Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The third time as tragic farce


History repeats itself, first as tragedy,
then as farce.
-- Karl Marx

But with war, there is a third act.

Some wars have done nothing to tickle the funny bone (the 30 Years War comes to mind). Others were short on tragedy but well stocked with farce (e.g., the War of Jenkins' Ear). We are now engaged in a great war against man-caused disasters, testing whether this nation, or any nation so misconceived and so undedicated, can long endure as a targeted laughingstock. If it is a tragedy, it is also a tragic farce.


I do not mean to mitigate the seriousness of the threats we face, but it is hard to resist lampooning the daily absurdities they generate.

Everyone has already had their ration of laughs at Janet Napolitano's claim that the outcome of the Christmas bomb plot showed that "the system worked." Obviously we anticipated the plot and deputized a Dutchman as an air marshal. Our aviation security system is based on leaping over four seats and putting out a fire with your hands.


More recently, President for Life Obama said: "This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist." That was several hours after al-Qaeda of Yemen, Inc. announced that it sponsored the would-be attack.

Incidentally, the Chosen One didn't mention the name Abdulmutallab, he of the weaponized groin. The public might have gotten the impression that the "suspect" was a M____m. Thankfully, though, he refrained from saying the Dutchman had "acted stupidly."

Item from Georgio Armedmani's
signature collection of men's furnishings.

This afternoon I was listening to Mark Steyn on the car radio discussing Abdulmutallab's explosive garment. Then it was time for a break and there immediately followed a commercial for "Macy's biggest underwear sale event of the year." There's a man who'd like to order a round dozen briefs with the extra features. "Do you take ProphetCard?"


Surely no more was possible after that Alpine peak of farce. Hah! Now we learn that "Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents."
Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.
And what did Messrs. al-Harbi and Shari/al-Awfi do to reform themselves in the Saudi Kingdom?
American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.
"Muhammad, Said, you both show great promise. The tensile strength of the drawing of the detonator is remarkable. And that smoke issuing from the World Trade Center, what can I say? It has a quiet intensity. Said, my goodness, the quality of light you have captured in your painting of the Pentagon's penetration ... some artists work a lifetime without being able to achieve such effects!"


As Mark Steyn put it, however, the gentlemen seem to have tired of "watercolors, not waterboarding." They are back in executive positions at Terror R Us.

So goes the tragic farce. But history may have run out of variations. Next time, it might be back to the original.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Airport security gaga



Security lines were so long that passengers were
to queue up outside the terminal
Amsterdam Schiphol airport yesterday.

As I predicted in the last posting -- no, perhaps even more absurdly than I had imagined -- airport security officials have reacted to the crotch jihadi by punishing passengers. The New York Times, after leading off with a long account of a non-event (look! A Nigerian who wasn't a terrorist!), gets down to some of the latest screw-twisting variations:
Jodi Syens, of Holland, Mich., her husband, Marvin, and daughter Rachel were aboard a flight from London that arrived in Detroit several hours behind schedule Sunday. The Syens, who had arrived at Heathrow Airport three-and-a-half hours before their flight, said passengers were taken by their aircraft rows up to the gate, where carry-on bags were thoroughly checked and the travelers were patted down.
Uh-oh. Already up to three and a half hours. I'm betting that after the next incident it will be five hours.
Henry Chen, 48, a businessman who lives in San Francisco, said he was shocked to have a female flight attendant barge in on him in the restroom while he was washing his face during a flight from Seoul. “It was kind of weird, to have a lady try to get in,” he said. “She said that they had to watch people being in the restroom too long.” ...


Joel Barnes and Bryan Duncan, both 27, were sitting in a Starbucks at Los Angeles International Airport, after a 13-hour flight from Brisbane, Australia. They were awaiting the arrival of a friend who had sent them a text message to alert them that his flight from Vancouver had been delayed for two hours because of heightened security measures at the airport there.

The men said their armpits and shoes had been searched before they boarded their flight, and Mr. Barnes said, “They rubbed their hands on the soles of our feet.”

Sort of a free massage, like I have read is part of the service in the front cabin on Virgin Atlantic. Who says flying isn't fun anymore?

They also recounted how an hour before landing an announcement had been made that no one could get up for the remainder of the flight.

