Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Martin Luther posts his 95 THESES
While intending to simply root out abuses in the Catholic Church, Luther set in motion the protestant reformation.
Luther was a Catholic priest and was appalled that people were being sold forgiveness for their sins. Since it was a pretty lucrative side business among local clerics, Luther was excommunicated and Charles V of Germany proclaimed that anyone could kill Luther without it penalty on their bodily or holy soul. With protection from other nobles, Luther instead wrote a German translation of the bible. Other ground swells in Europe arose and religious politics were changed for ever.
The ability to reform excesses and missteps are the key ingredients to continued success in anything. The Roman Catholic Church, much like Ford and GM today, took for granted the people and the market for their product. Their own hubris led to the decline of importance in political and public life.
The reformation was integrated into the thinking of philosophers like John Locke and later Thomas Jefferson who would pen that all men were created equal with certain inalienable rights. The church and the state that wielded so much political power over the populace with the fear of God were supplanted by a creator that people could have a personal relationship with.
That alone was an important component to the founding of the United States of America.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Like many artists before him, Welles took a medium and pushed it beyond its usual confines and inadvertently showed the world how influential electronic media could be. Welles’ reputation from this incident led to a Hollywood contract where he would push that medium beyond the normal limits as well.
Welles major asset was a youthful exuberance that felt no boundaries. Unfortunately he felt no boundaries with people either and this indiscretion allowed him to be written off numerous times. If he could have downplayed the “genius” reputation and been humble among the power brokers he might have had solid Hollywood career being among the directors considered for the top scripts. Instead, he eeked out a living playing character roles and financing his own independent films while interesting only show a glimpse of the talent he may have left.
It’s usually the ability of average people who can harness the talent of others that leads to success. Genius too often has a tendency to blow itself up.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
THE STOCK MARKET CRASH
Although the stock market eventually rebounded as it always has, investors fueled by margin buying were wiped out immediately. While it’s controversial whether this led to the Great Depression or was a symptom of it, the effects of the Depression were certainly worse for those who lost everything on this day.
A correction of this magnitude began the dialogue as to how much government oversight was needed in the market and economy as a whole. The very next election would begin a reform of 19th Century capitalism that today sees the government spending equal to 20% of GDP, but actual control of a much larger segment of the economy through regulations and tax laws.
The crash was the beginning of the end of federalism. The government demanded that states cede authority to the federal government and invented the idea of bribing states with federal money to play ball. In creating a Supreme Court that would go along with his overreaching goodness, he refocused the court to take up every ill of society and that eventually resulted in the creation of laws with little popular support.
DR’s intent to rebuild the country through corporate taxation and regulation only stymied the free market’s ability to create jobs, so although the economy started to recover in the mid 1930s, a severe recession hit in 1937 and 1938. The subsidies to cut farm production are still with us today. Not only is the American grocery bill artificially high, but the consumers are using their own tax dollars to make it so.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Baseball is getting a little watered down when two teams that limp into the playoffs wind up in the big series. Neither would have even made the playoffs under the old format. There seems to be a lot of backslapping about how we have a different winner each year and that revenue sharing is working, but these games are so forgettable. The wild card lets any team that gets hot at the right time into the series and that cheapens the 162 game schedule. The Tigers finished poorly, got hot for two series, and then played like an also ran. LaRussa, who had failed to win the World Series with the four 100 win teams he managed, was able to coast to victory against a team that shouldn't have been there.
I thought the Tigers showed a lot of spirit beating the Yankees and what not, but were the Cardinals the best team in 2006?
I needed something new. How do you blog about the generic congressional poll or this constant victimization parade, first Congressional pages and then Mark Foley and priests? The politics of science is getting outrageous too. Not federally funding something is the same as outlawing it and the latest sky is falling global warming predictions are so absurd taken in context with history and other sky is falling scenarios.
Settled history is an entertaining place to start and it's a great way to show how purpose and intent rarely achieve the desired results. It also shows how seemingly inconsequential things can reverberate for years to come. In contemporary politics we argue the merits of something by supposing the results in advance and never really take up the question again once the results are in. History is a great way to show how people's actions resulted in real outcomes and changes in society for the good and the bad.
It's bothered me that too little has been said about Europe's response to Hitler in the 1930s and how even a small amount of action could have prevented a catastrophic war and saved millions of lives. What’s the point of the Hollywood holocaust film parades if we’re not to take the lesson to end totalitarianism when we can? Regardless of the amount of WMD that Saddam held at the time of invasion, he wanted to harness more of the stuff and he was abusing his people in a way that had already justified our actions in Haiti, Bosnia and even Somalia. The actions history wanted us to take in Germany.
There’s a very basic question in this election that isn’t being asked. Do the terrorists want Democrats or Republicans to win? Anyone who can truly say that the terrorists are worried about the tremendous wrath of Democrats should vote for Democrats. I can’t think of any other patriotic reason to do so. I can think of a lot of reasons that will make people feel more compassionate and thoughtful, but not patriotic.
