Thursday, March 26, 2009

I just love a happy ending!

Reuters reports the following:
KABUL, March 26 (Reuters) - A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said. "The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded," a statement from the ministry said.

"Now gentlemen, pay attention, I'm only going to demonstrate this ONCE."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

They Hate Her. They Really, Really Hate Her.

National Review reports:

Since Alaska governor Sarah Palin was named John McCain's running mate, her foes and various Alaskan liberals have begun a new exercise, attempting to bankrupt the Palin family through legal fees, by filing endless ethics complaints against her.

In her term, ten ethics complaints and 150 FOIA requests have been filed. ([Only o]ne of the complaints, about improperly firing her state public-safety commissioner, predates her national prominence.)


They must really hate and fear her.

Some Justice

Imagine: you're the boss of one of New York City's most prestigous luxury hiltons. Your salary is... well, let's just say that it's so high that I don't want to think about it. Obama will probably tax it to oblivion.

Anyway. You're this honcho at the hotel. And: It's Ash Wednesday. Your employee, a bellman at the door, has an ashen cross on his forehead, in remembrance of his mortality.

You go up to him and tell him, "Wipe that f---ing s--- off of your face."

Ooops.

You see, insulting an employee's Catholic faith under these circumstances is monumentally stupid.

Not merely because it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act....

...but because the hotel is across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral, and your employer rents the land your hotel is on from the Roman Catholic Church.

What happens?

You. lose. your. job.

And not only that. The CEO of the corporation flies over from London to personally render unto you your pink slip.

Read all about it here. The NY Daily News says that the miscreant's name is Niklaus Leuenberger. I look forward to seeing him flipping burgers at a McDonald's sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Really, really, really bad idea!

Two news stories to make you tremble for the future:

1. Today's WashPost reports that the audience of National Public Radio, the tax-funded crapper-on-Christianity-and-all-things-Republican, GREW last year, reaching record ratings.

The audience for NPR's daily news programs, including "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," reached a record last year, driven by widespread interest in the presidential election, and the general decline of radio news elsewhere. Washington-based NPR will release new figures to its stations today showing that the cumulative audience for its daily news programs hit 20.9 million a week, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

2. Add to that the following proposal from one of our giveaway-hungry Congresscritters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.
"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

And what perchance does THIS mean?
Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.
The Honorable Senator Cardin is playing DC's favorite sport, horsehockey. This would do nothing of the sort. It would freeze forever--at public expense --an editorial outlook with a business and production model that was obsolete the day that the PC modem was invented. It is nothing more than a government subsidy for those who would politically prostitute themselves to the Democrats (which is the very definition of 'press neutrality' and 'no political endorsements'). It is a government payoff to Democrat party propagandists.

It is totalitarian in outlook, for it forces ME, a pro life Republican, to underwrite with MY TAX DOLLARS a communications structure inimicable to all I believe in, at gunpoint.

(It works like this: They stop taxing newsbusinesses. Instead they increase MY taxes. I refuse to pay the higher taxes. They send a cop to arrest me for tax evasion. I attempt to avoid arrest. The cop shoots me. I die. So: Pay for tomorrow's Free Press or it's curtains for you, Dad!*)

And no, it is not like the tax break churches get, for churches have ALWAYS been tax exempt. Not so newspapers.

Furthermore, it is anachronistic. It is an attempt to force the continued existence of a buggy industry after the invention of the internal combustion engine. It is an attempt to keep metafauna alive on oxygen and life support after the arrival of the Yucatan asteroid.

Dinosaurs they all are. And we are the small mammals that eat the eggs. Once the decision is made to keep them alive, the next move is to obiterate the most obvious threat to their existence: US, on the Web.

To the first story, I say: let NPR do without my tax money for five minutes and then we'll see how well they do.

To the second story: NOT JUST NO BUT HELL NO!

(*To the immortal P.J. O'Rourke, from whom I stole and adapted this paragraph: "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!")

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe....

....to go back to the government for another auto-industry bridge loan:

THIS hits the American automotive industry.

The Tata Nano: a $2000 car for India. Pix here. (Copyrighted; I can't swipe 'em.)

This vehicle--which, even souped up to be street-legal in the States, would probably cost about $5K--would eat our lunch, if they ever allowed it to be sold here. Obama won't, however, you watch.

The only good thing about this thing is that it allows me to say that two of them would make a most bodacious pair.

(Hey, I'm a guy; I'm allowed to make an occasional sexist joke. 'K?)

Cheetohs Anti-Semitism?

So I'm watching the last few episodes of Battlestar Galactica this weekend, having caught up to the final episode minus one. (Last Ep runs on the Net next week.)


Cheetohs runs a commercial in the traditional commercial break slot:




Two soccer moms are watching their kids: one rich Jewish lady and one middle class Latino. The rich lady says, "Ola..." and lamely attempts to speak some Spanish. The Hispanic lady flatly says, "Hi, Rachael." "Oh hi!" the rich lady responds, and then begins to prattle on about how her little darling is undergoing some sort of "triple language immersion" program. This causes the Hispanic lady to grow annoyed--the camera closes in on her eyes, you can see the hate--and suddenly Hispanic Lady reaches over and gives Rich Jewish Lady a big hug, being careful to wipe the orange cheese residue off of her hands onto the back of Rich Jewish Lady's immaculate white vest. The end.

This is supposed to be FUNNY?!!?

It's hateful. An obvious example of class hate for someone richer than yourself, with serious undertones of anti-Semitism. (Furthermore, could you imagine the roles reversed? No? Welcome to the double-0's.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Protest Obama's Honoring by Notre Dame!

Notre Dame University is about to honor Mr. Obama, a known hardline supporter for the killing of the unborn, by having him speak to the graduates of the school at their Commencement this May. According to the ND website, Mr. Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 164th University commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. May 17

It is unacceptable that a Catholic institution should honor a known, open and unrepentant supporter of prenatal child killing.

A letter by leading Catholics to Father Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, protesting this outrage is reprinted below. You can sign this letter by clicking here.

Petition to Fr. Jenkins

Dear Father Jenkins:

It has come to our attention that the University of Notre Dame will honor President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker on May 17.

It is an outrage and a scandal that “Our Lady’s University,” one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage.

This nation has many thousands of accomplished leaders in the Catholic Church, in business, in law, in education, in politics, in medicine, in social services, and in many other fields who would be far more appropriate choices to receive such an honor from the University of Notre Dame.

Instead Notre Dame has chosen prestige over principles, popularity over morality. Whatever may be President Obama’s admirable qualities, this honor comes on the heels of some of the most anti-life actions of any American president, including expanding federal funding for abortions and inviting taxpayer-funded research on stem cells from human embryos.

The honor also comes amid great concern among Catholics nationwide about President Obama’s future impact on American society, the family, and the Catholic Church on issues such as traditional marriage, conscience protections for Catholic doctors and nurses, and expansion of abortion “rights.”

This honor is clearly a direct violation of the U.S. bishops’ 2004 mandate in “Catholics in Political Life”: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

We prayerfully implore you to halt this travesty immediately. We do so with the hope that Catholics nationwide will likewise call on you to uphold the sacred mission of your Catholic university. May God grant you the courage and wisdom to do what is right.

Sincerely, (AS OF 3/20 AT 6 PM)

Patrick J. Reilly,
President of The Cardinal Newman Society

Candace de Russy, writer
National Advisory Board, The Cardinal Newman Society

Philip F. Lawler
Director, Catholic Culture Project

Fr. C. J. McCloskey III
Chicago, IL

Craig Miller
Steven Wagner
President, QEV Analytics

Thomas N. Peters
American Papist Blog

Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D., LISW
Executive Director: Pastoral Solutions Institute
Host: Fully Alive!—The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159/XM 117
Host: Heart Mind & Strength—Ave Maria Radio

Dr. Pia de Solenni

Dr. Stephen M. Krason
Political Science Program
Society of Catholic Social Scientists
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Richard L. Kent, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Eastpointe, MI

Gov. Palin Slams Obama's "Special Olympics" Joke

"This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world.
... I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special needs community."

Of course they do, Madame Governor. Of course they do.

Fridge Pic #008: The Last Cylon Revealed!



So say we all!

Source: unknown; another endlessly forwarded photoshop special, in honor of the final Battlestar Galactica episode.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Run Away! Run Away!"



The Telegraph reports that a pub was evacuated after construction workers "discovered a grenade."