“It was kind of funny,” Mr. Barnes said, “because the previous announcement had been about the danger of deep-vein thrombosis or strombosis or whatever you get from sitting for too long. We laughed.” ...


The airlines said the new T.S.A. measures required an additional round of searches, including body pat-downs at airport gates overseas.

International travelers were also told that they could not leave their seats for the last hour of a flight, during which time they also could not use a pillow or blanket. They were also limited to one piece of carry-on baggage, including a purse or briefcase, and that piece had to be stowed in an overhead compartment for the last hour of a flight.

Airlines were ordered to turn off in-flight entertainment systems with maps showing a plane’s location, and pilots and flight crews were told not to make comments about cities or landmarks below the flight path.


"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. You may have noticed that the flight-progress map channel has been disabled. I can't tell you where we are or how long it will be before we reach our destination. For your comfort and safety, you will be bound to your seat for the remainder of the flight. If you need to use the restroom, ring for a flight attendant who will accompany you. This is only temporary till we retrofit all our aircraft with lavatory cameras. All window shades must be in the closed position. Thank you for your cooperation, and enjoy the rest of the flight. You will be notified when we have landed."


The mood of the passengers yesterday doesn't bear thinking on. But at least those whose responses were deemed news fit to print by the paper of record seem to have accepted it as necessary:

“Everyone just accepted that that’s what you have to do,” Ms. Woodhouse said. Paul Bidwell, her traveling companion and a fellow high school teacher, said: “I’m quite happy for them to do it. It’s peace of mind for everyone.” Priya Prasad, 32, an administrative assistant who lives in Oakland, Calif., said she was annoyed by the extra hour it took her to get through security when she boarded a flight in Mumbai. “They’re being extra cautious, which I guess is fine,” she said. “But I don’t understand what it is they’re looking for. They went through my bag three times, and still I got my scissors and tweezers on the plane.”

Wherefore is this degrading security process necessary? Because the alternative is a Forbidden Thought. It involves treating passengers unequally. It involves profiling (which doesn't mean, when done right, anything as simplistic as focusing only on people with Arabic names or coming from Muslim countries). The alternative is recognizing that Islam is at war -- mostly a "cold" war, through immigration and birth rates, but partly a "hot" war -- with those lands still in Dar-al-Harb.

Our passengers who are so naive as to imagine that all this extra patting-down and restroom exclusion means "peace of mind" for everyone, who whinge about being treated ill but accept it so as to avoid offending the enemy, don't deserve liberty. Even without officially living under the Crescent, they have made themselves into dhimmis.


12.29 We're possibly all getting a little tired of reading about the controversy surrounding the "suspect," Mr. Abdulmutallab, whose underwear is temporarily more in the public eye than Madonna's. But I cannot let pass the article in the Washington Post by Margaret Talev, who is indignant that Senator Jim DeMint is holding up the vote on a nominee for TSA Administrator because of his opposition to unionizing the TSA.

While it's arguable that our security agency couldn't devolve into anything more slipshod than it already is, he is correct that a Latex Glove Workers union is a bad idea. I'm not anti-union in general -- it's fine for bolt-tighteners and truck drivers. But public employees are (or should be) professionals, not nest builders.

A good part of the fumbling that has been associated with the TSA since day 1 is that it is run by a lumpenproletariat on the front lines answering to bureaucrats, probably mostly politically connected, above them. It can't be said too often: if we are serious about protecting the flying public, like everyone from the president to his dog insists we are, then we should be staffing the TSA with professionals on a par with airline pilots. People like they have doing the job in Israel.

Expensive? Of course. Things that work right often are. But I bet it could be done with a drop of the money we are spending to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in business, when they should be discontinued.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fly the friendly (for terrorists) skies

What do we know about the near-disaster caused by an Islamic passenger aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit?

1. Either Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab was bored while the A330 was on final approach to the airport and decided to pass the time by setting his legs on fire; or he intended to destroy the plane, killing its passengers and crew, and very likely people on the ground.

2. His own father, a Nigerian banking nob, had reported his activities to the United States embassy and Nigerian security agencies. (Tip o' the cloth cap to View from the Right.)

3. Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said that "my understanding ... is that while (the suspect) is not on a watch list, he definitely has terror connections."

Beyond that, the details are somewhat fuzzy -- what kind of ingredients Abdulmutallab junior carried, why he was not on any "no fly" list when his own father had warned about his inclinations, and whether his mission was sponsored by al Qaeda. The media will make a big deal about the latter. But what difference does it make? Do you feel safer if he was only a loser who wanted to make a statement against the Great Satan on his own?

We've seen this movie before, and it doesn't get any better on repeated viewings. The usual routine is already beginning.

Direct fallout of this incident is more rigorous security checks by airlines. A spokesperson for BAA said British passengers travelling to the U.S. should expect their airline to carry out additional security checks prior to boarding.

"To support this important process, which will take time, we would advise passengers to leave more time to check in and limit the amount of baggage being taken on board the aircraft," she added. "If in any doubt, please contact the relevant airline for further information."

A Department of Homeland Security statement Friday told air passengers that they "may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the travelling public on domestic and international flights."
That's what makes these stunts a win-win for Muslim terrorists. Even if the plot goes pear-shaped, they win by making security screening an ordeal in every possible format. Instead of arriving at the airport two hours before an international flight, it will be three, then four. Eventually no one will fly unless they have no choice. Soon thereafter no one will fly at all, airlines will go broke all at once instead of half a dozen per year, and militants will return to the good old days of placing infernal devices on Wall Street horse-driven delivery vans.

The new, more intense security screening tends to emphasize the mode of the last attempted atrocity. Since Richard Reid tried to bring down an airliner over the Atlantic by igniting explosives in his shoe, we've all had to remove our shoes and place them along with our jackets, belts, pocket change, and laptops in the x-ray conveyor belt.

Abdulmutallab seems to have had one component of the explosive or incendiary agent on his legs. I already hear the TSA functionary of the future shouting at the passenger queue: "Pants down! Skirts up! Place your legs in the plastic tray!
Pants down! Skirts up! Place your legs in the plastic tray! Pants down! Skirts up! Place your legs in the plastic tray!"

By the way, there is nothing easygoing about security screening at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport ... at least if you are a non-Muslim. My wife and I transited through Schiphol last October. It is very thorough -- too thorough for my wife's liking. She complained that the woman security officer patting her down was getting altogether too intimate. I watched in dismay as she was whisked to a booth, a curtain was forcibly drawn, and she was given the treatment a second time. I was afraid she'd be arrested. And at the gate for our transatlantic flight, there was yet another security screening. Water bottles were confiscated, even if bought at the airport, on the airside.

Despite denials all around, profiling is routinely practiced in airport security. Muslims are singled out for less inspection. In Europe as well as the United States, airport security has to maintain the ludicrous idea that terrorism is random, and anyone is as likely to be a terrorist as anyone else. So instead of concentrating on the greatest risks, and we all know what group they belong to (though not which individuals), the scrutiny has to be diluted by being applied equally to everyone. Security personnel's time and alertness should be focused. Instead it is official policy that they be diffused.

The fundamental problem isn't security at all. It's Islamization of western countries. Once you acknowledge Muslim colonization as legitimate, a cascade of secondary problems follows, of which aviation security is only one. We are asking for trouble, and we are getting it.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

A brief tenderness made eternal

Giotto: The Nativity (1304-06)
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

My best wishes to you for Christmas or whatever you may be celebrating. No words I can offer would match those of G.K. Chesterton. He wrote of the Nativity, in The Everlasting Man:
... There is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man. It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero-worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventurously, to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth.
It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can sometimes take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good.
It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.
Eat, drink, be merry, give and receive. But take a moment to be thankful for the Light that has guided you to this time and place; the star you have followed, knowingly or not.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Democrats' crime boss wants us all to be "gentlemanly"



And what would you like
for the folks in Louisiana, little girl?

Harry Reid, the Democrats' Senate Godfather, having sold his honor and soul for 60 votes, is preaching sweetness and light.
Reid made an appeal for more civility on the Senate floor, after the rancorous debate so far on the health care bill.

