Monday, February 28, 2005

The Ikea Gulag

Okay, so just for kicks I went to the Ikea store near here that opened about a year ago. I'd never been in one (but I have been to Sweden!). It was not what I expected. It was more of a Kafkaesque nightmare. There was something just so paternalistic, socialistic, and "welcome, world citizen/cog/kindergartner" about the place that I started getting a panicky feeling. It took me a long time to find my way out. Luckily, the United States of America was just outside.

So, I just did a Technorati search under "Ikea nightmare" and found this amusing post.

excerpt:
Perhaps they are all there for the Swedish meatballs or a nice lunch at the restaurant... YES a furniture store with a restaurant. This should be the first sign you are about to enter the twilight zone. As you enter the store like so many unwilling lemmings you are funneled up a narrow stairway onto the second floor through the gates of Hell. Yes again you heard me correctly there is only ONE way into the store and ONE way out of it (except for emergency exits that torment you with a sense of false escape at every turn).

...

My mind struggled to make some sense of it but none could be found and the throbbing of my brain began. There are arrows on the floor telling you which way to walk, and all but a few poor souls follow the blue arrows. A few poor Bastards try to buck the tide and they flail like salmon swimming upstream. I suspect one poor guy had lost all of his senses and he looked like he was desperate to get out of the twisted furniture maze but he had the blank look of someone who had been trapped in a nightmare for a week or more.

At one point I thought I was going mad and I surely would have chewed off an arm if I thought it would have helped me escape.

...

I saw an exit sign, but it was another tease "emergency" exit and I briefly considered what would happen to me if I went out the emergency exit. All of the sudden everything made sense. This was designed to be a huge furniture Habitrail. It is evil actually in conception you are forced to see EVERY product known to mankind once you enter the store. I am certain there are secret tunnels and doorways for employees (or certainly they would go crazy before they reached retirement age). Imagine if you could force people to look at EVERYTHING... I give you IKEA. Just when you think the torture is over and you have reached the ONE stairway leading back down to the first floor you quickly realize that the blue arrows are still going strong and now you are on the first floor maze. The second floor is a showroom, the first floor is the warehouse where you actually use the notes you made with the free pencils to decrypt the location of the stuff you want to buy like some sick game of scavenger. This is deeply troubling and disorienting as you continue to pass things you have already seen on the second floor and the products stretch out as far as the eye can see!!!!!

Just follow the blue arrows I kept telling myself, just follow the blue arrows. This can't last forever. I repeated that silently in my head like a mantra and tried to remember the good times when I was a free man... I could drink beer and watch TV... ahh the good ole days, and now I am stuck in a Swedish furniture Gulag... ohhh the humanity!!!

...

Let my suffering be a warning to all who have never been to IKEA...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

God's Wisdom Is Foolishness To Newsweek

The Anchoress critiques a short Newsweek piece that carries a tone of "Why won't the Pope just hurry up and die, already?"

Behind The Music

Some background about that guy who did an inspiring job lip-synching into his webcam to a Romanian pop song. He's not enjoying his fame. Well, I think he did a good job, and he's no more of a dork than anyone else, especially anyone who would hassle him over this.

Leonine Musings

John Leo (one of the best commenters out there, in my view) has an excellent column about the decline of liberalism. This section brought to mind something for me:
[T]he cultural liberalism that emerged from the convulsions of the 1960s drove the liberal faith out of the mainstream. Its fundamental value is that society should have no fundamental values, except for a pervasive relativism that sees all values as equal. Part of the package was a militant secularism, pitched against religion, the chief source of fundamental values. Complaints about "imposing" values were also popular then, aimed at teachers and parents who worked to socialize children.

Modern liberalism, says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, has emptied the national narrative of its civic resources, putting religion outside the public square and creating a value-neutral "procedural republic." One of the old heroes of liberalism, John Dewey, said in 1897 that the practical problem of modern society is the maintenance of the spiritual values of civilization. Not much room in liberal thought for that now, or for what another liberal icon, Walter Lippmann, called the "public philosophy." The failure to perceive the importance of community has seriously wounded liberalism and undermined its core principles. So has the strong tendency to convert moral and social questions into issues of individual rights, usually constructed and then massaged by judges to place them beyond the reach of majorities and the normal democratic process.

Back in 1991-1992, I belonged to a discussion group of fellow readers of the magazine Utne Reader, which is a monthly compendium of all the best articles from the "progressive alternative press". A major (really, the major) theme at the meetings was the total lack of any kind of genuine community in our society, with the puzzling question, "How can we build community?" always being brought up. In early 1993, the group just sort of fizzled out. A couple of years later, my religious conversion started. When I joined the Church, I finally understood what real community was, and I no longer feel any sort of forlorn lack of it.

I also later noticed that Utne Reader tends to spend half its pages bemoaning the lack of community and trying to come up with ideas on how to make public life more meaningful. The other half is spent more or less trashing traditional religion and trying to come up with newfangled alternatives...

If I could find a cartoon somewhere that shows a guy pulling a lever that is connected to a mechanism that causes a boot to kick his own a--, I guess that would be a good illustration of the dynamic...

Deathbed Demographics

Good stuff from Mark Steyn today, as highlighted by the Instapundit. Some pithy phrases from Steyn:
Lester Pearson, the late Canadian prime minister, used to say that diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way.

...

As [Bush] told his audience in Brussels, in the first speech of his tour, ''We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands.''

The Euro-bigwigs shuffled their feet and stared coldly into their mistresses' decolletage.

...

I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself ''Europe's Jefferson,'' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.

...

Most administration officials subscribe to one of two views: a) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater; or b) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater where the whole powder keg's about to go up.

For what it's worth, I incline to the latter position. Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making.

...

Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.

...

Progressive secular welfarism is a great life - but only for a generation or two. After that, it’s a death cult.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Conversion Story

"The Making Of A 9/11 Republican" is a good read in an unusual place: the opinion web page of the SF Chronicle. The writer was a Nader voter in 2000, and is now a neoconservative Republican. Too much good stuff to excerpt...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Good Post, Good Discussion

Cold Fury put up a short post a couple of days ago about the utter phoniness of the left's claim to "support the troops", but not their mission. A lefty blogger posted a retort, and Cold Fury posted a response. Good, serious, sincere writing on both sides. Also, a good discussion below Cold Fury's second post in which we find:
Major Darwin Says:
February 24th, 2005 at 4:00 am

Mike, as a Marine, my last combat tour was in Iraq, my first was when President Clinton sent me to Mogadishu In both cases the cause was provably legitimate and just.

As a political independent who has served in uniform under 2 republican and 2 democrat administrations, I can tell you that your post is laser sharp and verifiably accurate from A to Z. Each point could be substantiated by facts that I have noted for 2 decades now.

I have spent many a post elsewhere refuting the lies and fraud of the likes of Will and am glad you saved all of us the time in yet again coldly and rationally exposing his double-speak and sickening hypocrisy.

Instead I will give him a shorter and undeserved response so he will understand from a primary source that he and others assume about by proxy how 78% of your deployed military (who re-elected the President) feel about the anti-war troop “support” And how the remaining 22% of deployed troops who voted for the other candidate who authorized both the war, and 1998 Iraq Regime change act, really feel about the “support” of the protestors.

DEAR PROTESTOR, YOU MAY HATE THE WAR BUT YOU WILL NEVER HATE “WAR” AS MUCH AS I OR MY MEN DO SO DON’T FAKE IT. IT CHEAPENS YOUR ALREADY LOST ARGUMENT AND PERSUADES NO CONVERTS, I COULD DETAIL HOW YOUR FALSE “SUPPORT” ACTIVELY ENDANGERS OUR LIVES AND NEEDLESSLY MAKES OUR CURRENT TASK, AND FUTURE MISSIONS YET UNKNOWN MUCH HARDER AND DEADLIER. IF YOU DO NOT SUPPORT OUR MISSION THAT WE ARE SO COMMITTED TO ACHIEVING, YOU DO NOT SUPPORT US, THE TROOPS WHO VOLUNTEER AND SUPPORT IT EVERY DAY, PERIOD. IT IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY ON SO MANY LEVELS.

If you just want us home so you can sleep at night or you erroneously think we are trapped, your “support” is unwanted pity and cheap emotional release for lack of understanding of the history and potential risks that necessitated this war.

This is not an opinion like your lame hit piece Will, it is a fact from a troop who has lived it under a Democrat and Republican CINC.

