Friday, October 22, 2004

John Kerry is so nuanced, he isn't.

... because he doesn’t really understand nuance. Nuance for its own sake it simply mental indecisiveness and abject moral capitulation. It is what Chesterton described as "using mental activity to achieve mental helplessness." Such will often be the case for those who think Intellect is self-contingent and moral in and of itself (IOW, rationalism). For that reason I don’t think John Kerry is all that sharp either. A man who cannot make up his mind might not have one. At any rate, he, like Al Gore, strikes me as decidedly lightweight.

Nuance enables us to figure out a practical way to achieve an ideal goal, or at least begin the movement in that direction. But the ideal comes first. Other than getting his strange self into the big chair, John Kerry has no ideals. The real masters of nuance are people like the Apostle Paul, who for his ideal -the sake of the Gospel- became all things to all men. Another would be Churchill, who, for the purpose of achieving the destruction of Hitler, was very subtle and nuanced ("If Hitler invaded Hell, I should at least make favorable reference to the devil in the HoC").

I would include Bush in that category because he understands that the Moral must trump the Intellectual, or we will ultimately lose both. Nuance must pay its way, like everything else. History will record that Bush made many understandable mistakes in achieving his One Great Thing -continuing the clumsy but forward march of freedom. But Bush, the Man in the Arena, has dared mighty things, and shall know either real victory, or real defeat. In the event of the latter, the final victory will come through at the hands of others.

And the critics will be carping all the way, before they are consigned to a proper oblivion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Extraordinary ...

This both amazing and strangely cool, and yet, very disturbing too.

One of the three columnists in my Holy Trinity of Punditry, Mark Steyn, has had a column spiked by the UK's Telegraph. Apparently, he was too Churchillian British for Tony Blair's (Not So) Brave New Britain?

There are many kinds of courage in the world. In fact, like C.S. Lewis, I agree that courage is really every virtue at the point of testing. I am not going to say that Steyn has the kind of courage / virtue my cousin - a gov't contractor in Baghdad who has been under fire from mortars three times since I found out he was there and started emailing him- has, although Steyn it must be noted has been to Iraq, and bravely took a look at the situation for himself. But he has clearly demonstrated a kind of intellectual and moral courage that is much needed in this time too.

So it is amazing in that war really does bring out the best (and the worst.) In Steyn, it has manifested not just the "vision of clear seeing" of which he is so marvelously possessedm but the will to stand by it as well, even if it gets a column yanked. It is cool because Steyn is someone I admire, and this event only enhances that admiration.

And it is disturbing because I had not yet gotten a full handle on just how soft the "Dianysian" Brit elites were. One of the great and yet disturbing things about democracies is that democratic nations have the the leaders they want, or at least are prepared to tolerate. So leaders are a reflection to the world of their people and their weaknesses and other characteristics. I think this is also true, and maybe far truer, of more than just democracies or even governemnts / politics in general.

I have recently become convinced by discussions with a Brit of my acquaintance that even if the muslim imams were to preach against jihad as "war with the infidels", they wouldn't last long because the Muslims have the teachers and the teachings they want. Indeed, it is all but certain that the Arab Street has what it wants, because they kill what they don't want, if it within their presently puny power to do so. And we are at war precisely because, in the age of WMD and in light of the fact that genius can turn up anywhere, only a puny few of them have to get lucky and poof! there goes Chicago.

If the above is so, and I think it likely, we are dancing around an unpleasant truth: that we, the nation that more out of necessity than anything else invented religious tolerance, find ourselves at war with a religion. And that it's a war to the death. Steyn, in another column, was right: Daniel Pearl's killers weren't trying send a political message. Pearl's severed head, and every severed head since, is the message.

P.S.- Lest anyone think I intended insult, I am aware that the Brits number many brave people among them, and that many of them are in Iraq and elsewhere now. But it is disturbing to see this lack of clear thinking on the part of Britain's leaders. I am sad for Bigley's family. But as Steyn points out, "in this war the point is not whether you’re sad about the dead people, but what you’re prepared to do about it."

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Damn you, John Kerry ...

Apologies today, but I am ticked. I'll repent later.

