"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day for Baseball, Closing Time for Obamacare

If you find yourself too happy today because baseball is back, you could always bring yourself back down into despair by considering this ongoing fiasco:

The federal Obamacare website is down for maintenance on the final day of open enrollment.
Since 3:00 a.m. Eastern time, HealthCare.gov has been down to fix a software bug.
"The tech team is working now to bring the system online as soon as possible," a spokesperson told Politico.
News of the Obamacare bug fix comes as the Obama administration continues to claim it has surpassed the six million enrollment mark--a figure that includes 20%, at least, who never paid their first premium and are, therefore, not insured. It also includes duplicate enrollment and incomplete applications. The Obama White House has stonewalled reporter requests for specific demographic data about what are roundly regarded as inflated numbers.
Most importantly, the White House is remaining tight-lipped about the all-important question of how many of those it claims have enrolled were previously uninsured. The purported purpose of Obamacare was to cover the 48.6 million who did not have insurance. However, data from a McKinsey & Co. report reveals that only 715,000 of Obamacare's paying customers were previously uninsured; the rest already had coverage or were among the 5 million Americans who had their insurance plans canceled due to Obamacare.
Now in its fourth year, Obamacare remains more unpopular than ever. The latest Associated Press poll finds that an all-time low 26% of Americans now support Obamacare.

As I've said previously on this blog, the only metric that matters is how many previously uninsured are now insured.   That was the problem to be fixed, and Obamacare was sold on the promise that it would fix it.   If Obamacare hasn't provided a significant solution (it hasn't), but has instead likely exacerbated the problem (it has) by forcing millions off their plans, disincentivizing millions more from seeking insurance (why bother?), and confusing nearly everyone (oy!)... then it's a failure, period, full stop.

It's a failure.   Period.   Full stop.

We Have Space for No. 12!

Baseball Be Back!

For Ordering A Life Wisely

A prayer from Saint Thomas Aquinas, via the great Hillsdale Dialogues series on Hugh Hewitt

Oh, merciful God, grant that I may desire ardently, search prudently, recognize truly, and bring to perfection, bring to perfect completion whatever is pleasing to You for the praise and glory of Your name. Put my life in good order, oh, my God. Grant that I may know what you require me to do. Bestow upon me the power to accomplish Your will as is necessary and fitting for the salvation of my soul. Grant to me, oh Lord, my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter. May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You. May I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You. May I desire to please no one, nor fear to displease anyone but You. May all transitory things, oh Lord, be worthless to me. And may all things eternal be ever cherished by me. May any joy without You be burdensome for me, and may I not desire anything else besides You. May all work, oh Lord, delight me when done for Your sake, and may all repose not centered in You be ever wearisome for me. Grant unto me, my God, that I may direct my hear to You, and that in my failures, I may ever feel remorse for my sins and never lose the resolve to change. Oh Lord, my God, make me submissive without protest, poor without discouragement, chaste without regret, patient without complaint, humble without posturing, cheerful without frivolity, mature without gloom, and quick-witted without flippancy. Oh Lord, my God, let me fear You without losing hope, be truthful without guile, do good works without presumption, rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness and without hypocrisy, strengthen him by word and example. Give to me, oh Lord God, a watchful heart, which no capricious thought can lure away from You. Give to me a noble heart, which no unworthy desire can debase. Give to me a resolute heart which no intention can divert. Give to me a stalwart heart which no tribulation can overcome. Give to me a temperate heart which no violent passion can slave. Give to me, oh Lord, my God, understanding of You, diligence in seeking You, wisdom in finding You, discourse ever pleasing to You, perseverance in waiting for You, and confidence in finally embracing You. Grant that with Your hardships, I may be burdened in reparation here that Your benefits, I may use in gratitude upon the way, that in Your joys I may delight by glorifying You in the kingdom of Heaven, You who live and reign, God, world without end. Amen.

Opening Day!

Something You Don't See Everyday

Good Advice from Charles Murray

Charles Murray had an article up in the WSJ over the weekend about... well, essentially about happiness and how to get it.   He gives five rules for a happy adult life.    Here's my favorite:

Ready for some clichés about marriage? Here they come. Because they're true. 
Marry someone with similar tastes and preferences. Which tastes and preferences? The ones that will affect life almost every day. 
It is OK if you like the ballet and your spouse doesn't. Reasonable people can accommodate each other on such differences. But if you dislike each other's friends, or don't get each other's senses of humor or—especially—if you have different ethical impulses, break it off and find someone else.... 
It is absolutely crucial that you really, really like your spouse. You hear it all the time from people who are in great marriages: "I'm married to my best friend." They are being literal. A good working definition of "soul mate" is "your closest friend, to whom you are also sexually attracted."  
...A good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Above all else, realize that this cliché is true. The downside risks of marrying—and they are real—are nothing compared with what you will gain from a good one.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Obama on His Meeting with Pope Francis

I will surprise some readers of this blog by saying that I think Obama's responses in today's press conference related to his meeting with Pope Francis were not just acceptable, but actually very good, especially the highlighted passages below:

Q. Mr. President, in your meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, did he register any objections with you about the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act or your efforts to advance the rights of gays and lesbians in the United States that worry so many Catholics? And what were his concerns?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: In terms of the meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, we had a wide-ranging discussion. I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his. One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity, and growing inequality. 