It turns out that the grenade in question was a toy copy of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

(((insert random Monty Python quote here...does it really matter which one?)))

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tattered Remnants #001: Chrisoph Probst and the Schölls


Hans Schöll, Sophie Schöll, Christoph Probst, 1942


An extraordinary 2007 essay in Bill Whittle's excellent blog “Eject! Eject! Eject!” made reference to what are essentially invisible heroes: not in the sense of Harry Potter Cloak of Invisibility type heroes, but heroes whom you never see, never notice, and whom the earth may never even note are even present. But these silent, hard working few–these one in a thousand or fewer–are referred to both in the writings of Plato and in the writings of the Old Testament as “The Remnant.” The idea being, these are what are left when the storm passes; it is they who keep civilization going, and receive neither kudoes nor recognition for their work in this world. The archetypal Remainder is the fictional George Bailey of Bedford Falls, New York: a man who silently, but with full effort, devotes himself to building his city and his community, and in his case, not knowing the good he has done until he is at the furthest edge of despair and is ready to throw his life away.

Occasionally these individuals are remembered but often they are not. This is the first what I hope to be a series of short bios. The theme is simple: Praiseworthy people you have probably never heard of, who stepped up and done what needed to be done: The children of Israel sometimes call them The Righteous Among The Nations. I call them the Tattered Remnants.

(Editor's Note: This was originally a stand alone essay; I'm reconning it to Tattered Remants #001.)



[Executive Summary: This Easter season, let us remember those lesser known Christian martyrs who shined like the sun in the darkest of this past century's time. Let's ask ourselves: how should one conduct oneself in the midst of mass evil?]


"Die Sonne scheint noch!" ("The sun's still shining!") - Last Words of Sophie Schöll , age 21, February 22, 1943

I first learned of "The White Rose" movement in my teens, when reading one volume of a lurid, British-made multi volume paperback picture book series on the Second World War, which was then specifically marketed to teenaged males with an unhealthy interest in Nazi Germany: it was entitled "Hitler’s War Volume 24: Resistance In Nazi Europe" or some such. Bright red cover, lots of swastikas, endless garish black and white photographs of barbed wire and prisoners, etc etc. Very un-PC.

I can still remember vividly the book's laconic description of the execution of the leaders of The White Rose circle. Hans and Sophie Schöll, two college students, were arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets on the campus of the University of Munich in February, 1943, only two weeks after the destruction of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Their friend and co-conspirator, Christoph Probst, was arrested shortly thereafter. "They were convicted after a show trial and sentenced to death; they were executed the same day. Sophie went first, beheaded in the city prison. Next went her brother. As the blade fell, Hans Schöll shouted, ‘Es leibe die Frieheit!’ (Long live freedom!) Probst followed."

And that was all I ever knew of Sophie's choice.

I recently encountered a movie in the foreign language section of the our local video shop--in German, with English subtitles. It was entitled "Sophie Schöll: Die Letze Täge" ("Sophie Schöll: The Final Days"), a 2005 German language film starring Julia Jentsch.

(I suppose that I should say 'spoiler alert' here; however, it's like saying 'spoiler alert' before reviewing Titanic. The ship sinks; the girl dies; if you don't know that going in, why are you even watching the movie?)

I have to admit I was a little suspicious of the movie before I started it. From what I read, Hans, not Sophie, had been the leader of the Rose, under the direction of their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber (who was eventually also executed for his involvement, along with five others).

Sophie was a junior partner in the White Rose, notable only because she was the only woman who was a central member of the group and was the only woman actually executed therefor (the other women involved all went to prison). To make her the chief martyr in the story when she was not the leader struck me as somehow over-romanticizing an already tragic situation.

Frankly, I thought it possible that they were emphasizing her participation for some ideological reason or, worse, as a marketing tool. And to some extent I was right: Sophie had been a very pretty girl with a winsome manner, and Julia Jentsch, the actress portraying her, is very shapely; the movie took advantage of this by showing her in various stages of undress that, while not nudity, still struck me as a little .... unseemly, given the subject matter.

But. How little I knew about Sophie Schöll.

It seems that the transcripts of both the Gestapo investigation and the trial itself had been in the hands of the East German Stasi from the end of the war. In 1990, they were recovered from Stasi archives. Although the transcripts themselves are as yet unpublished, the script writers were given access thereto--and they used it as the basis of the film. Almost every single word in the movie is drawn from life. They took exacting pains to make the movie almost a picture perfect reproduction of that dark time of the winter of 1943.

The portrait of this eminently intelligent, deeply faithful young woman so revealed is stunning. The Nazis, in executing this young woman, barely 21 years old, clearly killed not merely a martyr and a saint, but also a first class intellect and a most gifted philosophical mind.

The only comparison I can draw to her battle of wits with her Gestapo interrogator is to A Man for All Seasons, another story of a Christian soul beheaded for "treason." But while St. Thomas More was in the flower of his manhood when he died, a trained attorney of the highest order and fully capable of self defense, this girl was barely out of her teens: and yet she argued valiantly, first in defense of her friends, and then in defense of her ideas, in a stream of oratory that would have done St. Thomas proud.

The movie begins with Sophie and her best friend, Geselle, singing a Billie Holliday song as it plays on the grammaphone: the volume turned down, not to not disturb the neighbors, but rather to avoid the neighbors reporting them to the secret police.

As one reviewer put it: "This is not a period piece, but a horror film." Indeed. Who can imagine being put in a camp merely for listening to jazz? But that was the reality of the day.

Then Sophie leaves her friend’s apartment and joins her circle of friends, the White Rose, as they prepare leaflets for distribution – by mailing them to public persons (bar owners, barbers, doctors, folks who would come in contact with many people). When it is discovered that wartime shortages have made envelopes scarce, the decision is taken to distribute the flyers on campus.

Sophie and Hans volunteer: the scene where they are surreptitiously placing the flyers in the lecture hall atrium was both amusingly familiar to this old univerity radical, as well as an exercise in shaming the proud. Now this was courage! Never once did any of us face the headsman for publishing our (now rather embarrassingly) trivial opinions on campus; we were merely ridiculed.

Naturally the pair are caught; a janitor sees them and turns them in–-both out of loyalty to his Nazi regime, and out of annoyance at having to clean up the leaflets.

At first she resists the interrogation, trying to convince the Gestapo policeman interviewing her that she was just an innocent bystander going home to get her laundry.

Eventually, after her mask breaks and she admits that she helped write and distribute the leaflets, it becomes clear that her fate is sealed. The group’s efforts to shield one another – in particular their fellow Christoph Probst, whose wife had just had a child – were a failure.

The heart of the movie, indeed the heart of the entire incident, is her interrogation by the Gestapo functionary, one Inspector Robert Mohr. Mohr, it must be said, was not explicitly a monster; at no point was the girl tortured physically, as you might expect (another inmate at the jail later wrote that "he was actually relatively humane by Gestapo standards"). In point of fact, his actions are not unlike that of Pilate; he tries very hard to give Sophie an out, to allow her to denounce her brother's actions as misguided and as such to avoid execution.

He was, nevertheless, a pathetic functionary. He could not see beyond the end of his nose, beyond obedience. The Nazis, he said, had made him, taken him from his old job as a low level border policeman and made him Somebody. "I owe loyalty to the Party and to the Fuhrer," he says, in an argument (essentially, loyalty by bribery--'Stay Bought!') that would be repeated in various forms by everyone confronting the White Rose.

Her answer rang to the heavens. Because the German people are not mere slaves to the party. They don’t want victory. They want peace–compassion–empathy! Hitler cannot win this war. He can only prolong it. Somebody must take the first step back to sanity. No. Someone must say ‘no.’ We were merely the first.

And again: when Mohr asserts that the retarded children executed by the Reich were "unworthy of life," her answer is immediate and sharp: "Jede Leben ist kostbar!" Every life is precious! "Nobody knows what goes through the mind of the mentally ill." This, a lesson we have now forgotten.

Mohr clearly fails in his attempt to get the girl to renounce her actions; appropriately, he signals his abjuration of further responsibility by washing his hands.

Next follows a trial scene that can only be described as something out of a nightmare. The Nazis were still reeling from the surrender at Stalingrad only two weeks earlier, and were terrified of a dolchstoss, a ‘stab in the back’ (that is, a revolt) from the folks back home of the sort that led to the collapse in November 1918. They decided to pull out all stops and make public examples of these three.