You Will, and the fiction-for-fact cry babies have now become merely a boat anchor that my men and I must now carry in addition to a heavy pack. We will not fail. Because you are a citizen we will never abandon your kind, I will be damned if someone tries to silence your dissent- I may even die for it. But do not think you and your kind can speak and act in a way that gives daily hope and comfort to the forces trying to kill me and my men, and then you call it “support?” I’ll be damned if I let you go uncorrected.

The irony is that its people like Mike and those who unabashedly support my men and mission that make it easier for me to carry you and your bile.

Now the lesson and the price Will, your ideological side is losing influence in the Congress, the Courts, the Executive, It is truly scary that you care more about hate and fiction, than being persuasive… I promise you if your side does not change you will continue to kill your own ideas and the troops for many more generations will not support your “support”.

You should invest your energy into understanding why it is we who are serving have gained revealing insights into why our mission is worthy and this war is necessary. For plurality sake I only hope you are capable.

(Hat tip: Peeve Farm)

Flugvignugen

Just did a really great airplane flight today. Basically a "take off in dreary overcast conditions", "get above a horizon-to-horizon undercast with a beautiful blue sky overhead", and a "shoot some approaches from over the ocean" kind of thing (it was a lesson with my instructor to start getting my IFR currency back; we were flying the Trinidad). After this it was "fly home", "descend from the angelic realm and into the clouds", and "pop out over Silicon Valley on a dreary day". In many ways the funnest kind of flying. The bottom of the clouds were at 2000 feet, and the tops at 3000 feet. More of a summer pattern than a winter one. The only land visible above the clouds was Mt Hamilton, and the mountains of Big Sur. At several points we were being vectored around at 3000 feet, and it was something else to be performing 150 mph banked turns barely 50 feet above the cloud deck. Two words: Kick ass!

In January 2004, I did a flight that was similar in many ways. I don't have time to wax poetic about today's flight, but I include below the write-up I did of the 2004 flight (the writeup was addressed to fellow pilots, I'll annotate it here and there to define some of the terms):

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

Folks--

A couple of days ago (Tuesday, January 20), I had a most excellent solo IFR flight in a 172SP (first time I’ve done solo IMC [Instrument Meteorological Conditions, i.e. in the clouds] in that plane). I’d scheduled a flight that day in an SP about a week in advance, because I needed to go up in one again after almost three months in order to keep my currency in that model (the SP is also the plane I did most of my primary training in back in 2001). A few months ago, I’d finished all the intensive training I’d been doing for more than two years (primary, IFR, complex/high performance in the Trinidad, Mooney, and V-tail Bonanza), so rather than flying a couple of times a week, I’ve throttled back to once every week or two. This definitely results in more vivid and memorable experiences on a flight-by-flight basis, as well as a thicker wallet!

I haven’t gotten up much to be PIC [Pilot In Command] under IFR this winter (the only IMC was one flight in the Bonanza plus riding right seat on a very fun flight to Santa Rosa with Rob in his Saratoga), so this, combined with the less frequent flying, had me starting to get leery about the whole idea of going into the clouds. I really wanted to get up there again in not too severe conditions, just to prove to myself that I still knew how!

As it turned out the weather gave me a perfect opportunity on the day of my SP flight. For days we’d been sitting in a very stagnant weather pattern. A strong high pressure ridge, not much wind, a strong low level inversion resulting in a Central Valley perpetually full of fog, with fog on the ocean also, yielded days and days of dreary, gloomy overcast, and even non-stop drizzle on Monday. On Monday, my schedule would not let me get up in the sky, and I looked longingly at those dark clouds. I knew that they were not very thick, and above was nothing but blue sky and sun. I badly wanted to be up there, on top, with nothing but clouds below me from horizon to horizon.

On Tuesday morning I did a pretty thorough check of the weather using the National Weather Service pages. The forecast was for the low clouds to finally mix out by the afternoon due to a dry cyclonic flow being set up over the area, a little cooling in the higher air, and a moderate north wind starting up (for any weather buffs out there, what this means is that all the moist air would finally be allowed to lift away from the surface because the cooler air aloft would weaken the inversion, plus the cyclonic pattern would add lift to the overall air mass. The lifted air would encounter the stronger winds at the higher altitude and would be swept away and mixed with the drier air above. Finally the sun would come out and all would be happy again). It looked like I’d have a decent chance to get above the clouds before they all disappeared, at least on the outbound leg. I decided to go to Monterey and back, but I held off on filing IFR until I could look at the skies for myself on the drive to the airport.

The drive out showed the clouds to look a bit more persistent than the NWS was predicting. There were a few very small breaks to be seen, and the clouds didn’t look all that thick, but they weren’t going to suddenly disappear anytime soon. I filed IFR, got the tanks topped off, and preflighted. I got a nostalgic feeling getting the SP ready. I haven’t flown this model much in the last year, it’s not a super exciting ride like a Bonanza, but I’ve got a real affection for it. It’s like a trusty friend. And I could be a little more relaxed knowing there was no way that I could end up in a 250 mph spiral or doing a perfect approach only to land gear up!

At 1100, I took off. The departure clearance was the standard “right turn 060, vectors Salinas direct, climb and maintain 3000, expect 7000 5 minutes after departure” affair. After checking in with departure, they vectored me to 150, which basically puts you on a very wide, very high right downwind for Palo Alto, with the Moffett runways dead ahead and SJC [San Jose International Airport] also ahead. I leveled off at 3000, which was a couple of hundred feet below the clouds. I took a look at the gloomy dreary scene and anticipated soon seeing bright blue skies. Cleared to 5000, I pushed the throttle forward, pointed the nose up, and as the ground started to disappear behind wet, gray wisps, I got on the instruments [started using the attitude indicator gyro and other instruments to keep me upside up, going the right way, etc].

I was stoked to be IMC again! It was no problem doing the scan [using the instruments], and it was a real blast keeping the plane stable amidst the various drafts in the clouds. The tops were right around 4600 or 4700. A couple of hundred feet below the tops, I hit the wettest part, and the windscreen was covered with water. Then it got very glary. Suddenly, there was pure blue sky above, and I came sledding out of the layer. Just as I reached 5000 I was cleared to 7000 and direct Salinas. As I climbed, I could see that the air was hyper clear (all the smog and haze was trapped below the inversion). Moments ago, I was over San Jose on a dreary day. Now I was in another world. A bright, golden sun hung in the sky to the south. The sky was a bowl of heavenly blue, without a single cloud above me to be seen. An airliner far above was laying down a short contrail as the plane gleamed in the sun. There was not a single other plane to be seen. There was not a single landmark to be seen. Except for nav equipment and ATC, there was no way to know where you were.

This was truly Someplace Else. Man, I was stoked! This was where I was longing to be! Does it get any better than this?

Compared to the Bonanza, Trinidad, and Mooney, I was moving in slow motion, so there would be plenty of time to enjoy this. I was being shoved southward by a pretty good tailwind and was doing about 143 knots groundspeed. The OAT [Outside Air Temperature] was about 35 degrees. As I’ve seen happen before, the lifting of the stratus layer due to the cyclonic flow was turning it into something a little more than a mere benign flat fog. Above the mountains between Salinas and Monterey, and between Salinas and the Central Valley, the clouds had taken on more of a cumuliform shape, with tops up to about 6000 feet. There was an occasional small break below, and I could see farm fields.

I listened to the Monterey ATIS. Rather than landing on 10 and using the ILS (which they’d been doing when I’d listened to the ATIS over the phone before leaving home), they were now using 28 and the LOC/DME approach. No matter. I had the plates [charts which show you how to fly the approach] ready and would request the GPS 28L approach. When I was switched to 133.0 (the last approach controller), he told me to steer 140 after crossing Salinas. This would aim me just a little outside the CHRLE initial approach fix. The plane I was in was 751SP. As it turned out there was a 951SP also on frequency both now and when I left Monterey again. This caused a bit of confusion. The controller advised each of us that the other was on frequency. After I replied with “One Sierra Papa” a couple of times, the other guy asked the controller to tell me to use my full callsign. The funny thing is that after this, the other guy started abbreviating his sign! The controller then got lackadaisical, and there was a lot of “Was that NINER five one sierra papa turn right 260?”, etc.

It had been three months since I’d been able to see my wheels while flying [the 172SP, or Cessna Skyhawk has a highwing, fixed gear configuration, so you can look straight down out the side window and see the landing gear, and below it, the void] and as I looked straight down at the undercast, it occurred to me: “Well, you’re up here alone, and the only guy that’s going to get you down alive through all this is you!” I wasn’t worried, but it just sort of struck me at that moment that such was the case.

