Archive for March, 2008
27 Mar 2008

Daily Leftwing Misinformation: “Blackwater Fever Named for US Company”

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The leftwing Inter Press Service (“Journalism and Communication for Global Change!”) is peddling an anti-US propaganda meme, which ignorant leftist blogs like Think Progress are eager to lap up.

The reality is that blackwater fever is a term for a commonly fatal and very long known complication of malaria, hemoglobinuria, a condition in which the destruction of red blood cells by the malaria parasites floods the victim’s urine with hemoglobin, causing it to appear dark-red or black, producing the name “blackwater fever.”

Iraqi doctors in al-Anbar province warn of a new disease they call “Blackwater” that threatens the lives of thousands. The disease is named after Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. mercenary company operating in Iraq.

“This disease is a severe form of malarial infection caused by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which is considered the worst type of malarial infection,” Dr. Ali Hakki from Fallujah told IPS. “It is one of the complications of that infection, and not the ordinary picture of the disease. Because of its frequent and severe complications, such as Blackwater fever, and its resistance to treatment, P. falciparum can cause death within 24 hours.”

27 Mar 2008

For Liberals, Charity Begins and Ends at the Legislature

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George Will discusses the liberal approach to charity: “Let’s have the government make George do it.”

Residents of Austin, home of Texas’s government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences, if they do say so themselves, and they do say so, speaking via bumper stickers. Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, has commuted behind bumpers proclaiming “Better a Bleeding Heart Than None at All,” “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty,” “The Moral High Ground Is Built on Compassion,” “Arms Are For Hugging,” “Will Work (When the Jobs Come Back From India),” “Jesus Is a Liberal,” “God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts,” “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Republicans Are People Too — Mean, Selfish, Greedy People” and so on. But Willett thinks Austin subverts a stereotype: “The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses.”

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government. …

Reviewing Brooks’s book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin — it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide — is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America’s 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks’s data about disparities between liberals’ and conservatives’ charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America’s richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon — a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.” Brooks, however, warns: “If support for a policy that does not exist . . . substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others.”

In 2000, brows were furrowed in perplexity because Vice President Al Gore’s charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. But Gore “gave at the office.” By using public office to give other people’s money to government programs, he was being charitable, as liberals increasingly, and conveniently, understand that word.

26 Mar 2008

CEO’s Gift to College Has String Attached

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Charlotte Observer (3/23):

As a college student in Chapel Hill, John Allison stumbled across a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and was hooked by her philosophy of self-interest and limited government. As he rose over the decades to chief executive of BB&T, one of the country’s leading regional banks, Rand remained his muse.

He’s trying to replicate that encounter through the charitable arm of his Winston-Salem-based company, which since 1999 has awarded more than $28 million to 27 colleges to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective. But on at least 17 of those campuses, including UNC Charlotte, N.C. State and Johnson C. Smith University, the gifts come with an unusual stipulation: Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is included in a course as required reading.

The schools’ agreements have drawn criticism from some faculty, who say it compromises academic integrity. In higher education, the power to decide course content is supposed to rest with professors, not donors. Debate about the gifts, which arose at UNCC this month, illustrates tensions that exist over corporate influence on college campuses.

UNCC received its $1 million gift pledge in 2005, but details about the “Atlas Shrugged” requirement came to light as the school dedicated an Ayn Rand reading room March 12.

“It’s going to make us look like a rinky-dink university,” UNCC religious studies professor Richard Cohen said Thursday after UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the faculty council about the gift. “It’s like teaching the Bible as a requirement.”

Dubois, who learned of the book requirement this month, says it was ill-advised. He may ask Allison to reconsider it, he told faculty.

Allison has been surprised that the gifts can generate controversy. He says he simply wants students exposed to the late author’s ideas, which he believes the academic community has largely ignored. He welcomes opposing ideas.

He also points out that the schools approached the foundation, not the other way around.

Yale bent over backwards (as it were) to negotiate a deal allowing the administration to save face while accepting an alumni gift to endow a program of Gay Studies amounting to virtual advocacy. Ayn Rand’s philosophic views are hardly a less legitimate subject for academic study.

25 Mar 2008

Staring into the Abyss

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Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. (And when you stare long into the Abyss, the Abyss looks also into you.)

Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil), 4:146

link

25 Mar 2008

A Standard of Perfection

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Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin neglected to go down to the county courthouse and file a signed and notarized partnership agreement. Instead, Iraq’s government covertly supplied funding and weapons and provided training facilities, medical treatment, and sanctuary to individual terrorist leaders and to a confusing array of variously named and affiliated terrorist groups.

Deniability is, of course, precisely why governments, like that of the former Baathist regime of Iraq, employ surrogate non-state actors as instruments of violence against Western states. If Iraq attacked the United States openly, the legitimacy of a full-scale US military response would have been unquestioned. Because actual attacks are committed by a handful of individuals affiliated with obscure jihadist entities, leftwing members of the US Intelligence Community always find themselves conveniently able to maintain that no definitive proof linking a sponsoring state like Iraq is available.

Michael Tanji explains how the game is played.

There is perhaps no clearer example of why the U.S. intelligence community has such a serious credibility problem than the recently released report on the relationship between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and terrorist groups. Media outlets friendly to the meme that there was no such connection were leaked a copy of the report and latched on to the statement that there was no “smoking gun” linking Saddam and al-Qaeda. Clearly, however, none of those reporters bothered to actually read the report or ask any critical questions.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of Islamic terrorism who read the early headlines and then read the report cannot help but come away with a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and had we not gone to war with Iraq after 9/11, it would still be a focal point in our fight against Islamic terror. That Saddam and bin Laden never shook hands–presumably the only “smoking gun” that the most obtuse analysts of this subject would accept–is hardly the point. …

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than documents from Saddam’s own intelligence service, which confirm that the regime was funding the group Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the early 1990s. Led by Ayman al Zawahiri, the EIJ eventually morphed into what most observers call “core” al Qaeda. Zawahiri became al Qaeda’s second in command when al Qaeda was formed in the late 1980s. Saying Iraq was not supporting al Qaeda, when there was no meaningful distinction between the EIJ and al Qaeda, strains credulity.

Therein lies the problem: this report–and every assessment dealing with intelligence or national security matters–is crafted with such extreme precision in an impossible quest to be “right” that they end up being absurdly wrong. This quest for false precision skews our understanding of very clear and simple truths. This is part of the reason why so many policymakers of all political persuasions hold intelligence in such disdain. The books and articles that document Saddam’s relationship with terrorist groups that were published before this report was issued are numerous and draw largely the same conclusions that this review of classified material shows. Secrets are only valuable if they tell you something meaningful that you didn’t already know.

This is a problem that is endemic in the intelligence community and particularly bad in agencies that have taken a beating in recent years for providing incomplete information about the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD programs. To compensate, agencies caveat their work to the point that ten different people reading the same report will come away with at least nine different interpretations of the report’s findings. By not making unambiguous calls about what is known and more importantly what is unknown, intelligence agencies don’t serve their consumers; they confuse and infuriate them.

Ambiguity, a permanent feature of Intelligence, becomes in the hands of the sophists of the Intelligence Community’s anti-Bush establishment a very effective tool for undermining policy. By utilizing a 100% standard of certainty, requiring unimpeachable and totally disinterested first-hand witnesses of excellent character, and clear documentary evidence, it becomes possible to exculpate both pre-2003 Iraq and today’s Iran of any role in terrorism or efforts to acquire WMD at all, and thereby to delegitimize the Bush Administration’s casus belli.

25 Mar 2008

Google Interviews

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Google is a prestigious company, pays well, has terrific benefits, pampers employees with perqs, and (back when the market was moving in the right direction) had highly attractive stock options to pass out. Information Technology professionals are consequently very eager to apply for openings at Google, but Google insiders are notoriously egomanaical and capricious, and even fewer job interviews than usual seem to end favorably when Google is the prospective employer.

So notorious is the “rejected by Google” experience, that it seems a new literary genre (kind of in the spirit of the satires of Martial) describing “How I Blew my Google Interview” has been identified by Henry Blodget.

Hat tip to Karen Myers.

25 Mar 2008

Times Reports Global Warming Skepticism

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Is it possible? Here’s the New York Times actually reporting without derision scientific questioning of the responsibility of Anthropogenic Global Warming for an observed instance of change in the natural world.

