Friday, August 25, 2006

Fashion news from the Transportation Security Administration

WASHINGTON -- Air marshals were told Thursday they will be allowed to dress the way they want and choose their own hotels in order to protect their anonymity while on missions.

Federal Air Marshal Service chief Dana Brown, who has been in the job for five months, said he was changing the rules, starting Sept. 1, after listening to air marshals' concerns. In a memo to the air marshals, Brown said the dress code was changed to "allow you to blend in and not direct attention to yourself, as well as be sufficiently functional to enable you to conduct your law enforcement responsibilities."

Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2006

From the Desk of Lance Frisk
Federal Air Marshal Service Underchief


Good morning, marshals.

Well, you've all read the news from Chief Brown, I hope. Nobody is more glad than me that the dress code is changing. The rule requiring you to wear white button-down shirts, heavy suits and wing-tip shoes has forced me to listen to a lot of griping. Especially from you women.

But the idea behind the old rule is still the same: Don't be mistaken for an air marshal. Based on the records of a lot of you, that shouldn't be difficult.

Now, you may have noticed that I've undergone a make-over. That's because I believe in leading by example.

You think you can fool anybody by wearing jeans and a T-shirt that says "Hard Rock Cafe Galapagos Islands"? Listen, my fine feathered friends, that's exactly what the hijackers are going to be looking for, now they've read the story in the Post! You imagine we're dealing with a batch of misfits? These guys may be crazier than Michael Jackson sniffing glue but they're not dumb. They're going to expect you to look like everybody else, see, so you've got to be sure not to look like everybody else, know what I'm saying?

So how do you not look like everybody else? You look like Grade-A passenger-walkout material, that's how! I'm glad to say that my two deputy underchiefs got the idea the minute I came up with it. Complimented me on my imagination, even. Here, let me call on Deputy Underchief Ross Flagstaff to tell you a little about how it can work. Ross?

Victory sign from demonstrator
"Allahu Akbar!"
Good man, Ross.

Now let me turn to my other deputy underchief, Bill Climber. Bill, can you fill our marshals in on a little more of the deep-cover technique?

"Allahu Akbar!"

Way to go, Bill. See what I mean, marshals? Follow their lead and, before you know it, you won't have to look for terrorists — they'll come to you and ask for your help! Now I agree, that could be a little bit of a problem, because you don't speak the lingo.

Best way to handle it is by saying something like, "Brother, my instructions from my cell are to keep a low profile, speak only English, not talk on phone, not wave bottle of contact lens fluid around. I do not know your cell or your mission, but our mission is of inestimable importance in overcoming the Crusaders and Zionists! Our cell leader informed us that we might bump in to other brothers on this flight, and said that to divert suspicion from ourselves we should pretend to handcuff and arrest you. I am sure you will see the wisdom in this."

Pretty clever, don't you think? I'm told that a certain highly placed — very highly placed, you know what I'm saying? — person in Washington was told of my theory of disguise and grinned widely and said, "That'll teach those folks, who represent a threat to our country with their weapons of mass destruction, to keep their pea-picking hands off our airliners and passengers, especially those passengers whose family values don't stop at the border, no sir, who are flying off to do jobs that Americans won't do."

That's about it, except remember to wear your daggers under a fold in your clothing. Oh, and don't let anyone see you being given extra screening, or your cover will be blown for sure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mexizona: "It's just the way things are going to be"

With the blessing of Generalissimo Jorge W. Bush-Gonzales and his big-business junta, holding hands under the table with the Democratic multi-culti mob, Arizona is going the way of California. That is, turning into Mexico Norte.

The Arizona Republic, Phoenix's daily waster of trees and electrons, can scarcely contain its glee as it tells us that both Phoenix and Tucson are now "minority-majority" cities.
The state's two largest cities experienced dramatic growth of their minority populations from 2000 to 2005, and a leading demographer said Monday that they can expect more of the same. "It represents the new wave of urban growth for the West," said William Frey, an authority on population and migration trends for the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

"What used to be just a California experience is now spreading throughout the West."
I'm not sure why the rag's reporter had to call on an "authority on population and migration trends" to explain that the "California experience" can now be enjoyed throughout the West, except that in journalism, you need an expert to quote if you claim that night follows day. Everybody knows perfectly well that in both cities a lot of the signs and conversation are in Spanish. Or read the help wanted ads specifying that "the successful applicant" will be bi-lingual — a euphemism, of course, meaning "speaks Spanish." Can you imagine what would happen if an employer included in an ad, "Must speak fluent English?" The equal employment opportunity commission would immediately launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the employer. The Arizona Republic's editorial board would have puppies.