I did not watch the debate, for reasons I will not go into now, except to say that I might watch a real debate.

But, now I almost wish I had, just to hear Senator Kerry reveal his true self, and one of his deepest "core" convictions.

KERRY: "Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense.

You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, "You can't have nuclear weapons," but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.

Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation."

And that, you pasty, cadaverous reliquary of moribund leftism is why you do not belong within 100 miles of the White House. I congratulate you on being able to insult the entire nation in such a succinct summation. It is something in which are clearly practiced.

Let me hack away the nuance and translate what Kerry just said:

"America with nuclear weapons is the same thing as Saddam with nuclear weapons."

THAT is the "MIXED MESSAGE". America is no better than Ba'athist Iraq. The President is no better than Saddam. No wonder the thugs of this world have thought for thirty years that we didn't have the confidence in our civilization to defend it.

And THAT is the real John Kerry. The twenty-years-in-the-Senate-opposing-every-weapons-system, purile pacifist, sucking-up-to-commie-tyrants John Kerry. To hell with you, sir. Damn your self-righteous leftist, nuclear freezenik, appeasement mentality, moral equivalency arrogance. If you can't tell the difference between a civilized nation with nuclear weapons, and a two-bit thug (with a demonstrated proclivity for using WMDS on innocents) with nuclear weapons, then all your education has made you slightly less intelligent than a bag of rocks. To hell with you, I say.

Somewhere down the line, if we don't build the little low-yield nukes, we may have to use the big city killer nukes, and that will be good for no one. Not us. Not the people we use them on, and not the rest of the world.

As the Derb puts it, where the good guys are concerned:


Update: Hugh Hewitt is hosting a symposium on this and has link to this post. Many thanks. I only regret I have nothing more than an indignant screed to offer at this time.

Right now, as far as conservative talk radio (Radio Free America, I calls it) goes, Rush is king, and then the best of the best of the rest are three Californians: Hewitt, Hedgecock, and Medved, each for various reasons. Hewitt holds second alone, in part because he has Mark Steyn on occasionally. Hedgecock is Rush's undisputed ace reliever. And Medved often hits me with stuff that wows me and provides fodder for many cognitive meanderings.

But in all cases, Rush can be proud of his "progeny". They simply rock.

Further Update: I am trying to contribute to Hewitt's Virtual Symposium here.

Monday, September 13, 2004

How the meek will inherit the earth.

Speaking of Spengler, as I did in my previous post, keep pumping out those children believers. For truly, we are inheriting the earth.

For a number of reasons, which should be obvious to those who know a bit about me, I found this article a joy to read, and Mr. Longman's religious bigotry worth several good chuckles.

This is Spengler's review of Longman's Faith, fertility and American dominance

Rapid aging followed by depopulation on a scale not seen since the collapse of the Roman Empire threatens the modern world, writes Phillip Longman, an American journalist. Buried inside his book is the startling forecast that America's evangelical Christians will breed themselves into a position of global dominance. That idea horrifies Longman, who spends most of his pages hatching schemes to prevent this from happening.

In Longman's view, modernity itself is to blame for the population debacle. "Those who reject modernity," he argues, "seem to have an evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons, or Muslims who remain committed to large families."

Having looked into the abyss, Longman proposes to save modernity from itself through tax incentives favoring larger families, an unconvincing approach. But he at least has taken the trouble to notice that modernity is consuming itself. A few sound bites give the gist:

Germany could easily lose the equivalent of the current population of East Germany over the next half-century. Russia's population is already decreasing by three-quarters of a million a year. Japan's population meanwhile is expected to fall by as much as one-third.

By mid-[21st]-century, China could easily be losing 20-30% of its population per generation.

Fertility rates are falling faster in the Middle East than anywhere else on Earth, and as a result the region's population is aging at an unprecedented rate. It took 50 years for the United States to go from a median age of 30 to today's 35. By contrast, during the first 50 years of the 21st century, Algeria will increase its median age from 21.7 to 40.

With deaths exceeding births by well over half, current projections show Russian population will fall by 29% by 2050.