 And those of us as politicians have the task of trying to come up with policies to address issues, but His Holiness has the capacity to open people’s eyes and make sure they’re seeing that this is an issue. And he’s discussed in the past I think the dangers of indifference or cynicism when it comes to our ability to reach out to those less fortunate or those locked out of opportunity.

 And then we spent a lot of time talking about the challenges of conflict and how illusive peace is around the world. There was some specific focus on the Middle East where His Holiness has a deep interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but also what’s happening in Syria, what’s happening in Lebanon, and the potential persecution of Christians. And I reaffirmed that it is central to U.S. foreign policy that we protect the interests of religious minorities around the world. But we also touched on regions like Latin America, where there’s been tremendous progress in many countries, but there’s been less progress in others.

 I think the theme that stitched our conversation together was a belief that in politics and in life the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for someone even if they don't look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy -- that that's critical. It’s the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars. It's the lack of empathy that allows us to ignore the homeless on the streets. And obviously central to my Christian faith is a belief in treating others as I’d have them treat me. And what’s I think created so much love and excitement for His Holiness has been that he seems to live this, and shows that joy continuously. 

 Q. Mr. President, I just want to follow up on Jim’s question on your meeting with the Pope today. Do you think some of the schisms that he referenced on social issues would stand in the way of you and Pope Francis collaborating or forming a strategic alliance to tackle income inequality? 

 PRESIDENT OBAMA: First of all, I just want to make clear -- maybe it wasn’t clear from my answer to Jim -- that we actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness. In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation. I think His Holiness and the Vatican have been clear about their position on a range of issues, some of them I differ with, most I heartily agree with. And I don’t think that His Holiness envisions entering into a partnership or a coalition with any political figure on any issue. His job is a little more elevated. We’re down on the ground dealing with the often profane, and he’s dealing with higher powers.

Yes, if you read the whole thing, there's some typical Obama bullshit and self-aggrandizement.   But the overall respectful tone and recognition (a recognition that many in the media often lack) that the Pope's focus is not really political should be commended.  

Common Core - An Intellectual Cream-Puff

A good friend emailed today to ask me my thoughts on Common Core, the initiative to create common standards for primary and secondary education across America.    Here was my response:
On the one hand, I don't think it is dangerous the way some conservatives think.   I think it is just a general continuation of the dumbing down of American education, not a new divergence into federal government mind-control.   When I read the standards, what I see is an almost completely content-free mishmash of bureaucratic groupthink.    
Here's an example from the standards you get if you click on "English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grade 11-12": 
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. 
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
None of that is per se objectionable… it's just absolutely vacuous.   It's like an intellectual cream puff… I don't object to cream puffs, I just don't think they have much nutritional value. 
On the other hand, what I see here is the exact opposite of what I would want to see in History or Social Studies standards.   I would want kids graduating from high school to actually know a common core of facts -- geography, chronology, historical figures, events, great books, great works of art, the substance of key intellectual movements, how revolutionary technologies actually worked and why they were revolutionary in their time, how key industries developed, etc.   I can tell you right now that [the Regular Son] has an A+ in AP European History AND NEVER CRACKS THE BOOK.   Why?   Because he knows chronology and geography and names.   And, because he knows that basic framework, he can actually THINK about history in concrete ways, rather than in the bland, feel-good, Oprah-fied, race/class/gender gobbledygook that kids mostly regurgitate. 
And he knows that stuff, not because his teachers taught him, but because I taught him at home and he taught himself.   A basic book of chronology and a globe and a house full of books and parents who read is about all you need. 
In other words, I wouldn't necessarily mind a common core of standards, even emanating from the federal level, if they were actually standards that I thought were worthwhile and had content.   In my judgment, these don't.

I'll give you a final example.   Here's a series of the type of questions I would want a high school graduate to be able to answer:

1. Who is Thomas Paine?
2. Who is Edmund Burke?
3. When did they live?
4. Name the titles of their most famous works.
5. Summarize the main points of their most famous works.
6. Explain which one you would agree with and why.

Or this:

7. Define National Socialism.
8. Define Stalinism.
9. Identify the key figures in each of these political movements.
10. Compare and contrast them.

Or this:

11. Identify three African countries that were colonized by Great Britain.
12. Identify three African countries that were colonized by other European powers.
13. Compare and contrast the development of those sets of countries since 1900.

Or this:

14.  Who is Jean Jacques Rousseau?
15.  Who is John Locke?
16. When did they live?
17. Name their most famous works.
18.  Summarize the main points of their philosophies.
19.  Explain which one you would agree with and why.

In other words, I would want high school kids to know stuff -- facts, dates, names, geography, philosophy, literature, political theory.   Unless they have that basic vocabulary of knowledge, asking them to "Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information"  will inevitably yield a steaming pile of B.S. rather than reasoned prose.

By the Way, There Is a Well-Qualified Female Former Secretary of State Out There

And her name isn't Hillary:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States' position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama’s ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world. 
“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.” 
Rice – measured in tone, but very tough on substance – excoriated Obama administration policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the naïve hope that “international norms” would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public. 
“I fully understand the sense of weariness. I fully understand that we must think: ‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
We could do a lot worse in 2016.   I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Girl of the Day - Emilia Clarke

Game of the Thrones is just around the corner, and that means lots and lots of women dressed in quasi-medieval clothes with lots of cleavage.   Sort of a live action video game, sure, but lots of fun.  