They accordingly sent to Munich their most demonic prosecutor: one Roland Freisler, "President of the People’s Court", who must have be the source of the stereotype of the evil overbearing Nazi. (He it was who sentenced the July 20 Hitler assassins to death by piano wire the following year; he it was who, I am pleased to report, was killed during an American bombing raid on Berlin in 1945.)

Resplendent in a blood red robe, he sat on the bench and screamed at them. The trial (if you can call it that) of the three leafleteers by Freisler essentially consisted of each of the three being berated by a shrieking hysteric. (I should also add that the court-appointed weasel they called a "defense attorney" made this sometime court-appointed defense attorney's stomach turn.)

The first of the three, Probst, having three children for whom he was responsible, tried to escape the death penalty through self abasement. (To tell the truth, watching him beg for his life was one of the most painful parts of the movie.) Hans came next, holding himself up well – he was, after all, both a combat veteran and only a few semesters short of his MD and more than held his own against Freisler.

But it was Sophie, the last of the three, who truly shined. "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did...Are we to be an outcast nation, forever scorned by the peoples of the world?"

There is a moment in the movie that will always haunt me: Sophie standing before her prosecutor, her judge, her useless defense attorney: Nazis before her, Nazis behind, she glows like an angel before the faceless lemures that presume to judge her. It is an Ecce Homo moment, where a prophet confronts armed sheep. Moments like this resound through history. We see Moses before Pharaoh, and Daniel outside of the lion's den; we see it with Thomas More before his royal judges, or John the Baptist, in his dungeon, looking up at the weeping Herod who begs him to let himself be released. Like Gandhi before General Smuts, asking for a shilling for a ride home; like Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow before the Soviets; like any of a thousand saints through history whose "guilt" shines like a beacon to all mankind as they are "judged" by authoritarians unworthy to unloosen their sandals.

For their courage, Sophie Schöll, along with her brother Hans Schöll and Christoph Probst, were given the ultimate punishment that the Nazis could give forth: death by guillotine.

They were executed the same day. As "citizens" of the Reich, they was given certain small comforts denied most Nazi victims: they allowed Sophie and Hans to see their parents for a few minutes, before the execution. And when her father looked into her eyes and said, "You did the right thing. I am proud of you," the gratitude in her eyes in response, and the stiffening of her spine, showed how much it meant.

It was made clear that these two youths were not merely made heroes: they were raised to be heroes by parents who knew what they were doing. Their deaths redounded to the full credit of their parents, who deserve to share in their glory. (I wish I could take credit for this insight, but I found it in a review of the movie somewhere or other on the Web. Nevertheless it bears repeating.)

The end of the movie was easily the most wrenching part. As she was led away (by two executioners dressed, most incongruously, in top hats and tails, looking like funeral directors), her last words expressed her hope both in the future and in the Christ she clearly adored. "The Sun is still shining!" she said as they took her to her doom.

The final scene was filmed in the very room in which the real Sophie was executed, using the very guillotine that brought the real Sophie to her death, a room, perversely, now used as part of the Munich city morgue.

I have compared Sophie’s self-defense to More’s. I should however note that not all is parallel between the two cases. More’s dilemma was that he could neither lie in his self defense (by signing the King’s loyalty oath) nor could he speak the truth lest he die for it: hence his ‘prophecy by silence.’ Anything he said would have been used against him, so he did not speak. ‘But Man God made to serve Him wittily, in the tangles of the mind!’ His enemy Thomas Cromwell got around this by the simple expedient of finding a toady willing to lie under oath about More.

Sophie, on the other had, did not hesitate to lie, and lie quite convincingly at first, to avoid execution for her involvement with the White Rose. She almost managed to talk her way into release. Nevertheless, the time came when her facade broke and she was forced to admit the truth to Inspector Mohr: "Yes, I did it. And I’m proud of it."

While More did everything he could to avoid martyrdom, after a certain point it became clear that Sophie was actively embracing it. (More did, too, but only after it became clear that his execution was inevitable.) I do not know whether daring the Devil to crucify you is morally permissible, but I daresay it’s very, very risky, and not just to your flesh.

Inspector Mohr, himself a real personage, is also an interesting character in his own right. He clearly comes to respect this young woman, and not merely because she is pretty. But he cannot understand her involvement, her active choice of death over loyalty to her people. What could possibly have perverted this admirable Aryan girl, he wonders, to turn away from the Volk? The possibility that she was motivated, not by racial loyalty, but by loyalty to the higher ideal we used to call Man, seems never to have occurred to him. And yet, in spite of his acting as an agent of her destruction, his admiration for this girl became clearly manifest, both in the interrogation room and in her final minutes, when he came to silently salute her prior to her execution.

Sophie Schöll, aged 21 when she died, now has more than 100 schools named after her in the new united Germany; she and her brother have a square named for them at the University; another, Professor-Huber-Platz, is named for their mentor. Sophie's small but significant place in history seems secure. To paraphrase M. Scott Peck, she, like Christ, was raised on a crosstree by the Evil One, and this was allowed by God so that we might see her from afar.

At the end of another excellent German-language movie concerning the period, Der Untergang ("Downfall"), about the final collapse of the Nazi regime, there is a film clip of an aged woman, remembering. Her name is Traudl Junge, and she was a young woman during the Nazizeit; she had been Hitler's personal secretary and typist. That movie closes with a quote which is as magnificent a tribute to Sophie as can be spoken:

I was shocked, deeply shocked, by what I heard from the Nuremberg trials, but I was satisfied that I had no personal responsibility, and I could not trace what happened to the Jews and other races to anything I had personally done.... not until many years later, when I was walking past the memorial to Sophie Schöll--I saw that she and I were born in the very same year, and she was executed the same month I began to work for the Fuhrer, and it struck me, that I could have found things out, that I should have found things out, if I really had tried.


One final word: I mentioned that Christoph Probst’s attempt to save his own life (for the sake of his children) through self abasement was painful to watch. Nevertheless, it should be said that history records that his demeanor at his own execution was as courageous as those of his friends.

Anyone who might consider themselves martyr material ("she thought she might make a martyr if they killed her quickly" - Flannery O'Connor*) should consider Probst as both a warning and as an example. Perhaps he debased his martyrdom somewhat by begging for mercy. And yet, when the time came, he still went to his death with his head held high. He too is seen from afar. His sacrifice was not in vain. And his name, too, is remembered with honor: Probststraße runs near the Geschwestern-Schöll-Platz in Munich.

"Probst followed."

Indeed.

Run, do not walk, to the Blockbuster and rent "Sophie Schöll: The Final Days" this Lent. You will not regret it.


___________________
*Thanks to my friend Donna for making me change "Anne Flannery" to "Flannery O'Connor". Error acknowledged and corrected.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

God... er... Good for Her!

It's reported that a hospice for the dying has banned the word 'God' from use at internal staff meetings.... although the chaplains are still allowed to use it in front of the muggles.

Chaplain at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton resigns over ban on word 'God'

Ban on word 'God' at meetings has chilling effect, she says


By Howard Goodman | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 18, 2009

A chaplain at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton has resigned, she says, over a ban on use of the words "God" or "Lord" in public settings.

Chaplains still speak freely of the Almighty in private sessions with patients or families but, the Rev. Mirta Signorelli said: "I can't do chaplain's work if I can't say 'God' — if I'm scripted."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"...a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."

I'm not a fan of WorldNetDaily, but....


One of the nation's most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term "marriage" should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.

"I was shocked to see that Merriam-Webster changed their definition of the word 'marriage,' a word which has referred exclusively to a contract between a man and a woman for centuries. It has now added same sex," YouTube user Eric B. noted to WND.

"The 1992 Webster's Dictionary does not mention same sex at all," he wrote.

A strange new world that has such creatures in it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fridge Pic #007: TIGER WOOD'S NEW YACHT



From an endlessly forwarded Email. Someone,
somewhere, has too much time on their hands.

Mene, mene, tekel......?

[EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It ain't the end of the world, in spite of all announcements to the contrary.]

A friend of mine, a very fortunate cultural maven with some wealthy friends, wrote me yesterday from Seattle:


Today I went to the ballet. My friend V. and her mom have had season tickets for 21 years, so occasionally they get extra tickets, which they give to me. I can't sit with them, but we get together during intermissions.