The outcome of the election will either be bad or worse and since it will be fruitless to argue the merits of the policy that will come as a result of those elections, I think it might be more fun to look back and history and see where they went wrong or right. THIS DAY IN HISTORY will hopefully provide a decent format.
The midterm election campaigns have been strange. The Democrats say nothing, just Iraq is quagmire and Bush is inept and time for a change. Here in Pennsylvania, Santorum is going mental because he can't get Casey to answer a question and the voters don't seem to care. He has never dented Casey's double digit lead. And the Republicans say nothing, have never tried to explain themselves or rally support. They are not trying to appeal to voters, just trying to retain power. It leaves one dispirited. Peggy Noonan agrees.
The Republican establishment, the Republican elite, is quietly supporting those candidates and ideas they think should be encouraged. They are thinking about whom they will back in '08. But they're not thinking of this, most of them, with the old excitement. Because they sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn't going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we'll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.
The base probably thinks pretty much the same. They go through the motions, as patriots are sometimes called to do. As for the election, it reminds me not of 1994 but 1992. That year, at a bipartisan gathering, I was pressed for a prediction. I said it was a contest between depression (if Republicans win) and anxiety (if Democrats win). I said Americans will take anxiety over depression any day, because it's the more awake state.
Al Gore was later told of this, and used it on the campaign trail. Only he changed "anxiety" to "hope." Politicians kill me.
It seems more and more likely that the Republican machine is about to take a beating, in part for abandoning the base, alternately defined as not doing the major things they said they were going to do, on which basis people voted for them.
Democrats doing surprisingly well in traditionally GOP territory; no reverse instances of Republicans doing well in traditionally Democratic territory: If you multiply each of these stories by the number of similar narrative lines describing other Senate and House races, the impression you could get is that the floor is indeed falling out from under the Republican Party.
Deservedly so. And the fact that the alternative is worse is no longer sufficiently motivating to bring some formerly reliable voters to the polls.
The Volstead Act is passed
WHAT DID IT DO?
The Volstead Act allowed the treasury department to set up a special unit to enforce the 18th Amendment (Prohibition of Alcohol) that was ratified earlier in the year.
WHY DID AMERICA OUTLAW LIQUOR?
In keeping with America’s Puritanism, temperance societies became such an important political force that Congress simply gave in to their wishes.
WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME?
After Americans had finished drinking all of the store liquor they could stockpile, they began making home recipes. Others were drinking cough syrup or rubbing alcohol or even aftershave lotion to get the fix. Eventually the entrepreneur criminal element saw an opportunity for a big revenue stream and an organized crime syndicate was born. The biggest result was that once law-abiding citizens were driven into criminal activity and public health improved not.
THE CULTURE OF PROHIBITION
Speakeasies became so common that politicians frequented them without worry. The cops could easily be paid off to keep the places running. McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village was so politically connected that they operated through the 1920s as if prohibition didn’t even exist. Prohibition was such a failure that in 1933 it became the only constitutional Amendment to be fully repealed.
In the film Key Largo (1947), Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) schemes with rival crime bosses to work together to try and get prohibition re-instated. W.C. Fields was so worried that prohibition would return that he built a cellar in his basement that he stocked with enough alcohol to last more than a lifetime.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Apparently nothing. The leaders of today still react to public outcry citing the children to prohibit more and more personal activity. Public opinion isn’t even a motivator anymore witnessed by the outlawing of things like online gambling.
Friday, October 27, 2006
A British journalist lends some perspective and points out that no nation this great can fall from greatness so swiftly.
The real question about American power is whether the realities that underpin it are shifting. There, I’m afraid, the news for Americaphobes is grim.
The US economy continues to grow at a pace that far outstrips its rivals in the industrialised world. Though China is growing at three times the pace of the US, America’s economy is so large — $12 trillion annually — that , even in the unlikely event that China will continue to grow at its current rate, it will take 30 to 40 years to catch up with America.
Despite the heated rhetoric, the US is not going bankrupt — its fiscal deficit is falling and its accumulated debt is easily manageable. Compared with most other advanced economies, its demographics look indecently healthy. This month the US population passed 300 million; it will be 400 million in less than 50 years, and still relatively youthful.
If you want to understand the real enduring strength of America as a nation, look at the Dow Jones industrial average. Not the record 12,000 level reached this month — that may last no longer than a day or a week. Look instead at the 30 companies that make up the Dow index. Only two of the original 30 companies in the index in 1930 — General Electric and General Motors — are still there today. Most of today’s Dow components — the Microsofts and Intels — weren’t even around 50 years ago. If you look at the relevant stock market indices for Germany, France or even Britain, you will find them dominated by companies that have been around for generations. America by contrast, has mastered the art of creative destruction. This vast competitive openness, combined with entrepreneurial spirit, keeps the country constantly innovating and regenerating.