Anyway, one of the main stories revolves around the once and future queen, Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke:

Of course, she looks different in civvies:

Birthday Today (Actually Yesterday) - Norman Borlaug

File:Norman Borlaug.jpg

It's a name I'd never heard of.   But his is a fascinating story of true heroism:

Called "arguably the greatest American in the 20th century," during his 95 years, Norman Borlaug probably saved more lives than any other person. 
He is one of just six people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And yet Borlaug, who died three years ago today, is scarcely known in his own country. 
Born in Iowa in 1914, Borlaug spent most of his life in impoverished nations inventing, improving and teaching the "Green Revolution." His idea was simple: Make developing countries self sufficient in food by teaching them how to use modern agricultural techniques that are easy to implement. Borlaug spent most of his time in Mexico, Pakistan and India, and focused on five areas: crop cultivars (seeds), irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanization. His successes were remarkable. 
In 1950, Mexico imported over half of its food. Thanks to Borlaug's efforts to convince farmers there to try his techniques, Mexican food production increased 10-fold by 1970, and the country had become a net exporter. In India and Pakistan, production doubled. In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that Borlaug's efforts, combined with those he trained and equipped, saved the lives of 1 billion human beings.

I have occasionally pontificated that liberals need to be asked questions like this:

Don't like DDT?   Tell me how many poor people in Asia and Africa you're willing to let die.

Don't like genetically-engineered foods?    Again, tell me how many poor people you're willing to let die.

Don't like fertilizers?   Tell me how many poor people you're willing to let die.

Don't like these questions?   Then stop telling us that we have to stop what we're doing because it might hurt the "planet."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Occam's Razor and the Malaysian Airlines Mystery (Update)

UPDATE:   Yep... it was a garden variety plane crash.    Apparently they have found the debris field in the Indian Ocean west of Australia.   Perhaps CNN can get back to its regularly-scheduled programming now, for it's dozen or so viewers.


Somewhere in the new novel (ongoing), the Regular Guy says something like, until you show me the evidence, always assume that people die in ordinary, boring ways without any foul play.   Because that's just more likely.   Occam's razor, and all that.

Anyway, this article about the Malaysian Airlines disappearance, makes a whole lot of sense to me, and it doesn't involve terrorism or "sudden onset insanity" syndrome on the part of the pilots:

There has been a lot of speculation about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Terrorism, hijacking, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN; it’s almost disturbing. I tend to look for a simpler explanation, and I find it with the 13,000-foot runway at Pulau Langkawi. 
We know the story of MH370: A loaded Boeing 777 departs at midnight from Kuala Lampur, headed to Beijing. A hot night. A heavy aircraft. About an hour out, across the gulf toward Vietnam, the plane goes dark, meaning the transponder and secondary radar tracking go off. Two days later we hear reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar, meaning the plane is tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the Strait of Malacca. 
The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer. 
Take a look at this airport on Google Earth. The pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make an immediate turn to the closest, safest airport. 
The loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. 
When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and searched for airports in proximity to the track toward the southwest. 
For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations.

This is strong and logical analysis from someone who knows what the hell they're talking about.   As opposed to talking heads on CNN regurgitating Twitter feeds.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Girl of the Day - Annet Mahendru

We're a little behind in watching the second season of The Americans, but so far we can certainly applaud the decision to bring back Annet Mahendru as the Russian femme fatale:

Obama Pivots to... You Guessed It... The Hardships of Women Seeking Advanced Degrees

Jammie Wearing Fools has this piece about Obama's latest pivot... back to women's issues and the so-called War on Women.   The premise apparently is that women don't care about the economy or foreign policy or terrorism, but instead care about... well, what exactly?

On Thursday, Obama will host a roundtable discussion at Valencia College. His remarks are expected to focus on how women are disproportionately dependent on financial aid, and how many older women seeking postsecondary degrees are balancing their education and families.

Sorry, but grown-ups looking to get Master's degrees having some anxiety about balancing their family lives really doesn't rise up to the level of political issues I'm interested in.   Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but a missing plane in South Asia with a possible terrorism connection, war in the Crimea, persistent unemployment and underemployment, stagnant growth, blighted cities, decadent culture, deficient public schools, massive deficits and national debt, exploding entitlements, etc., etc.... those seem a wee bit more important than the plight of Julia wanting to get her Master's in Web Design so she can move up the ladder at her non-profit and afford more lattes at Starbucks.  

But, as they say about lawyers, when you don't have the facts on your side, pound the table.   Obama is hoping to distract enough low-information voters to muddle through the 2014 midterms.

That's what he really thinks about women... that they are low-information voters who don't care about big issues or anything other than their own personal convenience.   Hence the focus on contraception, abortion, student loans, universal pre-school, etc.   It's all about the convenience of the gentry liberals.

