September 9, 2013

A world like ours is coming to be...

An unfortunate result of our disinterest in history is that we are mostly unaware that Jesus lived in a Palestine drenched in blood from religious terrorism. A place with remarkable similarities to today's Islamic world.

Jewish terrorism was a big problem for the Romans for a couple of centuries. One terror group was the Sicarii (dagger-men), a splinter group of the Zealots. Their tactic was to mingle with a crowd, then suddenly draw daggers and start killing people. Then they would drop their knives and pretend to be innocent citizens outraged by this violence, and escape in the confusion. Think of them when you read about car bombs in Baghdad.

there were dozens of false messiahs, who were usually both religious rebels and bandits. A new one would arise every few years, raising an army to force the coming of the messianic kingdom. And the general Jewish population was on a hair-trigger. Mob violence could explode on the slightest provocation.

Rome pursued the same policies western governments are trying now, with the same disappointing results. Bribes and punishments, reprisals and negotiation, direct rule (Pilate) or supporting local strong-men (Herod). Nothing worked, until mass-slaughter was applied in the two Jewish wars. (The book to read is Empires of Trust, by Maddox.)

The terrorism and wars in the time of Jesus happened for the same reason Islamic terrorism happens today. The Jews were threatened by the possibility that their religion was false. Muslims in the Information Age can not avoid the evidence that their religion is false and their cultures are dysfunctional.

In the case of the Jews of the later Second Temple period, their "story" wasn't coming true. The story was exile-and-return, four centuries as slaves in Egypt, followed by return to the Promised Land, leading to the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. But the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon did not lead to the expected glorious Davidic/messianic kingdom. Palestine remained part of Persia, and after a short and not glorious period of independence, was absorbed into the Roman Empire. The feeling was that Jews were still in exile. So extremists started using force to make the new kingdom happen. Others went overboard with Jewish purity laws, for the same reason.

Violence is everywhere in the Gospels, but we mostly don't see it. For instance, when the people try to make Jesus a king by force, (John 6:15) they were in fact initiating a violent revolution against Rome. A WAR, starting immediately.

This is the background for understanding Jesus. We today don't quite understand sayings like "turn the other cheek" because it sounds sappy and weak--letting yourself get beat up. To understand, imagine a peacemaker in Damascus or Islamabad right now preaching such things. Preaching forgiveness of enemies. That would be a radical shocking new thing! A courageous act. And Jesus defying the Pharisees on purity issues might be like opposing Sharia in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

This is the sea of Galilee, from the trip Charlene and I took in 2008. It looks so peaceful! No true, of course. Nor was it when Jesus fed the 5,000, and almost started a war...

View of Sea of Galilee, from our hotel in Tiberias
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"

Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Caper'na-um... (John 6: 1-16)
Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 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

May 27, 2013

"No sculptured stone will tell"

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

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

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

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

-- Winifred Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 PM

January 6, 2013

Running the numbers on Jesus. Dennis the Shrimp was right...

Taylor Marshall, Christ Really Was Born Exactly 2013 Years Ago! The Chronology of Josephus Was Wrong:

...Doubts over the birth year of Christ arose in the 1600s. Scholars became aware of the chronology provided by the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus places the death of King Herod the Great in what Dionysius called 4 B.C. Since Herod tried to kill the infant Christ, then it would necessarily be the case that Christ would be born before the death of Herod. If Herod died in 4 B.C., then Christ would need to be born before 4 B.C. And so, ever since the seventeenth century, people have been claiming that Dionysius got it wrong and that Christ was born four years before Christ.

What do we make of all this? Well, either Josephus is correct or Dionysius is correct. Both cannot be right. Until recently most scholars agreed with Josephus because: A) Josephus lived in the century of Christ, B) Josephus was Jewish, and C) Josephus was a professional historian. Dionysius was just a monk living in Rome over five hundred years later.

However, there is now good reason for believing that Josephus got it wrong. Further studies of Josephus reveal that he was most certainly not consistent or accurate in dating several key events in Jewish and Roman history. In fact, Josephus contradicts verified history, the Bible, and even his own chronology about one hundred times. His dates are not very accurate. The French archaeologist, jurist, and historian Theodore Reinarch was one of the first to document the many factual and chronological errors of Josephus. Reinarch’s translation of Josephus is steadily interrupted by comments such as “this is a mistake” or “in another book his figures are different.”[ii]

The following is an example of the poor chronology of Josephus. Josephus records in his Jewish War that Hyrcanus reigned for thirty-three years. Yet in his Antiquities of the Jews, that Hyrcanus reigned thirty-two years.[iii] Yet in another place in his Antiquities, Josephus says that Hyrcanus reigned only thirty years. That’s three contradictory claims—two in the same book!...

Note: Our system of dates comes from a 6th century monk known as Dionysius Exiguus. In English that would be "Little Dennis." I think of him as Dennis the Shrimp. His real mistake was to not start with a zero" century. That's why the year 1950 is in the 20th century, causing endless confusion.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 AM | Comments (6)

December 19, 2012

Charlene recommends...

Jew Without a Gun:

...I am republishing my three-part series about the LA Riots of 1992 in which Karen and I and the children were trapped for several frightening hours. We were unarmed, helpless save for our wits. The police were conspicuously absent and the bad guys, frequently armed with heavy weapons, owned the streets. It was a defining moment in my life.

I'm reposting this series as a cautionary tale because the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre has sharpened the claws of the statist utopians, whose ultimate aim is to disarm law-abiding American citizens.

Just as Obamacare has nothing to do with health, and cap and trade has nothing to do with so-called global warming, anti-gun laws have nothing to do with saving children's lives.

It's just another opportunity for the left to centralize power.

Part One

Hollywood is Burning

Hollywood is on fire.

Karen and I lock every door in the house, shut tight the windows, we move through the house switching off all the lights.

Gazing from our bedroom window we watch orange flames lick at the darkness, pillars of black smoke climb into the sky. We can actually smell the acrid odor of burning rubber.

"Look how close they are," says Karen.

"Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight blocks away."

Karen gives me a long penetrating gaze:

"What do we do if they come here?"

My mind is racing away. The truth is we are defenseless. Unless I get crazy inventive like Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs.

"After this is all over," I vow, "I'm going to buy a pistol."

Karen says: "How about a shotgun?"

Dissolve to--

Two Hours Earlier:...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 PM

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)

September 12, 2012

Deadly sounds...

One of my sons sent me a YouTube link to these old recordings from the 30's of Civil War veterans giving the famous Rebel Yell. I hadn't realized what an eerie vibrating sound it was...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2012

Hmmm. Which Pope does this remind me of?

Newman, writing on the Popes... (Rise & Progress of Universities - Chapter 11)

...Old men usually get fond of old habits; they cannot imagine, understand, relish any thing to which they are not accustomed. The Popes have been old men; but, wonderful to say, they have never been slow to venture out upon a new line, when it was necessary, and had ever been looking about, sounding, exploring, taking observations, reconnoitring, attempting, even when there was no immediate reason why they should not let well alone, as the world would say, or even when they were hampered with difficulties at their door so great, that you would think that they had no time or thought to spare for anything in the distance.

It is but a few years ago that a man of eighty, of humble origin, the most Conservative of Popes, as he was considered, with disaffection and sedition upheaving his throne, was found to be planning missions for the interior of Africa, and, when a moment's opportunity was given him, made the most autocratical of Emperors, the very hope of Conservatives, the very terror of Catholics, quail beneath his glance. And, thus independent of times and places, the Popes have never found any difficulty, when the proper moment came, of following out a new and daring line of policy (as their astonished foes have called it), of leaving the old world to shift for itself and to disappear from the scene in its due season, and of fastening on and establishing themselves in the new...

Pope Benedict is in his eighties, and is still suprising us.

And here, from the same piece, a picture of a really classy Pope in action...

...What were these outer barbarians [the English] to Gregory? How could they relieve him or profit him? What compensation could they make for what the Church was then losing, or might lose in future? Yet he corresponds with their king and queen, urges them to complete what they had so happily begun, reminds Bertha of St. Helena, and what St. Helena did for the Romans, and Ethelbert, of the great Constantine; informs them of the satisfaction which their conversion had given to the Imperial Court at Constantinople, and sends them sacred presents from the Apostle Peter. Nay he cannot keep from talking of these savages, apropos of anything whatever, for they have been running in his head from the day he first saw them in the slave market; and he makes the learned Church of Alexandria the special partner of his joy upon this contemptible victory.

The Patriarch Eulogius had been telling him of his own success in reclaiming the heretics of Alexandria, and he sends him a piece of good news in return:—"As I am well aware," he says, "that in the midst of your own good deeds, you rejoice in those of others, I will repay you for the kindness of your tidings by telling you something of the same sort." And then he goes on to speak of the conversion of the English, "who are situated in a corner of the world," as if their gain was comparable to that of the educated and wealthy persons whom Eulogius had been reconciling to the Church. Nay, lest he should take too much credit for his own success, and grow vain upon it, he attributes it to the prayers of the Alexandrians, or at least of their Bishop, all that way off, as if the Angles and Jutes were anything at all to the city of the Ptolemies! "On Christmas Day," he says, "more than 10,000 of them were baptized. I tell you of it, that you may know, that, while your words avail for your own people, your prayers avail for the ends of the earth. For you are by prayer where you are not, while you manifest yourself by holy labours where you are."
Posted by John Weidner at 4:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2012

Stevenson on Pepys...

(You almost certainly already know this, but Samuel Pepys' name was pronounced "peeps." I remember feeling awkward as a youth when my dad corrected my pronunciation. The Bezan was a dutch-built yacht. King Charles II, who Pepys served for much of his life, was the main inventor of yachting as a sport. The Hope is a stretch of the Thames below Gravesend.)

Portrait of Samuel Pepys

...The whole world, town or country, was to Pepys a garden of Armida. Wherever he went his steps were winged with the most eager expectation; whatever he did, it was done with the most lively pleasure. An insatiable curiosity in all the shows of the world and all the secrets of knowledge, filled him brimful of the longing to travel, and supported him in the toils of study. Rome was the dream of his life; he was never happier than when he read or talked of the Eternal City. When he was in Holland, he was 'with child' to see any strange thing. Meeting some friends and singing with them in a palace near the Hague, his pen fails him to express his passion of delight, 'the more so because in a heaven of pleasure and in a strange country.'

He must go to see all famous executions. He must needs visit the body of a murdered man, defaced 'with a broad wound,' he says, 'that makes my hand now shake to write of it.' He learned to dance, and was 'like to make a dancer.' He learned to sing, and walked about Gray's Inn Fields 'humming to myself (which is now my constant practice) the trillo.' He learned to play the lute, the flute, the flageolet, and the theorbo, and it was not the fault of his intention if he did not learn the harpsichord or the spinet. He learned to compose songs, and burned to give forth 'a scheme and theory of music not yet ever made in the world.' When he heard 'a fellow whistle like a bird exceeding well,' he promised to return another day and give an angel for a lesson in the art. Once, he writes, 'I took the Bezan back with me, and with a brave gale and tide reached up that night to the Hope, taking great pleasure in learning the seamen's manner of singing when they sound the depths.'

If he found himself rusty in his Latin grammar, he must fall to it like a schoolboy. He was a member of Harrington's Club till its dissolution, and of the Royal Society before it had received the name. Boyle's Hydrostatics was 'of infinite delight' to him, walking in Barnes Elms. We find him comparing Bible concordances, a captious judge of sermons, deep in Descartes and Aristotle. We find him, in a single year, studying timber and the measurement of timber; tar and oil, hemp, and the process of preparing cordage; mathematics and accounting; the hull and the rigging of ships from a model; and 'looking and improving himself of the (naval) stores with' - hark to the fellow! - 'great delight'...
---Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 PM

May 9, 2012

Oddball meditation...

I was just talking to my son the classicist, and he expressed curiosity about if some Marines were sent back in time to fight the Spartans, who would win.

I said that was a boring question. If spears are used, the Spartans obviously win. If firearms, the Marines win. The really interesting thing would be to send both groups to the 17th century, to duke it out with muskets and pikes.

My initial thought is that the Spartans would have the advantage. Pike work was, I think, trickier than musketry, and Spartan hoplites would grasp the concept right away. As an instance, here are some modern chaps handling pikes. (Re-enactors of the English Civil War.) Not too impressive, eh?

Pikemen, reenactors of the English Civil War

For the historically challenged, the matchlock musket of the 17th century fired slowly. Two or three shots a minute if you were skilled. And the musketeer was almost helpless in defense. A horseman could just ride by and cut him down. So the pikemen formed a bristling wall of points, mostly to protect the shooters. There was an intricate dance needed to bring the musketeers forward to shoot, then move them back among the pikes when danger approached. And to move the whole assembly across the battlefield without losing cohesion. (All this was made obsolete by the invention of the bayonet.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

April 8, 2012

Wildest thing I've ever built...

Since today is Easter, it is an appropriate moment to post about this recently installed project. It is a reliquary, holding a tiny fragment of the True Cross. (And to forestall the obvious question, I don't know if it is a true relic. But I don't see any historical reason to think such a thing implausible. I've posted some historical thoughts below the fold.) The actual fragment is too small to see here—it's a minute splinter at the center of the crystal cross you see.

Reliquary with True Cross

The design specifications were like nothing I'd ever even considered. I wanted piece of traditional-looking woodwork, that would also be secure from thieves, yet accessible so the relic could be removed for veneration on Good Friday. And lighted.

The projecting part you see below hides two steel cages (thanks to one of my sons, who can weld a bit). Sandwiched between them are windows of polycarbonate plastic (Lexan). The steel is sheathed in two layers of oak. An ugly tough layer with lots of steel screws holding it all in shape. And that layer was then covered in some thin veneers of very handsome White Oak. And all this was just invented as I want along. There are no how-to books to consult!

Detail of the Oak used to sheath the reliquary

White Oak is prized by people like me for its "ray flakes." Those are those pale lines that stripe the wood. (If you have heard the term "quarter-sawn oak," that is the sawing angle that shows the flakes best.) The flakes on the shield-shaped back of the piece are typical—fairly big and irregular. NOW, look at the oak wood in the projecting part of the reliquary. See the ranks of slender close-drawn flakes, which are an appropriate size for such slim components. Almost thread-like. You are seeing something rare. I've only seen them like that once. I starting building a piece of oak furniture for Charlene at least 15 years ago. But the project stalled, and I put some parts away to maybe maybe work on later. They cluttered my shop for years. And dozens of times I considered turning them into fire-wood. And each time I said, "Naw. Too pretty. Just can't do it!"

So, there they were, when their moment came!

Here's a bit of the construction process. I'm gluing and clamping strips of veneer onto the rough oak. Lordy, what contortions I went through. I often wished I'd chosen a different job.

Reliquary, glueing and clamping the veneers onto the substrate

Historical note... I'm a history buff, and have been thinking a bit about relics of the Cross. Here's something I wrote...

People in our culture tend to scoff at the very idea, but actually there's nothing historically implausible about fragments of the Cross surviving into our time.

The Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, is said to have obtained the Cross and brought it to Constantinople. That she or some other worthy might have obtained the actual cross is not far-fetched. The Romans were exceedingly organized and meticulous in everything they did. It is likely that they had their crosses made to high standards under government contract, and then took very good care of them. I'd guess they painted numbers on them, and had inventory lists. Probably the Roman soldiers had to sign them out of a warehouse, and some fussbudget bureaucrat told them that any damage would be deducted from their pay!

And the Christians of the first couple of centuries would have been angling all the time to get their hands on that cross, and hide it. There were wealthy and influential people among them, and they were highly motivated. Bribery could accomplish a lot. If Joseph of Arimathea could obtain the body of Jesus, if Nicodemus could buy a hundred pounds of spices to bury him with... it would be more surprising if they didn't get the Cross!

Erasmus of Rotterdam famously stated that if all the pieces of the True Cross were gathered together, it would take a ship to carry them. But that was hyperbole used for literary effect in trying to combat supposed superstition. He didn't study the matter. Charles Rohault de Fleury published a study in 1870, analyzing all known Cross fragments. They added up to much less than any reasonable estimate for a cross.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:14 PM

March 18, 2012

Adherence to Mission...

I'm accumulating bits and pieces of what I hope will be a book someday. (Concerning the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Which I believe was a profound change in thinking, that arose before PC's and the Internet.) Many of them I'm just retrieving out of this blog, since Random Jottings is a big messy closet stuffed with odds and ends that interest me, and now I find that a lot of them are useful for the new project. To my surprise I've sort of been writing a book for ten years without realizing it!

But also, things I'm collecting now for the book may be worth putting into the blog. This one is from Six Days in June, by Eric Hammel, which I read years ago. It's a great book about the Six-Day War in 1967, and the history that led up to that stunning victory. Here are some quotes. I'm sure you will see what I'm getting at...

NOTE: Zahal is the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Defense Forces. And the emphasis on speedy decisive victory is not some kind of blood-thirstiness, but is based upon the reality that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by much larger enemies. She has no room for maneuver or retreats, and lacks the resources for a long war.

The simplest definition of Adherence to Mission is that higher headquarters establishes a goal in broad terms and the unit charged with achieving the goal may do so by any means at hand. This very definition runs exactly counter to the conventional wisdom pounded between the ears of the soldiers of virtually every military force in the world. Only Zahal actively inculcates its leaders—indeed, every single one of its soldiers—with the dictum of Adherence to Mission.

Most wars fought by most modern armies—whether offensive or defensive—begin with a strategic statement from the government that is illuminated with a carefully drawn operational plan. This carefully drawn plan is known as a sequential plan, for each phase is dependent upon the successful completion of the previous phase...

...When the basic fact that war is chaos and the fog is most penetrable at the point of contact were recognized, analyzed, and institutionalized after the 1956 war, Zahal achieved the ultimate hallmark of its war-making potential.The Israelis came up with an operational doctrine based upon their own actual experience with cumulative warfare. They would intentionally allow for tactical and operational plans governing movement toward the final objective to be made on the fly by the man on the spot: Adherence to Mission...

...While all the reasons for the old method remain essentially true—senior commanders usually do have more experience and higher headquarters usually do have access to more information and broader vistas—the Israeli drive for decisive battlefield dominance—and strategic victory in the shortest possible time—cannot tolerate the time lost in passing information up the chain of command and waiting for instructions to come back down the chain...

...Far from attempting to control the chaos of the battlefield, Adherence to Mission was the first attempt by any of the world's armies to accept and exploit that chaos—virttually to employ chaos as an ally. Israeli soldiers of all ranks are taught that chaos and confusion are inevitable and that their accumulation will inevitably lead to opportunities that cannot possibly be foreseen in any sequential plan and might not be noticed by higher authority. The object of Adherence to Mission is to get every soldier at every level to recognize—and then exploit on his own authority—opportunities that are occurring right before his eyes...

M3 Halftracks, Sinai, Six Day War
(The picture is of Israeli forces in Sinai during the Six Day War. I have a fondness for the M-3 half-tracks, a great American machine. A friend who knows more than I wrote that they were designed to last only for 1,000 miles—from Normandy to Berlin. But there are many of them still running.)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:00 PM

March 13, 2012

History should be treated with truth-loving respect...

I was looking through old posts, and thought this one worth re-posting. Just for my own satisfaction; no one else is likely to care. From November 26, 2001...

British attack in  the film Barry LyndonThe Captain [i.e. Steven den Beste, much missed in the Blogosphere] has written a great bit debunking the persistent myth that the American colonists fought the British by shooting from behind trees and rocks, while the redcoats foolishly paraded in lines.

This is a tall tale that never dies, but in fact the linear tactics were used by both sides for good reasons.

The smoothbore muskets used then were very inaccurate. An individual sniper would be unlikely to do much damage. (Even at Lexington and Concord, the majority of the British survived that long cruel day.) Only with masses of men firing in volleys was firepower effective. AND, muskets were slow to reload. While you were reloading, your only defense was the bayonet. Again, the individual was vulnerable, but a line of men could present a bristling front of bayonets.

Some colonists had rifles, which were very accurate. BUT, rifles then were VERY slow to load, and didn't have bayonets. They were a grief to the British, but never decisive in battle.

Just as important, no one back then had figured out how to control a battle when men were crawling about taking cover. It was a then-insuperable problem. (It was really only solved in 1918, when the Ludendorf Offensives almost defeated the Allies)

I have read that Baron von Steuben, who taught infantry tactics to Washington's army, was flagrantly homosexual. I don't know the details, but gays might want to keep him in mind.

Also good to remember is that the British at Lexington were peace-time soldiers who had never practiced their craft seriously; and didn't expect to find themselves at war (their position was similar to modern "peacekeeping missions".) If the same battle were fought a year later, they would have burned Lexington and Concord to the ground, and massacred any Minutemen who couldn't run very very fast.

I would add that the British at the time of Lexington had the tactics to deal with the colonial rabble. But they hadn't practiced, and were simply not ready. Every battalion (maybe 800 men in 10 companies) had a "light company." These were supposed to be agile and intelligent chaps who could move ahead of the line, dealing with enemy skirmishers and irregulars. They should have given the colonists some real difficulties, but didn't.

The famous British Rifle Regiments emerged from the Revolutionary War. They were fast-moving units clothed in dark green, with black details. They carried no flags, because they did not form a line. Bugles were used for rapid signaling. They marched twice as fast as the ponderous redcoats, and prided themselves on self-discipline and initiative. In a Rifle Regiment—they still exist—"red" is an insult! But it has nothing to do with Communism.

The French await British attack in  the film Barry Lyndon

The pictures are from Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon, set in the Seven Years War. It is very good as a historical picture—give it a try. Some of the scenes were filmed by candle-light, which was astonishing at the time, 1975. I will never forget my frustration when I went to see it, and as the British attacked in line (the picture at the top) some guy loudly said, "I never understood this!" I could have explained it to him, but alas it was not possible. The lower picture is of the French unit bracing for that oncoming British attack. White was the pre-Revolutionary French color.

Just as a crazy extra for you, the Seven Years War was actually started in America. It was started, in fact, by a colonial officer. A certain young Colonel George Washington, whose rash and bloodthirsty attack on Frenchmen who were not at war with the British, ignited a conflagration that might well be called "the first world war." Fun facts for you. Only available at RJ.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 PM

February 7, 2012

I remember the death of the last Civil War Veteran...

The Very Last World War I Veteran Has Died - Global - The Atlantic Wire:

A British woman who served with the Royal Air Force for the last two months of World War I was the last known veteran of the war when she died in her sleep Saturday night. Florence Green joined the RAF at the age of 17 and died just before her 111th birthday, which would have been Feb. 19. She had been a mess steward with the air force, the BBC reported, serving in two U.K. air bases after she joined up on Sept. 13 1918. The Allies signed the armistice with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Green follows Claude Choules, a Royal Navy sailor who was the last WWI combatant before he died in May 2011, and Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of the war, who died in February 2011. All were 110 years old.

The last Civil War vet, Albert H. Woolson, died in 1956. I remember my mother telling me.

I only remember, as a boy, personally knowing one person who fought in WWI. There were probably others around me, but I wasn't aware. This particular man's "fighting" was not combat, however. As he put it, "The first day I got to France, I got in a knife fight with another Southern boy." That was the end of his war.

In my youth the WWII vets were the upcoming men, with young families. The grey haired senior men, such as President Eisenhower, were in the WWI generation. I remember when it was a big deal that JFK was the first President of the WWII generation.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:44 PM | Comments (2)

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 10, 2011

Bible facts you may not know, #3

Guerin pyramids

(Here are Bible Facts number one and number two.)

1. No nuclear families. Usually where the Bible shows an individual doing something, it would have been assumed by all early readers that the person was accompanied by an entourage. I recently read Anne Rice's novel about Jesus' childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I think the whole idea of Jesus novels, including those of Ms. Rice, to be preposterous folly. But the book is good as historical fiction. Especially in the way it shows the household of Joseph and Mary as a crowd of uncles and cousins and children, working and living together. And traveling together, to Bethlehem, and to Egypt. All those pictures of Joseph and Mary meandering by themselves with a donkey are nonsense.

The picture is by a favorite artist, Jules Guerin. But Joseph and Mary would likely have headed for Alexandria, and never come near the pyramids.

2. The Gospels were not written for specific communities. It is a commonplace among biblical scholars that each of the Gospels was written for an isolated community. (i.e.: the Gospel of Matthew was written for the "Matthean Community.") And that scholars can discern the nature of that group by what was being written for them, and then write papers about their pecularities. This might be called the "Scholars Full-Employment Act," since there is no end to the blarney one can come up with when writing about imaginary things. There is in fact no independent evidence for the theory. And the First Century world simply didn't work like that. People and ideas and manuscripts circulated rapidly, much like today, and no one writing a book on some important topic would have imagined that it would only be read by his local group.

This is what the world of Jesus was really like: (From Paul's second letter to Timothy, chap. 4)

...Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessaloni'ca; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me. Tych'icus I have sent to Ephesus... Greet Prisca and Aq'uila, and the household of Onesiph'orus. Eras'tus remained at Corinth; Troph'imus I left ill at Mile'tus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubu'lus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.

3. The Diaspora. By the time of Jesus there were probably more Jews living outside Palestine then within. All the major cities of the empire had Jewish communities. Christianity first spread to these groups, as the early Christians were mostly Jewish, and were addressing questions that Jews were very aware of, such as the coming of the Messiah. I used to imagine that when the family of Jesus fled to Egypt, they would have been penniless refugees in a strange land, and unable to speak the language. In fact there were lots of Jews in Egypt, and it would have been like the way now that someone from China can go to any large city in the world, find the Chinatown, and be right at home. And a bit of Greek could make you understood anywhere, even in Rome.

4. WORD NOTE: "The gates of hell." People commonly take the phrase: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18) as a sort of poetic way of saying that the power of Hell will not defeat the Church. (Example.) But Jesus spoke in the days when siege warfare against walled cities was a major component of war. There's nothing cutsey or poetic about it; he meant something tough. It's the Church which is attacking Hell, not the other way around. And the Gates of Hell will be battered down, be they never so strong! We are not on the defensive!

5. St Ignatius of Antioch. You will recall that when Ignatius, the third Bishop of Antioch, was being transported to Rome to be thrown to the lions, he wrote a series of letters to Christian communities that we still read today, with great profit. (Well, actually, when I was growing up an Evangelical Protestant I never even heard of him. I wonder why.) Antioch in Syria was then the third largest city of the Empire, and Ignatius, who was its Christian bishop for about 40 years, would have been a high-value target. High value if one assumes, like the Roman authorities did, that a cult would melt away if its leaders were killed. Ha!

One should also realize that the bureaucratic efficiency with which we deal with prisoners did not exist before the Industrial Age. Prisoners in the past were almost always accessible; a small payment to the guards would get your friends in to bring you comforts and have a nice visit. It is not at all surprising that John the Baptist, while in Herod's dungeon, was able to send his disciples to question Jesus. Likewise Ignatius, though traveling under a military guard, received many Christian visitors.

6. The real name of Easter. Chaps like Christopher Hitchins scoff because the chief Christian holy day is named after an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess, Eostre. But Easter isn't the name of Easter. The real name of what we call Easter is Pascha, and has been since long before the Anglo-Saxons even came into existence. (The h is silent, it's pronounced Pahss-kuh.) Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Pesch, which is the Passover. Actually Eostre also meant "Spring," so the whole question may be moot. BUT, Christ is Lord of all, and He is not in the least bit diminished by pagan names. Or any other pagan things we absorb and put to good use. We devour them, we crunch them up like peanut brittle. (By the way, does anyone still eat peanut brittle? I haven't encountered it in years. Does that date me?)

7. Fishing rights belonged to the state. Peter and Andrew, or James and John and their father Zebedee, were fishermen because they bought a contract to do so. Possibly through Matthew the tax collector. You didn't just fish on a whim. Presumably the cost of a contract was high enough that you couldn't get rich, but low enough that fishermen could afford boats and nets, etc.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 PM

November 23, 2011

Just in case anyone's late to the Orwellian party...

...You can see the famous "Hockey Stick" in the upper part of the graph below. It covers about 1,000 years. Hockey stick-shaped graphs have been reproduced tens-of-thousands of times, in articles, schoolbooks, government reports. When you hear that the science of Anthropogenic Global Warming is "settled," that's the picture you are supposed to be accepting ...

Two climate graphs

The lower part is the consensus view of climate for the last millennium that prevailed until the 1990's. What I grew up with. (The "science was settled!") The big orange bump is the Medieval Warm Period. Remember that? Farms in Greenland? Wine produced in England? And the blue dips comprise the "Little Ice Age." Remember that? Remember reading about ice fairs on the Thames? Hmm?

Well, if such things linger in your head, you are anti-science! You are a crazy right-winger attacking settled truth.

What fills me with exceptional scorn and contempt, is that it was just like Orwell's book 1984, where the totalitarian state has been at war with Oceania. And then it's announced that they are now allied with Oceania, and at war with Eastasia. And the minds of the obedient subjects just flip to the new position, and assume that they have always been at war with Eastasia.

The same kind of flip happened in the 90's. All our obedient fake-liberals flipped, and accepted the new "settled" version without questioning. Without thought. The Medieval Warm was deep-sixed without a qualm. Animals.

Here's the most common version of the 'Hockey Stick," from the original paper by Michael Mann.

And since I'm rambling away here, here's a quote on a "Frost Fair" on the river Thames, from the Diary of John Evelyn, about 1670:

"Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, as in the streets; sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cooks, tippling and other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water."

Frost Fair 2

Posted by John Weidner at 1:04 PM

November 20, 2011

A cautionary tale...

Most of my projects are doomed to failure... I'm not even on the same wavelength as everybody else. Heck I might as well be speaking Martian. But I keep trying.

One project most close to my heart is to try to wake up my parish (and eventually all the other Catholics too) to the need to adjust to the new era we have entered. We have left the Industrial Age, and entered the Information Age. We need to adapt and change. Most likely we will not do so. Instead we will crash and burn, and our grandchildren will cobble together new structures from the tumbled stones of the ruins.

Such a waste.

This is a cautionary tale I'll be circulating; a story of a certain institution that could not SEE that times had changed...

Papal states map 1870Have you heard of the Papal States? Did you know that the Pope was once a sovereign prince, the ruler of a large part of central Italy? With his own army and police and castles and taxes? (Firearms collectors place high value on the rare M1868 Papal States Remington rifle, known as the... Pontificio!) The Papal States made sense in the Agricultural Age, when power and wealth flowed from land, and the idea of great lord without a landed patrimony was almost unthinkable. Land was the only reliable investment. The Pope had lands of his own from the Sixth to the Nineteenth centuries. And no one seems to have minded much 

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution the Papal States were doomed. Their reason for existing evaporated, because the income and strength derived from land and peasants became trivial compared to what the Holy See could raise from donations from the industrially developed world. And the new geo-political organizing principle was the nation state, not the feudal territories of princes. The very concept of a "prince" had become obsolete, though many still held such titles.
The Papal States were violently seized from the Pope by the emerging nation of Italy in 1861 and 1870. (Before the mid-19th century Italy had been a collection of city-states, not a nation.) At the time this seemed like the end of the world to many Catholics.

Thousands of Catholic men from around the globe volunteered for the Papal forces, and fought in small but serious battles against Garibaldi's Redshirts. When the Italian Army finally marched into Rome in 1870, this seemed to most Catholics outrageous and unforgivable. Bitterness and intransigence were the order of the day. No pope spoke in St Peter's Square for 46 years, because it was under the control of the Italian Army. The situation was not fully resolved until 1926.

Few people then imagined that the influence of the Pope in the world would greatly increase with the loss of his territories. And yet it was true. The loss of the states was a blessing in disguise, and no one today would want the Pope to be a territorial magnate.

The lesson: The Church in the 19th century poured large amounts of her treasure and energy into defending things that were, in reality, already dead. More importantly, she was slow to see many of the new opportunities and possibilities of the 19th century and the industrializing world.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2011


There are times I look around at my fellow American Catholics, and think, "Nah, give it up, guy. We're toast." But the crazy flawed contraption that Jesus fudged-up has been sputtering long for 2k years, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any other institutions that last more than 200 or maybe 300 years. so I'll stick with what works, and let other people go in for "experimental art."

...There Is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when lions and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheater. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and useful vigor.

The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the old. Her spiritual ascendancy extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor when some traveler from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Pauls....

      --- Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1840

I put in this picture of the great Pope Leo XIII just for fun, because I just learned today that Pope Benedict wore a stole belonging to Leo when he visited Westminster Abbey. (Check it out here.) This is hilarious (and of course is a serious bit of honesty and clarity) because it was Leo who settled a big question by declaring that Anglican Orders were invalid. And also it was he who made Newman a Cardinal.

So, *ahem*, atheists! We got jokes that play out over the course of centuries. What do you got?

Posted by John Weidner at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2011

Well, Valhalla is a fit home for warriors...

Charlene was thinking that one of these Hand Carved Viking Style Drinking Horns might perhaps be a Christmas present for one of our sons, who's interested in Nordic stuff. There is, however, a very curious delay mentioned on the web site....

...ATTENTION: Custom orders will be closed through October 15th, 2011 due to a large order for the Navy SEALs.

Please email me at to be notified when custom orders re-open or placed on the waiting list for an order....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:58 PM

August 3, 2011

Nemo and company...

Divers from 20,000 Leagues re-enter submarine Nautilus

One of my favorite memories from my youth was the Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It was a profound aesthetic treat, quite unforgettable. Today's "steampunk" fantasies are weak tea by comparison. And even better was the exhibit at Disneyland where one could walk through sets from the film. Everything in my life since then has been a bit anti-climactic. (The picture above shows divers re-entering the submarine Nautilus.)...

