Sunday, January 31, 2010

are we to be spared nothing?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to a senator who had asked for an antitrust review.

In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.****

"The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football ... raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties," Weich wrote. ****

Hatch, a Utah Republican, was steamed that his home state team was deprived of getting a chance to play for the title last year.

"I'm encouraged by the administration's response," he said in a statement. The current system runs counter to basic fairness that every family tries to instill in their children from the day they are born."
--Sports Illustrated

At the same time, it is heartening to imagine Congress spending their days in a cat fight over college sports

Saturday, January 30, 2010

how do you measure?

For how do we appraise the historic significance of a period? By what standards do we measure culture? It is customary in the modern world to evaluate a period by its progress in general civilazation, by the quality of the books, by the number of universities, by the artistic accomplishments, and by the scientific discoveries made therein. As Jews, with an old tradition for appraising and judging events and generations, we evaluate history by different criteria, namely, by how much refinement there is in the life of a people, by how much spiritual substance there is in its every day existence. In our eyes, culture is the style of the life of a people. We gauge culture by the extent to which a whole people, not only individuals, live in accordance with the dictates of an eternal doctrine or strive for spiritual integrity; the extent to which inwardness, compassion, justice and holiness are to be found in the daily life of the masses.

The pattern of life of a people is more significant than the pattern of its art. What counts most is not expression, but existence itself. The key to the source of creativity lies in the will to cling to spirituality, to be close to the inexpressible, and not merely in the ability of expression. What is creative comes from responsive merging with the eternal in reality, not from an ambition to say something.
--Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Earth is the Lord's

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"With so little effort on my own part, I can empower an unlimited amount of people for all time. I can't imagine a better use of my time."

The Khan Academy is a remarkable, one-person effort to educate the World. Salman Khan has produced over 900 videos on YouTube-with 6 million views-covering everything from basic arithmetic to calculus, chemistry, and physics. Continuing to produce several hundred videos a year, Salman intends to provide instruction in all subjects to anyone, anywhere. Check it out.
Interstate commerce in action!

"Democrats say that failing to buy insurance is a form of economic activity, because it shifts costs to others in the marketplace through higher insurance premiums, and onto the public when the uninsured use emergency rooms to obtain primary care."
--Wall Street Journal (regarding constitutionality of proposed health care bill)

[T]hat the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution is routinely interpreted to mean that the government can do anything whatsoever is hardly news. [The Supreme Court has declared that] Growing grain on your own land for your own use was part of "interstate commerce" in Wickard v. Filburn because growing grain instead of buying it from somebody else affects the overall market price of grain.

By the time we reached that point, the idea that America had a limited government restricted by law to particular functions enumerated in a written constitution became a bad joke.

Despite that, I still find this remarkable for how brazen and explicit this is: Merely existing is now interstate commerce.
--John Markley

"You need to evaluate yourselves carefully. Take a careful inventory of your habits, your speech, your appearance, your weight, and your eccentricities, if you have any. Take each item and analyze it. Can you make some sacrifices to be acceptable? You must be the judge.

"Are you too talkative? Too withdrawn? Too quiet? If so, then school your thoughts and your expressions.

"Are you in the wrong location? Could a move to a new location open up a new world to you?

"Is your dress. . . too revealing or too extreme? Are you too demanding? Do you have any eccentricities in speech, in tone, in subject matter? Do you laugh too loudly? Are you too demonstrative? Are you selfish? Are you honorable in all things? . . . Do you feel sorry for [yourself?]

"Have you made yourself attractive physically — well-groomed, well-dressed — and attractive mentally — engaging, interesting? Are you well-read? If not, change yourself."
--Spencer W. Kimball, to young adults

When we take a responsible step to do what is right or sacrifice what is wrong, there flows to us, often immediately, a quiet confirmation from the Spirit of the Lord that we are doing right, and encouragement and strength to keep going. If we start doing any of the things we have been commanded to do, we will be given strength to persist, and our persistence will bring us more strength. What the Lord contributes is infinitely greater than what we contribute, but it comes to us only by our initiative and diligence.
--Enzio Busche

Thursday, January 21, 2010

morning in america

New senator/rock star Scott Brown

The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.
--Carroll Quigley

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The first and most dominant theme [of Les Miserables]is that of redemption. The word “redeem” means “to buy back,” and much of the plot turns on this issue of “buying.” The most notable passage in this regard is the one, early in the novel, where Jean Valjean, the paroled convict, robs the saintly bishop of Digne and is brought back to him under arrest in order to confess to the crime and make restitution. Instead, the bishop gives Valjean the stolen silverware and, in addition, the two candlesticks which he had not stolen.

