January 24, 2014

A good put-down...

Peggy Noonan, The Sleepiness of a Hollow Legend:

Good snark, (and a great title) but wrong on a deep level...

...The poor speechwriters. They are always just a little more in touch with public sentiment than a president can be--they get to move around in the world, they know what people are saying. They have to imitate the optimism of the speeches of yore, they have to rouse. They are the ones who know what a heavy freaking lift it is, what an impossible chore. And they have to do it with idiots in the staffing process scrawling on the margins of the draft: "More applause lines!" The speechwriters know the answer is fewer applause lines, more thought, more humility and candor. Americans aren't impressed anymore by congressmen taking to their feet and cheering. They look as if they have electric buzzers on their butts that shoot them into the air when the applause line comes. "Now I have to get up and enact enthusiasm" is what they look like they're thinking. While the other party thinks "Now we have to get up too, because what he said was anodyne and patriotic and we can't not stand up for that." And they applaud, diffidently, because they don't want the folks back home--the few who are watching--to say they looked a little too enthusiastic about the guy who just cost them their insurance.

They are all enacting. They are all replicating. They're all imitating the past.

You know when we will know America is starting to come back? When some day the sergeant at arms bellows: "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States" and the camera shows a bubble of suits and one person emerges from the pack and walks into the chamber and you're watching at home and you find yourself--against everything you know, against all the accumulated knowledge of the past--interested. It'll take you aback when you realize you're interested in what he'll say! And the members won't just be enacting, they'll be leaning forward to hear.

And the president will speak, and what he says will be pertinent to the problems of the United States of America. And thoughtful. And he'll offer ideas, and you'll think: "Hey, that sounds right."

That is when you'll know America just might come back.

Until then, as John Dickerson just put it: Barack Obama, Inaction Figure.

Zzzzzzz....

I don't actually agree with that "America is starting to come back" stuff. I don't think America is an organism controlled by a central processing unit in Washington. Or in New York. The important changes happen elsewhere, often in places nobody expects them to. This is more true in the Information Age by an order of magnitude.

And if we ever become a country dependent on top-down management, then we are not America anymore.

But this is dead on: "They are all enacting. They are all replicating. They're all imitating the past." When you enter a new age of the world, then every institution needs to change or die. And that change involves two necessary things. One, you must adapt to a new situation, a new way of thinking. Two, you need to remain who you are, in essence.

And the almost-invariable response is to try to do one or the other. You get liberals who want to tear everything apart and rebuild it the image of whatever impressed them when they were in their 20's. And conservatives fighting the liberals and trying to keep things "the way they're supposed to be." Both are wrong. Either response fails.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

December 23, 2013

Suffer, all you horrid little commies...

I just laugh every time I think of this...

George Zimmerman | paintings sold | guns returned:

These are good days for George Zimmerman. He's selling art for big bucks, he got his guns back, and ..., um, well, he's back with Samantha Sheibe....
Geroge Zimmerman with painting
Posted by John Weidner at 10:44 AM

August 9, 2013

We all swim in a sea of "conventional wisdom"

[This is a re-posting of something from years ago.]

I recommend this excellent essay by Paul Belien, Europe Must Find its Roots in America

....In the 17th and 18th centuries North America was colonised by freedom loving people who brought the political institutions and traditions from Europe to a new continent across the sea. Many of them had left Europe because they wanted the freedom to live according to their own conscience instead of the conscience of the centralist absolutist rulers of the new age that was sweeping across Europe from the 16th century onwards. Their traditions were rooted in the decentralized traditions of the late Middle Ages and the Aristotelian philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Europe’s Middle Ages had been characterized by an absence of central power, while man was bound to multiple legal systems: the legal order of his city, that of the land, that of his guild, that of the church. There was not one monopolistic ruler, as in China or in the Muslim world, but many, which guaranteed greater freedom for the individual...

...The philosophy of Aquinas, moreover, was centered on the individual. God had called man to be free from sin, but in order to be free from sin he had to be virtuous, and in order for virtue to have any value it had to be voluntary, implying that the virtuous man had to be free in every aspect of his life including, as Aquinas’ followers later pointed out, his economic activities.

Hence the paradox came about that the civil society developing in the new continent was in a sense older than the new Modern Age of the absolutist monarchs governing Europe...

We all swim in a sea of "conventional wisdom," and a lot of it is not just wrong, but wrong in ways that make it hard to think clearly about things. One of the falsehood is the idea that the Middle Ages were a swamp of poverty and knuckle-dragging backwardness. And that the "Age of Enlightenment" came along and dragged us out of the muck.

Actually in some ways the opposite is true. Especially in the realm of freedom and democracy, which we built on the foundation of England's parliamentary government. We think of England as exceptional, but "parliaments" of all sorts were the norm in Medieval Europe. They were destroyed on the continent by the rise of the Absolute Monarchs, who also limited or co-opted various other institutions that had served to spread power widely.

The people who write the history books tend to be of the absolutist tradition (socialists, leftists) and have judged, say, the France of Louis XIV to be "successful," because it could raise large armies and crush opponents such as small independent states, or awkward medieval institutions, or religious groups such as Huguenots or Jansenists. It would be better to think of this as failure, failure to preserve things that have been very beneficial to us in the Anglosphere.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:08 AM

February 2, 2013

Sometimes I think we should chisel Teddy off of Mt Rushmore...

This is a great piece I meant to blog long ago. From National Affairs, The Saviors of the Constitution:

...The truth, however, is more kind to the Tea Party. Hardly a symptom of hopeless confusion, the Tea Party's willingness to use the means of democracy to address the problem of democracy and its relationship to the Constitution is an important first step toward recovering that document from the Progressive opprobrium beneath which it has labored for more than a century. For as the Tea Party senses, Progressivism acquired for itself an unfair advantage when it linked the notion of constitutional legitimacy to the cause of unlimited government powers in the name of democracy.

There is another view of the Constitution -- a view closer to that of the founders, that arose in defense of the Constitution against the Progressives, and that finds no contradiction in the notion of a constitutionally limited or constrained democracy. It was articulated with great subtlety and depth a century before the Tea Party, in a debate that prefigured many of the issues that now confront our country.

The year 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the American presidential election in which this very conflict of constitutional visions played a central role. And by revisiting the issues of the election of 1912 -- in particular the contest for the Republican presidential nomination between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt -- we may come to appreciate the coherence of a popular effort to restore limits on the popular will....


...Nothing illustrates Roosevelt's radical constitutional program better than his proposal for the recall of judicial decisions. Roosevelt was the foremost national champion of that idea, and he devoted almost a third of the "Charter" speech to it. When a judge decides "what the people as a whole can or cannot do, the people should have the right to recall that decision if they think it wrong," Roosevelt maintained. This form of recall -- applied in his initial formulation to the review of state supreme-court decisions -- would allow the people at large to override the "monstrous misconstruction of the Constitution into an instrument for the perpetuation of social and industrial wrong and for the oppression of the weak and helpless." Since the "power to interpret is the power to establish," Roosevelt argued, "if the people are not to be allowed finally to interpret the fundamental law, ours is not a popular government."

Roosevelt was fully aware that the power to recall judicial decisions in fact amounted to the power of a majority to change the fundamental meaning of the Constitution, circumventing the cumbersome amending procedures of Article V. "Whether [recall of decisions] is called a referendum to the people or whether it is called a shorter and simpler way of amending the Constitution, to my mind matters nothing," Roosevelt explained. "The essential thing is to get the power to the people." The reason, he added, was that the "people themselves must be the ultimate makers of their own Constitution."...

I'm sure I don't have to spell out what the problems are with that idea.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:12 PM

January 9, 2013

"Swimming in surpluses."

Morning Examiner: The Republican surpluses | WashingtonExaminer.com:

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government posted a $293 billion deficit in the first fiscal quarter of 2013, setting the Obama administration up for a record fifth-year of trillion dollar deficits. But while the fiscal condition of the Democratically controlled federal government is still atrocious, Republican controlled states are now swimming in surpluses.

Thanks to a Republican governor committed to developing its natural resources, not punishing entrepreneurs who do, Texas legislators are facing an $8.8 billion surplus over the next two years. To the east, Republican governors Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Rick Scott of Florida have also turned recession deficits into budget surpluses. Moving north, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder, Iowa’s Gov. Terry Brandstad, and Indiana’s out-going-Gov. Mitch Daniels, also can now all boast surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. All of these governors managed to turn their state’s fiscal situation around through spending cuts, not tax hikes. Now their budgets are in the black and their economies are growing.

Things do not look as good in Democrat-controlled states. Illinois, who massively raised taxes on the rich, still has a $5.9 billion stack of unpaid bills. California, who also raised taxes on the rich, was supposed to post a small surplus this year. But tax collections are coming in at 10.8 percent below budget projections. As a result, the state is now projected to be $1.9 billion in the red by the end of this fiscal year....

No comment needed. Except that rich people are the one thing that poor people need most...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 PM | Comments (9)

November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving thought...

I wrote earlier about how archeologist's views of ancient Israel and the Exodus have changed. It looks as if most "proto-Israelites" escaped "bondage in Egypt," but did it by escaping the oppressive Canaanite kingdoms (which were Egyptian vassal states) and founding a new civilization high up in the hills of Palestine, hills which had mostly been un-settled until then.

The Exodus narrative in the Bible is, I think, true, but as truth expressed in a story, not in a history. Probably there was a real exodus from Egypt, but not of 600,000 people. (If that many people, with herds and flocks, set out on the narrow trails of the region, they would I think literally stretch all the way across the Sinai Peninsula.)

So I'm thinking about the Pilgrims, and how we celebrate their story every year. The story is factual, but so are a hundred thousand other stories. Why this one? We keep repeating it because it embodies profound truths about America. About us.

Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock


Many religious and ethnic strains went into the genesis of our country. Probably the most important element in the mix are the English Puritans who Settled in New England. The Pilgrims were just a few hundred people, but they were the first group in that great migration. And they happened to tell their story in a clear and attractive way, in governor William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. Which includes that story f that first "Thanksgiving." The Pilgrim story has come to represent all of them. And it is truthfully so--that story will give you a very good picture of what the Settlers in New England were like.
So they lefte that goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.

Besides the English Puritans, we received perhaps half a million radical Protestants from continental Europe, displaced by the vast calamity that was the Thirty Years War. Anabaptists, Mennonites, including the Amish, Hussites, Palatines. The Pilgrims also were emblematic of them.

So, as a thought experiment, imagine that our early settlers were illiterate. Were an oral culture. And that the story of the Pilgrims was passed down orally for many generations among the Puritan settlers. It would not be surprising if the story grew to be the story of all of them. And it would still be truth!

I suspect that that's what happened with the Exodus story. Some Israelites literally escaped from Egypt, and met God on Sinai, and passed through many trials to the Promised Land. Their more numerous relatives in Palestine were also finding their way with heroic efforts to the Promised Land. But their story was less dramatic, and the more cinematic story came to be the story of all. But it was still truth.

WORD NOTE: When you see "ye" in older English writings, such as "but lift up their eyes to ye heavens" in the above quote, the word is in fact "the," and should be so pronounced. It is not pronounced "yee." Why so? English used to have a letter, called "Thorn," that made initial "th" sound. It looked like: Þ. When printing presses came to England from the continent, they had no letter Thorn, so "Y" was used in its place, and came to be the normal way to write.
Posted by John Weidner at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 6, 2012

Looks like game over...

My philosophy is that it's not the making of mistakes that's important. That always happens.

It's whether you can bounce back that's the real metric. Make corrections and get back on course. Re-think. I think we've failed our test, unlike in 1980.

It looks like America is not re-thinking after the catastrophic folly of Obama. So, my prediction is long slow decline, a la Europe. Regulatory sclerosis. Ever-growing nihilism and Lefty atheism. Declining birthrates. More war on men. Abortion as the national sacrament.

I will hope and search to be part of the Remnant. As God said to Elijah, "There are yet 7,000 men in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Ba'al."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 PM | Comments (4)

October 30, 2012

I think voting should be made difficult...

...To separate the wheat from the chaff.

Delay Election Day? Hell No. - By Jonah Goldberg - The Corner - National Review Online:

...This country is so bizarrely schizophrenic about voting it drives me crazy. We are constantly bathed in platitudes about how vital, wonderful, special, glorious and sacred voting is. But don't you dare ask the American people to put the slightest bit of effort into the practice. It must be convenient. It must be easy. It must be on my timetable, like a DVR'd episode of "Nashville" or the "Price is Right." Why not ask the American people to demonstrate that they appreciate the importance of voting?...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 AM

July 3, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

I just a few days ago stumbled on this picture, by one of the greatest of American artists, JC Leyendecker...

J. C. Leyendecker, Uncle Sam at the Helm, July Fourth, 1936


And if perchance you say, "I don't see anything that says, 'great artist,'" ....... then ZOOM IN....

Detail, . C. Leyendecker, Uncle Sam at the Helm, July Fourth, 1936

This may be a picture of Uncle Sam, but we are not in Kansas anymore, baby. Look at that hair! Like scales of armor, or the wing-covers of insects. And those white lines defining throat and cheek--stunning brushwork. Look at that hand! SEE IT! And then look at the whole man in the larger picture. There is nothing, not a single wrinkle, not a hair, that doesn't thrum with the tension and strength of him. Leyendecker has made Uncle Sam a god.

One thing that fascinates me is that Leyendecker was queer. And this is evident everywhere in his art, to my modern San Francisco eyes. Yet people of his time didn't seem to notice it. They didn't "see" it at all. He often painted pictures showing a beautiful woman surrounded by three or four handsome men. But typically the woman's eyes are downcast, and she is somehow subdued. While the men are tensely alive, and their glances seem to flare towards each other, not at the female who is ostensibly at the center of things...

This one is a favorite of mine. These are officers of the American forces of the First World War, and a nurse. Presumably bound for France with the AEF...

Lyendecker, WWI officers and nurse shipboard

Look at the eyes! Who is the Marine officer on the right looking at? Not the gal, I think. Look at his expression. Wolfish. Look at the Navy guy. So alive, so amoral. Did that wistful woman cause that smile? I doubt it. Look at her. She's lost whatever she yearned for. She's receding into the background. She's turning into ice before our eyes. She's out of it.

And observe that Army officer with his back to us. So ambiguous, so conflicted. Perhaps caught in a spider's web. Is that what Navy boy is enjoying? I think so. The real drama here is between the two men in Khaki.

This is one of the oddest pieces of art I've ever seen. Yet I'd guess that 99% of people in 1918 would have perceived it as a totally innocent and light hearted moment.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

My take on Roberts...

David commented here:

I think it's a good strategy for the MSM. You wear down Romney by telling people he's ducking the issue, and Romney eventually gets weary. It worked against Roberts, didn't it?

I think we will have to wait and see with Roberts. I suspect he's playing a deep game, and we will look back twenty years from now and see it. See that he was planning chess moves far in advance. I read somewhere that when he was a young conservative lawyer just getting started in DC, he would never comment on controversial legal issues. Presumably because he was looking forward to a future judicial nomination.

Sounds like a "steely-eyed missile man" to me. Not somebody who gets "worn down" easily. Not someone who gets flustered by criticism from the gasping media. (Or from conservatives either.)

The thing is, most people don't have any philosophy. They have never thought deeply about what they believe—just picked stuff up from their milieu. You put them in a different environment, and their views morph, without any thought. Like a chameleon changes its colors. That's what we've seen happen with horrid amphibians like David Souter. Move him from New Hampshire to DC, and he mimics the local coloration. And is probably perfectly unaware that he has changed. The new palate just seems obvious, and the old one a distant dream.

People are just assuming Roberts is a chameleon too. I doubt it. Many people have pointed out ways that this decision fits with a long-term plan to overturn many items of lefty over-reach by our "imperial judiciary." I think that's happening.

You can remember this, and laugh at me if Roberts turns out to be a liberal squish!

UPDATE: POLITICO, Liberals fear the John Roberts rebound :

...Liberals who celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision on health care may be nursing an ugly hangover after the justices dive back into their work this fall, with a docket likely to be loaded with controversial cases.     

And left-leaning courtwatchers are already worried about the jurist who brought them such relief last week: Chief Justice John Roberts.

Some liberals contend that Roberts’s surprise crossover on the health care law has given him a free hand to craft and sign onto a slew of conservative opinions next year without suffering much of a public drubbing from Democrats and the press. With one major case, Roberts may have inoculated himself and the court against charges of partisanship....

UPDATE. Which made me laugh...

From The Corner ...Following up on Jan Crawford’s reports that Chief Justice Roberts switched his vote while drafting his opinion, thus prompting Justices Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to write a rare joint dissent, Salon’s court watcher Paul Campos says he has it from a top source that Roberts in fact wrote much of the dissent, as well:...

Mastermind! I have this mental picture of John R grabbing the dissent away from Kennedy, and saying, "You write like a girl! Let me do it!"

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM | Comments (25)

June 14, 2012

for Flag Day...

Last verse. Starts at about :44...


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!





Posted by John Weidner at 9:46 PM

June 9, 2012

My dislike of astronauts, part three...

[NOTE: Speaking of space, Rand Simberg writes: Only seven shopping days left until my Kickstarter project on space safety must be funded. I still need about $2800 by next Friday afternoon. Pass the word, via Twitter or whatever....

This is a worthy project. Part of the stagnation of our space efforts is due to an extreme emphasis on safety by cautious bureaucrats. He's asking for $10 (or more) contributions, and I'll do one. (With a twinge of bitterness, 'cause no one will ever kickstart my book.) Rand inspired my space thoughts long ago, and I owe him a debt. Here's a sample I saved from 2002. Read!]

UPDATE: This project is funded! Cool


Now, to the post...

Again, I don't really dislike astronauts. Just their symbolism. And for this yet another disjointed post, I start yet again with a quote from Terry. If he didn't exist I'd have to invent him! Terry wrote:

"Four reasons a nation might make this investment [in space] are national defense, scientific advancement, practical applications, and national prestige."

So, for which of those reasons did the federal government subsidize the building of the transcontinental railroads? Hmm? None of them, really. The reason, the goal, was to settle the west. And part of the same package was the Homestead Act, which subsidized settlers with free land. And the goal was further subsidized by the US Army, which fought the Indians who impeded settlement.

And underlying this goal of settlement was faith in the American people. Give the people opportunities, says the theory, and they will do great things. That's what Americans have traditionally thought.

But over the course of the 20th century a new idea slowly wormed its way into control. And that was the idea that elites, embodied in government, can do great things. That's how European nations have always worked, and it is a very congenial idea if you happen to fancy yourself as a member of the elite. You could also say it was the turning of America from a country into a nation, a development I despise. [Do kindly read my piece: I'm not a "nationalist".]

And it was an insidious idea, one that often produced attractive results, and often mimicked traditional American thinking, so it was able to infiltrate its way into our minds. That is, I suggest, the underlying problem with Terry's comments. He may be right, and I may be wrong, about the economics of space. Perhaps space will be up to government for the next century. But I'm seeing more clearly as I write about this, that the real issue to me is, is America a sort of "collective entity?" Or is she an assemblage of free men?

If the first theory is true, then when NASA sent astronauts to the Moon, "WE" had done something great. If the second theory is true, then Apollo, cool as it was, was just a precursor. A curtain-raiser. And the real story will begin when Americans start homesteading the Moon, or doing similar things.

Astronauts are for me a symbol of the first theory. They are a symbol of the idea that government accomplishes things, and us ordinary couch-potato Americans are spectators, basking in reflected glory.

I'm perfectly happy with government doing most of the spending for space at this point, if it's necessary. The real question is, where are we going? The GOAL should be for government to gradually get out of the way, as Americans find more ways to live in space, and make money off of space. And cheaper ways to get into space.

In Rick Pearlstein's excellent book about the Goldwater movement, Before the Storm, he enjoys pointing out that the Goldwater family fortune originally came from selling supplies to the Army in Arizona. With the implication that this somehow undercut Goldwater's message of small government and free markets. I would reply, "So what?" Arizona could not have been settled without long tough military campaigns. That's the proper job of government. The difference was that everyone looked forward to the day when the Army could mostly leave, and the people get on with building a state.

Today's fake-liberals would look at the Army as a wedge, to start gathering more and more federal control of everything in Arizona. They look at everything as a wedge. "Never let a crisis go to waste."

[The picture has nothing to do with current happenings. It's an illustration by John Schoenherr, for the book Mission Of Gravity, by Hal Clement. Found here.]

Posted by John Weidner at 3:10 PM

May 28, 2012

“I claim we got a hell of a beating.”

This isn't precisely a Memorial Day-type blog-post, but I like it. From Jay Nordlinger, a letter from a reader:

...Dear Jay,

. . . My father told me something long ago. He was a war refugee, arriving from Hungary in late 1941. He settled in Boston and began a medical career. Shortly after moving to Boston, he went one night to the movies. A news reel was played. It featured General Stilwell making his famous comment, “I claim we got a hell of a beating.” The audience cheered.

Dad’s first reaction was sheer terror. He was sure the police would storm the theater and arrest the projectionist for showing the news reel, and the entire audience for cheering an American defeat. That most certainly would have happened in Admiral Horthy’s Hungary. But nothing happened, except that the movie was shown after the news reel.

At the end, there weren’t any police at the theater, and my dad went home relieved. But he was confused. In the following days, he thought a great deal about what had happened at the theater. Until that point, he was absolutely convinced that the Axis would win the war, and that someday the Wehrmacht would invade the U.S. The Germans had of course been winning everything up to then, and, to a newcomer like Dad, the U.S. in early 1942 did not seem strong or serious enough to resist the Germans.

But it finally occurred to him that we were in fact quite strong — far stronger than the Germans — and serious as well. General Stilwell’s full statement had been, “I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.” The cheering was in response to the call to get our act together and retake Burma.

Dad told me that from then on he never had any doubt about our eventual victory, or about how fortunate he was to have come to the U.S. when he did....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2012

Analogous to making more money by lowering the price of the product...

I thought this piece, Rethinking the War on Drugs - WSJ.com, was very interesting. I don't have any policy recommendations, but I'm glad people are thinking in new ways...

...Larry Long, a district court judge in South Dakota, developed one promising approach, called 24/7 Sobriety. Started in 2005, it requires people who commit alcohol-related crimes—originally just repeat offenders for drunken driving but now other offenders—to show up twice a day, every day, for a breathalyzer test as a condition of staying out of jail. If they fail to appear, or if the test shows they have been drinking, they go straight to jail for a day.

More than 99% of the time, they show up as ordered, sober. They can go to alcohol treatment, or not, as they choose; what they can't choose is to keep drinking. According to the state attorney general's office, some 20,000 South Dakotans have participated in 24/7 Sobriety (a large number for state with just 825,000 residents), and the program has made a big dent in rearrests for DUI.

By distinguishing sharply between people who use alcohol badly and the larger population of non-problem users, 24/7 Sobriety moves past the simple dichotomy of either banning a drug entirely or making it legal in unlimited quantities for all adults....

The interesting ting is that the penalty is minor--one day in jail! So there is no hesitation or difficulty in applying it.

...Having to call in every day to find out whether it is your day to be tested turns out to be powerful help in staying clean. As one probationer told a researcher, "Knowing I had to make that phone call the next morning ruined the high." Leighton Iles's Swift program in Texas has recorded equally impressive results, and there are promising pilot efforts with parolees in Seattle and Sacramento.

Substantial progress in suppressing the drug use of arrestees would be a great boon. It would deprive the illicit drug markets of their most valuable customers, which would, in turn, reduce violence in inner-city neighborhoods and take the pressure off Latin American countries now racked by drug dealing...
Posted by John Weidner at 12:29 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2012

Additional thought on the previous post...

...The Catholic way is not a life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, for their own sake. But a realization that the abundant life comes through death to self, true liberty comes through slavery to Christ and true happiness is really something called blessedness... ( -- Fr. Dwight Longenecker, quoted in my previous post.)

This makes me think that it was a big mistake on the part of the Founders to change the formula in the Declaration of Independence from its original draft, which was: "Life, liberty and property." "The pursuit of happiness" implies things that are outside the preview of government, and muddies the issue of what "rights" really are.

It occurs to me that this is also is an issue concerning the Information Age, which is my current obsession. Before the current era the "pursuit of happiness" would have implied much less extravagant things to most people than it does now. Back when it mostly meant having a family and a job and enough to get by on, it would not have looked like something that is the opposite of Christianity.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2011

"An alternative theory of the Depression"

I recommend this piece By Joseph E. Stiglitz, A Banking System is Supposed to Serve Society, Not the Other Way Around". Both as insight into the Great Depression, and the depression-like-thing we are in now. It's a thought-provoker...

...The trauma we're experiencing right now resembles the trauma we experienced 80 years ago, during the Great Depression, and it has been brought on by an analogous set of circumstances. Then, as now, we faced a breakdown of the banking system. But then, as now, the breakdown of the banking system was in part a consequence of deeper problems. Even if we correctly respond to the trauma—the failures of the financial sector—it will take a decade or more to achieve full recovery. Under the best of conditions, we will endure a Long Slump. If we respond incorrectly, as we have been, the Long Slump will last even longer, and the parallel with the Depression will take on a tragic new dimension...

...For the past several years, Bruce Greenwald and I have been engaged in research on an alternative theory of the Depression—and an alternative analysis of what is ailing the economy today. This explanation sees the financial crisis of the 1930s as a consequence not so much of a financial implosion but of the economy's underlying weakness. The breakdown of the banking system didn't culminate until 1933, long after the Depression began and long after unemployment had started to soar. By 1931 unemployment was already around 16 percent, and it reached 23 percent in 1932. Shantytown "Hoovervilles" were springing up everywhere. The underlying cause was a structural change in the real economy: the widespread decline in agricultural prices and incomes, caused by what is ordinarily a "good thing"—greater productivity.

At the beginning of the Depression, more than a fifth of all Americans worked on farms. Between 1929 and 1932, these people saw their incomes cut by somewhere between one-third and two-thirds, compounding problems that farmers had faced for years. Agriculture had been a victim of its own success. In 1900, it took a large portion of the U.S. population to produce enough food for the country as a whole. Then came a revolution in agriculture that would gain pace throughout the century—better seeds, better fertilizer, better farming practices, along with widespread mechanization. Today, 2 percent of Americans produce more food than we can consume...

...The cities weren't spared—far from it. As rural incomes fell, farmers had less and less money to buy goods produced in factories. Manufacturers had to lay off workers, which further diminished demand for agricultural produce, driving down prices even more. Before long, this vicious circle affected the entire national economy.

The value of assets (such as homes) often declines when incomes do. Farmers got trapped in their declining sector and in their depressed locales. Diminished income and wealth made migration to the cities more difficult; high urban unemployment made migration less attractive. Throughout the 1930s, in spite of the massive drop in farm income, there was little overall out-migration. Meanwhile, the farmers continued to produce, sometimes working even harder to make up for lower prices. Individually, that made sense; collectively, it didn't, as any increased output kept forcing prices down...

...Government [war] spending unintentionally solved the economy's underlying problem: it completed a necessary structural transformation, moving America, and especially the South, decisively from agriculture to manufacturing. Americans tend to be allergic to terms like "industrial policy," but that's what war spending was—a policy that permanently changed the nature of the economy. Massive job creation in the urban sector—in manufacturing—succeeded in moving people out of farming. The supply of food and the demand for it came into balance again: farm prices started to rise. The new migrants to the cities got training in urban life and factory skills, and after the war the G.I. Bill ensured that returning veterans would be equipped to thrive in a modern industrial society. Meanwhile, the vast pool of labor trapped on farms had all but disappeared. The process had been long and very painful, but the source of economic distress was gone...

The current problem is similar, according to the authors. Now we have too many people in a declining industrial sector, who need to move with the jobs to the service sector. (I don't think industrial output is declining, rather industry needs fewer people.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 PM

December 13, 2011

The Blue Model

I've referred often to Walter Russell Mead's concept of the Blue Model. But I don't think I've ever blogged his original post wherein he explains it. So I'm putting the link and an excerpt here, just so I can easily find it when I need it. It's definitely worth reading; its explanatory power is great.

American Challenges: The Blue Model Breaks Down:

...it is sometimes hard to believe, but out there in the workaday world the long and graceful decay of the American social model is accelerating into a more rapid and dangerous decline.  The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don't work anymore, and the gaps between the social system we've inherited and the system we need today are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper them over or ignore them.

In the old system, both blue collar and white collar workers hold stable jobs, a professional career civil service administers a growing state, with living standards for all social classes steadily rising while the gaps between the classes remain fairly stable, and with an increasing 'social dividend' being paid out in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks and so on.  Graduate from high school and you were pretty much guaranteed lifetime employment in a job that gave you a comfortable lower middle class lifestyle; graduate from college and you would be better paid and equally secure.

Life would just go on getting better.  From generation to generation we would live a life of incremental improvements -- the details of life would keep getting better but the broad outlines of our society would stay the same.  The advanced industrial democracies of had in fact reached the 'end of history': this is what 'developed' human society looked like and there would be no more radical changes because the picture had fully developed.

Call this the blue model, and the chief division in American politics today is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable. That division is going to begin to erode in the next few years because the blue model is breaking down so fast and so far that not even its supporters can ignore the disintegration and disaster that it entails....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

December 8, 2011

"The oldest battle in our political history"

Walter Russell Mead, The Age of Hamilton:

...As we gear up for 2012 and beyond, American attention is increasingly returning to the oldest battle in our political history: the battle between the Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians that split George Washington's cabinet down the middle and established our first party system.

That fight was essentially over three things that divide us intensely today: the role of the federal government, the nature of the credit system, and the future of the social hierarchy.  Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government at home and abroad, a centralized credit system similar to the British one with a Bank of the United States acting as our central bank, and believed that the best educated and most widely experienced people in the United States constituted a natural aristocracy and should play the leading role in our politics.

Thomas Jefferson disagreed with virtually everything Hamilton believed.  He wanted a weak federal government, detested Hamilton's banking system, and feared that the alliance of a social elite with a powerful government and a strong central bank would turn the US into a European-style aristocratic or monarchical society.

Bipartisan Establishment, meet Mr. Tea Party. The disagreement between these two men continued to reverberate down the years.  John Quincy Adams, Nicholas Biddle, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln sided with Hamilton up through the Civil War.  Presidents Madison and Monroe followed Jefferson, more or less; so in his own irascible way did Andrew Jackson.  The Southern Confederacy tried to write Hamilton out of the constitution when it modified the Philadelphia document to serve the rebel government....

My off-the-top-of-my-head response is that I think the Information Age is going to trend more Jeffersonian. Industrial Age organizations were characterized by top-down management by "the few," because they needed these to manage the flow of information, which was done mostly by moving pieces of paper around. The Information Age will be characterized by smaller, more informal organizations, and by more opportunities for outsiders to route around elites.

And credit systems will probably not be controlled centrally, just because they have already become too complex and protean to be even understood by any central control. My suggestion is that the only regulation be the requirement that a certain percentage of all financial instruments be held by the people and companies that issue them. That would make them self-regulating.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2011

"The abject lawlessness and contempt for humanity of the Marxist Obama regime..."

I have nothing to add to this. It speaks for itself all too well...

Ann Barnhardt:

...Dear Clients, Industry Colleagues and Friends of Barnhardt Capital Management,

It is with regret and unflinching moral certainty that I announce that Barnhardt Capital Management has ceased operations. After six years of operating as an independent introducing brokerage, and eight years of employment as a broker before that, I found myself, this morning, for the first time since I was 20 years old, watching the futures and options markets open not as a participant, but as a mere spectator.

The reason for my decision to pull the plug was excruciatingly simple: I could no longer tell my clients that their monies and positions were safe in the futures and options markets – because they are not. And this goes not just for my clients, but for every futures and options account in the United States. The entire system has been utterly destroyed by the MF Global collapse. Given this sad reality, I could not in good conscience take one more step as a commodity broker, soliciting trades that I knew were unsafe or holding funds that I knew to be in jeopardy.

The futures markets are very highly-leveraged and thus require an exceptionally firm base upon which to function. That base was the sacrosanct segregation of customer funds from clearing firm capital, with additional emergency financial backing provided by the exchanges themselves. Up until a few weeks ago, that base existed, and had worked flawlessly. Firms came and went, with some imploding in spectacular fashion. Whenever a firm failure happened, the customer funds were intact and the exchanges would step in to backstop everything and keep customers 100% liquid – even as their clearing firm collapsed and was quickly replaced by another firm within the system.

Everything changed just a few short weeks ago. A firm, led by a crony of the Obama regime, stole all of the non-margined cash held by customers of his firm. Let's not sugar-coat this or make this crime seem "complex" and "abstract" by drowning ourselves in six-dollar words and uber-technical jargon. Jon Corzine STOLE the customer cash at MF Global. Knowing Jon Corzine, and knowing the abject lawlessness and contempt for humanity of the Marxist Obama regime and its cronies, this is not really a surprise. What was a surprise was the reaction of the exchanges and regulators. Their reaction has been to take a bad situation and make it orders of magnitude worse. Specifically, they froze customers out of their accounts WHILE THE MARKETS CONTINUED TO TRADE, refusing to even allow them to liquidate. This is unfathomable. The risk exposure precedent that has been set is completely intolerable and has destroyed the entire industry paradigm. No informed person can continue to engage these markets, and no moral person can continue to broker or facilitate customer engagement in what is now a massive game of Russian Roulette.

I have learned over the last week that MF Global is almost certainly the mere tip of the iceberg. There is massive industry-wide exposure to European sovereign junk debt. While other firms may not be as heavily leveraged as Corzine had MFG leveraged, and it is now thought that MFG's leverage may have been in excess of 100:1, they are still suicidally leveraged and will likely stand massive, unmeetable collateral calls in the coming days and weeks as Europe inevitably collapses. I now suspect that the reason the Chicago Mercantile Exchange did not immediately step in to backstop the MFG implosion was because they knew and know that if they backstopped MFG, they would then be expected to backstop all of the other firms in the system when the failures began to cascade – and there simply isn't that much money in the entire system. In short, the problem is a SYSTEMIC problem, not merely isolated to one firm...

(There's more, if you can stomach it.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:22 AM

September 7, 2011

Protest against "vanillafication of the planet"

Willis Eschenbach, Frozen Global Warming Research:

I liked this conclusion to an interesting piece...

... From some of the comments below, it's clear that�my eco-felony in writing this is admitting to feeling "schadenfreude", which means taking pleasure in your opponents misfortunes. It's one of those emotions that everyone has, but nobody is supposed to admit they have. What, you never laughed when irony overtook your opponent? And you gotta admit, global warming research cancelled because of too much ice? That's funny anywhere.

I'm no different than the rest in relishing life's ironic turns, except for the fact that I'm willing to admit that I'm not PC (politically correct) in the slightest, and to take the inevitable heat for saying so. Consider it my small protest at the ongoing vanillafication of the planet.

Well, I doubt if vanillafication can be halted, short of giant meteorite impacts. But I'll do what I can.

The actual article is about how the Swedes have been loaning us their giant icebreaker "Oden" during their summer, for use in supporting our research stations in the Antarctic. The problem is, too much ice in Sweden. They can't spare their icebreaker. So all those science johnnys studying global warming in the Antarctic are being frozen out. Ha ha. Schadenfreude warms my heart.

Well, it's the only cheer I have. Now we are begging the Russians for an icebreaker. Enjoy it, "liberals." You've humbled America, that's what you wanted.

RELATED, this is something that gives me maximum bitterness... Somebody once wrote that "Liberals want America weak and government strong." That pretty much sums it up. Read on about how the fake "scientists" of the NSF have destroyed our icebreaker fleet... God how I hate this kind of evil...

CHANGE OF PLANS. I'll make this a post of its own. It's the tiny tiny least morsel I can do, to express the furious anger that consumes me. A friend recently chided me, for not deploying my subtle understated humor of yore. Well, sorry. Screw it, that's really hard work, for no gain. If I could do some good, I'd crawl across broken glass to achieve it. But all I can do is vent.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 PM

August 11, 2011

Verdict not yet rendered...

Krauthammer:

We're in the midst of a great four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract between citizen and state. The distinctive visions of the two parties — social-democratic vs. limited-government — have underlain every debate on every issue since Barack Obama's inauguration: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, health-care reform, financial regulation, deficit spending. Everything. The debt ceiling is but the latest focus of this fundamental divide.

The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not that Washington is broken, that ridiculous ubiquitous cliche. The problem is that these two visions are in competition, and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.

We're only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 that he took as a mandate to transform America toward European-style social democracy. The subsequent counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of November 2012.

I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House....

Well, that's how our Constitution was written. The idea was that a temporary fad or frenzy could not result in hasty changes. You might reply that that's exactly what happened in 2008. But that was a very unusual situation. And even with Dems suddenly holding the White House and massive majorities in both houses, it's interesting how little they were actually able to pass. And Obamacare itself was only pushed through with legislative trickery. And they are still relying on back-door ways such as EPA regulations to create laws they can't pass.

Plus, 2008 was tied to the one big issue that our Constitution has never been quite able to deal with--slavery and its legacy. To put it in terms of the 70-Year Cycle, the first cycle started with ignoring the issue of slavery so as too contentious to touch during the founding, the second with the Civil War, the third with the battle to end segregation.

Now we are starting the fourth cycle with the first black president, and through him the exposure of the utter bankruptcy of third cycle ideas. That should clear the decks for the next big civil rights fight, which I suspect will be over education.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM

July 25, 2011

Thoughts for Hale Adams...

Hale Adams is in a foul mood, which is always good for the creative juices! Me, I'm in a pretty cranky mood too, and for some of the same reasons. This is a hasty answer to a comment he posted here. (Other comments deserve answers, but this may use up my limited amount of time and energy--sorry.)

Um, John, maybe it's you who should think. How does the State allowing gays and lesbians to enter into a marriage contract make you and Charlene any less married? How are the two of you injured?

That wasn't my point at all, but yes, we are "less married." We have invested the bulk of of what we are and possess in an institution, and now the terms of the contract are being downgraded. In libertarian terms, it might be like spending all your money to join an exclusive club, and then having the government say that other people must be admitted for free.

The State has to define marriage because it is, in its civil aspects, a partnership.

No, the state has never even considered doing that until recent decades. It merely adumbrated the tradition of all of Western Civilization. Likewise, the early Republican opposition to Mormon polygamy was really saying: "No, you cannot change the definition of marriage."

Now, I understand your impulse to say "Ick!" at the idea of gay marriage. But what two consenting adults do in private ain't my business or yours. If those two consenting adults are doing something the Church doesn't like, and they are members of the Church, then the Church has the duty to impose discipline.

You insult me. I'm talking ideas, not "Ick!"

If they aren't members of the Church, the Church can certainly say its piece, but it doesn't get to use the power of the State to impose any kind of penalty on them. Allowing the Church to impose such penalties, or to prohibit the conduct outright only gives power to the Church, "power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way," if I may hurl your words back at you.

If this was a case of "the Church" as a human institution coming up with a rule or discipline and imposing it on people using the power of the state, I'd agree with you. I don't think you should be forced to eat fish on Friday! But that's not the issue here. The theory is that God defined marriage. (And just FYI, he didn't define it in the sense of an arbitrary rule; rather, this is an expression of the moral law woven into the fabric of the Universe, and even God can't change it unless he abandons his character as the Divine Lawgiver.)

So, why should a libertarian care? I'd answer, "In what sense do we have rights?" The founders wrote: "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Do you believe that that's true? I assume not. So do we have "rights?" Our country is founded on the that rights are "unalienable." That means they CANNOT be taken away. A tyrannical government can deny you the enjoyment of them, but they still exist, and always will.

In the libertarian worldview, I suspect, we do not have any rights. Not in that sense. Humans can pass a law that says we have such-and-such a "right," but next year other humans can repeal that law. That's why I tend to say the libertarianism is a form of liberalism. Liberalism is always, on a deep level, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, without reference to fixed landmarks outside our system.

Our founding fathers explicitly rejected this. As John Adams put it, "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament..." And they also wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Which is to say, you can't get there by human powers of reason. You just have to dig it. (And this is exactly what I mean by a "fixed landmark.")

That, I think, is the crux, for any American in politics. That's what really bugs me about Gov. Perry's statement. (Thank you Hale for stimulating me to ponder this.) He is rejecting the essence of our American system, without thinking! Our system rests on the idea of God as the Divine Lawgiver. Our rights exist in exactly the same way that the ancient theory of Judeo-Christian marriage exists. Our Bill of Rights is just a local and human instantiation of moral laws that are baked into the structure of the universe. Human rights and the definition of marriage stand or fall on the same theory.

I think Perry is a good example of what I consider a fundamental rule: Your "philosophy" is the most important part of your mental equipment, because if it is not rock-solid, sooner or later you will be swept away by the world's torrents of fad and fancy and change.

I won't go into the rest of your comment, which I mostly agree with. As the old saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Fortunately our younger priests are a lot more solid than the baby-boomers in charge now. So time may improve things a bit.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:00 PM

July 5, 2011

Quagmires various...

Walter Russell Mead:

President Lyndon Johnson and the "best and the brightest" who staffed his administration led this country into three quagmires. By far the most famous, but perhaps not the most expensive and dangerous resulted from LBJ's escalation of the Vietnam War. More than 50,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died as a result of that policy; our country was bitterly divided in ways that still weaken us today, and the economic cost of the war was immense. It contributed to the wave of inflation that shook the country in the 1970s and in addition to the interest on the debt from this ill-starred venture we are still paying (as we certainly should) pensions and medical costs for the vets and their spouses.

The Second Great Johnson Quagmire now destroying the nation is the Medicare/Medicaid complex. These entitlement programs are the biggest single financial problem we face. They dwarf all the Bush-Obama wars; they make TARP look like small change. They not only cost money we don't have — and are scheduled to cost inexorably more until they literally ruin the nation — they have distorted our entire health system into the world's most bloated and expensive monstrosity. Thanks to these programs, we have a health system that marries the greed of the private sector to the ineptitude of government, and unless we can somehow tame these beasts America and everything it stands for could be lost. (Note, please, that by comparison Social Security can be relatively easily reformed to be solvent for the next 75 years. The New Deal, whatever its shortcomings, was almost infinitely more realistic and sustainable than the Great Society.)

But that is a subject for another day. The third Johnson Quagmire is the War on Poverty, and specifically the attempt to treat inner city poverty primarily as a racial problem. After the Medicare/Medicaid catastrophe the single greatest policy failure of modern America is urban policy. ...

In the Seventy-Year Cycle theory of American politics something like this was to be expected. The first generation of the cycle was raised in the previous cycle, and is grounded and limited by it. (In this case the New Dealers.) The second generation was raised amidst the successes of the first generation, and imagine that the sky's the limit. Johnson and his cohorts were youths during the Roosevelt era, and became drunk on the possibilities they saw...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 PM

May 26, 2011

"A false sense of separation"

'We Don't Ask Your Sons and Daughters to Die on Our Soil' - By David French - The Corner - National Review Online:

...Serving a year in Iraq's Diayala Province with the 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, I was exposed to our jihadist enemy at close range. I saw their tactics, I learned their mindset, and we all experienced their absolute depravity. In conversations with Israelis who've been on the front lines of their own fight with Hamas and Hezbollah, the same themes and tactics emerge.

"We would track them and as they ran, they'd grab children by the arms and pull them along for protection."

"They traveled in ambulances, and fired out the back."

"Their weapons are hidden in mosques and they put missiles in the courtyards of schools."

And, most haunting of all:

"My friends died protecting Palestinian civilians, while their whole purpose is to kill our women and children."

Yet again and again we treat the "Israeli-Palestinian" conflict as if it is separate and apart from our own war against jihadists. We tell ourselves that Israel's conflict can be solved by the right signatures on the right pieces of paper when we hold no similar illusions for our own wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, we understand that the only prelude to real peace is victory over the jihadists. But when it comes to the Israelis, president after president — Republican and Democrat — works to stay Israel's hand.

Why the difference? Perhaps one answer can be found in the title of this post. In a particularly memorable meeting, a high-ranking official was describing Israel's friendship with America, and he added: "We don't ask your sons and daughters to die on our soil. We believe we can and should defend ourselves with our own soldiers. Your soldiers are in Europe, in Japan, in Korea, and elsewhere in the Middle East, but not here."

While this fierce independence has spared American presidents from making hard decisions regarding American lives, perhaps it has also created a false sense of separation. Without that shared sacrifice and shared experience we fail to understand our common enemy....

I've heard conservatives say we should support Israel because they are "reliable allies." Or because we should support free and tolerant countries. All true, but that's not the reason. Israel is us. It was founded by very ordinary people with an extra-ordinary dream. Pioneers who fled from under the control of European elites, and carved out a new nation from a wilderness, under the attacks of savages.

We can no more not defend Israel, than we can not defend Alaska.

Australia is somewhat similar, but they only separated from Britain in the 20th century. Their defining moment was a war fought for the crown, not against it!

* Update: Walter Russell Mead:

...Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.

It means more. The existence of Israel means that the God of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race. For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted.

Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith. Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don't 'get' Israel also don't 'get' America and don't 'get' God. Obama's political isolation on this issue, and the haste with which liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi left the embattled President to take the heat alone, testify to the pervasive sense in American politics that Israel is an American value. Said the Minority Leader to the Prime Minister: "I think it's clear that both sides of the Capitol believe you advance the cause of peace."...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 AM

May 1, 2011

Atheists demand Affirmative Action...

This is just a quick fisking of some sloppy or fallacious arguments. But the real counter-argument is that the authors are sociologists. They are pleading for tolerance of their atheism, but there isn't any sociology department in the country (except maybe in religious colleges) that is tolerant of conservatives or theists. And you will notice that the authors never suggest that respectful debate is of any interest to them. Or seem to have any personal acquaintance with the other side...

Why do Americans still dislike atheists? - The Washington Post:

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don't like much: atheists. [Category error. These things are simply not equivalent. Atheism is a philosophy, none of the others are.] Those who don't believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can't join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently "spiritual" in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens. [Strawman argument. Actually, the more thoughtful of conservative critics present clear arguments FOR the benefits of religious belief on people and societies. None of which you have answered.]

Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

A growing body of social science [Most of which is done by atheists] research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights [This is a bullshit argument, since you've made your own list of what constitutes morality, and then: surprise! You discover you are moral. ] — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, [Only when YOU get to decide what is "ethical." ] particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious. [This paragraph is a very good argument for forcing "diversity" (diversity of thought, that is) on sociology departments. These fools have obviously never been forced to defend their ideas in debate. They are pampered pets that can't survive out in the jungle! ]
Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon. [Bogus. Japan and Sweden are DYING, you fools. Both of them are in demographic collapse. As are ALL the post-religious states. Your atheism KILLED THEM.]

As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. [A bullshit argument, because only high-scoring types take the trouble to define themselves as atheists. The world is thick with stupid atheists, but they don't talk about it.]They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. [Wrong. I live in San Francisco, I know these people, and they are close-minded and fearful. They can't even CONSIDER conservative or Christian ideas. And try to give them a scientific argument against Man-made Global Warming... Ha ha.] They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are, and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. [By what authority do you say "nationalistic or ethnocentric" are inferior? Your own, of course. And even if one accepts your list, who defines the terms? You do.] They value freedom of thought. [Try defending Sarah Palin in the sociology department, and you will discover how much atheists value freedom of thought. ]

While many studies show that secular Americans don't fare as well as the religious when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being, new scholarship is showing that the relationships among atheism, theism, and mental health and well-being are complex. [Obfuscation by reference to un-named "studies." What's your divorce rate, sociology boy? ] After all, Denmark, which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently rates as the happiest of nations. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier, better and liberated in their post-religious lives. [As judged by... themselves.]

Nontheism isn't all balloons and ice cream. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among the non-religious. But surveys indicating that religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include among the non-religious fence-sitters who are as likely to believe in God, whereas atheists who are more convinced are doing about as well as devout believers. On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America. [They have the REAL social ill; they are DEAD. Nobody goes to Germany for exciting ideas, or Sweden for new philosophies. Nobody is worried that Japan or France will become economic colossi. The EU will not launch private spacecraft. No Reagans or Palins or Tea Parties will arise in Italy or Spain. Or San Francisco. The secularist parrot is dead. ]

More than 2,000 years ago, whoever wrote Psalm 14 claimed that atheists were foolish and corrupt, incapable of doing any good. These put-downs have had sticking power. Negative stereotypes of atheists are alive and well. Yet like all stereotypes, they aren't true — and perhaps they tell us more about those who harbor them than those who are maligned by them. So when the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich engage in the politics of division and destruction by maligning atheists, they do so in disregard of reality. [A good example of a lying atheist, since those people do NOT malign atheists. Show us an example!]

As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Younger generations' tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers. Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities. [Atheism is a philosophy, so it is not analogous to minority groups. And for a philosophy, respect of means being willing to debate. To suggest that a philosophy should be exempt from criticism, in the way we often think blacks should not be criticized, is to admit that it is either weak, or perhaps harmful. If the authors really wanted respect for their beliefs they we be saying, "Bring on your strongest criticism, and we will defeat it!" ]

Gregory Paul is an independent researcher in sociology and evolution. Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College, is the author of "Society Without God."
Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM

March 29, 2011

"New York State has succeeded in creating the most hostile environment for Blacks in the country."

Walter Russell Mead's Blog:

...Two milestones in the long, painful decline of the blue social model were reached this week and reported, of all places, in the pages of the very éminence grise of the monde bleu: the New York Times.

The first was a piece of national and historical news: The Census reported that waves of blue state blacks fled the stagnant job opportunities, high taxes and rotten social conditions of the mostly blue northern states to seek better lives for themselves in the south. The second milestone was local and literary: Bob Herbert, for many years the only regular Black columnist on the New York Times' op-ed page, has written his last column before stepping down.

The Census story is a shocker. First, according to the Times, the Blacks leaving tend to be the "younger and better educated". Second, the three states Blacks left in largest numbers don't just include snake-bit Michigan; the other two are Illinois and New York. Within those states, Chicago and the city of the New York (widely considered among the most successful cities in the country) are the places Blacks are deserting. 17 percent of the Black flight from Big Blue is from the Empire State; after almost a century of trailblazing social policy, New York State has succeeded in creating the most hostile environment for Blacks in the country.

It gets worse. One would think that the Blacks who choose to stay in the cold, unwelcoming North would cluster in the cities where more liberal and humane governance models mandate such generous policies as "living wage" laws and where all the beautiful features of the blue social model can be experienced at full strength...


...The failure of blue social policy to create an environment which works for Blacks is the most devastating possible indictment of the 20th century liberal enterprise in the United States. Helping Blacks achieve the kind of equality and opportunity long denied them was more than one of many justifications for blue social policy: it was the defining moral task that has challenged and shaped American liberalism for the last fifty years....

In my more cynical moments I suspect that the civil rights movement was never about helping blacks. It was about liberals getting power. AND, something even more intoxicating than power--the opportunity to feel superior!

And of course big-government/socialistic policies always tend to destroy the poor and give power to the intelligentsia.

This is also interesting from the perspective of the 70-year cycle. Every 70 year period in American politics has been partly defined by the question of race. In the first we tried to let the question sleep--that was a compromise that made the Revolution possible. The second 70 years was the Civil War and Republican dominance afterwards. The third was of Democrat dominance, with the civil rights movement as a center piece. In the fourth, now begun, a great civil rights theme will be education, and breaking the stranglehold of the Corrupt teachers unions and corrupt Democrats that make so many inner-city schools hell-holes that destroy the very minorities the Left claims to care about.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:27 PM

January 17, 2011

That Old Time Religion...

Just for fun, a couple of snippets from David Gelernter's essay, Americanism—and Its Enemies:
...Americanism is potent stuff. It is every bit as fervent and passionate a religion as the anti-Americanism it challenges and rebukes.

That Americanism is a religion is widely agreed. G.K. Chesterton called America "the nation with the soul of a church." But Americanism is not (contrary to the views of many people who use these terms loosely) a "secular" or a "civil" religion. No mere secular ideology, no mere philosophical belief, could possibly have inspired the intensities of hatred and devotion that Americanism has. Americanism is in fact a Judeo-Christian religion; a millenarian religion; a biblical religion. Unlike England's "official" religion, embodied in the Anglican church, America's has been incorporated into all the Judeo-Christian religions in the nation.

Does that make it impossible to believe in a secular Americanism? Can you be an agnostic or atheist or Buddhist or Muslim and a believing American too? In each case the answer is yes. But to accomplish that feat is harder than most people realize. The Bible is not merely the fertile soil that brought Americanism forth. It is the energy source that makes it live and thrive; that makes believing Americans willing to prescribe freedom, equality, and democracy even for a place like Afghanistan, once regarded as perhaps the remotest region on the face of the globe. If you undertake to remove Americanism from its native biblical soil, you had better connect it to some other energy source potent enough to keep its principles alive and blooming...

...I believe that Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism. This new religion was the end-stage of Puritanism: Puritanism realized among God's self-proclaimed "new" chosen people—or, in Abraham Lincoln's remarkable phrase, God's "almost chosen people."...

...Although historians often skip over this point, Truman's world-view centered on the Bible nearly to the extent Lincoln's had. By his own account, he had read through the Bible three times by age fourteen; he read it through seven times more during the years of his presidency. It shaped his understanding of the American enterprise. Truman makes this remarkable comment in his Memoirs: "What came about in Philadelphia in 1776 really had its beginning in Hebrew times."..."

I myself think Americanism had it's beginnings in the the influence of Catholic faith on certain Germanics tribe—Angles, Saxons, who knows—in the Dark Ages. The American Revolution was fought for "The Rights of Englishmen." Which is a concept that was old when Magna Carta was written. Western Civilization is a mysterious amalgam of Greco-Roman civilization, barbarian tribes, and Christian faith—(which was still purely Catholic Faith).

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

January 6, 2011

"Conditioned by the fashion of the day."

From Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's famous 1978 commencement address at Harvard:

....Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life.

There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events....

"...his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him." I don't think things have improved much since '78, but at least the media monopoly has been broken, and the "mainstream media" are pretty much on the ash-heap of history.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:05 PM

December 21, 2010

Todays snippet...

Victor Davis Hanson:

I think the American people are not only scared of collective state and national debt, but sick of it as well. I mean by that abhorrence in the psychological sense—of reading that their governments are broke, of seeing public fraud and waste daily, of realizing that as they pay down their own private debts after 2007, so too they believe their governments could as well. Solvency has now become a matter of national pride....

Amen, brother!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:18 PM

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

October 9, 2010

When shall we descry this new republic struggling to be born?

Glenn Reynolds just re-linked to this excellent 2009 article by James V. DeLong, The Coming of the Fourth American Republic. I initially noticed this...

...Shift the angle of vision and the continuity is less clear, because we have had two upheavals so sweeping that the institutional arrangements under which we now operate can fairly be classified as the Third American Republic. Furthermore, this Third Republic is teetering (these things seem to run in cycles of about 70 years) and is on the edge of giving way to a revised Fourth Republic with arrangements as yet murky to our present-bound perceptions....[my emphasis]

At one point I was writing about how the dominance of political parties in our country seems to last just about 70 years. (Link.) As I recall most of my readers pooh-poohed the idea, but I still think what I wrote was pretty good.

DeLong's point is broader. The parties become dominant because they embody new institutional arrangements. The Republicans created and were the second republic, after the Civil War...

...The later historians of the New Deal and the Great Society sneered that the idea of "laissez faire" was an abdication of governmental responsibility, but this was propaganda. The best translation of the term is the activist "let us do," not the passive "let us be," and the societal quid pro quo was dynamic economic expansion, not the easy life of the rentier. To a large degree, the ideology of laissez faire was designed to protect interstate commerce from rentiers in the form of government officials extorting payments...

And the third, which we are in now. Begun with the New Deal, and embodied by the Dems...

...It is this combination of plenary government power combined with the seizure of its levers by special interests that constitutes the polity of the current Third American Republic. The influence of "faction" and its control had been a concern since the founding of the nation, but it took the New Deal and its acolytes to decide that control of governmental turf by special interests was a feature, not a bug, a supposedly healthy part of democratic pluralism.

And so the Special Interest State expanded, blessed by the intelligentsia. And it feeds on itself; the larger and more complex the government becomes, the higher the costs of monitoring it. This means that no one without a strong interest in a particular area can afford to keep track, which leaves the turf to the beneficiaries. And as existing interests dig in to defend their turf, new interests require continuing expansions of governmental activity to stake a claim on...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM

October 2, 2010

Good point....

Immigration and the Tea Party - By Mark Krikorian - The Corner - National Review Online:

...But her main focus was the rule of law, illegal-bad/legal-good — not surprising, since that's sort of the default position on the right, but it's not going to prove adequate in the long run. I'm speaking at the Tea Party Patriots convention in Richmond next week, and I'm going to make the point I made in my Broadside — large-scale immigration (legal or illegal, permanent or "temporary") into a modern society necessarily translates into larger government, not just because it imports disproportionately statist voters but because it shapes society in ways that make statist solutions more plausible to non-immigrant voters — increasing the ranks of the uninsured and the poor, increasing income inequality, increasing diversity (which Putnam has shown results in the retreat of civil society), even increasing density (since more people in the same space almost by definition will result in more government).

We need to acknowledge, but then move past, illegal-bad/legal-good — because whatever your concern, the level of total immigration is the main issue....

It's probably fruitless to even mention such things, but the focus of any immigration debate should be, "What kind of country are we?" And "What kind of country do we want to become?"

Leftist types hate that kind of thinking (and call it racist) because they hate the thought that there are countries or cultures that are superior to others. Because that implies that members of a superior culture should feel loyalty and duty towards it. Should believe. Believe in something bigger than ones self. And that they hate, because, as I've said too often, most of them are nihilists who believe in nothing higher than themselves. A nihilist hates belief.

"Multiculturalism" is intended for the same purpose; to erase the idea (and existence) of superior cultures. And the obviously unwise European immigration policies that have resulted in large unassimilable Muslim populations are also intended to destroy a superior culture. The culture of Western Christendom. And, by extension, Christianity itself. I've read of British politicians who protested against this folly, and who were pilloried as "racists," and driven out of public life.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:17 AM

September 22, 2010

amazin' idiocy...

Dahlia Lithwick:

I have been fascinated by Christine O'Donnell's constitutional worldview since her debate with her opponent Chris Coons last week. O'Donnell explained that "when I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional." How weird is that, I thought. Isn't it a court's job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional? And isn't that sort of provided for in, well, the Constitution? ...

Actually, the Constitution has always belonged to all of us. The idea that deciding whether something is "constitutional" belongs only to the Supreme Court is a recent innovation. In many ways it is part of the toxic fallout of the civil rights movement. Power-drunk liberals have relentlessly pushed the line that the court is an assembly of demigods, blessed with superior wisdom and the power to legislate beyond the sordid failings of democracy. and have held up decisions like Brown as oracular.

I spit upon the idea with the utmost contempt. There is nothing about this in the Constitution itself or the words of the founders. I fear the other branches have been lazy and cowardly, and allowed their natural powers to be eroded.

Of course even with a more conventional view of Constitutional Law, Lithwick's remark is still silly. It is political amorality, similar to saying that I can steal anything I want, and it's the police's job to stop me...

* Update: John at Power Line, referring to the same quote...

...This is a useful reminder that a dumb conservative is smarter than a smart liberal....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 PM

September 20, 2010

Real people do stupid things in high school...

I like this post by Lexington Green, Witchcraft as a Class Signifier:

...The smug people who run the mainstream media have lived their lives in a cocoon. I imagine them all spending their squeaky clean, college-focused, uptight, upper-middle-class teenage lives worrying about their SAT scores and living in terror of hurting their chances of getting into an Ivy.

Millions of other people spend those same years working after school changing the oil in the deep-fryer, getting demerits and doing detention, taking drugs, dealing drugs, smoking cigarettes, getting drunk in the woods, getting in fights, listening to loud music, getting pulled over for driving Dad's car too fast, driving on the back of their boyfriends' motorcycles without a helmet, throwing up in the bushes, getting arrested at a loud party for lipping off to the cops, getting screamed at by their (single) Mom when they showed up home at 2:00 a.m., and so on. Some of them end up in prison. But most of them turn out OK, anyway....

I've known some little high school over-achievers who are going off to a "good" college to study journalism. That's just too too crazy to me. Maybe because I still have an interior picture of the journalist reporter as a hard-drinking chain-smoking working-class guy burning up shoe leather to get stories about murders and sports and political scandals.

The thought of a prissy journalist is just too stupid for words.

And as for prissy politicians, Lex writes...

...I suppose we will have to always have Senators who are clenched, careerist, smooth, zero defect people with their memorized talking points and brittle hair and a phony laugh, who are comfortable with wealthy lobbyists and the protocols of places where the people with big money spend their time. That whole insider schtick makes them "electable." It is also boring and pathetic. And it is not what most of America is all about. For now, these guys own the place. And they are supposed to be wicked smart. Just ask them. But they are doing a piss poor job. They may not be dumb, but they have botched things anyway. They have dug a multi-trillion dollar hole they expect the rest of us to dig out of.

You could not do much worse even if you were praying to Satan the whole time...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:21 AM

September 8, 2010

Moving into into unexplored terrain...

Walter Russell Mead, Buck Up, America:

...And there's something else.

The problems we face today are urgent and complex, but they are not the problems of failure. We are suffering the consequences of success.

We are not like Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, or dozens of other countries who are struggling with the consequences of decades and even centuries of failures to keep up with a changing world. America's failures are the failures of a country on the cutting edge.

Countries like China and India are doing some amazing things, but they are playing catch-up. They are trying to get where we are, while the United States is moving forward into unexplored terrain. They are building industrial societies; we are seeing what comes next. They have a clear idea of the target in mind: a country where people are as rich as Americans. Our quest is different — harder, but perhaps also more rewarding.

