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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 »

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 »

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 »

Swift boat this

Posted by Ron Coleman on November 11, 2008

In honor of Veteran’s Day, and because I’m traveling today, I’m reposting this September 29, 2007 item that’s relevant to the day — RDC:

Instapundit links to a story about proposed legislation to punish people for falsely claiming to be decorated war veterans.

It sounds like a bad idea, and who know where it could lead? What if someone claims, say, he was a on a secret-hush-hush mission that was, say, “seared in his mind” — but which didn’t happen at all? Shouldn’t claims of never-existed war crimes by fellow soldiers be similarly against the law? All three types of lies are meant to leverage real or imagined military service for political or personal gain, after all.

What about someone who really earns medals… and throws them away?

Here, in all seriousness, I’m probably just a “free speech advocate.” Let liars lie, even about war medals, just as they lie about war adventures and other things. The facts will out. They always do.

Posted in Americana, Past is prologue | 1 Comment »

Quo posterus (part one)

Posted by Jack on November 3, 2008

History is full of ruined nations – nations that rose upon their summer blush to heights of great and sometimes incredible power, only to fall back in winter to an early, quiet, or a continuously shallow, complacent grave. In the course and passage of history this is the way of things. The way things have always been, and the way they shall always be. Or is it?

Rome rose, benefactor of, and contender with, both the Greeks and the Jews, then fell, eventually in both the East, and the West, at the hands of barbarian hordes, yet in both spheres it gave birth to Christendom. Eventually Christendom rose from babe to maiden and gave birth to Europe. The peoples of Europe then in their various turns delivered up the Age of Exploration, like Christendom less a nation than a worldview of nations. And although Christendom is not thought of anymore as a political sphere of influence, it still exists, and in many ways is far more widespread and influential across the globe that at any point in her past.

There are no more colonies or lands to explore or stake by ship or sea, yet Europe too still exists, and might even be mighty in our own day had she not squandered all her virtues in the countless and often ill-conceived and vice-filled wars of those squabbling tribes we moderns now call nation-states. The Age of Exploration that Europe fathered likewise gave birth to many things, including eventually the realms of the Americas and onwards from there to our present home, to the United States of America. What then will the United States of America give birth to? What will we bear and what will we parent? And will what America generates replace her, or merely continue on along beside her, she and her children running parallel and co-prospered through future time?

In the United States we often see ourselves as the culmination of the inexorable grind of the forces of

At anchor

At anchor

historical progress. And so we are, although as with all things, all events, all ages, all nations, all peoples, we are as full with our own, and sometimes indistinct and unobserved flaws, as we are pregnant with untapped, unexplored, and unexploited potential. But we sit upon the pinnacle of history at this point in time, at this age of modernity. Uneasily we sit, but then again we have always sat uneasily upon the height of power, for we have a different view of the responsibilities, and benefits, and luxuries of power than most any other nation has ever had in the history of the world.

And because of this we are different, in many respects, in many important respects, than any who have come before us, be they Babylonian, Persian, Chinese, Greek, or Roman, or Jewish, or Frank, or French, or Italian, or German, or even Byzantine or British (those with whom we have shared the most in common politically and militarily in respect to our view of the world, and our place in it). Our work in history is different, is less easily defined, more nebulous, and yet in some respects more vital than any who have come before us along the path of recorded time.

We are Judeo-Christian in our spirit, Greek in our philosophy, Roman in our pragmatism and methods of administration and expansiveness, British in our technologies, German in our innovation and science, Byzantine (in both the good and bad senses of the term) in our politics (both internally and externally) and military capabilities and apotheosis of warfare, European in our laws, and unlike anyone else at all, ever, in the profound nature of the immense amalgamation of peoples, civilizations, languages, and ideas and ideals which formulate and comprise our culture.  And yet within this body, this unlikely organism of various and assorted traits we are also — at our soul — wild-men, frontiersmen, people along the edge of the world. What can you say of such a people other than they are a marvel the likes of which has never before been observed, and that they are a danger unlike any other peoples who have ever existed?