Divers from 20,000 Leagues

So it was very cool today to stumble on this web-site, THE DISNEY DIVERS:

...Filming the underwater scenes for Leagues was the greatest technical feat of its kind ever attempted. Nothing on this scale had ever been done before. The operation was so unparalleled, and the photographic methods were so revolutionary, that the United States Navy sent observers along to film the operation and see what they could learn about underwater photography from the Disney team...

...In 1954, SCUBA diving was still in its early years. The equipment seen in the movie was experimental. Conceived and perfected by people like Harper Goff, Fred Zendar, and Al Hansen, the Disney diving systems combined hard-hat and SCUBA gear with unique art-metalwork that was out-of-this-World...

...The rigs were tremendously heavy: well over two hundred pounds each. Because of this, safety protocols required that each individual diver had to have several assistants to help him in and out of the water. Once aboard the barge, the divers were guided to numbered seats on benches where tenders would remove and service their gear, and the air tanks could be recharged for the next dive...

Divers from 20,000 Leagues on tender

Here we see some of the Disney Divers all geared up and ready to go. That�s Ricou Browning in the #9 station. Ricou is also well known as the diver who played the monster in the underwater scenes for Creature from the Black Lagoon. Al Hansen is the seated diver on the left, and Canadian diver Leonard Mott is the diver on the right side of the picture.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:37 PM

April 30, 2011

A vivid figure from my youth...

Last Crew Member on Kon-Tiki Expedition Dies:

...Knut Haugland was a Norwegian wartime hero and by the time he met Heyerdahl had already had a lifetime's worth of adventures. He had learned radio communications in the military, had become involved in the Norwegian resistance movement and had sabotaged a German heavy-water plant. He escaped the Gestapo twice and received countless medals of decoration for his bravery and war record.

And then he joined up with Heyerdahl for this adventure. Despite the reliance on primitive technology - the raft was built based on drawings dating back to the time of the conquistadores - the expedition allowed itself the luxury of a hand-cranked radio. Haugland spent much of the 101 days at sea briefing the outside world.

The balsawood raft was made without a single nail, screw or rivet, just like it would have been in ancient times. The boat had a single steering oar to control its direction, a small cabin, a mangrove wood mast and 2 sails.

The crew's diet consisted of fish, coconut milk, water kept in bamboo containers and the occasional shark. As one crewman said " We ate them before they ate us should we slip from the planks."

The trip took 101 days and and finally crashed into a reef in the Tuanotu Islands of French Polynesia. They had proved that the migration route was possible and that a raft could make it across the Pacific...

What a thrilling and charming book that was. Well, still is, I'm sure. I may re-read it. I was maybe 12 years old when I discovered it. I remember being amazed at how they would catch sharks by holding out whole fish and when the shark grabbed the fish and dived, its tail would flick up, and they'd grab it and pull! The shark's loose intestines would move towards its head, and it would loose consciousness. Then they could haul it aboard, and run for safety as it came awake and started snapping and biting.

The other fascinating thing about the sharks is that they could bite off half of a whole tuna, without the slightest tugging or worrying. they'd just slice right through.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:29 PM

March 14, 2011

Been too busy to blog much...

...But I had to post this. Ted Gundy, an 85 year-old WWII sniper, is honored at Ft. Benning, And gets accurate hits at 300 yards with a replica of his old rifle. And at 1,000 yards with modern equipment.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

February 17, 2011

"Joshua fit de Battle of Jericho"...but it wasn't the bloodbath you thought it was

I recently bought a very interesting book, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William Dever.

I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the story of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. As the story goes it's a bloody mess. Downright genocidal, in fact, and that at the command of God. That's where a lot of the "wrathful God of the Old Testament" stuff comes from. And even though I'm one of those violent Tea-Partiers, mass slaughter can get a bit tiresome!

But the odd fact is that the archeological record does not show much evidence of war and destruction in Palestine in the relevant time-period, late 13th Century to early 12th BCE.

Canaan, the region we call Palestine, was then divided up into fairly small (think 25 miles wide) city-states, under petty "kings." These were typical Middle Eastern states with a traditional pattern of agriculture practiced mostly in the flatlands and lowlands. Featuring great estates, oppressive nobles, and miserable slaves and serfs and peasants. And all of them more or less under the thumb of Egypt. However, in this period the little Canaanite kingdoms seem to have gone into decline, with fewer signs of wealth found in excavations. But not evidently suffering from much destruction or conquest

At that same time, something new was happening. Settlements were growing up in the nearby Palestinian hills, where few had lived before. Often right on a hill-top. And those settlements seem to have been egalitarian hamlets, without signs of social stratification. No big-shots, no kings, no landlords. (Continued)


The people who settled the hills were creating new land and wealth by the extensive use of technology, including terracing, silos and cisterns. There is little sign that they were fleeing attackers—they weren't building any fortifications, and few weapons have been found. Nor do they seem to have driven anyone else off the hills.

Dever feels that, despite the lack of inscriptions or distinctive pottery, these people were ethnically Israelite. The same type of pillar-and-courtyard house they built is what is considered typical of the Israelites a century or two later. That the Israelites were not conquerers from outside as much as they were a local development from out of Canaanite culture.

But remember, the Canaanite petty kings were all vassals of Egypt. So it could be said that the new Israelite culture was in fact based on escape from bondage to Egypt! Dever takes no position on the historical reality of Moses, but one can infer that if some people did indeed escape from Egypt (maybe the Joseph tribes, who play a disproportionate role in the story), their history could become the defining story for the larger culture. And the stories of bloody conquest are just what would seem natural and proper as explanations in those days. God could have worked through these people in a more peaceful way than the stories tell.

Of course Israel eventually adopted the usual organization of kings and aristocrats and standing armies and corvees. But it is interesting that many passages in the OT assume that the right way of life is one without kings or landlords, with everybody sitting under his own fig tree, etc.

There's also I think an interesting similarity to Victor Hanson's thinking in his fascinating book The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization. That what really made Greece what it was was a movement during the Greek Dark Age (c. 8th Century BCE) of people leaving the old-style aristocratic grain-and-cattle agriculture of the flatlands, and "homesteading" small plots of typically about 10 acres up on the unused hillsides. They developed a diverse and intensive agriculture, with vines, olives, grain, fruit-trees, vegetables, animals. This was extremely productive, at a cost of year-round labor, and much thought and experimentation. Leading to a culture of thinking and individuality and sturdy democratic values.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

January 16, 2011

A Prayer of St Bede...

This prayer in YouTube form is NOT finished. Not tweaked. But since I probably won't find time or oomph to re-work it, and I had nothing else in mind for a Sunday Thought, here it is. Think of it as a protest against chronocentrism.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:55 AM

December 20, 2010

"By fraud, or by force"

Charlene recommends this, by an American diplomat who was dealing with Moslem terrorists more than 200 years ago. One should repeat this sort of thing often, not just because they are true, but also because we should fight against the creeping insanity of prohibiting criticism of Islam under the guise of "political correctness."

From The Social Contract...
John Quincy Adams on Islam:

In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, [ Editor's Note: Mohammed] combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion.

He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE [capitals in original].

Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every man's hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus...

The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 AM

November 10, 2010


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

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

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

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

* Update: This seems to fit...

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

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

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

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

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

September 16, 2010

Changes within my lifetime...

Charles Murray, On Energetic Government and Unlimited Government:

... But where does David get the idea that the "energetic government" he lauds in the administrations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln was more or less the same thing conceptually as "energetic government" now, on a somewhat smaller scale? A difference in kind has occurred, and it is reflected in difference in size.

Forget about the 19th-century budgets, which would make the comparison ludicrous. Instead, consider the federal budget in 1963, on the eve of President Lyndon Johnson's ascension to power. In 2008, dollars, as are all the numbers that follow, the federal government spent $782 billion that year, almost half of which went to defense. The entire federal government spent just $259 billion on domestic non-defense items (I exclude interest payments on the national debt). In 2008, while we were still under the compassionately conservative eye of President George W. Bush instead of the spendthrift liberals, the same domestic non-defense items amounted to $1.7 trillion. Shall we remove Social Security from that calculation? Then the numbers go from $150 billion in 1963 to $1.1 trillion in 2007—a sevenfold increase.

You don't increase spending by those amounts without changing the role of government in ways that go to the heart of the American project. That truth is reflected in the qualitative record. In 1963, 30 years after the New Deal started, the federal government still played little role in vast swathes of American life, from K-12 education to the way people went about providing goods and services to their fellow citizens. We can argue about which of the subsequent interventions were warranted and which were not, but not about this: The way that presidents and Congresses see their power to intervene in American life in 2010 is profoundly different from the way they saw it in 1963. In 1963, among mainstream Democrats as well as Republicans, it was accepted that an overarching purpose of the American Constitution was to limit the arenas in which government could act. Now, the recognition of that purpose has all but disappeared—in the executive branch, in the Supreme Court, and in Congresses controlled by Republicans as well as by Democrats. There has been big change, reflected in big government....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

September 6, 2010

Separation of church and state is not the same as separation of church and politics...

This piece, The Palin Puzzle, is interesting, but I want to quibble with something...

...Moreover, he continues, Palin's mixing of state and religion goes against the grains of American institutions, such as the American Jewish Committee or the Anti-Defamation League, while her anti-intellectualism has "never been good for Jews, who are over-represented in holders of advanced degrees." ...

Sarah Palin is mixing religion and politics, not religion and the state. And Americans have always mixed religion and politics. Thomas Jefferson on the campaign trail was blatantly Christian.

The idea that Palin or Glenn Beck or the "religious right" are imposing some sort of shocking innovation by invoking God in a political context is silly. This is as American as apple pie. What IS a shocking innovation is that the Democrat Party has become the natural home of atheism. Leftists are scrambling for cover by promoting the myth that religion has not been part of normal American politics in the past...

and the charge that Sarah is "anti-intellectual" is silly. What she, and most people who fit the label of "common sense conservative" are opposed to is the giving of inappropriate weight to intellectuals, or to intellectual knowledge.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:16 PM

September 3, 2010

Ideological man...

Mike Plaiss send me a Bloomberg book review, Starved by Mao, Cannibal China Ate Earth, Robbed Graves. (Gee Mike, you really know how to cheer a guy up!) But the histories of the destruction caused by socialism should be told over and over again. People don't want to know, but Mao was a far greater murderer than Hitler...

After "Mao's Great Famine," Frank Dikotter's chronicle of how that regime killed at least 45 million people in what he calls the greatest man-made famine the world has seen, no one will have any excuses for modish Maoism.

Dikotter, a professor at the University of Hong Kong on leave from the University of London, has broken through the lies and obfuscation surrounding Mao's crazed attempt to vault over Soviet Russia and snatch the leadership of the socialist camp by achieving communism at one bound in the Great Leap Forward of 1958 to 1962. His sources -- central and local Communist Party records he nosed out -- are solid, and the result is a shattering book.

Mao's aim was to "walk on two legs" -- to boost farm production and modernize industry simultaneously. In the countryside, the means were ending private property in favor of forced farm collectives that left peasants gobbling up whatever they had -- animals, grain, seeds -- rather than handing them over. In towns, the result was massive imports of machines that rusted or were broken by famished, comatose workers putting in impossible hours.

Such was the efficiency of Maoist terror that no photos of the famine are known to exist, Dikotter says. Yet the facts are enough, and nothing you read will be so harrowing. The inhumanity of man, ideological man especially, scorches every page...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

August 13, 2010

"The man was never bigger than his country."

I liked this piece by Fouad Ajami, The Obsolescence of Barack Obama. Esecially this bit on Ronald Reagan

...It was canonical to this administration and its functionaries that they were handed a broken nation, that it was theirs to repair, that it was theirs to tax and reshape to their preferences. Yet there was, in 1980, after another landmark election, a leader who had stepped forth in a time of "malaise" at home and weakness abroad: Ronald Reagan. His program was different from Mr. Obama's. His faith in the country was boundless. What he sought was to restore the nation's faith in itself, in its political and economic vitality.

Big as Reagan's mandate was, in two elections, the man was never bigger than his country. There was never narcissism or a bloated sense of personal destiny in him. He gloried in the country, and drew sustenance from its heroic deeds and its capacity for recovery. No political class rode with him to power anxious to lay its hands on the nation's treasure, eager to supplant the forces of the market with its own economic preferences.

To be sure, Reagan faltered midway through his second term—the arms-for-hostages trade, the Iran-Contra affair, nearly wrecked his presidency. But he recovered, the nation rallied around him and carried him across the finish line, his bond with the electorate deep and true. He had two years left of his stewardship, and his political recovery was so miraculous that he, and his first mate, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, would seal the nation's victory in the Cold War....

It's just Christianity 101. Reagan had a servant's heart. That's the secret of happiness, and the secret of true success.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

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 11, 2010

Bible facts you may not know #2

I wrote a previous post on various historical facts that can help make the Bible intelligible. (Read it here.) Here are some more...

Talent. The thing to keep in mind was that a Talent was a LOT of money. When Jesus told the story of the man giving his servant ten Talents to invest, (Matthew 25:14-30) it was probably like us saying ten million dollars! People would have smiled at the humor of it (and remembered the story because of it). No ordinary person would see such an amount in their whole life.

6,000 Greek Drachmae (or the equivalent Roman Denarius or Jewish Half-Shekel) made a silver Talent. One Drachmon was a very good day's wage. You could hire a mercenary for that. If you figure six work-days a week, then a silver Talent was over 19 man years! Ordinary people would have been thinking in terms of silver—a gold Talent was worth ten times as much.

The coin shown is a Greek Tetradrachmon coin, (four Drachmae) owned by my son the classicist. It's about the size of a nickel.

The name "Jesus." It's a Greek version of Jeshua, or Joshua. It is not some alien imposition. Palestine was embedded in the Greek-speaking world, and many Jews of the time also had Greek names or used alternate Greek versions of their Hebrew names. Something similar happens now. My kids have a friend named Sam, but he is also named Schmuel. There's no ambiguity because everyone knows both his names and what context they are used in.

Did Jesus speak Greek? Of course he did. My take is that the situation was similar to immigrant Jewish communities in America in, say, 1900. You spoke Yiddish in the neighborhood, but if you were a person of any smarts or ambition you needed to speak English too.

Joseph the carpenter. The word translated as carpenter is the Greek word "tekton." But this could also mean a builder or mason or even a tentmaker. Joseph might have been a very humble village carpenter making yokes and plows. But he could equally have been the master of a workshop. Or what we would call a contractor, employing workers. Nazareth was about four miles from Sepphoris, the largest city in Galilee. Sepphoris was destroyed by the Romans in 4BC, and was perhaps being busily re-built in Jesus' youth.

It is very possible that Nazareth was the equivalent of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood today, with men going out to work among the gentiles, but returning to a small pure stand-offish community afterwards.

Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem. It was the birthplace of King David, and the place the Messiah was expected to come from. Archeologists say it was a very small place. Maybe a hundred houses. (And caves!) There would have been no inn, a visitor would have lodged in someone's house. Despite what "scholars" aver, it is historically likely that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem. Why? Because people in a small pre-modern village would remember every happening or visitor. And certainly every kinsman, which Joseph was said to be. The Gospel of Luke came out a generation after Jesus, and the many enemies of the new Christians could easily have verified the story. Plus the Roman census records would still exist.

Dead Sea nearby. One of the interesting things I discovered when we went to Israel was how small the region is. And especially, how close the Dead Sea, the mouth of the Jordan, and the fortress of Masada are to Jerusalem. You could walk there in a day. My mental picture had been of places far far out in the desert, and I wondered why people would bother to go so far. No so. Also, these were places one typically went down to in the winter to escape the cold and wet of the Judean highlands. If you had money, it was sort of like Florida.

Slavery in classical world. It was very different from what we had in America. It was not chattel slavery. Think of it as a really obnoxious labor contract. There was no racial element, and the typical slave could expect to be freed if he worked out his time obediently. There was no permanent stigma; it could happen to anyone who was captured in war, or who fell into debt.

Jesus as peasant. "Scholars" love to take Jesus down a few pegs below their exalted level by referring to him as a peasant. But the word is fairly ambiguous. For instance a medieval English peasant might be a substantial village landholder with peasants working for him! (Good book: Life in a Medieval Village.) Likewise, being poor meant something different in a society where almost everyone was poor by our standards. Most of the priests for instance needed regular jobs to support them when they were not taking their turn serving in the Temple. The same with many a famous rabbi, and many of the prophets. Most of them could be called "peasants" by sneering academics.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

July 5, 2010

Good book on Lincoln...

I'm reading a book I very much recommend, Lincoln at Peoria, by Louis E. Lehrman.

This section reminded me of exactly what I hate about the Civil Rights Movement. That is, that it was an orgy of self-righteousness and smugness and the insidious pleasure of feeling superior to other people. And that that has been the template for almost all leftist agitation ever since. We see today exactly the same attitude in the promoters of same-sex "marriage." Anyone who opposes them is a bigot, and deserves no respect. Likewise with those notable "civil rights" campaigns protecting our ancient hallowed right to kill unborn babies, or for women to behave like the worst men, or the right of the state to force people to build handicapped access stuff, regardless of need or expense.

...At Peoria, Lincoln remarked that though he hated slavery, he would not condemn the slaveholders of the South. He held both North and South to be complicit in America's peculiar institution and therefore did not speak of the South with the contempt that characterized many abolitionists and other anti-slavery politicians. Lincoln rarely affected a patronizing superiority. In his first major, recorded speech of the 1854 campaign—The Bloomington Pantagraph reported that Lincoln "declared that the Southern slaveholders were neither better or worse than we of the North, and that we of the North were no better than they. If we were situated as they are, we should act no better than they..." (page 241)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 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

April 24, 2010

"post-modern de-humanizers."

David Warren, Word of mouth:

...Which takes us down another layer, into an argument that seems crazy to people I characterize as "post-modern de-humanizers." (De-humanizers at least in the sense that they can read something addressed with burning sincerity to their heart and mind and soul, as if it were merely printed on an advertising flyer.)

What if the events described actually happened? What if the testimony of a dozen apostles, and many others -- who ran and hid at Christ's impending Crucifixion, but became faithful quite literally unto death after the "Resurrection" -- was given for some better reason than to "formalize" an abstract, modern, bloodless "perception" of a "quasi-event"?

As even some contemporary Biblical scholars are prepared to argue, the most likely explanation of an event, as counter-intuitive to the ancient world as to the modern -- yet insisted upon repeatedly by numerous witnesses through mockery, torture, and execution -- is that it actually happened the way they said it did. And that they thought this truth important. I mentioned last Easter, for instance, the extraordinary forensic synthesis of sources both Christian and non-Christian, by the Anglican scholar, N.T. Wright -- utterly vindicating the "received" account of the first Easter.

Finally, and most subtly, let us suppose Wright right, and the balance of the evidence -- as might be upheld in any solid court of law -- holds for the defendant. In other words, let us suppose Christ actually Resurrected, and -- "behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death."

Well, that would overturn a number of our modern assumptions....

(Here's an interesting explication of Wright's book)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

April 22, 2010

A brutal detail about Waco I didn't know...

Remember this the next time you hear liberal Dems sniveling about Bush "torturing" terrorists, or preening themselves on how "they are doing it for the children." Or when you are told the Hillary Clinton is a kindly and caring soul...

From The Volokh Conspiracy :

...But the FBI knew beforehand that adults in the compound had gas masks; the gas therefore would not put pressure on them. On whom, then? If the FBI knew that the adults had gas masks, but went ahead with the gas attack anyway, it is plain that this "pressure" was brought directly against the children because, as the FBI knew, they could not fit into adult– size gas masks. "Maternal feelings", the FBI hoped, would be unleashed in the mothers by watching their children choking, gasping and blistering from the gas.

The plan Reno approved and took to President Clinton for approval contemplated the children choking in the gas unprotected for forty-eight hours if necessary, to produce the requisite "maternal feelings". By taking aim at the children with potentially lethal gas, their mothers would be compelled, according to the FBI plan repeatedly defended by the Clinton administration afterwards as "rational" planning, to flee with them into the arms of those trying to gas them. [Emphasis added.]

An independent report on Waco written by the Harvard Professor of Law and Psychiatry, Alan A. Stone, for the then Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann, says it "is difficult to believe that the US government would deliberately plan to expose twenty-five children, most of them infants and toddlers, to CS gas for forty-eight hours". Unfortunately, however, that appears to have been exactly the plan.

The effect of CS gas on an unprotected infant exposed for only two to three hours is discussed in the report; in that case report, dating from the early 1970s, the child's symptoms during the first twenty-four hours were upper respiratory; but, within forty-eight hours his face showed evidence of first degree burns, and he was in severe respiratory distress typical of chemical pneumonia. The infant had cyanosis, required urgent positive pressure pulmonary care, and was hospitalized for twenty– eight days. Other signs of toxicity appeared, including an enlarged liver....

Kinda puts a new gloss of credibility on Linda Tripp's story...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:15 PM

April 5, 2010

Pacifism Kills, #340. (Thank you for the tip, AOG)

AOG writes,

...I want to touch on this comment by Hey Skipper
The common strategy prior to 9/11 was to accede to hijacker demands in order to ensure passenger safety.

How do I know? I was flying for a passenger airline then.

You will, of course, remember hijackings where airplanes flew all over heck and gone, and had hijackers in the cockpit all the while.

After 9/11, the common strategy changed completely. No matter how many pax are getting killed in back, the crew will take the airplane to the closest suitable airport where it will be met with armed force.
Has anyone else noticed how many fewer hijackings have occurred since this change? Another one for the pacifism kills files....

I remember the first airplane hijacking. (Or at least the first one that was famous.) When I was a boy some guy hijacked a plane to Cuba, to the consternation of the country. Of course the authorities did nothing, lest the passengers be endangered. The result was....... a spate of hijackings Cuba-ward, and that hijackings have been a plague ever since.

And I have often thought in recent decades of how history might have been different if those in power had just said "NO." "No, You are not going to Cuba, even if we have to shoot down the plane and kill ALL the passengers." Think of the hundreds—maybe thousands—of hijackings—many ending in bloodshed and loss of life—that might have been prevented. Think of the billions of dollars and millions of man-hours that would not have been squandered on airport security if hijackings weren't a worry. Think of the millions of lives that might have been saved or enriched or improved if that treasure had been put to constructive uses. Oh, and there's the little matter of 9/11. That form of attack would have never even been thought of if we had stood resolutely against hijacking

The "pacifism" (I'm obviously using the word in a broad-brush way) of not fighting back against the first hijacking was MURDER. Pacifism Kills.

But what is more infuriating to me than the waste of human lives is that there was no debate. Nobody made the case for appeasing hijackers; they just drifted along with the conventional wisdom. And while I'm very glad that the newer policy seems to have ended the scourge of hijacking, I don't think anyone is making the case for that either!

[**pause while I kick and pummel and slap some liberals because I am so aggravated by their intellectual pusillanimity** Ah! There, I feel better now...]

And think of this. Probably most of our squashy-brained mushy-thinking pacifist types would agree that it would have been a good idea for the first African tribesmen to have been enslaved to have fought back against capture by slave traders, even if many died in the attempt. Yet anyone who is hijacked or taken hostage is a temporary slave. Or perhaps long-term; many hostages are held for years. Surely the same logic should apply?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:14 PM

April 4, 2010

Winner: Most awesome Easter Vigil experience!

Loyal reader SGT Ethan e-mailed me about his attending Easter Vigil Mass at St. Elijah Monastery, near Mosul, Iraq. The church is in semi-ruinous condition, and US forces have been trying to preserve it. you can read more about it here and here.

St. Elijah Monastery, Mosul, Iraq

He writes...

Very cool site, and a wonderful mass. Mass was first offered on this site somewhere between 1400 and 1700 years ago, depending on whom you ask. This structure is Byzantine construction from the 1600's, built on top of the old site. The mass was humble, very much unadorned, open air, occasional sound of automatic gunfire from the test fire pit not far away...two soldiers and one contractor were baptized, confirmed and received their first communion, and we had folks from everywhere - lots of Assyrians who work as linguists, then a lot of Indians and some Ugandans who work here, and a good number of soldiers.

It was awfully cool - if for no other reason than how often do you go to mass with an assault rifle on your back and a knife on your hip? The open air, the monastery – yeah, it was a stunning night. Honestly, now I don't want to go on the tour they offer – I want to keep that place in my mind exactly as it was...
Posted by John Weidner at 2:57 PM

March 23, 2010

A ride downtown... 1905, 1941

My son sent me the link to this film from 1905 and 1906. The unknown photographer filmed a cable car trip down San Francisco's Market Street twice. Once right before the 1906 quake and fire, and then again after it. The tower you see in the distance straight ahead is the Ferry Building, which still stands at the foot of Market Street, by the Bay.

I found it fascinating as a glimpse of how people looked, caught at a time before motion pictures were common. The absence of any traffic controls is surprising—people and cars and horses and streetcars are crossing every which-way. And of course the destruction after the fire is immense...

And this view in 1941 is also cool...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:48 PM

January 26, 2010

A smidgeon of history...

Democrats' Bush-bashing strategy goes bust - Jonathan Martin -

...Running as much against the Bush White House as he was running against Sen. John McCain, Barack Obama easily carried Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts in 2008.

Yet when Democratic nominees for governor in Virginia and New Jersey and for Senate in Massachusetts sought to tie their GOP opponents to the still-unpopular former president, the strategy didn't resonate. Voters were more focused on the current administration or local political issues — and the onetime Democratic magic formula seemed yesterday's news.

"Voters are pretty tired of the blame game," said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama's presidential campaign. "What a stupid strategy that was."

Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton's campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover's Depression-era presidency for 30 years....

SO, what happened 30 years after Hoover? Hmmm? Well, Conscience of a Conservative was published in 1960, and became a huge best-seller. The book was by Barry Goldwater, but actually ghostwritten by L. Brent Bozell Jr., brother-in-law of William F. Buckley. That was the moment that conservative thought began to nudge its way into the public consciosnous.

It's hard to imagine now how un-idea-ed the Republicans were in the first half of the 20th Century. I was raised by intelligent parents who read books and were conservative Republicans. They travelled, knew lots of interesting people, and ran a business that employed scores of people. We went to the library in a neighboring town because ours was not large enough. (Still odd to me was that my folks had little interest in owning books. It may have been a Depression Era thing, or because there were few bookstores around. None really; just the book sections of department stores.)

Yet the idea of reading conservative intellectuals was not something I even imagined until the 1970's.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:01 AM

January 16, 2010

A passion for justice...

The Just-War Tradition by George Weigel on National Review Online:

...The classic just-war tradition did not begin with a "presumption against war." Augustine didn't begin there; Aquinas didn't begin there. And indeed, no one in the tradition began there until the late 1960s (surprise!), when a Congregationalist moral theologian (James Gustafson) sold a Quaker moral theologian (James Childress) the idea that the just-war way of thinking began with a prima facie moral duty to do no harm. Childress then successfully sold the notion to J. Bryan Hehir, the Catholic theologian and political theorist who was the chief architect of "The Challenge of Peace."

In fact, however, the classic just-war tradition began, not with a presumption against war, but with a passion for justice: The just prince is obliged to secure the "tranquility of order," or peace, for those for whom he accepts political responsibility, and that peace, to repeat, is composed of justice, security, and freedom. There are many ways for the just prince (or prime minister, or president) to do this; one of them is armed force. Its justified use can sometimes come after other means of securing justice, security, and freedom have been tried and failed; but it can also sometimes mean shooting first. Two obvious examples of the latter come from modern history.
The first (to which the president alluded in Oslo) was in the case of humanitarian intervention to forestall or end a genocide. (Thus all those liberal synagogues and churches with "Darfur: A Call to Your Conscience" on their lawns might consider whether there is any solution to that humanitarian disaster other than the use of armed force.) The second comes from a more classic instance of an "aggression under way" (as some just-war thinking construes "just cause"), but without a shot having yet been fired. As students of World War II in the Pacific know, a U.S. carrier battle group under Adm. William Halsey was steaming off Hawaii in early December 1941. Suppose Halsey and the Enterprise had run across Admiral Nagumo's carriers in their stealthy approach to the Hawaiian archipelago. Would Halsey have been justified in assuming that Nagumo wasn't there to check out vacation real estate on Oahu — and shooting first? Of course he would have been, and from every rationally defensible moral point of view. (The analogy here between my Halsey hypothetical and hard intelligence of Iran loading a nuclear warhead onto a medium-range ballistic missile will strike some as suggestive.)

So the notion that just-war analysis begins with a "presumption against war" (or, as some put it, with a "pacifist premise") is simply wrong. The just-war way of thinking begins somewhere else: with legitimate public authority's moral obligation to defend the common good by defending the peace composed of justice, security, and freedom. The just-war tradition is not a set of hurdles that moral philosophers, theologians, and clergy set before statesmen. It is a framework for collaborative deliberation about the basic aims of legitimate government as it engages hostile regimes and networks in the world. The president's lifting up of this venerable moral tradition, which has deep roots in the civilizational soil of the West, was entirely welcome, if not to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and other bears of little brain. The next step is the retrieval of the classic intellectual architecture of just-war thinking and its development to meet the exigencies of a world of new dangers and new international actors.


Posted by John Weidner at 11:12 PM

January 1, 2010

Classiest of the lawyers...

The Weidners are fans of John Yoo. [Link] Charlene's heard him speak at Federalist Society meetings, and she says this interview is just like he is in person! Totally smart, in the same understated dead-pan-funny way.

Questions for John Yoo - I wonder if the reporter has really grasped how completely outclassed she is here...

Your new book, "Crisis and Command," is an eloquent, fact-laden history of audacious power grabs by American presidents going back to George Washington. Which president would you say most violated laws enacted by Congress?

I would say Lincoln. He sent the Army into offensive operations to try to stop the South from seceding. He didn't call Congress into special session until July 4, 1861, well after this had all happened. He basically acted on his own for three months.

Are you implicitly comparing the Civil War with the war in Iraq, in order to justify President Bush's expansion of executive power?

The idea is that the president's power grows and changes based on circumstances, and that's what the framers of the Constitution wanted. They wanted it to exist so the president could react to crises immediately.

Do you regret writing the so-called torture memos, which claimed that President Bush was legally entitled to ignore laws prohibiting torture?

No, I had to write them. It was my job. As a lawyer, I had a client. The client needed a legal question answered.

When you say you had "a client," do you mean President Bush?

Yes, I mean the president, but also the U.S. government as a whole....

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lincoln of course trampled the hell out of "civil liberties," and quite properly so. [Link, link] It needed to be done, and he did it.

And speaking of Lincoln, this is a slam bang story. And this too.

And here's my favorite (for oddness) Civil War image. Colonels Kit Carson and Lafayette Baker! Baker did a lot of Lincoln's dirty work, such as kidnapping and imprisoning suspected Confederate agents in the then equivalent of Gitmo, Old Capitol Prison. Popularly known as "Baker's Bastille." [Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

Let us never forget... Sidi Bou Zid

Word Note logo(This is an old post I stumbled upon from 2002, inspired by someone who had expressed disappointment upon discovering that the Wright Brothers had in fact flown not at Kitty Hawk, but at nearby Kill Devil Hill)

I wrote (and still think):

Names are part of the poetry of history. It's worth a bit of historical inaccuracy to get a name that rings in the mind.

What if the Battle of Waterloo had been called the Battle of Hougemont? Or Shiloh called The Battle of Pittsburg Landing? Ugh. Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, but which is the better name?

Kitty Hawk is a splendid name, so it was the correct one to use. Nothing's really lost, because anyone who is interested in the subject soon learns about Kill Devil Hill.

And since I'm on the subject of battle-names, the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia should really have been called Sidi Bou Zid, which is where the real defeat happened. Thank goodness somebody wasn't pedantic.

And I didn't mean that the names Waterloo or Shiloh were inaccurate. But the names were chosen from several possibilities, and probably because they were noble-sounding. For the happy few who still love history, hearing the word Shiloh immediately fills the mind with profound reflections; of bloodshed on a scale until then unknown, of courage and sacrifice, of the greatness of Ulysses Grant, and of a frontier faith that named a log-cabin church in the woods after a village in Palestine. And to think that it could just as easily been called The Battle of Owl Creek!

Thinking of names of battles, the North called it The Battle of Antietam; the South The Battle of Sharpsburg. Which is better? And would perhaps a certain battle be better remembered if it had a better name than The Meuse-Argonne Offensive?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 AM

December 22, 2009

A little Christmas info for your files...

If some black-hearted secularist ever hits you with that old chestnut about Christmas being celebrated on December 25 because it was a Christian take-over of pagan solstice celebrations, or some such... well, there's not a shred of historical evidence for it. However, there IS good reason to believe in an entirely different explanation...

How December 25 Became Christmas - Biblical Archaeology Review:

...Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus' conception. Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: "Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered." Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus' birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: "For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th."

In the East, too, the dates of Jesus' conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus' conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, "The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world." Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.

Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus' birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6)....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 PM

November 25, 2009

"Perverse... even to imagine so heinous a crime"

Here's a little insight into how attitudes towards scientific fraud have changed since I was a boy.

In 1957 Isaac Asimov was still a professor of bio-chemistry at Boston University Medical School. His science fiction was popular, but SF was then a marginal genre that wouldn't support a man with a family. He was also starting to branch out into other sorts of writing.