I got a good look at a Brasilia [United Express turboprop commuter airliner] starting his approach, and I didn’t need to be vectored around much. I was finally given an intercept inside of CHRLE and cleared for the approach, and told to maintain 6000 until established. The 28 approaches into Monterey start right at a mountain ridge and run along something of a canyon, with just 300 feet of separation above the granite at some points. Because of the ridge, this also tends to have the highest cloud tops, and the canyon tends to give lower bases than exist right over the airport. Because I was given an intercept inside of the IAF, I knew I’d have to be thinking ahead of the KLN 94 GPS. So I cursored in a Direct-To for RODNE, the second fix on the approach, hit the OBS button and dialed in the final approach course on the OBS. At 6000 I plunged into the clouds in a state of hyper alertness.

Now the Garmin 430 is simply a better GPS for flying approaches. The 94 threw me a couple of curve balls on this approach. For one thing, I forgot to hit OBS again to put the GPS back into leg mode. Thus, when I hit RODNE, it didn’t sequence me to the next point. Also, there are two step down fixes which are not actual GPS waypoints but merely GPS distances. I believe the Garmin treats these as separate items in the flight plan, but the 94 doesn’t. At any rate, I had a couple of “what the hell is going on?” moments while in the clouds. Because I’ve had to “bob” while the KLN 94 “weaved” before, I quickly remembered to hit the OBS button again to get the thing to sequence (at one point I actually lost the OBS needle for guidance; I still don’t know what caused that; and everything happened so fast I don’t remember exactly what I did to get it back). Also, I was surprised to see the unit was not recognizing the step down waypoints, but as it was showing me the runway MAP [Missed Approach Point. If you get to here without seeing the runway, you have to fly a procedure which safely gets you back up to altitude. If you foolishly try to go below the minimum altitude for the approach in the hopes of seeing the runway you risk conversion to a spectacular fireball. It's amazing how many people do this. It's violating rule number one of instrument flying] as the next waypoint and was showing me distances, I could identify the fixes.

Somewhere around 2500 feet the ground wisped into view. I could see houses well below, and knew I was in the broad lower part of the valley. I knew I wouldn’t be hitting any ridges on this approach! Ahead I had a fine view of the runways. I was offset a bit to the right and got lined up with 28L. My first landing in a 172 in three months was just fine. There was a stiff right crosswind, and after all the Bonanza, Mooney, and Trinidad landings I felt like I was in slow motion. Quite fun.

I taxied to Del Monte and had lunch in the terminal. Looking back to the east, I could see the towering clouds and gloom I’d come through. By the time I headed home, there’d been some clearing over the ocean, but not enough to get back VFR in any pleasant way. I was given the Monterey 8 departure, vectors MOVER, DOCAL direct. This was also a pleasant flight, but this time with a strong headwind. I was only managing about 100 knots over the ground. 12 miles from DOCAL I was cleared to descend to 4500 and cleared for the approach. In the Bonanza, I was used to being at DOCAL [DOCAL and the other fixes I've mentioned are just named GPS coordinates, basically navigation points in the sky] and starting the approach just about instantly once cleared (you have to be far enough ahead of the plane in terms of stage cooling, and the thing goes so fast while descending that the approach really starts well before the IAF). In the Cessna, I was surprised that 8 minutes later it was still not time to begin the approach! But it was fun to skim just a few hundred feet above the clouds at 4500 for this period.

At 3200 feet, I popped back under, with the gloomy day, Moffett, Amphitheatre, and PAO in full view. I did another nice slow motion landing. It was about 1400 [2:00 PM] when I touched down, and the clouds didn’t really clear out for another hour after that, finally giving us some sunny but hazy weather again.

I was happy to have hand flown the whole flight [i.e. I didn't use the autopilot at all], used my wits while in the clouds with the GPS throwing me curveballs, and to have seen such ethereal beauty.

My mood has been “above the clouds” for a couple of days after this flight!

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

Other aviation-related posts I have made on this blog are indexed here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lileks. Is There Anything He Can't Do?

James Lileks has set the bar for audio blogging. Quite a pleasant and relaxing (and impressive, considering how quickly he probably put it together) 17 minutes available here.

The Evil Genius Of Karl Rove

Excellent short-but-sweet parody here.

Wisdom And Politics

I wouldn't be surprised if The Anchoress already beat me to this, but in today's Magnificat magazine, the Scripture reading for the morning caught my eye. One thing I've learned over the last ten years since my conversion is that politics really is the continuation of a struggle that is also taking place in the higher realms (I had a post about this back in November). When it comes to being a Christian, George W. Bush is the real deal. To be a Christian is to "put on Christ", and let Him act through you. As such, sometimes a Scripture passage that applies to Christ applies to a believer also, as he acts as "Christ in the world", that is, sincerely walks the Christian walk, as I think George Bush is doing. So then, how about this passage from the Book of Wisdom (specifically Wisdom 2:12-14)?
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us.

Would lefties be appalled to know that they are simply fulfilling prophecy in their treatment of George Bush? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the Bush is the Savior, or that any of this is apocalyptic. Just that Scripture and Christianity have human nature pegged pretty darned well...

Also, I see the "he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training" part as not Bush being self righteous and in-your-face (because he's not), but merely an expression of the stung conscience that bears merely witnessing a guy doing the right thing as some sort of bitter reproach...

Derbyshire Coins A New Term

John Derbyshire has created an engaging and well-written account of his encounter with "Diversitoids". In it he used a new term I've never seen before, highlighted in the excerpt below (but read the whole piece!):
The men were more interesting studies than the women. The older guys with jackets and ties looked cowed and didn't say much. The younger ones, the ones with earth shoes and collarless natural-fiber shirts, seemed almost as keen on diversity as the women. What brings a man, particularly a "European-American male," to an affair like this? I wondered. In the case of the older, PC-whipped-looking guys, the answer was probably just the determination to find out where all the "diversity" landmines are planted, so they could make it to retirement and pension in one piece. Good luck to them. But what about these younger ones? They really seemed to believe this stuff. What was driving them? The hope of making some easy pickups from among liberated no-commitment women? I looked round again at the women. No, not that, definitely couldn't be that.

I suppose the most charitable explanation would be misguided patriotism. This is, after all, a diverse nation, and will remain so. Those are facts. We do all have to get along somehow, and it is possible these young male diversicrats believe that by mouthing this vapid cant and submitting to these petty humiliations, they are helping to preserve and improve the nation — a sort of sacrificial masochism. Somehow I couldn't make myself believe this. Masochism, sure, but patriotic? Just looking at those men, it was hard to see any of them flying a Stars and Stripes from his mountain bike. What, then? Just a cynical desire to hold on to a well-paid and undemanding job? No, they didn't seem at all cynical. Very few people are as good at acting as these men would have had to be to be practicing cynicism in that room. They were sincere. They believed the diversity stuff, including all the stuff about how rotten and wicked and malicious they, we, "European-American males," are inside. They really believed it all. They loved Big Sister. I had fallen among pod people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Feelings, Whoah, Whoah, Whoah, FEEEELINGS...

Excellent article by Dennis Prager, discussing the problem with letting feelings be the guide to political, social and moral questions.

Monday, February 21, 2005

John Leo re: Blogs, Eason, Secularism

An excellent column here. Covers lots of ground, while being short but sweet. Just one highlight:
[L]ast year the very smart political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio completely unwrapped the orthodox newsroom view of religion and politics. They described the basic media view this way: “The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans.” Writing in First Things magazine, the authors conclude that secularists and religious people have been struggling against each other for many years, but in the newsroom accounts, one struggler (secularism) essentially disappears, leaving the religious side as oddly divisive people who want to take over the culture and “impose” (vote) their values. The authors believe newsrooms have been partisan in the debate for many years, partly because so many reporters are Democrats who do not go to church and do not fully understand that secularism is basically an aggressive quasi religion now central to the core constituency of the Democratic Party. Some Democrats (i.e., Hillary Rodham Clinton) are beginning to understand this. When she said recently that believers have the right to live out their faith in the public square, she was taking dead aim at the secularist goal of banishing religion from public life.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Raoul Duke, R.I.P.

Hunter S. Thompson took his own life today. What a great writer he was.

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Technorati Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

You never know what you're going to get. While doing a search on something that was not related to any blog intentions, I ran across a blog that has a great political cartoon roundup for the week. They're all good, here's the one that really caught my eye:

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Now, I don't at all think we're going to invade Iran, but this is some excellent humor. Humor aside, it is far more likely that we conduct military operations against terrorist strongholds in Syria. It seems that Jihadis are coming in from that country to attack the sovereign people of Iraq...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Okay, We're Getting Pounded By You Guys. How About We Make A Deal: We Give You Nothing, You Give Us Everything.