In the scientific equivalent of the board game Clue, teams of biologists have been sifting spotty evidence and pointing to various culprits in the widespread vanishing of harlequin frogs.

The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus — actually toads despite their common name — once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.

It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the “trigger” in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The researchers said they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.

The “bullet,” the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. …

Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper. In the journal, Dr. Pounds and his team said the new analyses in fact backed their view that “global warming contributes to the present amphibian crisis,” but avoided language saying it was “a key factor,” as they wrote in 2006.

Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change. …

“There is so much we still do not know!” David B. Wake, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an e-mail note after reading the new paper. The origin of the fungus and the way it kills amphibians remain unknown, he said, and there are ample mysteries about why it breaks out in certain places and times and not others.

Ah! but here we go, wait for it, here comes the Times’ conclusion:

Ross A. Alford, a tropical biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, said such scientific tussles, while important, could be a distraction, particularly when considering the uncertain risks attending global warming.

“Arguing about whether we can or cannot already see the effects,” he said, “is like sitting in a house soaked in gasoline, having just dropped a lit match, and arguing about whether we can actually see the flames yet, while waiting to see if maybe it might go out on its own.”

25 Mar 2008

US in Trouble?

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Jane’s Information Group launched last month a new intelligence service providing “Country Risk Ratings” evaluating the stability of 232 countries, non-contiguous territories and de facto independent political entities on the basis of two dozen security factors.

The London Times reports that the US failed to make the top cut, coming in as number 22. Vatican City was at the top of the list. And Labour Britain (7) beat out Switzerland (17).

Switzerland lost points for some sort of deficiency in “social achievements,” presumably meaning it didn’t have enough Socialism.

The US did so poorly because of “the proliferation of small arms owned by Americans” and “the threat posed by the flow of drugs across the Mexican border.”

What a bunch of Euro-wussies they’ve got at Jane’s! These are the guys assessing the merits of different weapons systems?

Americans are safer than Europeans precisely because we own guns, and can in an emergency shoot the criminal, repel the invasion, or overthrow the government. Sophisticated Americans, particularly those of us who were at Woodstock, look upon recreational drugs as “the doors of perception,” or an alternative form of weekend conviviality, not as a threat to national security. Those Jane’s analysts really need to go over to Amsterdam and undertake some first hand research.

They don’t like guns. They don’t like drugs. The list of “security factors” was hidden behind a subscription barrier, but I suspect that sex and Rock & Roll must have been in there, too.

24 Mar 2008

Media Celebrates US Death Toll Reaching 4000

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AP (employer of terrorist photographers) gleefully reports:

– A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000.

It’s sad, of course, that 4000 American soldiers lost their lives over the course of five years in Iraq, but… the casualties entailed by current US military operations are, in fact, very small compared to losses in countless individual battles in previous wars. Grant lost 7000 men in twenty minutes at Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, at a time when the US population was roughly one tenth the size of today’s. Imagine 70,000 casualties in twenty minutes.

In WWII, the Battle of Iwo Jima lasted under six weeks, not five years, and the US conquest of that small island cost 7000 Americans lives.

source: Congresssional Report

24 Mar 2008

Victor Davis Hanson Sees Right Through Obama’s Speech

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A number of commentators on the Right (mostly chicks) responded to Obama’s speech with adulation.

But curmudgeonly old Victor Davis Hanson does not get misty quite so easily. In fact, he is enough of a spoilsport to undermine all those rapturous cries of admiration from the establishment punditocracy by remarking, sotto voce, that the Emperor Obama’s rhetorical wardrobe of political change amounts to no clothes at all.

The latest polls reflecting Obama’s near-collapse should serve as a morality tale of John Edwards’s two Americas — the political obtuseness of the intellectual elite juxtaposed to the common sense of the working classes.

For some bizarre reason, Obama aimed his speech at winning praise from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and Harvard, and solidifying an already 90-percent solid African-American base — while apparently insulting the intelligence of everyone else.

Indeed, the more op-eds and pundits praised the courage of Barack Obama, the more the polls showed that there was a growing distrust that the eloquent and inspirational candidate has used his great gifts, in the end, to excuse the inexcusable.

