February 27, 2013

"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch"

Charlene recommends this opinion, by her favorite federal judge I love that last paragraph:

KOZINSKI, Chief Judge:

You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.

Plaintiffs-Appellants (collectively, "Cetacean") are Japanese researchers who hunt whales in the Southern Ocean. The United States, Japan and many other nations are signatories to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling art. VIII, Dec. 2, 1946, 62 Stat. 1716, 161 U.N.T.S. 74, which authorizes whale hunting when conducted in compliance with a research permit issued by a signatory. Cetacean has such a permit from Japan. Nonetheless, it has been hounded on the high seas for years by a group calling itself Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its eccentric founder, Paul Watson (collectively "Sea Shepherd").

Sea Shepherd's tactics include all of those listed in the previous paragraph. Cetacean sued under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, for injunctive and declaratory relief. The statute provides a cause of action for "a tort . . . committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." 28 page 3 U.S.C. § 1350. Cetacean argues that Sea Shepherd's acts amount to piracy and violate international agreements regulating conduct on the high seas. The district court denied Cetacean's request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed its piracy claims..



...The district court held that Cetacean's hands are unclean because, "[i]n flouting the Australian injunction, the whalers demonstrate their disrespect for a judgment of a domestic court." Because neither the United States nor Japan recognizes Australia's jurisdiction over any portion of the Southern Ocean, Cetacean owes no respect to the Australian order. Moreover, the unclean hands doctrine requires that the plaintiff have "dirtied [his hands] in acquiring the right he now asserts, or that the manner of dirtying renders inequitable the assertion of such rights against the defendant." Republic Molding Corp. v. B.W. Photo Utils., 319 F.2d 347, 349 (9th Cir. 1963). Cetacean has done nothing to acquire the rights to safe navigation and protection from pirate attacks; they flow automatically from 
page 15
customary international law and treaties. Nor is there anything remotely inequitable in seeking to navigate the sea lanes without interference from pirates.
* * *
The district court's orders denying Cetacean's preliminary injunction and dismissing its piracy claims are REVERSED. The preliminary injunction we issued on December 17, 2012, Inst. of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Soc'y, 702 F.3d 573 (9th Cir. 2012), will remain in effect until further order of this court. The district judge's numerous, serious and obvious errors identified in our opinion raise doubts as to whether he will be perceived as impartial in presiding over this high-profile case. The appearance of justice would be served if the case were transferred to another district judge, drawn at random, and we so order in accordance with the standing orders of the Western District of Washington. The panel retains jurisdiction over any further appeals or writs involving this case.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

December 16, 2012

Speaks for itself...

Armed Israeli teacher
Posted by John Weidner at 4:36 PM | Comments (4)

August 14, 2012

Write 'em off...

Joseph Pearce,Slimey Limeys:

Against my better judgment I watched the closing ceremony of the London Olympics last night. I was expecting the worst and it was even worse than I expected! The whole thing was a nasty and narcissistic celebration by the denizens of modern Britain of how wonderful it thinks it is. It was a debauched celebration of atheism and hedonism, including schoolchildren singing Lennon's atheistic anthem, Imagine, as hundreds of people came together to create a giant icon of Lennon's face. Lennon, the most ethno-masochistic and anti-Christian of the Beatles, had once claimed that the "Fab Four" were more popular than Jesus. Judging by last night's closing ceremony, he is right. Everything is more popular than Jesus in modern Britain. The Son of God is well and truly hated as is His Church. Anti-Catholicism reared its intolerant head during the ceremony as dozens of roller-skating women, dressed as nuns, cavorted across the stage, lifting their habits to reveal their underwear.  

Another feature of the closing ceremony was the celebration of the homosexual lifestyle, demonstrated by the resurrection on the big screen of Freddie Mercury to lead the crowd in inane chants. There was also a performance by the leather-clad George Michael, sporting a skull on his belt buckle, symbolic of the culture of death of which he is a symbol. There was much more that was much worse but I don't have the stomach to continue with the litany of smut.  

As an Englishman, I might have felt ashamed of such a spectacle. Instead I just felt as if my body had been covered with slime. I also felt a great sense of gratitude that I had shaken the smut and dirt from my sandals and had left the sordid culture of which I was once a part. Deo gratias!  

As for the land of my birth, I am reminded of the words of C. S. Lewis who would have been as appalled by last night's spectacle as was I. In The Great Divorce, he wrote that in the end there are only two possibilities for each of us. We can either say to God, "The Will Be Done", or else God will ultimately say to us, "Thy will be done". Modern Britain has what it deserves; it has what it wants. The slow and tortuous decay of its barely living corpse will continue until it dies of self-abuse. Its passing will be a blessing...

Sounds like some street fair in San Francisco. Blech. Both cultures are dying. Literally, because they are both reproducing well below replacement rate. And more importantly, they are dead or dying spiritually. If you worship yourself, you are traveling like a person lost in a dark wood, who thinks he's going straight when in fact he's going in a circle. You are, as Augustine put it, incurvatus in se. Curved in on yourself. You are going nowhere.

The Remnant will inherit the future. It's like when Elijah wandered off into the desert, because all the good guys had been killed. Which left him kinda disheartened. God told him to buck up and get back to business, because Elijah didn't know it, but there were seven thousand men in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 PM | Comments (10)

June 19, 2012

Sums it up...

Why Japan prefers pets to parenthood | Life and style | guardian.co.uk:

...In many parts of Tokyo, it is easier to buy clothes for dogs than for children....

Bet on America and Israel. The only countries of the "developed" world still alive and growing. (The jury is still out on places like China and India. We will see what happens as they really enter modernity. China is aging fast, but on the other hand there are a huge number of Christians there. They may be the leaven needed in that dull lump of socialist dough.)

The future belongs to those who show up for it.—Mark Steyn



Posted by John Weidner at 11:38 AM

May 12, 2012

Things could be tons worse here... Three cheers for political inaction... and fracking!

Stop global warming sign covered with snow

Lawrence Solomon: Green power failure | Climate Realists:

.Global-warming-related catastrophes are increasingly hitting vulnerable populations around the world, with one species in particular danger: the electricity ratepayer. In Canada, in the U.K., in Spain, in Denmark, in Germany and elsewhere the danger to ratepayers is especially great, but ratepayers in one country — the U.S. — seem to have weathered the worst of the disaster.

America’s secret? Unlike leaders in other countries, which to their countries’ ruin adopted policies as if global warming mattered, U.S. leaders more paid lip service to it. While citizens in other countries are now seeing soaring power rates, American householders can look forward to declining rates.

The North American exemplar of acting on the perceived threat of global warming is Ontario, which dismantled one of the continent’s finest fleets of coal plants in pursuit of becoming a green leader. Then, to induce developers to build uneconomic renewable energy facilities, the Ontario government paid them as much as 80 times the market rate for power. The result is power prices that rose rapidly (about 50% since 2005) and will continue to do so: Ontarians can expect power prices that are 46% higher over the next five years, according to a 2010 Ontario government estimate, and more than 100% higher according to independent estimates. The rest of Canada may not fare much better — the National Energy Board forecasts power prices 42% higher by 2035, while some estimates have Canadian power prices 50% higher by 2020.

The story throughout much of Europe is similar. Denmark, an early adopter of the global-warming mania, now requires its households to pay the developed world’s highest power prices — about 40¢ a kilowatt hour, or three to four times what North Americans pay today. Germany, whose powerhouse economy gave green developers a blank cheque, is a close second, followed by other politically correct nations such as Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, and distressed nations such as Spain.

The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in “fuel poverty” — defined by governments as needing to spend more than 10% of the total household income on electricity and gas. Some 600,000 low-income Germans are now being cut off by their power companies annually, a number expected to increase as a never-ending stream of global-warming projects in the pipeline wallops customers. In the U.K., which has laboured under the most politically correct climate leadership in the world, some 12 million people are already in fuel poverty, 900,000 of them in wind-infested Scotland alone, and the U.K. has now entered a double-dip recession.

The U.S., in contrast, will see power rates decline starting next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, dropping by more than 22% by the end of the decade and then staying flat to 2035. Why the fall? Mainly because the U.S. will rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels in the years ahead, not just coal, which dominates the current power system, but increasingly natural gas, which is expected to account for 60% of all new generating capacity in the future. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. effectively has limitless amounts of inexpensive natural gas to add to its limitless coal....

Turbine in flames


Posted by John Weidner at 5:25 PM | Comments (4)

April 15, 2012

This fascinates me...

I've often pondered the idea of creating new urban neighborhoods that have the charm of the old neighborhoods. I suspect it's impossible, but I applaud anyone who is giving it a try. (I'll try it myself, if anyone wants to put up $100 million or so.)

Welcome to Ikea-land: Furniture giant begins urban planning project - The Globe and Mail:

...I recently made the long drive into the vanguard of Ikea's city-building ambition, in a triangle of post-industrial wasteland surrounded by goods-shipping canals and highway ramps in the far reaches of East London, not far from the 2012 Olympics grounds. Here is the site of Ikea's effort to bring a very Scandinavian model of urban design and managed living into the English-speaking world.

Amid this 11-hectare expanse of ancient rusting machinery, waste piles and grinding construction equipment is a converted brick sugar warehouse where a team of Swedes and Brits are poring over blueprints and renderings. LandProp Services bought the land in 2009. Their vision is to turn this grey netherworld, once planning approval is done, into a tightly packed neighbourhood they'll call Strand East.

It will look, once complete, like a reproduction of the sort of historic, chic downtown neighbourhoods you find in the far more central parts of London or Paris, not in this distant expanse of former dockyards and bloodless public-housing project. At its core are straight, car-free streets lined with simple townhouses and ground-floor-access flats in five-storey rows. In the alleyways behind – an imitation of the classic London backstreet, the mews – will be little two- and three-storey homes, all with direct access to the street.

The 1,200 homes and apartments, 40 per cent of them large enough for families (making it a much more child-filled place than most post-industrial developments), will be priced to appeal to a range of incomes, the Swedes promise. A few seven- to 11-storey condominium towers will pepper the area, and offices for high-tech firms and a hotel will fill the busier edges. Secreted beneath the whole structure is an underground parking garage, to keep cars off the interior streets. Bus lanes and pedestrian walkways will cut across it, squares and public areas abound. The whole thing is designed to create the sense of felicity and discovery you get when wandering a historic European neighbourhood – or, for that matter, an Ikea store.
It is a far more appealing design than most of the centrally-planned urban neighbourhoods that have blighted British cities for the last 60 years, and it promises the sort of pleasant population density – on a piece of wasteland that had once been considered uninhabitable – that could help Britain's dire housing shortages.

As the Ikea people repeatedly tell anyone who will listen, this place will not be an Ikea. There will not be Poäng armchairs adorning the living rooms and Billy bookcases covering the walls. The houses will not require Allen keys to assemble. Meatballs in lingonberry sauce will not be served at the restaurants. And there will not, the company insists, be an Ikea store anywhere in or near the neighbourhood.

But what might make it seem alien to Brits and North Americans is Ikea's very active role in the neighbourhood's life – in large part because the houses will be fully owned by Ikea. In a model that is the norm in Sweden and other parts of continental Europe, but alien to English-speaking countries, this will be an all-rental private neighbourhood, run and overseen by a private company.

"We're about human scale, we're about building things to a high design and a good quality, because we are long-term investors," explains Andrew Cobden, the project's manager. "We don't like to sell income-generating assets."

What does it mean to live in a mixed-income urban neighbourhood in which none of your neighbours are owners? Ikea prefers to emphasize the upside: It will be less likely that people will buy, wait for the value to increase, then move to the suburbs and become absentee landlords (a problem in East London). But there are risks: without an equity stake in their neighbourhood, residents aren't likely to rebuild it, transform it and shift housing, retail and light-industry spaces into one another to suit the community's needs. It will be static, governed not by its own internal organic development but by a mega-landlord with a penchant for neat design and social order.

And here is where living in an Ikea neighbourhood might come to resemble a long day in an Ikea store: The company wants you to be in a neat, clean, pleasant environment. And it very much wants you to have fun. Those things that normally just happen in life will be carefully managed from above.

"We'd have a very good understanding of rubbish collection, of cleanliness, of landscape management," Mr. Cobden says. "We would have a fairly firm line on undesirable activity, whatever that may be. But we also feel we can say, okay, because we've kept control of the management of the commercial facilities, we have a fairly strong hand in what is said in terms of the activities that are held on site."

That, he says, means setting up and promoting things like farmers' markets, antique shops and outdoor flower stalls. Presumably, it also means keeping out cheque-cashing shops, Internet cafes, bookmakers and the other detritus of the British shopping street, as well as the sort of down-at-the heels characters who make urban life colourful but challenging.

"And that," Mr. Cobden says, "will give the residents an events calendar that arrives on their doorstep of things that are happening – and that kind of creates a sense of place. ... We'll shape it rather than force it on people – but we'll be trying to knit the community together."

Ikea's builders say they're not interested in a Disney-style kind of an animatronic spectacle. Rather, they're seeding Strand East with evocations of spontaneous urban life in hopes that it will become spontaneous urban life; they say they'd be happy to see it shift and evolve to suit market conditions. It's not clear, though, how this desire will coexist with Ikea's desire to keep the place under its control.

The answer, Mr. Müller says, is that the Swedes have a long-term interest in success – much like a municipal council does, and, in fact, Ikea will be acting very much like a municipal government....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:40 PM

January 19, 2012

Something wrong with this point..

It seems Captain Schettino panicked. Who's to say you wouldn't? | Bruce Hood | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk:

...Schettino will undoubtedly be vilified for his actions - but how many of us can say that we would not have done the same thing? Self-preservation is an instinct, much in the same way that your instincts tell you to put your hands out for protection when you let yourself fall backwards. In the face of impending danger, our brains can swing into reflexive defence mode, operating much faster and more automatically than when they recourse to calm, rational reasoning. Respond first and ask questions later, is the message, rather than place yourself in harm's way....

What this person misses is that there are unexpected disasters, and expected ones. "Expected" meaning that one can easily foresee the possibility. And therefore, think about it. Plan for it. Think through what you should do in the situation. Steel yourself.

An unexpected situation can panic anybody. But a ship's captain must surely have thought about the possibility of his ship sinking, and what his duty would then be. So he doesn't have the excuse of "instincts taking control."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

December 5, 2011

"The longer it takes for the blowup to occur, the worse the resulting harm..."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Mark Blyth, The Black Swan of Cairo— Foreign Affairs:

Why is surprise the permanent condition of the U.S. political and economic elite? In 2007-8, when the global financial system imploded, the cry that no one could have seen this coming was heard everywhere, despite the existence of numerous analyses showing that a crisis was unavoidable. It is no surprise that one hears precisely the same response today regarding the current turmoil in the Middle East. The critical issue in both cases is the artificial suppression of volatility -- the ups and downs of life -- in the name of stability. It is both misguided and dangerous to push unobserved risks further into the statistical tails of the probability distribution of outcomes and allow these high-impact, low-probability "tail risks" to disappear from policymakers' fields of observation. What the world is witnessing in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is simply what happens when highly constrained systems explode.

Complex systems that have artificially suppressed volatility tend to become extremely fragile, while at the same time exhibiting no visible risks. In fact, they tend to be too calm and exhibit minimal variability as silent risks accumulate beneath the surface. Although the stated intention of political leaders and economic policymakers is to stabilize the system by inhibiting fluctuations, the result tends to be the opposite. These artificially constrained systems become prone to "Black Swans" -- that is, they become extremely vulnerable to large-scale events that lie far from the statistical norm and were largely unpredictable to a given set of observers.

Such environments eventually experience massive blowups, catching everyone off-guard and undoing years of stability or, in some cases, ending up far worse than they were in their initial volatile state. Indeed, the longer it takes for the blowup to occur, the worse the resulting harm in both economic and political systems....
So how can systems be robust in the Information Age? If you follow the author's point that "suppressed volatility" leads to fragility, then where do we see volatility unfettered? Un-suppressed? One place is in the world of business. (Not including the financial sector, which I'm not sure is really "business" anyway.)

In America one can start a business, flare up into the sky like a rocket, and then plummet to the earth and crash and burn—all within a single decade. This, paradoxically, has created a business world that is profoundly stable. How so? Because everything is tested and hammered on all the time. Iron pyrites can't pass as gold for very long. Scams are soon exposed. Individual businesses fail constantly, but the realm of business just grows stronger.

The challenge of the new age we are in is to give other realms the same stability. Above all the realm of government, which we now see failing catastrophically all around us.

.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2011

I'm looking forward to seeing conservatives driving Volvos, with Palin stickers...

It's surprising—and very pleasing—how often one hears these days of wisdom coming from odd corners of the planet. It gives me a sort of "world turned upside down" feeling. My belief is that the US will catch up, once the zombie corpse collectivism currently stomping about here has toppled into the dust. Say, maybe, around January 20, 2013. If there's hope for the Swedes, there's hope for us!

(In honesty, I don't really think there's long-term hope for Sweden, because Sweden has no purpose. No higher cause, no dream, no ennobling philosophy. No vocation. You can't go very far on a dream of just muddling through without too many problems.)

The American Spectator : Free Market Sweden, Social Democratic America:

...Facing severe economic stagnation, Sweden began implementing several rather un-social democratic measures in the early 1990s. This included curtaining its public sector deficit and reducing marginal tax-rates and levels of state ownership. Another change involved allowing private retirement schemes, a development that was accompanied by the state contributing less to pensions.

These reforms, however, proved insufficient. In the early 2000s, according to James Bartholomew, author of the best-selling The Welfare State We're In (2006), more than one in five Swedes of working-age was receiving some type of benefit. Over 20 percent of the same demographic of Swedes was effectively working "off-the-books" or less than they preferred. Sweden's tax structure even made it financially advantageous for many to stay on the dole instead of getting a job.

But with a non-Social Democrat coalition government's election in 2006, Sweden's reform agenda resumed. On the revenue side, property taxes were scaled back. Income-tax credits allowing larger numbers of middle and lower-income people to keep more of their incomes were introduced.

To be fair, the path to tax reform was paved here by the Social Democrats. In 2005, they simply abolished -- yes, that's right, abolished -- inheritance taxes.
But liberalization wasn't limited to taxation. Sweden's new government accelerated privatizations of once-state owned businesses. It also permitted private providers to enter the healthcare market, thereby introducing competition into what had been one of the world's most socialized medical systems. Industries such as taxis and trains were deregulated. State education and electricity monopolies were ended by the introduction of private competition. Even Swedish agricultural prices are now determined by the market. Finally, unemployment benefits were reformed so that the longer most people stayed on benefits, the less they received.

So what were the effects of all these changes? The story is to be found in the numbers. Unemployment levels fell dramatically from the 10 percent figure of the mid-1990s. Budget-wise, Sweden started running surpluses instead of deficits. The country's gross public debt declined from a 1994 figure of 78 percent to 35 percent in 2010. Sweden also weathered the Great Recession far better than most other EU states. Sweden's 2010 growth-rate was 5.5 percent. By comparison, America's was 2.7 percent.

Of course Sweden's story is far from perfect. Approximately, one-third of working Swedes today are civil servants. Some of the benefits of tax reform have been blunted by Sweden's embrace of carbon taxes since the early 1990s. That partly reflects the extent to which many Swedes are in thrall to contemporary Western Europe's fastest growing religion -- environmentalism.

High unemployment also persists among immigrants and young Swedes (25.9 percent amongst 15-25 year olds). This owes much, Bartholomew observes, to "the high minimum wage imposed on the various industries by the still-powerful unions. Those who cannot command a good wage are not allowed to work for a lower one." On the income side, average Swedish wage-earners in 2009 still took home less than 50 percent of what they cost their employer. The equivalent figure for Britain was 67 percent....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2011

Book recommendation; best we've read this year...

Lightning strike at Edwards AFB

Charlene and I are both reading How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), by David P. Goldman (who is the columnist called "Spengler.") It is really really good. And scary.

Even we, who have been following demographic news, and have read America Alone, by Mark Steyn, are flabbergasted by Goldman's stats on the many many countries in demographic (and spiritual) collapse. I've heard many times, for instance, that Palestinian birthrates are going to swamp Israeli Jews. Not true; the rates are now about the same, with Jewish Israelis still rising, and Palestinian rates still falling. (With current trends, by the end of this century Israel will have more men of military age than Germany!)

The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Goldman, which will give you a bit of the flavor of the book. But the book is about far more than Islam's problems...

Spengler -- Erdogan Has Good Reason To Be Crazy ..

...The New York Times' Thomas Friedman blames Israel for not apologizing to the Turks. But one doesn't want to apologize to Erdogan. You don't want to talk to him. Don't make eye contact. We New Yorkers learn that on the subway. It seems mad to take on Washington, Brussels, Moscow, as well as Jerusalem, all in the same week. What is driving the Turkish prime minister round the twist?

The Arab world is in free fall. Leave aside Syria, whose regime continues to massacre its own people, and miserable Yemen, and post-civil war Libya. Egypt is dying. Erdogan's "triumphal" appearance in Egypt served as a welcome distraction to Egyptians — welcome, because what they think about most of the time is disheartening. What's on the mind of the Egyptian people these days? According to the Arab-language local media, it's finding enough calories to get through the day.

Egypt imports half its caloric consumption, the price of its staple wheat remains at an all-time high, and most Egyptians can't afford to buy it. The government subsidizes bread, but according to the Egyptian news site Youm7 ("The Seventh Day"), the country now faces "an escalating crisis in subsidized flour." Packages of subsidized flour are not reaching the intended recipients, in part because the Solidarity Ministry hasn't provided the promised shipments to stores, and in part because subsidized flour and bread are diverted to the black market. A small loaf of government-issue bread costs 5 piasters, or less than one U.S. cent, but it can't be found in many areas, as the Solidarity Ministry, provincial government, and bakers trade accusations of responsibility for supply problems. Poor Egyptians get ration cards, but flour often is not available to card-holders. Rice, a substitute for wheat, also is in short supply, and the price has risen recently to 5.5 Egyptian pounds per kilo from 3.75 pounds.

Most Egyptians barely eat enough to keep body and soul together, and many are hungry. That is about to get much, much worse: The country is short about $20 billion a year. The central bank reports that the country's current account deficit in the fiscal year ended July 1 swung from a $3.4 billion surplus in the fiscal year ended July 2010 to a deficit of $9.2 billion in the fiscal year ended July 2011. Almost all of the shift into red ink occurred since February, suggesting an annualized deficit of around $20 billion. Egypt's reserves fell about $11 billion since the uprising began in February. Who's going to cough up that kind of money? Not Turkey, whose own balance-of-payment deficit stands at 11% of GDP and whose currency is collapsing, as shown in the chart below:

Not the U.S. Congress, for that matter, nor the hard-pressed Europeans, who have their own problems, nor the Saudis, who can be counted on for a few billion here and there, but not $20 billion a year. I reiterate: Egypt will make Somalia look like a picnic.

It doesn't occur to liberals that there are problems for which solutions might not exist; the notion that cultures and countries may suffer from tragic flaws does not enter into consideration, because if that were true, there would be no need for liberals. That is why Friedman, the bellwether of liberal opinion, sounds stupider than anyone else when he describes Israel as "alone and adrift at sea." If only Netanyahu had offered his own peace plan, complains Friedman...to Hamas? A news analysis in the Times meanwhile reports the Obama administration's consternation that every pillar of its foreign policy is crumbling at once.

If the Obama administration and the New York Times are pulling their hair out over the disintegration of Arab society, consider how Tayyip Erdogan must feel. His economic boom is about to come to a crashing end, and his country is doomed demographically to split up when Kurds outnumber Turks not long from now, as I argued here recently. And his ambitions for Turkish hegemony in the Muslim world have run directly into an existential crisis that is long past solution. That would make anyone crazy. Don't think of the Turkish leader as an outpatient who lost his meds. In the spirit of political correctness, we might call him "existentially challenged. "...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 PM

May 30, 2011

Amazing. We're winning a "soft war" and we don't even know we're fighting it...

In Censorship Move, Iran Plans Its Own, Private Internet - WSJ.com:

Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world....

...The unusual initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence, primarily originating from the U.S. In recent speeches, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials have called this emerging conflict the "soft war."...

...Few think that Iran could completely cut its links to the wider Internet. But it could move toward a dual-Internet structure used in a few other countries with repressive regimes.

Myanmar said last October that public Internet connections would run through a separate system controlled and monitored by a new government company, accessing theoretically just Myanmar content. It's introducing alternatives to popular websites including an email service, called Ymail, as a replacement for Google Inc.'s Gmail.

Cuba, too, has what amounts to two Internets--one that connects to the outside world for tourists and government officials, and the other a closed and monitored network, with limited access, for public use. North Korea is taking its first tentative steps into cyberspace with a similar dual network, though with far fewer people on a much more rudimentary system....

Nothing says "loser" like trying to keep information out. Here's a couple of tips, amigos. If you are trying to preserve something, it's dead. Like the French language. Things have to sell themselves. You have to have something desirable to offer in the marketplace of ideas.

I sympathize keenly with the losers. (The old cultures, I mean. Not to tinpot tyrants in places like Cuba.) I'm kind of a loser myself, since the art and ideas and culture I love and somewhat dwell in has been swept away by newer tides. [Link, link, link]. But I'm also "reality-based," and have no illusions about telling the tide not to roll over me...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:52 AM

May 26, 2011

"A false sense of separation"

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

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

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

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

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

And, most haunting of all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Update: Walter Russell Mead:

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

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

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

January 13, 2011

A few good ideas...

Why Can't We Copy those Radical Free-Market Canadians and Privatize the Air Traffic Control System?:

...The Canadians have a much better approach. They privatized their air traffic control system back in the 1990s. So instead of having to rely on a clunky and incompetent government bureaucracy, our neighbors to the north have a private company that is generating very impressive results.

Not that this should be a surprise. Other nations have made remarkable gains through privatization, including Social Security personal accounts in Chile and 30 other nations, education choice in places such as Sweden and the Netherlands, and privatized postal service in Germany....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 PM

August 29, 2010

Inertial navigation....

Hale Adams wrote in a comment to my neo-Gnosticism post...

...I think this ties in neatly with my periodic rants on "political Taylorism". Taylorism, as properly applied to the production of goods, resulted in such astounding success that we no longer truly want for any material thing.

Being as how it's hard to argue with success, Taylor's principles have been applied improperly to other realms of human activity. I've ranted about its application to politics and society— it's what we call "Progressivism"— but it shows up in religious matters as well, as the "neo-gnosticism" in your post. Rather than stick with the tried-and-true Judeo-Christian beliefs about human nature, too many people go with new-fangled ideas promoted by "experts"...
"applied improperly to other realms of human activity"

You are exactly right. And we see the same thing in many other areas. We constantly hear that "science" or "research" or "experts" or "psychology" tell us things about how to live. But how we are to know with certainty whether we can trust them? That's never explained.

More broadly, this is all part of the problem of inertial navigation. Which is, you can't navigate inertially unless you can occasionally refer to fixed landmarks outside your own system. Apollo missions could not depend on their own instruments and computers alone to get them to the moon or back. The astronauts took sightings on stars, with sextants, and made course corrections. Today's ships and planes get fixes from satellites, and adjust course accordingly. (When I was young they still used sextants. And the satellites must themselves be calibrated by reference to the stars, or to fixed points on Earth.)

Taylorism is proper to use for something like industrial production, because we can stand outside and measure and criticize the results, and because the goal is pretty much defined. (One of my own heroes, Peter Drucker, pointed out some of the flaws of managing people purely by efficiency. The ugly labor relations of the US auto industry are an example, and one that has led to very inefficient results.)

But if we are adjusting ourselves, guiding ourselves, then how do we stand outside and judge the results? And make course corrections? We can't, unless we have some sort of fixed reference points outside ourselves to navigate by.

"Neo-Gnosticism is the philosophy that invites you to search deep inside yourself and discover some exciting things by which you must then live." Same problem. If you are using yourself as a guideline, how can you measure the results? You are your own measuring instrument, and you are changing yourself.

Humans have never come up with a long-term solution except various forms of transcendent religious faith. All other attempts have failed. Marxism tried to use "laws of history" as fixed points. Taylorism/Pragmatism/Progressivism uses efficiency, or "what just works." But that just begs the question of how we decide that efficiency is what matters. Or what guidelines to use to judge "what works."

"The wisdom of our forefathers" has always been a good stopgap, but it breaks down over the long run once people become self-conscious about it, and start to try to pin down exactly what that wisdom is. That's the dilemma of non-religious conservatism—you still need guidelines for what exactly should be conserved! Conservatism itself cannot give an answer.

And even if by some magical revelation one knew for sure that efficiency, or the Federalist Papers, or "the greatest good for the greatest number," or Liberty should be our guide in politics and society, there remains the deeper problem that the results are being measured by the very people and societies you are tinkering with! It's like the lab rats running the experiment on themselves and then saying what it means.

Every non-religious thought-system is in deep philosophical trouble. (That doesn't mean that the religious ones are true; that's a different question.) DEEP TROUBLE! WAKE UP! And none of them want to think about it, which is why I don't have vast numbers of people avidly reading this blog.   ;-)

If there is something in your life you don't want to think about, then you are living in fear! You are skating on thin ice. And if there's even one thing you don't want to think about, then you can't be confident about anything. Why? Because you can't know the extent of the problem-area....... unless you think about it!

And this is at the core of the problem of nihilism I keep nattering about. My theory is that until recently most people in the Western world retained many habits left over from Judaism and Christianity, even though formal religious faith has been in decline for centuries. Therefore they felt like they had solid ground under their feet, and were much less fearful. Those habits have now mostly worn off, and many people have no belief in anything greater or truer than themselves. And so people are acting very strangely, because on some deep level they know that they are in trouble...

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 learn 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 [this was written in the 1950's] have suggested what life without Christ really is. The last decades were only the beginning...
   — Romano Guardini, from The End of the Modern World
Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 AM

June 14, 2010

Worse than we can imagine?

The Oil Drum — Deepwater Oil Spill - A Longer Term Problem:

...First of all...set aside all your thoughts of plugging the well and stopping it from blowing out oil using any method from the top down. Plugs, big valves to just shut it off, pinching the pipe closed, installing a new bop or lmrp, shooting any epoxy in it, top kills with mud etc etc etc....forget that, it won't be happening..it's done and over. In fact actually opening up the well at the subsea source and allowing it to gush more is not only exactly what has happened, it was probably necessary, or so they think anyway.

So you have to ask WHY? Why make it worse?...there really can only be one answer and that answer does not bode well for all of us. It's really an inescapable conclusion at this point, unless you want to believe that every Oil and Gas professional involved suddenly just forgot everything they know or woke up one morning and drank a few big cups of stupid and got assigned to directing the response to this catastrophe. Nothing makes sense unless you take this into account, but after you do...you will see the "sense" behind what has happened and what is happening. That conclusion is this:

The well bore structure is compromised "Down hole".

That is something which is a "Worst nightmare" conclusion to reach. While many have been saying this for some time as with any complex disaster of this proportion many have "said" a lot of things with no real sound reasons or evidence for jumping to such conclusions, well this time it appears that they may have jumped into the right place...

This makes me queasy. We may be at just the beginning of the problem.

To every lefty environmentalist wacko who blocked drilling in ANWR or blocked extraction of tar sands or oil shale, who blocked development of nuclear energy...we've left a pistol and whiskey in the study.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

May 24, 2010

Liberalism is a form of "middle class secular messianism"

From Liberalism and Zionism, by Benjamin Kerstein. It's a reaction to Peter Beinart's, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.

...It should be noted first that, ideologically speaking, Zionism is not necessarily opposed to liberalism; it does, however, assert that liberalism, in and of itself, is not enough. It is not enough to provide safety and security for the Jewish people, let alone the kind of cultural and political renaissance that Zionism sought to create. It is not a coincidence that Theodore Herzl was moved to found political Zionism by the Dreyfuss trial in France and the rise of organized political anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria. What drove Herzl—originally a liberal not unlike Beinart himself—was the realization that liberalism was failing, and inevitably would fail completely. The promise of liberalism in that era was that, if the Jews became good liberals, they would be left alone to pursue happiness as best they could. "But I do not think," Herzl wrote ominously, "that we will be left alone." For Herzl, the promise of liberalism, which for him was much as it is for Beinart, could only be realized for the Jews within the framework of a Jewish state.

That liberals then and liberals now find this uncomfortable should not be overly surprising. Liberalism has always been, generally speaking, a form of middle class secular messianism; an edifying millennialism for those with much money and many guns between them and reality. Once everyone becomes liberal, liberalism has always assumed, we will all be happy. Beinart, not unlike his predecessors, clearly believes more or less the same thing. Zionism asserts that not only will the Jews not be happy under liberalism and liberalism alone, but they will not even be capable of surviving the depredations of the modern world. For that, a stronger force is needed; namely, national independence and political sovereignty. Of course, there is a strongly messianic element to Zionism as well, especially in its religious form, but it is a competing and different messianism than that of liberalism. Liberalism asserts that for the Jews to be good and free, they must become liberal. Zionism asserts that for the Jews to exist at all, let alone be good and free—or liberal for that matter—they must first have a Jewish state.

It is worth asking what, one hundred or so years after Herzl, the verdict of history has been in regard to liberalism and the Jews. ...

Of course neither Kerstein nor Beinart will touch the possibility that the story is true, and the Jews might actually be God's Chosen People. I'd say that's the most parsimonious explanation for a lot of things we've seen over, oh, say, the last 2,000 or 3,000 years...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 AM

May 2, 2010

"Till I fill their hearts with knowledge, While I fill their eyes with tears..."

Mark Steyn, Police State:

Well, what else would you call a country where the cops threaten a man with arrest for putting an election sign saying "GET THE LOT OUT" in his window, and charge a Christian with "hooliganism" after he was overheard saying that he believed homosexuality was a sin?

Why the British put up with their capriciously thuggish inept constabulary is a mystery. But certainly a land where displaying the colors of the Union Jack counts as "racist" and expressing what remains the Church of England's official position on homosexuality gets you fingerprinted and locked up is not one that has any meaningful commitment to freedom of expression. The current election feels like a theatrical pseudo-campaign played out in the ruins of a civilization.

Yep. Game's over. But WE are the English now. We fought our revolution for the "Rights of Englishmen," and we still retain... well, some of those rights. And we still retain at least some of the Christian faith that was the basis and wellspring of those rights. The torch has been passed to the Americans, and the Australians. And perhaps to the other lands of the Anglosphere, though the news from Canada is not encouraging...

    THE RECALL
I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night—
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years—
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling

What's really cool is that we Americans have taken this mysterious compelling something, expressed in the phrase The Rights of Englishmen, and we made it universal in its applicability...

New citizens

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

April 19, 2010

Planning for a future that isn't there...

Richard Fernandez (Thanks to Tex)

...The point Bill Clinton is missing is that the danger doesn't come from right wing 'anger.' The anger is just a byproduct. The voices he hears from the Tea Party crowds aren't threats; they're warnings. The real peril is coming from somewhere else: the demographic decline in industrial world working populations, the increasing cost of energy and the international movement in the factors of production. A whole generation of failed policy from both parties is coming to a head and it probably means that the welfare state, the European Union and by consequence the Chinese economy are heading for a cliff.

What's driving the Tea Parties isn't amorphous hate. It is concrete fear: worry that pensions have been devalued; medical care will become unaffordable; taxes are too high and jobs are gone, never to return. And a look around the world shows there's no place to hide. When the wave hits it will be global. In the UK membership in political parties is at near historic lows. In America Congress's popularity is lower than whales**t. The Eurozone is cracking up under its weight of debt. First Greece, now Portugal are being ripped off the cliff face like a zipper – and all the climbers are roped together. Japan is like a kamikaze sub heading for the depths and tapping out a sayonara. Russia was history long ago. And China, when it has used up its flowering moment, will face the consequences of its one-child policy. And Middle Eastern potentates, stuck in the same old, same old, are warning about a Summer War. The Tea Parties aren't about putting some country club Republican in the White House, though Bill can't help hearing it like that.

The cheese-paring scene at the White House Press Corps is just as indicative of the coming storm as the Tea Parties. It is yet one more sign that the old institutions are making plans for a future that isn't there; moving trillions of dollars in projected revenues around a five year plan like Hitler's fictive armies were moved around a map in 1945. When you hear Gordon Brown describe the billions he's going to spend to save the world and heal the planet; when you read news about the proposed legislation on "cap and trade"– the issue isn't the "right wing hate" but where's the money going to come from? The most telling fact about Bill Clinton's speech is that 2010 reminds him of 1994. If he – or the political establishment – can't tell the difference between the decades, that's your problem right there.

But the average Joe can. His pocketbook talks to him as loud as his cell phone; he has to live in a world where five bucks is a lot of money. So the man in the street can see things that are invisible from Olympian Washington....

My suspicion is that the money is in existence, but that it is fleeing from the "large stable entities" that were the building blocks of the Industrial Age. (I wrote about this here.) What's happening to governments (and unions, universities, newspapers, TV networks) is what happened to big "blue chip" businesses a couple of decades ago. Pan Am, GM, AT&T, IBM, NCR, DEC, GE.... They've all had to morph, change, downsize, become more nimble... or die. No one even talks about "safe investments in blue chips" anymore. The idea has become absurd.

The "large stable entities" that have not been forced by the market to become nimble are now deprived of their Industrial Age "ecosystem," of a world where they made sense to everyone, and were held in check by the common sense of that age. Now they have grown cancerous, and are killing their hosts. (See for example: How public-sector unions broke California, by Steven Malanga)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:35 PM

March 28, 2010

"The barbarians have breached the citadel..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2010

Difficult decisions...

Alan Sullivan, Decision Time:

Drudge has linked this comprehensive NYT article on the relief efforts in Haiti. A critical phase is arriving. As shock wears off, rage sets in. There will be anarchy and bloodshed in the ruined city. The US has military forces on the scene. How will they be used? Difficult decisions are imminent.

Yeah. I mentioned this post to Charlene, and she said, "Do you shoot them, or not?" That's what's involved. And the decisions are particularly difficult because they are precisely the ones we've been trying desperately to avoid or fudge...

Liberalism in its current form mostly says, "Nothing is worth fighting for." But it will sometimes make exceptions in favor of military action if the cause does not directly benefit the US. Well, here you go, Mr Obama.

And an even more difficult question is, "Do we add them to the empire?" Haiti has been a human catastrophe for 200 years, which pretty much tells us that they will never get their act together on their own. The situation cries out for us to take over. Hell-hole in our back yard, or protectorate. Them's the choices.

Yet even more difficult: Haiti is like.... Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is a continent of Haitis, with maybe a flicker of hope here and there. Haiti poses the question of whether the black parts of the globe will ever be able to govern themselves.

* Update: Charlene adds, "But what about the Bahamas? They're not like Haiti. In fact they have problem with illegal immigration from Haiti." Well, they were British...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:12 PM

October 11, 2009

Why W and I like India and Obama doesn't...

Far Eastern Economic Review | Why Islamic Extremists Hate India: (Thanks to O Judd)

...But more than anything else, India is a danger because by its pluralistic nature it is a real threat for Islamic extremists. Not only does India have the world's third-largest Muslim population (Pakistan finally overtook India recently), despite domestic differences with the majority Hindus, Indian Muslims have remained loyal to the Indian state, and have fully embraced democracy. While many Muslims live in poverty in India, so do other Indians, including Hindus. And Muslims alone are not victims of human rights abuses in India. What's more, talented Muslims have often reached the top of Indian corporations, judiciary, armed forces, bureaucracy, and other fields, entirely on merit. They are able to express their grievances through the democratic system. It is no surprise, then, that of all the recruits al Qaeda has been able to attract around the world, barely a handful of Indian Muslims have been swayed by al Qaeda's nihilist ideology.

This is not an accident; it is the result of India's democratic structure. Despite all its flaws, and despite the failure of the Indian system to bring to justice those who have been implicated in horrifying religious riots in the past, the Indian system works. And while its two large neighbors — Pakistan and Bangladesh — have elected governments at the moment, both have suffered long bouts of military dictatorships or other unrepresentative governments. Except for the brief period of 19 months under the Emergency in the mid-1970s, when Indira Gandhi suspended key provisions of the constitution, detained opposition leaders, and imposed press censorship, India has been democratic. (Indeed, voters threw out Gandhi's government in 1977, and like any other flawed democrat, Gandhi left office, returning to power only after she had regained electoral support in 1980).

Many in Pakistan — and Bangladesh — value democracy as much as do Indians. But in Pakistan's case, the troika of corrupt politicians, fundamentalist mullahs, and military commanders with a disproportionate sense of self-importance, have never allowed real democracy to take root. At the time of India's independence in 1947, the rationale of dividing India along religious lines was based on the assumption that Muslims in the Indian subcontinent would not be able to live peacefully under Hindu domination. Muslims wanted that homeland; the Congress in India did not want the country to be divided initially, but later agreed to the partition. But six decades after that, despite several bloody riots, Indian Muslims have thrived in secular, democratic India; Pakistan has veered towards being declared a failed state....

Democracy isn't "cool." In fact it is the very opposite. It's a club that admits ordinary people, so self-styled elites always hate it and sneer at it. It implicitly says that ordinary messy life is of great worth, so gnostics draw away from it with disgust. As do entertainment stars, "artists," journalists, trend-setters and academics.

Unfortunately we have reached the situation where a large part of the population has the leisure and affluence to hunger to think of themselves as being part of some small cutting-edge elite. Everybody wants to be chiefs, and nobody wants to be indians. Or Indians.

How crazy is it that kids at the mall patronize a nation-wide (maybe world-wide by now) chain of shops selling mass-produced rebellion-against-middle-class-conformity punk clothes? That advertises the "Fall Collection" complete with funky sneakers?

One laughs, but it's actually dangerous, because it's just this type of thinking that gave us Obama, and Suck-Up-To-Loudmouth-Dictators Week. Hugo Chavez is a pathetic creep, but you gotta take whatever Ché you can find...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 AM

September 16, 2009

If your "god" orders you to kill a million people...

What happens?

I recommend this piece by Gregg Easterbrook in WSJ, The Man Who Defused the 'Population Bomb', about Norman Borlaug, whose lifetime of work increasing agricultural yields in Third World countries has saved perhaps a billion lives!

But I have my own special field of blogging interest, which is the change that is coming over the Western world as the "faiths" that substituted for fading Christianity have themselves started to fade. To drain away, leaving only the worship of the most terrifying god of all- — the self. "But wait," you say, "I'm not like that! My 'self' is a pretty good guy." Well, it probably is, but only because you've imbibed habits of morality derived from religious faith. And habits drain away over generations, when their source is forgotten. We see it all around us.

You are not intrinsically one of the good guys. None of us is. And if you think I'm just kooky, ponder the following....

...After his triumph in India and Pakistan and his Nobel Peace Prize, Borlaug turned to raising crop yields in other poor nations especially in Africa, the one place in the world where population is rising faster than farm production and the last outpost of subsistence agriculture. At that point, Borlaug became the target of critics who denounced him because Green Revolution farming requires some pesticide and lots of fertilizer. Trendy environmentalism was catching on, and affluent environmentalists began to say it was "inappropriate" for Africans to have tractors or use modern farming techniques. Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

Environmentalist criticism of Borlaug and his work was puzzling on two fronts. First, absent high-yield agriculture, the world would by now be deforested. The 1950 global grain output of 692 million tons and the 2006 output of 2.3 billion tons came from about the same number of acres three times as much food using little additional land.

"Without high-yield agriculture," Borlaug said, "increases in food output would have been realized through drastic expansion of acres under cultivation, losses of pristine land a hundred times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion." Environmentalist criticism was doubly puzzling because in almost every developing nation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed as education becomes more important to family success than muscle power....

The "environmentalists" mentioned are certainly all "Liberals." They consider themselves better people than "greedy capitalists" and American "Imperialists" and "heartless conservatives," like me. And yet, after the problem of starvation in India was solved, they can coolly sit and condemn millions of African to likely death by...... starvation! Because tractors would be "inappropriate!"

Think about it! Why should we consider such "Liberals" to be any better than Stalin, who deliberately condemned millions of Ukrainians to death by starvation? Why should they be considered any batter than Hitler? WHY?

What's going on in these people's heads? And it still goes on today; there is, right now, intense resistance to introducing genetically modified crops into Africa.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:52 AM

July 13, 2009

"Woolly internationalist notions"

Krauthammer's Take - NRO Staff - The Corner on National Review Online:

...But Obama compounded it because he is a man who spoke about how he is going to unite the world, and has all these woolly internationalist notions. He goes to the summit of the G-8. He precedes it by trying to ram a cap-and-trade energy tax through the Congress which he knows is going to hurt the American economy in the name of climate change, in the name of demonstrating American leadership, and what does he get at that summit? No support from any of our allies.  

The Russians explicitly say they're not going to do anything on climate change if it impinges on their economy. And the Chinese and Indians say that as well, which means that anything he does at home on cap-and-trade will hurt us and do nothing about the emission of greenhouse gases....

You have to be brain-dead to think "internationalism" is ever going to work, but that's what liberals are. Or rather, what they make themselves. The alternative might be to acknowledge that their own liberal principles (which they no longer believe) mean that they owe a profound debt of gratitude and duty to this great nation, which is the very fountain of freedom and progress in the world.

It's much better to give yourself a lobotomy of the critical thinking lobes than admit that. It would compromise ones "autonomy!"

Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 AM

June 20, 2009

Must-read. Makes sense of what we see...

Highly recommended. Joshua Muravchik has a long piece putting together all the evidence of a general theme of The Abandonment of Democracy by the Obama administration...:

The most surprising thing about the first half-year of Barack Obama's presidency, at least in the realm of foreign policy, has been its indifference to the issues of human rights and democracy. No administration has ever made these its primary, much less its exclusive, goals overseas. But ever since Jimmy Carter spoke about human rights in his 1977 inaugural address and created a new infrastructure to give bureaucratic meaning to his words, the advancement of human rights has been one of the consistent objectives of America's diplomats and an occasional one of its soldiers.

This tradition has been ruptured by the Obama administration...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

June 16, 2009

Just, you know, for a comparison...

Reagan didn't remain silent on Poland:

...In mid-December 1981, the Polish government declared martial law, hoping to suppress the Solidarity uprising that started in Gdansk earlier that year. The Soviet puppet Wojciech Jaruzelski imprisoned thousands, including Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, and attempted to suppress self-determination by the Poles through force and intimidation. Then-President Ronald Reagan immediately reacted to the imposition of martial law by publicizing his conversation with Pope John Paul II the next day...

There's more...

And, from a great post on Iran by the Anchoress, Twittering Liberty...and Hope — UPDATED...

...I am a little puzzled, though, by President Obama's contention that America has no right to opine on (or ability to direct) any of Iran's business; he doesn't seem to feel the same way about Israel, after all...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:52 PM

June 15, 2009

How we miss W.

Jennifer Rubin: Don't Iranians Deserve "Hope and Change" Too?:

The Iranian election has given the world a jolt of reality. For those confused about the nature of the Iranian regime, its true colors are now revealed. But it has also been a clarifying event in America.

It has been obvious for some time that the American Left has given up on democracy and human rights as fundamental tenets of American foreign policy. But never before has it been so clear just how ruthless and indifferent they are to the aspirations of those who would be crushed by the boot of despotic regimes. And never before have we seen how Herculean a task it is to deny and obfuscate the nature of these sorts of regimes in order to pursue a policy devoted to stability, engagement, and process as goals in and of themselves (rather than as means to some greater ends).

The Iranian election and its aftermath demonstrate just how vast is the difference in approach between the Obama administration, which has embodied the Left's total embrace of realpolitik, and its conservative critics....

"Realpolitic." "Realism." "stability, engagement, and process as goals in and of themselves." I spit upon such leftist depravities with the utmost contempt.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 PM

Hello? "Democrats?"

Any Dems reading this?

Right this moment hundreds of thousands of people are battling a brutal terror-supporting regime. They are fighting and dying in Iran for freedom and democracy.

And your fearless leaders have said nothing. Fake-liberal Mr Obama has said nothing. Fake-liberal Hillary has said nothing. They have given them not the slightest shred of encouragement or moral support.

How can you live with this? How can you look at yourselves in the mirror in the morning?

How can you all be such worms?

* Update: In fairness, lots of liberals really are liberal, and their hearts are in the right place right now. Especially, kudos to Andrew Sullivan, who I normally loath, for covering Iran non-stop...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:41 PM

June 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

June 8, 2009

They wouldn't have tried this on Bush...

Reporters get 12-year terms in N. Korea - CNN.com:

Two U.S. journalists who were detained in North Korea while covering the plight of defectors living along the China-North Korea border have been sentenced to 12 years in labor prisons, the country's state-run media said Monday....

The correct response is war.

The even more correct response is to have been so war-like in the past that crazy tyrants don't even dream of trying this kind of thing. America should always be the "crazy unilateralist cowboy" that Bush was falsely accused of being. That's how you get peace.

Pacifism causes war. Pacifism makes diplomacy futile. Diplomacy only works as an alternative to war.

Alas, what I'm sure we are going to get in the current situation is "negotiations" and bribes to free people who never deserved to be imprisoned. In other words, paying ransoms to kidnappers.

What happens if you pay ransoms? You get more kidnappings! AND, it's much harder to stop once the habit of kidnapping becomes established. It is far wiser to to totally tough when the first kidnapping occurs. That first victim may die, but there won't be any more victims.

The analog in foreign policy is to be ready to fight over the slightest insult. It sounds "war-like" but it's actually the true pacifism.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:20 AM

May 23, 2009

Reasoning with "liberal Jews" is probably a waste of time...

...But the thought of my Jewish friends still holding warm fuzzy thoughts for the "international community" (and of course opposing the horrid cowboy "unilateralism" of President Bush) ... and maybe donating money to UNESCO... and praising the United Nations? Ugh. How sick and suicidal can people be? How STUPID, to make the same STUPID mistakes decade after decade?

Bernard-Henri Lévy: UNESCO: The Shame of a Disaster Foretold:

...Who declared in April 2001: "Israel has never contributed to Civilization in any era, for it has only ever appropriated the contributions of others" -- and added almost two months later: "the Israeli culture is an inhumane culture; it is an aggressive, racist, pretentious culture based on one simple principle: steal what does not belong to in order to then claim its appropriation"?

Who explained in 1997, and has repeated it since in every way possible, that he was the "archenemy" of all attempts to normalize his country's relations with Israel?

Or who, as recently as 2008, responded to a deputy of the Egyptian parliament who was alarmed that Israeli books could be introduced into the Alexandria Library: "Burn these books; if there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you"?

Who said in 2001 in the newspaper Ruz-al-Yusuf that Israel was "aided" in its dark intrigues by "the infiltration of Jews into the international media" and by their diabolical ability to "spread lies"?...

Who? Why, an honored leader of the "international community," of course...

It take self-induced stupidity for smart people to continue to act stupidly and not see reality right in front of them. And to persist in delusion for lifetimes...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM

April 17, 2009

"The wells of culture had run dry..."

I recommend this column by "Spengler," who reveals his identity at last. He is David P Goldman, and has now become an associate editor of First Things:

...Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers. I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.

I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

In this world of accelerated mortality, in which the prospect of national extinction hung visibly over most of the peoples of the world, Jew-hatred was stripped of its mask, and revealed as the jealousy of the merely undead toward living Israel. And it was not hard to show that the remnants of the tribal world lurking under the cover of Islam were not living, but only undead, incapable of withstanding the onslaught of modernity, throwing a tantrum against their inevitable end...


...Exile among the fleshpots of Wall Street had its benefits, but I had other ambitions. My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness. The things I had been raised to love were disappearing from the world, or changing beyond recognition. The language of Goethe and Heine would die out, along with the languages of Dante and Pushkin.

Europe's high culture and its capacity to train universal minds had deteriorated beyond repair; one of the last truly universal European minds belongs to the octogenarian Pope Benedict XVI. In 1996, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had said in an interview published as Die Salz der Erde, [Published in English as: Salt of the Earth] "Perhaps we have to abandon the idea of the popular Church. Possibly, we stand before a new epoch of Church history with quite different conditions, in which Christianity will stand under the sign of the mustard seed, in small and apparently insignificant groups, which nonetheless oppose evil intensively and bring the Good into the world." The best mind in the Catholic Church squarely considered the possibility that Christianity itself might shrink into seeming insignificance.

Renewal could not come from music, nor literature, nor the social sciences. The wells of culture had run dry, because they derived from faith to begin with. I was raised in the Enlightenment pseudo-religion of art and beauty. Initially I looked at faith instrumentally, as a means of regenerating the high culture of the West. Art doesn't exist for art's sake.

The high culture of the West had its own Achilles' heel. Even its greatest cultivators often suffered from the sin of pride, and worshiped their own powers rather than the source of their powers. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the classic Jewish sources. ...
Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 AM

April 13, 2009

Worst-case view...

The admirable Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post, Surviving in a post-American world:

...Like it or not, the United States of America is no longer the world's policeman. This was the message of Barack Obama's presidential journey to Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iraq this past week.

Somewhere between apologizing for American history - both distant and recent; genuflecting before the unelected, bigoted king of Saudi Arabia; announcing that he will slash the US's nuclear arsenal, scrap much of America's missile defense programs and emasculate the US Navy; leaving Japan to face North Korea and China alone; telling the Czechs, Poles and their fellow former Soviet colonies, "Don't worry, be happy," as he leaves them to Moscow's tender mercies; humiliating Iraq's leaders while kowtowing to Iran; preparing for an open confrontation with Israel; and thanking Islam for its great contribution to American history, President Obama made clear to the world's aggressors that America will not be confronting them for the foreseeable future.

Whether they are aggressors like Russia, proliferators like North Korea, terror exporters like nuclear-armed Pakistan or would-be genocidal-terror-supporting nuclear states like Iran, today, under the new administration, none of them has any reason to fear Washington.

This news is music to the ears of the American Left and their friends in Europe. Obama's supporters like billionaire George Soros couldn't be more excited at the self-induced demise of the American superpower. CNN's former (anti-)Israel bureau chief Walter Rodgers wrote ecstatically in the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, "America's... superpower status, is being downgraded as rapidly as its economy."....