He wrote a mystery novel, a A Whiff of Death, which he had a hard time getting published, and which was not a commercial success. This quote is from his autobiography, In Joy Still Felt:
...I sent it to several publishers of mystery novels, such as Harper and William Morrow. and it kept coming back. Apparently Doubleday's decision as to its unworthiness was part of a general notion.

That bothered me, for I was convinced the murder mystery was a good one. Of course the setting of a graduate chemistry department was an esoteric one, but that should have been a point in the book's favor.

I discovered eventually, that the chief flaw in the book from the standpoint of the publishers was the inadequacy of the motive for the murder. It involved a Ph.D. student faking results, and that seemed a tiny sin to most editorial readers.

When I gave fellow professors an inkling of the plot, however, they shuddered and turned away, obviously suspecting some deep-seated perverse element in my nature even to imagine so heinous a crime. Too little for one group of people, too much for another!...
[My emphasis]

I took quite a few science classes in high school and college, and I'm pretty sure the subject of scientific fraud was never mentioned. I don't think anyone considered it even possible. That's certainly a contrast with what we've seen in the CRU e-mails. Or in many other things, such as the years of frustration Steve McIntyre had trying to get a look at Keith Briffa's tree-ring data. Wow!

And it is all of a piece with the meta-theme of this blog in recent years, that much of what we see around us can be explained as results of the slow draining away, over generations, of habits inherited from the Christian and Jewish faith and culture of Western Civilization. Religious faith has been declining for several centuries, but Christian habits of mind have long lingered. And we tend to just take them for granted, until one day they are gone!

One of those habits has been the intense respect we once had had for honesty in the practice of natural science. It used to be so common that no one even imagined a different possibility... (except one science fiction writer!). What we call "science" (really just one example of science; the scientific study of the natural realm) is a product of Medieval European Catholic faith and culture. It was not invented by Newton or Sir Francis Bacon—they just popularized a philosophical tradition that had been growing for centuries before them.

This tradition grew out of Catholic beliefs, including that the created realm is good, and real, and intelligible. And that there is Truth, and we are called to be servants of Truth.

(I'll try to find time to post a bit more to support this, though it is a subject that is far vaster than me! 'Till then, a couple of quotes: Link, Link.)

[I've posted below the fold a quote from Chesterton on Aquinas, describing St Thomas's epic battle with Siger of Brabant on the nature of scientific truth. Just to give you the flavor of what I'm hinting at....]

...Nevertheless, it was never the existence of atheists, any more than Arabs or Aristotelian pagans, that disturbed the extraordinary controversial composure of Thomas Aquinas. The real peril that followed on the victory he had won for Aristotle was vividly presented in the curious case of Siger of Brabant; and it is well worth study, for anyone who would begin to comprehend the strange history of Christendom. It is marked by one rather queer quality; which has always been the unique note of the Faith, though it is not noticed by its modern enemies, and rarely by its modern friends. It is the fact symbolised in the legend of Antichrist, who was the double of Christ; in the profound proverb that the Devil is the ape of God. It is the fact that falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true. It is when the stab comes near the nerve of truth, that the Christian conscience cries out in pain. And Siger of Brabant, following on some of the Arabian Aristotelians, advanced a theory which most modern newspaper readers would instantly have declared to be the same as the theory of St. Thomas. That was what finally roused St. Thomas to his last and most emphatic protest. He had won his battle for a wider scope of philosophy and science; he had cleared the ground for a general understanding about faith and enquiry; an understanding that has generally been observed among Catholics, and certainly never deserted without disaster. It was the idea that the scientist should go on exploring and experimenting freely, so long as he did not claim an infallibility and finality which it was against his own principles to claim. Meanwhile the Church should go on developing and defining, about supernatural things, so long as she did not claim a right to alter the deposit of faith, which it was against her own principles to claim. And when he had said this, Siger of Brabant got up and said something so horribly like it, and so horribly unlike, that (like the Antichrist) he might have deceived the very elect.

Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was the assassination of Thomism. It was not two ways of finding the same truth; it was an untruthful way of pretending that there are two truths. And it is extraordinarily interesting to note that this is the one occasion when the Dumb Ox really came out like a wild bull. When he stood up to answer Siger of Brabant, he was altogether transfigured, and the very style of his sentences, which is a thing like the tone of a man's voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted the worst treachery: they had made him agree with them.

Those who complain that theologians draw fine distinctions could hardly find a better example of their own folly. In fact, a fine distinction can be a flat contradiction. It was notably so in this case. St. Thomas was willing to allow the one truth to be approached by two paths, precisely because he was sure there was only one truth. Because the Faith was the one truth, nothing discovered in nature could ultimately contradict the Faith. Because the Faith was the one truth, nothing really deduced from the Faith could ultimately contradict the facts. It was in truth a curiously daring confidence in the reality of his religion: and though some may linger to dispute it, it has been justified. The scientific facts, which were supposed to contradict the Faith in the nineteenth century, are nearly all of them regarded as unscientific fictions in the twentieth century. Even the materialists have fled from materialism; and those who lectured us about determinism in psychology are already talking about indeterminism in matter. But whether his confidence was right or wrong, it was specially and supremely a confidence that there is one truth which cannot contradict itself. And this last group of enemies suddenly sprang up, to tell him they entirely agreed with him in saying that there are two contradictory truths. Truth, in the medieval phrase, carried two faces under one hood; and these double-faced sophists practically dared to suggest that it was the Dominican hood.

So, in his last battle and for the first time, he fought as with a battle-axe. There is a ring in the words altogether beyond the almost impersonal patience he maintained in debate with so many enemies. "Behold our refutation of the error. It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves. If then anyone there be who, boastfully taking pride in his supposed wisdom, wishes to challenge what we have written, let him not do it in some corner nor before children who are powerless to decide on such difficult matters. Let him reply openly if he dare. He shall find me then confronting him, and not only my negligible self, but many another whose study is truth. We shall do battle with his errors or bring a cure to his ignorance."

The Dumb Ox is bellowing now; like one at bay and yet terrible and towering over all the baying pack. We have already noted why, in this one quarrel with Siger of Brabant, Thomas Aquinas let loose such thunders of purely moral passion; it was because the whole work of his life was being betrayed behind his back, by those who had used his victories over the reactionaries. The point at the moment is that this is perhaps his one moment of personal passion, save for a single flash in the troubles of his youth: and he is once more fighting his enemies with a firebrand. And yet, even in this isolated apocalypse of anger, there is one phrase that may be commended for all time to men who are angry with much less cause. If there is one sentence that could be carved in marble, as representing the calmest and most enduring rationality of his unique intelligence, it is a sentence which came pouring out with all the rest of this molten lava. If there is one phrase that stands before history as typical of Thomas Aquinas, it is that phrase about his own argument: "It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves."
Posted by John Weidner at 10:23 AM

October 24, 2009

Reagan could act because he KNEW. Because he could SEE...

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and the announcement of Personal Ordinariates* for Anglicans seeking union with Rome...

...Benedict will be seen as a kind of Ronald Reagan of the Vatican. When Reagan got to the White House he discovered that the established way of dealing with the Soviets was detente, talk, talk, talk and more talk. He decided that victory was in his grasp and proposed a firm confrontation. "Mr Gorbachev, pull down that wall!" His professional statesmen and diplomats were shocked at his 'foolishness.' But it worked. Communism was already fragile all it needed was a puff of air to knock it down completely. [Well, that's just about what happened. There were also some trifling matters like overstraining the Soviet economy by challenging them with a massive military build-up, Pershing missiles and SDI. And he had help from Mrs Thatcher, and J-P II.]

Pope Benedict's move this week will have similar impact in the world of Christian dialogue. With Personal Ordinariates not only have the professional ecumenists been shown the way forward, but the duplicitous liberal Catholic bishops who would have stalled, moved it into 'discussion groups' and presented 'further obstacles' have also been very effectively gone around. No longer will a gifted, willing and able convert priest have to wait years to be ordained and in the meantime be pushed from pillar to post by Catholic bishops who are driven by a liberal agenda that is actually illiberal....

Most of my readers—bless you all—will not have too much interest in this, or even know what's going on. But I assure you the comparison with Reagan is in no way an exaggeration. I'm just dazzled. And both cases are ones where true leaders cut through the malarky while "experts" simply could not SEE what was right in front of them.

I read somewhere a fascinating piece about how one of Reagan's men put out a request to the researchers in our intelligence agencies for any information they had on unrest or things-falling-apart in the Soviet Union. It turned out that there was a huge amount of information on things like wildcat labor strikes, and riots and protests. But it had never been collected or analyzed because no one had asked the question before. The experts had all decided that Communism worked, so they never looked for signs that it didn't.

But Reagan KNEW! He knew that communism (and socialism and big-government liberalism) Don't work. He could see, like the boy who could see that there was no emperor inside the fancy clothes.

And Pope Benedict could see that "dialoging" (ugh—spit on ugly word) with a zombie like the Church of England so-called was never going to yield fruit. (Actually Newman saw it in the late 19th Century.)

*A bishop is the "ordinary" of a diocese. (From Latin ordinarius, �orderly�). A diocese is a district. A personal ordinariate is a bishopric over certain persons, without regard for territory. B-16 has just cut his liberal English bishops out of the loop. And all the talk-talk-talkers. Anglicans now have the possibility of joining Rome while keeping things such as their ancient and beautiful liturgy and music.

Pope John-Paul II
A couple of famous characters
from long long ago...

Posted by John Weidner at 4:14 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

September 17, 2009


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

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

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

Post-Partisan Promise Fizzles -

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 9, 2009

It's like being an anti-genocide activist and a Holocaust-denier at the same time...

I was inspired by this story to put certain things a bit more bluntly than I have in the past.

I love history. And I'm a real book&blog-devourer. As a result, I know a lot of stuff, especially in history and world affairs. (Don't rush to make me a job offer; my grab-bag of history seems to have no practical worth.)

Here's one simple fact. The regime of Saddam Hussein was to mass torture, as Hitler's regime was to mass killing, and Stalin's was to mass imprisonment. In all of history there has been no government that tortured people on the scale of Saddam's Iraq. None even comes close. I won't give you any stomach-turning examples, but they are out there if you want to look them up.

We are probably talking hundreds of thousands of people hideously tormented in a country about the size of California.

Any person who claims to make torture their big issue must be aware of this. To claim ignorance would be like someone (let's call him Mr X), in say the year 1947, whose big issue was genocide, or persecution of Jews—yet who seemed to be ignorant or indifferent to what had just happened in Europe! It is insane to even think about it. Right?

In truth, FDR and Winston Churchill are the two men who have prevented more persecution and murder of Jews than any other individuals in history. That's a simple fact, right?

If you care about Jews, or genocide, you must honor them, even if you hate everything else they stood for.

SO, gentle readers, suppose our "Mr X," in the year 1947, demands stridently that Franklin D Roosevelt (if he'd been still alive) and his men should be investigated and prosecuted because during its tenure American Jews were harassed by hate-groups like the KKK. What would you think, hmmm?

You would think Mr X was deranged with hatred of FDR. (You might say he has RDS, Roosevelt Derangement Syndrome.) Mr X is very sick, very twisted man.

"That's a preposterous hypothetical!" I hear you saying. NOT SO. A very similar thing is happening right now. It is a simple historical fact that former president George W. Bush, by inspiring and leading the coalition that overthrew the torture-obsessed fascist tyranny of Saddam Hussein, prevented more torture than any other human being who has ever lived upon the planet Earth.

And yet, farcical though it seems, we actually have our own "Mr X's." [Link] We really have people who claim to be anti-torture zealots, but are nonetheless ice-heartedly indifferent to the unprecedented sufferings of the Iraqi people. Who simply act as if that holocaust of agony never happened—they never mention it.. And at the same time they drool over the possibility of prosecuting the greatest "anti-torture activist" of all times.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 PM

July 25, 2009

Hearts of stone...

Matthew Hoy:
The former military captain says it was in the early 1990s, that he watched his then commander wrestle with giving up his 12-year-old daughter who was mentally ill.

The commander, he says, initially resisted, but after mounting pressure from his military superiors, he gave in.

Im watched as the girl was taken away. She was never seen again.

One of Im's own men later gave him an eyewitness account of human-testing.

Asked to guard a secret facility on an island off North Korea's west coast, Im says the soldier saw a number of people forced into a glass chamber.

"Poisonous gas was injected in," Im says. "He watched doctors time how long it took for them to die."
Too often the world looks back on the evil of the Holocaust and mouths that famous phrase: "Never again."


It happens every day. It happens in Darfur. It happens in China. It happens in North Korea.

Never again?


And the United Nations, that symbol of hope and unity for every blinkered Western leftist, does nothing.

When North Korea eventually falls, I suspect the horrors will rival that of the Holocaust.

And the world did nothing.

It's even a bit worse than that. Millions of people tour former Nazi concentration camps. Millions go to Yad Vashem and other holocaust museums.

How many tour former Soviet concentration camps? Hmm? Hey, liberals and lefties: What are you doing to preserve the memory of Communist mass murders? The extermination of entire ethnic groups and languages by Stalin? Or of the Christians imprisoned and killed by Mao and Ho Chi Minh?

The answer is, almost nothing. The slaughter of the Hitler regime is commemorated only because the Nazi's are popularly portrayed as "right wingers." If the public were to—correctly—perceive Nazism as just another flavor of socialism, then the "caring" would stop in an instant.

You watch. I predict that when North Korea falls, the horrors that will be revealed will be as bad as anything we have seen by Saddam or Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Castro. And our "liberals"... Will. Not. Care.

The ice-hearted "pacifists" and "Quakers" who slubber-blubber over Auschwitz or Buchenwald... Will. Not. Care. It will all be forgotten in a year...

I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name [a "yad vashem"] better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off..
— Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5
Posted by John Weidner at 11:17 AM

July 14, 2009

"The logic of the Terror"

Ralph Hancock on Bastille Day...

...The disconcerting suggestion that arises from a comparative reflection on the theoretical cores of the two Revolutions is the idea of human rights that informs the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789 cannot be altogether severed from the logic of the Terror. The potential for unlimited radicalization seems to exist from the moment the rights of man are extracted from a framework defined by the laws of nature and nature's God and made to stand on their own as assertions of human autonomy.

The germ of the Terror, the dream of the regeneration of humanity by political means, may already be present in the radically modern idea of sovereignty that informs the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The political denial of an authoritative realm of meaning beyond politics appears barely separable from the absorption of all meaning into the political realm. Hobbes' radical materialism, which accompanies his rejection of the priority of natural law to human rights, invites Rousseau's idealism, or his craving for a comprehensive moral order not grounded in nature but created by human beings. If politics is all there is, then politics must be everything, it must hold the key to fulfilling not only the ordinary needs but even the deepest longings of humanity.

Those who propose to liberate human beings by reducing them to their naked individuality and destroying the bonds that connect them with principles understood to reside beyond human power risk arrogating to themselves the right to forge new and tighter chains. If there is no Truth above the People, then the People are led to create their own truth — in effect, of course, some revolutionary elite must create it in the name of the People, whatever the human cost. The violence of the Terror appears thus to spring from a theoretical violence to human nature...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:40 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 11, 2009

Street of the dead...

Here is a really cool virtual tour of the Scavi, the Roman necropolis under St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. (Thanks to Argent.)

The Romans liked to construct little shrine-like buildings to bury their dead in. The Vatican Fields was a sort of trashy district outside of ancient Rome, which included a "village" of such tombs, with the buildings lined up along a "main street.". A necropolis. After St Peter was martyred, Christians buried him there secretly, and would slip off to the necropolis to pray by his grave. Pretty clever, hiding a tomb among tombs!

When Christianity became the official religion under Constantine, the first St Peter's Basilica was constructed right over the site of the burial place of Peter. The sloping area had to be built up to level ground, using, as I recall, 10 million baskets of soil. The necropolis was simply buried in the process, thus preserving it for us.

It was excavated from 1939 to 1950. Now you can tour the Scavi, something we'd love to do someday. The actual bones of Peter were found there, to a high degree of certainty! The "obvious" spot turned out to have some odds and ends of human and animal bones. But close by was a chamber embedded within a wall, and lined with slabs of marble. A graffito was found on the wall that said something like "Peter here." Inside were a man's bones, minus the feet. By tradition Peter was crucified upside-down, and might well have been just cut loose at the ankles.

(There's no mystery about the way Christians would have obtained the body. A bribe to the guards would be the expected thing. People being "disappeared" only began to happen in the Industrial age, when governments could afford bureaucratic organisations of regularly paid workers.)

[Note: The virtual tour locations can be navigated not only 360 degrees around, but also up and down. I got confused because I couldn't see the arrows to go on to the next spot...but actually I was looking down towards the floor!]

Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 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...

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

June 21, 2009


From a column by George Weigel that seems to fit today's events:

...What can we learn from the Nine Days, [The visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland, June 2-10, 1979] three decades later? Several important things, I'd suggest.

The first thing the Nine Days and the subsequent Solidarity revolution teach us is that history doesn't work through politics and economics alone. The power of the human spirit can ignite world-historical change.

The second lesson from the Nine Days is that tradition can be as powerful a force for dramatic social and political change as a revolutionary rupture with the past. "Revolution," in the Solidarity experience, meant the recovery of lost values and cultural truths and their creative re-application to new situations. Tradition, according to an old theological maxim, is the living faith of the dead—a lively faith that can move history forward rather than dragging it backwards.

The third thing we ought to learn from the Nine Days and what followed in Poland is that moral conviction can be the lever once sought by Archimedes—the lever with which to move the world. There is nothing more potent in history, for good or ill, than ideas. The history of the 20th century prior to 1979 had been unspeakably bloody because of the power of false ideas and lies. The Solidarity revolution proved that the opposite could also be true, with its insistence on truth-telling amidst the communist culture of prevarication (or, as one famous slogan of the day had it, "For Poland to be Poland, 2+2 must always = 4").

The fourth thing we learn from the Nine Days and the moral revolution they ignited is that "public life" and "politics," "civil society" and "politics" are not the same. Rather, the health of politics depends on the moral health of civil society.

And the fifth thing we learn about from the Nine Days of John Paul II is what the Pope later came to call "the subjectivity of society." Free associations of men and women who are citizens, not subjects, are where democrats are made, for it's in those free associations that we learn the habits of heart and mind that make it possible for us to be self-governing....
Posted by John Weidner at 4:44 AM

June 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Army!

Ethan Hahn—soldier and RJ reader— e-mailed to remind me...

Here's a picture I blogged last year:

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 9:03 PM

June 6, 2009

"Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."

From a don't-miss piece by Jonah Goldberg, You want a more 'progressive' America? Careful what you wish for: (Thanks to Rand)

....Wilson, like the bulk of progressive intellectuals in fin-de-siécle America, was deeply influenced by three strands of thought: philosophical Pragmatism, Hegelianism, and Darwinism. This heady intellectual cocktail produced a drunken arrogance and the conviction that the old rules no longer applied.

The classical liberalism of the Founders — free markets, individualism, property rights, etc. — had been eclipsed by a new "experimental" age. Horace Kallen, a protégé of Pragmatism exponent William James, denounced fixed philosophical dogmas as mere rationalizations of the status quo. Sounding much like today's critical theorists, Mr. Kallen lamented that "Men have invented philosophy precisely because they find change, chance, and process too much for them, and desire infallible security and certainty."

The old conception of absolute truths and immutable laws had been replaced by a "Darwinian" vision of organic change.

Hence Wilson argued that the old "Newtonian" vision — fixed rules enshrined in the Constitution and laws — had to give way to the "Darwinian" view of "living constitutions" and the like.

"Government," Wilson wrote approvingly in his magnum opus, "The State," "does now whatever experience permits or the times demand." "No doubt," he wrote elsewhere, taking dead aim at the Declaration of Independence, "a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle."

In his 1890 essay, "Leaders of Men," Wilson explained that a "true leader" uses the masses like "tools." He must inflame their passions with little heed for the facts. "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."

Wilson once told a black delegation, that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." But his racism wasn't just a product of his Southern roots; it was often of a piece with the reigning progressive obsession with eugenics, the pseudoscience that strove to perfect society through better breeding.....

You can slot-in to the above Lenin or Hillary or Hitler or Obama or Alinsky. Or any random sociology prof at your local community college...

What is the intellectual problem with this statement: "The old conception of absolute truths and immutable laws had been replaced by a "Darwinian" vision of organic change..."   What's wrong is that there isn't any "solid ground." No truth that can be used to measure or define anything else.

A "Pragmatist" would say that "what works" is the measure, but there is in his philosophy no absolute standard of "what works." "What works" means whatever you want it to mean. If Wilson had had the power, he probably would have done to inferior races exactly what Hitler did. (He did have the power to introduce Jim Crow laws into the District of Columbia, and proceeded to do so.) And if you accept his philosophy, he would have been perfectly justified in a Final Solution to the negro problem. Eugenics seemed to be "what works" at that moment in time, and Progressives had abandoned any absolute standard that Eugenics might be measured against.

Once you abandon the Truths handed down from our ancestors, then the only "truth" is the intellectual fashion of the moment. Now, kind hearted reader, you may imagine that today's progressives are "nice" people who would not do the horrid things done by Twentieth Century tyrants. Yes? You may believe they would never kill millions of people for the sake of an idea, right? Kill for an intellectual fad? No no no. Impossible.

Well, if you think that, you are wrong. Millions are dying at this moment because a "Progressive" intellectual fad was imposed on hapless people. Read about it in my post here. If you are a leftist, read. Think!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

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:


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 29, 2009

It would be like us still having the Whig Party...

I'm pretty sure this historical analogy by Michael Barone, Specter's party switch is all about winning, does not really work...

...When Churchill left the Liberals, they had led governments for 16 of the preceding 18 years. They never did so again. A party in decline should adapt its basic philosophy to new policies and positions in order to win over voters, rather than stand on principle and expel heretics.

Arlen Specter will never rise to Churchillian heights and will probably be, as Churchill was after 1924, as uncomfortable in his new party as in the old. But he also seems likely to have, as Churchill did, the last laugh....

Parliamentary democracies tend to have many small parties, and in fact the Liberals were sliding back then into being a permanently small also-ran party. Our system makes having two parties almost obligatory.

Why? Imagine a third party that got 20% of the vote in each and evey district in the country. How many people would it send to congress and to state-houses? Quite possibly none! That gets discouraging in a hurry.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:19 AM

April 21, 2009

"Smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension"

A symptom ...or a root cause? - Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online:

...It occurs to me that the best chance of saving the US newspaper industry would be if The New York Times collapsed. America's stultifying monodailies are far more homogeneous than almost any other English-speaking media culture. A big part of this is the Times, and the horrible conformity it begets. The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it's the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent, even though smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension would hardly seem an obvious winner for second-tier cities and rural districts. Its columns and features are reprinted coast to coast. Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly. The net result of the industry's craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be - and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.

If the Times closed, what would the mainstream media left behind do? Why, they would have to think for themselves. And some of them would still die. But some of them might get ...lively, and iconoclastic, and one day even ...readable. Not all of them: There would still be plenty of near parodic thumbsucking pomposity for those whose bag that is. But there would be other kinds of papers, too. As the J-school bores say (but rarely do), celebrate diversity!

Just a thought....

I don't imagine it would really help much. Most journalists are second-raters who desperately need to feel superior to somebody. If the NYT vanished they would just ape something else with "New York" in its name. They would rather die than become interested in ordinary people enough to write things that ordinary people would really like. There are such writers, but management would have to go out and hunt for them, and fire a bunch of "journalists"....And that will never happen because newspaper management has the same disease.

Historical note: Until recently only a small percentage of people went to college or university, and there were plenty of smart people who couldn't manage to do so. Usually because they didn't have the dough. (Now we have stupid people going to college, because the seats need to be filled.) Becoming a reporter was a kind of blue-collar thinking-man's job. So there were lots of journalists who didn't feel any need to show they were superior to the swining masses.

There also used to be be some top-notch union leaders who had no other route upwards from the working class. I think the Reuther brothers missed the chance for college because of the depression. And I imagine the literary figure of Jeeves was based on some real-life butlers. Again, because for smart but poor people it might be the only path into "management."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:16 PM

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 6, 2009

Anybody remember card catalogs?

My daughter sent me this...

"Google Classic" postcard

It's pretty funny, but also interesting to me because, well, that's the way it was...

Back in the misty past, like the 1980's or 90's. Back before the earth began to cool, there used to be a service for searching for rare and out-of-print books. You would go to a used-book store and ask for something. They would offer to search for a book they didn't have, for a small fee. Then they would mail in the query which would be printed on a weekly list that was mailed to all subscribing stores. Booksellers all around the country—or maybe the world—would peruse the list and try to spot something they had in stock. Then they could send a card to the store that searched for it, and they in turn would contact you with an offer.

It seemed impressively efficient at the time. Similarly, at the public library I used to fill out a one-page form and pay a couple of bucks to do an inter-library loan request. Now I can, via the SFPL's web page, search a wide variety of libraries in the region, and click to request a book. (Don't use the service if you are absent-minded. They charge a dollar a day for late books.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 AM

March 31, 2009

There was another President who embraced evil at Notre Dame...

Here's a historical note on the beginnings of the situation we are now in. (Short version: pacifism kills.)

Jeffrey Lord in American Spectator: Jimmy Carter's Spirit of Notre Dame:

...Perhaps more importantly than Carter's personal political fate the speech signaled his decision to abandon his party's identification with the policies of military strength and American exceptionalism championed by Democrats from FDR to JFK and LBJ. Instead, Carter chose to move the country towards the more left-leaning foreign and defense policies advocated by 1972 nominee Senator George McGovern. The results were decidedly not approved of by the American public....

...The most notable single sentence in Carter's Notre Dame speech was this one:
We are now free of that inordinate fear of Communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear.
Carter went on to insist that it was time to govern with a "wider framework of international cooperation" because "the world today is in the midst of the most profound and rapid transformation in its entire history." He also added this about the American approach to the Soviet Union in the Carter era: "Our goal is to be fair to both sides, to produce reciprocal stability, parity, and security." In other words, in Carter's view, a view widely held among leftward-leaning elites, both the United States and the Soviet Union had genuinely competing claims. They were morally equal to each other.

The speech was the lead story in the news the next day. By the time Carter left the White House after four years of promoting moral equivalence, the world was in murderous chaos....

"Murderous chaos." That's for sure. And we are still in it. Read the whole thing.

And by the way, not that any leftist would care in the slightest about mere human beings, but the policy sneered at as "embracing any dictator" has proved to be the correct one. The countries where "right-wing" dictators held back Communism are now mostly prosperous and democratic. Where Communism took hold there is unending poverty and tyranny, and the border guards keep people in, not out. Compare Cuba and Chile. Or North and South Korea. Or Taiwan and China.

And both the Notre Dame outrages are really about the same issue. Human beings are to be sacrificed to leftist theories.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:44 AM

March 30, 2009

Cool discoveries...

The Ancient World's Longest Underground Aqueduct - SPIEGEL ONLINE, by Matthias Schulz:

Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it.

When the Romans weren't busy conquering their enemies, they loved to waste massive quantities of water, which gurgled and bubbled throughout their cities. The engineers of the empire invented standardized lead pipes, aqueducts as high as fortresses, and water mains with 15 bars (217 pounds per square inch) of pressure.

In the capital alone there were thousands of fountains, drinking troughs and thermal baths. Rich senators refreshed themselves in private pools and decorated their gardens with cooling grottos. The result was a record daily consumption of over 500 liters of water per capita (Germans today use around 125 liters). However, when the Roman legions marched into the barren region of Palestine, shortly before the birth of Christ, they had to forgo the usual splashing about, at least temporarily. It was simply too dry.

But that didn't stop the empire's clever engineers. They soon figured out a way to put things right. In the former Roman province of Syria (located in modern day Jordan), researchers are currently studying a sensational canal system. It extends mostly underground over a distance of 106 kilometers (66 miles)....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:59 AM

March 8, 2009

A happy interlude in our hectic life...

I was recently given a tip about a cool blog, Dominican History. It has a post on P�re Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P. , who founded the �cole Biblique, the famous Dominican research center in Jerusalem.

Which has kept me thinking lately of a couple of the happiest hours Charlene and I have spent in recent years. It was during our trip to the Holy Land last May. Our group visited the �cole, and Charlene and I loved it. It was like taking a step back in time to a happier, more civilized era. Especially, the gardens were a dream of peace for me. Not fancy or pretentious at all; rather dry and dusty and shabby, but the sort of place I could have just sat in or walked in all day.

I wish I had taken more pictures there, but this one gives at least a hint of the flavor of the gardens. That's our dear friend Fr. Francis Goode, looking a bit tired, but we all were on that fast-moving pilgrimage.

Fr. Francis in the gardens at the Ecole Biblique

Here's our motley crew being shown about by two of the faculty. That's Fr Olivier an the left, and Fr. Gregory on the right. The cool thing is, we know these men. They've stayed at our priory in San Francisco. It gave me a charming feeling of being part of the Dominican universe...

Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem

Here's the Church of St Stephen (the first martyr), which is part of the school. It was built in 1900 on the site of the 5th Century Byzantine church, which was destroyed in the 12th Century. You can still see mosaic floors from the old church. It is also the largest Christian church in Jerusalem, so the other flavors of Christians borrow it if they need to hold really big ceremonies.

St Stephen Church, Jerusalem

Here's a bit from the post on Pere Lagrange...

...He taught Church History and Holy Scripture for a while, then was sent to the Vienna University (Austria) to hone his oriental languages skills. There, on February the 5th, 1889, he was ordered to leave for Jerusalem. Right away, he sketched a working programme, and on November the 15th, 1890, in a former Turkish slaughterhouse, in which the rings the animals were to be hung from were still to be seen, he opened what he insisted on calling l'�cole Pratique d'�tudes Bibliques (Practical School for Biblical Studies).

Father Lagrange was a partisan of the encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII, inviting scholars to solve the difficulties created by a rationalist analysis of the Bible through an exegesis that would be at the same time rooted in tradition, but progressive. But some disliked his scientific approach and, as he was working doggedly to refute those who were questioning the essential data of Christian faith, he got censored and had to leave Jerusalem for a year, in 1912. Neither formally condemned nor rehabilitated, the Dominican remained heroically faithful to the Church. Through work and prayer, enlighted by his faith, and wih great scientific rigour, he put his intelligence to the service of the Gospel and the truth...
Posted by John Weidner at 5:40 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

March 3, 2009

I think the economy may be in trouble...

I went to Home Depot for some trifles, and I must have had a dozen or more salespeople greet me or ask to help me. Scary.

It reminded me of the old yarn from the 30's, where the farmer tells his wife that there must really be a depression, because the Saturday Evening Post just blew off the front porch! (For the historically challenged, the Saturday Evening Post was once the most popular American periodical by far. Since it was purely a source of entertainment, rather then news or information, it died soon after television arrived.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:55 AM

February 28, 2009

Cool hobby...

Pensioner spends 30 years building amazing model of Herod's Temple ... but admits he won't be around to finish it | Mail Online:

...Brick by brick, tiny figure by tiny figure, Alec Garrard has painstakingly worked for 30 years on an astonishing recreation of Herod's Temple.

But despite spending all that time and effort the retired farmer believes he won't finish it in his lifetime as he keeps finding things to add to it.

In contrast, legend has it that the original construction of the entire complex lasted only three years, although historians believe it took far longer.

It was his fascination for religion and buildings which first started Alec on the Biblical project which now measures 20ft by 12ft and is housed in a seperate building in his garden.

His version is so impressive that some of the world's top archaeologists and experts from the British Museum have come to view it....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 PM

February 27, 2009

Notgeld - "emergency currency"

You might want to take a look at these pictures of "private money" used in Germany in the 30's. It's interesting both historically and artistically... (Thanks to Shrine of the Holy Whapping.)

Notgeld - Pre-Inflationary German Currency - a set on Flickr:

My wife's family lived in Germany until 1936, when they were lucky enough to leave. My wife's grandfather collected thousands of bills produced by the different towns and companies to make front to deflation first and inflation later and provide certain stability to workers and residents."Notgeld" (emergency currency) was provided by cities, boroughs, or even private companies while there was a shortage of official coins and bills....

...Some companies for example couldn't pay their workers (cashless pay wasn't very popular back then...) because the Reichsbank just couldn't provide enough bills. So they started to print their own money - they even asked the Reichsbank beforehand. As long as the Notgeld was accepted, no real harm was done and it just was a certificate of debt. Often it was even a more stable currency than the "real" money, as sometimes the denomination was a certain amount of gold, corn, meat etc.

And they made it very pretty on purpose: many people would start to collect the bills, and the debt would never have to be paid. Also it was printed on all kinds of material: leather, fabric, porcelain, silk, tin foil...

I will try to slowly scan an extensive collection of these bills in the coming months (I have several thousand of them!).

It may also seem timely, at this time of massive deficits and stimulus spending with no end in sight, to look at some of the possible effects of our actions from a historical perspective. Scrip can be marvelous stuff, and was also used in some cities in the US during the Great Depression. Importantly, it is not legal tender, so the only people who deal in it are those that want to. It is very stable and debt free. To keep it flowing, sometimes it is set up to lose 2% of its value every month, which keeps people from hoarding it....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

January 15, 2009

Analysis of President Bush must ultimately be literary..

This, by Orrin Judd, is right-on about President Bush...