Long after Iraq has established itself as some kind of punctuation mark in American history, America’s genius for renewing itself will surely have the last word.
U.S. prison population exceeds one million
Only 30 years earlier, the conservative idea of punishment was chastised by the establishment as old-fashioned. Leaders felt that softer punishments with the promise of rehabilitation were the prescription for what ailed America. Instead violent crimes rates soared in large urban areas and city dwellers fled for the safer suburban alternatives. This caused the tax base to drop and U.S. cities fell into greater despair.
Clinton’s 100,000 Cops initiative was just the kind of New Democrat idea that appealed to the populace, even though at its heart it was a typical federal funded jobs program.
Both parties are now tougher on crime than they were in the 1960s and violent crime has dropped quite a bit. The downside is that no one is left to oppose the excess of non-violent drug offenders in jail that easily cost the tax payer more money in incarceration than they're worth.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The movie "Rebel Without a Cause" opens
James Dean’s character was the classic example of a struggling male in need of a strong father figure. The combination of Dean’s death a few weeks earlier and his unusually sensitive portrayal made for instant cult status overriding the larger message of the film. The result is a work regarded as a classic for cinematic and/or cultural and historical reasons.
Method acting was the rage in 1950s Hollywood, but whereas Marlon Brando’s version found sensitivity within the masculine, James Dean was able to gain fame as a weakling. His early death created an actor’s cult that has legitimized Dean’s persona as a viable alternative to the masculine male lead. Without Dean’s legacy it’s hard to imagine guys like Johnny Depp, Leonardo diCapprio, Tobey McGuire, and Ethan Hawke as anything other than sidekicks and little brothers.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The United States invaded Grenada
President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Grenada to protect 1,000 U.S. citizens after Marxist Bernard Coard assassinated their merely leftist dictator and took control of the government.
It was the first offensive action against communism after the “Evil Empire” speech. Before Grenada, Communism was in an expansive mode and Reagan’s stand here coupled with the Contras in Nicaragua ended the spread of Marxism in the New World.
Think how things would have been had Eisenhower tried the same thing with Cuba.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The United Nations is born
The United Nations was designed to replace the ineffective League of Nations, an organization the isolationist United States refused to join. FDR and Churchill hoped that a world body could prevent the conflicts that so many individual nations could not.
Two important objectives described in the Charter were respecting the principles of equal rights and self-determination of all peoples and international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems around the world.
World conflicts that were once the blame of a small group of nations were spread to a much larger group. Now everyone could be guilty of doing nothing. And the legitimacy that the U.N. gained through vocal utopians meant that any dictator could inoculate their actions by bribing one or two influential nations that would hence veto any response.
By giving equal voice to all nations, despot regimes have ganged up to support the idea of national sovereignty of dictatorships as an ideal more important than individual rights. Not too different from the way the U.S. Supreme Court has re-written the constitution to justify whatever current position it may hold.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Brutus commits suicide
Marcus Brutus was a leading conspirator in the assassination of his friend Julius Caesar. Although Brutus loved Caesar dearly he felt that the cult of personality was leading to dictatorship and the loss of the Roman Republic. His suicide was a direct result of plan.
Was Brutus right or wrong?
Although it’s difficult to know what would have happened without the assassination, the death of Julius Caesar led to the Roman Civil Wars, which resulted in the death of the conspirators and then ascension of Augustus (Octavian) to Emperor. In short, the Republic was lost anyway.
Importance to History
The combination of Julius Caesar’s success on the battlefield and his populist urges threatened to weaken the central tenants of this Republican government. Since our founders saw the old Roman Republic as a primary influence on our constitution, it’s interesting to see the similar power struggles play out today.
Is Republican government tenable?
So far history would suggest it isn’t. Any government that begins by focusing on freedom and individual liberty eventually brings enough prosperity that citizens blame that freedom for the inequity that will arise from differing abilities and ambitions. In some crazy paradox, many who find great success can be the biggest critics of the system that allowed it.
What if Brutus had won?
With American’s current example, you’d have to conclude that the success of Brutus only would have delayed the inevitable. But it’s possible that the continuation of the Roman Republic may have saved Rome’s eventual fall and even influenced the governments of Europe. If nothing else, it makes you appreciate what a bold move our founders made reaching back 1800 years for inspiration.
Do Americans understand Republican government?
Our educational system has done a very poor job of explaining why America came into existence and why our current track is following the welfare state patterns of the European continent, a place we were trying to escape.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Pat Buchanan writes this week about something I have thought many times: that the "axis of evil" speech was bold, rallying, and patently stupid. First, because the three companies mentioned are not an "axis" by any rational interpretation; second, because it was needlessly aggressive; third, because it singled out three regimes and ignored others that were, should have been, or could yet make it onto the list; fourth, because it took a public position that was neither actionable nor sustainable; and fifth, because each bilateral situation is different, requiring its own goals, strategy, and process.
