Only dictatorships plunge into prestige projects as their people struggle with desperate poverty and even starvation.
So said American propaganda, back in the Cold War.
Organic food freaks who refuse to eat anything with "chemicals" in it.
The self-righteous among them are every bit as annoying as self-righteous vegetarians, tea-totalers, or non-smokers.
Among all four, a not unusual added attraction is being a know-it-all.
You can't talk to these people any more than you can talk to converts to libertarianism, Marxism, or Islam.
Many are the varieties of fatuity by which people define themselves.
The quest for identity, belonging, and meaning.
BBC NEWS reports the solemn ceremonial military reception in Britain of "sacred soil" collected from seventy battlefields in Belgium by schoolchildren.
A museum official who received it spoke with apparent sincerity of the special bond between the peoples of Britain and Belgium.
BBC reminds us next year will be the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War.
The soil will be central to ceremonies.
Even while it was being fought and for a century thereafter, this war was all but universally thought a vast disaster without point, brought on by the utter incompetence of the European ruling classes.
Perhaps the patriots will win out over that view, in the long run.
Gide and Nabokov.
The Immoralist and Lolita.
Hard to believe Gide's PG rated bit of humorless gay pederasty un-porn was supposed to be hot stuff in 1900.
A third of the way through and it is boring.
Going nowhere, very slowly.
Boo passes on as news to him and possibly others that people working Thanksgiving do so because employers make them and not because they want to.
And in both shock and dismay that "workers count for nothing in today's corporate world."
Dreiser's hero in An American Tragedy at 16 gets a job as a bellhop at a prestigious luxury hotel.
His work week comprises four days of 6 hours on and 6 off and three 6-hour days.
A sixty-six hour week with such poor pay the hotel allows their bellboys, elevator operators, and housekeeping staff to eat in the kitchen, and most of their income is tips.
No holidays, no paid time off, no insurance.
Dreiser has no idea how exhausting a schedule of six on and six off is and gives his characters busy and eventful social lives in off hours.
But I have been on guard duty and I know, and it leaves you constantly too tired to want to waste your chances on anything but sleep, and you never get enough of it.
My late maternal grandmother, born before 1890, worked fourteen hours, six days a week, as a young girl, all of it straight time, with no insurance, no job security, and no paid time off.
Exhausted children, beaten into it, and brutalized adolescents in those years, staggering with fatigue, falling asleep on their feet, worked horrific hours at dangerous machines in unsafe factories for employers with no responsibility for injuries, permanent disabilities, or death.
I suspect Boo's grandmothers did nothing of the kind.
Some labor historians have vouched for the truth of claims of the slavocracy that slavery appeared downright paternalistic, compared to the treatment of free labor in the North.
Maybe it did, sometimes, after the importation of slaves from Africa was stopped.
If you do A then, long after you are dead, a certain batch of people will exist.
If you do B, long after you are dead, a completely different batch of people will exist, better off than the first batch.
It's one thing to go out of your way to make people happier.
It's another to go out of your way to make happier people.
In the first case, people are better off thanks to you.
In the second case, not.
It may be said against assertions of human egoism that, cruelty and sadism apart, humans are sincerely distressed by the suffering of others.
And it is obvious this motivates a great deal of charity and at least plays a role in the heroic rescues we so often hear about that are so much praised.
But it more commonly motivates avoidance.
Particularly but by no means only when one is unable to help - more usually when we are unwilling to incur the costs or run the risks - , one mentally or physically averts one's gaze.
Unable to effectively ignore, avoid, escape, or blot out the spectacle, people not infrequently become angry at the source of their distress and sometimes end their discomfort in another way.
We read of parents killing infants they could not quiet or lull to sleep.
And of mercy killings.
Too, the cruelty and sadism we set aside are far from nothing and, together with cool indifference to the fate of others, explain far more of human conduct and affairs than sympathy, empathy, benevolence, or all of them at once.
In all these things, women differ from men, physical strength aside, only by being greater and more shameless hypocrites.
