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Transformed by the light

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 21, 2008

I wouldn’t necessarily hire Paul Greenberg as the rabbi for our shul, but he’s done a nice bit of work with this — appreciating Chanukah, and getting a pretty good grip on what it isn’t, from a perspective that should be appreciated across the Judeo-Christian spectrum:

In the glow of the candles, the heroic feats of the Maccabees have become transmuted into acts of divine intervention. The blessing over the candles recited each night of the holiday goes: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old.” Miracles, not victories.

At Passover, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is told with the same moral attached: It is He who delivered us, not we who freed ourselves. Freedom is a gift from God, not men.

Chanukah isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament. The swashbuckling stories of battles and victories have been relegated to the Apocrypha. A mere military victory rates only a secondary place in the canon. The victory is to be celebrated not for its own sake but for what it reveals.

One more violent confrontation has been lifted out of history and entered the realm of the sacred. A messy little guerrilla war in the dim past of a forgotten empire has become something else, something that partakes of the eternal.

The central metaphor of all religious belief — light — reduces all the imperial intrigue and internecine warfare of those tumultuous times to shadowy details. And that may be the greatest miracle of Chanukah: the transformation of the oldest and darkest of human activities, war, into a feast of illumination.

Hat tip to Lux Libertas.


Posted in Faith and Works, Heart and spirit, Oppression, Past is prologue | Leave a Comment »

Is comparing apples and oranges better than good analysis?

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 15, 2008

Apparently, Instapundit thinks so:

IS SELLING PEOPLE PORN worse than robbing them? Apparently, the Justice Department thinks so. Perhaps things will be better in this regard under the Obama Administration.

I sure hope not.  After the revolution I expect to still see Glenn online the 46 times a day I check his site.  This is notwithstanding the fact that, despite his considerable talent — and, of course, galactic power over the blogosphere and the personal lives of each and every one of us — he seems to be a sucker for awful comparisons.

A fruit is a fruit.

A fruit is a fruit.

This one is just ridiculous, based entirely on a Reason essay jumping off on the fortuitous juxtaposition  in a newspaper of two different sentences meted out to two different defendants with two different records by two different sovereigns in two different court systems by two different judges at the behest of two different prosecutors enforcing two different pieces of legislation aimed at addressing two different social policies.

Forget all that.  The rotten, crooked cop — who I would argue appears, without respect to any other sentence meted out to any other convict, to have been given a very light sentence — was not punished severely as the pornography seller with a record.

That proves… something!  Bush!  Religious zealot!  Go away!  Shoo!  Shoe!

It’s troubling enough that when it comes to his point of view about the social and policy utility of pornography, Glenn Reynolds throws his considerable analytical skills overboard to make a rhetorical point.  Of at least as much concern is his suggestion that this is a matter solely of political execution:  Not that a Democratic congress, which we have now, will agree with Glenn and weaken or revoke the laws against pornography — which it has been free to do for years — but that a Democratic President should, he suggests, instruct the prosecutors he appoints not to enforce those laws… or at least not without reference to how the local constabulary may be punished by state prosecutors for the sundry crimes its members may commit.

I’ve said this many times in these pixels:  This is not the way to argue in favor of a different policy.  It’s only a way of suggesting that you don’t really have such good arguments.

Posted in O Mores!, Oppression | Leave a Comment »

Facebook debate on Iraq

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 15, 2008

Ron Dean Esmay makes the one point about Iraq, the presidency and GWB and history that everyone’s all too willing to forget Twitter 2:01pm

Brian Gocial at 3:12pm December 14
I certainly hope you’re right that in the long-term invading Iraq will turn out to have good consequences. But I think the only way “history will not be kind to many of the so-called ‘progressives'” is if the United States Constitution is no longer the governing law of our country.
Judith Weiss at 3:27pm December 14
The people most likely to play games with the Constitution are Dems. For example, Obama wants to use the Supreme Court to redistribute income, which is not its job.
Timbo Jones at 4:29pm December 14
True, the Supreme Court is not supposed to do such things…which is why I guess the Bush administration doesn’t bother with such things when conducting unconstitutional acts.
Rhoads Hollowell at 4:46pm December 14
I am sorry, Ron, but the Project For a New American Century was an evil group from the start, and the end does not justify the means, even in this case.
Ron Coleman at 5:01pm December 14
Brian, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion on that matter!

Which were the objectionable means you have in mind, Rhoads? Humor me.

