Friday, November 28, 2008
A day later, what do we know? Officially, not much, other than the stomach-turning facts on the ground. So the following thoughts have to be tentative.
It is reported that at least three of the (militants) (insurgents) (terrorists) -- take your choice of terminology -- have been captured alive. Given the huge number of (militants, etc.) involved, probably a few more than that have not yet collected their virgins in Paradise. How could the planners of this operation, which involved probably hundreds of (militants, etc.), have imagined that it would be otherwise? These people strike me as both clever and stupid.
The Indian security forces will not be interviewing the captives across a table with a lawyer present. It's safe to assume that within hours they will know everything the captives can tell them, and while the captives may have belonged to cells ignorant of one another, meta-analysis of the intel from various sources will probably soon present a coherent picture.
Indian security isn't necessarily going to reveal what they discover. Not to you and me. I'd guess they will whisper it into the ears of a few trusted friends in the CIA and MI-6.
Common sense suggests that this was at least in part an outside job. It required too much weaponry and ammunition, was too carefully organized to be purely a strike by mad dissidents from the villages where rapid transit is an energetic ox.
The obvious question is, AQ or ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency, widely acknowledged to be AQ running dogs)? Or a joint venture?
Let's say the Indians have proof positive that ISI or some other official level of the Pakistani government was calling the shots. (I doubt very much that what passes for the head of state in Pakistan was behind the Mumbai rumble; that would have been sheer lunacy as a risk-reward proposition.)
We can only guess at this point how it will play out. But I'll suggest one possibility.
This could be a game changer. The jihad johnnies have gotten used to dealing with Euro-weenies. Europe's dithering and appeasement have gone to their heads. But India is no longer one of the world's 98-pound weaklings. And it's fed up with having sand kicked in its face. Moreover, India hasn't feasted on the West's guilt trip: it was the colonized.
So maybe India has no political correctness running through its veins, a nuked-up, world power with no compulsion to show its understanding and tolerance of its tormentor. Which means it can identify a target and blow it to buggery and then walk away -- delivering the message that "if you mess with us, you're going to pay big time and we're not going to hang around as an occupation force you can take your revenge on." That is, what our gormless Geo. W. Bush should have done to AQ in Afghanistan, had Geo. been a strategist instead of a neocon tool.
That's only a possibility. India's leaders may be, like ours, desperately anxious for the approval of a world containing many who hate it and want to see it part of the worldwide Caliphate. It could sink into Israel-like quicksand of an endless "heads you win, tails I lose" peace process.
Speaking of Israel, the Indian counterterrorist authorities are no doubt going to take a lot of heat for refusing Israeli help in rescuing the hostages at the Jewish center, the hostages being killed during the Indian commando assault. Well, the Israelis are the best in the world for that kind of operation, but it's not clear what they could have done that the Indians could not. We'll never know.
But look, if there were a hostage situation in your city or town, how would you feel about handing it over to Canadians or French (assuming you are not in Canada or France)? I suppose Israeli forces could have been kitted up and flown to Mumbai in five or six hours; what if the terrorists got bored with the situation or figured there was no way out once the Israelis arrived, and killed their hostages in the meantime? If it was your call, try explaining that.
Anyway, pending further developments, it looks like the jihadists might have made a very bad play, their own bridge too far, out of fanaticism or desperation. We will see.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Americans who take Thanksgiving Day seriously must be thankful that, with one great exception, we have been spared mass killings based on the fanaticism of members of a politico-religious group. That's no reason to be complacent. What has happened in Mumbai can happen here.
We should stop all Muslim immigration, now.
The great majority of Muslims do not condone acts like those of the Indian Mujahideen. I have no doubt that many Muslims abhor this madness. The fact remains that Islam is not a tolerant religion. It has no notion of religious freedom. Its adherents do not, cannot if they are "good" Muslims, accept living in peace with non-Muslims except as a temporary necessity. The Muslim world is divided in two: Dar-al-Islam, the House of Islam, and Dar-al-Harb, the House of War.
Muslim immigration will always include a certain percentage of terrorists and terrorist enablers. There is no way to sort out who is who before the fact. Face the reality, unpleasant though it is: Muslim immigration involves a component -- it doesn't matter how small -- that will make scenes of horror like those in Mumbai more likely to be enacted here.
Let's give thanks that we have achieved a society that, to an overwhelming degree, allows people to live peacefully with those of different beliefs. Such a situation is rare in history and rare in the world today. In return for all that we can be grateful for on this day of Thanksgiving, we have an obligation to do what we must to preserve domestic peace and protect the innocent.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I wish this issue had never arisen, that there was unquestionable proof that Obama is a U.S. citizen by birth. On political grounds, I abhor what I expect Obama will bring to the presidential office and expect to oppose him down the line. But it will be very bad all around if anti-Obama sentiment becomes associated with a "conspiracy theory" rather than his ideological positions. And as unthinkable as it seems now, should the federal judiciary get involved in this mess and declare there is a reasonable doubt about about Obama's citizenship — or find a "smoking gun" proving he is not eligible for the presidency — it could provoke the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.