File This Under: Reality Bites Back

I don't want to say I told you so, but I told you so.   And everyone else did:

Study: 38 percent of private employers will cut workers if minimum wage is raised
Fifty-four percent of employers who are paying their workers the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour say they would reduce hiring, while 65 percent say they would raise prices on their goods and services to offset the bumps in pay.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Putin and Stalin

This sounds an awful lot like the paranoid justifications for the Ukrainian terror famine in the early 1930s and the "national terror" campaign of the late 1930s perpetrated by Stalin:

Reaching deep into Russian and Soviet history, Mr. Putin said he did not seek to divide Ukraine any further, but vowed that he would protect Russia’s national security from what he described as Western, and particularly American, actions that had left Russia feeling cornered.
He spoke as he has often in the past of the humiliations Russia has suffered in a world with one dominant superpower — from the NATO air war in Kosovo in 1999 against Moscow’s Serbian allies to the one in Libya that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 on what he called the false pretense of a humanitarian intervention....
Mr. Putin brushed aside concerns about economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, saying the West had forced Russia’s hand. By supporting the political uprising that toppled Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, the United States and Europe crossed “a red line,” Mr. Putin said, forcing him to act to protect Crimea’s population from what he called “Russophobes and neo-Nazis” that had seized control in an illegal coup abetted by foreigners.

Why the Internet Is So Great

The Dominican House of Studies at the Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., has the entire works of Aquinas online, with Latin-English translations side-by-side.   If I were a much, much smarter person -- or if I were a budding Latinist -- this would be like falling in the honey pot.

Hugh Hewitt has also been having a weekly dialogue for the past few weeks on his radio show on Aquinas, with the President of Hillsdale, Larry Arnn.    Always very interesting stuff, like this on the Summa Theologica as a text for "beginners":

LA: Explain about the beginners, Lee. 
LC: Well, the text itself, it’s important, the prologue, you’d think for such a huge work, it would have a really long prologue. It has a very short prologue. And Aquinas just kind of contextualizes the work for us. And he says this is a work, and he’s citing Paul, right? He says we want, he’s citing I Corinthians, we want to give the little ones milk to drink and not meat.  
HH: Wow. 
LC: He says given that principle, I’m writing this text. And it’s a teaching text, principally. It’s a teaching text. I’m writing it in a way that befits the instruction of beginners. Now that’s a very controversial statement, because we read this and say wait, beginners are supposed to be reading the Summa Theologica, because you know, I’m 22 years old and liberally educated, and I can’t make headway into it, or I’m 60 and I can’t make headway into it. So clearly, we have to scare quote beginners here. It’s, the beginners at least have a pretty strong base in the liberal arts and philosophy. But it puts us in our place. So if a 19 year old Dominican was expected to be able to handle this, we have to ask ourselves are we educating children in the way that we ought if our 22 year olds can’t handle reading this?

Myths of Pope Francis' First Year

A useful article about 10 myths regarding Pope Francis' first year.   Here are two that might be most of interest:

Myth #3: That Pope Francis is a Marxist.

The release of Evangelii Gaudium brought a fresh wave of furor about Pope Francis, but this time from a new source: economists and political theorists who identified certain passages as displaying Marxist sympathies, notably §202, where the Pope says: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Again, Pope Francis himself addressed this concern in the December 14 La Stampa interview. In response to a question about whether he gets upset that people call him a Marxist, he said: “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
Beyond his light-hearted response is a deeper reality about the principles of Catholic social thought. Catholic social thought has consistently maintained its opposition to two basic extremes: Marxism and unfettered capitalism. Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus eloquently encapsulates this fundamental stance, then urges the faithful to a renewal of society by a renewal of culture, recognizing that the issues of justice in the field of economics will not be resolvable until man is considered as more than an economic object. The economic passages in Evangelii Gaudium, while not developed into a complete social doctrine, merely continue a line of thinking familiar to the Church for many decades. While one might be dissatisfied with the brevity of his remarks in Evangelii Gaudium, one could hardly call them innovative....

Myth #9: That Pope Francis changed Church teaching on homosexuality.

This old chestnut takes its origin from Pope Francis’ impromptu press conference on the flight home from Brazil on July 28, 2013. The headline-making phrase was this: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” This little nugget, reduced to a banner-friendly five-word slogan (Who am I to judge?), has been written up in almost every major newspaper in the Western world, and regularly appears on protest signs for Catholic activists pressing for the normalization of homosexuality in the Church.
Here again we might detect the heady aroma of wishful thinking. In 2010, Bergoglio famously made enemies with the government in Argentina over their same-sex marriage policies, declaring what the Huffington Post called a “war of God” against the legalization of same-sex unions. Shortly after Pope Francis’ election, this history was appearing all over the Internet as a stick to beat the Vatican with, that even as the cardinals courageously chose a South American pope (+10 diversity points), they still chose one who held to Church teaching on homosexuality (-100 diversity points).
Nor does the actual context of Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” statement suggest a radical change in perspective from his earlier stance: the quotation comes in response to a question about a priest accused of a notorious gay lifestyle and the supposed “gay lobby” in the Vatican. Pope Francis’ tactful and pastoral response was to affirm the humanity and call to holiness of all people, including those who identify as gay, while criticizing the reification of homosexuality as a political and social ideology. The sentences that immediately precede the famous one provide useful context: “I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good.” In other words, love the sinner but hate the sin. That sounds familiar.


I have noted before that Americans, and particularly American journalists, who are largely agnostic or atheist in orientation, fail to understand Pope Francis because they measure him against essentially political frames of reference.   He's left, or he's right; he's pro-this or anti-that.   But Francis isn't a political figure, and Catholicism isn't a political doctrine.   The time horizon of politics is infinitessimal compared to the time horizon of the Church.   Elections come and go; issues push to the forefront and then recede; things that are crimes in one century become "rights" in the next.   But the time horizon of the Church is eternity.   What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?   That's the question the Church concerns itself with.   And, for the most part, it's a question that American "intellectuals" just can't seem to get their minds around.