And perhaps more susceptible.
Try to avoid annoying expressions of hatred for white people, meat eaters, poultry farming, abundance, and the European discovery, conquest, and settlement of the Americas.
I read this morning that the US is shutting down its embassy in VC, its future business to be conducted by separate offices at the embassy to Italy in Rome.
Conservatives are denouncing the move as an insult.
Reagan established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984.
That was an historic first and a ludicrous affront both to secularism and to reality.
You don't need an embassy to an insignificant city state.
RR was sucking up to the Catholic vote.
Obama is not going so far as to formally dissolve diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
But this is a step in that direction.
Karzai has again annoyed DC to the point the US, meaning President Obama, is threatening to withdraw all US and NATO troops.
The Guardian, or its reporter, speculates the White House would like an excuse to do that.
And yet, the war in Afghanistan was, according to Obama, not stupid.
And yet, Americans generally prefer the bellicose Republicans to the only just less so Democrats on foreign affairs.
And yet, Americans were thrilled by GW's destruction of the Taliban regime.
A nation of idiots.
Are evidently pledged to defend against China Japanese possession of some rocks off the Chinese coast.
Per BBC NEWS, anyway.
Thank God we Americans are prepared to carry this heavy responsibility for the good of all mankind.
We and our armed forces are such a desperately needed force for good, I can't tell you how proud I am.
Bear any burden, pay any price.
Parties and office-seekers and office-holders and factions and interest groups need your engagement, votes, and money.
Newspapers and magazines and other media need to sell news to sell their politics and their ad space.
Public school civics classes sell "good citizenship" and "Americanism."
Texts and classes in American history sell engagement and patriotism.
All of these people have their own reasons for cultivating your avid participation.
They have every interest in sinking every reason for disengagement and refusal to participate.
No one has a stake even in mentioning such things.
It isn't that voting is allowed though not required by reason.
It is condemned as folly.
No matter how great the threat of the worst or promise of the best.
Unless, of course, your vote will be decisive.
Engagement is by no means foolish for those with actual power.
For those with only a vote it is ridiculous.
All the same, humans regularly and quite generally participate in rituals in the efficacy or point of which they do not believe.
Witness not only our political but our religious institutions.
In the most recent episode of The Mentalist, Patrick Jane at last killed Red John.
In the next episode, per the ad, we will learn what life after this murder is to be like for him.
The pictures we were shown appear tropical and do not include the CBI or any of those people.
Not even Lisbon.
But I think if this is the end then the episode in which he got his man should have been the last.
We are already having our second snow to cover the ground.
The first was at the beginning of the month.
The leaves on the maples behind my house were brilliant yellow, then.
Those still on the trees are a bit shriveled, now.
And orange in the falling snow.
A storm coming Tuesday and into Wednesday.
Off to an early start.
Twice, now, within a few weeks, a TV character has driven home the moral of the episode that one shall die for many.
Just the usual thoughtless blithering of approved formulae empty of meaning?
Or will the authorities soon be killing convicts and the homeless to harvest their organs?
The good shepherd of common reference aims at the good of the herd.
The individual sheep count for nothing, already marked for death should that be required for what TV characters have taken to calling, as if in all caps, "the greater good."
It could be argued that rational, selfish sheep would unanimously approve such a regime of official murder, each believing himself more likely to benefit than lose.
The case is different if the losers are always to be chosen from among an expendable minority, and always to benefit those outside it.
Those to benefit would prefer this to a regime of universal risk.
Those among the sacrificial class would object.
As would they all if it occured to the shepherd to sacrifice sheep now alive for future generations of sheep.
The greater good?
Whose good might that be?
Of course, the good shepherd is a myth, as unreal as Santa and the Tooth Fairy.
The real shepherd's concern is not the good of the herd but of the owner of the herd, who might be himself.
The good shepherd's intentions are, at least figuratively, those of a good predator.
He culls the herd to make a better herd - better for himself.
Though apparently true, the sex-party charges against the rich Italian politician are as obviously trumped up as the murder charge against the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA get bin Laden - though the latter is false.