If someone has a good argument against this, I've yet to hear it. We saw this kind of thing under Carter. Jay Nordlinger called Carter "the first anti-American president," and I think that was the simple truth. And now we have the second one. The good news is that the Left has to rely on sneakiness to gain power in America. (Carter's disguise was "Christian southerner;" Obama's is "post-partisan post-racial hopey-changy smoke-screen." Neither guy would have been elected if his real views were known.) The bad news is that Obama was more clearly a Leftist, and still got elected.

Leftists are almost always anti-American. (For reasons I've blogged often, and will repeat if anyone needs me to.) The huge question is, is America becoming anti-American?

Glick suggests that those countries who have been our friends and relied on our support should get off the dime and start working with each other to fill the void....

...THE RISKS that the newly inaugurated post-American world pose for America's threatened friends are clear. But viable opportunities for survival do exist, and Israel can and must play a central role in developing them. Specifically, Israel must move swiftly to develop active strategic alliances with Japan, Iraq, Poland, and the Czech Republic and it must expand its alliance with India....

...For the past 16 years, successive Israeli governments have wrongly believed that politics trump strategic interests. The notion that informed Israel's decision-makers - not unlike the notion that now informs the Obama administration - was that Israel's strategic interests would be secured as a consequence of its efforts to appease its enemies by weakening itself. Appreciative of Israel's sacrifices for peace, the nations of the world - and particularly the US, the Arabs and Europe - would come to Israel's defense in its hour of need. Now that the hour of need has arrived, Israel's political strategy for securing itself has been exposed as a complete fiasco.

The good news is that no doubt sooner rather than later, Obama's similarly disastrous bid to denude the US of its military power under the naive assumption that it will be able to use its new stature as a morally pure strategic weakling to win its enemies over to its side will fail spectacularly and America's foreign policy will revert to strategic rationality.

But to survive the current period of American strategic madness, Israel and the US's other unwanted allies must build alliances with one another - covertly if need be - to contain their adversaries in the absence of America. If they do so successfully, then the damage to global security induced by Obama's emasculation of his country will be limited. If on the other hand, they fail, then America's eventual return to its senses will likely come too late for its allies - if not for America itself....

She's dead right. But I'm not too optimistic. Another way of putting the above is that India and Israel (especially) and Japan, Iraq, Poland, and the Czech Republic should.....grow up! But asking democracies to do that? It doesn't happen very often.


Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

April 7, 2009

World turned upside down...

Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online:

...The North Korean test, about which our new president has issued the feeblest of rote protests, is the flip side of the post below. The western world has no will. So we approach a state in which the planet's wealthiest jurisdictions, from Norway to New Zealand, lack any capacity to defend their borders, and the planet's basket-cases, from North Korea to Sudan, will be nuclear powers.

We'll see how that arrangement works out.

It's deeper than just "lack of will." Even those without the will to act should be able to see an insane situation when it is right in front of their nose, and at least feebly bleat that someone ought to do something. It's not lack of will, but intentional blindness. They don't want to SEE. The implications are too disturbing...

 

Posted by John Weidner at 10:21 AM

April 2, 2009

Traditions exist for reasons. Often good reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

February 25, 2009

Somehow I feel better about the War on Terror, long term...

From a note from my son the linguist. (He's the one who used to be my son the pilot, until he changed his field.)

Here's a little tid-bit of Arabic grammar for you guys to read over and thank the high heavens you never decided to take this language yourself.

Arabic has some peculiarities when it comes to its nouns.

For nouns:

You have the singular form, the dual form, and the plural form.

If you have 1 of something, use the singular form.

If you have 2 of something, use the dual form.

If you have 3-10 of something, use the plural form.

If you have 11-100 of something, use the *SINGULAR* form.

If you have 101 or more of something, then go back to the plural form.

In Arabic, to say "I have 15 books," you would literally say: "I have 15 book."

Yes, little intricacies like that make Arabic fun and interesting, but at the same makes one want to bang their head through the wall, thankfully for some reason my brain has decided to just stop asking "Why?" which most people would do when faced something strange like that, which eventually leads them to give up the language.

It is best, I've found, in cases like these to just not ask why the language has this little peculiarity or another, and just trust native speakers when they tell you that the way you are saying it is correct. There are plenty of things in English that really don't make sense when you stop to think about them.
Posted by John Weidner at 4:13 PM

February 24, 2009

"Ambitious world leaders are like top chess players"

John at Power Line writes about an opportunity he had to watch one of the great chess masters play against 50 amateurs simultaneously. Viktor Korchnoi surprised him by playing with extreme aggression, though he is famed for his cautious defensive style...

...Korchnoi's aggressive style was mirrored, in miniature, by the master I used to play against in college. Mediocre chess players play cautiously. They don't know what exactly will happen if they send their pieces careening down the board, but experience says the consequences are likely to be bad. Really good players--Korchnoi was an extreme example--understand exactly why it is that sheer aggression is usually punished. If their opponent is not skillful enough to position his pieces precisely correctly, all-out, headlong attack is the strategy of choice. Weaknesses invisible to the average player are ruthlessly exploited.

I've always thought that a broader lesson could be drawn from these observations. Ambitious world leaders are like top chess players. If they see that their opponent has positioned his forces flawlessly, so that aggression will be repelled, caution is the order of the day. But God help an amateur. A hint of weakness may unleash a relentless assault; an assault that will come as a surprise to anyone who does not understand thoroughly the forces that are in play....

I'd guess we are going to see some interesting real-world examples in the not-too-distant future...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

December 28, 2008

Faxes of faxes of faxes...

I often mention "hollowing out" --that is, the way meaning seems to drain out of modern people's lives leaving an outer shell with nothing much inside. And how people construct substitutes for what they've lost, and how meaning then drains away from those substitutes...

I haven't seen a better example than this NYT editorial, When Christmas Comes:

...But, really, Christmas needs no saving. It does not exist apart from what we make of it. And, on its own, it cannot save us, though it contains the gestures of generosity and thankfulness that are halfway to being a better person, a richer community. Christmas is all the better for being a simple place, nothing more, perhaps, than two red cardinals, male and female, against the backdrop of a snowy field. They are there every day. The only difference is that today it feels like Christmas.

So what IS this "Christmas" the editors are editorializing about? Heaven knows. It's like a document that's been faxed around so many times it's turned to a gray blur. Somebody long ago fudged-up "secular Christmas." And then somebody created a secular version of that still quasi-religious thing, and then the newer blander version was refined into a yet-more secular thing..... Finally we get to "Snowflake Day," when, for some forgotten reason, we feel sort of warm and fuzzy inside when the city puts snowflake decorations on the lamp posts along Main Street!

The underlying reason for the hollowing-out is that anything that has "meaning" is bigger then the self. And therefore it makes demands on us. So if people become self-worshippers, then they will try to get rid of meaning. Get rid of the solidity, the real-ness of things.

We see this process all around us, and it bewilders me how little people will "observe" it. Everything that is tough and chewy gets tenderized into pablum. Marriage, for instance, has been repeatedly faxed throughout my lifetime, becoming ever less demanding and real. People keep hoping and wishing it will be meaningful for them, while at the same time eagerly knocking off any sharp edges that might bruise them. What a sick joke. It should be re-named "White Dress Day." And the especial insanity is that each time the document gets faxed, the proponents of that particular iteration insist that it stands alone, that this faxing is a one-time thing, and the document will really be the same.

It's all kind of funny, but once you really "see" it, you see that people are sliding over the edge of a terrifying abyss. If you worship yourself you worship Moloch. The "self" will ask for the sacrifice of anything that rivals it. We all say, "Of course I would not do such-and-such! There are lots of things I would not sacrifice for my own satisfaction." Alas that "of course" is actually for most of us just a collection of habits that we have all inherited with our culture.

But the habits aren't "real," aren't solid, aren't something you can take to the bank. We tend, for instance, to feel a bit less selfish at Christmas, to think more about family and friends..........but, that's just a habit. And habits have a way of wearing off. Especially if people are trying to get rid of the underlying reasons for them. (The ultimate source, sometimes buried under many layers, is Jewish and Christian faith.)

The more the habits (not to mention the underlying reality) wear off, the more scary things are going to be.

...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

"He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies." That's what we see all around us.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:49 PM

December 18, 2008

Looks like being in the Loyal Opposition is going to be a lot of laffs...

There are so many funny things lately. I keep finding myself staring at the screen with a big grin. This one sounds like a classic dirty trick played on some Euro-nihilist terror-appeasers who really deserve it...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: US Military Praise 'Ludicrous': Steinmeier Rejects Doubts about Agents in Iraq :

...The parliamentary investigative committee had been meeting for hours by the time daylight began fading in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday in Berlin. But right at 3:24 p.m., Germany's normally unflappable Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier lost his temper. He had said a number of times throughout the day that his patience was growing thin. This time, though, he pounded loudly on the table.

Few were surprised by the display of frustration. Anticipation of Steinmeier's appearance before the committee has been growing all week -- ever since SPIEGEL published US military praise for the help provided by two German intelligence agents stationed in Baghdad in the run-up to the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, Steinmeier was chief of staff under then Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der, who had staked his political reputation on his opposition to the war. Now, he is the Social Democrat candidate for the Chancellery in next year's elections. Should the investigative committee find that Germany assisted the US invasion, it could seriously harm Steinmeier's credibility.

All of which helps explain Steinmeier's vehement rejection of the new claims that German intelligence played an important role in the Iraq War. Repeatedly, he called the investigative committee "na�ve" for believing that the new US military comments weren't politically motivated. He called US comments 'ludicrous' and 'outlandish.' He said that the military praise of German intelligence was 'poisoned.'

The comments Steinmeier was referring to, though, are difficult to brush aside. General Tommy Franks, who led 'Operation Iraqi Freedom,' told SPIEGEL that 'it would be a huge mistake to underestimate the value of information provided by the Germans. These guys were invaluable.'

General James Marks, who was in charge of pre-invasion reconnaissance, told SPIEGEL that the two German agents from the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, were 'heroes' who had helped save American lives. He said 'we trusted the Germans more than we trusted the CIA.'

Marc Garlasco, who was head of High Value Targeting at the Pentagon during the Iraq invasion, told SPIEGEL that 'it is rewriting history to deny that the BND helped us in US military and combat operations during the war.' He also said 'German (human intelligence) was far more robust and ever present than any of the garbage we got from CIA sources. The Germans were reliable, professional military people...

I think W should give the guy a medal. That would fix his wagon!

"...the military praise of German intelligence was 'poisoned.'" Well yeah.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:53 PM

December 16, 2008

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

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

Bisasl wrote:

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

Bisaal, take a look at this photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

December 3, 2008

Moral choices are not made in a vacuum...

[Warning: A post that rambles away from the original topic.]

A stupid idea, from Robert Kagan...

....Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan...

What's wrong with this idea? The problem is that dealing with the Tribal Areas and the frontier regions as a whole will require fighting. Murderous savage combat. Aggressive fighting by small units, willing to take casualties, and inflict lots of them. [Actually, my guess is that the region will not be pacified by anything less than neutron bombs. Expect trouble for the rest of your lifetime.]

And we have discovered over and over the last few decades that there are no "international forces" that will fight. We have seen it with UN "blue helmet" operations--often gruesomely as the international forces stand by and let genocide happen. We see it right now in Afghanistan, where the "NATO forces" are meaningless as a whole. As always, the Anglosphere nations. Americans and Brits and Australians will fight. The French a little bit, the Germans or Dutch not at all.

The whole idea of "international institutions" is a fraud and a sham, and probably always will be. When significant things are accomplished in the world, it is because people believe in something. And the essence of an "international institution" is that it does not believe in anything. Why? Because it has to be a "lowest-common-denominator" of the belief of the national components. And then you have to reduce that by a factor of ten, because the people who run or promote such institutions are almost always going to be those who like a lack of belief.

It is (sorry to bore those who have already heard this) the draining away of belief in the hearts of the developed nations that is the core problem that has caused the terror war, and caused analogous problems like piracy in the Indian Ocean. Of course we were always destined for lots of ugly violent situations as globalization collided with Third World (especially Islamic) chaos and primitiveness. But a West that still retained belief in is own values would have been slamming down hard on things like terrorism or piracy when they first arose. And doing so would be morally correct. (Because, among other reasons, it is always the locals who suffer most when lawlessness is tolerated!) Those would have been actions similar to those of loving teachers or parents not allowing children to fall into crime or vice. It would be tough-love. The same thing works in analogous ways at every level. For instance, it is morally wrong for a city to let a race-riot develop, when killing a few rioters at the beginning would prevent it. Even if the rioters have legitimate grievances.

Focus for a moment on the magistrate who has to make the moral choice that a race-riot must be stopped at its first moment, even if deadly force is needed, and even if some innocent people may die. That's a very tough choice. It takes moral fiber. If he lacks it, then the result may be weeks of violence and killing, and the destruction of whole communities. Entire neighborhoods burnt down, and schools, homes, small businesses and churches gutted. We have seen this...

And the official doesn't make his choice in a vacuum. He feels the support--or lack of it--of the community and the culture. Unless he (or she) is very strong, support is needed. If only for the knowledge that he won't be hung out to dry for making a tough call! And therefore, brothers and sisters, it is WE who are really making that decision. It is OUR moral strength that is called into question. And we exert that strength mostly through a thousand smaller moral decisions. We communicate to our surroundings our integrity, and unconsciously we influence others, at their moments of moral choice.

And the ladders of influence go from the lowest rungs to the highest, and back down. The local magistrate who makes the hard choice to stop a riot instantly, before he knows how bad it will turn out to be, sends a message to national leaders who may have to chose to violently stop piracy before they know how big the problem is destined to grow.

I remember in my youth the first airplane hijacking, or at least the first one to grab the world's attention. And the reaction of officialdom was, "Give the hijacker what he wants, to save lives." We see now that that was a catastrophic decision, one that has caused thousands of deaths, and vast loss of treasure, and led directly to 9/11. And yet in a sense that decision was based on many previous bad decisions-- for instance deciding to give in to the demands of criminals who took hostages.

Sheer prudence and logic should have told us long ago that a policy of reacting to any hostage situation by instant deadly force would save many many lives in the long run. But prudence and logic are never enough. Not when the bank-robber is holding a gun to a child's head. Logic cannot generate moral law, and engrave it on our hearts. Moral law only can come from God, or from other sources of authority [Read this.]. Countless attempts to provide alternative man-made "liberal" sources of morality have all failed. And we see the results all around us.

Based on observation of the state of religious faith around us, I feel confident in predicting that these quasi-wars that afflict our planet will continue, and probably grow. Expect Mumbai.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 AM

November 25, 2008

Leftist theory imposed on people; MILLIONS die...

....How many times have we heard that story!

John Noonan, in the Weekly Standard blog...
...The story of Zimbabwe is one of the great tragedies of the 20th century. Once a first-world nation, Rhodesia -- and Zimbabwe during the 80s -- exported enough food to feed roughly half of Africa. Though deeply stained by the apartheid policies of the white minority government, Rhodesia still boasted the largest black middle class in Africa, had a top-tier educational system for both blacks and whites that rivaled those in Europe and the United States, a Rhodesian dollar that was nearly equal with its U.S. cousin, and unemployment that was in the low single digits.

Today, after Robert Mugabe's tyrannical 28 year reign, Zimbabwe has become one of the poorest nations in the world. Unemployment is at 80 percent and rising. Inflation is an unbelievable 2000 percent, also rising. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe is now reliant on Western food relief to feed its people. Refugees pour over the South African and Botswanan borders by the thousands, as AIDS (and now cholera) ravage the countryside. Life expectancy for a Rhodesian male was appx. 67 years. That number has collapsed to an unthinkable 37 years.

To this day, Carter is unrepentant for his assistance in Mugabe's rise to power...

He is unrepentant. In fact, as far as I can see, ALL leftists are unrepentant about this latest batch of millions of deaths they have caused. They don't care---their "theory" is what is real; the human beings are just cardboard figures.

If you are a "liberal," if you are part of Lefty/Progressive/Democrat/Quaker/peacenik/liberal-christian "Axis Of Fuzzy Thinking," then YOU helped destroy these people. Cholera! Cholera in the 21st Century! That's INSANE. But you don't care.

And almost worse than the ice-heartedness of leftists is that none of you will re-think.

In fact I suspect the textbooks will continue to trumpet the great "civil rights" victory of removing whites from power in Rhodesia! That's much more important than the deaths of a few niggers.

One would have thought that the great prosperity of Rhodesia would have caused people to be cautious, so as not to kill the goose whose golden eggs helped blacks as well as white ruling class. (Rhodesia was not "apartheid," by the way). It should have been obvious to anyone that the real resource behind the prosperity of Rhodesia was white people, and that preserving that capital should be the number one priority of anyone who really wanted to help blacks!

But the real priority was always feeding the smugness of "liberals."

People refer to the Gulag, or Pol Pot, or the Cultural Revolution, as mistakes of the past. But the death toll of Jimmy Carter and other liberals who helped Mugabe into power could easily top Cambodia. Jimmy Carter is our Pol Pot!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 AM

November 22, 2008

Guess where this is heading...

India Times: India, which is planning to send four more warships to the Gulf of Aden, has already conveyed to Somalia that it will use all necessary means to fight pirates who have targeted merchant ships passing through one of the world's strategic shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia.... [It's in those Anglosphere genes.]

....After the Indian offensive against the pirates, the Indian government is now considering the option of augmenting forces in the pirate-infested waters. [Ramp it up. If nothing else, you will blood the troops.] At present India has deployed INS Tabar, a stealth guided missile frigate, that has successfully defended two merchant ships against a pirate attack and ensured safe passage of many more. [Unilateralist cowboys! Advocates of violence!] The proposal is to send four more warships to the region. Naval officials also met defence minister A K Antony to discuss matters related to the continuing naval operation.

But even as the Navy takes a decision at augmenting its efforts in the Gulf of Aden, there is also consensus within the Navy and the government that the menace can only be tackled effectively if there is a coordinated international effort to take on the pirates who have managed to grab the world's attention by seizing a number of ships including Saudi owned supertanker. At the moment countries are only defending their own merchant ships. [The term you will be needing soon is "Coalition of the Willing." Try the Poles.]

India has been pushing for such an international effort and at a recent meeting of the International Maritime Organisation had revived a proposal to set up a UN peacekeeping force to take on pirates in the region. "These proposals are under consideration," said Mr Ravi, adding that a concrete proposal would emerge after consultations in the UN. [Been there, done that. Won't work.]

Mr Ravi also pointed out that were two United Nations Security Council resolutions on piracy. UN resolution 1816, which was approved on June 2, 2008, allows foreign navies to enter Somalian territorial waters to pursue pirates while resolution 1838, which was passed on October 20, 2008, authorises the use of "necessary means" to combat piracy in international waters. India can take action under these two resolutions but there is recognition that a more substantive resolution is needed for a coordinated international effort. [There were 16 "Binding UN Resolutions" against the Saddam regime. When we finally enforced them, all the world's lefty frauds said we were "violating international law." Just warning you.]

However, India is not isolated in its call for an international effort. The US and other countries have also talked about the need for an international effort against pirates. The US said that it is worked in the Security Council to pass a new resolution piracy. ["The US and other countries..." It's called the "Axis of Good." Guy named Bush started it. It means you go through the UN bullshit, then a few non-decadent countries just go ahead and do what's necessary.]

"It's an international problem. You're not going to solve this � the US is not going to solve this alone," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was quoted as saying. [Actually, we could. But we are paralyzed by the Nihilist Party.] Similarly, an anti-piracy watchdog, which welcomed the sinking of the pirate ship, also called for an international effort. "If all warships do this, it will be a strong deterrent. But if it's just a rare case, then it won't work," Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre told an agency.... [In other words, the problem could be solved fairly easily if everybody did their duty. Instead the evil of pacifism will prolong the problem indefinitely, and cause rivers of blood to flow...]

(Thanks to O Judd.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

November 18, 2008

Just another "I told you so."

A pacifistical friend once criticized me, writing: "You advocate and even celebrate violence, which goes against the commandment not to violently resist evil."

No, I advocate peace. I'm the real pacifist around here. Here's a perfect example. I wrote here about how INSANE we were to not stamp out Somali piracy when it first arose years ago. We avoided using ruthless violence when a small amount of it might have ended the problem.

Now we will eventually be forced to use a much larger amount of violence. The Somali pirates are now ranging much farther out to sea, and have seized a supertanker, 450 miles away from Somalia! Here's an example in a good article of how much better organized the pirates are becoming:

...In a warning to mariners in late August, the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre described three large "mother ships" -- two Russian-made stern trawlers and a tugboat -- that officials suspected were coordinating at least some of the recent attacks. Pirates based on such "mother ships" have typically targeted slow-moving vessels, which are difficult to maneuver. Working in small, fast boats, they typically speed up alongside target ships, fire on them with small arms and then board them with simple ladders and grappling hooks...

Well, of course they are getting better. We have encouraged them. The world paid an estimated 30 million dollars in ransoms. What would happen in your town if kidnappers were raking in that kind of dough?

The civilized nations are in the position of cops in a rough neighborhood. It is our duty to not allow criminals to take over. And the best way is to smash outlaw gangs right away, even if some innocent bystanders suffer. The alternative is much more suffering in the future. And it is the "innocent bystander" types who will do that suffering--the cops get to go home and sleep in much safer neighborhoods.

If the cops practice "turn the other cheek" to the crooks, they are really turning someone else's cheek. That's the sick flaw in theories of "pacifism."

* Update: Even more infuriating to think about is that, even though this is happening near Europe, the USA will probably end up dealing with the mess. And when we do, all our fake Leftists/Democrats/pacifists will, with one voice, declare that America has STARTED a war. With the implication that all was peace until the unilateralist cowboys started attacking. (Correction, not attacking, "bombing." Even if not a single bomb is dropped. And the brain-dead squirrels will display bumper stickers saying "Who Would Jesus Bomb?")

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 AM

October 20, 2008

I'm proud to be "stupid"

Orrin Judd, on the "stupid party":

[Quoting Joe Knippenberg]....But for me the more interesting reason is the one to which the late William F. Buckley, Jr. alluded. To the degree that intelligence is connected with proud self-assertion, a hubristic belief in one's own capacity to understand and remake the world, it tends not to be conservative or respectful of the lessons and burdens of the past. It looks forward to the change it can effect as it rationalizes and humanizes the world. It does not bow before anyone, least of all a creator God.

Nonetheless, there are some smart and learned people who don't take this view.
[Orrin:] While he objects to the term "stupid," Mr. Knippenberg points to the reason that it is correct to consider conservatism the Stupid Party. If Intellectualism can be said, as seems fair, to be the hubristic belief in remaking the world according to one's own rationalizations, then conservatism is profoundly anti-intellectual.

Conservatism, which accepts Creation as a gift from God and men as beholden to the lessons of the past, can even be said to be "stupid." This is particularly clear in the sphere of morality, where conservatism proceeds from the idea that, as Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn puts it in Leftism, Man is:
A person with an intransferable destiny, unique created in the image of God, responsible to God, endowed with an immortal soul.
or, as Jacques Maritain put it in The Person and the Common Good:
The human person is ordained directly to God as to its absolute ultimate end.
Every variation of Intellectualism, or Leftism as Mr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn would have had it, is just a form of rebellion against this "stupid" recognition that we are Created by and responsible to God, rather than self-created and responsible only to the self. This latter bit of foolishness reaches its apotheosis in Richard Dawkin's delusion of existence being the product of "selfish genes," Mr. Dawkins being, not coincidentally, one of the popularizers of the term "Brights."....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 AM

October 10, 2008

More stuff I've stumbled upon...

I present this without comment---I don't know enough to say more than that it sounds not unreasonable...

Fabius Maximus:

Summary: Here is a brief report with conclusions only. The situation is moving too rapidly and become too complex for explanations. This post describes the natural evolution of the trends I have written about for the past year, which are now reaching a climax. Not yet, but soon we will be able to see the shape of the new world ahead in the fog. As always, we lack the data or reliable economic theory to do more than speculate about these things. See the archive at the end for posts over the past year describing how we arrived at this difficult spot.

An economic downturn has 3 stages, each with a different goal.
1. First Aid � prevent the economy from sliding into a depression.

2. Treatment — mitigate suffering during the recession, achieve a global recovery in 2010.

3. Recovery � restructuring and reforms to prepare for the expansion after 2010, and the new world beyond that.
Yes, 2010 is the earliest reasonable date for a recovery IMO from the most severe global downturn since WWII. Policy errors could length the downturn, of course.

First Aid

This is a worldwide problem, due to two long-term factors.
1. Globalization has locked us together into the same business cycle, instead of some regions being strong while others are weak.

2. We all run our economies by the same body of economic theory, Keynesian economics. No commies (except fringe states like N. Korea), and few socialist ones.
The result is like a monoculture agricultural system, vast fields planted with a generically identical crop. It is uniformly vulnerable to the same diseases and pests. We have all contracted the same infection....

"..and the new world beyond that." So who is thinking ahead? Thinking about the new world we will be shaping, just by meddling with the world's economies? I wish I could say it was Republican leaders, but I don't see any signs of it.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:17 PM

October 1, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 PM

Starting Wars for Dummies, 1st ed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 11:24 AM

August 19, 2008

Random amplifications....

This piece by Alan Sullivan got me thinking a bit this morning...

The world is a complex place. To understand the strained relations of major powers, imagine a four dimensional space, with four forces competing in it.

I'd call it a three-dimensional space. The two dimensions of the map where powers maneuver like a game of Risk, and the third dimension being economic growth and globalization, where the successful can maneuver above the map, and touch and transform almost every spot—power flows from the earbuds of an iPod! And terrorists get to move above the map too.

The first and predominant force is the liberal democratic alliance. Culturally, economically, militarily, it is far superior to the other three. Its population is largest of the four forces, and its polities are the most resilient. It includes the sole superpower and several lesser powers: Europe, India, Brazil, Japan. Although there are tensions in the group, it is impossible to imagine them warring with one another under the present dispensation.

This group has many "virtuous" feedback loops, so they will probably end up absorbing everything. And, alas, one huge negative loop, which is the temptation that comes with prosperity and comfort for people to not grow-up. The temptation to nihilism. "Growing up" is the willingness to accept suffering, in a higher cause than the self. Things like marriage, children, dedication to causes or philosophies, service to the larger community, especially in war---these all involve suffering, and giving up some of the pleasures of the self. (And also receiving deeper joys and satisfactions that the self-centered person can't really perceive.) And, all of these "growing-ups" are "types" or patterns of the real growing-up, which comes with faith in God.

We can see this all around us, though most people don't want to take notice.

The second force is a rising regional power with global aspirations: China. A fifth of all humankind lives there; a substanial fraction more, in the neighboring lands, has fallen increasingly under the sway of China’s authoritarian model and the material success of its ancient empire reborn. But China’s growing national wealth depends upon trade, and the linkage of global economies keeps China fairly circumspect in its international behavior.

China is trapped. It can't stay in the "cheap labor" economy; those jobs are already flowing to poorer countries, and its population is graying rapidly. China's economy must mature, but that requires flexibility and the rule of law. The same transition that the other "Asian Tigers" made, but it will be much harder for a fifth of the world's population to change...

The third force — Russia and its subject principalities — is allied with the second through a shared ideological heritage from communism. To some extent it competes with the second force for influence with anti-liberal countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran. To some extent it cooperates in opposing democratic expansionism, which has made inroads alarming to authoritarians since the fall of Russia’s Soviet empire. As an energy producer, Russia is a rogue state with nothing to lose.

Rogue states kept alive by oil. That's bad juju for Planet Earth. But that problem could be easily ameliorated. We have enough oil here in the US to drastically lower world prices, but we are blocked from extracting it. (Oil shale alone = 2 trillion barrels!) The Dems are to blame, but in a larger sense I blame us Republicans. Democrats are insane; so blaming them is like blaming 3-year-olds. Republicans are supposedly the grownups, but we had a majority in Congress and squandered that opportunity like fools.

The fourth force is Islamic internationalism. The umma, another fifth of humankind, seethes with an old dream of global domination for its faith. Yet Islam faltered in its drive for conquest centuries ago, and stagnated for centuries more. Now oil wealth has awakened this slumbering power and brought the dream into consciousness. Islam is disorganized and polycentric, which is actually an advantage for maneuver among the other forces.

They are in a panic. "Global domination" is bluster. Planting a modern Western country in the middle of their cocoon drove them nuts, but now every Internet connection is like a little Israel in the midst of the faithful. They fear the changing world-views of their children. And they fear apostasy. The very death of Christendom with its slumberous state churches and "mainline churches" may mean the return of real Christianity. And no group is so vulnerable as the Muslims, with their lean loveless parody of the Church. [Link, link]

Four forces. You cannot understand our world with studying their interaction. Each force has a weakness. The liberal democracies lack strategic thinkers and shy from confrontation. China takes the long view, yet its imperious rigidity limits its gains. Russia is reckless, and always moves too soon. Islam is blinkered by its doctrines. All true.

I see no way for the three illiberal forces to combine successfully and overcome their common foe. Nor do I see a way for the liberal democracies to evade large-scale and continuing conflict with the other forces. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world, yet paradoxically we rise. Look at the achievements of the last few centuries. One must balance them with losses, failures, and horrors, but still: look at the wonders wrought by humankind! Amen, brother!

In our conflicts with these three the West should be like parents bringing along unruly teenagers, with love, and tough-love when necessary. A messy process I can tell you. And that is exactly what we are trying to do in IRAQ, and exactly why the West's legions of perpetual adolescents hate the Iraq campaign with insane fury. And hate George W Bush, who is (yes, yes I know, he's not perfect) the father telling the kids it's time to act like grown-ups, and start dealing with messy problems...

And that's also why it is not correct to say that we are "at war." We are not at war with anyone, since there are none of our "enemies" we would not welcome into friendship and comity if they decided to drop their twisted ways.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:09 PM

August 9, 2008

I could be wrong...

Russia has invaded Georgia. So where are the giant puppets?

Where is the "anti-war" movement? Where the protests?

Perhaps they just haven't had time to get organized yet. I walked past the Russian consulate on Green Street today, and all was sleepy.

But perhaps the "pacifists" just need a few days to gin up the protest machinery. Right?

It would be wrong to judge them harshly so early in the game. Wrong to indulge my suspicion that they are horrid frauds who are only anti-America, and don't give a damn if distant foreigners live or die.

Perhaps they will surprise me.....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:03 PM

July 10, 2008

Better "a second of freedom...than an eternity of slavery."

French philosopher André Glucksmann writes an eloquent tribute to Ingrid Betancourt...

....From the outset, Betancourt has congratulated the Colombian army and President Álvaro Uribe for the military operation that saved her. She praised not only its impeccable success but also—as she deliberately pointed out—its daring, for any military operation risked going awry for some unforeseen reason and leading to the execution of the hostages, as has sometimes happened in earlier attempts. Unlike her family members—who, she is careful to emphasize, have always so feared losing her that they distrusted and criticized Uribe’s adventurism and militarism—Betancourt congratulates the Colombian president. To be sure, Operation Checkmate could well have ended in bloodshed; but Betancourt had long wished for it, ready to face death if necessary. This had become a matter of principle for her. Better, she said, “a second of freedom,” even deadly freedom, than an eternity of slavery. She had attempted five escapes, and in retribution the guerilla fighters had chained her up by the neck. “I always avoided imagining my wife’s living conditions,” her husband said. “Now I know she lived like a dog.”

Betancourt’s choice, which she has proclaimed loud and clear since her first breaths of free air, is the result of mature reflection: rather the possibility of a bloody outcome than the life of a dog. She does not tell us that anything is better than death; she says rather that freedom is worth any price....

('course he doesn't mention that she considers her release a miracle of the Virgin Mary... but hey, he's a Philosophe. His perspective is a bit limited.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:40 PM

July 7, 2008

"Sprint to the finish"

I've been sort of agreeing with the CW that President Bush is a "spent force." Perhaps even, as Alan speculated, psychologically wounded by the loss in 2006. Possibly I was being too pessimistic...

From Asia Times (thanks to Orrin), Bush carves out a legacy in Asia, By M K Bhadrakumar:

....Bush is undeterred. He meant what he said during Christmas 2006, "I'm going to sprint to the finish." Free of electoral pressures and the tyranny of popularity rating, the sprinter is gaining in velocity. Just as experts began concluding Bush's missile defenses were dying with his presidency comes the news from Washington last Tuesday regarding a US-Poland deal for a future missile shield. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be arriving in Warsaw this week for follow-up. Not only that. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Lithuania had agreed to consider hosting a missile interceptor base if the US deal with Poland fell through. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrel explained that "prudent planning requires that we simultaneously look at backups, if necessary. Lithuania would geographically serve as a good alternative." Now, that is how legacies are planned - tenaciously, silently, prudently - until the scaffolding gets removed. Russian commentators were gloating just recently that Moscow's diplomacy had successfully buried Bush's missile defense plans. What appears unthinkable, however, is that Bush's finest legacies may yet be coming - from Asia, the continent that is "reshaping our world today", to use Rice's recent words.

Rice's speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on June 18 gave away that the Bush administration was working hard. Rice underlined, "The United States, contrary to much of the commentary, is actually in a stronger position in Asia than at any other time." She counted the calming of tensions across the Taiwan Strait; reaffirmation and "modernization" of traditional alliances with Japan and South Korea; recasting of relations with China and Russia; and finessing of a new global security agenda with Australia and an "enhanced partnership" with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations as major diplomatic gains of Bush's foreign policy in Asia.

Rice said the US's "strategic accomplishments in Asia" also included "partnerships with a newly democratic Afghanistan, a democratic Pakistan, and an historic transformation of our relationship with the rising democratic power, India". But the bulk of her speech related to North Korea problem, underlining Washington's expectation Pyongyang will soon make a "verifiable, complete and accurate" declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and materials so that Bush claims a legacy.

As Bush heads toward Japan for the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, he anticipates he's likely wrapping up two Asian legacies - and if luck holds, three. Beware the lame duck. As the Washington Post summed up, "George W Bush's presidency seems exhausted and irrelevant, but that's a dangerous illusion. The Decider remains in command ..." Clearly, North Korea has begun disabling its plutonium production facility at Yongbyon under the watchful eyes of US inspectors. Rice's consultations in Beijing last week galvanized the process. The White House announced that Bush proposed to attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Summer Olympic Games in August.

Meanwhile, a second Asian legacy for the Bush era is also gaining traction. On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the G-8, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inform Bush that New Delhi has decided to give the final push to the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the US....

Trading a de-fanged N Korea for a visit to the Olympics is smart, if that's really what happened. Good move, Condi. So maybe soon we can say, Axis of Evil: two down one to go.....

Posted by John Weidner at 11:17 AM

June 8, 2008

We taught them to act that way...

Glenn posted this quote by Norm Geras...

...You couldn't ask for a clearer symbol of the double-edged character of [African] nationalism. At one time a powerful force in the fight for liberation from colonial rule and in the long struggle against apartheid, African nationalism has, in the hands of Mbeki and other African leaders rallying round Mugabe, been transmuted into an apologia and defence of the most blatant criminality and oppression. The US ambassador, representing a country widely derided in liberal circles for its role in international affairs, bears witness to the crimes of the Mugabe regime; the man standing at the head of a nation that won the world's admiration for getting rid of an odious racist system disgraces that legacy.

What is missed here is that the defense of "the most blatant criminality and oppression" was always a part of the Western fight against apartheid. (And also against colonialism.) At least among liberals. Why?

Remember how we heard over and over that South Africa did not have majority rule? I sure do. But the fact is, at that time NO African nation had majority rule. All African countries other than South Africa were ruled by dictators or very small elite groups. None of the anti-apartheid activist types found this objectionable. They implicitly defined brutal tyranny as "majority rule," so long as the Head of State had dark skin! An evil lesson.

The fact that South Africa had an illegal immigrant problem, with black people fleeing to SA from much worse places, did not matter to them at all. Few or no Western "activists" announced that South Africa was just the first problem, and that after it was solved they would turn their efforts to bringing majority rule to other African nations. They didn't care.

So the West has in fact "taught" Africans that dictatorship or one party rule are acceptable. And we are still teaching the same lesson. Those who are upset about Mugabe's oppression are few, and tend not to be the same people who were outraged by the lack of "majority rule" in SA.

The activists never really cared about Africans at all, not as people like us. Their fun was in attacking white conservatives. One those were gone they dropped the whole subject.

* Update: Western leftists have "taught" the same lesson in the Middle East. They "care" about the Palestinians only to the extant that they are injured by Israel. Arab regimes have treated the Palestinians far worse than Israel has, without any protest from the sort of Westerners who wear kaffiyas. (For instance, in 1992 Kuwait booted 30,000 Palestinians out of their homes and out of the country. And protests came there none!)

* One more Update: And right here in the USA. The Civil Rights Movement was, and is, only interesting to leftists to the extant that it can be used to bash conservative whites. Once the "rednecks" were gone, the fun was mostly over. Festering problems within black communities, such as corrupt politicians, crime, poor work and study habits, and anti-white racism are not priorities. If the choice is between fixing inner-city schools, and placating the teachers' unions who bankroll the Democrat Party, the pickininnies get tossed to the sharks every time.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 AM

May 31, 2008

"Bogus world brotherhood"

Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian, Once, 'international' sounded saintly. Now it means bureaucracy and waste...(Thanks to Orrin)

Gazing briefly at the Eurovision song contest this week I could not rid my mind of a quite different image, that of Nato's multilateral force headquarters in Kabul. There was the same flag-waving and confusion of purpose, the same small-state rivalry and cynical balancing of interests. There was the same belief that, simply by being international, a so-called community of nations was forged.

For Eurovision and Nato, read the Olympics and Burma, read the Moscow cup final and Darfur. Read the European parliament, Fifa, the World Bank, the Organisation of African Unity, the European parliament. I was brought up to regard "international" as synonymous with saintly. It was a concept to supplant the rude nationalism of the 20th century in a worldwide concord of peace, ruled by a clerisy of selfless bureaucrats; Dag Hammersköld out of Albert Schweitzer.

Today the word "international" suggests tailored suits, tax-free salaries, white Land Cruisers and Geneva. The Eurovision contest is run by the European Broadcasting Union with 400 staff in Switzerland, with no risk of oversight or reform. It takes after the International Olympics Committee, which now charges its host taxpayers $20-30bn for two weeks of extravaganza in the name of bogus world brotherhood...

Read it all; there's lots to appall.

But Jenkins is wrong on one point. Actually, "internationalism" was bogus from the beginning. It was never an "ideal" that was corrupted. The UN was, from its very founding, supported by Leftists because it would hinder and limit the United States of America, and would hurt Western Civilization. Millions of ordinary people bought into the "ideal," and imagined something noble, (Lots still do, despite evidence) but it was always a lie. And it was always intended to thwart what was truly noble, our working to spread freedom and capitalism and—most importantly, democracy, to the masses of this planet.

"Internationalism" is always about elites running things without accountability to voters.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 AM

May 30, 2008

"News blackout"

Regular readers will know that it's not my habit to mock and ridicule the various "oppressed" peoples of the earth. It's not Political Correctness, which I hate and despise; rather, it's just not my style.

But this is.....unbelievable! Morons! We have here racial/ethnic/religious/regional imbecility!

....The takeoff warning horn was blaring away in the cockpit because they had all 4 engines at full power. The aircraft computers thought they were trying to takeoff but it had not been configured properly (flaps/slats, etc.) Then one of the ADAT [Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies] crew decided to pull the circuit breaker on the Ground Proximity Sensor to silence the alarm.

This fools the aircraft into thinking it is in the air.

The computers automatically released all the brakes and set the aircraft rocketing forward. The ADAT crew had no idea that this is a safety feature so that pilots can't land with the brakes on.

Not one member of the seven-man Arab crew was smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power setting, so the $80 million brand-new aircraft crashed into a blast barrier, totaling it.

The extent of injuries to the crew is unknown, for there has been a news blackout in the major media in France and elsewhere. Coverage of the story was deemed insulting to Moslem Arabs. Finally, the photos are starting to leak out.

Actually, my contempt for those brain-damaged (by a sick culture) Arabs is minor compared to my contempt for the French. "News blackout" indeed. That's not surprising, since they've had—how many now, 10 or 20 thousand?—cars torched by "youths," without ever mentioning that they are all Moslem criminals? The French are liars and cowards! A culture of lies and cowardice. Nihilism. They've rebelled against God, and now we see them sink back into the slime.

(Thanks to Bookworm)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:45 PM

May 29, 2008

"Is it a country or a cause?"

Amir Taheri, in the WSJ, writes about how Iran is both a nation, that we can deal with rationally, and a revolutionary regime that feels no need to placate the Great Satan, or anybody.

It's very easy to be confused; to assume that one Iran or the other is the "real" one. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an apocalyptic nut-job, but also won office by running on a platform of economic reform. It's a peculiar situation. Iran will probably become more moderate and friendly over time, but we need to deal with things right now...

....The reason is that Iran is gripped by a typical crisis of identity that afflicts most nations that pass through a revolutionary experience. The Islamic Republic does not know how to behave: as a nation-state, or as the embodiment of a revolution with universal messianic pretensions. Is it a country or a cause?

A nation-state wants concrete things such as demarcated borders, markets, access to natural resources, security, influence, and, of course, stability – all things that could be negotiated with other nation-states. A revolution, on the other hand, doesn't want anything in particular because it wants everything...

....The problem that the world, including the U.S., has today is not with Iran as a nation-state but with the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary cause bent on world conquest under the guidance of the "Hidden Imam." The following statement by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme leader" of the Islamic Republic – who Mr. Obama admits has ultimate power in Iran -- exposes the futility of the very talks Mr. Obama proposes: "You have nothing to say to us. We object. We do not agree to a relationship with you! We are not prepared to establish relations with powerful world devourers like you! The Iranian nation has no need of the United States, nor is the Iranian nation afraid of the United States. We . . . do not accept your behavior, your oppression and intervention in various parts of the world."...

...whenever Iran has appeared as a nation-state, others have been able to negotiate with it, occasionally with good results. In Iraq, for example, Iran has successfully negotiated a range of issues with both the Iraqi government and the U.S. Agreement has been reached on conditions under which millions of Iranians visit Iraq each year for pilgrimage. An accord has been worked out to dredge the Shatt al-Arab waterway of three decades of war debris, thus enabling both neighbors to reopen their biggest ports. Again acting as a nation-state, Iran has secured permission for its citizens to invest in Iraq.

When it comes to Iran behaving as the embodiment of a revolutionary cause, however, no agreement is possible. There will be no compromise on Iranian smuggling of weapons into Iraq. Nor will the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps agree to stop training Hezbollah-style terrorists in Shiite parts of Iraq. Iraq and its allies should not allow the mullahs of Tehran to export their sick ideology to the newly liberated country through violence and terror....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 AM

May 23, 2008

Things could get much worse...

I've been meaning to post on this very important possibility, but I've been as distracted as usual. Alan Sullivan has been following the ongoing eruption of the volcano at Chaitén. This is from a couple of weeks ago...

....Let’s recall the onset of the eruption. One significant earthquake on April 30 preceded the first explosions; four more accompanied them on May 2. Epicenters were arrayed radially around the caldera. Their locations implied that a very large magma chamber might be released by the eruptive process. After the initial blasts, the eruption settled into a near steady-state, sustained so long that a vast amount of material must have been spewed by now — perhaps doubling the two cubic kilometers of ejecta estimated in the first phase. (Caveat: that’s just a guess.) But the plume has not been punching high enough to matter, in the global scale.

That may change very soon. If the magma conduit is breaking up, and the capping lava dome explodes away, a Tambora-sized event could happen in the next few days. It is plausible that the blowout could be even greater. The tragedies of China, Burma, or Sumatra are trivial in comparison with what may be about to occur. Global climate is already cooling; food supplies are already tight. The Four Horsemen have been stabled for many years. Tonight I can hear their mounts champing...

So what is a "Tambora-sized event?" Tambora exploded in 1815. From Wikipedia: The Year Without a Summer:

The Year Without a Summer, also known as the Poverty Year, The Year There Was No Summer or Eighteen hundred and froze to death, was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the American Northeast and eastern Canada.[1][2] Historian John D. Post has called this "the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world".[3] It appears to have been caused by a volcanic winter.

Chaitén is quiet at the moment, but:

...The Chilean government issued a new statement today. The Volcanism Blog has yet to post one of its elegant translations. I ran the text through Babelfish and got comical results. It’s not geared for science. But there’s nothing funny about what’s happening at the volcano. It is exactly as I suspected. Major dome building is now underway. The geologists were astonished by their flyby yesterday. Seismic signals indicate continued magma movement. The authorities remain worried about a catastrophic blowout. This event is not over. It may continue for weeks or even months before a climactic phase ensues...

I remember "dome building" before Mt St Helens blew. But this seems to be something considerably bigger.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 AM

May 19, 2008

"The Europeans are paying for their own nihilism..."

Spengler, on German President Horst Koehler's bewilderment at the world financial markets...

....The monster is not the financial system, crooked and stupid as it may have been. The monster is the burgeoning horde of pensioners in Germany and other industrial countries. It is easy to change the financial system. The central banks can assemble on any Tuesday morning and announce tougher lending standards. But it is impossible to fix the financial problems that arise from Europe's senescence. Thanks to the one-child policy, moreover, China has a relatively young population that is aging faster than any other, and China's appetite for savings vastly exceeds what its own financial market can offer.

There is nothing complicated about finance. It is based on old people lending to young people. Young people invest in homes and businesses; aging people save to acquire assets on which to retire. The new generation supports the old one, and retirement systems simply apportion rights to income between the generations. Never before in human history, though, has a new generation simply failed to appear.

As the above chart makes clear, America's population profile is far more benign than Germany's, but it is aging nonetheless. There simply aren't enough young people in America to borrow money from Europe's and Japan's aging savers...

....Koehler's indignation is understandable, but it is pointless to blame the sausage-maker. Economics simply does not offer a solution to a lapse of the will to live among some of the world's richest economies. The Europeans are paying for their own nihilism. Having invented the perfect post-Christian society with cradle-to-grave services, they have not found anyone willing to live in it, except for the immigrants who well may inherit it from the disappearing locals.

It's is good to keep in mind that despite our gross faults, the Republicans are the party that tends to oppose imitating Europe, and the Democrats are the party that wants us to be Europe. And Europe is DYING.

Euro-style social democracy and secularism is perhaps the biggest "experiment" ever run on this planet, and it has failed calamitously. No European country is reproducing at the replacement rate. All European countries are in demographic collapse. (Population collapse will hit when their "baby-boom" generation starts to die off.) Equally important, Europe is no longer producing new ideas, new movements, new inventions. To a person like me who reads history, this change is shocking. (That's one of the many reasons liberals discourage the study of history.)

The death of Europe (and some other developed lands, such as Japan) is the biggest "fact" we have to deal with in our time. The biggest QUESTION. What does it mean for the human race? What does it mean for us? For me?

In my opinion, if you are not chewing on this problem, and wondering if your current ideas need to change because of it, you are not a serious person.

[Me, I think St Anthony got it right: "After the deluge, only the fishes will survive."]

* Update: Actually, there is still one European leader who is also a world leader. And one European state�a very small one�that still produces exciting new ideas that the world debates and takes seriously....

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 AM

April 10, 2008

Germans!

From BBC News: (Thanks to Tim Blair)

Germany's celebrity polar bear Knut has triggered a new controversy by fishing out 10 live carp from his moat and killing them in front of visitors.

Critics say Berlin Zoo should not have put live fish inside Knut's enclosure. But German media report that the carp were put there to eat up algae.

There is speculation that hand-reared Knut killed the carp just for fun...

Well, why not? He's a BEAR, for pity's sake. He'd kill people too, if they annoyed him. And eat them, if he was hungry.

Of course, to most "animal lovers," killing a human is less bad than killing a carp. And "animal lover" is a religion to many people these days—a morally depraved one.

Just juxtapose the two following sentences...

...Knut was rejected by his mother, but Berlin Zoo decided to hand-rear him, in a controversial move. There has been heated debate about whether cubs rejected by their mothers should be saved or whether nature should be allowed to run its course...

...The Frankfurter Allgemeine news website reports that Knut "senselessly murdered the carp", fishing them out, playing with them and then leaving the remains...

So, letting the bear die is "nature," but killing carp is "murder?" Huh? I guess Knut, being so cute and all, has been made an honorary human, so infanticide is OK. Whatever it takes to reduce the burden on Gaia, and her endangered carp.

Amazin' to think we used to fight bloody wars against these idiots.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:13 AM

April 7, 2008

We're better than the bad old days....

This is actually a comment by Mike Plaiss to this post, but he was unable to post the comment due to a bug in my version of MT that bites me now and then. So I'll just make it a blog-post. It's certainly interesting enough...

Mike writes:

As you can imagine, I’m no fan of leftist schemes to perfect human nature, but there is evidence that human nature has improved over time. I have posted this here before. It is a fascinating essay by a Harvard psychologist with a good sense of history. His basic point is contained in this quote:

...Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light...
The reason, says the author, and it rings true to me, is that civilization has had, well, a civilizing affect on us. Or in the author’s words, “Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.

The conundrum for most leftists is that the antidote for the litany of savagery detailed above is largely Western thought, philosophy, and culture.

Well, I don't think "human nature" has changed in the slightest. If it could change like that, it wouldn't be our "nature." What's being discussed is our culture. And that's certainly changed. But I'd guess that if you took any of our oh-so-civilized people, and let them be reborn in sixteenth-century Paris, they would enjoy the "cat burning" (see Pinker's article) as much as the next guy. Our "nature" is the same as it always has been.

And Pinker celebrates us getting getting "kinder and gentler." But I'm not sure that's all of what's going on. Let's just invent a crazy hypothetical. Let's suppose a million people are being killed in, oh, let's say, Rawanda. So, bodies are floatin' down the rivers like rafts of lumber, and the reaction of us kind 'n gentle superior Westerners is....... "But hey, we're peaceful. We're kinder and gentler. So we can't actually DO something. That would be, like, forceful. Pushy. Confrontational. Those things are part of the bad old days, like cat-burning." Phooey. Give me some hard-assed old cowboys who can solve problems with guns or a noose.

And "nobler?" I don't buy that at all. I'd characterize our world as "ignoble."

Posted by John Weidner at 4:24 PM

March 17, 2008

A quote to start the week...

From the National Post:

...Why aren't the Vietnamese more grateful to Tom Hayden? Recently, he returned for the first time in 36 years to the country that he and his then-wife Jane Fonda tried to save from American domination in the Vietnam war. The trip disappointed him. As he writes in the March 10 issue of The Nation, Vietnam has turned capitalist...

(Thanks to Orrin.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:05 AM

March 8, 2008

"The sun is the primary driver"

Alan Sullivan has posted a very long piece on Climate. He's a weather-nut, has been studying this for a lifetime, and knows a lot. Well worth reading...

....But why are ice ages occurring now, and why at other times in earth’s history, has warmth predominated, with only a few previous cycles of widespread glaciation? At last the information from the various sciences offers a coherent explanation of paleoclimate, with which we can better understand the present, and take more educated guesses at the future.

There is one essential truth to emphasize: the sun is the primary driver. All other factors affecting climate are trivial in comparison, though sometimes they may briefly override the solar homeostasis. Virtually all Earth’s thermal energy derives from the sun; only the tiniest traces leach from the planet’s interior. But the sun’s output is not perfectly constant. Its immense thermonuclear furnace fluctuates, with short-term and long-term cycles. We scarcely understand the former, and the latter we don’t understand at all.

Our time-line of sophisticated solar study is very brief. Only in the last few years have instruments been deployed that can probe the sun’s innards more precisely. Even with super-computers, scientists will need some time to integrate the new information into theories that might help us comprehend Sol’s long-term behavior, and its peculiar short-term changes.

The first solar cycle known to astronomers was the sun-spot cycle, which was found to peak at eleven-year intervals. We have decent records of sunspot count going back to the 1500’s. They show something very odd: the Maunder minimum. During the 1600’s, the sunspot cycle collapsed, and hardly any sunspots were observed for the better part of a century. Then the cycle resumed and gradually sharpened. The peaks of the Twentieth Century appear to be the highest in the record, even when weighted for the limitations on the older counts.

The Little Ice Age happened during the Maunder Minimum. Europe and other parts of the world suffered crop failures and food crises. Winters were fierce; snows deep; ice covered the rivers; and we inherited pretty paintings of people ice-skating on canals of the Netherlands. This is not a coincidence. Solar radiance peaks with the flares that accompany sunspots. When solar storms quit entirely for decades on end, Earth’s energy balance changes. There is less input from the primary driver. The effects come promptly, and pass when the sunspot cycle resumes.....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:41 PM

March 7, 2008

They sense our soft underbelly...

From John Howard's Irving Kristol Lecture at the AEI...

....In the protracted struggle against Islamic extremism there will be no stronger weapon than the maintenance by western liberal democracies of a steadfast belief in the continuing worth of our own national value systems. And where necessary a soaring optimism about the future of freedom and democracy.

We should not think that by trading away some of the values which have made us who we are will buy us either immunity from terrorists or respect from noisy minorities.

If the butter of common national values is spread too thinly it will disappear altogether.

We should not forget that it is the values of our societies that terrorists despise most. That is why we should never compromise on them.

It is not only their intrinsic worth that should be staunchly defended. It is also because radical Islam senses – correctly – that there is a soft underbelly of cultural self-doubt in certain Western societies.

There are too many in our midst who think, deep down, that it is really “our fault” and if only we entered into some kind of federal cultural compact, with our critics, the challenges would disappear.

Perhaps it was this sentiment which led the Archbishop of Canterbury to make the extraordinary comment several weeks ago, that in Britain some accommodation with aspects of Sharia law was inevitable.

It is fundamental to the continued unity and purpose of a democratic nation state that there not only be respect for the rule of law but the state have but one body of law, to which all are accountable, and from which all are entitled to an equal dispensation of justice....

Like I said...but never so well.

* Update: The page from The Australian that I copied John Howard's speech from had a good example of our "soft underbelly" (and of why I hate "journalists.") There was a box displaying the latest headline, and it read: "Eight dead in school gunbattle." As if maybe two equivalent factions had starting shooting at each other. It should have read, "Terrorists Murder Eight Students in Cold Blood." But that would imply an acceptance of Western values. And imply that we ought to be defending them.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 AM

February 6, 2008

Axis of Good...