On guard at the Mexican border, 1916.
Why were we so much smarter 90 years ago?

Your reporter picked up the red phone for the Hot Line direct to the multi-culti cheerleaders who can be relied on for quotes.
"I hope people see it as a positive," said Conrado Gomez, an assistant clinical professor of education at Arizona State University Polytechnic. "It's just the way things are going to be."

Anita Luera, vice president of the Valle Del Sol behavioral health center and director of its 20-year-old leadership-development program aimed at Hispanics, said there is little fundamental difference between the two populations. "People shouldn't be afraid of it," Luera said. "Minorities are the same as majorities in wanting to have better lives, schools, education and safer communities."
Gomez expresses the Open Borders argument in a nutshell. Hey, man, Mexico del Norte is what's happening. The idea that the free citizens of a sovereign nation ought to be able to choose who is permitted to enter the country and in what numbers — who you kidding, man?

To Anita Luera, nationhood has nothing to do with history or tradition or a shared language and culture. It's all about what people want. If millions of people in Mexico want a "better life," why, there's nothing to it. Just get past the gringo border patrol and cut yourself a piece of Anglo prosperity in Phoenix and Tucson.

You've got to admire, even if it makes you sick meanwhile, the strategy of the Open Borders gangsters. They're getting their way just by default. Sure, Generalissimo Bush-Gonzales would like to raise the speed limit through legislation like the Senate voted for, but even without it time is on his side. The ethnic replacement of the U.S. population becomes more of a fait accompli every day. So does Bush-Gonzales's dream caste system: an upper class of corporate Hidalgos, serviced by millions upon millions of peons washing their cars, cooking their dinners, and providing a growth industry for welfare bureaucrats. And a broken, voiceless middle class.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dispatches from the war against psychical research

The mainstream media aren't just biased against conservative politics. They are fiercely at war against the study of phenomena that operate outside the laws of mechanistic physics and standard views of psychology. Avoiding knowledge and reasoned argument, the media just try to dissolve the subject in ridicule.

No newspaper writer would dream of letting slip the tiniest word of criticism about voodoo in Africa or head hunting in New Guinea — after all, those are Other Peoples' Beliefs, and who are we to judge, etc. But the knives are out for psychical research, which has only attracted some of the finest scientific minds from the late 19th century till today. William James, for instance.

Consider two reviews of the recently published book Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, by Deborah Blum.

Ghost hunters

The jihad against psychical research knows no ideology (other than scientific materialism, the belief that nothing exists except what can be perceived by the senses or measuring instruments); the two reviews in question appeared, respectively, in The New York Times, the house organ of the Liberal Establishment, and The New York Sun, a conservative paper.

Of the two, the review by Patricia Cohen in the Times is the stupidest (link requires registration). She uses the comic book term "supernatural" where serious researchers say "paranormal." She says that Alfred Russel Wallace, who formulated the theory of evolutionary natural selection contemporaneously with but independently of Darwin, and Nobel Prize winning scientist Charles Richet, were drawn to mediumship because of "
the death of a loved one; behind their lofty scientific and moral motives was also the very human desire to reconnect with a lost love."

Everyone who loses someone dear to them wishes they could re-establish communication. But Cohen's implication that grief caused two first-class men of science to lose their marbles over spiritualism is insulting to their intellects.

She goes on:
Ms. Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, can tell a good ghost story, and there were many during this unsettled period of industrialization and urbanization when belief in the occult swept through America. All that’s missing in the tales of dead apparitions, moving furniture and sudden revelations of tightly held secrets is the “Twilight Zone” theme song.
Yet after traipsing from Bombay to Boston, through hundreds of candle-lit séance rooms with their elaborate “spirit cabinets,” where glowing apparitions would appear and objects fly, what the ghost hunters mostly found was fraud.
No doubt Cohen figured that winking remark about the "Twilight Zone" theme song would draw chuckles from her fellow urban sophisticates, as it probably will. But if she understood anything about psychical research, which she doesn't despite having just (presumably) read a book about it, she would know that mediumship has nothing to do with ghosts — nor, for that matter, do "flying objects."

