March 2, 2014

Is life worth living?

...It is as old as Robinson Crusoe; as old as man. Our race has not been strained for all these ages through that sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to sit down with patience in the tedium of safety; the voices of its fathers call it forth. Already in our society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cottoned about for any zest in living; he sits in his parlour out of reach of any danger, often out of reach of any vicissitude but one of health; and there he yawns.

If the people in the next villa took pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but, so long as he escaped, he would find his blood oxygenated and his views of the world brighter. If Mr Mallock, on his way to the publishers, should have his skirts pinned to the wall by a javelin, it would not occur to him - at least for several hours - to ask if life were worth living; and if such peril were a daily matter, he would ask it never more; he would have other things to think about, he would be living indeed ...

--Robert Louis Stevenson, from the essay The Day After Tomorrow
Robert louis stevenson
Posted by John Weidner at 5:37 PM

November 15, 2013

James Madison on, well, a lot of things government does these days...

Steven Hayward posted this perfect quote at Power Line:

...For now, here's how James Madison sized things up in Federalist #62:
The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

March 31, 2013

Happy Easter! Christos Anesti!

Easter Vigil, fire and Pascal candle, Fr Xavier

Easter Vigil, St Dominic's Church, March 30, 2013.
This picture I took may be a blur to most people, but it's a very cool moment. Sunday in the Church's reckoning begins at sunset on Saturday. The Easter Vigil commences in spooky darkness. A fire blazes up. The procession enters and approaches the fire, for the Service of Light, the Lucinarium. The fire is blessed and the Pascal Candle is prepared--you can see our pastor reading, and the candle. Everyone has small candles, and the flame begins to be passed from person to person, until the whole church is ablaze. Christ is risen!

The Vigil is the real celebration of Easter in the Church. The Sunday services are awesome, but secondary.

Bl. John Henry Newman, on why Jesus did not show himself to the multitudes when he was resurrected from the dead. [link]...

..It would seem, then, that our Lord gave His attention to a few, because, if the few be gained, the many will follow. To these few He showed Himself again and again. These He restored, comforted, warned, inspired. He formed them unto Himself, that they might show forth His praise. . . .

Doubtless, much may be undone by the many, but nothing is done except by those who are specially trained for action. . . . If the witnesses were to be such as really loved and obeyed the Truth, there could not be many chosen. Christ's cause was the cause of light and religion, therefore His advocates and ministers were necessarily few. . .

Now, let us observe how much matter, both for warning and comfort, is supplied by this view. We learn from the picture of the infant Church what that Church has been ever since, that is, as far as man can understand it. Many are called, few are chosen. . . .

But, besides this, we are comforted too; we are comforted, as many of us as are living humbly in the fear of God. Who those secret ones are, who in the bosom of the visible Church live as saints fulfilling their calling, God only knows.

. . .Let all "who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" be quite sure, that weak though they seem, and solitary, yet the "foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." The many are "deceitful," and the worldly-wise are "vain;" but he "that feareth the Lord, the same shall be praised." The most excellent gifts of the intellect last but for a season. Eloquence and wit, shrewdness and dexterity, these plead a cause well and propagate it quickly, but it dies with them. It has no root in the hearts of men, and lives not out a generation. It is the consolation of the despised Truth, that its works endure.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 PM

April 29, 2012

"Formula of lament"

I used to read the mysterious Catholic commentator "Diogenes" with avidity. He's gone silent these last few years. But you can still search for his work at

I just stumbled upon this tidbit, at the post: 3 Degrees Kelvin:

...ATTENTION ALL ACADEMICIANS: First-person complaints of a "chilling effect" are performatively (retorsively) self-refuting. For: no agency so trammeled by cliché as to make use of the term "chilling effect" has any intellectual heat to cool off (Diogenes' First Law of Thermo-semantics). For the sake of your own reputations, please find another formula of lament.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2012

It doesn't scale in a linear fashion...

Richard Fernandez, The Life of Ants:

...The costs of running a society by detailed regulation do not scale in a linear fashion. Adding a single little thing requires committees to coordinate between committees; oversight and review functions; evaluation units and managers to manage everything. And that doesn't even count the cost of politically selling and defending each and every new mandate...

There's another thing that amplifies this. Running anything by "detailed regulation" is Industrial Age practice. We are now deep in the Information Age, and those who are hip to it can use much more effective management techniques. We are the Dinosaurs, they are the Thecodonts. They will be out-competed!

One of the earliest examples of the emergence of a new age was the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War, in 1967. We tend to take this sort of Israeli (and American) prowess for granted, but it was something that had never been seen before in history. Israel defeated three nations, with three armies, ten times her numbers, and with weapons of equal quality, in less than a week!

How did they do it? Israel had developed a new way of managing war. If division commander gave a task to one of his brigades, it was not accompanied with any sort of plan. The brigade was free to do the job however he thought best. The only proviso was that he had to keep headquarters informed about what was going on. Likewise, the Brigade would give its battalion commanders only general objectives, and they would make their own detailed plans. And so on down the line.

So they were harnessing the brainpower of far more people, and particularly, people who were much more motivated to succeed than staff drones. We see this kind of thing often now in successful young firms. (If you are hired by Dropbox, here in SF, YOU get to decide what you will work on! Wouldn't you give your best in such a situation?)

Israeli Dodge Power Wagon, during Six Day War period
(I have no special reason for putting this picture in, except for a love of the old Dodge Power Wagons. This one is Israeli, about the time of the Six-Day War. I think I got the pic here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 PM

January 28, 2012

Respect starts with truth...

We talk much about "respecting" this or that person's religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion: to ask what are its tenets and what are the consequences. But modern tolerance is deafer than intolerance. The old religious authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and read a book before they burned it. But we are always saying to a Mormon or a Moslem — "Never mind about your religion, come to my arms." To which he naturally replies — "But I do mind about my religion, and I advise you to mind your eye."
      — GK Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, 13 May 1911.

(Thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:49 PM

November 26, 2011

Amen, brother Albert....

One of the more odd-but-meaningful moments of my life was in 1971. One of my professors at UC Berkeley was the well-known architecture critic Allen Temko. He brought a batch of his students over to SF for the "unveiling" of the Vaillancourt Fountain, and we handed out his flyers deriding it. (I remember the flyer described Justin Herman as "the Gauleiter of the Redevelopment Agency.") It was a signal moment of my life, though it took me 3 decades to really start to "see" it. To see what it meant.

Burke touches [the] matter of patriotism with a searching phrase. 'For us to love our country,' he said, 'our country ought to be lovely.' I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.
      -- Albert J. Nock

Well, we can see this all around us. It's plain as a pikestaff, but no one wants to see. Look at this picture of the Vaillancourt Fountain, with the Ferry Building behind it...

Nihilist Vaillancourt Fountain and noble tower

Our world is belatedly becoming conscious that there's something very bad going on with birthrates. (If you are new to our brave new situation, "TFR" stands for Total Fertility Rate. It's how demographers designate birthrates. The TFR number is births-per-woman. A TFR of 2.1 is replacement rate. That is, the birth-rate at which population will stay the same. Below that, population shrinks. Above, it grows. Europe now has an average TFR of 1.5. Europe is toast.)

The book to read right now is David P. Goldman's How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) (I wish I had the ooompf to write a full review, but I did write a bit here.)

Goldman points out that the most reliable correlation is between birth rates and faith. Family size correlates with frequency of religious observance. (This is not controversial, demographers are in agreement on this one.) I'd like to suggest that there is something else that dovetails with birthrates, although it can't be quantified or pinned down.

Knowing what we know now, I will submit with confidence that the people who built the tower in the background had a TFR of at least 3. And the people responsible for the abomination in the foreground—that's you, SF liberals—have a TFR well south of 2.

Beauty is really a proxy for something deeper. Beauty comes from God. The San Franciscans who built the Ferry Building and its towering 1898 were still in touch with the deep wells of faith from which beauty grows. (Explicit religious observance was in decline, and the architect may not have been a church-goer, but, as those who have followed my arguments about nihilism will understand, the habits of Judaism and Christianity still lingered on.)

Liberalism is the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, without need for outside landmarks or guide-stars. [Link] One expression of that idea has long been that art and poetry etc will flourish once people are liberated from the shackles of religion and tradition and stuffy morality. So, human race, how's that bit of hopey-changy working' out for you? Hmm? Are we all happy with the buildings we are getting? With the poems—do they linger in your mind like a fragrance? How about paintings and sculpture? Do they make your life sweeter? Or nobler?

This has turned into a stream of consciousness post, and I should really outline my thoughts and re-write it. Ha ha, how likely is that? Maybe later.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:54 PM

November 10, 2011

Always always the same answer...

A unified theory of left-wing causes | Power Line:

Steven Den Beste comments on Steve Hayward's population bomb post:

...Isn't it interesting that no matter what the current global crisis is, according to leftists, the solution is always the same: a benevolent world dictatorship of the enlightened elite, and mass transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations.

That's what they want to do about global warming. It's what they wanted to do about overpopulation. It's what they wanted to do about endangered species....

And they will be proposing the the same solution for global cooling and underpopulation. And for the population explosion of Polar Bears.

I remember when Den Beste was one of the top bloggers in the world. Or at least our corner of it. Health problems caused him to retire, but he still is heard from now and then.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 AM | Comments (1)

October 6, 2011

The self stuffed with the self..

Quote du zhoor...

"The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. No one knows its etymology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff [...] Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself."
    -- Walker PercyWord Note logo

Found at an interesting blog, Bad Catholic

Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM

June 21, 2011

Rote titillation....

The Tired Old Game of Shocking the Middle Class - Light On Dark Water:

The point has been made very often by now, but this is a particularly good and compact instance, from the unsigned "Notes & Comments" column in the May issue of The New Criterion:
Épater la bourgeois: shocking the middle class�has been a cherished goal of the avant garde�since the birth of the movement in the nineteenth century. The fact that the middle class long ago enlisted themselves as co-collaborators in this project of rote titillation transformed the avant garde into a reactionary force in everything but posture and rhetoric. The amazing thing has been the longevity of this new incarnation of Salon art: year after year, decade after decade, "artists" and their eager if jaded public rehearse the tired old pantomime: the party of the first part recycles some bit of Dada while the party of the second pretends to be shocked or at least interested.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:03 AM

April 5, 2011

Too busy to blog, but here's another quote...

Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to dream--to follow your dream or stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters.

      -- Ronald Reagan
Pope John-Paul II
Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 AM

February 10, 2011

The Iron Lady comments on Obama and Egypt...

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
    -- Margaret Thatcher

That's just so true. Every would-be politician should have it tattooed on their elbow, to keep it in mind. Actually it's true about whatever you do. Life will always throw you curve-balls, and you need have general principles that can guide you in the unexpected situation.

On the same subject...

My truth must be firm, and who will love you if you veer and change your loves every day, and what will become of your great schemes? Continuity alone will bring your efforts to ripeness.

Or better yet, Chesterton...

..But there are some people, nevertheless — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them...
    -- from Heretics

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 PM

February 7, 2011

To perish alone, undefended...

I do believe that we are required to wade into those things that matter to our country and our culture, no matter what the disincentives are, and no matter the personal cost. There is not one among us who wants to be set upon, or obligated to do and say difficult things. Yet, there is not one of us who could in good conscience stand by and watch a loved one or a defenseless person-or a vital national principle-perish alone, undefended, when our intervention could make all the difference. This may well be too dramatic an example. But, nevertheless, put most simply; if we think that something is dreadfully wrong, then someone has to do something.

    -- Justice Clarence Thomas, Francis Boyer Lecture, Feb. 13, 2001
Posted by John Weidner at 3:12 PM

February 2, 2011

True about a lot of things...

Twitter / Joshua Treviño:

We've gotten to a point where it's assumed that rhetoric on the American Founding and Constitution is pro-Republican. I'm okay with that.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:17 AM

January 6, 2011

"Conditioned by the fashion of the day."

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 4:05 PM

November 29, 2010

Monday morning quote...

Thomas Sowell :

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

October 16, 2010

"poached eggs only exist as a dream exists..."

The philosophy of St. Thomas stands founded on the universal common conviction that eggs are eggs. The Hegelian may say that an egg is really a hen, because it is a part of an endless process of Becoming; the Berkeleian may hold that poached eggs only exist as a dream exists; since it is quite as easy to call the dream the cause of the eggs as the eggs the cause of the dream; the Pragmatist may believe that we get the best out of scrambled eggs by forgetting that they ever were eggs, and only remembering the scramble. But no pupil of St. Thomas needs to addle his brains in order adequately to addle his eggs; to put his head at any peculiar angle in looking at eggs, or squinting at eggs, or winking the other eye in order to see a new simplification of eggs.

The Thomist stands in the broad daylight of the brotherhood of men, in their common consciousness that eggs are not hens or dreams or mere practical assumptions; but things attested by the Authority of the Senses, which is from God. Thus, even those who appreciate the metaphysical depth of Thomism in other matters have expressed surprise that he does not deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of recognition of any reality is real. The answer is that St. Thomas recognised instantly, what so many modern sceptics have begun to suspect rather laboriously; that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask.

I suppose it is true in a sense that a man can be a fundamental sceptic, but he cannot be anything else: certainly not even a defender of fundamental scepticism. If a man feels that all the movements of his own mind are meaningless, then his mind is meaningless, and he is meaningless; and it does not mean anything to attempt to discover his meaning.

    — GK Chesterton, from St. Thomas Aquinas (1933).

(Thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 PM

September 25, 2010

When men are making commonwealths...

...A man's soul is as full of voices as a forest; there are ten thousand tongues there like all the tongues of the trees: fancies, follies, memories, madnesses, mysterious fears, and more mysterious hopes. All the settlement and sane government of life consists in coming to the conclusion that some of those voices have authority and others not. You may have an impulse to fight your enemy or an impulse to run away from him; a reason to serve your country or a reason to betray it; a good idea for making sweets or a better idea for poisoning them.

The only test I know by which to judge one argument or inspiration from another is ultimately this: that all the noble sentiments of man talk the language of eternity. When man is doing the three or four things that he was sent on this earth to do, then he speaks like one who shall live for ever. A man dying for his country does not talk as if local preferences could change. Leonidas does not say, "In my present mood, I prefer Sparta to Persia." William Tell does not remark, "The Swiss civilization, so far as I can see, is superior to the Austrian." When men are making commonwealths, they talk in terms of the absolute, and so they do when they are making (however unconsciously) those smaller commonwealths which are called families. There are in life certain immortal moments, moments that have authority. Lovers are right to tattoo each other's skins and cut each other's names about the world; they do belong to each other in a more awful sense than they know.
        – GK Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, 2 July 1910.

(Many thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:37 AM

September 18, 2010

"Nothing more solid than social consensus"

Charlene picked this quote out of the Pope's address at Westminster Hall to civil authorities....

If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
This is true quite apart from any religious issues. It is true like gravity is true. Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics is true. This is the same problem I covered, much less eloquently, as the problem of inertial navigation.

It's the same problem that occurs if , say, you try to guide your life according to what makes you happy. How do you define happiness? How do you differentiate between short-term happiness, and long-term happiness (which might require doing things that make you very miserable in the short-term)?

To guide your life by any standard where you define yourself, from inside yourself, is like being the lab rat in an experimental maze, and at the same time, being the one who runs the experiment. It's a trap.

When a society guides itself by "social consensus," that's exactly the same trap.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

August 22, 2010

Random Sunday quote...

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
    --Archbishop Raymond Burke
Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 AM

August 10, 2010

Pascal notes. (For the happy few)

This is in response to some recent comments, mentioning Pascal's famous line: "The heart has its reasons, of which the reason knows nothing."

Peter Kreeft writes...
..."Reason" meant something broader to pre-moderns than it has since Descartes narrowed it to scientific analysis and calculation. (Discourse on Method I, I, I). Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, for example, all meant by "reason" intellectual intuition as well as calculation, and moral intuition as well—that is, intuitive knowledge of moral first principles. Pascal uses "reason" in the new, modern, narrower way, to refer to what medieval Scholastic-Aristotelian logic calls "the third act of the mind" only: discursive reasoning, not the understanding of the meaning of an essence (= "the second act of the mind") or the affirmation of the truth of a proposition (= "the second act of the mind"), but the process by which we discover or prove one truth (the conclusion) form another (the premise).

When Pascal demeans the power of reason in relation to our knowledge of God, he means this narrow, modern "reason," not the broad ancient reason. The difference between Pascal and Aquinas is mainly a verbal rather than a real contradiction...

Emotionalism, the tendency to substitute emotions for reason, is a grievous error, but not one Pascal is guilty of, as far as I can see.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:21 PM

July 13, 2010

We must try harder not to pre-judge...

Charlene found this comment at Bookworm Room...

Charles Martel:
It's a sad state of affairs when we automatically suspect jihad whenever somebody with a Muslim-sounding name runs into a group of pedestrians, or accidentally sprays bullets in a mess hall, or detonates himself at an airport.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 PM

July 2, 2010

Multa novit vulpes, verum echinus unum magnum...

[This is something I posted back in 2003. You could plug it into 2010 without much difficulty. The title is Erasmus's latin for "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." ]

What thou lov'st well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee ...
    — Ezra Pound

Orrin Judd recently wrote...

..It is often thought that ideology makes people inflexible, unable to face new situations they've not thought about before. In fact, given how seldom a situation truly is new, a well thought through set of ideas will serve in any circumstance that arises and so may give such folk--Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush are the paramount recent examples--a suppleness that those whose minds function in a more ad hoc way will lack. The latter--men like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton--may be paralyzed into inaction, because they have to analyze things afresh and then worry over whether they've come up with the right decision. It is the difference that Isaiah Berlin wrote about in his famous essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox.

Conservatives tend to be people who find the past appealing, thrilling, alive. You might think that would make them uncomfortable dealing with the future, but just the opposite is true. The things you love you will absorb, they will soak in, they will become part of you without the need for laborious study. And if you absorb, for example, things like the story of Gideon, you may be more ready for life's crises than the theorist who has read a hundred books...And if you absorb histories of Sam Houston or Lord Fairfax or Abigail Adams or Epaminondas, you will not be alone when the crisis comes...

I suspect our country has flourished partly because, at times of testing, hedgehogs often appear. (And if you find the accusations of stupidity heaped on Bush by the foxes to be a bit much, go back and read what they said about Lincoln. Or Jackson, or Truman...)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM

June 27, 2010

Hard choices...

From The Church and the Culture War: Secular Anarchy or Sacred Order, by Joyce A. Little...
...To act as though inclusivity were an end in itself is to deny the fact that, until we are able to make some judgement about the nature of reality itself, we have no basis at all for knowing what ought to be welcomed and what ought to be rejected. We do not after all welcome cancer cells or the AIDS virus on the grounds that to reject them would be an insensitive and uncaring act of intolerance. Before we are in a position to make judgements as to what to include and what to exclude, we must first answer some very hard "either/or" questions. Either there is an objective reality, or there is not. Either there is an intrinsic order to this universe, or there is not. Either there is absolute good, or there is not.

[Walker] Percy stated quite flatly, with regard to his novels, that they are "an attack on the 20th century, on the whole culture. It is a rotten century, we are in terrible trouble." Few would want to have to defend this century. But if there is any silver lining to be found in its closing years, it is the realization that an either/or choice has become virtually unavoidable. With every day that passes, it becomes more and more apparent that one cannot have both the Christian faith and secular liberation.

As Chesterton, himself a convert to the Catholic faith, wrote more than seven decades ago: "The present writer . . . is personally quite convinced that if every human being lived a thousand years, every human being would end up either in utter pessimistic skepticism or in the Catholic creed." Were he still alive, I think he would grant that today the choice between the two is so much clearer that an ordinary lifetime would more than suffice to arrive at that conclusion. Walker Percy, in a self-interview for Esquire, explained that he had become a Catholic because , as he put it, "what else is there?" He then posed to himself the question, "What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behaviorism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy." His answer: "That's what I mean."


Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 AM

June 8, 2010

If I throw rotten tomatoes at you...

...during your speech, it is a compliment. It says you are impactful.

If free speech is to have any value, then what you say must have consequences. Just as Ms Thomas is free to speak her mind we are all free to withdraw our business from her based on that speech. To argue that what you say can have no effect on how others interact with you is to say that speech has no value.
    — Orrin Judd
Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 PM

May 30, 2010

Specialization is for insects...

