It seems to have happened because the most energetic Republican interest groups were those who felt most threatened by the New Deal. The energy of the party was in the "antis." And because many centrist or Progressive Republicans were supporting Roosevelt...

Well, we can see that happening again! I'm more and more thinking that the real problem to be solved in this cycle is moving government into the Information Age. And that is a deadly threat to the core of the Dem Party, who have become suicidally angry and crazy. Thereby alienating many moderate Dems, and boosting the Republicans.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:28 PM

Time of transition...

Obama's economists missed what voters plainly saw | Washington Examiner:

...In post-World War II America, voters regularly moved toward the Democrats in recession years.

There's a difference, however, that has escaped Obama Democrats but perhaps not ordinary voters.

In recessions caused by oscillations in the business cycle from the 1940s to 1970s, voters were confident that the private-sector economy could support the burden of countercyclical spending on things like unemployment insurance and public works projects.

That spending would stimulate consumer demand, the thinking went, and once inventories were drawn down manufacturers would call workers back to the assembly line. The recession would be over.

But it's been a long time since we've had a major business cycle recession. The recession from which we've technically emerged, but which seems to most voters to be lingering on, is something different, the result of a financial crisis.

And financial crisis recessions tend to be a lot deeper and more prolonged than business cycle recessions, as economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argue in their 2009 book "This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly." "The aftermath of systemic banking crises," they write,"involves a protracted and pronounced contraction in economic activity and puts significant strains on government resources."

The very able economists in the incoming Obama administration seem to have ignored the difference between these two kinds of recessions. Council of Economic Advisors head Christina Romer was surely sincere when she promised that passage of the stimulus package would hold unemployment under 8 percent.

Similarly, administration economists evidently thought the private-sector economy could bear the burden of a national debt that doubled over a decade. It would bounce back like it usually does in a business cycle recession.

Tea Partiers took a different view -- and before long so did most voters. They seem to believe that permanent increases in government's share of GDP will inflict permanent damage on the private-sector economy -- and won't do much if anything to move us out of this prolonged financial crisis recession. The evidence so far seems to support them....

My belief is that the cause of the recession is deeper than just the financial crisis. That crisis is itself a symptom of deeper problem, which is that part of our world has made a transition to the Information Age, and part—government and quasi-governmental organizations —have not.

and one part of the transition that needs to be made is the realization that government regulation of financial institutions doesn't really work anymore. The complexity and wierdness of financial instruments that it is possible to create when computers can manipulate millions of variable is beyond the power of man to even understand, much less regulate.

The better way to regulate finance is just to require that financial institutions and their top employees themselves invest in whatever they sell, and hold the investments. Then the system would become self-regulating.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:26 PM