Friday, April 29, 2005

Recommended Reading

New piece by VDH.
"Sometimes the caliber of a nation is found not in why it is liked, but rather in why it is not."
If you're not reading him every week - why not?

Vietnam, 30 years later, and how it compares to Iraq today. Thanks to the gentlemen at Argghhh!!!

Jonah Goldberg argues there's a place for faith in politics.

Christian facists? Stanley Kurtz explores the latest arguments in the ongoing culture debate. Religion, labelled as "the religious right," has increasingly become the target for leftist vitriol after it emerged that conservative Christians were a key component of Bush's re-election. This criticism has been increasingly bitter since it was discovered that the new pope, Benedict XVI, was indeed Catholic, much to the dismay of a loud few. Now Harper's Weekly, as Kurtz explains, has taken on the daring task of revealing "The Christian Right's War on America."

I have heard countless times, "Look at all the wars fought over religion." Well, I don't believe that contention to be correct, since the "religious" wars fought since the coming of Christ had more to do with politicians couching their desires in religious terms than with "my God is better than your God." More importantly, the twentieth century has taught us that the absence of religion is no better. The greatest genocides in human history occurred in societies where religion was forbidden from the public square. (Reference: Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union, esp. under Stalin; China, esp. under Mao; Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge; and Communist Cuba, among others.) It is situations where the prevailing ideology holds that nothing is sacred and man is supreme, that man's true inhumanity to man manifests.

Listen, religion is only as good as its adherents. Religious teaching and posturing can be used to whip its members into a murderous frenzy - or inspire its members to extraordinary acts of courage and sacrifice. Religion is a means, not an end. Like the printing press and the Internet, it is what one does with the means, not the means one uses, that is good or evil.

We Shape Our Buildings

"On the night of May 10, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again,and how, and when. We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than forty years in the late Chamber, and having derived very great pleasure and advantage therefrom, I, naturally, should like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity."
-Winston Churchill, 28 October 1943 to the House of Commons (meeting in the House of Lords).

Churchill Centre Notes: The old House of Commons was rebuilt in 1950 in its old form, remaining insufficient to seat all its members. Churchill was against "giving each member a desk to sit at and a lid to bang" because, he explained, the House would be mostly empty most of the time; whereas, at critical votes and moments, it would fill beyond capacity, with members spilling out into the aisles, in his view a suitable "sense of crowd and urgency."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

People Like This...

...are why we win wars.

Take a look at the above picture, taken in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. The fourth man from the right is the squadron commander, Douglas Bader.

Squadron Leader Bader lost both legs below the knee in a airplane crash in 1932. And he was back in the fight in 1940.

Dusty at Argghhh!!! said, this is why we win wars. We're just too blasted stubborn to quit.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Operation Eagle Claw

Twenty-five years ago today.

Thanks to Dusty at Argghhh! for the reminder.

P.S. To any Aussies and Kiwis out there - today is ANZAC Day. (Thanks, John!)
One of these days, I need to read up on Gallipoli and Vimy Ridge. Because those battles in the First World War started loosening the knot of the British Empire, and ultimately led to its demise. John provides an explanation.

P.P.S. Yes, I find a lot of cool stuff at Argghhh! You probably ought to save yourself a trip and just go there regularly.

Seen at the Corner

"Check the oil on the ICBMs." Jonah Goldberg: Putin says the collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest political catastrophe of the last century."

Some would say the creation of the Soviet Union was the greatest political catastrophe of the last century. And they would be right.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Glory of the Climb

"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
- Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'll Let Johnny Speak For Me

It's been one of these kinds of days.

(Picture from article by Derek K. Miller.)

Tomorrow is Friday, Lord be praised.

Recommended Reading

Andy McCarthy: Cutting Their Support
"For example, under American criminal law, circa 1993, a successful bombing could be punished with a term of life imprisonment and, once capital punishment was revived under federal law in the mid-1990s, by execution if the bombing had caused any deaths. The criminal code, however, contained no specific provision for bombing conspiracy. Thus, if a group plotted a bombing but was interrupted by effective law enforcement, the plotters had to be charged under the catch-all federal conspiracy statute (18 U.S.C. ( 371), which punishes an agreement to violate any criminal statute with a maximum five-year penalty (and no requirement that the judge impose any minimum term of incarceration at all). Such a term was grossly insufficient for a conspiracy to kill of tens of thousands."

