Tuesday, March 29, 2016

First as tragedy, then as farce

Sir Edward Grey, Britain's Foreign Secretary in the years before WWI:

The German Emperor is ageing me; he is like a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, and he will run into something some day and cause a catastrophe.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rejoice! He is Risen!

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

And they remembered his words,

And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Luke 24: 1-12

Saturday, March 26, 2016

“Wood and nails and colored eggs”

First Posted 22 March 2005

This passage from Martin Bell's remarkable little book The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images seems especially timely this Easter season.

God raised Jesus from the dead to the end that we should be clear-once and for all-that there is nothing more important than being human. Our lives have eternal significance. And no one-absolutely no one-is expendable.

Colored Eggs

Some human beings are fortunate enough to be able to color eggs on Easter. If you have a pair of hands to hold the eggs, or if you are fortunate enough to be able to see the brilliant colors, then you are twice blessed.

This Easter some of us cannot hold the eggs, others of us cannot see the colors, many of us are unable to move at all-and so it will be necessary to color the eggs in our hearts.

This Easter there is a hydrocephalic child lying very still in a hospital bed nearby with a head the size of his pillow and vacant, unmoving eyes, and he will not be able to color Easter eggs, and he will not be able to color Easter eggs in his heart, and so God will have to color eggs for him.

And God will color eggs for him. You can bet your life and the life of the created universe on that.

At the cross of Calvary God reconsecrated and sanctified wood and nails and absurdity and helplessness to be continuing vehicles of his love. And then he simply raised Jesus from the dead. And they both went home and colored eggs

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Thought for the day

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing s everyone else and thinking something different.

Albert Szent-Gyorg, Nobel Laureate

Friday, March 18, 2016

Explaining Trump

Lot of truth here:

Trump and the Delayed Reckoning for the 2008 Financial Crisis

We might have had this reckoning earler, but the Tea Party let itself be captured by the RNC

Do we want to solve problems or elect Republicans?
For many of his supporters, Trump is a weapon Jacksonians can use to break the logjam of sclerotic, mediated democracy

The 2008 crisis also sucked the power from most the the GOPs best slogans.

From 2009

There is no doubt that a sizable minority of the population is opposed to bigger government. This minority is large enough to boost the ratings of talk radio. It drives readership for rightwing blogs and raises money for some candidates. But is it it enough to win election?

40% is an enormous share in radio ratings. It is also the bad end of a landslide election.

The usual mantra of "No socialism, Free Enterprise!" just seems inadequate in the face of the current economic realities.

Key fact number one. As Obama moves toward "socialism", he does so at the behest of the "capitalists". It is not as if he is sending paramilitary gangs to take over successful, profitable businesses. Obama, like Bush before him, is compelled to act because the capitalists screwed the pooch, crapped the bed, and then muttered "maybe my bad" when their recklessness sent the financial system off a cliff.

The broad public knows this, and that makes it hard to win them over with cheap slogans about socialist bogeymen.
And finally, failure theater does not work so well when there is an Army of Davids paying attention to what is going on.

Monday, March 14, 2016

From Duke Lacrosse to the Unsinkable Donald Trump

Last night ESPN aired a new episode in their 30 for 30 documentary series. “Fantastic Lies” was a searing look back at the Duke lacrosse case/hoax/scandal.

Overall, it was an outstanding piece of work. Admittedly, it skimmed over a great many points and left out others. That is inevitable when you have to cover a complex, year-long, story in 90 minutes of television.

For what it is worth, here are a few of the points about the case that deserve more attention.

Journalists were not just wrong about the case. They were arrogantly, viciously, proudly wrong.
Reporters and pundits did not just attack the members of the lacrosse team. They attacked anyone who tried to defend the team and its players. The documentary really should have included the brave stand made by the Duke women’s lacrosse team and the vitriol they received from the press for proclaiming their belief in the ‘innocence’ of the men lacrosse players.

The documentary lets the MSM off the hook. It lets the clowns and kommissars claim that failure was inevitable because the story was “a perfect storm.”
Failure was not inevitable. Some people were not caught up in the perfect storm. “Fantastic Lies” would have been much better if it had included the thoughts from someone like Stuart Taylor on the failure of the media.

More detail on this point can be found here:

Duke lacrosse: The AJR review

Duke lacrosse: Can the MSM look into the mirror?

Duke lacrosse: “Totalitarian Whiff”
A small point but a telling one:

Fantastic Lies” whitewashes ESPN’s participation in the media mob that abetted Nifong.
When the documentary hid this fact it continued a long tradition of smokescreens and fig leafs. In that sense it is emblematic of the media cover-up that has gone on for ten years. The MSM cannot look in the mirror and admit its mistakes.

Which is why this happened:

None of the MSM outlets that messed up so horribly did anything to reform themselves. Nor did the Duke administration.
The Gang of 88 still rules the roost in Durham. The MSM still falls for hoaxes like the Rolling Stone story on UVa and “Hands up. Don’t shoot.”

When Evan Thomas of Newsweek tried to defend the magazine’s indefensible rush to judgment he came up with one of the most quoted lines of the whole saga.

“We just got the facts wrong. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong."

And that is what ties this into the Trump phenomenon. Journalists and their lapdog media critics keep whining that millions of people ignore their rigorous fact-checking and debunking of Trump’s claims and promises. They say they are puzzled and I bet they are. If they really understood what was happening they would be terrified.

Millions of voters ignore the MSM attacks on Trump because they assume the MSM is filled with liars who prefer the Narrative (i.e. propaganda) to facts and truth. That is not entirely correct and it does not make Trump a good choice for president, but it does help explain why so many happily ignore the MSM.