We aren't trying to recreate somebody else's achievement or to replicate an already existing model. We are trying to do something new and different — we are making up a new kind of society as we go along. The challenges of America's today are the challenges of everyone else's tomorrow. We were the first "Fordist" society, where mass affluence was built on mass production in the factories of the twentieth century. We are now trying to be the first successful post-Fordist society, trying to work out a way to have a prosperous country that depends on something other than mass employment in manufacturing....

We are mostly suffering the consequences of moving from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Especially the problem that government and quasi-governmental institutions have not made the transition, and have become cancerous, growing at a rate that will certainly kill the body. (I wrote more here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 PM

September 6, 2010

Cultural Elite...

I'd missed this piece by Victor Davis Hanson from July. (Thanks to Stephen Browne.) It's full of truths... Pity the Postmodern Cultural Elite:

...In short, money, privilege, and status create in the cultural elite both a fear of mixing it up with others that might jeopardize position and placement, and yet guilt for that very sense of entitlement and exemption. All that, in turn, only heightens the shrill and sanctimonious rhetorical demands on less blessed others to prove their morality.

Barack Obama was a genius in recognizing all this, and at a very early age no less. The subtext of Dreams from My Father, and indeed Obama's life from 18 to 45, was to allay elite fears, guilt, and suspicions. And by proving to be a calm, charismatic, minority wannabe fellow elite — who could ipso facto offer instant penance for rather isolated and shamed cultural elites — Obama in return grasped that the rules simply would not apply to him (elites having few real unchanging principles and values): graduate admission without commensurate grades and test scores (their release to the public could in theory prove my hypothesis wrong), law review without a paper trail, teaching and offers of tenure at law schools without normal publication, community organizing without worry of tangible results, running for office without repercussions from tawdry attacks ranging from suing to invalidate petitions to leaking divorce records....
Also...
...Today's male's voice is often far more feminine than that of 50 years ago. Sort of whiney, sort of nasally, sort of fussy. Being overexact, sighing, artificially pausing, all that seems part of the new elite parlance. In terms of vocabulary, the absolute ("he's no damn good," "she's a coward," "he ran the business to hell") is avoided. Pejoratives and swearing resemble adolescent temper tantrums rather than threats that might well presage violence.

In other words, sexuality, sex roles, and gender differences sound as if they are less distinct among the elite. The old notion has long passed that a no-nonsense mom of 50 or so, in sizing up a daughter's suitor or potential son-in-law, would mark the sound of his voice, its modulation, tone, and expression. And who any more would take a look at the boy's shoulders in comparison to his behind, the texture of his hands, whether he looked Mom in the eye or not, whether he opened doors or charged in first, whether he jumped up to fix a running toilet in the back bathroom, or tried to deal with a leaky faucet? My grandfather in 1974 told me that he liked my dad better than a few Stanford fellow grads that my mom — his daughter — had brought home to visit, because he climbed up to the second story on his first appearance out here to put in new pads in the swamp cooler...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:27 AM

August 23, 2010

You've probably already seen this chart...

... of "Deficits with and without Iraq War." Either way it is damning for Dems, but especially it demolishes the Democrat claim that our fiscal problems can be blamed on the Iraq Campaign. Or on the the Bush tax cuts...

Deficits with and without Iraq War

The chart is from a great piece in American Thinker by Randall Hoven, Iraq: The War That Broke Us -- Not. A quote:

...Just for grins, use the above chart to dissect Christopher Hayes' statement that our current and future deficits are caused by "three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession."

Two of those three things -- the wars and tax cuts -- were in effect from 2003 through 2007. Do you see alarming deficits or trends from 2003 through 2007 in the above chart? No. In fact, the trend through 2007 is shrinking deficits. What you see is a significant upward tick in 2008, and then an explosion in 2009. Now, what might have happened between 2007 and 2008, and then 2009?

Democrats taking over both houses of Congress, and then the presidency, was what happened. Republicans wrote the budgets for the fiscal years through 2007. Congressional Democrats wrote the budgets for FY 2008 and on. When the Democrats also took over the White House, they immediately passed an $814-billion "stimulus." (The $814 billion figure is from the same CBO report as the Iraq War costs. See sources at end of article.)...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

August 21, 2010

Outrageous!

This is just a bit of ammo to keep in your locker, if you happen to be one of those who are accused of being bigots or denying constitutional rights by opposing the Ground Zero Mosque...

TThe ground zero mosque and the Restoring Honor rally:

...When news broke that Glenn Beck would be hosting a "Restoring Honor" rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that Sarah Palin was slated to speak and that the rally would take place on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have A Dream" speech, the cry of outrage from the Left was immediate. Keith Olbermann was so distressed by the news that he invited uber-liberal talk radio personality Bill Press to weigh in on the matter:
"Unbelievable isn't it? [When] I first heard about this – from you, by the way – you know I was just outraged that the park service would even consider giving Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin a permit to hold a political rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that sacred shrine, on this historic date. . . . Clearly – I don't care what he says – he chose that site, on that day, to kind of supplant Dr. Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech with his message, whatever it is."
So, not only is Mr. Press outraged by Beck's presumption and insensitivity, he openly suggests that the government should prevent him from doing so! In one fell swoop Mr. Press commits a constitutional double-whammy, assaulting not only Beck's right to speech but his right to assemble. And how did Olbermann respond? Did he "speak out" against this diatribe with solemn recitations of Holocaust poetry and a condemnation of Press's "stoking of enmity" against Beck and Palin? Why, of course not. Instead of defending Beck's constitutional rights, Olbermann chooses instead to focus on rectitude, even going so far to suggest that Beck rally will be a "racist desecration" of Dr. King's memory....

In this case we have an American "sacred space" defined by both place and time. The equivalent to the mosque might be if Beck had reserved the time annually for the next 20 years!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:39 AM

August 15, 2010

Reprint of a personal favorite from 2005...

I was looking through old posts recently, and encountered this one. I'll just re-post it. Why? Because I want to--and it's my blog!     ;-)

Someone suggested I'm a "nationalist" recently. I don't think that really fits. My feelings are perhaps best expressed by what Lincoln said in his Eulogy on Henry Clay:

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.

"The United States of America" is a set of ideas, not a territory or a race or a volk. There are lots of people living in foreign lands, who are Americans in good standing, because they "get it." It was Steven den Beste who wrote about this, and posted this great quote from an essay by Peter Schramm:

[My father] gathered my sister, me, and my mother up, and, in the middle of the night, we walked to Austria. I was not yet ten years old. When I asked him where we were going, he said: "We are going to America." I asked "why to America?" He said the following: "We were born Americans, but in the wrong place." It took me a while to understand what that meant. It took a lot of study of some great philosophers, of the American Founders, of Lincoln. I received four degrees for the effort and I slowly came to understand. My father always understood.

Perhaps someday America will change, and become just a nation. And perhaps a few people will resettle in Martian caves, with battered e-books in their hip-pockets containing the Federalist Papers, and The Constitution. And they will be the True Americans. (Myself, I would go a bit further, and say we Americans are the True Englishmen. Our revolution was fought for the "Rights of Englishmen," and our ideas haven't really diverged very far from what we thought then, while England has become a pale shadow of what it was.)

If you are a Leftist, you MUST be anti-American. You MUST oppose the idea that is America, because that idea is utterly opposed to collectivism and statism, and opposed to the belief that our rights are granted by government, or that the interests of "society" are worth the sacrifice of the individual. Many Leftists won't honestly acknowledge their enmity, but resort to sneaky formulas. and claiming to be "against nationalism" is one of them. It's a lie of course, none of them are bothered by French nationalism, or Swedish nationalism, or criticize when a Russian proclaims her love for her "Motherland."....

Actually one of the tricksy formulas for disguising leftish anti-Americanism is nationalism. You can say you love America, meaning things like Jazz, or "the simple workers" or Cajun cuisine, or kosher delis, or the beauty of the mountains and the prairies, etc. Sure, of course, we all do, but that's not America.

More by den Beste:

...You're French if you're born in France, of French parents. You're English if you're born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you're American if you think you're American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That's all it takes. But that's a lot, because "thinking you're American" requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. But even the French can do it, and a lot of them have.

That is a difference so profound as to render all similarities between Europe and the US unimportant by comparison. But it is a difference that most Europeans are blind to, and it is that difference which causes America's attitudes and actions to be mystifying to Europeans. It is not just that they don't understand that idea; most of them don't even realize it exists, because Europeans have no equivalent, and some who have an inkling of it dismiss it contemptuously...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:10 PM

August 6, 2010

The real pacifist... Harry S. Truman

Happy Peace Through Victory Day!:

Today marks the anniversary of the single greatest act in the cause of peace ever taken by the United States:

Dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. That one decision, that one device, saved more lives, did more to end war, and created more justice in the world in a single stroke than any other. It was done by America, for Americans. It saved the lives of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of American soldiers and sailors...


...Euroweenie peaceniks and an annoying number of American liberals see the bombing of Hiroshima as a shameful act. What is it America should be ashamed for—defeating an enemy that declared war on us? Bringing about the end of a fascist empire that killed millions of people, mostly Asians? Preventing the slaughter of the good guys—Americans—by killing the bad guys—the Japanese?

Here's everything you need to know about the Obama Left’s view of America: We’re supposed to be ashamed of winning WWII, and proud of a mosque at G'ound Zero.

The nuclear bombings almost certainly saved the lives of millions of Japanese. Even a brief look at the Battle of Okinawa shows what a bloodbath the "Battle of Japan" would have been. (People talk of our work in Afghanistan as a "war," but that's just stupid. It's not even a skirmish compared with Okinawa.) And it ended the conventional bombing of Japan, which killed many more people than the nuclear bombings did, and was turning scores of Japanese cities into charred wastelands.

And the prodigious economic growth of many liberated Asian nations under our influence after the war, and under the protection of our nuclear umbrella, has probably saved a hundred million or so lives just by increasing global wealth.

Hiroshima ended world wars, regional wars, and wars between developed nations. One can't even begin to guess how many lives have been saved by that.

Hiroshima was the single greatest humanitarian act in history. We should be proud of it.

And if the war had been ended by the Soviets bombing Hiroshima, all our fake liberals and fake pacifists and fake Quakers would be celebrating the event.

   

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 PM

July 2, 2010

Charlene's calling the Gulf an impeachable offense...

I'd say probably yes. Won't happen, but it's nice to think about...

She especially recommends this post by Gateway Pundit...

It’s Day 73 of the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster–
There is now clear evidence that the negligence by the Obama Administration caused the destruction of the Gulf coastline.

** The feds only accepted assistance from 5 of 28 countries.
** It took the Obama Administration 53 days to accept help from the Dutch and British.
** It took them 58 days to mobilize the US military to the Gulf.
** The feds shut down crude-sucking barges due to fire extinguisher concerns.
** The Obama Administration ignore oil boom manufacturers that have miles of product stockpiled in their warehouses.
** They only have moved 31 of 2,000 oil skimmers to the disaster area off of Florida.
** Florida hired an additional 5 skimmer boats to operate off its coast due to federal inaction.
** There are no skimmer boats off the coast of Mississippi.
** The massive A-Boat skimmer won't be allowed to join the cleanup effort until the Coast Guard and the EPA figure out whether it meets their standards.
** The feds shut down sand berm dredging off the Louisiana coast.
** The president continues to hit the golf course, ball games, hold BBQ’s and party while the crude oil washes up on shore.

Now there’s this… Obama Administration lied about cleanup efforts of Gulf oil spill.
CNS News reported:

Billy Nungesser, president of New Orleans' Plaquemines Parish, sensed that a chart showing 140 oil skimmers at work — a chart given to him by BP and the Coast Guard — was "somewhat inaccurate." So, Nungesser asked to fly over the spill to verify the number.

The flyover was cancelled three times before those officials admitted that just 31 of the 140 skimmers were actually deployed.

The incident is detailed in a report released Thursday by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Republicans say the report provides evidence that the Obama administration misrepresented the assets devoted to the cleanup, misrepresented the timing of when government officials knew there was an oil spill and misrepresented the level of control the government had over the matter. It also claims the Obama administration seemed more interested in public relations than cleaning the mess and plugging the hole.

The report, which relies on interviews with several local officials in Louisiana, goes on to quote Nungesser, who had been on local and national television enough so that the White House became concerned. Two White House officials visited him on Father's Day and said, "What do we have to do to keep you off TV?" His answer was, "Give me what I need."

You could add lax supervision of BP, which just happened to give more donations to Obama that to any other politician. And the lies about the engineers report to justify shutting down drilling in the Gulf, which will kill about 120,000 jobs. And threatening criminal prosecutions to the very BP people who are tasked with fixing the problem. (sort of like threatening a surgeon during an operation.)

Any other suggestions?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 PM

June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day!

Actually I love our flag but I'm philosophically not happy with having a "flag day." It came from a trend of the late 19th Century to turn Americans towards the false faith of nationalism. Back then men like Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were busily trying to make Americans more like Prussians. Our true spirit would be much better expressed with a "Constitution Day."

Or in this, the words of Lincoln in his Eulogy on Henry Clay:

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 AM

June 9, 2010

Last verse...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:00 PM

June 2, 2010

The Blue Beast...

(I wrote this a month or two ago, and got busy and never posted it. I actually start a lot more things than I post.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today the private sector is increasingly horizontal, and the decision makers are, or should be, scanning blogs and forums, and noticing new trends quickly. And being closely in touch with their own workers, who know a lot. Designers can now send CAD or graphics files to factories, which may be able to shift production immediately. And the elements can be anywhere. The designer might be in San Francisco, the ad agency in London, the factory in Indonesia. UPS might contract for warehousing and fulfillment. And if the company is a lively one, every part of it will be able to simply vibrate with the moods of the market, and change instantaneously if needed.

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 6:34 PM

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.)

HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

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 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 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 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...

    THE RECALL
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

April 18, 2010

"The natural constituency for the culture of dependence"

Michael Barone, Tea parties fight Obama's culture of dependence:

...And, invoking the language of the Founding Fathers, they [Tea Partiers] believe that this will destroy the culture of independence that has enabled Americans over the past two centuries to make this the most productive and prosperous -- and the most charitably generous -- nation in the world. Seeing our political divisions as a battle between the culture of dependence and the culture of independence helps to make sense of the divisions seen in the 2008 election.

Barack Obama carried voters with incomes under $50,000 and those with incomes over $200,000 and lost those with incomes in between. He won large margins from those who never graduated from high school and from those with graduate school degrees and barely exceeded 50 percent among those in between. The top-and-bottom Obama coalition was in effect a coalition of those dependent on government transfers and benefits and those in what David Brooks calls "the educated class" who administer or believe that their kind of people administer those transactions. They are the natural constituency for the culture of dependence.

Interestingly, in the Massachusetts special Senate election the purported beneficiaries of the culture of dependence -- low-income and low-education voters -- did not turn out in large numbers. In contrast, the administrators of that culture -- affluent secular professionals, public employees, university personnel -- were the one group that turned out in force and voted for the hapless Democratic candidate. The in-between people on the income and education ladders, it turns out, are a constituency for the culture of independence. ...

This is a bit of a video I took when Charlene and I were at the recent SF Tea Party. Philosophically speaking I'm not precisely a Tea Partier myself, but close enough, and it's the sort of effort we like to lend support to (among other reasons, there will never be a rally of people like me, so I take what I can get)...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:08 PM

March 28, 2010

"The barbarians have breached the citadel..."

Spengler puts it in a nutshell,. Cultural Obamalypse: the Attack on the Pope:

The Obamalyptic mood in the White House seems to have infected the cultural left generally. Thirty-year-old news is dragged daily into the headlines to make it appear that some dreadful truth has been dragged out of the Vatican vaults, demonstrating Pope Benedict XVI's culpability in child abuse. It is hard to avoid the impression that the nihilists have a sense of empowerment as never before.

There's something ugly in the air. The two central institutions of the West are the Throne of St. Peter and the Oval Office. That is not an exaggeration, for the Catholic model in Europe and the American model are the two modes of life that the West has developed. When Catholic universal empire failed with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and was buried by Napoleon, the United States emerged as an alternative model; the non-ethnic nation founded on Christian principles albeit without an explicit tie to a particular Christian confession.

For the first time in history the barbarians have breached the citadel; to have Barack Obama in the White House is the cultural equivalent of electing Madonna to the papacy. America, the source of a civil religion that held together the world's only remaining superpower, is committed to its own self-demolition. Nihilists around the world are in a triumphant mood and believe that it is time to mop up the remnants of their enemies everywhere.

"The barbarians have breached the citadel." Well, yeah, but they had to do it by a trick. Obama was never elected; people voted for a phantom, and if they had known what he and the Dems were up to, John McCain would be President. The same thing is true about a lot of the Dems in Congress. They got in by deception. And I bet a lot of them are going to pay for it in November

My guess, my hope, maybe just a dream, is that the nihilists have over-reached on both fronts, and that Pope Benedict and President Palin will stand together against them just as JP-II and President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher stood against Soviet Communism, and won.

Pope John-Paul II
Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM

We are all Israel now...

William A. Jacobson, We Are All Bibi Netanyahu Now:

The reaction to Obama's treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu was as strong if not stronger than I have seen in the comments here and elsewhere in the blogosphere on any other issue. (I didn't let through a number of over-the-top comments.)

Why this reaction? I bet a lot of the people having this reaction only had heard of Bibi Netanyahu in passing on the news.

Who would care if our President left a foreign leader to wait in the White House while the President supposedly went to have dinner with his family? Who would care if our President broke protocol by refusing to be photographed and hold a press conference with a foreign leader? Who would care if that foreign leader left tail tucked between his legs, humiliated at home at the treatment by the leader of the free world?

Part of it certainly is that the foreign leader in question was the leader of Israel, which is tremendously popular with Americans. In Israel the clear majority of Americans see a democratic nation surrounded by implacable enemies who also are our enemies, doing what it takes to survive and thrive. In so many historical, religious and political ways Israel is our kindred spirit, more than just one among many nations....

It's more than just being a "kindred spirit." Israel is us. Israel and the United States are the only two countries that are ideas. Anyone who "gets" America's idea as expressed in the founding documents, is an American. As much so as someone whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. If I say someone is "un-American," you would not imagine that I'm criticizing their skin color, or accent, or lack of long residence in our country.

It's much the same with Israel. Jews from obscure corners of the world, with all sorts of languages and skin colors can make Aliyah and become Israelis.

Both countries have been refuges for the oppressed. And both have been founded by those who fled the control of their "betters" in the European elites. Fled and used only their own strength and courage to build a country from nothing. Both countries were toughened by fighting against savages, and by taming a harsh landscape.

Both countries are hated by Leftists, because Leftism is about taming people, and putting them under control of self-styled elites.

But there is a deeper similarity. It is my suspicion that much of what people believe and do is not because of rational thought, but is a reflection of spiritual struggles fought on a mostly unconscious level of symbols. We are all on a sort of path that can only be travelled in two directions: Towards God, or away from God and towards self-worship. And both America and Israel symbolically represent movement towards God. Not only in the religious elements of both country's formation, but symbolically in their demand that we consider an idea to be something bigger than ourselves; something for which we might even have to sacrifice our lives.

As I've bored you by mentioning before, I think that most "Leftism" today is not really Leftism at all, that the quasi-religious beliefs such as socialism or liberalism that were the old core of Leftist thinking have drained away, leaving nothing. Leftism today is mostly nihilism. The old-time Left didn't automatically hate America or Israel, because they considered it normal to believe in an idea—they just had a different idea. To the nihilist, belief is an affront!

And more than an affront. Almost an assault. They know somewhere deep in their hearts that they were made for something bigger, and the knowledge angers them.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 AM

March 23, 2010

"Governmentalized health care changes... the very character of the people"

This is the best summing-up of how I feel. Mark Steyn, Happy Dependence Day!:

Well, it seems to be in the bag now. I try to be a sunny the-glass-is-one-sixteenth-full kinda guy, but it's hard to overestimate the magnitude of what the Democrats have accomplished. Whatever is in the bill is an intermediate stage: As the graph posted earlier shows, the governmentalization of health care will accelerate, private insurers will no longer be free to be "insurers" in any meaningful sense of that term (ie, evaluators of risk), and once that's clear we'll be on the fast track to Obama's desired destination of single payer as a fait accomplis.

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It's a huge transformative event in Americans' view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Their bet is that it can't be undone, and that over time, as I've been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there's plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

More prosaically, it's also unaffordable. That's why one of the first things that middle-rank powers abandon once they go down this road is a global military capability. If you take the view that the U.S. is an imperialist aggressor, congratulations: You can cease worrying. But, if you think that America has been the ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order, it's less cheery. Five years from now, just as in Canada and Europe two generations ago, we'll be getting used to announcements of defense cuts to prop up the unsustainable costs of big government at home. And, as the superpower retrenches, America's enemies will be quick to scent opportunity.

Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side...
Posted by John Weidner at 12:01 PM

March 18, 2010

"If you are pro-Israel, you are pro-American"

Obama and the Jacksonian Zionists - Walter Russell Mead's Blog - The American Interest: (Thanks to Jim Geraghty

...Many of the arguments and perceptions that have weakened support for Israel on the left cut no ice with the populist right. The argument that just war theory forbids the 'disproportionate' use of force has absolutely no weight in much of American opinion. When somebody attacks you, especially in an underhanded terrorist way, you have a natural right to defend yourself using every weapon and every tactic that comes to hand. This is the way most Americans think about war; American public opinion on the whole does not regret the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Two-thirds of American respondents tell Pew pollsters that they favor the use of "torture" under some circumstances. Such people are not necessarily indifferent to Palestinian rights, and they may not feel that every Israeli action is well judged, but they strongly believe that as long as Palestinians engage in terrorism, Israel has an unlimited and absolute right of self defense. It can and should do anything and everything it can to stop the attacks and many Americans consider international laws against such practices as pious hopes with no binding legal or even moral force. If the terrorists shield themselves behind civilians, that only shows how evil they are — and is an extra reason why you have both the right and the duty to eliminate them no matter what it takes.

This view may be right or it may be wrong, but its cultural hold on a substantial section of the American people is a fact. It is one of the strongest and most persistent elements in the national character.  It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

For many Jacksonians, Israel is a litmus test. If you are pro-Israel, you are pro-American exceptionalism, pro-western values and pro-defense. The more clearly you support Israel, the more you look like a reliable American patriot who will do what it takes to defend the country from religious violence and the more you seem to share the values of tens of millions of gentile Americans....

Using nuclear weapons against Japan saved millions of lives, and did more to bring peace on Earth than all the "pacifists" in history. it is only reasonable that we have no problem with them.

And of course, if you are anti-Israel, you are anti-American. They go hand-in-hand, and vice versa.. Read on to see what the student of Jeremiah Wright is up to...

Obama blocks delivery of bunker-busters to Israel:

The United States has diverted a shipment of bunker-busters designated for Israel.

Officials said the U.S. military was ordered to divert a shipment of smart bunker-buster bombs from Israel to a military base in Diego Garcia. They said the shipment of 387 smart munitions had been slated to join pre-positioned U.S. military equipment in Israel Air Force bases.

"This was a political decision," an official said

In 2008, the United States approved an Israeli request for bunker-busters capable of destroying underground facilities, including Iranian nuclear weapons sites. Officials said delivery of the weapons was held up by the administration of President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Obama has refused to approve any major Israeli requests for U.S. weapons platforms or advanced systems. Officials said this included proposed Israeli procurement of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E.

"All signs indicate that this will continue in 2010," a congressional source familiar with the Israeli military requests said. "This is really an embargo, but nobody talks about it publicly." ....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:13 PM

March 12, 2010

"The analogy is clever, but wholly inaccurate"

The "al-Qaeda seven" aren't like John Adams:

John AdamsDefenders of the habeas lawyers representing al-Qaeda terrorists have invoked the iconic name of John Adams to justify their actions, claiming these lawyers are only doing the same thing Adams did when he defended British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre. The analogy is clever, but wholly inaccurate.

For starters, Adams was a British subject at the time he took up their representation. The Declaration of Independence had not yet been signed, and there was no United States of America. The British soldiers were Adams' fellow countrymen -- not foreign enemies of the state at war with his country.

Second, the British soldiers were accused of a crime. The constitution was not yet in place, but as I pointed out in my column this week, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy explains that the great American tradition later enshrined in the Sixth Amendment "guarantees the accused -- that means somebody who has been indicted or otherwise charged with a crime -- a right to counsel. But that right only exists if you are accused, which means you are someone the government has brought into the civilian criminal justice system and lodged charges against." Unless they have been charged before military commissions or civilian courts, the al-Qaeda terrorists held at Guantanamo do not have a right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. They are not accused criminals. They are enemy combatants held in a war authorized by Congress....
You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.
-- John Adams
Posted by John Weidner at 1:46 PM

March 8, 2010

"The needed wall of separation between race and state"

This census advice sounds sound to me...

Sending a Message with the Census - Mark Krikorian - The Corner on National Review Online:

...Fully one-quarter of the space on this year's form is taken up with questions of race and ethnicity, which are clearly illegitimate and none of the government's business (despite the New York Times' assurances to the contrary on today's editorial page). So until we succeed in building the needed wall of separation between race and state, I have a proposal. Question 9 on the census form asks "What is Person 1's race?" (and so on, for other members of the household). My initial impulse was simply to misidentify my race so as to throw a monkey wrench into the statistics; I had fun doing this on the personal-information form my college required every semester, where I was a Puerto Rican Muslim one semester, and a Samoan Buddhist the next. But lying in this constitutionally mandated process is wrong. Really — don't do it.

Instead, we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — "Some other race" — and writing in "American." It's a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, "American" was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

So remember: Question 9 — "Some other race" — "American". Pass it on.
Posted by John Weidner at 5:42 PM

February 20, 2010

The Blue Beast...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

February 6, 2010

Flying saucer churches....

Fr Dwight Longenecker, Beautiful Church Beautiful Bride:

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

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

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

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

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

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

To build American government buildings like this....

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

Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 PM

January 23, 2010

Walk against death...

Here's a few short clips from the San Francisco Walk for Life today. I'm sure the "press" will pretty much ignore it, but it was even more impressive than last year. The last section of the video is above Fort Mason, heading towards the Marina Green. Charlene and I sat on a bench and ate our picnic for more than 45 minutes while those crowds passed non-stop. They were still going when we finally moved on. I'd say there were no less that 20,000 people in the march, and we had lots of rain....

The first clip is along the Embarcadero, and the second is going up the hill into Fort Mason. In the last bit you can see some red-roofed buildings in the background. Those are the buildings and piers of Ft. Mason from which 1.36 million Americans embarked for the Pacific campaigns of WWII.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:45 PM

January 2, 2010

Instauration...

Alan Sullivan, Dead Souls, Arise!:

Peggy Noonan misses the point again. Our problem isn't failure of institutions. It is excess of institutions, and an excessive disposition to rely on them. How does it avail anyone that "journalism" has come to regard itself as an "institution?" This is the same nonsense as "consensus science." A stale collectivism has pervaded almost every aspect of American life. And not just American. We are the trailing indicator of what Europe has already achieved — a continent of dead souls. Why? Because the entire culture has turned away from the faith that defined it and gave it meaning. That faith came to seem untenable in the face of a new one whose miracles were physical rather than metaphysical. Too few were the thinkers who recognized that the two realms were a continuum, not a dichotomy.

It may seem a long leap from this deep thought to a secret Catholic boy-cult among Boston clergy, but it is just a little sideslip, a dance of ennui. Poor Ms. Noonan, still trembling in dismay. She wants to salvage institutions. Let them fail! Let the grace of individual redemption explode through them. It is not a question of taking responsibility; it is a challenge to walk away with Christ, for those of us who seek him. Or simply to heed God, immanent and unrecognized.

Addendum: And yet I love the Church — its antiquity, its dignity, its vast storehouse of wisdom and art. Let it fail, but let it also be reborn.

"Let it fail, but let it also be reborn." Amen, brother. Truth to tell the Church has failed and been reborn a hundred times, or ten thousand times if you look at local instances. There is no point in her history where you cannot find holy men and women deploring her fallen state, and setting to work reforming and renewing. But what other institution can you name that can renew itself repeatedly for 2,000 years!

...Shall the past be rolled back? Shall the grave open? Shall the Saxons live again to God? Shall the shepherds, watching their poor flocks by night, be visited by a multitude of the heavenly army, and hear how their Lord has been new-born in their own city? Yes; for grace can, where nature cannot. The world grows old, but the Church is ever young. She can, in any time, at her Lord's will, "inherit the Gentiles, and inhabit the desolate cities."...
      -- John Henry Newman, The Second Spring

As an example of renovatio, it's very interesting to consider the Holy Father's new Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, [Link] which allows groups of Anglicans to join the Church by forming personal prelatures, which are something like bishoprics, but not attached to any territory such as a diocese. And to join while keeping much of Anglican liturgical and spiritual tradition.

You could call this an institution-busting innovation. For one thing, the prelatures do not have to obey any bishops within whose diocese they happen to be operating! Wow. They are supposed to consult, but no more is required; they can consult, and then (with utmost respect of course) thumb their noses at bishops. This is surely no accident—Benedict is a deep old file, and has been dealing with entrenched Catholic bureaucracies since I was a little boy.

Also, this is a model that could easily be extended to all sorts of other Christian groups. And if so, if they start to become successful and attractive, the result would be competition within the Church! Prelatures are not supposed to be open to other Catholics, but if they are flourishing it will be hard to keep the others down on the farm. Benedict is a Tocquevillian, and can't be unaware of the greater vigor of Christianity in places where Christian groups compete for souls, compared with the state-church model of most European countries. We could live to see the day when Catholic Bishops have to hustle, and run lean 'n mean sees to keep Lutheran or Syriac prelatures from grabbing market-share!

And this is a possible step towards an Information Age structure for the church. The Anglican Prelatures do not have to have any "locality," except that they are to be formed within a particular conference of bishops, ie: The United States, or Australia. Presumably there will be headquarters, parishes, church buildings, etc. But none of these is required. The whole Chancellery could reside on a laptop.

Of course the whole thing may flop, and the assorted Anglicans may chicken-out and decide to do nothing. But that obvious worry is itself a blow against entrenched institutions, which are always averse to risk. Not B-16; he's just pushed a pile of chips to the center of the table with a smile. Be not afraid!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

December 26, 2009

Thought for the day...

Hugh Hewitt:

...We are 45 weeks from the chance to begin to repair the damage that has flowed from marrying high school rhetoric and plans with power. We had another close call yesterday. Pray we keep being lucky for a while longer until we can start to be smart again.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 AM

December 12, 2009

Poor Hitchins.... Straining so hard to be an atheist...

I started out to mock and fisk this piece by Ebenezer Scrooge Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens: Merry Christmas. Now, about that public display...

But I gave it up. It's a parody in itself. Poor Hitch, a fine fellow, I like him, but working so hard at the atheist schtick, and looking like something else altogether. You can run, daddy-o, but hide? And his fantasizing about America being a "secular republic." Ha ha. You'll be long in your grave before that happens, Mr H.



American troops pray before action in Iraq.Jpg
David Furst / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images
Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division gather together to pray moments before setting off on a patrol of western Baghdad on Thursday.
Army Times 11/8/05

Posted by John Weidner at 3:47 PM

December 9, 2009

"Exchanging real for fake emotion"

I highly recommend a new piece by Roger Scruton in The American Spectator, Totalitarian Sentimentality:

...As the state takes charge of our needs, and relieves people of the burdens that should rightly be theirs -- the burdens that come from charity and neighborliness -- serious feeling retreats. In place of it comes an aggressive sentimentality that seeks to dominate the public square. I call this sentimentality "totalitarian" since -- like totalitarian government -- it seeks out opposition and carefully extinguishes it, in all the places where opposition might form. Its goal is to "solve" our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the "victims," who have a "right" to state support.

The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity, with the new and intransigent problems fostered by the state: for example, mass illegitimacy, the decline of the indigenous birthrate, and the emergence of the gang culture among the fatherless youth. We have seen this everywhere in Europe, whose situation is made worse by the pressure of mass immigration, subsidized by the state. The citizens whose taxes pay for the flood of incoming "victims" cannot protest, since the sentimentalists have succeeded in passing "hate speech" laws and in inventing crimes like "Islamophobia" which place their actions beyond discussion. This is just one example of a legislative tendency that can be observed in every area of social life: family, school, sexual relations, social initiatives, even the military -- all are being deprived of their authority and brought under the control of the "soft power" that rules from above.

This is how we should understand the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. To his credit he has made clear that he does not deserve it -- though I assume he deserves it every bit as much as Al Gore. The prize is an endorsement from the European elite, a sigh of collective relief that America has at last taken the decisive step toward the modern consensus, by exchanging real for fake emotion, hard power for soft power, and truth for lies. What matters in Europe is the great fiction that things will stay in place forever, that peace will be permanent and society stable, just so long as everybody is "nice." Under President Bush (who was, of course, no exemplary president, and certainly not nice) America maintained its old image, of national self-confidence and belligerent assertion of the right to be successful. Bush was the voice of a property-owning democracy, in which hard work and family values still achieved a public endorsement. As a result he was hated by the European elites, and hated all the more because Europe needs America and knows that, without America, it will die. Obama is welcomed as a savior: the American president for whom the Europeans have been hoping -- the one who will rescue them from the truth.

How America itself will respond to this, however, remains doubtful. I suspect, from my neighbors in rural Virginia, that totalitarian sentimentality has no great appeal to them, and that they will be prepared to resist a government that seeks to destroy their savings and their social capital, for the sake of a compassion that it does not really feel.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

December 1, 2009

It's because of what America IS...

You've probably already seen this piece by Byron York, Obama keeps his Afghan promise, but Dems crumble. It's worth a read.

The dilemma the Democrats are in is exquisite. Not just because they are now stuck with campaign promises that were in fact lies. On a deeper level, America simply does not abandon allies. We believe we should be trustworthy. The one occasion when we did abandon an ally, South Vietnam, is still a point of extreme sensitivity. And that wasn't "America's" action, it was the Democrat Party which had suddenly been handed power ofter a Republican scandal. And which immediately used that power for evil, handing an ally who had trusted us over to communist tyranny and mass-murder.

Now the electoral fluke of 2008 has again handed them great power, and the chance to express the nothingness in their hearts. But they gained that power by promising to do what America has always believed in, keeping faith with our friends! (Although the promise was packaged as an excuse to betray another ally, the democratically elected government of Iraq—ironies within ironies!.)

...And yet, in the 2008 presidential season, from the Democratic primaries to the general election, Democrats felt required to promise to step up the war in Afghanistan. Was it because the Democratic base that now opposes escalation supported it back then? No. A Gallup poll in August 2007 — in the midst of the Democratic primary race — found that just 41 percent of Democrats supported sending more U.S. troops to fight in Afghanistan.

If the base didn't support it, then why did candidates promise it? Because Democratic voters and candidates were playing a complex game. Nearly all of them hated the war in Iraq and wanted to pull Americans out of that country. But they were afraid to appear soft on national security, so they pronounced the smaller conflict in Afghanistan one they could support. Many of them didn't, really, but for political expediency they supported candidates who said they did. Thus the party base signed on to a good war-bad war strategy.

"One of the things that I think is critical, as the next president, is to make absolutely certain that we not only phase out the Iraq war but we also focus on the critical battle that we have in Afghanistan and root out al Qaeda," Obama said at a Democratic candidates' debate in New Hampshire in June 2007. The war in Iraq, Obama continued, "is an enormous distraction from the battle that does have to be waged in Afghanistan."

"There isn't any doubt that Afghanistan has been neglected," said chief Obama rival — and now Secretary of State — Hillary Clinton at a debate in April 2008. "It has not gotten the resources that it needs."
. Other top Democrats adopted the get-tough approach, at least when it came time to campaign.  In September 2006, as she was leading the effort that would result in Democrats taking over the House and her becoming speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi said George W. Bush "took his eye off the ball" in Afghanistan. "We had a presence over there the past few years, but not to the extent that we needed to get the job done," Pelosi said. The phrase "took his eye off the ball" became a Democratic mantra about the supposed neglect of Afghanistan — a situation that would be remedied by electing ready-to-fight Democrats.

But now, with Democrats in charge of the entire U.S. government and George Bush nowhere to be found, Pelosi and others in her party are suddenly very, very worried about U.S. escalation in Afghanistan.  "There is serious unrest in our caucus," the speaker said recently.  There is so much unrest that Democrats who show little concern about the tripling of already-large budget deficits say they're worried about the rising cost of the war.

It is in that atmosphere that Obama makes his West Point speech.  He had to make certain promises to get elected.  Unlike some of his supporters, he has to remember those promises now that he is in office.  So he is sending more troops.  But he still can't tell the truth about so many Democratic pledges to support the war in Afghanistan: They didn't mean it....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 AM

November 26, 2009

"...and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another"

      PRAYER FOR HOME AND FAMILY - Robert Louis Stevenson

Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth.

Let peace abound in our small company. Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge. Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Offenders, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.

Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another.

As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind, as children of their sire, we beseech of Thee this help and mercy for Christ's sake.

Note: To most of the country colorful autumn leaves are fairly unmemorable. But in San Francisco they are quite rare, so we take note of them. I snapped this this morning...

autumn leaves at the Weidners

They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened
(Rom. 1:21).
Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 AM

November 20, 2009

I wish I'd been so clueful when I was 17!

The young gal in this video is 17 year-old Jackie Seal. [Starts about 1:15] She was ambushed quite unfairly by Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, but held her ground most admirably. I'm so impressed. If I'd been in that kind of spot at that age I doubt if I could have gotten a word out.

This isn't the first time we've seen a reporter argue with a Palin supporter, rather than, like, report the news! What a meltdown! Astonishin' what Sarah does to these people. I mean, how hugely insecure O'Donnell must be to feel the need to defeat a teenager!

This is from Jackie's blog....

...I then see Norah O'Donnell approach a man all decked out in Palin garb. She asked him a few questions (camera not rolling) then said she'd like to have a woman in the shot. She asked a woman who refused then pointed at me and said "Hey talk to her" So I walked over. I knew I was walking into hot water with MSNBC— thought I was prepared.... Seconds later I met her... One of the many faces of liberal media bias. She asked me my name and then before going on air asked me why I liked Sarah Palin, I repeated what I told the NYT reporter. Norah didn't seem to like that much.

So what did she do? I mean she couldn't ask me that question on television, heaven forbid her not have a biting response.. I noticed her look down at my shirt then, she turned around blackberry in hand spoke to a man, thumbs tapping the blackberry (I don't remember if she called or not, she may have. But she was on her blackberry), then jotted down a quick note. Little did I know that note would be used against me. She told us she'd be walking up to us. You know like she just stumbled upon us. The shot began... I kept telling myself answer her question well, don't freak out. Well, I thought she'd ask me the same question. She asked the man beside me (who by the way is NOT my dad) the same question she had before we went on air. Myself on the other hand, not the same story. She had me read my shirt and then proceeded to ask me "Did you know Sarah Palin supported the bailout" to be 100% honest I was like, are you kidding me? She is trying to use my shirt against me. I was so shocked by the craftiness she had that I was truly stumped. I asked her where she got her fact and she read her little note. Then she asked me what I liked about Sarah, and I talked about the Constitution...

(Here's the link to her blog-post)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:39 PM

November 11, 2009

In a small, dimly-lit airport...

Something for Veteran's day. A re-post of an old post from August 05, 2004...

This is a splendid story. I've been in dingy airports at 3AM, and the thought of one of those spooky dumps becoming a place of Grace is weird and beautiful...

3 A.M. With the VFW
By Sgt. Michael Thomas

...Thirty-six hours after our scheduled arrival, we landed in Bangor, Maine. It was 3 a.m. We were tired, hungry, and as desperate as we were to get to Colorado, our excitement was tainted with bitterness. While we were originally told our National Guard deployment would be mere months, here we were – 369 days later – frustrated and angry.

As I walked off the plane, I was taken aback: in the small, dimly-lit airport, a group of elderly veterans lined up to shake our hands. Some were standing, some confined to wheelchairs, all wore their uniform hats. Their now-feeble right hands arms stiffened in salutes, their left hands holding coffee, snacks and cell phones for us.

As I made my way through the line, each man thanking me for my service, I choked back tears. Here we were, returning from one year in Iraq where we had portable DVD players, three square meals and phones, being honored by men who had crawled through mud for years with little more than the occasional letter from home.

These soldiers – many of whom who had lost limbs and comrades – shook our hands proudly, as if our service could somehow rival their own....

This picture has nothing to do with the above story, I just put it in for my own satisfaction. (It's from an old post about the death of the last combat-wounded veteran of WWI. Link. My 77th division post is here.)

doughboys_argonne.jpg
Doughboys of the 77th divsion wait on the edge of the Argonne Forest, before the attack on September 26, 1918.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:29 PM

No additional comment necessary...

Urban Desertification:

The Kelo case was a dreadful constitutional error by a Supreme Court that had somehow been seduced into reckoning local government's pursuit of "economic development" was more important than individual property rights. So the bulldozers rolled — and then, even before the recession — the developers disappeared. Now, another blow to the foolish municipality of New London, CT. Pfizer drug company, whose adjacent facility was the excuse for the whole Kelo exercise, has announced it will close the R&D headquarters. (Is this in anticipation of US policy?) So New London will have an abandoned business to keep the razed neighborhood company. Welcome to the wonderful world of "city planning."
Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

October 14, 2009

Sixties rubbish crashing and burning...

Andy McCarthy on the accusations of racism against Rush Limbaugh:

...In the 1970s, I went to a highly integrated, all-boys high school (Cardinal Hayes) in the Bronx. It was one of the best experiences in my life, and I had great friendships with all manner of guys, because from the first day they treated us like we were all "Hayesmen" — not white guys, black guys, Spanish guys, Chinese guys, etc. We were encouraged to see each other as peers, not tribesmen. Of course there was intra-group affinity along ethnic and racial lines — there always is. But there wasn't a lot of tension. There was some — again, there always is — but there was no special treatment and no pressure for enforced separateness. We laughed at each other's expense (ethnic and racial jokes were not cause for banishment from society back then) and competed on a level playing field of merit. Everyone was treated like he belonged, if you did something good it was yours, and if you screwed up it was on you, not your heritage.

That's how Rush treats people — in the Martin Luther King aspiration that the content of one's character is what matters, not the color of one's skin. Yet, in the media narrative, he's somehow the one who's got a race issue — and the guys who trade on race, live and breathe it 24/7, are held up as our public conscience. The Left calls this "progress." I call it perversion.

There's only one way this nonsense ever goes away: When we say "enough!" and tell the race-baiters their time is up. It's too much of an industry, so it probably won't happen tomorrow. But the Sixties ideal is crashing and burning before our very eyes, and I think it'll take a lot of its warped obsessions down with it.

I keep hoping that Lefty race-baiting will reach some sort of tipping point, and people will wise up.

I often feel like pointing out to some of the African-Americans I encounter in our parish (don't worry, I never say nuthin') that if liberal Democrats really cared about black Americans, they would have made sure the first black presidential candidate was rock-solid. Experienced, competent, wise.

Of course if that were the criterion, the first black president would almost certainly be a Republican...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:34 PM

October 11, 2009

"the conflict had to be fought in grime and terror"

From Ralph de Toledano's A Friend Remembers Whittaker Chambers:

...Few understood the Old Testament evocations of what he wrote in Witness. "Political freedom is a political reading of the Bible." But the word when uttered takes flight and lodges in hearts that are otherwise occupied. He looked to a God of Mercy, but when the sword was brandished, it was to a God of Justice that he bent...

...I had known several men who had come out of the dark world of the Communist underground, but what I learned from them was little more than names, dates, and places. What Whittaker Chambers imparted was a sense of meaning and dimension — a sense not of Good-and-Evil, but of Good-in-Evil. He gave the names, dates, and places, but he invested his account with their tragic reality. I understood, as he talked, what was at stake in the Hiss case — not only for him but for me as well. It is impossible to express why I was so moved and so involved. I was hearing of conspiracies and activities about which I knew, but they were set in the context of history and personal travail.

For Whittaker Chambers, history was a living tapestry in which past and present were interwoven with a lurking future. He would speak of the French Revolution, of the marching Kronstadt sailors, of Lenin and Stalin and the cellars of the Lubyanka, of the Cromwellian mobs and the shattering blow to Western civilization in the First World War, of Soviet spymasters and the Nazi-Soviet pact all in one voice — as if it were all happening now, an unwinding newsreel. He measured the conflict as one between men like himself and like the Communist who declared with equal determination, "Embrace the Butcher but change the world" — Bertolt Brecht's searing line. And he separated both from those who dawdled with reason and escaped from commitment. He also accepted the terrible and humbling fact that the conflict had to be fought in grime and terror, leaving their taint on those who fought it.

"Is dirt nice? Is death nice? Above all is dying nice?" he wrote me much later. "And, in the end, we must ask, is God nice? I doubt it." And again, "A man's special truth is in the end all there is in him. And with that he must be content though life give him no more, though man give him nothing." For he was convinced in his last years that his witness was "all for nothing, that nothing has been gained except the misery of others, that it was the tale of the end and not of the beginning. . . . You cannot save what cannot save itself." He stood, in those days, like Jeremiah in the solitary city, his feet treading the scrolls. And yet to the very end, when he wrote and burned and burned and wrote again the pages of a book that was not to be finished, he never dismissed the imperatives of history that demanded the defeat of the pundits and the paleographers. It is an imperative of the heart, and his great heart knew it....

Posted by John Weidner at 11:13 PM

October 3, 2009

Never again.

Charlene recommends this piece by Robin of Berkeley in American Thinker, Sympathy for the Devil. It's very much a "read the whole thing" thing. But I will quote a line that struck me...

...We have a man who has been privileged with the greatest honor, the Presidency, and what does he do? Does he demonstrate an ounce of gratitude or humility?

No, he betrays us in the most profound way possible: by not protecting and defending us....

And defending us means defending Israel. Israel is part of us. Part of our DNA, as Spengler put it. A sibling, in a way no other country is. An almost invariable marker of the sickness of Leftism is ice-heartedness towards both America and Israel.

Thanks to Roger Simon for these...

And this...

AFP: Israel gets two more German submarines:

...JERUSALEM — Israel has taken delivery of two German submarines ordered four years ago, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We have received two Dolphin-class submarines built in Germany," he said, on condition of anonymity. The submarines, called U212s, can launch cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, although when it confirmed the sale in 2006 the German government said the two vessels were not equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The subs were ordered in 2005 and delivery was initially expected in 2010.

Including the two new ones, Israel has five German submarines -- the most expensive weapon platforms in Israel's arsenal.

Germany, which believes it has a historic responsibility to help Israel because of the mass murder of Jews in World War II, donated the first two submarines after the 1991 Gulf War....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 AM

September 20, 2009

"Inextricably intertwined"

Why Should America Support Israel? -- Spengler:

...But there is a far more fundamental reason for America to support Israel. Israel is part of America's DNA. As Michael Novak showed so effectively in his book On Two Wings, America's founding drew on the uniquely Hebrew concept of holiness of the individual and divine love for the weak and powerless, as much as it did on the natural law tradition of Grotius and Locke. The destiny of the United States of America and the people of Israel are inextricably intertwined for that reason, and America's affinity for Israel and deep interest in the welfare of the Jewish people are bred in American marrow.

From this point of view, what is sacred about America is a reflection of the holiness of Israel. If America succeeds in banishing the sacred from public life — and that is the broader agenda of the liberal Democrats [precisely so.] — there will be little reason for America to have a special relationship with Israel except for military convenience. And if this banishment of the sacred from public life were to coincide with a demoralized retreat from the exercise of power in Western and Central Asia, there would be little reason at all for a special relationship.

America's Jewish leadership has failed on all counts.

The liberal left with its smarmy universalism has demanded that Israel make any concession required to appease the paranoia of the Arab world. But this is a paranoia that cannot be appeased, for the patient really is dying. [See Spengler here.]

The secular right argued that because Israel is the region's only democracy, it deserves a special relationship, and argued further that imposing democratic governments on other countries would lead to cheer and goodwill everywhere. But Americans never cared enough about whether other countries were democratic to make it the criteria for a special relationship (how about Iceland?), and project of imposing democracy on the Arab world came to a horrible end. [I disagree on both points. And if Iceland were beleaguered we would discover that the Icelanders are our cousins, and their democracy emerged from the same Dark Ages germanic WALD as did the "Rights of Englishmen," for which we fought our revolution.]

The religious leadership should have had the most to say about Israel's holiness and the American character. Not only did it fail to make this argument, but it stuck its fingers in its ears and turned its back when Christians made this argument—Michael Novak, for example. Rather than make common cause with the Christians who sought Jews out in friendship in the clear belief that the welfare of the Jewish people was of existential importance for the United States, the religious community for the most part dwelt on past injuries. That, perhaps, is the most disappointing of all.

Obama's betrayal of Israel forces a reconsideration of Jewish policy in general. It exposes the left the rage of the majority of the Jewish organizations (weighted by donors), although younger secular Jews will continue to pursue their pipe-dreams....

Israel is us. America and Israel are the only countries that are, in their essence, ideas. Not "nations," not a volk, not a language, not a history...but an idea. Therefore they are the only two countries one can easily join, just by accepting the idea. (Technically an Israeli Jew needs to be born Jewish, but in practice one can convert. But even without that, Jews from long-isolated regions, who have almost entirely forgotten Jewishness, can still be Israelis.)

And Israel and the US were both founded by escapees from domination by European elites. (That's one of the reasons Leftists are so anti-) They are countries of the self-made, of pioneers who started with nothing, fought savages and reclaimed the land. The first Israelis had much more in common with Sarah Palin than Barack Obama.

And both are The Chosen People. The Jews of course. And Americans symbolically, in virtue of America being a Christian refuge and project, for Christians are God's New Israel. And because we see ourselves as a"City on a Hill." A light unto the nations. That's the biggest reason why our Leftists and fake-pacifists hate both America and Jews, and cling lovingly to any supposed sin by either, and repeat them gloatingly for generations. They hate God.

Or rather, they hate the demand to serve God. Not themselves. (It's not really a demand demand....it's just the obvious thing one should do given the situation. If the guy who created a universe of at least 100 billion galaxies cares about—loves—little me....there is no other reasonable response.) The self-worshipper feels imposed-upon by Jews and Christians and American and Israeli patriots, even if he or she doesn't have any contact with them at all. It's really their conscience speaking, through Jews and Americans as symbols.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 PM

September 18, 2009

Bingo...

I'm not, as who should say, a huge fan of J McCain. But I gotta give him kudos for this! Blunt! I love it. Thank you, Senator.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:24 PM

September 17, 2009

Context

I recently got into an online argument with a leftisty over a particularly slimy item which equated the 9/11 attack with the takeover of Chile by Gen. Pinochet. A twofer of anti-Americanism! Arguing was a waste of electrons on my part, but I'll reprise some thoughts here, just for personal satisfaction.

I pointed out that the end result is that Chile is now a strong democracy, with the highest GDP per capita in the region, low unemployment, etc. In fact, probably the best place for people in Latin America. And the possible alternative that was avoided in overthrowing Allende is the hell-hole that is Cuba, where cell phones are status-symbols of the rich, and writers are thrown into labor camps. Where prostitution and sex-tourism are the only growth industries

Of course Mr D (I'll call him D for Denigrator) doesn't care a whit for brown-skinned people in far parts of the globe. They aren't real. (Unless they are harmed by the US or Israel. Then suddenly human suffering matters.) And of course the torture and suffering inflicted by the Castro regime is especially invisible.

Mr D accused me of worshipping force and empire, etc. And violating Catholic moral law, which does not permit doing evil so good will come. Which is true, and that is something I care about. But moral reasoning always exists in a context. It's not a simple set of norms that can be applied automatically.

So for my own satisfaction I'll place the situation in what I think is its real context, and any experts out there may feel free to correct me.

Imagine that I have a friend whose life is falling apart. Joe has lost his job, and is sliding into indigence, or crime, or addiction—something ghastly. So I steal some money and use it to help Joe pull himself together and get a job. And the end result is that his children are fed, and he becomes a solid citizen.

And then suppose that Mr D spends the next forty years, with smug self-satisfaction, accusing me of being a thief. And preening himself on his moral superiority. And never once expressing the slightest pleasure that Joe has escaped poverty. Suppose he is obviously ice-heartedly indifferent to the actual suffering human beings in the case.

AND, imagine that I continue on helping many other people escape the traps of poverty. AND, I find a better way [LINK!] to do so without needing to steal anything. And yet Mr D shows not the slightest interest in this, even when It's been pointed it out to him in the past.

Who's the Christian here? And who's the whited sepulcher?

Jesus told a story about a guy who helped a man who had been beaten and robbed. And the sharp point of the story of that good Samaritan was that Samaritans were despised heretics to the Jews! They were hated sinners, loathed worse than pagans. And, for the Jewish priest to pass by the injured man was probably a moral thing to do by Jewish standards. Pious Jews, especially priests, had to avoid all kinds of contaminations, like touching corpses, or touching non-Jews. But Jesus cuts through the crap with a brutal logic that it is hard for us to even appreciate now, and sides with the mucky yucky guy who jumps in to help those in need. If Jesus came back now he might tell the story of the Good Atheist, or the Good Mormon, who helps someone when supposed Christians pass on the other side of the road.

And think a moment about a person who spends decades repeatedly pointing out a particular sin someone committed. As if that ere the only thing that happened. Cherishing his moment of moral superiority. What does it tell you about the state of his soul? What does it mean? I think it was Augustine who defined the root of sin as being incurvatus est. That is, curved in on yourself. I think of that phrase when I see Leftizoids cherishing and caressing their little moral-superiority gotchas that in fact occurred when I was a boy! They keep them like oysters making a pearl. And their little ice-chip hearts curve in and in and inwards.

Life isn't like a series of neat binary moral choices. It's a struggle on a darkling plain. You can either jump into the maelstrom, and make mistakes, and try to do better. Or you can sit on the sidelines and sneer.

I think a lot of Lefties are like updated versions of the Cheshire Cat. They seem to be slowly fading into nothingness, until all that's left is the sneer.

Virtue is not, like riches, power or glory, a privileged or exceptional thing; it is the reign of order in every soul that wills it, the spontaneous fruit of love, which is the common fund of our nature, and the most lowly hut is an asylum as open to it as the palace of kings. A thought followed by a resolve, a resolve followed by an act: such is virtue. It is produced when we desire it, it increases as quickly as our desires, and if it costs much to him who has lost it, he has always in himself the ransom which will bring it back again...
-- Lacordaire
Posted by John Weidner at 10:26 AM

September 7, 2009

"It will send us back to the Middle Ages"

Good stuff on health care, from Clark Judge:

...In recent weeks I have talked with people on the cutting edge of health delivery. There is a tremendous amount of experiment going in health care delivery. At least some of these experiments will transform health delivery and, if public policy allows it, solve the problem that is driving health overhaul: inflation of costs.

One such experiment is with what is called direct primary care. Think of Minute Clinics, only bigger and broader. For a modest and fixed monthly fee ($40 to $80/month), these facilities assume responsibility for all of a patient's routine care. Appointments can be same day. Time allotted per patient is extensive.

How? By taking fees directly from the patent not the insurance company or the government. These firms estimate that 40 percent of the costs of health providers (not insurers, providers) are incurred in the processing the paperwork that government and private payers demand. Much of the productivity boost allows higher care for a lower price is derived from cutting out these costs.

Another set of experiments is with a new approach to pharmaceuticals. I asked a former senior official at the Food and Drug Administration what he thought of Obamacare. It will send us back to the Middle Ages, he replied. His reason? The administration's embrace of comparative effectiveness standards would cut off the most promising experiments in medical science.

Comparative effectiveness standards are, he explained, based on population averages — greatest good for the greatest number. But born of the mapping of the genome and other biochemical advances, the changes he saw coming would lead to medicine that is specifically tailored to each patient's unique makeup. Comparative effectiveness panels, he said, would effectively end the ongoing research and development in patient specific care.

The widely understood alternative to the president's government-centered reforms is patient centered reform — including giving the consumer the same tax preferences when buying insurance for themselves as companies now receive and expanding Health Savings Accounts.

HSAs put those receiving care in charge of all normal health choices, cutting out both government and insurance companies. With HSAs, the usual questions consumers ask — in particular how much value am I receiving for the money — consumers are now asking for the first time in decades in the American health world. ......
Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 AM

September 4, 2009

I second this: Afghanistan Is Not "Obama's War"

I have utter contempt and hatred for the scoundrel dogs who claimed that the Iraq Campaign was "Bush's War." The Iraq Campaign was voted for by Congress. That makes it America's war! No American citizen has the right to stand aside and sneer. All Americans owe a solemn duty to give warm-hearted, generous-hearted support for our troops and our country's objectives. (NO, I'm not saying that one can't make constructive criticisms.)

Likewise with Afghanistan. It is America's fight. No Republican has the right to oppose it just to hurt Obama or the Democrats. That would be despicable.

Dan Senor and Peter Wehner: Afghanistan Is Not 'Obama's War' - WSJ.com:

...We also believe supporting the president's Afghanistan policy is politically smart for Republicans. For one thing, isolationist tendencies don't do well in American politics. Even in a war as unpopular as Vietnam, George McGovern's "Come Home, America" cry backfired badly. So has every attempt since then. There is no compelling evidence that the congressional GOP was politically well served in the 1990s by opposing intervention in the Balkans.

In addition, indifference or outright opposition to the war would smack of hypocrisy, given the Republican Party's strong (and we believe admirable) support for President Bush's post-9/11 policies, its robust support for America's democratic allies, and its opposition to rogue regimes that threaten American interests. Republicans should stand for engagement with, rather than isolation from, the world. Strongly supporting the president on Afghanistan would also be a sign of grace on the part of Republicans. We know all too well how damaging it was to American foreign policy to face an opposition that was driven by partisan fury against our commander in chief. Republicans should never do to President Obama what many Democrats did to President Bush.

Mr. Obama's policies shouldn't be immune from criticism; far from it. Responsible criticism is a necessary part of self-government. And we are particularly concerned about reports that retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, told Gen. McChrystal earlier this summer not to ask for more troops and that the Obama White House is wary to offer what Gen. McChrystal says he will need to succeed.

We do believe, however, that Republicans should resist the reflex that all opposition parties have, which is to oppose the stands of a president of the other party because he is a member of the other party. In this instance, President Obama has acted in a way that advances America's national security interests and its deepest values. Republicans should say so. As things become even more difficult in Central Asia, it's important to keep bad political patterns we have seen before from re-emerging.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

August 26, 2009

"The essential incoherence of modern liberalism"

Orrin Judd on Ted Kennedy...

...but his own legislative legacy means that to some considerable extent we live in Ted Kennedy's America. Of course, his isolationism meant that the South Vietnamese live in Ted Kennedy's Vietnam and, had he had his way, Eastern Europe would still be to some extent Ted Kennedy's Iron Curtain and Iraq would be Ted Kennedy's Ba'athist regime, etc. Among the tragedies of his life is that where the older brothers became heroes fighting the Axis powers, he was only too willing to countenance equally vile evils. And even setting aside the personal damage he did to people, he can never be forgiven his betrayal of his own religion to embrace abortion. For all the talk of how much he cared for the weakest members of society, the fact is he helped kill tens of millions of the most vulnerable.

The great irony of his career was that he was at his very best when he helped to prevent government from limiting people--immigration reform, civil rights, deregulation—largely mistaken when he either helped or turned a blind eye to government interference in people's lives—all of the various mandates and regulations he helped pass—and a fellow traveler with evil when he collaborated with regimes that oppressed and killed people, from the legal regime of Roe to the foreign regimes of North Vietnam, Iraq, etc. His inconsistency on these questions made him a lesser man than a Ronald Reagan or a George W. Bush who applied their humanitarianism universally and illustrates the essential incoherence of modern liberalism, of which he was the last icon.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

August 20, 2009

Made me proud...

I recommend this piece by Michael Yon, Do Americans Care about British Soldiers?

It's about an amazing effort to save a severely wounded British soldier in Afghanistan. It involved multiple airlifts, coordinated by the The Combined Air and Space Operations Center, which is an amazing place in itself.

...Officials at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center and Joint Patient Movement Requirements Center at an air base in Southwest Asia, and the Global Patient Movements Requirement Center and 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., immediately started working to find the aircraft, aircrews and medical crews to airlift the soldier to further care.

"We received the call on our operations floor to airlift the British soldier from Afghanistan to Germany and immediately did what we could to make it happen," said Col. John Martins, the 618th TACC director of operations who led coordination efforts for the mission. "It was a complex move. Not only did we have to find a plane and crew to fly the patient out of theater, but also we had to find another plane and aircrew to get the right medical personnel and equipment into Afghanistan because we needed specialized medical teams to care for the patient in-flight."

In less than six hours, a C-17 Globemaster III previously scheduled to fly a cargo mission was airborne with the required medical personnel and equipment from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to Afghanistan...

And, sorry to interject politics here, but the Brits themselves were capable of neither the medical nor the logistical miracles needed to save their own soldier. Why? Because that once-great nation has been destroyed by the very socialist policies that Obama and "Progressives" want to use to destroy the United States of America.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:40 PM

Why "bi-partisan" doesn't work any more...

Post-Partisan Promise Fizzles - WSJ.com:

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama campaigned last year on a pledge to end the angry partisanship in Washington. He wasn't the first to promise a post-partisan presidency: Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton offered a similar change, only to see the mutual hostility between Republicans and Democrats increase while they were in the White House.