Then turning to the gendarmes, [the bishop] said, “Messieurs, you may go.” The gendarmes left.

Jean Valjean felt like a man about to faint.

The bishop approached him and said, in a low voice, “Do not forget, ever, that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man.”

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of any such promise, stood dumbfounded. The bishop had stressed these words as he spoke them. He continued, solemnly, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”
--Addison Hart

Sunday, January 17, 2010

which is scarier?

Editor's intro: "Myleene Klass, the broadcaster and model, brandished a knife at youths who broke into her garden — but has been warned by police that she may have acted illegally."
--Roya Nikkhah of the (London)Telegraph


"The Federal Communications Commission is considering aggressive moves to stake out its authority to oversee consumer access to the Internet, as a recent court hearing and industry opposition have cast doubt on its power over Web service providers."
--opening line of story by Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Friday, January 15, 2010

strong candidate for best concluding paragraph we know

"Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."
--George Elliot, Middlemarch

“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that it is
--Emily Dickinson

Saturday, January 9, 2010

who wants to be a trillionaire?

As recently as 1980, the Zimbabwe dollar was worth more than the U.S. dollar, but by January 2009, Zimbabwe had degraded its money to the point where it was forced to issue a $100 Trillion bill that was worth about US $30.

Unlike the branches of a tree, the network of veins in a typical leaf is full of closed loops. Even after a visit by a hungry insect, no part of the leaf is cut off from the network, as shown in the top part of the figure. But is a leaf’s fractal-like form, with loops of various sizes, the best possible network for resisting that type of damage, or might a different loop-filled structure be better? And is the hierarchical structure the optimum for any other criterion? Marcelo Magnasco (the Rockefeller University, New York) and colleagues sought to find out. Using a mathematical model that assigns each vein segment a cost proportional to its capacity raised to a power γ, they looked for the networks with a given total cost that suffered the least average strain under two sets of circumstances. First, they looked at damage to a randomly chosen vein segment. Second, they considered the case of a fluctuating load, in which the amount of fluid to be delivered to each part of the network varied in time and space. (Real leaves do sometimes need to handle fluctuating loads. So, more obviously, do most human-built networks.) They found that for low values of γ (results for γ = 0.1 are shown in the figure), both cases yielded hierarchical networks of loops, qualitatively similar to real leaves

we hold this right to be inalienable

"After all," said Clare, "they had a right to happiness."

We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighborhood. Mr. A., had deserted Mrs. A. and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B., who had likewise got her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was certainly no doubt that Mr. A. and Mrs. B were very much in love with one another. If they continued to be in love, and if nothing went wrong with their health or their income, they might reasonably expect to be very happy. It was equally clear that they were not happy with their old partners. Mrs. B. had adored her husband at the outset. But then he got smashed up in the war.

It was thought he had lost his virility, and it was known that he had lost his job. Life with him was no longer what Mrs. B. had bargained for. Poor Mrs. A., too. She had lost her looks—and all her liveliness. It might be true, as some said, that she consumed herself by bearing his children and nursing him through the long illness that overshadowed their earlier married life. You mustn't, by the way, imagine that A. was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he'd sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. "But what could I do?" he said. "A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came."

I went away thinking about the concept of a "right to happiness."

At first this sounds to me as odd as a right to good luck. For I believe–whatever one school of moralists may say—that we depend for a very great deal of our happiness or misery on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn't, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to get good weather whenever you want to have a picnic.
* * * *
The real situation is skillfully concealed by saying that the question of Mr. A.'s "right" to desert his wife is one of "sexual morality." Robbing an orchard is not an offense against some special morality called "fruit morality." It is an offense against honesty. Mr. A.'s action is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

Our sexual impulses are thus being put in a position of preposterous privilege. The sexual motive is taken to condone all sorts of behavior which, if it had any other end in view, would be condemned as merciless, treacherous and unjust.

Now though I see no good reason for giving sex this privilege, I think I see a strong cause. It is this.

It is part of the nature of a strong erotic passion—as distinct from a transient fit of appetite—that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. No doubt all our desires make promises, but not so impressively. To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of the beloved will confer, not merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence all seem to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the very thought of such a doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.

Unfortunately these promises are found often to be quite untrue. Every experienced adult knows this to be so as regards all erotic passions (except the one he himself is feeling at the moment). We discount the world-without-end pretensions of our friends' amours easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last—and sometimes don't. And when they do last, this is not because they promised at the outset to do so. When two people achieve lasting happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also—I must put it crudely—good people; controlled, loyal, fairminded, mutually adaptable people.