Yes, the United States of America is indeed a danger. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Americana, Heart and spirit, Past is prologue | 5 Comments »

“Slouching Towards Obamalon”

Posted by Jack on October 26, 2008

(With apologies to Yeats).

The center turns, and like a slow and feral worm does crawl
This way, and then that, as intent upon its unconsidered course
As any carrion byrd wandering upon unseasoned currents;
Mere change is loosed upon the world, and with it everything
Is promised best when most wanted promises are made
To still the restless waves which beat upon the shores
That everywhere men go they drown away in innocence
The claims to independent gain with aid of rich lucre lost;
The right lacks all conviction, while all the others do seethe
With the accumulated wait of full and firm intensity.

Revelations of the way to come do litter outwards to the press
Of those who clamor now for more, their brightest dreams
So very like a fall of man, painted fresh a Second Coming;
The Second Coming now at hand! Hardly can those words be whispered
Than a vast image on the world does fall, and lingers there
A shape, indistinct and yet foreshadowed, predicting a unipolar Party;
Where before were two there is now one alone and sole unfettered
The better to make ruin undisturbed by challenge wrought
When we had our chances in the desert and wandered aimless here
To find the Gost of our Times has given birth to naught;
‘Ware what you wish when you wish for your warnings,
We have been swallowed by the past, not given omens of the future,
And what untested beast, its hour derived again at last
Slouches towards Washington to be born in dread?

Posted in Heart and spirit, Past is prologue, Politics and Poker, Sisyphus | 2 Comments »

Terror is as terror does

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 19, 2008

Don’t make me do this!: The North Koreans say they’re going to rev up their nuclear reactor because the United States hasn’t moved fast enough for its totalitarian taste on a disarmament-for-aid agreement:

It is the first time the communist nation has confirmed a reversal of steps taken since last year to disable its nuclear program because of Washington’s refusal to quickly remove it from a U.S. terrorism blacklist.

And no wonder, either, seeing as how the North Korean government is, here, demonstrating that it is indeed terroristic.  Is there a more precise example of terrorism than this?  “Give us what we want when we want it or we’ll do dangerous things.”

Maybe they will have their reactor cooking in time for that famous North Korean winter.  Can’t eat anything a reactor makes, though.

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

The City

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 11, 2008

Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village–the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up. The summer traveler swings in … and as [his car] glides above the pigeon lofts and back yards of Queens looks southwest to where the morning light first strikes the steel peaks of midtown, and he sees its upward thrust unmistakable: the great wall of sand towers rising, the smoke rising, the heat not yet rising, the hopes and ferments of so many awakening millions rising–this vigorous spear that presses heaven hard….

The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger that a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimidation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition. All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer who might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.

It used to be that the Statue of Liberty was the signpost that proclaimed New York and translated it for all the world. Today Liberty shares the role with Death. Along the East River, from the razed laughterhouses of Turtle Bay, as though in a race with the spectral flight of planes, men are carving out the permanent headquarters of the United Nations–the greatest housing project of them all. In its stride, New York takes on one more interior city, to shelter, this time, all governments, and to clear the slum called war. New York is not a capital city–it is not a national capital or a stage capital. But it is by way of becoming the capital of the world. The buildings, as conceived by architects, will be cigar boxes set on end. Traffic will flow in a new tunnel under First Avenue. Forty-seventh Street will be widened (and if my guess is any good, trucks will appear late at night to plant tall trees surreptitiously, their roots to mingle with the intestines of the town). Once again the city will absorb, almost without showing any sign of it, a congress of visitors. . . .

The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes halfway, home of all people and all nations, capital of everything, housing the deliberations by which the planes are to be stayed and their errand forestalled.

A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long-suffering and much-climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I thing: “This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.” If it were to go, all would go–the city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.

E. B. White, Here is New York (1949) .

Posted in Americana, Heart and spirit, Homo sapiens, Metropolis, Past is prologue, Sisyphus | Leave a Comment »

Bad for the Jews

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 1, 2008


JOHN MCCAIN: Bad for Israel?