From James Taranto. Will the Democrats ever get it?
How to Win Conservatives: Become More Liberal!

A Boston Globe editorial offers advice to Democrats who "are worried that the party's traditional support for abortion rights may have contributed to their losses in the 2004 elections." The Globe opines that Democrats can reach out to pro-lifers even while continuing to oppose any and all restrictions on abortion by stressing "three areas of truly common concern that can significantly reduce the number of abortions: adoption, contraception, and compassion."

The Globe's specific proposals are as follows:

Reverse "outdated laws" that "still forbid adoption by unmarried or single parents and gay couples."

Improve "access to reliable birth control," which the Globe suggests would include handing out condoms in high schools, making "morning after" contraception available over the counter, and requiring pharmacists to dispense birth-control pills even if they have conscientious objections to doing so.

Provide poor women with "support in raising their children"--meaning more-generous welfare benefits--if they choose not to abort.

Whatever the merits of these positions, we'd venture to say that most abortion opponents are not supporters of gay adoption, high-school condom giveaways or bigger handouts for welfare moms. For that matter, many people support legal abortion and oppose these things.

If the Globe were offering a compromise--we'll get behind some abortion restrictions if you support some liberal measures in other areas--this might make political sense. But what the paper is proposing is that the Democrats be as rigid as ever on abortion while taking aggressively liberal positions on other social issues. This is advice the Democratic Party can't afford not to ignore.

Simply unbelievable. Keep it up, guys.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Monastic Humor

I did a Technorati search to see who's been writing about Peretz's "Liberalism Is Dead" article in the New Republic (I'd seen the article mentioned on Drudge, and also, The Anchoress). I ranked the results by source authority, which brought me to the blog Pejmanesque. I found this little nugget (entirely tangential to the Peretz piece or what Pejman had to say) in the comments section:
I'm reminded of the story of the monk in a monastery in which only two words were allowed every ten years. After ten years, the monk said to the abbot "Food bad." After another ten, he said "bed hard." Another ten, "cell cold." Another ten, "I quit." The abbot said "I'm not surprised; you've done nothing but complain ever since you got here."

More "This Bud's For You"

An outstanding post about troops being welcomed home at JFK over on Right Wing News. Post mentions the Budweiser Superbowl commercial, setting off a great debate in the comments section. Someone named "libliever" opened up the comments by saying:

"Was that commerical with our vets at the airport wrapped in a Budwieser ad...forgot to tell that part of the story didn't you. Patriotism and suds...nice combo...maybe the next time a company wants to wrap itself in the flag they should think twice. Taking a perfectly nice patriotic sentiment and making a pitch for beer. Now, that's disgusting..."

Here are some retorts:

"No... it's Liberals who disgust me. A beer company saying "thanks" to the troops in what's sure to be the most watched spot of the year... that's awesome."

...

"If the soldiers had been actually quaffing the beer, or hitching a ride on the Bud wagon, or grabbing a cold one from a cooler...that would have been a BEER commercial. Did the tagline at the end say "Thankyou" or did it say "Drink Bud"?

As it was, showing a little appreciation for a group of people who are way under-appreciated is good and proper.

That you found this commercial 'disgusting' is laughable. Can you leftys EVER just enjoy the sentiment? Just ONCE?"

...

"No matter how much the left claims to support the troops, every time you catch them in a truly sincere moment, their contempt for the military shines right through."

...

"If it were an anonymous commercial, the left would be convinced that it was another Bush/Rove plot to instill support for a horrendously unpopular war, and that Haliburton secretly funded this piece of propaganda. But since it wasn't anonymous, the left has to bash it in another way."

...

"I loved that spot - calling it a "commercial" is a complete misnomer. It was closer to a paid political announcement.

Which brings me to the reason I think libliever and her fellow anti-military liberals (sorry for the redundancy) really dislike that "commercial": whatever their intentions with the piece, Anheuser-Busch would never risk alienating a majority of their target market. Therefore, Adolphus et.al. must have pretty good evidence that a majority of those viewing (or hearing about) their spot would approve or at least sympathsize with its message, or conversely, that only a commercially-inconsequential minority would disapprove or take offense; i.e., behave like modern liberals. For a group that claims to be populist, that's gotta hurt."

...

"Lib: I told you before Cavey, I'm for the troops...

But what have you done to demonstrate that you're for the troops?

you don't think a beer commercial (and that's what it was no matter how you slice it) might actually belittle the troops, just alittle bit...

Why would it belittle the troops? Do beer commercials belittle construction workers, football fans, or business executives simple by means of their inclusion in the commercial? Have you actually asked any troops if they feel the least belittled? I'm a vet and I don't feel that way. I thought it was an outstanding commerical. I was watching the game in my VFW post and it was strongly appreciated. Apparently, no belittlement there either."

...

"Taking a perfectly nice patriotic sentiment and making a pitch for beer. Now, that's disgusting...

I suspect you wouldn't know a "perfectly nice patriotic sentiment" if it crawled up your a-- and set off fireworks."

Thrift Battles Paternalism

A fascinating article about the battle between the thrifty and the paternalistic as our economy and demographics change. Be sure to follow the link about the "scholarship tax rate". Some great, insightful analysis.

The Straight Story

About the history of Democrats, Republicans, and race. This NRO article is an excellent reference. The two biggest myths in politics and recent history are that the Democrats do not have a despicable history of virulent racism (KKK? Bull Connors?), and that the Nazis were not left-wingers (tip off: "Socialist Workers Party" is part of the name). If I'm not mistaken, Jonah Goldberg is working on a book substantiating the left-wing credentials of the 20th century fascists...

There's More To Cato Than The Green Hornet

When I first started reading Scripture about ten years ago, I was amazed by how many common names and colloquial expressions come right from its pages. Similarly, it turns out that some of the most famous lines from American history were inspired by a play about Cato the Younger (Republican Rome, people!), written in 1713. The founding fathers dug this play! John Miller discusses the play's influence in an NRO article.

excerpt:
Yet there's another play that may deserve even more acclaim, especially during President's Day weekend. It's called Cato: A Tragedy, and the author is Joseph Addison. It first appeared on the London stage in 1713, and in many ways it is the direct opposite of The Crucible: nearly forgotten and dramatically underwhelming, but also politically penetrating. It is perhaps the most important piece of drama in American history. As Miller himself once noted, in an entirely different context, "attention must be finally paid."

Cato is a paean to liberty. It portrays the plight of Cato the Younger, a Roman senator who refused to submit to the tyranny of Julius Caesar. The play sparkles with freedom-hugging aphorisms, such as this:

A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty

Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

It should come as no surprise, then, that these words inspired America's revolutionary generation. Perhaps none were as affected by Cato as George Washington, who loved the play so much he had it performed for the troops at Valley Forge in that brutal winter of 1777-78. Washington was hardly the only figure stirred by Addison's work. Benjamin Franklin pored over its passages. John Adams quoted it in letters. And two of America's most famous patriot statements come directly from its lines.

Here's Patrick Henry in 1775: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Here's its antecedent, in Act 2, Scene 4 of Cato:

It is not now a time to talk of aught

But chains or conquest, liberty or death.

And here are Nathan Hale's famous last words, supposedly uttered from the gallows in 1776: "I regret that I have but one life to give to my country."

And here's Cato, Act 4, Scene 4:

What pity is it

That we can die but once to serve our country!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Denied!!

Via Instapundit. Some Greenpeacers tried to shut down the International Petroleum Exchange in London. Retaliatory beatings were administered without hesitation.

excerpt:
WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.

What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

“We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

...

Greenpeace had hoped to paralyse oil trading at the exchange in the City near Tower Bridge on the day that the Kyoto Protocol came into force. “The Kyoto Protocol has modest aims to improve the climate and we need huge aims,” a spokesman said.

Protesters conceded that mounting the operation after lunch may not have been the best plan. “The violence was instant,” Jon Beresford, 39, an electrical engineer from Nottingham, said.

“They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”

...

They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts “open outcry” trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.

But they were set upon by traders, most of whom were under the age of 25. “They were kicking and punching men and women indiscriminately,” a photographer said. “It was really ugly, but Greenpeace did not fight back.”

Mr Beresford said: “They followed the guys into the lobby and kept kicking and punching them there. They literally kicked them on to the pavement.”