...To that last point, one of the great ironies of George W. Bush's career is that while even his most devoted supporters--among whom we include ourselves--would not argue that he is eloquent, nearly every major set piece speech he has given rewards later reading. Of few modern politicians can it be said that they laid out as consistent, direct, and predictive a philosophy and policy program as the current president. For example, go back and read his 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican convention and you see the template for nearly everything he's done in domestic policy. What you saw then was exactly what you got. And, recall, that was just the first time that bewildered pundits puzzled over how far he'd outperformed expectations [their own, of course], how beautifully he'd expressed himself, and how moved they were despite themselves. The analysis of this not especially literary man's presidency must ultimately depend be literary, because he has explained himself so thoroughly to us as he's gone along.

This is particularly true of the decision to regime change Iraq, about which so much subsequent confusion arose, some of it Mr. Bush's own fault, much of it driven by his enemies (sadly, not just opponents). All of the contemporaneous accounts by participants in and reporters upon this decision confirm that as soon as 9-11 occurred the President determined to remove Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath from power in Iraq. His personal preference even seems to have been to do so prior to taking on the Taliban--which would have been the better tactic politically, the Afghan War being inarguable even for the Left. Nor did he have any apparent concern about whether we had any allies along with us nor UN approval. However, during the period when the US military was getting the attacking forces into place, he acceded to Tony Blair's attempt to sell the war to Great Britain and to Colin Powell's attempt to get a new UN Resolution. Whatever those two good men may have known or believed about Saddam's Iraq, they chose to use the threat of WMD as the basis for their respective sales pitches. President Bush graciously backed them up and the public focus did shift to this raison de guerre.

However, in his seminal speech, before the UN on September 12, 2002, George W. Bush himself treated WMD as a somewhat peripheral and based his own case for regime change on holding Saddam Hussein accountable for violations of the UN Resolutions that had ended the Iraq War his father and General Powell fought and upon the ongoing human rights violations in Iraq. He challenged both Saddam Hussein to adhere to the Resolutions he'd agreed to--which actually required the dictator to regime change himself--and the UN to enforce its own edicts, or we'd do so for them....

There's never been a president who has so openly and clearly said what he wants to do...and then did it. My guess is that Leftists--including almost all journalists and historians--are incapable of seeing this, because it is a state of mind they cannot even imagine. Their very existence is about hiding the emptiness inside them. Think of all those loopy theories about Bush as secretive devious mastermind. (Or as moron manipulated by masterminds.) Yet he's been open all along about what he wants to do. My guess is that they can only interpret that as idiocy or a subtlety unfathomably deep...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:41 AM

January 4, 2009


One of the awesome things Charlene and I did on our pilgrimage to Israel last Spring [link, link] was to visit the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum, by the shore of the Sea of Gallilee. The synagogue was re-built in the 4th Century after an earthquake, but it is quite likely that the new one was much like the older one where Jesus preached. We were probably standing on the very floor He walked on!

This aerial view gives a good idea of what it's like. The local stone is an ugly black basalt, and many small houses have been excavated--you can see a little of that on the edges of the building. (I imagine and hope the houses would have been plastered and painted--the excavations look like worker-housing in Mordor.) The synagogue itself is limestone, brought from another place.

Synagogue in Capernaum, aerial view

In my picture below you can see the rows of benches running along the sides of the main room. This was traditional for synagogues. Of course all the pillars would have been the height of those in the back. A historically important thing you can see here is how the Jews were embedded within a Greek world. The architecture is Greek, although I don't think there was any analogous pagan religious building.

One of the things that tell us that Judaism and Christianity were not just "the ones the got lucky" out of the vast crowd of ancient religions is that neither of them "fit" into any existing religious architecture in the world. Neither pagan temples nor the grottos of the mystery cults were designed for the multitude, nor for reading and preaching to a community. (The "business" of a pagan temple mostly happened at the altar which was outside.)

Christianity in particular was so weirdly unlike anything existing that Romans often thought of it as atheism! We can't really grasp that point, since we now assume that Christianity is what religion "normally" is like. One clue is that the Christian church--the building that is--is adapted from the basilica, a Roman public building used especially for law courts.

Synagogue in Capernaum

...The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life...-- John 6, 52-68

Well, if nothing else, Jesus was not the kind of guy who told people what the polls said they wanted to hear...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:23 AM

December 26, 2008

Essential reading for the serious person in our time...

Macklin Horton has an important post, on reading the book Witness, by Whittaker Chambers.

I haven't quite finished Whittaker Chambers' Witness, but I'm ready to declare that it's essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the 20th century and the spiritual battle being waged in the modern world generally�meaning, by "modern," roughly "post-Enlightenment"...

...At the end of The Lord of the Rings Sauron is defeated and destroyed. But we are given to understand�I can't remember whether it's in the book or in some remark of Tolkien's elsewhere�that his evil does not cease to exist, but rather spreads as a sort of vapor, dispersing itself throughout the world; from this time on, evil will not be so concentrated and easy to identify, but will work subtly and obscurely.

Something like that is the situation we're in after the fall of the great totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century, communism and fascism. Of the two, the evil of fascism has generally been easier to recognize, or at any rate more widely recognized, principally because of the Holocaust but also because its mythos is in general less appealing, especially to those who set the terms and tone of opinion in our society. Communism had a deeper and wider appeal, in part because it spoke, superficially at least, to more benevolent motives. But if it's possible to say that one is worse than the other, I would say that communism takes the prize, in part because it was more successful and thus able to murder more people, and partly because it was more consciously and systematically an assault on God. Communism involved a cold intention to remove from the universe any moral authority external to man, to seize that authority for man�for the handful of men worthy of it, on behalf of all the rest�and to exercise it for the purpose of creating heaven in the only place where it could possibly exist, in this life. (Fascism, in contrast, seems to have been less coherent.)...

...Like the cloud that was Sauron, communism as an all-explanatory philosophy and an all-encompassing program of action, both directed against God, has been dispersed. There is no single ideology or mass movement with both its coherence and its popularity at work today. But the basic idea�there is no God, and we're glad there isn't, because now we can get on with the business of solving our problems without interference from superstition�is everywhere. The intellectual and spiritual presuppositions of much of our political and social discourse are the same as those of communism...

The "debonair nihilism" of our age does not produce the titanic struggles that were going on when I was a boy, though the battle is just as deadly. Now the "vapor of evil" is everywhere and nowhere, as hard to fight against as blowing leaves. The story Chambers tells is a kind of analog of our own story...

I quoted a little bit from Witness here


Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

December 8, 2008

"I should be very much obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket, Watson..."

Reason #339 why liberals discourage the study of history... (Thanks to Glenn R.)

If each of us carried a gun--Times Online:

....Rhetoric about standing firm against terrorists aside, in Britain we have no more legal deterrent to prevent an armed assault than did the people of Mumbai, and individually we would be just as helpless as victims. The Mumbai massacre could happen in London tomorrow; but probably it could not have happened to Londoners 100 years ago.

In January 1909 two such anarchists, lately come from an attempt to blow up the president of France, tried to commit a robbery in north London, armed with automatic pistols. Edwardian Londoners, however, shot back -- and the anarchists were pursued through the streets by a spontaneous hue-and-cry. The police, who could not find the key to their own gun cupboard, borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by, while other citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns preferred to use their weapons themselves to bring the assailants down.

Today we are probably more shocked at the idea of so many ordinary Londoners carrying guns in the street than we are at the idea of an armed robbery. But the world of Conan Doyle's Dr Watson, pocketing his revolver before he walked the London streets, was real. The arming of the populace guaranteed rather than disturbed the peace.

That armed England existed within living memory....

I've read about incidents like this in Israel, where people pull out their pistols and chase down terrorists. Terrorism isn't a new concept. what's new is our populations of hapless "protected" people, who are taught to think that nothing's worth fighting for. Also new is the twisted idea that countries can safely wage covert war by supporting terrorist groups. In the past that would have been pointless, because they would have gotten open war pronto. Just another way that pacifism causes war and bloodshed.

The article also has this quote by Ghandi, which I had not seen before:

"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest"
Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 PM

November 13, 2008

Remembrance Day

Charlene recommends this Remembrance Day photo essay at Andrew Cusack's blog. It includes photos of the last three living British veterans of WWI, and celebrations around the globe...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:18 AM

October 28, 2008

We are all so GOOD!!!

Ron comments on the previous post:

You know, I've been thinking about this Obama phenomenon for some time, and it just doesn't make any sense. Where did he come from and how in the world did he get such a following in such a short period of time? It's downright spooky. Could someone out there explain this all to me....

You came to the right place, Ron. Random Jottings knows all, tells all. I think this post, with its quote by Shannon Love, gets closest to explaining...

A bit of the quote:

...I think that politics on the Left has become a social process, i.e., a means of group identification and self-validation. Leftists care less about the triumph of ideas and far more about the triumph of a group of people with which they ego-identify. They need their ego-identity candidate to win so that they can feel good about themselves. The character and policies of the actual candidate does not matter....

When I was a wee lad, if a person wanted to be a "non-conformist," they became a Beatnik, or joined some similar artsy subculture. That is, they conformed to the ways of a group that was non-conformist! The idiocy of this sort of thing rarely seems to be noticed, then or now. (I remember it well. People daringly drank French wine and Italian coffee, and ate Moussaka. And looked down on the conformist rabble.)

It's similar now. If you want to be "good," you can't just, like, you know, be good. No way. You have to join a group that is perceived to be good. In popular imagination today that means liberal Democrat. (The fact that they are actually evil is of no consequence.) And then whenever the Democrat candidate wins, you get a sort of "validation." As if the world is giving you an accolade for being "good." Confirming your superiorty, as it were.

Now if the Dem candidate is the usual white middle-aged career pol, this validation is sort of muted. It lacks pizazz. But if the candidate is cool, and handsome, and youngish and well-dressed (all qualities one would like to have rub off on oneself)---wow, the payoff is bigger by an order of magnitude.

AND, if the ego-identity candidate is.....brace yourself for a thrill running down your leg....if he is.....yes......African-American....a magic negro....the coolest thing....the ego-validation is just stratospheric!

The Dems could probably run a cardboard cut-out of Mr Obama and have a good chance of winning....

* Update: As a historical note, I remember reading somewhere about bohemian non-conformist types in New York, around maybe 1910. They would head down to The Village, which was then Italian, and be really artsy and different by eating......Spaghetti! I laugh every time I think of that.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:17 PM

October 26, 2008

"Almost the opposite of abstraction"

From Saint Thomas Aquinas, by GK Chesterton....

...First, it must be remembered that the Greek influence continued to flow from the Greek Empire; or at least from the centre of the Roman Empire which was in the Greek city of Byzantium, and no longer in Rome. That influence was Byzantine in every good and bad sense; like Byzantine art, it was severe and mathematical and a little terrible; like Byzantine etiquette, it was Oriental and faintly decadent. We owe to the learning of Mr. Christopher Dawson much enlightenment upon the way in which Byzantium slowly stiffened into a sort of Asiatic theocracy, more like that which served the Sacred Emperor in China. But even the unlearned can see the difference, in the way in which Eastern Christianity flattened everything, as it flattened the faces of the images into icons. It became a thing of patterns rather than pictures; and it made definite and destructive war upon statues.

Thus we see, strangely enough, that the East was the land of the Cross and the West was the land of the Crucifix. The Greeks were being dehumanised by a radiant symbol, while the Goths were being humanised by an instrument of torture. Only the West made realistic pictures of the greatest of all the tales out of the East. Hence the Greek element in Christian theology tended more and more to be a sort of dried up Platonism; a thing of diagrams and abstractions; to the last indeed noble abstractions, but not sufficiently touched by that great thing that is by definition almost the opposite of abstraction: Incarnation. Their Logos was the Word; but not the Word made Flesh. In a thousand very subtle ways, often escaping doctrinal definition, this spirit spread over the world of Christendom from the place where the Sacred Emperor sat under his golden mosaics; and the flat pavement of the Roman Empire was at last a sort of smooth pathway for Mahomet. For Islam was the ultimate fulfilment of the Iconoclasts....
Chesterton's book is very worth reading, by the way. If you want an introduction to Aquinas, you simply cannot do better, as many Aquinas scholars have agreed. It is highly readable and thought-provoking...

Posted by John Weidner at 4:32 PM

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

September 7, 2008

Bible facts you may not know...

OK children, it's time for Sunday School. And today I'm going to give you a historical "background briefing" so certain things will make more sense to you than they did to me in my long-ago youth...

1. Centurions. The Roman Army had an interesting way of doing things. Almost every officer in a Legion was a Centurion. That is, the commander of a "century" of 80 men. (Originally 100, hence the name.) And he would always lead his century in battle. But he might also be a staff officer, or a supply officer, or even the commander of a whole cohort. Or fill some important civilian office. It was as if every officer in one of our brigades was also a platoon commander, and went into combat with his platoon. (No REMF's!) That's why the centurions we meet in the New Testament can be important men, with houses and servants, even though the name implies that they are very junior officers.

2. The two kingdoms. After the reign of Solomon, the Israelites split into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. The northern kingdom comprised 10 of the 12 tribes. Yet the two kingdoms were about equal in size. This used to bewilder me. The answer is that the Tribe of Judah was about as big as the other 11 tribes put together!

3. The "Lost Tribes of Israel." The Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) was conquered by the Assyrians in 720 BC. Many of the people were removed and dispersed around the Middle East, especially to Media, in present-day Iran. They weren't really lost, everybody knew where they were. Many probably rejoined the general Jewish population later, but the tribal identities were mostly severed. They became just Jews.

4. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and much of its population was also dispersed. This was the Babylonian Exile. When the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire in 537 they let various displaced populations return to their homelands. The people of the Kingdom of Judah then returned to Judea and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. From "Judea" we get the word Jew.

5. Samaria. The center region of the old Kingdom of Israel, Samaria, after it lost much of its population and had strangers settled on it, diverged in its religious practices. The Samaritans were, to Jews in the time of Jesus, heretics. The Jews hated the Samaritans almost more than they did the Romans. So Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan was a shocking story.

6. Galilee. In the Second Temple Period, after the Babylonian exile ended, there were Jews in Judea, (roughly the old Kingdom of Judah) and also up north on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. This region was called Galilee (roughly the north part of the old Kingdom of Israel) and this is where Jesus was raised. Jews in Galilee went, if they could, to the great festivals in Jerusalem, especially Passover. However, there was a big problem, because Samaria was in between Judea and Galilee.

In summer Galileans would hike to Judea through Samaria, which took about 3 days, and was dangerous. In the cool of winter they would follow the valley of the Jordan River, which took about 5 days.

7. Pharisees pestering Jesus. One gets the impression from the Gospels that Pharisees were lurking in every field, waiting to catch people breaking some tiny regulation, and then shrieking "Gotcha." Sort of like a Monty Python Spanish Inquisition. Actually, it was Jesus they wanted to catch out, not the average Joe. He seems to have driven them crazy. In exactly the same way that Sarah Palin is driving lefties crackers right now. He was so real they could not ignore him.

Who were the Pharisees? Too complicated to go into today; here's the Wikipedia link.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 AM

August 5, 2008

Analogy to the Inquisition...

I got another e-mail on the subject of the Inquisition, in response to my post here.

...I'm OK with people calling some beliefs heresy, but killing people for it just feels over the line, especially for someone saying they are fully authorized agent of Jesus. If that's what being a Catholic is, that's a deal breaker for me. Is it still OK to kill heretics?...

No. Absolutely not. And to a considerable extant it never was. I don't think this was ever a part of Catholic dogma or doctrine.

What you have to realize is that until recently religions were the "political" groups. And a person who secretly believed something different from the state religion was often a political danger. Someone who would fight in a rebellion, or assassinate the monarch. If you read a bit about the Wars of Religion, you will see a lot this. There was back then no concept of a "loyal opposition." (In the religious sphere that's actually something that developed in the 17th and 18th Centuries out of the bloodbath of the Thirty Years War.)

And many accounts of the Inquisitions don't give you that context. They leave you to imagine that a bunch of cruel Dominicans were simply imposing their religion on peaceful folk, when in fact the real movers were usually governments worried (often with good reason) about fifth-columnists.

There is something of an analogy in what the Communists in the earlier 20th Century were to us. A Communist back then was NOT just someone with a different philosophy, he was often a secret agent for Lenin or Stalin. For the Comintern. If an American "converted" to Communism, there was a good likelihood that he would no longer be loyal to our country, and might work actively to subvert it. A splendid book to read, to understand the period, is Witness, by Whittaker Chambers.

This justified measures that were not normally acceptable in American tradition. It has never been right in America to blacklist or harass people because of their political beliefs. The "McCarthy Era" is often portrayed by liars as if it were just that, but in fact it was about hunting down people who were secret agents of a totalitarian conspiracy. One that was responsible for at least 100 million deaths in the 20th Century. Of course many of those who were harassed were not working for the Soviet Union, and had no real desire for the triumph of tyranny.

Innocent people were persecuted. BUT, the responsibility for this rests entirely on those traitors who concealed themselves among those who were, as you might say, "loyal communists." If someone was dragged in to testify before HUAC, and maybe had their career ruined, they usually are portrayed by liberal historians as people who were crushed by America, by cruel red-baiters, etc.

Bullshit. The responsibility rests with those who were hiding among them, using them as cover for their attempts to destroy our country. The most famous of these of course was Alger Hiss. And due to the fall of the Soviet Union we now have access to archives that show that Hiss was in fact a Soviet spy. But for 50 years he was pictured by cynical leftists as an "innocent victim" of men like Chambers and Richard Nixon. In fact the opposite was true. Hiss was guilty as hell, and was working hard to give us our own American Gulag Archipelago. And Chambers and Nixon were true American heroes, fighting ugly subversion with necessary roughness.

The "McCarthy Era" is usually portrayed as a period of madness, and analogized to the Salem witch trials. (Or the Inquisition!) The difference is that in the 20th Century there really were witches, and if they had achieved their ends people like you and me might be routinely rounded up at gunpoint and sent on that long march to nowhere....

Posted by John Weidner at 12:31 PM

August 3, 2008

"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition"

A reader wrote to me, concerning yesterday's post:

....This quote mentions, "the medieval Albigensians and Cathari" and says, "Gnosticism can't handle the Incarnation". Since the Inquisition killed and tortured them and burned their books, it's my understanding we only know what they thought and practiced through what the Inquisitors said about them.

I'm not a Catholic (or a virulent anticlerical). To me, the Inquisition seems evil and an enormous contamination of the Christian teachings and I've never seen that explained away successfully. Maybe in a future post you might touch on that a little. Maybe I've got the facts wrong, or maybe there's some positive take on it I've missed...

Neither the Cathari nor the Inquisitions are things I have deep knowlege about. But hey, that never stopped me, a few thoughts...

I've learned some things about the inquisitions just from dabbling in history. (There were various inquisitions; they were local institutions, not an arm of the Church as a whole.) I think it is pretty safe to say that they were not nearly as bad as the grim legends make them out to be. They have mostly been portrayed by Protestants or by "Enlightenment" historians who had a big big ax to grind against the Church. (Rather like Leftists today have an ax to grind against the USA, and turned the fairly minor abuse of abu Ghraib into the worst thing ever, while ignoring real torture happening all around the world.) The savage torturing and murdering of Catholics by the Tudors and Stuarts gets little mention in history books, while everybody has shivered with horror about those dreadful dungeons of the Inquisition.

The methods and ethics of the inquisitors were the same as were used in all judicial processes of their time. It's not like the civil courts back then were any less oppressive. Probably just the opposite. I have read that the Spanish Inquisition was in fact quite scrupulous and just by the standards of its age. And that over several centuries of operation it only killed about 3,000 people--that's not exactly mass slaughter. Also, anyone convicted of a first offense could recant and go free. (But if you were caught in heresy again you were toast.) That's rather better than what you could expect from the average medieval king and his justices.

And it was done for what they considered a very good reason---heresy could lead people to eternal damnation, and could spread rapidly if not stopped. Torquemada would have said that it is WE who are cruel and unjust in allowing people to imperil their souls with false doctrine! I don't agree with the usefulness of his tactics, but the logic is perfectly correct. If I could save your soul from the fires of Hell by a bit of brutality, then I as a Christian would be obligated to do so! As it happens the Church teaches that this won't work, so I can focus my energies elsewhere, like torturing people with blogposts.

My wife Charlene is currently reading a book about the Cathars, The Perfect Heresy. She says we actually know quite a lot about them, because the inquisitors kept careful records, including transcripts of testimony. We don't, however, know for sure where Catharism came from. There was a very interesting book a few years ago, Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, which revealed a extraordinary amount of detail about everyday life in a medieval French village---because the whole village had been hauled in and interrogated about their religious practices, and the bulky transcript then sat in the Vatican for 600 years until a historian mined it.

The Perfect Heresy looks like an informative book, though marred, to my casual perusal, by the assumption of the author that orthodox Christian faith is something people did back in the Middle Ages, and which no modern person would take seriously....

"Albigensian" (from the city of Albi) and "Cathars" were names invented by their enemies, by the way. They called themselves "good Christians."


Posted by John Weidner at 10:33 PM

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 16, 2008

More lies from our "intellectual elites"

Remember all theose sob-stories about how America is responsible for the destruction of Iraq's treasures? They've mostly turned out to be dirty lies. Now another one bites the dust....

So Much for the 'Looted Sites' By MELIK KAYLAN, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2008; Page D9
A recent mission to Iraq headed by top archaeologists from the U.S. and U.K. who specialize in Mesopotamia found that, contrary to received wisdom, southern Iraq's most important historic sites -- eight of them -- had neither been seriously damaged nor looted after the American invasion. This, according to a report by staff writer Martin Bailey in the July issue of the Art Newspaper. The article has caused confusion, not to say consternation, among archaeologists and has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Not surprising perhaps, since reports by experts blaming the U.S. for the postinvasion destruction of Iraq's heritage have been regular fixtures of the news.

Up to now, it had seemed a clear-cut case. It stood to reason that a chaotic land rich with artifacts would be easy to loot and plunder. Ergo, the accusations against the U.S., the de facto governing authority, had been taken on faith. No one had bothered to challenge the reports, the evidence or the logic, not least because many ancient sites were in hostile terrain and couldn't be double-checked. By implication, the U.S. had been blamed for that too: After all, the presiding authority is effectively responsible for allowing no-go areas to exist where such things can occur.

Yet, paradoxically, there always was thought to be enough evidence to adduce blame. "We believe that every major site in Southern Iraq is in serious danger," Donny George, the former head of the Baghdad Museum, was quoted as saying in the New York Times in 2003. A recent book by Lawrence Rothfield of the University of Chicago's Cultural Policy Institute carried the estimate that, every year, roughly 10% of Iraq's heritage was being destroyed.

One of the foremost specialists who went on the trip, Elizabeth Stone from Stony Brook University, actually quantified the damage with the help of satellite images -- just before going. Alarmingly, and prematurely it seems, she concluded that nearly 10 miles of land had been looted and hundreds of thousands of objects had been taken. Confident statistics of this kind have been regularly tossed around, yet one wonders how such calculations can be made, not least by viewing the remains of illicit digs from satellite pictures. When looters attacked the Baghdad Museum in 2003, the news media put the number of destroyed and looted objects at 170,000 -- a figure equal to the entire collection. It emerged later that most of the important pieces had been successfully hidden away. Others were soon found. The number of missing objects that is cited has since fluctuated between 3,000 and 15,000, with the figure never taking into account the systematic semiofficial looting and frequent substituting with fakes that occurred in Saddam's time.

Considering the political impact of such data, one would expect the experts to approach the subject with scientific circumspection, using numbers sparingly and conservatively. Too often they seem to have done the reverse. So now, as a matter of course, their method, their probity in sifting the evidence -- do they have a political agenda? -- has come into question...

OF COURSE they have a political agenda. They are America-hating Bush-hating lefty liars. Like a lot of academics, they are dishonorable scoundrels who will bend the evidence to fit the political agenda.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:35 PM

July 6, 2008

Jerusalem 2

Last Sunday we stood on the Mount of Olives, looking over the Old City of Jerusalem. I pointed out the narrow road on the right side of the picture. Walk down the road—it's quite steep—and you come to the Garden of Gethsemane. It may not have looked much different in the time of Jesus. Olive groves can be pleasant places, and rather garden-like even without any improvements.

Path in the Garden of Gethsemane
It would be a good place to slip away to at night to pray, as Jesus did. To pray in his agony, knowing he would soon die a terrible death. And it was here he was arrested. The place which tradition says was the actual spot is now covered by a church, The Church Of All Nations, or Basilica of the Agony, about a hundred feet from here. (We are just north of the road, the basilica is on the other side.)

And here is our dear friend Father Francis Goode, about to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass right in the garden. Let me tell you that was an amazing moment! We are there early, and all is quiet and peaceful.
Fr Francis, Mass, Garden of Gethsemane
Behind him you see one of the gates of Jerusalem, the Golden Gate. But observe, it is walled up. You can't go in! Legend says it will open only on the Judgement Day. Jesus and his followers might have stood at this very spot and seen the morning sun strike the golden ornaments of the Temple. Just a few days before his death Jesus did a shocking thing, turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. I follow N.T. Wright's explanation that this was a brief symbolic act such as Hebrew prophets were wont to do. But also a kingly act, because it was kings who built the Temples (this was the second Temple, and you could also call it the third since it had been greatly rebuilt and expanded by King Herod the Great) and kings who cleansed the Temple. It was an announcement, which he had avoided before, that he was the Messiah, the coming king who would restore all things, liberate the Children of Israel, and usher in the Kingdom of God. He would have been well aware that the powers would have to destroy him after that. And in submitting to death, he made the Perfect Sacrifice as our Great High Priest.

We believe that Christ has three aspects, Priest, Prophet and King. These are seen, among other ways, in the Mass, when our priest, acting in persona Christi, sits in a chair as King, stands in the pulpit as Prophet, and stands at the altar as Priest. Those whose minds are dimmed by Protestantism and Nominalism will no doubt refer to these as "figures of speech," or metaphors. No, sorry, they are real, as real this chair I'm sitting in. You can say they are metaphors that have come to life. They do that, wherever the Kingdom breaks in upon our world. And if you see it, if you are bowled over one day, as I was, to see metaphors become real things (sort of like waking up in a fairy tale and hearing trees and animals talk) well then you cease at that moment to be a Protestant....

If you are the rare sort who wants to understand these things by delving into history, I give my highest recommendation to N.T. Wright's three books that comprise his Christian Origins and the Question of God.


Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 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 29, 2008


I haven't blogged yet about our trip to the Holy Land. Really, I'm not a good enough writer to express what feel. And what I feel will tend to be regarded as crazy by most people, since I believe that there is, all around us, much that is real without being in any way observable by natural or scientific means. I am very much not a Nominalist, and Nominalism is the factory-default setting for people in our culture. (In fact I'm coming to suspect that the common thread in all the things that creep me out, and that I blog against, such as Communism, Postmodernism, Nihilism, Deconstructionism, "Progressivism" and the like is....Nominalism. Here's a summary on that subject)

And the unseen realities are not off in some woo woo "spiritual realm;" they interpenetrate our world at every point. The eyes of Faith can, to some extent perceive them. And yes of course I'm aware that such subtleties can be just self-deception, just products of the imagination. BUT, but, going up to Jerusalem...It's like having pondered hints of the unseen that are sort of like faded postcards of Yosemite...and then actually going to Yosemite. Words are useless. The reality is awesome....

Anyway, I just blog for the fun of it, so it doesn't matter what I write. Pass by, or pay attention. SO, attendez! (And thank you Mary Anderberg for prodding me.) In the picture below you are standing on the Mount of Olives. You are looking west. In the foreground is the Jewish cemetery. (The world's most expensive, by the way. You could easily pay a million bucks to rest your bones there.) It's hard to realize it in the picture, but the hillside is steep, especially past those spiky junipers. You can walk down that walled road on your right and you will go down to the Garden of Gethsemane hidden below the brow of the hill.

Mount of Olives, looking west over Kidron

The Valley is the Kidron Valley. Above the spiky trees you can see its other slope. There are the remains of old terraces of olive trees, then a road, then the Moslem Cemetery, and then, the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Which on this side are where they have been for more than 2,000 years. (They've been rebuilt a few times, but in the same place.) Behind the wall you see a lot of greenery. That is the Temple Mount. It is a broad plateau built up over what was once a hill by the construction of vast retaining walls, the largest of them built by Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C. Before AD 70 the plateau was covered by the Temple Complex, and, where that gold dome is, The Temple of Jerusalem. The gold dome is on the Dome of the Rock, a Moslem shrine (Not a mosque.)

When you look at that dome you are looking at the center of the world. Not the scientific center, but the real center. That's the very hill where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. The very place where King David planned, and Solomon built the first Temple...

Or, more accurately, you are looking at what used to be the center. 2,000 years ago the center was moved. Look to the left and a little above the dome. You will see a small grey shape, below the tallest building on the horizon. That's the grey dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (It's not really small—just distant.) That's the place where Jesus of Nazareth was killed, buried, and rose again to life.

In Roman days it was a knob of rock just outside the city walls, with quarries, and also with the rock-cut tombs used by those who could afford them. A good conspicuous place for making an example of those who don't appreciate the benefits of big government....

Now I had none of this geography clear in my head when I went to Jerusalem. Perhaps I dozed off in Sunday school, but I had never got the hang of how things fit together. Saliba, our splendid guide, would always get us going early in the mornings to miss the crowds. So we wandered onto the Temple Mount when almost no one else was there. That in itself was a moment of a lifetime. But then we walked to the Dome of the Rock, and Saliba pointed out that you could draw a straight line between the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden of Gethsemane, and it would pass exactly though the Temple. You can see it. That just made my hair want to stand on end.

If I maintain my energy perhaps next Sunday I'll walk you downhill, down the walled road that's on the right side of the photo...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:52 AM

May 26, 2008

Remember too the men of 1917...

Last surviving doughboy honored...

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last known living American-born veteran of World War I, was honored Sunday at the Liberty Memorial during Memorial Day weekend celebrations.

"I had a feeling of longevity and that I might be among those who survived, but I didn't know I'd be the No. 1," the 107-year-old veteran said at a ceremony to unveil his portrait...

....Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917.

He was rejected by the Marines and the Navy, but eventually persuaded an Army captain he was 18 and enlisted, convincing him Missouri didn't keep public records of birth.

Buckles sailed for England in 1917 on the Carpathia, which is known for its rescue of Titanic survivors, and spent his tour of duty working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk in Germany and France. He rose to the rank of corporal and after Armistice Day he helped return prisoners of war to Germany.

Buckles later traveled the world working for the shipping company White Star Line and was in the Philippines in 1940 when the Japanese invaded. He became a prisoner of war for nearly three years...
Frank Woodruff Buckles, last WWI vet.
Buckles gained notoriety when he attended a Veteran's Day ceremony at the Arlington grave of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, who led U.S. forces in World War I, said his daughter, Susannah Flanagan.

He ended up on the podium and became a featured guest at the event, and the VIP invites and media interview requests came rolling in shortly afterward.

"This has been such a great surprise," Flanagan said. "You wouldn't think there would be this much interest in World War I. But the timing in history has been such and it's been unreal."

Buckles spent much of his museum tour Sunday looking at mementos of Pershing, whom he admired. He posed for pictures in front of a flag that used to be in Pershing's office and retold stories about meeting the famous general.

While Pershing claims most of the fame, Buckles now has a featured place at the museum.

"This is such an extraordinary occasion that we here at the museum decided that the photo of Mr. Buckles should be permanently installed in the main hallway here" said Brian Alexander, the museum's president and chief executive.
Posted by John Weidner at 5:15 PM

May 17, 2008

A cautionary tale...

Dean Barnett writes...

...Barack Obama continued to display his surprisingly flimsy grasp of American history yesterday. “This whole notion of not talking to people,” began the longtime community organizer. “It didn't hold in the '60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met with (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."

There’s only one problem with this analysis – Khrushchev and Kennedy met in the first months of Kennedy’s term. The Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t happen until 16 months later. Furthermore, if we really want to dig into the history, many historians believe that the Vienna Summit between the two leaders did much to trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev, relying on the Bay of Pigs fiasco and what he later saw at Vienna, determined that his American counterpart was a weak sister who could be bullied.

Since Obama obviously knows nothing about the Vienna Summit, he surely doesn’t know that in some circles it’s viewed as a cautionary tale regarding the inherent risks of diplomacy with malevolent regimes (or “talking to people” as Obama prefers to think of such activities)....

A lot of Charlene's work as an attorney is negotiation. Almost all cases settle; it's unusual to take one to trial. She mentioned this morning that a tactic she often uses is to act a little crazy. The other side makes some trivial demand, and she says, "Forget it. We're outta here. We'll take it to trial!"

It's a ploy, and the more experienced of her opponents know it. But they still respect her more because of it. Because she WILL take a case to trial if she thinks she can't get a fair settlement for her clients. (And it's in the record; they can look her up and see the trials she's won.)

Going to trial is like going to war. It's what happens when you can't resolve things through negotiation. And in ALL negotiations, if you want to avoid war, it is essential to be clearly willing to go to war. It's the same in a labor negotiation; if you are seen as willing to go on strike, (or lock 'em out) you are more likely to resolve things peacefully.

Being warlike is the way to peace.

Being "peaceful" is the way to get war. Barack Obama is a warmonger. "Pacifists" are warmongers. Quakers are warmongers.

Barack Obama's entire campaign is an incitement to future wars. He projects fecklessness and naiveté. He is an obvious target to bullies.

If I were a jihadist, or an evil dictator, I'd look at Obama right now and think one thing: "He will flinch. If I act crazy, he will flinch away from war."