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

March 21, 2010

"The glory of God

"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God?"
    --St Irenaeus

Sometimes you see a part of this quote taken out of context: "The glory of God is man fully alive." With the definition of "alive" just assumed from the secular or fake-Christian context to be whatever of ones little personal fantasies one might insert into the blank. Nuh uh. Read the whole thing.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:05 AM

March 12, 2010

"The analogy is clever, but wholly inaccurate"

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2009

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

      PRAYER FOR HOME AND FAMILY - Robert Louis Stevenson

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

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

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

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

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

autumn leaves at the Weidners

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

November 24, 2009

It costs be generous or liberal when what you give is not your own

...And it must be confessed, on the other hand, that there is a common-place state of mind which does show itself calm, composed, and candid, yet is very far from the true Christian temper. In this day especially it is very easy for men to be benevolent, liberal, and dispassionate.

It costs nothing to be dispassionate when you feel nothing, to be cheerful when you have nothing to fear, to be generous or liberal when what you give is not your own, and to be benevolent and considerate when you have no principles and no opinions. Men nowadays are moderate and equitable, not because the Lord is at hand, but because they do not feel that He is coming. Quietness is a grace, not in itself, only when it is grafted on the stem of faith, zeal, self-abasement, and diligence...[Link].

    -- John Henry Newman

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

November 21, 2009

"The attempt to live in the 'now' is utterly futile"

This is from a religious piece, but applies to secular life just as well...

SUB TUUM: Fr. Hawks Answers the Archbishop of Canterbury's Vision of Ecumenism ... in 1935:

...Since the days when Dr. Percival drew his disciples together, the world has changed. We have all become besmirched with a detestable vulgarity which is not, as it professes to be, a broadening of the mind and a widening of our sympathies. It is rather a passion for what is obtained without effort, and for what is cast quickly aside as one superficial interest succeeds another.

Humanity is an intensely vulgar thing when deprived of its spiritual ideals. Every kind of human excellence is inseparable from the sense of permanence. It must have its roots deep in the past and send its branches far out into the future. The attempt to live in the "now" is utterly futile, for what is the "now" but a fleeting moment whose only worth lies in its fruit of past labor and in its seeding for futurity. One cannot live, for the moment as a human being: such a course is only fitted to the brutes. The moment is momentous truly, but only as it weaves the fabric of abiding history, and unending destiny....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 PM

November 15, 2009

The few, not the many..

It is plain every great change is effected by the few, not by the many; by the resolute, undaunted, zealous few.

-- John Henry Newman, from the sermon Witnesses of the Resurrection (1831)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

October 10, 2009


GK Chesterton, "A Mother, a Protectress, a Goddess." Borrowed from The Hebdomadal Chesterton:

I opened a paper only ten minutes ago in which it was solemnly said, in the fine old style of such arguments, that there was a time when men regarded women as chattels. This is outside the serious possibilities of the human race. Men never could have regarded women as chattels. If a man tried to regard a woman as a chattel his life would not be worth living for twenty-four hours. You might as well say that there was a bad custom of using live tigers as arm-chairs; or that men had outgrown the habit of wearing dangerous snakes instead of watch-chains.

It may or may not be the fact that men have sometimes found it necessary to define the non-political position of women by some legal form which called them chattels; just as they have thought it necessary in England to define the necessary authority of the State by the legal form of saying that the King could do no wrong. Whether this is so or not I do not know, and I do not care. But that any living man ever felt like that, that any living man ever felt as if a woman was a piece of furniture, with which he could do what he liked, is starkly incredible. And the whole tradition and the whole literature of mankind is solid against it. There is any amount of literature from the earliest time in praise of woman: calling her a mother, a protectress, a goddess. There is any amount of literature from the earliest time devoted to the abuse of woman, calling her a serpent, a snare, a devil, a consuming fire.

But there is no ancient literature whatever, from the Ionians to the Ashantees, which denies her vitality and her power. The woman is always either the cause of a wicked war, like Helen, or she is the end of a great journey, like Penelope. In all the enormous love poetry of the world, it is practically impossible to find more than two or three poems written by a man to a woman which adopt that tone of de haut en bas, that tone as towards a pet animal, which we are now constantly assured has been the historic tone of men towards women. The poems are all on the other note; it is always "Why is the queen so cruel?" "Why is the goddess so cold?"...     — The Illustrated London News, 6 April 1907.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:17 PM

September 19, 2009


Carl E. Olson has a funny piece, an "interview" with GK Chesterton on the subject of Dan Brown's fiction. GKC's answers are actual quotes from his writings. I liked this bit especially, having been tormented too often by slippery Lefty types who won't declare themselves in a frank and manly way...

G. K. Chesterton on Dan Brown: The Interview:

Chesterton: There has arisen in our time an extraordinary notion that there is something humane, open-hearted or generous about refusing to define one's creed. Obviously the very opposite is the truth. Refusing to define a creed is not only not generous, it is distinctly mean. It fails in frankness and fraternity towards the enemy. It is fighting without a flag or a declaration of war. It denies to the enemy the decent concessions of battle; the right to know the policy and to treat with the headquarters. Modern "broad-mindedness" has a quality that can only be called sneakish; it endeavours to win without giving itself away, even after it has won. It desires to be victorious without betraying even the name of the victor. For all sane men have intellectual doctrines and fighting theories; and if they will not put them on the table, it can only be because they wish to have the advantage of a fighting theory which cannot be fought...

(Quote from "Rabelasian Regrets," in The Common Man.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 PM

September 12, 2009

Solvitur ambulando...

Wilfrid Ward, in Witnesses to the Unseen, 1894...

...and while the intellect, when moving in mere speculation, and as a spectator of the riddle of life, tends to lose itself, to become morbid and paralyzed, and reach no conclusion, we are reminded with equal power of the light shed by a living practical faith, which brings us into the action of life, and gives knowledge and experience which cannot be translated into language intelligible to purely passive speculation, any more than the glow of the hunting field or the wild excitement of the field of battle can be known by those who have always lived an inactive life.

To this extent faith is its own evidence, and establishes itself by a solvitur ambulando. The doubt is seen by him who has shaken it off to have been in great part the result of hesitation and inaction, due to the absence of perceptions which action alone can supply; and faith justifies itself to the mind which is aroused from undue passivity.

Faith sees further and more truly, just as the confident rider sees clearly, and acts promptly, and clears the fence successfully, while the man who hesitates fails to see with precision, and fails in gaining the additional experience and perception which prompt action on that first rapid vision would have brought. The whole being moves together, and sight, action, experience, and knowledge are inseparably linked. Hopefulness, promptness, decision, affect mental perception as well as moral action...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 PM

August 29, 2009

9/11 was a "tragedy"

...and Chappaquiddick was an "accident."

...An interesting essay might be written on the possession of an atheistic literary style. There is such a thing. The mark of it is that wherever anything is named or described, such words are chosen as suggest that a thing has not got a soul in it. Thus they will not talk of love or passion, which imply a purpose or desire. They talk of the "relations" of the sexes, as if they were simply related to each other in a certain way, like a chair and a table. Thus they will not talk of the waging of war (which implies a will), but of the outbreak of war — as if it were a sort of boil.

Thus they will not talk of masters paying more or less wages, which faintly suggests some moral responsibility in the masters: they will talk of the rise and fall of wages, as if the thing were automatic, like the tides of the sea. Thus they will not call progress an attempt to improve, but a tendency to improve. And thus, above all, they will not call the sympathy between oppressed nations sympathy; they will call it solidarity. For that suggests brick and coke, and clay and mud, and all the things they are fond of...

      — GK Chesterton, in the The Illustrated London News, 7 December 1912.

(Thanks to The Hebdomadal Chesterton)

"An atheistic literary style." Boy, does that ever describe a lot of what we read and hear today! We should try to puncture such balloons whenever possible. Sarah's term "Death Panels" was a perfect puncturing, especially because of the way in large medical bureaucracies things just happen, with no clear responsibility. "Resources are allocated." "Costs are contained."

Of course there's always a certain double standard. "Bombs explode" in Jerusalem, as if they were as impersonal as volcanos. "Rockets fall" on Ashkelon. BUT, "Israeli troops open fire on Palestinians." That's never soul-less.

Same with America. If Americans do something that can be construed as bad, then suddenly the language gets intensely alive and pejorative. I remember a particularly muddle-headed person being filled with passionate indignation because some Americans in Iraq were apparently referring to Iraqis using "Hajis" as a nickname. Crocodile tears poured forth. Our nation had forfeited all honor and moral credibility, wahr wahr wahr! However, if al-Qaeda blows up a pet market in Baghdad, shredding children and little animals....that just... happens. Impersonally. "A bomb exploded." "Violence erupted."

Posted by John Weidner at 11:29 AM

August 23, 2009

Apt for the moment...

Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.

This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we 'ought to have known better,' is to be treated as a human person made in God's image.
    --C.S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 7:45 PM

August 22, 2009

If your neighbors started shooting at you...

...It is as old as Robinson Crusoe; as old as man. Our race has not been strained for all these ages through that sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to sit down with patience in the tedium of safety; the voices of its fathers call it forth. Already in our society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cottoned about for any zest in living; he sits in his parlour out of reach of any danger, often out of reach of any vicissitude but one of health; and there he yawns.

If the people in the next villa took pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but, so long as he escaped, he would find his blood oxygenated and his views of the world brighter. If Mr Mallock, on his way to the publishers, should have his skirts pinned to the wall by a javelin, it would not occur to him - at least for several hours - to ask if life were worth living; and if such peril were a daily matter, he would ask it never more; he would have other things to think about, he would be living indeed ...

--Robert Louis Stevenson, from the essay The Day After Tomorrow

Posted by John Weidner at 6:46 PM

August 21, 2009

Semper Eadem

David Warren:

..."Semper fidelis" is an affirmation, a very personal commitment, and a constant reminder -- that we must never stoop to moral relativism, that we will never surrender that which makes us human in the highest sense, to that which would reduce us to the condition of grovelling animals.

But, "semper eadem" [always the same] belongs more suitably on the crest of a state, for in the world of government and law the aspiration should be to avoid any kind of surprise, fear or favour. As the guardian of our freedom, the state must remain "always the same;" and likewise, as the dispenser of public justice, it must strive to provide, quite blindly, "the same for everybody."

The state must therefore be minimal, too: its functionaries stripped whenever possible of their audacious hopes, and ability to change things. For the state should be the means of last resort and not, as it has become, a voracious beast, with an ever-increasing appetite to control the souls of men, by appropriating their possessions.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:45 AM

August 20, 2009

"All the mills of the world labour swiftly because..."

For there is nothing that is really cut off from man or really independent of him in the whole human world. All tools are, as it were, his extra limbs. The chair he sits on is only a system of wooden legs. When he lies on a bed he does not turn himself into a quadruped which (like the elephant) sleeps standing up. If any of these limbs or props of man were to fail him it would be a failure of man. When he invents the most fantastic monstrosities of mechanism, he is only turning himself, as it were, into a monstrosity, into a Briareus, or a centipede. The wooden railway signals are only the wild arms of man waving warnings to his children. The lamps of gas or electricity are only the innumerable eyes of man peering into every dark place and every corner of crime. His passionate pulse is throbbing in the pulse of every passionless machine; his nerves are tingling in the last faint filaments of thread or wire. All the mills of the world labour swiftly because the swiftest thing of all is the ancient desire of the heart. If ever man is to die, these things will die long before him. So long as man lives and has human faith and hope, these things will in innumerable forms continually go forth from him.

      -- GK Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, 4 August 1906

(Thanks to The Hebdomadol Chesterton)

Posted by John Weidner at 3:27 PM

August 8, 2009

Remove old sticker from Prius...

Rand Simberg:

What A Difference An Administration Makes

Under the Bushitler, dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Under The One, it's the highest form of racism.

If somebody had time--I'm afraid I don't--they could have some graphics fun with a before and after picture of a Volvo or Prius with old and new bumperstickers. Maybe a rusty Volvo wagon, symbolic of the ongoing death of Euro-Socialism...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 AM

July 31, 2009

Satisfied with ourselves...

Men are satisfied with themselves, not when they attempt, but when they neglect the details of duty. Disobedience blinds the conscience; obedience makes it keen-sighted and sensitive...
    -- Newman (Link)
Posted by John Weidner at 4:19 PM

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 9, 2009

The little tick-boxes give structure to life...

Orrin Judd:

...Sure, it's a failed presidency, but on the bright side we got a do-nothing president and crossed "elect a person of color" off our to-do list.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 PM

June 20, 2009

Quote for today...

Commentary—Blog Archive—Obama's New Historic First: Indifference to Revolution:

Abe Greenwald: ...Pundits speak as if only hawkishness can become dogmatic, but the U.S. is dealing itself out of an anti-Khomeinist revolution because of the administration's fanatical "realism."...

Revolutions are for Americans and other freedom-loving types. What possible interest could a reactionary Alinsky-ite like Obama have in one?

Posted by John Weidner at 1:07 PM

May 24, 2009

Memorial Day...

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

Posted by John Weidner at 6:46 PM

May 17, 2009

"When you dream of happiness"

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choice that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society.

      -- Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day 2000 Prayer Vigil

Well, we see this all around us, but we don't want to notice.

(Thanks to Sherry W)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 AM

May 3, 2009

"Infusions of legitimacy"

... Americans who are apt to argue that U.S. foreign policy needs constant infusions of legitimacy from the approbation of European governments are also apt to deplore, in the domestic culture wars, Eurocentrism in academic curricula. Such Americans resist the cultural products of Europe's centuries of vitality, but defer to the politics of Europe in its decadence.

Why? Perhaps because yesterday's European culture helped make America what it is, and today's European politics expresses resentment and distrust of what America is. Both sensibilities arise from the distaste of some Americans for America...

    -- George Will
Posted by John Weidner at 2:16 PM

May 2, 2009

Research is in progress...

From the delightful Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis. The letters are written by an experienced devil, Screwtape, to a younger one, Wormwood, whom he instructs in the art of temptation and the destruction of human souls. Screwtape has referred to a description of heaven as 'the regions where there is only life and therefore all that is not music is silence'...

My dear Wormwood . . .

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could guess—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.

    -- C. S. Lewis

Posted by John Weidner at 7:17 PM

April 20, 2009

A Quote for you...

Charlene liked this quote, from a great piece by Kathy Shaidle:

...The Left is very concerned about something they like to call "social justice", which I define as the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 AM

April 18, 2009

Somehow I don't think I'm "diverse."

Peter Kirsanow:

Celebrate Diversity ...
except veterans, small-business owners, practicing Catholics, gun owners, talk-radio listeners, tea-party attendees, Texans, smokers, limited-government proponents, pro-lifers, taxpayers, NASCAR fans, Boy Scouts, oil-company employees, secure-border advocates, capitalists, global-warming agnostics, Cuban refugees, school-choicers....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

April 5, 2009

The proper frame of mind for troubled times...

Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver men from the necessity and preserve them in peace. For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace be obtained. Therefore, even in waging war, cherish the spirit of the peacemaker, that, by conquering those whom you attack, you may lead them back to the advantages of peace; for as our Lord says: 'Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.'
      — Saint Augustine
Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 PM

March 29, 2009


Liberalism is like this: Purporting to offer middle ground between radical individualism and collectivism, what it really gives us is a diabolical synthesis of the two, a bureaucratically managed libertinism. Conservatism, which sees the family rather than the individual or society as a whole as the fundamental social unit, is the real "third way."
      -- Edward Feser
Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM

March 8, 2009

"Like the tides of an invisible sea"

The Anchoress quoted this...

From Flannery O'Connor's letter to Alfred Corn on May 30, 1962:

Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It's there, even when he can't see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian sceptism. It will keep you free -- not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your intellect or the intellects of those around you...

Faith, by the way, is transparent. You can't see it, or touch it, but you know that it is there because you see other things more clearly--faith is sort of like the glass in a diving mask. You don't see the glass itself, but you see the underwater world much more clearly, so you know it is there.

Actually, the statement that "faith lets you see things more clearly" is true of pretty much everything. You can not, for instance, be a good scientist or engineer if you do not have faith in those disciplines. (I suppose it would be possible to do science merely as an intellectual game that you do not believe in, but it never happens.) The engineer has at some point in his life had a "conversion experience," which turns many small pieces of knowledge gained in life into a meaningful whole. (Or it could be, Catholic-wise, a series of small conversions throughout life.)

I love history, and I well remember my "conversion experience" the first time an entire period of history snapped into focus as a coherent whole, rather than a collection of interesting facts. It was dazzling. (The book was The Fatal Inheritance; Philip II and the Spanish Netherlands, by Edward Grierson.) Once that happened, then I could presume that any period of history would be found to be a comprehensible whole, if I cared to delve into it. Politics, art, clothing, military tactics, religion....all would be inter-related and meaningful. I could "see" the idea, because I had faith.


Posted by John Weidner at 2:11 PM

February 5, 2009

False devils....

Chesterton portrait by Zach Brissett
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.

-- G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News 9/11/09

(Sketch by Zach Brissett)
Posted by John Weidner at 12:23 PM

January 30, 2009

Today's quote...

Tim Blair:

Nothing good ever begins with the word "social."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:03 PM

January 28, 2009

I'm proud to say I've never read Updike...

John Updike's Dead: Do We Still Have To Pretend To Like His Books?:

...Updike was a novelist, not an economist. But the politics with which he infected his craft made him a star.

The media loved Updike because Updike was unsparingly critical of the United States. He castigated it for its greed, its stupidity, its xenophobia. He saw Americans as a group of know-nothing conservatives consumed with money-lust and more typical lust. He saw everyday Americans as hypocrites who thumped both Bibles and the minister's wife.

Updike has been hailed as one of the great American writers. When it comes to American writers, no one surpasses Mark Twain. In his famously brilliant essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," Twain took James Fenimore Cooper, author of "The Last of the Mohicans," to the woodshed. His words fairly describe Updike:
"A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language. Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

Long before I was even starting to think clearly about such things, I've had an aversion to all those literary globbits that we are required to like. Supposed to like. You know, supposed to like them because our betters who live in New York tell us to. Fatuous people who write for the New York/er/Times/Review of Books.

"He saw Americans as a group of know-nothing conservatives consumed with money-lust and more typical lust. He saw everyday Americans as hypocrites who thumped both Bibles and the minister's wife." And how did he find that out? From other liberals in Manhattan!

I know how this shit works--I live in San Francisco. Everybody can imitate the accent and asininity of a red-neck southern fundamentalist. How? From the movies, or learned from liberal culture. No liberal I've ever heard of would try to actually get to know small-town or conservative Americans. They already know what to think.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:09 PM

January 24, 2009

All or nothing...

Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: "This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved" (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim "Christian is my name and Catholic my surname," only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.
-- Pope Benedict XV

Pope Benedict the Fifteenth

Well really, who would want a faith that says, "You can take all this stuff cum grano?" Or that you should decide on your own what is true? What's the point?

Posted by John Weidner at 5:13 PM

January 23, 2009

I saved this quote more than 3 years ago...

And, surprise, still fits...

Ramesh Ponnuru:

Patrick Hynes obviously doesn't understand the basic rules of political journalism. How many times do we have to explain it? Every election that goes badly for the Republicans is the fault of social conservatives. Every such election is the death knell of the social Right. The 1992 election marked the end of the Christian conservative moment in American politics. The 1998 election, too. And now the 2005 election. Once Hynes has gotten this down, we can work on the corollary: When Republicans win elections, the big story is the danger that social-conservative excess poses to them.

It's been pretty grim-yet-funny seeing the nattering nabobs of elite conservatism and "centrism" opining that we have to rebuild the Republican party by jettisoning all that old conservative stuff about morality and God that's keeping us from hanging with the cool kids... So embarrassing and old-fashioned.

They keep hoping, but the tiresome stuff just won't go away...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 PM

December 1, 2008

Truer than ever...

"We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."
      -- George Orwell
Posted by John Weidner at 10:02 PM

November 29, 2008

"Ordained in the eternal constitution of things..."

...Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity - in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.

Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters...

      -- Edmund Burke, A Letter From Mr. Burke To A Member Of The National Assembly, 1791
Posted by John Weidner at 12:07 PM

November 27, 2008

For many seasons, many years...