She calls the co-founder of the Society for Psychical Research "
[Sidgwick's] student Fred Myers," as though Frederic or F.W.H. Myers (I've never ever seen him called "Fred") was a moony adolescent rather than, as he was, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a classical scholar. Myers's book Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death is still in print 103 years after its publication.

She throws in some dollar-store Freudianism and the inevitable New York Times-ish feminist twist with a comment about "the often erotically charged atmosphere of séances presided over mostly by women with few career options in that high-buttoned era." (Aww, go on, Pat — just say it, William James is a dead white male.)

Rebecca Goldstein's review in The New York Sun is not, unlike Cohen's, overtly sneering. Here and there she seems almost open-minded. But Goldstein, too, can't quite stop her prejudices from affecting the tone of her article. Blum, she says, "
doesn't mean to suggest that her analysis explains how minds of a Jamesian caliber could be deluded into believing in the supernatural, because she is not prepared to say they were deluded." Like Cohen, and perhaps taking her cue from the book's title, Goldstein writes as if James and his colleagues were primarily interested in ghosts rather than mediumship.

Most professional mediums, she writes,
were shady performance artists, resorting to such helpful aids to "materializations" as trap doors, wired shoes, and muslin dipped in glow-in-the-dark phosphorus. The psychical researchers had the unpleasant task of probing and palpating not just experience, but the body of the medium, of keeping a firm grip on hands and legs to keep them from levitating tables and messing with the curtains.
True enough. At the time when spiritualism was a widespread fad and there was a gullible public to feed on, fake mediums abounded. But it was psychical researchers who exposed many of them.

And Goldstein again shows her ignorance when she asks:

If Ms. Blum is considering the work of these scholars in the light of evidence for the afterlife, then doesn't it behoove her to ask, at the very least, why James's age saw so much more supernatural activity than ours does? Where have all the phantoms gone? Are they still jabbering away, only we are too distracted to give them our ear? Or have they, deciding that we the living are just as idiotic as James had pronounced them, gone off to find better ways of spending their eternity?
There is every reason to believe that there have been just as many paranormal (what she calls "supernatural") phenomena since William James's time as ever. For evidence, I recommend checking the web sites for Man and the Unknown, the International Survivalist Society, Beyond the Veil and AA-EVP, all linked to on the sidebar. What is different now is the attitude of science and the media, which with rare exceptions won't give psychical research an honest look. It's quicker and easier just to dismiss it or make fun of it.

In any case, it will not do to associate the scientists and intellectuals of William James's generation who tried to find whatever truth there might be in mediumship with the charlatans who happened to live at the same time. There were plenty of medical frauds peddling snake oil and magical elixirs back then as well, but no one uses that as an excuse to snipe at honest medical researchers who were their contemporaries.

Modern psychical researchers, who
well know the sad history of phony mediums that unrolled alongside that of others who were almost certainly genuine, have devised ever more sophisticated means of eliminating fraud as an explanation for remarkable results. My late friend Montague Keen, the principal writer of the SPR's report on the Scole phenomena, commented:
For the main part, those of us engaged in psychical research are not in the business of marvelling at unrepeatable wonders; still less relying on the word of witnesses, however authoritative, well educated, wise and disinterested. We know too much about delusions and illusions, and the weaponry of skeptical dismissal. We are primarily concerned with tangible evidence, the recorded statemetns emerging from persons in an altered state of consciousness producing verifiable information in circumstances which deny access to it by any normal means: information which is sufficiently specific and copious or both as to rule out chance coincidence or guesswork.
Monty went on to quote from the philosopher, and onetime SPR president, F.C.S. Schiller: "A mind unwilling to believe or even undesirous to be instructed, our weightiest evidence must ever fail to impress. It will insist on taking that evidence in bits and rejecting them item by item. As all the facts come singly, anyone who dismisses them one by one is destroying the condition under which the conviction of a new truth could ever arise in the mind."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

DVD: A new weapon against mainstream media bias?

The Web has been, of course, a godsend for The Resistance in breaking the information monopoly of mainstream publications and TV. But the Web hasn't yet developed far enough technologically to transmit long-form video from individuals to individuals (as opposed to video-on-demand from corporate sources.)