Anyway, I was seated next to this couple who were clearly enjoying the show, as I was, so we talked about it some. Then the husband turned to me, and said solemnly, "Enjoy this while you can, for we will never see anything like this again. Entertainment and the arts just won't be possible anymore. I lived through the Depression and hard as it was, it wasn't BAD. We had hope. We knew things would someday get better. The situation today is BAD. There is no hope. For the first time in my eighty-six years, I see nothing but bleakness in the future."

Talk about downers. This from a total stranger, no less. I tried to get back to enjoying the show. "You are too young," he said, "you don't have the experience to realize how hopeless things are today. As much as I admire your optimism, I know it is misplaced."

And after the show, V.'s mom announced that this would be their last season; they can no longer afford the ballet. So maybe the gloomy guy was onto something.

But still, I don't feel it like he does. Maybe it's because I've been living on so little for so long, that this doesn't feel any different to me? I dunno.

Neither do I. But while I am very much an optimist, there are many who are channeling the revenant spirit of Dr. Smith, and screaming: "We're doomed, we're doomed we're all going to DIIIIIIIEEEEE!!!!....."

OF course, our vaunted Political Elite would they'd never put it that way. But some convey that message nevertheless.

Take the latest offering from the WSJ's own Peggy Noonan, who engages in what can best be described as an amiable jeremiad about our current economic state:


It is six months since Lehman fell and the crash (or the great recession, or the collapse——it's time it got its name) began. An aspect of the story given less attention than it is due, perhaps because it doesn't lend itself to statistics, is the psychic woe beneath the economic blow. There are two parts to this. One is that we have arrived at the first fatigue. The heart-pumping drama of last September is gone, replaced by the drip-drip-drip of pink slips, foreclosures and closed stores. We are tired. It doesn't feel like 1929, but 1930. People are in a kind of suspended alarm, waiting for the future to unspool and not expecting it to unspool happily.

.... I asked a friend, a perceptive writer, if he is seeing what I'm seeing. Yes, he said, there is "a pervasive sense of anxiety, as though everyone feels they're on thin ice." He wonders if it's "maybe a sense that we've had it too easy in the years since 9/11 and that the bad guys are about to appear on the horizon." An attorney in a Park Avenue firm said, "Things look like they have changed and may not come back."
I'm hearing this over and over again: it is not just the end of an era; the era in question is OVER ALREADY. We have transitioned into a new time, of darkness, gloom, and endless FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt).

I for one am not buying.

Maybe I'm engaging in self-deception. But then, I'm not one of those lawyers who grew fat on the seven fat years and are beginning to feel uneasy at the appearance of the seven lean. This is Detroit, the land of the One-State Recession, the One-City Depression, as the rest of the country danced through the fat "recovery" of the last few years. Now that we're in a national recession, we've become a One-State Depression, with the city again being a One-City Depression within it.

In other words, no change. We've had seven years of lean here: what are seven more?

I truly don't buy that this nation is sinking into decline and/or that we live at The End of The American Century.

Nonsense.

Yes, the stock market is down below 7,000.... which is where it was .... in 1996.

I seem to recall that the world was doing alright in 1996.

Yeah, we're in for a deep recession. But it is NOTHING like it was when my mother and father were becoming adults--1936, 1937, 1938, 1939. Back then? Recession, depression, communism rampant, Nazis rampant, a flailing Roosevelt administration, and the stink of war and Holocaust on the horizon, and for my father, five years of war, for both of them, all their brothers in uniform and in combat.

From which they all came home. (Albeit not without scars.)

What are today's difficulties compared to that?

What are our difficulties compared to 1967-1968-1969? The Summer of Love, so called. Communist thugs on the streets of Chicago. JFK dead, RFK and MLK killed. Riots throughout the country. Drugs everywhere. Woodstock (a malific event IMHO). Czechoslovakia crushed by the Soviets. War in the middle east. Charles Manson and his Family going berzerk. Vietnam. The Weathermen. Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayres. Etc etc etc.

What are our difficulties even compared to that?

I am optimistic. Maybe I shouldn't be--after all, I live in a one-earner household in a dinky apartment with three autistic kids, and live far more poorly than ever I expected I would. But like my friend in Seattle, I''ve been on the edge for so long that the edge doesn't frighten me. It annoys me, yes, and it worries me, but it doesn't frighten me. Maybe much of this dark mood consists of people who are approaching the edge for the first time in their lives.

It's not that we're not in for dark times--it's just that, particularly for the chattering classes, this is their first real taste of dark times in their entire lives. And they're whiny.

It isn't dusk in America. Not hardly. Today's difficulties will pass. Like a kidney stone, mebbe, but they will pass. I am sure of it.

Maybe it's time that someone digs up that classic audio of Gordon Sinclair reading his classic essay "The Americans." It's been 35 years, and the specifics have changed, but the general message has not. (If you've never heard it, click here.)

Let me be clear: I for one have not given up hope. It is NOT the end of the world.

To quote Ronaldus Magnus, it's still Morning in America. Even if some of us have woken up with a bad case of cocktail flu.

Defining Deviancy Down, Chapter MMIX

A small newspaper in Massachusetts reports the following news story, a sign of our times:

A woman who allegedly intended to artificially inseminate her wife with her brother's semen has been charged with domestic assault and battery. Pittsfield police responded to a call shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city's Morningside neighborhood, where the assault allegedly occurred. ... Jennifer A. Lighten, 33, told police that Stephanie Lighten, her wife, was "all liquored up" when she returned to their Lincoln Street apartment, where the defendant then allegedly tried to use a syringe to inseminate her, according to a police report.
This is naught but a garden variety attempted rape, and a matter of minor note, except:

This newspaper had the sheer GALL use the phrase "her wife" in dead earnest: they regard the female rapist pervert as the "wife" of the female victim.

This is how propaganda works, the Big Lie in action. We see this BS over and over and over, and we are eventually intended to get used to it.

No. Never. I for one refuse to go along with this gag. Just because Massachusetts' Gods in Black decreed that men can marry men doesn't make it so; the only thing it proves is that the Gods in question are either stupid, or evil, or both.

Thomas More faced this same dilemma five hundred years ago. Once, certain Gods in Black made a decree concerning the King and the Church; he was ordered to agree to that decree, or else. In Robert Bolt's play "A Man for All Seasons," More was asked to sign a paper recognizing the King's rule over the Church, which led to the following exchange.

Cranmer: Then the matter is capable of question?

More: Certainly.

Cranmer: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty —— and sign.

More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.

Nor shall I. Non serviam.

NOTE: The Berkshire Eagle disabled the comments associated with this story. Cowards.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Christ have mercy

Yet another execution in Texas yesterday. Some goon who gunned down his ex girlfriend and a new beau was put to sleep by the State.

So what, right?

Witnessing the execution was the girl's father. This was his second trip to that same prison, to witness an execution.

He witnessed the execution of his father's killer in the same prison in 2000. Completely unrelated case.

Twenty years ago, Brad Humphreys' father was gunned down in a bizarre robbery committed by ex-con Jeffery Tucker. Humphreys was there when Tucker was executed Nov. 14, 2001.

On Tuesday, after Martinez's execution, Brad Humphreys [father of the girl] said he was struck by the senselessness of it all.

"Think about your consequences and the lives you are going to ruin," he said. "I feel terrible about, not only the senselessness of Mike and Sandra's death, but my father's death.

"I’m a rare statistic."



May the good Lord love and have mercy on him. That is simply too much for one man to bear.

Far Out on a Limbaugh

[Executive summary: Rush Is Not God.]

At American Thinker today, Paul Shlichta raises an interesting parallel between the Democrats' tendency to demonize and the classic passage from the pages of 1984:

The Hate had started. As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen...The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there were none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure...Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party--an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling... Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room ...In its second minute, the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen ...The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep...

In particular, the Democrats' unending, utterly baseless and irrational hatred toward President Bush has absolutely no basis other than the fact that he represented everything that they loathe, abominate and despise.

But now he's gone. Oh, what to do, what to do?

Simple: find a new Goldstein:

With Bush retired from public life, Obama needs a new scapegoat. Evidently, Rush Limbaugh has been chosen. Calling him "the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is obviously trying to set up Limbaugh as the next hate icon for the minions of Big Other. Simultaneously, vicious attacks on Limbaugh were launched from several Democratic sources. It has been claimed that Obama's strategists are making an explicit effort to "turn the [image of the] Republican Party into a Limbaughesque caricature."