The speech and Obama’s subsequent interviews neither explained his disastrous association with Wright, nor dared open up a true discussion of race — which by needs would have to include, in addition to white racism, taboo subjects ranging from disproportionate illegitimacy and drug usage to higher-than-average criminality to disturbing values espoused in rap music and unaddressed anti-Semitism. We learn now that Obama is the last person who wants to end the establishment notion that a few elite African Americans negotiate with liberal white America over the terms of grievance and entitlement — without which all of us really would be transracial persons, in which happiness and gloom hinge, and are seen to do so, on one’s own individual success or failure.

Instead there were the tired platitudes, evasions, and politicking. The intelligentsia is well aware of how postmodern cultural equivalence, black liberation theory, and moral relativism seeped into Obama’s speech, and thus was not offended by an “everybody does it” and “who’s to judge?/eye of the beholder” defense. But to most others the effect was Clintonian. Somehow Obama could not just say,

There is nothing to be offered for Rev. Wright except my deepest apologies for not speaking out against his venom far earlier. We in the African-American community know better than anyone the deleterious effects of racist speech, and so it is time for Rev. Wright and myself to part company, since we have profoundly different views of both present- and future-day America.

The more the pundits gushed about the speech, the more the average Americans thought, “Wait a minute — did he just say what I thought he said?” It’s not lost on Joe Q. Public that Obama justified Wright’s racism by offering us a “landmark” speech on race that:

(1) Compared Wright’s felony to the misdemeanors of his grandmother, Geraldine Ferraro, the Reagan Coalition, corporate culture, and the kitchen sink.

(2) Established the precedent that context excuses everything, in the sense that what good a Wright did (or an Imus did) in the past outweighs any racist outburst of the present.

(3) Claimed that the voice of the oppressed is not to be judged by the same rules of censure as the dominant majority that has no similar claim on victim status.

What is happening, ever so slowly, is that the public is beginning to realize that it knows even less after the speech than it did before about what exactly Obama knew (and when) about Wright’s racism and hatred.

Even elites will wake up to the fact that they’ve been had, in a sense, once they deconstruct the speech carefully and fathom that their utopian candidate just may have managed to destroy what was once a near-certain Democratic sweep in the fall.

Read the whole thing.

23 Mar 2008

Easter

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Piero della Francesca, Resurrection, circa 1463,
Museo Civico, Sansepolcro

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Easter

Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, is one of the three great festivals of the Christian year,—the other two being Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the greatest joy, and accounted the Queen of Festivals. In primitive times it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘And hath appeared unto Simon;’—a custom still retained in the Greek Church.

The common name of this festival in the East was the Paschal Feast, because kept at the same time as the Pascha, or Jewish passover, and in some measure succeeding to it. In the sixth of the Ancyran Canons it is called the Great Day. Our own name Easter is derived, as some suppose, from Eostre, the name of a Saxon deity, whose feast was celebrated every year in the spring, about the same time as the Christian festival—the name being retained when the character of the feast was changed; or, as others suppose, from Oster, which signifies rising. If the latter supposition be correct, Easter is in name, as well as reality, the feast of the resurrection.

Though there has never been any difference of opinion in the Christian church as to why Easter is kept, there has been a good deal as to when it ought to be kept. It is one of the moveable feasts; that is, it is not fixed to one particular day—like Christmas Day, e. g., which is always kept on the 25th of December—but moves backwards or forwards according as the full moon next after the vernal equinox falls nearer or further from the equinox. The rule given at the beginning of the Prayer-book to find Easter is this: ‘Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the twenty-first day of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.’

The paschal controversy, which for a time divided Christendom, grew out of a diversity of custom. The churches of Asia Minor, among whom were many Judaizing Christians, kept their paschal feast on the same day as the Jews kept their passover; i. e., on the 14th of Nisan, the Jewish month corresponding to our March or April. But the churches of the West, remembering that our Lord’s resurrection took place on the Sunday, kept their festival on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan. By this means they hoped not only to commemorate the resurrection on the day on which it actually occurred, but also to distinguish themselves more effectually from the Jews. For a time this difference was borne with mutual forbearance and charity. And when disputes began to arise, we find that Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, when on a visit to Rome, took the opportunity of conferring with Anicetas, bishop of that city, upon the question. Polycarp pleaded the practice of St. Philip and St. John, with the latter of whom he had lived, conversed, and joined in its celebration; while Anicetas adduced the practice of St. Peter and St. Paul. Concession came from neither side, and so the matter dropped; but the two bishops continued in Christian friendship and concord. This was about A.D. 158.