So, should we ignore the controversy and the evidence?
We cannot. If the "conspiracy" is a fact — and I hope it is not — it must be brought to light, whatever the consequences. To openly cast aside a provision in the Constitution is one more step toward making that great document irrelevant, a historical artifact that can be re-interpreted according to politics or convenience. It would be a major advance toward a government that rules rather than legislates, for the presidency as a Roman emperor–like cult subject to no law, not even the very Constitution that is the basis of all law, including limits on the power of the government over the individual.
Whether Ron Polarik's report is valid in its conclusions or not, to suppress it will not make it go away. It will take on a life of its own that no amount of denial, even honest denial, can stop.
Of course, the journalism industry that never gets tired of patting itself on the back for its "All the President's Men" moment of glory will be considerably less interested in pursuing this story, since the subject is its idol Barack Obama rather than its earlier ogre, Richard Nixon. That, too, would be a mistake. If it turns out that a cover-up has actually taken place, the news media will lose what little is left of their credibility.
I will read Polarik's report through, but I don't expect to end up with a firm opinion, since it is largely based on computer technology that I understand in a general way but not in depth. Readers of this blog who believe they are competent to judge the validity of Polarik's conclusions are welcome to comment.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Under the heading "Dilemmas for Progressives" at the web site How to Save the World, Dave Pollard wants some comments about questions that are troubling his conscience. Dave, let me see if I can help.
Choosing Your Charities: There are a hundred good causes always asking for money, and hundreds of people on the streets asking for change, busking, washing your windshield, selling those 50 cent newspapers etc. How do you choose? Who do you give to, and when? Local or global? Health or social service? People you know raising money for luxuries or organized fundraisers supporting the really desperate? Cash or a good meal?Dave, I don't know if I have any standing in your court of opinion, since I am not a progressive, but one of those conservatives whom you know are snorting hogs with both forefeet in the trough, just out to get all that can be got with no thought for the wretched of the earth. Still, I have occasionally pondered such issues myself.
Have you ever considered the difference between Charity (caritas) and charities? One is a condition of the soul you probably don't believe in, a channel through which an infinitely compassionate God works through people in the world of time. The other, charities, are businesses whose business is "making a difference" (in the worn cant phrase). There is a place for both, but in our culture we mostly have the second without the first.
Your question implies that there is some formula to which all such questions can be referred, an approved template. Progressives as a rule don't much care for deciding ethical questions individually, preferring to subject them to an ideological litmus test. My advice, though, is to follow the old maxim: "You pays your money and you takes your choice." Since you can't support every organization doing good works, you go with the one that is closest to your heart, whether it's preserving the culture of the gypsy pickpockets, saving the endangered Kamchatka Snow Otter, or re-stocking the Amazon with tsetse flies. You might also consider which of the missions you consider is most practicable.
Government-Assisted & Centralized, or Community-Based: On the big-ticket issues where inequality is at critical levels, like education and health, most progressives like the idea of universal, free-for-all programs. But at the same time community-based unschooling programs, and community-run clinics that use volunteers to stretch dollars, have a lot of appeal and they're the antithesis of massive, state-run programs. And what is your position on voucher programs, that basically give people the money (or equivalent) and leave it up to them how to spend it (on food, on their choice of schools etc.)?You've got one thing right: "Most progressives like the idea of universal, free-for-all programs." For all their talk of diversity, progressives distrust individual differences, among people or communities. Nothing less than universal will do. A progressive's dream is the whole universe, from here to Alpha Centauri and beyond, working as one, thinking as one, being indoctrinated (I mean, educated) as one. And all for free. Only there is no such thing as "free," only the question of who pays. But if everyone is equal in your Utopia, who can the money be extracted from for your "free" universal programs? Still, for progressives, the struggle to overcome inequality will always be an unfinished project, so you can soak the "privileged" to make everything "free" for the unprivileged.
Immigration Policy: At current rates of immigration, the US population will soar to one billion by 2100, and the Canadian population to 100 million. Many people believe we have no right to keep people out just because of where they had the misfortune to be born. But such populations will wipe out our last remaining wilderness, increase pollution proportionally to their numbers, and devastate our forests and farmlands. So do you opt for human kindness or ecological sustainability?Dave, I have had the misfortune to be born with no sense of rhythm and no talent for translating dots on lined paper into sounds. But I will be glad to play the accordion at your next progressive fund raiser, for my professional fee, of course.