Now, just as his predecessors did, Mr. Obama is seeing that promise turn to ashes. Angry town-hall meetings, slumping presidential approval poll numbers and rising opposition to his signature health-care proposals suggest an early resumption of politics as usual....

But why? Only Random Jottings can explain!

If your read this blog, you will understand! (And it won't do you a speck of good; if you try to tell someone they will just consider you a weirdo.)

Mr Random Jottings knows, because his mind was formed first by reading Peter Drucker. And Drucker pointed out something that was true, back then, but which I don't think is true any longer.

He often told truths in the form of stories, and one of them—I don't remember where I read it—was about his receiving a European visitor, who complained about the numbing sameness of America. Of a lack of variety. Drucker pointed out, as a counter-example, the astonishing variety of institutions of higher learning within a twenty mile radius of where they sat. Public, private, religious, ethnic, technical, tiny, huge...scores of them, all wildly different.

But the visitor was not in the least impressed. And Drucker finally winkled out of him that what he called "sameness" was the lack of ideological variety. The visitor came from a world of intense and clear-cut political world-views ranging from fascists to Christian Democrats to Social Democrats to socialists to communists.

The thing was, we Americans (back then) shared a common ideology. 90% at least of Americans shared a belief in "the American Dream," American exceptionalism, limited government, free-market economics, and in a sort of generic Christianity as the "public religion." It was only a small fringe who disagreed with this. (Commies, basically. And most Americans saw nothing wrong with purging them from public life. Well, they deserved it, since they were either secret agents of a totalitarian enemy, or aiders and abetters.)

Drucker wryly pointed out that most Americans would deny they had any kind of ideology whatsoever!

And in that situation bi-partisanship was fairly common. Why? Because both parties were variations on the same themes. When I was growing up there were lots of conservative Dems and lots of liberal Republicans! And the very-Catholic Dems were the party of traditional morality!

But the situation Drucker described, and which I grew up with, has changed. Now we have maybe only 60 or 70% of Americans sharing that set of traditional social-political beliefs. And now we have 20% or 30% with a clearly different ideology. One that is hard to pin down, because its proponents are slippery and deceptious. "Progressive" is the current nom de guerre.

And people like me refer to this ideaology as "anti-American," which is not quite accurate. It is really "anti" that traditional American ideology, and the institutions that embody it. The "Progressive" loves American in those aspects that fit his ideology.... He or she loves Berkeley or Ann Arbor or Boston or Manhattan. And loves to see victms standing in line to be processed by government bureaucrats.

And while "Progressive" by no means describes all Democrats, it does describe the people who hold the levers of power in the party.

It is a very interesting thing that both George W Bush and Sarah Palin were very successfully bi-partisan in their roles as state governors. Both worked with Dems in their state legislatures in just getting practical things done. And in both cases their bi-partisanship became impossible the instant they stepped on to the national stage.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:29 AM

August 16, 2009

This should deflate some Baby-Boomer egos...

You're Bob Dylan? NJ police want to see some ID:

...The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said. The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show. The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added...

Classy guy. Unlike a certain other person who was questioned by the police recently. But I just have to laugh at the way the young cops had never heard of him. There's an opinion floating around my generation that our youthful musical efforts had some sort of significance, or importance in history. Ha ha.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 AM

August 14, 2009

I thumb my nose at lefty Jew-haters...

Poll: 70% of Americans see Israel as U.S. friend - Haaretz:

...More than two-third of Americans regard Israel as an ally despite recent diplomatic tensions, a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. polling firm Rasmussen Reports has revealed.

The 70 percent who view Israel as America's friend marks twice the number of respondents who view Egypt as an ally, though that Middle Eastern country has been polled as the most highly regarded Islamic country among Americans.

According to the poll, 81 percent of U.S. voters agree that Palestinian Authority leaders must recognize Israel's right to exist as part of any future Middle Eastern peace agreement...

Bad investment: Poor Obam, he spent twenty years listening to Jeremiah Wright spout anti-Semitic venom, and the result is that he's totally out of touch with actual Americans...

Friend of Israel emblem

Posted by John Weidner at 6:06 PM

July 30, 2009

Cuff the blowhards and take 'em in to cool off...

My one thought on l'affaire Gates...

The job of the police is to preserve law and order. Not just law.

I don't feel much sympathy for the bloggers who have been saying, "I have a constitutional right to mouth off at a cop." Well, maybe so, but if you do, he has—or should have—a common sense right and duty to toss you in the black-and-white and take you to jail for a few hours. And I hope he does.

Why? Because if wise-guys can get away with giving the cops a lot of crap, then the "order" part of law n' order will be severely harmed. Bad actors will be encouraged in their evils. The authority cops have to preserve order will be eroded.

It's just like the "Broken Windows Theory" of crime prevention. It has become clear that allowing a neighborhood to be vandalized or trashed encourages crime. And that keeping on top of small offenses and misdemeanors discourages crime. People just don't do crimes as much when they get the subliminal message that it's not tolerated thing.

Well, having loudmouths wandering around bragging about how they insult cops, and that the cops just have to take it without responding... That will have the very same crime-encouraging effect.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:39 PM

July 22, 2009

Food groups of the Blue Man...

The Blue-State Meltdown and the Collapse of the Chicago Model:

On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory. The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry.

Despite his famous no-blue-states-no-red-states-just-the-United-States statement, more than 90 percent of the top 300 administration officials come from states carried last year by President Obama. The inner cabinet—the key officials—hail almost entirely from a handful of cities, starting with Chicago but also including New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco area.

This administration shares all the basic prejudices of the Blue Man including his instinctive distaste for "sprawl," cars, and factories. In contrast, policy is tilting to favor all the basic blue-state economic food groups—public employees, university researchers, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, and the major urban land interests.

Yet despite all this, the blue states appear to be continuing their decades-long meltdown. "Hope" may still sell among media pundits and café society, but the bad economy, increasingly now Obama's, is causing serious pain to millions of ordinary people who happen to live in the left-leaning part of America.

For example, while state and local budget crises have extended to some red states, the most severe fiscal and economic basket cases largely are concentrated in places such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, and, perhaps most vividly of all, California. The last three have among the highest unemployment rates in the country; all the aforementioned are deeply in debt and have been forced to impose employee cutbacks and higher taxes almost certain to blunt a strong recovery....

Blue States = Europe. Unfriendly to America, morality, Israel, Life, liberty, and, especially, God. So they are dying. Well, duh.

And I can report, embedded as I am in the Heart of Darkness, that the Blue Man ain't as happy as one would expect him to be right now...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 AM

July 20, 2009

Even if you are a same-sex marriage supporter...

...You should be embarrassed by the bogosity of the arguments in this piece...

Davis Boies, Gay Marriage and the Constitution - WSJ.com:

...The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it. In 1978 the Court (8 to 1, Zablocki v. Redhail) overturned as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law preventing child-support scofflaws from getting married. The Court emphasized, "decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals." In 1987 the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional a Missouri law preventing imprisoned felons from marrying....

This is as if I wanted to change the definition of "US citizen" to anyone with a Green Card — and I then quoted various voting-rights cases in support of this. And then went all sob-sister about how the Supreme Court holds that the right to vote is fundamental, and how can bigots deny our resident alien-citizens their inalienable rights?

That would be a dishonest argument, because the cases assume that citizenship is a certain thing. Similarly, cases like those mentioned in the quote are not applicable because they all assume that marriage IS a certain thing. Gay-marriage advocates want to change the definition of marriage.

The article is intellectually fraudulent because it assumes a priori that same-sex couples already have the right to marry, a right that has been denied to them out of policy. Just like that law "preventing imprisoned felons from marrying." It assumes that the new definition already exists; is already accepted.

No issue can be discussed without assuming that words mean what we commonly think they mean. If you want to give a word a different meaning in an argfument, then the rules of discourse require that you say so up front. The author is pulling a fast one by slipping in a new definition as if it is something we've already accepted.

Or consider this:

...Gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters, our teachers and doctors, our friends and neighbors, our parents and children. It is time, indeed past time, that we accord them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It is time, indeed past time, that our Constitution fulfill its promise of equal protection and due process for all citizens by now eliminating the last remnant of centuries of misguided state discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The argument in favor of Proposition 8 ultimately comes down to no more than the tautological assertion that a marriage is between a man and a woman. But a slogan is not a substitute for constitutional analysis. Law is about justice, not bumper stickers...

But the authors here make the equally "tautological" assertion that marriage is with ONE other person. How can you justify that, Mr Boies? What if I love two people? Do I not have the "basic human right" to marry the persons I love? Do I not deserve equal protection? Should we not end centuries of discrimination against "triads?"

Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 AM

July 13, 2009

Putting things in perspective...

Charlene recommends this, by the Steady Conservative:

...They immediately began to say that this is one of those 'do you remember where you were when Elvis died' kinda moments. Which sadly it probably is. Our society seems to adore these celebrities more than the true heroes of our nation. Michael Jackson was a great singer and performer. But that is all he was. And one who was accused numerous times of child molestation in addition to his drug problems.

So I ask. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when Ed Freeman died? It was covered in the media, but not like Michael Jackson. He did get a post office named after him, but there were not millions of mourners world wide. The day was August 20, 2008. Ed Freeman was a Vietnam War era Medal of Honor recipient, although due to a technicality, he did not receive the award until 2001. His wing man MAJ Bruce Crandall received his in 2007. Here is his citation....

I can proudly say that I wasn't even aware that Elvis died, whenever it was he died. If he died...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 PM

July 4, 2009

"God Save our American States"

I've posted these before, but not for a few years...

From a letter by Abigail Adams to John Adams (who was in Philadelphia with the Continental Congress), July 21, 1776:

Abigail Adams...Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the multitude into King's Street to hear the proclamation for independence read and proclaimed. Some Field pieces with the Train were brought there, the troops appeared under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousands from the country). When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona [balcony] of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was paid to every word.

As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyful. Mr Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen...

And also from a letter, by John to Abigail...

yyy
I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means...
--John Adams

Posted by John Weidner at 1:15 PM

July 2, 2009

For the Fourth...

Of course it would be best to have an equivalent song from the Revolutionary war. But if there's any American who doesn't get a lump in the throat listening to this one, well, he's not an American at all. Just a worm...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:02 PM

June 19, 2009

This approach actually works... So of course Dems are not interested...

Greg Scandlen, More choice for consumers is always healthy - BostonHerald.com:

...Meanwhile there is an approach that has proven to work after six years of testing by millions of people nationwide. Consumer-driven health (CDH) plans empower individuals by taking money away from third-party payers and putting it in the hands of consumers to spend as they wish.

Now that one out of five Americans under age 65 is paying some of his or her own bills through health savings accounts (HSA), high deductible plans and similar consumer-driven plans, policymakers are beginning to see a profound effect on the service side of the ledger. Consumer-driven health (CDH) plans cost 25 percent to 40 percent less than preferred provider organizations (PPO) and health maintenance organizations (HMO), and their rate of annual cost increases is one-third of that of the two other plans.

It isn't just vendors with a vested interest that are capturing these results. Last fall the Kaiser Family Foundation found the average family premium for an HMO totaled $13,100 while an HSA cost only $9,100. The premiums for CDHs at WellPoint and Cigna actually fell over a two-year period, while premiums for their HMOs and PPOs rose about 10 percent.

Costs for CDH plans are falling because people are becoming more invested in their own health - something policymakers have long been trying to achieve without success. Consumers with a CDH participate in wellness/prevention programs at a higher rate than others, and they choose generic drugs over name brands, avoid using emergency rooms in favor of retail clinics or their own doctor, and comply better with recommended treatment programs.

By any measure, CDH is a success, confirmed last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It found 20 percent of the under-65 population is now in some version of a CDH.

So, why isn't Orszag jumping for joy? His hope for a more efficient, better quality health care system that actually lowers costs is being realized right before his eyes. He either is not paying attention or he prefers to hope for complicated, government remedies that may never work....

Of course he does. Dems want to run the circus, and are only interested in "solutions" that involve bigger government.

Well, thank you Republicans, for getting HSA's passed after decades of Democrat obstruction. And thank you George W. Bush!

Posted by John Weidner at 3:51 PM

June 10, 2009

"Obama's identification with the Muslim predicament runs deep"

David P. Goldman (Spengler) is very good in First Things: Obama and Cairo:

...Americans shield themselves from the horror of national death. In the eyes of the third world, the Holocaust is of no special consequence. Every tribe and nation will face its own Holocaust, that is, its own extinction. The world is in the midst of a Great Extinction of peoples, in which between half and nine-tenths of the world's 6,000 languages will be silent forever during the next century. Americans shield their eyes from the horror that pervades life in the Muslim world, the sense of looming extinction that lies upon ordinary life like an unending plague of darkness. As Franz Rosenzweig wrote, "Just as every individual must reckon with his eventual death, the peoples of the world foresee their eventual extinction, be it however distant in time. Indeed, the love of the peoples for their own nationhood is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death. Thus the peoples of the world foresee a time when their land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when their language is entombed in books, and their laws and customers have lost their living power."

At one level, the Palestinian belief that the cozy settlements of their exile are the equivalent of the Nazi death camps is delusional. At a deeper level, it is true, for the Palestinians Arabs are dying of shame and humiliation, that is, of their incapacity to adapt to the modern world. They are not dying quite so fast as their Persian coreligionists, but they are dying nonetheless. They know they are dying. They make a virtue of it in the slogan, "You love life: we love death." They fight like men with nothing to lose, because they have nothing to lose in fact.

It used to be the conservatives who stood athwart history, shouting "Stop!" Now it is the president of the United States. As the son, stepson, and half-sibling of Muslims, Obama's identification with the Muslim predicament runs deep. Contrary to some benign interpretations, I do not believe that Obama has made a well-meaning or naive gesture towards the so-called Muslim world. On the contrary, his opinions were long in formation, and his actions precisely calculated. But he is cleverer by far than his American critics. He understands the various tribes of American politics as cultures to be profiled and manipulated....

"Every tribe and nation will face its own Holocaust..." Very true. And I've advocated measures which will advance this, by spreading democracy and capitalism into parts of the world that are now ignorant of them. You could easily say I'm a monster, a destroyer of cultures, were it not for the fact that it's going to happen no matter what we do. It's just happening. Globalization is dissolving local things all around us. Democracy is advancing at a rate of 1.5 countries per year. Despite horrible exceptions, the world is growing richer, and fewer people are poor. (The economic liberalization in India starting in the 90's is estimated to have lifted 300 million people out of poverty, and into the Indian middle-class. Think about that number: 300 million. Almost the population of the whole US. Stupefying, a prodigy, though people seem to just take it for granted.)

But America is a dying culture as much as any. Our very success is now replacing our traditional culture with another one that looks similar on the outside, but is nowhere near the same inside. I'm old enough to know. I grew up with some old-timers, worked with them, and absorbed America through my pores. And I was also part, though I didn't realize it at the time, of the first great discontinuity in American culture, in the 1960's, when vast numbers of young people simply dropped much of what it was to be American and invented new and bizarre alternatives.

I've been concerned in a diffuse way about such things since the 1970's, but the big eye-opener for me was 9/11. Because I had just assumed that Americans would rally to their country's defense in the same way they did after Pearl Harbor. What a shock it was to me when a large portion of Americans didn't! It was, and still is, like being in one of those science-fiction stories where the alien shape-shifters are replacing ordinary people, and the hero tries to warn the others, and they think he's crazy.

Which leads inevitably—if one is not afraid to follow the inferences—to the question, "What, if anything, does NOT change?" And If you ponder that, you quickly realize that simple conservative rigidity doesn't work. For any organization to stay the same, it is necessary to adapt to a changing world while keeping the essentials un-changed. A very tall order! Impossible!

There is one group on earth that seems to be able to do exactly this. And I joined that very group without even being aware of it. It was only after I decided to join the Church Catholic that I grasped that she really was this flexible but unchanging organism. (I don't have time to go into this fascinating topic right now, but I assure you I can back my assertion up with facts if needed.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

June 3, 2009

"Just a regular old guy"

"We Didn't Know He Was Clarence Thomas":

High school seniors Terrence Stephens and Jason Ankrah, star football players at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., were sitting on a plane returning from a recruitment session at the University of Nebraska when they struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to them.

Their seat-mate just happened to be a major Cornhuskers fan.

When they started chatting, Stephens and Ankrah didn't have a clue they were holding court with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

"I was amazed this guy knew so much about us as football players and as people," said Stephens. "That was shocking. I felt honored to be known by someone of his caliber. He was just a regular old guy, sitting in coach, which really shocked me."...
Typical of the man. I've heard plenty of stories like this. If a liberal acted like Clarence Thomas, it'd be big news. This too...
...By the time the plane landed, the students had figured out who Thomas was, and they promptly told their principal they wanted to invite Thomas to give the keynote speech at their high school graduation. Of course, Principal Carole Working didn't exactly think Thomas would take them up on it. But he showed up at the high school on Monday...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:20 AM

May 30, 2009

U kan take it from de Tocqueville...

Charlene recommends this video by Andrew Klavan, aimed at kids graduating from college: Why Are Conservatives So Mean?

I can't embed it like a YouTube, but it's really good, and fun. Please take a look...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

May 24, 2009

Memorial Day...

We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men.' That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, 'except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'
John F. Kennedy
Undelivered luncheon speech
Dallas, Texas
Nov. 22, 1963


Posted by John Weidner at 6:46 PM

May 10, 2009

Government health care. Disaster. So, why do it?

Mark Steyn, on the Hugh Hewitt show... (emphasis added)

...HH: Everywhere you try it, you just mentioned Bulgaria, Great Britain and Canada, it is a disaster. Why do they want to do it?

MS: Well, what is does is, if you're a Democrat, what it does is it changes the relationship between the citizen and the state. It alters the equation. If you provide government health care, then suddenly all the elections, they're not thought about war and foreign policy, or even big economic questions. They're suddenly fought about government services, and the level of government services, and that's all they're about, because once you get government health care, the citizens' dependency on government as provider is so fundamentally changed that in effect, every election is fought on left wing terms. And for the Democratic Party, that is a huge, transformative advantage.

HH: Oh, that's very interesting. Now in Canada, though, don't people get mad at their quality of health care? Don't they throw the bums out and perhaps urge a return to American style medicine?
MS: No, because the strange thing is that when people, even when people have really bad experiences, you see this in the British press all the time whenever they have one of these horror stories about someone who goes in because they've got a bad case of, they've got a case of pneumonia, and they wake up and find their left leg's been amputated because the wrong memo went around. All those horror stories are always followed two days later by someone writing a fawningly, groveling letter about having received mediocre, third world care, but being eternally grateful for it. It really does, government health care is really the ditch you want to fight in, because once you surrender that, I think it's very difficult to have genuine self-reliant citizenry every again. It really fundamentally changes the equation.

HH: Then where's the AMA?  Where is business? Why hasn't this battle been joined even as the ink is getting very dry on the big Obama rewrite of American medicine?

MS: Well, because I think most of the spokesmen for the conservative argument in Washington do not make the case. And they don't understand that once you've got a government system, it becomes like any other government program. On Friday, you have to pay the doctor, you have to pay the nurse, you have to pay the janitor. So your only way of controlling the cost is to restrict access to the patient, to the customer. And that's why once you've got a government health care system, everything is about waiting lists and waiting time. It's about waiting two years for a hip operation. It's about waiting 9 months for an MRI. It's about waiting, waiting, waiting....

Some other thoughts by Alan Sullivan here.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:06 PM

May 9, 2009

East Side, West Side...

This is just too cool...

(Thanks to Publius)

The book to read is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 AM

May 7, 2009

No reason to be ashamed...

Also part of that TigerHawk quote from the previous post:

...Hiroshima-Nagasaki

The US had already firebombed Tokyo with a higher loss of life than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The US had also firebombed about 70 other Japanese cities. Without the A-bomb drops, Curtis LeMay would have lit up all of Japan -- conventionally -- by the time of an invasion, and had already made a good start. The B-29 was a remarkable plane for its time -- it ... not the A-bomb ... would have become known as the greatest single killing machine in world history.

The horror of WWII was that civilians became military targets, all over the world. In terms of "people killed" -- a gross measure, but still relevant -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki don't rank that high. You want "millions" and "horrific", you can't beat the Nazis. The Japanese military killed 200,000 to 300,000 civilians at Nanking alone -- and did it "retail" and often sadistically.

I'm not proud that the US nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- but it was justified and the right decision in the context of WWII.

Jon Stewart -- who I like -- is just wrong on this. Exploding an A-bomb at sea as a demonstration wouldn't have been effective. I'd even go so far as to say that the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have helped the US and Soviets steer away from actual using the damned things...

Well, I AM proud that we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the correct moral choice, so there is no reason to be ashamed of. (And if it had been Russians who ended the war by using nukes, our lefty-frauds would have no problem with it.)

If you know the history of how difficult it was for those in the Japanese government who wanted to surrender to pull it off (the book to read is: Japan's Longest Day) you see that it is 99% likely that the nuclear bombing was one of the great acts of mercy in history, one that saved millions of lives. (If you think I'm being foolish, just read up on the battle for Okinawa, and multiply that by the much greater size and population of the main Islands!) The discussion thread I took these quotes from has comments from the descendents of Americans who were poised to invade Japan, and were saved from a bloodbath by the Atom Bomb.

But even that is in a way too America-centered; the number of Asians (including Japanese) we saved by using our nukes was far greater. Remember, Japan had more than a million men under arms in Manchuria at the end of the war. Imagine all of them fighting to the death, as was normal. Or running amok in defeat, as in the sack of Manila. (You might read this, on Japanese war crimes. Crimes which the A-Bomb put a stop to.)

  

Posted by John Weidner at 1:25 PM

April 28, 2009

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

Orrin Judd:

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 8:26 AM

April 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 8:20 AM

April 2, 2009

Traditions exist for reasons. Often good reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

March 5, 2009

Why there aren't any barbers anymore...

Riehl World View: Of Plumbers And Barbers:

...In the 70's and 80's many states merged their Barber and Cosmetology Boards into one. Suddenly a young man who could make a decent living as a Barber couldn't do a partly paid apprenticeship, taking just months to learn a career that could serve him for life. He had to pay to attend a Community College or private tech education program that could last two years, while making him learn a variety of skills he'd never employ. And he, or she was also taught to charge much more for the service.

And that doesn't include the regulation side, which went on to require every Barbershop to meet the standards of the largest women's Salon in terms of specialized sinks and facilities a traditional Barber would never need.

In states where this took place a career once dominated by men became a women's forte - which is fine, though many never have learned how to give a good Men's haircut. Costs of a haircut more than doubled, you could forget getting a nice shave if you wanted it. And businesses saw their overhead costs rise dramatically. And all because the government was just looking out for you....

I'd guess this is just another example of people being destroyed to advance leftist theory. It's a humble example, to be sure, but no different in kind from the many examples of whole countries destroyed, and millions slain. (Like this recent example.)

I don't know any details of how these decisions were made, but one would have to be blind not to realize that the barbershop would be an irritant to "feminists" and the general run of girly-men bureaucrats and academics. Think of it--a bunch of guys sitting around a totally male place, laughing and joking, talking about the game, or listening to Rush..... How the vegetarian-pacifist types must have hated it.

And it was so American...the striped pole, the big chairs, the piles of Sports Illustrated and Playboy. To relaxed shabbiness, and total disinterest in trendy decor and style. I'm sure the faculty lounge crowd recoiled in disgust. You know that.

So they destroyed it. In the same way, though on a miniature scale, that Stalin sent annoying tribes to Siberia, or Castro sends writers to labor camps.

They destroyed it, and we never got a vote. The last thing "Democrats" want is democracy. The nihilists will win in the end, because they are tireless ant-workers, always chewing away at all things tough and meaningful. The decisions are made in obscure bureaucratic corridors, and the battle is lost before the public even realizes there was a battle. And every augmentation of government power and size--you know, the ones done to "help people"--is really about moving more decisions out of private hands, and out of any possibility of people voting on the issues.

My sons will never know that old American institution, the barber shop. And so they will be a little less masculine, a little less confident in this brave new world where real existence is found in cubicles staring at computer monitors. They will have a little less fun--masculine fun. A sick irony; my son the singer knows barbershop quartets... but has probably never been in a barbershop! The barber shop will just be something old guys talk about, before time's river carries them away. Something grandpa bores you by going on about, like patriotism or the Federalist Papers, or the Bataan Death March.

And women will wonder, in the vague ineffectual way proper to their sex, why men are becoming somehow less satisfying, less interesting. Of course they won't wonder enough to actually DO anything, or re-think the crap they have been indoctrinated with--that sort of thinking is upsetting and can make one feel uncomfortable on Facebook!

If this was an influential blog, I might have to keep a civil tone, so as not to alienate readers and make dialog impossible. Since I'm just a very minor blogger, I can say what I like. Say what's true. Liberalism is evil. Leftism is evil. If you are a "Democrat," you are, at the very least, up to your waist in foul evil and nihilism and the destruction of all things good and true. I look on you worms with the utmost contempt!

* Update: Charlene adds that black hair braiding salons are now under pressure to adopt the same (utterly un-needed) "cosmetology" standards . But somehow this is an "institution" that liberals have some sympathy for preserving! I wonda why?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

January 25, 2009

The biggest "youth protests" of our time...

...but it's a funny thing. The people who usually want "youts" to march and protest and shake-up the stodgy sclerotic establishment seem oddly unamused. I can't imagine why.

Well, Charlene and I and our daughter Betsy had a great hike on the Walk for Life. I'd guess there were 20k of us. (another estimate says 30k) Lots of families and kids. And I kept thinking of Mark Steyn's phrase, "The future belongs to those who show up for it."

Walk For Life, San Francisco, 2009

Photo by Elizabeth Weidner

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 PM

December 31, 2008

So, If high gas prices meant that were being ripped off by Big Oil...

...do low gas prices mean the oil companies are doing something good? Just kidding; of course all oil companies are always horrid. Just ask a Democrat.

We're Spending $1 Billion Less a Day on Gas!:

...CNBC's Mary Thompson broke down the numbers she received from Kloza Friday: when gasoline peeked on July 11, we were spending $1.613 billion a day to fill our tanks. The combination of lower prices and lower consumption brings that down to $611.5 million today.

And, the news might get better because wholesale gasoline is currently trading around $0.80/gallon, which means that some parts of the country could see prices at the pump approaching $1 in the next few weeks.

Of course, we shouldn't ignore huge declines in what we'll all pay to heat our homes this winter. Heating oil a year ago was $2.64/gallon. Now it's $1.25, or down over 50 percent.

Maybe more important, this is down from a July peak of $4.15. And, natural gas has plummeted from $13.60 in July to $5.80 today, which means we're all getting a HUGE cut in heating costs not only from last year, but also based on what was being forecast just five months ago.

This seems worthy of some holiday cheer, although it's likely most media outlets won't care until after Inauguration Day when they'll be able to give the new president all the credit....

Actually, what's really silly about the lefty evil-oil-companies paranoia is the WE own them. Ordinary people. As Peter Drucker pointed out long ago, the majority of shares of publicly traded American companies are held by pension funds and mutual funds, which are middle class investment vehicles. (The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America)

Most of the "progressives" who were bellyaching about Dick Cheney and oil companies are really capitalists whose 401-k's and pension funds depend on companies like Haliburton making profits. And you can bet they wouldn't like it one little bit if their slice of capitalism were socialized.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

December 30, 2008

Puzzling things...

Madoff the Jew: The Media's Hypocritical Obsession With the Fraudster's Faith, by Phyllis Chesler:

...Most Jews do not recognize themselves in what Madoff did; they still expect to be judged on their own merits. I doubt this will happen. I think� Jews will be judged as if we are all guilty, whether or not we are innocent or poor, and whether or not we fight for justice for Palestinians or for justice for murdered Chabadniks in Mumbai. Here's one reason why.

For days now,� I have been following the media coverage of the Madoff scandal. I could not help but note that the New York Times kept emphasizing that he is Jewish and moved in monied, Jewish circles; not once, but time and again, in the same article, and in article after article. 'Tis true,� alas, 'tis true, the rogue is a Jew: But how exactly is Madoff's religion more relevant than Rod Blagojevich's religion?� The Times has not described Blagojevich� (or Kenneth Lay of Enron) as "Christians," nor do they describe the Arab or south Asian Muslim terrorists as "Muslims."....[Thanks to Bookworm]

That last sentence is misleading. If there was some way to link Ken Lay with real Christianity, they would have leaped at it. Imagine if he had been a pro-life activist!

Still, the kind of Jew-hatred the Times is showing is strange. It is exceedingly likely that most of the Jews touched by the Madoff mess are not very Jewish, except as a cultural holdover. For most American Jews, their real "religion" is liberalism, and the percentage of them who read the NYT is probably far higher than the general population. Yet we se leftist anti-Semitism all the time, especially in the truly insane hatred of the state of Israel. Think how crazy it is--Israel is a tolerant democratic society where Muslim MP's can heckle the Prime Minister, who might well be a woman. Israel is a place that has "gay pride" parades--and yet the Left invariably prefers Muslims who oppress women and gays.

Equally puzzling is why American Jews continue to put up with this. Perhaps they have just transferred their stubborn religious faithfulness to the new faith of liberalism, and are refusing to be detered by persecution!

Also puzzling is the philo-Semitism of so many of us on the Right. We sure don't gain any tangible benefits! One of the oddest things I read this year was this piece about President Bush's speech to the Israeli Knesset on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel. The Israelis were quite embarrassed to be lauded as Zionists and the Chosen People. Not to mention those references to that quaint old thing, the Bible!

It's almost like nobody believes the current "non-Jewishness" of so many Jews is real. Like any day now they will pull off the mask and be the People of the Book again...

An excerpt from the article:

....nd most embarrassingly of all, what President Bush believes about the Jews is something that nearly all Jews once believed about themselves. It's aggravating to be reminded of the you you once were and would like to forget. Remember the time back in high school when you had great ambitions and thought you had a God-given talent that the world would hear about some day? Not really, because now, decades later, you've done everything you can to banish it from your mind -- which is why you cringe when you run into an old classmate who recognizes you and exclaims with a slap on the back, "Hey, it's you! I'll never forget the impression you made on me."

For many Jews, President Bush is like that classmate. They wish he hadn't recognized them.

The president, it was observed rather ruefully in Israel, gave a Zionist speech such as hasn't been heard from mainstream Israeli politicians for many years. If by that is meant that he invoked the Bible, rather than the Oslo "peace process" or his own "road map," this is certainly true. The Bible has long ceased to be bon ton in Israeli intellectual life. It has become politically incorrect for Israelis to think that just because some possibly imaginary progenitors of theirs had religious fantasies about God's pledging them a country, their contemporary thinking needs to take this into account. If an American president feels comfortable with such fairy tales, that's no reason why they should.

President Bush clearly believes the Jews are central to history in a way most Jews themselves no longer do. They find such thinking primitive. The only problem is that history itself shows signs of agreeing with the president.

This, really, is the astonishing thing about the country Mr. Bush addressed last week when he said, "Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again and America will be at your side": How central to everything it is. A tiny place with a population that wouldn't fill any of the world's ten largest cities, it finds itself in the middle of all the great conflicts of our times: The battle for democracy, the war against terror, the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, the campaign against nuclear proliferation. Practically every scenario for a nuclear Armageddon, ranging from that of the most wild-eyed preacher of the Gospel to that of the most cool-headed political scientist, revolves around Israel.

Perhaps it really is primitive to believe, as President Bush does, that this has something to do with the Jews being the people of the Bible. Certainly, most Jews themselves would like to think that it has to do with other things. They would rather not be at the center of anything. It makes them nervous when someone reminds them that, despite their best efforts, that's where they still are. The role of being a chosen people is big on them.

The president of the United States disagrees. That's part of the reason why many Jews will be relieved to see him leave office next January. It's not just stem-cell research, or even the war in Iraq. The man thinks too much of us. That's something we're not prepared to put up with...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:57 AM

December 16, 2008

We brought peace to the planet, and nobody noticed...

Our friend in India, Bisaal, put a comment at this post. I'm taking the great liberty of expanding my answer into a post, since I don't have any other inspiration this morning.

Bisasl wrote:

The Vietnam intervention didnt work out very well.
USA still has a lot of Army stationed in North Korea.
And now you have Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
The question is what does US wants to achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am yet to see an "Exit strategy".
Perhaps Afghanistan is a ruse for Pakistan in some way and Iraq WAS a danger (still it was a great pity that US had to undertake such trouble to get rid of an unpopular tyrant).

Bisaal, take a look at this photo.

See North Korea shrouded in inspissated gloom? And South Korea and Japan blazing with light? We (and the Brits) made that possible. Peace, prosperity and democracy. We still have a couple of brigades stationed in SK, but so what? They ensure that neither NK nor China is going to even think of military aggression on the Korean Peninsula, which is the natural path towards Japan. (And our air elements there help ensure that China will never invade Taiwan, another place that shines at night thanks to us.) We are the pacifists, 'cause we keep the peace.

Vietnam was badly bungled, but we ended up with a South Vietnam that was defending itself successfully against North Vietnamese attacks---until the vile traitor Democrats who controlled Congress after the Watergate scandal suddenly killed our military aid to them, and condemned them to Communist tyranny. If that hadn't happened satellite photos of the region would probably show contrasts similar to Korea's.

What do we want to achieve in Iraq? Much the same. (And we are already a long way towards that goal--we are no longer doing much real fighting there.)

Afghanistan may be hopeless as a possible democratic state, but that's the region where global jihad is centered, and I suspect we are just whacking at the hornet's nest, in hopes of stirring up open trouble we can solve. (Reminds me of a joke I found hilarious when I was six years old: "How do you cure a cold? You stand in the rain until you get pneumonia, because we have a cure for that."

The most important part of what we and our allies have achieved is that the places we have conquered aren't dangers to the world anymore. But the crazy thing is, we did it so well that nobody can even see it! You don't see it! Possible aggression by Germany or Japan or Italy used to be a HUGE worry, not to mention a huge reality. That's GONE! So far gone you don't even notice it.

We brought peace to most of the planet, and now everyone just takes it for granted, and thinks peace is the normal state of mankind! We talk about wars now, but there aren't any wars--not real ones. In September 1918 America committed 1,300,000 troops to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. We suffered about 117,000 casualties, including 48,909 dead. Wars like that are extinct; the last one was the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980's. That was the last time nation fought nation in any serious way. (This is reason #67 why "liberals" discourage the study of history.)

What we call "wars" now are always internal slaughters and genocides within failed states. (This includes our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; in both cases the governments in power melted away like mist, and we were almost immediately faced with the job of creating democratic states.)

Of course our fake-pacifists hate America! Our "exit strategy" is victory--followed by peace.

* Update: Oh, and Bisaal.... what we do is an Anglosphere thing. Britain did lots of peace-keeping in the 19th Century. Our main allies in all the fights of the 20th Century have been Britain, Canada, and Australia. So guess who that progression is pointing to! Who's next?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

December 3, 2008

Our Secretary of State is cooler than your Secretary of State...

I haven't been wildly enthusiastic about Condi's diplomatic doings lately, but boy is that Lefty/Hollywood crapola about Democrats being artsy and cool and hip, and Republicans being dull and stodgy a bunch of silly BS! Especially when you hear it from ghastly woman-hating old harridans of "feminism" bashing Sarah, or wrinkled "stars" sucking up to the trashy Clintons...

Condi in black...



Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 PM

November 27, 2008

Thank you!

We are thankful for the men and women who stand on Freedom's Wall!

Submarine USS Jacksonville

The crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine Jacksonville tends the mooring lines Nov. 24 upon returning to Norfolk, Va., after a six-month deployment. The deployment was Jacksonville's first in five years after the recent refueling and modernization of the ship. MASS COMMUNICATION SPC. 2ND CLASS XANDER GAMBLE / NAVY [link]

Posted by John Weidner at 5:51 PM

October 29, 2008

"Opposed to Western/Judeo-Christian civilization"

From Orrin, in a post with the splendid title (I envy him this sort of cleverness) Inherit the Windbags, about "conservatives" who support Obama...

....In fact, the only real difference [in Obama's policies compared to McCain] is precisely that he's the most extreme supporter of aggressive social experimentation to be nominated for president during this era. On matters of abortion, infanticide, gay "rights," infant stem cells, euthanasia, etc. he is consistently and radically Pro-Death and opposed to Western/Judeo-Christian civilization. Edmund Burke would have no trouble recognizing the Jacobin in at least this aspect of Mr. Obama's politics

When we consider then what sorts of Republicans are supporting Mr. Obama we would, as Mr. Powers says, expect to find the old Eastern Establishment, secular Darwinist Right. Contrary to Mr. Powers, these issues are pretty much the same and Rockefeller money funded the more openly eugenic experimentation of the early/mid 20th Century. That's not, of course, to say that every "conservative" backing Mr. Obama is doing so because he'd increase abortion and fund it for "the poor," but it is fair to say that they are at least unbothered by the prospect. In fact, even the ostensibly pro-life Doug Kmiec was willing to forgo Communion in order to back Barack Obama.

This is why so many of the converts cite the choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. The choice drove home the reality that the GOP is and is going to stay the party of the religious. They were hoping for a Joe Lieberman, Colin Powell, Mitt Romney, or Tom Ridge who are indifferent to or supportive of abortion.

Over time this is likely to be a more permanent divide and is certain to impact the Democratic Party more heavily than the Republican. After all, Darwinism is a marginal belief in America while Christianity is central. Eventually one would expect to see the parties divide along more clearly secular vs religious lines and the Democratic hold on entire tribes loosen, a process that will be accelerated by the recognition that intellectual elites support the Democrats in no small part because of "population control."...

It just fascinates me the people who hate Sarah. It's so revealing. The "feminists" who fantasize about seeing her raped or murdered, for example. (Ladies, your guilt is showing.) Or the Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley types on the right.

And this is all extra interesting because traditionally the V-P is someone who can give red meat to the base, allowing the presidential candidate to act "presidential," and move to the center. This is normal in our politics. So why should Republican "centrists" and libertarians hate Sarah? Why?

The real battle is increasingly about who we are. What is America and who are Americans. This is because old habits have worn off. Habits of religion, yes, but also patriotic faith, and faith in those things, including morality, that ancestors and founders have handed down to us---faith that those traditions should be revered. And just---faith in America. When I was growing up, everybody was patriotic.

Sara Palin with ski plane I'd say that when Orrin writes: "...the GOP is and is going to stay the party of the religious," we should think of "the religious" in a broad-brush sort of way. It could include those who cherish the Great Books of Western Civ., and those who get a lump in their throats when they hear the Star Spangled Banner at the ball game. That is, those who think there are things bigger than the almighty self, things which demand an attitude of humility and willingness to sacrifice.

And the irreligious should include many people who still go to church, but recite their creed in the spirit of participating in a charming old folk-ritual. Or who call themselves people of the Right, but recoil from moral responsibility and personal humility.

The battle-lines are shifting, and as they do various people are going to find themselves suddenly stranded in no-man's-land, wondering which way to scurry. A few decades ago we had the neo-cons; Democrats who noticed that the Democrat Party had drawn away from them like the tide going out...and awkwardly found a new home on the right. Perhaps now we will have a bunch of neo-libs!

I'm thinking of Sager especially. The libertarian creep of the world. I should fisk this piece, The Rove Realignment, Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP? But what's the use? He'll never get it. Better he should just head over to the Party of Death where he belongs...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:45 PM

October 27, 2008

"Defending the culture IS a governing philosophy.."

Orrin Judd:
...Not that the GOP doesn't need some re-focusing, but what the Beltway types can never seem to grasp is that defending the culture is a governing philosophy, indeed the philosophy of the majority. And what the Left wants to do is destroy the culture in order to make people dependent on the State...

Exactly. And Sarah embodies this philosophy. That is, she doesn't expound it, she's just the thing itself. And "Palinmania" is a very rational response to her. A matter of having something just on the tip of the tongue for years, and seeing Sarah, and saying: "That's IT! That's what I've been trying to say, and never could quite find the words!" Of course you want to jump up and down and cheer.

Sara Palin with ski planeIt's frustrating, because the attacks on America's traditional culture are mostly in the form of millions of tiny cuts by millions of tiny shit-stupid ant workers. Few of which are big enough to make a fuss about. And if you were to do so, you would at most push them back a few feet, but then see them ooze around you once again.

I was just thinking about the way, when you or someone you know is in the hospital, you get a visit from a "social worker" whether you want it or not. On one hand is a trivial thing, and lots of people may benefit from it. On the other hand, it's a clear message that you are expected to rely on the bureaucracy, not on the support of family or church or such old-fashioned things. It's something that to me has a nasty smell, but if you complained you would just be thought to be a crank.

I don't know if anything can really be done. My guess is we are doomed. But I do know that the National Review types don't quite get it, and Sarah does quite get it. So she's my gal, and I'm sure a lot of other grass-roots Republicans feel the same...

And even if the struggle is hopeless, one should keep fighting anyway. One is either a man, or a horrid vile cowardly collectivist flubber-worm! I've added a quote to the top of the sidebar, to express my deep and bitter feeling on this. (Explanation here.)

Well, it's plenty late. I should be in bed. But I'll post this, pour another glass of Scotch, think of Scotland and Western Civilization on the skids... And I'll say yet another prayer to Our Lady to give Sarah strength and protect her from the hosts of Mordor. And resolve to go down fighting!

j j j
Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 PM

Be thoughtful--listen to Oprah...

Bookworm writes:

...I was sitting near two women and overheard part of their conversation. After a lengthy back and forth praising Oprah, this gem came out: "Sarah Palin is stupid but she communicates really well to Americans because most Americans are stupid."

I live among this sort of people; that's exactly how they think. In fact a lot of them (including I'm sure these two---this is Marin County) are Democrats because the Dem Party is somehow, in the popular mind, "associated" with intelligence. They would never dream of showing intelligence by actually thinking. Instead they will buy some books Oprah recommends, and put them on the coffee table, to show that they are thoughtful

My experience in seven years of blogging is that Democrats are in fact really stupid. Not one of them has been able to make a case for their vague slippery ideas.

And notice that, while the two women do not precisely say that they themselves are not Americans, they imply it. I hear that kind of thing here often. "Americans" treated in a vague way as some sort of foreign species. You won't ever be able pin them down, but the implication is always there. (But if there were an invasion of terrorists you can bet the sneering metrosexuals and "anti-war" types would be howling for "Americans" to come with guns and bombs to save them!)
Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

October 15, 2008

Darn good question...

Question for Obama [Jonah Goldberg]

"You speak constantly about helping the middle class, why did you belong to a church for so long that considered 'Disavowal of the Pursuit of 'Middleclassness' to be a religious obligation?"

Actually, the sick-making insanity is that there are 50 million or so middle class Americans who REALLY want to be seen as hip, cool, bohemian....and NOT middle class!!!

And 97% of them are buying the same trendy cool hip mass-produced consumer goods as all the others buy, to show that they are "special" and "different."

And they give their children this year's trendy names, to show that they are not anonymous and insipid. I had to laugh today, thinking of a certain pretentious family in one of our kid's schools (maybe 1995) who named their children "Paris" and "Somerset." Because I was in Kragen Autoparts, and the nice but not classy young black woman at the counter had a name tag that read...... "Paris."

And all those 50 million brain-dead middle-classians are now going to prove that they are hip and with-it and not middle-cass by voting for an amiable con-artist... Funny.

As Andy Warhol put it, "There is nothing so middle class as the "Disavowal of the Pursuit of 'Middleclassness."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 PM

October 7, 2008

The opiate of the trendy liberal...

Peter Guttman has written a piece which argues that no one should be President who hasn't traveled. (He's a travel writer!) I think he's got it exactly backwards...

...Although historians will long debate how this country arrived at the global mess it's now in, it seems clear that much of it could have been prevented. In fact, I believe that a relatively simple amendment to the Constitution could prevent it from happening again. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, drafted in 1787, says that only natural-born Americans, at least 35 years of age, who have lived in the country for 14 years can serve as president or vice president. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has proposed (apparently with his friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, firmly in mind) that this antiquated provision could best be corrected by opening the presidency to foreign-born U.S. citizens.

[It's hard to debate this guy, since the "global mess" is not defined--sloppy writing. War on Terror? Financial crisis? We're not popular in Belgium? Maybe it's the old "Europeans are so much more sophisticated and nuanced than us crude cowboy Americans" line. I'm guessing he is NOT thinking of Schwarzenegger as a solution to anything. For the record I don't think we are in a "global mess."]

But this adjustment misses the real point. Although a revision to this section is much needed, I believe that qualifications should not be loosened but rather tightened. I suggest the Constitution be amended to require that candidates for the presidency (and vice presidential selections as well) have visited a minimum of 20 countries. The amendment would require that each visit would have been made more than four years before the candidate's possible inauguration and that it would have lasted at least 48 hours. This serves as proof that a candidate is genuinely interested in, and possibly even knowledgeable about, the world around him or her.

[I would argue the opposite. The person who has travelled that much has likely lost the clarity of vision of what America is all about, and in fact probably never had it in the first place. I propose that to be eligible for the Presidency, a person should have lived at least twelve years in rural or heartland America, doing some real job. (Not government or foundation or academic or journalist).]

In the 21st century (unlike the period during which the Constitution was written), travel no longer means days of arduous journey by stagecoach or months aboard a steamship to reach an overseas destination. In a country that hopes to lead the world toward a more enlightened future, it is no longer acceptable to allow the reins of American leadership to reside in the hands of anyone lacking what is perhaps the most valuable credential of all -- the experience of foreign travel.
[If the Founding Fathers had imagined that people would be gadding about aimlessly as we do now, they would have considered it a bad thing. For most people travel is a substitute for deep thought and commitment to things bigger than the self. It's the opiate of the trendy liberal.]

Sadly, we ignored a red flag during our previous two presidential campaigns. Quite simply, a middle-aged man of considerable means and privilege who has freely chosen in his first fortysomething years on this planet to visit fewer than four countries (of the almost 200 United Nations' members) should not be permitted to captain our nation. It is plainly irresponsible to allow a blindfolded driver to navigate through the increasingly chaotic rush-hour traffic of global development, aided only by an off-key chorus of back-seat drivers...

[He misunderstands the Presidency. If the President is steering the car he is failing his duty. (Think Carter.) What the President is supposed to do is to SEE WHEREwe want to get to, and continually nudge the thousands of drivers of our government to move that way.]

...Our recent myopic, good-versus-evil attitude toward foreign policy has been one of the obvious results. Our current cartoon perspective on the world could have been sensibly altered with the experience-tempered subtlety and sophistication of leaders who have spent time outside the country.

[It's the "good-versus-evil attitude" that is reasonable. We face opponents who are evil. And we ARE the good guys. "experience-tempered subtlety and sophistication" are just code-words for moral relativism. and a decadence that will never fight against evil, even if it's throat is about to be sawed through by terrorists.]

I believe that President Bush has been gravely HARMED by the traveling he has done in office. He started out like the child who sees that the Emperor has no clothes, and isn't afraid to point it out. He broke silly taboos, for instance by saying openly that we would defend Taiwan. And demanding that the Palestinians abandon terrorism before getting any more concessions. But we haven't seen much of that refreshing candor lately---too much traveling, I'd guess.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM

October 3, 2008

"The ensuing 218 years have gone pretty well..."

Jerry Bowyer, in Forbes... (Thanks to Orrin)
Ron Paul says that the Paulson plan is unconstitutional. So does Michele Malkin...

....I think they're wrong. Don't believe me? Then ask Alexander Hamilton.

You see, we've been here before. As George Washington was taking the oath of office, U.S. credit markets were in full meltdown. America faced a credit crisis in which debt obligations were being purchased by banking houses at 25 cents on the dollar. Paulson's predecessor was a guy named Hamilton, and Bush's predecessor was a guy named Washington. Hamilton wrote up a plan (called "Report on the Public Credit") in which he proposed that the Treasury department buy the troubled securities from the private sector, thus restoring the collapsing credit market.

Jefferson was opposed. He hated financial markets and manufacturing, which he thought were the industries of the past, associating them with Europe from which America had just broken away. He believed the future lay in small farming. Jefferson also believed that the Hamilton bailout plan was unconstitutional, and he talked Madison into fighting the plan in the House. Populists in the House said that since the debt was not created by the federal government, the federal government ought not to put itself on the hook.

Hamilton's case was simple. When any part of a nation participates in a massive repudiation of debt, the creditworthiness of the whole nation is damaged. Hamilton saw this as a national problem in need of a national solution. He argued that the whole nation would benefit from a return to a well-functioning credit market, with low interest rates fueling growth.

Hamilton believed that if the Constitution gave executive power to the president, then that included the authority to create specific institutions and programs necessary to exercise that power.

Jefferson's brand of suspicious populism held sway in the lower House and the bill was defeated. Credit markets reacted with panic.

Finally Hamilton and Jefferson sat down together and hashed out a compromise. Jefferson traded his support for the ultimate piece of political pork--the District of Columbia. The nation's capital was to be moved south, from New York to northern Virginia. The Washington administration agreed; Jefferson told Madison to support it. It passed; the Treasury bought up the paper, America's credit markets were restored quickly, and although we've had a few rough patches, the ensuing 218 years have gone pretty well so far....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:14 PM

October 2, 2008

Some economic thoughts...

Mike Plaiss e-mails:

Thought you might like to see this in response to your fisking of the Spiegel article. What you are looking at is the US Dollar Index. It is an average of the exchange rate of the dollar and six major world currencies. The dollar is surging. The US economy is struggling but everything is relative. Europe is in just as big of a mess as we are, and investors worldwide are voting with their pocketbooks.

Capital is flowing into the United States, not out. And to buy US assets one needs US dollars. The Dow is down about 20% year to date, and the S&P a bit more (about 22%). Below is a list of major stock indexes from around the world over the same time period:

Dow Jones European Index -30.63%
United Kingdom -23.70%
France -28.34%
Germany -28.98%
Spain -26.13%
Italy - 33.90%
Holland -25.24%
Sweden -28.91%
Japan -27.13%
Hong Kong -34.52%
Australia -24.90%

Yes, a lot of this capital has flowed into US Treasuries as a safe haven, and that has something to do with the surge in the dollar, but a comparison of these stock indicies tells you there is a little more to the story.

And Richard Fernandez (Belmont Club) posts this, by a reader:

...In engineering there is a concept called "design margin" in which extra strength, power, capacity, capability is built into things to account for wear and tear as well as unknowns about the environment.

I think that the reason so many things seem to be "breaking" today is that over the last 20 years we have used up our "margin." Not pumping oil from our own known reserves ate into that margin. Cutting the military back by almost 50% - and then deploying it more than before - cut into that margin. Insisting on environmental, legal, racial, considerations in everything ate into that margin. Political correctness ate into that margin.

No one thought that a number of bad loans made to people who could not repay them would sink the economy - indeed it is not clear that it will even now - but eventually that “margin” in the financial system got eaten away. A single massive award in a lawsuit by a woman who spilled coffee in her lap ate into that margin in its own way, as did innumerable other lawsuits, silly or not.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

October 1, 2008

Silly stuff, but I can't resist fisking...

America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role, By SPIEGEL Staff (Thanks to Bookworm)

The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. [No, our military is growing in cunning and power. Because we fight. It's YOUR might that is ebbing rapidly.] Still, this is no time to gloat. [You are not just gloating, you are drooling with pleasure.]

There are days when all it takes is a single speech to illustrate the decline of a world power. [I'm old enough to have heard this before. And maybe we're gonna get a new black-face Jimmy Carter. But do you remember who followed him?] A face can speak volumes, as can the speaker's tone of voice, the speech itself or the audience's reaction. Kings and queens have clung to the past before and humiliated themselves in public, but this time it was merely a United States president.

Or what is left of him. [Enjoy it now, suckas. Wait'll you get a dose of President Palin...]

George W. Bush has grown old, erratic and rosy in the eight years of his presidency. Little remains of his combativeness or his enthusiasm for physical fitness. On this sunny Tuesday morning in New York, even his hair seemed messy and unkempt, his blue suit a little baggy around the shoulders, as Bush stepped onto the stage, for the eighth time, at the United Nations General Assembly. [He's grown old honorably, fighting the world's battles, while you've grown old in nihilism, attempting nothing.]

He talked about terrorism and terrorist regimes, and about governments that allegedly support terror. He failed to notice that the delegates sitting in front of and below him were shaking their heads, smiling and whispering, or if he did notice, he was no longer capable of reacting. The US president gave a speech similar to the ones he gave in 2004 and 2007, mentioning the word "terror" 32 times in 22 minutes. At the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, George W. Bush was the only one still talking about terror and not about the topic that currently has the rest of the world's attention. [Until something goes Ka-Boom! THEN you will remember terrorism.]

"Absurd, absurd, absurd," said one German diplomat. A French woman called him "yesterday's man" over coffee on the East River. There is another way to put it, too: Bush was a laughing stock in the gray corridors of the UN. [It doesn't matter what the UN thinks. The UN is old, erratic, utterly corrupt, and totally irrelevant.]

The American president has always had enemies in these hallways and offices at the UN building on First Avenue in Manhattan. The Iranians and Syrians despise the eternal American-Israeli coalition, [We should f---ng CARE about the enmity of Iran and Syria? I'm proud of it.] while many others are tired of Bush's Americans telling the world about the blessings of deregulated markets [So, how's that EU economic dynamo workin' out?] and establishing rules "that only apply to others," says the diplomat from Berlin. [And your alternative plan, Herr Berlin? Your counter-offer? I'm waiting with abated breath to hear how you are going to step on stage and make the trains run on time.]

But the ridicule was a new thing. It marked the end of respect. [Oh yeah, all that euro respect we've been used to. You've been hating Americans since at least 1830. Big deal. Ho hum. Dirty little hooligan children always hate the grownups.]

....Is it only President George W. Bush, the lame duck president, whom the rest of the world is no longer taking seriously, or are the remaining 191 UN member states already setting their sights on the United States, the giant brought to its knees? UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon referred to a "new reality" and "new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developed world." [So step up to the plate, wise-guys. Show us yer leadership.] Are they surprised, in these new centers, at the fall of America, of the system of the Western-style market economy?... [Well, we'll see how that goes. But here's the brute fact, Huns. If we go down, you go down too---that's what globalization is about. And when we come back up, you will come back up too. Eventually. Which means our relative positions won't change! You will still be behind, and your stagnant economies will continue to slip farther behind...]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 PM

Starting Wars for Dummies, 1st ed.

A lot of people have mentioned this article because of the possibility that the Iranian ship has radioactive materials aboard that are killing the pirates. To me the much much more interesting issue is that we see revealed a miniature, a little "Cliff Notes" version of the path that led to the Global War on Terror we are now in. Maybe I should write a book, "War Promotion for Dummies!"

A tense standoff has developed in waters off Somalia over an Iranian merchant ship laden with a mysterious cargo that was hijacked by pirates.

Somali pirates suffered skin burns, lost hair and fell gravely ill "within days" of boarding the MV Iran Deyanat. Some of them died....

...About 22000 ships a year pass through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden, where regional instability and "no-questions-asked" ransom payments have led to a dramatic rise in attacks on vessels by heavily armed Somali raiders in speedboats.

The Iran Deyanat was sailing in those waters on August 21, past the Horn of Africa and about 80 nautical miles southeast of Yemen, when it was boarded by about 40 pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. They were alleged members of a crime syndicate said to be based at Eyl, a small fishing village in northern Somalia...
This is just insane. We, the Western, developed world, are tolerating piracy in the 21st Century? WHY?
  • Is there any question that piracy is totally wrong according to the generally accepted values of the civilized world?
  • Is there any question that the powers have both a right and duty to suppress it?
  • Is there any question that we have fought piracy in the past, to the great good of the planet. (And especially to the poor of the world, who would be hurt most by contractions in trade?)
  • Is there any question that the problem will get worse if not stopped now? That the profits of piracy will be invested in more powerful weapons and the recruitment of more pirates?
  • Is there any question that we have ample power to fight the problem? (Think satellite surveillance, Predator drones, Hellfire missiles into any speedboats approaching ships.)

The answer is that we are paralyzed because we have lost the core values of Western Civilization. America partly, Europe almost totally. The real problem is inside the souls of the people of the West. The problem is nihilism.

And that is precisely the case with the War on Terror. We had the right and duty to squelch terrorism when it first became a problem, many decades ago. And we didn't. And because we failed to slaughter hundreds of people back in, say, the 1960's, hundreds of thousands have to die now. Maybe millions. The short answer is that pacifism is murder, and those who call themselves pacifists or anti-war activists these days have blood of innocents dripping from their hands.

But the bigger problem is that there is almost no real pacifism today--it's just a smokescreen to hide empty souls who don't dare to take any decisive action, because that requires acknowledging higher duties.

Western civilization is, to its very core, a Christian civilization. Once the habits of Christian virtues (which can also be held by unbelievers) are lost, there is really nothing left.

...The moral approach to war in Aquinas and Calvin is refreshing for those familiar with modern Christian approaches to warfare--approaches which, more often than not, do little to help Christians understand why they should be prepared to participate in or support war of any kind. Aquinas and Calvin, in contrast, teach Christian soldiers why they need to participate in and support just wars. From the divine point of view, God desires to restrain evil among His creatures. And in using human beings to do so, God actually elevates the restrainers...

...The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches--contrary to today's prevailing views--that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.
    -- Darrell Cole

The story or myth that expresses this is the story of the knight who protects the innocent. I don't think the like occurs in non-Christian cultures. There are no folk-tales or ballads of the Centurion or the Samurai who has a duty or calling to protect the little people. If you follow the stories of our troops (and sometimes the Brits) in Iraq and Afghanistan, you will see the old story told anew. (You won't get it from the foul devils of our "news-media," but us bloggers pass the tales on like Samizdat.)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:24 AM

September 26, 2008

"The long-winded version"

Here's Mike Plaiss's follow-up....

Since you invited me, you've opened yourself up to the long-winded version. First, I'm afraid, it is important to understand the role of capital in a bank. Here's the short version. A bank must maintain a certain percentage of their assets in capital. So if a bank has $1 billion of assets (loans, investments, etc.) then they have to have, say, $50 million in capital -- their own money, not borrowed funds. This is a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea. So a shareholder group could raise $50 million in capital (real money), borrow $950 million, and they'd be fine running a $1 billion bank. Understand that a lot of that $950 million would be in the form of good old fashioned savings accounts, CD's, etc.

You may be surprised at the amount of leverage (borrowing) that banks are allowed to employ and this is the first of two problems that the financial sector is facing right now. Banks have never been more leveraged, especially investment banks. They can leverage even more, and it is no accident that they were the first to die.

The second problem is that banks have suffered a very real decline in asset quality. Nearly every bank is struggling with an increasing number of bad loans. Imagine a developer who borrowed money to build a new subdivision in 2006 with plans on having the first phase complete in 2008-09. He is likely bankrupt-- and the value of that land, the collateral, to the bank now? Not good.

Asset quality issues inevitably impact capital. Bad loans have to be written off, investments that have depreciated significantly in value have to be written down, etc. All of this decreases capital. Let's use the numbers in the example above and assume that the bank is looking at loan losses (or investment write-downs) of just 1.5% of those $1 billion in assets. Well, that's $15 million in capital that's gone, but remember they are required (by some quite determined regulators) to have $50 million in capital.

The bank now has two choices. Raise $15 million in capital (In this environment!? Good luck), or shrink the balance sheet. If they shrank their assets from $1 billion to $700 million, they'd be OK with only $35 million of capital.) So the bank in this example is looking to sell $300 million worth of loans or securities -- preferably by the end of the quarter.

If it were only a few banks in this predicament, it would be no big deal, but the reality is that many if not most banks are in this same boat, and that is the crux of the problem. Everybody is looking to de-leverage, to shrink their balance sheet by selling assets, at the same time. It only takes a moment of thought to realize where that gets you.

And if it were just the banking world it might not be such a big problem. But nearly everybody is looking to de-lever (sell assets) right now. Hedge funds? They borrow money to buy their assets too. Who's going to lend it to them now? They are under even more pressure than the banks to sell. Private equity? Yes, that's coming on line (and what a great time to have access to private equity) but frankly it's a drop in the bucket. Thus, we have maybe 5 sellers (of all assets) for every one buyer and therein lies the "opportunity" as Kessler sees it.

None of this is really a defense of the plan, only its cost. If the government buys these assets they aren't "out" $700 billion. The treasury can borrow at, say 4%, buy assets that are going to return north of 8% (even with the losses factored in) and make a killing. It is certainly reasonable to argue that this is simply not something that the government should be in the business of doing. I have thoughts on that, but again I'll save them for later.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

September 25, 2008

A safe haven for capital...

I don't know enough to know if the numbers really work, but this WSJ article by Andy Kessler, The Paulson Plan Will Make Money For Taxpayers, is quite intriguing.
...Firms will haggle, but eventually cave -- they need the cash. I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion.

So the U.S. will be stuck with a portfolio in the trillions of dollars in bad loans and last-to-be-paid derivatives. Where is the trade in that?

Well, unlike Mr. Buffett or any hedge fund, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve get to cheat. It's not without risk, but the Feds, with lots of levers, can and will pump capital into the U.S. economy to get it moving again. Future heads of Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be growth advocates -- in effect, "talking their book." While normally this creates a threat of inflation and a run on the dollar, and we may see dollar exchange rates turn south near term, don't expect it to last.

First, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley now operating as low-leverage bank holding companies, a dollar injected into the economy will most likely turn into $10 in capital (instead of $30 when they were investment banks). This is a huge change. Plus, a stronger U.S. economy, with its financial players having clean balance sheets, will become a safe haven for capital.