Obama is another Jimmy Carter. (And, like Carter, he is especially an incitement to attacks on Israel. He has already sent many signals that he will betray the Jews if he can get away with it.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:47 AM

May 6, 2008

Caves everywhere...

We're back...

Right now I'm too tired to even consider blogging about the profundities of our trip to the Holy Land. It was awesome. Charlene and I saw so many things, they are a blur in our minds, and we haven't digested them at all.

But here's an interesting (at least to me) historical note. I have always tended to disregard the story that the stable where Jesus was born was a cave. It sounded a bit improbable. A cave?.

Actually, it would be improbable for it not to have been a cave. Judea is mostly limestone, which forms caves very easily. You see caves everywhere! And the pale limestone makes for very clean and pleasant cavities----not at all dirty or gloomy. People in Judea still build houses in front of, or over, caves. You can see them dotted in strata along the hillsides. Or you see caves with fences across the front, for livestock.

Ancient Bethlehem was just a little place, about the size of a football field, with one or two-room houses built over caves. There would not have been an inn; you would stay in someone's home. with your relatives presumably. And the cave/stable would be a reasonable retreat to gain a bit of privacy for a birth.

This is a picture of an excavated cave, in the Church of the Nativity complex. It's just a few steps from where Jesus was born. (Those columns have been added to ensure support of the roof.)

Cave, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Also strange and intriguing to me was how small and close-together things in Israel are. Nothing is remote, in our sense of the word. You could drive from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in 5 minutes, if it were not for the security checkpoints. Or to the Dead Sea in half an hour. And it's very common to be able to stand on a high place and point out a dozen famous historical sites.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 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 24, 2008

Reporters no more?

From an interesting piece in PJ Media on whether reporters are an endangered species...

...This middleman function, with reporters serving as mere links in a news supply chain, was never needed until fairly recently. Before the printing press was invented, we were all receivers and transmitters of news, spreading it by word-of-mouth. Soon after its invention, multitudes of mostly one-man print-shops, as a sideline, printed newspapers to supplement this word-of-mouth process. These printers wrote their own articles blending facts with opinion, much like bloggers do today. Others also contributed, often without receiving compensation or attribution — citizens, gossips, letter-writing “correspondents” from other towns, and similarly-operating foreign and domestic newspapers whose stories were simply lifted.

Since this is what news looked like at the time of the Founding Fathers, they gave no particular mandate to reporters, a function that did not even exist at the time. The “freedom of the press” they cited in the First Amendment was not about “the press,” but about everyone’s right to freely use a printing press to express their views without government interference, supplementing the free speech clause that allowed everyone to express their views orally.

The first full-time reporter in America did not appear until the 1820’s, after steam engines were integrated into printing presses. Suddenly, newspapers had to be run like businesses to achieve consistently high circulation levels to pay for equipment and keep newsstand prices low. Reporters provided the needed constant flow of consistently well-written articles....

The term "reporter" usually means a generalist. His job is, for the most part, to find the person who has specific knowledge, and pass that knowledge on to the public. He's a middleman. If he is covering a fire, he will talk to witnesses and firefighters, and boil down their knowledge into a story. And he is a generalist, because the next day he may be covering a royal wedding or a prize fight.

The Internet tends to destroy middlemen. (Or actually it's a more general trend of the Information Age. When I was young, maybe in the late 50's or early 60's, my father was transitioning his nursery business from selling plants to wholesalers, to selling direct to retail nurseries and flower shops. This was probably a matter of easier flows of information. Freeways and better phone service meant that salesmen could cover more ground, and work directly with a lot of small businesses. So goodbye local wholesaler.)

If there is a big fire, the witnesses can now put information directly into the hands of consumers, say by posting it in a blog. So who needs reporters?

But a reporter can also be himself the person who has specific knowledge. If he covers a special beat, then he may have understanding that most people don't. So he is more than a middleman, he is able to create valuable information on his own. Which doesn't necessarily mean he will be able to sell it in an age that has torrents of free information "deflating the currency."
(Thanks to Rand)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

March 11, 2008

The last WWI vet...

Bush thanks WWI veteran for 'love for America'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush met the last known surviving veteran of the first world war on Thursday, thanking the 107-year-old for his service and his "love for America."

Bush called Frank Buckles "the last living doughboy from World War I" and said the centenarian still has a crisp memory.

"Mr. Buckles has a vivid recollection of historic times, and one way for me to honor the service of those who wear the uniform in the past and those who wear it today is to herald you, sir, and to thank you very much for your patriotism and your love for America," the president said, seated with Buckles in the Oval Office.

"We're glad you're here."

Buckles, who turned 107 last month, lied about his age to join the U.S. Army at the age of 16...

This seems so poignant and strange to me. When I was young, the gray-haired distinguished men who ran things were of the WWI Generation. Harry Truman, Ike, the presidents of big corporations. And the handsome young men who were just starting to get on in the world were the WWII generation. Now the men of the AEF are all gone. nd the men and women of WWII are pretty much out of public life. (Except one guy, named Josef Ratzinger!)

There was an old-timer who worked for my dad who fought in WWI. Well, actually, he told me that on his first day in France he got in a knife fight with another southern boy, and that was the end of his war! He chewed tobacco--that was a fascinating thing to a boy. And not snuff; he bit pieces off a chaw. And chewed, and then spit. A bit of history I'm glad to have seen, but don't miss....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

March 7, 2008

Germans are good at following orders...

From Al-Qaeda Is Losing the War of Minds , By Peter Wehner,

On the way various influential clerics are turning against Jihadism. Such as Sayyid Imam al-Sharif ("Dr Fadl"), a former mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh, the "highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia." (The poor terrorist boobies will soon be reduced to using the Archbishop of Canterbury for religious leadership.)

...Not surprisingly, al-Qaeda’s stock is falling in much of the Arab and Islamic world. A recent survey found that in January less than a quarter of Pakistanis approved of Mr. bin Laden, compared with 46 per cent last August, while backing for al-Qaeda fell from 33 per cent to 18 per cent.

According to a July 2007 report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, "large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere [are] rejecting Islamic extremism". The percentage of Muslims saying suicide bombing is justified in the defence of Islam has declined in seven of the eight Arab countries where trend data are available. In Lebanon, for example, 34 per cent of Muslims say such suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified; in 2002, 74 per cent expressed this view. We are also seeing large drops in support for Mr. bin Laden. These have occurred since the Iraq war began.

Since General David Petraeus put in place his counter-insurgency strategy early last year, al-Qaeda has been dealt punishing military blows. Iraqis continue to turn against al-Qaeda and so does more of the Arab and Muslim world. In the past half-year an important new front, led by prominent Islamic clerics, has been opened. Militarily, ideologically and in terms of popular support, these are bad days for Mr. bin Laden and his jihadist jackals.

If we continue to build on these developments, the Iraq war, once thought to be a colossal failure, could turn out be a positive and even a pivotal event in our struggle against militant Islam. Having paid a high cost in blood and treasure and having embraced the wrong strategy for far too long, we stayed in the fight, proving that America was not the "weak horse" Mr. bin Laden believed it to be. Having stayed in the fight, we may prevail in it. The best way to subvert the appeal of bin Ladenism is to defeat those who take up the sword in its name...(Thanks to Orrin Judd).

Toldja so.

But wait, haven't we been in this situation before? Where we beat the stuffing out some murderous enemy, and then they suddenly discover that our ideas have merit?

I think it was in Lionel Davidson's thriller set in postwar Germany, Making Good Again, that somebody asks how a bunch of ex-Nazi's can ever form a democracy. And the answer was something like: "Germans are good at following orders. We've ordered them to become a democracy. They will obey." I always liked that. And it was true! Same thing with Japan.

And it will be true with the Islamic world too. They are good at following the "strong horse." That's us, if only we don't lose our civilizational self-confidence...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

March 1, 2008

A quote for this morning...

...As a conservative who reads a lot and takes an interest in history, I tend to accord some weight to the opinions of past generations. I do not subscribe to the fashionable belief that human beings suddenly got much smarter and more moral around 1965, and that everyone who lived prior to that date was a benighted ignoramus. There are plenty of people long dead who seem to me to have been very smart indeed — much smarter than I, in many cases. It is even possible that one or two of them may have been smarter than the editorialists at the New York Times. I don't know, I don't say this necessarily was so, only that I wouldn't altogether rule it out... [link]
--John Derbyshire
Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 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 21, 2008

The question is already decided, in my opinion...

This is a reply I was writing to comments by Bisaal at this post. But I'll just make it a post by itself, rough as it is, since I've already expended this morning's small reserve of time and energy on it...

Bisaal, I'm not ignoring you; your points deserve a longer reply than I have time for at the moment. Even their own post.

I don't agree with Mr Cella. I don't think there is some "thing" called "jihad" that exists. Or a thing called "Islam," so that one can say "Islam" is this or does that. The world of those who practice islam is as complex and varied as any other "world," and is made up of human beings with many motives besides those of religion.

I agree that "Mohamendanism is a Satanic perversion of Christianity," but I would say the same about all the modern revolutionary movements such as socialism and communism and fascism. And Islam is particularly nasty in the way it glorifies violence. But, people are still people.

Intelligent Musselmen (there's an old term I like) probably looked at 10th-Century Europe and saw a terrifying and evil movement called "Crusadism" that was surely unstoppable, and was beyond all reason. In fact we know now that the Crusades were a storm caused by the confluence of several different factors, which were unable to stay unified for very long. (One of them was the mix of French and Viking that became the Normans, one of the great conquering peoples of history. They embraced the Crusading movement, but also conquered England and Sicily and southern Italy at the same time. And their great military moment didn't last.)

"The war has been prosecuted on the proposition that the two are indeed incompatible: that building democracy will weaken the Jihad." --Paul Cella. Not exactly. The proposition is that the jihad is already weak, because most people are not fanatic death-ninjas ready to die for some cause. They have mixed motives, and mostly want to just get on with their lives. And IF they have a situation where they have hope of getting on with their ordinary lives, then they are going to strongly resent the brutal tyranny of groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially once they get a good stiff dose of them, as the Iraqis have.

And IF they have a strong and effective government that responds to their will, they will tend to turn against jihadists. I say we are seeing that right now in Iraq, on a huge scale.

Also, I think your idea that Iraq will become a puppet of Iran is not realistic. It is sort of like the assumption that Communist Russia and China were going to work together for "the Revolution". It looked good on paper, but never happened. They were just too different, and had different wants and needs. And both were internally much weaker and more divided than outsiders suspected. I grew up learning that communism was an international movement full of dedicated disciplined fanatics, which democracy was probably too decadent to oppose successfully. Ha!

Iran is a MESS. It has horrible internal problems, the regime is very unpopular, and is divided against itself. It is a major oil-producing country that has to ration gasoline!! A place where mothers often turn to prostitution to feed their children. Yet you assume that Iran will be the one spreading its influence. Think a minute. How about influence spreading the other way? Why is that somehow impossible?

The Iranian system is a big fat failure. The Taliban system was a failure. Al Qaeda is a failure, it can only rule places by brutal force, which is resented bitterly. Ask the people of Ramadi. All these jihadist groups can only rule people by force. That in itself says that democracy is incompatible with jihadism. In fact I'd say the question has already been decided, and Mr Cella is wrong.

Remember, President what's-his-name of Iran ran on a platform of economic reform! (And without a unified opposition.) If he had told the people his real desire was to spread the Revolution, he would not have been elected.

* Update: Also, thank you Bisaal, for stimulating my thoughts! And if you ever meet my dear wife, Charlene, you two will get on well together--she thinks of Moslems the way you do. (You of course have a more pressing reason, because of where you live.)

And I do not mean to imply that democracy will make anybody good. It just tends to keep people occupied in different ways. And it is quite likely that elections may result in thugs coming to power. Especially in places where the desire of the people is for some big nationalist grievance that can over-rule the desire for ordinary good government. ie, the Palestinians. But even with them, regular elections (if they happen) will tend to result in politicians who address bread-and-butter issues.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:29 AM

February 14, 2008


Here are a couple of good books on Ronald Reagan. I should write a bit about them, but I'm too tired tonight--so just trust me, they're worth reading. They are on my mind because Charlene and I will be at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley next weekend for a Federalist Society conference.


Posted by John Weidner at 7:26 PM

February 6, 2008

Axis of Good...

Orrin Judd:

....President McCain will inherit the Axis of Good that W forged--with the particularly important additions being India, Indonesia, Brazil, France (at least momentarily), Canada, and Germany. It's only Bush Derangement Syndrome that prevents foreign policy experts from seeing that. Formalizing the League would be a useful but unnecessary step...

It probably doesn't matter, as far as the Global War on Terror is concerned, who gets elected. At least for the big picture. Bush is similar to Truman, whose vision crated our template for fighting the Cold War. Truman was enormously unpopular, but there was not a chance that his successors would repudiate his policy.

The Bush Doctrine will be America's doctrine now. All the current candidates appear to be pygmies compared to him, and so not have the capacity to formulate a new strategic doctrine, even if one were possible.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:08 PM

February 4, 2008

A page-turner, a thriller...

I give my highest recommendation to Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, by Lynne Olson

It is about the small and exceedingly motley group of MP's who rebelled against Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. The odds against them were far greater than I had realized. The story is utterly gripping. And every bit of it is applicable to right now.

We see the psychology of that time, the desperate wish to ignore or argue-away the growing menace, every day. As an example, I noticed that thebook's page quotes this book review, by David Cannadine, in the WaPo. And Cannadine is obviously far less interested in the book itself than in applying it to the presidency of George W Bush, using the story, by twisted logic, as an argument in favor of appeasement!

...He gathered around him a coterie of tight-lipped conservative advisers who were as like-minded and narrow-minded as he was. He scorned his critics in the legislature, branding them foolish, ignorant and unpatriotic. He had no time for members of any party but his own, and he treated the opposition with contempt. He cowed and coerced the media, and he authorized telephone tapping on an unprecedented scale... ...George W. Bush? No, Neville Chamberlain...

As applied to Bush, these are simply lies. I could fisk all of them, and already have many times. Bush's wiretapping, for instance, is of foreign communications, which we have done, without warrants, in every big war since Lincoln massively tapped telegraph lines. But Chamberlain was wire-tapping his fellow MP's! There's no similarity at all.

...One problem (which Olson does not address) is that the opponents of appeasement had no effective alternative policy. In the 1930s, Britain's empire and military commitments were overextended, especially as regards Europe and the Far East. That meant that waging war on two continents was a nightmare prospect, to which appeasement seemed for a time the only option...

NO, it was appeasement that caused that problem--if France and Britain had confronted Germany earlier, their forces would probably have been more than adequate. And part of Chamberlain's policy was to not prepare for war, to resist all calls to build up the British military--because that would be "provocative." Which had of course, exactly the opposite effect. (Wilson got America into WWI by the exact same fallacy; that not preparing for war makes war less likely.) Then, as now, every hesitation and cringe is being watched by cold eyes, and assessed Hitler knew that Chamberlain would not defend Czechoslovakia (which was far more defensible than Poland), just as bin Laden knew that America was weak when he saw Clinton flinch in Somalia.

And Chamberlain had immense power over the press, and used it to keep his opponents from communicating with the Bristish people. (Nowadays our journalists and academics carry little Chamberlains inside, and do the same.) We see the same see-no-evil psychology all around us now, for instance in the Canadian Human Rights Commission's proceedings against Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn.

..."Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last," Olson rightly notes, "the lessons of Munich and appeasement were wrongly applied to a later international crisis [Suez]." President Bush and his fellow neocons should take note....

Bullshit. It is the lesson of Suez that is being wilfully misapplied.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

January 3, 2008

One of the greats...

One of the greats, George McDonald Fraser has just died. Everyone will be talking about the famous Flashman books. I'd like to put in a word of appreciation for his collections of short stories about Lt. Dand McNeil and his impossible burden, Private McAuslan (the dirtiest soldier in the British Army) which are extremely funny and charming.

From a reader-review [By Reader "piratebean" (Bristol, RI USA)] at

...George MacDonald Fraser has written the stories of this regiment and its most infamous soldier, Private McAuslan, in three collections: The General Danced at Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough, and The Sheikh and the Dustbin.

Through the narration by platoon commander Dand McNeil, McAuslan comes alive as the dirtiest soldier in the world, "wan o' nature's blunders; he cannae help bein' horrible. It's a gift."

Yet McAuslan is one of the most loveable creatures in all of literature. He may be grungy, filthy, clumsy, and disreputable, but he tries to do his best. Through his many misadventures, McAuslan marches into the heart of the reader, right leg and right arm swinging in unison, of course.

McAuslan, outcast that he is, experiences some infamous moments in his career: court martial defendant, ghost-catcher, star-crossed lover, golf caddie, expert map reader, and champion of the regimental quiz game (!). His tales, and the tales of his comrades-in-arms, are poignant at times, hilarious at others. These tales are so memorable because they are based on true stories.

The reader basks in all things Scottish in the stories. The language of the soldiers is written in Scottish brogue, although Fraser says in his introduction, "Incidentally, most of this volume is, I hope, written in English." Don't fret - a glossary is provided. (Reading the glossary alone causes some serious belly laughs.

And also for his superb memoir of his service in Burma during WWII, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma

You don't need much more evidence of the total decadence and decline of Britain, than to just point out that there seem to be no more George McDonald Fraser's in the pipeline...

* Update: (late late at night, and I'm drinking the Glenlivet.) I should point out that the cover pictured below on the The Complete McAuslan is a travesty!!! The immortal McAuslan is a scrawny malnourished wide boy from Gleska (Glasgow); not in any way fat. (So read the book, already!! You will thank me. Geez. Why do I even bother recommending things anyway?? People will just go buy some crappy movie on a DVD. Why do I even bother to keep living in a post-literate age???? I'm all alone. At least click-through my amzaon link to buy your stupid flick, so i make a profit on my wasted electrons...)

* Update: I mean really, why am I doing this?? I'll never speak to a soul who's read about Lt. McNeil's platoon standing guard at Edinburgh Castle. Or Captain Einstein's stunning defense of McAuslan at the Court Martial (Shakespeare himself would have smiled.) Or Captain Errol. Ah well. Let the barbarians over-run all. Perhaps a new and better civilization will arise from the steaming rubble...

* Update: One more glass. SO good. Scotland is doomed, but somebody will continue to distill the whiskey---there's too much money in it not to. SO, Mohammed--my brother--please--Scotch doesn't need to be flavored with Cardamom or Anise. Just stick with the original recipe and you will do fine. Trust me, the smokey flavor grows on you.

* Update: (I have a little program that inserts these "Update" dingbats with a keystroke--it's not like I have to working hard at this.) OK, I'll go along with the Cardamom. But, by the beard of the Prophet, that's where I draw the line!@!!


Posted by John Weidner at 9:13 AM

December 30, 2007

From the Letter to the Magnesians..

~by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians

Since I have met the persons I have just mentioned and seeing and embracing them I have seen and embraced your whole congregation, I exhort you — be zealous to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and the presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who was from eternity with the Father and was made manifest at the end of time.

Be all in conformity with God, and respect one another, and let no man judge his neighbour according to the flesh, but in everything love one another in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing in you which can divide you, but be united with the bishop and with those who preside over you as an example and lesson of immortality...

Ignatius was born about AD 50, and probably died in AD 107. He was sent to Rome to be killed as an example that would discourage Christians. But the result was exactly the opposite. On the way he met with many Christians, and sent out a series of letters that can still be read with profit today.

As a historical note, Antioch in Syria was then the third largest city of the Empire, and Ignatius, who was its Christian bishop for about 40 years, would have been a high-value target. High value if one assumes, like the Roman authorities, that a cult would melt away if its leaders were killed.

One should also realize that the bureaucratic efficiency with which we deal with prisoners did not exist before the Industrial Age. Prisoners in the past were almost always accessible; a small payment to the guards would get your friends in to bring you comforts and have a nice visit. It is not at all surprising that John the Baptist, while in Herod's dungeon, could send his disciples to question Jesus.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 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

November 27, 2007

Neutrality is a sham. Pacifism is a sham...

Norman Lebrech explains how there is a back-story to the latest album by soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter... [Thanks to Bookwormroom]

....Her tragic tale begins on a train, as so many war stories do. Anne-Sofie's father, Baron G�ran von Otter, was a Swedish diplomat in wartime Germany, adjutant to the ambassador. On the night of 20-21 August 1942, travelling from Warsaw to Berlin, he became an involuntary witness to the Holocaust.

Standing in the corridor because he could not get a sleeper, the diplomat saw an SS officer glancing in his direction. When the train stopped at a station, both men got off for fresh air. On the pitch-dark platform, the SS man asked for a light for his cigarette. Von Otter produced a pack of matches with a Swedish crest. 'I must talk to you,' said Kurt Gerstein.

'With beads of sweat on his forehead and tears in his eyes' (as von Otter reported to his superiors), Gerstein explained that he was head of a Waffen-SS Technical Disinfection unit, responsible for supplying poisons and gas equipment. 'Yesterday,' he told von Otter, weeping uncontrollably, 'I saw something appalling.' 'Is it about the Jews?' said the diplomat.

Over the next six or eight hours in the train corridor, having examined Gerstein's papers and satisfied himself of his credentials, von Otter heard a detailed account of the mechanics of genocide, the gas chambers, the mass graves. Gerstein gave chapter and verse, the names of senior personnel, the look in a little girl's eyes as she was shoved naked to the slaughter. 'I saw more than ten thousand die today,' he wept.

He implored the Baron to inform the Swedish government, in the hope of stopping the slaughter. 'I had no doubt as to the sincerity of his humanitarian intentions,' said von Otter, who promptly wrote a report to Stockholm and heard nothing more. Not long after, he was recalled. When he looked for his own report in Foreign Ministry files, there was nothing to be found....

....Von Otter's career stalled, possibly because his 1942 report compromised Sweden's blind-eye neutrality. He rose no higher than consul-general in London, and died in 1988.....

Of course his report disappeared. There was not the slightest chance that Sweden was going to allow itself to be aware of what was going on next door. 'Cause they are better than the rest of us, and don't get involved in evil stuff like wars.

It's the same thing now, with "liberals" not wanting to know about the atrocities of Saddam's regime, or about the concentration camps of North Korea---not as long as there any chance that they will actually have to help do something about it. Especially if they might have to cooperate with President Bush. Better a million rag-heads should die, than that the latte-sipping crowd should have to support America or her elected leaders.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:42 PM

October 28, 2007

The Enlightenment, a Christian heresy?

A few snippets from an interesting essay by Philip Trower: (Thanks to Argent)

... To begin with then, there are two facts about the Enlightenment which I believe it is essential to grasp if we are to understand its true historical significance. The first is that, regardless of how it began, the Enlightenment became far more than just another movement in the history of ideas like the Romantic movement. What happened in the drawing-rooms, libraries, and coffeehouses of 18th-century Europe resembled in at least one crucial respect what happened in the deserts of Arabia in the seventh century A.D. A new world religion was born...


Stepping back a minute then and surveying our new world religion as a whole, we can see it as made up of two components: what I will call the humanist or humanistic project, which within limits we can all bless, onto which has been grafted a missionary atheism bent on sidelining or completely eliminating religion.

By the humanist project I mean the idea of bettering human life in this world in every possible way and developing as many of natures' potentialities as possible. Rightly understood this is not incompatible with Christian and Catholic belief. Indeed it is part of it. What is in conflict with Christian belief, as well, I believe, as with reason and common sense, is the idea that all this can be achieved without God's help and that a state of perfection — which would involve the disappearance of sin — can be overcome this side of the last day.

The second of the two facts which I said it is necessary to grasp if we are to understand the full historical significance of the Enlightenment is, namely, that in its deepest roots and many of its practical objectives, this new "world religion" is — and I hope this won't startle you too much — a Christian heresy.

Taken individually its teachings either have their origins in Christianity, like the idea of raising up of the poor and lowly, or have always had a prominent place in the Christian scheme of things, like the notion of human brotherhood. Collectively, they are the product of 2,000 years of a Christian way of looking at the world. It is impossible to imagine them occurring in the form they do in any civilization or culture so far known to history other than a Judeo-Christian one. Nor have they in fact done so. They can be accurately described as "secularized Christianity."....


....This is what makes the whole Enlightenment "package" so singularly difficult for most of us to handle. It is not something totally alien as paganism was. As a result, we tend to assume that, except about God and Christ and the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, our liberal or secularist neighbors are on the same wavelength in regard to more or less everything else.

What we often fail to notice is that, when wrenched from their Christian context and raised to the status of absolutes, notions like liberty and equality no matter how good in themselves, can receive a quite different significance and even become appallingly destructive...

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

...Then with the First World War, and the Russian Revolution, classical 19th-century liberalism meets its Götterdämmerung. Its cultural influence and intellectual prestige pass to collectivist theories of government and social life and collectivist political parties, which for the best part of a century have been living a largely underground life, erupting from time to time in revolutionary outbursts that are quickly suppressed. After the Russian Revolution, however, they can live openly in the daylight with Marxism rapidly occupying first place.

From the late 1920s on, the reaction of many Western liberals to this new situation and this newly empowered rival is not unlike that of moths to a flame or rabbits to a cobra. Some are attracted, others repelled. But the common roots and underlying unity of purpose linking all the offshoots of the original Enlightenment corpus of ideas produces that curious notion "No enemy to the left" — the left is always right and the right is always wrong — and that even more curious phenomenon, people who call themselves "liberals" admiring or making excuses for perhaps the longest lasting and socially and psychologically most devastating tyranny known to history....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

September 8, 2007

"unable to process the fact"

I liked this look at "the big picture." By Orrin Judd, writing about the book The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics ...

...In 1980, after fifty years of liberalism regnant, America had been bequeathed a world where the USSR and communist allies controlled half the globe, where the economy was stagnating and prices were rising, and where there was such spiritual malaise that a president took to the airwaves to whine about it.

Ronald Reagan, in turn, called for a return to the values, principles and policies of earlier days and ushered in a period that has seen an unprecedented quarter century of uninterrupted economic growth, the obliteration of communism/socialism, and a resurgence of faith and faith-based policy in America. So dispositive is the victory of democracy/capitalism/protestantism that Francis Fukuyama coined the term End of History to describe it. Essentially, after two hundred years of miserable failure by a variety of isms, there simply is no challenger to the Anglo-American model any longer.

The Left is understandably upset about the abject failure of everything it believed in and a good portion of the movement has been unable to process the fact. While folks like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Rahm Emmanuel had sense enough to throw in the towel and move their parties to the Right, many activists and intellectuals have instead become nothing more than reactionaries. This leaves them in the obviously futile position of insisting that the past three decades are a mistake and that we should return to the recipe that brought us the godawful 1970s.

The "Argument" then boils down to this: should Democrats seek to vindicate their ideals and crash and burn in McGovern/Carter/Dukakis/Gore/Kerry fashion, or should they accept the Western consensus and run as a kind of chick-friendly version of conservatism, a la Bill Clinton and George W. Bush?

Such is the nature of ideology and the eternality of the tension between Security and Freedom that just because the latter obviously have the stronger case does not mean they will prevail. When they do, we'll get stuff like the current Congress, which is indistinguishable from the Republican-dominated one that preceded it. When the former prevail, we'll get actual Republicans. Either way, it's mostly win-win for the country...

My guess is that, no matter how many times it is discredited, Leftism will always send up new shoots (with new names of course). Democracy and free markets and conservative thinking (and even the poor libertarians) and Globalization all share a tacit recognition of Original Sin. They assume that ALL human beings are flawed, and that all human enterprises will be things of failure and frustration, and therefore need feed-back mechanisms to get them back on track when they inevitably go awry.

But this means that we will never solve our problems by putting them in the hands of experts and elites—by putting them in the hands of those who are wiser and better. And it is the hunger to feel superior that drives all Leftish thinking. Left-leaning people may busy-body endlessly in helping the unfortunate, but there is always the assumption that the helper is in a position of superiority, and the helped will continue to remain helpless.

In Christian and conservative thought it is assumed that helper and helped are of equal value in the eyes of God. (Of course we often fall short of this in practice.) The conservative hopes the poor will become strong and productive citizens, and no longer need help. And the Christian hopes they will be saved, and sees in them potential saints...

To both the conservative and the Christian, the sin to avoid when helping others is Pride.

* Update: i received a quite-justified rebuke from a friend for using language such as: "And it is the hunger to feel superior that drives all Leftish thinking." That's way too categorical and definite, and probably wrong about a lot of people.

Well, if I were really careful about what I wrote, I'd probably not have time to write at all! But please feel free to criticize. In many ways I just write to clarify my own thoughts. (A process I recommend---you don't really know what you are thinking until you try to express it so others will understand.)

The Leftish thought I'm referring to is that which tends to aim for what Peter Drucker called "salvation by society." Socialism is the classic example. And it is particularly difficult to do battle with because, crazy as it sounds, most leftists aren't leftists any more. Not in the sense of having some philosophy like socialism that is "bigger" than they are. (When was the last time you met a Marxist plotting armed revolution?) So it's like wrestling with a jellyfish.

I do think I'm right that the hunger to feel superior to others underlies a lot of what goes on on the Rive Gauche. Perhaps I'm sensitive to it just because I'm quite capable of the same error. But at least I'm on guard against it...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:41 AM

August 26, 2007

Book recommendation...

I've been reading an excellent book, The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World, by John O'Sullivan. It's about Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, and how they cooperated in bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Progressive Empire...

...All three [in the early 1970's] were plainly at or near the peak of their careers. And those peaks were tantalizingly short of the very top.

It was not hard for any intelligent observer to explain why these three, with such high abilities, had obtained only limited success. All three were handicapped by being too sharp, clear, and definite in an age of increasingly fluid identities and sophisticated doubts. Put simply, Wojtyla was too Catholic, Thatcher too conservative, and Reagan too American.

These qualities might not have been disadvantages in times of greater confidence in Western civilization—or in moments of grave crisis such as 1940 in Britain, or 1941 in America, or in sixteenth-century Rome—when people prefer their leaders to be lions rather than foxes. But 1970 was two years after the revolutionary annus mirabilis of 1968. It was a time when historical currents seemed to be smoothly bearing mankind, including the Catholic Church, Britain, and America, in an undeniably liberal and even progressive direction....

Wojtyla, by the way is pronounced voy-TEE-wah, Krak�w is KRA-koov. I always find it maddening when a book includes foreign words without giving one the pronunciation. Fortunately I have George Weigel's splendid book on John Paul II, Witness to Hope, which has a nice guide to pronouncing Polish.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:27 AM

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...

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

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.


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 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

March 26, 2007

New technology, without the usual battery woes...

Having just taken a four-hour flight squeezed into a middle seat, I have to say "amen" to brother Scott:

Good, nay, great news on cell-phone talkers:
FCC ready to continue cell phone ban on flights

Just the thought of sitting next to some ditzy teenager with a rap song for a ringtone, or a hausfrau catching up on the coffeeklatch goings-on, or Mr. Uber-Important, over a two-hour flight makes me feel bloody. And I’m a big fan of cellphones.

Now, if they want to turn data only on, that I’m cool with, though I suspect I’d get half as bloody with the little dings and chimes and bleeps of text messages. And, of course, if the operators get their most fervent wishes, we’ll have mobile entertainment to deal with…just imagine the dipstick next to you chortling his way through whatever garbage he would normally be sucking down at home. Here’s some mobile entertainment for you: it’s light, portable, unobtrusive, serially sharable, has very low power requirements, practically no RF emissions, and is rock-solid proven technology:

This is called a “book”

Here are a couple of "books" I enjoyed...

The first book is a must-read for language or history buffs. I mention the second one, because I learned in it that "books" are very fire-resistant, which is important in space travel. They "ablate," that is, the pages burn and flake off one at a time, rather than the whole thing burning like a log. Also, it's by far the best thing I ever read about the Apollo Program.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

March 15, 2007

Pictures, not so hotso...

Today we drove a little farther across Nevada (I love it) and then headed up US 93 to Twin Falls in Idaho. Then across Southern Idaho (boring) and north, past the NW corner of Yellowstone (gorgeous country) to Bozeman, Montana. (Stunning place. But it's been "discovered.") My camera failed me, however. Battery won't hold a charge more than one day. Here's a pic from yesterday, and then some cell-phone pix.

That's me driving in Nevada, and the blur in the middle is a big dust-devil—we saw lots of them. (Not much of a picture, I know)

Dust-devil, driving on I-80
Here are some wagon-ruts that still exist from the early pioneers. They are from where they would climb a bluff up from the Humboldt River Valley. The Humboldt crosses most of Nevada, and it's so obviously the only way across the state for the old wagons. There's not much water anywhere else. The last part, after the Humboldt dies, must have been a grim trek.
Trail ruts from the pioneers

We are not looking for history by the way, just driving. But there's a lot of it lying around. In Idaho we followed the course of the Snake River. You've heard of it.

I love rivers in the desert. Intensely. But they are hard to photograph. Even with the real camera the pictures just come out grayish and drab.

I really shouldn't post this, but it will remind me of the real scene, which was intense. I walked through a forest of tall white brush—crackly-dry, but just starting to bud out. The river (the Little Salmon) was fast and cold and green. There were still patches of snow on the ground, but the black cliff-faces were starting to bake in the early sun.

Little Salmon River
Here are some of the the cliffs...
Little Salmon River--cliffs

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

March 11, 2007

"critics by conviction and Christians by habit"

From Meriol Trevor's excellent biography of John Henry Newman, vol 1, Newman: The Pillar of the Cloud.