Tragedy Then, Now Farce

Marx famously said that history happens twice, once as tragedy, once as farce.   He was referring to the French Revolution of 1789 and its feeble echo in 1848.

It seems plain to me that we are in the farce stage of talking about the Crimea, soon to be followed by the Memory Hole phase, when Americans go back to their iPhones and iPads and iPods, and forget they ever heard about a place called Sevastopol on an inland ocean known as the Black Sea.

The tragedy phase was, arguably, captured best by Tennyson, after the 1854 Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
They don't make poets like that anymore, or men for that matter, and I am 100% confident that President Obama won't be ordering any cavalry to come to the aid of the Ukraine anytime soon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Ukrainian Crisis Explained in One Map

Because we Americans are simple folk, we think about political issues like the Ukrainian crisis in terms of... well, politics.   Obama is "weak" while Putin is "strong" or "assertive."   Kerry talks about "international law" (hint:  at the end of the day when the tanks roll, there really is no such thing) while Putin is described in the liberal blogs as "fascistic."   But ideology often means less than geography and demography.   For instance:

Which is why I bought my son a globe when he was little and we've spent a lot of time looking at maps.   You can't understand the world if you don't understand geography.   Among the other things the American school system has failed at.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Successful Conservative Governance v. Liberal Bureaucratic Dysfunction

Compare and contrast this:

Back in late February, a new contract document revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services would be paying $60 million for the computer cloud that supports back-end data sharing for HealthCare.gov and state Obamacare marketplaces, more than five times the amount in the original contract. This week HHS revealed that the contract has been further revised — to roughly $120 million, now more than ten times the original $11 million value of the contract when Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services first awarded it in 2011.
In most professions, when you end up spending ten times what you budgeted, the consequences are swift and severe. Heads roll. Responsibilities are reassigned. Budgetary authority gets yanked. This, of course, is not how things work in the federal government.

With this:

Our first bit of good news for the states: This week, the Wisconsin State Assembly will approve another big tax cut, amounting to $541 million and give Scott Walker another feather in his cap as he heads into his reelection campaign: 
The tax decreases — the third round of cuts by Republicans in less than a year — passed 17-15 with GOP Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center joining all Democrats in voting against the proposal. The proposal now goes to the Assembly, which passed a different version of the tax cuts last month with two Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting it. 
With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s bill will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

By the way, if you are a working class African-American in Milwaukee, why exactly would you want to vote against a Governor who is helping with the two things most necessary for you to enter the middle-class -- making homeownership affordable (by lowering property taxes) and generating manufacturing jobs?   I mean, other than pure tribal loyalty to the Democratic Party.  

Girl of the Day - Liza!

Liza Minnelli turns 68 today.   Is she as great as her mother, Judy Garland?   Of course not... no one is.   But even her mother was never in a musical as great as Minnelli's triumph in Cabaret, easily the greatest movie musical ever made:


Birthday Today - Al Jarreau

The great jazz singer, Al Jarreau, turns 74 today.   I really really liked him back in the late 1970s when I was in college.    Here was my favorite song:


And he's originally from Milwaukee!

Anti-Science Liberals II

By the way, the next time liberals say that conservative or Catholics are anti-science, you might want to refer them to this text of Pope John Paul II's 1996 Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution:
In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points. 
For my part, when I received the participants in the plenary assembly of your Academy on October 31, 1992, I used the occasion—and the example of Gallileo—to draw attention to the necessity of using a rigorous hermeneutical approach in seeking a concrete interpretation of the inspired texts. It is important to set proper limits to the understanding of Scripture, excluding any unseasonable interpretations which would make it mean something which it is not intended to mean. In order to mark out the limits of their own proper fields, theologians and those working on the exegesis of the Scripture need to be well informed regarding the results of the latest scientific research. 
4. Taking into account the scientific research of the era, and also the proper requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis treated the doctrine of "evolutionism" as a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and serious study, alongside the opposite hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions for this study: one could not adopt this opinion as if it were a certain and demonstrable doctrine, and one could not totally set aside the teaching Revelation on the relevant questions. He also set out the conditions on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith—a point to which I shall return. 
Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.  In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory. 
What is the significance of a theory such as this one? To open this question is to enter into the field of epistemology. A theory is a meta-scientific elaboration, which is distinct from, but in harmony with, the results of observation. With the help of such a theory a group of data and independent facts can be related to one another and interpreted in one comprehensive explanation. The theory proves its validity by the measure to which it can be verified. It is constantly being tested against the facts; when it can no longer explain these facts, it shows its limits and its lack of usefulness, and it must be revised.

In other words, the Church sees no conflict between faith and reason, faith and science, faith and evolution.   The Church understands that the reading of Scripture must be cabined into its appropriate sphere -- it speaks to man's spiritual life and the spiritual meaning of creation, not as a scientific theory.    The Church acknowledges the support in research for evolution.   But -- and this is important -- the Church also understands that a scientific theory is only a theory, that it remains viable only so long as it can be verified (or "falsified") by new experimental or observational evidence.  

Wouldn't it be great if those loud proponents of global warming as "settled science" had as humane and open an understanding of the scientific method as Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church?