Rhoads Hollowell at 5:07pm December 14
attacking a sovereign country just because you think it would be a good idea, and then making up the justification so you could do so.
Ron Coleman at 5:15pm December 14
Well, I suppose if I accept all your false premises as true, I’d agree with you. Yeah, definitely evil.
Rhoads Hollowell at 5:17pm December 14
And if you believed in the concept of the rule of law, you would accept my premises as true. There was only one reason that the war in Iraq could ever have been judged as legal: that we did indeed find WMD. We did not. Therefore it was not legal under international law. My source for this is Dean Slaughter of the WWS, a source I think is reliable.
Ron Coleman at 5:34pm December 14
I must admit this is the first time I ever heard it suggested that legality of an act is to be determined based on ex post evaluation of whether certain facts assumed to be true ex ante are in fact true, regardless of what a reasonable person would have believed ex ante.

I knew it that this was the basis — along with taking causalities — for Democrats to decide whether or not they supported the war when it was going badly, but not whether it was legal in the first place.

There is a vast degree of opinion regarding the war’s legality:

As a general rule almost every opinion on the matter promulgated by an institution, person or other entity came to a conclusion that could be predicted based on that source’s political inclinations regarding the matter.

That doesn’t mean you’re wrong or that it doesn’t matter. It means the question is more complex than you suggest.

Brian Gocial at 6:55pm December 14
Preemptive war, manipulating intelligence, illegal wiretapping, torture, rendition, signing statements, executive secrecy, indefinite imprisonment w/o due process … there is nothing complex about the unconstitutionality of these “means.”
Stephen Ban at 9:59pm December 14
and yet, no further terrorist acts on US soil, and ample evidence that many have been thwarted. It’s a fascinating choice… “unlawful” (your words) and alive vs. self-righteous and dead… complex world out there, isn’t it?
Ron Coleman at 10:50pm December 14
Not only that, Stephen. “International law” is pretty much of interest to those on the outside looking in. Every single country in a position to project power on any level ignores international law when it is in its interest do so, including all the weak sisters of Western Europe. And not only decades ago, but whenever it works for tghem.

Brian, you are mistaking political sloganeering for reality.

Brian Gocial at 8:33am December 15

I only wish these serious issues were political sloganeering rather than reality …

But back to the point of your original post, history will be the judge of who is correct. Until then, we’ll each live in the reality of our own choosing.

Ron Coleman at 12:59pm December 15
Well, mentally anyway. Reality chooses us!
Pretty good stuff, and lots of anger still boiling. Still, it seems that great minds think alike:

History will one day credit Bush with patience, multilateralism and conviction. But right now, history is still being made. And there is a war to be continued and to be won.

Can you guess who said it?  No peeking!

Posted in Oppression, Orient, Past is prologue, Politics and Poker, Stragety | 1 Comment »

Have a judiciously jolly time.

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 14, 2008

Above the Law reproduces “A Lawyerly Holiday Party Invite.”

This invitation may vary depending on the laws of your state.

Posted in Jocularity, Lex scripta, Oppression | Leave a Comment »

Sing, you dirty bird! Sing!

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 10, 2008

I did!  I did taw a putty tat!

I did! I did taw a putty tat!


BLAGOJEVICH: “Vengeful and Profane.” Doesn’t sound like he’s going to get much support from the media, or fellow Democratic politicians.

Oh, but what “help” might he provide?

My first inclination was to think that perhaps we have here a new James TraficantDefiant and all.  But then I thought better of it, for if Mr. Fitzgerald the prosecutor has even half of what he claims he’s got on Blagojevich, the Illinois governor is very dead meat — but has far, far more to sell than Traficant ever did.

It seems likely that Blagojevich knows, well… everything about the seedy underside of Illinois politics.  Everything.

Did that link say “vengeful”?  This could be a very, very warm winter on the shores of Lake Michigan!

Posted in Lex scripta, Oppression, Politics and Poker | 2 Comments »

Just don’t say you’re “sick”

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 8, 2008

Calling in “gay”:

Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to “call in gay” Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it’s wise to encourage skipping work given the nation’s economic distress. . .

“We want to get the conversation going in the community that gay is not bad,” Craig said. “For kids to hear that in a positive light can be life-changing.”

The irony is that the people who think they’re all about openness, tolerance, understanding, communicating, and open channels utterly don’t get it.  As I argued a couple of weeks ago, “we’re” not “anti-gay.”  We’re not against them.  We don’t remotely think they’re “bad.”  We are their friends.

We — people who, for example, may have supported Proposition 8 — just don’t agree with their political agenda, we don’t accept their perspective of how what they want politically is a “right,” and we aren’t prepared to turn over our culture (however much of it “they” are responsible for) to celebration, endorsement or even explicit acceptance of behavior that we believe in good faith is private, but either morally wrong, religiously forbidden or, for many of us, viscerally offensive.

They think we think they’re bad, or that they can’t do their jobs, or that we shouldn’t be friends with them.  They think we’re “against” them, but except to the unfortunate extent they have allowed their political goals to be coterminus with their persons, they are the ones who are mistaken.