You deserve credit for at least admitting that that opening our country to everyone in the world who doesn't like it where he is might have its drawbacks, once we approach the population density of India. But the drawbacks, in your view, are all about the environment. The American and Canadian people don't matter to you. Their quality of life doesn't matter. Their traditions and culture don't matter. You're worried about forests and farmlands.
Not all of your progressive allies are principled when it comes to the natural environment. The corrupt Sierra Club refuses to take a stand against even illegal immigration, even though the Mexican invaders are trashing national wilderness areas in Arizona and around the border. The Sierra Club received a whopping cash donation from a progressive donor, on the condition that it not let out a peep about immigration or population size.
Stopping at Zero: Those who don't care about our environment, or don't know any better, have no compunction about having large families. What should we do about such people? Compensate by having none, or just one, of our own? Make it clear that we find their conduct irresponsible and reprehensible? Even if they're good in other ways, or the loved ones of our loved ones?"Compensate by having none, or just one, of our own?" Dave, how can you suggest such idiocy? Keep the presumably responsible people reproducing minimally, while the riff-raff have your leave to breed like sturgeon and become a rapidly growing proportion of the population? Oh, sorry, I forgot -- you're a progressive, which means never having to admit that not everyone is equal in every way, including intelligence. "Make it clear that we find their conduct irresponsible and reprehensible?" Yes, my good man, a quiet word to the wise, a meeting of the minds. That should make the baby factories see the light.
I have another suggestion. Sterilize everyone with an IQ below 100 after they've mothered or fathered two children. That offends your progressive notion of pretend-equality, that everyone has a "right" to whatever they want and hang the consequences to society. The difference is that my solution will work. Nothing you show any sign of agreeing to will.
Watch or Turn it Off: The news is mostly bad, and mostly unactionable, so there's a tendency to shut it off and not subject yourself to more grief -- you know what's happening, and don't need to be reminded. Or do you? Is there something in that news that is your undiscovered cause, something that you can do something about, something that you really need to know?Do you really think you're going to get any serious ideas about helping suffering humanity by watching or reading the news? There is almost nothing "new" in the news. It's the same stories, repeating year after year, with different names. Besides which, the news isn't a window on the world as it really is; it's a made-up tale, written and edited to meet commercial and ideological constraints and trimmed to fit the time and space available.
If you really want to find an "undiscovered cause" you first have to humbly acknowledge that there are no undiscovered causes, just ones that are undiscovered by you. There is no social or ethical issue that hasn't been considered and written about in the past by minds far better than yours. To find something "you really need to know," try reading more than superficially in the history of ideas, spiritual traditions, governments, philosophy, science.
The human condition has been probed far more incisively than you probably have any idea of. You don't need to -- in fact, shouldn't -- accept anyone else's ideas unless they ring true to you in connection with whatever else you know and learn. But you might find that some dilemmas for progressives are dilemmas only because of how progressives frame them.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
As a reaction to the stock market's kamikaze-inspired trend, we have entered the era of conspicuous thrift, Bill Bonner tells us:
"No more fancy pants," is a headline at the New York Times. The gist of the accompanying article is that even expensive restaurants are now trying to look cheap. People who still have money to spend don't want to spend it... and when they do spend it, they don't want to look like they are spending it. …
But styles change. Now, people are showing off by NOT spending money. Sound unbelievable? Well, maybe. But our guess is that people are going to find more subtle... and less expensive... ways to wink at each other. Heavy spending is going the way of heavy drinking. It will be seen as vulgar.
I still have my old, odd-noises-making car: a 1997 Honda Civic. Not only has it been deprived of a good polish job in its lifetime, but has not seen the inside of a carwash in donkey's years. And dig that missing right-side external mirror! I have to confess to a wodge of pride in that. In short, this is a car to look fabulous, my dears, in the parking lot of any McDonald's.
From now on, no more Scotch and soda for me. Strictly Scotch and water.
I will search the back of my closet tonight for those 1984 Nikes. The green mold makes a statement.
And — sniffle, sniffle — excuse me, but you'll notice I'm using only half a Kleenex; this unheated room has given me a case of consumption (inconspicuous, though!) like poor what's-her-name in La Traviata. Although Blogger does not charge me for using its service, I will look at the earliest opportunity for a less expensive blogging platform.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to lower your glasses in a toast to new times. Let's make history together.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Our outgoing Secretary of State, neocon pin-up Condoleeza Rice, has consented to share her worldview with The New York Times. Some choice specimens (Ms. Rice's words in italics, your blogger's in Roman):
Electing a black president says around the world that you can overcome old wounds. I’ve said in our case, We have a birth defect, but it can be overcome.