Europe is threatened by an angry Russian bear. The Far East, especially China, has its own post-Olympic banking house of cards of non-performing loans to deal with. Interest rates will tick up as the economy expands -- a plus for the dollar. Finally, a stronger economy driven by industry instead of financials means more jobs, less foreclosures and higher held-to-maturity payouts on this Fed loan portfolio.

You can slice the numbers a lot of different ways. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever. Every hedge-fund manager will be jealous. Mr. Buffett is buying a small piece of the trade via his Goldman Sachs investment.

Over 10 years this could change the budget scenario in D.C., which can also strengthen the dollar. The next president gets a heck of a windfall. In the spirit of Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of Alaska for $7 million in 1867, this week may be remembered as Paulson's Folly.

Mr McCain was laughed at by lefty retards for suggesting that our economy is fundamentally sound. But it IS fundamentally sound. In fact, it's the wonder of the world, and has been since the Reagan tax cuts (With an assist from the Bush tax cuts.) Last quarter it grew at a 3.2% annual rate, even as the press was begging people to believe we are in a recession. Most European countries would kill to get their economies growing at 1%.

The financial sector has tied itself up in knots with derivatives, but the underlying asset is the USA. And to give you an example of how strong we are, our current military budget is about half the planet's total military military expenditure, and yet, as a % of GDP our defense budget is about half what it was in the Reagan years...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 AM

September 22, 2008

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story

I think this Bloomberg piece by Kevin Hassett, How the Democrats Created the Financial Crisis, explains the bulk of the present situation....(Thanks to John Hinderaker)
....Take away Fannie and Freddie, or regulate them more wisely, and it's hard to imagine how these highly liquid markets would ever have emerged. This whole mess would never have happened.

It is easy to identify the historical turning point that marked the beginning of the end.

Back in 2005, Fannie and Freddie were, after years of dominating Washington, on the ropes. They were enmeshed in accounting scandals that led to turnover at the top. At one telling moment in late 2004, captured in an article by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison, the Securities and Exchange Comiission's chief accountant told disgraced Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines that Fannie's position on the relevant accounting issue was not even "on the page'' of allowable interpretations.

Then legislative momentum emerged for an attempt to create a "world-class regulator'' that would oversee the pair more like banks, imposing strict requirements on their ability to take excessive risks. Politicians who previously had associated themselves proudly with the two accounting miscreants were less eager to be associated with them. The time was ripe...
Greenspan's Warning

The clear gravity of the situation pushed the legislation forward. Some might say the current mess couldn't be foreseen, yet in 2005 Alan Greenspan told Congress how urgent it was for it to act in the clearest possible terms: If Fannie and Freddie "continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road,'' he said. "We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.''

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

Different World

If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, a blizzard of terrible mortgage paper fluttered out of the Fannie and Freddie clouds, burying many of our oldest and most venerable institutions. Without their checkbooks keeping the market liquid and buying up excess supply, the market would likely have not existed.

But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.

That such a reckless political stand could have been taken by the Democrats was obscene even then. Wallison wrote at the time: "It is a classic case of socializing the risk while privatizing the profit. The Democrats and the few Republicans who oppose portfolio limitations could not possibly do so if their constituents understood what they were doing.''

Mounds of Materials

Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.

There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and Nov. 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 PM

September 4, 2008

"A quest for the inchoate self."

From a post I liked by Alan Sullivan with thoughts inspired by Governor Palin...

...But I had odd affinities for a city kid. I was fascinated by the natural world: water, fire, earth, and air. I read about mountaineers and polar explorers; I soared into space with science fiction. So I fit poorly in both of America's cultures, which were already fully apparent then: urban America that respected and envied Europe; rural America that had evolved its own culture and needed no other.

Affinity and chance took me to the Red River Valley of the North. I spent a quarter century in a cultural setting not unlike Alaska, and I travelled in the biggest state too. I understand and admire Sarah Palin. Northern climes do not allow for real dissolution of community. People must cooperate to survive.

In 1992 I bolted from traditional politics and supported the Perot campaign. In the space of a few weeks I met a lot of people I would never have encountered: military folks and hard-core social conservatives � people like the Palins. Tim and I were completely open about who we were [gay partners]. I was astonished at the lack of prejudice. There was ignorance, and even some curiosity, but no hostility.

If we had frightened them with effeminacy, or told them America was despicable, we would not have been well received. Instead we shared their pride in country, hope for its future, and determination to keep America free. And for the most part we meant the same thing when we said "free" � though we had some tough debates about the drug war.

The 1992 campaign finalized a lesson I had been slowly learning for the previous decade. I had brought a lot of mistaken assumptions from the city. The people of Red America were wrongly stereotyped, while the people of Blue America were understood and sometimes pitied by their country brethren. This is why Sarah Palin could be partisan with a smile. She doesn't hate her foes; she is a Christian.

What is the significance of her nomination? Incalculable. Obama poses as "an agent of change,"� but the most telling line of last night, for me, was Palin's observation that the Presidency should not be a journey of self-discovery. Palin knows who she is; Obama's whole life has been a quest for the inchoate self. He will never be satisfied; he will always want more, and never be sure what he wants more of....

I was reading somewhere that after Palin's speech the RNC received a million dollars in donations.......and the Obama campaign received 8 million. So, does that worry me? Not very much. It doesn't do you much good to have the money to get your message out, if you don't have a message. Obama is like a person with great writing talent---who doesn't have anything to say.

Actually, it's worse than that. He's a hider. He has to hide what he really is. We got one tiny glimpse of the real Obama, when somebody blogged what he said in San Francisco about bitter people in small towns clinging to guns and religion. That alone may well cost him the Presidency. And I feel confident that that's what he's really like among his pals. There are lots of people like him around here. Bitter. Clinging to shreds of Leftism they don't really believe in, because they have nothing else... Suits of clothes with no emperor inside.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 PM

September 1, 2008

Sums up Sarah...

I have all sorts of Palin items I've thought of blogging, but this really sums up her appeal. Especially for me, acting as a sort of embedded journalist here in the post-moral left...

Sara Palin with ski plane Beldar writes:

...The opening splash of the Palin announcement has been all I'd hoped it might be, and I thought she was terrific at the rally. And something that just thrilled me, that hit me at a very emotional level, was at the very end of her prepared remarks, when she turned to face McCain again and shake his hand. You couldn't hear her over the music and the roar of the crowd. But you could very distinctly see her lips say to John McCain the words, "Thank you, sir!"

Oh, my! A national candidate who doesn't just profess humility, but actually still possesses it, and who displays unselfconscious respect for the older generation of which McCain is a part! What a fine, fine thing, that "sir" — as she thanked McCain for giving her this chance, for taking a risk on her. And you could see in her face the determination to do her very best not to let him down...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 AM

August 24, 2008

Sacrifices...

David Harsanyi writes:


Biden on Haditha
In June 2006, straight-talking Joe Biden went on Meet the Press and demanded accountability from the administration for the so-called Haditha massacre. Biden spoke about the incident as if the accused marines were guilty (before a trial) and called on the administration to proceed — and to be treated — as if there were a cover-up at the highest levels of government.

Well, it turned out Biden was wrong about Haditha. Eight of the Marines charged for the “massacre” and “coverup” have already been exonerated. (One case is still pending.)...

[Thanks to
Glenn R]

He writes that Biden ought to admit he was wrong and apologize, especially since Biden demanded apologies and admissions of mistakes from the administration. In fact demanded that the Secretary of Defense should be fired immediately!

I completely agree with Harsanyi, but I don't think that's what's most important here.

There are claims made on us by things that are higher and more important than our selves. Of course the highest is our duty to God. But there are also claims on a lower level that work in an analogous way, and are mysteriously tied to each other. One of these is the duty we owe to our country. Especially in a case where ones country is not just a nation or a volk or race, but is based, like the United States, on ideas handed down from our forefathers.

And the claims of our country are strongest in time of war. We have then, all of us, an especial duty to put our selfish interests second to the needs of our land. This will involve for some people putting their lives at risk. Others owe different sacrifices. Politicians have a duty to put their political advantage second to the needs of war. (No, I'm not saying they can't criticize, but any criticism must be constructive, and done with the utmost care.)

This is a duty. There is no evading it.

An example of this is our four great wars of the Twentieth Century. All of these were Democrat wars. Democrat presidents led us into WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. And in each of these wars the Republican Party was a loyal opposition, and gave up many opportunities to criticize. No Republican stood up in the Senate and pointed out that Belleau Wood or Iwo Jima or Slapton Sands or LZ Bitch were blunders that threw away lives needlessly. No Republican demanded that Stimson be fired for the Battle of the Bulge. Why not? Because it would have undermined the war effort and the confidence of our troops.

When Joe Biden condemned the Haditha marines, declared them guilty before the incident had even been investigated, he violated this solemn rule. In fact what he did was to commit treason, just as much as if he had given secrets to the enemy. He voted to send those men into battle in the Iraq Campaign, and then he betrayed them. He sent American men and women to risk death in war, and then he turned around and spit on them.

This is close-to-certain evidence that he is a nihilist. That he puts nothing higher than himself. Why do I say that? Because the claims of higher things are tied to each other. Each one teaches us about the others. I put my children's welfare higher than my own, and this is a very easy thing for a parent to do. But that duty teaches me a lot about how to undertake other solemn duties. (As a Catholic I would say that these things are somehow linked sacramentally. The small things touch on the greater things, and vice versa, in ways that are supernatural and mysterious.)

Mr Biden's casual flouting of a solemn duty is strong evidence that he acknowledges no higher duties of any sort. Of course I could be wrong about this, but I would be surprised to learn that he has some philosophy or cause or set of deep principles that he holds sacred, that he would sacrifice his own interests for. And I think that what he is says a lot about the party and the type of people who have put him forth as a possible Vice-President.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

August 3, 2008

A different and overlooked tradition...

I was quite fascinated by this essay, Conservative Internationalism, By Henry R. Nau (Thanks to Orrin Judd).

Since World War II international relations specialists have debated two main traditions or schools of American foreign policy, realism and liberal internationalism. Realism identifies with Richard Nixon and looks to the balance of power to defend stability among ideologically diverse nations. Liberal internationalism identifies with Franklin Roosevelt and looks to international institutions to reduce the role of the balance of power and gradually spread democracy by talk and tolerance. Generally speaking, conservatives or Republicans were considered realists — Eisenhower and Ford — while liberals or Democrats were seen as liberal internationalists — Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter.

This debate broke down with Ronald Reagan. He opposed both the realist containment strategy of Richard Nixon and the liberal internationalist human rights campaign of Jimmy Carter. He adopted a strategy that used force or the threat of force assertively, as realists recommended, but aimed at the demise of communism and the spread of democracy, as liberal internationalists advocated. Reagan improvised and succeeded brilliantly. The Cold War ended, the Soviet Union disappeared, and the United States emerged as the first preeminent “global” power in the history of the world. Even former critics now concede that Reagan was on to something.

But what tradition did Reagan represent? The debate between realists and liberal internationalists leaves no explanation for Ronald Reagan ’s eclectic foreign policy choices and the extraordinary outcomes he achieved. The conventional foreign policy traditions don’t fit. Realists and liberal internationalists try to claim Reagan but they distort and miss the novelty of his contributions. Others conclude he is unique and “has become a transcendent historical figure,” not terribly relevant to contemporary debates. Still others argue Reagan’s foreign policy had nothing to do with ending the Cold War and subsequently wound up in the hands of Reagan impostors, the neoconservatives in the George W. Bush administration, who ran it into the ground in Iraq.

This essay rejects all of these conclusions. It argues instead that Ronald Reagan tapped into a new and different American foreign policy tradition that has been overlooked by scholars and pundits. That tradition is “conservative internationalism.” Like realism and liberal internationalism, it has deep historical roots. Just as realism takes inspiration from Alexander Hamilton and Teddy Roosevelt and liberal internationalism identifies with Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, conservative internationalism draws historical validation from Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. These four American presidents did more to expand freedom abroad through the assertive use of military force than any others (Lincoln doing as much or more to expand freedom domestically by force). But they expanded freedom on behalf of self-government, local or national, not on behalf of central or international government, as liberal internationalists advocate, and they used force to seize related opportunities to spread freedom, not to maintain the status quo, as realists recommend. All of these presidents remain enigmas for the standard traditions. The reason? They represent the different and overlooked tradition of conservative internationalism....

Fascinatin' stuff. On Jefferson especially. I will look at him with much more favor henceforth. And Polk too. He spread freedom to a vast part of the globe, which has flourished ever since, even as the adjacent lands he did not annex have languished in poverty, injustice and cruelty...

And as regular readers will guess, I think George W Bush is acting in the same tradition, and deserves the same respect and gratitude we give to Ronald Reagan.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 PM

July 25, 2008

Questions for Samantha...

I was thinking of fisking this piece, The Democrats & National Security, by Samantha Power, in New York Review of Books. There's lots to correct, but really, the piece is self-contradictory; there's no point in attacking it. In fact it's kind of comical, in the way it misses the essence of the subject.

It's about the possibility of Democrats reversing the traditional Republican advantage among voters on national security issues and military matters. But all the arguments and assumptions of the article are leftist arguments and assumptions. It amounts to saying that ordinary Americans will trust Dems with national security any minute now---as soon as we start thinking like the people who subscribe to the NY Review of Books.

To be trusted on defense, it's not enough to have a clever policy. There's a certain other quality one must possess...

Samantha, dear, let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you got a lump in your throat when you heard The Star Spangled Banner? Hmmm? Or when thinking of Pearl Harbor, or the Bataan Death March? When was the last time you were outraged because a hero who was given the Medal of Honor was ignored by the press? Eh? When was the last time you said that the President should be given honor and respect as Commander in Chief, even if one disagrees with his politics?

And your friends. When accusations are made, how often do they give American troops the benefit of the doubt? How often do they suspect that the grunts probably acted correctly, and are being smeared by the press? And is their first instinct to support our leaders in time of war? And what do you kids do on Memorial Day to honor those who have fallen in service of our country? On what days do you fly our flag?

When you hear, Samantha, of someone taking a job in Iraq, or joining the reserves, do you feel envious? Hmmm? Like us ordinary Americans do? And maybe a little bit guilty that you are not also standing on Freedom's Wall?

Is "Freedom's Wall" a phrase you would feel comfortable using? Comfortable among your friends? And your readers at the NY Review of Books? Hmmm? You know, the sort of Democrats who are going to, as you say: "advance a distinct twenty-first-century foreign policy that voters will prefer and trust them to execute?" That doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it? Wouldn't it be more poetic to say that you are going to "Stand on Freedom's Wall and defend America?"

Try saying that. Say it out loud. Among your pals. Try it on for size, since you are "auditioning," shall we say, for the part of "trusted with national security."

Or say this:

“We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

It was a Democrat who said that. Can you say it?

Posted by John Weidner at 11:35 PM

July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

I came upon this old photo and scanned it. It's hard to imagine these three are now driving cars and going to college! The picture is taken on the balcony of our house. We are very lucky to live on our quiet circle, with grass and shaggy trees in the middle...

Our children pledge allegiance

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

Keep THIS to throw in their faces...

There's a common line of sly leftist insinuation, that paints our troops as "victims." You know, rubes, under-educated dupes "sent off to die for oil," and similar dirty lies. (If only we were stealing oil; It's a killer to fill up my truck these days!)

The next time you hear that stuff from America-hating Obama-loving types, you might fling this story from Bob Krumm back at them....

BAGHDAD – How are you spending your 4th of July holiday? While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.

Petraeus, reiterating earlier remarks made by Command Sergeant Major Hill, said that the unprecedented ceremony sends a “message to friend and foe alike.” He told those assembled that it is “impossible to calculate the value of what you are giving to our country . . . For no bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you makes as a custodian of our nation’s defenses.”

Last year Gen. Petraeus, along with Senator John McCain, presided over a similar Independence Day ceremony. Then only 588 servicemen reenlisted. This year’s event, more than twice as large, saw the equivalent of two battalions extend their service in America’s military....

Also, remember, to the "liberal," the "soldiers as victims" meme is just a proxy for the bigger story--that we are all victims! No one should stand tall. Except for government bureaucracies, of course.

* Update: Ethan Hahn sends a link to a picture of the event, from this article, on the official MNF-Iraq web site.

1215 service members re-enlist in Baghdad

1,215 Servicemembers from all over Iraq gather in the Al Faw Palace rotunda on Camp Victory, to re-enlist and celebrate America’s Independence Day, July 4, 2008. Photo by MNF-I Public Affairs.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:51 AM

July 3, 2008

Day of Deliverance...

John Adams, with the Continental Congress, in a letter to Abigail, his wife, on the occasion of our declaration of independence:

yyy..."But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it.—The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished.—Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.—This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.

Abigail AdamsBut the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, [the actual date of the resolution in Congress] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. -- I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.—I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

You can see a scan of the letter here.

   

Posted by John Weidner at 5:38 PM

June 22, 2008

I want you to look at this picture and DESPAIR!...

This AP article, Everything Seemingly is Spinning Out of Control, is really too stupid to waste time on, but it's a sleepy afternoon. What really bugs me is what whores journalists are. If the editor asked this person he would write a similar piece on how hopeful and improving things are, and how confidence is strong. (And he will, once a Dem gets in the White House.)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. [Happened before, will happen again. Each time with more problems because more people build in flood-plains.] Polar bears are adrift. [And Antarctic ice is at a record maximum] Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. [Actually they are still high compared with just a few years ago] Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. [Yet we seem to afford them] Wars without end rage in Iraq, [What a moron. We are clearly winning in Iraq] and Afghanistan and against terrorism. [All wars are "without end"...until they end.

Horatio Alger, twist in your grave. [Stupid remark. Alger's stories were about triumphing over adversity, not enjoying lotus-land. So how is alleged adversity going to make him spin?]

The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance. [If this is the "thesis" of this essay, where's the evidence? The fact that we have problems is NOT evidence that we feel "powerlessness."]

The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year's presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order -- and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, ''Yes, we can.'' [This is completely illogical. A message of change and "Yes we can" is the opposite of a sense of hopelessness.]

Even so, a battered public seems discouraged by the onslaught of dispiriting things. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll says a barrel-scraping 17 percent of people surveyed believe the country is moving in the right direction. That is the lowest reading since the survey began in 2003... [Actually I believe current polls show a majority of Americans happy about their own personal prospects.]

An ABC News-Washington Post survey put that figure at 14 percent, tying the low in more than three decades of taking soundings on the national mood.

..."It is pretty scary,'' said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn. "People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven't been. And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through. If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change.'' [This is evidence of.....of....what? Midwest Derangement Syndrome? Is "things are going to get better" supposed to mean no more tornados?]

Recent natural disasters around the world dwarf anything afflicting the U.S. Consider that more than 69,000 people died in the China earthquake, and that 78,000 were killed and 56,000 missing from the Myanmar cyclone. [So? What's the point? You think earthquakes in China are a new thing?]

Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire. [A "world gone haywire" measured from what baseline? What is the normal non-haywire steady-state? When did it happen?]

Floods engulf Midwestern river towns. Is it global warming, the gradual degradation of a planet's weather that man seems powerless to stop or just a freakish late-spring deluge? [It's something that happens every few decades, clot-brain. You can look it up.]

This is too silly to keep on with. Let me just provide some actual evidence against the idea that floods in the Midwest are shocking novelties, and mean that our world is coming apart at the seams. This picture was taken May 11, when we were visiting our son Rob in Grand Forks, ND, for his graduation. He and I are standing level with the town around us, and least 20 feet above the level of the Red River, which you can see behind us. (For that 1997 flood I blame Clinton!)

Grand Forks Floods monument

Flood monument in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:14 PM

May 24, 2008

New terrain...

Good post by Victor Davis Hanson: Any more Grants and Shermans?...

Who becomes a general — and why — tells us a lot about whether our military is on the right or wrong track.

The annual spring list of Army colonels promoted to brigadier generals will be shortly released. Already, rumors suggest this year, unlike in the recent past, a number of maverick officers who have distinguished themselves fighting — and usually defeating — insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq will be chosen...

Let's hope so! All of America's significant wars have been new terrain for those who fought them—each a new type of war. All of them started with costly mistakes until the new way of warfare was learned. [The leftist claim that the Iraq Campaign is somehow illegitimate because mistakes have been made is stupid and dishonest.] And always many officers, steeped in the thinking of the last war, had to be removed or sidelined to make room for those who could adapt.

Hanson writes about the Civil War, and the many generals Lincoln went through before getting Grant and Sherman. And also how WWII was won by generals that George Marshall promoted from relative obscurity.

WWI was a similar case.

I wrote a small piece here about General Pershing's immense task in finding officers for our huge "instant army," when so many colonels and generals were sunk in mental lethargy from decades of garrison duty broken only by occasional indian wars. (Hunter Liggett, who was mentally ready, was given a Division in January, 1918, and by October was commanding an Army!)

And Pershing himself had been bumped in rank over many senior officers. Teddy Roosevelt thought highly of him, and wanted to make him a colonel. But the Army would not agree. There was, however, another possibility... From Wikipedia:

...In June 1903, Pershing was ordered to return to the United States. He was forty-three years old and still a captain in the U.S. Army. President Theodore Roosevelt petitioned the Army General Staff to promote Pershing to colonel. At the time, Army officer promotions were based primarily on seniority, rather than merit, and although there was widespread acknowledgment that Pershing should serve as a colonel, the Army General Staff declined to change their seniority based promotion tradition just to accommodate Pershing. They would not consider a promotion to lieutenant colonel or even major. This angered Roosevelt, but since the President could only promote army officers in the General ranks, his hands were tied...

...After serving as an observer in the Russo-Japanese War, Pershing returned to the United States in the fall of 1905. In a move that shocked the army establishment, President Roosevelt convinced Congress to authorize the appointment of Pershing as a brigadier general, skipping three ranks and more than 835 officers senior to him....


General Pershing and colonel Marshall, during WWI

Posted by John Weidner at 10:37 AM

May 17, 2008

Fisk du Joor...

There's a certain sort of article where every sentence brings a sarcastic reply to the tip of my tongue. And now, thanks to the magic of the Interweb, I can share my snark with all of you! [Heads nod towards sleep, eyes glaze over, the crowd shuffles away. That's OK, I do this mostly for my own fun. You've read it before, so feel free to skip.]

Harold Meyerson | May 15, 2008 | The American Prospect

If the McCain campaign is still trying out songs, there's one by a couple of Brits, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, that it should consider. We have to change the words "an Englishman" to "American" to get it to work, but, that done, the song expresses succinctly and entirely the case for John McCain and, by implication, against Barack Obama:

For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is American!
That he is American!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sum total of the Republican message this year. That is why McCain's first post-primary ad proclaimed him "the American president Americans have been waiting for." Not the "strong" or "experienced" president, though those are contrasts he could seek to draw with Obama. The "American" president -- because that's the only contrast through which McCain has even a chance of prevailing. [Uh, right now, Obama fans are howling because he's being tarred as an appeaser, and pounded for associations with Wright, Rezko, Hamas, etc. If these attacks have no "chance of prevailing," why the fuss?]

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain's Americanness by noting that it's Obama's story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama's white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president. [But, curious thing, Barry achieved the "American dream" (Harvard Law, Wall Street, big $, etc.) and then proceeded to SHED that American identity, becoming a "community organizer," joining an "Afro-centric" church, and reinventing himself as a black person. In fact, re-inventing the racial caste system! So why, exactly, should pointing this out be a bad thing?

In fact you are only bothered by this issue because you know that the charge is TRUE. I live among people like you and the Obama's. I know you. I know perfectly well your utter alienation from ordinary Americans who enjoy Christian faith, bowling, Nascar, deer-hunting, suburban life, and the Superbowl. Why, exactly, should they not reject a candidate who rejects THEM, who rejects the very things the ARE? Why should McCain not point these things out?]

That's not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, "American" is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats. Such separation has a long pedigree: Campaigning for GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon in 1936, Republican leader Frank Knox said that the Democratic Party under President Franklin Roosevelt "has been seized by alien and un-American elements. Next November, you will choose the American way."

Knox meant two things: that the New Deal represented an ideology outside the pale of American thinking and that the New Deal coalition, which represented record numbers of foreign-born, non-Protestant Americans, was therefore un-American.[Well, it was true. Socialism IS outside the "pale of American thinking," and we now know that some of the New-Dealers were secret agents for Stalin.] In more recent elections, Republicans have depicted Democratic presidential candidates as un-American cultural elitists heading up a dangerously diverse party. [Diverse is an interesting word to pick, since it has become a code-word for racial quotas, which are very un-American. So much so that a code-word is necessary. And, come to think, Obama probably favors racial quotas, but will lie like Ananias about the subject, and many other similar subjects. So really, calling him "un-American" is a proxy for real and substantive ISSUES that he would prefer to duck.]

This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences [Obama is currently under attack on the issues of foreign policy and Federal judicial nominations, to name just a few.] between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, "out of touch with everyday America." [Obviously.] His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he "has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism." [It's the simple truth. I live in SF, I know.]

There are good reasons Republicans are focusing on identity rather than issues this year: In poll after poll, there's not a single major issue on which the public agrees with them or their presumptive nominee. [Surrre. Americans are SO ready for higher taxes, abortion, gay marriage, nationalized health care, appeasement, speech-codes and multiculturalism.] Not Iraq, certainly. Not the economy. Should the election turn on the question of "What are you going to do for America?" rather than "Are you a real American?" Republicans are doomed. They offer no solutions for the stagnation (or decline) of American living standards, [So why is building extra storage space for people's stuff a booming business?] or for the weakening of America's economic power. [The EU, China--they're gonna steam-roller us any day 'cause they're so superior!] They offer no resolution to America's war of choice in Iraq. [Except winning--we are providing that one. I know it disgusts you lefties, but Americans go for winning our wars.] Their party leader, the incumbent president, let a great American city drown. [Oh right, he had a little button he could push that would re-build the failed levees, and cause the Democratic leadership of Louisiana to be honest and effective. But he just sat there and didn't push it.] They are the American party, and McCain the American nominee, that hasn't a clue about how to help America in its (prolonged, I fear) moment of need. [We're sinking, we're sinking! We need Big Government and Barack to save us. Glub, glub.......]

What remains for the GOP is a campaign premised more on issues of national identity, aimed largely at that portion of our population for which "American" is synonymous with "white" and "Christian," than any national campaign has been since the American Party (also known as the Know Nothings) based its 1856 campaign chiefly on Protestant bigotry against Irish and German Catholic immigrants. In Appalachian America (the heart of which went to the polls yesterday in West Virginia), as Mark Schmitt notes in the forthcoming issue of the American Prospect (which I edit), a disproportionate number of people write "American" when answering the census question on ethnic origin. [That is so disgusting, "American." Ugh! Horrid rednecks. And they've only been here since the 18th Century! They should think of themselves as an ethnic group oppressed by white Christians, and needing Affirmative Action.] For some, "American" is a race -- white -- no less than a nationality, and it's on this equation that Republican prospects depend. [We get the picture. In fact,the real point of this piece is preparing for defeat. if Obama loses, it means we are RACISTS, not that we are rejecting Obama's leftism. I spit, with the utmost contempt, upon that formula. In fact, we Republicans would be delighted to consider voting for a black person. IF they were also, like Colin Powell or Condi Rice, or Bobby Jindal, or Janet Brown, AMERICANS. Not anti-American leftists.

Which is why Gilbert and Sullivan penned what could be the perfect McCain marching song:

But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains American!
He remains American!
[Which in itself is good reason to vote for him, rather then Mr Fraudulent.]

PS: I hate to break it to you, Mr Meyerson, but the knuckle-draggers in Appalachia are perfectly aware that "American" is not usually considered an "ethnic origin." They do that because they loath your identity-politics, which are un-American.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:04 PM

April 15, 2008

Smart is not the same as wise...

Orrin Judd:

It would be easier to feel sorry for the Democrats if they ever learned anything from their mistake--singular, because it's the same one almost every time. While the Republicans nominate the guy whose turn it is next, a well-known and battle-tested veteran, the Democrats repeatedly serve up a neophyte Northern liberal and then act stunned when he's not ready for primetime and voters dislike him once they get to know his political views.

There's lots one could say to amplify this. One is that being smart is not the same thing as being wise. And since a large part of being wise is having the humility to realize you don't know it all, and the humility to see things as they are, rather then what your theory says they should be, you can almost bet that anyone who people look at and say "he's so smart" is not wise.

"Wise" can't really be defined. It's just one of those things you know when you see it, if you are looking. When it comes to politicians, it's even harder to be sure. But a good bet is that a "well-known and battle-tested veteran" has probably had a chance to reveal any un-wisdom he may have.

Is McCain wise? I have various doubts about him, but I feel confident that he is far wiser than Barry or Hillary. For one thing, there's no doubt that he is a patriotic American, and that in itself is deeply wise. Because this great nation is herself "a well-known and battle-tested veteran," and the results have shown this a thousand times. Betting on America is the smart bet. Betting on Europe is the sucker's bet.

And if you are a liberal reading that previous paragraph, you probably instantly thought of all the reasons you despise this country (without having the guts or conscience to move elsewhere). You thought of all her supposed hideous faults, things that are taken for granted over the Brie and Chardonnay at San Francisco soirées, where guys like Obama go to raise big bucks. If you did, you are not wise. You are a fool.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 AM

March 28, 2008

Extraordinary delegation of authority....

Here's a cool piece on how WalMart (and other big-box retailers) performed prodigies of disaster-relief during Katrina...while Federal (and in Democrat areas, local) government did poorly. The secret was pushing authority into the hands of those on the scene.

President Bush missed a big fat opportunity, when things were being changed after 9/11, to strengthen local emergency-response agencies, instead of adding more federal bureaucracy.( I think he was rendered short-sighted from spending too much time in government, despite his successes in the private sector.)

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer -- and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.

"A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level," was Scott's message to his people. "Make the best decision that you can with the information that's available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing."

This extraordinary delegation of authority -- essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year -- saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. ...

[....]

...This benevolent improvisation contradicts everything we have been taught about Wal-Mart by labour unions and the "small-is-beautiful" left. We are told that the company thinks of its store management as a collection of cheap, brainwash-able replacement parts; that its homogenizing culture makes it incapable of serving local communities; that a sparrow cannot fall in Wal-Mart parking lot without orders from Arkansas; that the chain puts profits over people. The actual view of the company, verifiable from its disaster-response procedures, is that you can't make profits without people living in healthy communities. And it's not alone: As Horwitz points out, other big-box companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's set aside the short-term balance sheet when Katrina hit and acted to save homes and lives, handing out millions of dollars' worth of inventory for free.

No one who is familiar with economic thought since the Second World War will be surprised at this. Scholars such as F. A. von Hayek, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock have taught us that it is really nothing more than a terminological error to label governments "public" and corporations "private" when it is the latter that often have the strongest incentives to respond to social needs. A company that alienates a community will soon be forced to retreat from it, but the government is always there. Companies must, to survive, create economic value one way or another; government employees can increase their budgets and their personal power by destroying or wasting wealth, and most may do little else. Companies have price signals to guide their productive efforts; governments obfuscate those signals.

Aside from the public vs. private issue, Horwitz suggests, decentralized disaster relief is likely to be more timely and appropriate than the centralized kind, which explains why the U.S. Coast Guard performed so much better during the disaster than FEMA. The Coast Guard, like all marine forces, necessarily leaves a great deal of authority in the hands of individual commanders, and like Wal-Mart, it benefited during and after the hurricane from having plenty of personnel who were familiar with the Gulf Coast geography and economy.

There is no substitute for local knowledge -- an ancient lesson of which Katrina merely provided the latest reminder....
Posted by John Weidner at 1:15 PM

March 11, 2008

Young girl traveling...

Tom Maguire:

By way of Ace I am watching this video in which Obama calls for the day that a young girl traveling abroad can say with pride that she is an American - that, we are informed, is the change he is working for.

I know that message lights Democratic fires, but my goodness - is that what he wants to present to the general public?...

It's the usual—casual—anti-Americanism of lefty elitists. How I hate it. I live in the middle of it, and I DESPISE it. "Lights Democratic fires." Oh yeah.

As far as I'm concerned, that one clip should disqualify Mr Obama from being President. If Obama's the nominee, I hope John McCain takes that clip and rubs his face in it!

Elite snivelers from Harvard hate America because she is bigger and greater than we. Because she makes demands on us--demands for loyalty and duty and service. They are nihilists, and want to worship only themselves.

For the American citizen, to love and serve our nation is a requirement. (This is an analog, on a much lower sphere, of the requirement that we love and serve God.) It is not optional. And it has nothing to do with nationalism. America is not a nation, in that sense.

She is an idea, and an authoritative tradition. There are few other nations that can claim this. Maybe none. Actually, you can see which. Just chart which countries leftists really really hate. Ummm....Oh yeah, Israel. And they hate and fear what England used to be, though they've mostly killed her by now. America and the Anglosphere are now England.

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.
      -- Abraham Lincoln, Eulogy on Henry Clay , July 6, 1852
Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

March 8, 2008

Standing up to the hoodlums...

Heartening news in the WSJ about the biggest scam in the world, the asbestos litigation quagmire. A judge and a defendant are actually standing up to those vile thieves! Charlene was involved in the litigation when I first met her, so I've learned a lot about that criminal enterprise.

....A building materials company, W.R. Grace was among the firms swept up in a second round of asbestos litigation in the late 1990s. Having chewed their way through asbestos manufacturers, trial lawyers went after companies that had only a marginal asbestos link. By blanketing these firms with an avalanche of claims they recruited, the tort bar pushed at least 30 of these second-tier players into bankruptcy.

Most companies then followed the usual asbestos bankruptcy script. They cut a deal with the plaintiffs attorneys, handing over a big sum to pay current and future claims. Federal bankruptcy judges happily went along, because most view their jobs as getting companies out of bankruptcy quickly and few want the hassle of investigating tens of thousands of individual asbestos claims.

Enter W.R. Grace, and its lead attorney, David Bernick, a veteran of the tobacco and breast-implant wars. Mr. Bernick has taken the unheard-of position that federal rules of evidence apply even in bankruptcy court. He has argued that the only way Judge Judith Fitzgerald can make a legitimate ruling on Grace's liability is for her to decide first how many claims have scientific merit. This is revolutionary stuff.

To her credit, Judge Fitzgerald has allowed Grace to investigate those claims, and present her with its results. The stakes are enormous. At the end of this process, Judge Fitzgerald will make a finding on W.R. Grace's ultimate liability. The plaintiffs claim it is as much as $6 billion, a figure that would make Grace insolvent. The company claims the money necessary to cover legitimate claims is closer to $500 million, a number that would allow it to rejoin the land of the living...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

March 3, 2008

Tax the rich!

Kruse Kronicle has a nice piece, based on Congressional Budget Office data, graphing how the Bush tax cuts resulted in the rich paying more taxes. And the poor paying less.

You probably already knew that, but he's got nice charts, and it is worth saving the link to use in arguments against Bolshies who claim that Bush "cut taxes on the rich."

....The 2005 total effective federal tax rate as a percentage of the 1979 rate:

  • Top Quintile = 101.2%
  • Fourth Quintile = 85.0%
  • Middle Quintile = 76.8%
  • Second Quintile = 60.1%
  • Bottom Quintile = 14.3%

As I showed in a post last month, the top 1% of taxpayers pay 40% of federal income taxes. The top 25% of taxpayers pay 86% of income taxes.

Finally, keep in mind the New York Times article two weeks a ago that pointed out that while the bottom quintile has $9,974 in income per household a year it spends $18,153. That means non-cash assistance (as well draws on savings in the case of retired or unemployed payers) nearly doubles the actual income of the bottom quintile.

Rather than populist outcry over "tax cuts for the wealthy," maybe we need to look at the whole package of consequences that come from tax policy. Is the final objective really to have all taxes paid by the top 1% of society?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

February 23, 2008

Recommended destination....

Reagan Library entrance

I'm tagging along with Charlene to a Federalist Society conference at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

Awesome! I had no idea. I had vaguely imagined a library, with various historical documents and mementos in some glass cases. But it's a knock-out museum, located on a hilltop with sweeping views. (I guess there is library-like stuff somewhere, with scholars toiling over documents, but that's not evident to the visitor.) We had a great time. I recommend it highly, should you ever happen to be in the LA area.

Air Force One at Reagan Library

Posted by John Weidner at 4:26 PM

February 22, 2008

Ker-bam!

By Thom Shanker. WASHINGTON: Videotape of the U.S. Navy mission to shoot down a dying spy satellite made available shows an interceptor missile ascending atop a bright trail of burning fuel, and then a flash, a fireball and a plume of vapor. A cloud of debris left little doubt that the missile had squarely hit its mark as it spent its final days orbiting high above the Pacific Ocean.

A different kind of doubt still lingers, though, expressed by policy analysts, some politicians and scientists, and not a few foreign powers, especially China and Russia: Should the people of the world be breathing a sigh of relief that the risk has passed of a half-ton of frozen, toxic rocket fuel landing who knows where? Or should they be worried about the latest display of U.S. technical prowess and see it as a thinly veiled test for a shadow antisatellite program?....

"Should the people of the world be worried...." The way the question is put reminds me once again of the contempt I feel for the sort of people who make up the New York Times. (Shanker is their Pentagon reporter.) His loyalty and sympathy, as a member of the "coastal elites," is centered somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and a lot closer to Paris than to the nasty old USA. His heart is in Belgium.

When he writes "the people of the world," he doesn't mean, like, you know, the actual grubby little people. No. He means their owners, the ruling elites. They are the ones who might not want us to be able to shoot down incoming missiles.

So let me rephrase the question. Should the people of the world be breathing a sigh of relief that the cops are on the beat, and carrying bigger guns than the hoodlums who think they own the neighborhood? Yeah, baby.

Should the people of China be breathing a sigh of relief that their brutal masters are feeling less pushy today? You betcha.

Should the little people of the world feel glad that the liberating spirit of Ronald Reagan has been vindicated today, at the expense of the "realists" who think that we have no "strategic interest" in their freedom and prosperity? And at the expense of the vile leftists who are in favor of tyranny and oppression?

It's no accident that Democrats and Euro-socialists and all the world's tyrants hated Reagan's vision of missile defense, and have fought it tenaciously from that day to now. They hate it because they hate the United States of America, at least when she is strong and proud and free. We are supposed to be humble and conciliatory and meek.

To which I say, Ha ha ha. You lose, sniveling worms. We shot a rocket—not from a stable platform—from a cruiser moving on the waves, and we not only whacked a satellite out of orbit, we hit one particular spot on the thing! To all the fake scientists and fake experts who have declared that this sort of thing is impossible, I spit upon your nihilism. It is ALL possible. Because we are Americans. We can do this stuff.

And thank you, President George W Bush, who made missile-defense and anti-satellite defense a priority.

US Cruiser fires SM-3The guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh launches an SM-3 during a ballistic missile defense exercise. (Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:33 PM

January 17, 2008

Effete idiocy...

As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world. -- John McCain [link]

Well yes, Alaska National Wildlife Refuge IS pristine and beautiful. What rarely gets mentioned is that the lofty snow-clad peaks and Grizzly Bears are not in the area where the oil is. The area proposed for drilling is a coastal mud-flat. A mosquito refuge. A place nobody visits.

And the drilling proposal would only occupy a tiny portion of it, with no likelihood of harm to wildlife—we've already built an oil pipeline all the way across the state without any reported harm to wildlife.

"Pristine and beautiful" are only human values. Nature cares nothing for them. If we used Yosemite Valley as a dumping place for old cars, the birds and raccoons would not mind at all.

But people don't think logically about this stuff. Because "Green" is a religion. The perfect faith for the nihilist, since the Goddess cares nothing about us, "created" us with no conscious intent to do so, may wipe us (and our whole planet) out in the blink of an eye, without remorse, and is "worshipped" by leaving things "pristine and beautiful," which is defined as having no humans touching them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

January 12, 2008

I'm still liking Mitt the most...

We just sent a little donation to the Romney campaign. Now's the time our morsel will have an effect, if ever.

I still think Mitt's the best of the lot. (Here's a good case made.) And I still find him as a person somewhat hard to warm to. That doesn't matter to me personally; I don't make these decisions based on emotions. But, rationally, it's a problem in a candidate or president, both of which jobs depend on persuasion more than on correct decision-making.

My impression is, that if George W. Bush and Mitt Romney were my next-door neighbors, (and not in politics) George would seem like a regular guy who I could chat with as an equal, but Mitt would, while being unfailingly courteous, leave an feeling that he normally dwells on a higher level of existence, one you reach by the special executive elevator that goes only to the top floor. (NOTE: These are just impressions from a distance. No one who actually knows Romney seems to find him like this!)

It is interesting the number of people who just hate him on sight. I would be very curious to know how much that group overlaps with the group that instinctively hated Bush. (There is of course a considerable contingent of Leftists for whom American-successful-white-male-business-executive is the culmination of evil. I spit upon their nihilism. I'd ship them all to Cuba if I could.)

I looked back at this post, from last April, and noticed a good comment by Lyle:

Maybe he'll grow on us.

If choosing a president were the same as choosing a CEO, Romney might be the choice. He's smart, level-headed, and competent. He has presidential temperment and demeanor. He looks the part.

Maybe voice has something to do with it. I've heard Romney several times but his voice didn't leave an impression. In the sense that we're casting a leader as well as choosing a CEO, a commanding voice matters.

Imagine hearing President Hillary! alternately screech and drone for four long years. Or John Goober Edwards. But we've heard Giuliani's pragmatic briskness and Thompson's folksy growl for more than a decade, and both wear well.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

December 22, 2007

"I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this"

Charlene saw this YouTube clip, posted by Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard's blog. It's an excerpt from Ronald Reagan's famous speech, A Time for Choosing.

Dean writes:

.. What I find most remarkable about the speech beyond its extraordinary content is the simple, straight forward language and the appropriately spare delivery. There were no clumsy applause lines, no laundry lists of silly promises meant to purchase the votes of certain citizens. Instead, it was just one man talking sense, honestly and from the heart, clearly without the guidance of either pollsters or focus groups.

Current candidates, please take note - the audience loved it. And 43 years later, it's part of history. Even the most moving paen to ethanol won't be so recognized.

To me what is especially noteworthy is how similar the fake-pacifism Reagan was fighting against is to what we deal with now, or what Winston Churchill battled against in the 1930's. The same speeches could be given any time over almost a century.

The same stupid idea, that by being "pacifistic," by not resisting the thugs and tyrants of the world, we will obtain peace, is as alive now as it was in 1938. Pacifism kills.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 AM

December 21, 2007

We "considered ourselves a vanquished people"

From A Revolutionary Christmas Story, By Lynne Cheney, NYT, December 21, 2004

AS 1776 was drawing to a close, Elkanah Watson, a young man in Massachusetts, expressed what many Americans feared about their war for independence. "We looked upon the contest as near its close," he wrote, "and considered ourselves a vanquished people."

There was good reason for pessimism. The British had driven Gen. George Washington and his men out of New York and across New Jersey. In early December, with the British on their heels, the Americans had commandeered every boat they could find to escape across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. They were starving, sick and cold. The artist Charles Willson Peale, watching the landing from the Pennsylvania shore, described a soldier dressed "in an old dirty blanket jacket, his beard long and his face so full of sores that he could not clean it." So disfigured was the man, Peale wrote, that at first he did not recognize him as his brother James.

In these desperate circumstances, George Washington made a stunning decision: to go back across the Delaware and launch a surprise attack on the Hessian mercenaries occupying Trenton. On Christmas night, he led 2,400 men, many of them with their feet wrapped in rags because they had no shoes, to a crossing point nine miles upstream from Trenton. As freezing temperatures turned rain to sleet and snow, they began to cross the river.

The task was harder than any of them had imagined. Men had to break through ice to get into the boats and then fend off chunks of floating ice once they were in the river. Getting cannons across - each weighed nearly a ton - was especially difficult. Downstream, two other groups that Washington had ordered to cross the Delaware failed in their mission. But Washington and his men persevered, until finally, at 4 o'clock in the morning, they were across and ready to march to Trenton.

They had planned to approach Trenton before dawn, but the difficulty of the crossing had delayed them, and it was daylight when they encountered the first Hessians. Still, the surprise worked, and in two hours, with few losses of their own, they captured nearly 900 of the enemy. "This is a glorious day for our country," Washington declared... [There's more.]
Can one possibly imagine the elation that must have been felt by Elkanah Watson, when the news of the victory at Trenton arrived? The deep satisfaction we feel right now at the splendid turnaround in Iraq is nothing compared with how Americans must have felt then.

Thank you Lynne Cheney for this one! And we should be very grateful that, even in these last decadent days of America, we have public servants like the Cheney family...

Vice president Cheney and his wife and daughters     

Posted by John Weidner at 4:23 PM

December 19, 2007

Will anyone say, "Thank you?"

AP: President Bush has approved "a significant reduction" in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War, the White House said Tuesday.

At the same time, the Energy Department announced plans to consolidate the nuclear weapons complex that maintains warheads and dismantle those no longer needed, saying the current facilities need to be made more efficient and more easily secured and that the larger complex is no longer needed.

"We are reducing our nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest level consistent with America's national security and our commitments to friends and allies," White House press secretary Dana Perino said...(Thanks to Orrin)

ZO, my question is, will any of those people who think America's development and one-time use of nuclear weapons was a bad thing now express gratitude for this reduction in our stockpiles? Hmmm?

I myself would say that it was one of the best things that ever happened. It immediately put an end to world wars, regional wars, and wars between developed nations. And also to some rather less-developed ones, such as India and Pakistan. They used to fight wars with each other, remember? And Israel no longer fights with Egypt or Syria, either. Remember those wars? They stopped once Israel had the Bomb. (Of course the Arab animals started proxy wars using terrorist scum to blow up pizza parlors full of women and children....but the total bloodshed was still far less than would have happened in wars.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

December 11, 2007

Two positive stories...

(Thanks to Orrin)

Triumphs for Democracy, By MICHAEL BARONE

The world looks safer, friendlier, more hopeful than it did as we approached Christmastime last year.

Then, we were on the defensive, perhaps on the verge of defeat, in Iraq. The Europeans' attempts to persuade Iran to renounce nuclear weapons seemed to have failed. Hugo Chavez was using his near-dictatorial powers and the oil wealth of Venezuela to secure the election of opponents of the American "empire" in Latin America.

Today, things look different. And they suggest, to me at least, that the policies of the Bush administration, pilloried as bankrupt by the Democrats after their victory in congressional elections in November, have served American interests better than most Americans then thought....
and from Donald Lambro, in the Washington Times...
It will probably come as a shock to most people, even to those who follow the economy, that mortgage applications rose last month as a result of declining interest rates.

In the midst of the hysterical media-fed notion that a tidal wave of subprime-loan foreclosures was going to plunge the country into a recession, the fact is that the economy is still growing and Americans are still buying homes.

The torrid pace of recent years has slackened, but homes are being sold, banks are lending money and most Americans — even those saddled with subprime mortgages — are paying their mortgages on time.

Not everybody realizes this, however. The Washington Post, in a story about the administration's mortgage-relief plan, reported last week that, "Lending, which had boomed for years, ground to a halt." That has been the myth reported ad nauseam on the nightly network news shows, and apparently it has been accepted as a God-given fact....

I kind of imagine the people at the Washington Times just relishing any chance to poke a pin in the fraudulent pomposity of the Washington Post. Thank you!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

December 10, 2007

Guided by the Spirit...

These mass shootings are a recurrent bitter frustration to me, because I know (I'm not the only one of course) what to do. I know how people should respond, to save lives. If everyone at that church had instantly started throwing things--chairs, shoes, keys, potted plants, books, pictures off the wall--the gunman would almost certainly have been quickly overwhelmed.

And I post this idea every time, confident that no one will take notice. Just call me Cassandra.

Here's a fascinating story about the security guard who brought down the killer...

...At about that moment, [Jeanne] Assam, 42, turned a corner with a drawn handgun, walked toward the gunman and yelled "Surrender!"

Bourbonnais said.The gunman pointed a handgun at Assam and fired three shots, Bourbonnais said. She returned fire and just kept walking toward the gunman pressing off round after round.

After the gunman went down, Bourbonnais asked the Assam, a volunteer security guard with the church, how she remained so calm and focused.

Bourbonnais said she replied:

"I was asking the Holy Spirit to guide me the entire time."

* Update: There's more on Jeanne Assam here. she's not a hired security guard, but a member of the church and former police officer volunteering to provide security.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:43 PM

December 8, 2007

Interesting stuff...

UK Telegraph: Republicans winning new citizens for 2008 vote By Toby Harnden in San Diego, California:

Minutes after taking the Pledge of Allegiance, new American citizens are urged to register as voters by Democratic activists who see them as natural party supporters who could hold the key to the 2008 election.

But with increasing illegal immigration threatening the economy and security of the United States, many legal immigrants anxious to uphold the laws of their adopted country are moving towards the more hard-line immigration stance of Republicans.

Even in California’s Democratic-controlled San Diego, sizeable numbers of America’s newly-minted potential voters said that illegal immigrants should be penalised rather than given an easy route to citizenship as most Democrats advocate.

“For a long time, immigration was OK,” said Sara Wright, 49, a seamstress from Mexico who arrived in the US legally in 1986.

“But now, no more. A lot of really bad people come from Mexico and commit crimes....

I'm not sure how much this means. But the simple fact is that all the good things that immigrants come here for only happened because we have the rule of law. That's the real problem with illegal immigration. That's the first question to ask about any proposed solutions... does it uphold the rule of law?

And it is NOT being compassionate in the long run to undermine the laws that all our freedoms depend on. (A concept, alas, beyond most Catholic leaders.)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:52 PM

November 22, 2007

things to be thankful for...

We can all be thankful for our peerless military, and for the sight of happy schoolchildren in the Dora neighborhood. Thankful that Americans and the Iraqi Security Forces are even now delivering a crushing defeat to the murderous animals of al Qaeda. These children can smile because good and brave men took on the forces of evil.

 Soldiers and schoolchildren, Dora, Baghdad

A schoolboy waves at a U.S. soldier on foot patrol in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood on Wednesday.
HADI MIZBAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS Army Times
Frontline Photos 11-21-07


� � � � � � � � � � �

 Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division celebrate Thanksgiving Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division celebrate Thanksgiving in their tent at Firebase Wilderness in the Afghanistan Paktia Province. The soldiers had saved up cheeses, sausages, pretzels and other treats from home, which were sent out in care packages.

John D. McHugh / AFP /Getty Images. Army Times Frontline Photos 11-24-06


Posted by John Weidner at 12:33 PM

In reality, a mighty host...

Measured by the standards of men of their time, ... [the Pilgrims] were the humble of the earth. Measured by later accomplishments, they were the mighty. In appearance weak and persecuted they came -- rejected, despised -- an insignificant band; in reality strong and independent, a mighty host of whom the world was not worthy, destined to free mankind.
      -- Calvin Coolidge
Posted by John Weidner at 5:33 AM

November 19, 2007

"I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps"

You might want to take a look at a fudgy little video that John Hinderaker of PowerLine has posted...

...In the school district where I live, a concert is put on annually by the four high school choirs, plus a little kids' choir of elementary school children, of which my youngest daughter is a member. Participation in the high school choirs is competitive and their quality is high. A director for the concert is brought in from the outside, generally from a college. The concert begins with a couple of numbers by the kids' choir; this year, they started with a medley of The Pledge of Allegiance and America the Beautiful. The crowd--I live in a middle-of-the-road, non-elite area--loved it. The four high school choirs perform separately, and then at the end, they combine in a single large choir for a couple of songs. Most of the music sung is classical; lots of it is religious, often in Latin. As I said, the quality is high.

For the finale, they bring out the kids' choir to sing with all four high schools. This year, the finale was Battle Hymn of the Republic....

That's what's on the video. Gave me a lump in the throat. Maybe it's just because I live in this sinkhole of Lefty nihilism and anti-Americanism, and have put three kids through school without EVER hearing a concert of patriotic songs..... especially THAT patriotic song.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 PM

November 11, 2007

11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month

(This is partly a re-post of a Veteran's Day piece I did in 2005)

It's good to stop on Veteran's Day and remember that everything we have, we have because of war, because brave men fought in savage conflicts to protect and enlarge our patrimony. Often, when I'm feeling that my life is just too too difficult, I think about an Iraqi man I read about, who spent 17 years in a little crawl-space between two walls in his family's home, to avoid arrest by Saddam's secret police. War freed him, and war keeps us from suffering a similar fate, or far worse...

Remember, as you enjoy your holiday (or, like Charlene and I, you enjoy the huge privilege of being self-employed, and working hard today because the work is there) that you are not worrying about visits by secret police because a lot of good guys killed a lot of bad guys over the course of many centuries...

American troops pray before action in Iraq.Jpg
David Furst / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images
Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division gather together to pray moments before setting off on a patrol of western Baghdad on Thursday.
Army Times 11/8/05



Funeral for Americans

American soldiers at a funeral near Saint-Mihiel, 1917


Civil War troops at Catholic mass

[link]

You all know how it's often a problem, when children are raised in prosperity, that they sometimes have no appreciation of how hard their parents worked, and how hard and dangerous life can be.

And our nation has a similar problem. Our ancestors performed miracles of endurance and suffering and courage, so we could enjoy wealth and comfort such as the world has never seen. But this very success has created a sub-culture of Eloi, weak and foolish creatures who burble, "War never solved anything," when it has in fact solved a host of their problems. They are sitting in unthinking comfort and security on the heaped bones of America's enemies. And they sneer and carp at our military, while�of course�not moving to anywhere where they are not protected by strong men with guns.

To anyone such as myself, who has read a lot of history, the military we have now is an astonishment. Never on this planet has there been such a combination of soldierly proficiency, of devastating weapons used with extreme restraint, and such care to protect civilians and to nurture chaotic lands towards democracy and progress. I recently mentioned a splendid book, House to House, by David Bellavia, about deadly struggle in the second battle of Falluja. But in most of our wars, we would not have done that house-to-house stuff. We would have just flattened a Falluja, like we did to Aachen. We could easily have destroyed that horrid place, along with many civilians and many terrorist murderers, and not lost a single American life. Instead, American and Iraqi soldiers groped through a nightmare of booby-trapped buildings and carefully-prepared kill-zones. And many brave men died.

They gave their lives to save the innocent. History will record that they are the true Christians of our time, the real "good Samaritans." While our fake-pacifists are just ice-hearted free-loaders, living in safety because blood is shed by real men and women whose boots they are not worthy to lick.

'Strider' am I to one fat man who lives within a day's march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly...

Posted by John Weidner at 4:19 PM

November 5, 2007

Good sense...

A friend sent the link to this NYT article by N. Gregory Mankiw , and remarked: "You might want to blog this if it doesn't pick up more circulation. I haven't seen anything yet. He refutes at least 50 Krugman columns on health care in about 5 or 6 hundred words."

STATEMENT 2 Some 47 million Americans do not have health insurance.

This number from the Census Bureau is often cited as evidence that the health system is failing for many American families. Yet by masking tremendous heterogeneity in personal circumstances, the figure exaggerates the magnitude of the problem.

To start with, the 47 million includes about 10 million residents who are not American citizens. Many are illegal immigrants. Even if we had national health insurance, they would probably not be covered.

The number also fails to take full account of Medicaid, the government's health program for the poor. For instance, it counts millions of the poor who are eligible for Medicaid but have not yet applied. These individuals, who are healthier, on average, than those who are enrolled, could always apply if they ever needed significant medical care. They are uninsured in name only.

The 47 million also includes many who could buy insurance but haven't. The Census Bureau reports that 18 million of the uninsured have annual household income of more than $50,000, which puts them in the top half of the income distribution. About a quarter of the uninsured have been offered employer-provided insurance but declined coverage.

Of course, millions of Americans have trouble getting health insurance. But they number far less than 47 million, and they make up only a few percent of the population of 300 million....

Mr Mankiw, I note, is a Romney advisor. I'd call that a good sign....

Posted by John Weidner at 7:14 AM

October 29, 2007

See the world...

From Victor Davis Hansen's blog...

....I spent some time in Iraq accompanying Col. HR McMaster who was on an inspection tour of the forward operating bases. He is a UNC PhD, former Hoover Security fellow, and author of an acclaimed book, Dereliction of Duty, on (the lack of) military leadership during Vietnam, as well as one of Gen. Petraeus’s top counter-insurgency thinkers.

I could not imagine a tour (some 30-40 days I think he is on) that would pose more risks—humveeing and coptering into all sorts of places, regardless of the recent 24-hour conditions. Over the years, in Gulf War I, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, he has seen a number of close calls, and walks with a limp from an injured hip (probably will have to be replaced). Full body armor, pistol, and M-16 to lug around can’t help the pain.

I would watch him negotiate with Sunni governors, police chiefs, and generals, then be debriefed by Marine and Army officers, then go on tour in Humvees or foot patrols. This would start at 7 am and end at 8pm. Then after the long helicopter trip back to Camp Victory, HR would eat and join discussion with fellow Colonels until after 11 PM.

We often talk loosely of the idea of a renaissance man, but colonels like McMaster come closest—I would add another Colonel Chris Gibson—to the idea that I have ever come across.

Something is going on in Iraq entirely missed by media. It’s not just that things are turning around, but rather Gen. Petraeus has assembled perhaps the most gifted group of Army officers seen in a generation—who feel they are going to snatch victory from the jaws of political defeat. I think they will pull it off and the entire political landscape here at home will have to readjust to it by early next year. The smarter Democrats will take credit by claiming their anti-Bush efforts forced needed change, the denser ones will just continue to deny, like Sens. Reid and Schumer, that any good is occurring at all.....

Life has many frustrations, but there are also some sweet moments. The thought of what a bitter pill victory in Iraq is going to be to fraudulent liberals gives me a warm feeling in my tummy like a shot of whiskey!

Another charming thing is that there are so many things that are not what the received liberal wisdom says they are. I suspect that guys like Col. McMaster are not just gifted in relation to army officers of the past, but also in relation to certain people who imagine themselves as the highly-gifted elite....academics especially. The academic world is not looking very impressive these days, and I don't expect history to be kind to it. Same with the realms of journalism, the arts, and the whole bi-coastal arts-and-croissants crowd.

Related to this, one of the oddities of contemporary American life is that liberals preen themselves on being well-travelled because they've been trekking in Nepal or have gone on a photo-safari in Tanzania. But people who are really well-travelled, who know intimately some place you've never even heard of, are much more likely to be found in rural or small-town America! Those people join the military, or thye oil companies, or do missionary work, and they really "see the world."

Posted by John Weidner at 5:22 PM

October 10, 2007

"No one will ever believe you..."

I liked very much this comment that Mike Plaiss made to this post about our having, from time to time, an idealistic foreign policy...

For anyone interested in a long-winded anecdote that is relevant to this discussion, here it is:

I used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), and had the very good fortune to have many smart and intellectually minded students. We had countless conversations about world events, the countries they came from, etc. I did most of the learning in that class. I would even go as far as to say that most of what I think I know about the world outside the US came from those conversations. (I have dozens of stories a lot like this one.)

This was all right in the middle of the war in Bosnia (but before we got involved). In fact, I had several students from there, several from Eastern Europe, and a few from the Middle East. Debate had already begun in the US as whether we should get involved. All of my students, including the ones from Bosnia, were sure that the US would NOT get involved. One student from Syria, one of the teacher’s assistants, was pretty adamant about it – “Why would you? You have nothing to gain.”

I had developed a lot of credibility with this group because I actually knew where their countries were, and even a little bit about their histories. (Yes, it is sad to say that they were truly shocked that an American knew where Odessa was, as an example.) So it got their attention when I told them to not be so sure – the US may well get involved.

“Why?”, they asked. “To stop the killing”, I answered. The Syrian scoffed (loudly), and everyone was shaking their heads in disbelief, and a few were laughing. But, like I said, I had developed a lot of credibility with them by this point and they were all fascinated and wanted to know more about my thoughts. Keep in mind that all of these people had only been in the US for a few weeks or months, and I had language barriers to deal with, but I did my best to explain to them that this is the way Americans are. If we believed that genocide was, in fact, occurring in Europe (did my best to explain why that mattered), and that there was something we could do about, that we may well go to war to stop it.

Apparently I did a pretty good job because even the Syrian seemed convinced that this may be so. I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they re-evaluated their thoughts. Then the Syrian, who by the way was an extremely smart young man (he was in college and intended to go to med school), said something that I will never forget.

He said, “Well, then you have a bigger problem on your hands.” I had no idea what that meant, so I asked, “What do you mean?” “No one will ever believe it. No one will ever believe you would go to war for such a reason. So if you do it (go to war), they’re going to come up with their own reasons as to why you really did it. This would be terrible for the United States.”

So yes, going to war, even for truly altruistic reasons, can do great damage to the reputation of the US.

Ah well. As Mencken, or maybe not him, said, War is God's way of teaching Americans geography...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:54 AM

October 6, 2007

It fits...

Powerline has this quote, from a new book, Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender.

Some have called it the CIA's greatest covert operation of all time.
It involved deep penetration of a hostile regime by planting a network of agents at key crossroads of power, where they could steal secrets and steer policy by planting disinformation, cooking intelligence, provocation, and outright lies.

It involved sophisticated political sabotage operations, aimed at making regime leaders doubt their own judgment and question the support of their subordinates.

It involved the financing, training, and equipping of effective opposition forces, who could challenge the regime openly and through covert operations.

The scope was breathtaking, say insiders who had personal knowledge of the CIA effort. All the skills learned by the U.S. intelligence community during the fifty years of the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union were in play, from active measures aimed at planting disinformation through cutouts and an eager media, to maskirovka--strategic deception.