But there is a serious problem with that from our POV. Not necessarily that it will work (even though their venom practically drowned the Bush Administration) but that, with the increased focus on Rushbo, the Republicans may spent too much time defending him--to the exclusion of finding new leaders and policies to lead us out of the Wilderness and back into Canaan.

Our problem is that (1) we need a Moses; (2) Rushbo is not he; (3) we can't let a professional (but very successful) blowhard be the defining voice of the movement.

As the author said: "[h]is caricaturable physical appearance and past drug and marital issues have made him vulnerable to jeering".

This simple observation of an obvious truth drew this from one dittohead, one Eric E. Rumsey, posting in the comments:

While this may be true, Is this the author's idea of respect? You sound like a liberal commenting on his appearance, (many may not find you particularly attractive). .... But was this your idea of RESPECT? Are you really David Frum in disguise? It's "so-called" Conservatives like you that we have had enough of. You dishonor the name Conservative. I contend you are not a Conservative sir. You are a Conservative like Obama is a moderate.

That's just like Conservatives at our worst: trying to read out of the party everyone who thinks differently from themselves. As for the Rushoid dittohead faction, they are idolators, and have made Rushbo their idol--not like Joe DiMaggio, but rather like the Golden Calf. If we can't criticize his obvious faults, then that makes us no better than the stupidest Obammunist. Worse, in fact.

Clearly Rush Limbaugh is a necessary thumb that the GOP presently needs to suck on as it sits in its corner.

He is not, however, by any stretch, the leader of the party, nor is he its future. He's an entertainer, nothing more.

If we don't get our act together, that future will be in political outer darkness.

What do we need to do first and foremost? Repent and believe the Good News. Any attempt to have a conservative movement that ignores our Judeo-Christian heritage is doomed to failure.

Second, we need to recognize that the primary struggle here is not the salvation of capitalism but the defeat of the population decimators. Why is our economy collapsing? Well, isn't the fact that we are missing some 25 million workers between the ages of 18-35 just a BIT of a clue?

Third, we need to dump our political retreads and/or kick them upstairs and find us new leaders who have a clue as to what is REALLY going on. And what is going on is nothing less than the latest mutation of the atheocratic socialist virus.

Rush will not save us, and if *we* make him our golden calf, we may get what Dathan got (if we haven't already). Let us not sell our inheritance for a pot of message.

GM: From Kings of the Road to Road Kill

JOSEPH B. WHITE is a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of The Wall Street Journal, gave a lecture at Hillsdale College in January which discussed the real reasons why General Motors is making like the Titanic at Pearl Harbor.

Money graf:
By the late 1980s, GM's chairman, Roger Smith, had figured out that his company had something to learn from the Japanese. He just didn't know what it was.... He entered a joint venture with Toyota to reopen an old GM factory in California, called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., or NUMMI. The idea was that GM managers could go to NUMMI to see up close what the "secret" of Toyota's assembly system was. ... But GM took too long to learn the lessons from these experiments—good or bad. The automation strategy fell on its face because the robots didn't work properly, and the cars they built struck many consumers as blandly styled and of poor quality. NUMMI did give GM managers valuable information about Toyota's manufacturing and management system, which a team of MIT researchers would later call "lean production." But too many of the GM managers who gained knowledge from NUMMI were unable to make an impact on GM's core North American business.

Why? I believe it was because the UAW and GM middle managers quite understandably focused on the fact that Toyota's production system required only about half the workers GM had at a typical factory at the time. That was an equation the union wouldn't accept. The UAW demanded that GM keep paying workers displaced by new technology or other shifts in production strategy, which led to the creation of what became known as the Jobs Bank. That program discouraged GM from closing factories and encouraged efforts to sustain high levels of production even when demand fell.
And:
At least GM didn't use the cash it rolled up during the 1990s boom to buy
junkyards, as Ford did. But GM did see an opportunity in the money to be made from selling mortgages, and plunged its GMAC financing operation aggressively into that market. Of course, GM didn't see the crash in subprime mortgages coming, either, and now GMAC is effectively bankrupt.

Oopsie.

Read the whole thing.

Fridge Pic #006: SAY WHAT?


A baby fennic fox in Korea reacts to the latest economic news.
His reaction is not entirely unlike my own.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stem Cell Murder and The American Kindermord

[Executive summary: Embryonic stem cell research is an exercise in state sponsored child killing, and the President who approved it has much to answer for.]

Waiting yesterday afternoon in a dentist's office, I was forced to do something I normally avoid like the plague: to watch the TV news. Now, it was a Fox TV News station, and you'd think a "good Republican" like me would eat it up, right?

No.

It was an announcement of Mr. Obama's new ukaz decreeing that newly conceived children can be disassembled by scientists and destroyed for trivial purposes at the expense of taxpaying Catholics and other prolifers throughout the nation.

The Fox news report on the subject consisted of a press conference where a University of Michigan researcher, one Doktor Fredrick Fronkenschteen, emoting gleefully and burbling that he can now kill babies without let or hinderance. The reporter practically smothered him in butterfly kisses. (I'd put it much more pointedly but I'm trying to keep this a family blog. OK, family-ish.)

Now, the Obama decree doesn't "legalize" embryonic stem cell research: even the Dub couldn't ban it outright, alas. But it now puts the U.S. Taxpayer's Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on medical experiments which are as abominable as Frankenstein's and as pointless as Mengele's: for there has been not a single usable scientific advance in this field from the beginning.

To those who think that this abomination is "about time," let me remind you of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
There ... are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.
Let me be clear here. The newly fertilized egg+sperm becomes a diploid cell called a zygote. The zygote is half-mother, half-father. In other words, neither mother nor father, but part of each. (If this sounds familiar, it had better!) As it divides, and divides again, over and over, it begins the journey which, uninterrupted, ends in (in my case) a fat 47 year old typing nonrandom text on my blog this morning.

That journey is an analog continuum, not a digitized, divisible phenomenon. THERE IS NO POINT BETWEEN ZYGOTE AND FAT GUY where one can say "NOW this thing is a person." No. It is a person ab initio. What Q.S. Tertullian knew intuitively 1800 years ago is explicitly true to this day: 'That which will be a man is a man already. The whole fruit is present in the seed.'

(But what of implantation? That is a matter of mere technology. You can implant zygote A in woman C after sticking it in fridge B at near-zero-degrees Kelvin for a year, or ten. That doesn't modify the personhood of the zygote, even if it could damage its DNA. Furthermore, the creation of an artificial womb is at this time not impossible, merely pointlessly expensive. Ergo: The zygote is a person in its own right regardless of where it lay.)

Obama's ukaz is an act of hideous, destructive age discrimination. It is nought but a decretal that the zygote is not a person, and as such, you can treat it like an industrial resource. This last hundred years, the human race has already been there, done that, and it wasn't pretty the last time it happened.

The newly conceived child in a petri dish, being cannibalistically disassembled for the benefit of the scientist who exercises absolute power over it for personal and professional gain, is as much a naked victim of discrimination as was any individual told to stand in the back of a Birmingham bus. More so: for the bus rider was, at least, likely to survive the experience. The child will not.

The Carpenter put it very well: "As you do to the least of My brothers, so you do unto Me."

And the Founders did too: "...that all Men are created Equal." Indeed. Everyone--Ozymandias King of Kings, Charles Manson, Little Lord Fauntelroy, the least of children lost to stillbirth: ALL, but ALL, are created equal: we all start as a zygote. I may not be a woman, but I sure as God used to be a zygote....embryo....fetus. And so were y ou.

Obama should understand this. In fact, I deem that does understand this. Yet he chooses to do this regardless. It makes him one with those who, throughout this past century of crime, destroy the weak and the innocent for political gain. And his soul will stand sore charged for the wasteful destruction of innocent prenatal life that it will bring.

The Black Book of the American Kindermord--the Massacre of the Innocents--has acquired a new and bloody page. Kyrie elieson.

Amateur Hour

Obama has been in charge for less than two months, and already the list of gaffes, screwups, inane and thoughtless decisionmaking, and just plain stupidity has already grown overly long.

My favorite: the silly incident regarding the "big red button":

In a juvenile stunt, reminiscent of something a third grader might come up with, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov a button that was supposed to say "reset." However, incredibly, the word on the button translated to "overcharge," not "reset." Apparently, despite the enormous deficit the government is going to run up this year, Team Obama forgot to budget enough money to hire someone who speaks Russian for the State Department. If only America could just press a button and reset the entire Obama presidency so far and start over.


