May 30, 2013

Today's riddle...

From my daughter...

What's the difference between a cat and a comma?

Cat in top hat

One has claws at the ends of its paws and the other has a pause at the end of its clause.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

May 27, 2013

"No sculptured stone will tell"

Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench on the first day on the Somme 1 July 1916
Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench on the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916
John Delaney of the Rifles has been shot.
A man we never knew,
Does it cloud the day for you
That he lies among the dead
Moving, hearing, heeding not?

No history will hold his humble name.
No sculptured stone will tell
The traveller where he fell;
That he lies among the dead
Is the measure of his fame.

When our troops return victorious shall we care
The deaf to all the cheers
Lacking tribute of our tears,
He is lying with the dead
Stark and silent, God knows where?

John Delaney of the Rifles - who was he?
A name seen on a list
All unknown and unmissed,
What to us that he is dead?-
Yet he died for you and me.

-- Winifred Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 PM

May 25, 2013

"The hothouse atmosphere of its own self-absorption"

George Weigel, The Bishop of Rome as Christian Radical:

... Pope Francis believes that the Church in Latin America took a decisive step toward a new future in 2007. Then, at the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held at Aparecida in Brazil, the leaders of the Church moved far beyond the "kept" Catholicism of the past--the Catholicism that was "kept" by legal establishment or, more recently, cultural habit--and embraced a robustly Evangelical Catholicism in which, as the pope wrote, "the whole of ministry (is) in a missionary key."

The move from "kept" Catholicism to Evangelical Catholicism is for everyone, the pope seems convinced. "Kept" Catholicism has no future anywhere, and not just because of aggressive secularism and other corrosive cultural acids. "Kept" Catholicism has no future because it doesn't merit a future: or, as the pope put it to his former colleagues, "a Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick" in the hothouse atmosphere of its own self-absorption, which Francis has also called "self-referentiality."

When the Church is about itself, rather than the gospel and the invitation to friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church betrays the gospel and the Lord. How? The "self-referential Church" falls victim to "a kind of narcissism that leads to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism," which in turn are obstacles to what the bishops at Aparecida called "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing."...

Awesome Pope we got here. I thought after Benedict I was sure to be disappointed. Who could match him? Turns out, not so!

Pope Francis

Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 PM

May 22, 2013

"Old Time Religion"

Andrew C. McCarthy, No Special Counsel for the IRS Scandal | National Review Online:

...More important, pushing for one [a special counsel] sends entirely the wrong signals. It indicates that criminal culpability takes precedence over political accountability. Worse, it suggests that the evil here is the malfeasance of a few government officials. To the contrary, the problem is a perversely complex regulatory framework that gives the IRS -- which should simply collect taxes based on an easily knowable formula -- enormous discretionary power to discriminate and intimidate. That makes the IRS an un-American weapon, particularly when it is controlled by an Alinskyite will-to-power administration.

Sure, we can worry about prosecuting the weapon-wielders at some point. The urgent problem here, though, is the weapon itself. Our energy should be devoted to exposing the scandal in the light of day and shaming Washington into dismantling the IRS -- which is actually planned to swell markedly, and grow even more intrusively offensive, under Obamacare....

Among the Progressives (the original ones, not the current fakes) civil service was a kind of religion. They were passionate about getting government work out of the hands of supposedly corrupt political appointees, and into the hands of supposedly incorruptible permanent employees hired by merit and not connected to politics. Government employees were to be "civil servants," and when I was young that term still had meaning.

But they seem to have lost their faith.

When did they lose their religion? Are you astonished that I tell you that it was just at the same time as many other people were losing their various faiths? That the transition centered on the 1960's? (It was around 1963 that JFK pushed through teacher's unions.)

That was when large numbers of clergymen suddenly realized that the Civil Rights Movement was the center of their faith. Charlene left the Catholic Church in the 60's partly because a new priest in her parish thought the center of their faith should be the "farm worker's movement." (And this in a parish full of farmers.) There arose counter-revolutionaries who thought their faith was preserving the old things. Most people forgot that our faith lies in following Jesus.

When the transition to a new age happens, the ideas of the previous age suddenly seem absurd. They become meaningless. You "lose your faith" because the common expression of that faith no longer makes sense. The faith itself still make sense, but no one can tell you why in language that resonates and compels.

Wordsworth wrote, about the French Revolution, "Bliss was it in that time to be alive, but to be young was very heaven." That's exactly how young people felt in the 1960's. (I can report this to you, I was there.) "Bliss" is what you feel at first when you drop what seems like an oppressive and dreary old faith. (Later comes the hangover.) You feel like you are free, though actually you are just enslaved to popular ideas, because you have no solid ground to stand on to hold firm to eternal truths.