...Liberal Churchmen had no monopoly of the social conscience, though they were more concerned with politics than other parties in the Church. What really distinguished them was their approach to the doctrines and history of Christianity. In effect, if not always in theory, they gave the highest authority to Reason.

But Newman had just come to believe that Reason, improperly exercised to judge the data of a divine revelation, was the chief instrument of the World in the modern age — the World of which Satan was the ruler: nature, human and non-human, so far as it is in rebellion against God and in opposition to the kingdom of Christ. During 1829 and 1830 his sermons in St. Mary's expressed these ideas of the World and the Church, which were basic to his thought for the whole of his life. He published his last words on the subject when he was eighty-four and quoted some of these early sermons.

With his clear mind — Whately himself had said it was the clearest he knew — Newman foresaw the general development of the liberal idea in religion, as in fact it has come to pass. Wherever reason is made sole judge of religious truth, faith weakens and in logical minds is destroyed ; not because the Christian faith is irrational or false, but because it is something given to the human mind, not discovered by it. Reason is within the scheme, not superior to it. Perhaps Newman saw this so clearly because of his own early scepticism ; Christianity could never be to him merely an habitual frame of reference, within which the individual critical reason could be let loose without danger. But to most of the liberal Churchmen, this was just what it was ; they were critics by conviction and Christians by habit. Later generations shocked them by losing the habit. Newman was not shocked, though he was grieved, because he expected it. In fact, he began by expecting general scepticism to arrive sooner than it did.

Whately never understood the nature of Newman's opposition to Liberalism. He thought Newman abandoned the liberal cause for orthodoxy because orthodoxy was in power, that his motive was worldly ambition ; yet the truth was that Newman parted company with the liberals because he saw that their principles, though they did not realize it, would betray the Church to the World...

The Anglican (in America Episcopalian) Church has three main factions or flavors. Evangelical, Liberal, and Anglo-Catholic. A bit of history that I find quite stupefying is that two of these groups originated, in the 1830's, in the common room of Oriel College, Oxford! (The Evangelicals arose in the 18th Century. The most famous of them were John and Charles Wesley, who left to form the Methodists.)

Richard Whately, mentioned above, "...was a strong liberal, and bid fair to be the leader of the new party of progressive men in the Church...He did not look on the Church as a sacred society preserving divine doctrine, but as a kind of moral order within society..." He and other Oriel men, Hampton, Hawkins, and Arnold of Rugby, started the liberal movement in the Anglican Church that spread rapidly through Oxford and beyond. And Newman raised up an opposition, known to history as the Oxford Movement, or the Tractarian Movement. Whose most important members, Newman, Keble, Pusey, and Froud were also Oriel men. (Though some had taken "livings," that is, positions as rectors or vicars of parishes. But they remained members of their college. All Oxford and Cambridge Fellows were, in those days clergymen, usually young, who expected to take up livings as soon as possible. If for no other reason than that they could not marry as long as they remained in the university. There were no old fossil college teachers then.)

The Evangelicals are still a large part of the Anglicans. The liberals are still the liberals, culminating in a certain peculiar lady bishop now head of the Episcopalians. The Tractarian flavor became what is now known as "Anglo-Catholic," that is, those Anglicans who feel that their church is part of the "Church Catholic," though not Roman Catholic. Newman, and many since, came to the conclusion that that just wasn't true, and left to join.......The Church.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:12 AM

March 6, 2007

The hard work is being done by the English-speakers...

This is a snippet from a radio interview of Mark Steyn (author of America Alone) by Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh Hewitt: I began this week with a three-hour conversation with British historian Andrew Roberts, about whom you devoted a column in the Sun Times, available at He’s now been a guest at the White House. Vice President Cheney’s reading his book as he jets around the world avoiding assassination attempts. He’s been, as he told me, met with considerable derision in academic circles in Great Britain. Are you surprised?

Mark Steyn: No, I’m not, because I think the elites in both Britain and the United States are blind to what seems obvious, if you step back. Andrew’s great thesis is that in the fullness of time, we will look at the period of dominance of the British empire, and then the American republic, as one unbroken cord of human development, as we do with the Roman republic and the Roman empire, that it will not seem like two separate eras, but as one continuous evolution. And I think that’s true, and I think it’s true not just historically, but it’s true today. You know, we hear a lot about Afghanistan, which is the good war that the left and all the Europeans and everybody else support, and it’s always presented as a NATO mission in Afghanistan, NATO’s doing all the hard work in Afghanistan. When in fact, when you look at it, the only four countries who are doing any combat duties, i.e. going out and killing the enemy are the United States, The United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. And the continental, the European members of NATO, are there in basically support roles. Norway won’t fight, the other guys don’t like to go out in the snow, because it gets their boots dirty, so they’re back at barracks manning the photocopier, or whatever they do, but the hard work of killing the enemy is being done by the four English speaking nations...

Elites, "blind to what seems obvious." Don't that sound familiar? Lefty self-styled elites. They've got a lot to be blind to, and to blind us to. The vast slow-motion train wreck that is Europe is their project. Communism and Naziism were their projects. And the mysterious way that English-speaking people around the globe have a stubborn resistance to being destroyed by leftism is their possible downfall.

England itself is toast, I think. But the tenacious infection has simply migrated elsewhere. How that must madden "progressives!" Historically speaking, it is the very success of the English and the Scots that led to a population explosion in 18th/19th Centuries, and thus the emigration that helped fill distant lands with English-speakers, who carried "The Rights of Englishmen" with them. Also, the inventive genius of the English and Scots created the railroads that opened up the great "land empires" of the US and Russia, and brought their wheat and hogs onto the world market�carried on British bottoms mostly. Which led to the devastation of British agriculture, adding to the flood of emigrants. As it still does. (Railroads also eliminated what had long been one of Britain's great advantages, the fact that no point in the island is more than 70 miles from navigable water.)

I remember being in England with my family when I was young, and my Dad talking to an English or maybe Welsh farmer in a pub. The man was frustrated and spoke of emigrating to Canada. (My father was a horticulturist, a farmer and a world traveller, and knew this stuff. He strongly advised Australia, as a place of greater opportunity.) There are so many things one wants to measure, but can't. Perhaps future researchers will pinpoint genes linked to optimism and adventurousness and self-reliance, and find them lacking in Britain, but richly present in the descendants of those who left the British Isles...

Mark writes "Norway won’t fight." Here's the link to the story about the Norwegian command refusing to let their men in Afghanistan be put where they might have to fight. Remember how Norwegians were once known for hardiness and courage? Well actually most people don't remember, don't know. They just accept things as they are, and can't see how bizarre the world has become, and how extreme the changes are. Me, I was thrilled in my youth by a certain book, about a bunch of Norwegians crossing the Pacific Ocean on a balsa-wood raft. And some of those Norwegians had been among those who made the desperate attempts to destroy the Heavy Water plant in Norway that was being used in the German nuclear bomb program. The fact that Norwegian soldiers are currently deployed to a cold mountanous place for small-unit ops, and are NOT showing everybody else how the thing should be done is a HUGE elephant of a fact in the world's living-room. That nobody seems to see it makes me just want to scream. (Aaarrrgghhhhhhhhhhh! Whew. I feel better now.)

I'm eager to read Roberts' book. Sounds good. And the book below, Heavy Water and the Wartime Race for Nuclear Energy, also sounds good. I haven't read it, so I can't comment on the slightly curious title. It wasn't nuclear energy that was being sought, it was a matter of a totalitarian socialist government seeking nuclear bombs so they could fry millions of people and conquer the world. I can't help suspecting that somebody or other wants to gloss over that fact just a wee little bit.

Much as leftyish historians also want to slide past the awkward fact that Japan also had a nuclear bomb program. One which they stopped only because it was not feasible for them, not because they were better that us horrid Americans who are supposed to flagellate ourselves endlessly for the sin of Hiroshima. (The nuclear bombing of which almost certainly saved millions of lives. Billions perhaps, if you consider the curious fact that it marked the END of the sort of large-scale warfare we refer to as "world wars." Actually, to the end of war, period. What we have now is nothing like what used to be called "war." Dr Oppenheimer and General Groves should be considered the greatest pacifists of human history. Link. Link.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

February 15, 2007

Things we should remember...

Most revisionist history is simply a matter of ignoring the past, not of inventing a new past. In America, leftists mostly control the schools and medias, so certain things get dropped down the Memory Hole. Especially, certain horrific slaughters, if they get noticed at all, just happened. There's no mention of why they happened.

One of those big facts that's been excised from memory, is the subject of a piece by Jeff Jacoby: American Leftists Were Pol Pot's Cheerleaders. Remember. Be Aware. The same creatures who want to bring us "peace" in Iraq helped to bestow the same sort of "peace" on Cambodia.

....But nowhere in the Times story was there a reminder that the Khmer Rouge was able to seize power only after the US Congress in 1975 cut off all aid to the embattled pro-American government of Lon Nol -- and that it did so despite frantic warnings of the bloodbath that would ensue. President Ford warned of "horror and tragedy'' if Cambodia was abandoned to the Khmer Rouge and pleaded with Congress to supply Lon Nol's army with the tools it needed to defend itself.

To no avail. US troops had come home two years earlier, but American antiwar activists were still intent on effecting the "liberation'' of Southeast Asia. Radicals like Jane Fonda, David Dellinger, and Tom Hayden stormed the country, denouncing anyone who opposed communist victory in Cambodia and Vietnam. On the campuses, in the media, and in Congress, it was taken on faith that a Khmer Rouge victory would bring peace and enlightened leadership to Cambodia.

"The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia,"declared Senator George McGovern, "seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean. . . . We should be able to see that the kind of government which would succeed Lon Nol's forces would most likely be a government . . . run by some of the best-educated, most able intellectuals in Cambodia.''

Stanley Karnow, hailed nowadays as an authoritative Indochina historian, was quite sure that "the 'loss' of Cambodia would . . . be the salvation of the Cambodians. "There was no point helping the noncommunist government survive, he wrote, "since the rebels are unlikely to kill more innocent civilians than are being slaughtered by the rockets promiscuously hitting Phnom Penh."

The New Republic told its readers that the ouster of Lon Nol should be of no concern, since "the Cambodian people will finally be rescued from the horrors of a war that never really had any meaning.''

In Washington, then-Representative Christopher Dodd of Connecticut averred: "The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now."...
[Emphasis added. Thanks to Orrin]

There's more, of course. Notice the bit about how the war "never really had any meaning." Just think about it. Does it sound familiar?

* I should add that the Khmer Rouge habit of inflicting torture and death was known. It was no secret. The advice given to those who worked in Cambodia was, "Don't be taken alive."

In the same way, the tendency to murder and torture of the terrorists and Ba'athist is known. We have heard the tales of the Taliban inflicting horrific deaths for sins like flying kites or owning a songbird. We found the torture-chambers when we re-took Falluja.

So when leftists and fake pacifists prate endlessly about abu Ghraib (a relatively minor evil that was soon corrected and punished) they are not just indulging in anti-Americanism. They are actively promoting things a thousand times worse, by directing the world's attention away from them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:22 AM

February 3, 2007

Mt Darien Scenic Viewpoint, Exit One Mile...

Here's this Sunday's oddment, Houselander on the Sacrifice of the Mass...

...It's all you've got, and he gave it to you. We are like children whose father has given them a sixpence to buy a birthday present for him. The father knows the child can't bring him a present costing a pound: he can only give back what he has been given and whatever little scruffy object he produces; the father loves it, for it is his child's offering of all he can offer—and that is only his own gift back again, but back again made more lovable to him by an exchange of their love.
Caryll Houselander

One of the unexpected and totally cool things about becoming a Catholic has been the discovery, like stout Cortez (was he really so fat? And should we keep teasing him, poor fellow?) of a whole new ocean, of thought and books. And especially there is all this history I hardly knew about (and which may be the actually important stuff) which is just jam to an aficionado like me. I'm going back now and learning much old history all over again from a new slant. Especially English history. It's sort of like reading those alternate-history SF things, where the South won the Civil War, or some such. More and Laud and Ken and Newman and Wiseman move forward into the lighted front of the stage, and the Tudors and Cromwell and Huxley and Gladstone step back a bit...

Houselander, quoted above, was one of the oddest and most impressive Englishwomen of the 20th Century...and I'd never heard of her before last year! I found the quoted bit in Masie Ward's biography, Carryll Houselander: That Divine Eccentric. The Houselander book to read is Rocking Horse Catholic)

And, speaking of history, the name Ward is a sea in itself. WG Ward was perhaps the most brilliant of the followers of Newman in the Oxford Movement, (and perhaps the biggest pain-in-the-ass to that great man after they both entered The Church). WG's son was Wilfrid Ward, a very important English Catholic writer and thinker, who was especially important in recognizing the transition; the realization that Protestantism was exhausted, and it was time for the Church to end its siege mentality, come out of the bunker and be bold and confident once more.

And Wilfrid Ward's daughter was Maisie Ward, who, teamed with her husband Frank Sheed, founded the publishing firm Sheed and Ward, and wrote many a good Catholic book. Plus did a lot of other fascinating stuff. And their son was Wilfrid Sheed, the literary critic I used to read in the NYT Book Review. So far now I've read biographies by Wilfrid Sheed about his parents, by Masie about her parents, and by Wilfrid Ward about his father. (Who did not, as far as I know, write about his father, who was a famous cricketer, and founded Lord's.) Four generations covered. There's just something about the English; I can't think of any comparable American family...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:06 PM

January 31, 2007


Anent a recent discussion here, I recommend a piece by Seth Gitell in the NY Sun, New Thesis on Vietnam Aimed at 2008 Election. He writes:

A new thesis about the end of the Vietnam war is making the rounds in the context of the debate over Iraq. It holds that President Nixon and Henry Kissinger — not the Democratic Congress and public opinion — were chiefly culpable in America's betrayal of South Vietnam...

I think the "new thesis" is hokum, as does Gitell. Here's a small something to mull on...

...A contrast of two military offensives conducted by the People's Army of North Vietnam highlights their error. In the first offensive, in March 1972, North Vietnam hurled 14 conventional divisions, including 1,200 tanks, into South Vietnam. Nixon authorized American B-52 Stratofortresses into action to help the South Vietnamese army, the primary ground force in Vietnam at the time, fend off the invasion. The enemy sustained more than 100,000 casualties. The offensive failed. In the second offensive, three years later, North Vietnam launched the Ho Chi Minh campaign. Columns of enemy armor, unimpeded by American airpower, sped south, ultimately taking Saigon. At the end of the war, enemy missiles were pulled by tractor-trailer trucks out of the jungle, just miles from Saigon. Messrs. Rose and Perlstein fail to account for how these two similar campaigns ended with tragically different results.

Between 1972 and 1975, America's Congress passed a series of pieces of legislation that strangled the Republic of South Vietnam of resources and blocked any hope of an American air campaign. While Mr. Rose himself acknowledges that "in June 1973, Congress ordered all American military operations in Indochina to cease by the end of the summer, and in November it passed the War Powers Act," he soft-peddles the ramifications of these moves — as well as neglecting other legislative restrictions on helping South Vietnam....

Actually, I think the appearance of this "new thesis" at this moment is evidence for my thesis, that a lot of the craziness on the Left right now derives from guilt, guilt at having flushed tens-of-millions of people down the communist toilet. And it is starting to surface now because they are proposing to do something similar to tens-of-millions of Moslems.

What particularly galls me is that the leftists don't think about the consequences. Do I know this for sure? Of course not, but still, I know some of these types, I'm "embedded" in Blue State America, and I have a hunch bordering on a certainty that this is so. I feel very confident that none of the "anti-war" protesters of the 60's worried about what would happen to the South Vietnamese. And I feel a similar confidence that none of the "anti-war" crowd today is worrying either. (If I'm wrong, show me the evidence!)

If you could be a fly on the wall at one of their meetings, I bet you would not hear anyone fretting about what might happen to the Kurds if the Ba'athists got their hands on them. (Nor would you hear the least bit of rejoicing that Iraqi Kurdistan is now enjoying peace and prosperity.) Or how many more Sh'ites would end up in mass graves if al Qaeda or the Sunnis were back in power. Nor would you hear them wanting the Iraqis to be able to continue to elect their leaders. In fact, what you would hear would be all about Bush, and Cheney, and how bad America is. Nothing would indicate that the ordinary Iraqi was human to them...

Also a bitter thing to me is that those North Vietnamese invasions of South Vietnam mentioned in the article—"14 conventional divisions, including 1,200 tanks..."—I don't recall that those massive attacks garnered any criticism from our "pacifists." That kind of war is just fine for the fake-pacifist, because it's anti-American, which is their real religion...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 AM

January 13, 2007

Religion of conquest...

From a Financial Times article, Youth and War, a Deadly Duo, By Christopher Caldwell (Thanks to Orrin)

.....But the killings also defy political common sense. Ariel Sharon's wall cuts terrorists off from Israeli targets and what happens? The violence - previously justified with the cause of a Palestinian homeland - continues as if nothing had changed, merely finding its outlet in a new set of targets. This makes it appear that Palestinian violence has never really been about a "cause" at all. The violence is, in a strange way, about itself.

Gunnar Heinsohn, a social scientist and genocide researcher at the University of Bremen, has an explanation for why this might be so. Since its publication in 2003, his eccentric and eye-opening
Sons and World Power (not available in English) has become something of a cult book. In Mr Heinsohn's view, when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent. The "causes" in the name of which that violence is committed can be immaterial. There are 67 countries in the world with such "youth bulges" now and 60 of them are undergoing some kind of civil war or mass killing.

Between 1988 and 2002, 900m sons were born to mothers in the developing world and a careful demographer could almost predict the trouble spots. In the decade leading up to 1993, on the eve of the Taliban takeover, the population of Afghanistan grew from 14m to 22m. By the end of this generation, Afghanistan will have as many people under 20 as France and Germany combined. Iraq had 5m people in 1950 but has 25m now, in spite of a quarter-century of wars. Since 1967, the population of the West Bank and Gaza has grown from 450,000 to 3.3m, 47 per cent of which is under 15.

If Mr Heinsohn is right, then Palestinian violence of recent months and years is not explained by Israeli occupation (which, after all, existed 30 years ago) or poverty (the most violent parts of the Muslim world are not the poorest) or humiliation. It is just violence.

Mr Heinsohn's point is not that the West is "outnumbered". Nor is it that a Malthusian battle for scarce resources is under way. In El Salvador, for instance, the explosion of political killing in the 1970s and 1980s was preceded by a 27 per cent rise in per capita income. The problem, rather, is that in a youth-bulge society there are not enough positions to provide all these young men with prestige and standing.

...If you follow this argument to its logical end point, then the religion of Islam, the focus of so much contemporary strategic discussion, is a great red herring...

I suspect that's right. If you read history with an eye to demographics, you know that this has happened before. There was a period where you could have argued that Anglicanism was a religion of violence and conquest, sending ruthless young men out to all corners of the globe to conquer countries and impose Christianity and English values on them. I'll bet it sure looked that way to Indians in the time of Clive. [I hasten to interject here that I think this was a good thing, which has obviously benefitted those places greatly. And that the spread of Islam is bad, and will be harmful to those places that adopt it.]

(This has turned into a historical digression. Read on if you are interested...)

If you read authors like Patrick O'Brian, you will have encountered the toast (which I believe is historical) "Here's to a bloody war. Many to go and few to come!" It's not as insane as it sounds if you realize that a surplus of young middle and upper-class young men were enlisting as midshipmen and lieutenants, and might be stuck in those very humble spots permanently unless combat or Yellow Fever cleared some spaces on the ladder of promotion. And promotion or plunder would perhaps open up their only chance at marriage and prosperity. (There was another traditional saying, in the British Army: Lieutenants may not marry, captains should not marry, majors may marry, Colonels must marry.) And it is not really surprising that parents would beg for one of those very dangerous midshipman's berths for their sons, if you realize that often they faced an intolerable dilemma in providing jobs for a large clutch of children, who might otherwise slip down into working-class poverty....

And the same function, of absorbing surplus males, can be seen in the civilian staffing of the British Empire. In the old days most of the fellows at Oxford and Cambridge colleges were young men hoping for livings as clergymen. And until they got one they could not marry. There were never enough livings to go around, and small parish in India would seem very attractive, despite the high possibility of death by disease. It was the same for young men joining the imperial civil service, or taking posts managing distant plantations.

I suspect that the end of the British Empire in the mid 20th Century had as much to do with Britons being no longer willing to fight for it, as it did to the various liberation movements. And even without the movements it might have ended just because more and more positions would have had to be filled by "natives." The developed world today is very strange compared to anywhere in the past, because we have lots of white-collar positions available, often more than can be filled. And shortages of good blue-collar jobs!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

December 24, 2006

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 21, 2006

"Talmudic atavism"

Mark Steyn, reviewing a book by David Pryce-Jones, Betrayal: France, Arabs and the Jews. Steyn is worth reading, as always. The lesson of history as revealed in our time is the same lesson as of old: We cannot by our own efforts disentangle ourselves from our sins. And, as of old, the Jews are our litmus paper...

....but then spools backwards across the centuries to build a case for France's present predicament as a monument to the vanity and strategic stupidity of its diplomatic class. There is a lot of anti-Semitism on display -- not the offhand anti-Semitism of your average languid English toff of similar vintage, but something more corrosive and obsessive. There is, in that sense, a direct line between those French emissaries in Russia and Germany blaming Bolshevism and Nazism on "Talmudic atavism," and Daniel Bernard, M. Chirac's ambassador to the Court of St. James's, announcing airily at a London dinner party in 2001 that the problems of the world can be laid at the door of "that shitty little country" Israel. From "Talmudic atavism" to "shitty little country" may mark a deterioration in Gallic rhetorical élan but at least its prejudices remain inviolable.

If you had vaguely assumed that the now routine comparisons of Israelis to Nazis derived from an antipathy to Ariel Sharon or the post-1967 transformation of the Zionist Entity from plucky embattled underdog to all-conquering military behemoth, it's sobering to be reminded that the French were doing the Israelis-are-the-new-Nazis shtick within 10 minutes of the end of the Second World War. Jews, wrote the consul general René Neuville in a lengthy cable from Jerusalem in 1947, are "racist through and through . . . quite as much as their German persecutors." The dispatches of Pierre Landy, French consul in Haifa, rely heavily on "the Israeli Gestapo" and similar formulations. In public, the political class was usually more circumspect, though not always. President de Gaulle famously raged at a press conference that the Jews were "an elite people, self-assured and domineering" with "a burning ambition for conquest." In the ensuing controversy, M. le Président assured the Chief Rabbi that he'd meant it as a compliment....

"...within 10 minutes of the end of the Second World War." I wasn't aware of that, although the history of French anti-Semitism is a long and dishonorable one. The name Dreyfus springs to mind. And the French tendency to counter its European enemies by allying with the Ottomans is a very ancient one.

It is a bitter thing to reflect upon the way I grew up with the idea that anti-semitism was something from the ugly past, no longer known among enlightened folk. And now we see it everywhere. Usually in the thinly-disguised form of "anti-Zionism" or extreme sympathy with the so-called Palestinians. And many Jews are as blind today as they were in the 1930's.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

November 24, 2006

People in the past were very very different...

Diogenes writes:

...Part of the syndrome of being a child of one's age is a lack of the historical imagination to recognize oneself in a different setting, endowed with a different array of sentimentalisms. In fact, such people are certain they'd be on the side of the angels in any situation. The personal advantages they have purchased by their social conformity are so enormous and comprehensive that they fail to see it as conformity at all. This was true in 1930s Germany, when the right wing was in the ascendant, and it's true in the West today, when the left wing is. Joseph Sobran once wrote:
[Liberals] want us to believe that their willingness to conform to today's fashions is proof that they would have had the courage to defy yesterday's fashions. Somehow I find it hard to believe that today's coward would have been yesterday's hero, if only he'd had the chance. More likely he would have been, like most people, a timid conformist in any circumstances...(Thanks to Michael L)

This subject is a particular peeve of mine (feel free to tune out). People in the past were very very different from us now. If you are interested in history, as I am, that's fact number one. To study the past you must enter imaginatively into a different world of thought. And most people won't do so, and usually don't even grasp the concept.

This bugs me in a whole bunch of ways. One of course is the lefty professor who condemns our country's founding fathers for not conforming to the rules we follow today. In matters like slavery, sexism and egalitarianism. (This is only done to America and her allies. Or to Christians. In all other cases we are supposed to respect cultural differences. Sudanese Arabs can enslave blacks right now without criticism.) But if that little dweeb had been born in, say, Charleston in 1770, he would have thought that slavery was perfectly OK, and that women ought to defer to his opinions. He would be a conformist then just like he is now. A conformist, and probably incapable of standing outside his preconceptions and examining them.

Another way this bugs me is that my favorite form of fiction should be the historical novel. But in fact I find 98% of them to be pure crap. They are about contemporary people dressed up in historical gear. Same with films, or those "historical detective novels" that proliferate so. Blehhh. Same, for that matter, with science fiction—a trip to the future should be as much of a cultural shock as a trip to the past, but rarely is.

In reading a real historical work, fact or fiction, you should frequently be brought up sharp by characters thinking or acting differently than you expect. Patrick O'Brian's books are pretty good that way. Steven Maturin, a physician, not only bleeds people who are sick, they feel better after he does so! Jack Aubrey never questions his right to be, by birth, a landed proprietor, an MP, a naval officer, and in general a person with the right to command, and to be obeyed. And so, as we read the stories, we are drawn into that world-view, and come to temporarily share it. Our mental horizons are expended. I just love that!

Posted by John Weidner at 3:47 PM

November 22, 2006

living in the wreckage...

Jeff Jacoby has a fine column on the SF School Board's decision to end our JROTC program...

...So what is the problem with JROTC? There isn't one. The problem is with the anti military bigotry of the school board majority and the "peace" activists who lobbied against the program on the grounds that San Francisco 's schools should not be sullied by an association with the US armed forces.

"We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions," said Sandra Schwartz of the American Friends Service Committee, a far-left pacifist organization that routinely condemns American foreign policy and opposes JROTC nationwide . "In a healthy democracy . . . you contain the military." Board member Dan Kelly, who voted with the majority, called JROTC "basically a branding program or a recruiting program for the military." In fact, it is nothing of the kind: The great majority of cadets do not end up serving in the military.

But then, facts tend not to matter to smug ideologues like Schwartz and Kelly, who are free to parade their contempt for the military because they live in a nation that affords such freedom even to idiots and ingrates. It never seems to occur to them that the liberties and security they take for granted would vanish in a heartbeat if it weren't for the young men and women who do choose to wear the uniform, willingly risking life and limb in service to their country...

I just wrote a couple of snarling paragraphs, and then deleted them. You've already heard that stuff—fake pacifists are a peeve of mine. What occurs to me, beyond the stupid local issue, is that we are seeing is wreckage, similar, though less extreme, to the wreckage left by the former communist regimes. We in America and the West are living amidst the results of embracing socialism. Less here than other places—there is a gradation of destruction we can see in the world today, with the worst damage in Russia, and grievous damage in the rest of Europe, and less in the US. Wreckage? What do I mean? Well, I'll betcha dollars to donuts that that "Sandra Schwartz" is a member of my generation, and helped send a few million South Vietnamese off to death or the "re-education" gulag. And that she doesn't feel the least bit sorry.

And the wreckage seems to be something we are stuck with. One of the salient facts of our time, is that there isn't the bounce-back, the recovery that one expected, that we assumed to be normal. We don't learn from our mistakes, not nearly enough. For instance, I grew up thinking that Germany and Italy had recovered from their years of nationalistic socialism. That they were rejuvenated, made young again, and that their past was becoming like a bad dream. Turns out, not so. Have you read anything in recent decades about how Germany is youthful, innovative, exciting? A fun place? Happy? Nuh uh. It's always stories about how the mood is sour, about maternity hospitals that are eerily empty, about economic stagnation, demographic implosion and extreme over-regulation. About the decline of Christianity and burgeoning populations of unassimilated Muslims.

One of the strange, and, I think, portentous facts about our world, is that there was never a rejection of Communism the way there was of Naziism. It's something to think about. Stalin and Mao killed and imprisoned lots more people than Hitler did. Yet people still wear hammer and sickle T-shirts—I saw one just this week. The horrors of the Gulag are well known, yet no statesmen or religious leaders make pilgrimages to Soviet camps like they do to Auschwitz. Why? And remember how leftists drooled over the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger had (briefly and against his will) been a member of the Hitler Youth? Remember how that was a big deal? So, would it have also been a big deal if he'd been a member of Komsomol? Or any sort of supporter of Stalin? No. People would have called that "youthful idealism!" Just as they do now for those Americans who helped Ho Chi Minh wage aggressive war and mass-murder.

And the same people are now helping Islamo-fascist terrorists and thugs in every way they can. And calling it "peace activism." And getting away with it! For instance, the recent fighting in Lebanon and Gaza was started, deliberately and cold-bloodedly, by Hamas and Hezbollah. (And started after Israel had withdrawn form those places.) Yet no "peace-activists" condemned them for this, no "Quakers" held candle-light vigils, there were no giant puppets to protest this war. Insane. Yet, somehow, our society did not reject these people as the obvious frauds they had shown themselves to be! (Well, there's some rejection. The gray hairs and dated hippie style typical of "anti-war" protesters is a good sign. But if our society was healthy Jane Fonda or John Kerry would not dare to even show their faces in public. Their hands are dripping with human blood.)

That's what I mean by saying that we are living in the wreckage. The moral wreckage of socialism, which is itself a small part of what de Lubac called "atheistic humanism." And I think we don't learn much from our mistakes because we are still inside the big mistake, and when forced to, we just shed a layer of skin, like a reptile, and cast it aside and pretend that it's old history. That's what happened when the world "learned" from its mistake called Naziism or Fascism—the learning was mostly a matter of socialists turning upon one flavor of socialism, and pretending that it was the ultimate evil, and that they were some sort of counter-force to it. While the real evil remained, and the long march to nowhere continued.

Same with "learning" from the mistake of Communism. Most leftists, if pressed, will shed the Stalinist skin, and pretend that they are rejecting the real evil. Or shed the whole Soviet skin (or even, rarely, the Mao skin) but still give us ludicrous bullshit about how happy people are in Cuba! (And, by the way, they are now starting to claim that Saddam was a father-figure, who provided stability and made the trains run on time!)

Oh, and back to San Francisco. I've seen the kids in their JROTC uniforms. They always look sharp and clean-cut and confident. I bet our hippie-leftists would hate the program just for that reason alone. The very body-language of it is a rejection of nihilism.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

November 13, 2006

War never solved anything...

Betsy Newmark posted these resolutions, from the 1864 Democrat Party platform...

Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Sure sounds familiar. Blogger and history teacher is a great combo--I always read Betsy Newmark's blg. Then, as now, Dems were for "peace," which really meant surrender. They had General McClellan back then, to propose re-deploying the Army of the Potomac to Okinawa...

And there's this:

Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow citizens who now are and long have been prisoners of war and in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity.

Then as now, lies about prisoners. The prisoners held by the North were treated much better than those held by the South, whose captivity was simply barbarous. (Read about Andersonville if you doubt it.) The subject is complicated, but one of the main reasons that prisoner exchanges stopped was that the South refused to treat black soldiers as POW's. They'd hang them or enslave them. Much like today, when any American soldier who falls into the hands of jihadis can expect torture and death (with no protests from the fake peaceniks).

So little has changed. To Democrats and fake pacifists, America (and back then, The Union) is always at fault. They pretend to be for peace, but it's a sham.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:06 AM

October 9, 2006


This is cool, if you know anything about these guys: Gurkha Spirit Triumphs in Siege of Nawzad

...The first major attack began at 1.50am when a Gurkha corporal spotted armed men "leopard crawling" towards the compound 60 yards away. He opened fire killing four.

Ten minutes later a coordinated assault began from three directions. Every one of the six sand-bagged positions around the compound and on its roof were hit by rocket-propelled grenades. The command post on the roof received four separate hits.

For many of the Gurkhas, seven of whom had just finished training, it was their first experience of combat. "For the first five minutes under fire I was just so frightened," said Tkam Paha Dur, a 19-year-old Gurkha rifleman, to the amusement of his comrades."After that it became just like a live firing exercise."

With the Taliban closer than 50 yards, Rifleman Nabin Rai, 20, manning a heavy machinegun on the roof, had several rounds ricochet off his weapon before a bullet went through the gunsight and hit him in the face.

"His commander called for him to be medi-vacced out, but he refused to come down from the roof," said Major Rex. "Later he was again hit, this time in the helmet. He sat down and had a cigarette, then went back to his position."

With a full moon negating the advantage of British night vision equipment, the Taliban launched another full-scale assault the next night, using dried up underground watercourses to move men and ammunition around the British position.

"We took two or three RPG hits on one position and significant machinegun fire from a range of about 20 yards," said Lt Angus Mathers, 26.

"They had used tunnels and knocked holes in the compound walls to get close."

The Gurkhas threw 21 grenades at the Taliban position before an Apache helicopter arrived overhead.

The pilot later described the situation as "like the Wild West", with tracer converging on him from numerous positions. He hovered 20 yards above the compound firing back with the helicopter's cannon while the empty shell cases cascaded on to the heads of the Gurkhas below...

Many have said that the Gurkhas, Nepalese hill-men of several tribes, are the best natural soldiers in the world. Brave, deadly in battle, and unfailingly cheerful and good-natured.