How Empires Fall

Here's a chart that tells you pretty much all you need to know about America's decline:

In the 1950s and 1960s, when government's payments to individuals were under 30% of government spending, we built an interstate highway system, went to the Moon, and built a military so strong that it deterred an aggressive totalitarian Soviety Union for half a century and, ultimately, caused that dictatorship to collapse.  

Today, when we are spending 70% of our government's total spending on direct transfer payments does anyone think that our federal government could rebuild the highway system?   Could go to the Moon, or Mars?   Does anyone think that our military is strong enough to counter Russian aggression in the Crimea?  (Another topic:  to me, that would be a bad idea anyway, but it's moot, because we lack the strength.)

Put differently, in the 1950s and 1960s we were a country that built things that added to our national wealth.   Today we are a country of consumers.   

Anti-Science Liberals

Steven Hayward at Powerline makes a very interesting point:

Conservatives are said to be “anti-science,” though one ought to pause once and a while and ponder where the opposition to vaccines and genetically modified organisms comes from. A belief in a literal six-day creation 6,000 years ago harms no one; urging parents not to vaccinate their children, as prominent liberals and celebrities have done, leads to unnecessary death and disease.

I'd go much further than this.   I have never actually met a practicing conservative Christian who believes in "a literal six-day creation 6,000 years ago."  Perhaps they exist, but I've never met one.   To me it's not just a stereotype... it's a fantasy straw man of the left.   But during my adult lifetime the American left has opposed an extraordinary range of scientific or engineering advances, essentially on emotional or romantic grounds:

  • Nuclear power
  • Fracking
  • Pesticides
  • Genetically engineered fruits and vegetables
  • Genetically engineered cattle
  • Vaccines

Liberals are the Luddites of the 21st Century.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lenten Homily from Pope Francis

Pope Francis has from the inception of his papacy called upon us to look beyond politics and materialism to renew our spiritual lives.    Lent is obviously a time for such efforts at renewal.   Here is his Lenten homily from Ash Wednesday:

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

With these insightful words of the prophet Joel, the liturgy introduces us into Lent today, indicating the conversion of the heart characteristic of this time of grace. The prophetic call is a challenge for all of us, without exception, and reminds us that conversion is not a matter reducible to outward forms or vague intentions, but engages and transforms one’s entire existence from the center of the person, from the conscience. We are invited to embark on a journey in which, in defiance of the routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially the heart, to go beyond our “little garden.”

To open oneself to God and to others: we live in an increasingly artificial world, in a culture of “doing”, [a culture] of the “useful”, in which we exclude God from our horizon without even realizing it. Lent calls us to “give ourselves a ‘shake-up’”, to remember that we are creatures, that we are not God.

We run the risk of closing ourselves to others also: we risk forgetting them, too - but only when the difficulties and sufferings of our brothers challenge us, only then we can start our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary that includes the cross and sacrifice. Today’s Gospel shows the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer , fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6,1-6.16-18 ). All three involve the need not to be dominated by the appearance of things: the appearance of things does not matter – nor does the value of life depend on the approval of others or on success, but from how much we have inside.

The first element is the prayer. Prayer is the strength of the Christian and of every believing person. In the weakness and fragility of our life, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with Him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and that could harden the heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to enjoy its tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, a more intense, more diligent prayer, [one] more able to take care of the needs of the brethren, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.

The second element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to make a formal fasting, or one that in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel as though we have all in order. Fasting makes sense if it really affects our security, and also if a benefit to others comes from it, if it helps us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober life, which does not waste, which does not “discard”. Fasting helps us to train the heart to essentiality and sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustices, abuses, especially towards the poor and the little ones, and is a sign of our trust in God and His providence.

The third element is almsgiving: it is a sign of gratuity because alms are given to someone from whom you would not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuity should be one of the characteristics of a Christian, who, aware of having received everything from God freely, that is without any merit, learns to give to others freely. Today often gratuity is not part of everyday life, where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculation and measurement. Almsgiving helps us to live the gratuitousness of the gift, which is freedom from the obsession with possessing things, [freedom from] the fear of losing what one has, from the sadness of those who do not want to share their well-being with others.

With its calls to conversion, Lent comes providentially to rouse us, to shake us from our torpor, from the risk of moving forward [merely] by inertia. The exhortation that the Lord speaks to us through the prophet Joel is loud and clear: "Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is wrong in us, in society, in the Church - and we need to change, to turn things around, to repent! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to realize something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, continues to be full of goodness and mercy, and is always ready to forgive and start over from scratch. With this filial confidence, let us set out on our way!

Girl of the Day - More Adelaide!

We finished the BBC miniseries of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End last night.   It was extraordinarily well-done.   I had also just finished the novels -- a tetralogy of four novels that Ford published in the mid-1920s.   They are also terrific, although the last one (not included in the mini-series), doesn't really fit, and likely shouldn't be thought of as part of the same novel.  

The novel (novels?) is difficult, but not entirely impenetrable -- they are told in what might be described as a modernist stream-of-consciousness technique, but one that is much less obscure than, say, James Joyce's Ulysses (coming out around the same time) or Faulkner (coming out a tad later).   The TV show is also difficult, compared to most TV, but is significantly more romantic than the novel was, and thus more approachable.   That had to be expected -- you can read for irony and commentary on a society's violent transformation into modernity, but when you watch television (or movies for that matter) you are watching real people, and you have to at some level care for them and wish them to be happy. 