The second part of this has been pulverized by some real masters of invective, like Larry Auster, but don't tell me I can't pile on. So the candidate who was supposed to transcend race was elected, according to Ms. Rice, because only someone of his race could "overcome." We were a wounded country because of a melanin-challenged Oval Office. The United States had a birth defect, as though every other country in the world was perfect from the moment of founding. All the civil rights legislation, all the minority aid programs, all the affirmative action hiring, all the government contract set-asides, all the laws making blacks a "protected class," all the foundation grants for black enterprises, all the "hate crimes" legislation, all the speech codes — it all counts for nada until we get an affirmative action president.
I’ve seen too many peoples dismissed as not ready for self-government. First it was Asians, and then Latin Americans and Africans were there for a while. I know for a while black Americans were, too.
Really? Who was it, exactly, who said Asians and Latin Americans were not ready for self-government? In your own lifetime, Condi, please, not centuries ago. True, there were people who said Africans were not ready for self-government, but all those wicked people are gone or marginalized now. Anyone can look at Zimbabwe or South Africa and see how wrong they were.
I’ve seen it said, well, you know: They’re illiterate; how could they vote? And then you see in Afghanistan people line up for long, long lines. Because somehow they know that making a choice matters.
You've seen it said, well, like, you know. Democracy is just "making a choice," doesn't have anything to do with literacy and, well, like that. If you can line up, you're ready to decide questions of state.
These neocons can't wrap their heads around the idea that self-government demands more from a population than just checking boxes or voting for their own favorite warlord. To make the ballot more than elective tyranny or farce, a voting public must (among other things) have a basic agreement about fundamental principles, understanding of the rule of law, loyalty to something greater than their clan or even co-religionists, the ability to understand and discuss issues, and the ability to consider long-term consequences of acts. We aren't that good at it ourselves. We certainly can't inject it in a culture with values that are utterly different from ours.
I think that over the last several years, because of a more assertive American voice on this, there have been some real gains — like women in Kuwait voting or like Iraq, which is an imperfect and fragile and still-emerging democracy but one that is multiconfessional, multiethnic and in the center of the Arab world.
We've bankrupted ourselves six times over, sent four or five thousand of our and our allies' soldiers to be deconstructed into collections of body parts, crippled thousands of others for life, cut the response capability of our military to next to zero — but hey, stop being so negative, women in Kuwait are voting. We've spent citizens' lives to bring a "multiconfessional," "multiethnic" society to Iraq? Meaning what, Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish Muslims?
Perhaps she was out of the room when the briefing officer mentioned that all those "confessions" and ethnicities were in Iraq before our nation building cannon fodder dropped in. I suppose she really believes that Sunni and Shia are kind of like the First Baptists and the Free Will Baptists back in Alabama, goin' to different churches of a Sunday, but marchin' in the same parade and gettin' together for the picnic. Equally, she must believe that in "multiconfessional" Iraq, after five years of carnage on all sides, Iraqis can choose to open a First Baptist Church in Baghdad.
I have no doubt that democracy is the best form of government. I’m very optimistic that it is one whose reach is increasing throughout the world. I would just urge all Americans to understand how our advice is taken. And to be careful how we offer advice.
Yes, people can take it the wrong way when you invade their country.
For many people in the world, they look at America, and they see an enormous country with an extraordinary amount of power. Pure power. And so they feel that asymmetry immediately as soon as they meet us.
Very telling. For Ms. Rice, the only meaning of America — aside from its birth defect and gaping wound — is power. Not constitutional government (something far more complex and subtle than the golden calf of democracy she worships). Not a careful balance of power among different branches of government and between the states and the federal government. Not individuals. Not their historic roots and local traditions.
No, America is just power — "pure power" — and that asymmetry isn't right. Not democratic. Not a birth defect maybe, but a moral outrage that must be atoned for by making every other country asymmetrically powerful. The only legitimate use of our power is bringing democracy to the world, and damn the cost in blood and money.
Whatever mischief the new Supreme Leader has planned for us, he'll have to work hard to outdo the legacy of his predecessors.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Lamb vegetable of Tartary
Tip of the hat to Wunderkammer
This posting's head and illustration are what they are because, if I had titled it "Revision to the blogroll," you would click away faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Admit it.
Nevertheless, I have made some changes to the blogroll, and a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that I should declare the causes which impel me to the action.
Many bloggers apparently choose early on in their blogging career some sidebar links that become, so to speak, fossils preserved in amber, and never add to or subtract from the blogroll. Others include links to, you have to suspect, almost every site where they ever read something they liked. The result looks sort of like the Yellow Pages for a small town.