It was war--but an intelligence war, played behind the scenes, aimed at confusing, misleading, and ultimately defeating the enemy. Its goal was nothing less than to topple the regime in power, by discrediting its rulers.

Many Americans believe this was the CIA's goal during the 1990s, when the Agency had "boots on the ground" in northern Iraq, working with Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein. Most patriotic Americans probably hope that the CIA today has such an operation to overthrow the mullahs in Tehran, or North Korean dictator Kim John Il.

But the target of this vast, sophisticated CIA operation was none of them.

It was America's 43rd President, George W. Bush....

I'd say it seems to fit the facts we've observed over the last 6 years. Remember this quote, by Michael Ledeen?

...ML: Before we get into the details, I've got a quickie for you. I was reading a recent interview with Charles McCarry, the ex-spook who writes terrific books, and he said something quite extraordinary.

JJA: To wit?

ML: He said: "I never met a stupid person in the agency. Or an assassin. Or a Republican... They were, at least in the operations side where I was...wall-to-wall knee-jerk liberals. And they were befuddled that the left outside the agency regarded them as some sort of right-wing threat. Because they were the absolute opposite, in their own politics."...

Fascinatin', that befuddlement! The left hates the CIA for the same reason that it hates the US military. Because their very existence presumes that we have a country worth fighting for. They do not hate the State Department, because it is presumed to share the view of nihilists that there is nothing worth fighting for, that there is no "good vs evil."

Posted by John Weidner at 9:21 AM

October 5, 2007

Sweet Week

I love it every year. Fleet Week! At any odd moment you might hear a growl that slowly builds to a roar, and then an F/A 18 or two goes ker-WHAMM over your head. Awesome. The Blue Angels.

Cinnamon Stillwell has a blogpost that expresses just what the Weidners feel...

San Francisco Peaceniks in a Panic Over Fleet Week

It's that time of year again and Fleet Week has descended upon the city of San Francisco. For those who, like myself, appreciate the unabashed demonstration of military prowess, not to mention the spectacular air shows of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels, it is a time to relish. And, of course, an occasion for gloating about the matter at one's blog.

It helps that self-proclaimed socialist supervisor Chris Daly's third attempt to ban the Blue Angels, due, he claims, to safety concerns (never mind that there's a higher chance of being hit by a car in San Francisco than an Angels pilot crashing), was soundly defeated by his more commerce-minded colleagues on the Board of Supervisors. Ah, the smell of victory in the morning.

Getting to watch the Blue Angels practice throughout the week is another perk for patriots living in the vicinity. There's nothing quite like the beauty of jets flying silently in formation, that sonic boom as they pass overhead, or the thrill of a jet zooming past one's very window.

But for local liberals unaccustomed to such icky displays of militarism and residents annoyed that their daily lives of leisure are interrupted by those who, in reality, make those daily lives of leisure possible, Fleet Week is a time of terror.

I know of one such fellow who was in a virtual panic last weekend to, as he put it, "get out of town before the Blue Angels arrived!"....

"Fleet Week is a time of terror." Ha ha ha. All our fake-pacists can just crunch on it with their Granola. Every one of those frauds knows perfectly well that they are protected by the world's strongest military, and by cops with pistols on their belts. And they want it just that way, so they can play their infantile games in perfect safety, and rely on the grown-ups to gun down the criminals, while they pretend to be "non-violent.". Parasites and freeloaders. Liars.

Here are some pix I took from Fleet Week 2005.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 AM

September 11, 2007

Special morning...


Firefighters raise our flag in WTC ruins

Photograph �2001 The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). Photo Credit: Thomas E. Franklin, Staff Photographer

.

Charlene and I went to the 6:30 Mass this morning. We've been trying to do so once a week. Afterward she jumps on a bus for downtown, and I drive home.

As I was driving back I passed a fire station, and saw the firefighters lined up, raising our nation's flag. I felt rather awed. I wish I'd had a camera. I hurried home and put out our flag.

One of the many thoughts in my head is that America is not just a country, like other countries. It is an authoritative tradition, handed down to us from our forefathers and from God. America is an idea. (I wrote about that here.) "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament, and would be secured by the study of history, law, and tradition." The rights of Englishmen are what we fought the Revolution for, and their origin is exceedingly ancient, and mysterious, and not something created merely by men.

And I think America makes demands on us, analogous (not the same, but analogous) to the claim made on us by God. And, analogously, we resist that claim in a thousand squirrely ways. We invent heresies, to put it bluntly. Certain people suddenly discover they are pacifists or internationalists. Someone this morning mentioned a prayer-intention for the victims of the disaster on 9/11. Nuh uh. It was not a disaster, it was a murderous terror attack on our nation and on innocent fellow-citizens.

And an attack on our land makes claims on us. It requires that we put our own concerns second and rally to the defense of our country, even at the risk of our lives, or the loss of elections. And, analogous to the other, greater sphere, many people answer non servum.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 AM

August 29, 2007

decline and undecline...

I liked this piece, The Decline and Fall of Declinism... I've been hearing all my adult life about how America is soon to be outstripped by this or that more organized and efficient (ie: more socialist) alternative. Remember MITI? Remember�this will date me�"We will bury you"? Ha ha.

..Under the heading “The end of a U.S.-centric world?” the PostGlobal section of The Washington Post website recently declared that “U.S. influence is in steep decline.” It was just the latest verse in a growing chorus of declinist doom-saying at home and abroad.

In 2004, Pat Buchanan lamented “the decline and fall of the greatest industrial republic the world had ever seen.” In 2005, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee concluded that Hurricane Katrina exposed “a hollow superpower.” In 2007, Pierre Hassner of the Paris-based National Foundation for Political Science declared, “It will not be the New American Century.”

And the dirge goes on....

...But the declinists were wrong yesterday. And if their record—and America’s—are any indication, they are just as wrong today.

Any discussion of U.S. power has to begin with its enormous economy. At $13.13 trillion, the U.S. economy represents 20 percent of global output. It’s growing faster than Britain’s, Australia’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Canada’s, even faster than the vaunted European Union.

In fact, even when Europe cobbles together its 25 economies under the EU banner, it still falls short of U.S. GDP—and will fall further behind as the century wears on. Gerard Baker of the Times of London notes that the U.S. economy will be twice the size of Europe’s by 2021.

On the other side of the world, some see China’s booming economy as a threat to U.S. economic primacy. However, as Baker observes, the U.S. is adding “twice as much in absolute terms to global output” as China. The immense gap in per capita income—$44,244 in the U.S. versus $2,069 in China—adds further perspective to the picture....

All you have to realize about those China-is-the-next-superpower screeds is that these things are not linear. The techniques that will get you from per capita $500 to $2,000 are not the same as those needed to get from $10,000 to $20,000, etc. To keep growing a country must learn a new game at every stage, and each one is harder....and....less amenable to centralized control or stimulation.

There's another thing that we all should be aware of, and that leftists don't want to know about...

...While the declinists routinely remind us that the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 15 countries combined, they seldom note that the current defense budget accounts for barely four percent of GDP—a smaller percentage than the U.S. spent on defense at any time during the Cold War. In fact, defense outlays consumed as much as 10 percent of GDP in the 1950s, and 6 percent in the 1980s.

The diplomats who roam the corridors of the UN and the corporate chiefs who run the EU’s sprawling public-private conglomerates dare not say it aloud, but the American military does the dirty work to keep the global economy going—and growing. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” as Thomas Friedman observed in 1999...

Despite the crap you hear to the contrary, America provides by far the biggest and most important slice of the world's "foreign aid." Our 12 Carrier Strike Groups, and all the rest of our peerless military, are what make growth and prosperity possible for China and everybody else.

The world's economy runs on trade, to an extent far beyond that of any other time in history. In the past, foreign trade was, for most countries, just frosting on the cake. 5% or 10%. Not any more. If someone mined China's ports now, their whole economy would go "poof!" and vanish.

We donate the cost of world peace. And world peace is exactly what we have, by the standards of those past time when nations went to war with each other. That doesn't happen any more; the "wars" we have now are internal conflicts and genocides within failed states. And the involvement of the US and her Anglosphere allies is in the nature of cops breaking up gang wars. The "War on Terror" has claimed less than 4,000 American lives. [Insert boiler-plate statement yes-every-death-is-a-tragedy blah blah blah.] In a REAL WAR you can lose that many in a single DAY.

And when (rarely now) nations actually do threaten war, as India and Pakistan were doing a few years ago, we lean on them. In fact, we don't allow them to go to war. We are the grown-ups, they are the teen-agers, and we are teaching them how we expect them to behave.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 AM

August 8, 2007

It's just the way America is...

Some interesting poll results...

Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest...

....A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.

It is often assumed that most Americans feel US foreign policy should be tied closely to the national interest, narrowly defined, and are opposed to the idea of making sacrifices based on altruistic purposes. Polling data reveal quite a different picture. In numerous cases Americans show support for altruism in US foreign policy independent of any impact it might have on US interests.

In January 2000 Beldon and Russonello asked respondents to rate a list of reasons "for the US to be active in world affairs" on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning "it is not at all an important reason" and 10 meaning "it is an extremely important reason to you personally." Altruistic reasons scored quite well.[1]....(Thanks to Orrin).

This is pleasant to me, because I despise utterly the "realist" school. I am, in Walter Russell Mead's indispensable classification, partly a Wilsonian. However, the trouble with an idealistic approach to foreign policy is that it tends towards soft-mindedness. Towards the sort of thinking that assumes that "soft power" and negotiations will solve all problems. (Which makes the name very appropriate, since few human beings have exemplified the debacles that result from mushy idealism like Woodrow Wilson.)

Unmodified Wilsonianism is catastrophic folly, and the sort of thing that got us into the present war. What's required, for the good of the world, is a combination of Wilsonian and Jacksonian foreign policy. What's needed, if we want peace, is to be willing to BOTH crush the forces of evil with stunning force, AND reach out to the needy (including the defeated enemy) with idealism and generosity.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM

July 21, 2007

Seismic shift?

Dean Barnett has a great article in Weekly Standard, The 9/11 Generation...

....Regardless of their backgrounds, the soldiers I spoke with had a similar matter-of-fact style. Not only did all of them bristle at the notion of being labeled victims, they bristled at the idea of being labeled heroes. To a man, they were doing what they saw as their duty. Their self-assessments lacked the sense of superiority that politicians of a certain age who once served in the military often display. The soldiers I spoke with also refused to make disparaging comparisons between themselves and their generational cohorts who have taken a different path.

But that doesn't mean the soldiers were unaware of the importance of their undertaking. About a month ago, I attended the commissioning of a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. The day before his commissioning, he had graduated from Harvard. He didn't come from a military family, and it wasn't financial hardship that drove him into the Armed Forces. Don't tell John Kerry, but he studied hard in college. After his commissioning, this freshly minted United States Marine returned to his Harvard dorm room to clean it out.

As he entered the dorm in his full dress uniform, some of his classmates gave him a spontaneous round of applause. A campus police officer took him aside to shake his hand. His father observed, "It was like something out of a movie."

A few weeks after his commissioning, the lieutenant sent me an email that read in part:
I remember when I was down at Quantico two summers ago for the first half of Officer Candidates School. The second to last day I was down there--"Family Day," incidentally--was the 7/7 bombings. The staff pulled us over and told us the news and then said that's basically why they're so hard on us down there: We're at war and will be for a long time, and the mothers of recruits at MCRD and at Parris Island right now are going to be depending on us one day to get their sons and daughters home alive.

When I was in England last week, I talked to an officer in the Royal Navy who had just received his Ph.D. He was saying he thought the larger war would last 20-30 years; I've always thought a generation--mine in particular. Our highest calling: To defend our way of life and Western Civilization; fight for the freedom of others; protect our friends, family, and country; and give hope to a people long without it.
It is surely a measure of how far we've come as a society from the dark days of the 1960s that things like military service and duty and sacrifice are now celebrated. Just because Washington and Hollywood haven't noticed this generational shift doesn't mean it hasn't occurred. It has, and it's seismic....

Oh, let it be so, let it be so. Sometimes things like this make me feel hopeful, and then other times I think we are trapped in a sort of ratchet, and that even though there may be upswings, each one is lower than the one before. And to make things more confusing, the upswings are often reactions to the bad things that happen, and so the bad things are in some way good things! I probably won't know what's going on until the Judgement Day.

Dean's article is sub-titled: "Better than the Boomers." Let it be so, let it be so...

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

Posted by John Weidner at 1:17 PM

July 3, 2007

"God Save our American States"

I've posted these before, but not for a few years...

From a letter by Abigail Adams to John Adams (who was in Philadelphia with the Continental Congress), July 21, 1776:

Abigail Adams...Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the multitude into King's Street to hear the proclamation for independence read and proclaimed. Some Field pieces with the Train were brought there, the troops appeared under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousands from the country). When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona [balcony] of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was paid to every word.

As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyful. Mr Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen...

And also from a letter, by John...

yyy
I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means....--John Adams

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

Long arm of the law...

It's not a war we're in, just cops 'n robbers. And Unca Sam's the cop on this world's beat. So sleep safe, enjoy your Fourth of July, support our troops and our allies, and thank God for America... Chinook lands on roof, Afghanistan

* Update: A reader e-mails that the photographer�s name was almost certainly U.S. Army Sgt. Greg Heath / 4th Public Affairs Detachment. He sent another photo of the same scene, which I may post soon...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:31 PM

June 28, 2007

Demographics is destiny, as Mark Steyn put it...

Fascinatin' stuff, by Robert M. Dunn in TCS...

....There has been a stunning decline in the fertility rate in Mexico, which means that, in a few years there will not be many teenagers in Mexico looking for work in the United States or anywhere else. If this trend in the fertility rate continues, Mexico will resemble Japan and Italy - rapidly aging populations with too few young workers to support the economy.

According to the World Bank's 2007 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2005, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female. The large number of women currently in their reproductive years means that there are still quite a few babies, but as this group ages, the number of infants will decline sharply. If this trend toward fewer children per female continues, there being no apparent reason for it to cease, the number of young people in the Mexican population will decline significantly just when the number of elderly is rising. As labor markets in Mexico tighten and wage rates rise, far fewer Mexican youngsters will be interested in coming to the United States. Since our baby boomers will be retiring at the same time, we could face a severe labor shortage.

There have been significant declines in fertility rates across Latin America, but Mexico's has been unusually sharp. In El Salvador, another country from which immigrants come, a 3.7 rate in 1990 became 2.5 by 2005. Guatemala is now at 4.3, but that is far lower than it was in 1990. Jamaica, another source of illegal U. S. immigrants, has fallen from 2.9 to 2.4 over the same period. Chile and Costa Rica, at 2.0, are actually slightly below a replacement rate. Trinidad and Tobago, at 1.6, is well below ZPG. For all of Latin American and the Caribbean, a rate of 3.2 in 1990 fell to 2.4 in 2005, a decline of 25 percent. This means less pressure on the United States from illegal immigrants from the entire area, not just from Mexico. A powerful demographic transition is well underway, and soon many of these countries may be worried about there being too few babies rather than too many. We may miss this labor, and wonder how we will replace it....

So who's going to pick the strawberries? Robotics might be a good long-term investment. It's a funny future we may be facing, with perhaps a "guest worker" program that pays people to come here, with competition for scarce resources from Mexico!

And if you wonder why "liberals" are so angry and defensive and brittle these days, you should realize that their world-view is still based ideas that no longer reflect reality. Including the idea that exploding populations are "destroying the earth," and that we should be having fewer children, and a smaller "ecological footprint," and similar anti-human rubbish....

Liberals (in the contemporary sense, not the classical) today are like people with a terminal illness who are in deep denial. But they feel these odd twinges and pains, which are getting harder and harder to ignore...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

June 14, 2007

Flag Day

flag and parade
Jannette Elms holds a U.S. flag to show support for local service members during a Veterans Day parade in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sunday.
From Army Times Frontline Photos, about 10-15-05
Dave Scherbenco / The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) / AP Photo

Posted by John Weidner at 10:30 AM

June 13, 2007

Clear thought...

Mike Plaiss e-mailed to tell me of a WSJ article, but only available to subscribers: "There is one today (not on-line) called My Only Son by Leon de Winter that could have simply been lifted off your blog. If you don't regularly get the WSJ make sure to pick one up today. You'll want to read this."

Well, as they say, "Information wants to be free." Several bloggers have reprinted the piece. You can find it here. I'll quote part of it...

Leon de Winter: My Only Son

During the past four years, 170,000 Americans have died in traffic accidents. For young people, traveling in a car is the leading cause of death. Over the same period, 3,500 Americans were killed in Iraq in a war against radical Islam. These statistics haven’t been properly contrasted.

Mobility is a must in Western society. It’s a prerequisite for affluence and it fosters a sense of freedom. No politician could ban cars or severely limit their use. Transportation is the nation’s lifeblood. Its inherent risks are inescapable for an open society.

So Americans manage to deal with the fact that tens of thousands of people will be killed each year on the roadways. But when it comes to the war against Islamic fascism, the nation may soon decide that 3,500 deaths over four years is too much. This for a great nation of 300 million inhabitants.

If that is the case, then the United States will have begun to undermine the moral foundations spelled out in its own Declaration of Independence. If America is unable to carry out a war of its own choosing in defense of liberty because the cost of 3,500 lives is unacceptable, then it will soon be unable to maintain its position and power in the world...
...How did we get to this point?

Western civilization’s pursuit of affluence, secularization and sexual revolution have all sapped its willingness to make sacrifices. Today’s parents often have no more than two children, some may have only one son. His life is so precious that it has come to seem unbearable for him to be killed in battle. In his study “Sons and World Power,” German genocide expert Gunnar Heinsohn investigates family size in various societies in relation to the frequency of violent conflict since 1500 A.D. His conclusion is disturbingly simple: The presence of large numbers of young men in nations that have experienced population explosions—all searching for respect, work, sex and meaning—tend to turn into violent countries and become involved in wars. He cites, as an example, the Palestinian territories, where many families have as many as four sons.

Most countries in which Islamofascism has taken root have experienced population explosions. Huge numbers of young men are searching in vain for a respectable future. They legitimize their frustration with a radical ideology that channels their dissatisfaction and finds roots in the ancient religious traditions of Islam.

Mr. Heinsohn’s explanation shows the extreme pacifism of today’s Europe to be more than a response to the horrific experiences of World War II. He sees Europe’s low birthrate as the basis for the remarkable period of peace Europe has nurtured since 1945. Europe’s sons have become too precious for war.

This same phenomenon is also happening in America. Large families are becoming scarce. As a result, the sacrifice of a second or third son to a violent death, a possibility since the dawn of civilization, is not possible because those sons simply aren’t there....

I'm not sure if de Winter is correct in his reason why we may be unwilling to endure the casualties of the War on Terror. But he's thinking clearly, which sure can't be said for most Americans. One of the ways people are muddled is that they don't even realize that, while we have averaged 620 combat deaths a year since 9/11, the normal number of non-combat deaths in our military is about 700 or 800 per year! (Accidents, disease, suicide, homicide, etc.) That's the price we pay just to have a peace-time military.

Almost everything our nation does costs lives in some way or another. something I've never seen mentioned by the people who shed fake-tears and claim that 3,500 deaths is "unendurable."

Posted by John Weidner at 5:20 PM

June 6, 2007

"As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts."

A D-Day Prayer, broadcast by President Franklin D Roosevelt...

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944

"For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home..."

So it was then, so it is now. Our soldiers are today's "Samaritans," who succor those in need, while elitists pass on the other side of the road. The difference is that then all Americans recognized the basic Christian goodness of our troops and the rightness of their mission. Now our country is divided, divided into Americans and poisonous nihilistic reptiles who miss no opportunity to slander our brave soldiers, and to suggest that their deeds are meaningless, or even evil.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:40 AM

May 29, 2007

A bit more on Memorial Day...

Penraker, good as always...

The media is trying to turn Memorial Day into Grieving Day.

It much more suits their downward look on life.

Last night I watched part of the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C. There was a long speech by two actors, reading excerpts from letters from soldiers. It ended with the woman crying.

Today the Post has an article about grieving parents.

Memorial day is not Grieving Day. It is a thankful remembrance of how great these guys were, not how pathetic their deaths were, and how bad we feel now that they are gone. It is not about us, it is about them, and the magnificence of their sacrifice.

Pathos is the highest form of human existence in the media's eyes. If it cries, it flies. If it bleeds it leads. If it inspires, it is forgotten.

The day should be inspirational, not a downer. There has been a subtle shift in the society. We love grieving. This is not healthy. Not healthy at all.

I don't watch TV, but I bet I can guess what "Grieving Day" lacks, that Memorial Day has. MEANING. We honor our dead heroes on Memorial Day, and solemnly affirm that their deaths had meaning, that they served a high and worthy purpose, that they helped to preserve our nation and constitution, a noble experiment that has transformed the earth for the better.

But the Leftizoids who are the press, and who infect all our public institutions, do not believe any of those things. They wish to portray our wars as pointless tragedies.

They did the same thing with 9/11, morphing it into a "tragedy," requiring grieving and "closure." (I think anyone who henceforth uses the word "closure" should be flogged.) Something like an earthquake or tsunami. Why? Because those things have no meaning. Whereas a brutal unprovoked attack on a great and good and peaceful nation does have meaning. Tons of it. And it demands a response. It demands we take its meaning seriously. And if you are a nihilist, like our fake-"Democrats" and fake Quakers and fake anti-war activists, that's existential trouble that must be avoided at all costs.

Memorial Day is NOT a time to grieve. It is a time for hearts to swell with pride and wonder at how lucky we are that heroes would give their all to preserve our way of life for future generations...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:09 PM

May 28, 2007

Because of their sacrifice...

From the President's Radio Address:

...On Memorial Day, our Nation honors Sergeant Christoff's final request. We pray for our men and women serving in harm's way. We pray for their safe return. And we pray for their families and loved ones, who also serve our country with their support and sacrifice.

On Memorial Day, we rededicate ourselves to freedom's cause. In Iraq and Afghanistan, millions have shown their desire to be free. We are determined to help them secure their liberty. Our troops are helping them build democracies that respect the rights of their people, uphold the rule of law, and fight extremists alongside America in the war on terror. With the valor and determination of our men and women in uniform, I am confident that we will succeed and leave a world that is safer and more peaceful for our children and grandchildren.

On Memorial Day, we also pay tribute to Americans from every generation who have given their lives for our freedom. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, brave men and women have given up their own futures so that others might have a future of freedom. Because of their sacrifice, millions here and around the world enjoy the blessings of liberty. And wherever these patriots rest, we offer them the respect and gratitude of our Nation.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 AM

May 27, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007. "And the dead must be forgot"

From a Memorial Day address by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (who was himself thrice wounded in the Civil War) The Soldier's Faith, May 30th, 1895

...As for us, our days of combat are over. Our swords are rust. Our guns will thunder no more. The vultures that once wheeled over our heads must be buried with their prey. Whatever of glory must be won in the council or the closet, never again in the field. I do not repine. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top.

Three years ago died the old colonel of my regiment, the Twentieth Massachusetts. He gave the regiment its soul. No man could falter who heard his "Forward, Twentieth!" I went to his funeral. From a side door of the church a body of little choir-boys came in like a flight of careless doves. At the same time the doors opened at the front, and up the main aisle advanced his coffin, followed by the few grey heads who stood for the men of the Twentieth, the rank and file whom he had loved, and whom he led for the last time. The church was empty. No one remembered the old man whom we were burying, no one save those next to him, and us. And I said to myself, The Twentieth has shrunk to a skeleton, a ghost, a memory, a forgotten name which we other old men alone keep in our hearts. And then I thought: It is right. It is as the colonel would have it. This also is part of the soldier's faith: Having known great things, to be content with silence. Just then there fell into my hands a little song sung by a warlike people on the Danube, which seemed to me fit for a soldier's last word, another song of the sword, but a song of the sword in its scabbard, a song of oblivion and peace.

A soldier has been buried on the battlefield.

And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,
The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:
"Did the banner flutter then?"
"Not so, my hero," the wind replied.
"The fight is done, but the banner won,
Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,
Have borne it in triumph hence."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."

Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,
and the soldier asks once more:
"Are these not the voices of them that love,
That love--and remember me?"
"Not so, my hero," the lovers say,
"We are those that remember not;
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,
And the dead must be forgot."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 PM

May 23, 2007

Tattoo removal, a growth industry...

Andrea linked to a thoughtful blogger, Maclin Horton. A couple of small things I liked...


I Enjoy Being Right
I've been predicting for a while now that the tattoo fashion would lead to a profitable trade in tattoo removal.

My parents had a collection of cartoons from Punch that gave me many hours of pleasure in my youth. I think it was there that I saw one which has come to mind often since the fad began: a tattoo artist drawing something huge on a man's back and remarking "Of course it's the fellows who can take them off who make the real money." [Link]

And this is a thought I have often had myself...

One of my perpetual complaints is the treatment of the 1950s in popular lore, in journalism and entertainment. The way some of these people talk, you’d think they really do not understand that Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver were sitcoms, not documentaries, the silly pap of their time just as Desperate Housewives is of ours. Or even that physical reality was very much the same then as now: that colors, for instance, existed, and that human beings were physically the same creatures we are now, although they dressed differently. The usual view is that life was gray, repressed and miserable from roughly 1945 until 1964, when, as Philip Larkin tells us, sex was invented....

In "popular history," as in so much else, everything is adjusted to fit the perspective of us Baby Boomers. It's really stupid. All the "60's" fads were invented in the 50's or earlier, and just taken up into mass conformity in the sixties. And passed along into mass culture in the 70's, with hideous destructive effects...

Speaking of tattoo removal, there's a great SF book on fads, Bellwether, by Connie Willis. Very funny.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

May 11, 2007

"You called for war until we had it. You called for Emancipation, and I have given it to you..."

To me, one of the chief evils of our time is that most people have come to expect a world of comfort and entertainment. A world where there's no need to make difficult choices, and above all, no need to seek Truth, and fight for it. This editorial from the NY Sun is a useful corrective. It tells of an incident in our Civil War, when the editor of the Chicago Tribune, Joseph Medill, went to Washington to plead for Illinois to be spared its draft contingent...(Thanks to PowerLine)

...."The War Department's blue-uniformed sentries came rigidly to attention as the president appeared," Mr. Wendt writes. Lincoln, he says, gave them a friendly "at ease" and led his visitors through the "chattering telegraph operations room," where he knew everyone by name, to Stanton's "vast cave of maps and charts," where Stanton glowered beneath dark oil paintings of Generals Knox and Dearborn. Stanton was none too pleased to see the same Chicagoans whom he'd shooed out of his office earlier in the day return with his boss. Medill made a game effort, reading from his own newspaper about how no other congressional district had put so many men into the war.

For months, Mr. Wendt explains, the Tribune had "acknowledged to its readers that after four years of the most brutal fighting known to man, even greater sacrifices would be required. The armies were devouring men on a scale not known before in military history, as new weapons outmarched generals' old tactics." Draft riots ensued, particularly in New York. The Tribune required an entire supplemental page, Mr. Wendt notes, just to list Illinois casualties among the more than 13,000 suffered by the Union at Shiloh.

When Medill finished his plea, Stanton nodded to his provost marshal, General Fry, who "read the sanguinary statistics of four years of fighting in a loud, sonorous voice," while Lincoln listened with his head bowed. Stanton then rejected the plea, saying, as Mr. Wendt paraphrases it, that there could be no city nor section nor state asking for special favor, not even Illinois. Medill left the meeting pledging to remain silent about it until the war ended. It would be 30 years before he could bring himself to write the account that Mr. Wendt quotes at some length.

"I shall never forget," Medill said of Lincoln, "how he suddenly lifted his head and turned on us a black and frowning face. ‘Gentlemen,' he said, in a voice full of bitterness, ‘after Boston, Chicago has been the chief instrument in bringing this war on the country. The Northwest has opposed the South as New England has opposed the South. It is you who are largely responsible for making blood flow as it has. You called for war until we had it. You called for Emancipation, and I have given it to you. … Now you come here begging to be let off from the call for men which I have made to carry out the war you have demanded. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. … Go home, and raise your 6,000 extra men."

Then, in Medill's own account, Lincoln turned on the great editor. "‘And you, Medill, you are acting like a coward. You and your Tribune have had more influence than any [other] paper in the Northwest in making this war. You can influence great masses, and yet you cry to be spared at a moment when your cause is suffering. Go home and send us those men.'" Wrote Medill: "I couldn't say anything. It was the first time I ever was whipped, and I didn't have an answer. …"
Posted by John Weidner at 12:06 PM

May 7, 2007

Boom, and it's all gone...

Tim Blair links to blogger Joni, in the town of Greensburg, Kansas, destroyed by a tornado...

This is what my hometown of Greensburg, Kansas, used to look like. It's a small, rural town in Southwest Kansas. Last night, a tornado swept through the town, killing at least 7 people, and destroying most of the town. (News reports are saying 90% of the town was destroyed or damaged.) Every church in town, including the one my parents and my sisters' family attend, was either severely damaged or destroyed. The roof of the small hospital collapsed. My family lives a few miles north of town, and none of them were injured. Three family members worked in Greensburg, and will be dealing with the devastation left behind. Thankfully, several relatives and friends are known to be safe. I'm sure more details will come out as time passes. Right now, they are evacuating the entire town (what's left of it), for people's safety, and to enable safety and rescue efforts to go forward.

Please pray for Greensburg, Kansas, my family, and the surrounding community. How do you rebuild an entire town?

The picture of the town as it was before was very affecting to me. I've been in that sort of country town many times. I've never lived in one; it's hard for me to imagine what growing up in a small town would be like.

But still, I can picture it. I said to myself, there will be a train line, with grain elevators beside it. The streets will be a grid, and there will be one called "Main Street." And in one direction all the streets will be named after trees. Well, you can look on Google Maps, and there they are! And there are streets named after presidents, and after states. I guessed there might be a "Euclid Avenue," but I don't see one...

The fast-growing Southern California suburb I grew up in had a small agricultural town at it's center, like something preserved from an earlier age. It was in the process, in one sense,of being destroyed as thoroughly as if a tornado had hit, though many of the buildings were still there. There were housing tracts with one corner "notched," where an old farmhouse still stood, weathered, overgrown, with decorative trimwork that contrasted oddly with the 50's architecture all around it. And there were still many groves in my youth, citrus and avocado. And there were still old-timers around, and some barns, and funny little Caterpillar tractors that could disc an orange grove. The ground under the avocados was always covered in big crackly dry leaves, that would make a racket as you walked over them.

More pix here. Flabbergasting.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 AM

Not exactly heroic...

John at PowerLine has a good point about the Fred Thompson phenomenon...

...Second, the last five years have been a critical time in our nation's history. From 2002 to the present, men like George Bush, John McCain, and many others have been fighting a very difficult battle on behalf of our country. Not Fred Thompson: he preferred to leave the Senate to live the very sweet life of a minor television celebrity. There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it's not exactly heroic, either...

I really don't know anything about Mr Thompson, and since I don't watch TV I really don't even know what he looks like! But I do know that virtue isn't a matter of what you feel, or think, or believe. It only exists in what you DO. What you do with whatever resources you possess, whatever challenges you happen to be presented with.

Most of us can't be among the heroes who hunt down terrorists. that's a job for the few. But the main front of the War on Terror is right here at home, where nihilists and appeasers wage ceaseless propaganda war against America, and against the whole idea that there's anything worth fighting for. And it would seem like Mr Thompson, as a respected celebrity, has been in a position to render important service to his country over the last five years...

Your country, the best and greatest nation that has ever existed on earth, is under attack, and you fail to rush to her aid. What does that mean? What does that say about a person?

.
Poster: Daddy, What Did You Do In The Great War?
Posted by John Weidner at 5:50 AM

May 4, 2007

Something for me to think about today...

From an essay by Daniel Larison, in New Pantagruel...

It has been one of the great, failed projects of conventional American conservatism to encourage the fiction that the Christian civilisation conservatives admire and the Enlightenment civilisation that destroyed it are part of a real continuity. For the purposes of this essay, I take it as a given that conservatism is, or at least ought to be, the persuasion and mentality that seeks good order and that in a Western society a conservative’s understanding of good order is unavoidably defined significantly and primarily by the Christian intellectual tradition in general and by the received teachings of the early Fathers of the Church in particular....

[....]

...However, this American conservatism was never entirely committed to rejecting the French Revolutionary model of society and its conception of humanity, at least not when similar ideas had already established themselves in Anglo-American culture by means that were really no less excessive and revolutionary in the seventeenth century. American conservatism could readily abjure an offensive Continental radicalism to which it was not really connected while embracing the fruits of an equally philosophically offensive, but more politically moderate English radicalism drawn from the English Puritan Revolution that had created the Anglo-American political consensus of almost three centuries.

For an American, even one inclined to recognise the deep roots of American order in Israel and antiquity, these three centuries must seem nearly an eternity—indeed, they are virtually the whole of our historical experience on this continent. From an American perspective, circa 1775, the legacy of Whig usurpation, violence and abstraction was already in some sense "traditional" and relatively well-established in precedent—the rights of Englishmen our ancestors claimed were, in the sweep of history, fairly new and based on contractarian and rights theories just as speculative and ahistorical in their own way as any imagined in France, but they had acquired a certain respectability and stability through their institutionalisation and their ready application in colonial life. The accidental seventeenth-century alliance between Dissenting and Reformed Christianity, the parliamentary cause and a philosophy of natural rights grew steadily stronger in the course of the Stuart dynasty, which in turn lent an unusual plausibility to the accommodation of Enlightenment claims and Christianity in English and American societies.

The results were the virtually universal Anglo-American embrace of political liberalism of one stripe or another and the tendency towards the unhealthy and rather odd identification of the "causes" of liberalism and Christianity, which profited from and deepened the secularisation of Anglo-American cultures here and in Britain. It is not surprising, then, that it was not until American Catholics, for whom the mythical alliance of Protestantism and political progress was always as nonsensical as it was often offensive (for what it implied about the Catholic church and Catholic nations), began fully to come into their own culturally, politically and intellectually that this largely unexamined accommodation continued unabated. It is perhaps also not surprising that American conservatism found its early champions in intellectuals (e.g., Weaver, Kirk, Burnham) whose journeys typically began on the left or far left, as these men had already taken the assumptions of the liberal age to their logical and unavoidably absurd conclusions and then recoiled in contempt at what they had found waiting for them...
(Thanks to Orrin)

"...recoiled in contempt." Precisely the right attitude.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

May 1, 2007

Long processes...

From City Journal, a good piece on the Broken Windows theory in action..

...In the early nineties, the chief of New York City’s transit police, William Bratton, put the Broken Windows theory into practice. With Kelling as consultant, Bratton began to go after the fare evaders, aggressive panhandlers, pickpockets, and other petty (and not so petty) criminals who had turned the subway system into what he called “the transit equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.” Bratton also had cops enforce anti-loitering laws to steer the homeless away from the subways and toward social services. Homeless advocates and civil libertarians fought him every step of the way, but Bratton prevailed, bringing order to the chaotic system. Sure enough, not only did minor crime plummet; serious crime did, too, and ridership soared. In nabbing low-level offenders, Bratton also discovered that many of them were wanted for much more serious crimes.

A few years later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose Bratton as his top cop and charged him with leading a similar revolution above ground. The rest, as they say, is history...

...Bratton is now the chief of police in Los Angeles, where he has successfully employed many of the tactics that worked in New York....
(Thanks to Orrin)

My off-the-top-of-the-head guess is that LA will be a much harder nut to crack than NY. But I sure wish them well. Notice how, as with every important reform, the opposition comes from the Left. The reactionaries of our time.

Also, cases like this can only be understood as things working over a long period of time. The "homeless advocate" may focus on one moment, and see cops rousting poor bums from the tiny comfort they can find in the subway. Looks bad. But in fact this is one instant in a process that extends backwards in time through decades of neglect, and also forward in time towards improvements that may take decades to become apparent. To focus on one moment is to tell a lie.

WE see the exact same thing in debates about the War on Terror.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:22 AM

April 23, 2007

Reluctance to engage with reality...

Mark Steyn, on you know what...

...The "gun-free zone" fraud isn't just about banning firearms or even a symptom of academia's distaste for an entire sensibility of which the Second Amendment is part and parcel but part of a deeper reluctance of critical segments of our culture to engage with reality. Michelle Malkin wrote a column a few days ago connecting the prohibition against physical self-defense with "the erosion of intellectual self-defense," and the retreat of college campuses into a smothering security blanket of speech codes and "safe spaces" that's the very opposite of the principles of honest enquiry and vigorous debate on which university life was founded. And so we "fear guns," and "verbal violence," and excessively realistic swashbuckling in the varsity production of ''The Three Musketeers.'' What kind of functioning society can emerge from such a cocoon?

The day after the Virginia Tech killings, I posted this, (about my earlier suggestions of "throwing things" as a response to killers) and in the comments Andrew chided me for my insensitivity, for saying "I told ya so" so soon. And I felt a bit abashed.

But thinking about it again, NO. The hell with being "sensitive." Andrew, that's the attitude that killed those people, and you are a part of it. "We must all be sensitive and caring and grieve together blah blah blah." The glorification of weakness and weepy-drippy sensitivity is exactly what led to the students of Virginia Tech being helpless sheep, instead of knowing how to defend themselves. They died because their teachers and parents and churches didn't prepare them for life's dangers, and didn't prepare them, psychologically and spiritually, for the way life can present you with life-or-death choices at any instant.

And some other people who are real experts have exactly the same advice as I gave. (I said it way back in two-thousand and blankety-blank ONE!It was even picked up by Glenn Reynolds. Nobody listened, of course.) AND, if you read the following, those guys are being intentionally ignored too. And so more students will die the next time, killed by "educators" and "Democrats" and hippie pacifists and all the drooling idiots who think bad things will go away if we think nice thoughts...

...But merely putting forth the notion of resistance to killers is now politically incorrect. A Fort Worth school district recently hired a security outfit called Response Options.

It was founded by retired SWAT cops appalled by the Columbine massacre. They decided to do something about it and came up with a program that taught teachers and children, if someone with a gun came into their classroom, to throw everything at him that came to hand, and swarm him to bring him down.

The rationale is the school shooter is beyond reason. He is there simply to kill. There is no reasoning with such animals. And by attacking, there is a better chance of survival for the largest number of potential victims.

As trainer Robert Browne of Response Options told the press at the time: "Getting under the desk and doing what the gunman tells you ... that's not a recipe for success."

But when news got out, the school district backed off from the program.

One wonders what might have been for the victims at Virginia Tech had anyone in the building been armed or if, at least been trained in defence against such monsters the way they were trained in fire drills as children.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 AM

April 18, 2007

Universities are for teaching. But for teaching what?

Dafydd has a great post you should read about Virginia Tech that covers things I was groping towards yesterday...

....But what about the other presumably adult men and women at that campus? Most were nowhere near the scene and therefore never had the opportunity to test their courage, their honor, and their worth. This is a minor tragedy in itself; it's the subject of one of the greatest poems ever written in English: "Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard," by Thomas Gray.

But there are others; there are also those who were there, who were close by. What did they do? How did they acquit themselves?

Did they gather those around them and hurry with them to safety? Did they save themselves? Each of these is a minor virtue, and I don't want to knock it. Sometimes, such minor virtues are all that a person can achieve, given the time, place, and opportunity.

But surely there must have come a time when a man or woman, hiding not far away, saw that the gunman had turned his back. What that person did in that moment is the true assay of character.

Maybe someone charged at the gunman -- but foul fate intervened, and the butcher heard, turned, and added another victim to his hellish toll. Anyone so killed is as heroic as Professor Librescu.

But -- and I hate the thought, even as it screams insistently -- it is virtually inevitable that there were others who were there, who saw an opportunity, but who were frozen to the spot with dread. Or else they talked themselves into believing that there was nothing they could do. Or worst of all... some must have done nothing because they had been carefully taught that "nothing" was what they were supposed to do. I cannot help thinking that for many students at Virginia Tech yesterday, just as for the fifteen British sailors and marines, "fighting back was not an option," because to them, it is never an option....

The world we live in teaches us, constantly, in a thousand different ways, that the only important thing is ME. And the most important thing is to keep ME safe and comfortable and alive. It didn't use to be this way, past societies always honored heroes,and those who made honorable choices at the risk of their lives.

The lesson the world teaches is nihilism. That nothing really matters, except keeping ME alive and happy. (And even the "alive" part is conditional, if I get old and suffer I should chose euthanasia!) The lesson is always disguised, because few people will admit to being nihilists. It's often disguised as Leftism: All that's important is rights, not responsibilities. Or pacifism and Quakerism: Gandhi and Jesus want us to be sheep. Or hippie-dippy spiritualism: I'm not interested, I've found peace.

What our teachers and leaders should be teaching us is that any moment we may have to make a life-or-death decision. And that there are worse things than dying. And that death may be preferable to dishonor. But very little in our culture teaches those things. It's not just because of hatred of Bush and hatred of America that there are no headlines when one of our troops is awarded a medal!

It's painful to think about how the concept of "honor" has almost disappeared. Though it was often a bit ridiculous, with swaggering D'Artagnan's fighting over trifles, it was also the secular equivalent of Christian self-sacrifice, and the valuing of things of the spirit above mere selfishness and survival. You can be sure the professors and administrators of Virginia Tech would reject honor with a sneer...

It's no accident that the same people hate The Church and hate honor. They are intimately connected. Honor is dependent on people believing�somehow, deep down�that there is more to life than just "me." It is a religious idea. Where faith dies honor will die too, by and by. That's what I'm suspecting, anyway. Recent example: the Royal Navy.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM

April 7, 2007

Just keeping it for when I need it...

PowerLine had this post on how the "Bush Economy" is doing, and I'm quoting it here partly so I'll have the figures at hand when needed. To use in combat, in the un-ending and almost-hopeless fight against LIES.

The Department of Labor has just announced this month's job figures, and it's more good news. March saw the creation of 180,000 new jobs. This means that since August 2003, more than 7.8 million jobs have been created, with nearly 2 million jobs created over the last 12 months. The economy has now added jobs for 43 straight months, and the unemployment rate remains at 4.4 percent, which is low by historical standards.

The news is also good on the pay and productivity fronts. Specifically:

Real after-tax income per person has risen by 10 percent since President Bush took office.

Real wages rose 1.8 percent over the past 12 months through February, which is substantially faster than the average rate of the late 1990s economy.

The economy has now experienced more than five years of uninterrupted growth, averaging 3.0 Percent a year since 2001.

Since the first quarter of 2001, productivity growth has averaged 2.8 percent, which is well above average productivity growth in the 1990s, 1980s, and 1970s.

What seems to me important here is that this is not just about material prosperity, but about things of the spirit. For instance, Welfare Reform has resulted in millions of people escaping welfare-dependency, and becoming able to hold jobs and provide for themselves. Quite possibly many of them have not actually improved their material condition much, but their psychological situation is vastly different. And this will tend to help their children and grandchildren as well. I could not happen in France.

BUT, it wouldn't work if America didn't have a strong economy that can provide lots of jobs. Basically we have enjoyed strong growth since the Reagan tax cuts. With what seems like a much-needed booster shot from the Bush tax cuts.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:23 PM

March 7, 2007

Lead and Gold

Scott Chaffin links to this quote, posted in the blog Lead and Gold:

From Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory
After lunch a bright red Lincoln Navigator pulled up to Crockett Street and out jumped a Hispanic mother with three girls, ranging in age from eight to twelve. Her husband parked the car in a nearby lot and returned bearing a video camera. The three daughters, dressed in matching white pullovers and Gap skirts, were striking. Their father, a CPA with a Wharton degree, posed his family in front of the limestone walls of the chapel and triggered the camera. They waved on cue but smiled spontaneously, obviously delighted to be where they were. He then told them briefly about the Alamo, delivering the Daughters' version of the battle, and he let his girls know that it stood for courage and integrity, virtues they needed to cultivate in their own lives.

At that point, the Anglo graduate student arrived at the chapel door. He asked, "Why are you even here today? Don't you know what this place stands for? It represents the rape and destruction of your people." Looking just the least bit annoyed, the Hispanic man politely replied, "We're not so bad off, you know." The Anglo student was persistent. "You don't understand, you just don't understand," he continued. "You shouldn't be teaching your kids this stuff." The CPA stopped short. "Escucheme, bolillo [Listen to me, white bread]," he said sharply. "If Santa Anna would have won the war, this whole city would be a shithole just like Reynosa. Soy tejano [I'm a Texan]. Mind your own goddamned business. It's my Alamo too."

There are some things that are just so insane that it's useless to even argue with them. Better to spend your time on something constructive, like counting snowflakes. One of them is the spectacle of leftydweebs observing the phenomenon of millions of people crawling over broken glass to get INTO this country (or OUT of whatever "workers paradise" is in fashion this year) and saying, "Look how rotten America is."

Posted by John Weidner at 5:14 PM

February 28, 2007

Orcish...

Charlene noticed the Dover Beachcomber quoting from the Lord of the Rings (appendix) and relating it oh-too-well to modern life..

But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering. Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigor, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.

I thought of this one because, as my wife and I were stopped in traffic in Santa Rosa yesterday while driving home from a great couple of days on the Mendocino coast, I suddenly became aware of the driver in the PG&E truck next to me talking plenty loud enough to hear across the space between our vehicles. She was a perfectly normal looking young woman, having a friendly gab with her co-worker. All I caught was: "F***, really? Nah, you're s***in' me! If that mother-f***er thinks I'm gonna put with that s***... ". Then traffic started moving again.

Here I should join in heaping deserved moral censure on the decadence of our wretched era...but actually it reminds me of one the funniest things I ever heard. It was way back when I owned my bookstore. One day, ker-bang, there was a fender-bender right outside. These two black guys jump out of their cars and start yelling at each other:

F*** You, mother-f***er!
Yeah, F*** You, mother-f***er!
You mother-f***er, F*** You!
You the mother-f***er, F*** You!

Now up to this point it was just squalid. BUT, it went on...

and on....

and on...

With no more variation in vocabulary or matter than what I've written! After ten or fifteen iterations we were all ready to roll on the floor laughing.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:11 PM

February 26, 2007

SF trivia...

When I put up the new banner picture, Charlene and I realized we had no idea what the large building is you see below the bridge.

We drove over to the Presidio on Sunday. We discovered from a friendly security guard that it was originally the SF Marine Hospital, built in 1875, which served merchant seaman. The Marine Hospital Service which built it is actually the forerunner of the Public Health Service.

The building is now being restored as housing. The two ugly modern wings (you see one of them on the right) are going to be torn down, as they deserve.

Marine Hospital, San Francisco

Posted by John Weidner at 5:55 PM

February 1, 2007

Changes and reforms, hardly noticed...

A Health-Care Bargain - WSJ.com, By DAVID GRATZER
January 31, 2007; Page A12
Three years ago this month, insurance companies began offering Americans a new type of medical coverage: health savings accounts, which marry low-cost, high-deductible health insurance policies with pre-tax accounts to pay for day-to-day health care. But the anniversary is muted. A slew of reports have been critical, dismissing consumer-driven health care as unpopular and harmful; and with the Democrats in control of Congress, Washington's enthusiasm for the concept has cooled. Nevertheless, the Republicans should take credit where due. The White House ought to build on the growing success of HSAs, which are integral to the president's vision of "affordable and available" health care.

An executive of an upstart airline recently described her company as having three 757s, more than 200 employees, and one big headache: rising health-care costs. Thus, they made the switch to HSAs in 2006, and premiums rose just 5%, compared with a national average of over 8%. Such successes aren't making the news, but overwhelmingly negative stories are. A much reported Commonwealth Fund survey, for example, concluded that enrollment in consumer-driven plans is stagnant, people are grossly dissatisfied, and care is delayed. But the report was flawed on its face: For one, it was unrepresentative, drawn from a pool of "Internet users who have agreed to participate in research surveys."

Here's the untold story: Despite recent entry into the market, these plans are gaining popularity. Drawing on information from major insurance carriers, William Boyles, publisher of the Consumer Driven Market Report, estimates that enrollment in HSA-type plans or HRAs (a forerunner to health savings accounts) more than doubled since January 2006, to 13.4 million Americans. The estimate is plausible, as last year twice as many employers offered this coverage than in 2005, and the number of financial institutions supporting HSAs tripled.

Early data suggest good results...

It's maddening both that the Republican congress does not deserve its do-nothing reputation, since a LOT of good things have happened under Republican leadership, and also maddening that it DOES deserve it, since it should have done a lot MORE. Including expanding and improving the HSA program while it had the chance.

It's similarly maddening (since I'm a mood to feel aggrieved) that the President's attempts to create private Social Security accounts were denounced by middle-class lefties who themselves almost certainly have 401-k's and IRA's---which are government-sponsored private retirement accounts.

And I remember trying to present some good points about Bush to a would-rather-die-than-think leftish person of my generation, and I mentioned that we had finally passed HSA's (After they were blocked for decades by Dems). And he immediately said "Oh yes, we got our HSA right away!" But, Bush was still bringing the dark night of fascism down upon us...

* Update: Hey, I got an idea. For all those liberal dimwitski's who claim Bush wants to "wreck Social Security" we will cap the returns on their 401-K's to 1% annually! We will guarantee it! They should be so happy to be getting the deal they want ordinary workers to have...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 AM

January 20, 2007

The word I need is an antonym for "nihilist"

Charlene went on the annual west coast Walk for Life today. As usual my thoughts were less on the issues of the moment than on the clash of underlying ideas. And so I was very taken by the contrast seen here between two pieces of architecture. The Vaillancourt Fountain is the perfect expression of the view that there is no meaning to life, no certainty, no hope, and that only a fool would have noble aspirations or dream of finding truth. (Or beauty! Blehhh.) It's nihilism embodied. And there behind it you see the tower of the Ferry Building, which has a very different story to tell.

Nihilist Vaillancourt Fountain and noble tower
The walk was a big success, as far as we could see. We hiked for many miles in the middle of the crowd, and never once were we able to see the beginning or the end of the procession. There had to be way over 10,000 people out on a beautiful day. And the counter-protesters we saw were just a hundred at most, maybe two, and none of them looked like anyone you would want to know. Trashy chomskys. It was a pathetic showing for the Culture of Death.

Walk For Life,2oo7

West Coast Walk For Life 2007

Walk For Life 2007

West Coast Walk For Life, 2007
If any of our St Dominic's friends are reading this, that's Anne Whitaker in front of me, in pink...Charlene was on the walk last year, and says the protesters were much less obnoxious this year, probably because there were fewer of them...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:30 PM

January 8, 2007

We act like turtles...

Charlene's recommendation this morning is this article by Steve Sailer, Fragmented Future, Multiculturalism Doesn’t Make Vibrant Communities but Defensive Ones. (Thanks to ChicagoBoyz)

In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.
—Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam
It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists. While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discovery—that ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communities—was so explosive that for the last half decade he hadn’t dared announce it “until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it ‘would have been irresponsible to publish without that.’”...

"Irony laden," yeah. I wonder what those proposals were? And "irresponsible" presumably means "letting yahoos (you and me) have information that might undermine politically-correct thinking."

And I can vouch for this line by Sailor being true: "Putnam’s discovery is hardly shocking to anyone who has tried to organize a civic betterment project in a multi-ethnic neighborhood..." Another thought that us urbanites can appreciate:

...As an economics major and libertarian fellow-traveler in the late 1970s, I assumed that individualism made America great. But a couple of trips south of the border raised questions. Venturing onto a Buenos Aires freeway in 1978, I discovered a carnival of rugged individualists. Back home in Los Angeles, everybody drove between the lane-markers painted on the pavement, but only about one in three Argentineans followed that custom....

Read the whole thing, as the cliche goes. [BTW, I hate those little Internet acronyms, like RTWT. IMHO. I used to frequent a woodworking forum, where the little wife was always SWMBO. Plehhh.] But here's another morsel...

...Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians. According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, “The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army.” And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, “Perhaps the most vivid example of the ‘blackening’ of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated.”...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to all who serve on Freedom's Wall...

Thank you, from the Weidners...

(These pictures are from Army Times Frontline Photos, Christmas 2004)

Capt. Clace Perzel rides a military motorcycle side-car dressed as Santa Claus, Ghazni province, Afghanistan
Capt. Clace Perzel, left, rides a military motorcycle side-car dressed as Santa Claus after distributing Christmas gifts at his base in Ghazni province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. Christmas 2004. Musadeq Sadeq / AP Photo

Chief Warrant Officer Mike Marcotte greets his daughter as he returns from Iraq
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Marcotte, of South Kingstown, R.I., greets his daughter Abigale, 3, and his wife Marybeth, in North Kingstown, R.I., as he returns from Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, on Saturday. Christmas 2004. Joe Giblin / AP Photo

Game of dominos, Bagdhad, Christmas 2004
Army Sgt. 1st Class Clifford Gailliard, left, of Charlestown, S.C., leans over Staff Sgt. Donnie James, of Fayetteville, N.C., during a game of dominoes with Pfc. Vorasane Phothisane, of New Iberia, La., in Baghdad, on Sunday. Christmas 2004. Jacob Silberberg / AP Photo

Posted by John Weidner at 11:33 AM

The most significant Christmas Eve in American history...

This is a piece by Stanley Weintraub, from the December 23, 2004 LA Times. He is the author of General Washington's Christmas Farewell: A Mount Vernon Homecoming, 1783 (Thanks, as so often, to Orrin Judd.)

We don't associate George Washington with Christmas Eve, or Christmas itself, yet the most significant Christmas Eve in American history occurred in 1783, when Gen. Washington, then 52, headed home to Mount Vernon after nine years at war — and turned his back on ruling the states like a king.

The American Revolution effectively ended at Yorktown in October 1781, but in the fall of 1783 the defeated British still held a few positions as bargaining chips for negotiating the peace. Although a treaty acknowledging American independence had been signed, ships carrying the documents were still at sea when Washington gathered up his remaining troops in November at West Point and headed for New York City, to take over as the last Redcoats embarked for Britain.

Equally important to Washington was his desire to have Christmas dinner with Martha, to bring yuletide gifts to his wife and his step-grandchildren (he had no children of his own) and to return to being "a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac … under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life."

That his imagery recalled the biblical book of 1 Kings is an irony he may not have recognized. He was renouncing the idea raised by his admiring countrymen — who had long lived under monarchs, the common form of rule everywhere — that George III be replaced by their own George I.

"Had he lived in days of idolatry," a colonist had written in 1777, "he would have been worshiped like a god." Abigail Adams wrote of Washington's "Majestik fabrick." To one poet he was "Our Hero, Guardian, Father, Friend!" To another he was "First of Men." And, by 1778, a Pennsylvania German almanac had referred to him as "Father of his Country."...

A brigadier general wrote to Washington, echoing sentiments in the press, that the colonies should merge as a monarchy, with him as king. Washington responded: "I must view this with abhorrence and reprehend [it] with severity."

Philadelphia artist Benjamin West, painting in London on the commission of the king, told George III that despite Washington's popularity, the general chose to return to his farm in Virginia. The king was astonished. If Washington does that, said His Majesty, he will be the greatest man in the world.

In December 1783, the general made good his word.

Crossing the Hudson from New York on Dec. 4, Washington began his journey home and away from public life. He rode through villages and towns in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Americans watched expectantly for his arrival, banquets and balls were planned in his honor along the way. When less formal crowds gathered, he stood atop the wagon carrying his belongings and thanked his countrymen, even those he knew had been less than loyal to the American cause, for supporting the new nation.

At Annapolis, Md., where the weak and disunited Confederation Congress was meeting, Washington planned to showcase his retreat from public duty and public life. He would return the official 1775 parchment appointing him commanding general. The occasion was to be a piece of theater to emphasize the nation's civil foundations.

The adulation along the way delayed his arrival in Annapolis to Dec. 22. There he penned his parting address for delivery the next afternoon — the only valedictory he would ever give in person. (The "Farewell Address" of 1796, written largely by Alexander Hamilton to mark the end of his second term as president, was never spoken. It was published in a newspaper.)

On the evening of the 22nd, Washington was honored once more at a banquet and ball, this one punctuated by 13 patriotic toasts and ceremonial salutes by cannon. Late that night, he returned to his lodgings and reviewed his speech. Apparently no longer sure that he would or could bar the door to further public service, he deleted two phrases suggesting finality: "an affectionate and final farewell" and "ultimate leave."

The address the next day at the Maryland State House was a solemn occassion. "The glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command," Thomas Mifflin, president of the Confederation Congress, told Washington, "it will continue to animate [the] remotest ages. You have defended the standard of liberty in this new world."

Up and down the former colonies, newspapers would report the remarkable events. "Here we must let fall the scene," the New Hampshire Gazette closed its report. "Few tragidies ever drew more tears."

It would not be Washington's final act, as he had hoped — although with less and less assurance as he neared home. From retirement, he watched the nation drift toward disunity, and then answered the call to lead first the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and then, by unanimous vote of the first electoral college, the republic.

After serving two terms and with the nation now set on course, he would retire, this time for good, from the public stage.

But none of that was known on Dec. 24, 1783, when Washington's party crossed the Potomac to Virginia. Winter twilight came early. Up the slope from the river, Mount Vernon, with its three shuttered doors in the white west front and its many green-shuttered windows, now candlelit, beckoned.

The next day, as a heavy snowfall locked the plantation in snow and ice, Washington at long last celebrated a festive and unmilitary holiday. There he confronted, he later wrote, just one challenge: an "Attack of Christmas Pyes."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

December 8, 2006

A "strong woman" who really was strong...

Jeane Kirkpatrick has died. When you hear the silly line about Hillary Clinton is a "strong woman," (quick, list her bedrock beliefs!) compare her to Kirkpatrick. I don't have time to write, but this is from the AEI's web page:

AEI senior fellow Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who joined the Institute in 1978, died yesterday. As a young political scientist at Georgetown University, Kirkpatrick wrote the first major study of the role of women in modern politics, Political Woman, which was published in 1974. Her work on the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which was formed in the aftermath of the Democratic Party's tumultuous 1968 convention and changed the way party delegates were chosen, led to Dismantling the Parties: Reflections on Party Reform and Party Decomposition, which AEI published in 1978.

Yet it was an essay written for Commentary magazine in 1979, "Dictatorships and Double Standards" (later expanded into a full-length book), that launched her into the political limelight. In the article, Kirkpatrick chronicled the failures of the Carter administration's foreign policy and argued for a clearer understanding of the American national interest. Her essay matched Ronald Reagan's instincts and convictions, and when he became president, he appointed her to represent the United States at the United Nations. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was a member of the president's cabinet and the National Security Council. The United States has lost a great patriot and champion of freedom, and AEI mourns our beloved colleague...

Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 AM

December 7, 2006

Suck-up to dictators, throw trouble-making Jews under the bus...

That's what the Iraq Surrender Group is all about. I'm too busy tired and pissed to write about it--Hugh Hewitt is worth reading.

The far right and the left both like this thing, so I spit upon it. And I think I hate "Blue-blazer Republicans" more than I hate the chomskies.

Friend of Israel emblem

* UPDATE: Dafydd has a lot of good thoughts. [Part one. Part two.] Worth reading. Short version: The dicta were written by the Democrats, but the holdings (ie: the actual recommendations) were written by the Republicans of the group...

* Thinking about Mike's comment, I suspect that the Dems needed a paper defeat. Remember the old Vietnam line, "Let's declare victory and leave?" The Dems want to declare defeat and stay! They don't want the political hot-potato of cut-and-run, they just need something to give to their drooling fake-pacifist supporters. Hopefully this will satisfy the peaceniks, and they'll now let the grown-ups get on with the War on Terror.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 AM

November 27, 2006

" and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot'..."

Those who think the appointment of Robert Gates as SecDef means a sellout to the "realists," might want to read this column by Michael Barone. (Thanks to Dafydd.) He took the trouble to actually read Gates' book, and found a lot to think about, and a lot that doesn't jibe with all the speculation..

...Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."

As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments. Her group included Dennis Ross at State; Fritz Ermarth and Bob Blackwell from CIA; and Paul Wolfowitz and Eric Edelman from Defense. This group commissioned a number of studies by CIA and used them in reviewing and planning U.S. options. While no such effort can prescribe in detail policies based on specific future events, this work served us to great advantage in dealing with events over the next two years, and especially as the Soviet Union imploded in 1991."...

There's a lot more in the column. It makes me want to read the book, though I kind of doubt I will find the time. Too many books, too few years...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:45 AM

November 23, 2006

Be thankful for America, and believe in her!

My country, you are best hope of freedom for our world. Many hate you and revile you and hope that you will fail.

But even here in the nihilist darkness of Pelosiville, we give thanks for this great land.

And especially for the men and women of our armed forces. Billions of ingrates sleep safely because you police the sea-lanes and fight terrorist bandits in distant swamps and deserts. Thank you!
President Bush serving on chow line
From President Bush's address, during his surprise Thanksgiving trip to Iraq in 2003:

....I'm particularly proud to be with the 1st Armored Division, the 2nd ACR, the 82nd Airborne. I can't think of a finer group of folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all. We're proud of you. Today, Americans are gathering with their loved ones to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. And this year we are especially thankful for the courage and the sacrifice of those who defend us, the men and women of the United States military.

I bring a message on behalf of America: We thank you for your service, we're proud of you, and America stands solidly behind you. Together, you and I have taken an oath to defend our country. You're honoring that oath. The United States military is doing a fantastic job. You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq, so that we don't have to face them in our own country. You're defeating Saddam's henchmen, so that the people of Iraq can live in peace and freedom.

By helping the Iraqi people become free, you're helping change a troubled and violent part of the world. By helping to build a peaceful and democratic country in the heart of the Middle East, you are defending the American people from danger and we are grateful.