Thus it matters that Benedict Cumberbatch as the somewhat priggish Edwardian intellectual, Christopher Tietjens, is an actor we like and care about (from Sherlock).   It matters that Rebecca Hall as the manipulative and selfish straying wife of Tietjens, Sylvia, is an actress we've liked in other things playing characters we like (say, in the indie movie Starter for 10, of Ben Affleck's The Town)... it means that her villainess will be given something of the benefit of the doubt as being more than two-dimensional.   It matters that Adelaide Clemens as the ingenue of the piece, the youthful suffragette, Valentine Wannop, is young and beautiful and radiates a quality I might as well call "niceness" -- we want her to be happy with Christopher in the end.    All good television makes us care about the characters, even when they're ultimately villains -- see the last season of Breaking Bad.    And even good shows jump the shark when you stop really caring about the characters -- I think, for instance, that Mad Men has made Don Draper too unlikeable in the past couple of seasons.  

This isn't the deepest cultural commentary ever, but that doesn't mean it's not true.   Sometimes the simplest reaction is the best -- you really only want to spend time with people you like.

Anyway, I thought Ms. Clemens was  terrific, and the whole show was one of the best things we've seen in awhile.   (By way of contrast, the writing on this show by Tom Stoppard makes the writing on Downton Abbey look like it was done by... well, by people who aren't Tom Stoppard.)   Here she is in civvies.

Reality Rears Its Head in the Crimea

The cultural elite on the East Coast allied with President Obama may think that Putin's grab for the Crimea is horrible, just horrible, but the reality is apparently turning out somewhat differently:
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have to endure the stern disapproval of U.S. President Barack Obama, and the occasional insult from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as a result of his invasion of Ukraine. But at home, his approval ratings have soared to nearly 70 percent, up from just above 60 percent in December. Over 70 percent of Russians support Putin's tactics in the Crimea; fewer than one in five oppose his policy. 
The Russian parliament is expected to support Crimean secession, the Wall Street Journal reports, and even some Russian opposition leaders are praising Putin. One quoted by the Journal claims: "If Putin returns Crimea to Russia without blood, he will go down in history as a great, and there's nothing you can do about that."

As Charles Krauthammer writes in a must-read column today:

Vladimir Putin is a lucky man. And he’s got three more years of luck to come 
He takes Crimea, and President Obama says it’s not in Russia’s interest, not even strategically clever. Indeed, it’s a sign of weakness. 
Really? Crimea belonged to Moscow for 200 years. Russia annexed it 20 years before Jeffersonacquired Louisiana. Lost it in the humiliation of the 1990s. Putin got it back in about three days without firing a shot.  
Now Russia looms over the rest of eastern and southern Ukraine. Putin can take that anytime he wants — if he wants. He has already destabilized the nationalist government in Kiev. Ukraine is now truncated and on the life support of U.S. and European money (much of which — cash for gas — will end up in Putin’s treasury anyway). 
Obama says Putin is on the wrong side of history, and Secretary of State John Kerry says Putin’s is “really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century.” 
This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen.

Now, as always, the flaw of liberalism is the final intractability of human nature.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

No Option C

Jim Geraghty in NRO makes an important point, not just about foreign affairs, but about reality generally:

Dear World beyond Our Borders, 
These are your choices:
A. A world where the United States government and its military, supplied by corporations you find distasteful, responds to aggression and provocations through shows of force and military interventions. These interventions — sometimes on a large scale and sometimes on a small scale — inflict regrettable but inevitable collateral damage on civilians. These actions are ones that in the past you have labeled “imperialist” and “aggressive” and that prompt you to lament that the world is being run by “cowboys” and — the post-millennial all-purpose pejorative label — “neocons.”  
B. A world where the United States government and its military do not respond this way, and disputes about territory, ideology, and power beyond our borders are hashed out by the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Pakistanis, the Saudis, various jihadist factions (including those so violent and bloodthirsty that not even al-Qaeda wants to be associated with them), terror-for-hire groups like the Haqqani network, and anyone else who wants in on the brawl.
Pick one. There is no “Option C” where the United Nations suddenly becomes an effective, respected peacekeeping force. There is no “Option D” where the world’s strong men and brutes are talked into taking up yoga and become calm, mellow guys, eager to hug it out. 
The death toll is much, much higher under option B. But that’s your call. Maybe you’re okay with that.

Liberals always imagine that there is an option C or option D, which always involves an imagined world where there aren't real tradeoffs between supposed "goods."    You can have a strong and assertive American military or you can have a whole lot of chaos and violence in the world.   You can't have a weak America and peace abroad.   There are tradeoffs.   This is reality.

Don't like the potential environmental impact of fracking?   The tradoff is higher gas prices.

Don't like DDT?   The tradeoff is more malaria.

Don't like genetically engineered fruits and vegetables, or cows fed with BGH?   The tradeoff is higher food prices and/or less food available for poor people.

Don't like traditional morality and traditional family structures?   The tradeoff is AIDS and syphilis and gonorrhea and abortion abbatoirs and abandoned and neglected children and cycles of poverty.

We think we can avoid tradeoffs because our world is so clean and easy and safe.   We get up, we go to work, we go to the store, we come home, we cook our meals, we watch our TV, we go to bed.   then we get up and do it again.  