Jonah Goldberg: B16 & Left-Wing Dreams
That said, there's still a good lesson for the American right and left to draw from Ratzinger's election. One of the most interesting aspects of his story is that he was, by all accounts, a liberal until the year 1968. But during student riots at Tübingen University, where he was teaching, he looked into the soul of the New Left and saw a deep void. "For so many years," he said in an interview years ago, "the 1968 revolution and the terror created — in the name of Marxist ideas — a radical attack on human freedom and dignity, a deep threat to all that is human."

John Derbyshire: Noether's Novelty
"Göttingen, though liberal by the standards of Wilhelmine universities, still balked at putting a woman on the faculty. David Hilbert, a broad-minded man who judged mathematicians by nothing but their talent, fought valiantly for Noether, but without success. Some of the arguments on both sides have become legendary among mathematicians. The faculty: "What will our soldiers think when they return to the University and find that they are expected to learn at the feet of a woman?" Hilbert: "I do not see that the sex of a candidate is an argument against her admission as a Privatdozent [that is, a lecturer supported from fees paid to him by students]. After all, we are a university, not a bathing establishment." (Aber meine Herren, wir sind doch in einer Universität und nicht in einer Badeanstalt. You can't help but like Hilbert.)"

A new Radio Derb, too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So Much For Campaign Finance Reform

Fan of McCain-Feingold? You may want to reconsider.

Bryon York discovered some interesting stuff as he reported in NRO:
"Although Democrats often maintain that their unprecedented outside-the-party campaign against President Bush last year, led by the so-called 527 groups, was a broad-based, grassroots effort, it was, in fact dependent in substantial part on just five donors: financier George Soros, Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, Hollywood mogul Stephen Bing, and the California investors Herbert and Marion Sandler. Together, they spent about $78 million in the effort to defeat the president — more than the $75 million in federal funds that each presidential candidate received to conduct his entire general election campaign."
"Anti-Bush 527s spent about $230 million in the effort to defeat the president — nearly two and a half times the amount spent by Republicans to reelect Bush."
"Next week the Senate Rules Committee is expected to consider the "527 Reform Act of 2005," sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain, which would impose on 527s the same contribution limits that now apply to other political-action committees. No longer would the groups be able to accept seven- and eight-figure, Soros-style contributions. And that will be the end of the 527s, at least as they existed during the 2004 campaign...Under the immutable laws of political spending, however, the money is already going elsewhere. And this time, it is likely to go to 501(c)(4) organizations, known in short as C4s, named for the subsection of the Internal Revenue Service code which allows their formation. C4s are allowed to engage in unlimited lobbying, and can also engage in partisan campaigning, as long as that campaigning is not the group's "primary" purpose, according to the law... C4s have an enormous advantage over the old-style 527s: They are not required to disclose their contributors."
"So now, after years of campaign-finance reform, we are entering an era in which a donor can give an unlimited amount of money to an unaccountable group without any public disclosure. "

Meanwhile, George Soros organized a well-monied group to discuss the future of liberal politics. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just have one question - what, if anything, do these people stand for?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Viva Il Popa Benedict XVI

Cardinal Jospeh Ratzinger elected Pope. (Just in case you missed it.)

April 19, 1775

The Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sung as a hymn at the commemoration of the Concord Monument
July 4, 1837

Ten Years Ago Today


I remember first hearing of the bombing, sitting in class on a beautiful April Day. Much like the later attack on September 11th, the magnitude of what happened took a while to sink in.

Even though justice has now been rendered, the questions remain. The motivations of Timothy McVeigh are known, but the reasoning behind killing so many as a mere act of protest boggles the mind and rends the heart. They cast themselves as patriots, but proved themselves mere murderers. For while they did kill a few members of the ATF, they managed to kill many more secretaries, janitors, and children.

Their "revolution" was pointless, and worthless.

The aftermath has been a testament to the hardiness of human souls, and the city has risen to the challenge. They reminded us that by moving forward we defy the dark souls within, as New York reminded us how to defy the evil without.

Human Spirit Triumphed in Oklahoma City.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Seven-Story Freak Wave = Bad Thing

This happened over the weekend.

The cruise ship Norwegian Queen, headed from the Bahamas to New York, while traveling through 40-foot seas was hit by a seven-story-tall wave and was forced to head into Charleston, S.C. for repairs. The wave reached as high as deck 10 on the ship, breaking windows, washing overboard deck funiture and Jacuzzis, and flooding 62 cabins. 4 passengers suffered minor injuries.

