Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reagan's Echo

Here is Ronald Reagan's poetic tribute to the triumphs of William Buckley and his National Review. Anyone looking to get a sense of what Buckley accomplished over the past fifty years will learn a good deal from this encomium, from another American great. I'm hoping that Buckley's passing will give conservatives, and in particular Republicans in the mold of John McCain, cause to reflect on the direction of the movement. It's encouraging to see unabashedly conservative provocateurs like Mark Steyn, Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg, among others, carrying the banner of conservatism in print. My concern is the oft' noted tendency of the namby-pamby Republican to dilute his conservative orthodoxy, as per the demands of the more "balanced mainstream" in America. In the process, they often seek to distance themselves from the intellectual mainstays of the conservative cause. When Republicans are conservatives first, they win elections, when they jilt conservatism out of embarrassment or the fear of giving offense to the undecided vote, they become ineffectual and lose to the likes of politicians like Barack Obama.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Planet Cools, Al Gore Melts

Here's a link to a fascinating study that demonstrates how just one year of colder-than-normal weather around the planet in 2007 has wiped out any of the derivative effects of the one-degree increase in temperature that has taken place over the course of the last century! This is the same, supposedly irreversible one-degree increase that led perpetuators of the man-made global warming myth (and it is a myth, tinged with religious underpinnings) to warn of imminent climatic devastation. The solution, they pontificated: change your light-bulbs, drive hybrids, unplug your cell phone charger, cut-down on sheets of toilet paper, etc. This study offers global-warming disciples another opportunity to reconsider. I'm not holding my breath for takers though. Nor can it be asserted that these findings represent the isolated conclusion of a lone scientist or the uninformed, politically motivated spiel emanating from a nutty right-winger. "All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously." Polar bears, together with Leonardo Dicaprio and Laurie David, can breath a sigh of relief, the ice-caps are safe and Manhattan is, presumably, free from the threat of total submergence into the Atlantic.

William F. Buckley Jr. 1925 - 2008

"You didn't just part the Red Sea. You rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism. And then, as if that were not enough, you gave the world something different, something, in its weariness, it desperately needed — the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom." -Ronald Reagan to William Buckley in 1985

A sad day in America: William F. Buckley, founder of National Review and arguably the most influential conservative thinker in the nation, died today. He was 82. If modern America could ever boast a true Renaissance man, it was Buckley. A devout Catholic and frequenter of the traditional Latin Mass, he was considered the father of American conservatism, his influence was enormous, his devotees legion. In the wake of the cultural madness of the 1960s, the successes of conservatism and common decency in American society can, in large measure, be traced back to Buckley. R.I.P.
Follow National Review online for more details.

Here's an excerpt from a press release:
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.

Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.

"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."

How to Beat Obama

Tony Blankley offers some valuable pointers on how John McCain can beat Barack Obama. The Illinois senator is, without a doubt, the best orator in American politics since Reagan. And even President Bush's most ardent defenders cringe at his embarrassing communicative foibles, which serve only to enhance Obama's gifts in the eyes of the public. Americans are hungry for an eloquent president and this gives Obama a significant advantage over his opponents. Hillary Clinton has given Republicans a valuable gift in her moribund campaign. She demonstrated how difficult it is to make attacks on Obama stick. He out-maneuvered her at every step. Last night's debate was a masterful display of Obama's talents. He belittled her relentlessly and made her seem small, irrelevant. Obama came across as presidential, Clinton, peevish. Over the course of the past year, Clinton's arrows have repeatedly missed their mark and in some cases, they've ricocheted off the smooth Obama and found their way back to Clinton, causing her even more damage. Blankley's counsel should be taken to heart by McCain & Co.
Over broad charges against him are dangerous. Republicans will make a mistake if they take to calling Mr. Obama "too liberal for America." He is too liberal, but they need to make the charge specific point by specific point. If they try to pigeonhole him as a liberal, he will refuse to perch in such a hole. He is a golden falcon, not a fat pigeon. He will verbally swoop down on his accuser and point out how he is not liberal at all on that point, but his accuser's record is... If Mr. Obama can be defeated, it will not be with a meat cleaver but a surgeon's scalpel. This is difficult in a national campaign where the public, almost of necessity, must be communicated with by slogans. But Mr. Obama is the master responding to blustery charges with wry, dry irony. -Tony Blankley

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Muslim Aggiornamento?