The 1970's and 80's should have been, but weren't, the time when every organization and faith confronted the question that change always asks. And that is, "How do we adapt and change, and yet remain the same in essence?" Which could also be expressed as, "How do we adapt, and still maintain our core mission?" Nobody did this, so we see institutions failing all around us.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:20 AM

May 20, 2013

Mind-Bogglingly Dull!

My son Rob wrote:
I was watching a documentary from National Geographic, titled "Evacuate Earth". The premise of that documentary is: A neutron star is heading towards Earth, and in 75 years the Earth will be destroyed, so we must evacuate the Earth, and leave our solar system entirely.

Unfortunately... Their solution is MIND-BOGGLINGLY-DULL!! And from a Catholic angle, down-right evil. Their solution to this hypothetical problem is the following:

Have all of the governments of the world bring all the scientific and engineering minds of the world together, and build one single Orion-style spaceship in one location, this single spaceship will be a little larger than Manhattan, and take 200,000 or so people out of our solar system.

While this ship is being built, the next step would be to have government bureaucrats travel the world, and carefully look for people with genetic diversity to put on this spaceship.

This idea is completely idiotic... The idea is dull and boring! It's something an early 20th century industrialist would have approved of! It's something that Henry Ford would have loved! It is something that Richard Branson might puke at...

There's almost no mention of bringing down the cost of launching vehicles into space through increase of volume of traffic. There's no talk of private industry like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, or Virgin Galactic taking on some of the burden. (They did indeed mention private companies building spaceships in that documentary. But the one ship that was mentioned exploded on the launch pad. The message was clear: Don't trust private companies as they'll screw up, government workers know what they're doing!)

How fast do you think we could lower launch prices in the situation put forth in that documentary?

There was some talk about far-out technology that might be used for propulsion, but thankfully they decided on the most practical means of getting large numbers of people into space: Project Orion.

One giant spaceship, organized by well-meaning government agents to take a small number of people (0.0028% of the population of the Earth), launched from a central location to parts unknown.

What about the rest of humanity? T.S.? The small number of people who would be selected for this spaceship would need to be "genetically perfect" to coin a phrase. Eugenics is never a good thing, and in the end it always ends badly.

Building just one single spaceship is also incredibly stupid for another reason: What if some end-of-the-world terrorists get together and try to destroy the ship? They justify their actions by saying "No should be allowed to escape judgement day!" What then?

Why not have hundreds of smaller Orion ships, that can carry millions of people altogether? Why not allow people like Richard Branson to build a fleet of Orion-style spaceships? How many ships do you think that man will build to save god-only-knows how many people just to satisfy his own delusions of godhood if he had access to the nuclear material to build them and money was no longer an object?

Heaven-forbid they ask shipping companies for help in building large spaceships. Heaven-forbid they ask the cruise-line industry about entertainment on their one single large ship, or how to manage large numbers of people in a confined space... Heaven-forbid they consult with anyone from the private sector! Those icky people are just in it for the money, unlike the pure-of-heart, head-held-high, altruistic government bureaucrats.

It is maddeningly frustrating to watch something like this... It had so much potential, but it was squandered...

This really reminds me of those complaints that one hears from time to time, that America has lost her "greatness" because we no longer do things like the Apollo Program. That's pure Industrial Age thinking; big government puts on some razzle-dazzle extravaganza, a few people do something exciting, and the rest of us are just spectators. And that's what "national greatness" is. Pfooey!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2013

Straw-man argument...

In Defense of the IRS, By Norm Ornstein...

A strong meme is developing among conservatives about the IRS, expressed most directly in the headline of a piece in the Washington Examiner by Tim Carney, "The IRS is Deeply Political and Very Democratic." The idea is that the IRS would by its very character and nature target conservatives and Republicans. And the Inspector General's report makes it clear that the key words used by agency employees to consider and screen the flood of applications for 501(c)4 status after the Citizens United decision focused on conservative groups and conservative oriented terms. But there is another reality here that should not be lost. If the IRS, or Obama Administration political officials, were intent on using the tax process to damage Republicans before the 2012 election, why did they go after a bunch of little guys-- tiny organizations without much funding-- while leaving the giants to run rampant all over the political field?...
See how he keeps moving the little cups around? In one sentence it's conservatives he's talking about, in the next it's Republicans. They are not the same thing.

The trick here is that we are not claiming "the IRS would by its very character and nature target conservatives and Republicans." We are claiming the IRS targeted conservatives, especially tea party conservatives.

Government employees/leftists have no deep quarrel with the "Republican giants," such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads GPS. Why? Because the Republican establishment has no real interest in shrinking government, they just want to run it themselves. Karl Rove is probably quite sincere when he deplores the bad effects of government bloat and waste, but at most he wants to trim a little flab. As long as it doesn't cost the Republicans any votes.