“I would hope that everyone would go back to their gentlemanly ways,” Reid said. “And I hope everyone will, as I’ve said to a number of people, [recall] Rodney King: ‘Let’s just all try to get along.’ "
Gentlemanly ways? This from the man who threatened to politically kneecap every Senator of his party who didn't bow before government-directed health care? Who flagrantly, shamelessly, bribed Senators from Louisiana (wags are calling it "the Louisiana Purchase") and Nebraska with your money to take back to their states? Who cites as a role model a criminal who led the police on a high-speed chase while stoned to the eyeballs on PCP?

This from the man who compared recalcitrant opponents of the health care bill to slaveholders? Who told a Las Vegas newspaper, "I hope you go out of business"?
Reid continued: "This is a very difficult time in the next day or so, and let's try to work though this. For those of the Christian faith, we have a most important holiday and that is Christmas, and I hope everyone would keep in mind that's a time when we reflect on peace and good things in life, and I would hope that everyone would kind of set aside all their personal animosity, if in fact they have any in the next couple days, and focus on that holiday."
Well, Senator, isn't that special. How about setting aside your Putsch until the country has had time to examine all two thousand and whatever pages of the offer we can't refuse? But no, you have scheduled the night of the living dead for Christmas Eve, unless you can intimidate your colleagues into rubber stamping the bill sooner.

I am happy to reflect on peace and good things in this season. I have a special wish for you: I hope you go out of business.


12.23 The demolition job on America that the False Messiah and his twisted followers have perpetrated in less than a year is breathtaking in scale. Its momentum is of the kind that only dementia can propel. I was frustrated in writing the post above, because my protest felt like no more than a tiny squeak compared to the enormity of what is being done every day to smash the U.S. Constitution, enfeeble the middle class for the benefit of bankmasters and immigrants from backward countries, and bring on state-run corporatism as a prelude to soft totalitarianism.

Takuan Seiyo has surveyed the big picture in his latest entry in the series "From Meccania to Atlantis." Like previous installments, it can seem more like a poison pen letter than a reasoned analysis. But in its fierce invective, I'm afraid there is far more truth than is comfortable.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thomas Troward

One of the most common ideas in "New Age" circles is that thought, visualization, or belief can manifest anything desired on the physical plane of existence. Unfortunately, most New Age apostles aren't very good at critical thinking. They accept at face value whatever notions make them feel good. And they're caught in a mixture of transcendence and capitalism, spirituality and superstition.

Not surprisingly, New Agers fail to convince rationalists that mind alone can change outward conditions, including health and wealth. People with common sense tend to recoil when the see books, for instance, bearing such titles as
Think and Grow Rich, Release the Dynamite of Your Mental Power, and You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Single Negative Thought!

But the basic premise that our minds are part of a larger, "universal" mind with far greater power than individual minds has a long history. And I have long suspected that there are better explanations of it than the pseudo-mystical slogans of the New Age movement. I have not read Mary Baker Eddy, so have no firm opinion of her teachings or those of Christian Science. (But I have found the writings of Joel Goldsmith, whose teachings are similar, often beautiful and inspirational.)
Skeptics who aren't absolutely bound in the strait-jacket of scientific materialism might be impressed by Thomas Troward (1847-1916). Troward's teachings, some in the form of lecture transcriptions, make a clear and reasonable case for phenomena that are not clear to our everyday, limited minds and go beyond pure reason. There is no way, other than results, of proving the hypothesis of universal mind that can shape our experiences if we open ourselves to it. But Troward writes like a philosopher with a firm grounding in logic. He takes the reader step by step, doing his utmost to explain and exemplify each step.

Here's a sample from The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science:
... All Nature is pervaded by an interior personalness, infinite in its potentialities of intelligence, responsiveness, and power of expression, and only waiting to be called into activity by our recognition of it. By the terms of its nature it can respond to us only as we recognize it.

If we are at that intellectual level where we can see nothing but chance governing the world, then this underlying universal mind will present to us nothing but a fortuitous confluence of forces without any intelligible order.