Towards the end of the century, however, Victor, bishop of Rome, resolved on compelling the Eastern churches to conform to the Western practice, and wrote an imperious letter to the prelates of Asia, commanding them to keep the festival of Easter at the time observed by the Western churches. They very naturally resented such an interference, and declared their resolution to keep Easter at the time they had been accustomed to do. The dispute hence-forward gathered strength, and was the source of much bitterness during the next century. The East was divided from the West, and all who, after the example of the Asiatics, kept Easter-day on the 14th, whether that day were Sunday or not, were styled Qiccertodecimans by those who adopted the Roman custom.

One cause of this strife was the imperfection of the Jewish calendar. The ordinary year of the Jews consisted of 12 lunar months of 292 days each, or of 29 and 30 days alternately; that is, of 354 days. To make up the 11 days’ deficiency, they intercalated a thirteenth month of 30 days every third year. But even then they would be in advance of the true time without other intercalations; so that they often kept their passover before the vernal equinox. But the Western Christians considered the vernal equinox the commencement of the natural year, and objected to a mode of reckoning which might sometimes cause them to hold their paschal feast twice in one year and omit it altogether the next. To obviate this, the fifth of the apostolic canons decreed that, ‘ If any bishop, priest, or deacon, celebrated the Holy Feast of Easter before the vernal equinox, as the Jews do, let him be deposed.’

At the beginning of the fourth century, matters had gone to such a length, that the Emperor Constantine thought it his duty to take steps to allay the controversy, and to insure uniformity of practice for the future. For this purpose, he got a canon passed in the great Ecumenical Council of Nice (A.D. 325), that everywhere the great feast of Easter should be observed upon one and the same day; and that not the day of the Jewish passover, but, as had been generally observed, upon the Sunday afterwards. And to prevent all future disputes as to the time, the following rules were also laid down:

‘That the twenty-first day of March shall be accounted the vernal equinox.’

‘That the full moon happening upon or next after the twenty-first of March, shall be taken for the full moon of Nisan.’

‘That the Lord’s-day next following that full moon be Easter-day.’

‘But if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter-day shall be the Sunday after.’

As the Egyptians at that time excelled in astronomy, the Bishop of Alexandria was appointed to give notice of Easter-day to the Pope and other patriarchs. But it was evident that this arrangement could not last long; it was too inconvenient and liable to interruptions. The fathers of the next age began, therefore, to adopt the golden numbers of the Metonic cycle, and to place them in the calendar against those days in each month on which the new moons should fall during that year of the cycle. The Metonie cycle was a period of nineteen years. It had been observed by Meton, an Athenian philosopher, that the moon returns to have her changes on the same month and day of the month in the solar year after a lapse of nineteen years, and so, as it were, to run in a circle. He published his discovery at the Olympic Games, B.C. 433, and the cycle has ever since borne his name. The fathers hoped by this cycle to be able always to know the moon’s age; and as the vernal equinox was now fixed to the 21st of March, to find Easter for ever. But though the new moon really happened on the same day of the year after a space of nineteen years as it did before, it fell an hour earlier on that day, which, in the course of time, created a serious error in their calculations.

A cycle was then framed at Rome for 84 years, and generally received by the Western church, for it was then thought that in this space of time the moon’s changes would return not only to the same day of the month, but of the week also. Wheatley tells us that, ‘During the time that Easter was kept according to this cycle, Britain was separated from the Roman empire, and the British churches for some time after that separation continued to keep Easter according to this table of 84 years. But soon after that separation, the Church of Rome and several others discovered great deficiencies in this account, and therefore left it for another which was more perfect.’—Book on the Common Prayer, p. 40. This was the Victorian period of 532 years. But he is clearly in error here. The Victorian period was only drawn up about the year 457, and was not adopted by the Church till the Fourth Council of Orleans, A.D. 541.