0 Lord, my Lord,
for my being, life, reason,
for nurture, protection, guidance,
for education, civil rights, religion,
for Thy gifts of grace, nature, fortune,
for redemption, regeneration, instruction,
for my call, recall, yea, many calls besides;
for Thy forbearance, longsuffering,
long longsuffering
toward me,
many seasons, many years;
for all good things received, successes granted me,
good things done;
for the use of things present,
for Thy promise, and my hope
of the enjoyment of good things to come ;
for my parents honest and good,
teachers kind,
benefactors never to be forgotten,
fellow-ministers who are of one mind,
hearers thoughtful,
friends sincere,
domestics faithful;
for all who have advantaged me
by writings, sermons, converse,
prayers, examples, rebukes, injuries;
for all these, and all others
which I know, which I know not,
open, hidden,
remembered, forgotten,
done when I wished, when I wished not,
I confess to Thee and will confess,
I biess Thee and will bless,
I give thanks to Thee, and will give thanks,
all the days of my life.
Who am I, or what is my father's house,
that Thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog
as I am?
What shall I render unto the Lord
for all His benefits toward me?
for all things in which He hath spared
and borne with me until now?
Holy, holy, holy,
Thou art worthy,
O Lord and our God, the Holy One,
to receive glory, honour, and power:
for Thou hast created all things,
and for Thy pleasure they are
and were created.

From The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, ca. 1600.
(Andrewes was one of the men who
created the King James translation of the Bible.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:11 AM

November 26, 2008

For a small Christmas gift....

...Charlene recommends the Chef'n Palm Peeler:

It's a gadget that fits in the palm of your hand, with a finger through the loop. Then you peel fruits and veggies by just rubbing your hand over them!

Me, I'll keep using the old spud peeler. The old ways are best. I'd say this oddly-colored item is in what O'Brian would call a "reckless, Jacobin, democratical line..."

As Tom Pullings put it...

..."Then on her quarter, with the patched inner jib, that's the Hope: or maybe she's the Ocean -- they're much of a muchness, out of the same yard and off of the same draught. But any gait, all of 'em you see in this weather line, is what we call twelve-hundred-tonners; though to be sure some gauges thirteen and even fifteen hundred ton, Thames measurement. Wexford, there, with her brass fo'c'sle eight-pounder winking in the sun, she does: but we call her a twelve hundred ton ship."

"Sir, might it not be simpler to call her a fifteen hundred ton ship?"

"Simpler, maybe: but it would never do. You don't want to be upsetting the old ways. Oh dear me, no. God's my life, if the Captain was to hear you carrying on in that reckless Jacobin, democratical line, why, I dare say he would turn you adrift on a three-inch plank, with both your ears nailed down to it, to learn you bashfulness. The way he served three young gentlemen in the Med. No, no: you don't want to go arsing around with the old ways: the French did so, and look at the scrape it got them into....
    -- Patrick O'Brian, HMS Surprise

Posted by John Weidner at 3:09 PM

November 9, 2008


"A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death -- the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged."

    -- Czeslaw Milosz (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh)

(I saved this from a long-ago post by long-ago blogger Arthur Chrenkoff)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:56 AM

November 6, 2008

This makes me think about "debating" with liberals...

(An anonymous commenter posted this here long ago.)
Plato knew about nailing jello
(from Theaetetus):

...For, in accordance with their text-books, they are always in motion; but as for dwelling upon an argument or a question, and quietly asking and answering in turn, they can no more do so than they can fly; or rather, the determination of these fellows not to have a particle of rest in them is more than the utmost powers of negation can express. If you ask any of them a question, he will produce, as from a quiver, sayings brief and dark, and shoot them at you; and if you inquire the reason of what he has said, you will be hit by some other new-fangled word, and will make no way with any of them, nor they with one another; their great care is, not to allow of any settled principle either in their arguments or in their minds, conceiving, as I imagine, that any such principle would be stationary; for they are at war with the stationary, and do what they can to drive it out everywhere...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:15 PM

October 19, 2008

"The Church is on the firing line..."

...This new age will have the merit of discarding that hypocrisy by which the modern world evoked the forms, without the substance, of Christianity. In so doing, the post-Christian man will have to come to terms with the fact that to live without Christ is a hard choice with serious, even brutal, consequences.

The believer too will be faced with the increasingly inescapable realization the faith itself is a hard choice. On the one hand, this brave, new, post-Christian world will have little place in it for him. On the other hand, he will discover in all their fullness the demands his faith makes upon him, when he has to live it without the external affirmations afforded him within a Christian culture. He may indeed discover for the first time, as Guardini suggests, what it really means to be a Christian....

.....At the same time, it may well be that "the massive failure of Christendom itself", as Percy puts it, is already creating the only conditions, in the West at least, within which a genuine renewal of faith can take place. During a conversation I had with Walker Percy a few months before his death, he commented that, in his judgement, the Church is in a better position today than she has been in centuries. He thought the identification of culture and faith was disastrous for the Church in many ways.

He cited Kierkegaard's observation that it is almost impossible to become a Christian in Christendom. That is, people within a Christian culture are inclined to believe they automatically become Christians simply by virtue of having been born into that culture. Today people can see that no such identification exists and that a choice must therefore be made. He believed a new consciousness is emerging; and thus, the realization that the Church and the culture are at odds is a key, perhaps even the key, element of this new consciousness. As a result, the Church is on the firing line and that, as Percy saw it, is exactly where she properly belongs....
    -- From The Church and the Culture War, by Joyce A. Little, 1995
Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 AM

September 11, 2008

" We have been privileged to live amongst those who have volunteered"

The president this morning at the Pentagon for the dedication of 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

...For future generations, this memorial will be a place of learning. The day will come when most Americans have no living memory of the events of September the 11th. When they visit this memorial, they will learn that the 21st century began with a great struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror. They will learn that this generation of Americans met its duty � we did not tire, we did not falter, and we did not fail. They will learn that freedom prevailed because the desire for liberty lives in the heart of every man, woman, and child on Earth.

We can be optimistic about the future because we've seen the character and courage of those who defend liberty. We have been privileged to live amongst those who have volunteered to spread the foundation of peace and justice, which is freedom....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:41 AM

"The apparent security of the 1990s was an illusion"

During the decade of the 1990s, our times often seemed peaceful on the surface.Yet beneath the surface were currents of danger. Terrorists were training and planning in distant camps. . . . America's response to terrorism was generally piecemeal and symbolic. The terrorists concluded this was a sign of weakness, and their plans became more ambitious, and their attacks more deadly. Most Americans still felt that terrorism was something distant, and something that would not strike on a large scale in America. That is the time my opponent wants to go back to. A time when danger was real and growing, but we didn't know it. . . . September 11, 2001 changed all that. We realized that the apparent security of the 1990s was an illusion. . . . Will we make decisions in the light of September 11, or continue to live in the mirage of safety that was actually a time of gathering threats?
    -- President George W. Bush, October 18, 2004

(Quote borrowed from a very good editorial by Bill Kristol)

President Bush with soldiers

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

September 10, 2008

I think I post this quote at every election...

And it always fits...

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
    -- Margaret Thatcher

Actually it's true of life in general. People flounder. Whole continents flounder. We can see this.

Life is a road. You can go one way or the other. You have to think clearly about which way you want to go, or you will certainly drift along the easy downhill direction...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

July 27, 2008

A couple of quotes I liked...

Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.
    -- Evelyn Waugh

...But if a convert is to write of conversion he must try to retrace his steps out of that shrine back into that ultimate wilderness where he once really believed that this eternal youth [the Catholic Church] was only the “Old Religion.” It is a thing exceedingly difficult to do and not often done well, and I for one have little hope of doing it even tolerably well.

The difficulty was expressed to me by another convert who said, “I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else.”...

    -- GK Chesterton

Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 AM

July 19, 2008


Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root...
      -- G.K Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 AM

July 15, 2008

"The power of hope and the limits of fear"

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to this Tony Snow quote in the WSJ...

Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

July 10, 2008

"A patently permanently imperfect world"

I have nothing much to say on current topics, so I'll just pull this quote, by Joseph Epstein, out of the "stack of stuff..."

....The first time I encountered valet parking at a private residence was a number of years ago at the home of a multimillionaire in Los Angeles. His house, in Brentwood, was lavish and elegantly furnished. The paintings upon his walls, the sculptures in his garden, I was told by an art critic who was with me that evening, could not have been worth less than $15 million.

The man who lived in all this splendor turned out to be tall, with a discouraged slouch and a grim, almost stricken, look on his face. His politics, I believe, put the bend in his back, the permanent grimace on his face. Although the sumptuous trappings of his quotidian life gave no clue to this, he was, lifelong, a man of the Left. As such he had certain expectations of the world; and the world--shocking to report--let him down daily. He was entitled to, if perhaps not going so far as to say he deserved, his sour look, his grumpy disposition, the invisible but for him quite real black flags that hung over and doubtless spoiled each of his Degas, Henry Moores, Motherwells, Frankenthalers.

But a conservative brings no such expectations to his life. He takes the world as given, a place always full of sin, silliness, and a rich surplus of stupidity--but also much goodness and mirth. The conservative fancies he views the world, as the philosophers say, as in itself it really is. Utopia is not his idea of a good time; it is not, for him, an idea at all but an illusion. If he is sensible, he understands the need to alter social arrangements that are cruel or grossly unfair. But the installation of perfection in a
patently permanently imperfect world is not something he has signed on to deliver. This in itself ought to bring a smile to his face.

The barbarians may well be at the gates, but then they always have been. Besides, the gates are a damn good place for barbarians to be. "And now," writes the poet Cavafy, "what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution." Without barbarians, after all, conservatives themselves, in the realm of ideas, would be out of existence. So let us attack our barbarians with wit, mock them with laughter, greet their pretensions to superior virtue with a knowing smile. The duty of a conservative, try to remember, is to be cheerful....

Good advice. Cease never to laugh at them....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 AM

June 28, 2008

Reform implies form...

...We need not debate about the mere words evolution or progress: personally I prefer to call it reform. For reform implies form. It implies that we are trying to shape the world in a particular image; to make it something that we see already in our minds. Evolution is a metaphor from mere automatic unrolling. Progress is a metaphor from merely walking along a road--very likely the wrong road. But reform is a metaphor for reasonable and determined men: it means that we see a certain thing out of shape and we mean to put it into shape. And we know what shape...
      -- GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy


Posted by John Weidner at 3:27 PM

June 9, 2008

"Tyranny is the opposite of authority"

Tyranny is the opposite of authority. For authority simply means right; and nothing is authoritative except when somebody has a right to do, and there is right in doing. . . . Moreover, a man can only have authority by admitting something better than himself; and the bully does not get his claim from anybody but himself.

It is not a question, therefore, of there being authority, and then tyranny, which is too much authority; for tyranny is no authority. Tyranny means too little authority; for though, of course, an individual may use wrongly the power that may go with it, he is in that act disloyal to the law of right, which should be his own authority.
      --GK Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 12:07 PM

June 1, 2008

"A thought followed by a resolve, a resolve followed by an act"

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...

I put another piece on virtue below the fold...

By Will Duquette...

....St. Paul tells us, “Test everything; hold fast to what is good.” Intellectually, and practically, Catholicism seemed to do this. As an example, consider virtue. Or, rather, a virtue. Bravery, say. What is it? According to the Catholic tradition, which goes back to antiquity (to Aristotle, as a matter of fact), a virtue is, simply enough, a good habit. If you have the virtue of bravery, that means that you are in the habit of standing firm in times of danger, even though you are afraid. If you have the virtue of honesty, that means that you are in the habit of telling the truth, even though it might benefit you to lie.

This is important. This description of virtue not only tells me what virtue is; it tells me how to get it. How can I become brave? By getting in the habit of behaving bravely. And how can I do that? By choosing to stand firm when the going gets tough. I can start with small things, indeed I’ll have to start with small things. Major battles don’t come every day. But if I can get in the habit of standing firm, then when the crisis comes and there is no time to think, I can trust that my established habits will take over and I will do the right thing. The same applies to honesty, chastity, or any other virtue.

Now, this is basic moral philosophy. But despite my having been a Christian my entire life, and having been actively involved in a church for all of my adult life, I’d never heard virtue described in that way–to the extent it was talked about at all.

But the Roman Catholic writers I was reading all seemed to take it as a matter of course. They referred to it, and they all seemed to be on the same page. And when I thought about it, so was C.S. Lewis. In his writings, though, he tends to avoid using the standard well-known terms so as to present the material freshly, as he does in The Abolition of Man where he spends an entire book writing about the Natural Law and never once uses the term. For this is basic moral philosophy, and it used to be that everyone knew it. And yet I hadn’t, despite having every opportunity. But the Catholic bloggers and writers did.

This is a humble example, but it illustrates my point. The Catholic tradition tests everything and holds on to what is good. I don’t mean to imply, by the way, that every Roman Catholic knows these things, or that the definition of virtue is preached in every parish. But this wealth of knowledge is readily available if you look for it, and it’s all of a piece. It hangs together....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:38 AM

April 13, 2008

"Not one moment's wavering of trust"

My hero, John Henry Newman, rarely answered the many attacks made on him in his lifetime. But when he did, it was "shock and awe!" (One of the greatest books of both English literature and religious biography, is his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which was written in response to a scurrilous attack on his conversion to Roman Catholicism—his first response after about twenty years of harsh criticism.)

This letter was written to The Globe, in response to the printing of a rumor that he was planning to return to the Anglican church...

I have not had one moment's wavering of trust in the Catholic Church ever since I was received into her fold. I hold, and ever have held, that her Sovereign Pontiff is the centre of unity and the Vicar of Christ; and I have ever had, and have still, an unclouded faith in her creed in all its articles; a supreme satisfaction in her worship, discipline and teaching; and an eager longing, and a hope against hope, that the many dear friends whom I have left in Protestantism may be partakers in my happiness.

This being my state of mind, to add, as I hereby go on to do, that I have no intention, and never had any intention, of leaving the Catholic Church, and becoming a Protestant again, would be superfluous, except that Protestants are always on the look-out for some loophole or evasion in a Catholic's statement of fact. Therefore, in order to give them full satisfaction, if I can, I do hereby profess ex animo, with an absolute internal assent and consent, that Protestantism is the dreariest of possible religions; that the thought of the Anglican service makes me shiver, and the thought of the Thirty-nine Articles makes me shudder. Return to the Church of England! No; 'the net is broken and we are delivered'. I should be a consummate fool (to use a mild term) if in my old age I left "the land flowing with milk and honey" for the city of confusion and the house of bondage.

    I am, Sir,
        Your obedient servant,
            John H. Newman

I'll second all that. "The city of confusion and the house of bondage." Geez, that sounds like San Francisco...

I found the letter quoted in Louis Bouyer's Newman an Intellectual and Spiritual Biography, which i give my highest recommendation

Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 AM

April 10, 2008

Just have the decency to shut up...

Orrin Judd, commenting on an article about how "realists" are trying to get the ear of John McCain...

...Given that the Iraq war is a function of their failure to remove Saddam in '91, the pragmatists ought to have the decency to shut up. Maintaining dictatorships so that we won't be bothered by messy new situations is a policy that is beneath the contempt of any decent party and should be left to the Democrats.
Posted by John Weidner at 3:07 PM

March 15, 2008

"To walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time"

From Lexicon of Computing. (Thanks to Pixy Misa)


The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet--in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums--your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

Yeah, and also in blog comments...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:07 PM

March 11, 2008

Young girl traveling...

Tom Maguire:

By way of Ace I am watching this video in which Obama calls for the day that a young girl traveling abroad can say with pride that she is an American - that, we are informed, is the change he is working for.

I know that message lights Democratic fires, but my goodness - is that what he wants to present to the general public?...

It's the usual—casual—anti-Americanism of lefty elitists. How I hate it. I live in the middle of it, and I DESPISE it. "Lights Democratic fires." Oh yeah.

As far as I'm concerned, that one clip should disqualify Mr Obama from being President. If Obama's the nominee, I hope John McCain takes that clip and rubs his face in it!

Elite snivelers from Harvard hate America because she is bigger and greater than we. Because she makes demands on us--demands for loyalty and duty and service. They are nihilists, and want to worship only themselves.

For the American citizen, to love and serve our nation is a requirement. (This is an analog, on a much lower sphere, of the requirement that we love and serve God.) It is not optional. And it has nothing to do with nationalism. America is not a nation, in that sense.

She is an idea, and an authoritative tradition. There are few other nations that can claim this. Maybe none. Actually, you can see which. Just chart which countries leftists really really hate. Ummm....Oh yeah, Israel. And they hate and fear what England used to be, though they've mostly killed her by now. America and the Anglosphere are now England.

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.
      -- Abraham Lincoln, Eulogy on Henry Clay , July 6, 1852
Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

March 9, 2008

Pull of gravity...

This article from the WaPo about evangelical churches adopting traditional Catholic practices such as Lent, confession, ashes on Ash Wednesday... well, it made me smile. We Catholics know what's happening (don't tell anybody).

Chesterton put it rightly long ago:

...It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair..
-- GK Chesterton

[Thanks to Gerald]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:44 PM

March 5, 2008

Vote for me, I'm sparkly...

I was just thinking about the squalid absurdity of Democrat identity politics, and the way both Obama and Clinton are running as representatives of identity groups, whose election will represent "justice" for a group. How I hate that stuff. it's un-American, and quasi-Marxist.

One of the formative moments of my life was when, back in the early 70's, having gone through the university without exposure to much solid intellectual fare, I encountered a quote by Peter Drucker. Alas, I've never found it again, but it went something like this: Christians believe that God values the individual, while socialists believe in the value of society, and are willing to sacrifice individuals—millions of them—to achieve "salvation by society."

Everything I've learned since then has just been filling in the details.

And also it occurs to me that the Republican habit of giving the presidential nomination to the senior man, to the one who's "next in line," is profoundly wise. On the surface it seems foolish, and one thinks of Bob Dole and winces. (But Dole, though a poor campaigner, was a deep old file, and would surely have made a better President than Clinton.)

I suspect there's a lot of gut wisdom involved in this. The wisdom of regular guys and gals, not clever-johnny theorists who write or blog. In the long haul, it's better to nominate seasoned old white guys (or white gals, if they resemble Margaret Thatcher) and avoid "stars" and fast-talkers and people with "charisma," whatever the heck that is. Bleccch.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:54 PM

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 28, 2008

Re-posting a quote, from 2004...

One nice thing about this war is that younger folk have had a chance to see why we despised the Left so much during Vietnam, as they treat bad news for America as good news for them.
      -- Orrin Judd
Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 PM

February 25, 2008

Risibly lame.....

Diogenes writes:

The Religious Right is what Lefties call believing Christians during an election year. Believers are generally loathed by the glitterati, but there's votes in them thar hills, and every four years, in order to score higher in the southern states, the Democratic leadership makes tardy and risibly lame attempts at church-going. It always backfires. The news footage of Hillary leaving church with her white-gloved hand clutching a prayer-book is as convincing as the famous shot of the senior George Bush tossing back a beer in that Jersey City tavern. To fake an interest, you need a trace of familiarity with your subject....(There's more. Fun.)

Too true. Obama has a huge advantage here, because he can tap into the whole "Christianity equals the Civil Rights Movement equals liberal Democrats" thing. It's a fake, but it always plays well. Blacks have a pass on the derision that liberals heap on Christians. It's allowed, as a sort of charming folk-custom among the colorful simple folk. White liberals can patronize their darkies, much as they might go watch whirling dervishes or Hindoo fakirs. It's understood that this faith stuff has nothing to do with the elites.

Things are much harder for Lefty white guys. I always remember Al Gore saying that we do such-and-such "In my faith tradition." Clang! He gave away the game right there. Fake, fake, got no rhythm. I bet Bush senior gave away his little game of being one of the guys, by politely sipping his schooner of beer, and leaving half of it unconsumed. He should have downed it with a smile, and wiped the foam off his lip with the back of his hand. And maybe asked for a shot to go with it...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:26 AM

February 10, 2008

"Rejoice and receive good news"

"The loss of joy does not make the world better — and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. . . . We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news."

-- Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (pp. 36-37). [Quote found by Christopher Blosser, here]

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

February 7, 2008

Thinking of the Obama campaign...

"Man is a creature who lives not by bread alone, but principally by catchwords."
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881
Posted by John Weidner at 6:30 PM

February 3, 2008

The pitiless crowbar of events....

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

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

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

Another excerpt

...A Decline in Courage ...may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:20 AM

January 27, 2008

"It takes a long time to produce a man"

....Finally, there is the courage to endure: perseverance. Perseverance binds together our past and present in their incessant ebb and flow, so as to build a solid future. Regardless of what some false prophets say, there is no future worth our pains without perseverance and faithfulness. No solid building, no work of value can be constructed, speaking from either a human or a spiritual vantage point, without our unflagging effort in time and our vigorous resistance to the forces of wear and tear and disintegration that bear down on us.

It takes a long time to produce a man, and only the one who perseveres to the end will reach the Kingdom. Without the courage to endure, no enterprise that is worth the name will last; the fairest promises will dissolve into idle boasts. The test of time is, for us, the touchstone of reality. "My truth," wrote Saint-Exupery, "must be firm, and who will love you if you veer and change your loves every day, and what will become of your great schemes? Continuity alone will bring your efforts to ripeness."

