November 2009


Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection. . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions. . . .

— George Washington, 1789

It has been a difficult year in many ways, but I fear that we often lose sight of the fact that we live in what is, without doubt, the wealthiest society in the history of the world.  We have much for which to be grateful.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, delivered on November 28, 1861 during the Civil War.

(Thanks James for letting me plagiarize.)

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Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false.  . . .  And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy.  If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual.  But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of the state or civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 74-75

Berlin-WallTwenty years ago today, I sat in front of the TV with my dad, watching the Berlin Wall fall.  It was one of the defining moments of my youth.  He had served in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the early ’70s and had walked along the wall, seeing first hand the division it represented.  That night, we sat watching the events unfold, and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.  Seeing my father’s reaction more than anything else impressed on me the enormity of the changes unfolding in Eastern Europe.  I hope we never forget that we defeated a real enemy in that war, not just a philosophical paper tiger.

It took the courage and insight of an entire generation to defeat that evil.  While the war may not have been as obvious, these heroic men and women defeated an evil just as nefarious as the Naziism defeated a generation earlier.

It is a tribute to Reagan’s moral and strategic determination, as it was to everyone else who played their part in bringing down the Wall, that they could see through the sophistries of Soviet propagandists, their Western fellow travelers, and the legions of moral equivocators and diplomatic finessers and simply look at the Wall.

Why the Berlin Wall Fell, WSJ.com (Nov. 9, 2009)

My children likely will not understand.  It will be just so much ancient history—like Vietnam, WWII, the British Empire, Rome and the Pharaohs.  Already the memory is fading.  But, in case anyone needs reminding, communism is not merely an alternative political lifestyle, it is evil.

Considering the enormity of what it commemorates, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That’s a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.

The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin’s victims is 40 millionPol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia’s Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.

Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.

Not by coincidence, yesterday’s dedication took place on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Back then, the smart set (and some of his own advisers) said he was a fool for seeking to bring the communist nightmare to an end. Inasmuch as he led the free world in doing so, the memorial is also, inescapably, a tribute to him.

— On the dedication of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Wall Street journal – June 13, 2007.

Mrs. Begum’s biggest challenge is not what the sea level may do in five or 10 decades. She has a more modest request: “It would be a heaven’s gift if a proper drainage system could be arranged in this area where all the drains are covered and do not overflow.”

Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.

For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: “When my kids haven’t got enough to eat, I don’t think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about.”

— Bjørn Lomborg, Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh, WSJ.com

Best political cartoon.  Ever.

Reagan-Digitised-Poster Png-1

[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

— John Quincy Adams, U. S. Secretary of State, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on July 4, 1821, in celebration of Independence Day.

Ineffective counsel causes death row inmate to default on his ineffective counsel claims.

You have to admit that sometimes the law seems a little absurd.