I'd opine that we ought to be raising some Gurkha battalions ourselves, but they would not fit in at all with the ways of the US military, which tends to use people as interchangeable parts, transferring them here or there. But a Gurkha battalion is a home and a little world unto itself, and the British officers who join it learn Gurkhali, and the rather odd Gurkha culture. And they often spend their whole career with their battalion.

The book to read is Bugles and a Tiger, by John Masters. I give it my highest recommendation. It's a rare treat if you are interested in either military things, or India...

Excerpt below:

....Most Gurkhas are Hindus of a sort, though their reiigion does not sit heavily on any except those of the higher castes, which the 4th did not enlist. In Flanders in 1914, when our 1st Battalion had had no food for a couple of days, food at last appeared in the trenches—several hundred cans of corned beef, each canclearly marked with the canning company's trade mark, a bull's head. No Hindu, however lax, can eat beef; but this time it was going to be beef or nothing. The colonel sent for the senior Gurkha officer and wordlessly pointed to the rations.

After a moment came the quiet reply, "Sahib, We are here to fight the Germans. We cannot fight if we starve. It will be forgiven us. Remove the labels, and let it be corned mutton."

Gurkhas vary in shade from pale wheat-gold to dull, dark brown. Their skulls are usually round—but, whatever the shape, always thick. I saw a Gurkha havildar (sergeant) bend down to tie his bootlace just behind a particularly fractious mule. The mule let drive, and both iron-shod hoofs smashed with murderous force into the havildar's temple. He complained of a headache all afternoon. The mule went dead lame.

Though there are, of course, exceptions, the distinguishing marks of the Gurkha are usually a Mongolian appearance, short stature, a merry disposition, and an indefinable quality that is hard to pin down with one word. Straightness, honesty, naturalness, loyalty, courage—all these are near it, but none is quite right, for the quality embraces all these. In a Gurkha regiment nothing was ever stolen, whether a pocket knife, a watch, or a thousand rupees. Desertions were unheard of, although once the men had gone on furlough to their homes in Nepal they were quite inaccessible to us. There were no excuses, no grumbling, no shirking, no lying. There was no intrigue, no apple-polishing, and no servility. The perfect man—or, at the least, the perfect soldier? Not quite. The Gurkha was slow at book-learning, and he liked gambling, rum, and women; and, in his own home, he was apt to be unkempt....

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 PM

September 30, 2006

The real Crusaders...

To get some of the actual flavor of the Crusades, one might ignore the snivelers and hand-wringers(see previous post) and read the memoirs of Usāmah ibn-Munqidh, a Syrian diplomat and soldier of the 12th century. It is full of curious lore and history, and many chivalrous passages of arms, such as one in which Usāmah and a companion charge against eight Franks, and drive them off, and then are mortified when a solitary archer, safe upon a pinnacle, forces them to retreat with a shower of arrows...

Here's a sample...

Newly arrived Franks are especially rough: One insists that Usamah should pray eastward. — Everyone who is a fresh emigrant from the Frankish lands is ruder in character than those who have become acclimatized and have held long association with the Moslems. Here is an illustration of their rude character.

Whenever I visited Jerusalem I always entered the Aqsa Mosque, beside which stood a small mosque which the Franks had converted into a church. When I used to enter the Aqsa Mosque which was occupied by the Templars [al-dāwiyyah] who were my friends, the Templars would evacuate the little adjoining mosque so that I might pray in it. One day I entered this mosque, repeated the first formula, "Allah is great," and stood up in the act of praying, upon which one of the Franks rushed on me, got hold of me and turned my face eastward saying, "This is the way thou shouldst pray!" A group of Templars hastened to him, seized him and repelled him from me, I resumed my prayer. The same man, while the others were otherwise busy, rushed once more on me and turned my face eastward, saying, "This is the way thou shouldst pray!" The Templars again came in to him and expelled him.

They apologized to me, saying, "This is a stranger who has only recently arrived from the land of the Franks and he has never before seen anyone praying except eastward." Thereupon I said to myself, "I have had enough prayer." So I went out and have ever been surprised at the conduct of this devil of a man, at the change in the color of his face, his trembling and his sentiment at the sight of one praying towards the qiblah.

Another wants to show to a Moslem God as a child. — I saw one of the Franks come to al-Amir Mu'in-al-Din (may Allah's mercy rest upon his soul!) when he was in the Dome of the Rock and say to him, "Dost thou want to see God as a child?" Mu'in-al- Din said, "Yes." The Frank walked ahead of us until he showed us the picture of Mary with Christ (may peace be upon him!) as an infant in her lap. He then said, "This is God as a child." But Allah is exalted far above what the infidels say about him!

Franks lack jealousy in sex affairs. — The Franks are void of all zeal and jealousy. One of them may be walking along with his wife. He meets another man who takes the wife by the hand and steps aside to converse with her while the husband is standing on one side waiting for his wife to conclude the conversation. If she lingers too long for him, he leaves her alone with the conversant and goes away...[several examples follow]

...Consider now this great contradiction. They have neither jealousy nor zeal, but they have great courage, although courage is nothing but the product of zeal and of ambition to be above ill repute...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 AM

July 17, 2006

A few things forgotten...

If you like history, be sure to read Noemie Emery's piece, The Inconvenient Truth About Truman. Both parties happen to be claiming the mantle of Harry lately, but there are lots of inconvenient facts being forgotten. Especially by "liberal hawks" like Peter Beinart, who are peddling an airbrushed Truman...

...Humility was not a factor in these calculations, nor was the theory that American power was less than legitimate when used unilaterally. Dean Acheson, Truman's secretary of state, had little use for the United Nations, which had already been rendered impotent by the split in the Security Council, and Truman shared his opinion, being prepared to go into Korea without its consent. He did get its consent, only because the Soviet Union blundered by boycotting the Council. But as Max Boot reminds us, "Truman had already committed air and naval forces to combat before the vote," later writing to Acheson that without the U.N., "We would have had to go into Korea alone."

At the time, of course, the liberal hawks did not impress their observers as deferential to others. Truman was seen (rather like Bush) as being headstrong and cocky, Acheson as imperious and arrogant. Neither did Roosevelt or Kennedy strike people as being obsessed with his own or his country's shortcomings. Humility, deference, and multilateralism did not take pride of place in the Democratic lexicon until well after the party's mid-century triumphs, more or less at the same time it began losing elections....

Plus Korea makes Iraq look like a model of clarity, restraint, competence and low casualties. And there was never any hand-wringing and self-loathing over the use of nuclear bombs to end the War...(thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:08 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

Still on the train...

I like this paragraph by Andrea, which could be a coda to many a discussion these days...

....It’s all rather like the attitudes that were on display during the Alger Hiss trial. On one side we had the witty, urbane, intellectual and pseudo-intellectual, well-dressed, powerful, liberal friends and fans of Hiss, not to mention Hiss himself, joking and laughing and deliberately treating the trial and the accusations against him as too, too beneath the concerns of important people. The sneers and the opprobriums against the ordinary, part-time farmer, badly-dressed (these days he’d be mocked as a “Walmart shopper”) Whittaker Chambers, whose intellect and cultural acumen hadn’t been handed to him on a silver platter but had actually been wrestled and hammered out of the Real Experience that liberals are always babbling about, are echoed in today’s putdowns of “those Christian fundamentalist rightwingers” who are threatening the fun party existence of the cool, clever people everywhere with their dumb insistence on taking life seriously. So sometimes they take life too seriously and miss the joke. Well, sometimes in the midst of joking we cool, clever, intellectual (and pseudo-intellectual) people miss the seriousness. It cuts both ways.

For someone historically minded, it's just a pleasure to see that the Hiss trial hasn't quite dropped into oblivion like the Dreyfus trial. But way more than that is the pleasure of vindication for the good guys. We know things now that we didn't know then. We know that Hiss was guilty, was in fact a Soviet secret agent, and was laughing like sinners laugh on The Hell-Bound Train. We know he was cynically using the "useful idiots" who passionately believed in his innocence. (And now we have the pain of watching the same idiots being cynically used by Islamic terrorists, who despise them, and they still think they are clever and sophisticated.)

We also know that Chambers was one of the best writers of his time. His book Witness is a stunning thing to read. I recommend it unreservedly. (And here's a Brothers Judd review of Ghosts on the Roof : Selected Journalism of Whittaker Chambers 1931-1959)

A sample of Chambers' writing...

"...I date my break from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. It was shortly before we moved to Alger Hiss's apartment in Washington. My daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I like to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the floor. My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear -- those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: 'No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.' The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead."
Posted by John Weidner at 7:58 AM

July 9, 2006

Decentralised traditions of the late Middle Ages...

I recommend this excellent essay by Paul Belien, Europe Must Find its Roots in America (thanks to Gates of Vienna)

....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....[emphasis added]

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 7:56 PM

June 20, 2006

More lies...

Also from Penraker:

The History Channel, to its eternal shame, is now showing the leftist propaganda film "The Fog of War"

It features interviews with Robert McNamara. In the first part of the film, McNamara discusses our fire-bombing of Japanese cities.

Its treatment of the matter is grossly immoral. Never once does he mention that all around Japanese conquered Southeast Asia, thousands and thousands were dying every month. The Japanese occupation was one of the most brutal in human history, and Victor Davis Hanson has said that 250,000 people were dying monthly as a result of starvation, disease and other brutalities visited on civilian populations. They killed 10-15 million Chinese during the war alone.

But "Fog of War" does not tell you that. It focuses only on the suffering of the Japanese - and it builds the case that they were the victims...

We see this sort of lie over and over. It pretends to be "pacifist" or "anti-war," or even, God help us, "objective history," but it is always anti-American (or anti-Israel.) And, in fact, pro-war, by excusing any war, no matter how brutal, that is in any way anti-USA. Or anti-Jew.

"Grossly immoral" is exactly right.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

June 15, 2006

It's gone...

War has changed. Utterly. All the fossilized-in-the-70's pacifists and leftists are incapable of seeing it, but we are using the same word to refer to a different beast...

[J.D. Johannes is a former Marine Sergeant and embedded reporter]...Where I was -- with this group of marines in 2005 around the Fallujah AO -- we (the unit) would spend days and weeks trying to get into a shoot out -- attempting to get into a shoot out. I know that sounds absolutely insane, but that's the only way that you can engage the enemy. And when you have an enemy that you have to work so hard to bait out into the open, you're not dealing with a very strong enemy. You're dealing with a very annoying enemy. A very deadly enemy. But not a very strong enemy.

They would have to set up these incredibly complex ambush-bait-and-kill operations where one group would be the bait to lure somebody out so you could actually engage the enemy, and it took a lot of time to do that. What you didn't see were the days and days on end where nothing happens -- nothing more than eating some flat bread, drinking some tea, playing a little soccer, buying some soda pops at the soda stand, hanging out with the locals and getting a sunburn...

We saw it before, but we didn't see it. In Vietnam it was called "jitterbugging." Moving by helicopter from one spot to another in rapid succession, trying to get shot at. Trying to pick a fight. Think about that.

What does it mean? It's not war, by any historical definition. War is gone. The kind of war you read about in the history books, it's gone. The pacifists and anti-war activists must pretend it exists, because their world-view depends on pretending nothing has changed since 1973. But actually it was pretty much gone even then. Even then war had come to mean something different. Not armored corps being flung into Kursk, or the Bulge. Rather, small groups of English-speaking soldiers trying to prevent simple peaceable folk from being slaughtered or enslaved by sneaky commie fuck-head murderers and would-be tyrants (sorry for the language, I've had a couple of drinks) like sheriffs in the Old West keeping the bandits from taking over the town.

War is good. At least war by the Anglosphere powers. It saves lives, it improves all it touches, and it ennobles those (of us on the side of good) who participate. Think High Noon. Think Seven Samurai.

Give war a chance.

And read the J. D. Johannes interview--it's good. (Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 PM

June 1, 2006


PowerLine pointed to this column by Katherine Kersten on historian John Earl Haynes...

...Haynes took his interest in American communism with him. In 1992, he and fellow historian Harvey Klehr gained access to formerly top-secret Soviet archives, with the help of Yale University Press. They discovered more than 430,000 microfilmed pages, which detailed the American party's activities and relations with Soviet intelligence agencies in the 1930s and '40s. "The dust was still on them," Haynes says. "No one had touched them in 50 years."

The documents revealed that the Soviets had infiltrated most major American government agencies, as well as the White House. Haynes' and Klehr's 1995 book, "The Secret World of American Communism," generated headlines around the world.

Their revelations created pressure on the U.S. government to open its own secret records. In 1995, the National Security Agency opened the files of the Venona project, a World War II-era code-breaking effort to identify Soviet spies and their American sources. Haynes' and Klehr's book, "Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America," included "a virtual king's ransom of top-secret bombshells," wrote Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report.

"It's almost impossible to overestimate the importance of John Haynes' and Harvey Klehr's work," says Jonathan Brent, editorial director of Yale University Press.

Haynes' research has played havoc with much conventional academic wisdom...

That "conventional wisdom" is that American anti-Communism was just McCarthyist hysteria. Well, we know now that that isn't true. We KNOW, we have the FACTS. But the lies live on.

Not to mention the sick double standard, where having some past connection with Nazism renders one forever radioactive (remember the world-wide scandal when Reagan merely visited a cemetery where some Nazis were buried) whereas having in the past aided Stalin or Mao or Castro means that one was a "youthful idealist." What crap. Along with popes and presidents visiting Auschwitz there ought to be a gazillion or so leftists visiting the camps of the Gulag and abjectly apologizing for aiding and encouraging mass-murder and genocide. Instead they are still helping the commies, by minimizing their crimes, and by betraying our country in time of war.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 AM

May 30, 2006

The Mid-Twentieth-Century Template...

I was bothered by this post by Eric Muller criticizing the Pope's Auschwitz speech (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds)

His points are cogent, and they may be right...I'll have to think about them--I might even agree with some of them. And I may blog about it, though I'm not trying to turn this into a religion blog. BUT, this is very much a blog about leftism, and especially the way leftist ideas are imposed upon us as if they are already things we all agree about.

Which they were when I was younger. "Big government liberalism" was the dominant idea, and conservatism was the realm of a few "kooks" like Barry Goldwater, who were scorned by the liberal establishment in a way it's hard to even imagine now.

And most leftish discourse still assumes that their mid-20th Century template is accepted by all, and that all arguments are to be framed with that template as a premiss. And since the template has become increasingly divergent from reality, much leftish argument consists of holding actions, with, "Don't you dare change the subject" as their theme.

An example is how we are all supposed to remain firmly in the Civil Rights Era. (My daughter once said, of her trendy school, "Black History Month comes four times a year.") If one points out that liberal Democrats today are pushing policies that hurt inner-city minorities, you don't get an answer based on the merits or the facts, you get: "Don't you dare change the subject! We ARE the Civil Rights Movement!" Another example of the template is that Christians are forever "crusaders," and should forever grovel and apologize. But for some reason it's not done to point out that Arabs were crusaders too, when they conquered the Holy Land, and when they booted the Christian crusaders out again. (And that they were in fact the stronger military power of the time.) Imagine suggesting they apologize! Wooo, wouldn't that break the template.

And another major part of the template says that Nazi Germany was the worst thing that ever happened in the world, that the Nazi's were the only bad guys worth mentioning, and anyone who opposed them can be pretty much assumed to be the good guys. And Nazis = Germans (except German leftists) who should apologize for their sins forever. And Germans = Western Civilization (except leftists) which should apologize for its sins forever.

And if one points out that Communism killed far more people than Nazism, and that no one is asking Russians or Chinese or leftist-fellow-travelers to do much apologizing, the response is "Don't you dare change the subject!" Arnold Kling has pointed out that the template says that, in relation to Christians, Jews = victims, but in relation to Arabs Jews = oppressors. We see arguments crammed into that odd mold every day.

I think there's a lot more to this matter than the template assumes, and I think that the danger of the world forgetting about the evils of Nazism and the Holocaust is far less than the danger of the template we use for the subject being a tool to help the world to forget about a great many other things. Muller's post seems to be very much in the "Don't change the subject" category. Maybe he's correct in this case, but it's long past time to stop just assuming that that's true.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 AM

January 21, 2006

The saboteurs

From a book review by Rich Lowry (Thanks to Commonsense and Wonder). Sounds great; I've put in a request for the book at our library...

John Lewis Gaddis, author of a half-dozen books on the topic, is the nation's foremost historian of the Cold War. So when in the 1980s he dismissed Ronald Reagan's goal of ending the Cold War, arguing instead that the American-Soviet competition had settled into a stable "long peace," it would have been natural to conclude that Gaddis, the august expert, was right.

He was wrong, of course. Gaddis explains why in his crackling-good, recently published book, "The Cold War: A New History."...

...As Gaddis puts it, "An entire generation had grown up regarding the absurdities of a superpower stalemate — a divided Berlin in the middle of a divided Germany in the midst of a divided Europe, for example — as the natural order of things." It fell to the saboteurs to remove the world's "mental blinders."

"They used to the utmost," he writes, "their strengths as individuals: their personal character, their perseverance in the face of adversity, their fearlessness and frankness, but above all their dramatic skill, not only in conveying these qualities to millions of other people, but also in persuading those millions themselves to embrace those qualities."

When the might of the rival superpowers was measured in material terms — how many missiles, with how much throw-weight — they realized the power of "a moral and spiritual critique of Marxism-Leninism." When stability had come to be valued above all, they sought change. When the truth — most importantly about the nature of the Soviet Union system itself— had become obscured, they spoke it.

Gaddis quotes Thatcher: "I had long understood that detente had been ruthlessly used by the Soviets to exploit western weakness and disarray. I knew the beast."...

"I knew the beast." I really like that. And I don't need to point out the obvious parallels with our own time.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:24 PM

January 9, 2006

About every three generations...

I encountered this cartoon in a history of the Roosevelt family. It's a bit of evidence for the 70-Year Cycle theory, and is the sort of thing that doesn't often get into history books. People were deranged about FDR in exactly the way they were about Lincoln, and are now about Bush.
anti-Roosevelt cartoon
I expect that few histories a hundred years from now will notice that people in well-to-do urban enclaves buy anti-Bush baby clothes...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 AM

January 5, 2006

"He always looked calm even in the most tense moments"

Renata, in Israel, writes:

...I don't want to talk politics right now. Doesn't matter if I agreed or not with Sharon's ideas, views and moves. He's a controversial figure and this is what makes him special. Doesn't matter if he's right or wrong. I'm just sad because I admire him. We're talking about a man who never feared going ahead - and this is a characteristic I really envy and admire. We'talking about a man who took part in all the of the cration and development of this country. He was there, in loco. For good and for bad. He was there, doing, witnessing, planning, criticizing, defending, attacking. I do admire him.

Unfortunately the public doesn't know too much about the man Sharon. I had the pleasure of knowing a bit about him during the almost year and a half running through the Knesset corridors. He's funny, is always in a good mood, jokes all the time on everyone and everything. Everytime I stared on him, I saw a kind of grandpa in front of me. The closer I could be was last year. I remember the Knesset was about to vote Gaza disengagement plan and everyone went nuts - from reporters, to politicians. Sharon got to the Parlament and instead of heading to his office, went to the restaurant. He rarely appears at the restaurant. Sat in a table, the staff brought him black coffee and dry fruits which he ate slowly. In a matter of seconds, the place was flooded with journalists. As I used to walk around all the time, I saw this and ran to his table as everyone while I called the Knesset TV's correspondent Michael Tuchfeld. I was one of the first who got there and dared sitting with him around the same table. Me, Udi Segal, from Channel 2 News, and Nitzan Chen, from Channel 1. And I was there, listening to his jokes, his laughs, his calm. He always looked calm even in the most tense moments. Just amazing. An amazing figure.

I don't know what's gonna happen in the next hours but I'm pessimistic as everyone else. I'm never going to forget that day, in which we sat around the same table, and I felt so excited...

As I commented to her, I remember reading about how the Israeli army in the early 1950's was actually not very good, and how the inspiration and model for what it became came from Sharon's paratroopers...(I think this was the book)

I can't think of any other person, past or persent, who could claim to have changed the course of history, and then done so again 50 years later! Renata is fortunate just to have met him.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 PM

December 28, 2005

The pattern of our times...

This is becoming the pattern of our times. That is, finding out, years or decades after the brouhaha, that the "innocent martyrs" being defended by leftists were guilty, and their defenders knew it.

Now we find out that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty as hell! And their famous lefty defender knew it, when he led the popular crusade to free them. A letter by Upton Sinclair has been discovered, where he says that the defense attorney told him the men were guilty and their alibis were framed by him. Apparently Sinclair felt a bit conflicted about writing a novel in which they were innocent, but decided the "cause" was more important than truth.

The cause is socialism, and the lie is always that the United States (or some other free and democratic country) is a place of cruel injustice. And the lie will live on. Don't expect history textbooks to have little errata slips pasted in, explaining that chapter 12 on the Red Scare of the 1920's is no longer correct. Your children, and probably your grandchildren, will go on learning that America is a place of injustice...

Betsy Newmark writes: ...So, of course he decided to stay silent and let his public and allies all go on thinking that two innocent men had been put to death. Apparently, his position among other like-thinking leftists and his readers was more important.

This isn't the last time that leftist intellectuals have rallied to the cause of someone they feel has been unjustly sentenced by the government. Think of Alger Hiss.
Jim Bass is thinking about the Free Mumia movement. And, of course, witness the latest brouhaha over Tookie Williams. The pattern of guilt being secondary to the political outcry and demagoguery continues...

If you've forgotten Alger Hiss, he was the poster-boy for the "injustices" of the 1950's red scare. You know, "McCarthyism." But now we are finding out interesting stuff, as the archives of the Soviet Union become available. And it turns out that Hiss was a spy for Stalin, and was working to impose Stalin's tyranny on the US. And it turns out that a lot of other "innocent victims," such as many of the Hollywood lefties who were black-listed, were guilty as hell.

And we need to keep hammering on this stuff. Not just "refuting" lies, but kicking these people in the face over and over. Cramming the truth down their throats.

Because the sort of leftists who recently rallied to Tookie are liars, and care nothing for truth--or Tookie. (Which you can easily observe from the lack of lefties rallying to another black man on Death Row, one who is arguably the victim of injustice.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

December 9, 2005

Wars of freedom...

[This is a re-post of a piece from December 2002]

I hadn't intended to write about war right now, but I keep thinking that it was just about this time of year that Epaminondas persuaded the Thebans to march against Sparta. That was one of the best and most surprising events in history.

Surprising first because in the ancient Mediterranean world, citizen-armies never fought in winter. Ships were laid-up, and men stayed home by the fire.

Surprising because the Theban Confederacy, comprising most of Boeotia (bee OH shuh) had just become a democracy, the last flowering of democracy in Greece before the Macedonian conquest. And in some ways the best, because Boeotia was conservative and rural, and avoided the corrosive radicalism of other Greek democracies, with their masses of urban poor.

And surprising most of all, because Sparta was then the pre-eminent land-power of Greece, and all Greek states tried their best to avoid fighting her invincible army.

Surprising also because this Theban army was about the last hurrah of the Hoplite Phalanx, those armies of free Greek citizens who, densely arrayed, in heavy bronze armor, would decide a war in an single hour's brutal clash, and then return to their farms. Thebes had long been ruled by a small aristocracy, upheld and bullied by Sparta. The coming of democracy made all Theban citizens eligible to fight as Hoplites, and they now formed a mighty force that was able to challenge Sparta for the first time. Sparta was eager to crush this new threat, and several battles were fought, culminating in a heavy Spartan defeat at Leuctra, in 371 BC.

The Thebans might have thought this sufficient, but a remarkable man, Epaminondas, one of the Theban generals, (and a Pythagorian philosopher) dreamed of ending the Spartan threat forever. Spartan power rested on the ability of all her citizens to be full-time soldiers, devoting their whole lives to military training. This was possible because they had long-before conquered the large neighboring province of Messenia, and reduced its people to near-slaves, the Helots, held down by brutal totalitarian tactics, including a ruthless secret police.

If Messenia could be freed, the basis of Spartan power would be destroyed. This is what Epaminondas persuaded the Thebans to undertake. And it was the rise of democracy and freedom in Thebes that gave the Thebans the upsurge of energy and courage to accomplish what no one had dreamed of before. They were fighting for practical reasons, to destroy a threat and to have revenge for past wrongs. But they were also fighting to free the most wretched and oppressed people in Greece.

When the Thebans marched into Laconia, the Spartan homeland, the Spartans did not dare to come out and fight them in the open-- in itself a momentous change and a huge psychological victory. From there they marched west into Messenia, and with the Messenians, built, with astonishing speed, a new walled city and fortress, Messene, and endowed it with the plunder of the campaign. From this stronghold the Messenians could defy Spartan power.

Walls of Messene
We might keep that long-ago war of liberation in mind, as we face the likelihood of our own coming campaigns to destroy our enemies and free the oppressed. The similarities are many. then as now there were sophisticated and nuanced types who loathed the whole enterprise and would have thwarted it if they had had the military strength. Back then it was the Athenians, who held the rustic Thebans in contempt. Beoetian was used as a sneer, as we might use bumpkin ... or cowboy. The Athenians were helping the Spartans in this war, for reasons a Scowcroft or a Chirac would understand.

Then and now, it's the Beoetians of the world who treasure liberty, and who do the dangerous and dirty work needed to preserve it. (And it's the clever Athenian/lefty types who write the books, which is why we don't hear often of Epaminondas as one of the greatest of the Greeks) The book you want to read is The Soul of Battle, by Victor Hanson.

The picture shows the ruins of the walls of ancient Messene.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 AM

September 28, 2005

Great man...

Charlene and I had a good time tonight at a Federalist Society meeting, with William Rusher as guest.

William Rusher

He had lots of great stories about being the publisher of National Review, and the early days of the conservative movement, and the years when he worked with Cliff White in the campaign to draft Goldwater to run in '64. He said he used to be Janus-faced back in the early days, as the only person among the intellectuals at National Review who actually had any knowledge of politics, and the one person among the political organizers who had contact with the "kooks."

One thing he said that I liked, is that the relationship of conservatives and the Republican Party is like the wine and the bottle. The wine needs a bottle to give it shape and hold it together, and the bottle needs the wine if it is to be of any use....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

September 17, 2005


From the President's speech, at a dinner celebrating the Judaisim's 350th year in America; the first Jews in America arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654.

...One of the greatest Jewish soldiers America has ever known is Tibor Rubin. After surviving the Holocaust and the Nazi death camp, this young man came to America. He enlisted in the United States Army and fought in the Korean War. He was severely wounded and was later captured by the enemy. For two-and-a-half years, he survived in a POW camp. He risked his life for his fellow soldiers nearly every night by smuggling extra food for those who were ill -- it was a skill he had learned in the Nazi camps -- and because of his daring, as many as 40 American lives were saved.

This evening, I'm happy to announce that next week, I will bestow upon this great patriot our nation's highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor...

Tibor Rubin
Tibor Rubin in Korea, 1950

Here's a fascinating article on Rubin. The reluctance of the Pentagon to award this guy ANY medals is flabbergasting...

...[Sergeant] Watson, who according to lengthy affidavits submitted by nearly a dozen men who served under him — mostly self-described "country boys" from the South and Midwest — was a vicious anti-Semite, who consistently "volunteered" Rubin for the most dangerous patrols and missions.

In one such mission, according to the testimonies of his comrades, Rubin secured a route of retreat for his company by single-handedly defending a hill for 24 hours against waves of North Korean soldiers....

...Faced with constant hunger, filth and disease, most of the GIs simply gave up. "No one wanted to help anyone. Everybody was for himself," wrote Sgt. Leo A, Cormier Jr., a fellow prisoner.

The exception was Rubin. Almost every evening, he would sneak out of the camp to steal food from the Chinese and North Korean supply depots, knowing that he would be shot if caught.

"He shared the food evenly among the GIs," Cormier wrote. "He also took care of us, nursed us, carried us to the latrine....He did many good deeds, which he told us were mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition....He was a very religious Jew and helping his fellow men was the most important thing to him."...


Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

August 14, 2005

There is no anti-American significance to their deaths...

Belmont Club posts on the Battle of Manila...

In February 1945, a woman now dying of lung cancer grabbed two of her children and jumped out the window to escape Imperial Japanese Marines crashing through the door intent on bayoneting everyone in the burning house. Finding no one, they went on to the next house to continue their massacre on a street not far from the Rizal Memorial ballpark, where Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth both played in sunnier days before the forgotten Battle of Manila. The 100,000 civilians who died in the largest urban battle of the Pacific War -- more than at Hiroshima -- are not remembered in beautiful candles floating down darkened rivers or in flights of doves soaring into the blue sky; there is no anti-American significance to their deaths. But they still live in the fading memory of that woman, who hid for two days in the smoldering ruins of the neighborhood until the first American patrols came into view...

How many Americans know about that battle? Not many. [Pause while I conduct a scientific test and ask my daughter and her 7 visiting friends. None have heard of it, except one who knows a Filipino family]

Not the kind of story that fit the narrative our schools want to teach. Americans fight to liberate a small country. They don't want to make it a colony or steal its oil, but to set it free from horrible tyrants, who murder 100,000 people just because they are pissed off.

Naw. It must be some kind of anomaly. Leave it out of the textbook, and put in more stuff about slaves, Indians and slums.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

August 9, 2005

Muddled and fuddled...

A "journalist" opines on the nuclear age, stupidly I think. 60 years after Hiroshima, America still lives in fear. (Thanks to Orrin)

V-J Day, marking the end of the war, has its 60th anniversary Sunday. But so far, the nuclear commemoration has prompted more attention. Amazingly, of all the horrible genies let out of their bottles during World War II -- from genocide to totalitarianism to German and Japanese aggression -- the threat of nuclear annihilation, ushered in by the United States, seems to have emerged as the most pressing worry for Americans today.

This is the kind of nonsense you get while writing on automatic-pilot (AKA "journalism"). Americans are NOT worried about nuclear annihilation. Nor are we worried about those other things, for obvious reasons...

In honor of the anniversary of the atomic bombings, Time magazine ran gritty portraits of survivors, the shock still etched in their faces. The men and women offered their stories -- how they happened to turn away from the explosion and, therefore, saved themselves from being blinded, for example -- and the magazine soberly recorded their distance from the blast, their proximity to hell.

Oh I see, it's Time that's worried. If they are worried, then America is worried.

These kinds of testimonials are usually reserved for victims of war crimes, and while Time does not make the link directly, it does not completely resist it, either...

Of course they think America is guilty of war crimes. Lefty jackasses always think that.

...An accompanying essay by historian David M. Kennedy notes pointedly that the United States ''crossed a terrifying moral threshold" when it targeted Japanese cities, killing as many as 900,000 civilians in the two atomic bombings combined with fire-bombing raids on Tokyo and other population centers...

Funny how you never hear that Tojo or Saddam or Stalin "crossed a moral threshold." Only America, or Israel.

Most Americans do not question President Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs, which was largely based on his gut feelings, without any official consideration of longer-term consequences. Truman's first concern was for military victory, and his first responsibility was for the numerous US troops who would have been killed in an invasion of Japan. It is hard to argue with placing those priorities ahead of future arms races and terrorist threats.

Does this loon actually believe that nuclear arms races and terrorism would not have happened? Goofix.

And the nuclear age probably would have come to afflict the world anyway, even if Truman had held back.

Well, doh. Probably? We were already IN the nuclear age, even if journalists couldn't perceive it. We were in it the moment Leo Szilard, crossing a London street in 1938, imagined a nuclear chain reaction.

...Now, with the threat of terrorism paramount in American minds, there is no comfort in having nuclear missiles in the silo.

Oh yes there is. We also have rogue countries like NK and Iran, and maybe China, who CAN be deterred.

No suicide bomber will ever be deterred by the threat of a retaliatory attack. In combating terrorism, nuclear weapons are almost useless to the United States, but a boon for attackers seeking to inflict as much terror as possible.

Actually, they are a last-resort deterrent aginst terror-supporting countries. Could be very useful, if this sort of whining and cringing doesn't convince the world that we are too muddled and self-abasing to use them.

So as the United States considers the 60th anniversary of the nuclear age, it does so with a certain amount of fear and regret. Where once it was accepted without question that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings brought about the end of the war, new theories abound. The Soviet Union's declaration of war on Japan at the same time as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima convinced Emperor Hirohito that Japan's cause was hopeless, according to some scholars. Others point out that the fire-bombing of Japanese cities actually killed more people than the atomic bombs, making nuclear war unnecessary.

Both new theories are improbable. Japan already knew their cause was hopeless, and had already endured the fire bombings and other massive losses without evident intent to surrender. But "scholars" love anything that makes America look bad.
But this last bit is the real essence of muddled thinking...

But even if the nuclear age shortened World War II, it did not really bring about peace. It only ensured that the world would never achieve the ''freedom from fear" that President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised before the United States entered the war in 1941. Not then. Not today.

This is exactly wrong. The nuclear age instantly ended global conflicts. And ended wars between the great powers. No one expects those things to come back. That's peace, compared to what went before. Moreover today, as Tom Barnett has pointed out, war between nation-states is almost extinct! Most of the violence of our time is within various poor and dysfunctional nations, not between nations. In the developed world we can't even now imagine the total mobilization of WWII, when entire populations were organized for war work, and men were conscripted by the tens-of-millions for battles so large that "armies" were just sub-units within "army-groups."