As a former Russian tech translator, I can say with a bit of authority that this error could easily have been avoided simply by checking a technical dictionary. BUUUUUT NOOOOOOOOO! (to quote St. John Belushi).

The other thing is this: I thought we were always hoping to restrain the Russians FROM pressing the Big Red Button. What are they thinking? Geez.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The GOP: What is To Be Done?

Linda Chavez, in the latest Human Events, asks where the Republican leaders are--why is there nobody on the scene to pick up the tattered banner on the stricken field?

She starts by saying:

The Republican Party needs a leader, and so far, no one has stepped up to the job. The mainstream media have had great fun declaring talk show host Rush Limbaugh the de facto head of the GOP, which caused newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to assert, testily, that he's in charge, not Rush. Frankly, neither man is right for the job. And if the party can't find someone who is -- and fast -- Republicans will have a tough time fighting the Democrat juggernaut.


The problem with the Republican party is very simple: it has lost its primary focus and purpose. That must is obvious. But *chto delat'?* What is to be done?

Our party's original purpose was the termination of chattel slavery as it was practiced up until 1860, and the promotion of free small business employing free men. (Have we forgotten our first slogan? "Free Soil, Free Silver, Free Men, Fremont." Maybe we should remember it.)

Between 1865 and 1876, our party was focused on the reconstruction of the Union and the reknitting of the states into and under the Constitution (and of course our party's perpetuation in power, against a resurgent Democracy that was still slaver-controlled).

Between 1876 and 1896, maintaining power became its primary focus, alas, much as it was between 1996 and 2006.

From 1896 to 1912, it was the party of "reform and progress"; its program and power at the time largely driven by the personality of T. Roosevelt; as he went into decline, so did the party.

Between 1921 and 1933, again, it was interested largely in self-perpetuation.

Then, exile.

What does our current situation resemble?

Many would say it resembles 1933, and that we are fighting as grim an economic meltdown as did the second Roosevelt: and in fighting Obama ("Roosevelt") we risk (and fear) having the meltdown become welded around our necks for half a century.

This is madness. While we are clearly entering an economic autumn, it is not as bad as it was in '33 by several orders of magnitude. And Obama is *not* Franklin Roosevelt; he's Jimmy Carter, rested and ready to resume governing in accordance with an economic flat-earthism that will take less than a year to become obvious.

We have no leaders right now because the leaders we have are preparing to fight "the last war"--or more accurately "the last fight." The cold war is over; the Global War on Terror has come to a (temporarily) successful standstill. We have to look forward, not back. (And by-the-bye we must shun the siren song of neo-Calhounian state sovereignty, which is a deadly trap.)

We need to be getting ready to fight the NEXT fight: a fight against global centralization; a fight against granting sovereign powers to the UN and surrendering our own; a fight against the delegitimization of the political participation of believing Christians and Jews; a fight against a politically correct *gleichschaltung*, a fight against the silencing of the right; and MOST IMPORTANTLY a fight against the dehumanization of the demographically vulnerable: abortion, state sanctioned suicide, and the murder of the helpless, the old, the weak, the disabled. We must learn to protect the weak AND to celebrate natural nobility and excellence, without falling into the traps of socialism or neo-supremacism.

HUMAN LIFE IS TO BE PROTECTED, NEVER TERMINATED BY THE POWERS OF THE STATE WITHOUT DUE PROCESS. HUMAN EXCELLENCE IS TO BE FOSTERED, NOT RESTRAINED.

In other words, we must become as the abolitionists were, once more. Without a moral core, we're just moneymen, Hamiltonian debt-collectors with neither conscience nor guiding principles worthy of mankind.

We keep looking for "the next Reagan." Which is as useless as looking for "the next Lincoln." Each generation has its own unique leader; one cannot look to the past for a model that fits our changed circumstances. (And fond as I am of the honorable Governor of Alaska, I don't think that she is whom we seek.)

The reason we have no leaders at this instant is because the ones we have--Gov. Palin aside--are retreads from the last fight. It is time for new voices. We must resist the siren song of the new serfdom of state sponsored peonage: and call it by name. We must again become who we are: free men on free soil, unashamed of that which we protect.

Larry, Curly, Moe: An Eternal Golden Braid


I am a firm believer in the Stopped Clock Principle ("even a stopped clock is right twice a day"). By which is meant, of course, "Even people whose philosophy I despise may be right, even supremely right, about one particular issue."

Today I stumbled on a quote from someone whose philosophy I do indeed despise: the "Reverend Ivan Stang," a "brilliant satirist with a gift for promotion", as the Hacker's Dictionary defines him. A leading member of the so-called "Church of the Subgenius", he is notorious for brilliantly, hilariously, and quite maliciously dissing organized religion in general and Christianity in very focused particular.

The following is from his first book, entitled "High Weirdness by Mail: A Dictionary of the Fringe - Mad Prophets, Crackpots, Kooks, and True Visionaries", published in 1988.

This book belonged to Dave, my former housemate in the late 80s, when I lived at The Stenhouse, The Bachelor Toybox from Hell (a very happy but fortunately relatively brief time from which my wife and wedding day would eventually rescue me). I had long since lost the book, but never forgot the sentiment. However, observing my three little boys beating each other up at home this afternoon, I had a vision of the Stooges in action... which brought to mind this quote.

In this short discussion, Mr. Stang explains in rough outline the first step to true understanding: the existence of the spiritual pecking order among humans. This semi-comic essay was my first step into a longer term project: the discernment of the Spiritual Ladder, and an attempt to understand natural nobility as it manifests itself in our day.

Like I said: I can't abide him or his sniggering anti-Christianity. However, I do recognize his occasional ability to recognize truth and state it well, as here:

There are three kinds of people -- I call them Larrys, Curlys, and Moes. The Larrys don't even know that there are three types; if they're told, it's an abstraction, because they cannot imagine anything beyond Larry-ness. The Curlys know about it, and recognize the pecking order, but find ways of living with it cheerfully...for they are the imaginative, creative ones. The Moes not only know about it, but exploit and perpetuate it.

The naive, pleasant believers of all kinds are Larrys -- ineffectual, well-meaning do-gooders destined always to be victims, often without once guessing their status. Like sheep, they don't want to hear the unpleasant legends about "the slaughterhouse"; they trust the strange two-legged beings who feed them. The artists, unsung scientific geniuses, political writers, and earnest disciples of the stranger cults are Curlys -- engaging, original, accident-prone but full of life, intuitively aware of the Moe forces plotting against them and trying to fight back. They can never defeat the Moes, however, without BECOMING Moes, which is impossible for a true Curly.

The Moes, then, are the fanatics, the ranters, the cult gurus, the Uri Gellers AND the Debunkers; they are the Resistance Leaders and the Ruling Class Bankers. They hate each other, but only because they want to control ALL the Larrys and Curlys themselves. They don't actually enjoy their dominance; it's simply part of their nature. Nor are they less foolish for the fact that they make the decisions. They suffer a chronic paranoia that is unknown to their less demanding underlings. Larrys and Curlys die in wars started by rival Moes -- the Larrys willingly, the Curlys with great regret. Concepts like "Hell" and "Sin" were invented by Moes to keep Larrys in line; the Larrys in turn, being far more numerous, exert social pressures on the Curly minority to also obey...mainly so the Larrys won't feel like suckers.

The Moes also invent myths, like that of the "Grouchos, Harpos, Chicos, and Zeppos," to throw the more rebellious Curlys off their trail and keep them unsure of the real situations. (When the Curly's finally die of overwork, the Moes find that they cannot live in an all-Larry world; they select special Larry's and vainly try to mold them into False Curlys...but it isn't the same.)

I am a Moe, though not a particularly powerful one; that is why I know these things, and it is also why I dare to tell you -- for most of you will think it's just a funny joke. A few will know it is the truth, but will fight far harder against my Moe enemies than you will against me, a relatively harmless Moe. My fellow Moes -- enemies and uneasy SubGenius allies alike -- will know what I'm REALLY saying...


Ivan Stang. Smart man.

And it is in honor of this quote that I have always kept three little statuettes on my desk at work, near my image of St. Thomas More: one each of Larry, Curly, and Moe.

But he is, however, wrong. There are not three types of people, but seven (with infinite gradations within each type). Of which, more presently.