If we establish a "right to (sexual) happiness" which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while the bad behavior is real and works miseries and degradations, the happiness which was the object of the behavior turns out again and again to be illusory. Everyone (except Mr. A. and Mrs. B.) knows that Mr. A. in a year or so may have the same reason for deserting his new wife as for deserting his old. He will feel again that all is at stake. He will see himself again as the great lover, and his pity for himself will exclude all pity for the woman.
* * * *
[T]hough the "right to happiness" is chiefly claimed for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter should stay there. The fatal principle, once allowed in that department, must sooner or later seep through our whole lives. We thus advance toward a state of society in which not only each man but every impulse in each man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will—one dare not even add "unfortunately"—be swept away.
--C.S. Lewis

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

teach the children well

Because I write about politics, people are forever asking me the best way to teach children how our system of government works. I tell them that they can give their own children a basic civics course right in their own homes.

In my own experience as a father, I have discovered several simple devices that can illustrate to a child's mind the principles on which the modern state deals with its citizens. You may find them helpful, too.

For example, I used to play the simple card game WAR with my son. After a while, when he thoroughly understood that the higher ranking cards beat the lower ranking ones, I created a new game I called GOVERNMENT. In this game, I was Government, and I won every trick, regardless of who had the better card. My boy soon lost interest in my new game, but I like to think it taught him a valuable lesson for later in life.

When your child is a little older, you can teach him about our tax system in a way that is easy to grasp. Offer him, say, $10 to mow the lawn. When he has mowed it and asks to be paid, withhold $5 and explain that this is income tax. Give $1 to his younger brother, and tell him that this is "fair". Also, explain that you need the other $4 yourself to cover the administrative costs of dividing the money. When he cries, tell him he is being "selfish" and "greedy". Later in life he will thank you.

Make as many rules as possible. Leave the reasons for them obscure. Enforce them arbitrarily. Accuse your child of breaking rules you have never told him about. Keep him anxious that he may be violating commands you haven't yet issued. Instill in him the feeling that rules are utterly irrational. This will prepare him for living under democratic government.

When your child has matured sufficiently to understand how the judicial system works, set a bedtime for him and then send him to bed an hour early. When he tearfully accuses you of breaking the rules, explain that you made the rules and you can interpret them in any way that seems appropriate to you, according to changing conditions. This will prepare him for the Supreme Court's concept of the U.S. Constitution as a "living document".

Promise often to take him to the movies or the zoo, and then, at the appointed hour, recline in an easy chair with a newspaper and tell him you have changed your plans. When he screams, "But you promised!", explain to him that it was a campaign promise.

Every now and then, without warning, slap your child. Then explain that this is defense. Tell him that you must be vigilant at all times to stop any potential enemy before he gets big enough to hurt you. This, too, your child will appreciate, not right at that moment, maybe, but later in life.

At times your child will naturally express discontent with your methods. He may even give voice to a petulant wish that he lived with another family. To forestall and minimize this reaction, tell him how lucky he is to be with you the most loving and indulgent parent in the world, and recount lurid stories of the cruelties of other parents. This will make him loyal to you and, later, receptive to schoolroom claims that the America of the postmodern welfare state is still the best and freest country on Earth.

This brings me to the most important child-rearing technique of all: lying. Lie to your child constantly. Teach him that words mean nothing--or rather that the meanings of words are continually "evolving", and may be tomorrow the opposite of what they are today.

Some readers may object that this is a poor way to raise a child. A few may even call it child abuse. But that's the whole point: Child abuse is the best preparation for adult life under our form of government.
--Joe Sobran
"I wouldn't trust a man who would sell out his friends."

"Dumkopf -- who else can you sell out? You can't double-cross an enemy." --

--Maxwell Smart

It is often forgotten how "legal" the Nazi regime in Germany really was. It did not take power in a violent revolution, but entered government through the entirely "legal" procedures of the time. The "legal" vote of the "legally" elected Reichstag gave Adolf Hitler the powers to rule by decree, thus imparting strict "legality" to the actions of his government.

Indeed, there were several cases when those who felt the government had overstepped the bounds of law in a particular instance actually took the Nazi regime to court, and won. Why? Because the government was bound by "the rule of law." And the fact is, almost the entire pre-Nazi judicial system of the German state remained intact and operational throughout Hitler's reign. The "rule of law" carried on.

Of course, as the Nazi regime plowed forward with its racist, militarist, imperialist agenda, this "rule of law" became increasingly elastic, countenancing a range of actions and policies that would have been considered heinous atrocities only a few years before. This trend was greatly accelerated after the Regime -- claiming "self-defense" following an alleged "invasion" by a small band of raiders -- launched a war which soon engulfed the world.

Naturally, in such unusual and perilous circumstances, jurists were inclined to give the widest possible lee-way to the war powers of the state. After all, as one prominent judge declared, the war had pushed the nation “past the leading edge of a new and frightening paradigm, one that demands new rules be written. War is a challenge to law, and the law must adjust."