You're engaged in a difficult mission. Those who attack our coalition forces and kill innocent Iraqis are testing our will. They hope we will run. We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.

We will prevail. We will win because our cause is just. We will win because we will stay on the offensive. And we will win because you're part of the finest military ever assembled. And we will prevail because the Iraqis want their freedom...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:21 AM

November 11, 2006

Feeling better about the election...

I'm feeling better about the election. I wrote a long unpublished post of the going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket type, but, well, maybe that's not how I'm thinking.

Michael Barone wrote somewhere that both parties have moved to the right. Dems by adding moderates, and Republicans by shedding them. I don't expect those new Dems to have much influence on their party now. The Democrats are still controlled by the monsters who gladly helped shovel millions of South Vietnamese and Cambodians into Communist concentration camps, and condemned millions more to death or desperate flight. And who would do it again, without remorse. They will be setting the agenda. Which will fail, yet again, and thus clear the way for other ideas.

But those new people may well be the future of their party, their future Goldwaters and Reagans. If our country has a future (as seems likely to me on this lovely morning) then the Democrat Party has a future, and it will be groping towards better, more American ideas over the next generation or two.

I expect that we will pay a bloody price for the message we have now sent to the terrorists, the message that we will retreat when casualties rise. We are teaching them to kill people. (And when the bill comes due I will not forebear to point out that Pelosi and her gang are murderers and warmongers, and that their "pacifism" means getting Americans and innocent bystanders killed, while letting killers frolic.)

BUT, wars are about fighting. Sorry chomskys, but that's the way it is, and you won't be able to wriggle away from that reality. I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone of Trotsky's famous remark. When it happens, when things get ten times as ugly as they are now, we will have leaned a lesson. (Or if not, than I guess some future Osama will arrange for them to get a hundred times as bad.)

This is going to be a lonnng war, and sometimes losing a battle can be a blessing. The winner thinks he has the world figured out, and the loser is prodded to the hardest part of any activity, which is re-thinking his assumptions. Most people would rather die than question their underlying beliefs, but there are always a few who, confronted with the blood-splattered rubble, will go back to the philosophical drawing-board.

I just hope it's not San Francisco that that's the target. My guess it that softer (philosophically softer I mean--think European) targets will get hit. We have taught the terrorists one lesson that their Democrat allies will have a hard time erasing. That is that America can still be a very dangerous lion to prod. I firmly believe that 9/11 happened with the expectation that America would either lash out in instant fury, or cringe away towards appeasement. I don't think al Qaeda would ever have attacked us if they thought that our response would be to patiently and cold-bloodedly dismantle two Islamic countries, and rebuild them with democratic institutions.

That had to be a nasty surprise, and don't imagine they will risk it again soon....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:21 PM

Thank you...

...to all who have served on Freedom's Wall!

I saved this picture from a few years ago...I hope this guy came home OK....

David Castro holds his youngest daughter, Electra, 1, before leaving for Iraq
Eagle-Gazette / AP photo
David Castro holds his youngest daughter, Electra, 1, before leaving for Iraq with the 216th Engineer Battalion on Sunday. Castro has five children.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:54 AM

October 14, 2006

Alternate history--The Burgundiosphere...

Via Tim Blair, a fine letter to Mark Steyn...

I am a Brit nearing 60 living happily in the U.S.A. these past few years. I have just read America Alone. The World as I knew it has already ended....

....I live in the South in modest circumstances. Each day God sends is a joy – I catch my breath at the politeness and gentility of everyday life, and the innate goodness of the people I have the good fortune to meet every time I go to the store or fill up with gas.

It’s the same thing in Australia – whenever I have had the privilege of visiting I have been struck by how much Australia has stuck to its values and continues to do so. The complete and utter absence of bullshit is exhilarating.

And as each day passes I realize with deep sorrow how much multiculturalism has damaged, and is close to destroying, my beloved old England. As you have mentioned before, "Fings ain’t wot they used ter be".

National pride hides in the closet in England. It is the love that dare not speak its name....

I've long suspected that the Anglosphere is the new "England." And that poor England itself is too far over the edge to pull back. (I would LOVE to be proved wrong on that!) A certain mysterious and palmary quality of Englishness has been passed on to many lands, with Australia and the USA currently showing the most of it. And India being a question mark of the most fascinating sort...

An interesting thing to ponder is, how much of this "Englishness" is racial/tribal/deep-cultural—I don't quite know what term I need. And how much was contingent on history. Especially on how Britain's being an island prevented the need to create an absolutist monarchy with a large standing army ready to fight the forces of Philip II or Louis XIV. One wonders if, had Burgundy or Bavaria been islands, they might have preserved more of the pluralism of the Middle Ages. Things like parliaments, boroughs, declarations of rights, perhaps a system of slowly-evolving law with a fairly independent judiciary...Might we now be saying that those places settled by Burgundians have a special flavor of freedom, moderation and free enterprise?

One interesting oddity to me is that when I wander Catholic blogs, it is often impossible to know if I am "in" the US or Australia. [link, link] At least until somebody mentions the Archdiocese of Mudamuckla, or the scandals at Yankalilla. Then I know I'm far from Kansas...(Just kidding with the Aussie place-names. I love them. Here's a good quote.) I've never had that experience with an English Catholic blog. And recently Englishwoman Natalie Solent, who is Catholic, mentioned in an interesting post that Catholics are "frightfully dull nowadays." Wow. I can't imagine anybody in America or Australia saying that, grave though our many Catholic problems and shortcomings are....

THE RECALL
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
Posted by John Weidner at 11:36 AM

October 5, 2006

It's what we have Republican Presidents for...

From a review, by James Nuechterlein, of several books on Abraham Lincoln, in the August issue of First Things...

...At other times he showed flashes of imperial insistence. In January 1865 he was two votes short of getting the necessary two-thirds margin in the House of Representatives for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. His instructions to his vote managers were blunt: "I am president of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come—a measure of such importance that those two votes must he procured. I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done; but remember that I am president of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes." The votes were procured...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

September 16, 2006

Left by the side of the road...

Orrin Judd, on this piece by Jonah Goldberg, and on other writings of the NRO gang:

...The neocons and libertarians have never quite gotten a grasp on how little their concerns matter to the conservative party, which nominated and elected George W. Bush, largely over their objections, to cut taxes, move the country to the Right on moral/social issues, and implement Third Way entitlement reforms that would maintain (indeed increase) the size of government but transfer responsibility for the money government collects from bureaucrats to citizens.

They're so bent on pie in the sky that they're unaware of the tectonic shifts beneath their feet, from public school vouchers to free trade to HSAs to civil service reform to the special relationship with India to retirement reform to the Faith-Based Initiative to stem cell research limits to the sunset commission to federal income tax revenues hitting their lowest level since 1950 and so on. Not all have required major congressional action and the entire agenda hasn't been enacted--SS privatization, for instance, requires more GOP senators, not fewer--but the revolution is much further along than anyone would have dreamt possible in January 2001...
.

I'd say that's about right. I am, in my sympathies, a small-government conservative myself, but it's folly to imagine that that idea is ever going anywhere. It never happens. Whereas there are Bush clones winning elections all over the globe. There's even one running neck-and-neck for Prime Minister of Sweden, for pity's sake!

We subscribe to National Review, but I hardly read it or NRO anymore. It's boring. Jonah and Co. are almost as much in the bypassed-by-history class as leftists are.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:47 AM

September 14, 2006

Morons...

Dafydd quoted this bit...

...Mr. Powell, a former four-star Army general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had a leadership role in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, said in his letter to Mr. McCain that redefining Common Article 3 would only deepen worldwide doubts about America’s moral stature.

“Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk,” Mr. Powell said in his letter to Mr. McCain. Critics of the Bush administration approach have argued that, if the United States is seen to be mistreating captives, Americans who are taken prisoner could be subjected to cruelty...

"Subject to cruelty?" What could he mean? Quelle horreur, perhaps they may not be given Novacaine when their heads are sawed off. Sorry to break this to you, softhead, but when Americans are captured by the kind of enemies we have now, they are tortured and killed forthwith.

And how do you appeasers and pompous blowhards react to that? By attacking America for not being nice enough! For not having sufficient "moral stature."

Screw you, Colin Powell and John McCain. America and the Bush administration have the real moral stature, by virtue of being willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle some of the most bloody and difficult problems that bedevil our world. While you midget ankle-biters stand on the sidelines and sneer and carp, and demand that America be ever more prissy and limp-wristed, so as not to be an offensive odor to your little chemically-pure stuck-up noses.

Real Americans support the President, support the troops, support the war, and have the morsel of common sense needed to know that it's necessary to get rough when you are fighting with psychopathic murderers for whom war crimes are the order of the day...

And America's moral stature is so much higher than the common run of sniveling appeasing countries, higher than any other country at all, that anybody who expresses doubt about it is just labeling themselves a moron.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 PM

September 13, 2006

The biggest population spurt in our history...

CS Monitor: In a few weeks, the US population clock will tick past 300 million. It's a symbolic moment, and over the next five Tuesdays, the Monitor will explore the ways, both profound and mundane, that this number affects the economy, the environment, how we live, and what we hope to achieve. It reveals a present far different from the US at 200 million - and portends a future of equal or even greater change.

In the past 39 years, the United States has added 100 million people - the biggest population spurt in its history. At the same time, America has sustained greater economic growth than any civilization before it.

Is there a link?...

Of course.

(Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM

August 21, 2006

Second time since 1860...

JunkYardblog notes this, from Lefty Kevin Drum...

[Beinart:]…we need to engage more energetically with the war on terror and criticize illiberal regimes more harshly.

Maybe so. But this is something that’s nagged at me for some time. On the one hand, I think Beinart is exactly right. For example, should I be more vocal in denouncing Iran? Sure. It’s a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against. Of course I should speak out against them.

And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration’s determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike....

Good thing he's not an American...why, he might feel a duty to support his country and its leaders in time of war! Fortunately he can concentrate on the real war, against George W Bush, and those insane barbarians who dare to claim that it's not 1973 any more.

What sickos the "core" Democrats are. It makes my blood boil to think of the 20th century, when Democrats led this country through war after bloody war, presiding over the deaths of hundreds-of-thousands of Americans, plus millions of our enemies, an flattening whole cities filled with millions of civilians. And what did the Republicans do? Why, we supported our country and its leaders in time of war, of course. We are Americans. Wilson or FDR or Truman or Johnson never had to worry that Republicans would vote against war appropriations, or undercut our troops, or demand that war be fought without casualties, or fought to lunatic standards of perfection and niceness. Or that we would convey with broad hints that our enemies should not waver, because we might win the next election and capitulate forthwith.

And now, for the second time since 1860, we have a Republican leading during a serious war. And what do the Democrats do? Betray their country of course. For the second time. (Or you could call it the third time, since leadership during the Vietnam War passed from Dems to Republicans. They betrayed us then too, in the very war they had got us into, and betrayed millions of Vietnamese to death or concentration camps.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 PM

August 15, 2006

straight talk...

Michelle Malkin has a video of a great speech by Lt Col Randolp C. White, to a graduating class at Fort Benning.

If you are sick of the latté crowd shitting on America all day and then toddling home to sleep in safety while far better men and women watch through the night on Freedom's Wall.....well, you will enjoy this guy telling it like it is.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:31 PM

August 7, 2006

Strangely chilly...

There's some good sense in Government Shrinkage Goal, By Grover Norquist. And yet it's painful to see what a small-minded man he is, only seeing the dollars-and-cents aspect, and not the deeper spiritual and cultural implications of what he advocates...(Thanks to Orrin)

Norquist writes:

....The solution to the spending problem is to replace politically suicidal, or at best difficult, efforts to "cut" spending with politically profitable "reforms" of programs that will reduce their long-term costs. [Somebody--maybe Orrin-- recently wrote that having the government provide a lot of security was to "cost" of giving women the vote. I think that's true, and that that's a lot of the reason why it's politically suicidal to cut spending. Bush's "Ownership Society," which is what Norquist is writing about here, is an attempt to end-run this problem.]

The best example of this is "privatizing" or "personalizing" Social Security, moving the system from the pay-as-you-go, unfunded, Ponzi scheme to a fully funded, independently held personal savings account system. When fully phased in every American will be required to save, say, 10 percent of their income and accumulate real resources to buy an annuity at retirement that will keep one out of poverty and allow one to keep all savings beyond that minimum to be spent as one wishes. Social Security can be reformed to cost not its present 20 percent of the federal budget but rather remove it from the budget. [Right on. But what's really important about this is not just getting unfunded liabilities out of the budget, but in making people self-reliant, rather than being dependent on big government. Which is why leftists HATE the whole idea, and claim Bush wants to "destroy" SS, even while they have their own retirement nest-eggs invested in the market. Vile hypocrites.]

Medicare can be similarly financed through allowing Americans to save their Medicare tax payments. Health savings accounts can give Medicare and Medicaid programs real competitive pressures to reduce costs without voting for any "cuts." [Ching! Yes. But again, the real benefit is spiritual or psychological. People should be making their own decisions about their and their family's health. Anything that prods them into taking responsibility is good. And your HSA is your money--that tends to concentrate people's attention.]

On education, the only reform worth enacting is real parental school choice. With private schools costing half of what government schools cost, public schools over time will have to become as cost-efficient and effective as private schools. [Yes, correct. But to me it's passing strange to write in this bloodless way, and never mention the dreadful human cost of failing inner-city schools. Or even the dollars-and-cents cost, in increased crime and welfare. Weird.]

Pipe dream? No. We are on track to make all three key reforms a reality in the next decade. The case for Social Security reform is politically strengthened as more and more Americans own shares of stock directly through mutual funds, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s. When Ronald Reagan was elected, only 17 percent of adults owned stock directly. Today more than 50 percent of households and 2 out of 3 voters in the 2004 election do so. That number grows as all new companies use defined contribution retirement systems rather than defined benefit plans....

Doom for the Left. Ha ha ha. And oh so richly deserved...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 AM

August 1, 2006

Another amazin' story you don't hear much about...

From a great article in City Journal (Thanks to Pepys)

New York City has shattered criminology’s central myth, but criminologists remain in denial. Policing, they still insist, can do little to lower crime. Economic inequality, demographic trends, changing drug-use patterns—these determine crime levels, they say, not police tactics. Nevertheless, since 1994, New York City has enjoyed a crime drop unmatched in the rest of the country—indeed, unparalleled in history—and only Gotham’s revolutionary style of policing can explain it. Yet rather than flooding the city to study this paradigm-breaking phenomenon, most criminologists are busy looking the other way.

The dimensions of New York’s crime rout are breathtaking. From 1990 to 2000, four of the seven major felonies—homicide, robbery, burglary, and auto theft—dropped over 70 percent. Crime fell across the country during this period, but in New York it plummeted at twice the national average. By 2000, New York’s crime profile looked more like that of a small suburb than a big city, notes University of California sociologist Frank Zimring, whose forthcoming The Great American Crime Decline is the only major study so far that acknowledges the significance of the city’s crime turnaround. Gotham’s homicide rate in 2000 was half that of the big-city average; its robbery rate, which started out 50 percent higher than that of other big cities in 1990, was 10 percent below the average.

The national crime decline flattened out as the new century began...Not New York. From 2000 to 2005, the city’s crime rate fell another 30 percent....

This is a long article, but every morsel is fascinating. I urge it upon you.

Oh, and also, there was a curious item in the first paragraph I quoted above. "...most criminologists are busy looking the other way." Why? Why do "experts" in gov. and academia not want to know? Read on to find what I think is the answer...[emphasis added.]

...The conclusion is unavoidable: policing is the most powerful tool that society possesses against crime. Since the 1960s, New York has spent billions on redistributionist social programs designed to eradicate both poverty and the dysfunctional behavior of the underclass. Yet by the 1990s, packs of feral youths roamed subways and parks, maiming and murdering. Thugs armed with military weaponry ruled whole neighborhoods. Today, thanks to the NYPD, those neighborhoods thrive with commerce and family life. Urban government does not possess the power to transform character or to uplift residents beyond what they’re willing to do for themselves, but it can provide the most important basis of civil society: security. And in so doing, New York policing has helped the poor more than decades of welfare programs ever did.

Should I explain this in words even a simpleton or a liberal can understand? Nahhh. If you have eyes, you will see. if not, not.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:41 AM

July 29, 2006

Green Lantern?

I saw this quote on a friend's blog:

...The adventurist Right holds two simultaneous attitudes in uneasy conjunction. One is “The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics” - a boundless belief in the power of military might, will and “resolve” to remake the world. The other is a complete lack of faith in the durability of the social institutions and cultural capital of America and the West. The latter attitude leads to “How Democracies Perish” and stabs in the back and the general conviction that the West - still soft, still decadent - isn’t up to the task of outlasting its enemies...
--Jim Henley.

These are (in distorted form) things people on the Right believe, but there is nothing "uneasy" about the conjunction. We can SEE both things in the world around us, and it is perfectly reasonable that both can be true.

First, conservatives do NOT believe that military might can "remake" the world--this is a straw-man argument. What it can do is to remove certain obstacles, such as totalitarian regimes, or warlords, or terrorists, that keep parts of the world from remaking themselves. After that, people have to do it on their own. (And they may fail, as all human hopes may fail.) We can, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, make elections possible, but we can't force people to vote, or make them wise, or force elected governments to act wisely. Our use of military force is analogous to the way a shot of antibiotics does not kill all the germs. Rather, it kills enough so the body's natural defenses can accomplish the work of healing.

But, with that correction, you can SEE the effectiveness of Anglosphere military force staring you in the face whenever you look at a world map. All over the globe are places that English-speaking forces have liberated or protected from invasion, and, mysteriously, most of them seem to flourish afterwards. It's a kind of "green thumb." For instance we saved a backwater called South Korea from socialist conquest, and planted a few seeds of free enterprise at the same time. Who'd have expected that the result would be a democracy and an economic powerhouse? Similarly with Japan, Germany, Italy...plus of course those many countries which they had conquered, and we liberated. And the places we did not protect or liberate often ended up as socialist hell-holes.

The way lefties keep exclaiming, "You can't impose democracy by force" is SO pathetic and sniveling, like someone who can't keep Kudzu alive sneering at the guy with the green thumb.

But the second half of Mr Henley's statement is also true, and also something we can SEE all around us. Western Europe is the obvious example, though there are plenty of others, including various "Blue State" trends here. Europe suffers from economic stagnation, political sclerosis, and looming demographic collapse. And from the loss of belief in its own civilization, and unwillingness to defend it against enemies. And it is suffering from an obvious spiritual collapse, seen not just in the loss of religious faith, but in the blatant lack of new ideas, new hopes and dreams and schemes. And lack of joy.

Think! LOOK! It's right in front of you. Does anyone now learn German to keep up with the latest philosophy? Or French to be part of the avant-garde? Are any of you moving to Sweden to study their social organization? Are you worried about your job because of competition from fast-growing European companies? (It is to laugh.) These are not just right-wing fantasies, you can see this stuff all around you. The EU is roughly comparable in size and wealth to the US. SO, is anybody thinking that, if things get tough in the world, we can rely on European strength and resolve? In anything?

It is obvious that the "durability of the social institutions and cultural capital of America and the West" are NOT things we can take for granted. It is obvious that certain trends we can see may make us incapable of outlasting our enemies. ("complete lack of faith" is another straw-man. But anyone who isn't worried is a fool.)

Extra thoughts...

1. Henley's paragraph is not only logically deficient, it is also, I'd say, projection. It is the Left that has always believed in "re-making the world." Think: 5-Year-Plans, "Great Leap Forward," "Final Solution," "re-education" camps, "War on Poverty," and of course the current war on human nature, in the form of the differences between the sexes.

2. Also, while conservatives have great faith in the prowess of our military, it is incorrect to call that faith "boundless." Conservatives believe that ALL human institutions are flawed, including our own. The Christian term for this is "Original Sin." In secular or political form you can see the same idea in the Federalist Papers and The Constitution.

3. I suspect we see here reason #498 why leftists are hostile to the teaching of history. At any time before about WWII, it was common for Americans to travel to Europe to get a proper education or grounding in many fields. Art, music, science. philosophy, military science. You need to have a feel for that to appreciate how shockingly Europe has declined.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:20 PM

Finally, some kind of action...

NSA Whistleblower Gets Grand Jury Subpoena

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- A former National Security Agency employee has been subpoenaed by a U.S. grand jury as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information.

The subpoena -- issued Wednesday by two FBI agents to whistleblower Russ Tice outside his Maryland home -- was drawn up by federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia, and the letter accompanying it is signed by an attorney from Justice Department headquarters -- a sign that the investigation is being overseen in Washington.

The subpoena says only that the grand jury is "conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information." But it is believed to be the first public sign of the Bush administration's promised aggressive investigation into leaks about the National Security Agency's highly secret program of warrantless wiretapping of suspected terrorists....

Let's just hope it's not also the last public sign... Our supineness in the face of treason has been a disgusting thing.

....In a statement issued by the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, Tice said the subpoena was designed to stop others who had evidence of illegal conduct by U.S. intelligence agencies from coming forward. "This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent."...(Thanks to PowerLine)

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition? Issuing statements? They are NOT whistleblowers, because there is a law covering that, and you have to obey the law to have "whistleblower" status.

This is exactly analogous to the way captured terrorists are supposed to receive the protections the Geneva convention offers lawful combatants, but are free to torture and kill any of our guys they happen to capture. Or the way a criminal can cruelly murder innocent people, and then, once he's on Death Row, be transformed into a "victim," a lovable cuddly repentent victim, while the real victims are forgotten.

Underneath these is always Leftism, in one or another of its many disguises, trying to undermine law and justice, which are among the several things needed to keep men and nations free.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 AM

July 10, 2006

"I use the expression as the highest measure of praise"

I can't forbear to quote a bit more from Witness. It's spooky how similar things are now to what they were then, in 1949....

...These were the forces—Thomas Murphy, Richard Nixon,** the men of the F.B.I.—who together with the two grand juries and Tom Donegan and the two trial juries, finally won the Hiss case for the nation. It is important to look hard at them for a moment, and this book would not be complete without such a glance. For the contrast between them and the glittering Hiss forces is about the same as between the glittering French chivalry and the somewhat tattered English bowmen who won at Agincourt. The inclusive fact about them is that, in contrast to the pro-Hiss rally, most of them, regardless of what they had made of themselves, came from the wrong side of the railroad tracks. I use the expression as the highest measure of praise, as Lincoln noted that God must love the common people; He made so many of them. For, in America, most of us begin on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. The meaning of America, what made it the wonder of history and the hope of mankind, was that we were free not to stay on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. If within us there was something that empowered us to grow, we were free to grow and go where we could. Only we were not free ever to forget, ever to despise our origins...[Emphasis added]

No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between the plain men and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them, It was, not invariably, but in general, the "best people" who were for Alger Hiss, and were prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend him...

...It was the great body of the nation, which, not invariably, but in general, kept open its mind about the Hiss Case, waiting for the returns to come in. It was they who suspected what forces disastrous to the nation were at work....

Oh, by the way, the asterisk after the name Nixon is in the original. Here's the footnote it references. Yet a bit more stuff you won't find in your history book...

**Senator Nixon's role did not end with his dash back to the United States to rally the House Committee when the microfilm was in its hands. His testimony before the grand jury that indicted Alger Hiss is a significant part of the Hiss Case. Throughout the most trying phases of the Case, Nixon and his family, and sometimes his parents, were at our farm, encouraging me and comforting my family. My children have caught him lovingly in a nickname. To them he is always "Nixie," the kind and the good, about whom they will tolerate no nonsense. His somewhat martial Quakerism sometimes amused and always heartened me. I have a vivid picture of him, in the blackest hour of the Hiss Case, standing by the barn and saying in his quietly savage way (he is the kindest of men): "If the American people understood the real character of Alger Hiss, they would boil him in oil."
Posted by John Weidner at 3:03 PM

July 4, 2006

"That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom"

Michael and Jana Novak have a nice piece in First Things, “Under God”—Mystic Chords...

...These two General Orders, [by General Washington, quoted in the article] for July 2, 1776, and July 9, 1776, echo like mystic chords in Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg. For Lincoln seemed to believe it would be very odd, indeed, if the first birth of freedom was achieved “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” and “under God,” while “a new birth of freedom,” wrested from “the last full measure of devotion” at Gettysburg, did not also begin “under God.” And so Lincoln, too, followed Washington in picking up the echo:
“. . . That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Lincoln reaffirmed this faith in God’s judgments as “true and righteous” in his magnificent Second Inaugural.

And Washington in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Savannah, after he became president, reminded the nation that “the same wonder-working Deity” whose name “is Jehovah” who had rescued the Israelites from Egypt was active in 1776 in “establishing these United States as an independent nation.”

To understand the public religion of America from its beginnings until now, it is essential to study the language, the conceptual structure, and the presuppositions about world order that quietly and “on deep background” formed the minds of Washington, Lincoln, and all successful leaders who have been able to touch most deeply the soul of the American people.

This same public religion, which is accessible to atheists and agnostics in their own fashion, should always echo in the minds of children, as in grown men and women, so that the spirit of liberty may thrive forever, beyond the power of any Caesar to add or to subtract...

"...and all successful leaders who have been able to touch most deeply the soul of the American people." I think that's exactly right. People keep coming up with all sorts of clever-Johnny arguments about how "separation of church and state" should mean public atheism and hostility to Christianity. But somehow Americans don't pay much attention.

And the real meaning of "separation of church and state" is obvious from Washington's words. He didn't endorse any particular church, not even a particular religion, such as Christianity, and was easily able to include Jews in his belief in Divine Providence. And, as the Novaks point out, even agnostics and atheists can participate in the belief that America is somehow singled out for great deeds. And many of them have in our history. The current deluge of anti-Christian propaganda is really leftist anti-Americanism at work...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

June 27, 2006

One small skirmsh...

David Cohen has a great post on issue of "signing statements."

....We usually celebrate the genius of our constitution by ticking off our freedoms, or our wealth, or noting the noble goals of American exceptionalism. But in reality the genius of the constitutional system is best illustrated by this trite, less-than-noble jockeying for power. The President claims some power. Congress pushes back. The Framers knew that they were not instituting a government of angels. They knew that office-holders always try to accumulate power. They therefore famously set up a system of checks and balances; one of which is that, if the President is gaining power, Congress is losing power. Congress, regardless of faction and party, is as an institution loath to lose power and will do what it can to stem the tide. Here, the signing statements are a sideshow.

Both the Congress and the Administration know that those statements
have no power to change legislation or the President's constitutional powers. This is just one small skirmish in the war between Congress and the President, each of whom keeps the other in check by desiring to capture as much power as possible. [emphasis added]

The pushing and shoving has been going on all through our history. We are currently in a phase of pushback against congressional power-grabbing during the 70's, after Watergate.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 AM

June 18, 2006

200 signing statements!

From Penraker:

It is remarkable that the left willl seize at Presidential signing statements - things that have no legal effect, things simply aspirational, defensive, and with no more power behind them than the breeze - to claim that Bush is becoming a dictator.

They didn't even notice them when Bill Clinton was President. He issued 200 of them, if I recall the numbers correctly. Every President since Reagan has used them....

I wish I had known about Clinton's signing statements when a knee-jerk Leftist made the same argument to me, about how he was deeply shocked and worried by Bush's unprecedented dictatorial power-grab. But even if Bush had invented them, the argument is still not respect-worthy. To openly express disagreement with something you don't believe in is democratic, not dictatorial.

And the idea that the Executive Branch must obey any law passed by the Legislative Branch is silly, and is only being pushed at the moment because a Republican is in the White House. Just imagine, if you will, that a President issued an executive order that impinged on the powers of Congress. You can bet there would be statements galore! And Congress would certainly, and properly, not obey.

There has always been in our history conflict between the three branches of government over the extent of each branch's jurisdiction. That is the issue behind the signing statements controversy. And even if we had a 1,500 page constitution, like that EU abomination, there would still be such conflicts. There always will be. What usually isn't mentioned in the discussion is that Congressional Democrats, when they were cock-a-hoop after the fall of Nixon, (besides condemning millions of South Vietnamese to death, exile or socialist slavery) enlarged Congress's powers into areas traditionally Executive. And now there is a push-back...

* Update: Here are some links on Presidential Signing Statements. Clinton actually issued 105 of them, Reagan 71.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 AM

May 29, 2006

Do they "get it?"

The alligators usually eat Andrea's homework, but when they don't you get good stuff like this:

It is supposed to be an elitist canard to say that whenever something — a work of art, a philosphy, a rock group, a cuisine, anything — becomes popular, that something is, if not destroyed, than distorted out of its original shape by the desires and convictions of the members of the general public that have latched onto it. Well call me an elitist, because I believe it. Take the philosophical, moral, and ethical set of beliefs known as “conservatism.” It has lately become fashionable for young and not so young people whose public behavior and stated beliefs are anything but to declare themselves “conservative,” and to immediately set about applying that label to any of their favorite pastimes and notions.

An almost comically silly example is found in this blog post on Libertas by one “Dirty Harry.”.....Harry makes this astounding statement: What he represents is total complete and unbridled freedom. What could be more conservative than that?...

A softball, but she gives it a fine whack...

And I'd say she's right that rock music is not, and can not be, conservative. In fact what it desperately needs is to be outlawed, and driven underground. Then it might flourish again. I'm old enough to remember when it was still delightfully wicked, and just listening to it had a flavor of rebellion against boring grow-ups. Actually, my generation failed in our duty. We, and succeeding generations, should have grown up, discovered classical music and learned to hate Rock 'n Roll, thus allowing rebellious teenagers their proper sphere.

Instead we stupidly keep accepting every atrocity that comes along, and the poor little "rebels" are forced to run faster and faster to keep ahead of us. What a mess. Pretty soon rebel youth will have to start piercing themselves with barbecue skewers through the brain to get any king of buzz. Anyway, to be a conservative is to believe in Original Sin. You don't have to believe it as a religious concept, but you get it. You see it all around you. Somebody comes up with a plan to save the world or make us all happy, or just stop spam, and you say, "Oh Gawd, here we go again." Libertarians are not conservatives. Sorry guys, luv ya and all, but, no.

Maybe most of the problems we see in the developed world are the result of my generation starting the trend of not growing up. It certainly fits. And maybe that's just an inevitable result of prosperity and peace. Maybe the world is doomed. I walk around San Francisco, and see the grey-hairs still trying to be hip, and I think, We're doomed. Perhaps the conservative trend among younger people will save us, but do they "get it?" Like anything, if conservatism is to become a mass movement, it has to be debased and mass-produced. It's certainly better to mass-produce Conservatism-Lite, than to fudge-up the mass-market bohemianism that was the Hippie movement. Ugh. Things could be worse! But, this morning, I still think we are doomed.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

May 28, 2006

Memorial Day

From last year, about this time...

Joe Dodson plays the bagpipe at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Ky

Joe Dodson plays the bagpipe as he stands among the thousands of headstones at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday while participating in the burial service for Marine Sgt. David Neil Wimberg, who was killed last week in Iraq.
Associated Press. army times frontline photos June 1, 2005

Posted by John Weidner at 5:03 PM

May 20, 2006

Immigration thoughts...

An interesting view from an Australian...

I have not so far posted a lot on the topic as I live in a country that has a settled immigration policy that I and most others of my fellow citizens agree with. Some years ago, Australia's conservative government firmly reasserted control over our borders and we now have virtually no illegal immigrants. And since Australia has many thousands of miles of unguarded and mostly deserted coastline, that was not intrinsically easy. And we have far more poor Asians living to our immediate North than the USA has poor Hispanics to its South. So it seems completely obvious to me that the USA should and could control its borders too...

I'd say he's right that we can and should control our borders, but not correct in comparing our difficulty with Australia's. He should imagine standing on an Australian beach and looking out and seeing thousands of little boats, just hovering offshore waiting for someone to let down their guard, or for night to fall. THAT would be comparable. Plus imagine many coastal areas having large Asian populations that those people could melt into, and local economies that have grown up by using Asian labor.

The family business I grew up in in Southern California was horticulture. The "greenhouse business." Growing foliage plants. it was and is very labor-intensive. And the routine work, then and now, was done by Hispanics. Mostly decent hard-working likable people, not much interested in the managerial or thinking end of things. But imagine you are, like various creative people in my family, interested in building a plant business, in building an exciting horticultural enterprise in California. Those people would be as vital to you as capital, or land, or electricity...or sunshine. You won't move off square one without them. You can't even imagine it.

You can see what the plant-growing Weidners are currently doing here. Weidners Gardens was the small business my Dad started after he "retired" and sold his big nursery. You can read the story here. And here's my Mom and my sister Mary . It's a pretty interesting story, and you have to imagine, underneath what you see, a good many brown skinned people doing things like standing at a potting bench all day potting up thousands of rooted cuttings, and then arraying those pots on greenhouse benches, and then rearranging them as the plants grow and need more room..and then re-potting them all in larger pots! And pinching-back, and packing for shipment, and placing thousands of drip-tubes for watering. Fussy labor that makes my head spin just remembering it all.

So I have a hard time seeing illegal aliens as the threatening miasma of crime that they are often portrayed as by people like Ms Malkin. I suspect President Bush is coming from the same place. If you own a ranch in Texas, you are going to think the same way.

I wish we were getting some more decisive leadership from the administration. It seems to me <armchair theoretician alert> that we need to put a number of pieces of the puzzle together all at the same time, and that only Bush could make the proposal. We should control the borders AND throw more resources into stopping criminals or terrorists AND we should consider the future of other countries in the hemisphere, using their need of us to prod them to make reforms AND we should work harder on assimilation and teaching English AND do better at not corrupting people with easy access to welfare [ahem, California]...

AND have a viable guest-worker program that actually works (hard to imagine in a government program) with extreme transparency so anyone could see what's happening from a web-site PLUS easy-to-use so anyone can hire with minimal paperwork and worry PLUS including encouragement for many of those workers to remain part of their home country, and return home home eventually, carrying our ideas with them. PLUS...well, I could go on, but that's enough for today.... </armchair theoretician alert>

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

May 4, 2006

some good news...

There's stuff worth reading in OpinionJournal on successful Tort Reform in Texas...

...So what has happened since September of 2003, when the new law went into effect? After years of losing doctors, Texas has added nearly 4,000 since passage of Proposition 12, including 127 orthopedic surgeons, almost 300 anesthesiologists, over 200 emergency room physicians, 146 new obstetricians, 58 neurologists and 24 neurosurgeons. The Texas Medical Board is anticipating some 4,000 applicants for new physician licenses this year alone--double last year's numbers, and 30% more than the greatest growth year ever.

The threat of lawsuits has been a particular barrier to attracting and retaining pediatric specialists. Since 2003, Texas has gained 20 pediatric cardiologists, 14 pediatric oncologists, almost 50 new perinatologists (obstetricians specializing in high-risk pregnancies), 10 pediatric surgeons and 8 new pediatric endocrinologists.

Medically underserved counties in Texas are benefiting as well. Jefferson, Webb and Victoria Counties, as well as the counties of Cameron and Hidalgo in the Rio Grande Valley, have all experienced an influx of physicians....


The "Plaintiff's Bar" has become like a massive parasitic infection in our nation. Everything America does is dragged down and weakened by the constant need to worry about lawsuits, and to pay high insurance premiums. (And it's a tax that is largely invisible. When you buy anything, the price includes a premium created by unjust lawsuits. But also, the company that made that gadget paid a premium on everything they bought, and so on in limitless regression. And they all have to pay workers more, to cover the higher costs of everything the workers buy.)

And the costs fall most heavily on the poor, as the Texas example above shows.

It has long been almost impossible to enact any meaningful tort reform, because the "Democrat" Party is dependent on massive donations from the trial lawyers, and has vetoed or obstructed any change This is an axis of evil. Yet another reason why voting Democrat is voting for evil, and is voting to hurt the least fortunate and weakest members of our society.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:03 AM

March 28, 2006

We're a beached whale, for sure...

I've been having fun fisking this piece by Martin Jacques in the Guardian. An activity that goes well with the morning coffee. Jaques writes:

...These are the words of Henry Hyde, chairman of the House international relations committee and a Republican congressman, in a recent speech. Hyde argues that such is the overweening power of the US that it may not hear or recognise the signals when its policy goes badly wrong, a thinly veiled reference to Iraq...
Since the policy seems to be going right, we can take this as a purely theoretical point..
...He then takes issue with the idea that the US can export democracy around the world as deeply misguided and potentially dangerous. He argues: "A broad and energetic promotion of democracy in other countries that will not enjoy our long-term and guiding presence may equate not to peace and stability but to revolution ... There is no evidence that we or anyone can guide from afar revolutions we have set in motion. We can more easily destabilise friends and others and give life to chaos and to avowed enemies than ensure outcomes in service of our interests and security."
"Realist" strawman argument. Nobody is claiming we are going to "guide from afar," or "assure outcomes." The idea is to let people guide themselves, in the confidence that--in general, not invariably--they will push for peace and prosperity. Mr Hyde is a counter-example to his own point. He is pushing for less activity in foreign affairs because he thinks it will play with his constituents...

...It is clear that the US occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from almost every angle one can think of, most of all for the Iraqi people, not least for American foreign policy...
(Disaster, huh? Thanks to Orrin for this article--he also links to: Majority of Iraqis Endorse Election and Show Optimism ,and Saddam, Al Qaeda Did Collaborate, Documents Show)

...The unpicking of the imperial logic that led to it has already commenced: Hyde's speech is an example, and so is Francis Fukuyama's new book After the Neocons, a merciless critique of Bush's foreign policy and the school of thought that lay behind it...
The other bloggers are poking fun at Fukuyama, so I won't bother. I think he's terrified to discover that the End of History has actually happened
...The war was a delayed product of the end of the cold war and the triumphalist mentality that imbued the neocons and eventually seduced the US. But triumphalism is a dangerous brew, more suited to intoxication than hard-headed analysis. And so it has proved. The US still has to reap the whirlwind for its stunning feat of imperial overreach...
Yep, dat ol' whirlwin comin' any second now. Of course in the 80's guys like Martin Jacques said that the idea of "winning" the Cold War was folly and overreach, and was going to leave us bankrupt and exhausted and helpless, etc. etc. In fact our taxes and military expenditures are lower than when we fought the Cold War, our economy is the envy of the world, our losses are tiny compared to Cold-War fights like Vietnam and Korea, our military is only "overstretched" (if it is, I don't agree) because we were able to drastically reduce its size because we WON the Cold War...A bit of triumphalism now is what logic would dictate.
In becoming so catastrophically engaged in the Middle East, making the region its overwhelming global priority...
(If we hadn't, the same critics would say we are unfocused, and need to concentrate on one problem at a time)
...it downgraded the importance of everywhere else, taking its eye off the ball in a crucial region such as east Asia, which in the long run will be far more important to the US's strategic interests than the Middle East...
There isn't a lot we can DO for the Far East right now. (I'd liberate North Korea, but that's not in the cards.) And in fact we are doing important things. Our growing friendship with India is a major counterbalance to China. Likewise, on a smaller scale, Mongolia. And we've pulled off the stunning feat of becoming close to India without totally alienating Pakistan! And all our moves are more credible because we are resolute in the ME, though the pacifists are trying hard to undercut this, and generate future wars.
... As such, the Iraqi adventure represented a major misreading of global trends and how they are likely to impact on the US. Hyde is clearly thinking in these terms: "We are well advanced into an unformed era in which new and unfamiliar enemies are gathering forces, where a phalanx of aspiring competitors must inevitably constrain and focus options. In a world where the ratios of strength narrow, the consequences of miscalculation will become progressively more debilitating. The costs of golden theories [by which he means the worldwide promotion of democracy] will be paid for in the base coin of our interests."

WOE IS US! New enemies. (WHO, exactly?) New competitors. (WHO, exactly? Phalanx?) "Ratios of strength narrow?" Where's the evidence? In fact exactly the opposite is happening; economically and militarily our strength is growing relative to the world.

...The promotion of the idea of the war against terror as the central priority of US policy had little to do with the actual threat posed by al-Qaida, which was always hugely exaggerated by the Bush administration, as events over the last four and a half years have shown. Al-Qaida never posed a threat to the US except in terms of the odd terrorist outrage...
The trouble with winning a war against terrorists is that it then looks like there never was a threat. In fact it is the perception that terrorism works that gives rise to terrorists. It is clear now that our withdrawals from Somalia and Lebanon were major factors in raising up hosts of enemies. But if we had stuck it out in those countries, accepting perhaps hundreds of casualties, critics like Martin would have said that we were expending our energies in places where we had no strategic interest.
Hyde alludes to a new "unformed" world and "a phalanx of aspiring competitors". On this he is absolutely right. The world is in the midst of a monumental process of change that, within the next 10 years or so, could leave the US as only the second largest economy in the world after China and commanding, with the rise of China and India, a steadily contracting share of global output. It will no longer be able to boss the world around in the fashion of the neoconservative dream: its power to do so will be constrained by the power of others, notably China, while it will also find it increasingly difficult to fund the military and diplomatic costs of being the world's sole superpower. If the US is already under financial pressure from its twin deficits and the ballooning costs of Iraq, then imagine the difficulties it will find itself in within two decades in a very different kind of world...
In the 1980's they said JAPAN was going to be the monster competitor that was going to humble and constrain us. In fact, China has so many internal problems there's not the slightest possibility it can become either the world's largest economy, or a dominant power like the US. (Actually, there is a possibility. They just need to adopt the same institutions that have made the Anglosphere dominant. Democracy, rule of law, free enterprise, civic society. And I'd add Christianity, as the necessary philosophical underpinning. Of course then their strength would not be a problem.)

I could go on with this for a few more pages, but that would be overreach...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 AM

February 13, 2006

Traditions...

Traditions serve an important function in politics. They are a sort of democracy that acts over time; they grow and solidify because people in the past have found them worth repeating, until they "stick." They codify wisdom gained over many lifetimes. Some go back to the time of George Washigton. If you ever encounter a tradition that seems to serve no apparent function, "Stop, Look and Listen" as they say, before you throw it on the trash!

Other bloggers have heaped deserved criticism on Al Gore's going to the home of the 9/11 hijackers and criticizing America's response to that brutal attack. It was a disgusting example of leftist anti-Americanism. And utterly wrong on the facts.

But it was also wrong for another reason�because he is flouting our traditions. One of those traditions is that our politicians do not criticize America on foreign soil. I'm sure you can think of several reasons why this is a good custom. One of them is that America is often trying to solve problems by negotiation and peaceful pressure, rather than force. And negotiations always work better if we present a united face.

This is in fact a particularly odious thing Gore has done, because Democrats usually present themselves as being so "peace-y," and superior to warmongering Republicans. But this undercutting of our negotiations with countries like Iran and North Korea in fact makes the use of military force more likely.

Another tradition is that former Presidents (and Vice Presidents) do not criticize the current President. Again, you can imagine the various reasons for this. The Clinton/Gore Administration had an easier time in everything they tried to do because Bush, Reagan and Ford all refrained from publicly criticizing them. (Private rebukes, by the way, are proper. After the Bay of Pigs, Ike publicly supported JFK, and privately told him he'd been a damn fool.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

January 31, 2006

They're still at it in Bangor...

I chanced upon this picture, and had to post it, because I blogged about these guys (and gals), the Maine Troop Greeters, back in August of 2004.

Maine Troop Greeters at Bangor Airport

Marine veteran Jerry Mundy, a member of the Maine Troop Greeters, helps Army Spc. Talos Arend with a free cell phone call as his unit passes through the Bangor International Airport, Maine, on Monday. The group, which includes veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, has offered greetings, cookies and free cell-phone use to military personnel on flights to and from the Middle East region since May 2003.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images. Found at Army Times Frontline Photos 1-31-06. [link to photo]

Here's a bit from that story I blogged, 3 A.m. With the VFW, by SGT Michael Thomas:

...As I walked off the plane, I was taken aback: in the small, dimly-lit airport, a group of elderly veterans lined up to shake our hands. Some were standing, some confined to wheelchairs, all wore their uniform hats. Their now-feeble right hands arms stiffened in salutes, their left hands holding coffee, snacks and cell phones for us.

As I made my way through the line, each man thanking me for my service, I choked back tears. Here we were, returning from one year in Iraq where we had portable DVD players, three square meals and phones, being honored by men who had crawled through mud for years with little more than the occasional letter from home.

These soldiers – many of whom who had lost limbs and comrades – shook our hands proudly, as if our service could somehow rival their own.

We soon learned that this VFW group had not only waited for more than a day in the airport for our arrival, but that they were doing so for all the returning soldiers.

When the time came to fly home to Colorado, we were asked by our commander if we would like to join the VFW. Every hand in the unit went up eagerly – including my own.

Looking back on my year in Iraq, I can honestly say that my perception of the experience was changed; not so much by the soldiers with whom I served – though I consider them my saving grace – but by the soldiers who welcomed us home. For it is those men who reminded me what serving my country is really about...
Posted by John Weidner at 5:33 PM

January 23, 2006

Beyond Awesome...

The loathsome slimeworms who have been directing their anti-war anti-everything-decent-Americans-hold-dear protests against our wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital forgot to renew their permit!!! They are OUT, and the human beings are in, with a strong message of support for America's heroes. Read all about it!

Best sign: "This corner under new non-commie management."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM

January 19, 2006

Nil desperandum, brothers and sisters...

I confess. This surprised me. I've just been assuming that, even if reactionary despotisms of the Middle East can be transformed, the one in Washington would be unassailable...

Washington Post: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

The State Department's culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them," she said. "The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

As part of the change in priorities, Rice announced that diplomats will not be promoted into the senior ranks unless they accept assignments in dangerous posts, gain expertise in at least two regions and are fluent in two foreign languages, citing Chinese, Urdu and Arabic as a few preferred examples.

Rice noted that the United States has nearly as many State Department personnel in Germany -- which has 82 million people -- as in India, with 1 billion people. As a first step, 100 jobs in Europe and Washington will be immediately shifted to expanded embassies in countries such as India, China and Lebanon. Many of these diplomats had been scheduled to rotate into coveted posts in European capitals this summer, and the sudden change in assignment has caused some distress, State Department officials said.

Officials said that ultimately as many as one-third of the 6,400 Foreign Service positions could be affected in the coming years....(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Wow! Shake-ups! Psychological even more than physical, I'd guess. "Coveted posts in European capitals" forsooth. Expect the usual subjects to howl about "stifling of dissent," "Unitary Executive," "Imperial Presidency," "fill-in-the-blank" blah blah blah. But what's really being crushed is one of the last places the Cold War is still being fought, like those Japanese soldiers in island jungles long after the homeland has surrendered.

Expect a lot of early retirements of the old guard. And expect those who are excited by the world as it is to be heartened and encouraged. Also, the main rationale of the reactionaries is that the experienced old hands understand the world better than elected newcomers, who should not be allowed to make changes. Condi's changes undercut that brutally. India IS more important than Germany. Probably 10 times as important. and the State Dept. is being forced to accept it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:05 AM

December 27, 2005

"Unconfirmable?" My guess is no...

This Washington Post article on John Yoo is good, but also somewhat silly in it's liberal world-view, which finds it mysterious that leftish criticism has not caused Yoo to shrivel up and die. Welcome to the next generation, turkeys! My generation of conservatives is currently in charge, and we grew up in the world of the "Great Society." We still often have a reflexive cringe, as if we are not sure our positions are legitimate. But Yoo grew up admiring Ronald Reagan. He's a different kind of cat...

....Yoo has alienated so many influential opponents that he is considered unconfirmable for a judgeship or high office, not unlike a certain conservative jurist rejected by the Senate for the Supreme Court.

"Someone said to me that I was the Robert Bork of my generation," he reported the other day.

Yet Yoo, 38, an engaging and outspoken lifelong conservative who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, can be found at seminars and radio microphones, standing up for Bush administration legal arguments that will be studied for decades.

"The worst thing you could do, now that people are critical of your views, is to run and hide. I agree with the work I did. I have an obligation to explain it,"....

Actually, I suspect that if Bork were nominated now (for the first time) he would be confirmed. Bork was "unconfirmable" after a smear campaign that was poorly answered, and with a Democrat majority in the Senate. Them days are gone. Gone and won't be back in my lifetime. I expect to see Yoo on the court sooner or later.

...Yoo traces his convictions in no small part to his parents, and Ronald Reagan. His father and mother are psychiatrists who grew up in Korea during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. They emigrated in 1967, when Yoo was 3 months old. They sought three things, he said: education, economic opportunity and democracy. They settled in Philadelphia because they admired Eugene Ormandy, then conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra...
Posted by John Weidner at 1:29 PM

December 26, 2005

Meet the future...

From an interesting LAT piece, The future of America -- in Iraq, By Robert D. Kaplan:

IF YOU WANT to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions....

....Throughout Iraq, young Army and Marine captains have become veritable mayors of micro-regions, meeting with local sheiks, setting up waste-removal programs to employ young men, dealing with complaints about cuts in electricity and so on. They have learned to arbitrate tribal politics, to speak articulately and to sit through endless speeches without losing patience...

....Regardless of whether you support or oppose the U.S. engagement in Iraq, you should be aware that that country has had a startling effect on a new generation of soldiers often from troubled backgrounds, whose infantry training has provided no framework for building democracy from scratch.

At a Thanksgiving evangelical service, one NCO told the young crowd to cheers: "The Pilgrims during the first winter in the New World suffered a 54% casualty rate from disease and cold. That's a casualty rate that would render any of our units combat ineffective. But did the Pilgrims sail back to England? Did they give up? No. This country isn't a quitter. It doesn't withdraw." ....

A leftish friend of mine recently said that returning veterans would soon be running for office as Democrats, and transforming the fortunes of the party. I think that's delusional, but let us imagine they do. Let's imagine that thousands of our troops come back from Iraq, and plunge into Democrat politics, and flourish there. Do you think they would be Democrats like the ones we are putting up with now?

No way. The very first thing they would toss on the ash-heap of history would be the reflexive America-hating leftism that is characteristic mental mush of "core Democrats" now. Those new guys are not going to feel little quivers of delight thinking of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. Nor will they feel little shivers of distaste at the American flag or traditional Christianity or patriotism. Actually, it's not delusional to think that returning vets may transform the fortunes of the Democrat party, it's just delusional to think that the party, in it's present form, has any future. It's a walking corpse, and will continue to be until my fatuous generation is pushed into the wings.

Something more interesting to me is that the best way to master a subject is to teach it to someone else. That's what's happening with democracy and freedom in Iraq. Ordinary Americans, often unschooled but with gut knowledge of freedom, are teaching people how it works. And whether or not they are successful in teaching, it's a dead cert that they will understand the subject like never before. Silly people sometimes suggest that our getting involved with the world's problems will pollute and dilute American democracy, and cause us to crash and burn like empires of yore. Nonsense. Just the opposite.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:32 AM

December 20, 2005

Solemn processes...

Good sense from John Yoo...(Thanks to Orrin)

...Let's consider the president's right to start wars. Liberal intellectuals believe that Bush's exercise of his commander-in-chief power has exceeded his constitutional authority and led to a quagmire in Iraq. If only Congress had undertaken the solemn process of declaring war, they have argued, faulty intelligence would have been smoked out, the debate would have produced consensus, and the American people would have been firmly committed to the ordeal ahead. But they are off the mark.

Neither presidents nor Congress have ever acted under the belief that the Constitution requires a declaration of war before the U.S. can engage in military hostilities abroad. Although this nation has used force abroad more than 100 times, it has declared war only five times: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, and World Wars I and II. Without declarations of war or any other congressional authorization, presidents have sent troops to fight Chinese Communists in Korea, to remove Manuel Noriega from power in Panama and to prevent human rights disasters in the Balkans. Other conflicts, such as the Persian Gulf War, received "authorization" from Congress but not declarations of war.

Critics of these wars want to upend this long practice by appeals to an "original understanding" of the Constitution. The Constitution, however, does not set out a clear process for starting war. Congress has the power to "declare war," but this clause allows Congress to establish the nation's legal status under international law. The framers wouldn't have equated "declaring" war with beginning a military conflict — indeed, in the 100 years before the Constitution, the British only once "declared" war at the start of a conflict...

...Would outcomes be better if Congress alone began wars? Not necessarily. Congress led us into two bad wars, the 1798 quasi-war with France and the War of 1812. Excessive congressional control can also prevent the U.S. from entering into conflicts that are in the national interest. Most would agree now that congressional isolationism before World War II harmed U.S. interests, and that FDR should have been able to enter the conflict much earlier....

The liberals mentioned are loathsome hypocrites--the issue is just another club to hit Bush with, and if a Dem were in the White House they would be arguing that the President's powers should be expanded...

I wouldn't call the War of 1812 a "bad war." It wasn't the sort of conclusive triumph we are used to in more recent American wars, but considering that we were fighting an opponent far stronger and a military far larger than ours, one honed by two decades of war with Napoleon, we didn't do too poorly. When Washington's administration signed the Jay Treaty in 1794, they knew it was just a way to gain time for the country to grow, and that in another 20 years we would be strong enough to finish the fight that had been stopped inconclusively by the Treaty of Paris. And so it was. And we did well enough that Britain never again wanted to tangle with us, and most importantly, we gained the port of New Orleans, and thereby opened the vast lands of the Louisiana Purchase to exploitation.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:44 PM

December 18, 2005

Best comment on the President's speech...

From Bill Hennnessey: No president should ever have to go on TV to beg Americans not to undermine our troops in battle.

Amen, brother. I should not repeat my complaints, but what we have seen in the last few years is one of the most despicable betrayals in American history. Certainly the worst of the last hundred years, which have seen huge and bloody wars, all led by the Democrat Party, and all supported loyally by the party that was out-of-power, the Republicans.

Every war has mistakes, but in those past wars Republicans never seized on the mistakes of our forces for partisan political gain, or out of hatred for the President. And baby, those mistakes not only dwarf current mistakes, they dwarf the entire current war! 9,000 casualties at Peleliu, for an island that could have been bypassed. 25,000 casualties at Iwo Jima, for an island that never served any tactical purpose. 800 men lost in an hour at Slapton Sands, because somebody couldn't imagine a German attack. Belleau Wood. LZ Bitch. Chosin Reservoir. The unexpected bocage at Normandy.

Here's a little fact to ponder. Before the Korean war, we had hundreds of P-38's in South Korea, left over from WWII. The Truman Administration ordered them destroyed, so as not to be "provocative." A few months later our men and the South Koreans were in desperate retreat, and were screaming for air cover that wasn't there.

SO, did Republicans demand the impeachment of President Truman? Did they stand aside from the fight, and sneer, and snivel, "Wars never solved anything?" Of course not. They were AMERICANS. Not a bunch of twisty tranzi flubberworms.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 PM

December 5, 2005

A drink or two, and then type type type...

Hale Adams comments, on the previous post:

...Scruton writes: "I would put the point in terms that echo Burke and Chesterton: the free market provides the optimal solution to the competition among the living for scarce resources; but when applied to the goods in which the dead and the unborn have an interest (sex, for instance) it wastes what must be saved...."

I wish Scruton would be more specific here: What, precisely, is being wasted, and how? The dead no longer exist, except in memory. They do not have any rights, let alone rights to property, except to rest unmolested. The unborn also do not exist, and may never exist, and likewise have no rights. Scruton might argue that it is a grossly impoverished society that is unmindful of the inheritance passed on to them by the dead. And equally impoverished is the society that is also unmindful of what they must pass on to the now-unborn when the time comes. And he would be right. But that's a matter for religion and conscience, not economics. But Scruton doesn't give us any specifics, never tells us what needs to be removed from the realm of economics. Until he does state some specifics, his statement is only so much pious-sounding gas, a nebulous notion that can justify all sorts of needless restrictions on the living. And it's the living whom society must serve...

This is a realm where I mostly have questions, not answers, so this is just going to ramble....

Scruton mentioned city planning. I feel the corrosiveness of the marketplace in this particularly, because I'm passionately fond of the architecture and city-scapes and urban life of times gone by. I've too often seen some pleasant urban block, perhaps with shops and restaurants and bars that have been part of the city's life for decades, blasted, destroyed as easily as by a terrorist's bomb, and replaced overnight with some cold ugly marble-sheathed office tower, with a wind-blown "plaza" that has no sweetness to offer to city life. The very economic freedom I value also destroys various other things I value enormously...

However, I've pondered for decades the problem of how to run cities differently, and, other than making me dictator of the world, I don't see any answer. (And even that would probably produce disappointing results) The only thing that can over-ride the marketplace is the state. And when you set the machinery of the state to work fixing things, you immediately run into the problem of who in the government is going to make the decisions, and on what basis, what plan and how is that plan to be chosen... and how will we correct the inevitable abuses? And the answer to that is democracy, and democracy is just another damned marketplace...

And, as soon as I start thinking about preserving that old street with some funny German restaurant I used to eat in years ago, I'm thinking like an elitist, who wants to bully people, using government power, into doing what's "good for them," and what pleases my whims, rather than what they probably want, and economically need. In other words, I'm being a socialist! It's a tangle.

But even the most deep-died Libertarian or free-market ideologue has things they value, which they try to preserve from the acid bath of the market. Maybe they have children. What the market offers your kids ain't pretty. Or there are moral values. Honor, for instance. The reports from our troops tell me it's still in existence, but it's not something the market is any friend of. And yet, it is valuable. Try to win a war without it, and you'd be glad to spend a trillion dollars to get it. But it can't be bought, or commanded. But if you start pondering how to nurture it, then perhaps you will find the illogical and cranky remarks of old mustachios long dead are not so obsolete as is generally supposed.

I'm not really sure what Scruton means when he refers to "the dead and the unborn." But it has a sort of poetic logic, hinting at a great many things that are intangible and hard to pin down, things we need to care about, but hardly have the language to discuss. "National character, for instance." It's real, as real as the national debt (and probably far more important economically). It's rooted in the past, and grows its shoots towards the future. But its almost ungraspable, untouchable. I suspect we conservatives concentrate on economic questions because they are the easy ones. We have a hammer, and there's some nails, so, whack!

But consider the Anglosphere, the countries where English and the influence of England has spread. They seem to have a big advantage over other countries, in the long haul. There's something there, something you can take to the bank, something valuable. But what? It's something that can be destroyed, or so the recent progress of Great Britain would cause me to suspect. Something that it's the important duty of Conservatives to fight for protect, to defend, to cherish. How, I'm not sure. But if I'm prickly about modernisers and utopians tossing out old things because they are inefficient or boring, well, maybe I'm not just being peevish. Things are being destroyed that I think we need. Need to have in our took kit when we suddenly find ourselves dumped into the future, like Neanderthals in some SF story brought into the present.

John Adams and his cousin Sam started a revolution to protect "The Rights of Englishmen." And history seems to confirm that they were on to something. But I'd be a little embarrassed if I had to list those rights. I've never been sure precisely what they are (Like porn, I know it when I see it!) But they are probably as valuable, and worth fighting for, as the insights of Adam Smith, published at about the same time.

Suppose, as I'm vaguely saying, that many of the things we need most to cherish can't quite be grasped by logic, or reduced to syllogisms. Maybe the seemingly illogical notions of Scruton and Chesterton are an attitude, a state of mind, a stance that will help us see them and touch them. Chesterton wrote: "Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead." Makes not much sense in a logical way, but perhaps it may be a vantage point to stand at and try to see lots of almost invisible things.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:45 PM

December 1, 2005

Jury instruction...

I was in a criminal courtroom today, filling out a jury questionnaire. (I have to go back next week for the actual selection. I bet nobody will want a wise-ass like me on their jury, but we'll see.)

What I found very charming was the Clerk, a dignified Filipino-American gentleman. As I was scribbling I could hear him talking to those people who were requesting to be excused. One of the possible excuses is insufficient command of English. And so every now and then I would hear him say, warmly and commandingly, "You mus learn English! You learn English, you come back in one year, you sit in that red seat. Is very good seat."

Posted by John Weidner at 3:51 PM

November 30, 2005

appalling but true...

John Derbyshire:

...Thy neighbor's ass. Regardless of what you think of religion in general, or Christianity in particular, all those past centuries of widespread Bible reading were wonderfully enriching to our language. Now that is all slipping away, and our language is correspondingly poorer. I noticed this a few years ago, when I complained to my Wall Street boss, a lady with a degree from a good university and a six-digit salary, that in giving me a project to complete without the proper means to complete it, she was asking me to make bricks without straw. She stared at me uncomprehendingly. "Bricks? Straw? What on earth are you talking about, John?"

It happened again the other day. In conversation with some intelligent and well-educated Americans, I used the word "covet." Blank looks. Then, nervously (I am not a stranger to these people): "Er, John, do you mean... cover?" No, I said, I meant "covet," as in the Tenth Commandment. You know: Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's ox, nor his ass... Now they were looking at each other as if I had lapsed into Klingon. Where is
Roy Moore when you need him?...

It's also a matter of just not reading the good stuff. Good books are enriched with biblical terminology, and anyone well-read would probably "get" bricks without straw, even if they had never touched the Bible. (Mud bricks, what we call here "adobe," include straw with the mud, so the bricks will dry evenly, instead of just on the outside first. The Israelites, when they were held captive in Egypt, were once forced to make bricks without straw, that is, to undertake a task doomed to failure for lack of a critical material.)

And it's also a matter of lack of curiosity, something which just bewilders me. Why wasn't the "Wall Street Boss" interested? Why are most people not interested in an odd new metaphor? I guess they get rich in money, and I get rich in words...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 PM

November 24, 2005

"Watchmen on the walls of world freedom"

“We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

John F. Kennedy
Undelivered luncheon speech
Dallas, Texas
Nov. 22, 1963

I Don't have any inspiration for a cool Thanksgiving post this morning, but there's some stuff in my archives...