ADDENDUM:


A friend of mine objects to the "sin is invented" meme embedded above. Well, I don't buy it either. Stang probably stole it from Heinlein, who stole it from Nietzsche, who stole it from Rousseau. Doesn't make the rest of the insight untrue. (Alas, Moes may not have invented the concept of sin, but they have certainly and often exploited it to their own ends.)

Tenth Amendment Pipe Dreams

Once again, certain misguided conservatives have been pulling on the Tenth Amendment crack pipe.

The State Sovereignty Movement, if successful (which it won't be, thank Christ), is a prescription for, not merely civil war, but a civil war which the Conservative movement would lose. And the Tenth Amendment, as they think they understand it, was superceded by (1) the Fourteenth Amendment and (2) the Fall of Richmond.

Anathema sit!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More About Infinite Monkeys (Part 2): The Proof of the Pudding



It turns out that Wikipedia has a very good article about the Infinite Monkey Theorem,* which bears reviewing:

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

In this context, "almost surely" is a mathematical term with a precise meaning, and the "monkey" is not an actual monkey; rather, it is a metaphor for an abstract device that produces a random sequence of letters ad infinitum. The theorem illustrates the perils of reasoning about infinity by imagining a vast but finite number, and vice versa. The probability of a monkey typing a given string of text exactly, as long as, for example, Shakespeare's Hamlet, is so tiny that, were the experiment conducted, the chance of it actually occurring during a span of time of the order of the age of the universe is minuscule but not zero.

Variants of the theorem include multiple and even infinitely many typists, and the target text varies between an entire library and a single sentence. The history of these statements can be traced back to Aristotle's On Generation and Corruption and Cicero's De natura deorum, through Blaise Pascal and Jonathan Swift, and finally to modern statements with their iconic typewriters. In the early 20th century, Émile Borel and Arthur Eddington used the theorem to illustrate the timescales implicit in the foundations of statistical mechanics. Various Christian apologists on the one hand, and Richard Dawkins on the other, have argued about the appropriateness of the monkeys as a metaphor for evolution.


So it is. It turns out that the theorem has been subjected to a certain amount of experimental analysis. To wit:

One computer program run by Dan Oliver of Scottsdale, Arizona, according to an article in The New Yorker, came up with a result on August 4, 2004: After the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey-years, one of the "monkeys" typed, “VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t" The first 19 letters of this sequence can be found in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". Other teams have reproduced 18 characters from "Timon of Athens", 17 from "Troilus and Cressida", and 16 from "Richard II" .... [another experiment] produced this partial line from Henry IV, Part 2, reporting that it took "2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey-years" to reach 24 matching characters: "RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r"5j5&?OWTY Z0d..."


So computers simulating virtual monkeys producing random text weren't very successful.

And as for actual simians? Researchers ran one experiment that, as my eldest son dryly observed, "didn't end well":
In 2003, lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth MediaLab Arts course used a £2,000 grant from the Arts Council to study the literary output of real monkeys. They left a computer keyboard in the enclosure of six Celebes Crested Macaques in Paignton Zoo in Devon in England for a month, with a radio link to broadcast the results on a website. One researcher, Mike Phillips, defended the expenditure as being cheaper than reality TV and still "very stimulating and fascinating viewing".

Not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five pages[31] consisting largely of the letter S, the lead male began by bashing the keyboard with a stone, and the monkeys continued by urinating and defecating on it. The zoo's scientific officer remarked that the experiment had "little scientific value, except to show that the 'infinite monkey' theory is flawed".

Yathink?

Fridge Pic #005: HONEYMOON OVER!


Came in my Email from an unknown source.

Better Left Unsaid

Last night I composed another rant about our good friend Charles Johnson.

Ain't here no more. Waved the magic wand and 'poof' its gone: "into the memory hole," as Charles would say. Or, as the Klingons are said to say, "If you would not have a thing heard, do not say it."

OTOH, with a low readership blog (which this one is, temporarily) you can still mulligan your way out of it.

Which I hereby do.

Friday, March 6, 2009

More About Infinite Monkeys (Part 1): Fade to Black

My old friend Phil Rose writes me the following:

Hey Rich--

In your profile you say:

"....trapped in a world we never made (to quote St. Steve Gerber). We are infinite in the sense that we are also immortal and that essential thing that makes us individuals will still be around when the sun is a brown dwarf. (Whether we will be happy at that point in time is another question.)"


The sun will never be a brown dwarf. The sun will eventually be a black dwarf. Different things. Brown dwarfs (dwarves? :-) ) are objects midway in size between superjovian planets and red dwarf stars, never quite big enough to fully ignite but faintly glowing.

A black dwarf is a white dwarf that is so old that it has cooled down and grown dim.

Our sun will continue to burn brighter and brighter, as it has done since it formed(thus making global warming inevitable no matter how much we cut carbon emissions), until it runs out of hydrogen; after this it will undergo a process in which its core will shrink down to a small size, and give off a burst of energy as it does so -- becoming a white dwarf. But the white dwarf core will be obscured from view by what is called a red giant, since the energy burst from the core inflates the outer layers of the sun's atmosphere, which balloons out into a spherical shell, fading to red as it does so (still the same amount of energy, but averaged out over a much huger surface area). As the "red giant" continues to expand it eventually breaks up into tatters of gas, forming a "planetary nebula" (like the ring nebula). The white dwarf is now visible at the nebula's center. Eventually the nebula dissipates to nothingness. The white dwarf remains, and fades to black.

Disclaimer:

Loudon's Law (after the late, great Jim Loudon of the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum): Any statement made about the earth and space sciences MUST have this phrase appended to it: "But it's more complicated than that..."

Comment of the Month, Feb. 2009

I've seen combat in two wars, walked through Detroit after dark, spent two straight days in the presence of my mother-in-law, watched CBS News for a whole hour, and have heard Tiny Tim sing. All of that, and I never flinched.

This guy Obama scares the hell out of me.

- Feb 27, 2009 @ 09:10 PM American, America

Whut we hayve hyeah.... Part II

("....is a failyuh to excommunicate.")

From the Catholic Archbishop of Kansas's official blog on the Gov. Sebelius Nomination to head the US Dept. of Health and Human Services:

As you are aware, because of her long history both as a legislator and Governor of consistently supporting legalized abortion and after many months of dialogue, I requested Governor Sebelius not to present herself for communion. I did this in the hope that it would motivate Governor Sebelius to reconsider her support for what is an intrinsic evil – the destruction of innocent human life by abortion. I also took this pastoral action to protect others from being misled by the Governor’s public support and advocacy for legalized abortion.

So he "asked" her not to present herself to communion. He didn't tell her; he asked.

I must reluctantly conclude: Not enough, sir.

Supposing she shows up anyway: since she was asked not to take communion, that means whoever knowingly gives her the Host has his ecclesiastic behind covered, and His Emenence has plausable deniability. In short: he leaves himself an out if he is disobeyed.

Next time, sir, if one may say: don't ask, do tell. Excommunicate directly so that there are no doubts. One cannot be a servant with two masters; one cannot call oneself Catholic and be an advocate of prenatal homicide.

And if your own underlings do not cooperate, be prepared to discipline them too. (Which is probably the REAL problem here: he doesn't know if his own clerics will follow him.)

Churchill Banished--Because Obama Doesn't Know History?

It says here that the White House bust of Winston Churchill was unceremonially returned to the British Embassy by the incoming Obama administration.

This is an ugly gesture.

Speculation is that the bust was returned (and not merely stowed) because Obama's grandfather was "tortured" as a Mau-Mau activist by Churchill during his second prime ministership.

Unfortunately, this is an historical impossibility: Obama's grandfather was detained two years before Churchill returned to being prime minister of Great Britain.

Furthermore, the source of this information appears to Obama's Kenyan grannie: the same lady who says that Obama was born in Kenya, much to the detriment of his claims of being a "natural born citizen". Not exactly a reliable source, I assume.*

Regardless of all of this: couldn't the bust simply have been moved somewhere quiet in the White House? Sending it back to the British is a deliberate in-your-face. And an unnecessary one, to boot. One that we may one day regret.



*I don't think Obama was born in Kenya. I think that all the charges against him on this point are total BS, and those making them are idiots. But if -- IF -- the allegations of his Kenyan birth turn out to be true, IMPEACH! Election fraud is a felony.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

thinskinnedfootballs.com

Geez.

LGF posts about a pro-Islamic ad campaign in San Francisco.

Ace of Spades points out that it's the Islamics' right to run these ads whether LGF likes it or not.

Charles Johnson, Squire of Gothos, whines about this mild bit of criticism.