Who seriously thinks persecution of consensual sex, for cash or gratis, is a sensible use of scarce law enforcement resources?
Is it illegal in Italy for a man of his then age to pay a 17 year old girl for sex?
Well, I suppose it's good the law draws a line somewhere, voluntary sex among those above and among those below being lawful, but not across that line.
Or we, like the Muslims, would see temporary "marriages" of 70 year old clergymen to 9 year old girls.
All the same, how often does the law punish a case so close to the line, as I suppose it must be, in Italy?
His enemies have been after Silvio for a long time.
It is one thing to say that, in the main, people welcome their own pleasure and are averse to their own pain, but quite another to say they live only for pleasure, as psychological hedonism, in effect, maintains.
Far from pursuing only pleasure they seem, in fact, to do so rather rarely and often with reluctance.
Likewise they seem often to remain in pain, not because efforts to end or escape or diminish it would lead somehow to a worse future net of pleasure minus pain but only because they are busy or for some other reason choose not to bother.
We are as inconstant, amateurish, slipshod, and careless about pursuing our own happiness conceived hedonistically as any other way.
Which is not to deny that our concern for or benevolence toward others is, compared to the number and neediness of others, so slight as to be practically non-existent.
Exactly as it also appears when compared with our self-love.
But I digress.
As I said at the outset, people do not live for pleasure or even much pursue it.
But that is not to say they live for something else.
In the main, people do not live for anything at all - regardless of what many might say.
Only blocked for executive nominees and judges below the Supreme Court.
And actual legislation?
The beating heart of the progressive legacy?
Overrepresented to begin with thanks to the "Great Compromise," the senate conservatives retain the power to endlessly frustrate huge majorities of the American people to protect the richest one thousandth of one percent.
But they are screaming bloody murder, for all the world as though majority rule were per se objectionable and minority obstruction was the essence of liberty.
The national media, devoted above everything like truth, candor, integrity, and responsibility to "selling papers," is glad to amplify enraged Republican bilge.
Our constitution and our classe politique just suck.
And journalism is more a public disaster than a public service.
Aka Pocahontas Warren, sounds as progressive as Bernie Sanders and is a Democrat.
And a woman.
And a non-white.
OK, that was a joke.
And anyway she says she won't do it.
Hillary, of whom I am sick already, has the nomination for the asking, probably.
Not that there is any doubt the Republican would be worse.
Sure, his family is atypical and certainly does not look like America.
America is not half black and half ex-lesbian.
If the left reflexively cheers a choice of the not-white and not-straight in so personal a relationship the rest of us may find it rather a question mark.
How far did he pick his mate to make a point?
And if that has actually worked out, so far, isn't it just dumb luck?
Just as we may find his youthful support for the Sandinistas, reported by the BooMan who thinks it proves DeB was and is a man of the "hard left," frankly off-putting.
But as the leftists tirelessly point out when it fits their propaganda needs, voters don't have to approve everything about you to elect you.
It's enough if most are more unhappy with the other guy.
Lord knows, the private affairs of politicians seem messier than anybody's, academics excepted.
Yahoo reports Steve McQueen (Twelve Years A Slave) saying he was beaten with a belt as a child.
"Why?" he asked. "Because it goes back to slavery," he answered, oblivious to the realities of all races in America as recently as his childhood and mine.
Though nowadays things seem otherwise, I think.
Children are far less likely even to be slapped, and both society and the law seem less accepting of parents using violence, however modest, to control their children.
I don't care that you are supposed to love it.
I don't care that you are supposed to rate it high.
Bloom is a silly bardolator, but this is S at his best.
It is far from politically correct.
Nor is much of anything in Shakespeare.
Or Marlowe. Or anyone, come to that.
And yet this is truly the most amazing play.
The fellow who plays Sherlock on Elementary, wouldn't he be interesting, if not wonderful, as Hamlet?
Fukushima, global warming, coal-fired power plants, nuclear power.