Noonan On Blogs

Great column, lots of good insights.

excerpt:
The blogosphere isn't some mindless eruption of wild opinion. That isn't their power. This is their power:

1. They use the tools of journalists (computer, keyboard, a spirit of inquiry, a willingness to ask the question) and of the Internet (Google, LexisNexis) to look for and find facts that have been overlooked, ignored or hidden. They look for the telling quote, the ignored statistic, the data that have been submerged. What they are looking for is information that is true. When they get it they post it and include it in the debate. This is a public service.

2. Bloggers, unlike reporters at elite newspapers and magazines, are independent operators. They are not, and do not have to be, governed by mainstream thinking. Nor do they have to accept the directives of an editor pushing an ideology or a publisher protecting his friends. Bloggers have the freedom to decide on their own when a story stops being a story. They get to decide when the search for facts is over. They also decide on their own when the search for facts begins. It was a blogger at the World Economic Forum, as we all know, who first reported the Eason Jordan story. It was bloggers, as we all know, who pursued it. Matt Drudge runs a news site and is not a blogger, but what was true of him at his beginning (the Monica Lewinsky story, he decided, is a story) is true of bloggers: It's a story if they say it is. This is a public service.

3. Bloggers have an institutional advantage in terms of technology and form. They can post immediately. The items they post can be as long or short as they judge to be necessary. Breaking news can be one sentence long: "Malkin gets Barney Frank earwitness report." In newspapers you have to go to the editor, explain to him why the paper should have another piece on the Eason Jordan affair, spend a day reporting it, only to find that all that's new today is that reporter Michelle Malkin got an interview with Barney Frank. That's not enough to merit 10 inches of newspaper space, so the Times doesn't carry what the blogosphere had 24 hours ago. In the old days a lot of interesting information fell off the editing desk in this way. Now it doesn't. This is a public service.

Leftism Is Just Plain Boring!

I mean, it' s incorrect, it's lame, and I don't know how anyone can stand hewing to it for any length of time. It doesn't give a true picture of history, human nature, economics, or anything else. It's the ideological equivalent of a stack of porno mags and a bottle of lotion. FrontPage Magazine has an article about yet another leftist professor. Honey, why are you wasting the best years of your life on this pap, when you could be doing something positive, useful, and inspiring?

excerpts:
My professor, Mary Corey (History, UCLA), is always inspired and never dull, even in her darkest moments. Especially in her darkest moments.

When George W. Bush was reelected, Corey told our class that she was “in a decidedly bad mood,” but proceeded to give a colorful lecture anyway. She is filled with marvelous stories and spiked with a foul sense of humor.

She can talk for a whole hour and you would want her to continue.

But only if you are a liberal. If you are not, you find yourself decomposing in your seat or chewing through your own tongue.

...

Her bottom-line version of recent American history was some cocktail of male hegemony, racism, class systems, and the vast right-wing Republican conspiracy. Early in the quarter, she went on a rant against capitalism and the market system, which she defined as “the weird faith that everything will work out fine.” “Capitalism isn’t a lie on purpose. It’s just a lie,” she lectured us, “It’s easy for us to look back and say these people [who believe in markets] are dorks.” And for the climax, “[Capitalists] are swine.… They’re bastard people.”

I guess one could say in her behalf her candor at least was admirable. Most people would be reluctant to drop all pretense of professionalism in advancing an overtly political agenda in an academic classroom. In this regard, on the other hand, Corey shines. She professes the most offensive opinions as if they were uncontestable facts. She does it over and over—in every lecture, in every sentence. Here’s a sampling of statements she made that I jotted down or recorded in class:

“The Vietnam War was a big mistake. And, frankly speaking, the good side won.”

“Redistribution of wealth and equaling the playing field must be accomplished.”

“It is true that the color line is a dominant force in America today.”

“There is a class system in the United States.”

“The majority of Americans opposed the war.”

“We live in a tremendously racist society.”

“I believe Hillary was right. There really was a right-wing conspiracy.”

On one occasion, Corey delighted the class with the recitation of the following poem: “Clinton lied / Monica cried / Bush lied / Men died.” Do her political prejudices affect her grading too? I certainly was convinced my exams were graded unfairly and I don’t seem to be the only one.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jeff Gannon, We Hardly Knew Ye

A good one from John Hawkins.

excerpts:
Just when you've seen the bottom of the feverswamp that the left loves to wallow in, along comes a story that truly shows the fathomless depths to which they're happily willing to sink.

I've already briefly touched on how the story has driven the left side of the blogosphere around the bend, the tale of Jeff Gannon (AKA James Guckert), a reporter almost nobody had ever heard of, who the left branded a heretic for the crime of being a gay, conservative reporter who had some very spurious connections to the Valerie Plame controversy. That was enough to inflame the left. But, then evidence was presented that seemed to indicate that Gannon may have been a "gay prostitute," and if you thought they were hyped up before, after that revelation became public knowledge, they were like 4 year-olds who've been fed nothing but Pixie Stix and Sweet Tarts for a week.

One problem: Gannon is still a nobody. Doing an expose on him is like revealing all the secrets of the Assistant Manager at your local grocery store: why should anyone care?

So now the key is to tie everything to the Bush administration, because as we know, they are the source of all evil in the universe, and as we've learned over the last few weeks of watching how the left side of the blogosphere has covered this story, gays who don't vote for Democrats are apparently one of the universe's evils.

...

[N]othing but rumors, smears & base speculation of the worst sort...I wonder how long it will be before it makes the New York Times? Moreover, is it just me or are these wackos in effect saying that it was scandalous that detailed investigations into the sexual histories of reporters weren't done before they were allowed to ask questions to government officials? So if partisan hack, Helen Thomas, were to turn out to be involved in some sex scandal, would George Bush be responsible for that, too? Does the FBI need to have a file somewhere with a list of every person she ever had sex with along with details about whether her partners were women or men? If there were any sort of intellectual consistency on the left in regard to this story -- and quite frankly there hasn't been much -- that would seem to be where they were going with this.

The left has come a long way from when Clinton was in office, back when they were claiming that sex, and even perjury related to it, was irrelevant to the job of being President. Now? The President is responsible for knowing about the sex lives of the reporters who're asking him questions. Boy, the left has come a long way in a short time...

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds for bring this story to my attention. Apparently, they sent him a PRESS RELEASE about the post referenced above which is a bit like videotaping yourself robbing a store and then asking the police to critique your technique.

Chris Rock: Crude But Accurate

I noticed Chris Rock's comments about abortion as quoted on Drudge yesterday. NRO has published an article about the truth of what he said.

excerpt:
It's time for all of us in the pro-life movement to learn to appreciate the power of political satire. Comedian Chris Rock, slated to host the Oscars this month, is being accused of promoting abortion.

"Abortion, it's beautiful, it's beautiful abortion is legal. I love going to an abortion rally to pick up women, cause you know they are f*!@*%g," Rock said during his club routine.

Whether Rock is pro-life or pro-choice, whether he intended to use satire or really believes what he said, is beside the point. What's "beautiful" is that Chris Rock has exposed a profound side effect of legalized abortion — the sexual mistreatment of women.

It's been over 30 years since the United States Supreme Court began our nation's social experiment in legalized abortion. Millions of post-abortive women and their tragic stories prove that Alice Paul was right when she said "abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women."

...

[A] comedian has the nerve to say out loud what men across America know full well: that legalized abortion is great for their sex lives; that abortion on demand makes women into sex objects with the full consent of the highest court in the land; and that if their sexual use of a woman results in the unfortunate side effect of a pregnancy, then $300 and their "kindhearted" support of the woman's "right to choose" will take care of the problem.

Stacking The Jury

Amusing item from James Taranto:
Things That Don't
Appall Liberals--I


Did you know liberals aren't appalled by child molestation? Before you send us angry letters about this, let us explain: We're not saying it, Reuters is. From a dispatch about the Michael Jackson trial:

Legal experts say prosecutors will look for jurors who are older, conservative, less taken with celebrity, willing to accept authority and appalled by child molestation.

Jackson's attorneys may look for more liberal jurors who have advanced degrees and are critical thinkers who question authority.

Is it possible that Reuters has a heretofore undetected conservative bias? After all, not only does this dispatch make liberals look like degenerates; it also omits the scare quotes around the emotive phrase "child molestation".

Did Someone Say Total War? Comin' Up!

Via FrontPageMag, I've come across the Eastern Orthodox blogger called Father John. Here's an excellent post called "The Aggressors Set The Rules" which answers objections to Hiroshima and Dresden. Very effective use of pictures on the blog. Also, humor, as you'll see in the second picture of this post.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

It's All In The Packaging. Right?