Orrin Judd:

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 1:08 PM

February 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 24, 2008

Pacifism gets ready to kill again...

Michael Goldfarb writes in the Weekly Standard blog about a RAND report which drew on Chinese military journals and other unclassified documents to construct a best guess of how a conflict between the U.S. and China would kick off...

....Another interesting item, straight from the report this time:
Chinese analysts assess that even a small number of casualties is sufficient to spark strong popular opposition and erode domestic support for U.S. participation in a conflict. The U.S. experience in Somalia is usually cited in support of this assertion.
It's hard to gauge just how damaging Somalia was to American credibility. It's been much discussed that al Qaeda interpreted that retreat as a sign of U.S. weakness. (And of course, bin Laden claimed that it was al Qaeda trained affiliates that shot down the American helicopters in the Battle of Mogadish.) It seems the Chinese drew the same conclusion--Americans don't have the stomach for a fight. Which leads to the obvious question: how would the Chinese interpret an American withdraw from Iraq?...

[Regular readers can skip this; I've said it before.] Being "anti-war" is the best way to get yourself into a war. Pacifism kills.

Planet Earth is like a rough neighborhood. If you look weak, you get jumped. If you look dangerous you are respected and left alone. (Even better, you should look dangerous and crazy.)

It is very likely that President Clinton's decision to pull out of Somalia after 18 deaths has killed hundreds of thousands of people. And may kill millions in the future. (Our weakness in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Iran hostage crisis have surely also contributed to the slaughter.)

We probably should not have gone so blithely into Somalia. BUT, once the stuff hit the fan, the most peaceful, the most humane, the most "pacifistic" thing to do would have been to smash the attackers with all available force.

I imagine someone saying about now, "It is always wrong to do evil so that good may come of it." (I have to invent imaginary opponents, because no one ever gives me a good counter-argument.) My reply is that it would NOT have been evil. The correct analogy is to police work, not to "starting wars". We are, de facto, the cops of this burg. Imagine an actual "rough neighborhood." One where gang violence is growing, and threatens to get out of control. Is it evil if the cops go after the gang members, using deadly force if necessary?

What would be the real evil option? A. Storming the gang hideout in a hail of bullets? Or B. Allowing the neighborhood to fall into the control of criminals, and thereby condemning thousands of innocent people to bleak lives of hopelessness and violence and crime?

[And if anyone wiser and more moral than I is reading, and doesn't like this thought, you are welcome to correct my reasoning in the comments.]

Posted by John Weidner at 11:47 AM

December 11, 2007

Two positive stories...

(Thanks to Orrin)

Triumphs for Democracy, By MICHAEL BARONE

The world looks safer, friendlier, more hopeful than it did as we approached Christmastime last year.

Then, we were on the defensive, perhaps on the verge of defeat, in Iraq. The Europeans' attempts to persuade Iran to renounce nuclear weapons seemed to have failed. Hugo Chavez was using his near-dictatorial powers and the oil wealth of Venezuela to secure the election of opponents of the American "empire" in Latin America.

Today, things look different. And they suggest, to me at least, that the policies of the Bush administration, pilloried as bankrupt by the Democrats after their victory in congressional elections in November, have served American interests better than most Americans then thought....
and from Donald Lambro, in the Washington Times...
It will probably come as a shock to most people, even to those who follow the economy, that mortgage applications rose last month as a result of declining interest rates.

In the midst of the hysterical media-fed notion that a tidal wave of subprime-loan foreclosures was going to plunge the country into a recession, the fact is that the economy is still growing and Americans are still buying homes.

The torrid pace of recent years has slackened, but homes are being sold, banks are lending money and most Americans — even those saddled with subprime mortgages — are paying their mortgages on time.

Not everybody realizes this, however. The Washington Post, in a story about the administration's mortgage-relief plan, reported last week that, "Lending, which had boomed for years, ground to a halt." That has been the myth reported ad nauseam on the nightly network news shows, and apparently it has been accepted as a God-given fact....

I kind of imagine the people at the Washington Times just relishing any chance to poke a pin in the fraudulent pomposity of the Washington Post. Thank you!

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

December 10, 2007

Insouciance...

RONALD BAILEY has an essay, Do We Need Death?, [Thanks to Glenn], that refutes various arguments against anti-aging research and the possibility of much longer lifespans. I haven't time to read the actual arguments con, so I'll just assume he's playing fair. His piece is worth reading and makes sense...

...Schaub isn’t “willing to say that agelessness is undesirable,” but she simultaneously “can’t shake the conviction that the achievement of a 1,000-year lifespan would produce a dystopia.” She then simply recapitulates the standard issue pro-mortalist rhetorical technique of asking allegedly “unnerving questions” and then allowing them to “fester in the mind.” Sadly, all too many bioethicists think they’ve done real philosophic work by posing “hard” questions, then sitting back with steepled hands and a grave look on their countenances.

So instead of just letting questions “fester,” let’s actually make a stab at preliminary responses to some of the questions posed by Schaub and other pro-mortalists.....

However, the arguments "against" are not the arguments that I would make. I think the big danger in this issue is spiritual. STOP! STOP! Before your eyes glaze over and you dismiss this as fuzzy moonshine, let me assure you that I am thinking about something that has practical real-world life-and-death implications. And I'm not just posing questions with "steepled hands," I think we can see around us several analogous situations that actually test Mr Bailey's assumptions, and ought to give one pause in this. Here's one of them.

We have actually experiment run an, on a planet-wide scale, that tests some of the assumptions that seem to underlie the thinking of those who enthuse about life-extension. The experiment used a planet (Earth, about the year 1945) where most people suffered poverty or tyranny or ignorance or war or the threat of war. (Or all five.) The hypothesis of the experiment was that these things are the enemy, and defeating them would be victory and would have almost un-alloyed good results. So we selected nations or even whole continents and give them prosperity, democracy, peace and universal education. And along with these, longer lives, and especially, much more leisure time.

The expected result of the experiment was that people would be happier, and would live better lives, and that we would see a continual upward trend in those things that usually indicate to us a successful civilization. What happened?

Petri dish #1 is called "Europe." (You might also think about Japan and Canada.) Are we happy with the results so far? Do we feel justified in keeping those assumptions, or are there some indications that it may be time to do some hard thinking?

I for one am not happy with what has developed. We see demographic collapse, with every European country reproducing at below replacement rates. (Demographic collapse happens now, population decline will come soon when Europe's baby-book generation starts to die off.) We see economic stagnation, with chronic unemployment often above 10%.

We see a lack of exciting developments in science, the arts, culture and design. (Especially considering that Europe led the world in these things until recently.) How often do you hear of someone planning to go to Europe because that's where the "cutting edge" work is being done in their field? And, we see, shockingly, that Europe is unwilling to defend itself, is unwilling to fight, either internally or externally, in the Global War on Terror.

This is a spiritual collapse. There are no physical limitations that keep Europe from continuing the leadership in all fields that marked it until recently. And, it is mass death. There are probably a hundred-million Europeans who have not been born, because something is lacking in the outlook of their countrymen. A statistic to chew on: By the year 2050, 60% of Italians will not know what it is like to have a brother or a sister or an uncle or an aunt or a nephew or a niece.

And we see similar signs everywhere on Earth that prosperity and democracy have been attained. NO, I am not arguing against prosperity or democracy. Or against longer lives. (If it is scientifically possible, it WILL happen.) But I'm arguing that there is a huge problem stalking the world, one that it is connected with prosperity and freedom. And that it is reasonable to suppose that it is not going to get better if we live longer, and may get much worse.

This is, I think, the question that we should be asking. I think there is a sickness in our world, and I think that people don't want to think about this elephant in our living room, because that would involve looking inside themselves. The anti-aging possibility is, in SF terms, like launching an Interstellar Ark with people who are carrying some deadly plague. You may still want to go ahead and launch it, but insouciance is not the most attractive attitude to exhibit.

And I am almost certainly wasting my electrons in this post, because this is an issue beloved of libertarian techno-optimist types, and I have never been able to prod such people to even go near a spiritual question...

Posted by John Weidner at 12:34 PM

December 9, 2007

Evangelizing the world...

Charlene and I just read a great book, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, by David Aikman. There are amazing things going on in China, with Christianity growing and spreading ceaselessly, despite cruel persecution and harassment. But what really made my hair stand on end was that these people are not just content to survive, they are seriously dreaming of missionary work in other lands. Their central driving idea is that, over history, the main movement of Christianity has been westward, from the Near East across Europe, and to the New World, and across the Pacific to Asia.

And so, what's the next step for Christianity and its missionaries? To go from China westwards, along the Silk Road, through the Moslem world.....to Jerusalem! Here are a few snippets, to give you a bit of the flavor ...

...A few of the Americans present were familiar with this notion: 100,000 Chinese missionaries on a global evangelization expedition. [Dr Luis] Bush was dumbfounded. For a comparison, the total estimate for American Protestant and Catholic missionaries working overseas in any given year is 40,000 to 50,000. The U.S. annually sends more missionaries overseas than any other single country by far; the current effort is built on two centuries of experience, and the considerable wealth of ordinary Americans. Could 100,000 Chinese be prepared for missionary work and sent out by the year 2007? Almost certainly not. But the process could begin. In fact, even before the Beijing Forum of February 2002, it had already begun...

..."Back to Jerusalem." It was impossible not to hear this term from Chinese house church Christians of all ages in all parts of the country. The origins of the movement are as complex as they are dramatic.

The first time the notion that China's Christians had a role to play in evangelizing the world, and in connection to Jerusalem, seems to have been in the 1920's in Shandong Province. 1n 1921, Jing Dianying founded a small independent Christian group. It was called the Jesus Family, and was not dissimilar in format to the Little Flock, founded by China's most famous twentieth-century Christian, Watchman Nee... The five word slogan of the Jesus Family was "sacrifice, abandonment, poverty, suffering, death." This turned out to be the fate of the group's members who set off on foot spreading the Gospel in nearby towns and villages...

...It isn't clear what rekindled the Back to Jerusalem fervor among China's house church Christians from the mid-1990's onward. It could have been the influence of Zhao's story or simply the spontaneous reemergence of the same vision that animated the Northwest Bible Institute students and others back in the 1940's.Certainly the enormous confidence that the house church networks had acquired during the phenomenal expansion of the 1980's was part of the explanation...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:13 AM

November 28, 2007

THE fashionable disease...

From An Epidemic of Falsehoods, by Michael Fumento...

The UNAIDS program has issued its annual report in which, finally, it doesn't say how many more current HIV infections there are this year than last. Rather it drops the figure by over six million from its 2006 estimate. Specifically, it went from 39.5 million to 33.2 million. Further, the Agency now admits the number of new HIV infections per year peaked way back around 1998.

For years, some of us have dared write that worldwide HIV and AIDS figures have been grossly exaggerated; that we were being lied to by just about everybody, including -- or especially -- the UNAIDS program and the World Health Organization...[...]

.....Such an extrapolation from a small non-representative portion of the population to literally the whole world is nonsense.
And UNAIDS knew it because it had been told by a number of careful, knowledgeable scientists such as Berkeley epidemiologist Dr. James Chin. Chin, when he worked for the UN, was responsible for some of the earliest world AIDS forecasts. Later he watched how politics -- not a virus -- made those figures zoom into the stratosphere.

Three years ago, Chin told me: "They [the UN] don't falsify per se" but "as an epidemiologist I look at these numbers and how they're derived. Every step of the way there is a range and you can choose the low end or the high end. Almost consistently the high end was chosen."

And guess what? Chin, who is also author of The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology With Political Correctness, still thinks the numbers are too high. He estimates worldwide HIV infections to be 25 million, still about eight million less than the revised estimate...

Look, it's obvious that AIDS is THE fashionable disease. Africans dying of AIDS is a big deal, Africans dying because of polluted water supplies or lack of vaccinations is not very interesting to Western elites and Hollywood saints. The question is, why?

I myself have little doubt that it is--unconsciously perhaps--because it is mostly a "gay" disease, and all things homosexual are being officially "approved of" as part of Leftist attacks on traditional morality and values. And gays are just pawns here--Leftists would happily sacrifice them to the "cause." (If you think I exaggerate, imagine as a thought experiment a popular new movement in the gay culture, with all gays becoming monogamous and all voting Republican, leading to ZERO new cases of AIDS. Do you think for a moment that Lefty activists would be pleased?)

Part of the weirdness of the "popularity" of AIDS, (and the popularity of many other issues) is the way that all left-leaning people have picked-up their marching orders from...where? From out of the ether it seems. In the old days the Left had a hard core of communists who told the "useful idiots" how to think. But that's all gone, there is no center anymore, and no real belief in socialism. And yet, millions of people have a little internal Politburo that pushes them towards positions that advance the cause of socialism. In which they do not actually believe. Always towards atomizing society, and destroying institutions like families and churches that come between people and government.

 

Posted by John Weidner at 7:01 AM

November 23, 2007

Good news...

This is very good news, if you care about France. The NYT article doesn't mention what's really at stake�they don't want anyone in their shrinking readership to get BAD ideas. This moment is precisely parallel to moments in the Thatcher and Reagan administrations, when those leaders faced challenges by strikers that could have crippled them, and destroyed hopes of reform.

PARIS, Nov. 22 — A crippling national transportation strike that has lasted nine days appeared to be sputtering to an end on Thursday as rail workers fighting to retain early retirement rights seemed willing to accept negotiations and voted throughout the country to return to work.

More than 40 union assemblies across France voted to return to work, but more votes were being held. The state-owned rail operator S.N.C.F. hailed the early voting as a sign of a “dynamic” to return to work, and union officials talked about “a climate to suspend” the strike....

Margaret Thatcher faced a coal miner's strike. Which was really a socialist strike, an action by the Labour Party intended to nullify the results of the ballot-box, and make her back down on her conservative reforms. But she had prepared carefully, building up stocks of coal beforehand. And she knew that the people were with her, and were willing to bear hardship to kill the beast.

Reagan was not expecting his strike, in the very first days of his Presidency. But he had the advantage that the air-traffic controller's strike was flat-out illegal. He acted without hesitation, knowing that the people supported him. (I remember it well. What a splendid, happy moment!) And, as in Britain, what was at stake was enormous. To lose would have crippled him from the beginning.

The history of our time is a story of Leftist policies failing, and of attempts to preserve them by means that circumvent democracy. Such as using the courts to legislate, and by controlling the press and the academy to prevent the flow of ideas, and by using strategic strikes by corrupt unions.

The French economy is in rotten shape because of insane policies. Sarkozy wants to change them, much like Thatcher and Reagan did. This could be the crucial victory. Good luck to him.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

November 8, 2007

I'm busy, here's a quote...

Mark Steyn:

....As I like to say, the future belongs to those who show up for it. The guys showing up are the highly fecund Osmond brothers of Utah, and the even more fecund al-Osmond brothers of Yemen, but not the Italians, Germans, San Franciscans, Vermonters, the John Feeneys of this world, or followers of the near parodic Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalian Church:
Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations... We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.
Which is why they'll be as irrelevant to the future "stewardship of the earth" as, say, the Inuit are today. See also Phillip Longman on "The Return Of Patriarchy".
Posted by John Weidner at 11:04 AM

October 22, 2007

The real "war on children"

Mark Steyn, on the SCHIP expansion...

....Etc. So what is the best thing America could do "for the children"? Well, it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a system of unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. Most of us understand, for example, that Social Security needs to be "fixed" – or we'll have to raise taxes, or the retirement age, or cut benefits, etc. But, just to get the entitlements debate in perspective, projected public pensions liabilities in the United States are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8 percent of our gross domestic product. In Greece, the equivalent figure is 25 percent – that's not a matter of raising taxes or tweaking retirement age; that's total societal collapse.

So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I paid my taxes, I want my benefits.....

....I'm in favor of tax credits for child health care, and Health Savings Accounts for adults, and any other reform that emphasizes the citizen's responsibility to himself and his dependants. But middle-class entitlement creep would be wrong even if was affordable, even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover it every month: it turns free-born citizens into enervated wards of the Nanny State. As Gerald Ford likes to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. As I point out in my book, nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: Once a fellow's enjoying the fruits of Euro-style entitlements, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest; he's got his, and who cares if it's going to bankrupt the state a generation hence?

That's the real "war on children": in Europe, it's killing their future. Don't make the same mistake here.

What the Dems are trying to do is literally a "war on children." The results of the kinds of policies they advocate are plain to see in Europe, and yet they are still pushing them. One invariable outcome of "Euro-socialism" is that children stop being born. The birth-rate has dropped below replacement level in every European country. There are MANY reasons for this, but one of them is that those policies result in people having no stake in the future of their nation. No stake in any future at all.

If this country's Democrat leaders were SANE, they would be fleeing from everything "Euro" like it they were covered with plague germs. The Dems are literally peddling death.

If we were sane, ALL retirement systems would require that payoffs depend on the performance of investments. There should not be any class of people who can say, "I don't care what happens to the country or the world, I got mine!"

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

October 12, 2007

A "lucky" coincidence..

The chart that accompanies this Wired article, NSA's Lucky Break: How the U.S. Became Switchboard to the World, is astonishing. Most of the planet's international phone traffic passes through the US...

A lucky coincidence of economics is responsible for routing much of the world's internet and telephone traffic through switching points in the United States, where, under legislation introduced this week, the U.S. National Security Agency will be free to continue tapping it.....

...Press leaks [how I hate those animals!] in recent months have revealed that the NSA began tapping the U.S. communications hubs for purely international traffic shortly after 9/11, at the same time that it began monitoring communications between U.S. citizens and foreigners as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

After the Democrats took over Congress in 2007, the administration put the NSA surveillance programs under the supervision of a secretive spying court, which ruled shortly thereafter that wiretapping U.S.-based facilities without a warrant was illegal, even for the purpose of harvesting foreign communications.

In August, Congress granted the NSA "emergency" temporary powers to continue the surveillance, which are set to expire in February. The RESTORE Act (the Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen Reviewed and Effective Act of 2007) is the Democrat's effort to extend that power indefinitely, while including some safeguards against abuse. It would legalize both the foreign-to-foreign intercepts, and the domestic-to-foreign surveillance associated with the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The bill enjoys wide support in the House, but on Wednesday President Bush vowed to veto any surveillance legislation that doesn't extend retroactive legal immunity to telephone companies who cooperated in the NSA's domestic surveillance before it was legalized -- a provision absent from the RESTORE Act. AT&T, which is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly wiretapping the internet on behalf of the NSA, is reportedly among the companies lobbying hard for immunity....

OF course they should have immunity! What lunacy, to even hesitate on that. And the scum behind the "class action" (the class I presume being bloodsucking lawyers and hate-America leftists) should be sent off for a nice Caribbean holiday. How crazy is this, that companies can be sued for helping our nation fight global terrorism? Sick.

And, just as a historical note, we have always tapped international communications in war time. When we entered the World Wars, presidents Wilson and Roosevelt immediately ordered surveillance of cable traffic entering or leaving the US. And there was no crap about warrants, either, and since the Democrats had not yet become traitors, no one thought anything of it. Lincoln tapped telegraph lines repeatedly, also without warrants.

And guess what, none of these measures resulted in America turning into a police state! In fact we have become far more tender about such things than ever before. The whole trend of our history has been in exactly the opposite direction. This nation has REPEATEDLY taken rough ruthless measures against suspected enemies in wartime, and REPEATEDLY bounced back afterwards towards greater respect for civil liberties..

Why do we get heavy-handed in war time? Because it's a WAR, stupid, and the thing you do with wars is, you WIN them. And, if you are America, leave the world a better place afterwards, and a more peaceful place. Anybody worried about aggression by Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea? Was anybody worried that the South would start another Civil War? No, because we beat our enemies up so hard that even to think about it would have been considered a sign of insanity. After the War of 1812 (which considering the huge disparity of forces can be considered a signal victory) were we in any real danger of British attacks? Not at all. The region north of Mexico had been repeatedly torn by international war, but we put a definitive stop to that. By winning. The gruesome slaughter of the Battle of New Orleans brought peace and prosperity to a large portion of the globe.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

October 10, 2007

"No one will ever believe you..."

I liked very much this comment that Mike Plaiss made to this post about our having, from time to time, an idealistic foreign policy...

For anyone interested in a long-winded anecdote that is relevant to this discussion, here it is:

I used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), and had the very good fortune to have many smart and intellectually minded students. We had countless conversations about world events, the countries they came from, etc. I did most of the learning in that class. I would even go as far as to say that most of what I think I know about the world outside the US came from those conversations. (I have dozens of stories a lot like this one.)

This was all right in the middle of the war in Bosnia (but before we got involved). In fact, I had several students from there, several from Eastern Europe, and a few from the Middle East. Debate had already begun in the US as whether we should get involved. All of my students, including the ones from Bosnia, were sure that the US would NOT get involved. One student from Syria, one of the teacher’s assistants, was pretty adamant about it – “Why would you? You have nothing to gain.”

I had developed a lot of credibility with this group because I actually knew where their countries were, and even a little bit about their histories. (Yes, it is sad to say that they were truly shocked that an American knew where Odessa was, as an example.) So it got their attention when I told them to not be so sure – the US may well get involved.

“Why?”, they asked. “To stop the killing”, I answered. The Syrian scoffed (loudly), and everyone was shaking their heads in disbelief, and a few were laughing. But, like I said, I had developed a lot of credibility with them by this point and they were all fascinated and wanted to know more about my thoughts. Keep in mind that all of these people had only been in the US for a few weeks or months, and I had language barriers to deal with, but I did my best to explain to them that this is the way Americans are. If we believed that genocide was, in fact, occurring in Europe (did my best to explain why that mattered), and that there was something we could do about, that we may well go to war to stop it.

Apparently I did a pretty good job because even the Syrian seemed convinced that this may be so. I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they re-evaluated their thoughts. Then the Syrian, who by the way was an extremely smart young man (he was in college and intended to go to med school), said something that I will never forget.

He said, “Well, then you have a bigger problem on your hands.” I had no idea what that meant, so I asked, “What do you mean?” “No one will ever believe it. No one will ever believe you would go to war for such a reason. So if you do it (go to war), they’re going to come up with their own reasons as to why you really did it. This would be terrible for the United States.”

So yes, going to war, even for truly altruistic reasons, can do great damage to the reputation of the US.

Ah well. As Mencken, or maybe not him, said, War is God's way of teaching Americans geography...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:54 AM

October 1, 2007

Just some dry statistics....

Rich Lowry writes on how a strong global economy means there are a shrinking number of poor people in the world. Yes, yes, I know there are still a lot of them, and their plight can be be dire. But it isn't aid programs that are going to help them. Capitalism is the only answer. (Capitalism is not without a drawback or two, but it sure beats starvation!)

GLOBAL capitalism has long lacked for a ringing slogan like "workers of the world unite." It's never too late to find one, and a good candidate - with apologies to the international charity of the same name - might be "save the children."

The United Nations Children's Fund just announced that deaths of young children worldwide hit an all-time low, falling beneath 10 million annually. Better practices to protect against disease and to enhance nutrition - more vaccinations and mosquito nets, more breast-feeding and vitamin A drops - played a role, but the most important factor in this global good-news story is economic growth.

Tt is no coincidence that as UNICEF was reporting the drop in child mortality, the World Bank was reporting global poverty rates had fallen as part of an extraordinary worldwide economic boom. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson calls it "far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime."

The global economy is growing at a 5 percent clip, higher than the 3 percent of the period from 1960 to 1980 and the 4.7 percent from 1960 to 1980. As U.S. News & World Report points out, "Gross global product is three times as big as it was in 1970 so the global economy is not only growing faster, but there's more to grow.

In a worldwide instance of trickle-down economics, the growth is diminishing the ranks of the poor. According to the World Bank, developing countries have averaged 3.9 percent growth since 2000, contributing "to rapidly falling poverty rates in all developing regions over the past few years." In 1990, 1.25 billion people lived on less than $1 a day. In 2004, less than a billion did, even though world population increased 20 percent in the interim...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:52 AM

September 29, 2007

The awkward problem of our time..

Václav Havel: Struggling alone: The international community's failure to act means watching helplessly as victims of repression in Burma are consigned to their fate:

....On a daily basis, at a great many international and scholarly conferences all over the world, we can hear learned debates about human rights and emotional proclamations in their defense. So how is it possible that the international community remains incapable of responding effectively to dissuade Burma's military rulers from escalating the force that they have begun to unleash in Rangoon and its Buddhist temples?

For dozens of years, the international community has been arguing over how it should reform the United Nations so that it can better secure civic and human dignity in the face of conflicts such as those now taking place in Burma or Darfur, Sudan. It is not the innocent victims of repression who are losing their dignity, but rather the international community, whose failure to act means watching helplessly as the victims are consigned to their fate.

The world's dictators, of course, know exactly what to make of the international community's failure of will and inability to coordinate effective measures. How else can they explain it than as a complete confirmation of the status quo and of their own ability to act with impunity?

Sorry Václav, but you are asking for bread and will inevitably get a stone. Wise up. The "International Community" is a sham, and always has been. Its purpose has always been to prevent action. Its job is to diffuse and paralyze responsibility and decision-making, to prevent nations and individuals from being confronted with a "moment of truth," when morality demands painful action. Whenever a situation seems to be pressing a nation to take difficult steps, the nihilists get to say, "It's no longer acceptable to take unilateral action, like some crazy cowboy. We must work with the International Community." And that's the end of that.

Here's the awkward problem of our time, Mr Havel. War is extinct. At least in its traditional form. Nations no longer war on other nations. (And NO, the US did not go to war with the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The regimes we opposed melted away in a couple of weeks, and we were immediately put in the position of helping create legitimate elected governments and working with them against terrorist attacks.)

The "wars" the world has now are all internal wars; genocides and massacres and famines within failed states. Therefore the only way to stop wars in today's world is to wade into those malarial swamps and start cleaning up. And that's a huge problem facing everyone who claims to "work for peace." All the stuff they do is utterly worthless. The only way to really work for peace is to support those who are willing to go in and clean up failed states. And that means the United States of America, and a few of her English-speaking allies. No one else has both the will and the means.

And that means that if you want peace, you support George W Bush, and presidents like him, and help give them the political support to take action, including violent war-like action. There is no other way.

(And if anyone reading this doesn't like what I wrote, don't snivel, show me what's wrong with my logic. Refute me or accept the truth.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 AM

September 22, 2007

Sea roads...

Lost at Sea - New York Times:

THE ultimate strategic effect of the Iraq war has been to hasten the arrival of the Asian Century.

Patrick Thomas
While the American government has been occupied in Mesopotamia, and our European allies continue to starve their defense programs, Asian militaries — in particular those of China, India, Japan and South Korea — have been quietly modernizing and in some cases enlarging. Asian dynamism is now military as well as economic.

The military trend that is hiding in plain sight is the loss of the Pacific Ocean as an American lake after 60 years of near-total dominance. A few years down the road, according to the security analysts at the private policy group Strategic Forecasting, Americans will not to the same extent be the prime deliverers of disaster relief in a place like the Indonesian archipelago, as we were in 2005. Our ships will share the waters (and the prestige) with new “big decks” from Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Then there is China, whose production and acquisition of submarines is now five times that of America’s. Many military analysts feel it is mounting a quantitative advantage in naval technology...

Yeah, well, the Soviets built a lot of ships and subs too, and how did that work? I'm not buying this stuff. I would change the headline to: The ultimate strategic effect of the Global War on Terror has been to hasten the arrival of the Axis of Good. I mean, how crazy is this? All the countries mentioned above except China are our friends and allies. Lefties have all been moaning about how Bush is a unilateralist cowboy, and yet here he is drawing Australia, India, Japan and South Korea into building up their navies and joining us in keeping the world free and the sea lanes open.....and are they happy? No, the NYT complains that we are no longer the only boat in the bathtub! Well, this isn't a problem.

The truth is brutally simple. To build big decks, you gotta have a LOT of shekels. To get them, you gotta swim to the top of the foaming torrent called globalization. To do that, you must become more like the United States of America. That's what globalization is. We are the pattern, we are the model, we are the best at it. There is no other way. Australia, India, Japan and South Korea are following that path, not that they have much choice.

And growth works in stages, and at any one of them countries can stall, unless they change. And the changes always consist of becoming more like nasty ol' USA. SO, the fact that China is growing fast right now does NOT mean that she has solved the problem of growth, or can continue being a commie country with partial economic freedom.

And anyway it does not matter how many subs China builds. They are useless, unless the Axis of Good loses its nerve. Why? Because China's wealth is totally dependent on trade, and we can stop her trade at will. She cannot go to war, because a handful of naval mines will close her ports.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:28 PM

September 17, 2007

England is dying, but the Anglosphere is now "England"

The rise of Indian English - Telegraph :

It has taken decades of struggle, but more than half a century after the British departed from India, standard English has finally followed.

Young and educated Indians regard the desire to speak English as it is spoken in England as a silly hang-up from a bygone era. Homegrown idiosyncrasies have worked their way into the mainstream to such an extent that only fanatical purists question their usage.

Now Penguin, the quintessentially British publishing house, has put the nearest thing to an official imprimatur on the result by producing a collection of some of the most colourful phrases in use - in effect a dictionary of what might be called "Indlish".

Its title, Entry From Backside Only, refers to a phrase commonly used on signposts to indicate the rear entrance of a building. Binoo John, the author, said young Indians had embraced the variant of the language as a charming offspring of the mingling of English and Hindi, rather than an embarrassing mongrel.

"Economic prosperity has changed attitudes towards Indian English," said Mr John. "Having jobs and incomes, and being noticed by the rest of the world, have made Indians confident - and the same confidence has attached itself to their English."...

Well, for sure. [I've had people hear me say "for sure" and say, "you must come from Southern California!"] Or maybe speaking English changes the brain and leads to attitudes of moderation and good sense, leading thence to prosperity.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

August 29, 2007

decline and undecline...

I liked this piece, The Decline and Fall of Declinism... I've been hearing all my adult life about how America is soon to be outstripped by this or that more organized and efficient (ie: more socialist) alternative. Remember MITI? Remember�this will date me�"We will bury you"? Ha ha.

..Under the heading “The end of a U.S.-centric world?” the PostGlobal section of The Washington Post website recently declared that “U.S. influence is in steep decline.” It was just the latest verse in a growing chorus of declinist doom-saying at home and abroad.

In 2004, Pat Buchanan lamented “the decline and fall of the greatest industrial republic the world had ever seen.” In 2005, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee concluded that Hurricane Katrina exposed “a hollow superpower.” In 2007, Pierre Hassner of the Paris-based National Foundation for Political Science declared, “It will not be the New American Century.”

And the dirge goes on....

...But the declinists were wrong yesterday. And if their record—and America’s—are any indication, they are just as wrong today.

Any discussion of U.S. power has to begin with its enormous economy. At $13.13 trillion, the U.S. economy represents 20 percent of global output. It’s growing faster than Britain’s, Australia’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Canada’s, even faster than the vaunted European Union.

In fact, even when Europe cobbles together its 25 economies under the EU banner, it still falls short of U.S. GDP—and will fall further behind as the century wears on. Gerard Baker of the Times of London notes that the U.S. economy will be twice the size of Europe’s by 2021.

On the other side of the world, some see China’s booming economy as a threat to U.S. economic primacy. However, as Baker observes, the U.S. is adding “twice as much in absolute terms to global output” as China. The immense gap in per capita income—$44,244 in the U.S. versus $2,069 in China—adds further perspective to the picture....

All you have to realize about those China-is-the-next-superpower screeds is that these things are not linear. The techniques that will get you from per capita $500 to $2,000 are not the same as those needed to get from $10,000 to $20,000, etc. To keep growing a country must learn a new game at every stage, and each one is harder....and....less amenable to centralized control or stimulation.

There's another thing that we all should be aware of, and that leftists don't want to know about...

...While the declinists routinely remind us that the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 15 countries combined, they seldom note that the current defense budget accounts for barely four percent of GDP—a smaller percentage than the U.S. spent on defense at any time during the Cold War. In fact, defense outlays consumed as much as 10 percent of GDP in the 1950s, and 6 percent in the 1980s.

The diplomats who roam the corridors of the UN and the corporate chiefs who run the EU’s sprawling public-private conglomerates dare not say it aloud, but the American military does the dirty work to keep the global economy going—and growing. “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” as Thomas Friedman observed in 1999...

Despite the crap you hear to the contrary, America provides by far the biggest and most important slice of the world's "foreign aid." Our 12 Carrier Strike Groups, and all the rest of our peerless military, are what make growth and prosperity possible for China and everybody else.

The world's economy runs on trade, to an extent far beyond that of any other time in history. In the past, foreign trade was, for most countries, just frosting on the cake. 5% or 10%. Not any more. If someone mined China's ports now, their whole economy would go "poof!" and vanish.

We donate the cost of world peace. And world peace is exactly what we have, by the standards of those past time when nations went to war with each other. That doesn't happen any more; the "wars" we have now are internal conflicts and genocides within failed states. And the involvement of the US and her Anglosphere allies is in the nature of cops breaking up gang wars. The "War on Terror" has claimed less than 4,000 American lives. [Insert boiler-plate statement yes-every-death-is-a-tragedy blah blah blah.] In a REAL WAR you can lose that many in a single DAY.

And when (rarely now) nations actually do threaten war, as India and Pakistan were doing a few years ago, we lean on them. In fact, we don't allow them to go to war. We are the grown-ups, they are the teen-agers, and we are teaching them how we expect them to behave.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 AM

August 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 23, 2007

Everyone else is out of step...

Brian Tiemann speaks up for English measurements, against metric. I tend to agree. Now that the English are pretty much extinct, and we Americans have assumed the job of being what England was, I think we should hold firmly to our traditional measurements.

.....What people love to point out about the metric system is that its measures are based on fundamental units taken from the natural world; but really, that's hardly an argument at all. What good is it that the meter is supposed to be the circular length from the pole of the Earth to the equator with the decimal point moved over a bunch of times? Some French guy thought that the dimensions of the Earth should for some reason be the basis for all length measures, and by doing a bunch of number-juggling he found that he could get it down to an almost usable length, something we'd been calling a "yard" forever, but which was formerly made up of three of a much handier unit: the foot, which describes something you can hold in your hands and divide up with your fingers, not something you have to measure with a stick that you have to keep in your closet or behind your desk. What, in the real world, does that have to do with how far it is from the North Pole to the equator on this lumpy, imperfect sphere of rock we live on, anyway? Why do we have to work with wonky units like "decimeters" if we want something that kindasorta resembles a hand-holdable length unit?

And for that matter, who cares if a cubic decimeter of water is a kilogram? Is that really any easier to remember than any other arbitrary conversion, or any easier to calculate? I remember having to refer to the table of decimal conversions in the back of my science books to figure out just how many places to move the point left, and then right, in order to arrive at the answer—and trying oh-so-hard to convince myself that the very act of trundling up and down that chain of powers of ten somehow proved how much easier the metric system was to grasp in the human brain. I wish I'd realized at the time just how far from that "ideal" the reality really was: that I could have saved plenty of time and space in my brain by jettisoning those useless "shortcut" decimal conversion factors and simply doing the appropriate multiplication or division operation. Or, better yet, using one of those newfangled calculator dealies we were all taking to carrying around. Funny how we never made decimal-place errors when we were multiplying things by 5280 instead of trying to remember whether we were supposed to move the dot up 8 or 9 places....

I dare-say in my own work I'd make fewer mistakes using the metric system. But it would not be worth it. Compromises with ugliness—especially if it's French—can be bad for the soul...

..."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 10:09 PM

August 21, 2007

Don't miss this one...

The Peace Racket, by Bruce Bawer
An anti-Western movement touts dictators, advocates appeasement—and gains momentum.

If you want peace, prepare for war.” Thus counseled Roman general Flavius Vegetius Renatus over 1,600 years ago. Nine centuries before that, Sun Tzu offered essentially the same advice, and it’s to him that Vegetius’s line is attributed at the beginning of a film that I saw recently at Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center. Yet the film cites this ancient wisdom only to reject it. After serving up a perverse potted history of the cold war, the thrust of which is that the peace movement brought down the Berlin Wall, the movie ends with words that turn Vegetius’s insight on its head: “If you want peace, prepare for peace.”..

....We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich (along with more than 60 cosponsors), House Resolution 808 would authorize a Secretary of Peace to “establish a Peace Academy,” “develop a peace education curriculum” for elementary and secondary schools, and provide “grants for peace studies departments” at campuses around the country. If passed, the measure would catapult the peace studies movement into a position of extraordinary national, even international, influence.

The Peace Racket’s boundaries aren’t easy to define. It embraces scores of “peace institutes” and “peace centers” in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. As Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank point out in a sympathetic overview of these programs, it’s hard to say exactly how many exist—partly because they often go by other labels, such as “security studies” and “human rights education”; partly because many “professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them”; and finally because “several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes.”....

"Peace studies" is just another scam to infiltrate socialism without a vote. It's bullshit, it's batshit, it's pure shit. A scam.

In the world, as in the city, you get peace and prosperity if the cops enforce the rule of law. If not, the crooks take over. If the cops went on strike in San Francisco, a thousand pony-tailed professors or "peace-activist" clergy gassing about negotiations would not stop the criminals. (And every one of those hippie-quaker frauds would be howling for the National Guard to show up with machine guns and protect them!)

On Planet Earth the cops are the United States Army and Navy, with some help from our Anglosphere allies. We are IT, we are peace. The only peace you will get from the "peace studies" commies will be "boiler suits and a long march to nowhere." (A great line from John le Carré.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:36 AM

August 8, 2007

It's just the way America is...

Some interesting poll results...

Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest...

....A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.

It is often assumed that most Americans feel US foreign policy should be tied closely to the national interest, narrowly defined, and are opposed to the idea of making sacrifices based on altruistic purposes. Polling data reveal quite a different picture. In numerous cases Americans show support for altruism in US foreign policy independent of any impact it might have on US interests.

In January 2000 Beldon and Russonello asked respondents to rate a list of reasons "for the US to be active in world affairs" on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning "it is not at all an important reason" and 10 meaning "it is an extremely important reason to you personally." Altruistic reasons scored quite well.[1]....(Thanks to Orrin).

This is pleasant to me, because I despise utterly the "realist" school. I am, in Walter Russell Mead's indispensable classification, partly a Wilsonian. However, the trouble with an idealistic approach to foreign policy is that it tends towards soft-mindedness. Towards the sort of thinking that assumes that "soft power" and negotiations will solve all problems. (Which makes the name very appropriate, since few human beings have exemplified the debacles that result from mushy idealism like Woodrow Wilson.)

Unmodified Wilsonianism is catastrophic folly, and the sort of thing that got us into the present war. What's required, for the good of the world, is a combination of Wilsonian and Jacksonian foreign policy. What's needed, if we want peace, is to be willing to BOTH crush the forces of evil with stunning force, AND reach out to the needy (including the defeated enemy) with idealism and generosity.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM

July 28, 2007

Yes, it's a double standard! Good.

IHT: Three years after President George W. Bush urged global rules to stop additional nations from making nuclear fuel, the White House will announce on Friday that it is carving out an exception for India, in a last-ditch effort to seal a civilian nuclear deal between the countries.

The scheduled announcement, described Thursday by senior American officials, follows more than a year of negotiations intended to keep an unusual arrangement between the countries from being defeated in New Delhi.

Until the overall deal was approved by Congress last year, the United States was prohibited by U.S. law from selling civilian nuclear technology to India because it has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The legislation passed by Congress allows the United States to sell both commercial nuclear technology and fuel to India, but would require a cutoff in nuclear assistance if India again tests a nuclear weapon. India's Parliament balked at the deal, with many politicians there complaining that the requirements infringed on India's sovereignty.

Under the arrangement that is to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush has agreed to go beyond the terms of the deal that Congress approved, promising to help India build a nuclear fuel repository and find alternative sources of nuclear fuel in the event of an American cutoff, skirting some of the provisions of the law.

In February 2004, Bush, in a major speech outlining new nuclear policies to prevent proliferation, declared that "enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." He won the cooperation of allies for a temporary suspension of new facilities to make fuel, but allies that include Canada and Australia have also expressed interest in uranium enrichment.

The problem is a delicate one for the administration, because this month American officials are working at the United Nations Security Council to win approval of harsher economic sanctions against Iran for trying to enrich uranium. India is already a nuclear weapons state and has refused to sign the treaty; Iran, a signer of the treaty, does not yet have nuclear weapons....

The world is changing. France and Germany are the past, India is the future. We need India, she needs us, and George W Bush is nurturing the relationship. Transition periods are painful for the old and brittle (which is, psychologically and spiritually, almost all Democrats and Europeans) but the History Train has already pulled out of the station.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:07 AM

July 25, 2007

Save a billion lives, get no respect...

"Norman Borlaug has saved more lives than any person currently living. Indeed, he may have saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived."

Naturally, Leftists and "Helpists" and Greens hate him, and hinder his work.

Do read this piece on Borlaug, The Most Important Person You’ve Never Heard Of, by Pejman Yousefzadeh. My dad, who was a horticulturist and farmer, knew about this stuff, and I remember him telling me when I was young that the starvation we heard about in various Third World countries could be avoided. I didn't quite get it then; the idea that the world's population was doomed to expand faster than the food supply was just too pervasive. I thought he was foolishly optimistic, but it was the simple truth.

Pejman includes a quote from an InstaPundit reader:

...It's not because he spent his life serving the poor, per se. Press accounts are filled with stories about those who serve the poor. It's that Mr. Borlaug didn't serve the poor by giving away other people's money, or by demanding that other people give away their money. He served the poor by DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY, which in the view of the press is just as evil as making money, if for no other reason than someone makes money from the developed technology.

Think about it: You seldom see accolades afforded all the brilliant researchers at GE Medical Systems, Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo, Medtronic, or you name it, for precisely the same reason...

I think that's part of it. But I think it's more than that. Borlaug gets no credit, because he solved the problem. Journalists will laud you for helping the poor, as long as they stay poor! They love Mother Theresa, but she didn't upset the "natural order" of things. If she had found some way of lifting poor people into middle-class affluence, and they stated buying cars and computers and eating KFC, and imagining they were equals of the elitists in the helping bureaucracies, she would have been an object of scorn.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:19 AM

July 24, 2007

Sarkozyites...Perhaps interesting...

I'm actually getting interested in what Sarkozy's doing in France. Slightly.

....But Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France, may be different. So far, all indications are that at least one key component of his promises—a significant package of tax cuts—will be passed into law. Other measures, particularly proposals designed to crack down on massive strikes—the favored pressure tool by unions to stop reforms—are in store as well.

The French House approved a 10 to 13 billion Euro per year tax cut package on July 16th, while the Senate is set to review it starting the 25th. And while the House was busy reviewing the tax cut package, the Senate reviewed ways to make it more difficult for unions to organize paralyzing strikes...(Thanks to
Orrin.)

My own belief is, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, that the dividing line between good and socialism runs through every human heart. And that that's the place where the real battles are fought. Good laws and good government are important, but only to the extent that they encourage, or at least fail to discourage, the practice of virtue by the citizens.

If the French people have reserves of strength and virtue in their souls, then things like freeing them from some of the the suffocating blankets of socialism will encourage these virtues to grow. If not, not.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 AM

July 17, 2007

Uzodinma Iweala

I strongly recommend a WaPo piece by Uzodinma Iweala, Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa:

....his is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. ....

.....Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth....

The sin that goes along with being "charitable" (in the current sense of the word) is Pride. If I help you, then I am superior to you. I'm strong, you are weak. I'm good, your virtues are not worth noticing. (Except gratitude. Another line from the article: "Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe.") Amen, brother.

If people really wanted to improve the lot of Africans, they would be campaigning for free trade. (Read this, by James Shikwati. And this: What Bono Doesn't Say About Africa.) Africa produces a huge amount of food, although it is often not in the right place at the right time. But it usually can't be sold on the world market due to trade barriers, which helps keep African nations too poor to just buy food when needed. They would also support this Bush Administration proposal to purchase food for famine relief from nearby countries, rather than shipping it from the US.

In a more general sense, they would be aiming to make Africans self-reliant and self-sufficient. Ha ha, what a joke. Hollywood liberals don't even want you and me to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. We should all be dancing our gratitude for crumbs handed out by celebrity gods and goddesses.

And it's all racist. The whole thing reeks of the assumption that Africans are and will always be inferior and needy. That's why I get a keen pleasure out of the current religious situation, with African bishops taking strong moral stands against the twisted sickness of certain Protestant denominations. and African priests and missionaries coming and helping rich but spiritually-slack Westerners.

The whole Africa fad is also a chance to indulge in the self-loathing that is characteristic of Leftism. We are responsible for Africa's backwardness, due to colonialism. Well, it's bullshit. There are plenty of parts of Africa that were only colonized in the 2Oth Century, or were never colonized at all�why aren't they paradisiacal?. And there is an idea that we stole Africa's wealth, in the form of natural resources. But this is economic bullshit. Resources are not the source of wealth. You don't have to look any farther than Nigeria to see that. People create wealth, and they tend to do so when there is good government, low taxes, and the rule of law.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 AM

July 9, 2007

Good corrective to the stuff you are hearing...

What Bono Doesn't Say About Africa, By William Easterly (Thanks to Orrin)

....It's a dark and scary picture of a helpless, backward continent that's being offered up to TV watchers and coffee drinkers. But in fact, the real Africa is quite a bit different. And the problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fueling support for patronizing Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help.

Let's begin with those rampaging Four Horsemen. Do they really explain Africa today? What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less; for example, annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades. That doesn't lessen the tragedy, of course, of those who are such victims, and maybe there are things the West can do to help them. But the typical African is a long way from being a starving, AIDS-stricken refugee at the mercy of child soldiers. The reality is that many more Africans need latrines than need Western peacekeepers — but that doesn't play so well on TV....

A lot of people have a vested interest in a "a helpless, backward continent." (Not least from the superiority implied by being the advanced people helping the poor wretches who can't help themselves.) My own Christian community is among them, and I suspect that they will not want to hear messages like this for the additional reason that African poverty is an easy problem. My estimate is that in our world prosperity is far more dangerous to souls and bodies than poverty, but is a much tougher nut to crack, or even to get a grip on. It's easy to drop a twenty in the collection basket to help the poor darkies, and feel like one has done something. What to do about our own world of prosperity, where we absorb nihilism and corrosive change and the "Culture of Death" through our pores?—That's tough! And baffling.

I put a bit more of the article below...

...Further distortions of Africa emanate from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's star-studded Africa Progress Panel (which includes the ubiquitous Geldof). The panel laments in its 2007 news release that Africa remains "far short" of its goal of making "substantial inroads into poverty reduction." But this doesn't quite square with the sub-Saharan Africa that in 2006 registered its third straight year of good GDP growth — about 6%, well above historic averages for either today's rich countries or all developing countries. Growth of living standards in the last five years is the highest in Africa's history.

The real Africa also has seen cellphone and Internet use double every year for the last seven years. Foreign private capital inflows into Africa hit $38 billion in 2006 — more than foreign aid. Africans are saving a higher percentage of their incomes than Americans are (so much for the "poverty trap" of being "too poor to save" endlessly repeated in aid reports). I agree that it's too soon to conclude that Africa is on a stable growth track, but why not celebrate what Africans have already achieved?

Instead, the international development establishment is rigging the game to make Africa — which is, of course, still very poor — look even worse than it really is. It announces, for instance, that Africa is the only region that is failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs in aid-speak) set out by the United Nations. Well, it takes extraordinary growth to cut extreme poverty rates in half by 2015 (the first goal) when a near-majority of the population is poor, as is the case in Africa. (Latin America, by contrast, requires only modest growth to halve its extreme poverty rate from 10% to 5%.)

This is how Blair's panel managed to call Africa's recent growth successes a failure. But the reality is that virtually all other countries that have escaped extreme poverty did so through the kind of respectable growth that Africa is enjoying — not the kind of extraordinary growth that would have been required to meet the arbitrary Millennium Development Goals...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:32 AM

June 28, 2007

Demographics is destiny, as Mark Steyn put it...

Fascinatin' stuff, by Robert M. Dunn in TCS...

....There has been a stunning decline in the fertility rate in Mexico, which means that, in a few years there will not be many teenagers in Mexico looking for work in the United States or anywhere else. If this trend in the fertility rate continues, Mexico will resemble Japan and Italy - rapidly aging populations with too few young workers to support the economy.

According to the World Bank's 2007 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2005, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female. The large number of women currently in their reproductive years means that there are still quite a few babies, but as this group ages, the number of infants will decline sharply. If this trend toward fewer children per female continues, there being no apparent reason for it to cease, the number of young people in the Mexican population will decline significantly just when the number of elderly is rising. As labor markets in Mexico tighten and wage rates rise, far fewer Mexican youngsters will be interested in coming to the United States. Since our baby boomers will be retiring at the same time, we could face a severe labor shortage.

There have been significant declines in fertility rates across Latin America, but Mexico's has been unusually sharp. In El Salvador, another country from which immigrants come, a 3.7 rate in 1990 became 2.5 by 2005. Guatemala is now at 4.3, but that is far lower than it was in 1990. Jamaica, another source of illegal U. S. immigrants, has fallen from 2.9 to 2.4 over the same period. Chile and Costa Rica, at 2.0, are actually slightly below a replacement rate. Trinidad and Tobago, at 1.6, is well below ZPG. For all of Latin American and the Caribbean, a rate of 3.2 in 1990 fell to 2.4 in 2005, a decline of 25 percent. This means less pressure on the United States from illegal immigrants from the entire area, not just from Mexico. A powerful demographic transition is well underway, and soon many of these countries may be worried about there being too few babies rather than too many. We may miss this labor, and wonder how we will replace it....

So who's going to pick the strawberries? Robotics might be a good long-term investment. It's a funny future we may be facing, with perhaps a "guest worker" program that pays people to come here, with competition for scarce resources from Mexico!

And if you wonder why "liberals" are so angry and defensive and brittle these days, you should realize that their world-view is still based ideas that no longer reflect reality. Including the idea that exploding populations are "destroying the earth," and that we should be having fewer children, and a smaller "ecological footprint," and similar anti-human rubbish....

Liberals (in the contemporary sense, not the classical) today are like people with a terminal illness who are in deep denial. But they feel these odd twinges and pains, which are getting harder and harder to ignore...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:49 AM

June 13, 2007

Odd stuff...

Phillip Jenkins has a "counterintuitive" piece relevant to the question of the decline of Europe. I'm always interested in such counter-trends, though I have to say I'll have to see a lot more of them before I'm likely to change my opinions. I tend to suspect they are just chips tossed in a larger stream.

...For all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. What’s more, it is showing little sign of giving ground to Islam or any other faith for that matter.

To be fair, the trend is counterintuitive. Europe has long been a malarial swamp for any traditional or orthodox faith. Compared with the rest of the world, religious adherence in Europe is painfully weak. And it is easy to find evidence of the decay. Any traveler to the continent has seen Christianity’s abandoned and secularized churches, many now transformed into little more than museums. But this does not mean that European Christianity is nearing extinction. Rather, among the ruins of faith, European Christianity is adapting to a world in which its convinced adherents represent a small but vigorous minority.

In fact, the rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness...

....Similar trends are at work within the Protestant churches of Northern and Western Europe. The most active sections of the Church of England today are the evangelical and charismatic parishes that have, in effect, become megachurches in their own right. These parishes have been incredibly successful at reaching out to a secular society that no longer knows much of anything about the Christian faith. Holy Trinity Brompton, a megaparish in Knightsbridge, London, that is now one of Britain’s largest churches, is home to the amazingly popular “Alpha Course,” a means of recruiting potential converts through systems of informal networking aimed chiefly at young adults and professionals. As with the Catholic movements, the course works because it makes no assumptions about any prior knowledge: Everyone is assumed to be a new recruit in need of basic teaching. Nor does the recruitment technique assume that people live or work in traditional settings of family or employment. The Alpha Course is successfully geared for postmodern believers in a postindustrial economy....(Thanks to Orrin).

I read Jenkins' book The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. Fascinating stuff, especially about the explosive growth of Christianity in Africa. Maybe this article portends a new book.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:45 AM

June 12, 2007

"The omnipresent fear of being accused of racism.”

A snippet from Stanley Kurtz's review of The Last Days of Europe, by Walter Laqueur...

...Laqueur returns several times to the failure of Europe’s authorities to consult with the public on immigration. Instead of putting the matter up for debate, government and corporations quietly and unilaterally set policy. Europe’s elite had a bad conscience, given memories of refugees from Nazi Germany who’d been turned away decades earlier. There was also the omnipresent “fear of being accused of racism.” This bizarre combination of multiculturalism and complete disregard for the significance of culture opened up a huge gulf between Europe’s elite and the public — a gulf that emerged openly when France and The Netherlands rejected the proposed EU constitution (in part over concerns about Muslim immigration and the accession of Turkey to the EU). There was, says Laqueur, “a backlash against the elites who wanted to impose their policies on a population who had not been consulted....Another important motive was the reluctance to hand over national sovereignty to central, remote and anonymous institutions over which people had no control.”...

The whole review is well worth reading...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

May 31, 2007

Various things I've been meaning to blog...

Dean Barnett on Romney:

...The fact that Romney has emerged as the candidate who most irritates the left is an unmistakably good sign for his campaign. Liberals by nature loathe their opponents. (Conservatives, on the other hand, mock their opponents.) The fact that Romney so angers adversaries like Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein, and the Boston Globe is a good thing; for whatever reason, the only Republicans who ever get into the Oval Office are the ones who really rub lefties the wrong way.

The Klein article also reveals a fundamental divide between the liberal media and a guy like Romney. Romney really does believe in the greatness of America and her people. That’s why, even though we face such enormous challenges, he’s still honestly optimistic. He radiates this optimism, and it drives some people nuts. Shouldn’t he be despondent about Gitmo like everyone else?...

"Believes in the greatness of America and her people!" Ooooh boy, how the chomskies are gonna hate him. I'm already looking forward to it...

Here's a fascinating Art Nouveau synagogue in Hungary.

JD Johannes on stuff he's seen happening in Iraq. You won't get the straight dope on TV, but it exists...

...Professor Fearon's thesis is well thought out, but the facts have changed on him. It is not his fault, but it shows the speed in which the situation on the ground changes.