If we are sufficiently advanced to see that such a confluence could only produce a chaos, and not a cosmos, then our conceptions expand to the idea of univeral Law, and we find this to be the nature of the all-underlying principle. We have made an immense advance from the realm of mere accident into a world where there are definite principles on which we can calculate with certainty when we know them.
Troward's moral and spiritual seriousness is stamped on every page. Nowhere is there a taint of self-interest, although he is ever pointing to the higher Self that each of us is part of. I've read a lot of books with metaphysical implications, and believe I have developed an intuition about which are written by those who know, and which are by authors who copy from each other, whose egos are involved, or who want to sell products. The latter are what I mostly find in New Age publications and consciousness-improving toys.

But to the contrary, with someone like Joel Goldsmith, my rational mind can come up with lots of questions and even disagreements, but doubts are suspended; I can't help feeling, this man understands something that I don't, or at least understands it much better. And the same is true with Troward.

The great religions are full of statements that seem paradoxical, even ridiculous. As Paul told the Corinthians, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." As Troward notes, Jesus said, "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall receive them" (Mark 11:24).

Troward comments, "The difference in the tenses is remarkable. The speaker bids us first to believe that our desire has already been fulfilled, that it is a thing already accomplished, and then its accomplishment will follow as a thing in the future. This is nothing else than a concise direction for making use of the creative power of thought by impressing upon the universal subjective mind the particular thing which we desire as an already existing fact. In following this direction we are thinking on the plane of the absolute and eliminating from our minds all consideration of conditions, which imply limitation and the possibility of adverse contingencies; and we are thus planting a seed which, if left undisturbed, will infallibly germinate into external fruition."


It needs to be admitted that Troward's style can be off-putting at times, as well as more formal than we are used to in current writing. It is the defect of his virtue. He is so concerned with building his case -- perhaps his time as "Divisional Judge, Punjab" influenced his writing habits -- that he can sound dry and schoolmaster-ish. But anyone who wants to look behind the veil that normally hides the higher truths will almost certainly find a great deal that is rewarding.

A couple of Troward's books are online here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

If we don't stop climate change in the next 10 minutes, it's all over

Barmy Prince Charlie says about climate change, "The world has only seven years before we lose the levers of control." British Prime Minister pro tem Gordon Brown was quoted about 49 days ago as saying in connection with climate change, "We have 50 days to change the world."
Mr Brown spoke of a looming 'catastrophe' which, if not dealt with, 'would be greater than the impact of both World Wars and the Great Depression combined'.
The sheer complacency of these gentlemen is beyond belief, a testament to leaders' unwillingness to face the inconvenient truth. And ordinary, salt-of-Gaia folks are no better. They're worried about trivia like Obama's spending binges, the morphing of republics into state directorates, and the West being colonized by the Third World at the urging of western governments.

Let's see, when did I start writing this? About nine minutes ago, was it? Or earlier? Anyway, I'd just like to add one more

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The sea cat


Let's face it: reading blogs, like reading newspapers or watching TV news, can be pretty depressing. The news is mainly about bad stuff ("If it bleeds, it leads"). Bloggers are most inspired — well, most energetic — when they're angry, critical, viewing with alarm. Too much of it can bring down the blogger or the blogged.

So here's a story that's both remarkable and heartening. From the Daily Mail:

A pet cat who went missing when let out for a night-time stroll has been reunited with his owners - after hopping on a ferry and enjoying a 1,400 mile round-trip to Spain.

Ginger tom Sandi was discovered by stunned ferry staff under a lorry as they prepared to unload the Pride of Bilbao, which had travelled from Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Crewmembers took Sandi to a veterinarian, who identified him from an embedded microchip. His owners in England were located, and he received a return trip courtesy of the carrier, P & O Lines. Not only that: on the way back, Sandi got the red carpet treatment.

For the return journey he was fed a special menu of salmon, chicken and milk and had an ensuite cabin with sea view, which usually costs up to £266. Crew members paid hourly visits to his room during the 36 hour sailing to give him a stroke and to ensure he remained comfortable.

They gave him his own pillow and donated one of their warm jackets. And the ship's captain, Alastair McFadyen, even found time to visit the stowaway.

So Sandi is back home after an adventure, a happy ending.

Yes, I expect the P & O public relations office jumped at the chance for favorable publicity and arranged the de luxe accommodations. Who cares? Everyone involved in this did what was right for the cat, and more than they had to.