It violated at least four cardinal rules of negotiation: 1) Never issue an ultimatum prematurely, 2) never make a promise that you do not have the authority to make good on, 3) understand your adversary's motivations and how he is likely to respond to your proposals; and 4) always hold back options to use later in the negotation.
Between Sept. 11, 2001, and his State of the Union Address in 2002, George W. Bush had America in the palm of his hand. But in that speech, Bush blew it.
Singling out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as state sponsors of terror seeking weapons of mass destruction, Bush yoked them together in an “axis of evil” and issued this ultimatum: “I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
Neoconservatives celebrated this bellicosity as neo-Churchillian. Yet all it accomplished was to fracture the U.S. and foreign coalitions that had united behind Bush.
As some of us wrote at the time, to call Iran and Iraq, mortal enemies in the eight-year war of the ’80s that took a million lives, an “axis” was absurd. Bush’s speech was a blunder of the first magnitude. First, he had no authority to attack any of those nations, as Congress had not authorized war. Second, he had neither the plans nor forces in place to do so. Yet he had put all three on notice this was what he had in
When the United States invaded Iraq, North Korea and Iran got the message. Both accelerated their nuclear programs. By issuing public ultimatums, Bush left these regimes no way out. Kim Jong-Il has openly defied the Bush Doctrine. Arguably the world’s worst regime has acquired the world’s worst weapon. Bush’s response? He went to the United Nations to plead for sanctions.
The ever reliable Jonah Goldberg presents "stay the course" and "cut and run" as a false dichotomy. Faced with increasing desire at home to escape the mess of Iraq, and also with the likely and potential consequences of doing so, letting the Iraqis decide our fate there seems a reasonable third alternative.
According to the conventional script, if I'm not saying "bug out" of Iraq, I'm supposed to say "stay the course." But there's a third option, and, funnily enough, I found it in an old column of mine. I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.
Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.
If Iraqis voted "stay," we'd have a mandate to do what's necessary to win, and our ideals would be reaffirmed. If they voted "go," our values would also be reaffirmed, and we could leave with honor. And pretty much everyone would have to accept democracy as the only legitimate expression of national will.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Ralph Peters has been a voice of reason since well before the first missiles starting flying into Iraq. His voice has become increasingly lonely but no less right. Our nation’s unwillingness to wage war with an eye to victory is moral cowardice of the highest order. War is about beating your enemy into submission. If you're not prepared to do that, stay on the porch.
Here Peters comments on the Army’s new manual for waging war against Muslim counterinsurgents. GOP volunteers should be stuffing this into envelopes in tight districts.
October 18, 2006 -- HAVE we lost the will to win wars? Not just in Iraq, but anywhere? Do we really believe that being nice is more important than victory?
It's hard enough to bear the timidity of our civilian leaders - anxious to start wars but without the guts to finish them - but now military leaders have fallen prey to political correctness. Unwilling to accept that war is, by its nature, a savage act and that defeat is immoral, influential officers are arguing for a kinder, gentler approach to our enemies. They're going to lead us into failure, sacrificing our soldiers and Marines for nothing: Political correctness kills.
We're back to struggling to win hearts and minds that can't be won. Why did the officers in question avoid the decisive question of religion? Because the answers would have been ugly. Islamist terrorists who regard death as a promotion are not going to reject their faith any more than an ethnic warrior can - or would wish to - change his blood identity.
Al Qaeda and other terror organizations have stated explicitly and repeatedly that they're waging a global jihad to re-establish the caliphate. Yet the new manual ignores religious belief as a motivation.
The politically correct atmosphere in Washington deems any discussion of religion as a strategic factor indelicate: Let our troops die, just don't hurt anyone's feelings.
The text is a mush of pop-zen mantras such as "Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction," "The best weapons do not shoot," or "The more force used, the less effective it is."
That's just nutty. Should we have done nothing in the wake of 9/11? Would everything have been OK if we'd just been nicer? What non-lethal "best weapons" might have snagged Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, where the problem was too little military force, not too much violence?
Should we have sent fewer troops to Iraq, where inadequate numbers crippled everything we attempted? Will polite chats with tribal chiefs stop the sectarian violence drenching Iraq in blood?
You can trust two kinds of officers: Those who read a great deal and those who don't read at all. But beware the officer who reads just a little and falls in love with one book. A little education really is a dangerous thing.
The new manual is thick - length is supposed to substitute for insight. It should be 75 percent shorter and 100 percent more honest. If issued to our troops in its present form, it will lead to expensive failures. Various generals have already tried its prescriptions in Iraq - with discouraging results, to put it mildly.
We've reached a fateful point when senior officers seek to evade war's brute reality. Our leaders, in and out of uniform, must regain their moral courage. Soccer balls are no substitute for bullets when you face fanatics willing to kill every child on the playing field.
In war, you don't get points for good manners. It's about winning. Victory forgives.