It seems as if we really aren’t communicating at all.  And calling in “gay” isn’t going to start the conversation they want, because that isn’t the conversation anyone needs to have.

Believe me, I’m not obsessed with this topic, but someone is.  And that’s the point, too:  If you leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone regarding your private lives.  Just show up for work like the rest of us, dress as flamboyantly as you like or as straight as you like, and really, we won’t think you’re “bad” or anything.

It’s a lot simpler than you think.

UPDATE: Good sideways elucidation of the issues here, via Mox Ie.

Posted in O Mores!, Oppression, Stragety | 7 Comments »

Class war in Illinois

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 6, 2008

It’s a brave new world, and their favorite son is not even in office yet:

Which side are you on?

Which side are you on?

Workers who got three days’ notice that their factory was shutting its doors have occupied the building and say they won’t go home without assurances they’ll get severance and vacation pay.

About 250 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind. . . .

“We’re doing something we haven’t done since the 1930s, so we’re trying to make it work,” she said, referring to a tactic most famously used in 1936-37 by General Motors factory workers in Flint, Mich., to help unionize the U.S. auto industry.

Of course in ’36-’37, the country was actually beginning to recover from the double whammy of the Depression and the New Deal policies that deepened it.  The unionization of the auto industry probably didn’t help much, but with war in Europe brewing orders were picking up.  A year or two later, and the real shooting under way, factory orders were up enough that unionization seemed to work wonders for the economy!

Here in 2008, however, we’re almost certainly not at bottom yet, by a long shot, and no obvious new war is on the horizon, so the timing for union-orchestrated violence — and that is what this is — would appear less than brilliant.

So what is the thinking in the People’s Republic of Illinois?  Is organized labor so close to back in the driver’s seat, and the Big Three bailout so close to fruition after all, that a fantasy-based-union-bounty-based economy is upon us?   Is it that the era of President-Elect Obama means that Chicago is totally up for leftist power grabs?  A little of both?  Or was I wrong about the whole “here comes socialism” piece altogether, in a way that — let’s face it — none of us had guessed?

Posted in Gelt, Oppression, Past is prologue, Politics and Poker, Stragety | 12 Comments »

Leveraging terror

Posted by Ron Coleman on November 29, 2008

I made a point in a previous post that appears to have gotten obscured, and while I reiterated it in the comments earlier this evening, I subsequently saw another item (again via Instapundit) that seemed, in perhaps a somewhat roundabout way — to confirm it. Here’s what I said:

The terrorists “leveraged” Western victims in Mumbai. I use that term because 100 300 dead Westerners will have more impact in the West than probably many more hundreds of dead Indians. That is not how it ought to be, but look at what goes on in Africa, to the shock and horror of just about no one in America. Usually our thoughts are, if we notice such stories at all, “Well, those people are always killing each other over there.” It may be a less than ideal reaction, morally speaking, but I believe I am accurately describing the human condition, as I wrote last year when considering the “never again” myth.

So, now this:

And as Indian commandos ended the bloody 59-hour siege at the Taj yesterday by killing the last three Islamic gunmen, baby-faced Kasab was dispassionately detailing the background to the mayhem.

He described how its mastermind briefed the group to ‘target whites, preferably Americans and British’.

The direct victims of terror, really, are not the objects of the terrorism.  Rather the object is the survivors of terror.   But high-value survivors only yield the payoff if they notice, if they care, if terror scans on their screen at all.  Instapundit, tongue somewhat in cheek, grimly jokes that these Islamists weren’t just mass murderers, but — by modern lights — they were worse:  They were “racists”!

Of course they were, but, as I said above, that’s because, well, in a way, “we” are.

Posted in Homo sapiens, Oppression, Stragety | Leave a Comment »

Halloween’s over!

Posted by Ron Coleman on November 19, 2008


TO SAVE THE AMERICAN AUTO INDUSTRY, let Detroit go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, Katie Granju thinks that such talk is union-busting in disguise.

In disguise?

We don’t need no stinkin’ disguises!!

Posted in Gelt, Oppression, Stragety | Leave a Comment »

Princeton’s selective progressivism

Posted by Ron Coleman on November 12, 2008

Princeton University announced last month that Shirley M. Tilghman, the University’s president, will serve as “one of the founding trustees for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a new international, coeducational, graduate-level research university that is being created near Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, Jeddah.”