The ship has now safely returned to New York. While the ship was never in any real danger, the freak wave did scare a lot of passengers. I can see why.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Baby Oc
Alaska Sealife Center/Associated Press

Aging octopus finally a mom

Octopi. Such strange and facinating creatures. Creepy and cool at the same time.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Some Chicken! Some Neck!

Churchill Quote of the Week (from the Churchill Centre):
"When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone, whatever they did, their Generals told their Prime Minister and his divided cabinet that in three weeks, England would have her neck wrung like a chicken - Some chicken! Some neck!" -- Speech made to the Canadian Parliament on December 30, 1941. Following this speech the famous Karsh photograph was taken.

BC Splendor

Above, BC Rail Budd Cars at Mons, BC. Picture by Brian Ambrose at PNWR.
Below, BCR helpers at Nairn Falls, BC. Picture by Nathan Holmes at DRGW.NET.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Province's Great Enterprise

The end of operations for the Royal Hudson, shown below in "Pride of the CP," precedes and presages the fall of its operator, the British Columbia Railway.

In order to understand what happened, a bit of backstory is necessary. (See here for that.)

In 1974, the province decided to go into the tourism business, running an excursion train from Vancouver to Squamish. To pull the train, they found the 2860, a former Canadian Pacific steam engine that had avoided the scrapyard only to be hung up in museum limbo. The province purchased the locomotive and started up the excursions, and the 2860 became the only steam locomotive in regular daily service in North America.

The locomotive was a source of pride both to the railroaders and the community, as the operation was truly unique. As long as it was in service, the locomotive never looked anything less than gleaming, and the excursion service was very successful.

But it would not last. To be continued...

For further reading:

The PGE/BCR Special Interest Group
The Exploration Place
Canadian National

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Seen at NRO

"...Sen. Robert Byrd — that actual former Klansman and towering titan of southern gothic asininity..."
Jonah Goldberg, "Filibuster"

By the way, check out "Radio Derb."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Pride of the CP

For your consideration - the result of when craftsmanship and machinery meet.

The Royal Hudson.

She makes all the other locomotives jealous. Or she did. Whether she'll ever run again is up in the air, but that's another story for another time.

Friday, April 08, 2005

He Stood Alone

Picture from the Library of Congress online exhibition, Churchill and the Great Republic.

One of my personal heroes is Sir Winston Churchill. No saint, not perfect by any means. Life dealt him several heavy blows; his ambition sometimes got the better of him; he contended with depression all his life - his "black dog," as he called it. But however ugly it got, Sir Winston refused to give up.

Forced into political exile by 1930, Churchill refused to give up and retire. Instead, he fought on, for his country and for himself, and when the Second World War came, he stood up and took the helm.

Through the dark days of 1940, when England stood alone against the Nazi onslaught, Churchill led his nation and steeled them with his words. And eventually led them to victory - although just before its conclusion, he lost the office of Prime Minister.

Churchill became a master of the English language, wrote extensively, and can claim the title of the greatest orator of the 20th Century. His words still inspire, still hearten, still gladden.

So I now proudly introduce what will hopefully be a running weekly Friday feature: the Churchill Quote of the week.

Churchill Quote of the Week: "War of the Unknown Warriors"
"This is no war of chieftains or of princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast numbers, not only in this Island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this war, but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a War of the Unknown Warriors; but let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age."
- Sir Winston Churchill, BBC broadcast, London, July 14, 1940 (Courtesy the Churchill Centre)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

In Case You Missed It

Jay Nordlinger today in NRO:

"And here's Sen. Barbara Boxer, on John Bolton, Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: "He's been very contemptuous of the U.N." Well, no sh**, senator. And you haven't? You weren't contemptuous when Saddam Hussein's government chaired the nuclear-disarmament committee? You weren't contemptuous when Qaddafi's Libya and Assad's Syria chaired the human-rights committee? You're not contemptuous that China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and other beauts sit on that committee?

"You weren't contemptuous when the U.N. stood by as thousands were slaughtered in the Balkans? You haven't been contemptuous at the U.N.'s performance in Rwanda, and Congo, and Sudan?

"Liberalism used to mean something — e.g., opposition to tyranny and lies. And now? Opposition to George W. Bush seems most important."

Amen, Jay. And I'll be hanged if I know what to do about it. We'd all be better off - on both sides of the aisle - if there were a few more Zell Millers and few less Robert Byrds in today's Democratic Party.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Man in Black Takes to the Rails

Johnny Cash and trains. A winning combination in any book. Sweet.


Actually, I've been looking for this. Several of the flip clips in "Hurt" are from this special. And it was a labor of love - Cash always had a facination with trains. The production of the film involved several different location shoots.

It's got Johnny Cash singing train songs as only he can. I'm so there.

It's a mighty rough road from Lynchberg to Danville...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Jonah Goldberg's funny


From Jonah Goldberg's latest:

"How frightening! The scrotal-tightening horror of such a prophesy fills me with dread. Indeed, if this were an Airplane! movie, a giant spear would fly through the room and stick in the wall behind Lloyd Bridges for extra dramatic emphasis. Thwaauunnnggggg!!!!!

"And I should be careful about characterizing the Florida legislator’s idea as moronic, relying as I am on Krugman’s version of events — and not just because he picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue."

The Polyamory Movement

Riding the coattails of gay marriage advocacy, here comes polyamory.

Basically, it's the practice of being in more than one romantic relationship at a time, and apparently they can be either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

And the idea has captured the attention of denizens of academe. As Stanley Kurtz has discovered, there is now a movement to mainstream polyamory, to make group marriage legal.

More on this at The Wasatch Front.

P.S. Interesting discussion on marriage as an institution here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Empire Builder Derails

The Portland section of Amtrak's Empire Builder derailed near Home Valley, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge, at 9:30 AM PDT yesterday morning. The train's locomotive and all four cars derailed.

115 passengers were aboard. One was airlifted to a Portland hospital, one was admitted to the hospital in nearby Hood River, Oregon, and 24 more were treated and released.

More at The Pacific Slope Extension.

The Ending of an Age

With the passing of Pope John Paul II this weekend, another key figure of the ending of the Cold War leaves the stage.

The Pope spelled out the Cold War's spritual dimensions, holding the enforced atheism of Soviet dominion immoral and unholy. He added a moral dimension, and lent further weight to Ronald Reagan's and Margret Thatcher's points that Communism was not merely different, not merely a different path to the same goal, but wrong and a contravention of everything good and noble in men.

Of the triumvirate, now only Lady Thatcher remains, still a class act and a steely resolve. Hopefully, she'll be with us a while yet, for I believe the time is soon coming when her voice and resolve will be needed again.

But the stage is being cleared, and the next great struggle of ideas has begun. Can a pluralistic democracy survive the threat of Islamic-based facism? Can this threat be blunted by the encouragement of democratic reforms in the Middle East?

Only time shall tell. While I suspect Reagan and the Pope already know the answer, Lady Thatcher and the rest of us will have to wait for time to flow in its own, patient way.

Friday, April 01, 2005

VDH: "Don't Stop Now"

Another excellent VDH column is up at National Review Online.

Some choice lines:

"...we need to reflect on a few often-forgotten realities... America had few alternatives. This war was never between good and bad choices, but always a call between something bad and something far worse."

"Only democracy was new. And only democracy — and its twin of open-market capitalism — offered any hope to end the plague of tribalism, gender apartheid, human-rights abuses, religious fanaticism, and patriarchy that so flourished within such closed societies. It was not just idealism but rather abject desperation that fueled the so-called neoconservative quest to try something new."

'The next problem we face is not that we have pushed democracy too abruptly in once-hostile lands, but that we have not pushed it enough into so-called friendly territory. It is, of course, dangerous to promote democracy in the Middle East, but more dangerous still to pause in our efforts, and, finally, most dangerous of all to quit before seeing this bold gambit through to its logical end — an end that alone will end the pathologies that led to September 11."

To quit now is to concede the war. And the thousands we have lost will not forgive us if our resolve fails now. The most dangerous choice we can make is not to try.

America is not perfect - in honesty, we never really have claimed to be. I do believe we offer the best way - that a constitutional republic, respecting and guarding the rights of the individual and ruled by law, not men, is the fairest form of government by which corruptible men can govern themselves. Our current status in the world commands that we advocate our ways, that we encourage liberty by all the ways we can.

If we quit, we will fail both ourselves and our posterity, and the shame will follow us for generations. If we try and fail, we will at least know we are not cowards. If we succeed, what wondrous things may come...