Having -- quite frankly -- nothing worth saying on any of the Great Issues at the moment, I determined that the hour had come to take electronic saw and hammer and rebuild Reflecting Light's blogroll. I thought long and hard about the purpose of the blogroll, and concluded that I didn't know and couldn't think of any justification that I myself might not as easily argue against. In the end, I suppose, we bloggers include blogrolls because we want to.
You'll notice that the blogroll is now shorter -- which means that I can add to it now and then without it becoming bloated. Two exceptions aside, I've eliminated subject headings other than "Worth your time." Which itself is presumptuous, of course, since the sites referred to may or may not be worth your time. But to label them "Worth my time" is too self-important, as though I were royalty bestowing my grace and favor.
The "Gold standard" heading remains. There are no changes in this category and I don't believe there ever have been, which suggests either that I chose well to begin with or am stuck. I'm also keeping the "Spirit/Psychical" heading because these sites are clearly specialty items.
A brief explanation about what is gone, and why.
All the "Ending the immigration madness" sites have been turfed out. It isn't because the subject is any less important, but because with very few exceptions, I have come to find them numbingly repetitious for anyone who is already aware of the severe damage that uncontrolled Third World immigration is doing to our society. Most of them -- VDare is a good example -- are not part of the solution, are not dedicated to strategy, and are content just to whinge endlessly about how awful the invasion is. They're right, but a complaint and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee. We need action, not (only) more viewing with alarm.
Some individual blogs have been tossed for no better reason than I don't like them much anymore. James Lileks is a sad case in point. In the months after 9/11, his "Daily Bleat" was energizing and eloquent. He still is a fine stylist, and I wish I could write as well as he does, but repeated visits to his site have left me cold. Lileks has little on his mind other than pop culture (he must know every B movie and TV show ever made) and nostalgia.
When I put together the original blogroll, Lucianne.com was relatively unknown, or I thought it was. By now, everybody who wants or needs it goes there and it needs no referral from me. The author of Photon Courier now mostly posts at Chicago Boyz. No longer included are ... are ... well, I've already forgotten what else I deleted, which is a good indication of why.
A few months ago I booted out Gates of Vienna, mainly because some of its commenters were too distasteful. It still gives room to a few bloodthirsty types who like to fantasize about nuking the entire Muslim world. But the site's hosts, Baron Bodissey and Dymphna, are sensible, and they publish important writers like Fjordman and include information about militant Islam that the mainstream media downplay or ignore. So the link to Gates is back.
Respect for the opinions of mankind having been satisfied, I will leave this topic with a reminder that the Disclaimer applies. Including a site on the blogroll does not -- not, got it? -- mean that I necessarily agree with what is written there. Some of the bloggers on my list, incidentally, aren't too keen on one another. But I can turn to them in a reasonable expectation of finding something that will be illuminating, amusing, unexpected, or skillfully written. Which is to say, worth my time, and maybe yours.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The first priority of The Resistance is to keep our communication lines open. We must resist like hell every move on Obama's part to stifle dissent. He will most likely try to drive a stake through the heart of conservative radio (not that it's been very intelligently conservative, but we need to keep the medium available); pass "hate speech" laws to criminalize opposition to force-fed multi-culturalism; and above all, he and his pinstriped goons will lean on Google and other Web-hosting and blogging software companies to shut down sites critical of his plans to remake America in His image.
If those can be held off, two game changers are coming down the pike — one almost certain, one possible. Neither are anything to be wished for. But if we play for time, one or both will very likely scupper Obama's agenda.
The first is the economic debacle. You ain't seen nothin' yet.
It's risky even in ordinary times, but something similar is now happening on a grand scale. The risk was multiplied vastly when our financial institutions leveraged not to make ordinary investments, but to bet on derivatives that turned out to be either worthless (because keyed to impossibilities, like adjustable rate mortgages on baby mansions "bought" by immigrants and minorities who couldn't conceivably make their payments once the ARMs popped), or so complex that it is virtually beyond the mind of man to determine what they contain and what they are worth.
This comes at a time when the United States, if it were a person, would be forced to declare bankruptcy and have the creditors lining up around the block.
The government, which being a government can pass a law reversing gravity, will come up with a solution. But you won't like it. The solution will be to meet its staggering debts with five-cent dollars. Not only will your savings and income approach zero value, but so will all those bonds we've sold to foreign governments, who bought them to keep Americans fat and happy, able to buy foreign exports. Only now we can't buy many of them, and the rest of the world no longer has a motivation to keep us fat and happy. "Dollar" will become a term of contempt and humor, the way we used to laugh at zlotys.
Oh, and that other game changer. Unless we are very lucky — and with His Holiness Obama masterminding our national security, it will be dumb luck — the next Big Bang militant Islamic terrorist attack will visit us during his incumbency.