      -- Father Servais Pinckaers, O.P.

(From the January 2008 Magnificat)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

January 16, 2008

To keep in mind during election season....

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."

      -- Margaret Thatcher
Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 AM

January 6, 2008

Advice on Offering Your Work to God

Turn to Our Lord with confidence and say to him: "I don't feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for You." And then put our heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play-acting. Blessed play-acting! I assure you it isn't.
——From Friends of God, by St Josemaria

(If you don't believe in God, this is still good advice. Just imagine Ben Franklin is watching...)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:30 AM

December 22, 2007

"I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this"

Charlene saw this YouTube clip, posted by Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard's blog. It's an excerpt from Ronald Reagan's famous speech, A Time for Choosing.

Dean writes:

.. What I find most remarkable about the speech beyond its extraordinary content is the simple, straight forward language and the appropriately spare delivery. There were no clumsy applause lines, no laundry lists of silly promises meant to purchase the votes of certain citizens. Instead, it was just one man talking sense, honestly and from the heart, clearly without the guidance of either pollsters or focus groups.

Current candidates, please take note - the audience loved it. And 43 years later, it's part of history. Even the most moving paen to ethanol won't be so recognized.

To me what is especially noteworthy is how similar the fake-pacifism Reagan was fighting against is to what we deal with now, or what Winston Churchill battled against in the 1930's. The same speeches could be given any time over almost a century.

The same stupid idea, that by being "pacifistic," by not resisting the thugs and tyrants of the world, we will obtain peace, is as alive now as it was in 1938. Pacifism kills.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 AM

December 20, 2007

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh...

Quote, from Media Research Center's The Best Notable Quotables of 2007...

“You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, ‘Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?’ And I said, ‘That’s what journalists do.’ And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I’ve ever had.”
      — Co-host Diane Sawyer joking on ABC’s Good Morning America July 12, following a report on how some people try to avoid serving on a jury.

If only they'd had some rotten fruit to pelt her with....

Posted by John Weidner at 4:41 PM

December 16, 2007

"Why then was the inn crowded?"

By Thomas Merton...

...Why then was the inn crowded? Because of the census, the eschatological massing of the "whole world" in centers of registration, to be numbered, to be identified with the structure of imperial power. The purpose of the census: to discover those who were to be taxed. To find out those who were eligible for service in the armies of the empire.

The Bible had not been friendly to a census in the days when God was ruler of Israel (2 Samuel 24). The numbering of the people of God by an alien emperor and their full consent to it was itself an eschatological sign, preparing those who could understand it to meet judgment with repentance. After all, in the Apocalyptic literature of the Bible, this "summoning together" or convocation of the powers of the earth to do battle is the great sign of "the end."

It was therefore impossible that the Word should lose himself by being born into shapeless and passive mass. He had indeed emptied himself, taken the form of God's servant, man. But he did not empty himself to the point of becoming mass man, faceless man. It was therefore right that there should be no room for him in a crowd that had been called together as an eschatological sign. His being born outside that crowd is even more of a sign. That there is no room for him is a sign of the end.

Nor are the tidings of great joy announced in the crowded inn. In the massed crowd there are always new tidings of joy and disaster. Where each new announcement is the greatest of announcements, where every day's disaster is beyond compare, every day's danger demands the ultimate sacrifice, all news and all judgment is reduced to zero. News becomes merely a new noise in the mind, briefly replacing the noise that went before it and yielding to the noise that comes after it, so that eventually everything blends into the same monotonous and meaningless rumor. News? There is so much news that there is no room left for the true tidings, the "Good News," the Great Joy.

Hence the Great Joy is announced, after all, in silence, loneliness and darkness, to shepherds "living in the fields" or "living in the countryside" and apparently unmoved by the rumors or massed crowds. These are the remnant of the desert-dwellers, the nomads, the true Israel.

Even though "the whole world" is ordered to be inscribed, they do not seem to be affected. Doubtless they have registered, as Joseph and Mary will register, but they remain outside the agitation, and untouched by the vast movement, the massing of hundreds and thousands of people everywhere in the towns and cities.

They are therefore quite otherwise signed. They are designated, surrounded by a great light, they receive the message of the Great Joy, and they believe it with joy. They see the Shekinah over them, recognize themselves for what they are. They are the remnant, the people of no account, who are therefore chosen - the anawim. And they obey the light. Nor was anything else asked of them. (Thanks to Orrin)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 AM

November 25, 2007

God dropping by for a visit...

From Why I am not a Deist, by John C Wright...

...You might wonder why, if God can convince atheists to worship Him merely by dropping by for a visit, [as happened to the author] He does not do it more often. The reason is that it does not help, not at all, not a bit. When I suffer doubts, when my faith gets weak, my faith in my memory gets weak too. Faith and faithlessness have NOTHING TO DO with evidence presented to reason or senses. It has to do with a humble will and an upright heart. If God presented evidence to skeptics, all that would happen is that skeptics would doubt their evidence. If God gave a logical argument to prove His own existence, all that would happen is that skeptics would doubt the power of logic to prove anything.

Skepticism pretends it is all about open-mindedness and evidence. Not so. Skepticism is about suspicion and pride and self-will. It is about pretending you are smarter than people who, if you only knew, are actually wiser than you and your sneering questions and foolish word-tricks. The only place we ever see a humble skeptic is in the physical sciences, because scientists are willing to let their conclusions be ruled on by nature....

"Skepticism is about suspicion and pride and self-will" Amen, Brother. You hit the nail on the head. Been there, done it.

Also from the same piece...

...( It is popular these days to remark on the scientific and philosophical achievements of Islam during the darkest days of the Dark Ages. This is an historical error. The peoples conquered by the savages from Arabia were Romans, members of the Roman Empire, Byzantines who had been Christian for four or five centuries. They were a highly civilized and advanced people. The Turks did not destroy their culture and learning. But to give them credit for their invention is like crediting the Soviets with the industry and wealth of East Germany. It is something they found and took, not something they made. The difference in learning was between the Latin and the Greek speaking parts of the Roman Empire: the West collapsed long, long before the East was overrun. )
Posted by John Weidner at 6:58 AM

November 22, 2007

In reality, a mighty host...

Measured by the standards of men of their time, ... [the Pilgrims] were the humble of the earth. Measured by later accomplishments, they were the mighty. In appearance weak and persecuted they came -- rejected, despised -- an insignificant band; in reality strong and independent, a mighty host of whom the world was not worthy, destined to free mankind.
      -- Calvin Coolidge
Posted by John Weidner at 5:33 AM

November 20, 2007


Good line by Dave Price...

...It's sort of amazing that the same people who claim to be defending democracy by arguing the thousands of deaths on 9/11 do not justify allegedly violating our sacred civil rights by warrantlessly wiretapping suspected terrorists can simultaneously argue that the violence in Iraq makes the incredible advance of democracy and basic human rights there meaningless...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:58 AM

November 19, 2007

the "incivility" of the blogs...

This is by Diogenes, who comments with acid humor on religion. It is from a piece on the Anglican Church, but could fit current politics just as well...

....Flames of theological hatred? Not the way I'd put it. It seems to me instead that, with the coming of the Internet, the ecclesiastical bureaucracies lost their communications monopoly and were finally forced to hear what the orthodox had been trying to say all along. Fifty years of frustration at unreturned phone calls and ash-canned letters to the editor have added an edginess to some of the critique, but to label it hatred is a dodge. The boxer who rests on his laurels and refuses to get into the ring for ten years will find that, when he finally does so, his opponent's shots land harder than he remembers. That's why liberals are quick to deplore the "incivility" of the blogs....

I remember when writing a letter to the editor was a big deal. And having one actually published was a very big deal. "Imagine. Me. Little me. Actually being read by thousands of strangers."

So yes, there is a certain testiness to people like me. And I've been told a most amazing variety of ways that I'm "uncivil" and shouldn't say things like that. By people who never dare to get in the ring and slug it out about what is TRUE.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 AM

November 2, 2007

Quote for the morning...

I'm just testing a new version of my blogging client, Ecto 3....

Every government must rest on some principle or passion in the minds of the people....the very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men'. That is to say men are secured in their rights to life, liberty and property by clear and fair laws, falling equally on all, wisely and justly administered. Any society where rights are bestowed as privileges handed down at the whim of a king, or an aristocracy, or even of a popular assembly, is a society of men, not of laws, and a society that will tend inevitably to despotism and repression

--John Adams

Posted by John Weidner at 7:07 AM

October 21, 2007

"What was I to myself, but a guide to my own destruction?..."

From an excellent essay by R. R. Reno, in First Things...

....We tend to see what we want to see in the books we read. Our culture is one of leave-taking and it champions the seeker as the hero of the spiritual life. We think that we must brave arid deserts and snowy mountain passes on our quest for God. Recall Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, William James’ will to believe, and Paul Tillich’s courage to be. Having read Sartre’s hot rhetoric of existential choice and Heidegger’s cooler image of the heroic modern man patiently walking the meadows of our disenchanted culture as a shepherd of Being, I came to believe that truth and holiness, like elves and unicorns, had been veiled and hidden in distant realms and secret forests. It was our vocation to energize our souls and get on with the search. Or so I imagined.

After many rereadings of the Confessions, I have been mortified to discover that St. Augustine does not commend the great preoccupation of modern Christianity, the quest for faith. For him, the journey of his young adulthood was a futile circular movement. Imagining himself to be a seeker after God, he was in fact ever returning to himself. What began as a projected heroic journey ended in exhausted despair. Ten years after Cicero had ignited in him a love of wisdom, St. Augustine reports, “I had lost all hope of discovering the truth.” What seemed like a journey was nothing more than the huffing and puffing of a presumptuous soul that thought it could storm the citadel of God with earnest longing and good intentions. The upshot was paralysis,...

....Still, our inability is not a condemnation to stasis. There is a journey of faith for Augustine, but the guidance comes from God, not us. Far from finding God, Augustine confesses, “You pierced my heart with the arrow of your love.” Indeed, the arrows had already been loosed many times, but in his agitated desire to control his own destiny, Augustine had dodged and deflected them. Only after Augustine has recognized the vanity of his own efforts does the arrow of divine love strike its mark. In the silence of the garden, God’s Word finally reaches his heart. “The examples given by your servants,” Augustine reports, “burnt away and destroyed my heavy sluggishness.” Then and only then does his journey begin: to baptism, back to Africa, and to Hippo.

The general principle of Augustine’s own self-analysis is clear, and its relevance to the temptation to embark on our own searches for God is direct—even, and perhaps especially, when that search takes us across the strange terrain of denominationalism. “The soul needs to be enlightened,” he writes, “by light from outside itself.”.....

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:10 AM

October 16, 2007

"And then they fall in love—or they try to..."

Busy, busy, but here's a quote, from John Podhoretz:

...The point is that there never is a candidacy that breeds joyous enthusiasm. Politicians are flawed beings. The ones who speak well often seem false. The ones who are substantive bore. The ones who are tough enough for the job seem too mean. The ones who are likable enough seem too soft. Both parties and all ideological camps express the same reservations, regrets and anxieties. Always. And then they fall in love — or they try to, desperately, like a bride in an arranged marriage.

We've seen it before, we're seeing it now, and we will see it again and again until the end of days....
Posted by John Weidner at 11:20 AM

August 24, 2007

If the results of a policy are the opposite of what you want---ramp it up...

Britain's rising levels of gun crime - Telegraph :

The number of young people prosecuted for firearms offences has soared by 20 per cent in the past five years, it was revealed earlier this month.

In 2001, 1,193 youngsters under age 21 went to magistrates courts on gun related charges. By 2005, that had risen to 1,444. The statistics come after a recent wave of gun crime in Britain’s inner cities, with many victims not even out of their teens.

Shadow home affairs minister James Brokenshire said: “The rise in gun crime demonstrated by these figures is alarming.”

In April Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief constable of Merseyside Police, insisted new laws to make reporting information on shootings and possession of guns a 'duty’’ were essential because people were too scared to come forward....

To me, the important metric is not whether a country or group makes mistakes. Those will happen all the time. What's important to watch is how it recovers when the mistake becomes clear. Does a counter-movement arise? Do people rebel, and say, "Enough is enough?" The soul-destroying sickness of our time is Leftism, and in this country its rise has generated a huge conservative reaction which is attempting to reverse the slide towards evil and eventual death.

So where's the reaction in Britain? There isn't one big enough to notice.

A few minutes ago I read this by Andrea, and wondered briefly if she was being too harsh. Just briefly...

Natalie Solent recounts the story of a woman left alone to give birth (when she had been told it was dangerous to do so) all by herself in a toilet in a hospital, while nurses refused to help. In Britain. She wonders: "How do we get our nerve back?"

The answer is you don't; nerves don't grow back. They're dead, Jim.

My youthful Anglophilia is just about gone and events like these are helping speed it on its way to oblivion. I'm glad I got to go to England when I was just out of high school, before the zombies took over....

My own speculation (it's just armchair theorizin'--there's no clear way to separate cause and effect) is that Newman saw this stuff earlier and more clearly and wisely than anyone else. Just a guess, but he looked into the future (and this was back in the early 1800's!) and saw apostasy, and predicted eventual calamity...

...In a sermon entitled "The Infidelity of the Future," preached in 1873, Newman remarked that: I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appall and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that, dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it . . . Christianity has never yet had experience of a world simply irreligious. The ancient world of Greece and Rome was full of superstition but not of infidelity, for they believed in the moral governance of the world and their first principles were the same as ours . . . But we are now coming to a time when the world does not acknowledge our first principles...

...In 1877, Newman wrote to a friend of his as follows concerning the future of the Church: As to the prospects of the Church, as to which you ask my opinion . . . my apprehensions are not new but above 50 years standing. I have all that time thought that a time of widespread infidelity was coming, and through all those years the waters have in fact been rising as a deluge. I look for the time, after my life, when only the tops of the mountains will be seen like islands in the waste of waters. I speak principally of the Protestant world—but great actions and successes must be achieved by the Catholic leaders, great wisdom as well as courage must be given them from on high, if Holy Church is to be kept safe from this awful calamity, and, though any trial which came upon her would but be temporary, it may be fierce in the extreme while its lasts... [link]
-- John Henry, Cardinal Newman

"I look for the time, after my life, when only the tops of the mountains will be seen like islands in the waste of waters..."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 AM

August 19, 2007

Today's morsel...

The Anchoress, on BDS:

...Perils of Global Warming and How We’re All Going to Die Because Bush Killed Kyoto Even Though Clinton, In 1997, Did Not Even Submit The Treaty To Congress (Which Made A Point Of Unanimously Rejecting It Anyway) Because It Was Smart of Clinton To Reject It But Stoopit of Moron Bush To Kill It And Al Gore Deserves An Oscar And America Is Suffering And Disappearing Because of Evil Bush Who Is Bad And Evil And Who Makes Wars Against Peaceful People And There Is No Threat Of Islamofascism, There Is Only A Threat Of Christofascism And Other Conservative Sorts Of Fascists Things....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

"The open obvious democratic thing..."

...Some how or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.The open obvious democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder...
-- GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Everyone has a faith. Everyone has a religion, in the sense that they have beliefs about the universe and human existence that they cannot "prove" using any thought-system such as natural science, or formal logic, or "common sense." And it really nettles me that most people won't acknowledge this.

The person who says, "I believe only things that can be scientifically proven" is expressing faith in a proposition that science cannot validate. But try to tell him that, and you will often find a person more dogmatic and blinkered than any superstitious peasant. And usually more fearful than the peasant of ideas that might threaten his security.

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:03 AM

August 17, 2007

Quotes encountered recently...

The prudent see only the difficulties, the bold only the advantages, of a great enterprise; the hero sees both; diminishes the former and makes the latter preponderate, and so conquers.
Johann Kaspar Lavater

The world is at no time safe for freedom, which needs vigilant and unremitting guardianship
John Buchan

Nobody goes to the library for the book "Great Moderates in American History."
Rush Limbaugh
Posted by John Weidner at 4:15 PM

August 6, 2007

"The martyrs of history were not fools"

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing is worth dying for, when did this begin...? ...Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots of Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain!
      -- Ronald Reagan
Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

August 5, 2007

"The old man is bound up in a thousand folds"

From The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, written in the early 1600's...

In war there is the note of charge, fitted for the onset; of recall, whereby stragglers are recalled.

And the mind of man, as it must be stirred up in the morning, so in the evening, as by a note of recall, is it to be called back to itself and to its Leader by a scrutiny and inquisition of self, by prayers and thanksgivings.

A good man would rather know his infirmity, than the foundations of the earth, or the heights of the heavens.

But that knowledge of our own infirmity is not attained save by diligent inquisition, without which the mind is for the most part blind, and sees nothing of that which pertains to it.

there are many hiding places and recesses in the mind.

You must come to the knowledge of, before you can amend, yourself.

An ulcer unknown grows worse and worse, and is deprived of cure.

    The heart is deceitful above all things.
    The old man is bound up in a thousand folds
    therefore take heed to thyself....

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Andrewes was among the most important of the translators who produced the King James Bible, an Anglican bishop, a friend of Casaubon, and one of the greatest scholars of his time. His book of Private Devotions is one of the more astonishing productions of the age of Shakespeare and Donne, and can still be used with great profit. He spent a lifetime collecting passages from scripture and the prayer book, and from the saints and fathers, and modified them and wove them together marvelously into his book of devotions. He has the odd distinction of being an undistinguished writer who produced a great work of literature and devotion...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

August 3, 2007

"like raindrops on a duck's back"

I'm too busy to blog, but this quote is my way of sticking out my tongue at all lefty losers...
....For thirty years we've been told that patriotism was shameful. We were told it was a demonstration of mental retardation or of ignorance about the world. People who were patriotic were heartless racists. For thirty years we've been pelted with the message that there was nothing about America that justified any pride.

And for thirty years the majority of Americans have ignored that message. It bounced off them like raindrops on a duck's back. Americans treasure their freedom of expression, and they treasure even more their freedom to ignore what other people say....

    --Stephen den Beste

Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

July 21, 2007

Sufficient for the day is the snarkiness thereof...

Dr Weevil:

The theory taught in graduate schools of modern literature is like mortadella: it’s expensive, imported, beautifully packaged, made with loving care by experts who have devoted their lives to their work and do it very well . . . but it’s still bologna.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 AM

July 11, 2007

Pithy guy...

Thomas Sowell has another batch of his one-liners. My favorite:

"A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years," said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. If so, then we may be hearing about "diversity," "social justice" and "a living wage" for many years to come.

Oh, and one more...

Does anybody seriously believe that "hate speech" prohibitions will be applied to Muslims demonizing Jews, to blacks demonizing whites, or to women demonizing men?


Wisdom and cleverness are very different things. My nominations for the three wisest presidents would be Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan. For the three cleverest -- FDR, Nixon and Clinton.


"Nations are like men in that they prefer a fuss made in their behalf to real services rendered." Although de Tocqueville said this back in the 19th century, it may help explain why the black vote today is so overwhelmingly for the Democrats, when Democrats have done so little good for blacks and so much harm.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:28 AM

July 1, 2007

Some things you just don't forget...

...In a letter in the Pilot in 1900 he [Wilfrid Ward] compares infallibility to the Church's living memory. Just as human memory may be uncertain on a number of minor points yet absolutely convinced and indisputable on the great facts of one's past life, so with the Church's "memory." There are many minor matters in Catholic tradition on which no infallibility is claimed, on which research and evidence can do the same work in supplementing memory which they do for all of us in human matters. But by the Church's infallibility we mean that it is only on those great matters where she knows, that God will allow her to pronounce with certainty.

-- Maisie Ward, in
The Wilfrid Wards and the Transition, vol 1, p.407

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:20 AM

June 17, 2007

What are saints?

(Thoughts for Sunday)

I lifted this quote from Patem Peperium. Thanks.

...Shortly after publishing his novel Helena, in which he retold the story of the emperor Constantine's mother and her quest for the true cross, Evelyn Waugh received a congratulary note from a friend, the poet John Betjeman. Betjeman complimented Waugh on the book but wrote that "Helena doesn't seem like a saint." Waugh, who had tried for years to entice the devoutly Anglican Betjeman into the Catholic Church, replied with a brief catechesis on the Catholic understanding of saints:

Saints are simply souls in heaven. Some people have been so sensationally holy in life that we know they went straight to heaven and so put them in the [liturgical] calendar. We all have to become saints before we get to heaven....And each individual has his own peculiar form of sanctity which he must achieve or perish. It is no good saying, "I wish I were like Joan of Arc or St. John of the Cross." I can only be St. Evelyn Waugh - after God knows what experiences in purgatory.