At their best, humans are a Grade A species.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The brink


Paul Volcker administered strong medicine to the U.S. economy when he was the Fed Chairman in 1979, driving interest rates to 20 percent to slay the dragon of inflation. Today, he thinks, banks still have their golden parachutes and regulators are doing nothing to prevent the next debacle. (Tip of the hat: P.W. Bailey's What Is That Whistling Sound?)
Paul A. Volcker visited nine cities in five countries in the past eight weeks to warn that bankers and regulators “have not come anywhere close to responding with necessary vigor” to the worst economic crisis in 70 years. …

Two years after the start of the deepest recession since the 1930s, no U.S. or European authority has put in force a single measure that would transform the financial system, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. No rule- or law-making body is actively considering the automatic dismantling of banks that Volcker told Congress are sheltered by access to an implicit safety net.
Bailey comments:

After being brought in as an advisor to the Obama administration, Paul Volcker has discovered his appointment was for appearance only. Volcker's warnings have been repeatedly dismissed and ignored by policy makers in the US and Europe. Volcker understands the risks to the system that are building threaten to disrupt the global economic system. Economic heavyweights Joseph Stiglitz and Simon Johnson of MIT have thrown their support behind his proposed reforms. The issue is a lack of political will to do "the right thing".

If the high level of leverage remains in the system, with banks and financial institutions failing to build adequate reserves and increase Tier 1 capital, a major crisis is inevitable. The path governments and central banks are on that, to quote Volcker, "brought us to the brink of a great depression", pushes us past the brink, and into the abyss.

But it's doubtful that just passing more laws and creating another layer of bureaucratic oversight will help the U.S.S. Titanic dodge the iceberg. Much more important is what he told a college audience, that "we need to produce more, spend less." It should be obvious by now that you can't endlessly base an economy on credit, people borrowing to buy things, the government borrowing from foreign countries to finance its own debt.

Far from learning anything from the past two years, the Obama Gang has been determined to rebuild the house of cards. Whether out of ignorance, short-term political advantage, or a deep if perhaps unconscious desire to destroy a country he is alienated from, our spender-in-chief is ignoring the economic facts of life.


The only real path to prosperity is to create wealth by producing goods and services that can be sold at a profit. The process can't be short-circuited by creating yet more debt, and it certainly can't work by squeezing "the rich" (however that is defined) and the middle class and redistributing the proceeds through various welfare state programs.

Leaving to one side the moral aspects of government larceny, the very rich won't put up with it — they'll simply find ways to keep their money outside the system or the country. The middle class can be bled white, but at the cost of destroying the nation's economic backbone.

Before long, there'll be no wealth to spread around. It's happened elsewhere often enough, mostly in countries with Marxist governments. We have no special mandate from Heaven to protect us from radical leftist politicians.


To return to fiscal sanity, we shouldn't be thinking about what to do. We should be thinking about what not to do. More specifically, what not to spend (borrowed) money on.

We need to recognize that subsidies and programs that might — or might not — be good in themselves are collectively dragging us down. We need to curb our appetite for all kinds of spending, even when it's "useful" to some part of the population. The U.S. needs to go on an appropriation crash diet.


Strong medicine: Put many federal agencies out of business. Cut the number of federal employees by half. Take the central government's dead hand out of education. Use the armed forces for the purpose they were designed for, national defense, not refereeing fights between Muslim death squads in Kulawiznistan.

Quit taxing the American citizens to pay for illegal immigrant women ejecting their anchor babies. Stop giving out green cards and HB-1 visas for foreigners to replace U.S. workers.

We can think of hundreds more things to not spend money we don't have on. But that means we have to think. And stand up to the Washington vote-buying machine.


12.17 Karl Denninger, the fire-breathing economics blogger, is thinking along the same lines. (I had not seen his post before I wrote mine, above.) He tells Congress:

I stand impressed that you got away with this for as long as you did, but I also stand behind the view I expressed in 2007 - that the root problem is an excessive level of debt in the system at all levels, a level of debt that exceeds capacity to pay, and as a consequence any and all attempts to restart the credit-driven consumption economy would fail, and if pressed too far the government will fail.

The evidence strongly suggests that you are getting awfully close to your last chance to stop being stupid before the market hands you a lesson that has the potential to destroy both our economy and government.