Both game changers are dreadful prospects. The first might, paradoxically, save the country from a determined radical who sees the country as a big community that needs him and his followers to "organize" it. The second I wouldn't want for anything. But we could survive it.
Either, or both, will keep His Holiness Obama too busy and too desperate to concentrate on minor business like turning the United States into a branch office of Mexico or a hologram of South Africa.
Steady on. The Resistance continues.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century English literary giant, did. It's no wonder that he made a lasting impression on almost everyone who met him. Without his biographer James Boswell, Johnson would live on among literary scholars and a few people with a taste for period essays. But thanks to Boswell, who was in his company off and on for three decades or so, we can know Johnson as a man -- his habits, his manner, and most of all his conversation, which has probably never been equaled.
I've just finished reading Boswell's Life of Johnson. And, since you didn't ask: the unabridged edition (Oxford University Press, Chapman and Fleeman, eds.). Vastly rewarding as it was, taking on the whole thing -- 1,402 pages, not counting the index, the longest book I've ever read cover-to-cover -- felt like something of an achievement. Boswell's work in writing it is scarcely conceivable.
Most people today read a condensed version, which heavily overweights the conversations so carefully written down by Boswell and others who provided him with transcripts. A shorter version is certainly a reasonable compromise, one I availed myself of years ago. You can get the flavor of the whole in a good shortened edition, and most of the famous quips and sayings Johnson is best known for now.
Still, if you can muster up the time, there are benefits to the complete book that you won't get from a selection, and you don't have to be a scholar to appreciate them. Boswell himself, like all lawyers, was a careful man with words, but his precision in language served a higher purpose than contracts or legal argument. Boswell was understandably gobsmacked at Johnson's powers of argument, of wit, of learning -- not to mention his prodigious literary gifts. He understood that he was privileged to be a firsthand witness to one of the great geniuses of his time, or any time, and was determined to preserve for posterity what he was in a unique position to see and hear.
There are a handful of dull and overly minute patches in Boswell's full account, but remarkably few. For the most part, everything he records is worth recording, as an account of an extraordinary personality and of the age in which he lived. It's the background, the context, that is part of the virtue of the unabridged Life. It is a clear and detailed record of how people in upper-class, literary, and artistic circles in London (mostly) behaved, what they thought and talked about, how they expressed themselves, what assumptions they held in common and what divided them. Besides Johnson, you get to know many others: some still famous, like Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, and Oliver Goldsmith, others that would have been long forgotten had not some of Johnson's immortality rubbed off on them through Boswell's narrative.
And those conversations, recorded by Boswell in a format almost like a film script:
BOSWELL. 'Pray, Sir, do you not suppose that there are fifty women in the world, with any one of whom a man may be as happy, as with any one woman in particular?' JOHNSON. 'Ay, Sir, fifty thousand.' BOSWELL. 'Then, Sir, you are not of opinion with some who imagine that certain men and certain women are made for each other; and that they cannot be happy if they miss their counterparts?' JOHNSON. 'To be sure not, Sir. I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and as often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.'Then as now, it was fashionable to imagine that civilization destroyed some inherent virtue in the human race, and that those who have not tasted the material benefits of modern life enjoy a truer appreciation of the natural joys of existence.
... A learned gentleman who holds a considerable office in the law, expatiated on the happiness of a savage life; and mentioned an instance of an officer who had actually lived for some time in the wilds of America, of whom, when in that state, he quoted this reflection with an air of admiration, as if it had been deeply philosophical: 'Here am I, free and unrestrained, amidst the rude magnificence of Nature, with this Indian woman by my side, and this gun with which I can procure food when I want it: what more can be desired for human happiness?'But as delightful as Johnson's verbal fencing is, there is so much more to be wondered at. (Uh-oh, I'm starting to pick up some of Johnson's style.) His learning was stupendous, his curiosity insatiable. It ranged over the whole field of human knowledge of his time. He was extremely well read in the classic authors, and frequently quoted them in the original Latin and sometimes Greek. (Boswell doesn't bother to translate or cite sources, although the editors have done so; well-educated gentlemen of the time would not have needed any translation or explanation.)
It did not require much sagacity to foresee that such a sentiment would not be permitted to pass without due animadversion. JOHNSON. 'Do not allow yourself, Sir, to be imposed upon by such gross absurdity. It is sad stuff; it is brutish. If a bull could speak, he might as well exclaim, Here am I with this cow and this grass; what being can enjoy greater felicity?'