Now from the time the Romans finally left Britain (A.D. 426), when he supposes both churches to be using the cycle of 84 years, till the arrival of St. Augustine (A.D. 596), the error can hardly have amounted to a difference worth disputing about. And yet the time the Britons kept Easter must have varied considerably from that of the Roman missionaries to have given rise to the statement that they were Quartodecimans, which they certainly were not; for it is a well-known fact that British bishops were at the Council of Nice, and doubtless adopted and brought home with them the rule laid down by that assembly. Dr. Hooke’s account is far more probable, that the British and Irish churches adhered to the Alexandrian rule, according to which the Easter festival could not begin before the 8th of March; while according to the rule adopted at Rome and generally in the West, it began as early as the fifth. ‘They (the Celts) were manifestly in error,’ he says; ‘but owing to the haughtiness with which the Italians had demanded an alteration in their calendar, they doggedly determined not to change.’—Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. i. p. 14.

After a good deal of disputation had taken place, with more in prospect, Oswy, King of Northumbria, determined to take the matter in hand. He summoned the leaders of the contending parties to a conference at Whitby, A.D. 664, at which he himself presided. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, represented the British church. The Romish party were headed by Agilbert, bishop of Dorchester, and Wilfrid, a young Saxon. Wilfrid was spokesman. The arguments were characteristic of the age; but the manner in which the king decided irresistibly provokes a smile, and makes one doubt whether he were in jest or earnest. Colman spoke first, and urged that the custom of the Celtic church ought not to be changed, because it had been inherited from their forefathers, men beloved of God, &c. Wilfrid followed:

‘The Easter which we observe I saw celebrated by all at Rome: there, where the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, lived, taught, suffered, and were buried.’ And concluded a really powerful speech with these words: ‘And if, after all, that Columba of yours were, which I will not deny, a holy man, gifted with the power of working miracles, is he, I ask, to be preferred before the most blessed Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” ?’

The King, turning to Colman, asked him, ‘Is it true or not, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?’ Colman, who seems to have been completely cowed, could not deny it. ‘It is true, 0 King.’ ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘can you shew me any such power given to your Columba? ‘ Colman answered, ‘ No.’ ‘You are both, then, agreed,’ continued the King, are you not, that these words were addressed principally to Peter, and that to him were given the keys of heaven by our Lord?’ Both assented. ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘I tell you plainly, I shall not stand opposed to the door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven; I desire, as far as in me lies, to adhere to his precepts and obey his commands, lest by offending him who keepeth the keys, I should, when I present myself at the gate, find no one to open to me.’

This settled the controversy, though poor honest Colman resigned his see rather than submit to such a decision.

On Easter-day depend all the moveable feasts and fasts throughout the year. The nine Sundays before, and the eight following after, are all dependent upon it, and form, as it were, a body-guard to this Queen of Festivals. The nine preceding are the six Sundays in Lent, Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima; the eight following are the five Sundays after Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and Trinity Sunday.

EASTER CUSTOMS

The old Easter customs which still linger among us vary considerably in form in different parts of the kingdom. The custom of distributing the ‘pace’ or ‘pasche ege,’ which was once almost universal among Christians, is still observed by children, and by the peasantry in Lancashire. Even in Scotland, where the great festivals have for centuries been suppressed, the young people still get their hard-boiled dyed eggs, which they roll about, or throw, and finally eat. In Lancashire, and in Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and perhaps in other counties, the ridiculous custom of ‘lifting’ or ‘heaving’ is practised.

On Easter Monday the men lift the women, and on Easter Tuesday the women lift or heave the men. The process is performed by two lusty men or women joining their hands across each other’s wrists; then, making the person to be heaved sit down on their arms, they lift him up aloft two or three times, and often carry him several yards along a street. A grave clergyman who happened to be passing through a town in Lancashire on an Easter Tuesday, and having to stay an hour or two at an inn, was astonished by three or four lusty women rushing into his room, exclaiming they had come ‘to lift him.’ ‘To lift me!’ repeated the amazed divine; ‘what can you mean?’ ‘Why, your reverence, we’re come to lift you, ’cause it’s Easter Tuesday.’ ‘Lift me because it’s Easter Tuesday? I don’t understand. Is there any such custom here?’ ‘Yes, to be sure; why, don’t you know? all us women was lifted yesterday; and us lifts the men today in turn. And in course it’s our rights and duties to lift ’em.’