Not quite.  Not unless you believe that the opposite — “good for Israel” means (1) being against the Iraq war and wishing Saddam Hussein were still around, because his loss as a counterweight has empowered Iran more than his removal has made the world, and the region a better place; and (2) the few policy decisions of the Bush Administration, which would presumable have been made and whose like would yet be made by a McCain Administration would not have happened under an Obama Administration.

Both of these propositions are highly debatable.  As to the first, it wasn’t that long ago that, when the Iraq War was widely “recognized” by smart opinion as a dumb, losing proposition, it was Israel’s fault that it happened in the first place — the “neocons” were handmaidens for the Zionists.  Now winning it was dumb, because it’s bad for Israel!  Not quite blame the Jews, but an interesting variation.

Regarding the second, Jeffrey Goldberg would have us believe that something like the following would never, ever happen if the Party of Carter were back in the saddle:

Recall that it was Bush who insisted, over then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s strong objections, that Hamas participate in elections in Gaza and the West Bank.  This was part of Bush’s brilliant neocon-inspired plan to democratize the region.  To state the obvious, that turned out badly for Israel too, and Hamas is now in control of Gaza and becoming a graver threat to Israel every day.

We’re supposed to believe that this dovish, idealistic policy would never come out of Barack Obama’s White House?

Israel today is in more peril than it was eight years ago.  In fact, it is in more peril than it has been since at least the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and perhaps even since its War of Independence.  So color me skeptical that Bush’s policies have been “good for Israel,” as the refrain in my community goes.  It is unfair, of course, to assume that Israel’s situation today is the result of Bush’s policies merely because they have coincided with his terms in office.  So let’s not assume; let’s look.

Like a good Zionist, Goldberg looks everywhere for Israel’s disastrous state but the most obvious place:  Israel.  The vast majority of its awful policy decisions, whether in terms of defense, international relations, tactics, economics and domestic policy, are not in any way decided or even on the radar on Pennsylvania Avenue.  They are the result of a string of breathtakingly incompetent governments purporting to run a depressingly corrupt kleptocracy to please an obsolescing and self-loathing elite that lacks the will to even purport to lead a confused and mainly unmotivated populace that obsesses on a slim minority of practitioners of its own religion in its midst as the bogeyman that explains its existential hopelessness.  A preposterously irrational and self-destructive foreign policy is almost besides the point and is hardly a surprise — but a secular Zionist can hardly be expected to wrestle with this honestly when there are Republicans to blame and election in the air.

Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain will do anything about that, nor can they.  But to suggest that there’s anything about Obama’s election that would be good for Israel is to believe that Jimmy Carter and Jim Baker really have Israel’s “best interests” in mind as they sell it down the river with “tough love.”  Don’t buy it.

Posted in Medialites, Past is prologue, Sisyphus, Stragety | 8 Comments »

The lights go out in Georgia

Posted by Ron Coleman on August 10, 2008

It’s not even close:

U.S.-allied Georgia called a unilateral cease-fire — “We are not crazy,” said President Mikhail Saakashvili — and claimed its troops were retreating Sunday from the disputed province of South Ossetia in the face of Russia’s far superior firepower. Russia said the soldiers were “not withdrawing but regrouping” and refused to recognize a truce.

The tactical reality is completely besides the point, actually. The Georgia adventure will always be remembered as Putin’s Grenada: An opportunity to rationalize a strategically meaningful, but far more symbolically significant, local annoyance into a mismatched demonstration of new resolve, a shaking off of reluctance to utilize force, and an opportunity for cheaply-bought national pride. For Putin, it is all that and more, seeing as how his project is so essentially revanchiste, and the ongoing existence of Georgia both as an independent state and a putative American ally is an ongoing poke in the eye to his neostalinist dreams.

Roger Kimball’s article (via Glenn) comparing the McCain and Obama statements on the situation also demonstrates nicely how, like the Grenada invasion, the Putin war on Georgia has the quality of distilling a wide range of political and moral realities. So many Cold War moments do.

Cross-posted on Dean’s World.

Posted in Euroids, Oppression, Past is prologue, Politics and Poker, Stragety | 2 Comments »