The new counterinsurgency doctrine recommends forbearance, patience, understanding, non-violent solutions and even outright passivity. Where is the spirit of FDR and George C. Marshall, who recognized that the one unbearable possibility was for the free world to lose?
We discount the value of ferocity - as a practical tool and as a deterrent. But war's immutable law - proven yet again in Iraq - is that those unwilling to pay the butcher's bill up front will pay it with compound interest in the end.
The new counterinsurgency doctrine is dishonest and cowardly.
We don't face half-hearted Marxists tired of living in the jungle, but religious zealots who behead prisoners to please their god and who torture captives by probing their skulls with electric drills. We're confronted by hatreds born of blood and belief and madmen whose appetite for blood is insatiable.
And we're afraid to fight.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Well, here we are a few weeks out from election day, and the MSM is working hard to create a Democratic victory. They portray Bush and Rove's assessment that both the House and Senate will remain Republican as "self-delusion" amid "widespread panic in the Republican establishment." If you've ever seen widespread panic, you probably know that that description of "the Republican establishment" (wouldn't that be the optimistic, unshaken Bush, Rove, Cheney, Mehlman and the like?) is a bit of hyperbole.
The recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of terrorism, the lowest number he has ever received on what has been a signature strength.
Fine, but it does not follow that 53 percent of Americans favor the Democrats handling terrorism, and if it did mean that, it may mean something and may mean nothing in the state and local races in play.
But in every campaign appearance, Bush continues to attack Democrats for being purportedly soft on national security.
I am very sure that Bush has not attacked Democrats for being *purportedly soft* on national security. I have heard several of his recent speeches, and he has attacked Democrats for being *soft* on national security.
The frustration for the White House is that, until two weeks ago, the Bush-Rove plan seemed to be having an impact. The White House used the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as an opportunity to redefine the Nov. 7 elections around the terrorism issue. A modest uptick in Bush's approval ratings followed, and GOP lawmakers began to feel better about their prospects. But recent events combined to change the campaign conversation. These include the leak of a classified intelligence document suggesting that the Iraq war was complicating the fight against terrorism, a Bob Woodward book alleging administration deceptions about the war, and -- perhaps most critically -- the Foley scandal, which raised questions about whether the GOP tolerated the abuse of minors to protect one of its own.
That the Iraq war is separate from the war on terror is a Democratic rhetorical strategy parroted here by a purportedly fine reporter.
Bob Woodward to the rescue! Remember, Republicans can't be trusted... Nixon... Nixon... Foley...
As for the Foley scandal, admittedly I haven't paid much attention to it, but until now I had not heard anyone describe his conduct as child abuse, which I thought had a pretty specific and commonly understood meaning, nor had I heard the purported abuses described in the plural.
Aside: I don't know what impact it may have on the polling or the outcome in PA, but Santorum absolutely undressed Casey in their televised debate the other night. Santorum clearly articulated his position on every issue and pointed out the differences between his and his opponent's. Casey responded to pointed questions about his record and his voting intentions with deflection, duck and dodge, redirection, how dare you, finger pointing and yelling. As Peggy Noonan wrote last week, the Democrats may well achieve substantial gains in both houses in November, but they have done nothing to earn it.
Later, Piniella said the A's needed Thomas to get "en fuego" - hot in Spanish - because he was currently "frio" - or cold. After Brennaman praised Piniella for being bilingual, Lyons spoke up.
Lyons said that Piniella was "hablaing Espanol" - butchering the conjugation for the word "to speak" - and added, "I still can't find my wallet."
"I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit too close to him now," Lyons continued.
Fox executives told Lyons after the game he had been fired.
Piniella, approached before Saturday's Game 4, declined to comment on the situation except to say: "No, he's not here today."
Friday, October 13, 2006
This is how you keep Kim Jong Il from proliferating. Make him understand that his survival would be hostage to the actions of whatever terror group he sold his weapons to. Any terrorist detonation would be assumed to have his address on it. The United States would then return postage. Automaticity of this kind concentrates the mind.
This policy has a hitch, however. It only works in a world where there is but a single rogue nuclear state. Once that club expands to two, the policy evaporates because a nuclear terror attack would no longer have a single automatic return address.
Which is another reason why keeping Iran from going nuclear is so important. With North Korea there is no going back. But Iran is not there yet. One rogue country is tolerable because it can be held accountable. Two rogue countries guarantees undeterrable and therefore inevitable nuclear terrorism.
I like Peggy Noonan. She has grace.
The left in America--Democrats, liberals, Bush haters, skeptics of many sorts--seems to be poised for a significant electoral victory. Do they understand that if it comes it will be not because of Columbia, Streisand, O'Donnell, et al., but in spite of them?