Denninger is something of a sensationalist, so don't fall on your sword yet. But his posting is worth considering.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Behold, a mystery

Behold, I show you a mystery;
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

— 1st Corinthians 15

I do my best to stay out of stores and, particularly, malls in Christmas shopping season. Online shopping sites are a godsend for buying presents while running out the clock until it is safe again.

It's not only because of the crowds, which drive me spare, but also because of cliché Christmas music meant to put you in a buying mood. Yet it's unavoidable; it pours out in Safeway, CVS, radio stations highbrow and lowbrow, and probably from those terrible gas pumps that play commercials while you fill your car's tank.


This year I've noticed something, although it may have been a trend for some time that never registered on me. The Christmas tunes, in line with the best PC orthodoxy, have been scoured of religious content. No "Come, all ye faithful … " that I've noticed. (Come to think of it, no "White Christmas," either!) Instead, lots of insipid jingle bells, dashing through the snow.

But the song I believe I've heard the most this year is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Not only the original Brenda Lee version — unfortunately, almost the only thing that considerably talented young lady is remembered for today — but two or three other "updated" recordings as well, which suggests that it fills a felt need in the merchandising world.

Now this is not going to be another of those pieces decrying the commercialization of Christmas. We live in a commercial culture and, if stores must make the most of it to stay in business, nothing anyone says is going to make a dime's difference.


But we, as individuals and families, still have a choice in how we relate to the holiday.

For most people, it's an occasion for decorating, family gatherings, and partying. Nothing wrong with that. But Christmas, like all holidays that are tied (however frayed the connection) with religions or ancient traditions, gains in worth when it reminds us of the mysteries of our existence.

This has nothing to do with any particular creed or interpretation. Our long-ago ancestors were poorer and worse off in many ways than we are, but they partook of one source of inspiration that we have nearly lost. Their world was full of things, dead to us, that were of the greatest psychological and spiritual meaning.

The sun and moon weren't bodies of fire and ash, they represented different aspects of the psyche. The wind came from Boreas or Zephyros, not a pressure differential or something (those of us who aren't meteorologists aren't quite sure). Shakespeare's Duke in
As You Like It found "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks/Sermons in stones, and good in everything."


Once in a while, such feelings drill through the routine and scientific materialism of our modern world. Not many people can observe the bud exploding into a flower or leaf in spring without an inkling that they have witnessed a mystery, though the botanists can explain it in purely scientific language.

Such language is useful, for scientists and often for laymen as well, on one level. But it doesn't get to the heart of things, for all its endless detail. Why are you seated in your chair, rather than floating around the room (unless you are reading this in a space station)? Gravity. What's that? It's a word etymologically derived from heaviness. Why are you heavy? The force of gravity. You're heavy because you're heavy. To my knowledge, no scientist has explained why objects are attracted to one another in specific ways, exquisitely balanced by the tendency to fly apart through centripetal force.


Let us use this ancient festival of Christmas to remind ourselves that behind the phenomena of life are the numina — or if that's too fancy a word, meanings that hide from us most of the time.

How can there be billions and billions of snowflakes, no two of them identical?

Where do words go after they're spoken?

How do the young become the old?

I haven't the answers, and even if I did, they wouldn't be answers for you, unless you found them. Only behold, I show you a mystery.


Friday, December 11, 2009

New stimulus: unemployment compensation for rejected jihadis?

Five American Muslims arrested in Pakistan tried to join al-Qaeda but were rejected because they had no references from trusted militants, according to police. Police said the men, ranging in age from 19 to 25, wanted to join militants in Pakistan's tribal area before crossing into Afghanistan and had met two banned military organisations. … One of the men, Ramy Zamzam, is a dental student at Washington's Howard University.

The Scotsman, December 11

Welcome, brother! Sit down please, Ramy.

Thank you, my brother.

I have been looking over your résum
é. Your grades in dental school are very promising. However, it appears you wish to change careers. Is dental work no longer a promising field?

It is not satisfying, my brother. Even the occasional opportunity to yank an infidel's tooth from his head is not enough to meet my aspirations.

And your aspiration is …

Death to those who do not follow the Prophet (pbuh)!