And it's almost impossible to get most people to focus seriously on the WOT, despite the dangers. Peace, and "freedom from fear" is exactly what we have. Which may not be entirely a good thing.
Posted by John Weidner at 4:18 PM

July 18, 2005

Exactly right...

Barone has another good one....

Titus Oates was once a name every schoolboy knew. Oates was the disgraced Church of England clergyman who, in 1678 and 1679, accused various English Catholics of a "popish plot" to assassinate King Charles II and take control of the government of England.

On the basis of the testimony of Oates and a few other similar characters, more than a dozen Catholics were found guilty and executed. Priests were arrested and held indefinitely, and Catholics were excluded from Parliament.

Then, as the trials went on, it became clear that Oates' detailed charges were all lies. His name became a synonym for liar....

Barone has a good list of the lies of a certain contemporary Titus Oates. Go take a look.

On a historical note, I am a great fan of Samuel Pepys. I have an interesting book, The Ordeal of Mr. Pepys's Clerk, about the involvement of Pepys in the Popish Plot. Shaftesbury wished to arrest Pepys on false charges, but Pepy's had a clear alibi. So he was forced to settle for Pepys's clerk, Samuel Atkins, who was accused of complicity in the (still) mysterious murder of Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey. But the target was Pepys, and he only as a means to the real target, the catholic Duke of York, later James II.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:17 PM

June 15, 2005

There was nothing wrong with the Crusades!

Tim Blair posts:

A Vermont school is changing the names of its sports teams:

Champlain Valley Union High School just graduated its last Crusaders, with the School Board set to pick a new name for the school’s teams by fall ...

Some argue that the name Crusaders is an important school tradition. Others see it as a symbol of religious oppression.

Via LGF. So, which name should replace “Crusaders”? Some suggestions:
a) Girly Punk Kids
b) Howard Deans
c) Surrenderers
d) The Whipped
e) Li’l Fiskies.......

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CRUSADES! Not more than any other brutal war of olden times. Christians conquered the Holy land, but before that Arabs conquered the region (and conquered it again later from the crusaders).

The idea that the Crusades were some sort of shocking anomaly is STUPID lefty nonsense designed to undermine Christian and Western Civilization. The picture being painted in the popular mind, of a normally peaceful Moslem Palestine suddenly brutalized by crazed Christian fundamentalists, is a stupid lie. The truth is, wars and battles see-sawed back and forth along the borders between Christianity and Islam from the beginning until now. The crusades were no more evil, or exceptional than, say, the Turks conquering Greece, or the Siege of Vienna.

Leftists hate our civilization, and especially Christianity, because they emphasize individual freedom and dignity, and make people resistant to being absorbed into various forms of collectivism. The crusades are smeared for the same reason that the Boy Scouts are, and businessmen are, and Christians are, and Jews are, and our Founding Fathers are, and our military is...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:58 AM

April 17, 2005

Rip van Winkles...

Michael Kinsley has an article suggesting that the neocons pulled the wool over our eyes....

...[neocon Jeanne] Kirkpatrick thought that U.S. power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, such as Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Carter sat on his hands, she complained. Now we have an administration that -- wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically -- claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it....

...Plenty of explanations are available. The collapse of the Soviet Union (which the neocons did not predict -- their theme had been that the Soviet Union was getting stronger and stronger while the United States diddled) surely changed the calculus. The seemingly easy spread of democracy over the past couple of decades may have disproved Kirkpatrick's pessimism.

But all these explanations require an admission of error, something the neocons are not very good at. They are selling certainty. [Thanks to PowerLine]

The problem with Kinsley's article is that it assumes that the necons were placed in cryogenic sleep about the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, were thawed out in 2001, and have played us a dirty trick by secretly changing their positions while they dozed.

But in fact they were in power for 12 years, holding various positions in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. And while they were dealing with the world's problems they learned some new tricks. There was nothing secret or sudden about it. The big change came, as has been amply discussed, with the fall of Philippine President Marcos, when the decision was made to encourage democracy instead of propping him up. Done for the practical and tough-minded reason that this was more likely to prevent a communist take-over.

The Reagan Administration went on to apply that idea in Latin America, with the truly astonishing result that, by the time Bush I left office, all but one Latin American head-of-state was competitively elected! Far from owing anybody an admission of error, the men of the Reagan and Bush I teams, including several well-known neocons, ought to be showered with Nobel Peace Prizes, and all the rewards and praise we can offer.

The people in deep sleep were the news media, at least as far as recognizing these accomplishments. They are the ones waking like Rip van Winkle, and saying, "Whaa? Neocons? Aren't they supposed to be for propping up friendly dictators? Did I miss something?"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 PM

February 25, 2005

Soldats de la Grande Guerre

Here's something I have never heard of. Color photography was invented in 1903, and was used in World War One by the French Army! This is a detail from one of the photos you can see here.

French Soldiers, WW1, early color photo
Thanks to Stephen Green)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:43 PM

January 25, 2005

A bit of SF history...

After the Earthquake and fire of 1906 left about 200,000 people homeless, the City of San Francisco built more than 5,000 of these simple cottages. Working class families in the refugee camps could haul a cottage to a vacant lot and live in it for $2 a month. The money went into a trust fund, and when the family leased or bought a lot, the money was returned to them.

Cottages built afer SF Earthquake
There are just a handful of them left, usually encrusted with additions so the original cottage is invisible... A few are being restored to their original condition.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:46 PM

January 22, 2005

Where was the outrage...

Lane Core has fascinating stuff on what FDR did on the day of the D-Day Invasion. Laughing and joking with reporters for one. Can you imagine how Bush would be excoriated if he even cracked a smile on such an occasion?

And FDR said a prayer on the radio. Here's a part of it:

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....

Dems would HATE it if Bush said such things. "Preserve our religion?" "We shall return again and again?" Yow.

(Thanks to Betsy N)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 AM

January 14, 2005

The leaven...

Orrin links to a great article, The Galileo Legend, by Thomas Lessl, that demolishes the urban legend that "the Catholic Church killed all those scientists..." Nonsense of course, it never killed any scientists (Giordano Bruno was no scientist, and his execution had nothing to do with his Copernican speculations.) The stories of brave truth-seekers crushed by an obscurantist church are historical rubbish, pushed by people who push science as a sort of modernist religion. (And who shed tears and eloquence over Galileo being placed under house-arrest, but have nary a tear for the thousands of scientists killed or imprisoned by socialists.)

...It is not an accident that such complicating factors as this are never discussed in popular scientific accounts. Clearly those who tell this story have strong ideological interests which make the maligning of the Christian Church attractive. A big part of this seems to be the belief shared by such storytellers that the scientific way of life would operate best in a world untroubled by religious belief. In fact one of the main themes of the Galileo legend seems to be the idea that Christianity is an anti-scientific monster, now safely caged, that sought to devour science at the moment of its birth. This in fact is how the story is presented in what is perhaps the most popular treatment of science ever published, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time:
Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science. His renowned conflict with the Catholic Church was central to his philosophy, for Galileo was one of the first to argue that man could hope to understand how the world works, and, moreover, that we could do this by observing the real world.
Since the author of this passage is often compared with Einstein and Newton in the popular press, his readers, (approximately nine million to date), are likely to assume that he is simply telling it like it is. But that conclusion would be wrong. Hawking's genius as a mathematician and theoretical physicist does not make him an historian of any kind. Neither does it lessen the temptation to succumb to a romantic legend that seems to lend itself to his preconceptions...

Hawking's giving us pure bunk as history. But read the whole article, it's worth it...

...A broader reading of scientific history shows that Galileo's mistreatment by his ecclesiastical bosses was an anomaly, a momentary break in an otherwise harmonious relationship. In fact a more complete understanding of the relationship between Christianity and science has suggested to some scholars that Christian belief may have been the leaven that made the development of modern science possible. Modern science, after all, emerged in a most unlikely place, in an adolescent European culture that was only a few hundred years removed from barbarism. Nothing so revolutionary ever developed in the great civilizations of the Middle or Far East, despite their considerable antiquity and sophistication. The reason for this should be quite clear. The founding assumptions of modern science, its belief in a universe that is highly ordered and in a human mind that was created to reach beyond its finitude to grasp the mystery of this order, are premises that are secure only where monotheism has taken root.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:28 PM

December 25, 2004


Drop Cap Via I love Jet Noise, the true story of how a KC-130 landed and took off (repeatedly) from the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, in 1963.

The C-130 Hercules, as I'm sure you know, is a big 4-engine cargo plane, with a wingspan of 132 feet. You can read the story here...including pictures and videos!

And try this video, from the same site, of a 130 dropping flares. LOTS of flares. Fireworks ain't in it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 PM

December 11, 2004

Happy Hanukkah...

I liked this piece by Dave Kopel, at Armed Jews Week.

• December 10, 2004: Tonight is the fourth night of Armed Jews Week, or as it is more popularly known, Hanukkah. Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of the Jewish revolution against Syria in the second century B.C. The Syrian government (a remnant of Alexander the Great’s empire) attempted to wipe out the Jewish religion by forcing the Jews to conform to Greek culture. Some of them refused, and a tiny militia, led by Judah the Maccabee (“the hammer”) began a guerilla war.

The Jewish militia grew in force, and
repeatedly destroyed much larger Syrian armies which were sent to smash the revolution. Syria’s King Antiochus decided that the Jewish people were so much trouble that he would just get rid of them entirely—slaughtering as many as necessary, and selling all the rest into slavery. But his wicked plans failed, and after years of war, the Jews won their independence...

woman of the Israel Defence Forces
Woman of the Israel Defense force. Detail from a
picture by photographer
Ashkan Sahihi.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:30 PM

December 7, 2004

December 7th, 1941...

Damaged P40 after Pearl Harbor attack
Damaged P-40 at Bellows Field, Oahu,
after Japanese attack, December, 1941

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

October 16, 2004

The last President to write his own speeches...

Calvin Coolidge on Progress:

The law of progress and civilization is not the law of the jungle. It is not an earthly law, it is a divine law. It does not mean survival of the fittest, it means sacrifice of the fittest. Any mother will give her life for her child. Men put women and children in lifeboats before they themselves will leave the sinking ship. John Hampden and Nathan Hale did not survive, nor did Lincoln, but Benedict Arnold did.
And from his Inaugural Address:
...The time is arriving when we can have further tax reduction, when, unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we must have tax reform. The method of raising revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong. We can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions, through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be successful...

... These questions involve moral issues. We need not concern ourselves much about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights of persons. Under our institutions their rights are supreme. It is not property but the right to hold property, both great and small, which our Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with a service...

I don't, by the way, mean to imply that there's anything wrong with having speechwriters. Crafting good speeches can be a full-time job. But Silent Cal could write great ones on his own. He never flew in an airplane, or learned to drive a car, but he was the first President to give radio addresses. His voice was unpleasing in live speeches, but somehow sounded just right over the radio

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 PM

September 28, 2004

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands...

You have to read this one, by David Brooks:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."...

No one can be sure what will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, but us warmongers and Republicans have one huge advantage...we are the good guys, and our system works! And the Realist/Postmodernist appeasing Democrats have a huge disadvantage—they are on the wrong side of history. They are reactionaries defending tyranny and inaction, and their system doesn't work. They, like their terrorist allies, may win a skirmish or two, but they will be flattened in the long run.

To quote Brooks again:

On the other hand, over the past 30-odd years, democracy has spread at the rate of one and a half nations per year. It has spread among violence-racked nations and to 18 that are desperately poor. And it has spread not only because it inspires, but also because it works.
You can't outrun the History Train....

(thanks to OJ)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:46 PM

September 26, 2004


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 23, 2004

"Are we there yet?...Are we there yet?"

Thomas Sowell writes:

...Has the war in Iraq gone according to plan? No! But name any war that did...

....Mistakes in war are not new. What is new is a widespread lack of realism about war, especially among people who have never been in the military, who are like the proverbial little kid on a trip who keeps asking: "Are we there yet?"...

If you delve under the surface layers of history, you will discover that all wars resemble blundering about in the dark. And almost always the enemy looks more formidable than he is, because we don't know about his problems...

A good battle to contemplate now is Guadalcanal. If this were September 1942, the sort of people who support Senator Kerry would be pointing out that the Guadalcanal Campaign is utter folly and disaster, and we should cut our losses and retreat. It would look that way. Our Marines are penned-up in a few square miles, on the defensive, ill-supplied, hungry, glad to dine on captured Japanese rice. Our naval forces are being defeated repeatedly in savage night-battles, giving us the immortal name, "Ironbottom Sound." Japanese warships can bombard our forces with impunity. At night.

Someone might say it was the wrong battle at the wrong place and time. And he would be totally wrong. The Japanese rule at night, but during the daytime the situation is reversed. We hold little Henderson Field, the only airstrip in the area. An unsinkable aircraft carrier. We are sometimes reduced to an handful of battered planes flown by exhausted pilots, but as long as they are there, we dominate the whole area by day. Japanese ships have to retreat before sunrise.

And most importantly, Japanese bombers and fighters have to fly from Rabaul or Kavieng, hundreds of miles away. They are operating at extreme range, where even slight damage probably means that a plane and crew will be lost. But our planes can be shot-up repeatedly with planes and pilots surviving to fight again. The Japs are at this time superior to us in the air, but we have forced them to fight at an extreme disadvantage, in a campaign that is steadily whittling away their air forces.

(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

September 18, 2004

Return with us to the days of yesteryear...

Things change slowly over the years, and we adjust gradually and hardly notice. But then we hit our shins on something from the past, and are stunned at how different it is. Like encountering, if you are my age, a rotary telephone. Or the old High School yearbook.

Take a look at this page. It has one of the forged Bush memos and a real, typed one. The forgeries are old news, (though the comparison would be devastating if the issue were still in doubt) but take a time-travel back to the days of the typewriter! Wow! Notice the wavy lines in Bush's section. I think I remember funky machines doing that. It was hard (for a mediocre typist like me) to get those machines to do what I wanted. But they could do some things computers can't--like filling out forms.

Col Killian's section is done with a better typewriter. Maybe typed by that Mrs Knox, on the Olympia. For you younger readers, back then typing was done by women, and coloneling was done by men...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:06 PM

September 6, 2004

Cool new hairstyles, as seen in the Forum...

My son e-mailed me a question, which I made a stab at answering. Maybe others know more about this?

I was doing a little research online with a question about Roman hair styles that's been bugging me. In all Hollywood movies concerning Rome that I've seen no matter what period of Rome that they were trying to portray, the hair styles of the important men were ALWAYS the same. It always seemed to be cut short right above the eyebrows, there apeared to be NO originality among the Roman leaders.

I did some checking online, and lo and behold, statues of Roman Emporers, who could be separated by over two hundred years, along with people protrayed in those pictures made out of tiles, ALL had VERY similar hair styles, almost identical to eachother. I have seen no statues of completly bald men, nor statues with hair parted on one side, or excessivly long hair. Can you think of any reason why this might be so?

Good question. The ancient world does not seem to have had frequent changes in style like we do, either in clothes, hair or beards. But I have no idea why. Emperors probably wanted to look like Augustus Caesar, to help them feel legitimate. Probably they would have been shown with hair even if bald--portraits and statues were part of propaganda and image-building. But I think mainly the style just didn't change.

And keep in mind that there were no photos. Portraits in any era tend to make people look much like a certain ideal that is in the minds of artists. In portraits from around 1660 everyone looks like Louis XIV, or his paramours! Or if you look at illustrations from the Civil War era, the men all have small delicate feet.

Actually even in photos people tend to have a "look" common to their era. Try looking at some magazines from the past. Say a Life Magazine from the 1950' will be amazed at how faces and postures and body-shapes seem to have a certain similarity...

It's funny about Hollywood. Most movies set in other eras make some attempt to really reflect their period. But never movies about ancient Rome, or so it seems to me. They just copy from other movies. Actors seem to have all soaked up a certain way of being "Roman," (probably deriving from the way Shakespeare's Roman plays are acted, but those guys are just copying each other too.) So we get the same diction and style over and over again. I hate it! I can't stand to watch it for even a few minutes.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:47 PM

August 21, 2004

I remember clothes lines...

Walter Cronkite, 1993?Walter Cronkite, probably in 1993
Frank Martin writes:
...It is incredible to me that we are talking about the Vietnam war today, a full 6 wars ago. Vietnam was
A war fought when Color Television was still a novelty.

When aircraft crossing the Pacific did not have wide range navigation aids and still relied on sextants.

When the words "via satellite" appeared at the bottom of your TV screen, you said "wow".

When TV news was restricted to 30 minutes per day, and presented as simply being read by the likes of Douglas Edwards or Walter Cronkite with just a simple picture displayed behind them.

When most cities had at least two newspapers, each of a different political stripe, delivered in the morning and afternoon allowing the average citizen to get a wide variety of opinion on the news.

Computers filled entire buildings, and "terminals" were teletype devices with rolls of paper for displays.

40% of Americans didn't even own a clothes dryer, but used "clothes lines" instead....

(Thanks to Stephen Green)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:02 AM

August 15, 2004

X is for "Zeno"

If you've ever wondered how those Roman names worked, Dr Weevil has a post on the subject.

...Nomenclatural ambiguity affects Roman authors in a different way. Most Romans had three names, which should have reduced the possibilities for confusion. The first (praenomen) was the personal name, like a modern first name, the second (nomen) the family or clan name, and the third (cognomen) was used to distinguish branches of the same family. Thus Marcus Tullius Cicero and Quintus Tullius Cicero were brothers, members of the Cicero branch of the Tullius family, while Titus Livius (the historian Livy) only had two names, since he came from a small town where there were only a few other Livii...

...This brings us back to the famous names. Scholars refer to eminent Romans by nomen or cognomen, whichever is more distinctive. Some have two uncommon names, so Publius Vergilius Maro could be either Vergil or Maro, Publius Ovidius Naso either Ovid or Naso, and Marcus Tullius Cicero either Tully or Cicero. For the last few centuries, they have been Vergil (or Virgil), Ovid, and Cicero, respectively, but older books often called them by the other names, especially Tully...

I had always assumed that using "Tully" was some sort of scholarly whimsy or affectation, a kind of inside joke, but not so...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:08 PM

July 11, 2004

.54-caliber pistol...ouch!

Hamilton, Burr Kin Re-Enact Famous Duel Sun Jul 11, 1:24 PM ET

By STEVE STRUNSKY, Associated Press Writer, WEEHAWKEN, N.J. - The bitter grudge between their ancestors has long faded, but on Sunday descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr marked their paces with pistols in hand. Antonio Burr, a descendant of Burr's cousin, arrived by rowboat in period costume and fired a replica of the .54-caliber pistol that mortally wounded Hamilton 200 years ago in the July 11, 1804 duel.

Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Hamilton, feigned the historic hip wound, dropping to one knee and then falling to the ground in a sitting position...

(Thanks to Rob)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:26 PM

June 26, 2004

Steyn again, on a favorite subject of mine...

Mark Steyn has a great column on a subject I've often mentioned; the change in our Latin America policy during my lifetime. The switch from our supporting dictators to encouraging democracy. A product of the Reagan years. A product of the folks known by the fuzzy term "neocons." Who were brought into the halls of power by...Ronald Reagan.

...If you think the democratization of Arabia is a long shot, so was the democratization of Latin America. But it happened. And the only thing to argue about is how much credit you want to give the Reagan Doctrine. You want to blame the US for acts of genocide against the Mayans by the Guatemalan military? As you wish. But that, in fact, is an example of what happens when Washington is absent. The Guatemalans reckoned they could handle the insurgency and buy arms on the international market, so they set to it, without any pesky foreigners around to complain about human-rights abuses (unlike, say, the Balkans, where the atrocities occur in plain sight of the UN peacekeepers).

But anyone who thinks Reagan wanted to oppress Central Americans and keep them in poverty doesn’t understand his profound belief in economic prosperity as the engine of peace and freedom. Central America in the first half of the Eighties had negative GDP growth: minus one per cent. In the second half, there was annual GDP growth of two per cent; in the Nineties, five per cent. Throughout Latin America, voters turned to parties who promoted privatization, free trade, hard currencies – or, in a word, Reaganomics. Ask yourself this: does today’s Latin America incline closer to western values or Che and Fidel’s?  

Fernando Henrique Cardoso knew the answer. He wound up as President of Brazil, abandoned “Dependency Theory”, embraced globalization, and advised his people to “forget everything I wrote”. They did. Maybe the west’s dewy-eyed liberation theologists still mooning for Daniel Ortega should do the same...

Thanks to Samizdata.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

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 20, 2004

One war, two armies...

Lance Jonn Romanoff has an amazing story about a GI who parachuted at Normany, escaped from a German POW camp, headed east, encountered a Russian unit, and fought with them until wounded.

MOSCOW - Of the million World War II veterans who celebrated Victory Day on Sunday, few, if any, can say that they fought for both the U.S. and Soviet armies.

Joseph Beyrle is an exception.

Beyrle, the 80-year-old father of John Beyrle, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, was on hand Sunday for the Victory Day parade on Red Square, a stone’s throw from the monument to a man who helped bring him back to life - legendary World War II Marshal Georgy Zhukov...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

May 17, 2004

"Unusable ordnance were buried and forgotten..."

On the subject of WMD's not being found, I heard someone on the radio talking about the seven giant cannon that were used in WWI to bombard paris. Guns with 130-foot long barrels. After the war no trace of them was found! No one knows what happened to them.

On the same subject, there's this:

The Henry L. Stimson Center - DC---CBW Chronicle, Volume III, Issue 3 (December 2001):Washington DC’s congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton(D) and Representative Constance Morella (D-Maryland) have requested a General Accounting Office investigation into the Army’s cleanup of buried chemical munitions in the nation’s capital. Buried weapons dating back to World War I, some of which contain chemical agent, were discovered nine years ago in the upscale Spring Valley neighborhood near the campus of American University. The lawmakers announced their plans at a House Government Reform Committee hearing in July 2001 on chemical weapons-related arsenic contamination in Washington, DC. The requested inquiry would include not only the Spring Valley neighborhood (shown in figure 2), but also parts of Catholic University, the University of the District of Columbia, and the Washington Naval Yard. Covering less than 70 square miles, Washington, DC ranks tenth on a list of sites nationwide with potentially buried munitions.

Three years after American University had officially opened its doors, the US government leased some 660 acres of land from the university in 1917 for weapons research and testing. The 1,200 chemists and engineers on staff at the American University Experiment Station would eventually work with nearly fifty different poisonous gases, including mustard gas and lewisite. At the conclusion of the war, most of the weapons were shipped to Edgewood Arsenal in Aberdeen, Maryland. However, as was customary at the time, unusable ordnance were buried and forgotten..

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

April 26, 2004

"Karol Wojtyla needs no introduction."

Dr Weevil reminisces on the quandary of a scholarly journal accepting a paper by a not-well-known churchman. But before the paper can be published, the author is promoted to be the Pope.

Quandary: how to write the biographical blurb...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

April 15, 2004


In this post I mentioned Reagan sleeping during the Gulf of Sidra incursion. There are some comments, with Andrew finding it indecent, and me arguing that it was a gesture of confidence that our guys would appreciate.

Does anybody actually know what the aviators and other sailors involved thought or how they reacted? (It's a question that makes me appreciate the Internet, if it happened today a quick Google would answer the question...)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:00 PM

January 29, 2004

"a pint of sack and a pint of claret"

So cool! Pepys Diary recreated as a weblog!. (Heres an article about it. Thanks to Orrin Judd) All the people and things of interest have links to comments pages. And people are beginning to fill in the comments with information!

You can still get in on the ground floor, this is January of 1660, when the diary begins. Sam Pepys (pronounced "peeps") is young and obscure, but with good connections. he is a fac totem for his cousin Edward Montague, a rising man involved at the moment with engineering the restorationn of the King.

At the office all the morning; dined at home, and after dinner to Fleet Street, with my sword to Mr. Brigden(lately made Captain of the Auxiliaries) to be refreshed, and with him to an ale-house, where I met Mr. Davenport; and after some talk of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw�s bodies being taken out of their graves to-day,1 I went to Mr. Crew�s and thence to the Theatre, where I saw again �The Lost Lady,� which do now please me better than before; and here I sitting behind in a dark place, a lady spit backward upon me by a mistake, not seeing me, but after seeing her to be a very pretty lady, I was not troubled at it at all. Thence to Mr. Crew�s, and there met Mr. Moore, who came lately to me, and went with me to my father�s, and with him to Standing�s, whither came to us Dr. Fairbrother, who I took and my father to the Bear and gave a pint of sack and a pint of claret.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 AM

October 4, 2003


A wise man will keep his suspicions muzzled,
but he will keep them awake.
--George Savile, Marquess de Halifax

This is the same Halifax who was called, and called himelf, The Trimmer, for his attempts to steer the ship of state on a middle course, balancing between extreme factions. He also said:
Gratitude is one of those things that cannot be bought. It must be born with men, or else all the obligations in the world will not create it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:07 AM

September 10, 2003

"But what possible use could the U.S. Army have for a four-engine transport?"

I was tracking my muddy footprints into the comments section of a Dave Trowbridge post, and he responded to me by bemoaning the "lack of planning and general fecklessness of the administration." I had to scratch my head at that because I'm just now immersed in some real fecklessness. I'm reading the autobiography of Eddie Rickenbacker, right at the point where he is in despair over the wretched condition of US military aviation just before we were plunged into World War Two.

I sometimes think my friend Dave's a big-government guy. Not any real big government, I scurry to add. But there's a kind of Platonic Ideal Big Government lurking in the back of his mind, and so he's always baffled and disappointed by the sausage-making muddle and compromise of actual administrations and politicians.

It's the kind of thing you absorb from reading the broad-brush type of history book. Kings and generals issue commands, arrows show armies moving across the map and empires expanding or contracting. It's easy to believe that history is driven by rational choices. But if you look at the same events more microscopically; if you read so-and-so's memoirs of life in the 399th Regiment, or of working in the Iteration Department of the Ministry of Recursions, you ALWAYS encounter confusion, incompetence, muddle and mistakes. Later the historians come and impose order on the march of events.

Me, I'm convinced that most of what governments (and many other human institutions ) achieve, is done by sense of touch, like a blind man groping in an unfamiliar room, and pulling his hands back when they get burned or scratched. The important metric for judging institutions is not how well they see into the future, but how well they adapt and learn when they smack into it in the dark.

To perhaps put Dave's comments into perspective, (or maybe even make him feel better about current events) I've jotting down a few examples of feckless ill-planning that are actually big enough to show on the seismograph. Starting with the words of Rickenbacker. (A fascinating man, by the way. His famous exploits in WWI form just a small part of a rich life.)

...It was the airlines, as I have already recounted, that worked with Don Douglas on the development of the DC-1, the DC-2 and the famous DC-3, or "C-47," as it was known in the military.

When Douglas first started drawing up plans for a larger plane, with the increased payload and dependability that four engines could provide, he attempted to interest the military services in it. He was turned down cold. An Army general asked him, in all seriousness, "But what possible use could the U.S. Army have for a four-engine transport?"

I went to the top brass in the Air Corps, including Hap Arnold, by that time a Brigadier General, and told them bluntly that they ought to order one thousand of those planes. They laughed at me, just as they had laughed at Douglas. It was only through the financial support of the airlines that Douglas was able to complete the design and development of his four-engine plane. It was the DC-4 or C-54. Its praises were never sung as loudly as those of the C-47, the "Gooney Bird" as it was affectionately known, but the C-54, because of its greater capacity, had a large share in winning the war... [there's lots more along this line. Appalling stuff.]

Now, a few other examples off the top of my head...

The American Civil War. Both sides thought the war would be short. Both sides were sure the tactics of Napoleon, as related by Jomini, would be the secret of success. No one dreamed that the Minie Ball and the steam engine would transform war. No one expected that many of the most effective generals would emerge from the ruthless guerilla warfare in Missouri and Kansas. Both sides were extremely reluctant to adopt repeating rifles.

And when the war degenerated into stalemate and trench warfare at Petersburg, the many European observers assumed that Americans were incompetent soldiers. None dreamed that they were seeing their own grim future.

And when that future arrived, in 1914, the meticulous planning of the German Staff was impressive and effective. But neither they nor anyone else guessed that their powerful new weapons would utterly change warfare. And that the changes would preponderantly favor the defensive, leading almost immediately to stalemate. The Germans refused to recognize the importance of the tank. No one foresaw the rapid development of aviation. The Germans introduced poison gas, without pondering that the prevailing winds in France would blow most of it in their direction.

The American planning failures of World War One are so monumental it's almost impossible to get a grasp on them or list them. President Wilson not only blocked all warlike preparations, in the insane belief that this would foster peace, but American officers were discouraged from even learning about the war raging in Europe! Few of them knew more than what was in the papers.

In World War Two, the Japanese grasped, brilliantly, the importance of the aircraft carrier. Then at Pearl Harbor, they used them to sink the battleships that they were, at that very instant, making obsolete. They perfected carrier warfare, but at the start of the war were only graduating 100 new pilots a year. The Germans were far and away the best planners, but refused to admit the possibility that their machine ciphers could be broken, as did the Japanese. And,of course, the ways in which the Allies prepared to re-fight WWI are too many and painful to repeat. George Patton dreamed of tanks and blitzkrieg, and was ignored. He also invented a new cavalry sabre, which was received with glad cries, and became standard in our (horse) cavalry...

Vietnam. Just one thought. Our leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, were bewitched by the seeming success of big government in WWII. None of them thought that the alternative to Communist big-government could be anything except Capitalist big-government. No one even considered offering the South Vietnamese people a small-government low-tax low-regulation alternative...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 AM

September 6, 2003

Gone fishin'

In the comments on a Bill Quick post, I noticed that Howard Veit wrote:

...Did Lincoln go on vacation during the Civil War? Roosevelt take a month off during WWII?
How about Wilson during WWI?

And everybody is still going to vote for this guy?

Someone named Dean answered:
On a purely factual level, why yes, most Presidents did indeed take vacations during the war. You might recall where FDR died.

NO, it was NOT at the White House. It was at the "summer White House," in Hot Springs, GA. ...

...Ronnie took vacations. Ike took vacations. But Jimmeh Cottuh, now HE did NOT take vacations. (Actually, he did, as one rabbit noticed.) But during the Iranian hostage crisis, he was, in effect, a hostage---in the White House...

The idea of criticizing the President for taking vacations is really very silly, whatever the party in power...

For one thing, the job of President is extremely arduous. Almost all Presidents age very noticeably in office. Not resting would be totally foolish. Especially during a war. Also, for most Presidents, the White House is not really "home." They have to live there, but it's not theirs...and there are always people staring and watching. That's got to be wearing. It's not a real home where you can put on your old clothes and putter in the garden.

Also, with modern communications, a President is no more out-of-touch in a place like Crawford, Texas than he is in DC. He still has more information coming to him than he can possibly digest, and can still talk to almost anybody, anywhere.

But most importantly, the whole idea that seems to float around that the President should be some Mastermind responsible for everything that happens is dangerous foolishness. And the Presidents who try to work that way turn out to be the worst ones. One thinks of LBJ micro-managing the Vietnam war, and using his many phones covered with buttons to stab deep into the bureaucracy and harangue mid-level managers. Futile.

(There's a funny story, that LBJ visited the new Nixon White House, and reported incredulously that President Nixon had only one phone with only three buttons. "And," he said, "they all lead to Germans!")

The President can't run everything. He needs to form a strong team, people who can take charge of problems and get things done. And to do that you have to give people lots of responsibility, and not second-guess them. You have to let them experiment; let them make mistakes, and learn from them. (And you have to be loyal to them, and support them until it becomes really obvious that they can't do the job.) A good way to demonstrate that trust and give people room to grow is to take a vacation and stop looking over their shoulders.

And the government can't run everything. Power-hungry people cherish the idea of a Wizard of Oz government controlling everything from behind the curtain...frantically pulling levers and turning wheels, never stopping lest civilization fall apart. But that's nonsense. The big problems and issues usually have enormous momentum, and any adjustments take effect very slowly, if at all.

Right now Bush is whipping up some froth (here, here or here; or better yet, just take my word for it) to show he is on top of the economy. But it's purely for show, and because it's expected. He has to do that kind of stuff. But he made his economic moves months and years ago, and we hope they are the right ones, but it's really up to marketplace now. Might as well take a vacation.

Same with the war, really. I hope the President is putting most of his energy into long-term planning and strategy, and to maintaining the political strength that will prevent the leeches from sucking the blood out of our efforts. Think, dream, scheme, Mr President. Stay rested and fresh. Focus on the example of Jimmy Carter, and always do the opposite.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 PM

August 29, 2003

Bring back the Doges ...

Various antsy people seem to be saying that we ought to become the British Empire, or avoid becoming the British Empire. Or hang our heads because we've become the Roman Empire, or because we aren't tough and ruthless like the Roman Empire...

I think the allusions are pretty useless, and there are other empire-comparisons that would fit our situation better. Possibly most people are unaware that there were more than two empires in history, since those two are the only ones that Hollywood is cognizant of. It would be refreshing to hear occasional mention of the Persian or Athenian or Dutch empires, or the Venetian colonies.

But on the British topic, Charlene noticed this quote you might like from John Derbeyshire, in the September 1 National Review:

...The trumpets are sounding, we are called to our imperial duty; we must take up the White Man's Burden. (It is worth noting Kipling's definition of "white man," given in 1897: "the race speaking the English tongue, with a high birth rate and a low murder rate, living quietly under Laws which are neither bought nor sold.")

Posted by John Weidner at 5:31 PM