I expect that will change. Meanwhile, feature-length videos that would never pass through the mainstream media ideological filter are beginning to be distributed on DVD, and it wouldn't be surprising for the trend to grow quickly.


According to the director on this film's web site, it shows "footage of these radical Islamic leaders all over the Arab world preaching hate against America, calling for genocide, calling for violence."

The director, Wayne Kopping, also said in a radio interview:

We've been desperately trying to find a distributor for the film. I get the same blind spot we're finding with the media, we're also finding with distribution companies. I guess they're finding that this story is just too hot to break to the poor public. So we are struggling with that at the moment. But we have a website, if people want to find out more about the film, and as soon as we're able to find that distributor, we're going to get it out there.
If the film were a warning against the danger of cat and dog obesity or second-hand cell phone radiation, distributors would be in a bidding war for it. But since it's only about terrorist indoctrination for homicide, taken directly from Arabic-language news sources, your local cinegoogleplex won't touch it. The "full-length feature film is currently available only at select theaters and screenings," the web site says.

But Obsession is being offered as a "special one-hour pre-release edition" on DVD. (Why only an hour of the 77-minute film is on the DVD is a mystery to me, unless the director and editor are still working on it.) If the film creates enough of a stir, it may spur other producers to bypass the Ministry of Disinformation and go directly to the public on DVD.

I haven't seen Obsession so I am not endorsing it, but you should at least know it exists. For quotes from viewers, go here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lebanon invasion outcome Israeli, raeli bad

The fluid situation could change, and there are no doubt some facts we don't know about the Lebanon cease fire. Okay, now I'm hedged like a politician or academic.

But it's hard to see the cease fire as anything but an utter disaster for Israel, an outcome that is all Hezbollah and the Muslim jihadists could have wished for. Bill Roggio at Counterterrorism Blog has a good summary of the results of Israel's misbegotten invasion. Even on an military efficiency scale, a better-trained, better-armed IDF did not exactly cover itself with glory. Yes, it took some Lebanese territory from Hezbollah, albeit with more difficulty than might have been expected; it killed a fair number of the Hez militia, but they can be replaced, as can the Hezbollah rockets and munitions.

On a political level, Israel's stop-and-go, go-and-stop campaign was senseless and self-defeating. This is not your father's Israel; the spirit that saved the little country from near-extinction against Arab invasions in '67 and '73 is no more than a historical memory. Today's Israelis are a different breed, not much different, it would appear, from many Europeans and some Americans: indecisive, given to wishful thinking about the Muslim world, in denial about the threat. If they do go to war, they believe they can achieve a clean, almost casualty-free "mission accomplished" using air power and high-tech weapons. Well, they have just learned how wrong that belief turned out to be.

This hatchet job that Israel has done on itself showed the Muslim world — in fact the whole world, including its only real ally, the United States — that its legendary IDF can't even kick the props out from a second-rate guerilla force, and that its military is undercut by flip-flopping politicians and a country divided between hard-liners and peaceniks.

Worse, if possible, it lost the public relations war and gave every Israel- and Jew-hater a priceless propaganda victory, allowing them to portray Israel as an aggressor and killer of innocent civilians. That might not have mattered so much if Israel had accomplished anything significant, such as destroying most of Hezbollah and running the rest out of Lebanon; after all, it's going to be bashed by the Arabosphere and Western leftists no matter what it does. But it could and should have made a better, more aggressive case that it was acting in self-defense, and that Hez fighters deliberately put civilians at risk. Had it thoroughly clocked Hezbollah and made Hezbollah's enablers in Syria and Iran appear weak, more people would probably have bought the self-defense argument. Everybody looks more favorably on a winner.

Maybe events you'll read about in tomorrow's or next week's headlines will change the picture, but for now Israel has taken "a hell of a beating" (as General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell told the American public after a defeat in Burma early in World War II, believing the country needed to hear the truth). Its reputation, both military and moral, has been severely downgraded. The possibility that it won't survive as a nation, and that there will be yet another worldwide Jewish diaspora, can't be written off as paranoia or doomsaying.

If the Arabic world sweeps the Jewish Israelis out of their homeland and raises the Crescent over it, that will be a political disaster for the West comparable to the Sultan's armies taking Constantinople, the last descendant of the Eastern Roman Empire, in 1453. Such are these times.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sun rises in west; Observer talks sense

There'll always be a Dhimmiland, but light may be dawning, and from a surprising direction.