I liked Helena's sanctity because it is in contrast to all that moderns think of as sanctity. She wasn't thrown to the lions, she wasn't a contemplative, she wasn't poor and hungry, she didn't look like an El Greco. She just discovered what it was God had chosen for her to do and did it...

      -- George Weigel, The Truth of Catholicism

Posted by John Weidner at 6:20 AM

June 8, 2007

Ideal plans of government...

...The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.

He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.
      --- Adam Smith
Posted by John Weidner at 3:08 PM

April 3, 2007

Frenzy to eliminate the road back...

A good quote from Diogenes:

...Revolutionaries, once they've put the ancien régime to the guillotine, realize at some level that the victims easiest to catch and behead were seldom those most guilty of the oppression the insurrection was meant to cure. This means that, with the old power toppled, the main threat to the new order are associates of more tender conscience who remember the injustices inflicted by, not upon, the revolutionaries -- injustices rationalized at the time as necessary for the success of the revolution. Hence the secondary (and usually protracted) frenzy to eliminate the road back. When the revolution is cultural rather than civil, almost any surviving custom or symbol or figure of speech can be a bearer of the kind of memory the innovators detest. They are not gradualists. It has to go now.

Which revolution is he referring to? It could be any one of them. French, Russian, Chinese...(In fact it's something much closer to home.)

Actually one sees it sometimes in our daily life. Imagine an old company is bought by a fast-growing young company, and the "new broom" management team comes in with layoffs and re-structurings. They should, by logic, be carefully seeking-out and preserving the good parts of the "old régime" and its culture, but do you think that's going to happen?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 AM

April 1, 2007

"he did not have much company on the road now so well known..."

For Sunday, here's yet another quote from Meriol Trevor's Newman (vol. II, Light in Winter):

...True son of Philip Neri, he had no desire to repudiate the new techniques of knowledge or to oppose theories which seemed at first sight to contradict Christian tradition: patience would reveal the truth in time. But he wanted Christians so to exercise their minds as to assimilate and contribute to what was good in natural science and social improvement, without losing their grip on the supernatural reality which was the source of true happiness and real power. He wanted to help the young generations so to orientate themselves as to be able to explore the new worlds of knowledge and yet be firmly rooted — not in the old, but in the eternal.

It was here that Newman's vision went beyond the view of many who misunderstood him, of whatever Christian allegiance. It was the partial identification, in the nineteenth century, of the eternal with the old that led to the loss of so many from Christian belief. The nostalgia for an imaginary medievalism, imitation Gothic churches, effete naturalism or unreal sentimentality of religious statues and pictures — all this was the secondary effect of deep fears, an inability to shed the habitual in order that the eternal might work freely in a world that was changing. Of course there is danger in mere novelty, but it is rarely a pressing one in the Cathulic Church, which on the human side is ruled by a multitude of old men and the customs of hundreds of years.

Newman always puzzled his contemporaries by being at the same time so ancient and so modern. He was at home with the Martyrs and the Fathers — and with scientists and factory girls. He practised fasting and penance — and was an immediate and inveterate train traveller. He read St. Athanasius and Anthony Trollope. He was a venerable man, but he talked the slang of the moment. Puseyites were disconcerted by his modernity. Catholics by his antiquity — for most of them had forgotten what their spiritual ancestors were like. Protestants are apt to imagine that it is only they who renew themselves by a return to the beginnings, but there are Catholic renascences too. Since Newman was a pioneer in the return to the Fathers, and to a new understandins of the Scriptures, he did not have much company on the road now so well known. He was regarded with suspicion by those for whom the last hundred years was the standard measure, and who could not conceive that the next hundred would be very different. Psychologically the great difference between Newman and the Ultramontanes and Anglican conservatives was that they were ridden bv fears and he was not...

Vatican Council II is associated in our minds with "dangerous mere novelty," and certainly there has been a catastrophic lot of that! A great many Catholics used the council as an excuse to say, "Wheee, I'm freee.....time to party!" But that was never the intent, and not what is in the actual documents produced by the council. The true spirit of which is now reasserting itself in the Church in a myriad of ways. (Historically, councils have usually produced 50 years or so of turmoil in the Church. So I'm signing up at the right time.) The actual results of the council will probably have their effect over centuries. The world needs them.

And it is a commonplace to say that the Venerable John Henry Newman is the "father of the Council." More than anyone else, Vatican II was about his ideas. (Such as ecumenism, return to the teachings of the Fathers, Development of Doctrine, and the correct approach to the modern world.) He saw and understood our world more than anyone else.

That's certainly been my conclusion (in my own humble realm). 9/11 was a revelatory event, and my 5½ years of blogging has been a process of peeling the onion to try to see what it was that was revealed. And then I recently discovered Newman, and found that he had explained it all 150 years ago! So he's my hero, no doubt about it.

"...An inability to shed the habitual in order that the eternal might work freely in a world that was changing." "...without losing their grip on the supernatural reality which was the source of true happiness and real power."

If you are going to "shed the habitual," you have to have a firm grip on some things that are solid and unchanging. Not just religious truths, but authoritative traditions of other kinds, such as you might find reading the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Which are themselves based on the authoritative and immemorial tradition called "the Rights of Englishmen." And, brothers and sisters, I have to tell you that you are going to have to discard the habitual whether you like it or not! Because we are all trapped in a science fiction story. We are being shoved into a time-machine and sent into the future at fearsome speed. Our world is changing drastically. Mere habits or prejudices won't be weighty enough to keep us in ballast.

That's what I'm talking about when I complain that left-leaning people are nihilists. In my generation and after, being "Left" is just a habit of thought, not the philosophical system (false though it was) that used to ballast many people's lives. (If you don't believe me, try to get a leftist in a real philosophical argument, one that goes down to first principles.) But mere habits won't cut it anymore; change is happening too fast and too scary. Which is why leftists are so brittle and angry of late. (And some rightists too—think of Paleocons like Pat Buchanan.)

Here's a link to the splendid St Phillip Neri.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:31 AM

March 25, 2007

A failure to engage in a just war is a failure of Charity

From the essay Good Wars, by Darrell Cole...

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

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

I blogged this quote once before, years ago. It bears repeating. Those "modern Christian approaches to warfare" he mentions are usually just mushy warmed-over lefty nihilism and anti-Americanism. Especially in senior churchmen, who tend to be of my generation, and are steeped in the rubbishing thought of the 60's.

Also, when I hunted-up this quote, I happened upon a comment left in a similar post by blogger John Byrnes, that is still very applicable...

This idea is not only consistent with Catholic doctrine, and Christian philosophy, it is, despite the blustering of the Kofi Annans and Jaque Chiracs, a perfectly just cause for war under International Law as well. International law today calls on its constitutent nations to enforce its tenets. While this law directly supports national sovereignty, it also outlaws crimes against humanity such as genocide. Outlaws them to the point that such crimes are undermining of legitimate sovereignty itself, and are grounds for intervention. The US action in Iraq was technically legal on that basis alone. Nevermind UN Resolutions 1330 et al. Your neighbors house is sacrosanct, even from police without a warrant, unless you can hear him mudering his children, then no warrant is required...

Most of today's "pacifism" is really "hearing the neighbor murdering his children," and saying, "Sorry kids, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek."

I should learn more about international law, but really, what would be the point. I've been blogging since just after 9/11, and have never yet succeeded in having any rational debate with anti-war lefties. For them "international law" means whatever will hinder the US and her allies at that particular moment, and no amount of counter-argument will make the slightest difference.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

March 11, 2007

Don't blame me...

Peter Burnett, writing on new ideas in neuroscience that imply that we have no responsibility for what we do...

.....Professor Morse is correct that there is nothing particularly original here. Each new wave of determinist thinking tends to arrive with a splash and claim the idea that our behaviours are influenced by genes, brains, nature, nurture, the stars, the climate or whatever is brand new and a counterpoint to a supposed universal historical belief that humans are independent actors in full control of their lives and equally capable of choosing from an infinite number of possible actions. In fact, the opposite is the case. Almost nobody believes that or ever did. Free will, moral agency and individual responsibility are gifts of monotheism, which holds we have the capacity to rise above our largely determined natures, but not without struggle and not unaided. That belief is the historical exception to the rule and the grounding of the most prosperous, culturally rich and successful civilization in history.

Determinism is the default belief in human history. It defines paganism, which explains why aboriginal peoples and so many African communities cannot break out of endless cycles of poverty and pathology. It defined much of Asia until Asians consciously and expressly rejected their traditions to adopt Western ways. Since about fifty years after the Enlightenment, it has largely defined secularism. Not unlike medieval astrologers, Marx, Freud, Darwin and a host of minor others all argued man is in the grip of forces of which he is unaware and which absolved him of responsibility for his actions and fate. Their popularity was instant and widespread, demonstrating what every lawyer knows–that people will go to the most extreme lengths to find exculpatory explanations for their actions, no matter how heinous or injurious. It is the man who genuinely admits responsibility that is the rare exception....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

March 4, 2007

All clothing, no emperor....

For Zondag...

...Nihilism is the one constant confronting us in the works of postmodern, post-Christian, deconstructionist and liberationist philosophers and theologians. This nihilism comes dressed up in a variety of styles and colors, but everywhere the message is the same. There are no absolute truths, no absolute values, no absolute judgments, because there is no objective reality in which such absolutes could be rooted. There are no texts, only conflicting interpretations: there are no compass points, only differing perspectives; there is no human nature, only changing human beings.

We are all familiar with that innocent little boy of yesteryear who recognized the emperor to be wearing no clothes. It would take a particularly astute little boy to recognize that there is no emperor beneath the layers upon layers of nihilistic clothing paraded before us today. All clothing, no emperor—it could not be otherwise. For nihilism robs us of the substance of things, leaving only an ever-changing pageant of empty forms...

    ---Joyce A Little, from The Church and the Culture War

Posted by John Weidner at 6:09 AM

February 28, 2007


Charlene noticed the Dover Beachcomber quoting from the Lord of the Rings (appendix) and relating it oh-too-well to modern life..

But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering. Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigor, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.

I thought of this one because, as my wife and I were stopped in traffic in Santa Rosa yesterday while driving home from a great couple of days on the Mendocino coast, I suddenly became aware of the driver in the PG&E truck next to me talking plenty loud enough to hear across the space between our vehicles. She was a perfectly normal looking young woman, having a friendly gab with her co-worker. All I caught was: "F***, really? Nah, you're s***in' me! If that mother-f***er thinks I'm gonna put with that s***... ". Then traffic started moving again.

Here I should join in heaping deserved moral censure on the decadence of our wretched era...but actually it reminds me of one the funniest things I ever heard. It was way back when I owned my bookstore. One day, ker-bang, there was a fender-bender right outside. These two black guys jump out of their cars and start yelling at each other:

F*** You, mother-f***er!
Yeah, F*** You, mother-f***er!
You mother-f***er, F*** You!
You the mother-f***er, F*** You!

Now up to this point it was just squalid. BUT, it went on...

and on....

and on...

With no more variation in vocabulary or matter than what I've written! After ten or fifteen iterations we were all ready to roll on the floor laughing.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:11 PM

February 27, 2007

But life is short, and things do matter....

It's one of those days—weeks—when the third cuppa joe does not steam any bloggable fumes up from the depths of the tired brain. And anyway, I saw this quote from a piece by Mark Helprin at Peter Burnet's blog, and and it's too good to even add a comment to....

...One seldom encounters pure nihilism, for just as anarchists are usually very well-organized, most of what passes for nihilism is a compromise with advocacy. Present literary forms may spurn the individual, emotion, beauty, sacrifice, love, and truth, but they energetically embrace the collective, coldness of feeling, ugliness, self-assertion, contempt, and disbelief. And why? Simply because the acolytes of modernism are terribly and justly afraid. They fear that if they do not display their cynicism they will be taken for fools. They fear that if they commit to and uphold something outside the puppet channels of orthodoxy they will be mocked, that if they are open they will be attacked, that if they appreciate that which is simple and good they will foolishly have overlooked its occult corruptions, that if they stand they will be struck down, that if they love they will lose, and that if they live they will die.

As surely they will. And others of their fears are legitimate as well, so they withdraw from engagement and risk into what they believe is the safety of cynicism and mockery. The sum of their engagement is to show that they are disengaged, and they have built an elaborate edifice, which now casts a shadow over every facet of civilization, for the purpose of representing their cowardice as wisdom. Mainly to protect themselves, they write coldly, cruelly, and as if nothing matters.

But life is short, and things do matter, often more than the human heart can bear. This is an elemental truth that neither temporarily victorious nihilism, nor fashion, nor cowardice can long suppress, which is why the literary tenor of the times cannot and will not last. And which is one reason among many why one must not accept its dictates or write according to its conventions. These must and will fall, for they are subject to constant pressure as generation after generation rises in unprompted affirmation of human nature. And though perhaps none living may see the change, it is an honor to predict and await it.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 AM

February 16, 2007

Good thought, for architecture, or art...

..."Really there is no antagonism. The trouble is simply that art, which in its great days was scientific, has today ceased to be so, and one of the requirements for its recovery is that it should become scientific again and thereby be in harmony with the best spirit of the age. The man who sets to work to design an aeroplane or a motorcar has no self-conscious strivings to express himself or his age, like the pathetic architects and artists of today. His one business is to make it go and, if possible, to go one better, and he would not be so mad as to think he could do this without knowing the tradition of all that went before. Moreover, if he fails, there is no question of his failure; he cannot hide it by fine words and theories. Let us apply this to architecture and have an end to humbug. After all, deep in the human heart is the sense of beauty and when a man sees it he will respond unless his eye is hypnotized by words...

"And do we want originality? I quote Dr. Inge: 'What we call originality is generally the power to see old things in a new light - it is the reading of some open secret...' And the correspondent whom I have quoted before sums up: 'What passes for originality today is at its best no more difficult to accomplish and is less original than what a man does who not only has studied the past, but bears the past within him when he is at work on some quite modern need.' "

    ~Sir J. Ninian Comper,
from Of the Atmosphere of a Church, 1947

I found the above morsel quoted at Shrine of the Holy Whapping.

"What we call originality is generally the power to see old things in a new light - it is the reading of some open secret..." I like it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 AM

February 12, 2007

The question remains...

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"
-- William J. Bennett, In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy 11/24/1997

I'm too tired and busy to really blog, so I went looking in my digital ragbag for a quote, and found the one above.

Then I followed the link that was saved with it, and came to a cool essay, which you've probably encountered before. The one about sheep, wolves and sheepdogs, by LTC (RET) Dave Grossman. It was good to read it again.

...."Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf." If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 PM

February 11, 2007

For when you understand what you see, you will no longer be children...

Conservative thinker Ralph de Toledano died recently, and NRO republished a great piece by him, Ralph de Toledano remembers Whittaker Chambers. Why should one care about Whittaker Chambers today? His Witness is a favorite book, but I for a long time thought of it as a sort of period piece. A mere bit of history. But I think that less and less. "The conflict had to be fought in grime and terror, leaving their taint on those who fought it." The bad old days? How familiar it sounds. (Actually, the Hiss trial, the "Great Case," revealed a world so much like today it's downright scary. Elitist leftists, "liberals," journalists, academics, pacifists...all lined up with the Reds, and heaped scorn on the decent but unfashionable Americans who were fighting the menace of Stalinism.)

....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.
(Thanks to Orrin)

And why would I post something about Chambers as one of my Sunday Thoughts? Why? Because there is only one struggle. Only one story. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be... The story, the battle, just takes different forms from one century to the next. And we are in the same battle, but with the difference that the Communists back then were a couple of generations closer to their Christian past, and still considered it natural to believe there is some great Truth, and a prophet and a holy book--and to sign on to a secular crusade that was very much like a religion. Today's leftists take their nihilism straight, without the Marxist cackle. But they are just as evil and destructive.

Now and then I think of Chambers' introduction to his book, which he called a "letter to his children." Especially that haunting moment when he contemplates suicide. Few writings better catch the opposition of simple goodness and decency set against nihilism and terror...

....If all this sounds unduly solemn, you know that our lives were not; that all of us suffer from an incurable itch to puncture false solemnity. In our daily lives, we were fun-loving and gay. For those who have solemnity in their souls generally have enough of it there, and do not need to force it into their faces. Then, on August 3, 1948, you learned for the first time that your father had once been a Communist, that he had worked in something called "the underground," that it was shameful, and that for some reason he was in Washington telling the world about it. While he was in the underground, he testified, he had worked with a number of other Communists. One of them was a man with the odd name of Alger Hiss. Later, Alger Hiss denied the allegation. Thus the Great Case began, and with it our lives were changed forever.

Dear children, one autumn twilight, when you were much smaller, I slipped away from you in play and stood for a moment alone in the apple orchard near the barn. Then I heard your two voices, piping together anxiously, calling to me: "Papa! Papa!" from the harvested cornfield. In the years when I was away five days a week in New York, working to pay for the farm, I used to think of you both before I fell asleep at night. And that is how you almost always came to me—voices of beloved children, calling to me from the gathered fields at dusk.

You called to me once again at night in the same orchard. That was a good many years later. A shadow deeper and more chilling than the autumn evening had closed upon us—I mean the Hiss Case. It was the first year of the Case. We had been doing the evening milking together. For us, one of the few happy results of the Case was that at last I could be home with you most of the time (in life these good things usually come too little or too late). I was washing and disinfecting the cows, and putting on and taking off the milkers. You were stripping after me. In the quiet, there suddenly swept over my mind a clear realization of our true position—obscure, all but friendless people (some of my great friends had already taken refuge in aloofness; the others I had withdrawn from so as not to involve them in my affairs).

Against me was an almost solid line-up of the most powerful groups and men in the country, the bitterly hostile reaction of much of the press, the smiling skepticism of much of the public, the venomous calumnies of the Hiss forces, the all but universal failure to understand the real meaning of the Case or my real purpose. A sense of the enormous futility of my effort, and my own inadequacy, drowned me. I felt a physical cold creep through me, settle around my heart and freeze any pulse of hope. The sight of you children, guiltless and defenseless, was more than I could bear. I was alone against the world; my longing was to be left completely alone, or not to be at all. It was that death of the will which Communism, with great cunning, always tries to induce in its victims.

I waited until the last cow was stripped and the last can lifted into the cooler. Then I stole into the upper barn and out into the apple orchard. It was a very dark night. The stars were large and cold. This cold was one with the coldness in myself. The lights of the barn, the house and the neighbors' houses were warm in the windows and on the ground; they were not for me. Then I heard Ellen call me in the barn and John called: "Papal" Still calling, Ellen went down to the house to see if I were there. I heard John opening gates as he went to the calf barn, and he called me there. With all the longing of my love for you, I wanted to answer. But if I answered, I must come back to the living world. I could not do that.

John began to call me in the cow stable, in the milk house. He went into the dark side of the barn (I heard him slide the door back), into the upper barn, where at night he used to be afraid. He stepped outside in the dark, calling: "Papa! Papa!"-then, frantically, on the verge of tears: "Papa!" I walked over to him. I felt that I was making the most terrible surrender I should have to make on earth. "Papa," he cried and threw his arms around me, "don't ever go away." "No," I said, "no, I won't ever go away." Both of us knew that the words "go away" stood for something else, and that I had given him my promise not to kill myself. Later on, as you will see, I was tempted, in my wretchedness, to break that promise.

My children, when you were little, we used sometimes to go for walks in our pine woods. In the open fields, you would run along by yourselves. But you used instinctively to give me your hands as we entered those woods, where it was darker, lonelier, and in the stillness our voices sounded loud and frightening. In this book I am again giving you my hands. I am leading you, not through cool pine woods, but up and up a narrow defile between bare and steep rocks from which in shadow things uncoil and slither away. It will be dark. But, in the end, if I have led you aright, you will make out three crosses, from two of which hang thieves. I will have brought you to Golgotha-the place of skulls. This is the meaning of the journey. Before you understand, I may not be there, my hands may have slipped from yours. It will not matter. For when you understand what you see, you will no longer be children. You will know that life is pain, that each of us hangs always upon the cross of himself. And when you know that this is true of every man, woman and child on earth, you will be wise.

Your Father

Posted by John Weidner at 5:02 AM

February 8, 2007

Quote, for the question: "Why blog?"

You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you.
   --Flannery O'Connor
Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 PM

January 21, 2007

Sunday Thought--don't add cornstarch

John Henry Newman, ca. 1840.
True faith is what may be called colourless, like air or water; it is but the medium through which the soul sees Christ; and the soul as little really rests upon it and contemplates it, as the eye can see the air.