Longman cannot make up his mind as to whether economic disincentives or existential despair account for collapsing birthrates. He offers an economic explanation as follows: In traditional society children were an asset, a source of cheap farm labor in the present and the equivalent of a pension later on. In the modern world, children are a cost. Because parents and non-parents both will receive pensions paid by the next generation, no individual has an incentive to make sacrifices to bring the next generation into the world. In the absence of economic incentives to reproduce, "Faith is increasingly necessary as a motive to have children."

Longman contemplates the future with trepidation:

... Where will the children of the future come from? They will come disproportionately from people who are at odds with the modern environment ... or who, out of fundamentalist or chauvinistic conviction, reject the game altogether.

P-Prof: Okay, I'm going to interrupt here. Let me just translate a couple of words in that last quote. Fundamentalist = anybody who doesn't take God with a wink and a nod. A serious believer. Chauvinistic = Patriotic.

And now back to your regularly scheduled brilliance.

And again:

This much is sure: The uneducated have far more children than the educated, and the religiously minded generally have bigger families than do secularists. In the United States, for example, fully 47% of people who attend church weekly say that the ideal family size is three or more children, as opposed to only 27% of those who seldom attend church.

Longman is right about the correlation between faith and fertility, but wrong about the cause. Mortal existence is intolerable without the promise of immortality. Animals breed and foster their young out of instinct; humankind does so in the hope that something of our mortal existence will survive us in the continuation of our culture and the remembrance of our children. Longman believes that the religious continue to reproduce because the Bible or Koran so instructs them. Religion in the broad sense means hope of immortality. By reducing culture to a hedonist's shopping basket of amusements, modernity destroys the individual's hope for immortality, and with it his incentive to create a new generation of humans.

On this point I wrote last year (Why Europe chooses extinction, April 8, 2003):

Suicidal behavior is common among (for example) stone-age tribes who have encountered the modern world. One can extend this example to Tamil or Arab suicide bombers (see Live and let die, Asia Times Online, April 13, 2002). But the Europeans are the modern world. Have the Europeans taken to heart existentialism's complaint that man is alone in a chaotic universe in which life has no ultimate meaning, and that man responds to the anxiety about death by embracing death ... it bears on a parallel development, that is, the death of European Christianity. Fifty-three percent of Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, compared with 16%, 14% and 13% respectively of the British, French and Germans, according to a 1997 University of Michigan survey.

The implications of this trend appall Longman, who warns, "Such a trend, if sustained, would drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, and gradually create an anti-market culture dominated by fundamentalist values." This conclusion appears driven by prejudice. One may deplore or admire US evangelicals, but it is hard to argue that they will create an "anti-market culture". No one admires free enterprise more than American Christians, and one might conjecture that the growing proliferation of their denominations in Asia, Africa and Latin America will lend impetus to capitalist development.

The United States will adjust painfully to its aging population, argues Longman, and the concomitant aging of the countries whence the US now recruits immigrants will make it harder to compensate for declining native fertility. What worries him most, however, is that rising fertility among US evangelicals will shift the balance of power towards the religious.

Seem far-fetched? Not since the fall of the Roman Empire has the world ever experienced anything on the scale of today's loss of fertility. As sociologist [and Christian apologist] Rodney Stark demonstrates ... at that time Christians had marginally higher birthrates than pagans ... They also had better life expectancy ...The resulting demographic advantage, Stark argues, slowly transformed a marginal Jesus movement into the dominant cultural force of the Western world, as Christian communities gradually outbred and outlived their pagan counterparts. Demographic conditions today suggest that a culture transformation of similar proportions may be in store if secularists increasingly avoid the growing economic cost of raising children, while fundamentalists of all stripes do not.

It costs today's US middle-class family more than US$1 million to raise a university-educated child, including more than $800,000 in lost wages, according to a study cited by Longman. He proposes tax incentives to families with children, but these seem tiny next to the costs. The reader must fall back on his argument that faith, not pecuniary calculation, will motivate today's prospective parents. The reproductive power of an increasingly Christian United States will enhance the strategic position of the US over the next two generations, leaving infertile Western Europe to sink slowly into insignificance.