What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace--of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together. The Democratic Party hasn't had enough of this kind of thing since Bobby Kennedy died. What also seems missing is the courage to ask a question. Conservatives these days are asking themselves very many questions, but I wonder if the left could tolerate asking itself even a few. Such as: Why are we producing so many adherents who defy the old liberal virtues of free and open inquiry, free and open speech? Why are we producing so many bullies? And dim dullard ones, at that.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
My friends in the competitive intelligence industry tell me the Patriot Act is just one flickering star in a galaxy of real and pending privacy invasions. Those embedded chips we are all walking around with may have been planted by The GAP as well as the grays. Levi-Strauss may be monitoring my movements (though they be few) even now through a Radio Frequency Identification device (RFID) sewn into my jeans. Take a gander -- and watch your back.
When people walk by me in airports talking into the air (with Bluetooth device on their far ear) or sit right next to me having animated or personal conversations on their cells, I wonder whether privacy is already passe. Which is why I am taking pains to create personal spaces in my home where a man can be alone with his thoughts. I am hoping that, so far, no one is listening to those.
CONTEXT: Following is the email that pointed me to the RFID site. I have met the fellow from *** who is mentioned. He is former military intelligence, now corporate counterintelligence officer.
Look up RFID tags – Liz McIntyre. http://www.spychips.com/ . These can be inserted anatomically and hospitals are very interested in them and so are schools interested in having them on children’s identification tags to be worn at all times. They are in passports, key fobs (sp?), cars, driver’s licenses (which will become national next year I think – not sure). Manufacturing, etc. I had an interesting discussion with the guy from *** who I knew was friends with his P&G competitor who is mentioned in the Spychips book. He indicated that P&G is doing some really sneaky over the ethical line things with their RFID. The only thing holding back RFID is that all RFID tags are not made equal (but they will be). Therefore, not all can be read by a universal reader. Passive tags are the most dangerous. They will be using these for tracking in the future. Put that in conjunction with the Patriot Act (which I am not a huge fan of believe it or not) and we have given the gov’t tracking ability along with the ability to throw us in jail, not let anyone know why we were arrested, where you are being held, and no right to an attorney or a trial. Sound far fetched? Not really. Sounds paranoid – not really in light of world events.
This over-the-top campaign video via Drudge is pretty funny.
This is a smart strategy, to create video that you could never air on TV and then promulgate it over the web, JibJab style. Drudge's influence should not be underestimated.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The Amish forgave the gunman's family, buried their dead, and the story quickly and quietly faded from prominence, even locally.
There may be no escaping the world, but there can be a crafting of the kind of life you prefer. I see it over my back fence every day, during those rare moments when I am not at the computer, watching TV or feeding my face.
I am not suggesting that we all retreat from the world, remove our buttons and reject modern medicine, but rather that the Amish demonstrate something important — that it is possible, despite a globalising world culture, to create the life you want by accepting some aspects of modernity and rejecting others, to adhere to a set of unorthodox beliefs while remaining “of this world”.
We have come to expect a grim ritual whenever another American gunman strikes: the keening families, the life stories of the victims, the recriminations of the gun-controllers and the queasy self-justifications of the gun lobby. The Amish, by contrast, have taken their grief away to mourn in dignified privacy. They responded not with outrage and denunciation, but a stoical silence and, astonishingly, immediate, unquestioning forgiveness.
Theirs is an innocence calculatedly embraced. Machines are not seen as intrinsically evil, but as barriers between God and Man. Televisions offer images of violence and sex they do not want their children to see. When a horse is the fastest means of transport, you linger longer and get to know your neighbours better. The Amish
did not learn of this week’s events through the screaming media, but by word of
The Amish belief system aims to preserve a peaceful, self-regulating agrarian society, but though their lives are simple, the philosophy that underpins them is sophisticated. Adolescent Amish boys are encouraged to visit the city — a custom known as “rumspringe” in Old German, literally “jumping around” — to sow their wild oats and understand the “English”, as outsiders are still known. Nine out of ten come back.
So far from dwindling away, an eccentric sect in a forgotten backwater, Amish life is booming. There are now some 200,000 in the US, a figure that has doubled in the past 20 years, with new communities springing up in other parts of the country. Much of this is the result of large families, but it is all due to the appeal of a unworldly life that keeps the bedlam of the modern world at bay.
This week’s school shooting showed America at its best and worst. The Amish first came to Pennsylvania in the 1730s, drawn by William Penn’s promise of protection from religious persecution, and prospered thanks to the American tradition of toleration. The right to be Amish is part of the American Constitution, but so is the right to bear arms.
Roberts stage-managed his murderous exit, demanding sympathy and attention, self-pitying and self-indulgent, raging at God’s unfairness. But after that comes the humility of the Amish, demanding nothing but privacy, retreating into their quiet community to mourn with their ancient God. The contrast between Roberts’s deity and that of the Amish somehow compounds the horror.
The few days I spent in the Amish guest house were like entering an older world. My hosts were gentle, shy, humourless and devout. They worked impossibly hard in their hardscrabble fields, and they prayed harder. I found myself deeply admiring the way my hosts had made an accommodation with modernity, while protecting the essence of their culture.