When, then, men are bent on holding it (as it were) in their hands, curiously inspecting, analyzing, and so aiming at it, they are obliged to colour and thicken it, that it may be seen and touched. That is, they substitute for it something or other, a feeling, notion, sentiment, conviction, or act of reason, which they may hang over, and doat upon. They rather aim at experiences (as they are called) within them, than at Him that is without them.

John Henry Newman

Posted by John Weidner at 6:30 AM

January 14, 2007

"He will cease to reap benefits..."

Sunday thoughts...

As unbelievers deny Revelation more decisively, as they put their denial into more consistent practice, it will become the more evident what it really means to be a Christian. At the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies. He must learn to exist honestly without Christ and without the God revealed through Him; he will have to leam to experience what this honestly means. Nietzsche had already warned us that the non-Christian of the modern world had no realization of what it truly meant to be without Christ. The last decades [the two world wars] have suggested what life without Christ really is. The last decades were only the beginning...
-- Romano Guardini, from
The End of the Modern World

Part of what Guardini is saying (I'm ignoring a lot here) is that people have been coasting. Running on the spiritual and moral capital stored up by our ancestors, and not refilling that tank. Stored up by our Christian and Jewish ancestors. There's gonna be wailing and gnashing aplenty when the time comes to get out and push. Which it already has, I think.

I tend to be out of sync with the rest of the world. One of the ways I'm odd is that I am fascinated (and horrified) by the speed at which we are being flung into a unknown future. And especially by the way we are not thinking and worrying about this. When I was younger there was a best-selling book called Future Shock, about how fast things were changing, and how our overloaded brains were just going to explode. But what shocks me is that we are NOT shocked by this, at least not most of us. (Or possibly we have already been shocked into a state of denial.) Each new technology that comes along changes our societies, often drastically. Yet people seem to assume that we will all remain the same, and merely get to have more fun using cool new toys.

To me this is just insane. The new toys are changing us before our eyes, yet people yawn when I bring this up.

And we don't know what effects the changes will have until it's too late to do much. European demographic collapse is, of course, my favorite example. Europe and the developed world sailed into uncharted territory after WWII. They achieved prosperity for most of their people. Plus unprecedented levels of welfare, and easy availability of contraception. Plus steep decline in Christian worship. Now we see that the result is the probable destruction of an ancient civilization. It's happening before our eyes, and yet one still can't get most people interested in the subject.

And even more important and scary, you can't get them interested in what's coming next!

For example, Libertarian and futurismo bloggers look forward eagerly to life extension. And they somehow seem to think that it won't change them. That they will merely have more time for doing the same old stuff. And they think that coming generations will be just like them. That they will think like them! Sorry, that's crazy. We don't know how we will think and believe when such changes have happened, but for sure we will be different. We will hardly recognize our descendants. To me our world is like living in a science fiction story in which we are all being shoved into time machines and sent what? We don't know. It seems to me that filling our pockets with useful tools ought to be our top priority! And I mean philosophical tools of course. Things that will provide mental solidity and balance when we pop out into a strange world without familiar mental landmarks. but I seem to be alone here.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:06 AM

December 31, 2006

Belloc on New Years...

Hillaire Belloc.
Hillaire Belloc

A New Year has this useful thing about it... it makes man remember and regret his follies and his sins. Never forget the great saying that when a man comes towards the end of the downward slope and sees before him the open gates of the marble tomb, he finds on either side of him two groups of companions. They talk to him continually and leave him no peace: on the right side his follies; on the left his sins. If we did not become familiar and conversant with these ultimate companions we should make very poor wayfaring with them at the end. And as, before the end, we lose all other friends and fellowships, let us at least be conversant with these and learn to know them each by name ...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

December 24, 2006

Not an end in itself...

Nowadays it is sometimes held, though wrongly, that freedom is an end in itself, that each human being is free when he makes use of freedom as he wishes, and that this must be the aim in the lives of individuals and societies. In reality, freedom is a great gift only when we know how to use it consciously for everything that is our true good.
    — John Paul II
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 PM

December 22, 2006

Tyranny is the opposite of authority...

Tyranny is the opposite of authority. For authority simply means right; and nothing is authoritative except when somebody has a right to do, and there is right in doing. . . . Moreover, a man can only have authority by admitting something better than himself; and the bully does not get his claim from anybody but himself.

It is not a question, therefore, of there being authority, and then tyranny, which is too much authority; for tyranny is no authority. Tyranny means too little authority; for though, of course, an individual may use wrongly the power that may go with it, he is in that act disloyal to the law of right, which should be his own authority.
    --GK Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 7:00 PM

December 20, 2006

There are those people who believe that little things matter....

I liked this bit, which was written by a commenter at Amy Welborn's blog. You don't have to be interested in the religious aspect of this to appreciate the philosophical divide among people. I myself am among those who think the little things are crucial, and if I could live life as I wished...well, I'd have to live at least 10,000 years to have enough time to get all the details properly savored and squared away...

Amy writes:
"The recognition - the profound recognition - that the little things exist at the service of the greater—the life-changing presence of Jesus Christ in the world..."
This is a good insight; one of the central divides that I'm finding as I grow older is between those people who believe that little things matter and those who believe that they are...well, just little things....

...There is a wisdom in the small things that is hidden from the big minds, almost an inability to see the importance of the little stuff unless we can directly see the big changes linked to it...and even then only admitting to it with grumbling. The joy of the world as God created it is that not only do the little things point to and affect the big things, but even the littlest thing has a value that the Lord does not miss in his count of all things. Only a God-made-infant could arrange a world in which the most common of all people is offered, each day, the chance to participate in the salvation of the world by the careful love of so many little things.

The small things are important because, at the very least, we seem to have a God who is deeply amused at making the little things matter...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

December 9, 2006

"Don't mince matters...Give it to them good and strong"

For Sunday, a bit of one of the all-time great conservative essays, Isaiah's Job (here's the whole thing) by Albert J. Nock...

...I referred him to the story of the prophet Isaiah....I shall paraphrase the story in our common speech since it has to be pieced out from various sources. . .

The prophet's career began at the end of King Uzziah's reign, say about 740 B.C. This reign was uncommonly long, almost half a century, and apparently prosperous. It was one of those prosperous reigns, however like the reign of Marcus Aurelius at Rome, or the administration of Eubulus at Athens, or of Mr. Coolidge at Washington where at the end the prosperity suddenly peters out and things go by the board with a resounding crash.

In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are,'' He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you,'' He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.''

Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job in fact, he had asked for it but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so, if the enterprise was to be a failure from the start, was there any sense in starting it?

"Ah,'' the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it''....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:19 AM

November 26, 2006

"some truth that he has never seen before"

...Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture to-morrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare to-morrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.

There is one only other parallel to this position; and that is the parallel of the life in which we all began. When your father told you, walking about the garden, that bees stung or that roses smelt sweet, you did not talk of taking the best out of his philosophy. When the bees stung you, you did not call it an entertaining coincidence. When the rose smelt sweet you did not say “My father is a rude, barbaric symbol, enshrining (perhaps unconsciously) the deep delicate truths that flowers smell.” No: you believed your father, because you had found him to be a living fountain of facts, a thing that really knew more than you; a thing that would tell you truth to-morrow, as well as to-day.

And if this was true of your father, it was even truer of your mother; at least it was true of mine, to whom this book is dedicated. Now, when society is in a rather futile fuss about the subjection of women, will no one say how much every man owes to the tyranny and privilege of women, to the fact that they alone rule education until education becomes futile: for a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women. Every man is womanised, merely by being born. They talk of the masculine woman; but every man is a feminised man. And if ever men walk to Westminster to protest against this female privilege, I shall not join their procession...[Link]
Chesterton portrait by Zach Brissett
(Sketch by Zach Brissett)
Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

November 25, 2006



Carterism is a new postmodern pathology in which smug piety, dressed up in evangelical new-age Christianity, pronounces from afar moral censure on the more righteous party—on the theory that acting well but not perfect is worse than acting badly. Carter reminds me of the timid parent who spanks hard the good son for the rare misdemeanor because he takes it with silence while giving a pass to the wayward son for the daily felony because he would throw a public fit if corrected...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:12 AM

November 5, 2006

Let us live while we live...

John Henry Newman, ca. 1840
We were made for action, and for right action,—for thought, and for true thought. Let us live while we live; let us be alive and doing; let us act on what we have, since we have not what we wish. Let us believe what we do not see and know. Let us forestall knowledge by faith. Let us maintain before we have demonstrated. This seeming paradox is the secret of happiness. Why should we be unwilling to go by faith? We do all things in this world by faith in the word of others. By faith only we know our position in the world, our circumstances, our rights and privileges, our fortunes, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our age, our mortality. Why should religion be an exception? Why should we be unwilling to use for heavenly objects what we daily use for earthly? —Newman

Most of the problems that vex our world today would not have surprised John Henry Newman. He looked into the future back when Queen Victoria was still a princess, and described many of them (and solved some of them, if anybody wants to pay attention).

The quote above alludes to his writings about the difficulty of having faith in a skeptical world. There is an argument that goes, "One should not believe anything that can't be proved by logic, or proved by science." (Usually said of religion by the village atheist.) Newman explained that this is a false argument. Almost everything we know we accept by adding together probabilities, and arriving at a certainty. I believe I was born on a certain date because I add the unliklihood of an incorrect birth certificate to the unliklihood of my parents telling a lie (which itself is based on adding up probabilities) and come up with a certitude. Like 99.9% of the things I know, I have not tested it by formal logic or scientific experiment. It is by the same process that I have come to have faith in the existance of Neutrinos and viruses, neither of which I've ever seen or touched...

Newman called this process the "Illative Sense."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 AM

October 24, 2006

Too busy to really blog, so, some quotes...

Excerpt from The Quotable Andrea...

...But getting back to the “truth” fad—I guess this comes from the rise of psychology and psychoanalysis. This “science” was supposed to aid us in understanding human nature, but if you ask me the most hidebound medieval theologian—even the simplest medieval baker or farmer—had a better understanding of human nature than today’s average person with a brain confounded by several decades of psychiatrist-speak. No one before Freud would have even thought of using the word “repressed” to speak of a well-behaved human being, but we have learned that someone who can’t control their “urges” is a “free spirit.” Never mind that the constant need to have Great! Sex! at all times has left a generation of people haggard, wounded, and unable to relate to the opposite sex except as an enemy....
--Andrea Harris (

And from AOG:

...I suppose one major difference is that I place the blame for all of the killing in Iraq on the people doing the killing, not those trying to prevent it. The USA has spent, bled, and died to minimize the deaths. I feel no shame on behalf of my nation because others are mass murdering scum and so I do not regret my support for the invasion at all....

He needs some leftists to explain to him that everything bad that happens is caused by the US (or Israel).

From the Daily Mail:

...A leaked account of an 'impartiality summit' called by BBC chairman Michael Grade, is certain to lead to a new row about the BBC and its reporting on key issues, especially concerning Muslims and the war on terror.

It reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC's 'diversity tsar', wants Muslim women newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.

At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians...

No comments needed...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 AM

October 22, 2006

Something for Sunday...

...It is the peculiarity of the warfare between the Church and the world, that the world seems ever gaining on the Church, yet the Church is really ever gaining on the world. Its enemies are ever triumphing over it as vanquished, and its members ever despairing; yet it abides. It abides and it sees the ruins of its oppressors and enemies. "O how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end."

Kingdoms rise and fall; nations expand and contract; dynasties begin and end; princes are born and die; confederacies are made and unmade, and parties, and companies, and crafts, and guilds, and establishments, and philosophies, and sects, and heresies. They have their day, but the Church is eternal; yet in their day they seem of much account...
--- John Henry Cardinal Newman
Posted by John Weidner at 6:43 AM

October 5, 2006

It's what we have Republican Presidents for...

From a review, by James Nuechterlein, of several books on Abraham Lincoln, in the August issue of First Things...

...At other times he showed flashes of imperial insistence. In January 1865 he was two votes short of getting the necessary two-thirds margin in the House of Representatives for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. His instructions to his vote managers were blunt: "I am president of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come—a measure of such importance that those two votes must he procured. I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done; but remember that I am president of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes." The votes were procured...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

September 25, 2006

"Administer the empire by engaging in no activity...."

Roger Simon...

...Perhaps this has all been a conspiracy to once again elevate the reputation of Karl Rove. I was always something of a skeptic msyelf - I mean what's the big deal? It's only politics, not, as they say, rocket science. But I think the Rovester really does have a secret and that is just to do nothing - a kind of Zen meets Hippocrates approach to political game playing. ("First do no harm, Bodhidharma.") If you wait long enough, all your enemies will come crashing down around you from their own energy.

The Plame Affair was an interesting example. Rove just sat there with barely a response as his opponents (great truth-seeking journalistic Children of Watergate) filled nearly every issue of Newsweek with Talmudic analyses of this non-event, projecting the writers' own paranoid fantasies and agression on an object that clearly did not exist....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:20 AM

September 17, 2006

"A chance meeting, as we say in Middle Earth"

... When we talk of our development I fancy we mean little more than that we have changed with the changing world; and if we are writers or intellectuals, that our ideas have changed with the changing fashions of thought, and therefore not always for the better. I think that if any of us examines his life, he will find that most good has come to him from the few loyalties, and a few discoveries made many generations before he was born, which must always be made anew.

These too may sometimes appear to come by chance, but in the infinite web of things and events chance must be something different from what we think it to be. To comprehend that is not given to us, and to think of it is to recognize a mystery, and to acknowledge the necessity of faith. As I look back on the part of the mystery which is my own life, my own fable, what I am most aware of is that we receive more than we can ever give; we receive it from the past, on which we draw with every breath, but also—and this is a point of faith—from the Source of the mystery itself, by the means which religious people call Grace.

-- Edwin Muir
Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 AM

July 10, 2006

The happiness of reading...

A nice quote, borrowed from another LibraryThing user...

"This nice and subtle happiness of reading, this joy not chilled by age, this polite and unpunished vice, this selfish, serene life-long intoxication."
   ~Logan Pearsall Smith
Posted by John Weidner at 10:14 AM

July 5, 2006

not servility but fidelity...

Tradition is like the conscience of a community or the principle of identity that links one generation with another; it enables them to remain...the same people as they go forward through history, which transforms all things...tradition is memory, and memory enriches experience. If we remembered nothing it would be impossible to advance; the same would be true if we were bound to a slavish imitation of the past. True tradition is not servility but fidelity.
    --Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition

I found this quote in another book, and I've ordered Congar's book mostly on the strength of it (plus he has a mighty reputation, and I've never read anything by him).

Peter Drucker always taught that the key to making decisions is figuring out what the question actually is. It more and more seems to me like I'm in a world that is constantly coming up with right answers to the wrong questions. One of our top questions should be: How do we deal with being carried along towards an unknown future like chips floating on a torrent of change? How do we stay "ourselves," how do we know who we are when every landmark is shifting?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:39 AM

June 18, 2006

Quote for Sunday...

A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness towards the beautiful are not incidental: they necessarily are reflected in his theology.

-- Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. 1985
Posted by John Weidner at 4:33 PM

June 15, 2006

Quote for the morning

John Podhoretz, in The Corner:

Karl Rove won't say it, and his lawyer won't say it, but I'll say it: Patrick Fitzgerald's conduct in the Rove matter has been disgraceful. He kept Rove hanging for eight months with his bizarre game of keeping the Rove case "open" even though he claimed he did not expect any more indictments. I'd guess this cost Rove several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees and months of sleepless nights. Nice work, Patrick. You have once again reminded us why the misbegotten term "special prosecutor" should be considered an obscenity.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:16 AM

June 11, 2006

Two quotes...

...Hopefulness, mind you, not optimism. Optimism is a matter of optics, of seeing what you want to see and not seeing what you don't want to see. Hope, one the other hand, is a Christian virtue. It is the unblinking acknowledgment of all that militates against hope, and the unrelenting refusal to despair. We have not the right to despair, and, finally, we have not the reason to despair....
--Richard John Neuhaus, introduction to The Best of the Public Square, Book 2.

Those who equate Haditha with My Lai, and Iraq with Vietnam, would do well to remember the last time we gave peace a chance. For millions of innocents, it was the peace of the grave....
-- Investor’s Business Daily editorial. (Thanks to Tim)
Posted by John Weidner at 9:55 AM

May 29, 2006

Do not be discouraged...

I liked this. Pope Benedict, speaking to young people in Kraków-Błonie...

...My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person’s heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he can not only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding. It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss.

These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life....

Pope Benedict XVI

AP Photo/Alik Keplicz

And I like this picture. The Pope is not, to my mind, a very photogenic guy. In fact he often looks like some strange uncle drawn by Charles Addams. Here he looks like the sweet person that those have met him always describe, but also like the intellectual heavyweight he is. Dangerous (in the good sense, like Gandalf). What a time this is to be alive...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:45 PM

May 26, 2006

Some things to ponder...

Peter Burnett, commenting on an article titled "Politicians, economists, teachers… why are they so desperate to make us happy?", writes:

...Few people seem to notice how the therapeutic culture supports the destruction of family, community and faith by trying with varying degrees of subtlety to convince folks the demands and duties of these are the source of their unhappiness. The caring professions largely share the statist fantasy of directing the lives of millions of happy, servile individuals unburdened by other loyalties.

The result is not only a loss of freedom and dignity, but also rank unhappiness. To paraphrase the late Robertson Davies, happiness is a feline condition. If you reach out for it directly, it will run away every time, but if you ignore it, it has a habit of curling up beside you unexpectedly. Better to walk face first into the storm and seek wisdom....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:54 AM

May 25, 2006

Today's quote...

There is a case for telling the truth; there is a case for avoiding the scandal; but there is no possible defense for the man who tells the scandal, but does not tell the truth.
      -- GK Chesterton
Posted by John Weidner at 11:03 AM

April 19, 2006

The most practical thing...

...But there are some people, nevertheless — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them...

    --GK Chesterton, from Heretics
Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 PM

Quote for you...

Charlene passed on to me my quote of the day, by Jonah Goldberg:

The week the deranged president of Iran again calls for the annihilation of Israel and once again denies the Holocaust ever happpened James Carroll draws the only logical conclusion: Bush is a lunatic and this administration is run by "deeply frustrated, angry, and psychologically wounded people."

Yeah, and if Iran turns Israel into a smidgeon of burnt-on crust, why, it will because WE have projected our "psychologically wounded" American and Republican evil onto them, and forced them to act contrary to their normally sweet natures. Blehpfff, I say.

And how many decades have we been hearing that being conservative is some kind of psychological disorder? If you can't argue with facts and logic, just say that your opponent is crazy. Stupid weakling lefties.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:40 AM

April 8, 2006

"nothing more pernicious when attained by bad measures"

"They ought to have reflected . . . that as there is nothing more desirable, or advantageous than peace, when founded in justice and honour, so there is nothing more shameful and at the same time more pernicious when attained by bad measures, and purchased at the price of liberty."
      -- Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, August 19, 1774.

I just happened upon this quote in an old post, from 11/2002, wherein I noted that I had been blogging for one year...It's kind of cool that I can go back to old posts from then and find nothing I would disagree with now...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:03 PM

April 2, 2006

We are all on our last cruise...

...We sail in leaky bottoms and on great and perilous waters; and to take a cue from the dolorous old naval ballad, we have heard the mermaidens singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more. Old and young, we are all on our last cruise. If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for God's sake pass it round, and let us have a pipe before we go.

        -- Robert Louis Stevenson, from his essay
Crabbed Age and Youth.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:44 PM

March 3, 2006

Crunch nonsense...

I might have missed, if a friend hadn't pointed it out, Jonah Goldberg's critique of Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons. I find Dreher's way of thinking ludicrous, and 10-x ludicrous when garbed as conservative thinking. The idea that hippie affectations, such as "organic food" or "natural" fibers constitute virtues always reminds me of the woman in CS Lewis's marvelous Screwtape Letters, who rejects the food offered by her hosts, and demands they make her just a little dry toast, cooked just exactly so. She is a glutton, though she imagines she is just the opposite.

Eating lovingly prepared foods with congenial friends may well be an antidote to the anomie of modern life, but so is sitting in McDonalds reading a good book....

...And then there's this whopper of a statement: "Adam Smith and Karl Marx are two sides of the same coin: they define man as primarily economic man."