-- No, wait. I must apologize for my mistake. That last quote was not, in fact, from a German jurist during the Nazi regime, but from a ruling issued this week by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- one of the highest courts in the land. The quoted opinion -- written by the legally appointed Judge Janice Rogers Brown -- was part of a sweeping ruling that greatly magnified the powers of the government to seize foreigners and hold them indefinitely without charges or legal appeal.
--Chris Floyd

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy

(click to enlarge!)

In praise of this depiction, Chesterton writes: “When [Blake] gets the thing right he gets it suddenly and perfectly right… We feel that the sons of God might really shout for joy at the excellence of their own portrait”
--G. K. Chesterton on William Blake

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

There may have been a time in the world's history when such moments [of decision] fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are, individually, very bad men.
--C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

from the journal of William Clayton on building a temple in Nauvoo

original floor plan, Nauvoo temple

The labors of the day having been brought to a close at so early an hour viz; half past 8, it was thought proper to have a little season of recreation, accordingly, Brother Hans Hanson was invited to produce his violin. He did so, and played several lively airs, among the rest some very good lively dancing tunes. This was too much for the gravity of Brother Joseph Young, who indulged in a hornpipe, and was soon joined by several others, and before the dance was over several French fours were indulged in. The first was opened by President B. Young with Sister Whitney and Elder H.C.Kimball with Sister Lewis. The spirit of dancing increased until the whole floor was covered with dancers. After this had continued about an hour, several excellent songs were sung, in which several of the brethren and sisters joined... After dancing a few figures, President Young called the attention of the whole company, and then gave them a message, of this import, viz; that this temple was a Holy place, and that when we dance, we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. He said the wicked had no right to dance, that dancing and music belonged to the Saints.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Because nothing says "you're a loser" more than owning a motivational poster about being a winner.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see the final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.
— from the Preface to The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Why I Believe (Richard Bushman)

For reasons I cannot completely explain to those who have not embraced LDS doctrine, I have not abandoned my beliefs after forty years of scholarship. I believe in the gold plates, the translation, and the angels, just as I did when I sat in I.B. Cohen’s office [an eminent professor at Harvard who gently informed him as an undergraduate that many people thought LDS beliefs were “pure garbage”].

I am impressed with the fact that Joseph Smith published this immensely complex book [of Mormon] when he was just twenty-four. He had little education, had not attended church as a boy, could scarcely write a letter according to his wife, and yet produced 588 pages of sermons, prophecies, and history that most experienced authors would be hard-pressed to match. * * * No build-up of any kind can be found to the Book of Mormon—no preliminary drafts, no attempts at other kinds of literature, no wide reading that we know of. Joseph Smith dictated the entire work in less than ninety days, going on page after page without interruption or review of what was written. His wife, who watched him while he dictated (and took down some of it herself), said no manuscript was in sight. It all came from the mouth of this plain visionary farmer.

While I consider the very existence of the Book of Mormon an intellectual puzzle that scholars have yet to explain, in the final analysis the marvels of the book are not the reason I believe. I don’t think you can build a life on a few intellectual reasons. My real reasons for believing all these years are more abstract and more powerful. The fact is that I find goodness in my Latter-day Saint life that I find nowhere else. When my mind is filled with scripture, when I speak to the Lord in prayer, when I comport myself in the way of Jesus, I am the man I want to be. I feel wisdom, concentration, compassion, and comprehension to a degree beyond anything I have known as a scholar or a teacher. I do everything better under the influences that radiate from the Latter-day Saint religion. I am a better father and husband. I give more to my children, I connect with the poor and needy, I counsel my student more truly, I am more unselfish. Moreover, I like what the religion does for my fellow Saints, both longtime members and new converts. I welds us together into a community of mutual trust and aid. Latter-day Saints, in my experience, are people of goodwill. They give to each other and to worthy works of every kind. We care for each other the way Jesus said we should. These experiences in my own congregation have persuaded me that nothing is more likely to improve the world than conversion to the beliefs I have treasured all my life.

As a scholar, I know full well the doubts of agnostics. I know that the scientific worldview, now dominant among intellectuals, appears to exclude traditional belief. I have dealt with the arguments against belief all my life. But over against these, I place my own intimate experience of goodness among the Latter-day Saints. I do not see how, as a rational man, I can give up what I have known directly and powerfully for the messages of doubt coming from distant authorities in the realms of science and philosophy. I feel like the disciples who were asked by Jesus in a crucial moment, “Will ye also go away?” And they replied, “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)

remember this poem?

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.
--Leigh Hunt