Geez o pete. Can this guy be any more thin skinned?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Have you read a "Good Book" lately?

[Executive Summary: An intelligent Bible reader of Jewish descent bangs his head against the reality that the Old Testament is one exceedingly grim read.]

There is an old joke from a few years ago, entitled A Short Course on Comparive Religions, which holds that "All religions are variations on the phrase 'shit happens': Hinduism says, 'shit happens over and over again.' Islam says, 'shit happens, God willing.' Zen Buddhists ask, "What is the sound of one shit happening?" Catholicism says, 'If shit happens God is punishing me.' John Calvin says, 'Shit is predestined to happen.' The Jews ask, 'Why does all this shit happen to us?'" And so on.

David Plotz, a conservative Jewish writer for Slate, was educated in a shul as a child, then in an Evangelical Christian university in his youth. He regarded himself fairly well educated as regards the Bible. But he wanted to reexamine the problem, by reading the world's leading book concerning why, er, things happen. A couple of years ago, he began a blogger's journey of a lifetime: urged to reread the entire Bible as a whole from one end to the other, he has done so--and blogged the experience here. He has also turned that blog into Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible.

I have not read the book itself yet (it was only just released), nor even his blog. However, he made certain comments on his experience in a summary that was posted yesterday on Slate.

Here's the long and the short of it: Plotz, a reasonably biblically literate lay person of Jewish background but no outstanding religious belief, has made a major discovery in reading the Bible: the origin of many of our political terms (shibboleth, burning bush, the influence that Amos had on M.L. King's I Have a Dream speech, inter alia). He urges everyone, faithful or not, to read the whole thing all the way through, if nothing else, to become reasonably culturally literate, as our political speech is drawn from the images of the Good Book.

However, he reads the Old Testament only. He chooses to foreclose any investigation into the New Testament by saying:

If I want to find the grace and forgiveness and wonder, I have to read and believe in the story of Jesus Christ, which explains and redeems all. But that doesn't work for me. I'm a Jew. I don't, and can't, believe that Christ died for my sins. And even if he did, I still don't think that would wash away God's crimes in the Old Testament.

In other words, he makes a double handwaive: "Sorry, I'm Jewish," and "God's crimes."

Plotz is clearly an intelligent and well meaning man, and he writes gracefully. But he invokes his Jewish heritage as a permanent and impermiable barrier to his investigation into the second half (yes) of the Bible. He cuts off any consideration of that which makes the Bible not only tolerable, but meaningful.

I enter into this discussion of the Divide with caution, for many reasons. I am a philo-Semitic reluctant Roman Catholic of Irish derivation; my admiration for Judaism is profound but not inherited, as far as I know. Yet it is sad to me that one's Judaic inheritance is supposed to render the New Testament entirely radioactive and beyond, alas, "the pale"; a Christian can wrestle with the Old Testament, but a Jew can't wrestle with the New; indeed, won't even read it.

The ancient and bitter Divide between Christianity and Judaism can get ugly at times. I remember with crystal clarity the shock I got in my freshman year of college when two friends of mine who were then dating--he a Jewish-descended atheist and she a Jewish-descended Christian--got into a nasty argument about religion. She tried to quote the New Testament in support of one of her points, and he spat in reply: "Don't you know that that you are dead?" Needless to say this relationship did not continue for long.

I also remember a second discussion, many years later, with another friend, raised Catholic but who converted to Judaism, who opined that any Jew who converts to Christianity is like another individual has been gassed by Hitler.



(Of course, given Christianity's often painful history--and given the endless numbers of anti-Semites and anti-Jewish atrocities that have polluted Christianity through history--this does not surprise. Alas.)

And yet, painful as it is, this wall of separation between the two faiths is necessary. Judaism stands always under a threat of being absorbed, in this day and age, by the Christianity that surrounds it in most of the world. To maintain and protect itself from its bumptious and sometimes savage younger brother, it is plain that a rough wall must exist.

Furthermore, Christianity itself supports that wall, in a way. (And no, not for its historical occasional relegation of Jews to ghettoes or worse.) Christianity's own scriptures hold that the Jews will continue to exist until the Second Coming, if such there is. God Himself has told us that there cannot be, there will not be, any permanent and total conversion of the Jewish people as a whole until the End of Time, and that they still have a major role to play in His world. (Whether under the New Covenant, the Old Covenant is still in force for the Jews, I leave as a question for theological experts; I myself am not going to go there.)

So: one cannot truly argue with the need for the Divide, alas.

But this is book is not just about the Divide. The key to his true difficulty with the Bible in his phrase "I still don't think that would wash away God's crimes"--an expression that he does, as C.S. Lewis warns us not to: to put "God in the Dock." God, to him, is a committer of "crimes", One who leaves him "heartbroken"--

You notice that I haven't said anything about belief. I began the Bible as a hopeful, but indifferent, agnostic. I wished for a God, but I didn't really care. I leave the Bible as a hopeless and angry agnostic. I'm brokenhearted about God. After reading about the genocides, the plagues, the murders, the mass enslavements, the ruthless vengeance for minor sins (or none at all), and all that smiting—every bit of it directly performed, authorized, or approved by God—I can only conclude that the God of the Hebrew Bible, if He existed, was awful, cruel, and capricious. He gives us moments of beauty—such sublime beauty and grace!—but taken as a whole, He is no God I want to obey and no God I can love.

This is not a particularly original critique--I first encountered the same thing in Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, published 1961--in the section where Jubal Harshaw (Heinlein's Mary Sue), in the middle of a rant against religion in general and Christianity in particular, similarly critiques the Old Testament. He, Heinlein ("Harshaw"), discusses the story where Lot, who, attempting to protect angelic messengers of God from being anally raped by a mob in Sodom, offers his own daughters to be raped in their stead:

But that's what he [Lot] promised -- his virgin daughters, young and tender and scared -- urged this gang to rape them... if only they would leave him in peace! The Bible cites this scum as a 'righteous' man.

(Note: Heinlein very conveniently leaves out the detail that Lot is protecting an Angel of God from mob defilement; ol' RAH is notorious for such.)

Or the story of Elisha and the two bears:

Consider Elisha. Elisha was so all-fired holy that touching his bones restored a dead man to life. He was a bald-headed old coot, like myself. One day children made fun of his baldness, just as you girls do. So God sends bears to tear forty-two children into bloody bits. That's what it says -- second chapter of Second Kings.


This brings us to the question of the odyssey of Theodicy: the question of God's goodness. The God of the Old Testament, taken on its face, fails that test outright. He (to quote Stephen King's The Stand) "ain't no nice guy." Not only is this God not a tame Lion, He's a savage man-eater.

That's really the sad truth: the Old Testament is an ugly, ugly story. Without a Messiah-Christ, or the Mosiach-He-Who-Is-To-Come (take your pick), to make sense of it, it's as grim a book of fairy tales as you could ask.

If there was no redemption, no Resurrection, then we find ourselves as did Job, sitting by a cold fire in the ashes of his burned out farm, wondering "why me, Lord?" (And it's no comfort to remember what He said to Job in reply: "None of your business!")

It is in the light of this that Mr. Plotz raises a most intelligent point, and which shows that he is not without a certain insight into what he has just read.

As I read the book, I realized that the Bible's greatest heroes—or, at least, my greatest heroes—are not those who are most faithful, but those who are most contentious and doubtful: Moses negotiating with God at the burning bush, Gideon
demanding divine proof
before going to war, Job questioning God's own justice, Abraham demanding that God be merciful to the innocent of Sodom. They challenge God for his capriciousness, and demand justice, order, and morality, even when God refuses to provide them. Reading the Bible has given me a chance to start an argument with God about the most important questions there are, an argument that can last a lifetime.



Indeed: in the absence of the Christian belief in redemption by the Blood of His Son, we are only left with one option: to stare God in the eye and ask, "SAY WHAT"? (Or to close the circle: "Why does all this shit happen to us?")

And that is the essence of the Jewish faith: to wrestle with God. The Jews remain the children of Israel, i.e., of He-who-Wrestled-With-The-Angel. It is this willingness to confront Him that makes me say, as I stated in an earlier post: "show me the bones of Christ and five minutes later I would convert to orthodox Judaism."

The Bible tells us that Jacob overcame the angel. Here is a prayer that Mr. Plotz, by all appearances a righteous man, does the same.

Actually, let me amend that: let us all wrestle Him and win.