Putting aside the grotesque slander to Smith, who was one of the great moral philosophers of the last three centuries, it's simply untrue that the free-market is rooted in materialism or that Smith's intellectual descendants define man in economic terms. Classical liberals root their case for laissez-faire in the autonomy of the individual, the primacy of freedom, the faith that virtue not freely chosen isn't virtuous, and in a deeply religious conception of the individual conscience (another sorely missing voice in Rod's book is Michael Novak, the world's leading authority on the intersection of market economics and Catholicism). Save for a few Randians (heh), the only people who really think the free market is based on a materialist vision in an intellectually serious way are themselves Marxist materialists, in much the same way that the only people who see white racism behind every black problem are people convinced of the primacy of race.

Besides, we don't even get the sort of metaphysical materialism Rod talks about from Marx, or even from economics. We get it from Darwin and Malthus....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:17 AM

January 27, 2006

Silicon Valley thinking...

I haven't blogged about Google, because everybody else has already covered the subject...

But what I find particularly interesting is their "don't be evil" motto. It is SO typical of liberals, including Silicon Valley liberals. I see this kind of thinking all the time around here, and WHAT'S MISSING? How could the very people who claim to not be "evil" become so easily enmeshed in what looks like evil?

The thing that's missing are core principles. If you are going to plunge into a thicket like China, you need to have already sorted out your beliefs, and have a pretty good idea of how much you are willing to compromise them for practical needs. blithely saying "Don't be evil" won't cut it--you need to know exactly what it is you think is bad. And what you believe is good.

And the issues Google is struggling with don't all point one way. Google is a publicly held corporation. They have taken money from investors in return for a promise to seek profits and growth. "A promise made is a debt unpaid." If they forwent profits in order to "not be evil," they would have been doing another kind of evil: Defrauding their investors, who own the company. If they pass up a market of a billion people, then anyone who owns Google stock could say, "Hold on there, pals. I own part of this company. I'm one of your bosses, and "oil for the lamps of China" sounds pretty good to me."

They should have thought out what their motto means, and informed investors before they took their money. But that's what liberals never do---think it out. Just being liberal tells them that they are the "good guys."

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
--Margaret Thatcher

Listen to that wise woman. She knew!

Which leads to another point: Because of her and other mentors, especially Peter Drucker, I know. Little me. Those Google guys are very very smart. Probably ten times smarter than I am. So why do they look dim-witted to me? Because I have philosophical power tools! They are John Henry with his hammer, and I'm the guy with the steam drill. In fact I first encountered that "don't be evil" thing last year, and instantly suspected that it was a sign of dangerously muddled thinking.

Here's some ugly stuff about Google. I think those guys are Hip-Deep in the Big Muddy, and the utter mushiness of Silicon Valley culture leaves them CLUELESS about how to extricate themselves.

And the mess could be important in a purely dollars-and-cents way. Google is trying to use the enthusiasm and creativity and energy and spirit of it's employees to build things that are new and very difficult to pull off. Spirit matters, just as much as money. And it could well depress people's spirits, if their friends start suggesting that they Google terms like: "laogai."

Posted by John Weidner at 11:01 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 3, 2006

it's not all that interesting...

I just read this paragraph, which refers to the election of Pope Benedict, but which seems to me to fit a whole lot of things right now...

...If "progressive" Catholicism has no serious candidate, it's not because candidates are not available; it's more likely because the so-called progressive project, eager for the Catholic Church to make the same concessions to modernity that virtually every other non-fundamentalist Christian community has made since World War II, is exhausted. And if it is exhausted, it may be because, ultimately, it's not all that interesting, this business of deconstructing centuries of doctrine, liturgy, and moral teaching. That, in turn, may explain why the progressive project is infertile—unable to attract the brightest students in graduate schools of theology in the United States, for example... (From God's Choice : Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, by George Weigel.)

Not interesting. Exactly. It's like "art." For the last century and a half the idea has been that if we chuck out all things old, and all things restrictive or disciplined, our creativity will flourish. But actually just the opposite has happened. Art has become more and more boring. Somebody I read long ago said that it's almost impossible to make an ugly object by carving stone with a hammer and chisel. And if you are working with plastic it's hard to make a beautiful one.

My point isn't "anti-modern," however, but anti modernism, which is a sort of Party Line or "ism" that says what "modern" is supposed to be. Modernism may, long ago, have been the creation of free spirits at the cutting edge, but now it's a become a petty intellectual tyranny. A self-appointed group gets to say what's modern, and label anything else "old-fashioned" or reactionary. And what would be funny if it were not so destructive, is that the modernists themselves are now the reactionaries, defending old ideas against the tides of change.

There are lots of modern ideas and movements that are not "modern." As an example (from the same book) there's a cartoonish view of the Catholic Church pushed in the press, that divides it into reformers, and anti-reformers who want to push back the clock. One thing Weigel makes clear is that the real division is between two different flavors of reform that emerged from Vatican II. I may quote more about this soon, but I recommend Weigel's book.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:04 AM

December 19, 2005

Today's funny line...

Washington Times: ...But Mr. Reid was furious. "We've become like the House of Commons. Whoever has the most votes wins. It hasn't worked that way in 216 years," he said...

Shocking. I'm sure LBJ or FDR never abused their position by passing legislation in such a cowardly and underhanded fashion, by letting the majority decide...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:43 PM

December 4, 2005

"withdrawing what we value from the market"

There's a good interview with Roger Scruton in Right Reason...

...MG: What deleterious consequences result from the "free market ideology" you mention? Are there particular economic arrangements that conservatives ought to prefer?

Scruton: The free market is a necessary part of any stable community, and the arguments for maintaining it as the core of economic life were unanswerably set out by Ludwig von Mises. Hayek developed the arguments further, in order to offer a general defence of "spontaneous order", as the means to produce and maintain socially necessary knowledge. As Hayek points out, there are many varieties of spontaneous order that exemplify the epistemic virtues that he values: the common law is one of them, so too is ordinary morality.

The problem for conservatism is to reconcile the many and often conflicting demands that these various forms of life impose on us. The free-market ideologues take one instance of spontaneous order, and erect it into a prescription for all the others. They ask us to believe that the free exchange of commodities is the model for all social interaction. But many of our most important forms of life involve withdrawing what we value from the market: sexual morality is an obvious instance, city planning another. (America has failed abysmally in both those respects, of course.)

Looked at from the anthropological point of view religion can be seen as an elaborate (and spontaneous) way in which communities remove what is most precious to them (i.e. all that concerns the creation and reproduction of community) from the erosion of the market. A cultural conservative, such as I am, supports that enterprise. I would put the point in terms that echo Burke and Chesterton: the free market provides the optimal solution to the competition among the living for scarce resources; but when applied to the goods in which the dead and the unborn have an interest (sex, for instance) it wastes what must be saved....

As I learned long ago from Peter Drucker, there are only two ways that developed societies can make their decisions; either they are made by the state, or by the marketplace. And this is a Procrustean bed we are always miserable in, because the state is oppressive and inefficient, but the market is corrosive, and denies our hunger for equality. There is no way to avoid this dilemma, and no easy way to shield even a little of our existence from it. Scruton expresses the same perplexity in slightly different words.

Conservatives should make it a goal to preserve and encourage all intermediate institutions, private and public, as windbreaks that may temper the storm blasts of state and market. Sort of like the"checks and balances," of our Constitution, that were deliberately created to hamper change and activity. Which is hard, because we now have power in our hands after a long hiatus, and there are all sorts of horrid problems that need solving...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:46 PM

November 24, 2005

"Watchmen on the walls of world freedom"

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

John F. Kennedy
Undelivered luncheon speech
Dallas, Texas
Nov. 22, 1963

I Don't have any inspiration for a cool Thanksgiving post this morning, but there's some stuff in my archives...

For instance this, about residents of Falluja leaving notes of thanks for the coalition troops fighting to liberate their town.

Or this, about a family that spent their vacation taking wounded men From Walter Reed Hospital out for meals...

This, about the President's 2003 Thanksgiving flight to Iraq...

This, on the logistics of bringing a feast to the troops...

And this, from last year, fits Thanksgiving very well...

Pearl Harbor survivor embraces Iraq vet
Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of Dallas is overcome with emotion as he embraces Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during the Dallas Veterans Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall on Thursday. Graunke, who was a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, a leg and an eye while attempting to defuse a bomb in Iraq last July.
Jim Mahoney, The Dallas (Texas) Morning News / AP photo
Army Times Frontline Photos, Novenber 12, 2004

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

November 17, 2005

Killer question...

Scott at PowerLine posts a memory of William F. Buckley:

...He fielded student questions following the speech from a microphone placed on the floor below the podium. One of my classmates, visibly drunk, approached the microphone to ask Buckley a killer question.

"Mr. Buckley, Mr. Buckley, Mr. Buckley," he said as he warmed to his theme. "Do you really think the American involvement in Vietnam is right, or do you recognize that it's an imperialistic war where we're pursuing our own interests at the expense of the Vietnam people with no justification except the higher interests of American business and its friends in the Nixon administration..." and so on, at slightly greater length.

"The former," Buckley responded. That's one moment that has stuck with me for a long time....

That guy reminds me of some recent commenters...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 AM

November 16, 2005

"Throwing their own words back at them"

..... What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures – conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers – and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.

The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone – but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them. And far more important, we're going to continue sending a consistent message to the men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. We can never say enough how much we appreciate them, and how proud they make us. They and their families can be certain: That this cause is right … and the performance of our military has been brave and honorable … and this nation will stand behind our fighting forces with pride and without wavering until the day of victory."

-- Vice President Cheney

From remarks at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 PM

November 2, 2005

A wee quote

From Best of the Web:

Democrats love to mock the Republican base for believing the Bible is true. Democratic basemen believe "Fahrenheit 9/11" is true!...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:43 PM

October 10, 2005

Hear, hear...

Against the Government's position, I can see no purpose in disputing that our helping to overthrow Saddam Hussein has inflamed Islamist totalitarian groups. Why deny what we should take pride in?
Oliver Kamm, via Samizdata
Posted by John Weidner at 7:46 PM

September 26, 2005

"a socially conservative plinth"

This is a quote by Peter Burnet I had copied last year and never blogged...

...And they are right. The market is cold and uncaring, which is why radical libertarianism is bound to fail. Political freedom and free enterprise are proven essentials to a healthy and resilient society, but, unlike socialism, they are not self-contained, comprehensive philosophies that address all aspects of collective life, as Adam Smith recognized. A society that believes only in an atomistic individualism with no obligations beyond basic civility will leave behind the dull, the unlucky, the emotionally fragile, the unattractive, the socially unskilled, the unhealthy and many of those locked into family obligations. That is a lot of us. It is both morally offensive and politically dangerous.

Free societies must be built on a socially conservative plinth of interdependence of family, community and faith. They will flourish with citizens that see duty to others as the definition of the good life, not “finding the real me”, self-actualization or any of the other noxious creeds touted by educators and pop psychologists that serve only to drive practical and ethical wedges between us. The exact extent of these duties will always depend upon empirical realities and the vagaries of human nature and cannot be defined a priori. But to ignore or evade them will lead to both political instability and a sterile existence wherein life's highest purpose is summed up by that old Yuppie joke: "He who finishes with the most toys wins."

It's kinda scary all the draft posts I have that never got used.

And I feel particularly bad because I'm reminded I haven't blogged the BEST BOOK I've read this year, the Anglosphere Challenge, by James C. Bennett. (Charlene agrees; we were grabbing it out of each other's hands). One of his points is that the nations and groups that succeed are those with a strong "civic society," where groups easily arise other than just the citizen and the state.

But it will have to wait; no time right now...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

September 9, 2005

If so, bury gold coins in the garden...

Jay Nordlinger:

I think of one of my favorite Reagan stories: While governor, he is on one of the California campuses, leaving a regents� meeting. And a student mob surrounds his car. They are chanting, �We are the future! We are the future!� Reagan reaches for a notepad, scribbles something on it, and puts it to the window: �I�ll sell my bonds.�

Posted by John Weidner at 3:17 PM

September 7, 2005

Aquinas put it under Charity...

Christians should remember that the just-war doctrine is not grounded in revenge, punishment, or even justice. Thomas Aquinas discussed it in Summa Theologica -- not in the section on justice but in the section on charity (that is, the love of God). As Christian scholar Darrell Cole writes, 'The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war ... fail to show love towards their neighbor as well as towards God.' Out of love of neighbor, then, Christians can and should support a preemptive strike, if ordered by the appropriate magistrate to prevent an imminent attack.

Charles Colson
Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 AM

August 27, 2005


From a letter to OpinionJournal:

Iraq is just like Vietnam except: We occupy Hanoi. We've captured Ho Chi Minh.
The North Vietnamese have just held a free and democratic election. The North Vietnamese are working on a new constitution. Yes, Iraq is just like Vietnam.

(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:11 AM

August 24, 2005

Back down to earth...

Charlene and I both noticed this paragraph in Edward Whelan's Bench Memos blog at NRO. It was written by Judge Roberts...

...“It is argued, however, that divesting the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over a particular class of cases would undermine the constitutional role of the Court as the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions. The Constitution, however, does not accord such a role to the Court. The authority of the Court to interpret the Constitution derives from the necessity of its doing so in the course of discharging its judicial responsibility to decide those cases and controversies properly presented to it. [Lengthy quotation from Marbury.] If the necessity of interpreting the Constitution is removed, as it would be if the Court were divested of jurisdiction, the basis for the Court’s role as final arbiter of the Constitution is removed.”...

This really brings the judicial branch back down to the realm of the sensible and sane. Judges decide cases. If there are no cases, then judges have nothing to do.

The Supreme court, and other courts, do not "interpret the Constitution." They decide cases. If Congress passed a Bill of Attainder against me, and locked me up for web-logical turpitude, the Supreme Court could say or do nothing about even so obviously unconstitutional a law...unless a case was brought before them.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:44 PM

July 23, 2005

Today's quote

Does John Kerry really want to be talking about releasing documents? I'm way over that--since W won--but still...reminds you of the time Ted Kennedy talked about water torture...--Kathryn Lopez, in The Corner

Poor poor Kerry. Every coupla years he plays at doing something "senatorial," but as far as I know none of them have mattered in the least. A wasted life. He might have served usefully on a school board, or been a figurehead for the Audubon Society...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:20 AM

July 15, 2005

Iraq invasion incites anger of "Arab street!"

Quote doo zhoor:

Bin Laden had the sympathy of the world after 9/11, and he squandered it. Just pissed it away in the name of foolish foreign adventures! He must be ruing the day he ever went into Iraq.

Tell me about it. That's Best of the Web, writing about the recent polls taken in various Moslem countries...And by the way, isn't it cool, how polling is now done everywhere? So when America-hating Jew-hating "experts" on campus or in the (anti)Democratic Party proclaim that the "Arab street" hates—wait for it, this will surprise you—America and Israel, we can go in AND FIND OUT THE TRUTH! Yay! Ha ha ha.

And just now I've thought of an answer to those people who complain that there's no way to know when the War on Terror is won. It's like the Cold War against communism. It was won, intellectually, when the only place in the world that Marxism was still respected was on American campuses. It will be the same with Islamo-fascism. People in Arabia will be voting for the Free-Trade Party, while our lefty jackasses ooops, sorry, pro-fess-ers, will be lauding the heroic Arab people's resistance against American hegemony...then we will know the War is over.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:59 PM

June 9, 2005

What a splendid woman...

It's pretty funny, those collectivists at People for the American Way have compiled a collection of quotes by Janice Rogers Brown. They doubtless intended them to reveal her as an "extremist" and a "wacko," worthy of being filibustered, but every one of them is lucid and TRUE! (Thanks to Julian Sanchez for the link.)

Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible

...Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning a democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government. …The right to express one’s individuality and essential human dignity through the free use of property is just as important as the right to do so through speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion. [Dissenting opinion in San Remo Hotel L.P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 41 P.3d 87, 120, 128-9 (Cal. 2002)

When people are criticizing Bush for not being conservative or libertarian enough, they should put Brown into the scale on the other side...Here's more:

...We are heirs to a mind-numbing bureaucracy; subject to a level of legalization that cannot avoid being arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory. What other outcome is possible in a society in which no adult can wake up, go about their business, and return to their homes without breaking several laws?...

...Curiously, in the current dialectic, the right to keep and bear arms – a right expressly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights – is deemed less fundamental than implicit protections the court purports to find in the penumbras of other express provisions. (citations omitted) But surely, the right to preserve one’s life is at least as fundamental as the right to preserve one’s privacy....

We continue to chip away at the foundations of our success. We dismissed natural law and morality because its unverifiable judgments were deemed inferior to reason. But, then, we drove reason itself from the camp because the most significant of life’s questions defy empiricism. …Only natural law offers an alternative to might makes right and accounts for man’s “unrelenting quest to rise above the ‘letter of the law’ to the realm of the spirit.”
Posted by John Weidner at 7:12 PM

May 30, 2005

"But grief is not the end of all..."

This is the conclusion of a Memorial Day Address by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., May 30, 1884 (Thanks to Orrin):

....But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart. Such hearts--ah me, how many!--were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year--in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life--there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march--honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death--of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen , the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.

Holmes himself was wounded several times in the Civil War.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 AM

May 12, 2005

Quote du Jour..

...It is the peculiar genius of Third Way solutions like the Ownership Society that they use the mechanisms of government authority to make individuals independent of the State. The Right will squawk about your being ordered to save for retirement by the government but the Left is absolutely frantic over the prospect of everyone owning a stake of their own in society.
Orrin Judd

"Absolutely frantic." I''d say that hits it. Think of some poor schlep who mops floors for a living, getting a monthly statement from Fidelity or Vanguard! He may not be too bright, but some small light bulbs are likely to come on. He will be less ready to believe lying politicians who tell him that "the corporations" are responsible for his problems, if he owns part of some of them.

A little fantasy pops into mind...the janitorial crew is drinking coffee in their break-room, down in the sub-sub-basement. The resident Bolshie starts to spout the usual balunky about the evil Oilyburton Corporation and its war-profiteering, and Marcus says, "Don't gimme that shit, man, my Halliburton just dropped another 10 points. I'm gonna sell it and find sumpin' wit profits!"

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

May 10, 2005

a certain view of the world...

My friend Frank e-mails this:

I was in a French science museum and happened onto an exhibit of the Model T. The Engish translation of the exhibit comment was as follows:
"The automobile remained a craftsman-built luxury vehicle until 1908 when the America carmaker Henry Ford began manufacturing the very first mass-produced car, the T, thanks to the development of the production line. In the space of twenty years he sold 15 million of them, completely disrupting the American way of life in the process."
Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 AM

May 3, 2005

Quote O' the Day...

...Americans must always remember that for us sovereignty is a one way street--ours is inviolable; yours depends on what you do with it.
      --Orrin Judd
Posted by John Weidner at 12:11 PM

May 1, 2005

Odious light...

You are not superior just because you see the world in an odious light.

--Vicomte de Chateaubriand
Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 PM

March 22, 2005

A belief in the future...

The plight of Europe is such that, whenever I have the chance to talk to young people now, at any age from 12 to 20, I always urge them to make their future in America, particularly if they are clever and energetic, qualities essential for a vigorous life over there. America has everything Europe lacks. It has the world's most dynamic economy, making impressive gains in productivity while expanding the number of jobs at the rate of a quarter of a million a month. It is growing in numbers, attracting the world's best immigrants, and with a healthy birth rate of its own. Population is just topping 300 million and will be 425 million by mid-century. It has a democratic spirit at all levels of society so that people really feel they create and participate in government. In science and philosophy, in painting, sculpture, music and literature, it makes Europe seem provincial. It has nearly 4,000 universities, including all the world's best. Most of all, it has a belief in its own future, a confidence that the world can be made, and will be made, a better place, not only materially but spiritually. It is the nearest we have in the world to The Good Society, and my only regret is that I did not make my home there 30 or 40 years ago, when I was still young enough to weather the change. Instead I have to make the best of enjoying the bits of England that are left.....

-- Paul Johnson, quoted by Jay Nordlinger
Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

March 11, 2005

Quote of the hour...

Charlene loved this, by Mrs P:

Hillary Clinton is not fit to be President of the United States. She's fit to be President of Harvard.
Posted by John Weidner at 1:45 PM

March 1, 2005

The ordinary happiness of human beings...

I borrowed this from the Federalist newsletter...

It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects -- military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden -- that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.
      --C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 4:04 PM

February 22, 2005

These reflections, arising out of the present crisis....

From the First Inaugural of George Washington...

...Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence...
Posted by John Weidner at 11:04 AM

February 14, 2005

does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision...