Religious leaders in Turkey are about to release a groundbreaking document that will offer alternative interpretations of the Koran and the Hadith. Many are hoping that this initiative will stimulate further discussion among Muslim leaders about the compatibility of Islam with modernity. From the BBC:
Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion. Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

This news from Turkey reminds me of something George Weigel discussed in his thought-provoking book, Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism. In it, he suggests that Muslims, in order to move forward, must reach back in their collective memory and resurrect an appreciation for culture that antedates the radicalism touted by the jihadists. He rejects the notion that what Islam needs is a "Muslim Martin Luther". Rather, he advocates a Muslim equivalent to Leo XIII. As pope, Leo XIII strove mightily to bring the Church up to date with modern currents, not by sacrificing the integrity of the Church's teaching, but by showing how trends in modernity could be reconciled with the Church's ancient (yet developed) tradition.
Pope Leo XIII was not the father of the modern social doctrine of the Catholic Church because he fostered a rupture with tradition (pace Luther or Calvin). Rather, Leo understood that the highly politicized idea of "tradition" that prevailed in much of nineteenth-century Catholicism was not, in fact, traditional, and that the political arrangements it favored-such as the use of state power and authority to enforce the truth claims of the Church-were not the only possible conclusion to be drawn from core Catholic theological premises. Leo XIII's retrieval of authentic Thomistic philosophy as a tool of social analysis led to a remarkable, evolutionary development of social doctrine in the Catholic Church...That process of retrieval and development, as distinct from rupture and revolution, is a model that can be recommended to genuine Islamic reformers today. - George Weigel

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Holiday From History

I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than people. Our purpose is to keep this blessed country free, safe, prosperous and proud. And the changes we offer to the institutions and policies of government will reflect and rely upon the strength, industry, aspirations and decency of the people we serve. -John McCain

"A holiday from history"

It's a nice phrase that succinctly encapsulates the utopianism of the left. George Weigel used it once to paint the myopic tenure of the Clinton Administration. The great Democrat pooh-bah, Barack Obama, while campaigning as an august agent for "change", ironically represents more of the same: hackneyed, redistributionist policies that result in universal misery.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Mrs.

Michelle Obama made an astonishing statement in Wisconsin while campaigning for her husband. "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." Conservative thinkers have been spilling buckets of ink on the troubling messianic and narcissistic bend of Obama's campaign. Bill Kristol noted in reaction to Mrs. Obama,
She was an adult when we won the Cold War without firing a shot. She was an adult for the last 25 years of economic progress, social progress. I think the Democrats have to be careful … they’re running against the status quo … You have to be careful not to let that slide into a kind of indictment of America. Because I don’t think the American people think on the whole that the last 25 years of American history is a narrative of despair and nothing to be proud of. Here's a nice article on the matter.]hes-proud-of-my-country-for-the-first-time/

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Husbands Under Attack?

I saw this catchy headline for a bizarre story: Author: Train your husband: Get an obedient spouse by coaching him like an animal, a new book says. I just wonder what kind of reaction we'd see if the roles were reversed and the book in question was instructing men how to "Get an obedient spouse by coaching her like an animal." I can almost hear Hillary Clinton's shrill, cackling voice: "Sexism, alive and well in America!" Somehow, I think most ladies would be galled and understandably so...but if it's the guy we're talking about, well that's ok.

Now, I get that we're supposed to read these kinds of stories with a bit of mirth, but I think it's fair to suggest that male-baiting Fabian tactics like this one, instructing women on the fine art of training their Homer Simpson-like, red meat-eating, neanderthal of a husband like a canine, have done their fair share in eroding the unique role and image of the husband in the family.

Here are some of the more irreverent excerpts from the story.
Attention, frustrated wives: if you want your husband to start listening to you and stop leaving his socks on the floor, all you need is a little patience and a lot of mackerel. Such is the putative relationship advice of Amy Sutherland, a journalist who spent a year at an animal-trainer school and decided to apply the trainers' techniques to her husband's annoying habits. According to Sutherland, the key to marital bliss is to ignore negative habits and reward positive ones, the same approach animal trainers use to get killer whales to leap from their tanks and elephants to stand on their heads.

The idea of women training simple men is a well-worn trope of pop culture. In the 1963 film "If a Man Answers," Sandra Dee's mother hands her a canine-training manual with the advice "If you want a perfect marriage, treat your husband like a dog." More recently, the BBC reality show "Bring Your Husband to Heel" featured a professional dog trainer teaching wives how to get their husbands to sit and stay.

Mark Steyn on Government Entitlements

Friday, February 15, 2008

Multiculturalism: What Has It Done For You Lately?