So says Howard Dean. An excellent fisking here (via Evangelical Outpost).

excerpts:
Memo to the DNC: Wanna know what the real problem is? Most of us evangelicals haven't bought into this whole postmodern relativistic thing-- even those of us who went to college! We believe that our creeds contain propositional statements that are objectively true in their own right, regardless of whether people believe them. We believe that God is the maker, ruler and judge of the universe, not a tool to be used for crass political ends. We believe that God has revealed His will for each of our lives, and so it's not up to us to invent a religion or a god as we conceive of Him/Her/It/Them/Other. While we respect everybody's right to practice their own "faith tradition", we don't think that someone's believing in a given "faith tradition" necessarily makes it valid or true. While most of us recognize an individual's right to live in what the Bible calls sin, we will never express approval of it or buy into the idea that someone's sin constitutes their whole identity.

And this whole "compassion for the poor" thing? There's this wee small matter of it being voluntary. And the goal isn't long-term dependence on Caesar.

See, the thing is, even though you are trying to figure out how to talk in our lingo, we still see a lot of things that suggest that you remain secularists and relativists, antagonistic to us way down deep at the level of worldview. I really don't think that a linguist can help you. So your only real hope at this point is that the Republicans run candidates who are like you: secularists and relativists who think they can snow us with a bit of lingo and a few Bible verses.

The Next Best Thing To Being There

Quite a nice essay by The Anchoress. I've always kind of hoped that at my wedding (should it ever happen), the birth of my children, etc, etc, there would be no video cameras. I don't need sepia memories replaced by the literal starkness of video (which I'd never watch anyway). In 1990 I took a fairly epic backpacking trip around the globe. I think 1992 was the last time I looked at any of the pictures I took on the trip...

Unblinded By Science

(Via Instapundit) Popular Mechanics has a fascinating series of pages debunking the common conspiracy myths surrounding 9/11. Interesting both for the science and for seeing a sampling of the paranoia which prompted the piece.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Temptations

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Today is the first Sunday of Lent. In my Magnificat daily missal, there was a striking sermon for this day by Pope Saint Gregory The Great, who was Pope in the late sixth century. It's so good that I transcribed it for the blog. To understand the sermon, first look at today's reading from Genesis:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad." The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

And then the Gospel reading from Matthew:

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread."

He said in reply, "It is written: 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you and 'with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me."

At this, Jesus said to him, "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'"

Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Now here is Saint Gregory's sermon:

This whole diabolic temptation took place from without, not from within. If we look at the progress of his temptation, we see how great the struggle was that set us free from temptation. Our ancient enemy rose up against the first human being, our ancestor, in three temptations. He tempted him by gluttony, by vain glory, and by avarice. And he overcame him when he tempted him, because he subjugated him through consent. He tempted him by gluttony when he showed him the forbidden food of the tree, and told him: “Taste it.” He tempted him by vain glory when he said, “You will be like gods.” He tempted him by adding avarice when he said, “knowing good and evil.” Avarice is concerned not only with money but also with high position. We rightly call it avarice when we seek high position beyond measure. If grasping at honor was not related to avarice, Paul would not have said of God’s only-begotten Son: “He did not think that being equal to God was something to be grasped.” The devil drew our ancestor to pride by stirring him up to an avaricious desire for high position.

But the means by which he overcame the first man were the same ones which caused him to yield when he tempted the second.

He tempted him by gluttony when he said, “Tell these stones to become bread.” He tempted him by vain glory when he said, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down.” He tempted him by an avaricious desire for high position when he showed him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, “I will give you all these if you will fall down and worship me.” The second man overcame him by the same means by which he had boasted that he used to overcome the first man. As a captive he would depart from our hearts by the same avenue which had given him entrance when he possessed us.

It was being inspired by this kind of ancient-but-fresh mystical theological thinking that first turned me from Buddhist to Catholic...

Parallels

The Anchoress notices something. Excellent analogy and insight, prompted by an excellent Michael Barone column (a column that also bears on this previous post of mine, as I discuss in an update to that post).

By Allah, May The Candy Hearts Of The Infidels Be Broken!

Via Instapundit, a dynamite satire, by The Onion.

excerpts:
WASHINGTON, DC—A new videotape of Osama bin Laden broadcast on the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera Monday beseeched Allah to grant all Americans a "crappy Valentine's Day."

"This Feb. 14th on the Western infidels' calendar, may all Americans receive no valentines from their beloved ones," bin Laden said. "May the homemade construction-paper mailboxes taped to the desks of the American schoolchildren remain empty, as well. May whomever you ask to 'bee yours' tell you to 'buzz off.'"

Bin Laden called for "romantic humiliation for all Americans of courting and betrothal age."

"Allah willing, embarrassment and tearful rejection shall rule this day," bin Laden said. "Paper hearts shall be rent and trod upon, and dreams of love delivered stillborn. Body language shall be misinterpreted, crushes unrequited, and sincere expressions of affection mocked. Invitations to dinner will be rejected, just as Americans have rejected Allah, the one true God."

...

"In this infamous February, may all American hearts be crushed like a box of conversation hearts that is tossed carelessly into the bottom of a fellow student's schoolbag," bin Laden said. "We soldiers of Allah pledge with our blood and souls that all pink and red carnations shall wither and drop from their stalks before they make their way to the desks of America's secretaries. Instead of receiving hugs and kisses, they and their extended families shall be besieged with boos and hisses."

Bin Laden added: "May your special Valentine's Day dinner be spent at an overrated restaurant that impoverishes your purse and leaves your stomach churning with indigestible Western cuisine."

Bin Laden did not overlook the innocuous custom of giving stuffed animals as gifts.

"The teddy bear that holds the 'I love you' heart does not love you at all," Bin Laden said. "It is an unliving, unholy thing filled only with stuffing. Just as the Western infidel is not bestowed with the blessings of Allah, so shall he go unloved by the false bear."

The release of the bin Laden tape is consistent with the al-Qaeda leader's inclination to speak out before major American events, such as the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

"Perhaps whoever told bin Laden about Valentine's Day exaggerated its significance," departing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said. "Or, I don't know, maybe he was just itching to release another tape."

The Department of Homeland Security did not raise the terror advisory, recommending that Americans proceed with their Valentine's Day plans. This is in spite of the final words of bin Laden's address.

"Come Monday, as you pry open your fancy, red Russell Stover box, take heed," bin Laden said. "For in the place of tasty caramels and buttercreams, you will find the flaming sword of righteous jihad!"

Saturday, February 12, 2005

When Moderate Looks Like Hard Right

Ann Althouse considers herself to be, and is, a moderate (she was on my daily reading list for many months). She voted for Bush, though, so that makes her some sort of extremist in the eyes of lefties, most of whom refuse to read her. She posted about this and recieved many e-mail responses. I liked this one:
[Y]ou have mentioned feeling sad at the way your moderate political views are seen by some on the left. I think I know just the feeling you're describing. … The sadness I feel that I think might correspond in some ways to yours is that, a result of my political evolution, almost all of my old friendships are in trouble.

Nearly everybody I count as a friend from the first few decades of my life is still true-blue, and now that I am multi-colored, I find that I cannot talk about politics with most of them at all. They genuinely cannot bear to hear one word about the ways in which my thinking has changed. To them, it seems, admitting that I don't share every one of their views on the war in Iraq, or the privatization of Social Security, or the artistic genius of Michael Moore, or whatever the topic of the day might be, would be tantamount to admitting that I am no longer a good person or a potential friend. These are well-educated, intelligent people who wish urgently to be good and to do good things in the world, people who think of themselves as open-minded and tolerant. And yet their minds seem to me to be anything but open. Deep down, I don't think most of them believe that it is possible for anyone to be a worthwhile person who holds political views different from their own. Many of my old friends seem to have constructed their self-images around the belief that it is their political liberalism that defines them as good. The result appears to be that no liberal tenet can safely be challenged or even closely examined without threatening all of their beliefs about everything, and especially about themselves.

I have come to suspect that to many of my liberal friends, there really isn't a political spectrum of various views out there. Instead, there are just two categories: good views, which correspond with their own, and terrible views, which don't. Some of these folks are so quick to categorize, so eager to label. The word "Republican" is an all-purpose shorthand category for selfishness, greed, stupidity, ignorance. The word "corporate" serves the same purposes. Anybody who did not thoroughly oppose the war in Iraq is a war-monger. Anybody who wonders if affirmative action is still a good idea is a racist. Anybody who thinks some gender differences might be inborn is sexist. Anybody who doesn't hate George Bush is stupid. Anybody . . . well, you get my drift. To me, this haste to label and demonize difference appears to be a way to avoid the risks inherent in thinking, a way to keep the mind securely shut.