But a lot of the rest of the world looks like this:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Girl of the Day - Rebecca Hall

Also from Parade's End:

Lame Duck Alert!

A number of stories are out today that lead to one conclusion... Obama is now officially a lame-duck President.

1. Obama's nominee for the Civil Rights Division head within the Justice Department was voted down in the Senate with eight Democrats siding with Republicans.   The nominee, Debo Adegbile, is the former head of litigation for the NAACP Defense Fund, after working as an associate at a prominent New York law firm, Paul Weiss.    Of marginal interest:   he's the son of a Nigerian father and a white mother (much like Obama), and was raised (again, like Obama) by his white mother.   Obviously he's a mainstream liberal, which you would expect for that position in a Democratic Administration, but it appears that his nomination was derailed because at one point he had worked pro bono on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted cop killer in Philadelphia who became a cause celebre in leftist circles.

2. Former IRS official, Lois Lerner, took the Fifth in a Congressional hearing into the agency's targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.   Recall that this is the scandal that Obama said had not a "smidgen" of corruption only a few weeks ago.  Lerner is patently maneuvering to get immunity before she testifies, presumably about how high up the knowledge of the targeting went in the White House.

3. John Kerry "confidantes" (read:  leakers) are saying that Obama sabotaged Mideast peace talks by being overly critical of Israel.

In all of these, Democrats who ought to be Obama's supporters are fleeing a sinking ship.

And, of course, there's this ongoing humiliation:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Feckless" Obama

I heard the word on the radio this morning, and now here is Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:

Vladimir Putin seized Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on Thursday, and Barack Obama delivered a short statement about it on Friday. The former tells us nothing we didn't know already about Russia's strongman. The latter tells us everything we need to know about a weak president's feckless foreign policy. 
Let's take a look at what Mr. Obama had to say:... 
""We've made clear that they can be part of an international community's effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia's interest."  
In case Mr. Obama hadn't noticed, Mr. Putin isn't exactly keen on "the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward." It is precisely because a stable, successful and united Ukraine is inimical to Russia's ethnic, ideological and geopolitical interests that Mr. Putin seized the moment to strike.
I commented to my wife this morning that the liberal "intellectuals" in the Obama administration would undoubtedly all express fealty to the concept of multiculturalism, but they misunderstand what it means.   It does not mean that everyone can have ethnic festivals and don ethnic garb and we can all enjoy ethnic cultures and eat some good ethnic food and pat ourselves on the back about how tolerant we are of "diversity."   Real multiculturalism means that different peoples, different countries, different cultures, different tribes actually have different ends, different ideas of what the good life means.   We think that Putin's Russia ought to be interested in a peaceful Kumbaya-singing international community.   But they're not.   They're interested in reinvigorating the lost Russian Empire and enforcing their dominance over peoples that they have despised as inferior for hundreds of years.   Corrupt?   Yes.   Capable of great violence and great evil?   Yes.   Willing to take advantage of our weakness?   Absolutely.   Welcome to the real world, Mr. President.
For a President who seems perfectly at home being Machiavellian to fellow Americans (like Tea Party Republicans), he seems incapable of understanding that there are latter-day Princes out there, ready to march.

Girl of the Day - Adelaide Clemens

We are watching the BBC version of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End.   It stars one of our favorites, Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock), as the tormented Tory, Christopher Tietjens, who must endure cuckolding by his beautiful and treacherous wife, Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), while having a Platonic relationship with a young suffragette, Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), all with the backdrop of trench warfare in World War I.   It's a truly great novel (really a tetralogy of novels written in the 1920s), and a very very high quality TV drama.

Anyway, I had never heard of Ms. Clemens before, but she is tremendously affecting in the show and I would expect we might see more of her going forward:

Ukrainian Thoughts

By chance, as the crisis in the Ukraine has been happening, I have been reading Timothy Snyder's tremendous history of the years before and during World War II on the Eastern Front, Bloodlands:  Eastern Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.    A long chapter deals with the horrors perpetrated agaisnt the Ukraine by Stalin and Russia in the winter of 1932-33:

As starvation raged throughout the Ukraine in the first weeks of 1933, Stalin sealed the borders of the republic so that peasants could not flee, and closed the cities so that peasants could not beg.    As of 14 January 1933 Soviet citizens had to carry internal passports in order to reside in cities legally.   Peasants were not to receive them.   On 22 January 1933 Balytski warned Moscow that Ukrainian peasants were fleeing the republic, and Stalin and Molotov ordered the state police to prevent their flight.   The next day the sale of long-distance rail tickets to peasants was banned...  Peasants had killed their livestock (or lost it too the state), they had killed their chickens, they had killed their cats and dogs.   They had scared the birds away by hunting them.    The human beings had fled too, if they were lucky; more likely they too were dead, or too weak to make noise.   Cut off from the attention of the world by a state that controlled the press and movements of foreign journalists, cut off from officaly help or sympathy by a party line that equated starvation with sabotage... people died alone, families died alone, whole villages died alone.... The good people died first.   Those who refused to steal or prostitute themselves died.    Those who gave food to others died.   Those who refused to eat corpses died.    Those who refused to kill their fellow man died.    Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did... The Soviet census of 1937 found eight million fewer people than projected:   most of these were famine victims in Soviet Ukraine...

Naive Americans, like our President, have literally no ability to understand how a country like the Ukraine would fear for its life when the Russian bear growls.