All this knowledge was well and good, but part of what made Johnson so extraordinary a talker was that he seemed to have it all at the tip of his tongue, ready to use to provide an example or a metaphor. He was willing to expound on the trivial and ephemeral, but just as keen to debate the great issues of life and death, religion and philosophy. Boswell writes:
I talked to him of misery being 'the doom of man' in this life, as displayed in his Vanity of Human Wishes. Yet I observed that things were done upon the supposition of happiness; grand houses were built, fine gardens were made, splendid places of publick amusement were contrived, and crowded with company. JOHNSON. 'Alas, Sir, these are all only struggles for happiness. When I first entered Ranelagh [a public "pleasure garden" in London], it gave an expansion and gay sensation to my mind, such as I never experienced any where else. But, as Xerxes wept when he viewed his immense army, and considered that not one of that great multitude would be alive a hundred years afterwards, so it went to my heart to consider that there was not one in all that brilliant circle, that was not afraid to go home and think; but that the thoughts of each individual there, would be distressing when alone.'An extreme Tory (conservative in his politics) and profoundly Church of England (in his faith), he preferred to talk of weighty matters in matter-of-fact, jesting terms rather than the language of philosophy or theology.
The General asked him, what he thought of the spirit of infidelity [meaning unbelief in religion] which was so prevalent. JOHNSON. 'Sir, this gloom of infidelity, I hope, is only a transient cloud passing through the hemisphere, which will soon be dissipated, and the sun break forth with his usual splendour.' 'You think then, (said the General,) that they will change their principles like their clothes.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, if they bestow no more thought on principles than on dress, it must be so.' The General said, that 'a great part of the fashionable infidelity was owing to a desire of shewing courage. Men who have no opportunity of shewing it as to things in this life, take death and futurity as objects on which to display it.' JOHNSON. 'That is mighty foolish affectation. Fear is one of the passions of human nature, of which it is impossible to divest it. You remember that the Emperour Charles V, when he read upon the tomb-stone of a Spanish nobleman, "Here lies one who never knew fear," wittily said, "Then he never snuffed a candle with his fingers."'To read Boswell's biography of his friend in its full length and depth is to appreciate all the more Johnson's qualities of character, which are less usual than those of intellect. Johnson suffered all his life from "melancholia" -- we would surely today say he was depressed, and a doctor prescribe meds for him. Yet unlike so many depressives before the age of psychiatry, and some today, he did not drown himself in alcohol, and even gave up the comfort of wine in his later years. Almost blind in one eye, beset with physical ailments that were constantly troubling him, Johnson paid his own brilliance the tribute of refusing to let anything get in the way of his dedication to literature. He was grumpy but didn't harbor grudges, and had his prejudices, but his intense dislike of Scotsmen and things Scottish didn't get in the way of his friendship with Boswell, who was from north of the border.
The biographer concludes his long book: "Exulting in his intellectual strength and dexterity, he could, when he pleased, be the greatest sophist that ever contended in the lists of declamation; and, from a spirit of contradiction and a delight in shewing his powers, he would often maintain the wrong side with equal warmth and ingenuity; so that, when there was an audience, his real opinions could seldom be gathered from his talk; though when he was in company with a single friend, he would discuss a subject with genuine fairness: but he was too conscientious to make errour permanent and pernicious, by deliberately writing it; and, in all his numerous works, he earnestly inculcated what appeared to him to be the truth; his piety being constant, and the ruling principle of all his conduct."
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all …
Let us not fool ourselves. This is no time for comforting illusions.
Obama's victory is real. I have no doubt his ACORN bandits produced many phony registrations, but they were not the deciding factor. It is equally true that the Stupid Party opposed Obama with a weak, aggressively uninteresting liberal twit: if Obama did not deserve to win, McCain assuredly deserved to lose. But the shift that yesterday's result signified wasn't down to McCain's mediocrity.
So it comes now, but if it had not, it would have come later. I mean the triumph in America of social, and perhaps economic, Marxism that Obama — all right, president-elect Obama — represents. A majority of our citizens have bought the whole package: income leveling, more useless and grandiose spending programs to try to guarantee equality of outcomes in every aspect of life, a racial and ethnic spoils system, white guilt over events that mostly took place before our grandparents were born, wide open borders designed for race replacement, amnesty for illegals, appeasement as the keystone of foreign policy.
And while it remains to be seen how far The Chosen One will try to carry his thin-skinned unwillingness to tolerate criticism and opposition, there is every possibility that he and his henchmen in Congress and the federal bureaucracy will try to suppress conservative talk radio and restrict freedom of speech and the press (including the Web) through soft-totalitarian "hate speech" codes like those in Europe.
When Hamlet spoke of readiness, he meant readiness to die, whether now or later. Socially and politically, the death we have to be ready for is the death of the traditional America, the one that rewarded intelligence and enterprise, that believed in individuals rather than tribes, that saw government as a necessary evil to be minimized, not worshipped as a savior and sacrificed to. We have to be ready for the death of that because we have no choice: it's here, now.