The Observer, a Sunday version of Al-Guardian, printed a leader (the British term for editorial) describing as "ludicrous" the letter by U.K. Muslim leaders claiming that "young Britons who last week were accused of plotting to blow up passenger planes in mid-air would have been less susceptible to al-Qaeda recruitment had Britain not fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

This has been the standard line of the Muslim Establishment at least since last year's Underground and bus bombings by domestic terrorists — that young hotheads just can't contain themselves when they read about Tony Blair making nice with the U.S. in the Middle East, so they have to chill out by dressing up in the latest detonation wear to blow themselves and as many hapless infidels as possible into mix-'n'-match body parts.

Oddly, this very explanation is offered by some of the same multi-culti cheerleaders who pour scorn on the unsophisticated, paranoid, "racist" nutters who imagine that there is a worldwide jihad that includes "respectable" domestic Propheteers.

But the prospect of 10 airliners being exploded in midair to crash in cities, even if mitigated by their being American planes and cities, seems to have concentrated minds wonderfully at The Observer:
It is … a logical and moral absurdity to imply, as some critics of British policy have done, that mass murder is somehow less atrocious when it is motivated by an elaborate narrative of political grievance. If young British Muslims are alienated, that is sad and their anger should be addressed. But anyone whose alienation leads them to want to kill indiscriminately has crossed a line into psychopathic criminality. Policy cannot be dictated by the need to placate such people.

British Muslim leaders are entitled, along with everybody else, to raise questions about the conduct and consequences of Mr Blair's foreign policy. But they have a more immediate responsibility to promote the truth: that Britain is not the aggressor in a war against Islam; that no such war exists; that there is no glory in murder dressed as martyrdom and that terrorism is never excused by bogus accounts of historical victimisation.
Muslims' constant rationalizations for terrorism no longer appear to be playing very well, even in the heart of Londonistan. It says a lot that thoughts such as those quoted above have appeared in The Observer. I am happy to give credit where it's due.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Now, can we start profiling?

If we can profile Abraham Lincoln (on the penny), why can't we profile airline passengers?

Okay, stupid joke. But not as stupid as our politically correct, nondiscriminatory Transportation Security Administration.

It was a sure thing that, 10 minutes after the plot to blow up airliners by mixing liquids into a potentially explosive blend was revealed, the national security establishment would immediately react — because it never acts with forethought, always reacts — by making all passengers check or throw out whatever liquids they had in their hand luggage. And then, for good measure, making everyone go through security at two different points.

And, in overwhelming part, passengers reacted to the enhanced crowding and delays stoically in the belief that the authorities were "doing what they had to do to make air travel safe." With such encouragement, the new regime of prohibitions and more searches will probably become standard operating procedure. Allow plenty of time: best to arrive at the airport the day before your journey. For international flights, show up for check-in two days early.

React and Inconvenience: that should be the TSA motto, sewn on their uniform patches. Richard Reid tries to set off a bomb in his shoe: got it! Make every passenger take off their shoes and run them through the X-ray. Plotters try to mix explosive liquids: got it! Ban all liquids!

Next time it may be terrorists who figure out how to wire their teeth with explosives. Got it! Recruit dentists to X-ray the teeth of every passenger. Percussive contact lenses: got it! Uniformed ophthlamologists, next stop in security clearance. As the list of attempted sabotage methods lengthens to include every possible possession, prosthesis, and body cavity, the security maze will begin to resemble a teaching hospital: ear, nose, and throat this way ("Have your ears, nose, and throat open and ready for inspection"); musculo-skeletal examination to your left ("Please remove all casts, metal plates from your head, metal pins from arm and leg fracture sites, and artificial limbs and place them in the tray"); urinology to the right ("grab a plastic cup, provide a sample -- keep moving! Keep it moving!").

The TSA, like most government agencies, cannot be reformed. Airline security has become an enervating, time-consuming chore for everyone because the government must adhere to the ludicrous principle that terrorists are randomly distributed throughout the population. To acknowledge anything else would be discrimination, our modern version of the seven deadly sins all packed into one.

Smoke was still rising from Ground Zero when Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, a holdover diversity hack from the Clinton administration, announced that there would be no profiling to determine which passengers posed the greatest risk. He even declared that no more than two people who appeared to be Muslims could be given extra scrutiny on any flight. Fat lot of good that would have done on 9/11.