Isn’t that an odd choice for a high commissar in the higher education nomenklatura ?  We’re talking about the Shirley Tilghman described thus by Steven M. Warshawsky:

In Tilghman, the student radicals of the 1960s finally have succeeded in occupying the university president’s chair, not just his office.  Since becoming Princeton’s president in June 2001, Tilghman (who graduated from college in 1968) has pursued an activist feminist agenda to remake Princeton into a liberal paradise that even Kim Gandy would love.  Today, despite its long-outdated reputation as a ‘conservative’ Ivy League college (F. Scott Fitzgerald famously described Princeton as ‘the pleasantest country club in America’), Princeton is rife with political correctness, multiculturalism, and liberal groupthink.

Warshawsky, who graduated Princeton ten years later than I did, may perhaps lack the long view — the school was more or less what he described in the early ’80’s, in fact, when a fairly conservative president, economist William G. Bowen, presided over Nassau Hall.  Tilghman’s achievements are not so much in her politics, which are standard fare among college presidents, deans, administrators and the trustees who perpetuate this professional class of college royalty.  It is the manner in which she, the first non-alumnus president in the school’s recent history, has consolidated the management of everything Princeton, including the flow of information through organs once semi – independent (such as the Princeton Alumni Weekly), into the politically correct hands of the administration.  This aggregation and centralization of Princeton’s tax-exempt corporate empire is worthy of the best Soviet ministry builders… gloved in velvet, of course.

Princeton's Alexander Hall

Princeton's Alexander Hall

Still, his description is entirely correct:  As reminded on at least every third page of the Weekly, which essentially serves as a publicity vehicle for President Tilghman and features her face, her quotes or both on at least every fourth page, she is indeed entirely politically reliable, as is virtually all of her faculty.  So what could possibly make such a progressive and visionary woman agree to become a trustee for a Saudi college?  Engagement from the inside, that’s what!

“I have been very selective in taking on outside responsibilities, and I deliberated carefully before accepting this commitment,” Tilghman said. “Having devoted so much of my career to expanding educational opportunities for women, especially in the sciences and engineering, I decided that I should join with the other members of this board in encouraging the development of such opportunities in a region of the world where historically they have not been available.

“It was critically important to me that KAUST is committed to providing a Western-style education, to attracting students and faculty from around the world and from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, and to educating men and women from different religious traditions together,” she said. “In my view, these are important steps for Saudi Arabia, and as a trustee I will be carefully monitoring the university’s success in achieving these objectives.”

Well, that will be interesting.  I wonder which religious traditions are going to be allowed to drink the waters of scholarship in the deserts of Arabia at Jeddah?  As the writer of the Bedu Blog explains:

I have had queries from some readers wanting to know that since there are not cordial diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, whether those who practice the Jewish faith are in fact allowed into the Kingdom. I will share based on what I personally know. To begin with, when one completes a visa application to come to the Kingdom, one must designate (among other things) nationality, place of birth and religion. You may ask, why does one have to identify their religion on a visa application? This is due to the fact that only muslims are allowed into the holy cities of Makkah and Medina so as a result, ones visa (and subsequent iqama if applicable) will indicate whether one is a muslim or non-muslim.

In general, if one cites Jewish as their religion but not born in Israel or from Israel, then it is likely the visa will be granted. However the odds of a visa being denied increase if one was born in Israel. I am personally not aware of anyone who is a Jew and from Israel being granted a visa to enter the Kingdom.

Sounds fair, right?  After all, who are we to judge?  Sure, during my time on campus, we learned that the only possible strategy for dealing with the apartheid regime of South Africa was condemnation, divestment, disengagement and boycott.  But it’s different with Saudi Arabia, because.

And, the current dip in oil prices notwithstanding, I am every bit as sure that Dr. Tilghman’s view of the matter is not colored by the precipitous fall in the value of Princeton’s endowment, which the PAW describes as a “double digit drop” but this article estimates is more likely “down 25% or more since June 30 if they were to assign realistic values to their illiquid investments.”  Certainly the prospect of a gooey flow of black gold into those orange and black coffers for a change could not have anything to do with that liquidity crisis.

I suppose Saudi Arabia’s religious Jim Crow laws will not be a problem as long as the Muslim-only “holy cities of Makkah and Medina” aren’t the site of the next meeting of trustees of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or none of the diverse members of the student body needs, I don’t know, a book from a library there — oh, never mind.

UPDATE:  Nice point from Soccer DadRemember when Yale turned down a $20 million endowment because the donor wanted it to fund study of Western Civilization? The New York Times praised Yale at the time, “No self-respecting educational institution can allow an outsider — no matter how well-meaning or generous — to dictate its education priorities.” I wonder how they feel about a prestigious college – in this case Princeton – ceding its control, not to a generous donor but to a government that seeks to stifle free inquiry? My guess is that if the Times editorializes, it will ignore the restrictions the partnership with Saudi Arabia will impose on Princeton and praise the university for being open to new ways of thinking.

Posted in Gelt, Oppression | 8 Comments »