We've lost. America is occupied territory. It came about while we collectively (not all individuals) were busy salivating over the latest computer technology, flipping houses, trading stocks, climbing the corporate ladder, and watching the Super Dooper Whooper Bowl. Meanwhile, the pod people were infiltrating every institution of American life in crafty Gramscian mode. Not familiar with Gramsci? John Fonte sums up a key principle of this Marxist's strategy:
Far from being content with a mere uprising, therefore, Gramsci believed that it was necessary first to delegitimize the dominant belief systems of the predominant groups and to create a "counter-hegemony" (i.e., a new system of values for the subordinate groups) before the marginalized could be empowered. Moreover, because hegemonic values permeate all spheres of civil society -- schools, churches, the media, voluntary associations -- civil society itself, he argued, is the great battleground in the struggle for hegemony, the "war of position." From this point, too, followed a corollary for which Gramsci should be known (and which is echoed in the feminist slogan) -- that all life is "political." Thus, private life, the work place, religion, philosophy, art, and literature, and civil society, in general, are contested battlegrounds in the struggle to achieve societal transformation.Whether as a conscious plan or not, the pod people have been following Gramsci's blueprint for 40 years and have been spectacularly successful. Let's be brutally honest — they have outsmarted the country club Republicans, the George Will-type bow-tied conservatives, the Buckley gang, and the "values voters."
The pod people have captured the educational system, from kindergarten through the hallowed Ivy League halls of academe; the judiciary; the federal and state bureaucracies; the entertainment industry; the mainstream media; even to some extent, the military. They were in power by the time Bill Clinton groped his first victim. They would be in power today if Barack Obama had never been born. His win is only the cherry on top of the cake, an outward and visible symbol of an inward and spiritual rot.
For the good of the Resistance, it is better that Obama and his racial-grievance Mafia come now, rather than later, because each day that passes means more immigration and race replacement, more schoolchildren brainwashed, more anti-traditional-America propaganda downloaded through the TV screen. That would have been equally true if McCain had read the victory speech; McCain, the open borders apostle, the craven candidate who couldn't bear to mention Reverend Wright, whose mission seemed to be to sacrifice himself on the altar of multi-culturalism.
Obama is not about "change" — he is the status quo, the emblem of the decadence of constitutional principles that has quietly replaced liberty. Obama and his followers do not want change. They would dread real change. Because that would be a reversal of the status quo. It would be the American people realizing what has been put over on them while they were chasing their dreams of a bigger house and an SUV with satellite navigation.
To replace the America of groups competing for government largesse, of reverse discrimination, of the dominant State as Father and Mother, it will mean adopting the Gramscian method in reverse. Like a liberating army, the people will have to take back the institutions that they so carelessly abandoned. It might involve a great deal of risk.
Obama, the embodiment of Leftist ideology, basks in the adulation of the crowd and the media who have enlisted as his servants. He is the culmination of "the long march through the institutions."
The Resistance continues.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
— Daily Telegraph, Nov. 3
Local authorities have ordered employees to stop using the words and phrases on documents and when communicating with members of the public and to rely on wordier alternatives instead. The ban has infuriated classical scholars who say it is diluting the world's richest language and is the "linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing".
Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use. This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis, vice versa and even via. …
In instructions to staff, the council said: "Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult."
H.M.M. Ministry for Lingustic Reform
Equality House, 33 Swithin's (formerly St Swithin's) Lane
Londonistan 1OH 2MY
22 May 2018
To all government officials:
Since you now represent 83.5 per cent of employed Britons, it is incumbent upon you to set an example for that portion of the public that continues to write in English.
Although Latin phrases have been prohibited since Jan. 1 in the second year of the Charles Caliphate, the English language remains riddled with words derived from Latin and even Greek. Although such words might appear on the surface to be innocent, they project an unwholesome attitude of historicism and imperialism, many having been widely used in Crusader times. In addition, they are generally polysyllabic, presenting especial difficulty to Arabic- and African-language speakers.
Under the Language Transition Act of 2013, English is being phased out in all official documents and communications. During the transition period, the language must be purified of its historicalist and imperialist roots so that English speakers will not be induced to harbour unconscious revisionist attitudes. Therefore, H.M.M. Style Guide and Word Usage is hereby modified to restrict the use of Latin- and Greek-derived words in so far as is practicable.
This will typically replace single, reactionary, multi-syllable words with groups of simple, easy to understand words, preferably with no historicist-imperialist content. For example, the sentence "Vapourise the infidel" may be written as follows: Make kufars split into small bits of gas.
It is understood by our office that this will be difficult at first, particularly for government workers whose time in office began before the Caliphate. Be comforted that no stonings or hangings will be administered for first offences.
In the name of Allah the Merciful and the Prophet (pbuh), we have spoken.