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and ages. Many of our men of speculation , instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reasons involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice and to leave nothing but the naked reason, because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
--Edmund Burke

This was quoted in The Roads to Modernity, by Gertrude Himmelfarb, which Charlene and I have both just started reading. Great book so far. She dissents from the common academic wisdom that the Enlightenment was primarily a French affair, and that it was not very important. She puts British thinkers at the center, and argues their importance in forming the traditions of the United States. I don't know enough to really criticize her ideas, or review the book. But I like the flavor of it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:21 PM

January 18, 2005

Quote 'O the day...

It is a good rule in life never to apologize.
The right sort of people do not want
apologies, and the wrong sort take a
mean advantage of them
    --P.G. Wodehouse
Posted by John Weidner at 8:55 PM

January 9, 2005

Today's quote

from a super column by Marc Steyn:

As usual, the media did their best to string along with the Democrats' alternative reality. For the most part, the press now fulfill the same function for the party that kindly nurses do at the madhouse; if the guy thinks he's Napoleon, just smile affably and ask him how Waterloo's going...
Posted by John Weidner at 11:09 AM

December 27, 2004

A wee drop...

David Terron of The Cabarfeidh Pages kindly sent me some HTML to make this sort of drop cap:

Every government must rest on some principle or passion in the minds of the people....the very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men'. That is to say men are secured in their rights to life, liberty and property by clear and fair laws, falling equally on all, wisely and justly administered. Any society where rights are bestowed as privileges handed down at the whim of a king, or an aristocracy, or even of a popular assembly, is a society of men, not of laws, and a society that will tend inevitably to despotism and repression.


Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 PM

December 24, 2004

beneath a decillion stars...

From Little, Big, by John Crowley...
hen he received these communications, Santa drew the claws of his spectacles from behind his ears and pressed the sore place on the bridge of his nose with thumb and finger. What was it they expected him to do with these? A shotgun, a bear, snowshoes, some pretty things and some useful: well, all right. But for the rest of it . . . He just didn't know what people were thinking anymore. But it was growing late; if they, or anyone else, were disappointed in him tomorrow, it wouldn't be the first time.

He took his furred hat from its peg and drew on his gloves. He went out, already unaccountably weary though the journey had not even begun, into the multicolored arctic waste beneath a decillion stars, whose near brilliance seemed to chime, even as the harness of his reindeer chimed when they raised their shaggy heads at his approach, and as the eternal snow chimed too when he trod it with his booted feet...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:05 AM

December 23, 2004

"a message that is ancient and ever new..."

I just came across this older item in my "stack of stuff," and felt like posting it...

...Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this Earth was to fight a great evil and bring liberty to others. All of you -- all in this generation of our military -- have taken up the highest calling of history. You're defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.'"

--President Bush, speaking of those who died in the invasion of Iraq,
May 1, 2003 (link)
Posted by John Weidner at 8:27 PM

Favorite snarky comment of the week...

Blogging about an article by David Frum, on Canada's disasterously low birthrate, Orrin Judd titles his post: KAY CORLEONE SYNDROME !! Ooooh, I love it.

...While the suicide of the rest of the West may seem almost incomprehensible to us here in America, it's worth considering that it's a perfectly rational decision not to want to bring a child into the rather ugly world the secularists have created.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

November 23, 2004

"Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

Charlene just discovered a great blog, Irish Elk. It has lots of things odd and whimsical, and serious too. This, from a speech JFK died before delivering, is great:

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

John F. Kennedy
Undelivered luncheon speech
Dallas, Texas
Nov. 22, 1963

Unfortunately, Dems like that are pretty much extinct. Fortunately, we have George W Bush. Less eloquent, but the sentiments are the same.

And for a laugh, scroll down a bit and click on this post where it mentions Three happy chappies in snappy serapes...(Of course, for the full benefit you have to have had children who had the Disney video with that song on it, and to have heard it about 200 times.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 AM

November 20, 2004

and then raise taxes...

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
-- Groucho Marx
Posted by John Weidner at 10:03 AM

November 5, 2004

It has nothing to do with "theocracy"

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship.
-- Patrick Henry
Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 PM

October 17, 2004

My immune system is in over-drive...

The best defense against post-modernism is having to deal with the quotidian concerns of everyday life...
by Annoying Old Guy
Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 PM

September 29, 2004

Oh Peaches...

I'm borrowing this quote from John Ellis' blog, 'cause it's just too funny not to:

Correspondent SK emails in with a winner:

Dear Mr. Ellis,

Our local paper carries today a story of Lech Walesa visiting the Bay Area. It ends with a lovely bit --- I render for your personal enjoyment. "Peaches Torassa, 50, who teaches second-graders in San Pablo, remembered hearing of Walesa during the 1970's.

'He put his life on the line,' said Torassa .... 'To me it's like meeting Fidel Castro.'"

It really made my morning oatmeal.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:53 PM

September 24, 2004

Well, duh....

When political leaders sound the sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages more violence. -- interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq
And when a major-party presidential candidate smacks his lips happily because two Americans were beheaded, and hints that he migh cut-and-run, guess what sort of little lightbulb is going to appear over the head of a certain Al Qaeda leader in Iraq......"Hmmm, I wonder what beheading four Americans would achieve??? or 8, or 16..."
Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

August 28, 2004

"the most important revolution was ethical and moral..."

Seen at Chicago Boyz

Quote of the Day
"The Left's description of the War in Vietnam is like a watching a Kung Fu movie where the bad guys have all been digitally edited out. The hero thrashes about punching air, breaking things and hurling through walls for no apparent reason."
--Shannon Love
Unfortunately, the left's version has become the official version, taught to us by schools, Hollywood and the press. Fighting the lies of those Wormtongues will be a long slow war of attrition...

As a contrast, I recommend this post by Donald Sensing, about the reforms that changed the US Army's officer corps after the Vietnam War.

...This post is long enough, so I won't detail all those reforms, but I emphasize that as important as technology, reworking the Army's schools, funding and advanced training have been to making the Army the pre-eminent force in the world (see here), the most important revolution was ethical and moral. Duty honor, country really did return to the fore as the guidon of the officer corps. For a few years of my service in the '80s, there was a lot of discussion about drawing up a formal code of conduct for the officer corps. Fortunately, after fairly service-wide debate and a number of draft codes floated here and there, this idea was abandoned and we stuck with the ancient code of the US Military Academy: And officer does not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.
It's interesting to contrast that with the anti-war Left, which is determined to re-think nothing, and to re-live the glory days of 30 years ago.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:21 AM

July 20, 2004

Edmund says...

No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. --Edmund Burke
(thanks to Pejman)
Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 AM

July 4, 2004


I just happened to notice this by Orrin Judd:

...The problem is that those on the far Right don't believe all men to be equal--especially not the brown ones--while the Left and the secular Right (most Libertarians, neocons, etc.) don't believe man was Created. We're left then with a situation where it's pretty much only conservative Jews and Christians who still believe in the truths that America represents.

Fortunately, at the present time, their number happens to include the President.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:29 PM

June 29, 2004

to be happy must seem monstrous...

I think this is dead-on. Orin Judd, writing about William Buckley's retirement, says:

...Mr. Wieseltier has--quite unintentionally--put his finger on one of the key reasons why: Mr. Buckley made conservatism not just respectable but fun. Conservatism, which proceeds from the correct understanding of Man's nature as revealed in the Fall, can be rather a dark business. It is also, however, the source of all comedy. Liberals like Mr. Wieseltier--with their mistaken belief that men are basically good and that the world is therefore perfectable--are necessarily "troubled" by its rather parlous state. To be untroubled, even happy, as Mr. Buckley unquestionably was, despite the myriad causes for unhappiness all around us, must be monstrous in the eyes of the Left. One corollary of the great truth that to a liberal life is a tragedy but to a conservative a comedy is that conservatives find liberals amusing while liberals find conservatives appalling....
I get upset when Ultras portray Rush Limbaugh as some sort of brownshirt who tortures people at Abu Ghraib, but actually, the whole situation is pretty funny. Liberals were perfectly correct to say that Rush's famous Abu Ghraib remark was improper, (and hypocritical phonies to show no interest in what Rush actually thought). But at the same time they are like stiff and pompous straight-men in a Three Stooges movie, who can't even see the jokes. Same with Ann Coulter. Of course it was in disgusting bad-taste for her to say we should conquer Arab countries and convert them to Christianity. But so is a pie in the fat lady's face, or a poke in the eye...

I have this mental picture of some weedy Chomskyite from Berkeley solemnly announcing that eye-injuries are no laughing matter, and that a twisted nose can take years to heal— and even worse, the Stooges are damaging people's self-esteem...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

June 25, 2004


Brian Tiemann saw this in a television ad:

Fahrenheit (Fah"ren*heit). adj:
The temperature in the atmosphere when it reaches the boiling point.
I've nothing to say...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

June 22, 2004

Two quotes by den Beste...

Obviously he's racist and sexist, and we don't need to pay attention to anything he says. (My friend Bill tossed off this definition of "racist" in a letter I received this morning: anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal. I wonder if that's the reason I get called a racist so often? I would extrapolate from his definition that a "sexist" is any man who is winning an argument with a liberal woman.)....Steven den Beste
And in the same piece...
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the "party line" in the west was that it was useless to try to compete with the USSR because the Soviet economy was strong and the Soviet military was formidable, and there was no way it was going to collapse, so we should negotiate and try to come to some sort of accommodation, instead of relying on competition and military build-up. After the USSR collapsed, the party line changed to this: The USSR had always been a basket case and its collapse was inevitable anyway. (We always said that, and it turned out we were right.) So there wasn't any need to rely on competition and military build-up; we should have negotiated and tried to come to some sort of accommodation while we waited for the inevitable collapse.

We have seen exactly the same thing happen in the "War on Terror"...

...Prior to the Madrid bombing, the "party line" was that the threat of terrorism had been massively overblown and the American response was preposterously excessive and totally unjustified. Rather than try to rely on military might and confrontation, we should instead negotiate and try to come to a peaceful accommodation. (In a spectacular example of bad timing, the International Herald Tribune notoriously published an opinion piece which said exactly that on the day that Madrid was bombed.)

After Madrid, the party line turned on a dime, and became: It's apparent that the use of military power and confrontation to deal with the threat of terrorism is a failure. We should instead try to negotiate and come to some sort of accommodation.

You may have noticed a common theme in the party line. (If so, you're probably one of those racists who try to learn by looking at history with open eyes.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 AM

May 29, 2004

Some things change less than you imagine...

Peter Burnet writes:

We tend to imagine that appeasement in the 1930's was an expression of collective fear whereby people cowered in their homes and, somewhat guiltily, refused to concern themselves with Hitler’s threats or his victims. In fact, it was an aggressivly idealistic force that was marked by a gradual demonizing of those victims, a preoccupation with the “underlying causes” of totalitarianism, a scorning of moral distinctions, utopian dreams and a constant blaming of all things Western and democratic for– well, just about everything. For many, it was an inspiring, cutting edge cause that filled young and not-so-young hearts with a sense of noble purpose and the conviction they were fighting for a just and peaceful world.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:57 PM

May 27, 2004

"Why stand we here idle?"

It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?

What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

--Patrick Henry

Posted by John Weidner at 11:20 AM

May 24, 2004

The oldest struggle of human kind...

...In 2002, the 'New Guidelines for Teaching History' in New Jersey's public schools failed to even mention America's Founding Fathers, the Pilgrims, or the Mayflower. In the Prentice Hall history textbook, used by students in Palm Beach County high schools, titled 'A World Conflict,' the first five pages of the World War II chapter focus entirely on topics such as gender roles in the Armed Forces, racial segregation and the war, internment camps, and women and the war effort. This is the way we introduce World War II to the students. It is all about this stuff, and not about trying to save civilization from a dark age; not about trying to stop a psychopathic killer who would have in fact destroyed the world. No, no, World War II was what do we think about the gender roles in the Armed Forces... --Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado)
When leftists focus exclusively on Abu Ghraib, they pretend that they are doing so out of "deep moral outrage." They are lying. There may be a few duped fools who just speak for moral reasons, but most of them are lying. We see the same attacks, the same faux outrage heaped on every aspect of American life that might engender pride, and might support our traditions and institutions and freedom.

They are denigrating the liberation of Iraq for exactly the same reasons those textbooks make a mockery out of what we achieved in WWII.

...And now today we find ourselves involved in another struggle... It is the oldest struggle of human kind, as old as man himself. This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that man has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe. This irreconcilable conflict is between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state...
--Ronald Reagan
Here or abroad, anywhere you go in the world, every single organization that can be described as "leftist" is anti-American. Because the biggest obstacle to putting the people under the control of the state (and the leftist elites who dominate government) is the United States of America.

We give the lie to all their claims. Every claim that things like "Euro-socialism" make people happy and prosperous is given the lie by the way their brightest and most ambitious people flee to the US. Every claim that people are happy under (fill in the blank) local tyranny is given the lie by the hunger of those people for Green Cards.

Every leftish group on the globe is playing up Abu Ghraib, and ignoring all the good deeds our people do. Every one of them attacks the good and noble things of our history, unless, like the Civil Rights Movement, they can be used to justify intrusive big government. The relentless emphasis on Abu Ghraib is done for exactly the same reason as the relentless emphasis on the slave-owning of some of our country's founders.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:34 AM

May 22, 2004


...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 10:21 AM

May 9, 2004

The same then and now...

One nice thing about this war is that younger folk have had a chance to see why we despised the Left so much during Vietnam, as they treat bad news for America as good news for them.
-- Orrin Judd

Posted by John Weidner at 4:49 PM

May 8, 2004

a good month...

For like as herbs and trees bringen forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds.


Posted by John Weidner at 3:54 PM

May 2, 2004

"as in itself it really is"

Charlene just told me to read this piece by Joseph Epstein in OpinionJournal, on why conservatives ought to be cheerful. The author talks about a very wealthy man surrounded by splendid possessions. But obviously not happy. "Although the sumptuous trappings of his quotidian life gave no clue to this, he was, lifelong, a man of the Left. As such he had certain expectations of the world; and the world--shocking to report--let him down daily."

...But a conservative brings no such expectations to his life. He takes the world as given, a place always full of sin, silliness, and a rich surplus of stupidity--but also much goodness and mirth. The conservative fancies he views the world, as the philosophers say, as in itself it really is. Utopia is not his idea of a good time; it is not, for him, an idea at all but an illusion. If he is sensible, he understands the need to alter social arrangements that are cruel or grossly unfair. But the installation of perfection in a patently permanently imperfect world is not something he has signed on to deliver. This in itself ought to bring a smile to his face.

The barbarians may well be at the gates, but then they always have been. Besides, the gates are a damn good place for barbarians to be. "And now," writes the poet Cavafy, "what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution." Without barbarians, after all, conservatives themselves, in the realm of ideas, would be out of existence. So let us attack our barbarians with wit, mock them with laughter, greet their pretensions to superior virtue with a knowing smile. The duty of a conservative, try to remember, is to be cheerful.

...a patently permanently imperfect world. I like that.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:51 PM

April 23, 2004

Fun to do...

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

And when the ducks stood on their heads suddenly, as ducks will, he would dive down and tickle just under where their chins would be, if ducks had chins, till they were forced to come up to the surface again in a hurry, spluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him, for it is impossible to say quite all you feel when your head is under water.
-- Wind in the Willows
(Via Caterina, by way of Judd)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:23 AM

April 21, 2004

let's get on with the job

After being drowned in a tidal wave of all who didn't do enough before 9/11, I have come to believe that the Commission should issue a report that says: 'No one did enough in the past. No one did near enough.' Then thank everyone for serving, send them home and let's get on with the job of protecting this country in the future. --Sen. Zell Miller
Posted by John Weidner at 5:19 PM

April 20, 2004

More disgusting religious stuff from the President...

And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
-- John F. Kennedy on Jan. 20, 1961

(Thanks to Henry Hanks )

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 PM

April 9, 2004

The martyrs of history were not fools...

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing is worth dying for, when did this begin...? ...Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots of Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain! --Ronald Reagan
(from the Federalist Newsletter)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:31 PM

March 29, 2004

how swiftly storm clouds can gather

Speech delivery counts for little on the world stage unless you have convictions and, yes, the vision to see beyond the front row seats. The Democrats may remember their lines, but how quickly they forget the lessons of the past. I have witnessed five major wars in my lifetime, and I know how swiftly storm clouds can gather on a peaceful horizon. The next time a Saddam Hussein takes over a Kuwait, or North Korea brandishes a nuclear weapon, will we be ready to respond?

In the end it all comes down to leadership. That is what this country is looking for now. It was leadership here at home that gave us strong American influence abroad and the collapse of imperial communism. Great nations have responsibilities to lead, and we should always be cautious of those who would lower our profile, because they might just wind up lowering our flag.
--Ronald Reagan

Posted by John Weidner at 12:10 PM

March 27, 2004

idealism is with those who serve, rather than bash, their country

Rocket Man has said that today, unlike in our youth, "the fun is on the right." I think we can also say that today (even more so than in our youth) idealism is with those who serve, rather than bash, their country. -- Deacon, at Power Line
Posted by John Weidner at 5:56 PM

March 24, 2004

Quote for today

David Carr, at Samizdata, on The Guardian's showing us the "Yassin we never knew."

"Yassin the wise, Yassin the benevolent, Yassin the humanitarian. He was a gift to mankind. It was said of Yassin that he could light up a room, though he generally preferred lighting up buses and cafes."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

March 14, 2004

A quote for today

...For thirty years we've been told that patriotism was shameful. We were told it was a demonstration of mental retardation or of ignorance about the world. People who were patriotic were heartless racists. For thirty years we've been pelted with the message that there was nothing about America that justified any pride.

And for thirty years the majority of Americans have ignored that message. It bounced off them like raindrops on a duck's back. Americans treasure their freedom of expression, and they treasure even more their freedom to ignore what other people say..

.Stephen den Beste

Posted by John Weidner at 4:00 PM

March 1, 2004

"but mostly because it was free..."

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that free men could be prosperous.
Abraham Lincoln, from a eulogy for Henry Clay
When people talk about patriotism, this is the real McCoy...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 PM

February 29, 2004

The whole world a labyrinth?

...In short, if youth is not quite right in its opinions, there is a strong probability that age is not much more so. Undying hope is co-ruler of the human bosom with infallible credulity. A man finds he has been wrong at every preceding stage of his career, only to deduce the astonishing conclusion that he is at last entirely right. Mankind, after centuries of failure, are still upon the eve of a thoroughly constitutional millennium. Since we have explored the maze so long without result, it follows, for poor human reason, that we cannot have to explore much longer; close by must be the centre, with a champagne luncheon and a piece of ornamental water. How if there were no centre at all, but just one alley after another, and the whole world a labyrinth without end or issue?
-- from the essay CRABBED AGE AND YOUTH, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

February 16, 2004

Happy birthday, George...

My anxious recollections, my sympathetic feeling, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.

--George Washington

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

February 1, 2004

It's "Superbowl Sunday"

Baseball is what we were,
Football is what we have become.
-- Mary McGrory

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 PM

January 30, 2004

Mississippi evaporates, bears and raccoons hardest hit...

Jay Random found this quote:

In the space of 176 years, the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself 242 miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old O�litic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of 1,300,000 miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod.

� Mark Twain, with an early example of a failed model in the earth sciences

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 PM

December 31, 2003

May the New Year be good to you ...

A New Year's resolution is something
that goes in one year and out the other.
-- anonymous

New Year's resolution: To refrain
from saying witty, unkind things,
unless they are really witty, and
irreparably damaging.
-- James Agate

Drink no longer water, but use a
little wine for thy stomach's sake
and thine often infirmities.

Quotations purloined from Forbes Magazine

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

November 29, 2003

anguish and despair

...At every stage of the growth of the debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair....[After the Napoleonic Wars] the funded debt of England...was in truth a fabulous debt; and we can hardly wonder that the cry of despair should have been louder than ever. Yet like Addison's valetudinarian, who continued to whimper that he was dying of consumption till he became so fat that he was shamed into silence, [England] went on complaining that she was sunk in poverty till her wealth showed itself by tokens which made her complaints ridiculous....The beggared, the bankrupt society not only proved able to meet all its obligations, but while meeting these obligations, grew richer and richer so fast that the growth could almost be discerned by the eye....
Macaulay, History of England
(Borrowed from Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

August 20, 2003

Too true, Martha ...

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not our circumstances.

--Martha Washington

Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 AM

August 8, 2003

Tone and tendency ...

The tone and tendency of to attack the institutions of the country under the name of reform and to make war on the manners and customs of the people under the pretext of progress."
--Benjamin Disraeli, Speech In London, June 24, 1872
(Purloined from Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:18 PM