After a little further parley, the reverend traveller compromised with his fair visitors for half-a-crown, and thus escaped the dreaded compliment. In Durham, on Easter Monday, the men claim the privilege to take off the women’s shoes, and the next day the women retaliate. Anciently, both ecclesiastics and laics used to play at ball in the churches for tansy-cakes on Eastertide; and, though the profane part of this custom is happily everywhere discontinued, tansy-cakes and tansy-puddings are still favourite dishes at Easter in many parts. In some parishes in the counties of Dorset and Devon, the clerk carries round to every house a few white cakes as an Easter offering; these cakes, which are about the eighth of an inch thick, and of two sizes —the larger being seven or eight inches, the smaller about five in diameter— have a mingled bitter and sweet taste. In return for these cakes, which are always distributed after Divine service on Good Friday, the clerk receives a gratuity- according to the circumstances or generosity of the householder.

23 Mar 2008

Approaching the Tipping Point on Global Warming

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The Australian reports that the data is in, and it does not fit the catastrophist models.

It appears that the tipping point we are approaching is actually the one in which accumulating facts make the Convenient Fantasy (justifying the greater regulation and higher taxes the left wants) impossible to sustain.

Catastrophic predictions of global warming usually conjure with the notion of a tipping point, a point of no return.

Last Monday – on ABC Radio National, of all places – there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.
Duffy asked Marohasy: “Is the Earth stillwarming?”

She replied: “No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you’d expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years.”

Duffy: “Is this a matter of any controversy?”

Marohasy: “Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued … This is not what you’d expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you’d expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up … So (it’s) very unexpected, not something that’s being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it’s very significant.”

Duffy: “It’s not only that it’s not discussed. We never hear it, do we? Whenever there’s any sort of weather event that can be linked into the global warming orthodoxy, it’s put on the front page. But a fact like that, which is that global warming stopped a decade ago, is virtually never reported, which is extraordinary.”

Read the whole thing.

23 Mar 2008

It’s Raining McCain

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Some of us thought that the Obama video was pretty weird, but that was before we saw this McCain Girls 2:34 video. Wow!

Hat tip to Matt Yglesias.

23 Mar 2008

US Waging Economic War on China?

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John Mangum argues that the US Government’s failure to strengthen the dollar is a clever and deliberate (and unannounced) gambit in the economic contest between the US and China.

we must ask, why is this happening? Why have the prices of commodities like oil and gold risen so dramatically in the last year? Why has the dollar fallen so much? Normal business cycle? Bad management from the world’s financial institutions? And why hasn’t the world’s largest and strongest economy, backed by the most powerful government, been able to change the course of the situation?

Perhaps the larger picture is that the United States is waging an economic war against China.

The United States could strengthen the value of the dollar. It has not. China is hurt because now Chinese products are very expensive in the United States, and this will reduce the US trade deficit with China. China must import huge amounts of oil and strategic metals which are very much more expensive now. China holds hundreds of millions of physical dollars, the value of which is now much less.

China has refused to revalue its currency to a realistic level to improve its trade position with the United States. China has used its huge dollar reserves as a sword against the United States by threatening to sell those dollars, and thereby causing the dollar to drop in value. In effect, the United States is using China’s strength against China.

In order for China to maintain the levels of its trade with the United States, it will be forced to lower the value of its currency. However, if it does that, it faces two major problems. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China would become less expensive, and China is worried that more and cheaper FDI would spur China’s inflation. Further, a devalued currency would reduce the profit to China for its exported goods.

If China keeps it currency at its present levels, the United States will buy less. The United States wanted a stronger yuan to reduce trade, which China was unwilling to do. That objective is now achieved by a weaker dollar.

China’s dollar holdings are worth much less when buying goods like oil and metals that China depends on for its development and growth. Further, China has been talking and trying for some time to diversify its foreign-reserve holdings form dollars to other currencies and gold. Now, their dollars are worth much less when buying gold, yen and euros. …

the “crisis” is being used to further the US economic position, long-term position, particularly with regard to China. From Sun Tzu: “All warfare is based on deception.”

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