The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II), a perfectly reasonable proposed airline profiling and background check system, would have eliminated most of the reactive and mass-produced security madness. It was based on the intelligent idea that airport security should be the last line of defense, not the one and only defense. The best security screening could have taken place in a relatively unhurried and efficent manner, not in the pressured atmosphere of huge numbers of people trying to board flights. I probably don't have to tell you what happened to CAPPS II. It was killed because of protests from the ACLU and other so-called "civil liberties" groups, horrified that members of some groups might have been given more thorough attention than Amish grandmothers.

So, next time you're shuffling forward at 2.7 feet per minute toward the checkpoints for further nondiscriminatory humiliation, be thankful you live in a country where everyone is equal, including jihadists.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Explosives on airplanes? Quick, get me the Muslim Council!

When faced with convincing evidence of a plot to destroy a dozen airliners in flight, British police knew they had a frightening problem to deal with. The risk to community relations was unthinkable.

The Times of London reports:
Muslim community leaders were contacted by the police and Government officials early this morning as the first statements were released to the press.

Khurshid Ahmed, leader of the British Muslim Forum was rung by a chief superintendent from the Metropolitan Police and a senior official from the Department for Communities and Local Government just before 7am to be told the arrests had taken place.

The police also contacted Dr Muhammed Abdul Bari, General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, at 6.54am. He was told that a number of arrests had taken place "for the public’s safety" but given few details.
I must confess to having misunderstood this news on a quick first reading. I thought that the Muslim leaders had been informed before the arrests. Not this morning. That will probably be the story next time.
Ali Miraj, member of the Conservative’s policy commission on international and national security said he would personally support the police action to ensure public safety. But he said that the mood amongst the Muslim community at present was very antagonistic. He also said current events in the Middle East would only encourage radicalism among disaffected young Muslims. …

Mr Miraj said there was huge anger amongst the grass roots and he was not surprised that some were prepared to take drastic action. Many would not help the police with information about suspicious behaviour, he said. "One Muslim said to me recently outside a mosque: 'What is grassing [informing] on our Muslim brothers going to achieve?'"
Fahad Ansari of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said that many Muslims wouldn't wear it. “I think you will get cynicism from the community,” he said.
“There has been so much pressure on the Government, it could be a way of diverting attention away from its policy on the Middle East,” he said.

He accused Tony Blair of being in a “persistent state of denial” on the impact Britain’s foreign policy - from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Middle East - was having on Muslims in Britain.

“He has to realise that there was a relationship between 7/7 and British foreign policy,” he said.
"Red Ken" Livingstone, London's mayor, "warned against any attempt to blame the Muslim community at large. 'Only a united London can help defeat terrorism, which means that all London’s communities have their part to play,' he said. 'No community in London can or should be targeted or blamed because of the actions of people who are pure criminals.'"

Attaboy, Ken. You tell 'em. Hardly a day goes by when some criminal gang or other doesn't try to blow up themselves and a few hundred passengers times twelve. They'll do anything to fiddle the insurance companies, these hardened criminals. I don't call it fair that the Met failed to reach out to the criminal community to let them know about the arrests within 30 seconds after they'd been made.


"Good morning. Chief Inspector Doddle here. Is that you, Mr Skullthorpe?"

"'Ey? I di'n't do nuffink."

"I wonder if you'd just pass the word to your colleagues — "

"Doddle? That you again? Look, mate, you already banged me up for that Bogdown caper, what're you on about now? I got an alibi, I was at the Hound and Flea 'avin' a pint wiv me mates till gone two — "

"Of course, of course. Look, Mr Skullthorpe, I know relations are a bit strained between us at the Met and your criminal community. I just wanted to put a quiet word in your ear, so there'll be no misunderstanding. I'm afraid we've had to arrest 24 quite unrepresentative members of your group for plotting to blow up a dozen airliners. We've known each other a long time, haven't we, and I quite realise it was all in the line of collecting insurance settlements on some unused relatives. I understand, I'm a family man myself. Eh? Oh, yes, that was a joke. Anyway, if you could put the word about to the members of your community that we haven't even toyed with the thought that the criminal community as an integral part of cool, multi-cultural Britain is in any way to be associated with, er, criminality, the Secretary of the Council on the Rights of the Law-challenged would greatly appreciate it."