For instance this, about residents of Falluja leaving notes of thanks for the coalition troops fighting to liberate their town.

Or this, about a family that spent their vacation taking wounded men From Walter Reed Hospital out for meals...

This, about the President's 2003 Thanksgiving flight to Iraq...

This, on the logistics of bringing a feast to the troops...

And this, from last year, fits Thanksgiving very well...

Pearl Harbor survivor embraces Iraq vet
Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of Dallas is overcome with emotion as he embraces Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during the Dallas Veterans Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall on Thursday. Graunke, who was a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, a leg and an eye while attempting to defuse a bomb in Iraq last July.
Jim Mahoney, The Dallas (Texas) Morning News / AP photo
Army Times Frontline Photos, Novenber 12, 2004

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

November 10, 2005

Veteran's Day

It's good to stop on Veteran's Day and remember that everything we have, we have because of war, because brave men fought in savage conflicts to protect and enlarge our patrimony. Often, when I'm feeling that my life is just too too difficult, I think about an Iraqi man I read about, who spent 17 years in a little crawl-space between two walls in his family's home, to avoid arrest by Saddam's secret police. War freed him, and war keeps us from suffering a similar fate, or far worse...

Remember, as you enjoy your holiday (or, like Charlene and I, you enjoy the huge privilege of being self-employed, and working hard today because the work is there) that you are not worrying about visits by secret police because a lot of good guys killed a lot of bad guys over the course of many centuries...

American troops pray before action in Iraq.Jpg
David Furst / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images
Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division gather together to pray moments before setting off on a patrol of western Baghdad on Thursday.
Army Times 11/8/05




Funeral for Americans
American soldiers at a funeral near Saint-Mihiel, 1917


Civil War troops at Catholic mass
[link]

You all know how it's often a problem, when children are raised in prosperity, that they sometimes have no appreciation of how hard their parents worked, and how hard life can be.

And our nation has a similar problem. Our ancestors performed miracles of endurance and suffering and courage, so we could enjoy wealth and comfort such as the world has never seen. But this very success has created a sub-culture of Eloi, weak and foolish creatures who burble, "War never solved anything," when it has in fact solved a host of their problems. They are sitting in unthinking comfort and security on the heaped bones of America's enemies.

And while smugly enjoying the spoils of war, some of the Eloi have embraced the twisted idea that war is evil and therefore other people should suffer. They will lick the grease of the Christmas goose off their fingers while doing their moral duty in helping to keep Koreans starving (burp!), and Iraqis shredded, and Sudanese enslaved, and the Afghans under the heel of the Taliban....

The quote I keep on my sidebar fits this day pretty well...

"I disputed the premise, "Blessed are the peacemakers."
On the contrary, it was always those who fought evil
whom history remembered as the greatest in their generations."
      --
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 PM

September 25, 2005

On the side of the the good guys...

Ed McNamara has lots of pix from the pro-American rally in Washington, DC...(Thanks to PowerLine)

Pro-American gals at the demonstration

And here's one of Melanie Morgan, who Charlene and I often listen to on the radio here in SF...

Melanie Morgan at DC demonstration

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

September 15, 2005

Just thought you would want to know...

Washington Post: Sept. 14 -- Early tests on the floodwater that covered most of this city do not suggest it will leave a permanent toxic residue or render residential areas uninhabitable for more than a short time, officials of both state and federal environmental agencies said yesterday....

Overhyped environmental catastrophe #96,750....(Thanks to Jerry Scharf)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 PM

September 13, 2005

dereliction of duty...

Cliff May at the Corner posted this interesting e-mail...
As a retired structural engineer who has done exhaustive work on bulk liquids retention structures, including dams, dykes and levees; also having audited engineering schematics on the New Orleans levees in the 1994-1996 era, rest assured that federal officials were properly concerned about that situation. The problem was that they were the only ones. We bucked and kicked local officials for years throughout the entire project. The municipality demanded the money, and received millions, but repeatedly, they had more pressing uses for expenditures. The optimal, shear-sloped design for the levee reinforcement was approved in 1995. I tell you truly that in my 40-year career as an engineer, the local authorities in our New Orleans levee project take the prize in the area of callous disregard and their bungling remains notorious to this day. Truly, it was scandalous. Consequently, I find it hard to cast a major portion of blame for this disaster on any other entity than the local representatives of those unfortunate people in New Orleans. The truth is, at least the last three mayors of New Orleans are grossly negligent and in dereliction of duty in regards to repeatedly skimming federal funds allocated for their levee fortification. -- Allan McIsaac
Posted by John Weidner at 7:27 AM

September 8, 2005

FEMA, OK, have at 'em. Tear them apart...

From the Corner at NRO:

OVERWORKED TAXPAYER RELIEF WORKERS [Kate O'Beirne]

The Washington Waste Watchers, organized by Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida and other conservative members of the House, promise to be among the busiest workers in Katrina's aftermath. Following the 9/11 attacks, the group tracked FEMA "mental health" spending for victims in Virginia that funded multicultural dialogues, theatre workshops, and "a yearlong celebration of trees, gardens , and other healing spaces." After a Feeney floor speech questioning a "personal growth class based on mindful meditation techniques" some of the questionable programs were cancelled. May Tom Feeney's ranks grow...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:12 PM

worse than we thought...

I wasn't planning to bash Louisiana government any more, but I just ran across several columnists (including Friedmann and Myerson) arguing that obviously people are now going to wake up and discard this conservative lunacy and raise taxes and return us to the glory days when Democrat big government made the trains run on time...Nuh uh.

This is the sort of stuff people are going to wake up to:

...In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.

A year ago, as Hurricane Ivan approached, New Orleans ordered an evacuation but did not use city or school buses to help people evacuate. As a result many of the poorest citizens were unable to evacuate. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course and did not hit New Orleans, but both Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin acknowledged the need for a better evacuation plan. Again, they did not take corrective actions. In 1998, during a threat by Hurricane George, 14,000 people were sent to the Superdome and theft and vandalism were rampant due to inadequate security. Again, these problems were not corrected...[Bob Williams, WSJ. ]

I think Dems are really going to regret starting their ugly blame-game. If they had know what was going to crawl out they wouldn't have turned over that rock...

And I think we are framing the discussion very badly. The underlying fact is that southern Louisiana is a quagmire (metaphorically, though also physically of course). The word quagmire has been debased by un-serious people to mean "anything difficult attempted by the US." But go back to the original metaphor, of a path taken that gets one in deeper and deeper, until you can go neither forward nor backward. Louisiana took a path centuries ago, when she started building levees. And every step, every house built or field cleared or business started made it harder to even think of starting over again.

Once Louisiana started to fight against the water, it was, in the long-term view, like a child trying protect a sand castle against the incoming tide. There's not only the sinking land, and the eroding coast, but also the Mississippi River itself is trying to cut a new route to the sea. Slow-moving rivers always change their paths. The, you guessed it, Corps of Engineers has been trying to keep the river from making a new path through the Atchafalaya basin since the 1950's.

If you are in a quagmire, you can't think clearly. You have invested too much to consider starting over. Slavery was a quagmire for this country, because a whole region had invested its wealth, and its lives, in the system. There was really no escape that didn't entail a large part of the country "declaring bankruptcy," and starting over with nothing. It was inconceivable for them.

In the case of Louisiana, it may be possible to find a middle course, and manage nature more wisely. There are plans, possibilities. And one hopes the disaster will shake things up enough to make thinking about a new way possible.

That's one reason why I found the instant torrent of lefty criticism infuriating. There is no thought behind it; it assumes that the quagmire is normal, and anyone who doesn't support it is heartless, racist, incompetent, blah blah blah. And now the Administration will probably be forced by political pressure to stay in the quagmire. There's a good case to be made for a lot of federal spending to start the region onto a better road. If the critics really cared about Louisiana and its people they would be pressing for something like that. But they don't care, they are obviously thrilled that people are dying in NOLA, so they can vent their hated of Bush. Actually contributing to a real debate is totally beyond them.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:45 AM

September 6, 2005

Domeblogging

Domeblog is blogging the evacuees in Houston. Fascinating stuff...

Houston's Unified Command today announced that there's a "zoning plan" for what they're calling "Reliant City," which consists of four locations:

. Dome City 17,500 residents
. Center City 3,800 residents
. Arena City 2,300 residents
. George R. Brown City 1,300 residents

They say that with 24,900 total residents, the Reliant Park Complex is now the largest evacuation shelter in U.S. history.

They are planning to set up typical neighborhood amenities such as a Welcome Center, Banking Center, Reliant Town Square Park, Reliant City Medical Center, a Transit Center with Metro Transit Authority and HISD school bus stops.

The Reliant Town Square will include a playground, sports field and laundry facilities. The Salvation Army will construct several refreshment centers east of Dome City.

Construction completion goal is Friday.

According to the Harris County Department of Education, more than 4,000 school-aged children are expected to register this week and will start classes Sept. 12. (Thanks to
Aziz)

One interesting thing is a big effort starting up to find jobs for Katrina victims...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

September 4, 2005

Briefing

General Blum's briefing is worth reading. Among other things, National Guard response was delayed, not because they weren't ready, but because of the need to bring in large numbers of military police because the local police were almost non-existant. 4.200 National Guard military police were collected and flown in Thursday Friday and Saturday. Think about that a minute. The levees only broke on Monday, it was Tuesday before the collapse of civil order in New Orleans and the need for MP's became apparent...and on Thursday the first 1,400 were in NO. That's superb organization. Extremely fast response.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 PM

The Lefty Prayer...

Mike at Cold Fury writes:

Do you remember when the last Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, told us that to be prepared for emergencies, we should put together a readiness kit? I do. The kit layout is suggested at Ready.Gov. The portion of the kit for dealing with attacks and natural disasters should have, ideally, “at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food” and a corresponding amount of water - a gallon per day per person.

Yet when he announced the suggested measures that we all take to prepare for potential terror attacks or natural disasters, he was met with nothing but mockery. So much so, that his name is synonymous with duct tape - since that’s the only thing anybody in the MSM (or for that matter the lefty blogosphere) cared to discuss.

Thanks for undercutting it, my patriotic left wing friends, and calling it partisan scare mongering. What kind of a warped mind, can spin basic common sense as partisan bickering.

So answer me this, how many of the displaced persons in New Orleans secured a ready kit? If none, then why not? They can’t all be that poor - three days food and water is pretty cheap, especially if you’re buying the non-perishable staples (e.g. beans & stuff) recommended....

Mike has a Lonnnnnnng list of links of lefty fatheads heaping scorn on Ridge for suggesting that ordinary Americans should keep emergency supplies of food and water. The same FATHEADS who are now dumping on Bush because people in NO were suffering.

The deaths in NO are partly the fault of people like Atrios, Kos, Yglesias, Drum...When Ridge was pushing Preparedness Month, they scoffed that it was just politics. The press scoffed. Those people are murderers. They laughed their sophisticated heads off at the homely advice Ridge was giving.

They sneered and sneered. Especially they sneered at the duct tape. But, of course, any emergency kit should have duct tape; it's useful for a thousand and one simple chores and repairs. But that's all Lefties can do these days, sneer. They have nothing positive to offer to our society, or to the hard-working people who actually wrestle with life's messy problems. They are empty.

Their prayer is, "Please God don't let me get tangled up in the world's grubby ambiguous problems, where I might get cooties. Let me keep my moral superiority and stand forever on the sidelines and sneer."

Posted by John Weidner at 3:12 PM

Compare Biloxi and New Orleans...

DJ Drummond:

...A lot of attention has been focused on New Orleans this week, and given the number of victims there, that’s right. But people might consider that Mississippi got hit just as hard as Louisiana, and Biloxi as hard as New Orleans, but there has not been the looting, the violence, and the selfishness in Biloxi that we have seen in New Orleans. Granted, the flooding in New Orleans has made things very bad in sanitary terms, but the plain fact is, that Biloxi has done a great deal that we would all hope to see in our own towns, if such a disaster were to hit us.

For all the attention given to it, New Orleans is the exception, not the rule. I might be wrong, but a friend reminded me this week that in Mississippi, regular people have guns. In New Orleans, only the police and criminals do. It’s a fact that the Left will never admit out loud, but there is a virtue to Force, when it’s properly used.

The Left favors gun control. Always. All around the world. They claim they wish to prevent crime, but that's a lie--the criminals are never disarmed. They claim they want to prevent accidents, but that's a lie--they never show any interest in safety training for gun users.

They want guns banned because they want ordinary people to feel weak, and dependent on government.

The various recriminations were hearing about Katrina all kind of miss the same point. We are not Euro-sheep, we are AMERICANS! Before all else, we should be self-reliant. We should take care of ourselves and our neighbors. And governments, federal and local, should be encouraging that FIRST. [And I'm far from perfect in the self-reliance bit, but I did go out today and beef-up our emergency supplies a bit.]

Posted by John Weidner at 12:41 PM

Tone-deaf

Orrin Judd writes:
...Somehow in the Left's memory the urban riots of the late 60s became an event that shamed white America into realizing how badly even Northern blacks were being treated. In fact, what they did was end the civil rights movement, because they filled whites with both fear and contempt for the very people they felt they'd gone pretty far to help at great cost to the cohesiveness of society.

The Left has made a rather tone-deaf decision to try and cast the aftermath of Katrina as a racial issue even though such a theme can only backfire. White America doesn't look at looting in New Orleans and say, "My goodness, what have we driven them to?" We look at it and say, "What kind of people are they?"
Democrats have played the race card so many times, they are incapable of doing anything else. It's a tic. If they actually cared about poor blacks, they would be condemning the black criminals who prey upon them. Instead they gain black votes by telling the poor that everything is somebody else's fault, and that they deserve to be taken care of by government. Katrina may well set back Republican efforts to woo blacks. But Republican efforts are based on appeals to grown-ups, and probably will never resonate with the welfare underclass. On the other hand, blacks who work hard and want to get ahead will probably keep trending Republican. I noticed this bit by Andrea:
...I think the most sickening thing about this is the way some people are trying to make this into a race issue. I can tell you from personal experience on Wednesday morning at work the first conversation I got into with my coworkers about the situation in Louisiana, the first thing the two African-American coworkers I was talking to said was “this has nothing to do with race.” And they were upset at the media for latching onto every single instant that could be misconstrued into a “racism” angle...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:08 AM

"...it’s emergency management 101"

If Martians Red Planet Freedom-Fighters landed on the South Pole and declared it Ice Cream Land, the same brain-damaged goops we're hearing from now would instantly blame Bush for building a base at McMurdo.

This commenter at Donald Sensing's actually knows what he's talking about. He's from MEMA, and knows FEMA...(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Sorry Joel & ROE, but you guys are WAAAYYY off base in criticizing FEMA. Disaster preparedness is the responsibility of State and Local authorities – in this case LEMA (The Louisiana Emergency Management Agency). There is a state-wide director for disaster relief in every state – that person is called the Governor. There is a local director for disaster relief in every municipality – that person is called the Mayor. FEMA is a coordinating body that assists State and Local authorities in getting the resources they need. Because they are the “go to” people most folks are under the impression that they are in charge, and in fact if the State and Local authorities abdicate control over a disaster area they will take over. Typically after the initial response to a disaster the local guys do just that, leave FEMA in control. That’s because they have the experience and personnel to manage disasters of this scale.

Disclosure: I’m a volunteer coordinator for MEMA (The Missouri Emergency Management Agency), I’ve been through three major floods and a few big storms that generated enough tornado damage to get the affected counties disaster relief – believe me when I tell you what we are seeing from FEMA now is lightyears ahead of what I’ve seen from them in the past. Typically it took two to three days just to get the disaster declaration, then another two to three to get FEMA deployed – of course by then the local guys had been on the ground working around the clock for five or six days and we were more than happy to dump everything in FEMA’s lap. That’s the way the system is designed. Bush saw that and tried to skip a few steps to speed things up, he pre-declared the areas disaster areas. So what we are seeing in NO is the result of a convergence of factors:

First, the storm damage was bad, but the flooding has made relief efforts ten times harder than anything they could have imagined. Second, Mayor Nagin’s performance has been pathetic. This is the worst case of poor planning and criminal incompetence I’ve ever seen. Like I said, Bush declared the gulf coast area a Federal Disaster area on Saturday – two days before Katrina hit. That freed up FEMA resources for local and state coordinators and allowed for the pre-positioning of supplies so they could be rapidly deployed to the affected areas. Mayor Nagin waited until the last minute to call for an evacuation of the city, but the poorest people could not evacuate – why weren’t school busses used to get them out of town? Mayor Nagin made the last minute decision to declare the Superdome and COnvention centers as refuge relocation points – why weren’t they stocked with water, food, bedding, generators, and fuel? Why weren’t hospitals offered additional resources by the Mayors office? Mayor Nagin made the decision to allow looting and told the police to focus on Search and Rescue – but looting hinders S&R efforts (as we’ve seen) and no one I know could believe that decision – it’s emergency management 101, preserving order preserves life. There’s plenty of blame to go around – Blanco deserves her share too – but the real culprit in the aftermath here is Nagin.
Of course some people remember it was the same stupid Bush-haters who criticized him for moving too fast with Hurricane Charley:
...Even before the storm hit, the president declared four counties disaster areas to speed federal money to victims. But that quick response fueled suspicion that he is using disaster politics to help his campaign in one of the most critical battleground states, a notion the president dismissed Sunday...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 AM

September 3, 2005

I'm wondering...

Since some of those New Orleans neighborhoods are going to be pretty much total losses, I wonder about the possibility of covering them with enough soil to raise them 20 or 30 feet, then building anew? Obviously the cost would be vast, but I know the Army Corps of Engineers has been desiring to move 500 million cubic yards of sand to start the restoration of the barrier islands. (Here's a link to an article about it) That's got to be at least comparable in size...

The cost would be partly offset by an increase in property values for land not in danger of flooding, and also because it would be much easier to rebuild on a clean slate. All the gas, water and sewer pipes could be built right on the surface before the last 3 feet of soil is put down...Then the roads could all be paved at once, with no traffic in the way...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 AM

September 2, 2005

Good question.

A friend e-mails:

I've been watching a lot of the Blame-Bush-First media, CNN is terrible, but one thing seems clear. The introduction of federals into a State emergency requires a State request. Bush set the table for such a request by declaring the gulf states disaster areas even before Katrina hit. This made them eligible to make a request of the federals. If I have that much right, then the crucial question is when was the request was made. My guess is it was not until late Wed or Thurs. I suppose this is tivial in the Bush-bashing scheme of things but someone should set the timeline straight.
Good question. And one might be interested in this piece, New Orleans orders evacuation, from last Sunday, which includes the line: "Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said that President Bush had called and urged the state to order the evacuation." Kinda looks like, far from dragging his feet, Bush may have been the only one looking ahead!

There's a lot of stupid talk right now, of the "the government ought to do something" variety. People seem to be only dimly aware that we have three levels of government, and the Feds are not the first responders in a disaster, but the last. I heard some New Orleans victim on the radio, saying, "The President should have had supplies piled up, to fly in the next day." NO, he should not have. YOU should have laid in supplies, your city should have stockpiled supplies, and the State of Louisiana should have accumulated supplies.

That would be normal preparation for an oncoming danger. Preparations for a week or two are the least that's reasonable. FEMA and the military should be back-up only.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:19 PM

Myths demolished...

Like throwing sandbags on the crumbling levees of civic sanity, bloggers, writers and radio hosts have been swarming on the crazy accusations that are being churned out by the moonbats. James Robbins has a good article in NRO demolishing the myth that Iraq has left too few troops and guardsmen available for emergencies. He's got the numbers, you can read it for yourself. Also, compared with past disasters, the Federal response has been very fast.

You can see great pictures of our troops helping in New Orleans and the region at Army Times' Frontline Photos. Starting with 8/31.
National Guard convoy in New Orleans
A Louisiana Army National Guard convoy makes its way
through the flooded streets of New Orleans
on Tuesday, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
M. Scott Mahaskey / Army Times 8/31/2005

And it's important to remember (well, it wouldn't be if certain people crazed with partisan venom weren't slinging stupid accusations non-stop) that the responsibility for planning for a predictable disaster is local. Not federal. It is the job of San Francisco to plan for earthquakes (and we do); to have the necessary communications and organization to coordinate emergency response. Including asking for and coordinating state and federal help when needed. New Orleans has been facing the possibility of flooding for at least 40 years, with the Mississippi flowing right through town, well above the height of many buildings.

But there were no plans. Byron Preston has pix of hundreds of school busses parked in New Orleans. They could easily have been used to evacuate tens-of-thousands of people. City busses and emergency vehicles were simply abandoned in the streets, to be destroyed by the water. There were no...well, the list is very long. Never mind. The thing is, it is extremely difficult for outsiders to accomplish much when they are groping around unfamiliar territory. They can spend days just finding out what's needed, and establishing communications.

As an example of disaster planning, here in SF we have NERTs, Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, with HAM radios and generators...

...In the event of a major disaster, the disaster management for City of San Francisco decentralizes into what are called Emergency Response Districts or ERDs. There are ten ERDs in the City, each having the geographic boundaries of the ten Fire Battalion districts. In this decentralized mode the fire Battalion Chief is responsible for all tactical disaster response and management issues within that ERD. These battalion chiefs or ERD leaders report to the Office of Emergency Services where the city department heads and their operational people gather to make overhead decisions and to support the tactical response of the ERDs.

Within each ERD there may be several NERT neighborhood and business teams. Each of these teams has its own staging area or place where team members gather to make decisions on actions to take and assist teams in mitigating disaster events. Each team can work independently of each other and independently from Fire Department directions. The first actions the teams take is to form a command structure for operations, or Neighborhood Command. This is a basic form of the Incident Command System (ICS) with sections for command, logistics, operations, intelligence and administration. Being a modular system it can grow or contract as needed. The Neighborhood Commands exist to support activities in the neighborhood and make decisions that will do "the most good for the most people". The incidents that are beyond the scope of training, collapsed buildings, major fires, hazardous materials spills are immediately reported to the ERD.

There are redundancies built into the NERT communication system. The first choice for communications is the telephone. This may not always be possible because of the amount of phone traffic following a major disaster or the possibility of the system being overloaded by telephone receivers being knocked off the hook by the quake. As a back-up form of communications every NERT team has at least one HAM radio operator equipped with a portable HAM radio. The NERT organization also installed HAM radios in each of the ERD fire stations with a base station installed at the Office of Emergency Services. Thus the NERT teams are able to communicate with each other, with the ERD and when necessary with the Office of Emergency Services. If all other systems fail, the NERT teams will default to using written messages and runners to communicate...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:47 PM

Red Cross?

Our friend Pamela writes:


Hi John, I'm really disturbed by how all media in the country are encouraging people to contribute to the Red Cross if they want to do something to help the people of NewOrleans. Practically everything Nicole Gelinas says about New Orleans could be said about San Francisco, however, when the entire world made massive contributions to aid our city after the 1989 earthquake, less than half the money contributed on our behalf was distributed to us. As far as I am concerned, the Red Cross is nothing but a giant money making scheme clothed in the pretense of generosity. If people want to help people they should "adopt" a needy family. My brother and sister-in-law have lost their home, all their possessions, the tools of their respective trades, and their lievliehoods. The Red Cross is only going to refer them to FEMA, which takes months. What is going to happen to the money all my friends are contributing to the Red Cross? It certainly isn't going to go toward rebuilding the lives and livliehoods of middle class, working citizens.

New Orleans is not just a place of slippery morals...just as San Francisco is not just such a place. Taking the money donated for San Francisco and keeping it for "other worthy causes" is just downright fraud....just as it will be for the money donated for New Orleans.

PS: I am going to turn my annual Blue Angels party into a fund raiser for Steve and Sidney and some of their friends I know who have also lost everything. Money and support from individuals instead of institutions means a lot more in terms of emotional and actual support.

I don't know much about the Red Cross, except that they seem very bureaucratic and complacent. People who do know seem to suggest giving to the Salvation Army or various church disaster-aid groups...

If that extra money donated for SF was used with wisdom and thrift to help others whose disasters didn't get enough attention, I wouldn't have too much of a problem with it. But one suspects that comfortable offices, high salaries and advertising campaigns were what absorbed the rest of SF's money...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:18 AM

September 1, 2005

Nothing will change...

Some hard truths from Nicole Gelinas at City Journal...

....And the locals and outsiders who try to help New Orleans in the weeks and months to come will do so with no local institutional infrastructure to back them up. New Orleans has no real competent government or civil infrastructure�and no aggressive media or organized citizens� groups to prod public officials in the right direction during what will be, in the best-case scenario, a painstaking path to normalcy.

The truth is that even on a normal day, New Orleans is a sad city. Sure, tourists think New Orleans is fun: you can drink and hop from strip club to strip club all night on Bourbon Street, and gamble all your money away at Harrah�s. But the city�s decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within....


....How will New Orleans� economy recover from Katrina? Apart from some pass-through oil infrastructure, the city�s economy is utterly dependent on tourism. After the city�s mainstay oil industry decamped to Texas nearly a generation ago, New Orleans didn�t do the difficult work of cutting crime, educating illiterate citizens, and attracting new industries to the city. New Orleans became merely a convention and tourism economy, selling itself to visitors to survive, and over time it has only increased its economic dependence on outsiders. The fateful error of that strategy will become clearer in the next few months.

Sure, the feds must provide cash and resources for relief and recovery�but it�s up to New Orleans, not the feds, to dig deep within itself to rebuild its economic and social infrastructure before the tourists ever will flock back to pump cash into the city�s economy. It will take a miracle. New Orleans has experienced a steady brain drain and fiscal drain for decades, as affluent corporations and individuals have fled, leaving behind a large population of people dependent on the government. Socially, New Orleans is one of America�s last helpless cities...(Thanks to Orrin Judd).

I would be delighted to find out that this is wrong, but I've seen nothing to contradict it. We've seen this sort of urban death spiral before (I won't make certain observations that would be politically partisan, this isn't the time.) Unfortunately it is not politically correct to take it into account when making plans for recovery. The Bush Administration and everyone involved will be forced to act like New Orleans is just a normal city, and only needs a helping hand to get back on its feet. No one will be allowed to say that the patient was dying before the accident.

And no one will be allowed to demand reforms before trillions of dollars are poured into recovery efforts. That would be "heartless."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:39 PM

August 31, 2005

Devastation

I don't have much to say about the damage from Katrina, it's just overwhelming. As a cabinetmaker, I keep thinking about the damage to people's houses from sitting underwater for weeks...or months. Every building, every home is going to be a heart-breaking disaster-area...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 AM

August 8, 2005

Another myth gone...

This time it's the one about the clerk at Ellis Island who gave your ancestor a funny name because he couldn't understand his language...

...American name change stories tend to be apocryphal, that is, they developed later to explain events shrouded in the mist of time. Given the facts of US immigration procedures at Ellis Island, the above story becomes suspect. In the story, the immigrant arrives at Ellis Island and a record is then created by someone who cannot communicate with the immigrant, and so assigns the immigrant a descriptive name. In fact, passenger lists were not created at Ellis Island. They were created abroad, beginning close to the immigrant's home, when the immigrant purchased his ticket. It is unlikely that anyone at the local steamship office was unable to communicate with this man. His name was most likely recorded with a high degree of accuracy at that time...

...Furthermore, it is nearly impossible that no one could communicate with the immigrant. One third of all immigrant inspectors at Ellis Island early this century were themselves foreign-born, and all immigrant inspectors spoke an of three languages. They were assigned to inspect immigrant groups based on the languages they spoke. If the inspector could not communicate, Ellis Island employed an army of interpreters full time, and would call in temporary interpreters under contract to translate for immigrants speaking the most obscure tongues...[from
Immigration Daily. Thanks to The Corner].

C'mon, who could believe that? Everybody knows that Americans are insensitive capitalist brutes who oppress the weak just for the fun of it.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:45 PM

May 3, 2005

"like the rightful inheritor of a lost estate"

I love this piece by Charles A. Coulombe, on red state politics, blue state tastes...The details are different, but It captures our own feelings very well...

...Here are its basic symptoms: on the one hand, my politics are firmly fixed on the right. So far as I am concerned, abortion is murder, gay marriage is an exercise in insanity, government supervision of my every move is dictatorship, and taxes are just too bloody high. Gun control is simply a way of disarming the citizenry, and the declining birth-rate will destroy social security and beggar us all. So too, on a more a-political plane, I prefer the Tridentine Mass to the new one, and wish women wore hats to church. So --- perhaps I should move to Kansas or Texas?

By no means! Because while my convictions might land me in the rural Midwest or South, my aesthetic tastes keep me firmly bound to the liberal enclaves of the West Coast and the North-East. Where in Odessa, Texas or Manhattan, Kansas would I find the Thai restaurants, Korean barbecues or Shabu-Shabu houses I crave? The theater, and opera? The huge libraries and architecture that feed my soul?

Even my religious needs are better served in cities than in the country: most large cities (save Los Angeles) have at least one “liturgical parish,” where Tridentine Masses are offered, or at least Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, and/or orchestral Masses are served up. Even in the L.A. area, I can still take in a weekly Tridentine Mass, or else a liturgy from one of the innumerable Eastern Rites established here (Coptic, Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, and many, many more). In the great Red Zone, you are stuck with whatever the local priest gives you, and however conservative the feelings of the communicants may be, they will have to make do, often enough, with clown Masses and altar girls....

Of course the frustrations of living among liberals who have their brains on "lock-down," to avoid any insurrectionary thoughts, is considerable. What to do? Coulombe has a good suggestion...

...So for all these, and many more reasons, I am firmly anchored to urban realms, despite the anti-smoking laws, pornographic ads, and just plain insane civic governments to be encountered there. Yet I am acutely aware that I must self-censor my conversation or else endure uncomfortable silences when I bring up an unpleasant truth. How do I cope with this?

I find that field trips to the deepest center of the blue-state city in question, to where it started, help a lot. When I go, for example, to the statue of King Charles III in Los Angeles’ Old Plaza, to Bowling Green in New York, or to the Old State House in Boston, I am reminded that my views on things both Church and State were, to a great degree, shared by the founders or earliest leaders of these towns. Whatever has happened since, there is a commonality there that echoes down the centuries. At moments like these, I do not feel like a red state exile in blue state Babylon; rather, I feel like the rightful inheritor of a lost estate. All my annoyances fade for the nonce, and I leave refreshed and ready for the ideological battles that lie in wait at the next cocktail party...

Interesting idea. The old brick buildings of Jackson Square still have the iron shutters used in Gold Rush days...And I live close to where the last duel was fought in California...They might be useful meditative antidotes to the Tranzi idiocy of lefties, (who hate all wars, except those not fought by the US or Israel...)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:58 AM

March 26, 2005

Facts...

Something to keep in mind about the Schiavo case is that once the facts are established in a trial court, an appeals court usually has to stick with them. So if the Schindlers have lost their all their appeals it doesn't mean that justice has been done.

From Steve Sailor's blog, via Orrin Judd:

A Florida lawyer writes:
I have been following the case for years. Something that interests me about the Terri Schiavo case, and that doesn't seem to have gotten much media attention: The whole case rests on the fact that the Schindlers (Terri's parents) were totally outlawyered by the husband (Michael Schiavo) at the trial court level.

This happened because, in addition to getting a $750K judgment for Terri's medical care, Michael Schiavo individually got a $300K award of damages for loss of consortium, which gave him the money to hire a top-notch lawyer to represent him on the right-to-die claim. He hired George Felos, who specializes in this area and litigated one of the landmark right-to-die cases in Florida in the early 90s.

By contrast, the Schindlers had trouble even finding a lawyer who would take their case since there was no money in it. Finally they found an inexperienced lawyer who agreed to take it partly out of sympathy for them, but she had almost no resources to work with and no experience in this area of the law. She didn't even depose Michael Schiavo's siblings, who were key witnesses at the trial that decided whether Terri would have wanted to be kept alive. Not surprisingly, Felos steamrollered her...[there's more]

I'm getting sick of the argument "you conservatives believe in the rule of law, so why can't you go along with the multiple rulings by the courts?" Or, "You conservatives believe in Federalism, so how can you let Congress or the President to step in?" If Teri were a poor felon on Death Row there would be a proper means by which what seems to be an injustice could be corrected--President's and governors have the power of the pardon.

The power to pardon doesn't work in this case, but the attempt by Congress to interfere is analogous to it. I don't think it undermines Federalism, anymore than if Bush pardoned someone on Death Row.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:17 PM

March 19, 2005

Portents...

Alan writes:

The case of Terry Schindler Schiavo is a portent. If she dies now, there will be no precedent to stop the march of euthanasia from a secret vice to an accepted option, and eventually a mandatory writ against the incapacitated. I'm not usually an advocate of 'slippery slope' theories, but this one resembles a frozen waterslide....

My guess is that the situation is close to the opposite. If she dies now she will be a martyr, and a catalyst for change. If she's kept from dying, people will tend to regard the problem as being "solved," and things are less likely to change. And I think we are much farther from a slippery slope than they are in places like the Netherlands, where things like this don't even seem controversial. And there's no legal precedent being established, that can only be done by an Appeals Court.

I noticed the liberal SF Chronicle has a headline about it today. That's got to be bad news for the Culture of Death. A lot of people will be scratching their heads and dimly remembering that somebody said that legalizing and encouraging abortion was a slippery slope that might lead to euthanasia. (I can imagine how sophisticates heaped scorn on such a preposterous notion.) If it's already a headline-making story, and we now face a two-week death-by-starvation watch, at the same time that the Pope is approaching death....I think the country's going to go nuts over this case.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:56 PM

March 14, 2005

Things ain't what they used to be...often they are better

Alan Sullivan has a great post on things that are better than they used to be. Among them wines, auto tires, smart munitions that save lives, and the weather.

What would I add? Square-drive screws. They're not really new, but have become common recently. I would hate to live without them.

Bourgeat copper pans lined with stainless steel.

Software of course, improves at a breathless pace. I would mention in particular the incomparable SketchUp, which lets me sketch my projects in 3-D. And I'm not talking about drawing in 2-D and then rendering the drawing in 3-D. I mean pulling and pushing the 3-D shapes themselves. The coolest. And Ecto, the blogging client, has made my life much easier.

retracting dog leashes.

Charlene wants to add: E-mail. Of course it's not new, but her world of law practice has recently hit a point where a huge amount of information-moving drudgery is now done at the click of a mouse. It's improved because she can do more with it.

She adds eBay. Of course. And craigslist for free want-ads of any kind. And the produce department at our local Albertson's...thank you globalization and NAFTA!

American politics is better. Wow, how that's changed. it's Spring!

Charlene says: "Worse--colleges, which once were where you would go for the joy of learning, and now they're just a travesty."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 PM

One of America’s greatest...

I was saddened to learn that John Barron has died. From NRO:

...One of the Digest’s most important contributions to the cause of anti-Communism came in the form of articles and books by John Barron, who passed away on February 24 at the age of 75. On the day Barron died, most of the mainstream media was too busy genuflecting before the altar of Hunter S. Thompson, perhaps the most overrated journalist of his generation, to notice the departure of Barron. There was a short obituary in the Washington Times and — last week, finally — a slightly longer one in the Washington Post.

A man who was one of America’s greatest and most patriotic reporters deserves better...

Boy, that's for sure. John Barron spent a lifetime writing about the monstrous evils of Communism and the the brave men and women who served on Freedom's Wall. Trendy lefty intellectuals disdain him, and have ignored his death, but unlike them, EVERY GODDAM THING HE WROTE WAS TRUE!

One of my favorite books is MIG Pilot, his biography of Victor Belenko, the Russian pilot who flew his MIG 23 to Japan. An utterly fascinating tale of real life in the Soviet Union, and of a bright and talented boy growing up poor and hungry.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 PM

March 2, 2005

"like-minded foreigners"

Justice Scalia:

The Court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our Nation's moral standards--and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures. Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent...

(Thanks to Powerline, where good posts on the subject can be found)

The concurring justices cite European opinion for exactly the same reason our reactionaries are desperate to pretend that Europeans are still our allies and elders. Because those "opinions" are untainted by the masses. The ordinary people don't get a vote...if they did many European countries would probably also have the death penalty.

(The reactionaries are also pretending Germany or France are still our allies because they are terrified of change. They grew up in a world where their opinions were the norm, and so they've never had to formulate a political philosophy. They never thought about their ideas, just picked them up as attitudes. Now a changing world has left them all at sea. They grew up with the Atlantic Alliance and never questioned it. Actually, through most of our history our relations with the European powers has ranged from prickly to hostile.)

One the same subject, I have to say I disagree with the Pope that support of the death penalty is part of the "culture of death." I think it's the opposite. Most of those who oppose the death penalty do so because they no longer believe in our laws and morality and tradition enough to be willing to enforce them with the ultimate penalty. They don't think there's any right or wrong.

They tend to be the SAME people who also support abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. Oppose it because they don't care to defend life--the lives of murder victims, the lives of those whose neighborhoods are devastated by crime and lawlessness, the lives of old people who are afraid to go outside. And the lives of those many people who find existence meaningless--a problem which is reinforced by governments who won't take stern action to enforce our beliefs and traditions.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 AM

February 2, 2005

Sluts R Us...

Moira (whose handsome new blog seems to be inspiring her to get off the dime) has a nice tirade on the ugly hip-hugger pants that are the "fashion" now..

...I've long since passed the age where fashion is allowed to intrude on style, but this state of affairs deeply annoys my daughter. She has the typical girlie love of clothes (and a mama who would be happy to indulge her, within reason), but clothes merchants have failed to win our retail dollars because of their inexplicable long-term attachment to "hippie crap". That's my daughters term - we approach a girls' department, she casts a knowing eye over the wares, expresses disgust at inevitable items from the Sluts R Us and L'il Bimbo labels, and proclaims "Let's go somewhere else, Mom. Nothing here but hippie crap." (Yes, I try to discourage crass language, but in this case I feel the description is suctinct and apt.)...

I'm flummoxed by the sheer stupidity of the low-rider pants fashion. Imagine a style of clothes designed to make women's legs look shorter, their hips narrower and their stomachs fatter! This does not compute. And I was around for the first iteration, back in the 60's and 70's. The style was so ubiquitous that I couldn't see it and never thought about it. But I must have hated it unconsciously, because one day I noticed a visiting French girl wearing some pleated high-waisted slacks, and it was an instantaneous revelation. They flattered her shape, and she looked great!

On the positive side, there is a current style I like very much. That is the way many gals wear their hair pulled straight back into buns (or braids or whatever). I like the clarity and cleanness of that look very much. It's the opposite of hippie flakiness.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

January 31, 2005

Best joke of 2004

The best jokes have some truth in them somewhere. The best one of last year was especially cool because it was both a joke and a simple statement of fact. Ron Suskind reporting hearing this from a White House Aide:

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''...

I laugh and laugh when I think of that. He's rattling Suskind's cage, but at the same time it's so TRUE. We just SAW it yesterday. The Amazing Bush goes sailing through the air at the top of the circus tent, while thousands of realists chant Doomed Doomed Doomed Doomed Doomed Doomed we're Doomed. And then the trapeze is caught at the last moment, and he swings lightly onto the platform while the crowd cheers.

Or that's how it looks to the poor reality-based guys. Actually, there was not so much of the circus-trick in the Iraq election; lots of us have long thought it was a pretty sure thing. Because we know that faith, and the the human spirit with its crazy dreams and schemes are what create "reality." But the realists are now reacting dazedly to the new reality, which us dreamers knew was latent there all the time.

I was thinking about this because I started fisking this piece by Fred Kaplan: 2020 Vision: A CIA Report Predicts That American Global Dominance Could End in 15 Years.

Fish, barrel, dynamite...

Just from the title you know it's too silly to waste any time on. But it actually became interesting (to me at least) when I started getting into the how-dya-do-it of becoming a superpower....

[Kaplan writes:] Who will be the first politician brave enough to declare publicly that the United States is a declining power and that America's leaders must urgently discuss what to do about it?..
Mr Kerry? Mrs Clinton? Any volunteers? Anyone gonna step forward?
...This prognosis of decline comes not (or not only) from leftist scribes rooting for imperialism's downfall, but from the National Intelligence Council—the "center of strategic thinking" inside the U.S. intelligence community.
"Leftist scribes" is actually a good description of the CIA. Have you ever heard of a Republican CIA person?
...The NIC's conclusions are starkly presented in a new 119-page document, "Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project." It is unclassified and available on the CIA's Web site. The report has received modest press attention the past couple weeks, mainly for its prediction that, in the year 2020, "political Islam" will still be "a potent force."
Ah Ha! Now I see how the CIA can predict the future. Just take the current situation and draw a straight line...Sheer wizardry.
...In this new world, a mere 15 years away, the United States will remain "an important shaper of the international order"—probably the single most powerful country—but its "relative power position" will have "eroded." The new "arriviste powers"—not only China and India, but also Brazil, Indonesia, and perhaps others—will accelerate this erosion by pursuing "strategies designed to exclude or isolate the United States" in order to "force or cajole" us into playing by their rules...
Funny thing is, we're forcing them to play by our rules, without even hardly trying. ALL the steps that these guys need to take to move into the big leagues involve becoming more like the USA. ALL of the tricky schemes nations use to avoid that fact FAIL. Invariably. (And those schemes always involve some reality-based crew making brilliant decisions.)
...America's current foreign policy is encouraging this trend, the NIC concluded. "U.S. preoccupation with the war on terrorism is largely irrelevant to the security concerns of most Asians," the report states...
Sure, sure. None of them need oil from the Persian Gulf, or Russia. None of them have restive Muslim groups..
The authors don't dismiss the importance of the terror war—far from it. But they do write that a "key question" for the future of America's power and influence is whether U.S. policy-makers "can offer Asian states an appealing vision of regional security and order that will rival and perhaps exceed that offered by China."
Of course. Asian countries will be eager to have China organize their whole region. So trustworthy, China is. Can protect them from Brazil.
...To the extent that these new powers seek others to emulate, they may look to the European Union, not the United States, as "a model of global and regional governance."
The EU! Vibrant! Bursting with youthful energy and creative juices. Its unity, its surging economic growth and cultural enthusiasm make it a coming global superstar. Make that GLOBAL superstar, to emphasize the resources it can project to distant parts of the earth.
...The trends should already be apparent to anyone who reads a newspaper. Not a day goes by without another story about how we're mortgaging our future to the central banks of China and Japan. The U.S. budget deficit, approaching a half-trillion dollars, is financed by their purchase of Treasury notes...
If it's in the newspapers it must be true. Right? But they never explain why, exactly, if China and Japan are coming global powers, they are investing in the US, rather than in...China and Japan? Oooops, I think I answered the question. Japan isn't on the Global-Power career-track any more. Remember how we used to hear that they were going to swamp us? Unless we got smart and emulated them?

Do you know WHY Japan became an economic superpower in the 70's and 80's? Because in the 40's and 50's the USA reorganized them, and at the same time they also enthusiastically embraced American managerial theories. And why did Japan fizzle out? Because they didn't take the whole package.

It's hard to follow the entire regimen. The first steps are the easiest, and lots of countries can get to the point of having factories cranking out cheap goods. But each step is more tricky, and more subtle. And more a matter of character, and the spirit.

What should we DO about the possibility of other countries eclipsing us? Encourage them. There is no dishonest way to do it, not in the long run. The only way to surpass us is to be better than us. Really better. Able to put on the spangled tights and sail effortlessly across the circus tent, like we just did. And a person who thinks China will be there in 15 years is called a "realist?" Now there's a joke.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 PM

January 29, 2005

Paging Mr George W Bush...Your country is under attack...Please call your office.

By Jerry Seper THE WASHINGTON TIMES [link]
Sixty-four Border Patrol agents have been assaulted in the past three months along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border — the country's busiest illegal entry point — as the U.S. government continues its fight for "operational control" of the region.

As law-enforcement efforts have increased, so have the incidents of violence and the intensity of the attacks on the agents in the stretch known as the Tucson sector — which are averaging one assault every two days and are on pace to increase this year by 80 percent....
...The State Department this week issued a warning to Americans traveling into the northern border regions of Mexico, saying they should be "aware of the risk posed by the deteriorating security situation." The warning said violent criminal activity along the border, including killings and kidnappings, was on the rise...

Perhaps the best thing to do would be to dither for a few years and hope the problem goes away by itself... (Thanks to PowerLine)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 AM

January 24, 2005

a quote for today...'religion of secularism'

The First Amendment...does not say that in every respect there shall be a separation of Church and State. ... Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other -- hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly. ... The state may not establish a 'religion of secularism' in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.
--Justice William Douglas
Posted by John Weidner at 4:06 PM

January 8, 2005

Nice story...

Thirteen years ago the USS Abraham Lincoln provided disaster relief after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Phillipines. It also evacuated US citizens, including 6-year old Joviena Kay. Her father was in the US Navy, and her mother ran a bar in Olongapo City.

Now Joviena is a sailor on that same ship, helping with the rescue efforts in Sumatra

...Like almost everyone on board, Joviena volunteered to help in the relief operation ashore, loading food and water onto helicopters and carrying the injured being evacuated from ruined villages. But she and the other kitchen workers have been banned from entering a potentially disease-ridden area for fear of food contamination.

Joviena, who hopes to finish her college degree in the United States, says she works up to 14 hours a day, and in some ways doesn't live as well as she did as a little evacuee, when she ate in the officers' mess and slept in their quarters. She has a narrow bunk in a crowded room shared with 12 other sailors, and the daily call for "Happy Hour" means it's time to scrub the decks and sweep the floors...
(Thanks to Ed)
Posted by John Weidner at 6:10 AM

January 1, 2005

Eat your heart out, ACLU...

More from the stingy rich-nation front, this time helping the (politically incorrect) Boy Scouts...

The island was for sale, and the Scouts' $1.5-million option had a Dec. 31 deadline. Just over $300,000 had been raised.

Many believed Melita Island was destined to be sold for vacation homes.Then came an anonymous $1 million donation in mid-December and the 2-year-old campaign had new life.

"We were getting so much mail in, and all the mail had money in it," said Smoke Elser, a 70-year-old outfitter and Eagle Scout who worked on the finance campaign. "From $5 up to $50,000, it really helped. We just thank everyone that had anything at all to do with it."

In the last two weeks of December, more than $200,000 was raised in donations and pledges. On Tuesday, the Scouts were still down $150,000 - and careening toward a midnight Friday deadline. By Friday morning, the deficit was down to $30,000 and simply a matter of waiting for the afternoon mail...

When I win the lottery (would be any day now, if only I had bought some tickets) I think I'll spend my time noodling around the Internet and sending out anonymous donations to every cool thing I find. That would be a lot of fun. (Thanks to Quick)

Posted by John Weidner at 12:18 PM

December 15, 2004

The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament...

Thomas L. Krannawitter has written a piece that's right on target: Justice Thomas' Line to the Deepest Bedrock

...Savvy liberals like Reid are right to be more concerned with Thomas than Scalia because Thomas' natural-law jurisprudence represents the greatest threat to the liberal desire to replace limited, constitutional government with a regulatory-welfare state of unlimited powers.

Thomas is one of the few jurists today, conservative or otherwise, who understands and defends the principle that our rights come not from government but from a "creator" and "the laws of nature and of nature's God," as our Declaration of Independence says, and that the purpose and power of government should therefore be limited to protecting our natural, God-given rights.

The left understands that if it is to succeed, these principles of constitutional government must be jettisoned, or at least redefined. Thomas' frequent recourse not only to the text of the Constitution but specifically to the founders' natural-law defense of constitutional government is fatal to liberalism's goal...

It's only natural that leftizoids should hate both George W Bush and Clarence Thomas. They are saying the same thing. To quote the President: Freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every man and women in this world--

...From the liberal view, liberty cannot be a natural right, protected by a government of limited powers, because there are no natural rights. As liberal political scientist Charles Merriam explained in 1920, the "natural law and natural rights" of the founders had been discarded by intellectuals "with practical unanimity." Instead, "the state … is the creator of liberty."

Bigger government means more liberty, not less. "It is denied," Merriam concluded, "that any limit can be set to governmental activity," and therefore the Constitution's original intent, which limited government power, "no longer seems sufficient."...(Thanks to
Judd blog)

"No limit can be set to governmental activity." That's the plan. That's the program. For those who believe in "legal realism," there's no logical reason why not. Which is precisely what the Founding Fathers were trying to prevent.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 PM

November 30, 2004

Just ordinary American stuff...

Blackfive posted a letter from a Navy guy visiting the Navy Hospital at Bethesda. In a restaraunt, he sees a wounded Marine dining with his parents...

...I pop over to check on him, thank him for his service and subsequently find out the following. They aren’t his parents. His parents live in California and wouldn’t be getting in until tonight. These folks had driven down from Philadelphia for a week, on their vacation time, to visit the troops in Walter Reed and Bethesda. Every night, they’re taking a troop out for dinner, someone who’s able to ambulate and who doesn’t have family in the area. You could tell this meant everything in the world to the Marine, and, to them.

They have 7 of their own children, 2 still at home. The two at home are staying with friends. I got it immediately (I have a flair for the obvious)—they had taken vacation time from their jobs, farmed the kids out with friends, just to drive 300 miles on their own dime, to visit wounded American troops.

Jeez, I could hardly make it back to my table without spilling tears.

It gets better. I decide a good idea would be to pick up their check, so I call over the waitress. “Too late,” she says, “somebody else already has, but you’re the fourth person who’s offered.”...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 PM

November 29, 2004

"Dangerously uninformed about American realities"

TM Lutas is working on an essay to explain America to foreigners who are not getting the truth from their own news media. I will be interested to see what results, though my guess is that people in many other lands just don't want to know.

...If you (outside the US) depend on getting information about the US from news sources who maintain their own cordon sanitaire and do not read, listen, or react to the alternative media structures of the US center-right, you will be laughably misinformed, even dangerously uninformed, though you do your part and consume your national news media voraciously. Far too many foreigners seem dangerously uninformed about american realities.

If you woke up and neither you, nor anybody you knew, could explain why George W Bush was reelected, it's a strong warning sign. If everybody was depressed over how such a bad man could have possibly been elected, this is a dangerous warning sign that you and your set have not gotten enough information to even come close to predicting the US. It's not a problem of you disagreeing with the US electorate. Diversity is the spice of life. It is that those whose opinions were different were invisible to you and when they made their force felt at the ballot box, you were shocked by their very existence. Your news media had an absolute duty to explain these people to you and they failed to do so. That failure is just one data point in a very busy graph.
..

Suppose you are a Frenchman. The logical conclusion to draw from History, and from American and Anglosphere (and before them Dutch) success is that your nation took a wrong turn somewhere around the time of Cardinal Mazarin. And that, as a practical matter, there is no way France is going to change at this late date. Your best bet is to stick your fingers in your ears, shout "I can't hear you! Bush_Is_Hitler!" and hope things don't get too much worse...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:51 AM

November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington
City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.


And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
(link) (thanks to Judd)
Posted by John Weidner at 6:07 PM

November 23, 2004

"What in the World Ever Became of Sweet Jane?"

Andrew linked to a piece that seems to be going around in liberal circles:

The Life of Joe RepublicanJoe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance -- now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained...

There's lots more, and it's pretty funny. And some of it is even valid.

But I couldn't resist fudging-up my own version:
A Day in the Life of Jane Democrat, in the year 2010Jane wakes up, and brews a fragrant pot of Sulawesi. She gives nary a thought to the world's sea lanes kept open by the US and those allies who still think civilization is worth fighting for. The hard-fought battle that re-opened the Straits of Malacca she dismisses as "neocon warmongering."

She takes her medications, unaware that almost all cutting-edge pharmaceutical research happens in the US, where drug companies are still allowed to be seriously profitable.

Jane drives past a neighborhood that used to be a slum, but is not so bad these days. She makes no connection with Welfare Reform (forced on Bill Clinton by a Republican Congress). Or with the Faith Based Initiatives that have enlisted the strength of local churches to fight poverty and drug addiction, with an effectiveness that bureaucracies can't equal.

Jane arrives work, at a high-tech start-up. There she is treated like a valued team member—the entrepreneur who founded the company knows well the crushing burden of sullenness, inefficiency and disruption that unionization would place on them.

Jane is unaware that her company is prospering partly because a majority-Republican Congress is starting to carve away choking thickets of burdensome government regulations. And also because new free-trade breakthroughs, and NAFTA (invented by Republicans, but signed, most admirably, by Bill Clinton) are behind it's export-led growth.

Jane IS however, aware of big possibilities in the stock-options and profit-sharing that come with her job. She and her co-workers put in long hours and give of their best to make the company a success. Her trendy "whole-learning" education has left her without the mental tools to understand that Capitalism is not some plot by evil corporations, but is in fact the very thing she is doing right now. But the incentives still work, and she has a good chance of becoming very prosperous.

Jane looks at her pay stub. She fails to ponder that one portion of her Social Security tax is going into a Vanguard Index Fund, and is expanding like yeasty dough. While the other portion, that goes into the traditional government program, earns nothing. But the light-bulb will go on eventually.

She considers calling her doctor for an appointment because she is feeling run-down. But these non-catastrophic medical problems are now paid out of her own HSA. It's her own (pre-tax) money, and the account's been growing and growing. She can appreciate that, and decides it's time to get serious about a healthier life-style, and to get more exercise.

She starts to climb a ladder. She notices the 14 safety-warning labels on the ladder, and has a vague thought that the depredations of the Trial Lawyers might have gone a bit too far. Little does she know that everything she buys is cheaper these days, because Republicans have enacted tort-reform legislation.

Jane is feeling good about life, and stops after work at Nordstrom's, and splurges on a couple of pairs of Feragamos. Not thinking, of course, about the latest tax-cut that has left the money in her own pocketbook, and put new energy in the economy.

She picks up her daughter Jeanette at school. Jane had considered having an abortion, but she is sensitive to the climate of opinion around her. And somehow, even among Democrats, the casual destruction of life just doesn't seem so acceptable anymore. She doesn't speculate on why opinion has changed.

She's delighted that Jeanette is learning to read much more easily than she did. Perhaps there's something in this Phonics stuff after all. As a parent she appreciates how the schools are being held to tougher standards now. She knows people who have exercised their new right under NCLB to demand a different school if their current one is failing. She doesn't think that will be necessary for her—the mere threat of such possibilities has produced huge improvements in the local district.

She walks along a dark street, and suddenly, there is a rag-head terrorist standing right in front of her! But no, it's just a movie poster...There WAS a terrorist who was going to saw Jane's pretty-but-empty head off. But the Coalition's recent invasion of Jihadistan forced Achmed to change his plans. The establishment of yet another democracy in the Middle East would be a calamity for his movement, and must be stopped. So, instead of Jane, he's going to encounter an 18-year old kid from Modesto with an M-16. A young man who understands that Freedom's Wall must be defended by patriots, so fluff-brains like Jane can live in peace. The odds do not favor Achmed...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 PM

November 6, 2004

dreamers and "realists"

Steyn writes another great column.

...What was revealing about this election campaign was how little the condescending Europeans understand even about the side in American politics they purport to agree with - witness The Guardian's disastrous intervention in Clark County. Simon Schama last week week defined the Bush/Kerry divide as "Godly America" and "Worldly America", hailing the latter as "pragmatic, practical, rational and sceptical". That's exactly the wrong way round: it's Godly America that is rational and sceptical - especially of Euro-delusions. Uncowed by Islamists, undeferential to government, unshrivelled in its birthrates, Bush's redneck America is a more reliable long-term bet. Europe's media would do their readers a service if they stopped condescending to it.
"it's Godly America that is rational and sceptical" Yes. The "common wisdom" of the intellectual coastal elites is pounded into our heads non-stop. And it's Bush's American that is clear-eyed enough to see that it's mostly malarky. "Euro-delusions."

The stuff doesn't work. We see this every day. Appeasement and "give peace a chance" only make war more likely. Neither atheism nor the lifestyle of "urban singles" brings happiness. Big government can't create prosperity or innovation. Raising taxes is not "fiscal sanity." Banning guns doesn't decrease crime. Neither does more welfare. A "realist" foreign policy doesn't make us safer. Terrorists are not seeking sympathy and understanding. Or apologies.

And it's "Bush's redneck America" that sees that the Emperor has no clothes.


There's been lots of flapping and squawking about that Bush aide who said to Ron Suskind:

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''...
What's most funny is that this is obviously a JOKE, the aide is pulling Suskind's chain, rattling his cage, and several tens-of-thousands of liberals don't get the joke!

They are all huffing and puffing, sputtering, turning purple, and declaring that they will take pride in being "reality based," and start printing up their "reality based" t-shirts!.......But even funnier, they don't see the bigger joke hidden within the smaller one. Because the paradoxical statement is truer than they can imagine. It's the dreamers who create reality, who fight evil and change the world and start new things.

And it's the people who sneer at them, their heads full of Euro-rubbish, or science-as-religion, who are utterly paralyzed and stagnant. If you think I'm kidding, go to any Kerry supporter and try to extract from her or him their blue-state-ish compelling vision and plan for the future....I've tried, with no success. Or ask them what the are for. They never have much of an answer.

My friend Andrew, a fairly open-minded Dem, tried in a recent post.

So, this is an open thread. Tell me what the Democratic Party stands for. Give me a vision, and an example of a plan which furthers that vision.
All he got was a "litany of complaints." (Speaking of which, wouldn't it be the right thing for Senator Kerry to release his plans now? You know, the ones he said he had, to solve things Bush couldn't? Since he has better plans, it is his duty as an American to make them public!)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:10 PM

October 30, 2004

Conspiracy theories...

Andrea quoted this bit, from a Salon writer:

...I have heard it argued that if the neocon cycle is short-circuited by a Kerry victory, then the neocons will simply go back underground to nurse their wounds and reemerge with a newer and even more attractive, subtle and utterly destructive plot in four years, and people will believe them because they weren't fully exposed...
The thing you have to realize about conspiracy theories is that they are comforting, they shield the theorist from painful reality. This poor girl is comforted by the thought that the whole problem is a handful of bagel-munching Fagins with Sharon-chips implanted in their noggins. She would be very upset if she were forced to confront the fact that it's Bush who has captured the neocons, not the other way around. And that they are just one of many tools he is making use of.

And she would be terrified if she were to were realize, though I doubt if she is capable of it, that Bush and his administration are themselves but tools being used to forward certain things that need to happen at this point in our history. There are a batch of reforms and changes that have to be made now, for us to move forward into whatever strange possibilities the new century offers. America, and really the whole world, is now like a snake that needs to shed its skin if it is to keep growing.

Even if Kerry was elected, even if he chopped the heads off of everyone labeled "neocon," the "neocon plot" will continue, with only a little delay. We've already seen this in the Clinton years. Remember NAFTA? Welfare Reform? Those were Republican schemes, and Clinton was powerless to stop them, and had to make them his own.

The long decades of Democrat and Leftish political dominance have created a vacuum in our public life, which is pulling the Republicans into power. If Bush fails to lead now, the pressure will just intensify until needed chores are done by someone else. But he won't fail, I think. This moment in history has created George Bush, summoned him forth from the vasty deep to do certain jobs.

As an example, liberal Democrats have for a long time attacked (in a thousand different undercutting, undermining sneering ways that are hard to confront) our armed forces. And with them the whole idea of "national defense," and the idea that we can use our power to make the world a better place, and to fight evil. And that our country is a force for good, and that our ideas are worth defending, and spreading to other places.

But what have they really done? Their nihilism has created a vacuum, a hunger in Americans for leaders who have the faith of earlier generations. A hunger for patriotism, and to honor the sacrifices of our soldiers. If Kerry is elected, that won't go away, and Democrats won't be able to escape its force. Think of the recent Dem Convention, with all those Lefties pretending to salute Old glory with tears in their eyes. Think of Kerry on the campaign trail, praising Reagan and pretending to be a man of faith. The "plot" is everywhere.

Poor cupcake imagines that if only the "plot" were exposed, it would be foiled. But there's nothing hidden, so nothing can be uncovered. Bush explains the plot in every speech. He says what he and the Republicans are going to do, and then...does it.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 PM

October 12, 2004

Medal of Honor around his neck....

From an article about the Swift Boat vets, gathering to make more commercials to run before the election...

... They come from Oshkosh, Wis., and Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and Virginia Beach. One is on crutches. Others, former prisoners of war, walk stiffly, a result of being bound and tortured. Some wear their medals. Two are in cowboy boots.

Snow-haired Bud Day, a 79-year-old former POW, stands at attention. He is wearing a brown leather flight jacket befitting an Air Force major, complemented by the Medal of Honor around his neck. Others have donned "Swift Boat" baseball caps...

...These Swiftees, at times jocular (breaking into "Row, row, row your boat") and at other times on the verge of tears, are angry and frustrated. Not only because they say Mr. Kerry has lied about his service and refuses to sign the form that releases his military records to the public, but because 30 years ago, the candidate threw away his medals and called his fellow servicemen murderers, rapists, baby killers and cowards...

Go for it you guys! No one deserves this retribution more than Kerry, and the whole anti-American-lefty crowd he is a part of, and who are now going down with him

In fact, this puts me in a mood to set aside, for just one moment, the conventions of political discourse which require us to treat both candidates as similar creatures, whose policies and records we debate in order to better decide which to prefer.

<unbuttoned>John Kerry sided with Communists against his own country. He helped them to victory, and by doing so contributed to the murder of millions of people. He should be burning in hell next to Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh and Stalin. </unbuttoned>

Now back to "moderate and evenhanded discourse."

Posted by John Weidner at 4:57 PM

October 1, 2004

So -- where's that attack you promised me?