If the old media has lost power, it is because they wielded it recklessly and unwisely.

One last point in Trump’s favor.

When the MSM ginned up their unthinking outrage mobs, professional conservatives and Republican politicians were slow to respond. Some happily ran with SJW pack. Most hid and hoped it would blow over.

When a Trump supporter says they like DJT because “he fights”, the background context is the craven cowardice of resercons like Tucker Carlson and gutless politicians too numerous to mention.

UPDATE: It is only fair to note that Tucker Carlson has come a long way. A long, long way and in the right direction.

Tucker Carlson:Quite the transformation

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Feet of clay and heads of stone

America’s reporters in Vietnam became unwitting tools of Hanoi’s intelligence apparatus

Even worse, most of them were cool with that

This is a fascinating and important read:


Why Did U.S. Journalists Love Him?
The life and career of Pham Xuan An requires honest scholars to revisit the established narratives of the Vietnam War, the reporters who got famous there, and the internal CIA wars of the 1970s.

When An was revealed as a murderous communist spy, most of the reporters who had worked with him were ready to extol him as a fair and honest journalist.

I thought An deserved to be lauded by the communists as a hero of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He had done his job well. But I didn’t see him as an American hero. So when an excerpt from Bass’s book appeared in The New Yorker in 2005 quoting journalists I knew as singing his praises, I wrote a letter to the editor, saying:

“It was one thing to have been against the Vietnam Warmany of us werebut quite another to express unconditional admiration for a man who spent a large part of his life pretending to be a journalist while helping to kill Americans.”

The irony of David Halberstam

The MSM is shrinking because it keeps celebrating people like Halberstam and Mike Wallace: idols revealed to be neither astute nor patriotic.

Grant provides a concise, brilliant illustration of how An played 3-D chess with his American friends at the Battle of Ap Bac (January 1963).

The short version: the esteemed “journalist” used his American connections to discover the timing and location of an ARVN offensive. He alerts his superiors in the Viet Cong. VC uses that foreknowledge to ambush and defeat ARVN offensive. “Journalist” explains to his American friends that battle proves that SVN forces are unable to match VC in morale and training, hence they are doomed to lose. American reporters use the battle to undermine American officials in Saigon who are optimistic about prospects for ARVN in future.

Fifty years later, J-schools and reporters still think those naïve American reporters should be role models.
Before William Colby became head of CIA, he clashed with the chief of counterintelligence, James Angleton, because the latter believed that Colby’s operations in Vietnam were insecure, riddled with spies, and susceptible to Communist disinformation. Turns out, he was right.

After Colby became DCIA he fired Angleton and downplayed the importance of counterintelligence.

CIA proceeded to get conned by a long-series of double-agents and disinformation campaigns.


Spy Wars

This really is a big freaking deal
Are you really a ‘paranoid’ mole hunter if there really are moles?

Monday, March 07, 2016

We’d be better off if we were a little more Victorian

Reading Jacques Barzun’s works is a fantastic corrective to the Horror Victorianorum that haunts America’s pop culture and the minds of our intellectuals. Our image of the Victorian era and its people is still shaped by ‘rebels’ like Byron (who went into exile while denouncing the informal and formal strictures of England as ‘cant’). Its popular historiography is still founded on Lytton Strachey Eminent Victorians.

As Barzun points out in From Dawn to Decadence, what Byron called ‘cant’ was a powerful, religiously-inspired reforming impulse:

Its origins go back to Methodism, and in the early 19C its impulse to do good inspired the Evangelicals of the Church of England to agitate for such causes as the abolition of slavery.
Where Byron’s coterie could not be bothered to care about their own children, the Victorian do-gooders sacrificed in order to help the children of even the most despised. On the Salvation Army:

Huxley's denunciation of it for fanaticism and regimentation hindered it no more than did the disdain of professional men, who seemed to think that spirit seances and Theosophical jargon were worthier expressions of their feelings. It was not until George Bernard Shaw made the point in Major Barbara that the so-called elite began to appreciate what General Booth's movement had done for the uneducated, pauperized, and drink-sodden masses which Social Darwinism had complacently allowed to find their place under the heel of fitter men. Then it was seen that neither the fatalism of biological evolution nor the fatalism of 'scientific' socialism could withstand a vigorous assault by people who believed in the power of the human will and had the wits to combine religion, social work, army discipline, and rousing tunes
What did those people have that our age lacks? “Wits and will” makes a good start. And energy. Oh, and the courage to break from the crowd.

The Victorian period produced so many strongly marked characters, fearless in promoting original views and often eccentric in habit and deportment. Self-control at least develops a self. And the multiple achievements of the Victorian Age testify to the abundance of such men and women
Paul Johnson:

Willpower, industry and an internal drive in a particular direction: these raised the great men of the 19th century above their circumstances

The Birth of the Modern
We might be richer than the Victorians, but compared to them we are weak, lazy, conformist drones.

Even worse, for a half century we’ve be tearing down what they built up:

The American school system was at the height of its dedication and efficiency. The grammar schools has assimilated millions of motley immigrants; the free public high school was a daring venture that was the envy of industrialized nations; its curriculum was liberal (in modern speech elitist)-- Latin, the English poets, American and English history, a modern foreign language, mathematics and science every year-- and no marshmallow subjects
And to think, we did that without a federal Department of Education.

One of the very first times Abraham Lincoln appears in the public record is as the result of a speech he gave to Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. What interests me here is not the speech but the venue. The first cabin at the place that would become Springfield was built on the Illinois frontier in 1820. In the 1840 census, the town had a population of 2,579. Yet the people of Springfield, the young men of Springfield, were already part of the Lyceum movement.

That spirit of self-improvement and adult education completely shames what passes for community organizing today.