I don't really understand this. … I am married to a Republican, so political disagreement is a daily feature of my life. My husband and I talk about politics all the time. We debate, compare, disagree, agree, tease one another, pound the table, shout, laugh, grumble, ask the kids what they think, learn things from one another. Once in a while I change his mind about something, once in a while he changes mine. Most of the time, neither of us manages to change the other's point of view one bit -- but we have a good time trying. We did have to teach ourselves how to do this. It didn't come naturally to disagree without fighting, and once in a while we lose perspective and get angry for a while. But this happens less and less often, and most of the time, our discussions are fun. I would love to have conversations like this with my old friends. I think our twenty- and thirty-year-old friendships are strong enough to stand a few areas of disagreement, just as my marriage is. But I can't find a single liberal friend who thinks this way. To them, any disagreement seems to be synonymous with the complete downfall of all understanding and shared history. They veer away from discussion, change the subject, or even ask openly if we can stop talking about whatever-it-is because it makes them too uncomfortable.

There are, of course, narrow-minded labelers on the right as well as on the left. But like you, I've noticed a certain willingness to entertain and explore civil disagreement among many on the right that seems to harder to find on the left. Why? I wish I knew, but I don't. I'm just glad that people like you keep blogs, so that I can remind myself I'm not the only person on earth who approaches politics the way I do, nor the only one who sometimes, as a result, feels a little sad.

Serendipitously we have a recent perfect case in point. Just perfect.

Update: This excellent Michael Barone piece details how both the left-wing and the right-wing blogs help the Republicans, and discusses the Daily Kos site (the most-read political blog on the internet!), specifically. I see quoting a Kos ranter as fair game. Kos is the mainstream of the leftist part of the blogosphere.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Hong Kong Follies

Some aviation fun. A friend e-mailed this, with photo attachments. I've linked the pictures below. Here is the e-mail forward I sent to my pilot friends:

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These photos and descriptions are pretty cool. I remember landing at this airport in an airliner in 1990. Pretty scary. On short final I was looking down on the city streets. As we passed a McDonald's I remember thinking to myself, "Well, it looks like that guy's having the Hot Mustard Sauce with his McNuggets." That's about how close we were.

--Matt

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Subject: Hong Kong Airport


Below are the memories of an unidentified retired airline pilot:

"Fond memories? I showed the Jepp approach plates for Hong Kong to an air traffic controller at the Denver Center. His comment was close to, "You gotta be kidding!" There were a few other words in there that I have deleted. The ILS approach was to a hill, not the runway. If you followed it all the way, you wound up in that checkerboard pattern in #3. The drill was to fly to minimums, and then crank it over into a hard right turn and dive for the runway. There was usually a cross wind, which explains some of the other pictures. It was pretty easy to get a wing tip, or an outboard engine.

Some of the lucky ones got both outboard engines, the first at impact and the second trying to recover from the first engine strike. And you couldn't cheat by going below glide slope or turning in early. Large buildings downtown. And if the approach wasn't enough fun, note that the runway is short. More than one went off the end, or the side, into the bay.

Missed approach? Note the hills. Yep, another hard right turn and climb, baby, climb! The weather was usually not clear. Clouds were the norm, with a bit of fog or mist, and sometimes heavy rain. It's tropical there. There was an approach to the other end of that single runway. It wasn't much better. More hills and the missed approach was a hard left turn to avoid the hills and the big buildings.

Yeah, just another day at the office.

The new airport is almost easy. There are still the hills all around the bay, but at least the ILS takes you to pavement. And you don't have to look up at the people in the higher floors. You don't really appreciate flying in America until you have flown out of it. There were some airports in South America that were almost the equal of Hong Kong.

Did I mention what braking was like on a rainy day on that short runway? Or the huge puddles that formed because the airport was sinking?

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Photo links:

Are you sure this is the right street?

You lowered the gear, right?

Tray tables should be in the upright, locked position.

Okay, I'm almost on the centerline. Did you lower flaps?

Should I be aiming for the gray or the green, here?

Where's the windsock? I think I got a crosswind!

Plenty of time...Plenty of time...

Should have "kicked" a little sooner.

Who needs brakes? I've got the outboard left engine!

I love the smell of Goodyears in the morning.

I saw a skateboarder do this.

You were right. It won't skip.

Important Safety Tip

This is being passed around via e-mail. Forewarned is forearmed! Males of America, there is no excuse for a failure of diligence! Sound required.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Devastating Logic

John Hawkins does not suffer fools gladly. Today he destroys some very poor reasoning by the leftist Daily Kos.

teaser:
This telling quotation you're about to read from Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga of the Daily Kos is worth reading and analyzing because it exposes some of the underlying ideological beliefs that make today's liberals incapable of handling foreign policy. From Kos...

"Here's the deal -- a war is worth fighting if you would sacrifice everything you hold dear to fight it.

A war is not worth fighting, if you'd rather maintain your cushy lifestyle and let others do the dying for you, let other families lose their mothers and fathers and spouses and children.

It's that simple. The 101st Fighting Keyboarded and their bretheren in the Republican Corporate Media fail this very easy test of the sincerity of their convictions."

On the surface, this would simply seem to be a combination of the chickenhawk "argument" (and I used the word "argument" very loosely here) and Michael Moore's "would (you) sacrifice your child to secure Fallujah" comment to Bill O'Reilly and hence, is rather silly.

If you wanted to be as ridiculous as the people who take those sorts of positions, you could just as easily say that if you're serious about preventing war, then you should go to Iraq and be a human shield for Al-Zarqawi. You could also apply that sort of shallow "reasoning" to firemen or policemen just as easily as it can be applied to soldiers...

"Oh, well if you're not willing to charge into a burning building to try to put out a fire, then you shouldn't expect a fireman to do it. Same goes for cops. How can you ask a policeman to risk his life enforcing the law if you're not willing to grab a shotgun, kick in the door of a crackhouse, and start making citizens arrests?"

The rest is just as good.

The Violins Are Out

Only $2.6 trillion? Oh the humanity!

excerpts:
Do the oversized partisan newspapers really have to be so utterly, boringly predictable? When the new budget came out, reactions from the usual suspects might as well have been copied and pasted from previous "news" and editorials during any year in which any Republican president dared to feign the slightest degree of frugality (President Clinton was seriously frugal, but the press cuts Democrats a lot of extra slack).

A recent Washington Post editorial instantly decried any and all spending cuts "draconian" or "dramatic," not to mention "unrealistic." What a shock that was. An L.A. Times editorial, accidentally misplaced on the news page, whined that President Bush's proposed haircut for a few budget items "will touch people on food stamps and farmers on price supports, children under Medicare and adults in public housing."

Did Bush somehow forget to brutalize widows and orphans?

...


One thing that makes the banal media mantra in favor of lavish spending particularly tasteless at this time is that the discussions of this year's budget have somehow managed to totally ignore the wild spending spree during President Bush's first term.

When planned spending for 2006 is compared with actual spending in 2001, it becomes ridiculous to pretend there is anything "draconian" or "breathtaking" about the president's belated tap on the brakes. It is unsurprising and probably understandable that defense spending rose 38.6 percent from 2001 to 2006. What is less well known and harder to rationalize is that the increase in spending over those same five years was 39.8 percent for education, 41 percent for the judicial branch, 48.1 percent for the legislative branch, 56.4 percent for state and international aid and 84.5 percent for commerce.

Even if we measure this spending surge in constant dollars, to adjust for inflation, overall spending is projected to rise more than 23 percent from 2001 to 2006. Since the economy (GDP) did not grow nearly that much, federal spending will have risen from 18.5 percent to 19.9 percent of GDP. Yet this is being called a "draconian" budget?

...

In case you didn't get it the first time, Andrews went on to say, "Mr. Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 went largely to the nation's wealthiest taxpayers." No matter how many times I keep reading this, I never quite get over the outright audacity of the Big Lie technique. It isn't just the author's confusion about halving the dividend and capital gains taxes, which typically yield higher revenues from the rich. Even if we focus on just the reductions in personal income tax rates, any notion that they "went largely to the nation's wealthiest taxpayers" makes sense only if one describes everyone who pays any income tax at all as among "the nation's wealthiest" (all actual taxpayers are in the top 60 percent, because 40 percent pay no income tax).

Half the estimated revenue loss from reducing income tax rates was due to reducing from 15 percent to 10 percent rates on the first few thousand dollars of income. Whatever you think of that costly gesture (I think it was wasteful and inefficient), it certainly didn't go "largely to the nation's wealthiest taxpayers." The same is true of social gimmicks like the child tax credit and the marriage penalty fix, unless one imagines that all two-earner families with kids must be rich.

The other rate reductions were spread quite evenly among all tax brackets. The overall package could only be said to largely benefit "the nation's wealthiest taxpayers" only because the top 5 percent (those earning more than $126,000 in 2002) pay 54 percent of all income taxes, so they should get about half of any even-handed tax cut.

...

As for all the banal commentary about draconian budget cuts and unaffordable tax cuts, I've heard it all too many times before. Please wake me up if somebody at The New York Times, L.A. Times or Washington Post ever has something novel or intelligent to say about taxes and spending. But somebody would have to wake them up first.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

This Bud's For You

From James Taranto's Best Of The Web:
Not everyone liked Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl ad (viewable here and here) featuring U.S. servicemen getting a round of applause in an airport terminal. Humbug, says Stefano Hatfield, a columnist for London's left-wing Guardian:

It was described as "moving" and "powerful" by the obsequious Fox critics, and "obscene" by my furious upstairs neighbour who called me straight after because he regarded the spot as incitement to war with Iran, and knows I write about such things and so it was of course my fault.

Pass the sick bag, Alice. I was too stunned by the spot to really take in the full import of a beer company waving off "our boys" (and girls) to battle. But battle? Where? The war in Iraq's over, isn't it or so they keep telling us? With Rice's thinly veiled threats towards Iran everywhere, it is hard not to see the spot as anything other than hailing the troops off to war. Pure propaganda, and it picked up on one of the themes of the night: patriotism.

There's actually something mildly refreshing about a commentator openly scoffing at patriotism rather than feebly asserting that he isn't unpatriotic, as American left-wingers are wont to do. Then again, such defensiveness is better than spitting on veterans, which seven of our readers, responding to yesterday's item on the subject, said happened to them or to a loved one during the Vietnam era. Reader Jack Else, a retired U.S. Air Force major, reflects on how things have changed:

Soldiers were spit on. I was. It was September 1972 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I had just gotten off duty, was still in uniform, and was on campus to pick up my wife.

Flash forward nearly 20 years, to May 3, 1991. I had just returned from the first Gulf War (or as I called it the Great Unfinished Gulf War). For personal reasons I returned alone without my unit, which arrived about 10 days later. I arrived at Plattsburg Air Force Base, in upstate New York, and was put on a military bus for JFK and a civilian flight. I was tired and dirty, hadn't bathed for about three days, slept in my uniform; pack on my back, duffle bag and M-92. I did not look like a recruiting poster.

As I got off the bus at the American Airlines terminal at JFK I was very apprehensive. Why? We didn't have cell phones, we didn't have the Internet. We didn't have blogs. Mail was spotty. All we had were CNN, Peter Arnett, et al. I took a deep breath, entered the terminal and people stopped and stared--and then they applauded.

That Budweiser commercial took me back 14 years and made me cry.

It's still happening, says reader Greg Gilbert:

Last Thursday I was on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Portland, Ore. There were four servicemen returning home for a two-week leave from Iraq. As the plane arrived at the gate in Portland, the pilot mentioned and thanked the servicemen for their service and asked that they be allowed to disembark first. As each of them walked toward the front of the plane, the rest of the passengers erupted in spontaneous applause. It's tough to do a standing ovation in an MD-80, but that's exactly what they got.

The feeling of appreciation of the passengers on the plane was palpable as they patted the servicemen on the back as they walked by and said "thank you." Best of all, it was real people expressing appreciation for the service of these men. A commercial could not have done the moment justice.

So on second thought, the Brits can have their Stefano Hatfields. We're happy to be living in a country where patriotism is applauded and no one admits to lacking it.

Update: Taranto published some letters about this item here (starts 2/3 down page).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lent

Lent comes early this year. It starts tomorrow! The Anchoress has a nice reflection about this happy season of penance.

It Doesn't Grow On Trees

Evangelical Outpost has a nice quick blurb on the economic ignorance of many of the clergy.
Ignorance & Economics -- Churches in Britain are having a change of heart about free enterprise:

Britain’s churches are to announce a pre-election conversion by declaring for the first time they are in favour of wealth creation.

Until now they have been seen as deeply suspicious of free market economics, arguing for strong state intervention against debt and poverty rather than entrepreneurship. But a pre-general election report for Christians to be launched later this month says making money is good.

I’m always amazed at how completely ignorant some people can be about economics. If they were against wealth creation where did these churches think the government was getting the money from? Someone had to create the wealth that filled the state’s coffers. Did they think gold just filled the moors like manna from heaven? Perhaps the Church of England should require a class on basic economics in seminary. After all, as Margaret Thatcher once noted, “no one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well”.

Tiny Machine

Wake me up when any amateur gets excited enough about a Microsoft product to make an ad like this (via Peeve Farm).

Chips From The Chocolate Fireball



Is the name of the album I'm listening to right now. First heard it 20 years ago in college. It still kicks. Here's a customer review from Amazon:
The best psychedelic record not made in the 60's,
November 16, 2004
Reviewer: Wickerlove "Wickerlove" (Canada) - See all my reviews

XTC, under the guise of Dukes Of Stratosphear, must have a case of musical schizophrenia. God knows how an 80's art-indie/new wave group can do a complete 180 degree turn and make an exceptionally brilliant psychedelic record. 'Chips from the Chocolate Fireball', which is a compilation the Dukes Of Stratosphear's first two albums, sounds like it's transwarped from the late 60's, a wonderfully rich acid-drenched experimental sound. Just think a combination of 'The Piper At The Gates of Dawn' by Pink Floyd, the self-titled album by The United States Of America, and 'Dusk At Cubist Castle' by Olivia Tremor Control. Thrown into the mix are shades of the more experimental moments of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. What started as a parody release for XTC under their alter-egos Dukes Of Stratosphear, actually turned into a spellbinding homage to Syd Barrett and the spirit of late 60's psychedelia, all guided by young producer extraordinaire John Leckie. It's really hard to believe that this is actually XTC in disguise, but the proof is in the strength and mesmerizing power of the music.

What's A Clever Monkey Worth?

Dennis Prager argues that human worth is devalued when it is denied that we are created by God. Nicely written.

excerpts:
Would you first save the dog you love or a stranger if both were drowning? The answer depends on your value system.

One of the most obvious and significant differences between secular and Judeo-Christian values concerns human worth. One of the great ironies of secular humanism is that it devalues the worth of human beings. As ironic as it may sound, the God-based Judeo-Christian value system renders man infinitely more valuable and significant than any humanistic value system.

The reason is simple: Only if there is a God who created man is man worth anything beyond the chemicals of which he is composed. Judeo-Christian religions hold that human beings are created in the image of God. If we are not, we are created in the image of carbon dioxide. Which has a higher value is not difficult to determine.

Contemporary secular society has rendered human beings less significant than at any time in Western history.

...

That is why a Tucson, AZ, woman last year screamed to firefighters that her "babies" were in her burning house. Thinking that the woman's children were trapped inside, the firemen risked their lives to save the woman's three cats.

...

Belief in human-animal equivalence inevitably follows the death of Judeo-Christian values, and it serves not so much to elevate animal worth as to reduce human worth. Those who oppose vivisection and believe it is immoral to kill animals for any reason, including eating, should reflect on this: While there are strong links between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans, there are no links between kindness to animals and kindness to humans. Kindness to animals has no effect on a person's treatment of people. The Nazis, the cruelest group in modern history, were also the most pro-animal rights group prior to the contemporary period. They outlawed experimentation on animals and made legal experimentation on human beings.

The second reason that the breakdown of Judeo-Christian values leads to a diminution of human worth is that if man was not created by God, the human being is mere stellar dust -- and will come to be regarded as such. Moreover, people are merely the products of random chance, no more designed than a sand grain formed by water erosion. That is what the creationism-evolution battle is ultimately about -- human worth. One does not have to agree with creationists or deny all evolutionary evidence to understand that the way evolution is taught, man is rendered a pointless product of random forces -- unworthy of being saved before one's hamster.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Cats And Dogs, Living Together

Boy, I don't know, maybe the Iraqi election is some sort of chiropractic to the ol' space-time continuum, but Mark Morford has just written a column where he doesn't come across as stark, raving insane! He has written a very lucid anti-Microsoft piece. Not a single psychotic anti-Bush remark to be found. Nor any grandstanding of sexual perversion. He actually seems to be a decent writer if he chooses a topic other than his own obsessions. Read Morford's column, then read this clever parody, which I found via Peeve Farm.