"Oh, okay, guv'nor, we'll give you this one. But listen to me and no mistake, you coppers keep up this carry-on and my community's likely to get cynical, know wot I mean? If a little bird pops through the window and tells us you're bashing our lot to keep people's minds off British policy in the Middle East and suchlike, we just might swing by Trafalgar Square with signs calling for you to be — well, I don't need to spell it out, do I? Cheers, mate."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

So little time

Bernard Berenson, the connoisseur and writer who specialized in Italian Renaissance painting, wrote in his diary for November 30, 1953:
I have paid twenty visits to the illuminated manuscripts exhibition at Palazzo Venezia [in Rome] and what have I carried away? Only a vague feeling of how much there is to study. To master them artistically and philologically would take a lifetime.
Berenson added that the first time he goes to an unaccustomed place, the most he can bring back from it is an idea of what to see on his next visit.
Long ago I concluded that all we did on earth (no matter how long we lived) was to decide what topics we should pursue if we had eternity at our disposal, with time for everything, no haste, no interest treading on the heels of the last interest.
I understand what he meant. I find that new experience increasingly feels incomplete. There's more in the past to compare it with, which raises new possibilities, new aspects to investigate.

Probably most people who follow any interest discover that there is much more to the subject than they ever dreamed about. And that, even as they amass knowledge in a field, more knowledge does not automatically lead to greater understanding.

As we get older, we realize that our curiosity and imagination can never be permanently satisfied. There is so much to intrigue us, so little time to explore it.

Rembrandt: Aristotle Contemplating
a Bust of Homer

Last night I browsed through the excellent Rough Guide to Italy. One thing that distinguishes this guidebook is its detailed descriptions of many smaller towns and cities in obscure (to most of us) parts of the country. It seems that there is hardly a place with a name in Italy that doesn't have historic buildings, sites, or associations, dating from the time of the Etruscans, Greek colonists, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque … I read about some of those places and wished I could see them all. Even though I would be temporarily surfeited and would need to take a break, I could resume visiting them with just as much enthusiasm.

I never will see them all, of course. A few, if I'm lucky, but that's it. Even if I somehow acquired the means to travel from one historic and artistic site in Italy to another, that would preclude exploring many other places and interests.

Long ago, a single gifted and well-placed individual could take on board and try to understand all that was known. Herodotus told his contemporaries about all the past and present (although much of what was "known" was a fable). Aristotle comprehended, to some degree, every skill and science of the fourth century B.C. Even in the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas made a breathtaking attempt to squeeze the ultimate meaning from all human experience. Today, of course, people have trouble even staying au courant with their own specialties.

Fascination with the things of the world makes life interesting. But most religions have recognized this craving for sense experience as a spiritual danger. We become so dazzled by amazing, beautiful, and complex objects that we are distracted from looking within for the Pure Absolute Perfection that no sense perception can report to us.

According to Hinduism and Buddhism, it is precisely this attachment to worldly experience that binds us to the Wheel of Life and Death, forces us to reincarnate again and again to satisfy our hunger. Mediums and occultists say that some apparitions (ghosts) are the spirits of dead people who hang around the living because they're so desperate for corporal pleasures or addictions, and sometimes even take over the bodies of the living so they can continue to enjoy the thrills of physical existence.

Eastern religions, especially Zen Buddhism, offer an alternative: see truly into the essence of anything — letting go of all attraction or repulsion, all verbal knowledge — and you know everything. Even some sensitive Westerners have suggested something similar: Blake with his "To see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour"; Tennyson's "Flower in the Crannied Wall" ("If I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is").

Wisdom indeed: we must learn to see, not only more, but more deeply.

Meanwhile, though, while we are not yet saints or mystics or yoga masters, our worldly selves ask or pray (depending on temperament) not for insight, but for the gift of more time.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

No checks, no balances, no borders

[Note: This posting originally appeared last week in a slightly different form. It was written in haste and not very well. There also were (and continue to be) formatting problems that seem to result from the interaction between my computer and Blogger, which I'm trying to sort out. I pulled the posting until I had time to work on it some more.]

The "checks and balances" and “separation of powers” we learned about in school — set in place by the U.S. Constitution to see that different branches of government provided counterweights to one another's powers — have broken down.