That is very commendable, Ramy. However, I must tell you that our organization has been overwhelmed lately with those who have been impelled to jihad. I am afraid that many do not have the skill set we need. As the Prophet's predecessor said, many are called but few are chosen.

But brother, I am prepared to martyr myself for the cause.

Ramy, please do not take this amiss. But we have martyrdom volunteers surplus to requirements. We must keep self-immolation to a reasonable schedule. At a ratio of 72:1, the virgins in Paradise will go on strike if we lumber them with too many warriors in too limited a time.

(Heatedly) My brother, how can you make such a jest?

Salam, Ramy, calm down. I have been at this insurgency business for years. It can be grim at times. The Prophet does not look askance at a little humor.

Now, I am not saying we do not have a stand-by list for martyrdom. You could, if selected, work your way to the head of the queue one fine day. But you must be qualified and thoroughly vetted. We are not an equal opportunity employer. We have no affirmative action suicide bombers. It is my duty to determine your ideological fitness.

Now, your
résumé lists as references Felix Pullquote, DDS, and Marionette Carpool, DDS. These are not Arabic names, my brother. Are they converts?

Er, no, I am afraid not, sir. Dar al-Islam has not yet penetrated the Dental School.

Ramy, I have a suggestion. Why don't you join the U.S. Army? They are panting for what they call "diversity," and would welcome you. Get some experience with weapons and explosives. Thank you for stopping by. Give me a call in five years.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Even the dead aren't safe in Europe



The Belgian web site Le Soir asks: Taboo on crosses in cemeteries?

Supposedly it's about separation of church and state. Actually it's about separation of body and soul. The Belgian bureaucratic elite want their subjects to have no God other than the state.

The deck under the headline says (my translation):
The Senate Commission of Institutional Affairs [could there be a more pompous title?] on Thursday will open consideration of a law proposed by Senator Philippe Mahoux on strict application of the separation between church and state. The text is aimed at official solemnities like the annual Te Deum. The neutrality should also be expressed in cemeteries …
According to the proposed law
The communal parts of cemeteries [where people of different religions are interred?] would have to strictly respect the principle of neutrality, which would mean for example a ban on placing crosses in these communal parts.
How does a cross on a tombstone violate separation of church and state? What does it have to do with the state's "neutrality" in religious matters? Apparently, that individuals — even when all that was mortal of them is placed in the ground — must be "neutral" as well.


Has anyone complained about the crosses? Unlikely. Even scientific materialists aren't so fanatical as to want to deprive the faithful of their practices. Probably Senator Mahoux and his ilk are bothered about Muslims being offended. But Muslims are hardly going to share a graveyard with infidels, and if they're offended by seeing crosses, sod them.

For all the European mandarins' attempts to efface traditional Christianity, crosses, some hundreds of years old, remain in cemeteries. Will the law require all existing crosses to be removed from tombs, or will those from earlier times be allowed via — wordplay coming — a "grandfather" clause?


Political issues aside, one of the plagues of contemporary government is utopian abstraction. In one form, it means taking a reasonable, even beneficent, idea such as separation of church and state and pushing it to a ludicrous extreme. There can be no exceptions, however time-honored or innocent. The law must have its pound of flesh. The principle becomes absolute, the human consequences irrelevant.

The absolutists now dominate in Europe. All that differentiates them from the absolute monarchs of the 16th century is that the power over the lives of their subjects has been distributed a little, shared by an oligarchic class.


12.12. A further thought, perhaps the true explanation of this state-sponsored vandalism, popped into my head without advance notice. Such a twisted concept of the separation of church and state arises in the pseudo-country of Belgium, where the E.U. headquarters is located, because the political elite have their own definition of the state.

To wit: the state is not a government limited to specific powers, as many people (but few politicians) in the United States still believe. Rather, in the soft totalitarianism of the U.K. and the E.U., individual preferences are permitted only insofar as they are acceptable to the state. The state is embarrassed by crosses in a graveyard because they do not fit with the universalism and homogeneity demanded by cultural Marxism.

The cross represents, at least ideally, a personal spiritual choice, made not in offices and meeting chambers in Brussels, but in the mysterious depths of the human heart. It is not a place that those who worship the state visit often, or ever.