Tea partiers pose an existential threat to the Left. The Left has become government, and government has become a cancer feeding on the body politic. To propose returning the Federal government to what the founders designed is to kill the cancer. At least at the federal level.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 AM

We are driven by ideas we won't examine...

I was responding to a comment by Bisaal at my post, Do you notice a trend?, and the response grew too interesting (to me at least) to just be a comment...

This is just Utopian thinking. You still have to find economical sources of oil. Physically and industrially. There is no necessity that oil is an infinite resource.

You miss my point. It's not that we do or don't have unlimited oil, it is that mineral wealth won't be the "limiting factor" for human material progress in this new age we are in. Just as in the Industrial Age food production no longer limited growth, as it had before. Populations increased greatly, industrial cities mushroomed, but somehow everybody got fed. Not in some "utopian" way; the workers just always managed to get enough to eat to keep working.

"Isn't this some kind of gnosticism? Is external reality so irrelevant?"

There's nothing gnostic about it. Civilization always modifies the physical world, and modifications always start with the idea that something is possible. Most of the time our ideas of what is possible change slowly. Incrementally. We don't even think about our underlying ideas, we just do things.

I think that a "new age" happens when our ideas of what is possible change in a sudden radical way across much of society. And then these new possibilities start to be invented. Start to unfold. Our ideas change, then everything else changes.

I'm a "theoretician" by nature, and this is more and more my theoretical focus. Unfortunately our world does not want to know about this. We prefer to think that we are just seeing what is clearly there, and acting in obvious and "normal" ways.

I think I have important ideas to offer to the world, but no one's buying. Especially, I believe that the reason we see institutions failing all around us right now is because they have failed to transition to the new age. They are still operating with Industrial Age paradigms. Governments, schools and universities, the press, many churches, including the Catholic Church, NGO's, ideologies like liberalism... all are failing in obvious glaring ways.

In every instance you can see the same symptoms! And number one is that the core mission has been forgotten. Why would this happen? It is always because when people's thoughts change in a transition to a new age, the ideas and "ways" of the old age suddenly seem pointless and absurd. That's when all groups needed to re-think. But they mostly don't. They try to just keep doing the same things, though they no longer believe in them.

For instance there are a bunch of scandals in the news right now, all of them about failures of various federal government departments. State Dept, IRS, EPA, HHS, etc. But the underlying problem is that government has forgotten its core mission, which is to serve the people.

One of the great Industrial Age accomplishments was the creation of what we in America called "the civil service." Most people know little history now, and have no idea of the size of the change that was wrought, wresting government work out of the hands of political appointees, and giving it to apolitical "civil servants" selected by examination. Reformers dedicated their whole lives to promoting civil service. It was almost a religion.

When the new age dawned, people in government forgot all that. It seemed suddenly old-fashioned, that idea of service. That's the exact time when unions for government employees started to happen. And when the servants started thinking of themselves as masters. To the point where now it seemed perfectly normal for IRS employees to target groups that criticize government or advocate lower taxes.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:27 AM | Comments (2)

May 16, 2013

Some recent comments deleted by mistake...

Even though I have a "captcha," that thingie that makes you copy some blurry letters to post a comment, I still get some spam comments! One or two every day. I don't know what they are doing to get through.

I was trashing some of them and accidently hosed all the recent comments. Many great thoughts lost forever! Don't take it personally Here at RJ all commenters are above average!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 AM | Comments (1)

Do you notice a trend?

In stories like these? About minerals and petroleum being discovered? We were supposed to run out of [fill in the blank] right about now, according to [fill in the Malthusian lefty "environmentalist"]. Yet it isn't happening If you read Random Jottings, you get to know what's really going on...

New Wyoming Lithium Deposit - Business Insider:

...University of Wyoming researchers found the lithium while studying the idea of storing carbon dioxide underground in the Rock Springs Uplift, a geologic formation in southwest Wyoming. University of Wyoming Carbon Management Institute director Ron Surdam stated that the lithium was found in underground brine. Surdam estimated the located deposit at roughly 228,000 tons in a 25-square-mile area. Extrapolating the data, Surdam said as the uplift covered roughly 2,000 square miles, there could be up to 18 million tons of lithium there, worth up to roughly $500 billion at current market prices....

The U.S. Has Much, Much More Gas and Oil Than We Thought -

...The United States has double the amount of oil and three times the amount of natural gas than previously thought, stored deep under the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, according to new data the Obama administration released Tuesday.

In announcing the new data in a conference call, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also said the administration will release within weeks draft rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing, technology that has come under scrutiny for its environmental impact but that is essential to developing all of this energy.