Very few people know enough about Iraq to make coherent policy pronouncements. Most of what people think they know about Iraq is wrong. When I get home in a few weeks people will ask me, "how's Iraq?"

I will tell them, "I don't know, but I can tell you about the areas that I saw first hand and spent a few weeks living in."

Each area of operation is different. Khalidiyah is only 35 kilometers from Kharma and Kharma is only 33 kilometers from West Rasheed, Baghdad, but they are nothing alike. Anyone who says they can speak with definitive knowledge about all of Iraq is a fool or a liar or both...

A good piece on Clarence Thomas...He's another great man who drives the lefties into crazy hatred.

A good Memorial Day piece on how we no longer remember or celebrate our Medal of Honor holders...

Tony Blair...

...I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a UN-supervised democratic process.

And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

Why aren't they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is I could tell it was the first time he'd heard this argument...

More ugly scandals from the UN "peacekeepers." It's the Left's "abu Ghraib." And it goes on year after year, and no one is called to account. If you support the corrupt and evil organization called the UN, YOU are responsible.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 PM

May 2, 2007

It was a different world...back in 2005

Atlas Shrugs has an interview with Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, who recently quit blogging because of hostile attention from the police...

...SANDMONKEY: "Any kind of democratic reform in the country [Egypt] for the past 3 years has been rolled back specifically because there is no more pressure coming from Washington anymore."

ATLAS: Why? What happened to the pressure in Washington?

SANDMONKEY: You know what happened to the pressure in Washington. The Democrats won the Congress. There is no more pressure coming from Bush because he is not able to push people anymore to do those things. He is not able to push the Egyptian government anymore because the American public is suddenly not interested in reforming the Middle East because of what's going on in the Iraq. So suddenly the Egyptian government is not afraid of the American pressure. They are doing whatever they want to do. They are beating up demonstrators, they are cracking down on activists, they are changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties once and for all and they are using proxies to take down bloggers....

"beating up demonstrators...cracking down on activists...changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties." Gee, sounds like the kind of crap Lefties say about Bush's "fascist" America. Only this example is REAL. It's real, it's brutal, and it's what you get when you vote for "Democrats."

We were, for a while, pressuring Egypt and other Middle East tyrannies towards more freedom and democracy. Go back and read this post of mine from 2005. It was a different world.

Bush's foreign policy is idealistic, it wants to create a better world. BOTH because that's a good thing in itself, and also to make us and the world safer. But he can only do it from a position of strength. These things need to be supported by both parties. They SHOULD be supported by both parties; it is traditional in America that "politics stops at the water's edge." Of course on lots of small issues it doesn't, but when a president, especially in time of war, pushes an important foreign policy initiative, there is absolutely no excuse for the opposition party to undercut him.

Especially when it is an attempt to make a better world in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values.

It is wrong, it is EVIL, it is sick and twisted. Even if they are opposed to the Iraq Campaign, the Democrats should have made it absolutely clear that they are firmly in support of the President on these and other foreign-policy goals. But they are too sick and evil to care.

I'm doubly bitter about this because of the many times I pointed out that the Iraq Campaign, whether right or wrong, was going to lead to huge peaceful diplomatic gains. Why? Because diplomacy is the "good cop" that only works because there is the "bad cop" of war waiting to take over if the good cop can't extract some concessions. The fact that we looked like a country that might unleash crazy violent regime-change at any moment was a huge incentive towards peaceful change.

And the fact that we now look like a country that is paralyzed and won't respond to provocations is exactly why Egypt and Syria and Iran and many other countries can thumb their noses at us and crack down on any glimmers of freedom. And this is creating the seeds of future wars.

Pacifism KILLS. Right now the fake-pacifists and fake-Quakers and fake-Christian "peacemakers" are hugging themselves with glee because Bush and Rice have been forced into retreat. Domestic politics and anti-Americanism are all that's real to them. They care nothing for the realities of peace-making.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:42 AM

April 17, 2007

Must see...

Mike Plaiss sent me this link, to a video of a fascinating talk by a Swedish professor about world trends, especially whether the Third world really is as we imagine it.

It's worth seeing, if only for the cool computer graphics. But it will make you think, too.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:25 AM

April 11, 2007

In the dock...

John Byrnes notes a good cause, the defense fund for that American soldier who has been indicted by an Italian court for the crime of (quite properly and legally) shooting an Italian journalist whose car tried to run through a checkpoint in Iraq.

He won't actually be in any danger, unless he travels to Italy. But we should be squashing this sort of nonsense directly.

Of course we can't do much about the underlying problem here, which is that Italy is a dying country terminally afflicted with lefty nihilism. A condition that invariably leads to anti-Americanism. The Italian court isn't really interested in Specialist Mario Lozano, it's America they are putting in the dock.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:05 PM

March 13, 2007

The font of "international law"

The Seattle Times: North Korea suspected of using U.N. "as an ATM":

WASHINGTON — The United Nations Development Programme office in Pyongyang, North Korea, sits in a Soviet-style compound. Like clockwork, a North Korean official wearing a standard-issue dark windbreaker and slacks would come to the door each business day.

He would take a manila envelope stuffed with cash — a healthy portion of the U.N.'s disbursements for aid projects in the country — and leave without ever providing receipts.

According to sources at the U.N., this went on for years, resulting in the transfer of up to $150 million in hard foreign currency to the Kim Jong Il government at a time when the United States was trying to keep the North Korean government from receiving hard currency as part of its sanctions against the Kim regime...(Thanks to Orrin)

Envelopes stuffed with cash handed to the North Koreans? And this is the organization Democrats and Europeans think can confer legitimacy on the actions of the United States of America? Sick. Not just sick, EVIL.

And I'm sure that leftists would say that they are helping the peeeeople of NK. Advancing peace and understanding y'understand.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:16 AM

March 6, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

February 25, 2007

Sunday punch...

From a piece by Father Raymond J. de Souza, on demographics, the growing churches of the Global South, and the Anglicans...(Thanks to Wretchard.)

....Or more to the point of the Anglican travails: Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola is more central to the future of Anglicanism than Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In less than 20 years, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, the world’s 2.6 billion Christians will be comprised of 623 million Latin Americans, 595 million Africans, 513 million Europeans and 498 million Asians. The growth of Africa has been astonishing, from 10 million Christians in 1900 representing about 10% of the population, to some 360 million in 2000, representing about 50% of the population. In such a world, the concerns and cultural mores of the Upper West Side of Manhattan are marginal at best.

The impact of this shift will shape Christianity in the 21st century, and it will be a muscular Christianity in which the biblical drama of sin, chastisement, repentance, mercy, healing, salvation and liberation will reassert itself. The this-worldly social projects of deracinated northern Christians will be cast aside. The old-time religion will emerge from the newest churches.

An oft-quoted Christian poet from Ghana, Afua Kuma, has a contemporary hymn that would no doubt drain the remaining colour from the pallid faces in a typical northern Anglican choir:
If Satan troubles us/ Jesus Christ/ You who are the lion of the grasslands/ You whose claws are sharp/ Will tear out his entrails/ And leave them on the ground/ For the flies to eat.
Most Anglicans in the north likely tend toward polyphony at evensong rather than torn entrails, and so the cultural expression of southern Christianity may seem alien at first. Yet if the contest is between torn-entrails spiritual-warfare Christianity and pat-on-the-back, spiritually-compromising Christianity, where the greatest offence is giving offense, it seems clear that the lion of the grasslands is going to be the one with the growing band of disciples. And the roar you hear disturbing the tranquility of the Anglican Communion might just be the Lion of the Tribe of Judah in
African cadences.

Change. Plenty of it happening. Well, that's what RJ is about.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:25 AM

February 6, 2007

Palestinian refugees...

Syria refuses to help refugees driven from Iraq
By Eric Silver in Jerusalem

More than 700 Palestinian refugees who have been driven out of Iraq are stranded in squalid tented camps on the Syrian border. Damascus is refusing to let them in, despite the wintry conditions and limited supplies of food, water, fuel and medicines.

"This is a human tragedy," Tayseer Nasrallah, head the of the refugee affairs committee in the West Bank city of Nablus, protested yesterday. Other Palestinians charged the Iraqis with ethnic cleansing. Officials in Ramallah said at least 180 Palestinians had been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Human Rights Watch reported last week that only 15,000 of the 34,000 Palestinian refugees living in Baghdad before 2003 were still there. "They are harassed by the Iraqi government and are targeted by Shia militias because of the benefits they used to receive from Saddam Hussein's government and their perceived support for the insurgency in Iraq," said the New York-based organisation...(Thanks to Orrin)

Remember this when leftists go on and on about the "human rights violations" by Jews against Palestinians. Arabs have done a thousand times worse to them without us hearing any fakery about human rights. Jordan killed 10,000 of them in 3 days, and the sort of Western leftoids who sport kaffiyas had no problem with that at all. Kuwait booted 30,000 of them out of the country in 1992, and nobody shed any fake tears for the poor Palestinian refugees...

Also, if you are tempted to feel like the Palestinians are innocent victims here, remember that Saddam was paying a bounty on Jews of $15,000 a head---and none of these "Palestinians" seem to have any qualms about accepting the loot. (Nor did any of our fake-pacifists protest about it.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:18 AM

January 30, 2007

Good questions...

Orrin Johnson writes on a good question, Iraq vs. Darfur - Just What Is a Worthy Call to One's Conscience? (Thanks to Lorie Byrd)

...Why are the Christians in Darfur more worthy of being saved than the Kurds or Shi'ites were under Saddam's Iraq? Why is the sectarian violence (some could say civil war) in the Sudan worthy of sending American troops to battle al Qaeda, IEDs, and an "endless war" in a country without any real government, when at the same time, it is a moral imperative that we guarantee the same deadly results in Iraq by withdrawing immediately?...

...There are no answers to these questions, of course. Darfur is hip, Iraq is not. That's it. That's the real difference. And Darfur has the added bonus of "never going to happen" because of French, Chinese, and Russian interests there. Which means the high school idealists, college-know-it-all hippies, academics, and other assorted activists can feel good about "making a difference" without ever having to face the consequences which come with the best intentioned humanitarian interventions.

I would love to intervene in the Sudan. I wish we had the military to do it. Unfortunately, our military is too small to solve every world problem at once. So how about we finish solidifying our victories for freedom and human rights against murderous oppressors where we already are first? Don't think success in Iraq will be able to be ignored by the Sudanese thugs who know they're next on the radar...

[Referring to his picture of a church with "saveDarfur.org" and "Blessed Are The Peacemakers" banners] ...."Blessed are the Peacemakers" indeed. Too bad neither this church, nor the "anti-war" crowd, nor the defeatists in Congress can claim such a title...

Well, actually, the "save Darfur" crowd are NOT suggesting we send US troops, as far as I know. But the point is still valid, because that is in fact the only way that Darfur can be saved.

The current "save Darfur" agitation on the left is exactly equivalent to those moronic "Save Tibet" bumper stickers you see on aging Volvos everywhere. They are only there to make the owner feel good; they have nothing to do with actually doing anything.

Charlene and I recently had a brief, well, "clash" you might say, with a rather saint-like but leftish woman who had worked in Africa for many years, including in Sudan. It was interesting, because we tried to pin her down on the simple fact that the only way the killing will be stopped is if the US intervenes militarily. She tried to squirm away with vague protestations that "the world should get involved," and guff like that---but I think she knew too much to really have her heart in it! It was a polite social situation, and so we had to drop the topic. But I think about it now and then....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 AM

January 6, 2007

"we’re not living in a hedgehog world anymore"

Hugh Hewitt is doing an interesting thing. Maybe unprecedented. On his radio program he is doing a series of interviews with Thomas PM Barnett, each covering a chapter (!) of The Pentagon's New Map. Barnett is that rare bird, a person with a detailed view of the world at a level of Grand Strategy. Even if you don't agree with him, you need to be aware of what he is saying if you want to think clearly about the global War on Terror. This is from a transcript of the first one:

HH:...but that the middle levels are willing to accept that the paradigm has shifted dramatically on them. Has that accelerated in the last three years?

TB: Absolutely. A good example, they were trying to invite me to go to the Army War College for years to give the brief. I finally did, Summer before last. When I got there, I said what’s been the hold up? You know, I’d briefed everywhere else. They said a lot of the people on the staff here thought you were crazy. I said well, why am I here now in the summer of 2005? They said the second tour in Iraq did it. That changed their mind. That gave them a sense that this was an inescapable sort of…you know, not a one off, not a blip, not a pause before we resume our brilliant pursuit of the near peer competitor China, but frankly, the long war, as John Abizaid likes to call it.

And when you get guys like Mattis coming back to the Marines, Jim Mattis, Dave Petraeus coming back to Leavenworth, the big schoolhouse for the Army, now going back to be the head of the MNF troops, our whole effort in Iraq, you’re starting to see a kind of experience....

....it’s the reason why I started a blog, quite frankly, when the book came out back, the first book, back in April of 2004, so I could get a dialogue with a wide array of people, because I know it’s not easy. I mean, we lived in kind of hedgehog times in the Cold War, you know, the hedgehog knows one big thing, the fox knows many things. Well, knowing one big thing in the Cold War was enough. You know, containment, mutual assured destruction, let the Soviets size our forces. We discovered on 9/11 we’re not living in a hedgehog world anymore. You’ve got to deal with multiple players, multiple types of players, multiple regions, you know, all sorts of dynamics involving economics and other things. It is a complex world. It requires complex explanations. But I believe it’s essential that we raise a generation of not only informed citizens, but frankly a generation in the national security community of real strategists, real grand strategists, people who think about war within the context of everything else, not just war within the context of war, but within everything else we call globalization, because we’ve outsourced the job of grand strategies to journalists, and op-ed columnists, and that’s just not doing the job....

Barnett's a liberal of some sort, but open-minded to a fascinating extent. This is from his blog, writing about the interviews...

...I know Hewitt's pretty conservative, but--quite frankly--it's been the right and the right-of-center that's given me the openings time and time again, so I'm grateful for the exposure and psyched for the exchange....

One waits, perhaps in vain, for the other shoe to drop. I searched his blog for the word "Steyn," and got no results...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

January 5, 2007

Hey Leftists...Your Abu Ghraib is STILL GOING ON...

Once again there are new reports of sexual abuse of refugees, often of girls as young as 12, by UN "peacekeepers." Captain Ed writes:

....A report by Refugees International at the time emphasized that the problem existed in every UN mission. The reason was because the UN lacked accountability, transparency, and discipline. The UN promised to start reforming itself immediately at the time.

Here we are, almost two years later, and we see that they have done nothing -- and they still have no accountability, transparency, and discipline.

At some point in time, we have to ask ourselves whether we want to remain complict in the UN's chronic atrocities. After all, our money funds these missions, and that gives us a measure of responsibility for these crimes. If the UN refuses to take any real and effective action to stop these abuses and to ensure that they do not occur again, we should pull our funding for the UN on that basis alone. Let the entire corrupt organization collapse of its own moral rot, and work towards replacing it with an organization that has accountability and discipline built into its operations.

Who's complicit? Well we as a nation are, certainly. But, much much more, the international Left is complicit. That's where the constant support for the vile corrupt institution comes from. Leftists and their traditional allies, the world's tyrants and corrupt ruling elites. Democrats. Blue-State Americans. Fake pacifists. Liberal churchmen. The Old Media.

Frauds and criminals all of them. They support abuses that make Abu Ghraib look like a children's tea party. Abuses that, unlike Abu Ghraib, NEVER get corrected. They support criminals that NEVER get punished.

The next time you see a group of young girls, laughing and giggling, imagine them starving, and selling their bodies for scraps of food provided by the "blue helmets." And remember that Nancy Pelosi is FOR this. The "Quakers" are FOR this. The New York Times is FOR this.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:07 AM

December 28, 2006

I'm all agog...

This article, Holland's Post-Secular Future, by Joshua Livestro (Thanks to Amy) is just fascinating. Even though you frequently read here about the decline of Europe, I'm also always hungy for any signs of renewal. I'd be thrilled if things turned around. I've blogged two or three possibilities over the years, but they've always seemed like too little, too late. Mere crumbs. But this looks like more than a crumb. Maybe a snack. (And of course I'm aware that connecting the general European decline with the decline of Christianity is just a hypothesis. Maybe it's a symptom, not a cause.)

....According to Bakas and Buwalda, God is back in Europe's most notoriously liberal country. Or rather: The Dutch are moving back to God. It seems an implausible hypothesis. After all, Europe was supposed to have entered the realm of post-Christianity, to use C.S. Lewis's term--a state of eternal unbelief from which there is no return. And yet, Bakas and Buwalda claim, the Dutch are turning back. Take the almost unnoticed reintroduction of crucifixes and other religious artifacts into the classrooms of Catholic schools throughout the country. Years of gradual but seemingly unstoppable secularization have given way to a reaffirmation of old religious identities. The change is also starting to affect the attitudes of pupils at these schools. In a recent newspaper interview, a head teacher at a Catholic secondary school in Rotterdam observed, "For years, pupils were embarrassed about attending Mass. Now, they volunteer to read poems or prayers, and the auditorium is packed."

There's also the remarkable critical and commercial success of a number of openly Christian writers. Holland's most prestigious literary prizes were awarded in 2005 to books dealing in a sympathetic way with Christian issues of faith and redemption. The Libris Literatuur Prize went to the Catholic author Willem Jan Otten for his Specht en zoon (Specht and son) while the AKO Literature Prize was awarded to Calvinist Jan Siebelink's Knielen op een bed violen (Kneeling on a Bed of Violets). Siebelink's novel sold nearly 350,000 copies in its first year, making it the single bestselling Dutch-language book of the past decade--apart, that is, from a new Bible translation published in 2004, which sold more than half a million copies (in a population of 16 million people).

The success in the Netherlands of the so-called Alpha Course program--a sort of Christianity 101 for beginners--is another case in point. The Alpha formula, first developed at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, aims to provide small groups of interested people with an introduction to Christianity through a series of meals-with-discussion evenings. Since its inception in 1997, 120,000 people have taken the Dutch version of the course. The number of related courses is growing by around one hundred a year. Prison Alpha, Business Alpha, Student Alpha, Youth Alpha, and more recently the Alpha Marriage Course: Collectively, they seem to have struck a chord in Holland's secular society. Jan Bakker, national coordinator of Alpha Holland, admits he is as surprised as anyone about the success of the program: "There are still those who laugh at Christianity. But there's a growing group, most of them young people, who are genuinely interested, for whom this is all completely new."

There's statistical evidence to back up the "new orthodoxy" hypothesis....

The article also has interesting stuff on Islam in the Netherlands....

....They're symbols of Dutch Islam's remarkable growth over the past 30 years, from less than 1 percent of the population in 1970 to 6 percent today. According to SCP predictions, that growth is set to continue to around 7.5 percent in 2020--a significant increase, to be sure, but nowhere near the apocalyptic figures predicted by those who fear Holland will become a majority Islamic country by the end of the 21st century. One reason it won't is that Islam, at least in its Dutch variant, is not a proselytizing faith. When asked about the importance of proselytizing, Dag volunteered that, on his list of priorities, trying to convert the indigenous Dutch population comes "just about last." Even the most optimistic estimates of Dutch Muslim organizations put the number of converts to Islam at no more than a few hundred a year. With immigration from Islamic countries grinding to a halt and birth rates among the Muslim community further approximating average Dutch birthrates with each new generation, it seems unlikely to say the least that visions of a caliphate in Holland will come to pass in this century--or the next, for that matter.

Since they don't seem to be interested in spreading the good news of Muhammad, the main priority of the Islamic communities in Holland will be to fight off the twin challenges of apathy and apostasy. Apathy is not yet a challenge in a community that defines Islam largely in cultural rather than religious terms. But once the third and fourth generations of offspring of the original immigrants start to replace the first generation, these cultural ties will start to lose some of their binding force. At the same time, it's far from clear that Dutch Islam will be able to keep religious liberalism at bay indefinitely. With government sponsorship--and the accompanying demands of gender neutrality--of university-based imam training courses about to become a reality, the day is not far off when the first feminist and gay imams will start preaching in mosques in Holland. There is no reason to assume Islam will be any better placed to deal with this liberal onslaught than mainstream Christianity was in the 1950s and '60s....

One of the things that's kept Christianity alive in America is that we've never had a state church. so the denominations are all in competition, and any that become slack or complacent are culled by a sort of "darwinian" pressure. something of a similar situation may grow in Europe as the state and "mainline" churches shrink and become irrelevant. And of course having a mosque built in your neighborhood tends to concentrate the mind too...Read the whole thing. The world is stranger than we think...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:21 PM

December 14, 2006

We were right, they were—and are—wrong...

...Wrong and...do I dare say it? AGAIN! There, I said it.

[Washington Post] ....It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right...

Actually, all the stuff about Pinochet has been obvious and well known since like, forever. What's interesting to me is that presumably lots of leftists are going to read this stuff—it's in the Washington Post—but none of them will start to...think.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 AM

November 30, 2006

There's only one war....

Charlene and I caught on the radio a little of author John O'Sullivan discussing the events he writes about in his new book, The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World.

It sounds like a great book! Three oddballs who no one expected would be put in charge of anything, especially not the crusade to defeat the evil of Soviet Communism. In fact, most "experts" didn't think there was, or even should be, a crusade.


Then, just afterwards, I found this very interesting piece, on just what the present Pope is up to. One doesn't have to be religious to suspect that we have an ally in the Vatican, just as we did during the 80's. I suspect Pope and President would both be saying that we are not at war with Islam (Yeah, yeah, I read Michelle Malkin too, and sometimes I doubts it myself) but rather we are tacitly allied with the majority of Muslims (though they may not have figured it out yet; they don't seem to be too big on thinking things through), who don't really wish to be clamped inside some Taliban death regime, OR to have their faith dissolved by corrosive secularism. And if that's true, then probably only the Pope has the standing to convey the message to them.

...Thus Benedict's true purpose in Turkey is that of uniting all the monotheistic faiths against a militant and self-consciously destructive secular culture. To that end he will seek a new political communion with Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople — the symbolic leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians. Even the Russian Orthodox patriarch, Alexei II, who rejected overtures by the late Pope John Paul II, has indicated that he would now welcome talks with Rome.

Nor are the pope's attempts to produce a concerted monotheistic alliance restricted to Christians. On the first day of his visit, Benedict quoted an 11th century pope, Gregory VII, who talked about the duties that Christians and Muslims owe each other "because we believe in one God."

Far from being anti-Muslim, the pope views Islam as a key cultural ally against the enlightenment liberalism that for him corrodes the moral core of Western society.

It is important to realize, however, that Benedict recognizes a mutual problem in this explicit project of religious realignment around shared critiques and common discernment. Secular conceptions of race, state and nation have corrupted all the faiths, too often turning them into a vehicle for nationalism or racism...(Thanks to Amy)

It's worth reading the whole thing. I'll paste in a bit more below...

...But the papal visit is not primarily an attempt to pacify relations between Christianity and Islam. Instead, Benedict is there to engage with Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy in the hope of persuading both to join his project of overcoming secularism.

The Pope, far from being sectarian, wants to inaugurate a new religious renaissance in Europe that opposes both secular and religious fundamentalism. This apostolic journey is of a piece with the logic of the Regensburg address, rather than a belated act of repentance for it.

Benedict opposes secularism because it is both absolute and arbitrary. In the name of being neutral with regard to values, secular ideology eliminates all rival world views from the public sphere. By denying the existence of objective moral truths, it elevates self- assertion as the measure of all things. Social life is reduced to the arbitration of conflicting self-interest — a process in which the most powerful always win.

Ultimately, this arbitrary absolutism produces a society ruled by an unholy alliance of utilitarian ethics and the proxy politics of the managerial class. This collusion destroys the very idea of common action and a binding collective discernment. Thus does the pope attribute the failure of Europe's common political project to the growing secularization of European culture.

Benedict's religious alternative is not some form of theocratic absolutism. On the contrary, the Pope is a staunch defender of secularity — the separation of church and state. Benedict wants to disentangle the church from the state, but without divorcing religion from politics, because only a religion freed from subservience to the state can save modern culture from itself...

One has to suspect that the Regensburg speech was the equivalent of the old joke about hitting the mule with the 2 x 4. "You don't have to beat this mule. You just have to get his attention first."

Posted by John Weidner at 9:34 AM

November 26, 2006

From heroes to bums in not much more than a generation...

[Rambling Sunday thoughts] I've been thinking about how in the comments at this post of mine, Andrea Harris and I got onto a discussion of the decline of Europe (and perhaps the USA), and it's possible cause in the enormously high levels of welfare common in European countries.

I for various reasons have Germany much in mind these days, and I wrote:

....West Germany in say 1960, was to outward appearances, hard-working, economically vibrant, Christian, confident, with a rapidly growing population and lots of young people. Experts were saying that we Americans had better pull up our socks or be totally out-classedI

And that's all gone! All of it. The corpse is still walking but nobody's fooled except those who want to be fooled. We're not talking slow decline-of-the-Roman-Empire here, these guys went from heroes to bums in not much more than a generation. If that's happened before in history I really missed something....

I'd say the proximate cause is welfare, which I know increased hugely in Germany in the 1970's. (By the way, the post-war German economic miracle was made possible by low taxes and reduced regulation. It's not like Germany is unacquainted with what makes for success.) Welfare meaning not just checks for the poor or unemployed, but all sorts of cozy security blankets for the whole population.

And I'd say the ante-proximate cause, the cause right behind the cause, is socialism. Socialism promotes the welfare state because it wants to destroy souls, and to make men dependent on the state. It has given up on the Revolution, and the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat," but the goal is still the same.

But frankly, these things are so obvious they've become boring. There is no intellectual battle to be waged against socialism or the welfare state. There is ceaseless war to be waged against the things themselves, of course. But no open intellectual fight. Any leftist reading this will curl his lip in disdain, but not one of them will have the guts to make a case for what he believes. "Fell-lurking curs," as Shakespeare put it.

So, what interests me is, what is the root cause? Welfare is destructive, but why wasn't there resistance, in Europe, to its terrible threat? In the US every increase in welfare and other socialistic innovations has generated vigorous criticism and political opposition. One result of which was the federal Welfare Reform law in the 1990's, which cut our welfare rolls in half!

Why was there—is there—little or nothing like this in Europe? I can think of several possibilities. One clue that smells right to me—can't prove anything here—comes from one of the smarter chaps living...

...Bonn in those years was the almost accidental capital of Adenauer’s Germany. In the divided land, whose eastern states were behind the Iron Curtain, economic and civilian rebirth was proceeding at a dizzying pace. In the 1957 elections, the Christian Democratic Party had won an absolute majority in Parliament. After the Nazi nightmare, the German Church, with deserved pride, offered an essential contribution to Germany’s new beginning.

In an atmosphere that could have encouraged triumphalism, the young professor-priest Ratzinger had just written an article in 1958 for the magazine Hochland some reflections arising from his brief but intense pastoral experience as a chaplain in the parish of the Most Precious Blood in Bogenhausen, an haute-bourgeois section of Munich.

In that article, he uses the term “statistical deception” for the cliché that described Europe as “a Continent that is almost totally Christian.” The Church in the postwar modern world appeared to him instead as “a Church of pagans – no longer, as in the past, a church of pagans who have become Christian, but a Church of pagans that still call themselves Christian but who have really become pagans.”

He tells of a new paganism “which is growing ceaselessly in the heart of the Church and threatens to demolish it from the inside.”....[link]

I'd sure love to know what tipped him off! He knew, all-right. He saw. But nobody else seemed to see it. What did he see?

<armchair theorizin'> One of the things you have to do, if you are going to grow in faith, is to fight against ones natural desire to avoid suffering. (Or just grow psychologically. It's not a specifically Christian insight. One of the Noble Truths the Buddha taught was "Life is suffering.") It seems wrong-headed; avoiding pain is just good sense, right? (Seems like that to me too, most of the time.) But it's a mistake. And if your goal is to avoid pain, your faith will shrink. (And you'll get the suffering anyway.)

And a priest is going to observe people's pain and suffering up close. This will tell him a lot, if he has eyes to see. I wouldn't be surprised if there was something like that that was clear to young Fr. Josef Ratzinger. It would not be surprising in a nation that had endured millions of deaths in two world wars...</armchair theorizin'>

Young Fr. Josef Ratzinger

Josef Ratzinger, priest and professor of dogmatic theology, Freising, 1959

Posted by John Weidner at 4:10 PM

November 19, 2006

Quotable, as always...

Peter Burnett, writing about two interesting articles about Africa:

...As the excellent post below explores, modern liberalism has descended from an empirical challenge to ossified tradition and orthodoxy in the name of individual freedom and tolerance to an angry fundamentalist creed that is further and further removed from fact and evidence--and proud of it. Just as American success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions counts for nothing in the face of the symbolism of it’s rejection of Kyoto, so the AIDS industry keeps going to extreme lengths to pretend U.S. policy is anti-condom and based on a sniffy notion that any death from AIDS is just desserts for the immoral.

The reason, of course, is that just as the climate change controversy is more about halting Western prosperity than anything to do with climate, so tranzi AIDS programmes battle any suggestion that individual sexual behaviour can and should be controlled. Preventing disease is secondary to de-linking sex and morality. Motivated partly by a collective nihilist self-hatred, partly by a deep and profound racism and partly by rote anti-Americanism, they seem to be approaching the point where they would have us believe that, even with unlimited free condoms, the AIDS virus can be transmitted mysteriously to the celibate and faithful as punishment for their dangerous religious thoughts...

"an angry fundamentalist creed." Yes. Why? My guess is that it's because leftists are in the truly perilous spiritual position of believing something they don't believe. The liberalism/socialism that is the basis of their system has failed in so many ways that they don't dare to examine their ideas, or enter them in the lists to be debated. Or even say what they are! Yet they have to keep fighting for their ideas, as if they were believers, lest the abyss open beneath their feet. They are sort of nihilists, yet are in a worse position than nihilists—if you simply believe nothing, you at least have the possibility of admitting that something is missing.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

October 28, 2006

Puffick Storm...

The End of the World As We Know It? (Jane Smiley, October 28, 2006, HuffingtonPost.com)

You gotta check it out, this piece ties the leftist package up perfectly. The world is about to end due to Global Warming, and the Iraq Campaign was only about Dick Cheney stealing Iraq's oil, which is contributing to Global Warming. It all fits!

The thoughts one can think here are many, but what grabs me is that Climate Change is the perfect excuse! A Perfect Storm of excuses for feeling superior while ignoring the actual problems and sufferings in the world today. Well, "ignoring" is too weak a word. Assuming a position of God-like superiority is more like it.

Ten-thousand-a-week slaughtered in Darfur? Don't bother me with trivialities, man, can't you see I'm Visualizing-Lower-Carbon-Emissions? And anyway it's all just an excuse to steal more oil. And if those little people live, they will just burden the planet, and die anyway when the oceans rise.

Most important of all, it's an excuse to not adjust to change. To keep one's world-view firmly anchored in 1973. That's hard to do, even with the help of NPR and the NYT, since the predictions assumed to be true back when the Baby-Boomers were young have all failed. And the predictions that conservatives were making back then have mostly come true. (I won't list them; I've been blogging these things for almost 5 years now)

But no matter, Global Warming trumps everything! If billions are going to die soon, how silly it is to try to save millions now. If free enterprise and Globalization are lifting billions of people out of poverty (and statism has utterly failed to do the same) who cares? Those tiresome brown-skinned people would be better off poor. And happier of course. And more picturesque, for when us sensitive Western Liberals take a jumbo jet to their picturesque squalid countries for picturesque low-emissions adventure treks (wearing the latest in picturesque adventure garments) so we can feel spiritually superior to pudgy people on cruise ships or casinos...

And the very cream of the jest is that Global Warming trumps Global Warming! One even gets to be superior to the messy nitty-gritty political and engineering maneuvers and compromises needed to actually reduce carbon emissions. That the US is doing better at reducing carbon than Kyoto-pompous Canada is not important. It's the symbolism that counts, not nasty reality. That the best practical solution to carbon emissions is to invest massively in nuclear power is beneath notice—Only utopian solutions need apply. Ones that involve white middle-class Western leftists being put in charge of everybody else, and, much more important, being allowed to keep their world-picture intact...

(Thanks to Orrin Judd, whose comment is also good: "What's especially quaint about the anti-human Left is that they appear not to grasp that their belief that human engineering will cause some kind of catastrophic global warming is identical to their belief that they could human engineer a Marxist utopia.")

Posted by John Weidner at 10:40 AM

October 23, 2006

Good suggestion...

Charlene was reading more of America Alone this morning, and said that Europe ought to bring in immigrants from Mexico! Sounds like a good idea. Bring in Latin American Christians with strong family values who want to work and get ahead. Better than immigrants from the Weird World, as she put it.

Better, yes. But, thinking more, I don't imagine it would help much. The new people would be corrupted and destroyed by welfare-statism and Euro-nihilism the same way the old people have been.

Immigration works here because America is not a place, it's an idea. One that anyone can assimilate to. And we have a culture that, despite unceasing attempts by leftists to corrupt it, still values hard work, achievement, and patriotism. And, despite the unceasing enmity and attacks of leftists, America is still mostly Christian, and retains a useful leavening of Judaism...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 AM

October 21, 2006

Obsessing over Global Warming is a way to avoid facing the big problems...

Charlene and I have been reading Mark Steyn's America Alone. It's about demographic implosions and the collapse of civilizational morale in the Western world. And about population growth and growing aggressiveness in the Islamic world, which is moving into the vacuum at a frightening rate...

And it's all stuff I already know about and have blogged about. But it's different having a brilliant writer like Steyn slam it into your face. All at once, not picked up her and there. Grim. Painful. Highly recommended...

....The single most important fact about the early twenty-first century is the rapid aging of almost every developed nation other than the United States: Canada, Europe, and Japan are getting old fast, older than any functioning society has ever been and faster than any has ever aged. A society ages when its birth rate falis and it finds itself with fewer children and more grandparents. For a stable population—i.e., no growth, no decline, just a million folks in 1950, a million in 1980, a million in 2010—you need a total fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman. That's what America has: 2.1, give or take. Canada has 1.48, an all-time low and a more revealing difference between the Great Satan and the Great White North than any of the stuff (socialized health care, fewer hand-guns, more UN peacekeepers, etc.) that Canucks usually brag about. Europe as a whole has 1.38; Japan, 1.32; Russia, 1.14. These countries— or, more precisely, these people—are going out of business....

...In the fourteenth century, the Black Death wiped out a third of the Continent's population; in the twenty-first, a larger proportion will disappear—in effect, by choice. We are living through a rare moment: the self-extinction of the civilization which, for good or ill, shaped the age we live in. One can cite examples of remote backward tribes who expire upon contact with the modern world, but for the modern world to expire in favor of the backward tribes is a turn of events future anthropologists will ponder, as we do the fall of Rome...

The vastness and strangeness of the changes that are happening leave me abashed, and I don't feel like pontificating. But I found it interesting that Steyn quotes Henri de Lubac, who placed the blame for the modern world's many troubles on "atheistic humanism." De Lubac wrote, famously, "It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man."

My gut feeling is that that's the key.

Charlene surprised me by remarking that it's a "fun book." I resisted the impulse to say, "You're crazy," but yet I immediately understood, evil fellow that I am. We are witnessing a great bonfire of failures of everything we hate. Trendy leftism, smug secularism, feminism, multiculturalism. Pacifism. Big-government liberalism. Anti-human environmentalism. Atheism. The Culture of Death (and how!). Nihilism! Steyn captures it perfectly when he writes that it's the belief that everything is going to end up being like Sweden. (In whose capital, by the way, the most popular boy's name is now...Mohammed.)

...Across the developed worid, we're at the beginning of the end of the social-democratic state. The surest way to be in the demographic death spiral is to be a former Communist country in Europe: the five lowest birth rates in the wor!d are Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Russia, and Ukraine. But the next surest way is just to be in Europe: nineteen of the lowest twenty birth rates in the world are on the Continent (the twentieth is Japan). Conversely, the only advanced nation with a sizeabie population reproducing at replacement rate is the United States. True, there are significant variations from red state to blue state, immigrant to native-born, and in other areas: Mormons in Utah have one of the highest fertility rates on the planet, while the city of San Francisco could easily be mistaken for an EU capital, though in fairness to the good burghers of that town they had to embrace homosexuality to achieve levels of childlessness the Continentals have managed to achieve through ostensibly conventional sexual expression.

But the fact remains: Europe is dying and America isn't, Europe's system doesn't work and America's does, just about.

So here's a radical thought for Will Button and the Europeans: instead of cal!ing for America to "join the world," why not try calling on Europe to rejoin the real world? Otherwise, you'll be joining what we used to call "the unseen world."...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:31 PM

October 14, 2006

Alternate history--The Burgundiosphere...

Via Tim Blair, a fine letter to Mark Steyn...

I am a Brit nearing 60 living happily in the U.S.A. these past few years. I have just read America Alone. The World as I knew it has already ended....

....I live in the South in modest circumstances. Each day God sends is a joy – I catch my breath at the politeness and gentility of everyday life, and the innate goodness of the people I have the good fortune to meet every time I go to the store or fill up with gas.

It’s the same thing in Australia – whenever I have had the privilege of visiting I have been struck by how much Australia has stuck to its values and continues to do so. The complete and utter absence of bullshit is exhilarating.

And as each day passes I realize with deep sorrow how much multiculturalism has damaged, and is close to destroying, my beloved old England. As you have mentioned before, "Fings ain’t wot they used ter be".

National pride hides in the closet in England. It is the love that dare not speak its name....

I've long suspected that the Anglosphere is the new "England." And that poor England itself is too far over the edge to pull back. (I would LOVE to be proved wrong on that!) A certain mysterious and palmary quality of Englishness has been passed on to many lands, with Australia and the USA currently showing the most of it. And India being a question mark of the most fascinating sort...

An interesting thing to ponder is, how much of this "Englishness" is racial/tribal/deep-cultural—I don't quite know what term I need. And how much was contingent on history. Especially on how Britain's being an island prevented the need to create an absolutist monarchy with a large standing army ready to fight the forces of Philip II or Louis XIV. One wonders if, had Burgundy or Bavaria been islands, they might have preserved more of the pluralism of the Middle Ages. Things like parliaments, boroughs, declarations of rights, perhaps a system of slowly-evolving law with a fairly independent judiciary...Might we now be saying that those places settled by Burgundians have a special flavor of freedom, moderation and free enterprise?

One interesting oddity to me is that when I wander Catholic blogs, it is often impossible to know if I am "in" the US or Australia. [link, link] At least until somebody mentions the Archdiocese of Mudamuckla, or the scandals at Yankalilla. Then I know I'm far from Kansas...(Just kidding with the Aussie place-names. I love them. Here's a good quote.) I've never had that experience with an English Catholic blog. And recently Englishwoman Natalie Solent, who is Catholic, mentioned in an interesting post that Catholics are "frightfully dull nowadays." Wow. I can't imagine anybody in America or Australia saying that, grave though our many Catholic problems and shortcomings are....

THE RECALL
I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night�
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years�
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling
Posted by John Weidner at 11:36 AM

September 28, 2006

Churros de Göteborg

LA Times...

...I wasn't fully prepared for the Swedish taco craze. For one thing, there don't seem to be too many Mexicans here.
You see, here — as in other parts of Europe — Mexican food was not brought over by Mexicans at all. Rather, it was introduced by American TV shows and movies. That explains why there's a "Gringo Special" on the menu at the Taco Bar, a Swedish fast-food chain, and why nearly all the Mexican products in the grocery stores — "Taco Sauce," "Taco Spice Mix" and "Guacamole Dip" — are labeled in English....

My question is, remember those flakizoids who were steamed because KFC might be heading for Baghdad...what do they think about this?

For myself, I confess that, free-trader though I am, there's a little anti-globo inside of me saying, "Wait! Who's in charge here? Shouldn't something be done to stop this??"

Posted by John Weidner at 11:11 AM

September 16, 2006

Obscene

Tigerhawk, on the controversy around the Pope...

...Predictably, the greatest beneficiaries of the Western enlightenment blamed reason, the true victim of Muslim rage through the ages. The editors of The New York Times said this morning, to the eternal discredit of that once great paper, that
[t]he world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
This is obscene. Apart from its factual inaccuracy -- there is no evidence that any of the enraged Muslims "listened carefully" to the words of the pope -- this is like blaming a beaten wife for provoking the bastard who throttles her. It is the leaders of prayers in the mosques of the Muslim world who call on their faithful to riot in the streets. It is they who sow pain and incite violence, and anybody unburdened by a loathing of Western civilization knows it. Pope Benedict has nothing to apologize for...

This is a stunning example Western self-loathing. And if the NYT had themselves "listened carefully to the words of the Pope," they would have noticed that the churches of unreason he criticizes include the one that has its American "vatican" in the NYT Building...

...They are not children, however much the cultural relativists who absolve the rioters and their sympathizers infantalize them. I condemn these people for making bad choices; liberals, such as the editors of the New York Times, refuse to condemn them because they believe that Muslims are incapable of choices. I may deplore the choices of these rioting Muslims, but the New York Times holds them in contempt, regarding them as nothing more than wild animals. Just as we all blame humans who antagonize an animal into a violent response, the New York Times blames Westerners who "sow pain," as if Muslims have the free will of a cornered wolf...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:00 AM

September 11, 2006

Party's over...

The story about the journos who were forced to pretend to convert to Islam has been much in my mind. What does it mean? Somehow this doesn't seem like just another terrorist outrage.

Kathy Shaidel has some thoughts, (here and here). And she picked up and quoted this, that Andrea wrote in a comment thread:

The fact that makes so many educated, secular, “my religious beliefs are private” (not even God knows what they are?), fun-loving Westerners uncomfortable is the growing realization that the party may be over, and we may have to (ugh) actually stand up for what we believe in, and in doing so we may actually find that the things we thought we believed in were nothing but froth and fairy-dust....

Party's over. Yes. Lotsa people been playing make-believe. It wasn't just two men who adopted an inimical faith at gun-point, and renounced the underpinnings of their own civilization. They were proxies for hundreds of millions of other westerners who would do the same. Our hollowness is being exposed for all to see. ("Froth and fairy-dust." Yeah, I live here.)

(And even ignoring the religious aspect, we need to realize that our whole culture of "do what the person with the gun tells you to" may have been a huge mistake. It encourages, like all pacifism, more violence. You can bet those turkeys will be doing this again. Next time it may be a hundred people. Our weakness draws this kind of thing forth. And the next incident will be partly the responsibility of those journalists, who are encouraging this by their choice. One can hardly blame them, since no one in our culture is taught to think that yielding to threats is going to mean someone else gets threatened. Those two guys may be brave men who would dive into a torrent to save a drowning child, but it would not occur to them to defy a terrorist to save a future victim!)

Kathy at least is thinking clearly....

...Are there any Christians on this thread? Because like it or not, Christ told his followers again and again to be prepared to suffer for his sake. "He who saves his own life will lose it..." ...

....I pray for the grace not to renounce Christ for any reason, under any circumstances. And the power of grace is the only thing that can give you that courage. Those who rely
solely on will power or mental fortitude can't be expected to understand that....

....I'd add that a well brought up, commited Christian does in fact know what he or she should aspire to do in the face of martyrdom, or when faced with an incurable disease or the murder of a child, just as a well trained fireman knows he will run into, rather than away from, a burning building. Such a Christian, having practiced spiritual disciplines such as prayer and fasting, and therefore being more receptive to supernatural grace, may be surprised herself by the relative ease of "doing the right thing."....

There are plenty of people who call themselves Christians who think that martyrdom, like miracles, is something that belongs in picture books about long ago. We may have some wake-ups coming...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:43 AM

September 2, 2006

Boiling away...

Mike Plaiss sent a link to this article, about emigration from Germany...

..."People say things aren't getting better in Germany, and nothing's going to change any time soon,'' said historian Simone Eick, director of the German Emigration Center in the northern port city of Bremerhaven. Indeed, "some indicators suggest that this may be the start of mass emigration.''

That's reflected by the 630 postings recorded since Aug. 10 on an Internet forum on emigration hosted by Germany's Spiegel magazine. Germany doesn't have much of a future, a 40 year-old German teacher who moved to France said Aug. 26 in a typical posting. The teacher, writing under the alias "Kritischer Leser,'' meaning Critical Reader, said he's working fewer hours and making more money than his sister, a doctor in Germany...

...Other German expatriates cite what they say is the over-regimentation of the labor force. "Life in Germany is totally over-regulated,'' said Christian Kaestner, 38, an attorney who moved from Munich to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1997. "There are hardly any freedoms left, and you keep bumping into regulations and prohibitions.''...

I would agree that "Germany doesn't have much of a future..." Partly because the very people who are likely to demand change are the ones who leave. It's sort of like the way a pot of boiling water stays at 212°. Because every time a molecule gets hotter than that, it turns to gas and emigrates!

This is also a good example of what Tom Friedman pointed out a few years ago, in The Lexis and the Olive Tree, that with globalization countries are becoming like US states have long been. That is, they don't have much freedom to pursue bad economic policies, because it is too easy for money and capital to flee elsewhere, and because bond ratings react very quickly. You can still do it, but you can't insulate yourself from punishment as countries once did.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:43 AM

August 22, 2006

Where do you find courage?...

This was a comment I made this morning, to some thoughts by Hale Adams on this post...

Hale,

Good points, but I think you miss the essence.

Democracies always have great difficulty in making choices that involve sacrifice by a lot of voters. And what's needed now in Europe are huge sacrifices by most of the population. Just in the realm of economics, they need welfare cut drastically, regulations and taxes cut drastically, retirement ages raised, promised pensions lowered, unions broken, "creative destruction" involving job losses on a huge scale, free trade involving job losses on a huge scale...(And that's the easy part. Much harder is giving up ideas one has grown comfortable with.)

Imagine a European leader proposing that most of his population give up their comfort and security for the good of future generations. You are immediately up against the question of the "spiritual condition" of the people. The state of their souls. That's the only place from which people might dredge up the courage and vision to sacrifice their own economic welfare, and, most crucially, their security.

It's similar to asking people to volunteer in a desperate war to save their country, a war where many must die to (possibly) preserve future generations. Libertarian economic calculation has nothing to say in such a situation---only the heart. (You might say that one exception is people with children. They quite naturally may sacrifice their own good for the good of future generations...which is one of the big reasons, I strongly suspect, that Europeans and "Blue-State" types are not crazy about having children.)

"Where do you find courage?" That's the question to ask. It's too late for reason and prudence and calculation. (Too late for Europe--I hope not for us.) Too late for tinkering. John Paul II's constant refrain was, "Be not afraid." That's the most practical hard-headed piece of economic calculation that's been offered to Europe...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:58 AM

August 20, 2006

"So far down the death spiral you can’t pull out..."

This lecture by Mark Steyn is worth a read. I would desperately love to have someone give me some good reasons why he's wrong. But I've been scanning the horizon for the last few years, and I've seen nothing of the sort. The rare response from lefty Europhiles has been so pathetic and weak it makes me want to spit on them. This guy was so disgusting I want to kick him down and then spit on him. (Well, I'm exagerating; I wouldn't do such things. But my contempt for Lefty pusillanimity runs deep.)

....Much of western civilization does not have any future. That’s to say, we’re not just speaking philosophically, but literally. In a very short time, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries we regard as part of the western tradition will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. They don’t have a future because they’ve given up breeding. Spain’s population is halving with every generation: Two grown-ups have a total of one baby. So there are half as many children as parents. And a quarter as many grandchildren as grandparents. And an eighth as many great-grandchildren as great-grandparents. And, after that there’s no point extrapolating, because you’re over the falls and it’s too late to start paddling back. I received a flurry of letters from furious Spaniards when the government decided to replace the words “father” and “mother” on its birth certificates with the less orientationally offensive terms “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B”. This was part of the bureaucratic spring-cleaning of traditional language that always accompanies the arrival in law of “gay marriage”. But, with historically low numbers of progeny, the designations of the respective progenitors seem of marginal concern. They’d be better off trying to encourage the average young Spaniard to wander into a Barcelona singles bar and see if anyone wants to come back to his pad to play Progenitor A and Progenitor B. (“Well, okay, but only if I can be Progenitor A…”)

Seventeen European nations are now at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility – 1.3 births per woman, the point at which you’re so far down the death spiral you can’t pull out. In theory, those countries will find their population halving every 35 years or so. In practice, it will be quicker than that, as the savvier youngsters figure there’s no point sticking around a country that’s turned into an undertaker’s waiting room. So large parts of the western world are literally dying – and, in Europe, the successor population to those aging French and Dutch and Belgians is already in place....

John Paul II called it the "Culture of Death." We usually use the term to refer to abortion and euthanasia, but to me the most tragically fascinating part is the death of whole nations. And it's right there in front of us. (A technical note: Most European country's populations are not yet actually declining, because the age cohort that's dying off now, the "WWII Generation," is much smaller than the post WWII generations. But when the Euro equivalent of the "Baby Boomers" starts to die, things are going to get real ugly real fast.)

We can see the Culture of Death clearly in the reaction, or rather lack of a reaction, to these obvious facts. No European country is shifting into panic mode. None are drastically revising policies or attitudes. Nowhere do we see reformers from outside the political culture being elected with a mandate for change.

"So far down the death spiral you can’t pull out." I would agree with that estimation. For one thing, the only possible answers can come from human beings, from the human spirit. But for generations those Europeans who dream hopefully of better futures have been emigrating. Worse than a brain-drain, it is a spirit-drain.

America is in better shape, but not that much better. All the same suicidal trends are seen here, but we always have strong counter-movements. A very rough approximation is the "Red State/Blue State" divide. And, in my personal opinion, the best barometer is the health of Christianity and Judaism. I'd say they are wounded but alive here, wounded probably fatally there. (And my personal suspicion is that that's not just the barometer, it's the underlying cause. If any scientists want to put the Culture of Death under a microscope for study, just grab with yor tweezers anybody who is complaining [preposterously] that America is becoming a "theocracy.")

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 PM

August 18, 2006

From Berlin, 1933...

From the essay Auto-da-Fé of the Mind, by Joseph Roth. From What I Saw: Reports from Berlin, 1920-1933...

Very few observers anywhere in the world seem to have understood what the Third Reich's burning of books, the expulsion of Jewish writers, and all its other crazy assaults on the intellect actually mean. The technical apotheosis of the barbarians, the terrible march of the mechanized orangutans, armed with hand grenades, poison gas, ammonia and nitroglycerine, with gas masks and airplanes, the return of the spiritual (if not the actual) descendants of the Cimbri and Teutoni—all this means far more than the threatened and terrorized world seems to realize: It must be understood. Let me say it loud and clear; The European mind is capitulating. It is capitulating out of weakness, out of sloth, out of apathy, out of lack of imagination (it will be the task of some future generation to establish the reasons for this disgraceful capitulation).

Now, as the smoke of our burned books rises into the sky, we German writers of Jewish descent must acknowledge above all that we have been defeated. Let us, who were fighting on the front line, under the banner of the European mind, let us fulfill the noblest duty of the defeated warrior: Let us concede defeat. Yes, we have been defeated....

(Thanks to our friend George B., who faxed this over...)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

August 2, 2006

I'm sure i don't know what to think about this...

Telegraph: Pregnant train passengers are to be issued with badges by Japanese rail firms so that other travellers know they should give up their seat.

The scheme is designed to solve the problem of men hesitating as they judge whether a woman is pregnant or merely overweight...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:29 PM

July 13, 2006

fascinating symmetry...

Michael Barone, on the election in Mexico:

...There is also a fascinating symmetry in the recent election results in the three NAFTA nations: Mexico, Canada and the United States. All chose center-right governments by narrow margins, installed by minorities of the voters. Calderon's 35.9 percent of the vote in a three-party system is eerily similar to the 36.3 percent won by Stephen Harper's Conservative Party in Canada's four-party system. We all know about Bush's two elections.

All three leaders have been opposed vociferously, indeed often considered illegitimate, by the metropolitan elites of New York, Toronto and Mexico City. All three beat parties that claimed only they had national reach -- the Democrats here, the Liberals in Canada and PRI in Mexico -- but that were tarred with scandal when they were voted out of office.

All three won thanks to huge margins in economically vibrant hinterlands -- George W. Bush's Texas, Stephen Harper's Alberta, Vicente Fox's Guanajuato. Calderon carried the Mexican states north of metro Mexico City by 47 percent to 22 percent over Lopez Obrador. These are the states where you find giant new factories, glistening shopping malls, rising office buildings, new middle-class subdivisions, Wal-Marts and freshly paved highways. This is the Mexico that NAFTA has brought into being.

Just as Bush carried most of our fastest-growing states and Harper's Conservatives carried Canada's fastest-growing province, so Mexico's northern states, which produced more than half the nation's population growth from 2000 to 2005, voted PAN.

These center-right parties all stand for change -- change in the sense of allowing a vibrant private sector to grow and alter our ways of living and making a living. Their opponents tend to stand against change, for the vested interests of public-sector unions, for (in Canada and Mexico) the subsidy of anti-American metropolitan elites...

You may be tempted to say that all three governments won narrowly, and so their elections don't mean much--a few votes switched and they would be gone. But that overlooks the fact that all three are supporting change. And it is always easier for people to vote for "more of the same." Al Gore was an incumbent, in a time of peace and prosperity, in what has traditionally, since the 1930's, been the majority party. His losing meant more than the mere numbers showed.

And I'm thinking that Harper and Calderon will be like Bush, in accomplishing more than one would expect from the numbers. They all have programs, they know what they want to do. They are intellectually alive, they believe in what they say, in a way that their leftist opponents don't dare to. And all are tapping into something that renews itself: Liberty. (And into something else that becomes young again and again; I think they are all Christians.)

Leftism never becomes young again, it's more like a vampire that sucks countries dry, and then discards them. When I was younger I was told in a thousand different ways that "Euro-socialism" works! That it provides a better alternative to nasty unregulated (if only) capitalism. Well, no. It has failed, and we can see the failure plainly. The EU is roughly comparable in wealth and size to the US. So, "Where's the beef?" Who's learning French so they can keep up with the exciting new ideas? Who's learning German so they can be on the cutting edge of...anything? Who's moving to Sweden to enjoy that famous "high standard of living?"

Those countries have been destroyed, destroyed by the same ideas that are pushed by Al Gore and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Evil ideas, that have to keep shape-shifting and assuming new aliases and disguises.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:44 AM

July 1, 2006

Always the same...

Just in case you thought my various comments on leftists and the UN were a tad harsh,

Jerusalem Post: The new UN Human Rights Council voted Friday to make a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every council session.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Islamic countries, was passed by a vote of 29-12, with five abstentions. It effectively revives a practice of the UN's dissolved Human Rights Commission, which also reviewed alleged Israeli abuses every time it met...

...Besides Arab and other Muslim countries, "yes" votes were cast by African nations, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia and Sri Lanka. Canada and European Union members on the council voted against it.

The United States is not a member of the council and, like Israel, was unable to vote... [Emphasis added. Thanks to Powerline]

And if America was not strong, and was not footing most of the bill for this farce, then our "abuses" would also be the topic at every meeting. Leftists and tyrants (really the same thing) ALWAYS hate America and Israel. Why? Because we are the emblems, and the reality, of freedom. Freedom won by individuals, imbued with religious faith, fighting against savages, fleeing from corrupt states, and by their success making it all too clear how false and inferior various other systems and states are.

The abuse that Israel endures is almost unbelievable. Our fake leftists and fake pacifists routinely side with countries where gays can be executed, against a country that has "gay freedom" parades. Side with countries where women are not allowed to drive cars, against a country where women can aspire to the highest office in the land. Sides with Arab countries whose people have no vote, against a Jewish country that has Arab MP's who can heckle the Prime Minister.

I think we should make Israel an honorary 51st State of the Union, and declare that any attack on her is an attack on the US, and will meet our full military response.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM

June 30, 2006

It's now "International Law."

I liked this article on how John Bolton is raising Cain at the UN...

...Nancy Soderberg, who served as the U.S. Alternate Representative to the U.N. from 1997-2001, said that there is a boiling resentment in the international community about the policies of the Bush administration in general. “But,” she added, “the salt in the wound is Bolton and his aggressive, confrontational and ultimately unproductive style.”

Stephen Schlesinger, the director of the World Policy Institute at the New School, puts the blame squarely on Mr. Bolton himself.

“He doesn’t believe in the U.N.,” Mr. Schlesinger said. “His view of the U.N. is that it should be totally subservient to U.S. foreign policy. He’s a man who is basically doing a very poor job of representing the United States.”...

This is wrong, I think. What he wants is for the UN to be subservient to the "Axis of Good." As anyone with a lick of sense would desire. The idea that underlies the UN, that all nations are equal "individuals," like voters in a Republic, is just sick and crazy. It is epitomized by the insane practice of putting countries like Cuba or Libya or Syria on the "Human Rights Commission."

I think the idea of reforming the UN is absurd. But, the basis of reform is obvious. The Bush Doctrine is the principle that national sovereignty is dependent on democratic legitimacy. The reforms that flow from this are patent, and since the Bush Doctrine has now become established International Law, they are mandatory. (Ha ha. Gotcha, lefty fatheads! If you can just pull "International Laws" out of the ether and claim they are binding, so can I!)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 AM

June 21, 2006

Chicks, mother hen...

Here's a fascinating piece on the considerable strides our missile defense systems have made.

Do you remember, O my brothers, do you remember the scorn and derision that was heaped on certain neo-cons when they said that America should lead, and others will follow? Hmmm?

...And this is just a microcosm of NATO's newfound interest in missile defenses: After completing (in May of this year) a four-year, 10,000-page study on missile defense, NATO officially believes the program is technologically and financially feasible. And a growing number of NATO members believe it's necessary. Spurred by events in Iran, governments in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway are cooperating with Washington on elements of missile defense. Turkey is also investing in missile defenses. Stephen Harper, Canada's no-nonsense prime minister, wants to re-engage with Washington on missile defense. The previous government held an agnostic view of the system, opting out of full participation in mid-2005.

Elsewhere, Australia signed a 25-year pact on missile defense cooperation in 2004; Israel has already deployed its link in the IMD chain, the Arrow anti-missile system; and now the US and India are opening the way toward IMD cooperation....

And why, you ask, are the chicks suddenly scuttling under the wings of the little red hen?

...Three decades ago, there were eight countries (not including the US) that possessed ballistic missiles. Today, there are 25. By my count, 15 of them are unfriendly, unstable or uncertain about their relationship to the US. With their twin terror programs that seek to match rockets with nukes, North Korea and Iran fall into that first category. (While their leaders may be unstable, their regimes are anything but: One has held power for almost six decades, the other for almost three.)

Over the past three weeks, North Korea has been methodically preparing to test-fire a missile known as the Taepodong 2 (or TD-2), with a range of perhaps 2,600 miles. That's good enough to hit parts of Alaska...

The things we need to thank President Bush for are many. Just imagine Al Gore in the White House, pinning "kick me" signs on America's back! And consulting with Jimmy Carter about how best to appease N Korea.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:52 AM

June 9, 2006

Where "realism" makes sense...

From The Telegraph. (Thanks to Orrin)

Washington scored a significant victory in its contest with Moscow for influence in Central Asia yesterday when Kazakhstan agreed to start pumping oil to the West through a British Petroleum pipeline that bypasses Russia and Iran. [Central Asia. Bet you don't learn a lot about that corner of the globe from the Nightly News.]

The deal, secured largely because of a personal visit to Kazakhstan last month by Dick Cheney, the United States vice-president, will infuriate the Kremlin. [Thank you, Mr Vice President. Yet again.]

But there will be secret relief in European capitals, where there is growing concern over Russia's apparent willingness to use its vast energy supplies as a political weapon. [You know, there's a lot of that "secret relief" stuff whenever America does the heavy lifting. Parasites.]

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh president, told an investors' conference in the capital, Almaty, that a formal agreement would be signed next week to begin delivery through an existing BP pipeline that connects Azerbaijan to the Turkish coast. This loops through Georgia, thus avoiding Russia to the north and Iran to the south. [Russia, Iran. Couldn't happen to two nicer countries.]

The deal will give the West greater access to the vast oil fields of the Caspian Sea - estimated to hold the world's third-largest reserves - and ease its growing dependence on energy from Russia and the Middle East. [Third-largest. Fancy that.]

America and Russia are locked in fierce competition for access to Central Asia's vast energy wealth... [Uh huh. And there's also a big part of the WOT going on there. It's a tricky and dangerous region, and of obvious importance to us. So, will right-wing isolationists and left-wing appeasers give the President any support or thanks? Ha ha ha.]

....Mr Cheney, a former oil man who for more than 20 years has highlighted the importance of the Caspian Sea, has grown increasingly skeptical of Russia's intentions towards the West. [We are very lucky to have such a deep old file working on our side. And very lucky to have two oil guys in the White House.]

He launched a scathing attack on the Kremlin last month and caused outrage by flying to Kazakhstan immediately afterwards, where he was fulsome in his praise for Mr Nazarbayev's even more democratically dubious regime. [Smart. This is a case where compromising our push for democracy makes sense. And we are still pushing democracy in the region, and among Kazakhstan's neighbors. Their turn will come.]

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, the other major oil-producing country on the Caspian to sign an energy deal with the West, was recently entertained at the White House - though he too has been accused of cheating in an election last year. [Journalists love to snark about any compromises made by the President. And then the next minute they complain that he's too rigid and never willing to change his mind or listen to advice.]

The new deal could help to bring down world oil prices, another factor likely to upset Russia, whose energy-dependent economy could wobble if crude falls below $50 a barrel. [And Iran too. But Bush will get no thanks if these distant dealings yield advantages for us.]

Kazakhstan has become a serious rival to Russia as a hydrocarbon exporter. But Mr Nazarbayev is in a tricky situation...[Tough, ain't it.]

Posted by John Weidner at 5:15 PM

June 6, 2006

Wall good for Mexico?

I thought this was interesting: Is the tide finally turning in Mexico? | The San Diego Union-Tribune

...When I was in Mexico last fall, after dozens of visits over the years, people on every political and social level confirmed these accusations, complaining to me of Fox's failures. Forty families still own 60 percent of Mexico. There are no voluntary organizations, no civic involvement, no family foundations – and thus, no accountability, allowing corruption to flourish. Mexico gains $28 billion from oil revenue and $20 billion from immigrant remittances. There is virtually no industrialization, no small business, no real chance at individual entrepreneurship. Under Fox, it has created only one-tenth of the 1 million jobs needed.

Ah, but there are new voices of change, of reason, of self-awareness in Mexico, in place of the hoary anti-gringo rants: the beginnings of a transformation of the debate.

The same week of the Fox visit, for instance, The New York Times ran a stunning article headlined “Some in Mexico See Border Wall as Opportunity.” It quotes men such as Jorge Santibanez, president of the College of the Northern Border, saying: “For too long, Mexico has boasted about immigrants leaving, calling them national heroes, instead of describing them as actors in a national tragedy; and it has boasted about the growth in remittances as an indicator of success, when it is really an indicator of failure.”

Other prominent Mexicans were quoted as saying, for instance, the formerly unthinkable: that a wall would be the “best thing that could happen for Mexico”; the “porous border” allowed “elected officials to avoid creating jobs.”...

It's frustrating, because the current immigration crisis is an opportunity, a chance to do the right thing. A number of right things. One of which is to force reform onto Mexico. Helping them would be helping us. To paraphrase Alfred Sloan, what's good for the hemisphere is good for America....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:07 AM

May 22, 2006

If you drive, don't drink. Except for...

In other countries they sometimes, odd as it may seem, see things differently than us. Zadok reports on another sort of response to the problem of drinking and driving...

...One Italian company has a different approach. Drive Beer is a low alcohol beer which is primarily marketed on the basis that one can can drink it and drive whilst remaining below the blood-alcohol limit. Apparantly one can have two drive beers and still legally take the wheel. It really is quite astonishing to see posters with a traffic cop and a Formula One racecar driver enjoying a beer together...

He's got a picture of the ad. Pretty funny.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM

May 20, 2006

"deeper and rarer than rational thought"

I recommend to you Roger Scruton's piece on John Stuart Mill in OpinionJournal...

...Mill famously referred to the Conservative Party as "the stupider party," he being, from 1865, a member of Parliament in the Liberal interest. And no doubt the average Tory MP was no match for the brain that had conceived the "System of Logic"--an enduring classic and Mill's greatest achievement. Yet Mill suffered from the same defect as his father. He never understood that wisdom is deeper and rarer than rational thought. He never understood that the intellect, which flies so easily to its conclusions, relies on something else for its premises. Those conservatives who upheld what Mill called "the despotism of custom" against the "experiments in living" advocated in "On Liberty" were not stupid simply because they recognized the limits of the human intellect. They were, on the contrary, aware that freedom and custom are mutually dependent, and that to free oneself from moral norms is to surrender to the state. For only the state can manage the ensuing disaster.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 AM

May 18, 2006

a profound forgetting

A quote from God's Choice, by George Weigel:

...Pope Benedict XVI diagnosed that malady that has sapped Europe's spiritual energies and human strength a long time ago. It is a sickness in the order of ideas and values, a sickness caused by a profound forgetting. One can call that forgetting relativism in regard to morals; one can call it skepticism, bordering on irrationalism, about the human capacity to know things; one can think of it as a more generalized nihilism, in which the very mystery of being has soured.

Whatever the nomenclature, however, the disease remains a matter of amnesia: a deliberate willful forgetting of the truth that the human person "does not himself
invent morality on the basis of calculations of expediency, but rather finds it already present in the essence of things." Today's European crisis, Joseph Ratzinger once wrote, is the result of this great forgetting....

"A great forgetting" seems about right to me.

And "finding" morality already present in the essence of things...How can that happen? How do you do it? Maybe it's analogous to pathfinding through a dense jungly wilderness, rarely seeing a clear way, but always keeping the general direction in mind. Our ancestors worked on it for a thousand generations, struggling, praying, moving forward. They learned painful lessons and slowly scraped together wisdom...and now we just forget.

"...the very mystery of being has soured." That's near the heart of it. That's something too subtle to analyze, and yet we see it all the time.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 AM

May 15, 2006

The question...

George Weigel has a very impressive article in Commentary on the decline of Europe: Europe’s Two Culture Wars:

....What Bruce Bawer rightly deplores as out-of-control political correctness in Europe is rooted in a deeper malady: a rejection of the belief that human beings, however inadequately or incompletely, can grasp the truth of things—a belief that has, for almost two millennia, underwritten the European civilization that grew out of the interaction of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome.

Postmodern European high culture repudiates that belief. And because it can only conceive of “your truth” and “my truth” while determinedly rejecting any idea of “the truth,” it can only conceive of tolerance as indifference to differences—an indifference to be enforced by coercive state power, if necessary. The idea of tolerance as engaging differences within the bond of civility (as Richard John Neuhaus once put it) is itself regarded as, well, intolerant. Those who would defend the true tolerance of orderly public argument about contending truth claims (which include religious and moral convictions) risk being driven, and in many cases are driven, from the European public square by being branded as “bigots.”

But the problem goes deeper still. For one thing, however loudly European postmodernists may proclaim their devotion to the relativity of all truths, in practice this translates into something very different—namely, the deprecation of traditional Western truths, combined with a studied deference to non- or anti-Western ones. In the relativist mindset, it thus turns out, not all religious and moral conviction is bigotry that must be suppressed; only the Judeo-Christian variety is. In short, the moral relativism of Europe is often mere window-dressing, a mask for Western self-hatred.....

One item from the article: "...half the infant deaths in Flanders in 1999-2000 were from euthanasia." That's something to chew on.

If you write things, even just a humble weblog, you get a better idea of what it is you are really interested in. The stuff I was writing in 2001 is not too much different from what I write now. (Here's a sample.) But the question that underlies them is much more clear to me.

We are being flung into the future faster than we realize. And the world is wealthier and healthier than ever before. But we begin to see that we face dangers no one could have even imagined in the past. Who would have guessed that a continent that had conquered most of the globe, created most of modern science, culture, and knowledge, withstood hideous wars, famines, plagues.....would be utterly undone by prosperity? By democracy? By freedom greater than their ancestors could have dreamed of? By having almost everything go right!

Consider this:

...Then there is Italy, whose large extended families have long been a staple of the world’s imagination. The truth of the matter is far different: by 2050, on present trends, almost 60 percent of Italians will not know, from personal experience, what a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin is....

I enjoy reading Glenn Reynolds, but more and more he provokes me to ask the question. Such a decent guy, and so happily infatuated with the bright future and all the nano-gadgets and transforming technologies that are going to make things better and better. But we are already in "the future," already equipped with technology and prosperity that would have been flabbergasting to people when I was born, in 1950. And we do not find ourselves in the sort of paradise that "futurists" expected.

And we seem to be learning that problems spiritual or psychological can be as deadly as nuclear bombs. That plagues of bad ideas can topple nations that previously bounced back from utter military defeat and bombings that left whole cities in rubble as far as the eye could see...

And part of the question is, what do nations and individuals need to survive the strange dangers looming before us?

I'm not, by the way, some sort of anti-technologist, or one who wants to arrest change. That isn't even an option. What I'm wondering is, what do we need to carry in our toolkits as we are stuffed into the time-machine like-it-or-not?

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

May 10, 2006

Darfur is "at peace"

Sense from the New Republic:

...The notion of force as a first resort defies the foundations of diplomacy and also of common sense: A willingness to use hard power abroad must not become a willingness to use it wildly. But if you are not willing to use force against genocide immediately, then you do not understand what genocide is.

Genocide is not a crisis that escalates into evil. It is evil from its inception. It may change in degree if it is allowed to proceed, but it does not change in kind. It begins with the worst. Nor is its gravity to be measured quantitatively: The intention to destroy an entire group is present in the destruction of even a small number of people from that group. It makes no sense, therefore, to speak of ending genocide later. If you end it later, you will not have ended it. If Hitler had been stopped after the murder of three million Jews, would he be said to have failed?...

The world has changed, and leftists and pacifists are in deep denial. The wars of our time are internal wars, within failed states. But the definition of "war" is still stuck in the days when nation-states fought each other with armies.

Darfur is "at peace." 400,000 have died, but thank heavens they've been spared the horrors of war! And if America and its allies sent troops to stop the killing, leftists would call it "war," and have anti-war marches, and shriek about the "civilian casualties" we've caused.

And if the slaughter stopped upon our arrival, as probably it would, then they would say. "Bush lied!"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 AM

April 22, 2006

From the place we are now...

Hale put some comments about Libertarianism into the last post, and I started to respond, and things got out of control...and so here's another post! [Get a life! --ed. Yer lookin' at it!] Hale wrote:

"A lot of the social ills you rail against aren't really something the government can do much about, either to encourage or discourage. And when it does try to "manage" society, it runs into something called "the Law of Unintended Consequences'....."

Well, yeah. From the place where we at are now, that's true. But in the past there was a generally agreed-upon public morality and a base set of rules and virtues. And government was just one of a constellation of institutions and individuals that worked together to push people toward conformity. Within that world government was very effective, because the cop on the beat was on the same page as the priest and the teacher and the mayor and the newspaper editor and all the neighbors.

There was still a lot of that consensus when I was growing up. If any of us kids got out of line, any nearby grownup would probably come down on us hard. Everybody agreed on the rules, so anybody could enforce them. Government was often a threat "in reserve." And it could act in a flexible non-bureaucratic ways, say by just harassing the hell out of those who overstepped the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Or think of how it used to be hard to get a divorce. This was government "pushing morality," but it was just a supplement to commonly held social and religious beliefs. So it was not "oppression," and was effective.

But we hosed that world of shared values, and it's true that government can't do much in our present situation. "You can't get there from here." (It was the leftists, socialists, who did most of the deconstruction, because the old institutions were impediments to total government control. They wanted people "atomized," so they would be dependent on the state. They still do, but now it's mostly a reflex, not a philosophy.)

I think libertarianism was mostly a reaction to the new situation, not a cause. But...

BUT, I also think libertarianism has always taken the old situation for granted, as something that would just "continue to exist." Rather like teenagers acting wild and foolish, because they feel confident that the grownups will stay sober and hold everything together. Libertarianism always seems to assume that if we legalize [insert social pathology], it won't make a big difference because most people will continue to act as they always have.

Well, I'm saying that we have tested that assumption, and it is now looking like it is false. And that the bills are coming due. And that neither Libertarianism nor Leftism has anything useful to say at this point.

The traditional rules and virtues were, I think, like a rope made of many weak strands, that twisted together became very strong. And it is easy to mock any particular strand, and say it's silly and can surely be dispensed with. And easy to mock traditionalists and moralists who predict that the loss of one strand will lead to disaster.

The disaster is now. That rope kept most people acting in certain ways. Such as getting married, working hard, having children, sticking with spouses, sacrificing for family, eschewing behaviors and pleasures that might undermine families. In much of the developed world we have cut many of the strands, and we are discovering that the assumption that people would just carry on as usual is false. In Italy or Germany the maternity hospitals are almost empty.

And we are getting some other unpleasant surprises. It's just been assumed that people will always be willing to defend their country or their civilization when they are attacked. Been assumed that it won't really matter if we cease to encourage fusty old concepts like duty and honor and patriotism and self-sacrifice, because people will still do what's needed. Now we look at places like Spain or the Netherlands, and say "Nope. Wrong."

Is there any way to go back to where we were? Probably not. But we may be able to repair some of the damage, and preserve the remnants, and evolve new forms. I don't have any great plan, but I think that wise people should be thinking about where we ought to go, and always be pushing against the currents that drive us away from it.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

What does this MEAN?

Washington Times: Russia's population is declining rapidly, with almost half of Russian families childless, a senior member of Russia's lower house of parliament has said.

Yekaterina Lakhova, chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on women's affairs, said Thursday, "Today, almost half of the country's 41 million families have no children at all," RIA Novosti reported.

Addressing parliamentary hearings on family policy, Lakhova said that 34 percent of Russian families have only one child, 15 percent have two children, and less than 3 percent have more than two children.

She added that the Russian birthrate is 1.34 children per woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.14, causing a steady decline in the population growth rate.

U.N. statistics say that at this rate Russia's population will be 101.5 million by 2050, shrinking by almost half from the over 143 million population of today.

What is this telling us? What does it mean?

This is destruction worse than the Black Death!

And what do left-leaning people say about it? I've never read any serious thoughts from them (Desperate attempts to wave it all away, yes.)

Us right-wing nuts have lots to say. And they add up to a harsh condemnation of the underlying ideas of the sort of people who read the NYT, listen to NPR, and go to "anti-war" protests. But they never respond on this level.

Do they think about it? Do they dare?

And "libertarians." What does their philosophy say? Demographic collapse in Europe seems to correlate with many things they seem to favor. Freedom, unhindered by public or government morality, to buy drugs and pornography and prostitution, to obtain divorces, contraception and abortions, to commit suicide, to live alternative "lifestyles," to mock and ridicule traditional institutions and values...These are all things that governments, perhaps closely allied with churches, have often forbidden in the past.

So libertarians have, in many developed countries, have got a lot of the things they want. (Or seem to want--I'm sure libertarians will leave comments about how misunderstand they are.) Are we better off? Isn't it time for some assessment of results?

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 AM

April 10, 2006

Nukes

This is an expansion of a comment of mine to this post which deals with the Catholic Church and nuclear weapons.. Ethan posted this in a comment:

Actually, the Catechism is a little broader than you're thinking. This from paragraph 2315:

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

I think the Church is on the wrong tack here, though it is just following "conventional wisdom." The CW in this case is so exceedingly conventional that it is almost impossible for most people to escape it. If you challenge, them they just think you are talking nonsense.

But in fact, nuclear weapons are the greatest force for peace in the world (or possibly the second-greatest, after globalization.) They have put an end to global war, to regional wars, and pretty much to war between nation states. Certainly between developed states, which could if desperate, produce nukes even if they did not have them at the start of the war.

"Far from eliminating the causes of war." But nuclear weapons, and the massive conventional armaments of the Free World do just that. The main cause of war is aggression by evil states and dictators. None of them so far have risked it. And even more important, that aggression is almost always abetted by other nations, who allow situations to develop out of sloth or complicity. The threat of nuclear war (either facing nukes or having to decide to use them) concentrates minds wonderfully.

"Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples..." Actually, just the opposite has happened. Much of the development and prosperity in our world is a by-product of the Cold War. The United States (and its allies) bustled around being "policemen" in odd corners of the world, because they feared that conflicts could escalate or spread, and because failing to check communist aggression might act like the appeasement that led to WWII. But our presence allowed nations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Chile to flourish in an environment of safety, growing their economies and developing democratic institutions.

I'm sure someone is about to leap in now and denounce our horrid bombing of Japan. But that was actually a great mercy, which brought to an immediate end a bloody war, and almost certainly saved millions of lives. America-hating leftists love to detach Hiroshima from its context, and present it as some sort of meaningless slaughter. In fact it occurred in the midst of of desperate battle, with Japan under a relentless air attack that killed far more people than the nukes did. And Japan still had several million men under arms, almost all of whom would have fought to the death if ordered. And we were preparing huge forces for the invasion of Japan, which, if the invasion of Okinawa is any indication, would have been one of the most destructive events in human history.

"Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict." I've never seen any evidence for this. And it does not make any logical sense. (I think it is a leftover from the CW after WWI, which held that the war was caused by "Merchants of Death," etc. Which is historical nonsense.) And we've seen cases where the opposite is true. America was forced into WWI precisely because we did not arm, causing Germany to calculate that unrestricted sub warfare would win the war before America could build forces big enough to make a difference. (It was a very close thing, but under-estimating the USA is always a mistake.)

And there is one other thing. I think about this often, and I've never heard anyone else mention it. The timing of the invention of the Atomic Bomb was almost strangely fortunate. A little earlier, and WWII would have been a "nuclear war." A little later, and we would not have ended that war with the terrible lesson of destruction that was Hiroshima. We might have been much less careful with nuclear weapons.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 PM

One change after another...

One of the neatest things about blogging is how it forces me to clarify my thoughts. And one thing I've discovered is that the interest that underlies most of my other interests is change. Not so much the Glenn Reynolds "Nano-machines, Life-Extension, Heh!" variety, but more what we need to do or BE to deal with change. To ride the wave and not be drowned.

We are already being flung into changes that would have been science fiction in the time of Jules Verne. Just having countries where virtually no one is poor or hungry is flabbergasting from a historical perspective. And we already see clear evidence that such change can be destructive, as witness demographic collapse and economic stagnation in Western Europe. And when you look at that, and then look at those countries that seem to be doing better, you see a couple of obvious possibilities for tools we might want to have in our societal toolkits if we are being sent in a time machine into the future...And the two big possibilities are the culture of the Anglosphere, and monotheistic religion...

This morning Charlene passed me this story, which has one of those possibilities in a context of amazing change...

....Carlos Charco bought a turban, tunic and sandals on the first day of a short mission trip three years ago in a West African country.

He wanted to blend into this Sahara Desert region, far from Mexico's Pacific coast, where he grew up. Far from the San Antonio seminary where he was studying Christian theology.

The new duds and his mestizo features — black hair and brown skin — matched those of the Arab community there. Nearly everyone assumed he was Muslim.

"It was an advantage as a missionary that I'm not white and my eyes were not blue or green," said Charco, a San Antonio pastor who's preparing — along with his wife, Viviana, of South America — to be missionaries in a Muslim country.

They are part of a rising evangelical movement of Latin-American missionaries going to areas that are the least Christianized in the world....

I remember how it was only a couple of decades ago that I was amazed to discover that American Protestants were sending missionaries to Central America, and were meeting with great success. I had just assumed that anything south of the border was a Catholic stronghold where Protestants would probably be tarred and feathered, or just laughed at. Protestants going there seemed as outlandish then as sending Christians to Muslim countries does now!

Now Latin America is sending out thousands of missionaries to other places...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 AM

April 9, 2006

Angela...

Uh, what's that you were saying? About how Bush's policies were driving away our traditional allies, and making us hated around the world? From Jim Geraghty, in the Washington Times:

....To call Mrs. Merkel a breath of fresh air is an understatement. Addressing German legislators on March 29, she shocked Berlin's staid foreign-policy establishment with a stirring address outlining a tough-minded determination to stand up for German principles abroad.

She cited the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faced the death penalty. (Rahman is now safely in Italy.) Mrs. Merkel was among those applying the most diplomatic pressure on the Afghan regime, along with officials in the United States and Italy. Mrs. Merkel declared it "appalling" and was among the first to telephone Afghan president Hamid Karzai and twist some arms diplomatically.

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Mrs. Merkel has taken a much tougher line than her predecessor. She compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler. After he threatened to wipe Israel off the map, Mrs. Merkel declared, "Iran has blatantly crossed the red line. I say it as a German chancellor. A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust, cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany."

She also denounced Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and the recent unfree, unfair elections in that country, and demonstrated much more idealism and fire in the belly on issues not related to the war on terror. She strongly defended a controversial plan to send German troops to Congo, where they are scheduled to monitor that country's parliamentary elections in June.

Perhaps most strikingly, Mrs. Merkel ripped into a widespread and disingenuous perspective among German political elites, who loudly call for thorny international crises to be referred to the United Nations, knowing that in all likelihood the United Nations will do nothing....

... And now, with Mrs. Merkel restoring good relations with Washington, the anti-American chief executives in Europe are fewer....(Thanks to
PowerLine)

And her approval ratings are at a historic high.

And let's see. She was supposed to be paralyzed because she was not elected with a real majority. But she's leading. Who else does that remind me of? Stephen Harper? You're right, but there's someone else. Bush, in 2001. He was supposedly going to be ineffective, because he didn't have an electoral mandate. How wrong we were. He started leading from his first day in office, and began accomplishing things almost immediately.

The first month of the Bush Administration was, politically speaking, the high point of my life. From near-despair to bliss in a week or two! To see similar things happening in other countries is deeply satisfactory. (Is there any long-term hope for Germany? I remain mostly skeptical. But maybe I've moved from 100% skeptical to 98%.)

And of course there's a reason why Bush or Harper or Merkel can make bricks without straw. They are drawing upon traditional values and strengths that do not grow old or tired. The leftist programs of welfare and appeasement squander the social and moral capital built up in more virtuous times, and then slowly fizzle into torpor and nihilism.

I'm not likely to be less skeptical about Germany any time soon, because I suspect that the deep source of strength that underlies Western Civilization is faith in God, and I have heard of no signs of a resurgence of that in Germany.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM

April 3, 2006

We are all cheek-by-jowl now...we are "juxtaposed"

Glenn Reynolds posted this, from one of his readers, Fred Butzen:

You write, "... you can understand people who would support a full-hearted war being unwilling to support a half-hearted one."

That is half correct. Large numbers of paleo-conservatives (e.g., W. F. Buckley) would be much happier with a Kissingeresque put-in-a-strongman-and-nail-down-the-lid strategy for the Middle East. They want no war at all.

What the paleos don't understand is that since 1989, the world has changed utterly. Societies that are in juxtaposition influence each other and, sooner or later, arrive at an equilibrium; with the advent of globalization and the Internet, all societies now are juxtaposed. Bush grasps what so many of his critics on the right miss: either we will make them more like us, or inevitably they will make us more like them.

Iraq is the first step on a long road to making them more like us. It may be too little, it may be too late; but it's a strategy, which is more than the isolationists of the left or right are offering...

Juxtaposed is the right word. Ignoring what goes on on the other side of the globe doesn't work any more. The world has become too small. We are all cheek-by-jowl now. It would be possible for some Mullah in Iran to read these words and e-mail a fatwah in my direction in a matter of a minute or two. (Sigh. I don't think anyone will ever take me that seriously.)

The world has changed, from what it was when I was young. And while it is obvious that liberals are hapless and clueless about it, the same can be said about a lot of conservatives. "Paleo-conservatives" is a good term. They have a mental picture of what is "normal," and all they want is to go back to that place.

Doesn't work any more. Normal is gone. What conservative principles and writings and traditions should be, is a toolkit for dealing with abnormal situations. Which is all we are going to get from here on out. "We have heard the mermaidens singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 AM

March 27, 2006

Good stuff...

OpinionJournal has an exactly-right editorial...

The Bush Doctrine is Alive and Well. 3/26/06

The publication earlier this month of the Bush Administration's National Security Strategy was greeted with a combination of media indifference and contempt. "Bush clings to pre-emptive force," was one news agency's sum-up of the 49-page document.
They sneer because they have noting positive to offer themselves...Just their "taste-buds," which don't like the flavor of anything Bush
Readers of these columns might prefer to draw their own conclusions by actually reading it: www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006. What they'll find is a strategy that's admirably specific and, in the issues that matter most, broadly right.

This is especially important at a time when countries such as Iran, Syria and Egypt are betting that the Administration's domestic political weakness and its troubles in Iraq will see them safely through the 2008 election and what they hope will be a more pliant U.S. foreign policy...
"Pliant" = Democrat.
...The document may now give those regimes second thoughts. Crucially, it reaffirms the Administration's first-term support of pre-emption: "When the consequences of an attack with [weapons of mass destruction] are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."
OBVIOUSLY true. But lefties hate it, because the corollary is that we believe in our country and our civilization enough to defend them...

We'll take that to mean that the Bush Doctrine remains alive and well, despite persistent reports that it had been quietly shelved in favor of...well, no one has yet made clear what. Critics of the doctrine have argued that America's intelligence failure and difficulties in Iraq demonstrate the perils of pre-emption. Yet it is precisely because U.S. policy makers will never have perfect information about the capabilities and intentions of our enemies that pre-emption is sometimes needed, particularly when the threats are potentially catastrophic.
Doesn't Bush understand that the correct response to potentially catastrophic threats is appeasement? Or fruitless negotiations and THEN appeasement?
What distinguishes this document, however, is the emphasis it places on "effective democracy": that is, nations in which the institutions of democracy--regular and honest elections; representative and accountable government--serve as the armature of basic political, religious and economic freedoms.
Well, we can see that.
Critics have questioned whether promoting democracy really advances U.S. security interests, pointing to the recent victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections. But leaving aside that the former government of Yasser Arafat was no less bloody-minded, the objections fail to appreciate the ways in which effective democracies tend to counteract the very factors that gave rise to Hamas in the first place: Political participation takes the place of exclusion; the free flow of information and a marketplace of ideas replace "sub-cultures of conspiracy and misinformation," and so on.
No policy looks good if you set the goal-posts to: "perfection by next Wednesday." I predict that pressure from voters will push Hamas towards a more reasonable position---and that none of the critics will notice or accept this as evidence that Bush is right. They will just focus on the next problem.
None of this guarantees that elections will inevitably lead to liberal outcomes. And, yes, there are times and places (Pakistan now) where the diplomatic prod to democracy has to be measured against the help a government is providing against a more urgent enemy (al Qaeda). But the evidence of the past century is that elections usually produce more long-run stability, and they merit a try in the Middle East.
They don't want it even to be tried--it might work...
Equally useful is the strategy's clear-eyed account of the connection between the nature of a regime and its behavior. "Governments that honor their citizens' dignity and desire for freedom tend to uphold responsible conduct toward other nations," the document notes, "while governments that brutalize their people also threaten the peace and stability of other nations."
But they gain the love of leftists and pacifists, and the French...
This is directly relevant to Iran, whose nuclear ambitions are mainly a function of the ideological obsessions of its rulers--and not, as is sometimes argued, of Iran's objective national interests. This means the threat Iran poses is unlikely to change as long as the regime remains the same: The "ultimate goal" of U.S. policy, therefore, is rightly an Iran which "[opens] up its political system and [affords] freedom to its people.
Regime Change is the goal of the Iranian people as much as us.
How this is done is another matter, and nobody is now arguing for changing the regime in Tehran the way it was changed in Baghdad. But we are heartened that the strategy begins with the declaration that "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture" (our emphasis). This puts us in mind of U.S. support for Russian refuseniks in the 1970s, Poland's Solidarity movement in the 1980s, and Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq in the 1990s--all of which have analogs in modern-day Iran.

There is a great deal more in this document that deserves attention, notably the effort to retool the State Department into an engine of "transformational diplomacy," and not, as it usually is, the defender of every given status quo...
Great idea. Hard to do though, transforming a Democrat stronghold into anything that's going to be enthusiastic about democracy.
,,,Best of all is the line that "though tyranny has few advocates, it needs more adversaries." One critique of the President's push for democracy is the idea that the U.S. should not too visibly support the world's democratic dissidents and movements, lest they be tainted by American associations.
"Tainted by American associations." Gee, I wonder who thinks that anything associated with America is "tainted?"
But we suspect that champions of liberty in places such as Egypt, Iran and China take greater courage from an America that states its purposes boldly than one that fears its own shadow. Since when did the love of liberty become the love that dare not speak its name?
Damn good question. OF COURSE champions of liberty take courage when we are strong in their support. Prisoners in the Soviet gulag passed word of Reagan's "evil empire" speech from hand to hand on scraps of paper. It's only lefty slime worms who want us to hang our heads and feel unworthy and reject our traditions of liberty....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

March 15, 2006

Level the playing field...

I e-mailed the previous post to Secretary of State Rice, and suggested that maybe we had better start worrying about future economic and social competition from the Islamic world. She replied that she and the President are way ahead of me on this, and that they have already taken steps to hobble their future growth, and give them the same handicaps we suffer from.

And its TRUE! Look at this, from an article about Condi's trip to Indonesia:

...She also suggested that the United States is sometimes misunderstood, and she stressed "how much the United States respects people who are of Islamic faith."

Before the news conference, Rice visited an Islamic school, where she announced an $8.5 million grant to develop a version of "Sesame Street" for Indonesia...

That'll fix them...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 AM

March 14, 2006

Calvinistic?

This fascinates me:

....It's an enormous success story for a man whose own father had been a carpet weaver, eking out a living in a traditional artisan economy.

Yet Mr Arsalan is not alone.

His native city is full of prospering entrepreneurs like him who are turning this former merchant trading town into a booming manufacturing hub.

Kayseri is one of a handful of cities industrialising at an astonishing rate in Anatolia, Turkey's central province and the country's Islamic heartland. Unlike the big urban centres of Ankara and Istanbul, the population is made up of devout, conservative Muslims.

Restaurants rarely serve alcohol, unmarried men and women don't mix on the streets, and there is little in the way of nightlife. Yet the new entrepreneurialism sweeping across the province is providing an unlikely catalyst for a remarkable religious transformation.

A new form of Turkish Islam is emerging here, one which is pro-business and pro-free market, and it's being called Islamic Calvinism...
(Thanks to O. Judd)

So, maybe sell our Europe Fund, and buy the Turkish Fund, if there is such a thing? If there isn't now, there probably will be soon enough.

This sure doesn't fit a certain sort of stereotype, does it? And while Weber's famous theory was that Calvinism and Protestantism caused the economic predominance of Northern Europe, that is by no means generally accepted. Another possibility is that is was the other way around; that the factors that caused economic growth also led to Protestantism. I recall that Jim Bennett in The Anglosphere Challenge argued that it was the rise of a High Trust Culture in N. Europe that led to the desire for a reformed Christianity...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:33 PM

March 11, 2006

Danger or opportunity...

I was writing a response to Scott's comment here, but it turned into something I wanted to post...He mentioned Michelle Malkin.

What's suddenly struck me is how cold she is. I don't remember that she's ever posted anything frivolous and warm-hearted.

I think this issue of Dubai Ports World buying P&O has been very interesting for what it's shown us about people. Very revealing. There are many fault-lines that do not correspond with party lines.

Cold hearts and warm hearts, optimists and pessimists, stasists and dynamists, internationalists versus pull-up-the-drawbridge...

Plus there are the alternatives of seeing the GWOT as a "clash of civilizations," or seeing it as winning friends and helping the oppressed. Or seeing it as either offensive or defensive. Or seeing the world as scary and strange, versus seeing it as fascinating and attractive. Danger or opportunity.

And seeing places like Iran and Iraq as hellish and opaque, or seeing them as future vacation spots once a few short-term problems are fixed! I know where I stand—if we had any money Charlene and I would be on the next plane to Kurdistan or Afghanistan...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:11 PM

March 8, 2006

"It is not top-down but bottom-up"

My son sent me a link to a good article on India...

....India's growth is messy, chaotic and largely unplanned. It is not top-down but bottom-up. It is happening not because of the government, but largely despite it. India does not have Beijing and Shanghai's gleaming infrastructure, and it does not have a government that rolls out the red carpet for foreign investment—no government in democratic India would have those kinds of powers anyway. But it has vast and growing numbers of entrepreneurs who want to make money. And somehow they find a way to do it, overcoming the obstacles, bypassing the bureaucracy. "The government sleeps at night and the economy grows," says Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter Gamble in India.

There are some who argue that India's path has distinct advantages. MIT's Yasheng Huang points out that India's companies use their capital far more efficiently than China's; they benchmark to global standards and are better managed than Chinese firms. Despite being much poorer than China, India has produced dozens of world-class companies like Infosys, Ranbaxy and Reliance. Huang attributes this difference to the fact that India has a real and deep private sector (unlike China's many state-owned and state-funded companies), a clean, well-regulated financial system and the sturdy rule of law. Another example: every year Japan awards the coveted Deming Prizes for managerial innovation, and over the last four years, they have been awarded more often to Indian companies than to firms from any other country, including Japan....
....Americans also find India understandable. They are puzzled and disturbed by impenetrable decision-making elites like the Chinese Politburo or the Iranian Council of Guardians. A quarrelsome democracy that keeps moving backward, forward and sideways—that they know.....

....Most countries have relationships that are almost exclusively between governments. Think of the links between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which exist among a few dozen high officials and have never really gone beyond that. But sometimes bonds develop not merely between states but between societies. Twice before the United States had developed a relationship with a country that was strategic but also much more—with Britain and later with Israel. In both cases, the resulting ties were broad and deep, going well beyond government officials and diplomatic negotiations. The two countries knew each other, understood each other and as a result became natural and almost permanent partners. America has the opportunity to forge such a relationship with India.....

Fascinating stuff. And that bit about India winning the Deming prize more often than any other country is amazing. See also this post by Jim Bennett:

As to where India stands with the Anglosphere, well, that's a work in progress. The key issue at this point is the rate at which English fluency and Anglosphere-linked jobs (IT and call-center) penetrate below the traditional English-speaking elites of India. That appears to be happening at a fast, maybe even exponential rate. At some point before too long (probably between 2015 and 2020) India will have more home users of English than the US; not much longer afterwards, there could be more home users of English in India than the rest of the Anglosphere combined. This (especially given the cheapness of electronic publishing and dissemination) will mean that the bulk of English-language media will be produced in India. (If Bollywood learns how to appeal to US audiences, which it eventually will, that will also be true of visual media as well.) That means that not only will the Anglosphere change India, but India will change the Anglosphere.

Not many people are thinking about what this really means. They should be. Bush's trip to India, and the deal made there today, may end up being the single most consequential act of the Bush presidency.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:36 PM

February 28, 2006

Sukuks

A friend e-mails, concerning the ports controversy:

Anyway, something that's bugged me in Michelle Malkin's posts on this has been her hang-up on the "sukuk." For example, in this post she says, "The supporters of, and retreaters on, the deal are also silent about the unprecedented, Islamic law-compliant funding scheme that allowed state-owned Dubai Ports World to force its more experienced rival to drop its bid for P&O. (The underwriters of Dubai Ports World's $3.5 billion Islamic financing instrument called a "sukuk" --Barclay's and Dubai Islamic Bank--were both cited as probable conduits for bin Laden money.)" Now, regarding Barclay and the Dubai Islamic Bank, I don't know anything - I doubt they're a shady operation devoted to bringing down the global economy and turning the world into an agrarian Caliphate, but I can't say for sure. But she portrays the sukuk as though it's some creeping sharia scheme or some such, which is just nonsense. In fact, I think the financing the best part of the whole deal.

Observant Muslims are not permitted to loan money at interest, and aren't supposed to borrow money at interest either. That can make buying a home problematic. There are different ways to get around this - for instance, in my city there's an Islamic Co-op—you put down a down payment, and the co-op buys the house. Then you pay down the loan interest free—however, you also pay them rent on whatever proportion of that home they own. As you pay down the loan, the less of your monthly payment that goes to rent, and the more that goes to pay down the loan.

Now, I'm sorry, but I think it's just a linguistic game - it's just putting a different name on interest. Which is fine - they see this as rent and as being acceptable, and I certainly don't begrudge them that. It's a solid investment for members of the co-op, returning 5%-7%, helping their community, every borrower is also an investor - it's exactly the kind of help-yourself thing we encourage in America.

But the point is, investment options are hard to find for the diligent Muslim. One person I know works at Fidelity, and he can't invest in any of the products his company sells, because all of the funds and companies are investing money in interest-bearing vehicles somewhere along the line. He's said scholars agree that as long as no more than X% of the returns (5%, 8%, something like that) are from interest, that it's alright, as long as it also avoids liquor, pornography, gambling, etc. There are specific Halal mutual funds, but the options are pretty scarce.

Michelle posts that Dubai has started its own stock exchange, and that this $3.5B sukuk is its crown jewel - here's a Halal investment, backed by this amazingly solid, safe asset - leases on US and other international ports. If you're observant and need to park a couple million dollars in something safe, and bonds are forbidden, and treasury bills and money market funds are out of the question, and suddenly this opportunity comes along - hell, this is a god-send.

So here's $3.5B, which is publicly traded - it's owned by investors large and small all across the Muslim world. I saw someone say that the UAE has 3.5 billion reasons to keep our ports safe and secure. But the larger point is that these 3.5 billion reasons will be shared across the middle and upper classes of the entire Islamic world. The sukuk makes these assets more valuable to a Muslim than they are to anyone else, simply because it now serves a market that it couldn't before.

Sukuk's are apparently becoming an important investment instrument in the world. That's good. We should encourage the Moslem world to buy more of America, and to think of us as an asset! Also, there's no Moslem "Vatican" to make the rules, so opinions on what's halal vary from one place to another. here's a piece on the Dubai sukuk financing the P&O purchase.

Keep in mind that Christianity also used to forbid usury, that is, loaning money to other Christians at interest. And these prohibitions probably arose for good reasons. In earlier eras money lending was often very destructive. In Low-Trust cultures you get very high interest rates and terrible punishments for default, often slavery. It tended to be what we call mafia loan-sharking.

Credit is necessary, and Christians got around the prohibition in various ways, just as Moslems do now. (Having Jews do the lending turned out to be a bad way around the problem, and led to much anti-Semitism.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:17 PM

February 16, 2006

sui generis

We've been hearing lots of generalizations lately about what Islam is, and what Islam believes, etc. I think they are as much the bunk as similar generalizations about Christians would be. You never hear them from people who are actually dealing with Moslems--they always write about character of the people in the local town or tribe or ethnic group.

Blogger Dennis the Peasant is an advisor to the Somali Community Association of Ohio, which represents about 30,000 Somali refugees in central Ohio. He's started a series of posts about his adventures working with them. They are certainly some odd ducks, but don't resemble any Moslem stereotypes I've ever heard...

The latest post is about an election the association held in 2002. Their first election, and the first election of any kind for most of them.

....Happily, as the campaign season progressed, the atmosphere seemed to grow less tense, if not more relaxed. That isn’t to say the intensity of the electioneering diminished. It didn’t. But as the weeks passed and the Somalis saw that the candidates were actually soliciting their votes, that there were no spies, that there were no goons or killings or bombs, it began to dawn on them that this was really going to happen... they were really going to have a voice. And once they began to believe, the anger, distrust and suspicion turned to excitement. It was an amazing transformation to watch....

- - - - - - - - - - -

...For whatever reason, Somalis (or at least the Somalis I have dealt with) consider a closed door to be an invitation to come in unannounced and find if who or what they’re looking for happens to be around. It took a while for me to get used to people barging into whatever room I happened to be in when I was at the Association, but by the time this young Somali man, whom I had never seen before, came barreling through the door, I was used to it enough that I wasn’t really taken by surprise.

“Hello,” I said.

He was a young man, in his 20s, and quite handsome. He was tall and slender, but well built. An athlete. He didn’t respond to my greeting. He just stood there with the most amazing look on his face – a combination of excitement, exuberance and, quite frankly, what appeared to be rapture – and his eyes were as bright as a man’s could be.

He stared at me for a moment, smiled a huge smile and said, “We’re having an election!”

That was it. He turned around and was gone, slamming the door behind him.

I have not seen him since....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:04 PM

February 7, 2006

Things that only exist in the doing of them.....

Commenters criticized me in the last post, although in fact they were missing the point I was trying to make--I can see now that it wasn't a very clear post.

I wrote some replies, and then I turned the replies into a new post, and then tossed that out because it didn't catch what I meant, and then I realized I was only then starting to figure out what it was I actually meant...(How's that for convoluted.)

I think what I'm trying to say, about the cartoon contretemps, is that I feel like someone who's been out repairing a road for a few years (actually of course just blogging from the comfort of home about the guys repairing a road, but after a while the borders between blog and reality begin to blur)...Anyway, there I am, day after day, out in the sun or the rainy drizzle, filling potholes and clearing ditches and cleaning up trash.

And then some dapper fellow with clean hands pops up out of nowhere, mounts a soapbox, and declares that Smooth Roads are a Fundamental Human Right! And we must have a Dramatic Protest, that will attack the Evils of Potholes and Scourge the Wicked and Exalt the Righteous and carry us all into the Promised Land of Smoothness. And how can I justify wasting my time creeping across the dirt when such a noble cause demands the full attention of all who treasure our Ancient Right to Smooth Roads!

Me, I think human rights (and a lot of other things, government, religion, love, families) are things you DO. They don't really exist except in the simple doing of them.

Right now we are being bombarded with declarations about The Right of Free Speech. But American and Coalition forces have been DOING free speech since not long after 9/11. Taking despotic lands where there is no free speech, and helping them learn how the thing actually works. And George Bush and Condi Rice have been leaning on a slew of countries, using our power and piston to push them towards more freedom. That's DOING free speech, and it's messy and slow and not very glamorous. (And bloggers are doing free speech, day-by-day in a thousand little deeds, some in places where you can go to prison for it.)

And now the cartoon thing appears (and it may end up being a good thing for free speech, and for Europe, and I sincerely wish them well). But there's unlimited quantities of hot air being expelled, by people who don't even SEE or CARE about the road menders and the patient work that been going on for years making the way smooth. That stuff is too boring and unglamorous and mucky. Not fun.

And they don't SEE that their protest may shake things up usefully, (or make things much worse) but the reality of free speech will only come through hard work on the details, through learning and teaching, through a thousand little struggles patiently fought when the goal seems impossibly distant, and there's no fun or glamour.

I DO NOT LIKE this whole cartoon-publishing campaign (and again, I wish them well and hope it helps) because it's all about ME ME ME. Venting and posturing and making big declarations and patting each other in the back. And having FUN. Sorry, not my style.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

February 2, 2006

All you need to know...

AP: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday offered a grim assessment of Kosovo's progress toward stability, saying in a report that the region had fallen behind in efforts to create a multiethnic and democratic society.

Annan's report to the U.N. Security Council said there had been little headway in efforts to achieve a series of benchmarks including the rights of minorities, ending corruption and the return of refugees.

Why? Hmmm? Because...

...The United Nations has administered Kosovo since NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia...(Thanks to Bill)

That's alll you need to know. Kosovo is probably doomed. And what group. by the way, has been under the tutelage of the UN longer than any other? Clues: They are really Jordanians or Egyptians, but they've cobbled together a phony "nationality" that starts with a "P." Thy are beloved of Jew-haters everywhere, for their important work as proxy Jew-killers. They've just used the democratic process to toss out a terrorist rulling party in favor of a new terrorist ruling party...

If you support the United nations, you are supporting evil.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:24 PM

I just. don't. believe. this...

From the Sidney Morning Herald:

Police are staggered by the amount of money gullible Australians are losing to Nigerian investment scammers.

The long-running internet-based rort has netted more than $7 million from Queenslanders alone, and the loss Australia-wide is likely to be far higher, police say.

Among those being duped are financial advisers, lawyers and university professors, and one person had put $2.2 million into the hands of scammers over the past two years.

Inspector Brian Hay, from the Queensland Police Service Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, said yesterday he would anticipate the trend being replicated across the country.

"This is not geographically bound by state borders - this would be everywhere," Insp Hay said.

Of the 26 Queensland victims contacted by police over the past two months 25 had lost their funds....(Thanks to
Tim Blair)

Is the same thing as those spam e-mails I get, purporting to be from some deposed Nigerian leader wanting help transferring funds? Or is there some other "Nigerian" scam I don't know about? It can't be the same thing; the article says "investment scammers," so presumably it is about investing in something, not helping ex-general Obokubambo's widow with money transfers.

Ah ha! I just didn't read far enough:

...Lured by the promise of a percentage of secret oil venture investments or government contracts with guaranteed high returns, scam victims are asked for money to bribe local officials and secure lucrative contracts...

Well, of course. if someone offers you a chance to get in a secret oil venture, you'd be a fool to pass up the chance...I guess this could be considered a form of foreign aid.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

February 1, 2006

"undiluted marxist terms"

Peter Burnett writes, after quoting an article about yet another lying history textbook ("...Students learning about the colonisation of Australia are given a black and white portrait, so to speak. Black is good. White is bad..."):

It is fascinating to watch how quickly so-called progressive efforts to separate historical fact from myth in the name of “objective truth” descend simply into a self-abasing and uncritical embrace of other peoples' myths. Even many modern conservatives seem to have great difficulty in seeing two thousand years of Judeo-Christian tradition in other than undiluted marxist terms–-one big cruel social exploitation and mind control program.

The leftist addiction to West-bashing stems in part from the fact that, in order to deflect us from confronting directly the spiritual barrenness and material oppressions of the brave new world they promise us, they must inflame and shame constantly by convincing us we are in the grip of organic tyrannies and exploitations that our unprincipled ancestors wrought for cruel and selfish reasons and which cannot be thrown off until we disown our pasts completely. Whatever is actually going on the world (or whatever was), these folks spend 24/7 marching at Selma, confronting absentee landlords or acting as Galileo's defense lawyer.

Were our students protected from their anti-intellectual indoctrination and taught an honest history, particularly an honest 20th century history, the leftist project might be as authoritative and popular as social credit.

I notice that Natalie Solent is posting various back-and-forths of a debate over whether science or religion has done more harm in the world. Of course it's an impossible question to determine, because much of what gets credited to science is actually engineering, or economic progress using existing technology in new and more efficient ways. And until recent centuries religion was intermingled with everything else, and so, for instance, a king's "white-collar" staff was his chancellery (chapel), staffed by clerks (clerics). And his chief minister might be a bishop.

But what's really interesting about her debate is that, at least by my hasty reading, it is couched wholly in secular terms. Saving souls from sin and damnation earns no points. Giving meaning to life earns no points. If science prolongs lives, that's a plus. But if the secular-rationalism that is often considered (somewhat mistakenly, I think) as "science" renders those lives less worth living, less sweet, less beautiful, that's excluded from the argument. And if, as some of us are rather inclined to suspect, the decline of Christianity and Judaism in Europe is causally linked to the ongoing European demographic collapse, then "science" may be helping to obliterate a large chunk of Western Civilization, without that being factored into the debate...

And it usually doesn't get mentioned in this sort of discussion, but science itself is a faith. It rests on the assumption that the natural world it studies is "real." Is not a dream or an illusion. But science cannot ever prove that this is so.

But it looks like Natalie's debate is grounded on the assumption that science is known to be true, and religion is presumed to be false. (If the debate were held more the a few hundred years ago, the assumptions might have been just the opposite.)

In fact science can't "prove" anything, not only because it's underlying faith can't be tested, but also because the method of investigation it uses, called Induction, never proves anything. Induction collects evidence, and generalizes. but there is always the possibility of finding more evidence, or finding that the evidence is some sort of illusion.

We all accept, in a common-sensical way, that when Dr Johnson kicked the rock, and felt pain in his toe, he proved that the rock exists, and gave us a useful bit of data. But he didn't. And the great rigor and prestige of science, and its many successes, have led us to the common-sense position that what Johnson felt was real, but when a person says he "feels the Holy Spirit," this data should be discarded as "unscientific." Maybe so, but using science in that way is not science, it's what you might call science-ism.

I suspect that what Prof. Grayling (whose writings started the debate) is really up to is not a search for truth, but something like what that textbook Burnett was discussing was up to. Religion (which is almost extinct in Britain anyway) must be attacked and demonized to draw attention away from the "spiritual barrenness and material oppressions" of the world people like him have created.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 AM

January 28, 2006

Lonesome unilateralist cowpoke blues...

...So instead of the tides of anti-Americanism we were promised when we "went it alone" in Iraq our allies in Britain, Australia, and Japan won historic re-elections, our foes in Canada and Germany fell, the French and Kofi Annan have become virtual sock puppets, and so on and so forth. What was that Osama said about the strong horse and the weak horse?
--Orrin Judd

Ol' bing Laden got that one right. "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." Of course the poor booby probably though HE was the strong one, not George W Bush.

My guess and hope is that the good guys are just getting warmed up. it's reasonable to suppose that the swing of the pendulum will not fizzle out in a handful of years, after it spent at least a century swinging the other way, in the direction of socialism and secularism and nihilism. And, attractive as those ism's are, it's noticeable that they don't seem to renew themselves.

Young people repeatedly discover that the ideas of America's founders are still fresh and inspiring. Not many could say the same thing about Marx or Engels or Freud. And many people have said that Christian churches should cast off their dusty medieval notions and "get with it," "become relevant," blah blah blah, or face extinction. But just the opposite seems to be true. It's the churches who have resisted the pendulum's leftward swing that are filled with people, especially young people. (Charlene and I have found a good one.) I haven't heard of any growth in the Episcopal Church, despite gay Bishops and far-left politics and flirtation with every fad known to urban life.

Can the pendulum swing back far enough? I don't even have a guess.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:59 PM

January 25, 2006

dipping our voting fingers in maple syrup and waving them at the UN observers...

Mark Steyn (Thanks to Mrs P):

....For Tories, it was a good night, if not a great night. But, given that the party was reduced to two seats in the 1993 debacle, after 12 years in the wilderness most Canadian conservatives will take a strong minority government as a spectacular landslide. We'd be dipping our voting fingers in maple syrup and triumphantly waving them at the UN observers if they hadn't all fallen asleep 20 minutes into the thrilling election-night coverage...

...As the Liberals warned Canadians - or, rather, shrieked at them - Stephen Harper will take away "a woman's right to choose"! The unwanted boys you'll be forced to have will grow up to be Bush cannon fodder in Iraq, and the unwanted girls will be sold as white slaves for Halliburton corporate cocktail parties round the pool at Dick Cheney's ranch.

Well, that's certainly why I voted Conservative, but it's hard to believe many of my fellow Canadians (and even my fellow Quebecers) felt the same way. South of the border, Michael Moore wasn't the only one shocked by Liberal attack ads painting Scary Stephen as a Bush-loving neocon warmonger who'll slash and gut Canada's lavish social programs. For the past two weeks, American radio hosts have been asking me, with drooling anticipation: "Wow! Tell us about this great guy, Stephen Harper!"

And then I'd take a deep breath and try to explain that, no, he's not Canada's Thatcher or Reagan. But, with a bit of luck, he might be Canada's John Howard....

One hopes he will be like Bush, who just took off running even though his disputed election seemed to indicate that he should hang his head and only embrace modest goals. Ha ha! I hear that Harper is already talking of tax cuts. Good start.

And James Bennett has good Anglospheric advice (Thanks to Glenn):

Harper's win in Canada is welcome news to the entire Anglosphere. This is not so much on account of what Harper may do, although there are some interesting possibilites, but at a minimum for what he will not do: ride anti-Americanism as his substitute for an honest patriotism. The fundamental problem with the Liberals is that ever since Trudeau deconstructued the basis of historical Canadian patriotism, the Liberals have not been able to construct an adequate substitute. They are almost embarassed to love the real, historical Canada, (they are too busy apologizing for it) unless that sentiment can somehow be tied into America-bashing. Dudes, get a life -- and while you're at it, get a national narrative that consist of something else besides "I'm not them."....

Leftists HATE the study of history--for a whole bunch of reasons it's poison for them. It was a typical move for the Liberals to downgrade all pride in Canadian history and accomplishments. One is supposed to be proud of being modern, internationalist, atheist, "European," and pacifist. The human heart is not satisfied with that crap, and so Harper has a big opportunity, even if he can't get any legislation passed.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

January 19, 2006

All the same except different...

Here's a web site that explains the relationship of Hindi, Hindustani and Urdu, which have long confused me...

....Then, about seven centuries ago, the dialects of Hindi spoken in the region of Delhi began to undergo a linguistic change. In the villages, these dialects continued to be spoken much as they had been for centuries. But around Delhi and other urban areas, under the influence of the Persian-speaking Sultans and their military administration, a new dialect began to emerge which would be called Urdu. While Urdu retained the fundamental grammar and basic vocabulary of its Hindi parent dialects, it adopted the Persian writing system, "Nastaliq" and many additional Persian vocabulary words. Indeed, the great poet Amir Khusro (1253-1325) contributed to the early development of Urdu by writing poems with alternating lines of Persian and Hindi dialect written in Persian script.

What began humbly as a hodge-podge language spoken by the Indian recruits in the camps of the Sultan's army, by the Eighteenth Century had developed into a sophisticated, poetic language.

It is important to note that over the centuries, Urdu continued to develop side by side with the original Hindi dialects, and many poets have written comfortably in both. Thus the distinction between Hindi and Urdu was chiefly a question of style. A poet could draw upon Urdu's lexical richness to create an aura of elegant sophistication, or could use the simple rustic vocabulary of dialect Hindi to evoke the folk life of the village. Somewhere in the middle lay the day to day language spoken by the great majority of people. This day to day language was often referred to by the all-encompassing term "Hindustani."

Because day to day Hindustani was essentially a widespread Indian lingua franca not associated with any particular region or class, it was chosen as the basis for modern Hindi, the national language of India. Modern Hindi is essentially Hindustani with a lexicon of Sanskrit-derived vocabulary in preference to the Persian borrowings of literary Urdu. Likewise, Hindustani in its Urdu form was adopted by Pakistan as a national language because Urdu is not tied to any of the regions comprising modern Pakistan....

Fascinating how the languages seem to be defined by poets...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 AM

January 8, 2006

Revealing reaction...

There's been lots of people commenting on Mark Steyn's piece on the decline of Europe and its ongoing demographic collapse. But Scott Chaffin pointed out one reaction that seems really weird, from Thomas PM Barnett, author of The Pentagon's New Map:

...Wow! Somebody get a lynching party together. We better hang some of them dark-skinned pagans before they start screwing our women! You there–start having some babies for Der Fatherland!...

I think Barnett is one of the smartest guys around, with a lot of good thoughts. He's right many things, especially on how the world works as a whole, and where it's going. But he's a liberal.

He's not a ranting left-winger, and he's a supporter of the WoT, which is why this comment seems odd. (Well actually it is literally insane; it doesn't even vaguely connect with what Steyn is writing.) But it's also very revealing, just because there aren't a lot of liberals supporting the war, and no others (that I know of) supporting it as part of a thought-out plan for transforming the world for the better. Barnett's spent a couple of decades as a thinker on military matters and foreign affairs. His perspective is especially valuable to a conservative like myself, because there aren't many liberals thinking clearly about, well... anything.

But I've been watching him for a while now, and it seems to me that, because he's a liberal, there are certain places he just can't go. In particular, he looks at nations exactly like liberals look at a community of individuals. To liberals, it is forbidden to say or think that people of some groups or ethnicities are more able than other people, either culturally or genetically. You mustn't say, or think, that individuals from certain minority groups are not doing as well as others because they lack a culture that values education and hard work and family values, or even more verboten, because their IQ scores are lower. Any differences must be attributed to outside forces.

Barnett views nations and major ethnic groups the same way. For instance he puts a lot of emphasis on the flows of information that characterize those parts of the world that are flourishing (The Functioning Core, in his lingo. The poor and dysfunctional parts of the globe are The Gap). But Barnett always assumes that if a country is opened up to those "flows," and if certain other problems are solved, then that place will tend to flourish just like the others, and move into the Core. He never suggests that some group might fail to prosper despite advantages because their culture is dysfunctional.

(Actually some of the world's worst violence occurs where one ethnic group within a country works harder and smarter and gets rich, and arouses other groups to punitive violence. Think Nigeria, or Sri Lanka, or "Palestine." Think Jews in many lands. And, leaving aside the question of actual genetics, it is clear that some cultures have deep-rooted traits in their 'genes" that lead to success or failure. Just look at the different fates of former British colonies and former French or Spanish colonies...)

But Barnett never goes there. And especially, he can't go where Steyn is leading, to the conclusion that Europe is circling the drain. Barnett's writings always assume that the EU is roughly equivalent to the US, and that they could be equal partners in the world's affairs if only they wanted to, if only we did a better job of drawing them in.

Barnett's hysterical reaction (...Those frickin' Muslims are breeding like rabbits and infiltrating us like crazy. Europe will be lost within a short historical timeframe. Hell, it may be too far gone already. Like Corn, Steyn pushes for an aggressive sort of re-education campaign, where, apparently, we outdo the House of Saud in brainwashing...) is exactly like the reaction you would get if you suggested that certain minority groups are not represented at elite colleges in sufficient numbers because they are lazier or less intelligent than others. Screams of racism. Virulent attacks on you, and accusations that you are advocating euthanasia or "ethnic cleansing" or "white supremacy," even if you never mentioned those things.

Steyn's point is not that Muslims are breeding too much, but that Europeans are NOT breeding. Spain's birthrate is such that its population is going to halve every generation! That's a fact. And Steyn never mentions any "re-education campaign," or suggests any sort of remedy. That's purely Barnett's fantasy. And I think these are fantasies invented because seriously considering or debating these questions would endanger his liberal worldview...He literally can't go there.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:16 AM

January 6, 2006

"a swift and brutal assassination"

Iain Murray writes, in The Corner:

....While new Tory leader David Cameron's rush to the political center has alarmed genuine Conservatives, it has attracted vast numbers of voters away from the Liberal Democrats, the polls show. Kennedy failed noticeably to respond to the challenge. If anyone drove the knife into Kennedy's back, it wasn't his former Press Secretary, nor the 11 frontbench spokesmen who signed a letter indicating their unhappiness, it was David Cameron. He appears to have pushed the Liberal Democrats off the precipice.

The Liberal Democrats look destined for a period of internecine strife as they try to decide whether they are a free-market Liberal party or a statist Left party. Support will almost certainly wither away as the paper of Kennedy's leadership is stripped away and the cracks he allowed to grow are revealed.

It is therefore quite possible that a return to two-party politics is imminent in the UK. Ironically, this should make the distinctions between the parties easier to grasp. Without having to worry about tactical voting, the parties will not have to spend time campaigning for a nebuolus "center ground," but will probably instead be able to target their message more precisely. In that respect, British politics may become more like American. If Cameron has acheived that by a swift and brutal assassination of the Liberal Democrats as a credible electoral force, he deserves praise...

I confess I have mostly been ignoring British politics in recent years. But Cameron is starting to seem interesting, and his willingness to support Labour policies that he feels are right, rather than being merely "oppositional," is refreshing to an American.

I have yet in my life to hear any reason for the existence of the Liberal Democrats, so if he's got rid of them, I'm in favor.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 PM

January 4, 2006

Civilizations die from suicide...

Mark Steyn's piece in OpinionJournal today is a must-read...

...Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off...

...That's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence. As a famous Arnold Toynbee quote puts it: "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder"--as can be seen throughout much of "the Western world" right now. The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb...

...When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is. "Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans.

As fertility shrivels, societies get older--and Japan and much of Europe are set to get older than any functioning societies have ever been. And we know what comes after old age....

There's a lot more, and I don't have much time to comment (and adding comments to Steyn is a bit presumptuous). But one thing that becomes ever clearer is that my instincts were right, and in spending decades as a grumpy right-winger I've been on the right track--"The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 AM

December 30, 2005

Pacifism Kills, part 42

Christopher Hitchins is scathing in this piece on Darfur. The genocide is effectively over---because most of the blacks are dead.

But hey, we did all the things that the "realists" and pacifists and appeasers and "moderates" wanted! Negotiations, sanctions, diplomacy, multi-lateralism, the UN...and of course, very important: "allow the inspectors more time."

It would have been perfectly feasible for us to intervene...but probably not politically possible, due to the savage and unscrupulous partisan attacks that hinder everything the administration does. Hitch writes:

...Any critique of realism has to begin with a sober assessment of the horrors of peace. Everybody now wishes, or at least says they wish, that we had not made ourselves complicit spectators in Rwanda. But what if it had been decided to take action? Only one member state of the U.N. Security Council would have had the capacity to act with speed to deploy pre-emptive force (and that would have been very necessary, given the weight of the French state, and the French veto, on the side of the genocidaires). It is a certainty that at some stage, American troops would have had to open fire on the "Hutu Power" mobs and militias, actually killing people and very probably getting killed in return. Body bags would have been involved. It is not an absolute certainty that all detained members of those militias would have been treated with unfailing tenderness. It is probable that some of the military contractors would have overcharged, and that some locals would have engaged in profiteering and even in tribal politics....

"The horrors of peace." That puts it perfectly. The leftist/pacifist crowd has enabled yet another genocide. Another Rawanda. They get to carve another notch on their pistols. Funny how it's always somebody else who does the suffering and dying so peaceniks get to feel morally superior and get to have clean consciences untouched by the evils of war.

The Bush and Blair administrations were clearly interested, and if encouraged would probably have intervened. I think Bush should have just gone ahead and done it. If he had made the case forcefully to the American people, they would have supported him. And he should have kicked the Democrat-murderers and pacifist-murderers in the teeth, and told them to do their worst.

(Thanks to Mary Madigan, who has lots more worth reading.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:18 PM

November 27, 2005

Words of hope on the Internet Railroad...

Tienchi Liao writes in the NY Daily News W's message will inspire millions of Chinese thanks to an Internet underground railroad,

...The police indeed had a stressful time, because they needed as many helping hands as possible in order to produce a pleasant atmosphere in Beijing for President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. All disturbing elements had to be eliminated before the arrival of the guests. The protesters, the dissidents and the active members of the democratic movement had to be kept either under house arrest or sent out of town. The renowned dissident writer Liu Xiaobo saw his connections to the outside world cut off before and after Bush's visit. He had no phone connection and no Internet access until the presidential couple had left the capital. However, Liu did not begrudge the U.S. President these inconveniences. "No, I do not complain; I am thankful that President Bush visited China," said Liu. "He urged the Chinese leaders to grant more freedom to the Chinese people in his Kyoto speech. He went to a church in Beijing. Bush has not abandoned us, even though the authoritarian regime greeted him with 150 Boeing contracts."

Bush's visit has prompted, in some small way, freedom of speech for the Chinese. The President's remarks encouraging human rights have been disseminated to students and others by the country's intellectuals, who are able to bypass the government's Internet blocks. These leaders, among the 80 million to 100 million Web users, are tapping into the U.S. State Department's site to pass along Bush's remarks urging freedom and democracy.

Neither China's elite nor its common people care how many billions of dollars in contracts have been signed by the two countries. They now know that George Bush has spoken on behalf of their rights and their views. They are not angry that they suffered a temporary loss of freedom because of Bush's visit. They hope to gain lasting freedom, which Bush has pleaded for on their behalf.

I suspect that we will look back on this time much as we look back now at another much-hated cowboy, Ronald Reagan, and remember how his words and actions helped end the Evil Empire.

But words alone can't accomplish anything important. Anyone can demand human rights for some oppressed group, but so what? Who's likely to listen? Reagan earned the right to be heard by using his political capital to rebuild our military, to start SDI, to deploy Pershing missiles in Europe, to bomb Libya. Each of these was the result of a bitter messy political brawl, in which Reagan held firm, and won. They were bellicose actions that led to peaceful change.

Today, President Bush has earned the right to speak for people oppressed under communist regimes. Earned it by standing firm for freedom despite the attacks of terrorists and their leftist allies...

And the possibility of peaceful change is now much greater due to the credibility we have earned. If the "pacifists" and peaceniks were not politicized frauds, they would laud these possibilities and not try to undercut them.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 AM

November 9, 2005

another reporter, another story...

Very interesting, Patrick Belton of Oxblog reports from les banlieus.

...Most residents of the cités where I spent the day behaved in a way that's quite familiar from housing projects across the world; they queued to pick up their playing children from school, they dropped off teenagers by car in the late evening, and a handful of them engaged in the time-honoured pursuit of sitting about outside with a cigarette or two trying their best to look ominous. Talk to them, and to admit selection bias I haven't yet caught up with anyone with a sledgehammer, and they express intense fury at the rioters, who they feel will quite neatly worsen the lot of the banlieu residents and people of north African descent, playing perfectly into the worst suspicions held about them and mitigating any chance for improving their lot...

How does that fit in with everything else we've been hearing? With the other reporters who have visited the same areas, and wished they were back in safe Beruit or Baghdad? Beats me.

One thought; it doesn't take many guys to torch a thousand cars, if they are moving fast on motorcycles and have the technique down. So flames rising everywhere it may look like, but doesn't necessarily mean a mass uprising. And if we don't see any police wading into the riots and cracking heads, it may be that riot is the wrong word here.

Which may explain the curious (to an American) lack of looting, and, it must be said, deaths. And the seeming lack of response by the French government, which might be due to the lack of anything very tangible to respond to. It may be that these "riots" do not quite fit any of our existing categories.

Who knows, maybe France will surprise us, and respond with fresh thinking and real reforms, and not like the neo-Stalinist slow-motion-train-wreck that it seems to be. Now that would make my day! Or decade.

* Update: Dave Trowbridge sends me a link to a similar story...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:08 AM

November 8, 2005

Sweeter yet...in fact, Awesome

You should check out the Rumsfeld interview with Spiegal. It's all worth reading, but this bit is priceless...

SPIEGEL: ...and nuclear ambitions...

Rumsfeld: That's apparently what France, Germany, the UK and the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded. Everyone wants to have the Iranians as part of the world community, but they aren't yet. Therefore there's less predictability and more danger.

SPIEGEL:
The US is trying to make the case in the United Nations Security Council.

Rumsfeld: I would not say that. I thought France, Germany and the UK were working on that problem.

SPIEGEL: What kind of sanctions are we talking about?

Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. I thought you, and the U.K. and France were.

SPIEGEL: You aren't?

Rumsfeld: I'm not talking about sanctions. You've got the lead. Well, lead!

SPIEGEL: You mean the Europeans.

Rumsfeld: Sure. My Goodness, Iran is your neighbour. We don't have to do everything!.
(Thanks to
David's medienkritik)..

"You've got the lead. Well, lead!" Can you just imagine how many German "leaders" choked on their kaffekuchen when they read that one? Ha ha ha. How I admire the man. What fun.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 PM

October 28, 2005

Effective alternaives do NOT exist...

Wretchard writes, in a post on the prodigious corruption that resulted from the Iraq sanctions regime:

...The fundamental argument against international military action is the supposition that effective alternatives exist to contain rogue states and tyrants. But what if it does not? The Volcker Report essentially describes the history of the decade-long diplomatic battle to proscribe the movements of Saddam Hussein following the Gulf War. It is an account of the unmitigated defeat of the "international community" at the hands of Saddam; not only a defeat but a rout and a surrender. And although the surrender had already taken place, the world was told categorically by the capitulators themselves that they were fighting and winning the good fight against the forces of lawlessness. The problem with September 11 was not that it happened, but that it happened where it could not be ignored; this fact was the virtual third aircraft that crashed into Manhattan that day, striking somewhere in the vicinity of Turtle Bay...

It is possible the most important long-term result of the War on Terror will be the discrediting of the "International Community," the UN, and "International Law." (There are, of course, real international laws which we have voluntarily entered into by vote of the Senate. I'm referring here to the sort that grow in the dark like mushrooms upon beds of leftish manure, and then are simply "declared" to exist whenever another string is needed to tie down the American Gulliver.)

The key point of the Bush Doctrine is that sovereignty rests on democratic legitimacy. The obvious application is to tyrants who seize control of a country, support terrorist attacks, and then say, "Nyah nyah, can't touch me. Treaty of Westphalia, ha ha ha." (And then all the lefty loons pretending to be "peace activists" echo: "Nyah nyah nyah, can't touch our guy Saddam. He's in the safe-box.") BUT, the same objection could be made to the "International Community." And will be.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:27 AM

October 19, 2005

"We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves"

"America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves -- safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for a better life." ---President Bush's West Point Speech
Our friend Andrew commented on my post Men of Munich:
If guilt-by-doing-nothing-to-stop-it (call it Burkean guilt) is a new standard you wish to employ, we must blame the Conservatives and the Republican party for Milosevic’s tyrannical reign. Let’s not forget that Humanitarian intervention was a hallmark of the Clinton years, and has not been one of the Bush years...

In point of fact the “Bush Doctrine” you mention has nothing at all to do with humanitarianism, it’s one of preemptive warfare. We can debate the rightness or wrongness of that doctrine and that principle, but let us never forget what it is. The Bush Doctrine is one which explicitly puts American interests first, and any humanitarian considerations are merely incidental...
As for "guilt-by-doing-nothing-to-stop-it," I said that the whole world is complicit--in lots of things. The normal habit throughout history has been to ignore problems "elsewhere." And the modern trend has been, gradually and painfully, to start getting involved in various ways in helping others. This movement is not the preserve of any one faction, and you can point to good and bad in both parties. (However, there are no Republicans who would, if they could push a magic button, put Milosovic back in power. And there are a ton of lefties who seemingly WOULD undo the campaign to liberate Iraq if they could.)

BUT, far from having nothing to do with humanitarianism, the Bush Doctrine is the second-most important humanitarian project of our times, because it links the privileges of sovereignty with democratic legitimacy. And democracy is the best guarantor of human rights, and the best way to lift people out of the stagnant swamps that require humanitarian aid. The Bush Doctrine in effect says that the days when the world will tolerate tyranny are numbered. And that, in the long run will have far more humanitarian effect than a trillion food parcels dropped from helicopters.
And putting America's interests first is the third-most important humanitarian project we can support. Why? Because America's strength is the greatest hope for world freedom and prosperity, and because even our "selfish" interventions in the world are almost invariably accompanied by humanitarian and freedom-promoting efforts of a size and efficacy no other nation or group can match. And because we are the best teachers of democracy and capitalism (as witness the dismal results of putting the UN and Europeans in charge of democracy in the former Yugoslavia) and our people teach by example and encouragement even when their mission is not explicitly for that purpose. And because our selfish interests are in fact exactly the things that the world needs. Peace, profits, increasing trade, increasing freedom, scientific progress--all are things that help America and also help everybody else.

And the fourth-most important component of effective humanitarianism today is [sorry Dems, but I'll have some compliments for you at the end of this essay] keeping Republicans in power in Washington. That is because the Republican Party has become the main home of idealists and dreamers who hope to transform the world for the better. One Republican faction you've heard about are the "neocons," who are passionate Wilsonians, and press always for the spreading of democracy. But even more important are the "theocons," whose idealism is religious-based--they are especially important because they are in charge. Bush and Rice are in this group. And the "Hamiltonians" who press for increased trade and the interests of business will probably do the most good of all. The Dem's increasing hostility to free-trade should by itself disqualify them from office.

In recent decades Republicans have been much more effective at promoting democracy and freedom. For instance the Reagan and Bush1 administrations were stunningly successful, not just in the humanitarian triumph (in the long run) of bringing down the Soviet Union, but also in supporting the cause of democracy in Latin America and the Philippines, which went from regions characterized by dictators to areas where dictators are rare. (I bet Andrew doesn't hear any of that in his classes.) and while Mr Clinton deserves credit for intervention in Yugoslavia, his achievements are dwarfed by the liberation of 50 million people from tyrannies far worse then Milosovic's, and by the stunning recent elections we have seen. And by the many peaceful pro-democracy revolutions we are now seeing around the globe.

You are probably wondering why I started with second-most important, and forgot to list the most important humanitarian project of our times. Fuzzy-headed of me. The most important item is capitalism, because all the other good things come on the heels of prosperity. It's only when people reach a certain level of personal prosperity that they even start to think of helping others, and sharing some of their own with the needy. And more importantly, even better than humanitarian help is having people become secure enough that they don't even need help. Which is becoming true now for much of the world, with the world's percentage of non-poor growing steadily. Many places that used to feature famines now worry because their people are earning too much, and low-wage jobs are fleeing elsewhere! India is now a place that gives foreign aid to other countries! Astonishing, and it's the result of their beginning to dump socialist economics in favor of free enterprise, capitalism. While the prodigious amounts of "aid" India used to receive probably made its poverty worse, by propping-up failed socialist policies.

By the way, if we zoom our historical viewer out a bit, to see all of the 20th Century, then perhaps the key contribution to humanitariansm to be seen was accomplished by DEMOCRATS! This was the invention of nuclear weapons. The result was the immediate end of global wars, and also of all wars between Great Powers. The resultant spread of peace to much of the globe is the basis of the prosperity we now hope to extend to other places. And the unfortunate Cold War had the very positive side-effect of forcing the US to become the Global Cop, which sheltered the growth of Globalization and widespread capitalism. Actually, we are probably now at the end of wars between nation states. The conflicts that still happen are all within countries, and pretty much only within failed nations.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:38 PM

October 12, 2005

Hell Hole of the Third World...

I wonder if any of the fraudulent bozos who wept fraudulent tears over abu Ghraib, and wrote 10,000 news stories about it, give any attention to this?

.....Describing them as "dungeons", he said: "It is incredible that people are imprisoned in such conditions, without ventilation and without natural light. I have never seen a worse prison." Mr Gil-Robles, 60, an academic lawyer and Spain's former national ombudsman, spent 16 days in France last month inspecting prisons, detention centres and mental hospitals.

In a meeting last week with Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, he said he was astonished that such "squalid and inhumane conditions" should exist at the Palais de Justice, the vast complex that houses the supreme court of appeal and criminal courts.

The palais is situated on the beautiful L'île de la Cité, a few hundred yards from Notre Dame cathedral. But in its "dépôt", human rights organisations have uncovered evidence of prisoners, mainly illegal immigrants, going without food, drink and lavatory paper as they huddle together for warmth. There have been numerous violent attacks and cases of detainees mutilating themselves and smearing their blood on the walls.

"You are drowned in the middle of all of those excluded from society and also the mad and the ill," said 55-year-old Farouk, a former prisoner....[
link]

Of course not. Only America and Israel are bad guys. And this isn't the first time I've read of brutal conditions for prisoners in France. Truth is, if you are arrested as a terror suspect, you should BEG to be sent to Gitmo, and not turned over to some Third World country like France. Or BEG to be sent to abu Ghraib (as it now is, not as it was under Saddam, of course).

Ooops, I forgot. There is that little matter of hundreds of prisoners having been killed or maimed at abu Ghraib. But those killings are OK! There's nothing wrong with them, because they are done by the "Freedom Fighters" (who have attacked the prison frequently with mortars and rockets). And if you are naive and think there's something wrong with this slaughter, just ask your neighborhood "pacifist" or "anti-war" activist. They will set you straight.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:10 PM

October 2, 2005

Some up, some down...

This is a time of many changes, and it's fascinating to watch how people react. One of the changes is the apparent decline of nations that were in the top tier when I was young. Germany, France--all of Western Europe really--are moribund, and incapable of doing anything positive on the world stage. At the same time other countries are on the rise.

I would love to be able to peer into the minds of all those who have been complaining that the Bush Administration is "neglecting and alienating our allies." I suspect that a lot of what motivates them is deep fear of change.

What the administration is really doing is cultivating tomorrow's allies, and allowing the no-longer-useful ones to slip into senescence or opposition without pulling us with them.

Number one on the list of new allies is India. Growing in wealth and military power, democratic, inheritor of many Anglosphere values and strengths, positioned perfectly in the midst of the the most important regions of the War on Terror, India is the friend we most need to cultivate

US and Indian troops vollyball
Anupam Nath / AP Photo. U.S. and Indian soldiers play volleyball
during a break from training during a joint exercise at the Indian
military's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in
Vairengte, India, on Sunday, 9/25/05
From Army Times Frontline Photos

Times of India:...India's largest-ever naval exercise with any country will kick off on Sunday when Indian and American aircraft carriers, destroyers, guided-missile frigates, fighter and surveillance aircraft undertake combat manoeuvres in the north-west Arabian Sea.

The sheer scale of this 10-day Indo-US exercise, "Malabar-05", can be gauged from the fact that it will involve almost 10,000 officers and sailors from the two nations.

"This will be the first time that aircraft carriers and fighters from the two navies will exercise together. It will be our largest exercise with a foreign Navy to build interoperability," said assistant chief of naval staff (information warfare and operations) Rear Admiral D K Joshi...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:14 PM

August 18, 2005

Intense times...

One of the people on my blogroll is Rinat, whose life I've been following with interest for 3 or 4 years now. Rinat's Brazilian, and emigrated to Israel. She's a journalist, and is in Gaza right now covering the evacuations...

...I guess that by now we can already say that most families have been evacuated fromm the biggest settlement in Gaza. The tension we felt yesterday, when settlers and policemen really confronted in the streets disappeared. Today people's feelings just came out. No violence, but some shouting and many many tears. I admit I myself cried. I guess it's the result of four days under 40C, almost no sleep, no food and lots of pressure. Tons of pressure. Went to the south of the settlement, where hundreds sat down in the street and started singing and praying. For a moment, I just lost control. I am a human being, sorry. When I heard the so typical zionist songs like "Eli, Eli" from Rachel, my eyes flooded. Sat down, drank water, calmed down. Everything under control. Passed. Not that easy to administrate our emotions here. Carried on my job. Talked to people. The hostile attitude's been broken and the sadness have found its place in the settlers' hearts.

People struggled when the policemen came to put them into the buses. Resistance. But a desperate one, not violent. The most amazing thing was the policemen and soldiers solidarity. They sat inside the settlers under the boiling sun held their hands, sang with them. People've been trying desperately to remember that altough they don't agree in what concerns disengagement and politics, they are still one people. The jewish people that can't be torn. Don't really know what goes on in the other settlements as it's hard to have a global vision of the situation when you're on the field...
Posted by John Weidner at 6:22 PM

August 15, 2005

Searching everywhere except in the mirror....

I had wondered briefly at the popularity of Jared Diamond's books, then shrugged at the asininity of popular taste, and didn't exercise my brain cells any further. Now Spengler explains, and I slap my forehead and say, "of course!"

...Why should the peculiar circumstances that killed obscure populations in remote places make a geography professor's book into a bestseller? Evidently the topic of mass extinction commands the attention of the reading public, although the reading public wants to look for the causes of mass extinction in all but the most obvious place, which is the mirror. Diamond's books appeal to an educated, secular readership, that is, precisely the sort of people who have one child or none at all. If you have fewer than two children, and most of the people you know have fewer than two children, Holmesian deductive powers are not required to foresee your eventual demise.

After rejecting revealed religion, modern people seek an sense of exaltation in nature, which is to say that they revered the old natural religion. If you do not believe in God, quipped G K Chesterton, you will believe in anything. It is too fearful to contemplate one's own mortality, so the Green projects his own presentiment of death onto the natural world. Fear for the destruction of the natural world - trees, whales, polar ice-caps, tigers, whatever - substitutes for the death-anxiety of the individual...

...In fact, the main reason societies fail is that they choose not to live. That is a horrifying thought to absorb, and the average reader would much rather delve into the details of obscure ecosystems of the past than reflect upon why half of Eastern Europe will die out by mid-century.

Suicide is a rare occurrence at the individual level, but a typical one at the level of nations...(Thanks to
Orrin)

And blue states....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:04 AM

August 14, 2005

Leaps of faith...

A friend sent me a link to this NYT Magazine piece on Muslims in Europe, An Islamic Alienation by David Reiff.

I found it an interesting effort, but a futile one. The author seems to be too much a part of the world of leftish multiculturalism to stand outside and effectively criticize.

This is his concluding paragraph...

...Figuring out how to prevent Europe's multicultural reality from becoming a war of all against all is the challenge that confronts the Continent. It makes all of Europe's other problems, from the economy to the euro to the sclerosis of social democracy, seem trivial by comparison. Unfortunately, unlike those challenges, this one is existential and urgent and has no obvious answer.

Wrong. All these problems are really the same problem. Europe has lost its faith. Its Christian faith, its Jewish faith, its faith in its own civilization, and in the future. Immigrants don't assimilate because there's now nothing to assimilate to. Their economies are stagnant because the missing entrepreneurial spirit is a kind of faith, a faith that is willing to sacrifice present comforts to build dream-like futures. Its democracies are sclerotic because real leadership is a form of faith, a willingness to take perilous paths of change or reform without knowing exactly how things will turn out. Europe's multiculturalism is a fig leaf to hide its lack of belief in anything. Its pacifism is a lie to cover the unwillingness to fight for anything.

Our leaders, and I in my small way as a voter and blogger, can send our troops into battle because we can see, can feel the future, and because we can cherish it and know that it can be good. And we can do that because we believe in what we are ourselves, and in our past, and can imagine future generations sharing what we have. We read of Washington and his men on their desperate march to the attack at Trenton, and they are us. Our faith is unbroken. We still believe that we can fight evil, and accomplish miracles. At least enough of us still do to elect leaders who are willing to call on us to take leaps of faith...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 PM

August 12, 2005

Menu doesn't include Mu Shu Pork...

My son sent me the link to this very interesting NYT story on the only real Chinese restaurant in Iraq. It's fascinating how the Chinese spread everywhere, and open restaurants everywhere.

..."I wanted to open the best Chinese restaurant ever in Iraq," Mr. Chen said, adding that he imported four containers of powders, sauces, roots, pickled vegetables and other Chinese culinary supplies - enough to keep his 400-seat restaurant serving kung pao chicken for three or four years.

As Baghdad tried to return to normal, his business thrived.

Then, the trouble began. A group of Chinese workers were kidnapped amid the wave of abductions and beheadings that swept Iraq in 2004. They were eventually released, but two of his four chefs went back to China. Selling liquor at the restaurants also became increasingly dangerous as Shiites and Sunnis both sought to impose Islamic rules....

Mr Chen has been forced to close his restaurant, though he still sells take-out. But I guess he will be back in business when conditions improve. Just one more reason, out of millions, why the liberation of Iraq from socialist tyranny is a noble cause, and why we must not let the appeasers back in power here.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:37 PM

July 7, 2005

"Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason..."

Don't miss this interview with Kenyan economist James Shikwati, For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid! An amazing blast of good sense...

....SPIEGEL: If the World Food Program didn't do anything, the people would starve.

Shikwati: I don't think so. In such a case, the Kenyans, for a change, would be forced to initiate trade relations with Uganda or Tanzania, and buy their food there. This type of trade is vital for Africa. It would force us to improve our own infrastructure, while making national borders -- drawn by the Europeans by the way -- more permeable. It would also force us to establish laws favoring market economy.

SPIEGEL: Would Africa actually be able to solve these problems on its own?

Shikwati: Of course. Hunger should not be a problem in most of the countries south of the Sahara. In addition, there are vast natural resources: oil, gold, diamonds. Africa is always only portrayed as a continent of suffering, but most figures are vastly exaggerated. In the industrial nations, there's a sense that Africa would go under without development aid. But believe me, Africa existed before you Europeans came along. And we didn't do all that poorly either.

SPIEGEL: But AIDS didn't exist at that time.

Shikwati: If one were to believe all the horrorifying reports, then all Kenyans should actually be dead by now. But now, tests are being carried out everywhere, and it turns out that the figures were vastly exaggerated. It's not three million Kenyans that are infected. All of the sudden, it's only about one million. Malaria is just as much of a problem, but people rarely talk about that.

SPIEGEL: And why's that?

Shikwati: AIDS is big business, maybe Africa's biggest business. There's nothing else that can generate as much aid money as shocking figures on AIDS. AIDS is a political disease here, and we should be very skeptical.

SPIEGEL: The Americans and Europeans have frozen funds previously pledged to Kenya. The country is too corrupt, they say.

Shikwati: I am afraid, though, that the money will still be transfered before long. After all, it has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason. It makes no sense whatsoever that directly after the new Kenyan government was elected -- a leadership change that ended the dictatorship of Daniel arap Mois -- the faucets were suddenly opened and streams of money poured into the country....

Unfortunately, that "urge to do good," like most welfare systems, is mostly about feeling good, and feeling like a superior being who gets to help the inferiors. The real design is keeping the poor in dependency, so the donor can continue to feel superior indefinitely.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:17 AM

July 6, 2005

Chalcedon...

Instapunk has a long post for Canada Day, contrasting Canada and the US...Poor poor Canadians. It must be hard to have much of a self-image when foreigners don't consider you worth loathing...

...Does all of this tell us anything about ourselves? I believe so. But for the miraculous wisdom and courage of our founding fathers, the United States might be just like Canada, with a population of 30 million enervated Europeans, an incompetent socialist government, a social and cultural history lacking in brilliance or innovation, and a role in world politics as irascible pawn of the United Kingdom. Indeed, we might be several such nations, 7 to 10 million strong (or weak), quibbling and sniping and sneering at one another from sea to shining sea. Look at Canada with fresh eyes. It's what we could easily have settled for, a passive mediocrity destined to be a footnote in the history of man. Thank God for the road we took instead, and the giants who built that road so long ago...

I would go along with John Adams, who thought the US was "independent" before 1776, that the change happened inside us, and the Revolution merely confirmed it. And I think Canada was a sleepy backwater then and destined to stay that way. Immigrants by the millions were pouring into our ports because this is where it was happening! (To use a 60's metaphor.) I would not want to underrate the courage and wisdom of the founders, which was extraordinary by any measure. (Including the hatred of contemporary academic "historians," whose unflagging efforts to denigrate them testify to their greatness.) BUT, every "golden age" is seen to arise out of a time of vigorous commercial growth and military pride. It's was the growing strength and wealth of America that called forth those great men. And still brings them forward to lead the empire today...

Even if our armies had been crushed by the British, American growth would have continued. Even at the height of Britain's military commitment, they could only cover small parts of the 13 colonies. And even during the Revolution, our population was growing, and settlers, the Scotch-Irish especially, were trickling westward over a hundred different trails, creating new and very democratic communities, defeating savages, clearing land, and creating a culture new to the earth. British armies in New York or Charleston would only have irritated Americans to a fury, and made a future revolution inevitable.

Canada is like that Greek town founded on the opposite shore from Byzantium. Canada is Chalcedon.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:52 AM

June 30, 2005

A friend writes: Sometimes

A friend writes:

Sometimes you have to wonder what planet the French ruling class is from. And this government is supposedly center-right! Here is an excerpt from today’s Financial Times concerning the new PM’s attitude toward the slap in the face his government got last month from the French electorate over the European constitution–the same slap that got his predecessor fired.

A month after becoming prime minister, Mr de Villepin suggests European governments can best respond to the crisis caused by the French and Dutch rejection of the European constitutional treaty by presenting a united front to deal with the challenges of globalisation.

"Either we give ourselves the resources to build this new political Europe
or we resign ourselves to making our continent a vast free-trade area, governed by the rules of competition. Everyone must put an end to this ambiguity through action. We need ambitious projects," he says.

God only knows what these ambitious projects might be. An economic Maginot Line perhaps.

The "rules of competition." Mon Dieu!

Posted by John Weidner at 11:01 PM

June 28, 2005

"There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies..."

I said in the comments in a recent post, that THE QUESTION, what may be THE big question that our world faces, is, 'Why is Europe dying?" It's much on my mind....

Mark Steyn, as always funny and serious at the same time, writes:

....It seemed faintly unbecoming for a Daily Telegraph columnist to protest about how much action he's getting, but, had I run into Mr Roberts in the Cheltenham singles bar, I would have endeavoured to explain that what's at issue is not which of us is getting more and better casual sex but whether it's an appropriate organising principle for society. Or at any rate whether a cult of non-procreative self-gratification is, as the eco-crazies like to say, "sustainable".

I was reminded of our Gloucestershire lad by some remarks Frank Field made at a Centre for Policy Studies seminar last week. The subject under debate was poverty and social disintegration, and pondering the collapse of civility in modern Britain Mr Field gave seven reasons. Number One, he said, was the decline of religion.

At that point, many Britons will simply have tuned out for the remaining six, and the more disapproving ones will be speculating darkly on whether, like yours truly and other uptight squares, he has "casual sex" issues. Religion is all but irrelevant to public discussion in the United Kingdom, and you'd have to search hard for an Anglican churchman prepared to argue in public, as Mr Field does, that material poverty derives from moral poverty.

But the point is: he's not wrong. There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies. And, if one casts around the world today, one notices the two powers with the worst prospects are the ones most advanced in their post-religiosity. Russia will never recover from seven decades of Communism: its sickly menfolk have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis; its population shrinks by 100 every hour, and by 0.4 per cent every year, a rate certain to escalate as the smarter folks figure it's better to emigrate than get sucked down in the demographic death spiral.....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

June 20, 2005

good words for the French....

I was sceptical when Andrew Cory said nice things about the French medical system, in a comment here. But perhaps he was right. Natalie Solent has this to say:

...Some of John Weidner's commenters mention the French system. Although it slightly spoils my free-market rant to say so, I must say that when my husband bashed his leg on holiday we were extremely impressed by the kindness and efficiency we saw. The doctor, who came out to the roadside where my husband was sitting unable to walk, refused payment. Not worth his while to do the paperwork, or just a nice guy? I don't know. Actually he was an exceptionally nice guy whatever. The hospital was clean and relatively uncrowded. Waiting time for an X-ray: twenty minutes. (Waiting time in Blighty for an X-ray of my daughter's broken arm: six hours. She had to go without food and water for all that time in case they had to operate.) After our return to England were billed by the French hospital for about £30. To be that low the fee must be heavily subsidised, but I suggest that the fact that there is some fee does great good. I paid it with gratitude.

I shall think some kindly thoughts about the French.

I'm reminded of the time I had a kidney stone, which is very painful. I took good care for granted, but was surprised by the kindly solicitude of the two emergency room docs. Turns out they had both had kidney stones themselves. They felt my pain!

* Update: Actually, I often think kindly thoughts about the French. Unfortunately, usually in the past tense. As a dweller among history books, I've absorbed the old American view of France as a wise and charming uncle. A recent book I enjoyed, by the way, was Lamy of Santa Fe, about the French missionary who went to New Mexico in the 1840's, eventually becoming Archbishop of a vast wild frontier realm, recruiting scores of French priests and nuns and Christian Brothers to aid him. It was Lamy that Willa Cather portrayed in fictional form in her splendid book Death Comes For the Archbishop.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 AM

June 7, 2005

kids straight off the plane...

Nice story from Jay Manifold:

Early evening, St Patrick's Day. Science Night at Della Lamb Elementary in downtown KC: seven spoken languages amongst the student body; at least a third of the kids are straight off the plane from some of the deepest hellholes on Earth (refugee camps in Somalia, Sudan, etc), still learning to use plumbing and electricity....

....I found the Moon. It took a while. Magnification was maybe 30x; the disk subtended about half the field of view. A fat crescent with some Earthshine and high-relief features in the Southern Highlands and along the coastlines of Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquillitatis.

An African girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, steps up. Swathed from head to foot in some kind of robe, which is just as well, because it's not warm and there's a strong breeze. I think how strange this environment must seem to her, and wonder how many family members she has lost, and how many people have died before her eyes. She is utterly silent. I point to the eyepiece, and she leans in for a look.

Three seconds later she has leaned back, eyes wide, looking directly into mine -- and grinning from ear to ear, brilliant white teeth gleaming in the darkness. She gazes at me, and then, instead of stepping away, she leans over for another, longer look. Only then does she leap away to find a friend and share the wonder. It occurs to me that some members of the next generation of scientists may have unlikely origins....

x

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

May 31, 2005

Just in case you were listening to those...

...charmin' folks who say our efforts in the War On Terror are just waste and warmongering, here's teetering domino #38:

CSM: Democracy gains in Ethiopia, a key US ally in terror war
Initial results Monday show opposition parties have won at least 174 seats, up from 12.

(Thanks to OJ)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:16 AM

April 17, 2005

There is no elephant in this room. It's invisible. And it isn't really here...

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on the growing democracy movements in the Middle East. The article is also PREPOSTEROUS in the way it tries desperately to pretend that what's happening has nothing to do with a certain George W. Bush. (Thanks to PowerLine)

Of course the fact that people can talk openly of democracy in places like Egypt or Lebanon has everything to do with various tyrants being very nervous about President Bush's next move, and being unwilling to crack down on protesters lest Condi frown at them. She's playing the "good cop" right now in the classic fashion: "You gotta give me something, or I don't think I can restrain Officer Neocon from beating you up."

And the need for spin by the WaPo is obvious. The Post and the rest of the Gasping Media did everything in their power to prevent all this from happening. They've used every dirty trick they had to keep appeasers and "realists" in power, and to undermine their own county in time of war, and to convince people that our campaign in Iraq was mere folly and waste...

They were clearly on the side of the bad guys, and are now scurrying to bring out a revised edition of reality.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 AM

April 8, 2005

every possibility covered...

BBC: The French government has destroyed 162,000 copies of the EU constitution because the phrase "incoherent text" was printed on a page by mistake...

...A new, expunged version of the full 232-page text is being printed...

Glenn Reynolds says "Heh." But what amazes me is that last sentence. There are, you know, countries in the world that have done this constitution business successfully. already. In fact, come to think, my own country hasn't done too badly in that regard.

And you would imagine that the EU would have consulted with countries that have constitutions and asked them what works. "Hey guys, you got any hot tips on how to write a constitution???"

Ha. That obviously didn't happen. Even the most Europhile American would blink at 233 pages!! You can buy our constitution as a little pamphlet you can tuck in your shirt pocket. See, a constitution is supposed to be a general framework, and then voters elect legislators whose job is to fill in the details. Perhaps that seemed too chancy to someone....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 AM

April 2, 2005

Farewells

Pope John Paul II with President Reagan...The truth is that Whitman's wild picture, or what he thought was a wild picture, is in fact a very old and orthodox picture. There are, as a matter of fact, any number of old pictures in which whole crowds are crowned with haloes, to indicate that they have all attained Beatitude. But for Catholics it is a fundamental dogma of the Faith that all human beings, without any exception whatever, were specially made, were shaped and pointed like shining arrows, for the end of hitting the mark of Beatitude. It is true that the shafts are feathered with free will, and therefore throw the shadow of all the tragic possibilities of free will; and that the Church (having also been aware for ages of that darker side of truth, which the new sceptics have just discovered) does also draw attention to the darkness of that potential tragedy. But that does not make any difference to the gloriousness of the potential glory. In one aspect it is even a part of it; since the freedom is itself a glory...

-- GK Chesterton, from Is Humanism a Religion?



Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

March 23, 2005

I'm too polite to say "I told you so"

But I said this would happen....

LA Times...The new cooperation between Bush and Chirac and the almost daily contact that U.S. and French officials have maintained during the crisis contrasted with the bitter rift that emerged between the two countries over Iraq two years ago.

In crafting a policy on Lebanon, the Bush administration has adopted a more measured approach, departing from the more rigid style that characterized its diplomacy during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

As a result, the U.S. has enlisted more allies in its campaign to free Lebanon of Damascus' grip. It has also shown greater flexibility as it grapples with the task of how best to strengthen Lebanon's democratic process once Syrian forces are gone.

Foreign diplomats and many U.S. critics of Bush's handling of foreign affairs have praised his actions during the crisis in Lebanon that followed the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri...

Of course they spin it as "a chastened US has learned it's lesson and now goes back to diplomacy." But it is precisely because we were willing to fight in Iraq that we now have the luxury of settling problems peacefully (with a bit of luck) by diplomacy. For how many decades has diplomacy failed utterly to change things in Lebanon? Now suddenly it seems to be working....

Colin Powell had the chance to be the greatest diplomat since Metternich. But he blew it, and now Condalezza Rice will win the prizes. Which is only fair, since she gave whole-hearted support to the President when the going was tough, and the appeasers and weaklings were demanding retreat.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:13 AM

March 11, 2005

On the list of the world's most repressive regimes...

Claudia Rosett has a splendid piece about a phone conversation she had with Nguyen Dan Que, a dissident in Vietnam, who has spent much of his life in prison...

..It is important for the world to understand that in saying such things, Dr., Que knows all too well the risk he is taking. Back in 1975, as Saigon fell, he had a chance to leave--and turned it down. Even today, he says, "For me, exile is not freedom." Instead, for more than 30 years he has seized every chance to speak out and demand liberty for his country. For that, under Vietnam's communist regime, he has paid dearly--spending more than 20 years in labor camps and prisons. Released on two previous occasions, due to international pressure, Dr. Que seized the chance each time to again demand freedom for Vietnam's people. Twice, the regime jailed him again, most recently in March 2003--an outrage that was swamped at the time by the flood of news from Iraq, as the U.S.-led coalition went in to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

And though it is cause for immediate rejoicing that Dr. Que has been released, it is not yet a sign that Vietnam's brutal regime is easing up. "It's likely that I was just transferred from a smaller prison to a bigger one," he says. His release looks more like a matter of hostage politics, as Hanoi's regime haggles with Washington over Vietnam's recent designation by the U.S. as a "country of particular concern" for being what Human Rights Watch calls "one of the worst violators of religious rights in the word." Vietnam also makes Freedom House's short list of the world's most repressive regimes. The prisons of Vietnam are infamous for torture, beatings and filthy conditions. Dr. Que notes that after his latest bout in which he was imprisoned incommunicado for two years, he is "tired out....

"infamous for torture, beatings and filthy conditions..." This is the lovely regime that people like John Kerry, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and all the 60's radicals and war-protesters helped give the world. Millions murdered, millions imprisoned, millions fled as refugees, millions crushed under poverty and brutal tyranny. And yet....for the "anti-war generation" life goes merrily on. I guess my thought-processes are just too out-of-the-mainstream, but I don't understand why those people aren't spat upon as they walk down the street. Yet I imagine that Mr Kerry, when the occasion demands, gives touching speeches on the Holocaust, with solemn warnings that we must never again let people be dragged off to concentration camps. Then everyone applauds and he goes home and eats his baked beans with a hearty appetite. Lunacy.

And the same people who helped into power those communists who've had Nguyen Dan Que beaten or tortured and kept for years in solitary confinement now swell up like bullfrogs with pompous indignation about the so-called tortures at Abu Ghraib. Amazing.

I ardently hope that the tsunami of freedom that is beginning to rock the globe eventually lands on Vietnam. Not only because the good people of that land deserve to be delivered from tyranny, but because a lot of freedom-haters can be taunted: "Say, you were right. Iraq IS another Vietnam."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:45 PM

March 9, 2005

Addendum to previous...

Another thing that bugs me about the post by Publius which I wrote about in my last, is that these people who claim that the pronouncements of the UN are The Voice Of The World, always feel free to cherry-pick what actually comes out of the UN. For instance, the UN had previously passed 16 "binding resolutions" that Saddam was supposed to comply with, but didn't.

So how come those resolutions aren't The Voice Of The World?? Since the US and its allies were for the first time making those resolutions actually, you know, "binding," how come we are not credited with carrying out the wishes of the world? And why isn't Publius castigating those who blocked the enforcement of those resolutions? Or of Resolution 1441?

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 AM

March 8, 2005

WE put it to the test...

Publius writes:

...For Fukuyama, who is firmly in the Hegel camp, legitimacy is intricately connected to this idea of “recognition.” Liberal democracy is successful because the idea of individual rights and one-person/one-vote recognizes all people as equal. Because it recognizes everyone’s inherent dignity, it is eminently legitimate.....

...But for now, let’s say that Fukuyama is right – let's say that legitimacy is important because of this idea of recognition. If he is right, then the neocons’ unilateral march into Iraq may trigger a new wave of History so to speak. That’s because, regardless of how Iraq turns out or what you think of the war, it was essentially an illegitimate operation in the most literal sense of the word. I suppose you could try to squeeze the invasion into some hazy language from a past UN resolution. But everyone knows that the US withdrew the final resolution that actually would have authorized force because it couldn’t get enough votes.

Whether the invasion was right or wrong, the world views the American action as illegitimate. And to be honest, I don’t see any way to justify the war’s legitimacy, which is a different question from whether the war was "good." America ignored the wishes of the world. And in doing so, it failed to “recognize” the world’s common humanity. We trampled on the people of the world’s dignity because we did what we wanted to do because we could, despite what they wanted. That is how Hegelian History gets moving – those who feel wronged align against the force that wronged them. In failing to get UN approval, or the approval of any legitimacy-conferring coalition or international body, the neocons forgot one of their most basic principles – legitimacy matters...

The analogy he's making here is entirely bogus. I certainly agree that liberal democracy confers legitimacy. But then Publius, like a gazillion other people, extends this concept to the sphere of nations, and equates votes of the UN with democracy. The UN is somehow supposed to represent "the wishes of the world." This is utter malarky. To take an extreme example, Syria or China could take a turn on the Security Council, veto our invasion of Bormenia, and "The World" has spoken! Liberating Bormenia is now "illegitimate." (Of course in practice this is applied only to the US and Israel. When France sends troops somewhere no one gives a damn if it is "legitimated" by the UN.) The poor people of Bormenia get no vote--they don't matter, they're not "The People Of The World."

Yes, legitimacy matters! That's why OUR actions such as Iraq or Afghanistan, always end in ELECTIONS. We act, and then we put things to a VOTE. That's why what the United States of America and our coalitions-of-the-willing do IS legitimate, and why what the UN does is NOT legitimate.

We (and Great Britain and many brave people in Poland, etc.) were instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Was this "illegitimate?" Well, WE put it to the test. We've been pushing elections and democracy there ever since. So the people could confer or deny legitimacy, instead of a few "international" bureaucrats and diplomats. And time and time again our actions have been validated by the way the people enthusiastically embrace the freedoms and democracy we have helped provide. Where, pray tell, are the votes of the common people legitimating the actions of the UN???

It's not the US that "tramples on the people of the world’s dignity." That job is handled by the UN. It is an utterly corrupt and evil organization, dedicated to preserving the comfortable status quo for luxuriant elites. There's nothing accidental about the repeated scandals of trafficking in sex slaves and forcing children to barter sex for food. There's nothing accidental about the prodigious thievery and corruption, compared to which Global Crossing or Enron are small beans. They are the very essence of the institution, and the bloated old regimes it defends. It is EVIL. And those who repeatedly use the UN to work against the forces of freedom are participants in this evil.

I won't go so far as to say that Publius is participating in evil, but he is certainly "de-legitimizing" our language and public debate by claiming the "The World" says this and that without knowing or caring what ordinary people might say if they were allowed a vote.

There is NO way to legitimize something like the Iraq Campaign in advance. Publius writes of "the approval of any legitimacy-conferring coalition or international body." So what or who decides if a coalition is "legitimacy-conferring?" How does an "international body" gain its own legitimacy? They certainly don't get elected. (People like Publius usually seem to think that legitimacy and "multi-lateralism" are conferred by France, though they don't put it so baldly in public.) If the people of Iraq could have secretly voted in advance to either keep the Saddam/sanctions/UN status quo, or to be liberated by our coalition, does anybody have any doubt how the vote would have gone? That's LEGITIMACY, pure Fukuyama/neocon legitimacy, and no amount of fancy talk by theorists can wish it away.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 PM

Why "Realists' should not be entrusted with power...

James P. Pinkerton writes, in Newsday:

'People Power" is erupting around the world, but what about here in China?

What sort of political arrangements would these 1.3 billion Chinese make for themselves if they could write a real constitution? And should Americans be confident that a democratic China would be friendlier to the United States?...

Neither President Bush nor his supporters EVER say that all the newly democratic nations are going to be friendly to the US. This is a straw-man argument. The point is that once countries become solidly democratic, we don't have to worry about them dissolving into chaos or poverty, or sponsoring terrorists or invading their neighbors.

...Here in China, absent honest elections, there's no way to know the truth for sure, but it seems apparent that the party's single biggest foreign-policy plank - the reincorporation of Taiwan back into "The Motherland" - is a political winner among ordinary Chinese.

Which is to say, the United States, which supports Taiwan's continued independence, has probably found itself on the wrong side of China's emerging political majority...

Ridiculous. It's a "winning issue" because the Chinese don't get to argue the issues they are really interested in.

Does Pinkerton imagine that the people making the stuff that Walmart sells want a war with the US and Taiwan? Or even bad relations? It's easy for the Chinese government to whip up anger about Taiwan right now, because people can't express their anger about corrupt officials and poverty and high taxes and lack of opportunity and religious oppression.

Every time there's a nation that may possibly democratize, we hear predictions that they are going to be just like they were before. I bet there were predictions in the 1940's that Germany and Japan would elect a new bunch of brown-shirts and start new aggressive wars....

(Thanks to Orrin, who points out that China probably won't stay one nation once the grip of the Communists is loosened.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM

February 24, 2005

"The battle is too unequal..."

A reader sends this article...

The head of the National Library of France says he worries that the vast digital library that Google is building in partnership with American and British institutions will quickly become a dominant force in scholarship -- and that it will have too much of an American tint to it....

...Mr. Jeanneney said action must come swiftly. If there is too much delay, he wrote, it will be too late. Once scholars start using Google's library, he said, it could become a bad habit that will be impossible to shake.

Mr. Jeanneney, in his essay, proposed a Europe-wide digital-library project. Europe alone, he argued, is equipped to take the reins of such an endeavor and establish itself as "a center of radiating culture and political influence without parallel on the planet."

The National Library of France has already placed 80,000 works and 70,000 images in its own digital library and will soon make available online reproductions of all major French journals since the 19th century. Those efforts, wrote Mr. Jeanneney, have earned the gratitude of online researchers and helped to spread France's influence around the world. But, he noted, "our annual spending amounts only to a thousandth of what Google has announced."

"The battle is too unequal," he said....

French documents should certainly be preserved in digital form. And perhaps some Frenchmen should be preserved too. Future scholars my have questions about French language or culture, and it would be nice to be able to thaw out an expert now and then to answer any queries...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:41 AM

January 24, 2005

Fools rush in (and get things done)

Mark Helprin has an essay in today's OpinionJournal that I find dubious. (Thanks to Alan Sullivan, who has his own thoughts)

Helprin writes: Our Blindness
We have ample forewarning. But will we ever act?

A hundred years ago, Republican presidential incumbent Theodore Roosevelt had just defeated the now obscure Judge Alton B. Parker, the army had long been fighting Muslim insurrectionists in the Philippines and was recasting itself to fight insurgencies, reformers were concerned with the environment and money politics, and the country's meat supply was viewed with suspicion.

Those absorbing passions would nonetheless prove completely irrelevant to the influenza pandemic that little more than a decade later would kill 50 million people, including half a million Americans; to the rise of Germany, Japan, and Russia; and to the century's three great wars....

We were not then preparing for the specific events Helprin mentions, but that would have taken a ludricous amount of foresight. No other countries were prepared for them either. BUT, America was doing a lot to prepare in a more general sense. Our preparations were NOT "irrelevent." We were creating prodigious national wealth that could be used for any need. Germany and Japan were "rising," but America was "rising" much faster (and none of those other countries were preparing for us!). We didn't foresee the pandemic, but public health and medical research were becoming increasingly important to us, and we were conquering other diseases. As for wars, were were building a world-class fleet, digging the canal, acquiring coaling stations around the globe, and vigorously preventing the encroachment of European empires in an entire hemisphere.

The real problem with Helprin's complaint is that these events were contingent. War with Germany, Japan and Russia were not inevitable, and any of these countries could have presented us with different problems, such as vigorous peaceful competition. Nor is it scientifically accepted that a flu pandemic was predictable—it is theorized that it may have arisen in the crowded hospitals of WWI, when the normal selective pressures that keep flu epidemics mild did not work.

...God help the army that must fight for an idea rather than an objective. After somehow failing to argue competently on behalf of a patently justifiable invasion, and as its more specious arguments were collapsing, the Bush administration then pivoted with breathtaking enthusiasm to nation building, something so Clinton-tinged that it had previously been held in contempt. The more that nation building in Iraq is in doubt, the more the mission creeps into a doubling of bets in hope of covering those that are lost. Now the goal is to reforge the politics, and perforce the culture, not merely of Iraq but of the billion-strong Islamic world from Morocco to the South Seas. That--evangelical democracy writ overwhelmingly large--is the manic idea for which the army must fight...

I think this is just wrong. Helprin is confusing the outward actions of the Administration with its actual plans. It was necessary to emphasize WMD's in order to get the UN on board, which was desirable for various reasons, such as giving Tony Blair cover. But neo-con types were discussing all along the possibility that ONE free and democratic Arab country could change the dynamics of the whole region. And also that hitting ONE terror-supporting nation could be a heads-up to the rest. And also that having an army in Iraq would put us a good position to pressure other Arab countries.

Also, we see every day that democracy is not some "manic" or "evangelical" ideal. It is a practical remedy for many ills, and can, in admittedly imperfect form, take root even in poor and backwards places. And there is a lot of evidence that it does have a big effect in preventing terrorism. How many Muslims are there in India? 100 million? So how many Indian Islamo-loony terrorists have we caught? I haven't heard of any. In India Muslims take their frustrations to the ballot-box. I think it is now incumbent on those like Helprin, who dismiss democracy with an airy wave of the hand, to make a case. The case FOR democracy has become self-evident.

But the main problem with Helprin's thinking throughout this essay is
contingency. The occurrence of communist Russia or Nazi Germany were contingent on various happenings, any of which could have gone differently. Suppose Germany had not helped Lenin get to Russia? Suppose Hoover had vetoed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff? I can imagine a train of events where a more careful taping of a door latch by the Watergate burglars might have prevented the war we are in now...

Helprin is guilty of a kind of lazy thinking that assumes that what happened in the past presents us with a simple and obvious lesson that can be applied to the future. But a Helprin of 100 years ago would probably have looked at Japan or Germany and seen looming problems of industrial competition or imperialist expansion. (And so it could easily have turned out.)

...By taking intelligent advantage of the fertile relation between economic development and military capacity, China will be able to leverage its extraordinary growth into superpower parity with the United States. Without the destruction of Chinese social and political equilibrium, this is only a matter of time. And just as we had no policy for dealing with the rise of Germany, Japan, and (prior to the late 1940s) Russia, we have none here....

This too sounds wrong to me. China clearly has a LOT of problems ahead on the road to becoming a "superpower." And many of the problems are ones that the solving of will tend to make China less dangerous. For instance, its huge, expensive and poorly-equipped military is big drag on China's economy. One of the two has to give. So it is intellectually dubious to consider both a huge military and economic growth as signs of a dangerous China. Also, until recently large countries produced most of what they needed themselves. Italians drove Italian cars, and Japanese drove Japanese cars. and likewise with planes, tanks, ships, guns...Helprin's "fertile relation between economic development and military capacity" made much more sense back then. Now most of China's, and everybody's, wealth is based on trade. That wealth would mostly evaporate if trade contracted or ports were blockaded.

...We have not since the Korean War been able to face China on the mainland...

I think this is nonsense. We rebuilt our armed forces in the 1970's and 80's to be able to defeat the Warsaw Pact forces if they attacked the NATO nations. Most people are unaware of how successful we were, because that war was never fought. But we did destroy, in 1991, a large army that had been trained and equipped by the Soviets. We smashed the Iraqi army in 100 hours, with trivial casualties. If you want to know what would happen in a conflict with China's soviet-style military, I suggest reviewing the Battle of Medina Ridge. And while our army is presently smaller and much-burdened with nation-building, it is also becoming increasingly powerful in conventional warfare, with new weapons and, even more important, vastly more effective digital communications being added all the time. (And we should all give thanks to Donald Rumsfeld, who valiantly resists both those who are afraid to tackle messy problems like Iraq, and those who now panic and say we should should convert our whole military to Iraq-style pacification forces.)

Helprin's way of thinking takes whatever is happening now and projects a straight line into the future. But remember that a few years ago that kind of projection said that Japan was going to be a superpower . Now we are worried about Japanese stagnation! Europe has been touted as a coming superpower, but we are starting to worry seriously about European economic collapse. If Helprin had written this in the 1980's he would be castigating us for not preparing for the coming Japanese colossus. In fact we were preparing, by allowing our economy to DESTROY a lot of it's structures, clearing the way for stupendous growth. And we are doing the same thing now.

Almost everything that gets done in the world is done by optimists who wade into projects that turn out to be more difficult that they expected. Every public project has cost over-runs and mistakes. We need the Mark Helprins as voices of caution, but the Helprins never DO anything. They are too wise to try.

Our army SHOULD be fighting for ideas. Ideas are real and potent and solid, while the things and structures around us may melt away at any time.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:04 PM

January 4, 2005

Head like a lumber-room...

My mother has told me I have a head stuffed with useless knowledge. That's probably true, but I read long ago about how the sea recedes just before a tsunami (in James Michener's Hawaii, I think it was) and I never forgot that creepy possibility. Might come in handy some day.

Here's the story of a 10 year-old girl who saved her family and 100 people, just because she had that same tidbit of knowledge from having done a school report on tsunamis ( story, her picture). I'l have to remember this, for when my children complain about school projects.)
(Thanks to Jim Miller)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:22 PM

January 2, 2005

What, exactly, does the Archbishop think God should be doing?

* Update to the Update: I got into the actual article [here] and it is indeed nothing like what the news story presented. It's quite good in fact. My apologies to Dr Rowan.

The Archbishop is an idiot...

[The Telegraph's reporters are idiots!]
The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writes in The Telegraph today.

In a deeply personal and candid article, he says "it would be wrong" if faith were not "upset" by the catastrophe which has already claimed more than 150,000 lives. Prayer, he admits, provides no "magical solutions" and most of the stock Christian answers to human suffering do not "go very far in helping us, one week on, with the intolerable grief and devastation in front of us"...(thanks to
Peter Burnet)

I will try to explain this in terms that even a trendizoid lefty bishop can understand: Natural disasters slaughter huge numbers of people all the time. Malaria is just as much a natural disaster as a tsunami. Malaria kills a million people every year. Most of them children under the age of five.

Most people who are educated enough to ponder the mysterious ways of God are aware of things like this. If natural disasters were going to make us question the existence of God, we would have questioned it a long time ago. Most of the people on earth will die of a natural disaster called aging, which seems to be built into our genes.

There is however a type of person to whom nothing is real unless it is at the top of the news on TV. To that sort, a million malaria deaths are no more real than the tree falling unheard in the forest. To them, AIDS is real because it causes celebrity fund-raisers, and colon cancer isn't real because it isn't noticed by Princess Diana. I think that describes the Archbishop.

And what exactly does His Holiness think God should do? Prevent all earthquakes? Prevent only BIG earthquakes? If an earthquake kills 100 people, should we doubt the existence of God because he didn't prevent it? What if 1,500 earthquakes over the course of a decade killed 100 people each? Is that the same as 1 quake killing 150,000? Or is it OK for those little quakes to be under God's radar?

And what about the souls of those killed? I notice the Archbishop makes no reference to them. To me, the Archbishop doesn't sound like someone whose faith has been shaken, he sounds like the village atheist using a disaster to try to shake other people's faith. Or maybe just a headline-grabber using a catastrophe to strike a pose and get some attention.

One more thought. There's another powerful entity that many people have faith in. That creature is government. Tsunami warning systems could have saved many of those who died, and that sort of thing is usually provided by governments. And not by God. I would be much more impressed with the Archbishop's profundity if he were to do some soul-searching about Socialism for a change.

And I'm far more impressed by real Christians (including our President) who just roll up their sleeves and get busy, without a lot of gassy philosophizing...

* UPDATE: Doug Murray says in a comment that the article misrepresents the Archbishop. The Telegraph web-site won't let me into the actual piece, but you are warned...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 AM

January 1, 2005

"the bureaucratic crap is forgotten"

The Diplomad blogs anonymously, but from this post it's clear he is posted somewhere in the tsunami area...

...Our regular readers know that this blog is very critical of the Foreign Service and the State Department. But to be fair, I think Americans would be proud of the dedication shown and of the work being done by their Foreign Service, some incredibly competent and energetic USAID workers, and, of course, the US military. Everybody in the Embassy community is giving up leave, canceling long-standing holiday plans, volunteering for every imaginable duty -- including some quite hazardous ones -- and doing incredible work, all to save the lives of people, many of whom a few days ago probably would have been perfectly willing to burn down our Embassy or march against the USA. Most of the bureaucratic crap is forgotten and common sense rules the day. Americans are everywhere in this corner of the Far Abroad doing things that no other country on earth can or will do and at a truly amazing pace. Proud to be an American (and for the Aussies, you, too, can be very proud of your folks who are doing a bang up job -- as the Aussie military always does.)

In stark contrast, the much-vaunted UN humanitarian effort is a disgrace.... (Thanks to
Betsy N)

The UN efforts do look like exactly that. Read the rest.

And here's a new post with more, on how the UN is taking credit for stuff that hardworking Americans and Australians are doing...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

December 30, 2004

Bad news for science fiction writers...

Radly Balko has an excellent column at FOXNews on the many ways that things are getting better in the world. (via InstaPundit) Fabulous tidbits. I've heard most of them, but it's cool to see them listed together. And bizarre, when you think also about the huge number of people who claim the world is in terrible shape, and sneer at anyone who is trying to make it better.

Here's one item I had not heard; the lowering of the "green ceiling."

—The world is getting cleaner. Most economists now endorse the concept of a “green ceiling,” which means that although the transition from a developing economy to a developed one requires some environmental exploitation, there is a point at which a country becomes wealthy enough that its citizens will begin to demand environmental protection.

The key is to get each country to that point as quickly as possible. And as noted earlier, that’s exactly what’s happening. The good news is, the “green ceiling” is getting lower every day. Right now, it stands at about $5,000 per capita GDP, but the World Bank reported in 1997 that poor countries begin turning the corner on water pollution, for example, at as low as $500 per capita
...

My title comes from many depressing experiences while looking for SF books to read. I find myself examining one book after another, and they ALL depict some future earth where pollution and Global Warming are unchecked, 30 billion people are starving, corporations (evil of course) have replaced governments, industry is gray and grim and needs masses of uneducated poverty-wage workers... you get the picture. There's no hope. And it's all utterly stupid and wrong. Almost all the trends are just the opposite.

I know of course that writers need problems and catastrophes. It takes unusual skill to make a story out of a happy situation. But I suspect many SF writers learn about the "future" only by reading SF or talking to each other, and are quite out of touch with the real world. Also, they want to be out of touch with reality for another reason, because they are Liberals. That's another group that needs a world of misery that can only be helped (but never cured) by the actions of Big Government, and needs masses of wretched victims without hope. One tip-off in SF is the frequent "good guys" role given to the UN. Anyone connected to current reality knows that this is just goofy, that the UN is an utter catastrophe, corrupt and dedicated mostly to maintaining the world's miseries...(and fortunately too incompetent to have much success.)

I remember back in 2002 hearing that one of my favorite writers, Michael Swanwick, was taking a break from writing to do "anti-war activism." Which was to say pro-Saddam activism. And I speculate that what he was doing should really be described as a case of Baby-Boomer-preserving-smug-world-view-from-Vietnam-era activism. I think a similar case is Greg Bear, whose recent books have included shadowy right-wing conservatives tending towards fascism and restricting civil rights and imposing theocracy. The usual DU litany, John Ashcroft as Godzilla. To someone like me, who is IN that conservative milieu, these fantasies are pitiable.

But SF writers usually preen themselves on thinking out-of-the-box! And the conspicuous new (even science-fictiony) feature of our time is that it's conservatives and religious believers who are now the ones who are fighting for freedom and democracy and choice, who are now the Internationalists and the reformers. And it is now the liberals and secularists who are the crabbed and pevish reactionaries without hopes or dreams or optimism.

We are living in a time of astonishing change, with many reasons for hope. And SF writers should have been canaries in the coal mine, sniffing these changes ahead of the rest of us, instead of plugging their ears and singing La La La. I shouldn't have to pick up SF books and frequently say, "Oh Gawd, not another one."

I predict we will see the SF crowd now leap boldly into the future with tons of stories about hapless villages swept away by tsunamis. And ignoring the rapid deployment of warning systems that will save thousands of lives in the next disaster. And also ignoring the spread of prosperity and democracy in Third-World counties that will enable them to do much more to help themselves in the future.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:49 AM

December 28, 2004

Good thought on giving for tsunami victims...

Scott Ott of Scrappleface we all know as a very funny guy, but he's serious here:

by Scott Ott...THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS NOT SATIRICAL...

In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami which has struck people around the Bay of Bengal, in addition to your prayers for the victims' families you may be looking for a trustworthy organization through which you can help with disaster relief. Other bloggers have provided links to the Red Cross, UN agencies and Indian government agencies, but if you're interested in giving through an agency that is committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through effective disaster relief, read on...

I have worked, briefly, side-by-side with crews from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief during a flood in Missouri and after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews are organized, energetic and effective. They bring not only food, water, shelter and cleaning supplies to victims quickly, but they bring the kind of comfort that can only come from a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They do not discriminate on any basis. Their help is freely available to all, without a litmus test or sermon....

If you want a job done right, it's usually smart to go to the Red-Staters. He's got links for making donations in various ways...

(By the way, it's an odd but true thing that red-state Americans, often derided as ignorant and provincial, are actually much more likely to be familiar with distant corners of the earth than blue-state coastal-elite types, due to their military service, and also through missionary work and oil company work.)

(Thanks to Andrea)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 PM

December 21, 2004

I like these notions...

Wired has a fascinating article on a new theory of traffic engineering...

...We drive on to another project Monderman designed, this one in the nearby village of Oosterwolde. What was once a conventional road junction with traffic lights has been turned into something resembling a public square that mixes cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. About 5,000 cars pass through the square each day, with no serious accidents since the redesign in 1999. "To my mind, there is one crucial test of a design such as this," Monderman says. "Here, I will show you."

With that, Monderman tucks his hands behind his back and begins to walk into the square - backward - straight into traffic, without being able to see oncoming vehicles. A stream of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians ease around him, instinctively yielding to a man with the courage of his convictions...

It's about getting rid of traffic signals, crosswalks, road-markers...all the stuff that tries to make traffic flow faster and keep it away from pedestrians. It turns out this can be safer—situations that seem dangerously ambiguous force drivers to think, to slow down, and to move with care.

...The old ways of traffic engineering - build it bigger, wider, faster - aren't going to disappear overnight. But one look at West Palm Beach suggests an evolution is under way. When the city of 82,000 went ahead with its plan to convert several wide thoroughfares into narrow two-way streets, traffic slowed so much that people felt it was safe to walk there. The increase in pedestrian traffic attracted new shops and apartment buildings. Property values along Clematis Street, one of the town's main drags, have more than doubled since it was reconfigured..(thanks to Orrin Judd).

I'm a very urban person, and intensely aware of how some streets are pleasant to walk along and have flourishing businesses and restaurants. And others aren't. And the difference has a lot to do with cars. Ocean Avenue, the commercial street in my neighborhood, has heavy traffic and has never flourished. Nearby West Portal Ave, which has slow-moving traffic, and isn't a thoroughfare you would take to get somewhere else, is the most pleasant shopping-street on this end of town. Reading the article makes me think about how people often cross West Portal in the middle of the block, and how it feels rather acceptable to so so, because it's a pedestrian-friendly street.

* Update: Here are some pictures of Oosterwald.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 PM

December 14, 2004

feeding the hungry of body, mind or soul...

Reader Moshe has started a blog, The Machlis Experience. But it's not about himself. Rather, it's about appreciating an extraordinary man, Rabbi Mordechai Machlis...

And that's the way it was... and is (except that the Rav and Rebbetzin now have 14 kids) ~ stop by the Machlis residence at any time and you're bound to see them feeding the hungry of body, mind or soul. On literally a daily basis Rav Mordechai and Henny dispense free food, monetary assistance, advice, encouragement, scholastic knowledge and help of all sorts to the many and varied groups of people who make their way to the Machlis's humble abode. To call their home an inspiration is quite the understatement, it is in fact Jerusalem's greatest soup kitchen, hospitality center, yeshiva, counseling hub and social center, all wrapped into one.

AND SO the purpose of this website
is threefold --

Go take a look--only a few posts so far, but probably more to come...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:55 PM

November 12, 2004

Time for a little "I told'ja so"

I've said a tedious number of times, that our tackling Iraq was a merciful act intended to promote peace through diplomacy. The notion, common on the Rive Gauche, that diplomacy can be effective without being backed-up by the credible threat of force, is ASININE. Only after picking up one of the wacko terror-supporting countries, and throwing it against the wall, were the others going to pay attention. Only then would diplomacy work.

The process has been slow up to now, because all the world's brutal dictators and genocidal tyrants have been hoping and praying for a Kerry victory, to get them off the hook, and let business go on as usual. Now hope is gone....

Sudan Belatedly Tries to Sharpen its Act By Alice Thomson

..."After Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush could go for us next," said his friend, Imad Musa. "It's either us, Iran or Syria. He can do what he wants now he has won such a big victory."

In northern Sudan, this is their fear - that they will become the next Iraq, just as their lot seems to be improving....

...In many ways, Sudan is in dire straits, particularly in southern Darfur, where villages continue to be torched by the Janjaweed. But the situation in the rest of the country is improving. In the north, the imams are relaxing their grip. Women walk with their heads uncovered. At an orphanage I visited two years ago, babies found on the streets by the police were often left to die; single mothers were stoned. Now the same police beam as they rush the babies to the doctors.

It is no longer illegal to talk negatively about the regime. As a result, many I met were openly outraged by corruption. Even the ministers are trying belatedly to sharpen up their act. "Iraq has been a lesson to us all," said one Sudanese minister, who didn't want to be named...

It's the obvious ploy here for Bush to play "bad cop," and Tony Blair to play "good cop."

...Mr Blair has promised that Africa is his top priority. He has been saying that since his party conference speech three years ago. Now he seems to mean it. When Britain takes over the presidency of both the G8 and the European Union next year, Africa will be the main topic.

Sudan is an obvious starting point. So what do the Sudanese think Mr Bush and Mr Blair should do? The answer on the streets is that they should put more pressure on those involved in the peace agreements. Then ensure that Khartoum sticks to its promise of independent elections...(Thanks to Orrin Judd)

Within the Administration, Colin Powell gets to play good cop all around the globe, with Rumsfeld pretending to be the loose cannon who would rather flatten a city than waste time in negotiations. Powell can say, "You gotta give a little here, give me some help, or those maniacs at the Pentagon...I just don't know what they might do."

You watch, this is just starting to bring results. I'll be saying "I told you so" frequently. The one hindrance to the game is that a lot of our voters don't understand that talking tough doesn't actually mean you are a bad guy, and talking nicey-nicey doesn't make you a good guy. They don't understand that tough-love is a form of love. They are STUPID. (To use more technical terminology, they are "Democrats," or "Independents.")

The greatest moral and peaceful act of our times was Ronald Reagan's defense build-up. He played the part of the steely-eyed Cold Warrior, until the Soviets cracked, and made the fatal first step of instituting "reforms." The result was the liberation of hundreds of millions of people from tyranny, and the end of 40 years of cruel and often bloody struggle. (Reagan was actually a very soft-hearted man, which is one of the reasons we withdrew from Lebanon. A "peaceful" deed that has led to the deaths of many thousands, and is part of why we are at war now.) There are scads of people who still think that Reagan was a war-mongering brute. Fortunately he didn't care what people thought, as long as he got results. Bush is like that too.

To do the most good in the world, the President should actually act a lot badder than he does. But his options are somewhat limited, because people just don't understand. Not just our people (a lot of us are thrilled when he gets tough...Zapatero has been holding the phone for a week now, while the recorded "hold" music plays. I hope it's Country) but the citizens of Britain and Australia and other allies.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:03 PM

November 11, 2004

I like this!

After hearing all sorts of idiots moaning about what a great man their proxy-Jew killer Arafat was , it's purely pleasant to not get any of that guff from our President:

November 10, 2004

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

The death of Yasser Arafat is a significant moment in Palestinian history. We express our condolences to the Palestinian people. For the Palestinian people, we hope that the future will bring peace and the fulfillment of their aspirations for an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbors. During the period of transition that is ahead, we urge all in the region and throughout the world to join in helping make progress toward these goals and toward the ultimate goal of peace. [link]

(thanks to Judd)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 AM

September 27, 2004

"the only certainty is that nothing is certain"

From a good article by John Zvesper, on how the world ignored the President's UN speech:

...However, there was also (at best) a tepid response to Bush among the representatives of liberal democratic regimes, and this needs further explanation. What most offended these sophisticated UN delegates was Bush’s rejection of their postmodern pieties, their unwavering faith in the dogmas of pragmatism and moral and cultural relativism. Bush justified his call for the expansion of liberty by asserting that "the dignity of every human life" is "honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance." Many of these traditional liberal principles have become suspect in pragmatic, "progressive" circles.

But especially grating to the postmodern mentality that dominates sophisticated minds in liberal democracies is Bush’s claim that "we know with certainty" that "the desire for freedom resides in every human heart," and that therefore the "bright line between justice and injustice—between right and wrong—is the same in every age, and every culture, and every nation." Recognition of such self-evident truths is completely inadmissible in the postmodern faith, in which the only certainty is that nothing is certain...

What Bush is promoting is the "culture of life." And the "culture of death," which we see displayed here, can be discerned by certain signs. God is mislaid, and there is little desire to sacrifice for future generations, for one's country, or to help distant strangers. Economies stagnate, birthrates go down, old people become burdensome, abortion is cherished, and euthanasia is attractive. Objective truth, and right and wrong, are considered outdated concepts. And invariably, the reaction to George W Bush is to break out in hives....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:31 PM

September 12, 2004

Waterspout...too cool

waterspout off the coast of malaysia

An HH-60H Seahawk assigned to the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Four (HS-4) hovers near a vessel in the South China Sea off the coast of Malaysia on Sunday as a waterspout forms nearby. The squadron is assigned to Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) and currently is embarked aboard the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis.

Photographer's Mate Airman Richard R. Waite / U.S. Navy
From Army Times, September 8, 2004


Posted by John Weidner at 9:30 PM

September 4, 2004

"they’ve never thought about it"...strange

This seems bizarre to me..

Bad and bored: Britain is sick and tired, there is no religion, no culture and no patriotism — and not even leisure can lighten our burden (Theodore Dalrymple, 9/04/04, The Spectator)

...It has fallen to our generation...to create a population that is bored equally by work and leisure. (That, of course, is why ‘leisure management’ has become both an academic subject and a career.) When I meet patients who tell me that they are fed up with their work because it is so boring, and they wish they could stop working altogether, I ask them what they would like to do instead. The question comes like an unexpected thunderclap, or a flash of lightning in a darkened landscape: they’ve never thought about it, and when they do they are completely unable to answer. They realise for the first time that it is not so much work that bores them as existence.... [quote lifted from Orrin Judd]

I tend to think of the trendy lefty enclaves of the two coasts, including SF where we live, as sharing many of the pathologies that afflict Europe. But I don't recall encountering anything like this.

Perhaps I don't mix in the right circles, or perhaps Mr Dalrymple has got it wrong. But this just seems so DIFFERENT. There are Americans who have nothing but their work, and Americans who are bored with their work...but the two groups don't overlap. A large percentage of Americans say they are satisfied with their jobs, and those who aren't usually fill their non-work lives with activities that they wish they could pursue full-time. And everyone else is wishing they could fly to Mars. Or so it seems to me.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:12 PM

August 14, 2004

like a sunrise...

There's a new Bush ad, Victory. Do take a look. The words:

"In 1972, there were 40 democracies in the world. Today: 120. Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise. And this Olympics? There will be two more free nations (Afghanistan and Iraq) and two fewer terrorist regimes. With strength, resolve, and courage, democracy will triumph over terror, and hope will defeat hatred." (thanks to Dean)
Jeez, how negative can those nasty Republicans get?

But really, think about those numbers. The world has changed. Anyone who predicted those numbers when I was young would have been considered crazy. Democracy is now normal for countries over a certain per-capita income, maybe around $3—4,000. Countries in that area will be pulled towards democracy, pulled by the powerful examples of success among free nations that are now seen all around the world. And pulled also towards free enterprise and capitalism, likewise because of success stories seen all around us.

One thing this means is that if you want to say that country X can't possibly become free and prosperous, the burden of proof is on you! In particular, the "progressives" who sneer that projects like Iraq or Afghanistan are hopeless, who flippantly dismiss them with a wave of the hand, are not being intellectually honest. That is not a defensible position, unless you provide evidence and logical reasons.

Actually, in one sense it IS a negative ad. It shines a pitiless light on Kerry and his reactionary party. They won't admit it publicly, but their reaction to this is going to be a sneer.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 PM

August 11, 2004

Opportunity going begging...

I caught a couple of minutes of Rush today, and he made a good point. Think of all those European nations and leaders who prefess to loath America's cowboy ineptitude, and our heavy-handed way of imposing our values and democracy on the world and just making things worse?

Right now they have a perfect opportunity to show how they would handle things better. Sudan is a genuine humanitarian crisis, just begging for a nuanced mix of force, diplomacy and aid work.

SO, Jaques, Gerhard, Vlad...here's your chance. Grab it. Show us how the experts do it...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

July 29, 2004

"If the Left would help this time..."

Orrin Judd mentions this article, The Morality of Intervention, which blames the lack of progress in Darfur on the Iraq invasion. Judd sums it all up nicely:

One reads along futilely in an attempt to find some way in which Sudan differs from Iraq:
* European indifference
* Arab/Muslim complicity
* Opposition from the Realist gang
* The Anglosphere leading the lonely crusade
* A serious response bogging down at the UN
* Complications because of past Western inaction
* The ultimate realization that only America and its military can reorder the situation and save lives
The reasons for intervention are identical. If the Left would help this time, instead of hindering the humanitarian effort, it might restore some of their moral credibility and would certainly hasten vital action.
Bush and Blair are both the sort of "classic liberals' who would love to send a couple of brigades to Sudan to clean things up. But both of them used up their store of political capital fighting the relentless and continuing attacks of the fascistic pro-Saddam Left.

Fighting the same useless crew who now have the gall to castigate Bush and Blair for not doing anything in Sudan...(continuing until the moment Bush/Blair start to do something, when they will switch over to attacking them.)

And of course it is NEVER even suggested that the critics on the Left might themselves take action, say by organizing some of those noisy protests in favor of military intervention in Sudan. No no no... The Left never DOES anything, they just whine about what the grownups do.

[Yes, I know, I'm oversimplifying "the Left." Of course there are some there who are capable of action of a positive sort. But they are so few they can only be considered lonely voices. They have no influence, and staying where they are is a sort of moral abdication. They should move to the side that still believes in promoting the good and fighting evil vigorously. That still believes in the FUTURE. They might form a new flavor in the conservative ice-cream parlor. The name "neocons" has already been taken by a previous group who left the Dark Side, so perhaps we could call them "Gladstonians."]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 AM

July 27, 2004

Blatnye pesni...

Perry de Havilland at Samizdata linked to a fascinating site of pictures of abandoned buildings and projects in Russia, abandoned.ru. Cool wierd stuff.

I might not have followed the link if Alan had not blogged recently about other things interesting at .ru addresses. I was inspired to go back and actually follow his links, and found this, about the "Russian bard scene."

...It started in the late 50's, after survivors from Northern and Siberian camps started to trickle back to populated parts of the country. Very few of them could write like Solzhenitsyn or Varlaam Shalamov, but many more could sing prison songs. The so-called blatnye pesni were written by career criminals, and songs based on the experience of the camps were written by political prisoners, but in form resembled the former (sometimes even using the same melody).

Society's attitudes towards prisoners changed during the "Thaw" years of the 1960’s. Political "ZK" (inmates), who were previously considered "the enemies of the People," became human again. Suddenly Pushkin's line about "mercy to the fallen" was quoted in Pravda; public debates about "physicists vs. lyricists" filled the arenas with audiences. And the first shy voices of social and political dissent started to appear semi-publicly.

Vysotsky started with songs imitating blatnye pesni, and soon became the best-known Russian bard. (Here's a page about him. See also the excellent Sasha Voloch article here.)...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:11 AM

July 25, 2004

Bring me Zalabia!

Dave T. picqued my curiosity by posting this item:

We All Scream...

...for ice cream, especially if we can eat the dish.

And thanks to Syrian immigrant and entrepreneur Ernest E. Hamwi, we can. One hundred years ago today at the St. Louis World's Fair, in response to a cry for help from a neighboring ice cream vendor who'd run out of dishes, Hamwi rolled up one of his waffles and made history.!

I googled a bit, and found many versions of the tale. Sometimes with the inventor named Ernest A. Hamwi. Here's another one:
During the Fair a Syrian immigrant named Ernest A. Hamwi decided to try something different to help out a teenage ice cream vendor he was next to who was having problems selling his product.  Ernest was a pastry vendor at the Fair and sold "Zalabia" (click on the name for a recipe) which was a crisp, sugar-coated, warm waffle which he made over an open fire using a waffle iron.  Taking a Zalabia while it was still warm and soft, he rolled it into a cone shape and let it cool.  Once cool the cone was handed to his next-door neighbor, Arnold Fomachou, at the Fair who was selling ice cream.  The cone was scooped full of ice cream and given the name World's Fair Cornucopia.  It was an immediate success.  By the time the Fair had ended, ice cream vendors had started to seek out pastry suppliers to collaborate on making the ideal Ice Cream Cornucopia.  The ice cream cone had caught on and the idea traveled home with Fair-goers to all parts of the globe.  After the fair, Hamwi sold his waffle oven to J. P. Heckle and helped him develop and open the Cornucopia Waffle Company. Ernest traveled for Cornucopia introducing the new way of eating ice cream. In 1910, Hamwi opened the Missouri Cone Company.
Here's some more...
It was not long afterward that another Lebanese immigrant, Albert George, along with other family members, bought some second-hand cone-baking machines and started the George & Thomas Cone Company in 1918. In 2004, that company is still owned/operated by the George family, together with the employees. As such, the company is now an ESOP and is known as Joy Cone Company, after its signature brand of ice cream cones. It is today the largest ice cream cone company in the world, baking over 1.5 billion cones/year...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

July 21, 2004

"with my faith in the human spirit reinforced..."

MOZAMBIQUE BEATS ALL, By Ralph Peters. July 19, 2004 -- WHAT do you call an African country that suffered under one of the most vicious colonial regimes, was attacked by a powerful neighbor at independence, fought a brutal civil war for more than a decade and was classified as the poorest land on earth?

If the country is Mozambique, you call it a success story.

I just returned from a stroll through Mozambique with my faith in the human spirit reinforced. Forever starved for tales of woe, our media only tell us of Africa's crises — the last time Mozambique made headlines was during the disastrous flooding in 2000. Yet, along with the continent's undeniable problems, there's more than one success story....

In the project of closing the Gap, Africa is a ways down the road. But it's coming. It's coming. We can look forward to the same sneers from Lefties that we hear now about Iraq. Freedom and capitalism and globalization will make Africans unhappy and confused—obviously they aren't ready for it this century...

sorry Noam, you can't outrun the History Train.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:58 AM

July 14, 2004

" the fence is reversible"

Jay Nordlinger writes

...Also, let me quote the heroically sane response of Ehud Olmert, deputy prime minister of Israel: "The fence is unpleasant, but, believe me, being attacked by a homicide bomber is much less pleasant. The fence may not be convenient, but it doesn't kill people."

Moreover, as someone pointed out — I can't remember who, perhaps Olmert himself — the fence is reversible, whereas the dead . . . stay dead.

You would think that Israel's using non-lethal means to stop murderers would garner praise, wouldn't you? No way. It seems to be considered to be worse than when they just kill the terrorists. Bizarre. The only good Jew's a Jew that lets himself be killed, at least according to our "International Institutions."

Meanwhile, I bet not one single "International Institution" will even consider criticising this:

JERUSALEM — Palestinian terror thugs are running a kiddie summer camp touting a chilling new feature — live performances of mock kidnap-slayings of Jews.

As kids as young as 10 don military fatigues and struggle to tote AK-47 assault rifles nearly as big as they are, sicko teachers can be seen in video footage staging the roadside abduction of an "Israeli" wearing glasses and a yarmulke...

How cute, little baby "freedom fighters." Or, as a prominent Democrat calls such people, "Minutemen." Isn't that just darling.

Quick, Progressives, you can go here and buy a "solidarity kaffiya" to demonstrate your solidarity with those brave young resistance fighters working so hard on a final solution to Jewish and American Imperialism... I didn't notice any "solidarity dynamite belts," but I bet they can fix you up with one if you ask nicely..

Posted by John Weidner at 5:43 PM

July 13, 2004

The world's newest THEME PARK!

I was just thinking a little more about the previous post. I remember keenly, bitterly the humiliation when the rag-heads in Iran held our people hostage, and that despicable slime-worm Jimmy Carter did nothing, thereby hanging a "kick me" sign on America's back for all the world to read.

Well now it's payback time. (No, not Carter. Second-best.) You might not think so, because the mullahs aren't getting the Hellfire Missile grease-spot treatment. Not yet. But they are squirming and sweating. Because the one place they can't close off or wall away is Iraq. Not when their holy pilgrimage cities are there.

And now George W Bush is turning Iraq into the world's newest and most thrilling theme park! Come to Great SatanLand! Eat KFC while strolling through Globalization Village! Cast a vote in ElectionPark. Start a blog in InternetWorld. Watch those wacky IraqiPolice in their colorful costumes haul crooks and Jihadis off to wherever it is they take them. Buy cars, computers and DVD players in FreeTradeLand! Take an entrepreneurial thrill-ride on Capitalism Mountain!

We have rose-candy, we have spikenard,
Mastic and terebinth and oil and spice,
And such sweet jams meticulously jarred
As God’s own Prophet eats in Paradise.
Suffer, you bearded commissars. Your tin-pot paradise is going to be dissolved! Eaten away by the acid-bath of freedom and American ideas. Your daughters will cherish Barbie Dolls, get HelloKitty tattoos, and wear hideous garments designed in Los Angeles. You are toast!

Thank You, Mr President! Thank You, Sinister Neocon Cabal! Perfect knight's-move on the GWOT chessboard. Revenge, as the cliché goes, is a dish best eaten cold...[Actually I prefer hot, or even better, preemptive, but I'm thankful for whatever I can get.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 PM

July 9, 2004

"because Alexander had stood for moral and religious principles..."

I've been re-reading Rise of the Vulcans. One thing that I find fascinating is how far back many of our current arguments go. The battles waged now against "Realists," who want to cozy-up to dictators for the sake of stability, were also being fought in the 1970's...often by the same people! The Ford Administration started with Henry Kissinger having absolute control over foreign policy. No one else, not even the SecDef, could talk to the President about foreign affairs. Who fought him over this monopoly, and won? A couple of then-young guys named Rumsfeld and Cheney! That makes me appreciate them more than ever—they were fighting the good fight back when I was pondering whether longish hair was perhaps not really my style...

And here's another fellow we know:

...Wolfowitz was young, and his opinions attracted little attention at the time, but they were representative of the developing intellectual challenge to Kissinger from the political right.

During the summer of 1976, while still working at the arms control agency, Wolfowitz invited two Harvard graduate students to work for him as interns. One of them was Francis Fukuyama. Over dinner in his home one night, Wolfowitz gave the interns a critique of Kissinger's academic work A World Restored, an admiring portrait of how the Austrian statesman Metternich had established a durable balance of power in Europe in the early nineteenth century. It was a good book, Kissinger's best, Wolfowitz told the students, yet Kissinger had missed the point: The hero of this history was not Metternich, the realist. It was Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who had pushed for stronger action against Napoleon, because Alexander I had stood for moral and religious principles...(page 75)

I've heard critics sneer that the neocons were once among those who wanted to support authoritarian dictators as a bulwark against communism. (As if changing ones mind invalidates ones ideas. Silly) In fact, the story is only half-true. Straussians like Wolfowitz never thought that way. And those who did, most notably Jeanne Kirkpatrick, were Democrats. It was Ronald Reagan who wooed them, and put them in positions of power in his administration. Where their ideas then evolved into something very different. and stunningly successful.

It's a mark of the utter intellectual bankruptcy of their opponents, that we still have thrown at us, frequently, that "America supports dictators/death-squads/murder-of-nuns, etc. in Chile...Guatemala...El Salvador...blah blah blah." 30 years out-of-date!!! Dinosaurs! The neocons changed the policy 180° during Reagan's time, but the left still clings pathetically to the fable.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 AM

July 8, 2004

The Chinese Century?

I highly recommend this article, in the NYT Magazine, on the stunning growth of China's economy. (Sent by Frank. Thanks!)

To me, the big question is the extant to which the Chinese, and other developing nations, will adopt the "rule-sets" of the US and the Anglosphere. They will, inevitably, as incomes rise and the middle-class grows, become more democratic. BUT perhaps they will develop more along the lines of France or Germany and the EU? Or some similar elite-run pseudo-democracy. That would be the less-happy outcome for the world. To be blunt, we have the best culture of political freedom. We have what they need.

And the poisonous hatred evoked by the US and its traditions in much of the world, (and much of the US) is evidence of the power of what we have to teach. Elitists everywhere instinctively know who their enemy is. (One good thing about the Iraq campaign is that it has exposed their disguise of being "anti-fascist" for the pathetic sham it has always been. I'll add that to my list of reasons why the liberation of Iraq was a move of pure genius. I'm up to about 13.) One good sign is the growth of Christianity in China.

...Look, China is the most exciting place in the world right now to be a manufacturer,'' says Mark Wall, president of the greater China region for G.E. Plastics. His operation sells the plastic pellets used to make everything from DVD's to building materials. Within two years G.E. will sell $1 billion in advanced materials, including plastics, in China. Wall, who came to China from G.E. Plastics, Brazil, describes a country in love with manufacturing like no other, where engineers come in excited and readily work long days. Where university students clamor to get into engineering and applied sciences. Like many American manufacturing executives in China, Wall talks about working in China with the delight that young computer whizzes felt when they found cool in Silicon Valley. There's no going to a cocktail party and then trying to talk around the fact that you make things in factories. Wall says he feels at home. He loves it. G.E. has every plan to capitalize on the local zeal for manufacturing. It recently opened a giant industrial research center in Shanghai, and by next year will it employ 1,200 people in its Chinese labs. The company has also set up scholarship programs at leading Chinese technical universities. It will have no shortage of good candidates.

The government is pouring resources into creating the world's largest army of industrialists. China has 17 million university and advanced vocational students (up more than threefold in five years), the majority of whom are in science and engineering. China will produce 325,000 engineers this year. That's five times as many as in the U.S., where the number of engineering graduates has been declining since the early 1980's. It is hard to imagine Americans' enthusiasm for engineering sinking lower. Forty percent of all students who enter universities on the engineering track change their minds...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:46 AM

July 5, 2004

Ahhh, the French...

Keep this in mind when Democrats tout the superior moral virtues of the French, and lament that the cowboy Bush Administration has driven away our French friends who would otherwise be glad to help liberate Arabs:

...It seems that, as a French Arab (or an Assyrian), you're more likely to get a job in government in Iraq than in France.

Back in February, I blogged the latest spectacular failure in including Arabs in the French political process. Though Maghrebans make up 10% of French society (slightly smaller than the percentage of blacks in the US population), there is not a single Arab mayor in France. In December, PM Raffarin had a list of forty to fifty candidates of Arab extraction drawn up to stand on the UMP list the March parliamentary elections. Three weeks later, the list had been cleansed of almost all the Arab names on it and the handful remaining began withdrawing in protest. There are now only 7 Arabs in the French parliament (there are more Arab MPs in Israel, a country 90% smaller than France!). Until then, there had not been a single Arab member of parliament (and therefore not a single Arab minister). Currently, France has only two Arabs holding executive public office.... [And keep those Israeli-Arab MP's in mind when Leftizoid phonies go on and on and on about the sins of Israel. They don't give a damn that Arabs in KSA or Yemen or Egypt don't get to elect MP's. In fact, they don't give a damn about Arabs, period.]

And read on! Read about a French Arab, a woman, who has reached ministerial rank. Oooops, but not in France. In Iraq.....Great story.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:17 PM

June 30, 2004

The importance of unilateralism...

Captain Ed writes:

...Five years after international armed intervention and UN administration, Kosovo doesn't even have an effective police force, and no one wants to speculate on its "final status". This past March, as ethnic violence flared up again and Albanians attacked Serb homes, businesses and churches (a reversal of 1999's violence), UN 'peacekeeping' forces essentially stood by and allowed mobs to continue their destruction. Even though Serbia-Montenegro has sovereignty over Kosovo, for now, the UN will not allow them to exercise any political authority, but the UN provides little of its own. It's a landscape of (mostly) quiet anarchy...
Loathsome, and unbelievable. This is what Kerry stands for. It's almost impossible to discern what Kerry and the Dems are FOR, but putting the UN in charge of things is certainly on the list.

But hey, there's one big success in the UN quagmire in Kosovo. Al Qaeda isn't sending suicide bombers to prevent the establishment of democracy and order and capitalism there! I wonder why...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:07 PM

What we get paid for...

I was just reading this new piece by den Beste, which is about almost everything, but included this:

Which usually means the US, which has had a chronically high trade imbalance for a hell of a long time, causing some to predict that we're heading at high speed for a cliff.

I don't know. I don't think it's possible for us to maintain a huge trade deficit forever. But I'm not so sure that the situation is quite as straightforward as those doomsayers claim...

One of the things I found most interesting in Thomas PM Barnett's book The Pentagon's New Map was an explanation of why the US can get away with a chronic trade deficit. We cover it in the short term by borrowing—we exchange our "paper" for BMW's and DVD players and Barbie Dolls. But it seems to go on forever, a perpetual free ride, a VISA Card with no limit. Why no crash?

Barnett says the world is essentially paying us to be its policeman. If China "tests" missiles right next to Taiwan, Asia's economy doesn't come to a panicky halt. Because the US will just happen to "test" a Carrier Battle Group in the neighborhood soon after. Both China and Taiwan can keep their factories churning out widgets instead of guns because they know darn well we are not going to tolerate any foolishness. Both China and Taiwan are content to keep buying our debt, to keep piling up mountains of it, because any big US economic contraction might force them to build their own aircraft carriers. Much of the world gets to concentrate on trade because we are handling their defense burden.

Barnett says Globalization is a system that benefits the US more than any other nation, because it is a sort of rebuilding of the world in our image. It's an expansion to global size of the freedom and opportunity and "rule sets" we have in the US. The game of globalization is rigged in our favor, but we "pay" for that advantage by assuming many adult responsibilities and burdens.

I was glad to learn that we aren't running a scam....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

June 21, 2004

Change in the weather...

Here's a very interesting Italian article, Bush Brought a Gift for the Pope, on religious changes in the US, and in American politics...

...But there is also underway a noticeable drawing together between Bush and Catholics in the United States. In the surveys for the November presidential elections, a majority of Catholics favor the reconfirmation of the incumbent president. And this in spite of the fact that he is a Methodist, while his opponent, the Democrat John Kerry, is a Catholic.

That’s not all. An even more relevant convergence is underway, the one taking place between Catholic Americans and their most heated religious rivals: the evangelical Protestants. This convergence is an absolute novelty in the history of the United States. And it has consolidated with the Bush presidency....

...The novelty is that, for some time now, the most inner circle of Bush’s collaborators has included a very authoritative Catholic priest. He is Fr. Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor, who converted to Catholicism in 1990 and was ordained a priest the following year by the archbishop of New York at the time, John Cardinal O’Connor....

...Meanwhile, the pope of Rome is no longer the Antichrist for the evangelicals of the United States. In a recent survey of them, John Paul II won first place for popularity, with 59 percent saying they view him favorably, ahead of Pat Robertson, with 54, and Jerry Falwell, with 44 percent.

And the pope returns the affection, with an eye for the November presidential election. In the June 4 edition of “Corriere della Sera,” Luigi Accattoli, the Vatican journalist who most faithfully reports the views from the pontifical palazzo, wrote that the pope has already decided: he prefers the evangelical Bush to the Catholic Kerry. And “he wants to help him with the Catholic voters.”....

Evangelical Christians have also become the most pro-Israel group in our politics. Probably they support Israel more strongly than American Jews do. They are finding much common ground with religious Jews.

One thing I find curious is that people of a leftish sort seem incapable of seeing these movements. For them, "the Religious Right" are knuckle-dragging fascists and cowboy morons, who want to establish a medieval "theocracy." The much-more interesting truth is quite invisible to them. Someone like John Ashcroft is invisible, he can only be seen as a caricature. It seems to me to be the kind of blindness you see in those who don't dare examine their own positions too closely, for fear of finding nothing much there.

If you are interested in President Bush's faith and views, try this interview in Christianity Today, by a panel of religious thinkers.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

June 6, 2004

More on the New Map...

Phil Fraering posted this comment on my post about The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P. M. Barnett.

I have not read the book, but I find some of the author's reported conclusions to be unlikely; the major threats of the twentieth century came from modernized, "core" nations: Japan, Germany, (and to a lesser extent) Russia.

Also, many of the 9/11 hijackers were from the more "connected," educated, and wealthy parts of their societies. Take Mohammed Atta, for example; he had a degree in urban planning from a German college.

The modern world still provides as fertile soil for the true-believer fanatic as it ever did; if it didn't, Berkeley would look a lot different.

It wasn't modernization that changed things, but globalization. The first blooming of globalization was squelched in the 1930's by economic nationalism, by the high tariffs thrown up to protect against the Depression. If the developed nations had lowered tariffs after 1929, the Stock Market Crash probably would have been just another business cycle, and Naziism would have fizzled out. Russia was cut off from the flows that globalization brings until the 1990's.

The big by-product of our involvement in the world during the Cold War was to allow globalization to happen. In fact that's probably the real story. First Europe and Japan, then a variety of other nations grew strong economically because we shouldered most of the defense burden. (It was our best investment ever. No need to thank us; globalization is really America's Operating System adopted by the world, and we profit the most out of it.)

Think of what happens today when a country gets into a financial crisis. Remember Mexico in 1994? A large part of a country's wealth can evaporate in HOURS as traders around the world dump their stocks and bonds. (And the money can flow back to a place like Mexico just as fast. Make reforms and you get instant gratification. Very educational.) Any threat of war would be much worse. Or imagine a US vs Mexico war. A huge chunk of "our" industry is across the border. A big portion of "their" population lives here. Because of NAFTA, Mexican trucks roll freely on our highways. We are entangled with them. And either country would be economically crippled if its ports were mined or airports shut down. Or communications lines were cut or satellite access blocked.

War would be ridiculous. But more important to our current situation, a terrorist movement (or a war-mongering nationalist movement) in Mexico will never grow big enough to really threaten us, because it would be squelched as soon as the threat to Mexico's wealth and trade became obvious. Most Mexicans are now well aware of how important trade and stability are to their hopes of buying a new car or wide-screen TV. Same goes for Berkeley. There are lots of wackos there, but they trek to gourmet natural foods restaurants, not to terrorist training camps. And they probably have jobs in the next-door capitalist haven of Emeryville. Any slow-down in the world's economy would be felt painfully in Berkeley too.

Almost all our military interventions during the 1990's were in places with a per-capita income less than $3,000. That seems to be a threshold. Above there the crazy violence mostly stops. (But it needs to be real wealth—not just having a lot of oil.) Mohammed Atta was "modernized," but the Arab region is not. They still have monarchies! Ludicrous. The desire of wealthy Saudis to fund terrorists was never counterbalanced by cabinet ministers worried about foreign investment drying up if there was a climate of disorder. Developed countries worry intensely about their bond ratings, and if those are threatened, action is taken. Corrupt left-leaning sleaze-ball demagogues are tossed out in favor of reformers who promise a favorable business climate. (Think Schwarzenegger!)

Phil, read the book! Then tell me if I'm on the wrong track.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 AM

June 5, 2004

This is the book you MUST read...

If you have nothing else on your summer list, read The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. You owe it to yourself...

Among other reasons, because this is the most optimistic book I've ever read. Not because he minimizes the difficulties facing mankind, but because he points out something I've been vaguely groping towards. If nations reach a certain point of prosperity and "connectedness," they don't slip back! (So far.) They stop fighting wars with their neighbors. They continue to grow economically. They move towards more democracy and freedom. So there are victories in our struggles that can be permanent. That can pay back whatever we invest in them a hundredfold, because that place becomes a permanent plus on the world's balance sheet.

...Let me tell you what we get when we do these difficult things. What America gets in return is the end of war as we know it. It gets a global economy with nobody left on the outside, noses pressed against the glass. Most important, it gets a definition of what constitutes the finish line in the global war on terrorism. In sum, shrinking the Gap gets us the final piece to the puzzle that is global peace. The end of the Cold War solved the threat of global conflict, and America's continued willingness to play Leviathan has effectively ended state-on-state war. What stands between us and the goal of making globalization truly global is the threats posed by the forces of disconnectedness—the bad individual actors that plague the Gap. Defeat them by denying them the Gap as their own and the Core wins this war on terrorism, plain and simple...
Even if you don't agree with it, this book will expand your thoughts. And Barnett is a very good writer, with fascinating stories to tell, and lots of detail on how things work in Washington and in the Pentagon.

There were a lot of "ah ha" moments for me in this book. I'll try to blog some more soon.

Also, it's not a pro-Bush screed. You don't have to be a bagel-eating Neocon to enjoy it.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:04 AM

May 31, 2004

CAFTA

good news on the free-trade front

....The United States has signed a trade agreement with five Central American countries. The five are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Trade ministers from the six countries signed the agreement in a ceremony Friday at the Washington headquarters of the Organization of American States. The new treaty is known as the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA....

...The Central America Free Trade Agreement is similar to NAFTA. It would bring the Bush administration one step closer to its goal of creating a free trade area. The area would include every country in the western half of the world, except Cuba. The Bush administration is hoping to reach an agreement on the Free Trade Area of the Americas by January two-thousand-five. CAFTA would end taxes on more than eighty-percent of industrial and other goods exported from the United States to Central America. It also would cut taxes on more than fifty-percent of American farm products to Central America. Taxes on most other goods also would be ended over time...


Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 PM

May 22, 2004

Kinda impressive

From OxBlog

KINDA COOL: India is over 80% Hindu. Last week, they kicked a Hindu nationalist party out of power. A plurality was won by the party led by an Italian-born Catholic. She then stepped aside in favor of a Sikh (who happens to be largely responsible for instigating the economic reforms that have made the Indian economy take off the last few years). The new Prime Minister was officially appointed by India's President, who is Muslim.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:46 AM

May 17, 2004

He's laughing at my spoons!

Johnathan Pearce, at Samizdata, passes on to us this amazing (but also very witty) piece of pomposity by Libertarian writer Sean Gabb:

It is, I admit, inappropriate to ascribe one state of mind to a nation of more than 250 million people. But Americans remind me increasingly of someone from the lower classes who has come into money, and now is sat in the Ritz Hotel, terrified the other diners are laughing at him every time he looks down at his knives and forks. I suppose it is because so many of them are drawn from second and even third rate nationalities. The Americans of English and Scotch extraction took their values and their laws across the Atlantic and spread out over half an immense continent, creating a great nation as they went. They were then joined by millions of paupers from elsewhere who learnt a version of the English language and a few facts about their new country, but who never withheld from their offspring any sense of their own inferiority. The result is a combination of overwhelming power and the moral insight of a tree frog.
Charlene and I are descended from various people of those "second and even third rate nationalities," and we can assure the author that not only did their inferiority not weigh heavily on them, they had hardly gotten off the boat before they assumed a feeling of smug superiority because they were Americans!

And not only are we not gnawing our knuckles worrying if the "first-rate nationalities" (apparently England and Scotland) are laughing at our spoons, we are seriously debating whether there is any hope for Britain, or whether we should just cut our losses and place our bets on more promising countries...(How's that for pompous condescension in response?)

* Also: What I speak is English. Right here in California is where it's happening, baby! (Or possibly Texas.) What you speak is a charming regional dialect, a sort of oxbow lake left behind as the mighty Mississippi of English-speaking civilization shifted course.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:24 PM

May 7, 2004

Oooops, now Peru's getting ahead of us, too..

Interesting article on a successful tax reform in Peru:

...The first phase of the reform focused on simplification, with 50 different taxes reduced to four. Employees were taxed at a flat rate, deducted by their employer, and banks were enlisted to help with collections....
These things spread. Peru is next door to Chile. They can see this kind of stuff working. They can watch lower tax rates and simpler systems leading to economic growth and actually more tax money collected...(Same mix is cooking in Iraq. Call it the Bremer Revolution. It's no wonder Democrats and Ba'athists and Al Qaeda all agree that what's happening there is a catastrophe.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM

May 3, 2004

Liberals, I'm waiting for the outrage...

Remember the (largely bogus) stories about black churches being burned, a few years ago? Big outrage, remember? (I'm still disgusted at the prayer that was offered in our church then, to preserve churches from the "white racist conspiracy" that was attacking them. Of course no conspiracy was ever found, but the Episcopal Church has faith! Maybe not in God, but definitely in the existance of "white racist conspiracies.")

SO, here's an interesting item, (thanks to Orbital):

Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State [in Nigeria], has ordered the demolition of all churches in the state, as he launched the second phase of his Sharia project yesterday.

Speaking at the launch in Gusau, the state capital, Governor Sani disclosed that time was ripe for full implementation of the programme as enshrined in the Holy Quran.

He added that his government would soon embark on demolition of all places of worship of unbelievers in the state, in line with Islamic injunction to fight them wherever they are found.

I'll just sit down and wait a bit, while the outrage over these black churches grows and grows...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:45 AM

May 1, 2004

Sweet things to look at...

Here's a charming slide-show of photos of Iran. Fun stuff, nothing to do with political turmoil. (via Rantburg)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 PM

April 11, 2004

Impossible things sometimes happen before breakfast...

A snippet from Roger Simon's blog:

...I noticed below a blogger from the Czech Republic--a place I know well and love--posted that any optimism about the situation in Iraq is delusional. Well, it certainly is if you think it is. Or, as the great Pirandello famously wrote, "It Is So If You Think So." One would hope that Czechs of all people would know the results of giving up...
When I was growing up "Czechoslovakia" was just a word. It wasn't part of the real world; I never heard of anyone going there. The Iron Curtain was permanent.

We should remember things like this when the nay-sayers start wallowing in the impossibility of everything...

Of course many of today's doom-sayers are phonies...if a Democrat were put into the White House the clouds of gloom would dissipate miraculously, much like the "homeless" disappeared from the news the moment Bill Clinton became President. Until then, "any optimism is delusional."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 PM

April 2, 2004

I thought of them as...gone

It's really neat when someone remembers what I wrote long ago. Ethan Hahn writes: Hearing that seven Soviet bloc countries today raised their flags at NATO headquarters reminded me of your wonderful post from when these countries were first invited to join.  I dug thru your old blogspot archives to find the link:

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia ... time was, I thought of them as, well, gone. Names from the past only. But they're still there! Made new. Marvelous. We might visit them someday. While Lenin and Marx and Mao and Stalin and Castro and PolPot are on the big ash-heap...
Ethan sent a link to the flag-raising:

Flags raised for new members of NATO

It still seems utterly marvelous. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 AM

March 23, 2004

comrades in the war

Since the World's leftylackwits are just now shedding crocodile tears over a slimesucking terrorist leader who finally got what he deserved, (While simultaneously criticizing Bush for not killing the equally vile Osama) it suits my mood to blog a little about the charm of Israel. (I've never been to the Holy Land, but someday...someday...)

From the blog Kumah! (Via Protocols)

Having just finished an exam, the three of us were driving home to Jerusalem from Bar Ilan University when we hit serious traffic. We decided to pull over to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayer).

We began to pray when all of the sudden another car pulled over about fifty feet away from us. An old Yemenite man hopped out and told us, "what, you don't want to pray with a minyan (quorum of ten)?"

As we answered him two more cars pulled over - one with Breslov Chassidim and the other with a pair of Moroccan brothers, with kippot creased from being folded and pocketed.

More followed and we had the great privilege of praying to God along with a random sampling of our incredible people - gathered from all the world to thank the God of Israel at the side of a highway leading to Jerusalem.(original post has a picture)

These are the people whose murder our lefty pals don't seem to mind. these are the good guys. These are our comrades in the war.

IT'S ALL ONE WAR.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:30 PM

March 18, 2004

and if it happened in Texas.....

By Iain Murray:

Just a quick question

If this had happened in the US, rather than France, wouldn't British and European media be full of stories about American ignorance of the world, American violence, reasons why Americans can't be trusted to lead the world etc etc? [link]

[I hate it when people put in unexplained links, like "this is funny" and you have to click on the link to find out what it is. So I'll tip you off, the link leads to a story about a driver in Montpellier, France, who saw Osama Bin Laden walking down the street and tried to run him over so as to collect the reward...]

Iain's right—if a Yank did this we'd never hear the end of it. And not just from British and European media; there are a ton of people around here who also cherish any story that makes Americans look stupid and violent.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:35 PM

February 25, 2004

The first prize was a death sentence...

Don't miss, don't miss, a splendid article, by a poet who fled from Soviet tyranny, only to find a new Leningrad right here in San Francisco...

...Throughout the fall semester the �Writers on Writing� class desecrated two things I hold dear: literature and America. It was a constant assault on my dedication to literature and my literary taste, and an insult to my love for this country. Not only were we forced to buy a bag of crappy books (except a few) with a price tag of around $200, but almost all these �writers� and �poets� presented on the lighted stage of the huge auditorium week after week used the opportunity to express their hate and contempt for America. Throughout the semester only a few talented exceptions abstained from expressing their political opinions.

If I have expertise in anything in this life, it is literature. I came from the Soviet Union, where literature, especially poetry, was a serious and deadly business. The second national prize for poetry in the USSR was five years in prison. The first prize was a death sentence, as seen by the fates of Nikolai Gumilev (execution by firing squad) and Osip Mandelshtam (a hungry death in the Gulag).

Night after night we typed for Samizdat (underground press) on primitive typewriters the smuggled poems of my friend Igor Guberman, who had been sentenced to five years in a prison camp. Kneeling on all fours (I was so pregnant at the time that I couldn�t sit), I read a book by Nadezhda Mandelshtam�the widow of the executed poet�that was brought into the country as contraband by some brave foreign visitors. The possession of this book was an offense punishable by law. The hostess begged me to leave, scared that I would go into labor right there in her apartment, but I finished that book understanding that this was my only chance to touch this dangerous copy....

- - - - - - - - - -

...Finally, it was America that paid our way out. The Jackson-Vanik amendment forced the Soviets to allow some groups to emigrate in exchange for a cheap grain trade agreement. Jews were the bargaining chip when the USSR was on the edge of starvation.

Divided by the number of people they finally let go, how many kilos of grain were paid for me? Or my mother?� What was the price in grain for the Moscow boy who became a student at Stanford and invented Google? Or another boy, who became the managing editor of this magazine? Or for the Russian taxi driver?...

By the way, The Jackson mentioned was Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a great man and a Democrat, back when it wasn't ludicrous to link those concepts. Many of the original "neocons" were staffers for Senator Jackson.

SF State U is less than half a mile from us. (Every year we have one lovely June day marred by the much amplified voice of someone like Willie Brown giving the commencement address) I bet you could find hundreds of people there who think the Soviets were just victims of bad press...

Thanks to Alan

Posted by John Weidner at 12:00 PM

February 24, 2004

Rough around the edges; quite normal...

I was fascinated by this article on Russia today. It puts Russia's many problems in perspective, and refutes some doom-sayers, by making comparisons with other nations at the same level of development...

...Russia's economic and political systems remain far from perfect. But their defects are typical of countries at a similar level of economic development. Russia was in 1990, and is today, a middle-income country, with GDP per capita around $8,000 (at purchasing power parity) according to the UN -- comparable to Argentina in 1991 and Mexico in 1999. Almost all democracies in this income range are rough around the edges: their governments suffer from corruption, their judiciaries are politicized, and their press is almost never entirely free. They have high income inequality, concentrated corporate ownership, and turbulent macroeconomic performance. In all these regards, Russia is quite normal. Nor are the common flaws of middle-income capitalist democracies incompatible with further economic and political progress...
One reason many people tend to portray today's Russia as a disaster and a failure is that most people didn't realize what a failure the Soviet Union was. It put on a brave outward show, with cosmonauts, parades of tanks, Olympic athletes, etc. But in fact its economy was rotten from top to bottom, decrepit, crime-ridden and impoverished.

One reason our view was distorted was that the Soviet Union was analyzed and described for us by experts in government and the academy. And since the very premise of the Soviets was that things would run better if controlled by�yes, you guessed it�experts in government and the academy...our analysts tended to paint a rosy picture.

One of the many debts we owe to Ronald Reagan, is that he pushed the CIA and others to start looking for evidence of Soviet economic failure. He knew it would be there, and in fact, we had a LOT of such evidence. But it was in the form of many obscure pieces that had always been ignored because they didn't fit expectations. That was the beginning of a return to sanity and American values, after decades when our leadership was drugged by the idea that Socialism was a workable alternative to freedom.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:28 PM

February 15, 2004

Iowa and Iran�seperated at birth?

Mark writes about one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and on the strenths and weaknesses of being highly specialized...

Mastery
Last week, I wrote a biography for Dan Gable. Because the sport at which Gable excelled was wrestling, most have not heard of him, but within the sport he is a legend. That's him over there on the right, pictured with his Gold Medal from the 1972 Olympics (in which he went undefeated and, indeed, didn't give up a single point - much to the dismay of the Soviets, who had vowed to "scour the country" looking for someone to defeat Gable). His story is an interesting one, but one thing I'm not so sure I captured in my piece was just how obsessed with wrestling he was. He lived, ate, and drank wrestling. When asked what interests he has besides wrestling, the first thing he says is "Recovery" (of course, he has to be completely exhausted to partake in that activity). How he managed to start a family, I will never know (perhaps he wasn't quite as obsessed as I thought). It made me wonder if being that good at something was worth it...
I don't know much about wrestling, but it seems like an odd and fascinating world. I once studied jujitsu in a small way, so I don't feel totally bewildered. One thing I do know, is that in Iran and that whole Central-Asian region, wrestling is a very big deal. (see my post here, with also a recommendation for a book Neal Stephenson wrote under another name, featuring wrestling, and Iowa, and terrorists...)

I strongly urge that when the time comes that we re-open diplomatic relations with Iran, Dan Gable should be our ambassador.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:31 PM

January 31, 2004

Internet motoman....

Fun article on e-mail delivered by scooter...

...Since the system went into place last September at the new elementary school here in Cambodia's remote northeast corner, solar panels have been powering three computers. Once a day, an Internet "Motoman" rides a cherry red Honda motorcycle slowly past the school. On the passenger seat is a gray metal box with a short fat antenna. The box holds a wireless Wi-Fi chip set that allows the exchange of e-mail between the box and computers. Briefly, this schoolyard of tree stumps and a hand-cranked water well becomes an Internet hot spot.

It is a digital pony express: five Motomen ride their routes five days a week, downloading and uploading e-mail. The system, developed by a Boston company, First Mile Solutions, uses a receiver box powered by the motorcycle's battery. The driver need only roll slowly past the school to download all the village's outgoing e-mail and deliver incoming e-mail...

There's an inetresting insight into what Third World people need as the villagers debate what to put in their first e-mail message...
..."I think we should send a message to the governor, asking for land titles," said Kim Seng, 53, who owns a mud-floor restaurant, as his wife listened from a hammock. Conjuring up the power and prestige of a letter sent by computer, he added confidently, "The governor will pay attention to our issues."...
In many places development is stunted because people can't use their homes or land as collateral for loans, because there is no system for creating clear titles.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:56 AM

January 26, 2004

Quoting David Frum...

It�s very odd. People on the left-hand side of the political world are always urging us to remember that other countries have their own motives, values and interests. Yet whenever there is a Republican president, those same people on the left-hand side suddenly tell us that anything untoward that happens anywhere in the world is a reaction to that Republican president....(link)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:17 PM

January 6, 2004

The wildest optimists would not have predicted...

Here's a little more good news.

One could describe a great many places on this planet as: "Experimented with Socialism in the heady days after WWII. Now clawing themselves out of the resulting stagnation and corruption." Conspicuous on that long list is Israel. One of the oddities of israel's history is that many of the daring young Zionists were doing exactly the opposite of their parents. (Like hippies being long-haired and unwashed just to be the opposite of their tidy suburban parents.) The Jews of Eastern Europe were very much businessmen, even if only poor Peddlers. Their offspring were Socialists. The Kibbutz was an extreme of this, replacing an intense, urban, family and religious life with a sort of secular rural commune including communal childraising...

Jerusalem
WHEN FORMER prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took on the thankless job of finance minister last March, Israel was facing a grave economic crisis. In the sixth year of a deep recession, the country had seen its tax receipts plummet while welfare transfer payments kept growing, amounting to more than a third of the government's $70 billion budget. The budget deficit had reached a perilous 5 percent of GNP. It was feared that the government might not be able to meet the payroll of a bloated public sector that employs every third worker in Israel, or keep paying generous benefits to the more than 10 percent of the workforce that is unemployed. To guard against inflation, the Bank of Israel kept interest rates so high (9.1 percent in real terms at their peak) that the economy was choking. There were murmurs Israel might slide into an Argentinian-style crisis or a deflation like Japan's....
Those of us who are interested in Israel have spent decades wishing they could shake off the Socialism that has crippled them. (It's has got to be one of the cruel ironies of our times, that Israelis get to be reviled as money-grubbing Jews, without actually making much money.)
....The wildest optimists would not have predicted that Netanyahu could reverse this downward economic trend, and in fairly short order. Yet the economy is growing again. Netanyahu has managed to make substantial cuts in two consecutive budgets and reduce the bloated public workforce and salaries (though not enough). He has even managed to reduce unemployment benefits that discouraged lower paid Israelis from working....
I just love it. Of course, the way things have been going recently, us "wildest optimists" are mostly yawning and saying "Lordy, not another impossible victory? I don't have time to blog 'em all."

And, like most of those positive developments that seem to be happening now, there lurks in the background the sinister gray-cloaked figures of the mysterious cabal known as...

....His trump card was, no doubt, the $9 billion in American loan guarantees this summer that allowed the government of Israel to tap international markets for desperately needed funds, as they have nearly depleted local credit markets. The U.S. government astutely made the loan guarantees conditional on the enactment of basic economic reforms, tipping the political scales in favor of Netanyahu's bold moves....
Ha ha, the Bush Administration...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

December 30, 2003

Third World as "ethnographic zoo"

Wretchard puts this well.

...Thomas Barnett pointed out that Africa, in common with dirt poor countries of the Third World, has been detached from the stream of civilization. It remains on the planet only by polite pretense; but in practice under another sun, with different laws of gravity. Even arithmetic is different there, and the starvation of a hundred thousand counts for less newspaper space than the sexual scandals of a Hollywood actor. Yet in that outer dark lies the future of mankind. Barnett convincingly argues that "the real battlegrounds in the global war on terrorism are still over there. If gated communities and rent-a-cops were enough, September 11 never would have happened."

The truly dangerous thing about President Bush is that he wants to bring these lost continents back onto the planet. "And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind." Even at the cost of making them like Americans, free, crass and prosperous. That is a less comforting proposition to the capitals of Old Europe than maintaining the Third World as an ethnographic zoo which pays graft to the zookeepers.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:19 PM

December 28, 2003

grim

From Powerline:

...Shmuel Yurfest is an Israeli surgeon who has saved the lives of many people, including lots of Palestinians. Last May, he reattached the severed hand of a Palestinian terrorist who was injured when his bomb blew up prematurely. "I have saved the lives of many terrorists," Yurfest says. "But the only reason this one walks on this planet with both his hands is because of my work." While performing the operation, Dr. Yurfest commented to a nurse, "Tell the terrorists, when they make a bomb for me to make sure it's a small one because I have saved the lives of many of them."

Dr. Yurfest won't be saving any more terrorists. Or anyone else. At age 48, he is blind and nearly deaf as a result of a mass-murder bombing by a 19 year old Palestinian girl....

I am Not. Going. To. Say. ANYTHING.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 PM

December 27, 2003

A small positive note...

Whither Russia? What's Putin up to? Who knows...This seems like a positive sign:

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on one-window concept for registering businesses into law on Dec. 23 in a move expected to ease the often time-, energy- and money-consuming bureaucratic gridlock faced by entrepreneurs while registering businesses in the country....
A splendid idea, but probably very difficult to implement, since the "one-window" will be passing information on to various bureaucracies with incompatable data systems.

It would certainly be difficult to do here. Good luck, Ivan.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:11 PM

December 26, 2003

We gotta catch up with Eastern Europe...

Via Drezner, a Chicago Tribune story about the growth in credit card use in Hungary. This is what really impressed me:

....The biggest obstacle credit card marketers had to overcome in Hungary was fear of fraud. But consumer concerns about the safety of their cards have led to an important security innovation made possible by the explosive growth of mobile phones in Hungary.

Each time a card is used, the cardholder immediately gets a text message on his or her cell phone confirming the transaction and notifying the cardholder of the balance. Initially developed in Hungary, the messaging system is used widely in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is now being introduced in Western Europe....

Fascinating. We gotta catch up with Eastern Europe...

In our family, like many, everyone has a cell phone. So each little Weidner has his or her own phone number, which is something new in the world. And now the US has a law that cell phone numbers must be portable. If you switch to another provider, you can take your number with you. (My impression is that other countries don't share our number problem, what with our six big providers constantly grabbing customers from each other.) So now we can, if we wish, keep our numbers forever. So I'm guessing we are rapidly heading to the time where everybody in the world has their own permanent phone number.

And then it could turn into an everything number. Send an e-mail to someone's "phone number," and it will be automatically routed to whatever mailbox they are using. Enter a "phone number" into a web page, and go to that person's home page or blog.

What I'd like to have is a home phone that is connected to a re-charging dock for all our cell phones. When you are "at home," your phone is in the dock, and any calls for you ring on the home phone. If nothing else, it would bring some order to our current phone chaos here at Weidner Central, what with children setting down phones any old which-where, and then panicking when it's time to leave for school.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:34 AM

December 23, 2003

"Read it and weep"

Alan Sullivan pointed me to this article on the Poles, and their many efforts on behalf of freedom. And how they've been wretchedly treated by an ungrateful world every time.

Including, right now, by us, in return for much help in Iraq. They asked for almost nothing, but even that was too much. While we give billions to Turkey or Egypt. I HOPE somebody's waking up and paying attention to this....

Pass it on, please.

...On that fateful afternoon, the Polish cavalry struck the Turkish lines with such force that 2,000 lances shattered. The charge stunned the Ottoman army. A hundred thousand Turks ran for the Danube.

No army from the Islamic world ever posed such a threat to the West again.

Poland's thanks for its courage? In the next century, the country was sliced up like a pie by the ungrateful Habsburgs, along with the Romanovs of Russia and the Prussian Hohenzollerns. It was the most cynical action in European history until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Poland again in 1939.

But the Poles never gave up their belief in their country - or in freedom. During our own revolution, our first allies were Polish freedom fighters such as Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciusko...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 PM

December 22, 2003

Sometimes things change ...

There's an interesting article in NRO on Christianity in China.

....Kathryn Jean Lopez: How many Christians are there in China?

David Aikman: [There are] about 70 million Protestants and about 12 million Catholics.

Lopez: How have that many Christians managed to flourish in China, largely underground? What drives them?

Aikman: During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) every single church building (and mosque and temple as well) was closed in China. The formal, permitted structures of Chinese Protestantism and Catholicism had also been dissolved by Mao's Red Guards. Christians become used to gathering in totally clandestine situations, in homes, fields, forests. Because the government was so overtly hostile to religion, Christians took the view that the best response was open and energetic evangelism wherever and whenever they could. Even when China began to open up in 1979 and the "official" churches were permitted to function once more, the "house church" networks had established such a powerful presence all over China that it made sense to continue to operate completely outside of the domain of any Chinese officialdom.

Lopez: Many of the Christians are elites � scientists, intellectuals. How did that happen?....

Christianity is apparently growing rapidly in China, which could have big implications for the future. I'm always fascinated by any sort of renovatio. A country like China, we just assume that it will carry on much the same, and that we will have to struggle with the same intractable problems far into the future. Sometimes, it turns out, not so...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:21 PM

December 17, 2003

Whatever happened to "just war?"

seablogger writes;

...Whatever happened to "just war?" No U.N. existed when the doctrine was promulgated. It's specious for Catholics to claim retroactively that only the U.N. could authorize conflict. And it's astonishing that a conservative pontiff would ditch Church teachings, merely because of a little political inconvenience. In his younger years John Paul didn't hesitate to discommode the Soviet Empire; yet in his dotage, it seems, the Pope has become an ideological pawn of his Eurocratic handlers. Perhaps he dimly perceives himself as a champion of the common man, shaking his staff at another empire, which he can no longer distinguish from that previous one. Meanwhile his colleagues make fools of themselves...
Cardinal Renato Martino,: ..."Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he said in answer to questions about Saddam's arrest...

How about a little more compassion for those people Saddam fed through the chipper-shredder, while he got his jollies listening to them scream? It seems to me the dictator has received very gentle treatment indeed, if anyone tended his teeth, rather than knocking them out. What is this "compassion," really? Perhaps it's a sense of dignity so morally-obtuse that it feels threatened by any violation of rank or title, no matter how bogus or monstrous the dignitary. If the President of the Republic is humbled, who might be next? A Cardinal of the Church, held to account for concealing thousands of child-violations?....

Reminds me of Rowan Williams writing about how he was deeply learned in "International Law," and was sure that it would be "illegal" for the US to liberate Iraq. Gorf.

Seablogger also writes, about the movie Master and Commander: " ...In O'Brian's novels, Maturin is not only the Captain's match in force of character; he is a strange and dangerous man who kills without the slightest compunction when the occasion arises. Indeed Maturin's duels, and his perils as an agent of naval intelligence, provide many of the most dramatic moments in the duodecology (a word I just coined for a twenty-novel cycle). Betanny was given none of this, and he is physically inapt for the role as well: too tall, too handsome...."

I haven't seen the film, but it would be amazing if Hollywood could even imagine having a major character be small, grey-skinned, peevish, and capable of a cold, reptilian glare that can frighten strong men. And if they did, they couldn't possibly combine it with Maturin's warmth and charm. (His name, by the way, should probably be pronounced something like MATCH'rin. Not muh-TOOR-in...)

Take a look at Seablogger--an interesting person. "Duodecology" --gotta love it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:04 AM

December 15, 2003

For the Left, it was put-up or shut-up time...

Some simple good sense from Dr Weevil:

In deprecating the importance of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Max Sawicky writes:
U.S. political leaders in both parties are quick to laud imaginary progress towards democracy in other countries. It plays to the notion of an inexorable trend based on the shining U.S. example. Actual accountability, given the facts on the ground, is always sloughed off. Has anybody checked on the state of democracy in Panama? I'm not saying it's absent; I wouldn't know. But we invaded the place and a bunch of civilians died. My data here is the extent of utter disinterest in the fate of Panama in the U.S. I can't remember ever seeing a review of the consequences of U.S. intervention.

We call most Latin and South American countries democracies. What is meant is that they are not-Cuba (and lately, not-Venezuela). The fact is that genuine observance of democratic norms is notoriously spotty. The hurdle of democracy is low enough for most any country to jump over it.

I don't link to Sawicky, but this is from today's first post, and I have bold-faced the most interesting part. Just because he "wouldn't know" doesn't mean the rest of us don't. I'm surprised he didn't think to ask the same question about Grenada, which was also invaded by the U.S., just 20 years ago this past October. Both questions are easy enough to answer: it took me about 10 minutes, plus another hour and a half to write this up. This is not the first time Sawicky has depended on others to do his homework for him. Perhaps I should send him a bill....
The short answer is, yes, Panama and Grenada are democracies in good standing, according to Freedom House. But do take the time to read Dr Weevil's post, complete with cool graphs.

But for me, what's really intriguing is that Lefties like Sawicky are so oddly clueless on this subject, and that there seems to me to be a strong possibility that they don't know because they don't WANT to know!

There's a peculiar and widespread amnesia when the subject is democracy in Latin America. It's almost science-fictiony. There are a LOT of people who can discuss General Pinochet, or the Argentine Colonels, or Che, or Guatemalan death squads. But those are things that happened 3 or 4 DECADES ago. And the same people don't think it odd that their minds are totally blank concerning what's happening NOW in those same countries...

I suspect there is an intentional forgetfulness here, and I think it has a real connection with the odd state of the Left today. Many thoughtful people have expressed dismay that the Left, which was traditionally anti-fascist, now wants nothing to do with removing the worst fascist dictator of recent times.

I think the change dates to around the year 1980. That's when Ronald Reagan became President. And soon after he changed our long-standing Cold War policy of supporting Latin American strong-men and authoritarian governments in order to fight the spread of Communism. Reagan, unlike "Realists" such as Johnson or Nixon, did not believe that Socialism was even close to being competitive with free governments. (He was decisively vindicated in this when the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia's real economy turned out to be equivalent in size to Holland's.)

More importantly, unlike the "Realists," he really believed that ordinary people around the globe longed for, and deserved, the God-given freedom that Americans enjoy. And that, given the chance, they would NOT vote for communists, but would embrace economic and political freedom. Reagan threw the prestige and influence of America behind democratic movements throughout the Western Hemisphere. The results were dramatic. There were other reasons why the time was ripe for this, but Reagan's efforts, spearheaded by Elliot Abrams, were probably the largest factor in the change to democracy. When Bush #1 left office, there was only one leader in this Hemisphere who had not been elected competitively!

But the new policy put the world's Leftists in a terrible dilemma. It was put-up or shut-up time. They had been bellyaching for ages about Latin American dictators, and now someone was doing something about it. But they didn't really want ordinary people to run the circus; that was supposed to be a job for Leftist bureaucrats and intellectuals.

And even worse, democracy was being championed by Ronald Reagan! The kind of berserk reaction that the Left has now to George W Bush was exactly how they reacted then to Reagan.

I think that was when the Left started to lose interest in anti-fascism. Not to mention democracy. If Reagan and the Republicans were for it, it was much too bourgeois. (They could still get some milage from the dictators of the Middle East�I recently read a Leftish rant about Saudi Arabia being the worst government in the world [which will come as a surprise to the people of North Korea.] But now Bush #2 is busy taking even that pleasure away.)

For Latin America, the only answer was AMNESIA. Chile doesn't exist. Argentina without the Colonels dropped off the globe. When did you last hear about El Salvador? Or Guatemala? And Elliot Abrams is known only for the mistakes of the Iran-Contra scandal....

Posted by John Weidner at 4:49 PM

December 14, 2003

I was thinking we were being unfair to Kerry, but....

You know, I was kind of thinking that the put-downs of John Kerry as Frenchified were a bit overdone and unfair. But what's his first reaction to the capture of Saddam? Starhawk was watching and posts this

Update: John Kerry on Fox News Sunday: This is our chance to open up our bidding process where we shut out France ...."
Then he goes on to say that he is not talking politics. This guy is a LOSER no doubt about it. He digs himself a deeper hole saying that we should have continued the Clinton policy with North Korea and we should not have run away from Kyoto (which he voted against).
I think some people can't give up believing that France and "Old Europe" are still important, because they've invested too much of themselves in being "sophisticated" and "European."

The truth is, France is circling the drain. It's economy is utterly stagnant, it has NO private-sector job growth, an aging population uninterested in hard work, enormous pension-liabilities coming up that it has not the least possibility of meeting, and no will to reform. (Though I've heard that France has a growing number of Evangelical Christians. That's a sign of hope, though it's probably too little, too late. Their real problem is spiritual. Like much of Europe, they don't believe in anything.)

The countries that are really important are those that have growing economies, growing populations, youth, energy, dreams and ambitions...I suggest putting India at the top of the list. I've heard that they are graduating 360,000 engineers a year! (There's a number that's hard to deal with!)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:54 PM

December 13, 2003

"You can't outrun the history train"

Greyhawk writes

What I've told troops confronted with "protest" is a bit more simple: "America is with you. As far as the protestors, don't sweat it. You're making history; they're making noise.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:55 PM

December 12, 2003

Kofi and the Beanstalk...

To some Americans, other countries are always tender damsels, wistfully hoping to be friends, but always driven away by America's obnoxious body-odor. I remember during the Vietnam War, it was a matter of faith to many that North Vietnam keenly wanted peace, but could only express this desire through "peace feelers" of inscrutable subtlety, which were always ignored, or which withered under the harsh blast of American coarseness. The idea that Ho Chi Minh was some sort of delicate blossom was goofy, but it served its purpose of obscuring the fact that we had a "peace movement" that was only interested in criticizing one side of a very two-sided war.

We have the very same thing again. You just watch; it will now become a matter of faith to some people that Russia and France and Germany were this close, were just fractions of millimeters away from pitching in and helping us in Iraq. But then President Stanley Kowalski belched in their faces with our contracts policy, driving them away by a boorishness their sheltered convent-upbringing had not prepared them for.

David Frum writes:

....The fact is that Germany, France, and Russia have already been pressed by the United States to forgive Iraq�s debts, most insistently at an October conference in Madrid. All three refused, as they have refused to provide significant aid to the new Iraq.

So who�s kidding whom here? The idea that the allies-only rule might somehow �embarrass� President Bush�s attempts to obtain economic assistance for Iraq is pure State Department wishful thinking. To the contrary: the swift and firm application of an attention-getting two-by-four may well be the only method to persuade the ill-intentioned three to offer any assistance.

There�s a more profound question at issue here. It is always hard for the human mind to adapt to the fact of change. For half a century, Germany has been a firm and faithful ally of the United States; France, an often annoying but still ultimately reliable friend. It�s natural to hesitate to absorb the evidence that these relationships may be coming to an end--that Germany is edging away from the old alliance and that France has for reasons of its own opted to pursue a policy of rivalry and even hostility to the United States. But if it is natural to hesitate to accept unwelcome new realities, it is dangerous to deny them. In Iraq, France was Saddam Hussein�s ally, not America�s--and France now wishes the United States, Britain, and the rest of the coalition to fail in Iraq, not succeed. It is useful for the French government and others to be made aware that Americans have observed this hostility--and that America�s future policy toward France and others will take this hostility into account.

As for Iraq�s debts, they are a matter between those who chose to lend money to Saddam Hussein--principally France, Germany, and Russia--and the new government of Iraq. The United States will of course wish to see Iraq and its creditors negotiate some settlement. But it�s also true that when debtors and creditors cannot agree, debtors sometimes simply default--refuse to pay. And what will those creditors do if Iraq does default? Invade?....

Actually, the debts of overburdened third-world countries are often given "haircuts." The markets have already discounted private Iraqi debt in the expectation that a haircut is inevitable. It's going to happen. There will be lots of posturing and negotiating and lines drawn in the sand, and then, when the news media get bored with the question, a deal will quietly be done. (

Our friend Dave Trowbridge notes someone's suggestion that, as "occupying power," WE are now responsible for Iraqi debt, and can only escape by permission of the UN. I would tend to put that down to wishful thinking. There are a lot of people for whom "International Law" is something one simply declares, in hopes it will take, like a small-pox vaccination. [That sure dates you.--I.C. Uh, I read about it in a book.] And of course the purpose of these soi-disant international laws is always to hinder the United States (Or perhaps Israel.) I mean, try to even imagine the world's lefties saying that France can't do such-and-such because it's "against International Law." You can't think it, the mind refuses to accept such a thing! Or imagine someone declaring that Russia's invasion of Afghanistan has left them liable for Afghan debts...laughable.

Part of this wishful thinking is the hope that the United Nations has somehow become an omnipotent World Government while no one was looking. Authoritative voices are always declaring that this-or-that can't be done without the permission of the Security Council. Last September there was this:

UN under-secretary general Shashi Tharoor said the Allies had no rights under international law to engage in any kind of reconstruction or creation of government without the express consent of the Security Council....
Purest hogwash. I'd call that the "Magic Bean" theory of International Law. Kofi Anan tosses some Magic Beans on the ground, and overnight they grow into a towering beanstalk, and all nations the United States has no choice but to obey. World Government has spoken!

There are, by the way, genuine International Laws. But those are rules that have evolved over time, and which civilized nations follow because it's in everybody's best interest to do so. Or they are treaties, voluntarily entered into, and exited from. The United States supports many of those laws.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:59 PM

November 26, 2003

"Pro-democracy brow-beating" What a concept!

I hear so often that clumsy and incompetent Americans can't "do" diplomacy, and that various distant lands will soon implode because of our neglectful policies, that articles like this one come as a distinct relief: Georgia's partner in democracy: US

....Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

"The US government has gone to great lengths to back a [democratic] process and institutions, and to be very careful - amid big pressure from both sides - not to back certain individuals," says Mark Mullen, head of the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), funded by the US government, which has engaged in democracy training here since the mid-1990s.

"In the end, this was done by Georgians - it was not done by Americans - and that is vital to everything," says Mr. Mullen, who has spent more than six years in Georgia. "We worked closely with all parties, and did enormous training with the president's party. But the reality is, most of them were not as enthusiastic."

Washington committed $2.4 million to help conduct Georgia's Nov. 2 election. But widespread fraud sparked the street protests that led to the storming of parliament on Saturday. It was part of a 10-year investment of $1.3 billion aimed at helping Georgia create a civil society....

* [Democracy in Georgia? Sounds unlikely to work -- I.C.] I should hasten to insulate myself from the sneers of sophisticates by adding that I'm perfectly aware that the experiment may fail. OK? ALL our experiments may fail.

BUT, my sympathies are with the guys who are trying to climb the highest mountain, not with those who warm their bleak little hearts with thoughts of avalanches and frostbite...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:34 AM

November 25, 2003

Unilateralist? There's a much-misused word...

Marmot, a blogger who lives and teaches in Korea, has a long and fact-filed dissection of Josh Marshall's latest steaming mound of lies and distortions. That guy is really despicable. Marmot's piece is worth a read. (Also good are the comments to this...)

No American President "is to blame" for this problem. North Korea is totally at fault. That regime is utterly evil and unscrupulous. But the Clinton/Carter policies have manifestly failed. And Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" has failed.

Now President Bush is trying a tougher tack. We Americans should be supporting him at this difficult moment. Constructive criticism is fine, but what Marshall is doing is wrong. And unpatriotic. (There. I said it. Senator Daschle will criticize me�he says it's wrong to impugn someone's patriotism. I'm not sure why it should be....)
(via Henry Hanks)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 PM

November 22, 2003

Ya, we are ostriches...

From an article in Deutsche Welle, Kenya Rocket Attack: Is Europe Next?

....The Internet magazine Salon.com reported last week on a secret Nov. 5 meeting between the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at which executives from 25 U.S. airlines were warned that al Qaeda might be planning to attack U.S. airlines shoulder-launched missiles.

There�s plenty of reason for caution, too. According to Jane�s, a leading military think tank and publisher, more than 27 terrorist groups possess shoulder-fired missiles. U.S. government reports paint an even grimmer picture: Since the 1970s, at least 42 aircraft have been struck by the missiles, killing at least 900 passengers.

Speaking at a meeting in Brussels, German Interior Minister Otto Schily sought to reassure Germans that the same thing isn�t likely to happen here. "Our airports are better guarded than airports in other parts of the world," he said. But he warned it would be impossible to provide protection for every civilian target in Germany....

Dream on, Fritz. Guarding an airport (and its vicinity) is soooo easy. Nice compact perimeter and all. And of course your planes never ever fly to any other country's airports. No. So you are safe. The War on Terror only concerns Jews and Americans.

What FOOLS these appeasers are. Danger is staring them in the face, and they think that pretending it isn't there will protect them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 PM

November 20, 2003

Says Lexington Green

....This process of "savage capitalism" is what the folks in Old Europe want to "protect" themselves from. That's fine. Suit yourself. Build yourself a cocoon, move into it, guarantee yourself a "right" to a cozy, trouble-free, event-free life. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, eighteen year old kids in Austria talk about their pensions, and he wanted more. Everyone with any gumption, globally, now hear this, straight from Lex: Get your ass to America, and we'll build the free and prosperous future here. The Old Europeans can park their beach chairs on the ash heap of history, look around at the rubble of the great things their ancestors did, think about the kids and grandkids they never had and will never have, grumble about how the Americans are cowboys, and wait for their pension checks.

It's been nice knowin' ya, folks. See you in the rear-view mirror.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM

October 23, 2003

Management...

A friend sent a link to a scathing report on the failure of the UN to provide security for its people in Iraq. it doesn't seem to have received much attention...

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 22 � An independent panel appointed to investigate the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August said on Wednesday in a scathing report that security breaches, inadequate security analysis and poor management left the organization vulnerable to attack....

....The panel said the organization had failed to assess thoroughly security in Iraq or respond to warnings, including intelligence reports that said the headquarters could be a target of an attack. United Nations officials, the panel said, also dismissed offers of protection from the United States coalition in Baghdad.

Although the report acknowledged that improved security might not have prevented the bombing, which killed 22 staff members and visitors and injured more than 150 people, the investigators said the management and staff had failed to take steps that would at least have reduced the vulnerability of the mission and minimized casualties.

The panel, sounding an alarm throughout the United Nations network of missions, declared that the security system was "dysfunctional" and "provides little guarantee of security to U.N. staff in Iraq or other high-risk environments and needs to be reformed."

The 40-page report echoed in its severity the conclusions of the independent panels that Mr. Annan named to investigate the United Nations role in the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995....

It's not really surprising that the UN has management problems. Good management requires honesty. Truthfulness. And the UN is built of layer upon layer of lies.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 PM

October 15, 2003

Somebody getting nervous?

In some ways Los Angeles is the center of the world. Ways having to do with movies and television. If something's a big deal in LA, the whole world tends to hear about it.

You may remember a few years back, when Los Angeles had some really bad rainstorms and flooding? Several people were killed, and it was much on the news. A friend of mine, an engineer, lives in the LA area. He was sent on an assignment to Guam. Now Guam is a place where they routinely have rainstorms with 100mph winds. But what does everyone say when he gets to Guam? "Hey, we hear you're having terrible storms in LA!"

His next stop was Moscow. There the weather was below zero, and he had people working outdoors in a snowstorm. And what did the Muscovites say to him? "We heard about those awful storms you're having in LA."

SO, if you went right now to visit a primitive tribe in remotest New Guinea, what do you think they would know about the outside world? "Hey, we hear Arnold's the new Governor!"

Before you snort with derision, just think about it. Think about the parable that people all over the world are hearing. "The people of California weren't happy with their leader, so they tossed him out. And they didn't replace him with another stuffed-shirt. They picked somebody so different that ruling elites all over the world are united in their scorn and grief."

Now that's a parable. A message expressed as a simple story that the muddiest peasant in the remotest Taro-patch can understand.

If it had happened in Ohio, the world would hardly have noticed. But everyone knows about California. Everyone's seen car-chases on the LA freeways...

Is it really so surprising that the LA Times went berserk trying to stop Arnold? (Read this story for the lunatic details. 24 reporters were assigned to dig up dirt on Arnold!)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

September 30, 2003

Interesting comparison...

An interesting article on British nation-building efforts in Sierra Leone.

...The similarities between the two African nations are countless: from their beginnings (as havens for former slaves and harbors where Britain and the United States could unload free blacks), to their size (tiny) and strategic significance to the West (minimal), to the longing of their people for Western intervention (just as Sierra Leoneans welcomed back "our fathers" when the British landed in 2000, Liberians are calling out to their "big brothers," the Americans who founded their country two centuries ago). And the implosions of the two nations are intertwined. Sierra Leone's civil war began with a rebel army based in Liberia. That army set off a decade-long conflagration, mostly devoid of ideology or even tribal logic, in which Sierra Leonean government troops as well as rebel soldiers raped and incinerated civilians on a massive scale...
The good part is that the British, with only 800 soldiers, have, in three years, and with only one combat death, pretty much ended the horrific violence in Sierra Leone. This is a splendid humanitarian success, and stands in glaring contrast to the utter fecklessness of the UN.

The bad part is that this is Africa. They are never going to really get their acts together; no African country ever has... Sisyphean ain't in it.

(Via Oxblog)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:04 AM

September 15, 2003

training ....

Natalie said an interesting thing, concerning the murder of Anna Lindh...

...In mitigation of the conduct of those bystanders I could offer the plea of sheer disbelief. On the happily rare occasions when I have witnessed violence, I, like them, have stood there desperately trying to re-process what I was seeing into a misunderstanding.

Liberty breeds safety. Safety breeds docility. Docility destroys liberty. Stone, paper, scissors.

Politically I've woken up. In my personal reflexes I'm still asleep.

I remember vividly the murder of Kitty Genovese, back in the 60's. (And it seems like a lot of other people do--Googling the name gets about 4,000 results.) All of America was shocked, and ashamed of the bystanders who did nothing. Probably millions of words were written, analyzing the America that allowed things like this to happen. But what is interesting to me is that nothing quite like it has happened since. And I suspect it is so because tens of millions of people said to themselves, "If something like this happens near me, I'm going to do something!"

It would be very interesting to know what the Swedes are thinking now. And what might happen if another attack like this occurs...Mark Steyn said that the Swedes lack "the will to be a citizen, not just a suckler of the nanny-state narcotic." Maybe, but I'm far from convinced of that. There's an Army and Martial Arts saying, "The way you train is the way you will fight." Most of us don't actually train to fight attackers, but we all do some mental training, and are ready for some things. If you are on an airplane, and you pull out a knife and shout something in Arabic, you will quickly discover that ordinary people are very ready for some life-or-death situations. I would guess that a planeload of Swedes would be almost as quick to act as Americans.

The nice Swedish ladies in the department store have doubtless been trained by the nanny state to passivity, but that training doesn't necessarily change what they really are. They've also been trained to accept the Euro... And if someone had been trying to kidnap a child in that department store, I bet the result would have been very different.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

September 2, 2003

Hizzoner Al Capone...

Former president Jimmy Carter has written an urgent call for appeasement. I've added a few thoughts as they occur to me...

U.S.-North Korea war seems 'strong possibility'
By Jimmy Carter
We face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences, so the endangered multilateral talks in Beijing are of paramount importance. It is vital that some accommodation be reached between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korea is an isolated country, poverty stricken, paranoid, apparently self-sacrificial and amazingly persistent in international confrontations, as is now being demonstrated. It is a cultural and almost sacred commitment for its leaders not to back down, even in the face of international condemnation and the most severe political and economic pressure.

A distilled example of a certain point-of-view. It starts with the assumption that the leadership is the the country. Also that any place that calls itself a nation really is one, and deserves the same respect as all the others. In Carter's view, if Al Capone siezed control of Chicago, he would be Chicago, and it would be wrong if Bush failed to call him "Your Honor." And since the leader is the country, it would then make sense to say "Chicago has a cultural and almost sacred commitment to Omerta."

The truth is, North Korea is not 'self-sacrificial." It's leaders have never sacrificed anything, and the people have no voice,and certainly wouldn't be keen on sacrifice if they did. And it's not a nation, it's a region held at gunpoint by a gang of communists.

A previous example of this stubbornness occurred in 1968, when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence-gathering ship. Despite the best efforts of President Lyndon Johnson to marshal international support and to prevail with economic punishment and military threats, President Kim il Sung never deviated from his basic demands, which included an embarrassing public apology from the United States for "spying" on his country. After 11 months, President Johnson accepted all the demands, and the crew was released.

President Bush, do you get the message? Accept all demands...Notice that the word "stubbornness" is never applied to the US, and "threats" is never applied to NK...And notice that Carter seems clueless of any causal relationship between accepting demands then and being faced with more demands now.
Notwithstanding their abysmal economic failures and the resulting hardships of their people, North Korean leaders have never deviated from a commitment to military strength. They maintain a formidable army, with artillery and missiles able to wreak great destruction on Seoul and the northern portion of South Korea, regardless of how much punishment North Koreans might have to absorb during a U.S. attack or counterattack. The development of advanced rocketry and now a potential nuclear capability is further proof of their scientific resources.
Notice there's no suggestion that our goal ought to be freeing those poor people. Or any other oppressed people, ever. Accommodation is all...Notice that the immensity of suffering of the NK people is passed over with the single word "hardships." A brutal Stalinist police-state with millions of people at or near starvation, and he calls it "hardship."
Avoided in 1994

There was another crisis in 1994, when Kim il Sung expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and threatened to begin reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear power plant. The U.S. government refused to talk to North Korean leaders, and made plans for economic sanctions and a military attack. As the crisis escalated, The Carter Center was finally given reluctant permission from President Clinton for me to visit Pyongyang. A satisfactory agreement was concluded and later confirmed by both governments, with participation by South Korea, Japan and others. But neither side honored all the commitments.

An agreement can be "satisfactory" even if the results are catastrophic! Lunacy.
Worrisome actions

The situation is rapidly deteriorating again. North Korea feels increasingly threatened by being branded an "axis of evil" member; deployment of anti-ballistic missiles in Alaska; Washington voices expressing military threats; interception of North Korean ships; ad hominem attacks on President Kim Jong Il; condemnation of previous efforts by President Clinton and South Korean leaders to resolve issues peacefully; and U.S. refusal to negotiate directly with North Korea. America's newly declared policies of pre-emptive war and first use of nuclear weapons also concern North Koreans.

Notice that we are at fault for trying to defend ourselves against missile attacks! And for ad hominum attacks on a leader who maintains concentration camps so deadly that 20% of the inmates die every year! And for condemning Clinton's efforts, even though they are manifest failures. But the zapper is that we are at fault for not negotiating unilaterally, even though Clinton's own negotiators admit that that was a strategy that failed, because we were undercut at crucial moments by other countries...That's twisty and misleading enough to be worthy of Josh Marshall!
Even before these more recent threats, the North Koreans began a secret and illicit nuclear program...
In fact they pursued it even while you were "accommodating" them. You were suckered and you've learned nothing.
...There are other issues, but the basic North Korean demand is a firm non-aggression commitment from the United States, which U.S. officials continue to reject. The U.S. insists first on a complete end to the North Koreans' nuclear program, which they have refused to accept. If neither side will yield or compromise, then an eventual military confrontation seems likely. The United States can prevail, but with terrible human casualties in both North and South Korea.
Equivalent, the two sides are always equivalent. So the conclusion is always that the US should be accommodating.
There must be verifiable assurances that prevent North Korea from becoming a threatening nuclear power, with a firm commitment that the U.S. will not attack a peaceful North Korea. This is a time for sustained and flexible diplomacy between our two governments, to give peace and economic progress a chance within a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
Notice that if NK is "peaceful," then all is well, and Carter thinks nothing needs to change. Millions starve? C'est la vie, baby. And notice that is just assumed that if we make a commitment not to attack, the NK's will trust it. Notice his phrase "give economic progress a chance." As if North Korea were no different from South Korea, and can be expected to make economic progress once they are free of the drag of US aggression. Sheer lunacy. No rational person expects NK to make economic progress.

Actually, in Carter's world, the two sides are not equivalent. The US doesn't get to have any "cultural and almost sacred commitments." Our culture loves freedom, and hates watching mass-murdering dictators slaughter the helpless. But stubbornness in expressing our culture would not be acceptable to Carter. (Who has, of course, outgrown such backward ideas himself.) And notice the other American cultural relics that Carter has outgrown, and sees no need to acknowledge. Such as that there is anything that is actually "right," or "wrong." Or that there are things worth fighting and dying for. Or that there is any higher good than security and avoiding trouble. Or that we might have a Christian duty to succor the poor and the weak...

Jay Nordlinger had it right, when he called Carter 'the first Anti-American President."

Posted by John Weidner at 5:00 PM

September 1, 2003

Steyn on susteynable..

...There's no such thing as "sustainable" development. Human progress and individual liberty have advanced on the backs of one unsustainable development after another: When we needed trees for heating and transportation, we chopped 'em down. Then we discovered oil, and the trees grew back. When the oil runs out, we won't notice because our SUVs will be powered by something else. Bet on human ingenuity every time. We're not animals, and it's a cult as deranged as the screwiest fringe religion to insist we are. Earth's most valuable resource is us...(link)
Also much of human invention and technology is in fact solutions to, or responses to, environmental crises, which are not a new phenomenon.

For instance, through much of human history, the largest cities have been "too large" to be sustainable, and "the wise" have decried them, and tried to limit their growth. Always without success. Meanwhile others have been busy inventing things, such as aqueducts, sewers, fire departments, parks, building codes, canals, railroads, telephones, water-purification plants, garbage trucks, elevators, steel I-beams, [OK, OK, enough. We get the idea.] which solve the crises and make possible even larger cities...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

August 19, 2003

Drops of drivel dribbling from the NYT's alembics ...

I'm repeating a point made by Orrin Judd, but this NYT article bemoaning how savage dictators get to go into comfortable exile and are not prosecuted is the purest distilled left-wing lunacy:

...But, as Reed Brody, special counsel for prosecutions at Human Rights Watch, says, "If you kill one person, you go to jail; if you kill 20, you go to an institution for the insane; if you kill 20,000, you get political asylum." Mr. Brody keeps a melancholy map on his wall of other tyrants gone free: Alfredo Stroessner, dictator of Paraguay, lives in Brazil; Haiti's Rao�l Cedras is in Panama; Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia is in Zimbabwe; Hiss�ne Habr� of Chad lives in Senegal...
Why is it crazy? Because if Ronald Reagan or Bush senior had declared that the massacres in Uganda were intolerable and we should send in a couple of divisions and kill Idi Amin and his murderers, the NYT and all its lefty-scribblers would have been OPPOSED to it!

And right now Kim Jong-Il is killing far more people than Idi Amin did. But if President Bush declared that we were going for regime-change in NK, 80 or 90% of the Left would be be doing all they could to keep him in power, just as they did for Saddam (And if our saber-rattling ended in a deal where Kim goes into exile in some other socialist hell-hole, then, when it would do nothing to help the poor Koreans, Human Rights Watch would shed bitter tears because he wasn't being prosecuted in the ICC. )

And, if, mirabile visu, some international organization like the UN were actually removing murderous dictators and allowing their people to vote for the government they desired, the Left wouldn't like it one bit! They would instantly complain that the charming folk-culture of North Korea, with it's hundreds of quaint recipes for preparing grass, and tree-bark, and babies, was going to be destroyed by Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds...

(Oh, and we'd also be innundated with information about the marvelous health-care they have in Cuba.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:19 AM