Here's a timely piece on the damaging toll multiculturalism has taken on the UK. A defense oriented think-tank in the UK lambasted the government's sickening obsession with "diversity" and multicultural social policies which, the report concludes, have resulted in a neutered British culture that is ripe for conquest by the burgeoning Muslim population. Here are some excerpts from the study and article. The link follows.
“Islamist terrorism is where people tend to begin. The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity,” the RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) report said.
“That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate.”
The report said “lack of leadership from the majority, which in misplaced deference to ’multiculturalism’ failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities”.

Verb Sap. to Americans the next time they hear liberal politicians prattle on about multiculturalism or "celebrating diversity". Look across the pond and see precisely where that skewed way of thinking is leading Europe.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Noonan

I had a conversation with a friend today about the varying styles of a few well-known, conservative op-ed contributors; writers like Mark Steyn, Ann Coulter, to name a couple. Naturally, we discussed Peggy Noonan. I voiced my enthusiasm for Ms. Noonan, arguing that her pen, at its best, flows with the ease of an intimate conversation. After infusing the right principles into an article, shouldn't a smooth delivery be one of the prime objectives of a good op-ed writer? People should enjoy reading your piece. But my friend objected: "She's too choppy. I can't follow her thoughts comfortably. It's too disjointed." In another pithy observation, she summed up her feelings toward Noonan: "I don't know if I'm missing something, or if Noonan is going for some trendy, avant-guard style, but I just can't stand it." While my friend's assessment surprised me somewhat, I had to admit that she had a point and that Noonan does often come across as a bit too casual. No, it's not just the casual style, I like that. Rather, it's as though Noonan assumes that the reader is linked directly to her mind in some psychic bond which results in her not having to make the effort to tease out her ideas or observations and tie them into tightly packaged, coherent arguments. I've thought about it and I think my friend was on to something. But I still find Noonan's writing stimulating and it has a certain charm to it.

Here's Noonan's latest. Judge for yourself.

Lessons of History

For now, extreme caution guides most politicians in Germany, at least with respect to its laws governing the use of embryonic stem-cells. In contrast to Germany, most countries in Europe, like the UK and Sweden, boast rather liberal policies with regard to the experimentation on such stem-cells. The Nazi obsession with eugenics and racial purity in the last century perhaps affords Germans a unique perspective on the apocalyptic dangers that flow from the exploitation and manipulation of human life. Catholics in that country, in and out of government, are fighting tooth and nail to maintain the strict prohibition on such utilitarian research, for they are far too aware of the ends to which such practices eventually lead. History doesn't let them forget.

Continuing along on this topic, I heartily recommend (again) Jonah Goldberg's masterful book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. He astutely puzzles out the M.O. behind the Nazi eugenics plan and accurately links it to the American Progressive movement's own coquette with racial purity schemes. The reader can't ignore the creepy similarities between the two movements. It makes for a sobering read.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coming Apart at the Seams

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year's mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group's security structure suffered “total collapse”.

These are the words not of al-Qaeda's enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group's stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.

The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Graven Images?

Some 100,000 Muslims across the globe are petitioning Wikipedia to remove all images of Mohammed from its English-language page. Citing Islamic aversion to "graven images", many Muslims believe that artistic representations of holy men smack of idolatry. Now, 100,000 is but a drop in the bucket when speaking of a one-billion member religion but I think the story is telling nonetheless. A curious footnote to this vignette is that some of the images used by Wikipedia are Ottoman works of art, dating back to the 14th, 15th 16th centuries. The Ottoman Empire was renown throughout Europe for its appreciation of art. Istanbul, under the supervision of the Sultan, became a mecca of cultural achievement. Granted, Byzantine and, by extension, European culture rubbed off mightily on the Ottomans as they came within a hair's breadth of conquering all of Europe, but it is noteworthy that the largest Muslim empire in history saw nothing wrong with the reverent depiction of their prophet in art, while the far more modern incarnation of radical Islam, following the radical tradition of Wahhabism, decries such art as the stuff of pagans. Who is right here, the Ottoman or the Wahhabite?,2933,328966,00.html

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Worth Considering

"Right now, the two-party system seems to have decayed into a one-and-a-half-party system, with McCain largely in agreement with the Dems on immigration, pharmaceutical companies, global warming and much else. A President McCain will get media bouquets for his bipartisanship in supporting the Democrat domestic agenda. Against that, he is admired in these parts for his stand on the war." - Mark Steyn