The assumption behind the original balancing act was that if, for instance, the president wanted a law, Congress could refuse to pass it. Or the president could veto a law, which Congress would then have to re-pass by a larger majority. Eventually the Supreme Court got into the show by taking on the power to scupper a law by declaring it unconstitutional.

Until recently the system worked pretty well; not perfectly (for one thing, the federal courts have begun “legislating from the bench,” because in practice it’s very hard to overturn a court decision except by a higher court), but decently enough as human institutions go. But El Presidente has found a weak spot and exploited it unprecedentedly.

George W. Bush is perhaps not the worst president in living memory (Jimmy Carter has a lock on that one), but he is the most dangerous. He has figured out, either through shrewdness or just by stumbling into it, a way to game the system so that he doesn't have to worry about rival interests butting heads with him. His stratagem is simply to ignore laws he doesn't like.

Politics offers ways to oppose action, but nobody seems to have a clue how to oppose inaction. What do you do when a president won't allow the law of the land to function?

I'm talking foremost, of course, about our scandalous open-borders-by-default. Bush can't, so far, get a bill through legalizing "guest workers" and amnesty for illegals, but it scarcely matters: he acts as if such a bill has been passed. Huge numbers of real non-citizen migrants pass through a theoretical border. It's the appearance of enforcement, or meaningless intermittent and token enforcement, that enables the subterfuge.

AP reports:

Undercover investigators entered the United States using fake documents repeatedly this year — including some cases in which Homeland Security Department agents didn't ask for identification. At nine border crossings on the Mexico and Canadian borders, agents "never questioned the authenticity of the counterfeit documents," according to Government Accountability Office testimony to be released Wednesday.
This sounds like it should be an embarrassment to the president, but stories like these actually serve Bush’s purposes right down to the ground. The story frames the issue the way the public is meant to perceive it, to wit: the government is trying to crack down on illegal immigration, but some gormless border agents aren't checking IDs the way they should. Baloney. The border agents are there for role playing, like extras cast as cops in a movie. The word has long since come down through the Bush telegraph that they aren't supposed to stop border jumpers; they're paid for playing at law enforcement.

You can't overturn a nonexistent law or inaction. But precisely that is what’s bringing about the ethnic replacement of the U.S. population. Even the left-wing federal judiciary might declare a law merging the U.S. and Mexico unconstitutional, but it's impossible if there is no de jure merger, just a de facto one.

True, there is an obscure legal remedy called a writ of mandamus, by which a court can require an official to do his job. Have you ever heard of such a writ being served on anyone, let alone a U.S. president?

You will remember that the Roman Republic, which lasted (with occasional periods of dictatorship) for hundreds of years — longer than the United States — wasn't overthrown in a coup. All the old forms were carefully preserved: senators, consuls, the lot. The first emperor didn't call himself an emperor: Octavian simply styled himself Augustus. By the same token, George W. Bush, through extra-legal means, is turning the United States into a business oligopoly, with a vestigial middle class and a large infusion of Latin American menials to keep labor costs down and the clientele of the welfare bureaucracies swelling. We still have our Congress and laws and courts, but soon we will no longer have the country we had.

George W. Bush should be impeached and charged with treason.

Extreme? You’re damn straight. But what else is going to stop, not just Bush, but others from following in his footsteps? If he has figured out how to get around those tiresome checks and balances, he won't be the last, because others will study how he pulled it off. What's left of the old America with a "government of laws, not of men" (as we were taught in school) has to make it unambiguously clear to Bush and everyone who comes after that election as a president is not equivalent to election as an emperor who rules by his own preferences.

Bush notoriously does not listen to anyone telling him things he doesn't want to hear. Impeach him for treason, for subverting the country he is supposed to protect and defend. He’ll get the message, and just as important, so will his successors.

Lest I be thought hopelessly naive, let me add that there is no realistic hope of Bush's being impeached over his refusal to enforce our immigration laws. I said "should be." But keep in mind: while the country debates our mass-immigration debacle, what is happening now isn't nothing. The Invasion goes on, just as if the country had voted to become one of the world's failed states with a vast, uneducated, crime-ridden, unassimilable lower class.

I'm not forgetting, either, the terribly volatile situation in the Middle East that will determine whether the Muslim world's dream of death for Israel will succeed. Much as Bush's judgment is to be distrusted, it may be better for the moment that he not be distracted. But no matter how pressing the War for Israeli Survival becomes, we can't ignore what's going down right here.