Amish beliefs may seem anachronistic, a peculiar defiance of what we think of as reality, but in their simple, ancient courtesy and private grief they have preserved something we “English” have almost forgotten.
Following politics is a lot easier on the stomach than following the Steelers these days. Here is Charles K. on killing them there rather than waiting for them here.
How important is Iraq in this calculus? The vaunted National Intelligence Estimate -- unspun -- offers a completely commonplace weighing of the relationship between terrorism and Iraq. On the one hand, the American presence does inspire some to join the worldwide jihad. On the other hand, success in the Iraq project would blunt the most fundamental enlistment tool for terrorism -- the political oppression in Arab lands that is deflected by cynical dictators and radical imams into murderous hatred of the West. Which is why the Bush democracy project embodies the greatest hope for a reduction of terrorism and why the NIE itself concludes that were the jihadists to fail in Iraq, their numbers would diminish.
It is an issue of time frame. The bombing of the Japanese home islands may have increased short-term recruiting for the kamikazes. But success in the Pacific War put a definitive end to the whole affair.
Moreover, does anyone imagine that had the jihadists in Iraq remained home they would now be tending petunias rather than plotting terror attacks? In an audiotape released on Sept. 28, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq said that 4,000 of its recruits have been killed there since the American invasion. Like Omar Farouq and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they went to Iraq to die in Iraq.
It is clear that one of the reasons we have gone an astonishing five years without a second attack on the American homeland is that the most dedicated and virulent jihadists have gone to Iraq to fight us, as was said during World War I, "over there.''
Does the war in Iraq make us more or less safe today? And what about tomorrow? The fact is that no definitive answer is possible. Except for the following truism: During all wars we are by definition less safe -- and the surest way back to safety is victory.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
No regrets in seeing the Tigers win tonight. You could tell that it actually means something to them. We’re so use to seeing clubhouse displays, but the spraying of fans with champagne was so touching and magical. These guys were happy and appreciated it in a way the overpaid all-stars on these Yankees never could. The Yankees that celebrated with the fans in 1996 are long gone. No more Wade Boggs on the back of the horse. These Yankees expect to win without all that much effort. And if it doesn’t go as planned then they are more than comfortable with losing. It must have been so lonely on the road without their Ferraris and BMWs. Now they can get back to their home theatre room, put on some tunes and then strategize with their agents about renegotiating their contracts.
Did pitching let them down? The pitching was poor, but other than Damon’s 3-run homer in game 2, they scored but one run in the last three games. The old Yankees Jeter and Posada hit .500. These are guys that play to win. The over inflated all stars stood up there like it was owed to them and scratched their chins when their half assed attempts didn’t work.
Jason Giambi doesn’t understand the first thing about winning. He understands shady trainers and secret supplements and signing big contracts, but he’s unfocused in big game situations. He muffed a simple caught stealing throw to second base yesterday. How long has this guy been in the league? He still hasn’t learned to field his position? He had only 4 more assists than errors this season. If you can’t take steroids to fix a weakness then he’s not interested. Giambi teams are 2-5 in October series. He hit around .240 in two series his teams happened to win.
Alex Rodriguez makes one question the notion of what it is to be a great player. His numbers and his age suggest elite. But if the goal in Baseball is to win championships then someone else is going to have to carry him on their back. This is not Ted Williams or Dave Winfield that stank in their first try. This is a guy who went 3-30 with 0 RBI over the last two years. The combined pressures of postseason, playing in New York, playing 3B, and the big contract have left him hopeless in clutch situations. Put him in Seattle or Texas and let him hit his 50 homers and lead him to the couch by October 3. He’s a good dog. He just needs a good home.
A great deal was made out of the Yankees lineup that had 9 former All Stars and 10 if you count Bernie who played in game 4. Melky Cabrera is the only guy who wasn’t. And what happened? That lineup made 3 Tiger pitchers look like Carl Hubbell. The key to money in baseball is being able to afford your Jeters, Bernies, O;Neills, and Posadas when other teams like Oakland and Minnesota cannot and buy a few reliable quality arms that can keep your team in the game. How many home run hitters do you need when Jaret Wright is your 4th starter? Steinbrenner could have had a better team at 2/3 the cost. It’s hard to think the Yankees would have been worse keeping Pettite, O Hernandez and Contreras especially when the Yanks won without Sheffield and Matsui a good portion of the season,
Down 8 runs tonight, Jeter fouled off pitch after pitch trying to get on base. Posada hit a homer with two outs in the 9th. Most of the rest of the team played like it was May 11. A Rod, Giambi and Sheffield cost $55 million this year. That’s more than some entire teams. Money buys all stars while heart, desire, will, or whatever you name it wins championships. And it doesn't hurt to have Jim Leyland either.
The word verification today for this post was actually a real word, "fatal." It's the first time I've had a real word. I guess it sums up the Yankees play.
UPDATE: Reports that Torre may be fired are infuriating. He's one of the few guys on this team that know how to win. He wasn't swinging the bat up there. He wasn't signing these overpaid chokers. He made the team work with Cabrera, Phillips and a tomato can bullpen.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This has nothing to do with anything, except that everyone should know the real story behind Joe Pisarcik's famous game-turning fumble at the end of that Eagles-Giants game, because at some point it will come up and you will be glad you read it here.
The shooting at the Amish schoolhouse took place a few miles from here in a sparsely populated part of the county. A neighbor at the kids' bus stop yesterday said his friend got turned back by police on Mine Road and pulled over and saw the whole thing do down. The police arrived quickly and prevented a disaster from becoming even worse.
In just about any other community, a deadly school shooting would have brought demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims' loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman's family or threatened to sue. But that's not the Amish way.
No it's not. The Amish are organized around community, family, faith, simplicity and hard work. The day after the tradedy, my Amish neighbors were out harvesting the corn crop by horsepower. The corn must come in regardless of circumstances, and harvesting tens of acres by hand requires a lot of hands. Watching this operation made me feel soft and harried and somewhat isolated. Who in my life is helping me harvest my crop? Have I made community, family, faith, simplicity or hard work a priority in my life? In their situation, would I fret, or would I get up and go harvest the corn?
The first order of business was a community prayer service at a large church here in Leola. Nancy met a friend there and called me from the parking lot to report a media circus. During the silent periods during the service you could hear cameras clicking. Media correspondents grabbed people on their way out for on-location interviews.
The Amish responded by requesting privacy and going about their business in a dignified manner. The media does not know quite what to make of something happening in a dignified manner. They are used to covering (and fueling, even creating) Cindy Sheehan types. What do you do with survivors who comfort the perpetrator's family and refuse to have their picture taken?
In the aftermath of Monday's violence, the Amish have reached out to the family of the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, who committed suicide during the attack in a one-room schoolhouse.
Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Among Roberts' survivors are his wife and three children.
"I hope they stay around here and they'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support," said Daniel Esh, a 57-year-old Amish artist and woodworker whose three grandnephews were inside the school during the attack.
Roberts' relatives may even receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families, said Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster services, an agency managing the donations.
The MSM doesn't have anything to hype here and won't understand the non-reaction to this story locally. The Amish understand that life is not fair, that sometimes it is hard, that there is evil in the world, that they were cursed after Adam's fall to work the land, that there is an afterlife, that the victims are better off than their survivors, and that the only response consistent with their faith is to forgive and to keep on keeping on. There is much to admire in that, but not much to report.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I haven’t been to a baseball game since I saw the Yankees get beat by the Marlins in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series. My falling away from ball has been chronicled many times on these pages. Last night I saw a glimmer of what baseball should be about in the dedication of Derek Jeter. In an age of cheating and profuse player movement, there stood Jeter showing the 24 other guys on his team how to be a Yankee.
The sportswriters complain that Jeter’s numbers aren’t all that great and his range is average, but what are raw numbers anyway in this day of mass cheating? How do you compare the dirty with the clean? The only comparison between players anymore is their respect for the game and their willingness to do anything to win it. Jeter went 5-5 and turned a key double play last night, but also impressive were the interviews before the game. The media was trying to make a thing about ARod’s lack of production in the playoffs last season. Jeter asked why they were focusing on one player when it takes 25 to win. When Jeter hit the centerfield homer last night in the 8th inning, Alex Rodriguez was the first out of the dugout. The Hall of Famer in everyone’s eyes has to look to Jeter to see what it is to be a winner. And Jeter shows what it means on the field and off.
Instant Classic play just now in the LAD-NYM game. Dodgers have men on 2nd and 1st. Batter hits ball off right field wall. Former Pirates third base coach Rich Donnelly sends both runners around third and both are tagged out.
Question: If the first runner had barreled through the catcher, akin to a fullback clearing the linebacker out of the hole, and the second runner had crossed uncontested, would the run stand?
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
A milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood grudge stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours, and then opened fire on a dozen girls, killing three people before committing suicide.
At least seven other victims were critically wounded, authorities said.
On 60 Minutes Sunday Ed Bradley interviewed the maker of "Bum Fights" a series of reality DVDs where bums fight each other for booze and small change. Bradley then interviewed a few people in jail for attacking bums. Bradley kept trying to get the maker of these films admit that he was the inspiration for the attacks, especially after one con blamed him.
Then on Monday another school shooting. And who do you think inspires school shootings other than the big media that makes everyone one of them into a national story when they only have local significance.
CBS: But "Bum Fights" is doing it for a profit. We only show school shootings to push for stricter gun regulation.
ME: So CBS isn't in the business of making a profit?
CBS: Profit is just a by-product of our caring attitude that we've learned tro live with.