Cori Dauber, writing on threats and warnings:

...But here's the thing: I have a friend who was an intelligence analyst, then taught intelligence for a number of years. One of the most important concepts he always impresses on any audience when he lectures about warning is that the very fact that intelligence analysts have warned policymakers changes the situation. It automatically raises the cost of the operation for the attacker, assuming policymakers take any steps at all.

So as soon as you warn, you increase the chance that the event you've warned about isn't going to happen. That means you've done your job successfully. But it also means, just as a fact of human nature, your credibility goes down.

You get called into the office of a very angry boss, standing there saying, do you have any idea how much money we just spent? not just that, do you have any idea how stupid we look in the press? So -- where's that attack you promised me?

The very success of the warning, decreases the credibility of the warning...

Waging war against terrorists requires patience. Endless grim cold-blooded patience. Free peoples are at a certain disadvantage, just because the rich variety of their lives works against focusing for a long time on one threat, even when nothing seems to be happening. Americans probably do better than some, because of the strong Jacksonian strain in our culture. Jacksonians have long memories. They were the indian fighters and the tunnel rats. They haven't forgotten Pearl Harbor, and the Bataan Death March. They won't forget 9/11 for a month of Sundays.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:42 PM

September 26, 2004

Coincidences...

Apparently Phillip Roth is coming out with an alternate history novel, The Plot Against America, where the Isolationist Charles Lindbergh runs for President in 1940, and keeps us out of WWII.

Orrin Judd begs us not to accept the popular caricature of Lindbergh as a Nazi-type racist. This is from a book review by Orrin of the biography Lindbergh, by A. Scott Berg:

...None of this excuses Lindbergh's ill considered language about Jews.  But it does raise the question of why he is the one who is dogged by the reputation of being an anti-Semite and a Nazi.  When you think of FDR, your first thought is not: "He was an anti-Japanese, anti-Black racist".  But he actually wielded power and helped to oppress these peoples.  Lindbergh never had a chance to violate anyone's civil rights, but his entire life seems to indicate that he would not have been capable of these actions.  (For a long time he prayed for the soul of the Japanese pilot that he shot down.)  It is completely unfair that this reputation will always follow him.

Moreover, his reasons for being an isolationist turned out to be prophetic.  He foresaw a brutally destructive war that would leave Europe in ruins and at the mercy of the Soviet Union.  He feared that having become involved in the war, America would be mired in Europe for generations.  After fifty years of Cold War and crippling military expenditures, who will argue that he was wrong?

Topping it all off, as soon as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he endorsed our entry into the war and sought to join up.  A bitterly vindictive FDR made sure that he could not return to active duty, but Lindbergh found ways around this and eventually flew fighter and bomber missions in the South Pacific, in addition to helping with aircraft design, devising ingenious ways of conserving fuel in flight, serving as a human guinea pig in high altitude flight experiments, and many other unheralded contributions to the war effort...

I don't know much about Roth's book yet, but a plot where a Republican is elected President, and America immediately turns into a Nazi-like state? Hmmmmmmm. Haven't I heard something like that lately? Probably not, it would be strange if more than one person came up with that idea. A strange coincidence....

Oh vell, ven mein President iss re-elected unanimously, zen vee vill no longer tolerate zeese insults!

* Update: It occurs to me that I may have this wrong. I assumed this was just another iteration of the half-witted Bush-is-Hitler cackle we hear so much of. But if it's a book about an appeaser elected (improbably) President, who keeps America on the sidelines while crazed fanatics slaughter helpless people and the world slides into savagery, well, kinda sounds like a devastating portrait of Kerry and the Dems.

I somehow doubt that that's what's intended. Being a writer or artist means, above all, that you have to conform. I don't think Mr Roth would be allowed to deviate so far from the official line....


Posted by John Weidner at 1:38 PM

September 25, 2004

a few paces into the jungle...

Our friend Dave often jogs me out of my rut by posting strange things. This post, quoting David Niewert on how Republicans are morphing into some sort of Gatoraide fascism, is particularly interesting. But I'm afraid I have little future as an intrepid explorer hacking through jungles....The first paragraph was all I could manage. Here are some thoughts... [Not just pot-shots for fun, this does tie in with some other things I've been writing about]

[O]ne only needs review the current state of affairs to recognize that the "conservative movement" -- especially as embodied by the Bush administration -- has wandered far astray from its original values. Just how "conservative" is it, after all, to run up record budget deficits? To make the nation bleed jobs? To invade another nation under false pretenses? To run roughshod over states' rights? To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy? To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power? To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming? To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?
Mr Niewert seems to have absorbed some DNC talking points, labeled them "conservative original values," and is now complaining that we are fascists for not following them!

"To run up record budget deficits?" Conservatives have often supported budget deficits, especially in wartime. Reagan used them to splendid effect, to both revive our economy and bring the Soviet Union to its knees. And those paid off so handsomely that the debt that was incurred during the Reagan years is now a trifle compared to our much-enlarged economy. Also, the current deficit is only "record-breaking" in absolute numbers of dollars; it's historically unexceptional as a percentage of the GDP. That's a deceptious argument, typically Niewertian, and calls into doubt his whole project. If making your point requires telling tricky lies, why should we pay attention?

"To make the nation bleed jobs?" That's untrue, just more Democrat-campaign BS. We always lose jobs in recessions, but the Clinton-dot.com recession is now long over and our economy is growing strongly, including employment. But even if it's TRUE, what "conservative principal" is involved? Guaranteed employment? Protectionism? Those are conservative ideas? Gimme a break. Conservatives have generally supported Free Markets, and guess what—sometimes that means economic pain, and loss of jobs.

"To invade another nation under false pretenses?" That's Kerry's argument. Most American conservatives disagree with him. I disagree with him. And the legalistic "International Law" pettifoggery that underlies the argument has never been a conservative principle. Nor has the type of thinking that usually accompanies such arguments: Saddam should be treated with respect, America should be treated with suspicion and doubt. That's exactly how America-hating "anti-war" activists think. That's how Jimmy Carter thinks. Never conservatives.

"To run roughshod over states' rights?" That one has some validity; most conservatives are more federalist than the administration. Though it doesn't make them "cupcake-fascists" any more than any of his arguments. Liberal Democrats have been long-been strongly anti-States Rights, so why aren't they "fascists?" Why isn't that worrisome?

"To impose a radical unilateralist approach to foreign policy?" So, now Jaques and Kofi are conservatives? American conservatives have traditionally been unilateralists. We hated the UN from the git-go. And there's nothing particularly radical about unilateralism, (or about preemption) at a time when rogue nations can build nuclear bombs. (I'll bet Niewert doesn't even want to know about all that Iraqi Uranium recently transported to Oak Ridge.)

"To undermine privacy rights and the constitutional balance of power?" Now the ACLU is conservative? We've reduced privacy during every war, and current items are trifling compared to past wars. Conservatives accept trade-offs in these things, we are not absolutists. It's the "theorist" types, such as socialists and libertarians, who can't flex when circumstances warrant.

"To quanitifably worsen the environment, while ignoring the realities of global warming?" Now Al Gore is conservative? If Niewert actually knew what he was talking about, or cared, he would know that conservatives have been arguing against global-warming pseudo-science for decades, and against the anti-capitalist agenda that pushes it. And he would know that the administration has a good environmental record, (except in the minds of collectivists.) If Niewert actually bothered to check with some conservatives, he would discover that we care about the environment as much as the general run of Americans do, though we strongly reject the anti-human-being and nature-as-pseudo-religion arguments of environmental extremists.

"To grotesquely mishandle the defense of our national borders?" One can argue the merits of the current border policy, but it would NOT be a clear question of conservative values, which are conflicted here. Many conservatives treasure our openness to immigrants and visitors, others would like to bar the doors. But more importantly, a more vigorous defense of our borders would certainly involve reducing privacy and freedom, increasing government spending, and increasing the power of Federal bureaucracies. And Niewert thinks were are trending fascist because we are NOT doing these things? That's cuckoo.

Anyway, that's what I think of the first paragraph. Neiwert has obviously decided on his thesis, then gone looking for any argument that might support it. I'd feel foolish to have wasted this amount of time on it were it not that this is a very good example of what I've been talking about in my writings on the 70-Year Cycle in American politics. When the two parties exchange majority/minority status, many who didn't see it coming are left shell-shocked and bewildered and bitter. The world they grew up with is suddenly gone. They embrace cranky theories. Many Republicans talked just like Niewert in the 1930's, though in their case they thought FDR and the Dems were communists. And Lincoln seemed equally menacing and dangerous to many, (and, to push the argument back another 70 years, so did the Founding Fathers.)

Also, some of the things complained about are actually the Republicans now assuming positions that have always belonged to the majority party in our country. For instance, from the 1860's to the 1930's, the Democrats were the party of limited government and States-Rights, and they were the deficit valetudinarians! Seems hard to believe, but it's true. Then, during the 1930's, the Republicans took over those roles, and held them until recently, while Dems embraced active government. Now we are flipping positions again. It seems monstrous if you don't understand what's happening.

Another point that should be made. There is not, and never was, any such thing as "fascism." It is a mythical beast. Those "fascist" regimes famous in history were actually just socialism tricked out in a few scraps of conservative and nationalist and militarist rhetoric. Both types of socialism have found it hugely useful to pretend to be protecting the world against the other type. Neither have anything to do with principled conservatism.

The funny thing is, when he's not riding his hobbyhorse Mr Niewert is a lucid and compelling writer. I remember a previous essay he wrote, where he discussed delightfully the near impossibility of defining the term fascism. He explained how philosophers and scholars have spent entire careers trying to pin it down, without success. Guess why, folks.....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

September 23, 2004

"So I know that this is nonsense..."

I recommend this NRO piece by Cathy Seipp. I can personally attest to its accuracy...

...What's really frightening, the conventional wisdom goes, is the crudely intolerant agenda of Christian fundamentalists. But unlike most of the media (and Hollywood) elite, I grew up surrounded by Christian fundamentalists. So I know that this is nonsense...
Utterly dead-on true. I come from the same place...
...It's hard to remember now how lily white great stretches of southern California used to be, but they really were in those days, and by white I mean really white. My dark-eyed, brunette mother often said she felt surrounded by the Burghers of Munich. Visitors would occasionally feel free to look at her and inquire: "So are you Spanish or Portuguese or what?"

Not that I was exactly a Tragic Mulatto, but we never quite fit in. We were liberal, upper-middle-class (in attitude, not income) Jews, from Canada, surrounded by people descended from Okies from Muskogee. My mother volunteered for the George McGovern campaign in 1972 and I helped stuff envelopes.

What I only realized after I grew up and moved away was how decent and tolerant these boring, suburban neighbors were...

True true true. I was there. I grew up a Baptist in Orange County (famous for the John Birch Society.) It was really "Red State America" back then, you just can't imagine if you don't know it. A large part of the population had migrated from the heartland. And it amazes me now to recall how many of them worked tirelessly to help us kids grow up right— as teachers, Sunday School teachers, scout leaders, or just neighbors. I may be an "urban sophisticate" now, but I have a very good understanding of how they think in places like Oklahoma or Texas. And I would prefer Okies over the smug prissy do-gooders of Berkeley any day. They are better human beings.

So it just burns me up to hear Lefty lack-wits proclaim that Christian fundamentalists are a danger. I know better. And I'm doubly annoyed because I know that they would not be interested in any evidence I can provide. Just like Dan Rather doesn't want to hear anyone say that the President was a top-notch fighter pilot. Their ears and hearts are closed.

Likewise, I fume when I'm told that Republicans are really just a bunch of fascists plotting to establish our tyranny. Or that Rush Limbaugh is an intolerant hypocrite. I know better. Personally. Charlene and I hob-nob with Republicans. We hear the gossip. We've talked to people who've talked to Bush or Cheney.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:37 PM

September 13, 2004

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness...

Ali writes;

...I don’t want to predict anything here but I want to say that if America decided to get out of Iraq before the job is finished, that will be not only disastrous but will be (in my opinion) the worst thing America ever did. Freeing Iraq (again in my opinion) was the best thing America ever did. It gave oppressed people everywhere a hope and a belief that the mightiest power on earth, the symbols of freedom is on their side and that it will help them in one way or another to get their freedom. Their misery has stopped looking eternal. Retreating now will prove some people’s theory that America is an imperialistic power that only care for its interests, and although there’s nothing wrong with caring about one’s own interests, most Iraqis and millions of oppressed people in Darfur, Iran, Syria...etc. like to think more than that of America. Keeping the course will turn this thought into a firm belief.

We understand perfectly that sacrificing lives and hard earned money for the sake of others (although there IS a personal interest here but it maybe not so clear) is a very difficult thing to do, and we know that it’s too much to ask, but tens of Millions of oppressed people around the world with brutal sadistic regimes laying their heave boots on their chests preventing them from even breathing freely, not to mention speaking out or doing something about it, all these people have no one else but you, Americans, to turn to. You are our/their only hope.

Be of good cheer, Ali. That's what America is all about. The Kerryites have forgotten, but that forgetfulness is why they are going to lose the election. They are like the man who buried his Talent, rather than putting it to work. They want to "preserve" America, by not attempting anything. But it is precisely in attempting great tasks that we are most ourselves, and re-learn our strengths.

[A Talent, by the way, was a unit of weight in the ancient Mediterranean, but was usually applied to money, in varying ways. A Talent was a LOT of money. In the Bible, traditionally 3,000 Shekels. When Jesus told the Parable of the Talents, he was, I suspect, making a bit of a joke. Giving your servant 10 talents might be equivalent to giving him a million dollars today.]


Posted by John Weidner at 11:15 AM

to trounce a few countries...

There's an interesting piece in Asia Times, Why Americans love George W Bush , by Spengler.

In particular, this line:

...Once attacked, Americans want to fight back. George W Bush may have attacked the wrong country (which I do not believe), and he may have mistaken the US mission after the initial fighting was over (which I do believe), but Americans are quite willing to forgive him. They understand that it is hard to track down and destroy a shadowy enemy, and do not mind much if the United States has to trounce a few countries before finding the right ones...
That's what the cackling hens who say we attacked the wrong country don't get. (Not that they would have supported our country if it had attacked anybody else.)

They think America has shot its wad, and will now sink into the exhausted introspection they prefer, for at least another decade. They think the Iraq Campaign has now made the world safe for the tyrants they dote on. Think again, turkeys. America is just getting warmed up. We may not need further large-scale invasions. Or then again maybe we will. In which case we will just do it.

It's the vile anti-American screwball Left that's getting tired. Don't put away the giant puppets yet, guys. Freedom's still on the march, and it's up to you to stop it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

August 18, 2004

Mythmaking in Texas...

Along the Brazos, they have their heads screwed on the right way...

...- George Bush was a failed oilman. As in, tried to build a business, and it failed, tried again, didn't go so well, either. John Kerry? I think he was a Politician.

- George Bush owned a baseball team, the Texas Rangers. They sucked for a million years, then he bought 'em up, and they won three AL West pennants. No Steinbrenner, certainly, but it meant a lot to us here in backasswards Texas. Then he sold it for $40 bajillion to Tom Hicks, and we haven't sniffed a pennant race until this year. John Kerry? Again...Politician.

- George Bush wrested control of the famously Democrat Texas state government from that other drunkard Texas politician, Ann Richards, the Queen of One-Liners (& One-Termers). Here, John Kerry matches up -- he's a Politician.

- George Bush has had one wife, an ex-librarian, whom he loved enough to give up the demon rum, something I have never been tempted to do, being the selfish bastard that I am. John Kerry? Well...let's just say that in a perfect world, my many wives would have been half as rich. I would have wasted their vast sums of money trying to build a business that would employ others and provide something of value to people and maybe generate some returns for stakeholders...instead of continuing to be a Politician, hogging it up at the public trough and spending everybody else's money....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:39 PM

August 11, 2004

"those who have never worked the stuff close at hand..."

DJ Drummond writes about the death of Red Adair:

This past weekend, America lost a hero. A real one, the kind that are always hard to find, yet somehow when you most need them, they somehow always show up. That would suggest a benevolent deity to me, but I will leave that for another time.

Paul N. “Red” Adair was born June 18, 1915 in Houston, Texas. He died at his Houston home Saturday, August 7, 2004. In between, he and his company put out over 2,000 oil well fires, often after other teams had given up hope. After the first Gulf War, Red and his men put out fires in 117 wells in Kuwait. Red’s proudest accomplishment was that he never lost a man to a fire. Not once.

These days, anyone involved in oil is presumed to be greedy, self-centered, and reckless. Red was none of these, and frankly, very few men who worked the rigs, who built and maintained refineries, who knew oil from real work in the field, ever fit that description. I know; my father was a Petro-Chemical engineer, and Red Adair was typical of the character of those men, although Red excelled in his accomplishments. The shrill cry against oil men always comes from those who have never worked the stuff close at hand, or who have any idea what it takes to find it, drill it, get it refined and delivered for your use and convenience.

The presumed evil of anyone in the oil industry is one of the more egregious current examples of substituting clichés for thinking or evidence.

But imagine for a moment that you have to risk your money in a business deal that will be sealed with just a handshake. And your choice of partners is either a sociology professor or an oil wildcatter? Who you gonna pick?

Posted by John Weidner at 11:22 AM

August 10, 2004

"He wanted the owner's full attention"

This is the strangest thing. I'm aware that crime is down, including in New York City. But apparently, crime is really down in NYC! Way way down! To the point where the cops are getting bored. Read this story, it will knock you out. (Or maybe everybody already knows this stuff except me.) Much of the credit apparently goes a computerized anti-crime system called Compstat, that forces police to take personal responsibility for crimes in their precinct, and do something about them:

...Sometimes, he [Capt. William Matusiak, commander of the Fifth Precinct, which includes Chinatown and Little Italy.] has to put a man somewhere, like one night in April, when he sent Nicky Lau to the Café Habana on Prince Street. The bartender handed a Corona to Mr. Lau, who set it on the bar without taking a sip and stepped outside. Mr. Lau, a police cadet in a precinct in Queens, is 18.

An unmarked sedan pulled up, and Lieutenant Fanale called the bartender outside to issue a summons.

Under-age-drinking operations are not unusual in a precinct stacked with bars, nightclubs and dives. But in this instance, Captain Matusiak was not particularly worried about teenagers drinking at Habana. He wanted the owner's full attention.

Here is the problem: The cafe gets crowded. Women hang purses on the backs of their chairs. In the cramped space, the purses are stolen. The women file police reports. The thefts are automatic grand larcenies whenever credit cards are taken. The grand larcenies are recorded in the week's Compstat tally, and if that list is too long, the precinct commander is called to 1 Police Plaza for a grilling and a scolding. Too many scoldings, and a precinct commander finds himself assigned someplace else.

A few days after Mr. Lau ordered his beer, the cafe's owner showed up at the station house and sat across the desk from Captain Matusiak. The owner was worried; the captain consoled him.

"Last night was, I'm sure, a one-shot deal," Captain Matusiak said before getting to the point: "You've got to help us out with the unattended property. We're getting killed at your place."

There has not been a purse reported stolen since...

Thanks to Gary Farber

* Update: Take a look at Lyle's comment: I have lived in NYC for thirty years. Everything you read is true. Before Giuliani, New Yorkers lived defensively. We took for granted a persistent undertone of menace...
... It still surprises me to see families and young women on trains late at night. My first thought is, "Don't they know..?" But of course they don't. That was another time and a different place...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:35 PM

August 6, 2004

The way men talk..

This rings true, from Bob Mandel...

...I remember George HW Bush almost never spoke of his combat record, and he certainly was a true hero. Bob Dole spoke little of his service record, and he too, was certainly a hero. Yet, John Kerry can't give you the time of day without mentioning his Vietnam service. He spent a large part of his acceptance speech highlighting his Vietnam service. He has made it a focal point of his campaign. When he reflects on his service, it always revolves around him. He bought a movie camera and filmed not just his crew, but re-enacted battle scenes.

One thing I always hear veterans speak of is their buddies who didn't come home. They always talk, almost exclusively, about what others did. I don't believe I've ever heard Kerry talk of those he served with who never came home. When he has a story about another crew member, it is how he (Kerry of course) saved the man's life...

I grew up around men who served in WWII. One was on the USS Phoenix at Pearl Harbor. One was a Japanese prisoner in the Philippines. My Uncle was a naval officer in WWII and Korea. But I can't remember hearing any war stories, or any tales of daring-do. No doubt I could have asked for them, but somehow one just didn't.

I have no interest in picking-apart Mr Kerry's Vietnam service, but I have to say that the way that he blabs about it does not impress me. Especially compared to how this guy writes...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:35 PM

July 17, 2004

What they are doing is robbery...

You might want to bookmark this LAT article. 'Cause sure as you're born, we are going to be hearing from now until November how medical malpractice lawsuits serve some sort of beneficial "regulatory function." You know, protecting the little guy from those bad rich doctors.

Read an inspiring (and infuriating) story about a surgeon from Santa Monica who has rediscovered the joy and inspiration he sought in a medical career—while teaching medics how to perform operations in a tin-shed in Cambodia. And the article has a lot about what's happening here...

... Doctors protect themselves by presenting the worst-case scenario. "A wise surgeon will say, 'Your family member is very sick. We will do everything we can, but . . . ' It's called 'hanging crepe,' " Stock says. "Then [patients] are overjoyed at good results."

The reluctance of specialists to answer ER calls often leaves emergency physicians alone on the front lines of health care, where they spend valuable time making phone calls and keeping patients stabilized while waiting five, six, seven hours for a specialist. And when no specialists are available, doctors such as Stock push the limits. "You can't admit [patients] or transfer them or send them home, so you wait," Stock says. "If you still can't find anyone, my solution is to expand my skill set to the doors of the OR. I'm not going to do fine, delicate surgery, but any problem that becomes life-threatening, I will intervene. These kinds of near-misses happen all the time. It puts me at risk."

As a precaution, Stock keeps a call sheet on each patient, recording how many specialists and hospitals he has contacted, justifying his decisions to provide treatment or to send patients 100 miles away. "Society loses when no one's willing to be on call," Stock says. "This isn't just affecting doctors, it's affecting patients. We're entering a chronic state of crisis."...

Even if you are the best doctor in the country, you will still get sued. (And even if you win, you will still incur much expense and loss of time.) Even if a doctor follows standard medical procedure precisely, he can still be sued and lose.

What the ambulance-chasers are doing is robbery, just as much as if they pulled a gun and demanded the doctor's wallet.

What John Edwards did (I'm speaking of him as a lawyer, not as a politician) was robbery. He is just as much a thief as any hoodlum of the inner city. He is a racketeer, a criminal, a dishonest person.

Charlene's business is defending against lawsuits, and I get an over-the-shoulder view of this sick world. She frequently settles cases even though she thinks her client did nothing wrong. The Plaintiffs' Bar is mostly a bunch of crooks running legalized scams. And we all pay a huge price.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 AM

A true hero of Freedom...

The previous post reminds me of a story from the fall of Vietnam. (I wouldn't fuss over ordinary-American stuff like this were it not that the good people of the Bush Administration are being slimed non-stop as fascist neocon crony-capitalists.) Richard Armitage, now Assistant Secretary of State, was among the last Americans in Vietnam.

He personally organized a convoy of 32 mostly unseaworthy ships, and brought 20,000 refugees to the Philippines. Neither the US nor the Philippine governments wanted this to happen, he just did it. The refugees were South Vietnamese military officers and their families. If Armitage had not saved them, they would have been sent to concentration camps (Probably named after Heroes of the Revolution: Camp Kerry, Camp Fonda...)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

July 8, 2004

Economic sense...

AOG scoffs at the idea that we have (or should have) an American Empire:

...However, I think this analysis is fundamentally flawed. When one looks at previous empires, they existed because it was economically beneficial to the conquerors. Conquest or economic activity in foreign lands (the latter the basis of the British Empire) was a way for the not well off to become wealthy. The homeland was relatively static in its economic and class structure, but the hinterlands were the place of opportunity and self advancement. It was where the action was...

...This difference makes an American empire unsustainable. The talent (imperial and native) required to run the imperial domains will leak away back to the homeland. The only hope of a place like Iraq to be competive with the USA is to become a self-ordered society. But in that case it’s not an imperial possession anymore, but a sovereign nation. Those who support an American empire have not come to grips with the End of History, which spells the end of Empire as well...

I think empires stopped making economic sense with the Industrial Revolution. The wealth that could be extracted from a pre-industrial colony was trivial compared to what started pouring out of Manchester, or Chicago. The British empire seems to have mutated into a welfare scheme for the British middle class, providing cushy jobs without the need to "go into trade." Bad move.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

July 5, 2004

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,  And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."...

I recommend this little piece, by Isaac Asimov, on our national anthem. Here's a snippet:

I have a weakness--I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem.

The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time.

I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem--all four stanzas.

This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting. "Thanks, Herb," I said.

"That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff."

I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas. 

Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before--or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem....(Thanks to Volokh)


* Update, Charlene adds: An interesting sidelight – during the services on Sunday I checked the national anthem in the Hymnal....Not only do they only have two (not four) verses, they changed the line to “For conquer we must WHEN (not “for”) our cause it is just…” [We are Episcopalian, so I'm not surprised. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:27 PM

July 4, 2004

Fortunately...


I just happened to notice this by Orrin Judd:

...The problem is that those on the far Right don't believe all men to be equal--especially not the brown ones--while the Left and the secular Right (most Libertarians, neocons, etc.) don't believe man was Created. We're left then with a situation where it's pretty much only conservative Jews and Christians who still believe in the truths that America represents.

Fortunately, at the present time, their number happens to include the President.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:29 PM

Fourth of July, 2004

Our house with flag at dusk


...Not to find new principles. or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 AM

June 7, 2004

"a truth that burned inside the heart"

Jerusalem Post: In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

At the time, I never imagined that three years later, I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. When he summoned some of his staff to hear what I had said, I understood that there had been much criticism of Reagan's decision to cast the struggle between the superpowers as a battle between good and evil.
Well, Reagan was right and his critics were wrong...(Thanks to Pejman)

Three years later! Amazing.

You can bet your last dollar that, even as Copperheads heap scorn and vituperation on President Bush, and magnify any mistake made by America a hundredfold, there are poor wretches in concentration camps and prisons and refugee camps praying right now for America's help. 'Cause there ain't no other help available. And it's the job of the Democrats, and of leftists everywhere, to make sure that help doesn't come!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

June 5, 2004

"speaking Aramaic without subtitles"

I liked this piece by Mark Roberts. But his idea is so far-out, most people will consider it to be something like science fiction. What if, maybe, maybe, Mr Tenet resigned for the same reason he said he was resigning for?

...Most politicians and pundits can’t relate to this because they put their careers first and their families second (or third, or fourth, or lower). These priorities are so deeply ingrained that they simply become a given. Thus when George Tenet claims to put fatherhood first, it’s as if he’s speaking Aramaic without subtitles. Most people just don’t get it.

Thus the resignation of George Tenet holds up a moral mirror, inviting us to examine our own values. How do we weigh family and work? What comes first in our lives? What comes first in our society? However we might answer this question for ourselves, we should know that the people of greatest influence in our society generally put family second (or lower), and they expect us to do the same...

It sounds very believable to me, being very much a family person. On the same subject, I recommend Karen Hughes' recent memoir, Ten Minutes from Normal. It's good reading, and it centers on her decision to move back to Texas, because her family was very unhappy in Washington.

This is wandering off the subject, but I just remembered it. One (of many) interesting things in the book about Bush is an example of how he tests people to see if they really believe what they are saying. (I've heard he does that, but hadn't read any examples.) On Hughes' first day as press secretary for Bush, who is running for Governor of Texas, she enters his office with a bunch of phone slips. And explains that they are questions from reporters that need to be answered. He immediately says "Don't answer them!"

She writes: "My whole life as a press secretary passed before my eyes." Summoning up all her courage, she delivers a passionate speech on the importance of being straight with reporters, and answering their calls the same day, and then eventually realizes he's pulling her leg. I found that very funny, "Don't answer them!"

Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 PM

A Time For Choosing

A famous speech by Ronald Reagan, 1964

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."

This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments....

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure....

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.


Posted by John Weidner at 4:50 PM

June 3, 2004

Not gold but only men can make...

Take a look at this Memorial Day post by Athena. It has, among other things, the number (or estimates) of battle deaths and wounded for all our wars. Also "other deaths in service" starting with the Mexican War. Interestingly, WWII is the first war where battle deaths are higher than "other deaths in service."

There's also this poem:

A Nation's Strength

What makes a nation's pillars high
And it's foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

May 31, 2004

Travels...

I jut talked with Charlene, who is in Salt Lake City, traveling Eastwith our oldest son Rob, who's off to college at UND. (The other kids and I will fly to Grand Forks when their schools are out, and we will drive back with various sightseeings and diversions.) anyway, Charlene says in Nevada you see big initials painted in white on various mountains. They are the initials of local towns. There's one town called "Battle Mountain," with a giant BM painted on the mountain.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 PM

May 27, 2004

"Why stand we here idle?"

It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?

What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

--Patrick Henry

Posted by John Weidner at 11:20 AM

May 26, 2004

Wow. I never heard of this guy...

The guided-missile destroyer Chung-Hoon

The guided-missile destroyer Chung-Hoon, named for World War II hero Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon, sits in a dock at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., after it was turned over from Northrop Grumman Ship Systems to the Navy during ceremonies Monday. The destroyer will be commissioned Sept. 18 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and will be home-ported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor as a member of the Pacific Fleet. Chung-Hoon, who died in 1979, received the Navy Cross for his leadership after a kamikaze attack in 1945 left several of his crew dead and his ship, the USS Sigsbee, severely crippled.
William Colgin, The (Pascagoula) Mississippi Press / AP photo

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 PM

May 24, 2004

Update...story worth reading.

Remember this story about seven guys who had their hands chopped off by Saddam? There's a heartwarming update in the WaPo:

... Last week, the men had recovered enough for the final fitting of their bionic hands, microprocessor-assisted marvels that receive instructions from the brain via electrodes attached to muscles in the arm. The Iraqis are training themselves to fire the right muscles to control hand functions, a process that will take months. Already, they can throw balls, shake hands, raise a glass.

Agris and North will go back to Baghdad with the seven in early June to make sure they have the proper medical support. Agris has arranged to visit other amputees, and he will help Baghdad hospitals upgrade their knowledge about amputations and prosthetics.

"The thing that'll win hearts and minds is the humanitarian effort, not guns," Agris said. "You take care of someone's child, not only do you help the child but you win over the family. And the family talks to the neighbors and you win over the neighbors. It just escalates."

He thinks Al Fadhly, Joudi, Kadhim, Salah and the other three men -- Laith Aggar, Hassan Al Gereawy and Al'aa Hassan -- will change some minds, too.

"I think we're going to see a ripple effect, especially with a guy like Al Fadhly who's got a job working for the coalition's new TV station. They're bringing back a different attitude, a different look." ...

Seven Iraqi amputees

Outside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison are, from left, Qasim Kadhim, Salah Zinad, Nazaar Joudi, Laith Aggar, Al'aa Hassan and Basim Al Fadhly. They and three others were ordered by Saddam Hussein to have their hands amputated in 1995.
Photo Credit: Don North


Posted by John Weidner at 8:54 PM

May 9, 2004

Honks, cheers and sometimes tears...

The media-wing of the Democrat Party has no intention of showing us any images of 9/11. They don't think we are mature enough to resist those primitive urges to love our country, and defend her. Emotions which they have outgrown.

But suppressed images have a way of showing up anyway, Here's an interesting one...

Big Rig Honors Those Who Perished Sept. 11, 2001:
By K.L. Vantran, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2004 – More often than not, as John Holmgren drives his big rig along the nation's roadways, he is greeted with honks, cheers and sometimes tears.

It is not Holmgren's driving that riles emotion. It's his message. The truck driver from Shafer, Minn., has transformed his 18-wheeler into a rolling memorial for the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's my way of showing that those who died aren't just a number," said Holmgren. "It's my way to say someone in America cares."...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 PM

Small town papers...

Charlene and I are urbanites to the core. We probably wouldn't be happy living in a small town, or in the suburbs. But we share many of the values of Americans inside the Finkelstein Box. And here in the City we are frustrated by our immersion in the trendizoid Left.

But one of the cool things about our lives right now is our frequent trips, via the Internet, to the newspapers of small-town America in search of war news. Who's heard of the Columbia Basin Herald?

...The parents of Othello High graduate Rocky Rocha, currently in Iraq with the 81st Marine Platoon started sending care packages to their son, unknowingly creating a community phenomenon that has gone beyond the boundaries of family support.

Bob Guerrero, president of the Othello Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said that it was Rocky Rocha himself, stationed in the outskirts of Fallujah, who told his parents Lydia and Agustin that he was sharing with his platoon mates the goodies that came from Othello, "and sometimes it was not enough."

The Rochas asked the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce if they could help, which led to the organization's informal adoption of the platoon.

Fernando Moreno, vice president of the chamber and owner of the Othello McDonald's restaurant said the goal is to be able to send the platoon a package per week...(via CPT Patti)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 PM

May 6, 2004

The mucky Samaritans...

Andrew Cory (a fine fellow, though we often disagree. He blogs here) put this in a comment to this post I wrote about the prisoner-abuse scandal:

...This isn’t just some PR thing, some sort of media event to spin, these are serious violations of human morality. Why can’t you just see that and say-- without qualifications-- “my country did wrong. I am ashamed”?

Hell, even President Bush said that...

Sorry Andrew, but I reject your argument utterly.

My country did NOT do wrong. Some individuals committed crimes. I'm ashamed of them. They will be punished. Our military would be doing wrong if it didn't seek and punish the guilty. But that still doesn't mean my country did wrong.

Making mistakes is the price of action. War crimes are the inevitable price of war. We've committed them in every one of our wars. That doesn't mean the wars were wrong, or that our country was wrong to fight them. They are the price of using human tools. Just as the price of dropping bombs is sometimes killing the innocent. That doesn't make using bombs wrong.

If you organize a police department to fight crime and make the streets safe for law-abiding people, there will always, no matter how hard you try, be some cops on the take, or some who beat-up suspects. Is it wrong to have police? Should the Mayor apologize for the sins of the city? No way. The city is doing the right thing. It's those critics who sneer and complain but won't ACT, won't get their hands dirty trying to solve problems who have something to apologize for.

Our government is doing its best, but there will inevitably be mistakes and shortcomings and crimes. That's what happens when you ACT, when you take risks and undertake difficult tasks. We are humans, we are flawed. I'll spot you guys one more: There are, I am absolutely sure, nasty war crimes being committed right now by Americans that we will probably never even know about! How's that? And am I going to apologize for them? No way. I deplore them, we should do all we can to minimize them, but the only way to prevent them is to do nothing.

And any course we chose for Iraq would have had painful human-rights consequences. Including the policy of doing nothing. I'd like to see the people who think we should not have acted apologize for certain trifling human-rights glitches that their policy (whether right or wrong) would have entailed. They should be the ones badgered by reporters. "Mr Chomsky, leaving Saddam in power would have meant prisoners still being being eaten alive by dogs, and dropped into acid baths. Don't you think you owe the world an apology?"

But of course those guys never have to apologize. They strut on the sidelines, clothed in spotless moral virtue, and sneer and carp, and undercut those who actually try to fight evil. If you fight evil you will get mucky for sure. The Samaritan who helped the man beaten by thieves got blood on his clothes and spent a lot of money and doubtless had a more awkward messy time of it than the story tells. The pompous prigs who passed on the other side of the road probably thought they were owed an apology for having their mood spoiled. (I bet they were "visualizing world peace.")

I disputed the premise, "Blessed are the peacemakers." On the contrary, it was always those who fought evil whom history remembered as the greatest in their generations.
-- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
* And by the way, there's something flakey about this sudden fetish for apologies. It's way too goo goo and touchy-feely for my taste. Especially in time of WAR. I don't want leaders who apologize. I want our foes apologizing. Or starting to, in the two-seconds of deep reflection before the oncoming Predator missile hits.

* And if you want to see something that's much better than an apology extorted by hypocrites, go here.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:13 PM

Garbage

...But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done...[link]
Pure steaming lefty hate-America bullshit. For every brutal prison guard, there are hundreds of guys and gals working their tails off, and risking their lives, to make our projects in places like Iraq and Afghanistan succeed. Their stories and letters are passed around the blogosphere, often culled from small-town newspapers. Rarely from the likes of the WaPo, where this piece appeared. Never noticed by trendy Liberals. That's why people like me keep posting them—because our "media elite' dump them right into the circular file.

InstaPundit linked to an ugly story of prisoner abuse in German civilian prisons today. I bet we don't get any WaPo tales about how that's the real Germany. (Not unless they elect a pro-Bush government. Then the story will suddenly be important, as "evidence" that fascism is on the rise.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

May 4, 2004

The world is like a vast darkened hall...

I think what most bothers me about the prisoner-abuse flap is the way, for many of us, only Americans are real. I think that's what I was really trying to get at in my earlier post.

For a lot of people here the world is like a vast darkened hall with small mechanical puppet-theaters scattered about. And the little puppet stages only turn on when an American comes near. Then the lights come on, the music plays, and the little puppets dance and sing.

I remember when all the campus lefties spoke in portentous tones of "The People of Vietnam." Then the US pulled out, and they never mentioned those people again ("Vietnam" itself they often mention to congratulate themselves on "ending" the war.) "The People" were never real to them, the theater went dark as soon as the Yanks moved away.

And think of the endless academic churn on the subject of slavery, and the delicious fact that many of our founding fathers owned slaves. But slavery is happening in the world right now! Black Africans are being enslaved in Sudan right now. And none of our despicable campus frauds care at all. And if we invaded Sudan to end slavery there, they would be out protesting against us.

And remember when Afghan prisoners were first being sent to Guantanamo? Remember the brouhaha? The heartrending concern for their welfare? But for every guy sent to Gitmo, at least ten were tossed into Afghan prisons. And conditions there were far worse! Overcrowded hell-hole dungeons. Guys were begging to be sent to Cuba. But none of our phonies said a word about them.

The same applies to Israel. The Palestinians only exist when the Israelis are there. Arab countries do far worse to the Palestinians, but nobody notices. (I suspect israel is a sort of proxy US. Sclerotic European countries feel the humiliation of Arabs next to free and vibrant Israel, because they experience the same humiliation next to free and vibrant America.)

THIS is what should be generating outrage. THIS is a thousand times worse than us humiliating prisoners in Baghdad:

Israeli woman and her four daughters murdered by terrorist scum
An Israeli woman in her eighth month of pregnancy and her four daughters were killed this afternoon when two terrorists opened fire at Israeli cars traveling on the Kissufim-Gush Katif road in the Gaza Strip. The attack occurred when the two gunmen, apparently residents of Dir el-Balah, began firing at Israeli cars on the road. Police said the mother was shot, causing the Hatuel's white Citroen to swerve off the road. The attackers approached the vehicle and shot the mother and her children with "killing shots" at close range (Thanks to PowerLine)
"Killing shots at close range." Into little children. We should be doing everything we can to destroy the vile animals who did this. But the sob-sisters don't care at all. At least those killers won't be getting $25,000 checks from Saddam any more! Thank you George Bush! And zero thanks to all the antiwar anti-US crocodiles!


Posted by John Weidner at 10:26 AM

April 30, 2004

To restore the centrality of civil society

Orrin Judd wrote this as part of a comment on a fascinating essay about the possibility of reformation in the Islamic world. It's a good summary of what is happening, or trying to happen, here. [By the way, a good rule-of-thumb: Anyone who uses the term "theocracy" to describe the Religious Right is clueless.]

...Perhaps the most interesting way to approach the argument here is to reverse the entire thing and look at the Renovatio in the West. Well, really it's just in America, but that's the point. Just as the kind of totalitarianism that Islam has tended to require inevitably fails, so too does secularism as excessive as that adopted by most of our allies--and nearly by us until, the reversal came in 1980. What the conservative movement in America has been about for some time now and what has been greatly accelerated by President Bush is the project to diminish the state and restore the centrality of civil society--and with it the domination of daily life by religion.

Critics who perceive some inkling of this grand project will sometimes worry that it is an attempt to move America towards theocracy--nothing could be farther from the truth. It is a far more radical endeavor, seeking not to gain access to state powers but to remove power from the State. Thus creation of a "culture of life" to restore the rights that pre-exist the State; tax cuts to bleed the State of revenue; an Opportunity Society to make men independent of government as regards health and retirement; school vouchers to break the State monopoly on education; the Faith-Based Initiative to return the provision of social services back to churches and charities; etc.; etc.; etc

In effect, conservatism in America is attempting something not too different from what Mr. Vlahos credits New Islamists with attempting. The question as regards Islam is: do the New Islamists understand that it is best for them to eschew governmental power and allow both government and economics to be relatively secular and quite free? Or are they destined to establish totalitarianism? The rapidity with which the Iranian experiment with totalitarianism collapsed would seem to give us some reason to hope that its example can generally be avoided in the future.

The question as regards America is: can the secular State, once created, successfully have its powers devolved back to civil society? Or are we destined to keep sliding into the same kind of suicidal secular decline that we see in Europe? The coming election will go some considerable distance to determining whether the counter-revolution will continue.

What both groups are groping towards is pretty much the republicanism of the Founders, with a fairly minimalist, somewhat liberal, kind of democratic central government but then a tightly knit civil society that depends for its continued health on the virtue of its citizenry...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

April 22, 2004

the miserable trends turned around...

Fascinating article in City Journal, Morning After in America by Kay S. Hymowitz. It's especially amazing about the the way young people have changed:

...Wave away the colored smoke of the Jackson family circus, Paris Hilton, and the antics of San Francisco, and you can see how Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with “alternative values.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly during the 1990s, the culture began a lumbering, Titanic turn away from the iceberg, a movement reinforced by the 1990s economic boom and the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the last ten years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled. Today Americans are consciously, deliberately embracing ideas about sex, marriage, children, and the American dream that are coalescing into a viable—though admittedly much altered—sort of bourgeois normality. What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.

To check a culture’s pulse, first look at the kids, as good a crystal ball as we have...

...Yet marketers who plumb people’s attitudes to predict trends are noticing something interesting about “Millennials,” the term that generation researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss invented for the cohort of kids born between 1981 and 1999: they’re looking more like Jimmy Stewart than James Dean. They adore their parents, they want to succeed, they’re optimistic, trusting, cooperative, dutiful, and civic-minded. “They’re going to ‘rebel’ by being, not worse, but better,” write Howe and Strauss...(via Betsy)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM

April 13, 2004

Betting on liberty...

Don't miss this Steyn piece in the Telegraph, Liberty and imperialism don't mix. :

...Speaking of Hawaii, why is it a state rather than a colony? It's nowhere near the rest of America. Its flag even has the Union flag in it, just like the ensigns of all those other dots in the Pacific, such as Fiji and the Cook Islands. Yet Hawaii enjoys the same place in the American federation as New Hampshire. The framework that the Founding Fathers devised to unite a baker's dozen of small ethnically homogeneous colonies on the East Coast proved strong enough to expand across a continent and halfway round the globe to Honolulu. Had Britain in the 1880s or 1890s decided to transform its empire into a federation, it might still be in business today. Certainly, it could hardly be in worse shape than the moth-eaten façade of the Commonwealth.

The very reason that Hawaii is a state is the same reason that America makes a poor imperialist: it is uncomfortable with colonial subjects; it lacks the benevolent paternalism necessary for empire. In Iraq, they're betting not on imperialism, but on liberty. That's a long shot, given the awful passivity and fatalism of the Arab world. But it's not inherently more preposterous than the fake Hashemite kingdom imposed on Mesopotamia by Britain. America may fail. But it will be an American failure. Imperial nostalgics who wish to live vicariously will have to look elsewhere...

America is an idea, not a place. We could all pack up and move to space habitats, and still be America. And it's kind of like a franchise outfit. Newcomers like Hawaii can follow the template, open their own burger stand, and be a success..

Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 PM

March 5, 2004

Spellbound...

We just watched Spellbound, the documentary on the National Spelling Bee. It's a true delight, I recommend it highly.

Do other countries have spelling bees? I've never heard of it. I suspect they deserve to be called the American Game as much as Baseball does. If you wander about in American history and literature, you will encounter the spelling bee quite often. I remember them from school, though I was never very good. I know more words than most people, but can't spell them worth a darn...

* Update: B. Durbin points out in a comment this interesting post by Bryan Micklethwait on spelling bees and melting pots...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:24 PM

February 21, 2004

I wonder if they have good Afghan restaurants...

I was bemused by the thought of all those Somalis shivering in the Twin Cities, but now Charlene just informed me (this is real-time blogging here, folks) that the largest Afghan-American community is in nearby Fremont, California! I had no idea...

(I do know, however, that the woman who gives President Bush his haircuts is from Afghanistan...a nice bit of trivia.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 PM

February 18, 2004

25,000 Somalis living in Minnesota...now don't that beat all!

...For decades, the building served as a repair shop for streetcars. Later, it became a machinery warehouse. Then, a little over four years ago, a Palestinian émigré named Basim Sabri spotted it, and the posted For Sale sign, while driving down Pillsbury. Sabri, who had already built a small empire of residential properties in the Whittier and Uptown neighborhoods, snapped up the dilapidated building for the fire-sale price of $169,000. It was his first venture into commercial property, and he wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. With limited funds, Sabri began rehabbing the heating and plumbing. Around the same time, he noticed the dramatic influx of Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities. It struck him: He would build a souk--the Arabic word for a mall or bazaar--to serve the Somali community. It was a novel idea. At the time, Sabri says, there were no other Somali malls in Minneapolis--or, for that matter, in North America.

"The word travels very quickly in the Somali community. Very rapidly," Sabri recalls. "I met with the coffee shop guys. Before you know it, I had a whole tribe of Somalis wanting to rent. I'm filled in no time." One draw was the relatively inexpensive rent: about $375 a month. And once foot traffic was established, other Somali entrepreneurs--many of whom had been merchants in the old country--were clamoring for spaces of their own...(link. Thanks to BroJudd)

Remember that charming moment when it was noticed that black Americans have higher average incomes than Swedes? So, any bets on when Somalis in the Twin Cities surpass the French?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 PM

December 21, 2003

Greyhawk posts a story about wounded GI's...

...One of more than 280 Marines injured in combat since the beginning of the fight to topple Saddam Hussein's government, Frei lost much of his right arm, which has been replaced by a prosthesis.

After being treated at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center just outside Washington, he took 30 days of convalescent leave in San Diego and then headed back to his base at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Among his first actions was applying to remain in the Marines. Another was going out to meet other returning troops injured overseas in the hopes of passing along encouraging words.

"You have to maintain a positive attitude," said Frei, 31. "You have to. You can decide to let this slow you down, just like any other adversity you would run into in your life...

We're just midgets compared to those guys...

And for the snarkmeisters who try to make a scandal out the President not attending soldier's funerals (which, by tradition, and for important symbolic reasons, a President does not do in wartime), there's this:

..."I met the president" at Walter Reed, said McLain, 22, a military police officer in the National Guard who is now home in Havre, Mont.

McLain, who is recuperating from injuries suffered in Iraq, has a photograph of himself with Bush, but the college student admitted he doesn't recall a great deal about the meeting because he was "heavily morphinated."

Bush's visit is one of several he's made to see injured troops at the complex named after a noted 19th century Army physician who did pioneering work on yellow fever....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

Us bagel-eating Neo-Cons feeling smug...

[Ah ha! It is YOU who's been pulling the Bush-puppet's strings for the Zionistas! --I.C. Lighten up guys, it's a joke! I'm no Neo-Con. Just a plain-vanilla-wafer-Con)

The Washington Post has a pleasing editorial, The 'Bush Doctrine' Experiences Shining Moments. I have but a few quibbles...

...Those who developed the Bush Doctrine -- a policy of taking preemptive, unprovoked action against emerging threats -- predicted that an impressive U.S. victory in Iraq would intimidate allies and foes alike, making them yield to U.S. interests in other areas. Though that notion floundered with the occupation in Iraq, the capture of Hussein may have served as the decisive blow needed to make others respect U.S. wishes, they say...
The notion didn't "flounder," though it may have seemed so. It was our patience and persistence dealing with the difficulties and frustrations in Iraq that gave us the credibility that has impressed foes and allies.

In some ways it was better that the occupation has been difficult and bloody. We've been able to make a good start at laying to rest the notion that we will bug out when things get tough. And that we can be stopped by a chorus of shrieks and sneers and ankle-biting from the "International Community." And that we are captive to the "need for stability" in the ME.

An impressive start, impressive enough that various people are now nervously extrapolating our future moves as straight lines, and not bell-shaped curves.

...Bush still has some inconsistencies to work out with his doctrine. Earlier this month, he drew rebukes from conservatives for undermining democratic Taiwan to win favor with totalitarian China. And, as Bush's domestic opponents point out, he has been contradictory in his views of international organizations. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said the administration's support for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Libya and Iran "is difficult to reconcile with the administration's previous ridicule of IAEA inspectors in Iraq." ...
These are not inconsistencies. We are asking Taiwan to stop grandstanding, and support us in the diplomatic firmness needed to deal first with NK, and then China. That's perfectly consistent. The B-Doc (As we bagel-eating SF Neo-Cons say) was always meant to lead to diplomatic strength, not to a series of wars.

And the IAEA inspections (and all the other inspections) are only useful when there is cooperation. They were always a farce in Iraq. If Libya or Iran cooperate, then the inspections will work just fine.

(via Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 AM

December 19, 2003

News from the real world...

Sometimes, living in San Francisco, one starts to have a vague feeling that America was a problem of the past, now tidied away by the 'Progressives.' So I cherish stories like this, from Greyhawk:

....In a matter of a week, kids at the 500-student school in north-central Colorado Springs dug deep into their piggy banks, unearthed crumpled dollar bills from secret hiding spots and did extra chores around the house to raise money for airline tickets and hotel accommodations for two fellow students. In the end, they gathered about $3,000.

That means Anthony Mitchell, 8, and Megan Mitchell, 7, can visit their injured soldier father at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for Christmas. They wouldn't be able to go without their classmates' help.

Staff Sgt. Roy Mitchell of Indiana was severely burned and lost part of his left leg in a land-mine explosion in Afghanistan on Nov. 23. The 32-year-old from Fort Drum in New York was one of 21 wounded soldiers recovering as of Wednesday at Walter Reed....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 PM

December 8, 2003

Under the press radar...

John Moore posts:

My daughter lives in Baltimore, which is where troops arrive from Iraq and Afghanistan for R&R (Rest and Relaxation).

On her most recent flight there, every passenger in first class gave up their seats to the troops! The gratitude of all on the aircraft was enthusiastically expressed.

On an Amtrak trip yesterday, civilians in the Cafe Car competed for the honor of buying beer for the troops there. Too many civilians, not enough soldiers! Lots of thanks and "High Fives" were also given.

You may not see it on the news, but these incidents are happening all over the country every day.


(via Bill Quick)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

December 5, 2003

Trampled by heffalumps...

Remember that woman who was trampled at Wal-Mart? Trampled by greedy and uncaring Americans? Well...

.....An investigation by WKMG-Local 6 reveals Vanlester has filed 16 previous claims of injuries at Wal-Mart stores and other places she has shopped or worked, according to Wal-Mart, court files and state records. Her sister, who accompanied her Friday on the visit to Wal-Mart, has also filed a prior injury claim against Wal-Mart, with Vanlester as her witness, a company spokeswoman said yesterday...
Charlene has often dealt with this sort in her work. "Vexatious litigants" I think they call them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 AM

November 28, 2003

An expert explains America...

This, in The Age, is a good example of the delusional state of the world's media elites:

Much of the world hates him, but many Americans think their President is the man for the age, writes Graham Barrett.

Get used to the thought of another five years of George Bush as the most powerful person on earth. Astonishing as it may seem, he is moving into re-election mode with just about everything going for him.

This appears counter-intuitive. Just look at the laundry list that will be making the papers between now and next November. The Middle East is an expensive shambles, [Only if you ignore the fact that we're fighting a WAR] the case for invading Iraq is still shifting from one confection to another, [If you are facing a gang of murderers, the smart thing is to shoot the baddest one. Then negotiate. That's all the "case" we need] the rise of terrorism has exposed the most dramatic intelligence failure since Pearl Harbour, [Big deal. We were ALL asleep, and we know it.] the US deficit is the biggest in history, [not as a percentage of GDP it's not] several million American jobs have been lost, [It's called a recession. They happen, even in your country. And only you haven't noticed it's over] environmental pollution is worsening, [Utterly false. Pollution stats are improving in all developed countries] American diplomacy is in tatters [Actually we seem to get most of what we want] and American global popularity is to be found in a compost bin. [Yeah, the opinion of the French is crucial in our elections]

Bush would seem to possess no chance of staying on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until early 2009. Why, then, are the US Democrats so worried?....[gee, do you think maybe they know something about this place you don't? ]

They resolutely maintain that the US is the world's biggest problem, but just as resolutely refuse to learn anything about that problem.

I'm being unfair to Mr Barrett, who acknowledges in his article that much of his "common wisdom" isn't true. But just the fact that he can label as "astonishing" or "counter-intuitive" things that are in fact utterly obvious and banal reveals how cluelix he is.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 PM

September 14, 2003

So of what USE are those nay-saying Jeffersonians?

Since I'm thinking about the Jeffersonian school, here's a little more from Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence; some reasons to tolerate these people for a little longer:

...Legitimacy in mass democracy is a fragile thing; the power of Jeffersonian ideas about democracy is one of the primary supports enjoyed by our form of government...

...Jeffersonian ideas have produced...some of the most brilliant thinkers and scholars in the field of American foreign policy...

...The Jeffersonian mind-set, eager to understand foreign states and conditions, but also eager to leave them as they are, is peculiarly conducive to the intellectual formation of brilliant regional students. Of the four schools Jeffersonians are most often moved by a disinterested appreciation and respect for foreign cultures. Jeffersonians are less eager to make sales than Hamiltonians are, and less preoccupied with either secular or religious proselytization than Wilsonians are�but they are interested in understanding foreign cultures and peoples on their own terms. Very often Jeffersonian regional specialists have talked policy makers out of what would have proved rash and ill-founded initiatives and found ways of achieving important American objectives with less friction and trouble than we might otherwise face.

The greatest advantage the country derives from the Jeffersonian tradition emerges out of the Jeffersonian desire to define the national interest as tightly as possible and then to develop the most elegant possible strategy for securing that interest. It is a tradition that adds intellectual rigor and, often, great practical value to the foreign policy debate. It is arguably the natural home for American grand strategy...

Furthermore, the Jeffersonian tradition supplies something occasionally lacking in the other three schools: a critical tradition that seeks systematically to investigate, and in some cases controvert, the claims made by proponents of Hamiltonian and Wilsonian activism. If nothing else, Jeffersonian skepticism keeps Wilsonians and Hamiltonians on their toes, forcing them to think through their policies more thoroughly than they otherwise might, and to be able to defend their programs in public debate...

...Paradoxically, Jeffersonian pacifism and skepticism tend to unite American opinion once war has finally come... If even these people think we have to fight, then maybe war is really inevitable...

The Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy has one other advantage. Every vehicle should have at least one reverse gear...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

September 13, 2003

In exchange for...

Orrin Judd writes

...Considering how freely people condemn Americans for not understanding the world beyond our shores, it's always remarkable to realize how little they understand us. As Mr. Phares makes clear, al Qaeda completely misjudged the effects of its attack on 9-11. The comparison to Pearl Harbor should have been instructive--in exchange for sinking a few ships, destroying some planes, and killing 2,400 Americans, the Japanese got a war that left three million of them dead to our 60,000 and their society transfigured in our image. Osama can't have been hoping for a similar result, but why'd he think he'd get one? ...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 PM

The Jeffersonians...

She [the United States] well knows that by once enlisting under banners other than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.... She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
-- John Quincy Adams
I've been re-reading Walter Russell Mead's book Special Providence. I'm sure you've heard of it. It's the one where he divides American foreign policy into 4 schools, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian and Jacksonian. (With lots of caveats: the categories are not hard-and-fast, they cut across party lines, there are other parties and interests...) But the 4 schools really clarify a lot of things. If you haven't read it I urge you to do so.

One thing that really struck me this time was how well the Jeffersonian label fits our friend Dave Trowbridge. He and I tend to look at the same events, especially the War on Terror, and see weirdly different pictures. From my Wilsonian-Jacksonian perspective, Dave often seems eccentric and obscure (stimulating me to write many a blogpost. He probably thinks me a rash enthusiast.) But if I think of Dave as belonging to the Jeffersonian school, then his writings are perfectly reasonable and consistent. (Some of them may even be correct.) The same could be said of John Quincy Adams, who has always been a bit of a puzzle to me.

Here are a few quotes from Mead on the Jeffersonians...

Liberty is infinitely precious, and almost as infinitely fragile; that is the core belief of the Jeffersonian movement..

Few things were clearer to the Jeffersonians than that the growth of the American republic into an intercontinental empire was a bad business all around...

War was the first and greatest evil Jeffersonians sought to avoid...

If avoidance of war is the first principal of Jeffersonian statesmanship, the second is the constitutional conduct of foreign policy. Here Jeffersonians often stand alone...

Jeffersonians [of 18th & 19th Cent.] hated and feared the national debt with a passion that today is difficult for even the most dedicated "debt hawks" to appreciate...

The Jeffersonian mind does not scan the foreign policy horizon in a search for opportunities; rather it sees threats...

...the classical and unmistakable tone of Jeffersonian diplomacy. Speak softly and carry the smallest possible stick.

The libertarian movement is an expression of Jeffersonian thought...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 PM

September 9, 2003

only a boor would restrict the creative spirit...

Charlene pointed me to this article on an art show at the Whitney, filled with anti-american art by foreign artists...

...And there, in a nutshell, is what is so infuriating about shows like "The American Effect." On one hand, they want to be taken seriously as barometers of public sentiment, yet when critics bear down on their conceptual inconsistencies, their defenders retreat to the realm of artist fantasy, denying that the public has a legitimate right to hold their views accountable. It's art, they argue, implying that only a boor would restrict the creative spirit. They want the right to editorialize their views like journalists, but without the messy necessity of responding to ensuing criticism...
Actually, all modern art is like that. As a member of the public, I'm supposed to visit the museums, support the arts with tax dollars, and be generally reverential towards anything labeled "art." But my opinions are not welcome.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:12 PM

August 29, 2003

Typical Catholic immigrants?

Zev Chafets writes about an interesting poll of Latin-Americans:

...Neither are Latinos inclined to see themselves as victims. Asked about the main barrier to success in the U.S., a large plurality listed language.

Almost 70% could think of no instance in the past year in which they suffered ethnic or racial discrimination. Just 3.7% regard bias as the most important problem they face.

Fully 85.5% say that affirmative action should be based more on need than on race. Among potential Democratic primary voters, the Rev. Al Sharpton got just 1.8%.

Politically, a majority of Latinos call themselves conservative or moderate,..

...Seen through the prism of this poll, Hispanics appear to be less a group of disaffected minority voters than a fairly typical community of Catholic immigrants. A generation ago, the Republicans converted working-class Italian-, Polish- and Irish-Americans into Reagan Democrats. This year, they will be trying to repeat the act, in Spanish...

(via Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

August 23, 2003

At a desk, Ridge sits...

I'm reading a very interesting book, AFTER: Rebuilding and Defending America in the September 12 Era, by Steven Brill. It's a look at how American responded in the year after September 11. It follows several victims and their families, and also follows various bureaucrats and government departments, as they cope and change. Good stuff, although from my perspective its emphasis on big government misses a lot of the story. There are probably a hundred pages on airport passenger screening without the slightest indication that, in fact, hijacking is no longer a problem, because passengers now jump on anyone who looks the least bit like a hijacker.

To balance that, the thorny problem of screening for bombs in airplanes and in shipping containers is probably an appropriate job for government, and I found our efforts there to be a gripping story. And it looks like our government agencies have in fact made enormous progress in coping with some difficult problems, and haven't received much credit from people like me.

Last August I posted this haiku:

Still: sunbeamed dust flits.
Bare wall echoes unheard call.
At a desk, Ridge sits.

By Will Warren (via Natalie Solent)

It is very interesting (and embarassing) to read now about how hard Tom Ridge was working at that very moment to coordinate the efforts of various jurisdictions so they could work together on the next emergency. And the story of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which was happening right then, is fascinating. Ridge's first (and very sensible) suggestion to bring together Immigration, Customs and Coast Guard was shot down instantly by jealous cabinet members. It was Bush who told him that a big change would actually be easier to pass than a small one, and to go back to the drawing board and propose the best solution, and then they would fight for it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

August 21, 2003

"Was there a sign?"

I read in The Corner recently Jonah Goldberg writing of his run-in with some State Park rangers in Vermont. I didn't pay much attention, but Scott Chaffin owns a campground (you can see it here) and he's not buying any of it...

...I go through this kind of crap every weekend. Sometimes the offenders are the wine-sippers in their Beemer SUVs who can't be bothered to turn in and check in. Sometimes it's the Latino caravan who "were here last month." Sometimes it's the hayseeds in monster 4x4s who "used to know the owner." Point is, in every single case, they pull the same kind of BS that this joker does: "Was there a sign?" I know they're lying, and they know I know they're lying...
...More "rules don't apply to me." Why is there a 15mph speed limit, a-hole? Because parks are full of kids who think they're outdoors, away from the roads and the danger of cars. It might have looked empty to you, but do you KNOW for a fact that it is? As for the dog, the reason, if you care, is that dogs are territorial and will get into fights with other dogs and a good puppy-dog could get killed and then someone would get sued...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:16 PM