"These world-class formations contain even more energy-resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign sources of oil," Jewell said in a statement....

Here's a clue. When did the developed world stop suffering from famines? The answer to that is, as soon as it entered the Industrial Age. Agriculture had been the chief limiting factor for humans throughout all of history. Once the change in thinking that was the inward reality that was expressed outwardly in what we call industrialization happened, the problem of agriculture was essentially solved, although it took a few more decades to "work out the kinks," so to speak.

In the Industrial Age, mineral resources were one of the biggest limiting factors. I would suggest that once we entered the Information Age, the problem of petroleum and minerals of all sorts was solved in essence. I've spent my life hearing about coming "famines" of oil and metals like Chromium, which is needed for making armor plate. But they never happened.

(Go here for more thoughts on the Info Age.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:52 AM

May 14, 2013

“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like"

The scandal is just getting off the ground. The Dems and government have become the same thing. They are parasites living off of... us.

Multiple Agencies Involved with IRS in Intimidation:

...True the Vote’s experiences with the IRS’s abuse of power were recently discussed by Catherine Engelbrecht in a previous interview with Breitbart News. She said:
We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010. Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They’ve requested to see each and every tweet I’ve ever tweeted or Facebook post I’ve ever posted. They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future.
Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family's firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership--which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.” 

The Democratic Party of Texas filed a lawsuit against her, as did an ACORN affiliated group. Both the FBI and the BATF continued to poke around her life, the lives of people in her Tea Party group, and her businesses.

Ultimately, the IRS determined that it actually owed a refund to Engelbrecht; the BATF found nothing wrong in any of its repeated visits and audits; OSHA’s fine-toothed comb found reason to demand $25,000 from Engelbrecht’s family business; and TCEQ demanded the Engelbrechts spend $42,000 on additional storage sheds.

“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like," Engelbrecht said. "My family and I have lived with great concern that we would be subject to even greater government abuses if we were vocal about what they were doing to us because of our political views and our efforts to increase governmental accountability. 

"We are now convinced the only way to protect ourselves from our government is to speak out and bring our story straight to the American people. If such politically-motivated governmental abuses of power can happen to us, they can happen to anyone,” said Engelbrecht....

Lefties at Yearly Kos
Your IRS representatives are ready to help you

Posted by John Weidner at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 9, 2013

Just give the terrorists what they want...

Charlene found this post, and it's dead-on. What Boston did was the best way to encourage more little Islamic loons to make bombs. My area of concern is that declaring safety to be our highest good is nihilism. (Other posts on this here.) It is saying that ones self is the most important thing in the cosmos, and no higher values exist. Honor, defending others, defending your city or country, defying evil... these DO NOT EXIST. Boston broadcast the message that only your self is important.

This is also a good indicator that what used to be called "Liberalism" no longer exists. Most liberals today just wear their fake-liberalism as a disguise. It is no longer a cause that is bigger than the self.

Boston's troubling message:

...In the wake of the bombing, Boston and its surrounding communities went into a defensive crouch, as nearly one million people "sheltered in place."  Boylston Street, the heart of the business district, became a ghost town and remained so for nine days.  At the height of the crisis, there was no public transit, no taxi service, no Amtrak service.  The public schools and dozens of colleges shut down.  City employees were told not to report to work.  Courthouses closed, and jurors were sent home, as the justice system ground to a halt.  The Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins postponed their games.

Now this is one way to deal with terrorism, and it carries with it certain advantages.  It enhances public safety.  No one knew whether other explosive devices remained in Boston's public areas.  Citizens locked inside their homes are less exposed to danger.  And streets bare of vehicular traffic make it much easier for law enforcement to track and pursue terrorists.

But other cities have dealt with other crises differently.  On the morning of July 7, 2005, 52 civilians were killed and over 700 injured as terrorists detonated three bombs in the London Underground, and a fourth on a double-decker bus.  By 4 pm that same day, bus service had resumed.  Subway service, except in the damaged stations, resumed the next morning.

Israel has withstood scores of suicide bombings, and tens of thousands of rocket and mortar attacks on its civilian centers.  It has developed a strict protocol for handling crime scenes.  Victims are evacuated, body parts respectfully removed.  Then clean-up crews arrive to remove the wreckage and repair the walls and the glass.  Within hours the affected facility - a bus station, a restaurant, a market - is reopened and back in business.

A quick return to business as usual is not callousness.  Israeli cities are dotted with plaques bearing the names of the victims of terrorism.  They are not forgotten.

But Israelis, Londoners, and others realize that the goal of terrorism is to inculcate a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.  Therefore, one of the most effective anti-terrorist tactics is the prompt return to normality....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM