As I was moving out of my room, a student I know was going with a security guard to get into his room, which was locked at the time (He had forgotten a few things that he needed to get out of the room). While I was locking up my room, I overhear the security guard say, "You going to leave all the lights on like that?" (Bear in mind, this is over summer vacation.)

The student answered, "Sure, why should I worry about it? I don't pay the electrical bill, do I?"


What kind of ignorant $#!+ is that!? I knew he was a bit of a jerk before now, but what could possibly be going through the guy's mind to make him waste a ton of electricity (which the school is paying for) because he can't be bothered to turn off a lightswitch, while he can be bothered to make a smart-alecky remark about how much of a jerk he's being?


Anyhoo, time to get out of here. Shabbat shalom!


"You Will Never Find a More Wretched Hive..."

Over the next few days, I'll be in transit to the greater Washington D.C. area, where I have a summer school/internship program lined up. It's based from the Georgetown campus, and I'm really looking forward to it. All kidding aside (see title), I hope to be placed in some sort of government agency; but I'll know for sure once I get there (I hope).

Depending on where I do get placed, this blog could potentially get a LOT more interesting. Blogging will be light until I get settled in, but after that we'll see what happens. Cheers!

POSTSCRIPT [1:45 AM]: If you should happen to be standing outside of Penn Station on Sunday, and you see a giant U-Haul pull up and start unloading—that'll be me.

It really is amazing how much stuff can acumulate over a year, and I've already sent a huge box home by mail!


Gender in English

I have always been annoyed by those who dislike the word "man" in English, by which I mean those individuals who would rather have a "chairperson," a "congressperson," "all persons are created equal," et cetera, et cetera. Such constructions have no poetry, are incredibly flabby and grating on the ear, and disregard the weight of centuries of English rhetoric.

"Men" is a vigorous word, marching forward with the stride of a legionnaire. "Persons" is high-pitched and whining, has two syllables instead of one, and ends nearly inaudibly. Similar contrasts exist between "Man" and "Person." Compare the following (you might try reading aloud):

"Fight like a man." "Fight like a person."

"You ain't no kind of man." "You ain't no kind of person."

"Declaration of the Rights of Man." "Declaration of the Rights of Persons."

On the other hand, I can easily imagine that women would take offense at the proliferation of male language, given that English is largely neuter. One could compare it to a Jew listening to public declarations praising America's Christian charity, for example. So there is a problem to be dealt with.

Fortunately, there is a solution that does not involve watered-down language and weak, limp-wristed rhetoric. In Old English, the term "man" actually was gender-neutral. It had precisely the same meaning as "person" today, and it also included a collective sense lacking in the modern equivalent. The word for man was "wer" or "wére," surviving today in "werewolf." The word for woman was "wyf," which became "wife."

So here's a thought, which is shared by the author of the site I linked: what if we readopted "wére" in place of modern "man," freeing up "man" to return to its previous place of glory as a neutral word representing all of humanity? In one stroke, we would save the masterpieces of English rhetoric from the enervating influence of the Uberfeminist Censorship Committee, while at the same time solving the underlying problem once and for all.

There are a few practical problems, but nothing insurmountable. if "Negro" could be banished from the language in favor of "black" or "African American," I see no reason why "wére" cannot catch on. It's not as if English doesn't have any other homonyms or homophones, anyway.

I'm tempted to adopt the term on my blog for a few posts, and see what happens.


Declarations of War, Revised

As long as democracies have gone to war, there have always been those who argued that wars were prosecuted for selfish reasons, and were therefore illegitimate or evil. Anyone not living in a cave for the past few years knows exactly what I mean. In the Iraq example, many people have gone so far as to belittle the tangible good that the United States has done for Iraq and focus entirely on the perceived selfish goals of the Bush Administration, believing that our humanitarian work has been incidental and only to disguise our supposed exploitation of Iraq.

This is to be expected. The world has a long history of wars fought only for the benefit of the rulers and their hangers-on. War being such a terrible evil (though often the lesser evil), it is repugnant to the moral mind to allow wars to be fought without a clear idea of why they are necessary; yet the government has many tools at its disposal to influence the public to give its assent, in a case where they might not have done so otherwise. For this reason among others, many people have an instinctive distrust of government intentions in war. As our soldiers in Iraq know, this causes significant problems.

I think that one way to lessen the chronic mistrust of a wartime democratic government would be to rework the concept of a declaration of war. Presently, declarations of war serve only to put the opposing state on notice; they are practically redundant, and have not been used by the United States since World War II. Note that this does not mean that the legislature is no longer consulted; often bills are passed instructing the executive to use “any means necessary” to deal with the conflict at hand. (This absurd change of labels probably owes much to the U.N. Charter, which declares “war” illegal.) But there is no longer a routine, formal invocation of the world community as spectators. This should change.

I propose a new formula of declaration to be passed by the legislature, necessary in any case where one state sends an occupying force to another (not necessarily in war), consisting of three parts: first, laying out the reasons for sending troops, casus belli or otherwise; second, laying out the immediate goal of the troops; third, laying out in general terms the long-term program of the declaring state in the state to be occupied. This declaration must carry the force of law, both national and international.

This would make into a criminal act the prosecution of war for stated reasons known to the aggressor to be false. Note that incompleteness in stating reasons would not be inherently criminal, but lying in the declaration would be. The purpose would be to force a government to state an “official” reason or reasons for the war, which could then be judged on their own merits by the citizens or by the international world, independent of conjecture. Even if the true reason for war was different, the official reason must be able to stand on its own in the eyes of the public.

It would also clearly delineate the boundaries of military action at the outset, and make going beyond them illegal, unless another such declaration is passed. No more could the people say they did not know what they were getting into.

Perhaps most importantly, the long-term phase would be forced to conform to what had been openly agreed to by the legislature. This would calm those who fear naked exploitation or any other underhandedness, since such activities would now be devoid of any legitimacy.

Such a formula, if adopted, could help keep states honest. Any opposition party would salivate at the chance of arresting government officials for unauthorized war activity. If such an arrest were prevented, the invocation of international law would at least make the government into official pariahs, if nothing else. (I am skeptical, but there must be a fallback in case of abuse of power.) The declaration would also clear up much of the anxiety surrounding government motives in wartime, which can only be to the good. In any event, it would ensure that all major aspects of the war are consented to by the legislature, which would be a marked improvement over what we have now.


Quote of the Day

Leo Strauss responds to Marxist philosopher Alexandré Kojéve (previously Kochevnikoff, before he moved to Paris), who identifies the ideal world state as a homogeneous tyranny in which all citizens agree with each other, and with the tyrant, of their own free will:
[T]he Universal and Final Tyrant will [by definition] be an unwise man… To retain his power, he will be forced to suppress every activity which might lead people into doubt of the essential soundness of the universal and homogeneous state: he must suppress philosophy as an attempt to corrupt the young. In particular he must in the interest of the homogeneity of his universal state forbid every teaching, every suggestion, that there are politically relevant natural differences among men which cannot be abolished or neutralized by progressing scientific technology…. [T]his time, the cause of philosophy is lost from the start. For the Final Tyrant presents himself as a philosopher, as the highest philosophic authority, as the supreme exegete of the only true philosophy, as the executor and hangman authorized by the only true philosophy. He claims therefore that he persecutes not philosophy but false philosophers…. Kojéve would seem to be right although for the wrong reason: the coming of the universal and homogeneous state will be the end of philosophy on earth.
Leo Strauss, "Restatement on Xenophon's Hiero" in On Tyranny, pg. 210

Does this sound at all familiar? It should.



Last night I was privileged to attend a Tai Chi class given by my professor's teacher, Dr. Harvey Sober, a grand master. It was a very good class, and I learned a great deal. One of the members of the class had written a Tai Chi handbook that we used at the college, and the master was throwing him around casually during his demonstrations. It was something worth seeing.

At one point in the evening, Dr. Sober spoke about the importance of developing and maintaining your health. He teaches classes at my college, and said that if you ever wanted to see people in terrible health, you just had to come into the Beit Midrash (House of Study, with the connotation of studying Jewish law), or as he called it, "the Ward." There, you can see "eighty-year-old twenty-year-olds, and ninety-year-old twenty-five-year-olds."

My fellow college students and I knew exactly what he meant, of course. At the college, there are several different types of students. You can identify the hard-core Beit Midrash learners easily enough. They usually spend several hours a day in the Beit Midrash hunched over large books with very small type (aside from their regular university classes). Many of them do not exercise at all and eat poorly, and all of them get perhaps five or six hours of sleep a night—and it shows.

This type of student usually has very pale skin, and his head and shoulders are hunched forward exactly as if they were ninety-year-old women with osteoporosis. Often they have glasses of varying thickness, and most of them already have visibly receding hairlines. Their bodies are usually thin and flabby, and the skin of their fingers, arms and necks looks like it belongs to a senior citizen. Seeing these students for the first time, you would imagine them to be perhaps in their late thirties and in poor health.

That these students were ever allowed to think that they could destroy their bodies for the sake of their learning is a disgrace for the observant Jewish education system. According to the Rambam, we are obligated to guard our health and fitness, so as to better serve God with our bodies. Yet for some reason, this obligation is given short shrift even as more trivial minutia of the law are obsessed over. The result is that those students most knowledgable in Torah are in all likelihood the ones who will die soonest.

Something has gone very wrong with the Jewish concept of the ideal person, and I think we can identify the problem as far back as Talmudic times at least. In Biblical times, the leaders were not only teachers of the Law and prophets, they were also physically powerful. Jacob lifted a boulder that usually took many men to roll; his sons were powerful enough that two of them anihilated the city of Shechem. The prophets of Israel often led armies in battle, for example Gideon and Devorah.

More than that, the leaders were often musicians and poets. King David, the "sweet singer of Israel," is the best example. It seems clear that in those days, the leaders were expected to hold to a standard very much like that of the "whole man" of Greece, combining physical prowess, cultural refinement, mental development, and spiritual perfection.

By the time of the Talmud, something had changed. With the loss of sovereignty, martial prowess was no longer worthwhile. Indeed, the consesus now was that the study of Torah itself made one weaker, and that this was simply the price of being a scholar. Music was discouraged as lightheadedness, and poetry seemed to die out entirely until we had contact with Muslim culture centuries later. Study of the Torah and the law was seen as the only worthwhile pursuit for the leadership, though commercial activities were seen as practically beneficial and "secular" study was deemed necessary to properly interact with outside powers.

One vivid example of the new mindset: at one point, a major rabbi had been kidnapped by bandits. R' Yochanan, a leader of that generation, gave up hope and said that the women should begin weaving the funeral shroud. His associate, Reish Lakish (who before turning to Torah had been a bandit and gladiator), immediately got out his old weapons and said, "They may kill me or I may kill them, but regardless I will try to save the rabbi." He succeeded; but the tragedy of the situation was that it was even necessary for him to go alone. In a previous era, every other rabbi would have been standing beside him from the first moment.

We need to rediscover the ideal of the complete person, fully developed in all aspects, body, mind, and soul. To cripple the body through neglect as you seek to refine the soul is absurdity. Not only that, it is damaging to the nation as a whole. We are not not under the Roman occupation; we have our sovereignty back, and we need to act like it. We can no longer neglect the physical for the sake of the spiritual—if we ever could to begin with.


Bill Whittle Returns

Bill Whittle, the brilliant internet essayist, had taken a long hiatus from blogging. He's back now.

Go. Read. Send to all your friends. (Be warned, the essay is rather long.)


Today's print Wall Street Journal has a piece on its Arts and Culture page about the decline of opera. This is true both in the sense that fewer people are going to the opera in general, and that the operas they are going to are predominantly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modern opera is characterized by lavish productions that generally appear for one season and then vanish into the mist.

The author of the piece (I cannot remember his name, but he is the former director of a New York Opera company I think) blamed the music world's infatuation with atonal music. He noted that while the critics applaud atonality because it produces "challenging" music, everybody else just hears bad music. While other art media have had similar styles enjoy great popularity (abstract paintings, for example), music is diffferent. Most people want to hear something that sounds good, i.e. melodic music.

Phillip Glass, the piece notes, was the last modern opera writer to enjoy any prominence whatsoever. His work was unusual, but it was also unusually melodic; though you never knew quite where he was going, you always knew that Glass was going somewhere and that it would be a relatively continuous journey. And for the sin of not writing atonal music, the opera world has buried his works. They would rather put on "challenging" operas to empty houses than abandon their precious atonality. The customer is wrong here, the artist's vision is paramount.

I dislike atonality in general. A few years ago, as part of a college assignment, I went to a performance of works by students of Stefan Wolpe, an atonal composer. I think it was the first musical performance I attended where much of the audience wore tie-dye, faux-Third-World peasantwear, and Che Guevara shirts. (The overwhelming majority of them were over forty.) The other interesting thing was the contrast between the music of Wolpe himself, and the composers of the present generation. I wrote at the time:
I found it intriguing that Wolpe’s music was associated with that of the other composers, for although all of it was aggressively avant-garde and abrupt, I heard in Wolpe’s compositions a subtle structure and framework which seemed absent from most of the later composers’ works…. [M]uch of the later music seemed designed to induce suicidal depression or gastric ulcers in the listener, while Wolpe’s music was whimsical, vibrant and often quite humorous.
Later on, I wrote:
The music did not seem to be building up a progression to an event, but rather setting an evocative tone, a tone which in almost every piece seemed aimed at unease, instability, disquiet, and stomach-acid. The night struck me as a sort of group-flagellation; this impression was bolstered by the members of the audience, who for the most part spoke about the rallies they were attending or international politics and who read “The Voice of the Village.” The music seemed to be narrowly aimed at just this sort of people, antinomian, iconoclast[ic] and restless.
I think this is the problem. The musical establishment is producing pieces by and for people who do not see art as pleasurable pastime, or as cultured refinement, but as an expression of their all-consuming dislike for structure and tradition. Small wonder that modern opera is finding few takers; most people go out to have a good time, and expect to hear music and singing that they can enjoy. For much the same reason, modern "highbrow" classical music is dying off. It is populated almost entirely by the atonalists; composers who want to write melodically have instead been writing sound scores for movies, and increasingly video games.

It is no surprise that when most people listen to classical-style music, they listen either to the old masters or to movie soundtracks. Game soundtracks too are losing their stigma, and are becoming more and more popular. I cannot name a single modern "classical" composer after about the 50's; yet the names of John Williams, Danny Elfman, Hanz Zimmer and Jerry Goldsmith (to name a few) are known and loved by millions.

So the musical establishment is running itself into the ground. All right; wouldn't they eventually get the message? Not when their music has become an expression of cultural angst, rather than an end in itself. Plato complained that the musicians and poets of his day desired so much to please the audience with their music that they broke out of the musical conventions of their day and invented new forms (which to Plato's ear were inferior to the old—though he opposed most innovation on general principle). Modern-day "serious" artists, on the other hand, believe that breaking established conventions is their entire purpose, their raison d'etre. They are unlikely to change just because the unwashed masses think their work is terrible.

As an audience member, I am very displeased. These so-called "artists" have lost their way. Other forms of art can be enjoyable even if they are unconventional or abstract. But music depends on harmony, on the beautiful mathematics of ratios and intervals, on melodic lines building to glorious release. Music is also uniquely connected to the emotions. Harmony is pleasing; disharmony is nervewracking. I know what I prefer to listen to.


Kofi Annan on Iran

In response to the Iranian parliament voting to resume uranium enrichment, Kofi Annan has issued a warning—to the United States:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the Bush administration that the Security Council might deadlock if asked to punish Iran for its nuclear program… China and Russia, which have strong economic ties to Iran, might veto any push to sanction Iran, Annan suggested in interviews with USA TODAY. "Action or inaction will have a great impact on future cases and on our efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation," Annan said. A deadlock on Iran, he said, could embolden North Korea and future North Koreas.
So instead of having a deadlock in the Security Council, which would encourage proliferation, Kofi wants us to avoid the issue entirely, which will impress would-be proliferators with our steely resolve and steadfast commitment. Huh?

Granted that the Security Council will veto any attempt to get tough on Iran. Given that, Kofi would rather preserve the tenuous illusion of international solidarity rather than display for all the world to see that major powers are willing to cover for rogue states. Unfortunately, everybody knows what is really going down, and the absence of an official diplomatic headcount will change nothing. Indeed, if it becomes clear that Russia and China intend to oppose the West over Iran, then we could drop the polite fictions we have been hamstrung by and get down to business.

That is certainly the result I would prefer. But it is more dangerous in the short-term than the Kofi approach; it is probable that Kofi and those of like mind hope that Russia and China will shift their positions over time, and realign with the West on nuclear proliferation and other issues. If we have an open confrontation, this scenario becomes much less likely; but so long as there is no need to draw lines in the sand, Russia and China retain the option of changing their stances without losing face.

There are two key flaws in this approach. First, it assumes that we have time to wait for Russia and China. Given the advanced stage of the Iranian weapons program, that assumption is questionable. Second, it assumes that Russia and China have compelling reasons to align with the West against Iran. If anything, the reverse is true. A nuclear Iran would create a huge impediment to the growth of American power, and also supplies oil to China and buys weapons from both. On the other hand, if the theocroligarchy were to fall, America would almost certainly become the new power broker; hence, American influence would blanket the entire Middle East.

Neither China nor Russia want that. China especially seems to be gearing up for a fight in the near future, and Russia is quickly moving past its Weimar phase and into its Fascist phase. I believe it better for us to confront them now than to let things continue to simmer, while Iran moves closer and closer to a functioning arsenal.


The Power of a Dying Man

An Iranian mullah on his deathbed writes a letter to former President Rafsanjani, he who publicly called for Iran to aquire nukes and explode them in Tel Aviv. What is in the letter is absolutely astounding. I have nothing to say, other than that I hope Rafsanjani and all of his ilk spend eternity in horrific torment for what they have done.

Read a summary here. The original letter, in Farsi (I think), is here in case anyone can read it.


Wow... Just Wow...

Robert Byrd compares the ending of judicial filibusters to Haman's plot to kill the Jews!

Radioblogger has the audio, along with some remarks on the context. After listening to it, I can understand why everyone in the Senate looks permanently bored out of their minds. Sen. Byrd hasn't a single coherent thought in the whole rambling bloviation. But listening to Sen. Byrd say "Ahaas-yu-ei-rus" is worth the time. There is nothing I can possibly say that will do justice to the clip.

As an aside, I think that elected officials should be tested for aging-related neurological disorders. I'm not sure Sen. Byrd is playing with a full deck.


This Could Get Interesting...

British MP and tyrannophile George Galloway has been rather cross lately, after Senator Norm Coleman's committee investingating the Oil-for-Food mess accused him of accepting vouchers for 20 million barrels of oil from Iraq. After Galloway claimed that he had demanded to testify to the committee, Coleman responded by publicly inviting him to the hearing scheduled for May 17. Now, Galloway is taking him up on it.

Galloway had been a member of the Labour Party, but was thrown out after he accused Tony Blair of dishonestly prosecuting the war on Iraq, among other things. He then formed his own Respect Party, and won reelection against the black Jewish woman Oona King (a Labourite who supported the war) in a campaign that saw some really nasty racist politics in a district with a large Arab bloc. In at least one incident, Ms. King was assaulted by an Arab gang. Mark Steyn commented on election night that "I think there's no doubt that, under cover of "anti-Zionism", there's now an explicit anti-Jewish component to the political scene."

Galloway has a long history of kissing up to murderers and dictators, especially if they are anti-British, anti-American, or especially anti-Israel. George Orwell would have had a field day eviscerating him in print, I'm sure.

Galloway vs. Coleman. I hope somebody gets a good video feed, because things are going to be very nasty.



Some time ago, I first was directed to this "documentary" set in 2014 predicting how news would end up being produced in the Internet age. The main focus is on Google's automated news aggregator; but I'll let you see the rest for yourself.

The piece is becoming more and more pertinent, given that Google has occasionally used as source material websites promoting neo-Nazism, communism, and various extremisms, while at the same time refusing to include material from more conservative sites such as Little Green Footballs for alleged racism. Now Powerline reports that they're at it again. Apparently, someone is upset that Jews are holding Holocaust memorials in Germany. That someone also seems to approve of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Google's service appears not to mind.

There is too much data out there for any person to read alone. It must be organized; but organization implies evaluation. The gatekeepers of information will always be the true powers of the world.


Operation Matador

Belmont Club summarizes information about the ongoing battle in and around Qaim on the Iraq/Syria border, in which the Marines are crushing a large contingent of insurgents. More information at Fourth Rail; a second post is here.

It seems that having reduced most of the insurgent bases in Iraq proper, the US is finally starting to close down the supply lines from the border. A commenter on Fourth Rail speculates that all the diplomatic pressure on Syria in the past weeks has been in preparation for Operation Matador, to prevent the insurgents from escaping across the border. The Army has said that the mission was planned for some time, so this is very likely the case.

Actually, stop reading this post and go to The Adventures of Chester. He's been liveblogging the mission for some time. I'm headed there as soon as I post.



Sen. Clinton Finance Director Goes to Trial

I can't say I'm terribly shocked. I'm sure this sort of money laundering goes on all the time, in campaigns on all sides of the political spectrum. It really is absurd to try to categorize political donations; money is fungible, after all, and numbers in a ledger can easily be tweaked.

The rewards for cheating are high. Money is the lifeblood of political campaigns, and there is no way to change that. Even if all campaign donations were banned tomorrow, and were replaced by public debates and free airtime, "independent activists" would spring up to do the dirty work that campaigns need. Plato would say that a law that is being broken more often than not should be repealed, since it is ineffective and is only leading to contempt of the legal system.

That said, what David Rosen did was illegal. And I'm sure that this will complicate Ms. Hillary's ambitions for the presidency. The thing I find most alarming is that so many of the principal actors are also involved in securities fraud, defrauding charities, prostitution, and money laundering. Bad enough that the last President Clinton was connected to this sort of scum; do we really need a second one?


Quote of the Day

[R]ock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire—not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children's emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing. Rock gives children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later.
—Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, pg. 73 (softcover)


British General Elections

First line from Fox News's reporting:
Tony Blair won a historic third term as prime minister Thursday but his Labour Party suffered a sharply reduced parliamentary majority in apparent punishment for going to war in Iraq, according to projections based on exit polls.
Like hell it's punishment over Iraq. If it was, then most people would have defected to the Liberal Democrats, and not to the Conservatives, who were the biggest winners and who supported the war (albiet in lukewarm terms). According to accounts I've seen by Britons, the big issue is whether or not Britain will drop the pound, embrace the Euro, and join the political side of the EU. Blair has aggressively pushed the Euro, and most of Britain despises him for it.

Especially given the horrible economic performance by the big Eurozone countries, and given the horrible regulations they have to work under, Blair's chances of getting Britain to fully join the EU are smaller than Yossi Beilin's to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The next few years are going to be interesting for the Liberal Party, methinks. Especially since most of the party is actually anti-war, and cannot stand Tony Blair. I must say, his domestic policies are rather disgusting, but when the chips are down he was willing to go all the way in Iraq over the objections of his own party, and I and a lot of people respect him for it. I'm glad he was reelected at least, so that nobody could crow that he was punished over Iraq—um, never mind. (Stupid journalists...)


Sharansky is Done

A few days ago, Natan Sharansky, the conscience of Israel, resigned from Ariel Sharon's cabinet. I haven't been thinking a lot about it until today, partly because I didn't want to consider what it meant. But the truth will not go away.

So long as Sharansky remained in the government, there was hope. You could say that things are not so bad, that Sharon may yet see reason, that Sharansky thought that the situation was worth being involved in. But now that he has quit, there is no other conclusion than that the disengagement is a colossal blunder, and a betrayal of our people, our principles, and not least of the Palestinians who are being condemned to life under terrorists indefinitely.

I hope to God that Sharon is brought to his senses. I don't know what kind of stature Sharansky still has in Israel after over a decade in politics, but for many of us on the outside he represents Israel as it should be, unflinching in its principles and dedicated to serving God by spreading justice on Earth. Now he has finally given up on Ariel Sharon. What are we to think?

Perhaps this move will resonate more strongly in Washington. President Bush famously claimed to base his foreign policy on Sharansky's ideas; now let him show whether his principles will trump momentary convenience. I am sure that the disengagement could serve some short-term interests of America, and perhaps even Israel, but in the long run it is a terrible mistake and a mockery of justice to let Gaza sink deeper into the rule of the gun.

How can it be that we continue to put ourselves in such an absurd position? Yes, ourselves! Arafat is dead, Saddam is imprisoned, Lebanon is shaking free of Syria, Syria itself is desperately trying to avoid being next on the American hit-list… yet we make concession after concession to appease a band of murderers who survive now largely with our own money! What madness is this?

All we can do now is trust in God. We certainly cannot trust the government of Israel.


US Military Stretched Thin?

Apparently the Pentagon has described in general terms a classified report to Congress which states that our deployment to Iraq is straining our resources and may impede efforts to, ahem, respond to new threats (for example, Iran?).

My question is why such a report was issued now, and why, if it is classified, was a description given to the press? My only conclusion is that this must be part of a diplomatic game of some sort. We are signaling that we have no intention of expanding military operations any time soon, certainly not in the next year.

What is the purpose of doing so? Either we are trying to get certain countries to calm down, or else we might be trying to get them to overextend themselves in the mistaken belief of our weakness. I have no idea which is the case, nor do I know who the target is. But the timing of this strikes me as very fishy. We'll probably get a clearer picture of what's going on in a few months.


To What Purpose?

On several occasions now, I have written about the troubling tendency of American society to neglect the spiritual and focus on the material. Over the end of Passover I began reading Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind," and I am even more troubled. Bloom traces this mindset to the very philosophical underpinnings of our democracy, starting from Locke; worse, all we have to look forward to (according to prevailing philosophy) is the nihilism of the Nietzschian abyss, as the contradictions within Locke become more apparent.

At present, we are most concerned with creating material wealth and political peace and stability for the entire world, that being the way to achieve universal happiness (in theory). Very well; imagine this scenario. In perhaps twenty years, but certainly within the next century, we will possess the technology and manufacturing capacity to feed, clothe, house, educate, and entertain everybody on the planet in a manner scarcely dreamed of by the kings of old. Judging from current trends, by that time the greater part of the world will be ruled by democracies, and interstate war will become almost nonexistent.

So we will have achieved universal peace and prosperity. Then what?

How will we spend our lives? To what will we dedicate ourselves? What will animate our faculties, inspire our imaginations?

For the part of humanity that has banished the spiritual from their lives, we will begin to see a world out of "Fahrenheit 451," in which constant amusement is the order of the day. People will be frantically diverting themselves to avoid confronting their own meaninglessness and purposelessness. Indeed, we are beginning to see such a world today in America. Have we ever spent as much time and money on our own amusements as we do today?

What truly amazes me is that all of these existential crises that supposedly overthrow our very natures are predicated on philosophies that assume, as their first axiom, that God does not exist and that religion is mere superstition. Let us set aside for the moment the thought that such an assumption is incredibly arrogant, and amounts to a deification of the human intellect as final judge over reality. What these philosophers are saying, is that it is better to unflinchingly believe that there is no God, no meaning, no purpose in life, and then to accept the inevitable destruction of human society that must ensue, rather than to continue believing in God, virtue, and the good.

Yet if one simply believes in God, suddenly all of the angst and emptiness of modern life is swept away and replaced with the shining certainty of truth and virtue. Moreover, the prospect of universal prosperity presents no terrors to the spiritual mind; indeed, such a world is best suited for the cultivation of the soul, as individuals are at last freed from the necessity of endless daily labor.

And on what basis was it declared that "God is dead"? Because we cannot perceive a God? What absurdity. Indeed, as science continues to roll back the mysteries of the universe, it becomes harder and harder to believe that the universe, Earth, or humanity came about by chance. The sheer infinitude of factors that had to converge for humanity to exist awes the mind (to say nothing of the events of the Big Bang, which even the devout atheist Stephen Hawking admits were outside the bounds of physics).

(It is perhaps easier for Jews to believe in God because our own history is so wildly improbable. That we survive, and prosper, in circumstances in which every other people in history have simply evaporated, forces the conclusion that an unnatural factor is intervening. But regardless.)

Yet if the Western mind does not rediscover spirituality, if not actual divinity, we are doomed to the slow disintegration predicted by Tocqueville nearly two centuries ago. In a world of individualistic nihilism, why participate in society? Why have children? Why deprive yourself of instant gratification in search of moral refinement?

Much has been said about the imploding birthrate of Western Europe, and the explosion of the Muslim birthrate. Aside from the geopolitical implications, I believe that this shows clearly that in a Darwinian sense, atheism is a poor survival trait. Over time, atheistic societies will be swallowed up by theistic societies.

Which shall America be?