Japan has just announced it will be relying less on nukes and more on fossil fuel for energy than previously planned.
Nuclear power is much too dangerous anywhere, but especially at earthquake central.
Hence that country is backing away from its commitments regarding future emissions.
Muffled unhappiness and confusion on the left as support for a nuclear powered future has just begun to solidify among global warming believers.
The lwnm should be screaming nuclear power is too dangerous.
And it's not, and we know why.
What if the sorry-assed truth is that we are causing global warming, it will have the predicted devastating consequences, but trusting nukes would - will? - have even worse consequences?
When you get to brass tacks, it's just another choice among evils.
And of winners and losers.
Islanders vs. continentals.
People in temperate regions vs. people in hot areas.
What if, as seems likely, Soylent Green is coming?
Not that I will live to see it.
Good luck, kids.
So says an excellent free comment in The Guardian about the pope falling ill.
Leonardo Boff? Really?
The man was a leader in developing Liberation Theology.
A lot to be learned about the new pope here, with few wasted words.
The American hierarchy cannot be happy, obsessed as they are with Pat Buchanan's culture war, the face of the Virgin Mary the American plutocracy are only too glad to paint on their zombie capitalism.
Francis is not playing along.
Buchanan was already moaning last week that the pope has surrendered, though the man has only chosen to prioritize a side of Catholic doctrine that calls out his reverence for unfettered capitalism as a damnable heresy.
We may hope the man has miles to go before he sleeps.
But the comparison with Obama this comment avoids is apt.
Like the president, he is the best of a bad lot.
Like the president, he will inevitably disappoint, both because of the forces with which he must contend and because the man is what he is.
Pat is full of beans.
There has been and will be no surrender.
From Francis's point of view, what Buchanan labeled the Culture War is only one front in the Church's permanent war with the world, of which the war against greed on behalf of the poor is another.
That he has chosen an offensive on the latter does not mean he has abandoned the former.
Yes, I know about the questionnaire.
To this day, some leftists aren't buying in.
They prefer to dwell on questions about the pope's past during Argentina's "dirty war."
Maybe they're right about his past.
Sometimes a good memory is a bad thing.
On the latest episode of Bones the claim was made as a fact that President Juan Peron in 1945 sent ten thousand Argentine passports to Nazi Germany.
Peron became president for the first time in June of 1946.
I have found nothing to substantiate anything like this claim and have seen on the Web allegations of Argentine hospitality toward Nazis running no higher than a few hundred, mixed with accusations that Eva personally provided sanctuary for some of the worst Jew-killers in return for Jewish gold or other Nazi loot taken specifically from their Jewish victims.
Not the kind of Internet stories in which one ought to have much confidence.
Nor the kind of American liberal TV propaganda.
It is interesting that to this day in American mass culture no ogres are worse than the Nazis whose particular roles were committing what were to be classified later by American liberals as crimes against humanity against the Jews.
Mengele, for example.
And yet Nazi ethics, though of course not under that name, are very popular in that same mass-cult.
Mostly in police shows, yes, but again and again in medical contexts.
Though we don't yet have a doctor on a popular medical show explaining it's right and absolutely necessary to kill healthy homeless people whom no one cares about and whose lives are wasted to harvest their organs to save and improve many more lives, so much more worthwhile.
Wouldn't be a tough sell, though.
So long as the targets aren't Jews, Muslims, or blacks.
The first few pages of John O'Hara's novel put me in mind of winters in small-town Massachusetts, where I grew up.
I don't recall it being that snowy, usually, at Christmas, so I wondered how typical that could have been in 1930, a hundred miles outside Philadelphia.
But I remembered how quiet it was the morning after a heavy snow and the muffled sound of chains on early passing cars, just as he described it.
And I looked out my bedroom window about 7:30, Saturday morning, and saw a golden snowfall of early November leaves from the giant maples behind the house, not five miles as the crow flies from downtown Pittsburgh.
Suddenly, the doleful measures of Autumn Leaves started up inside my head, and I hurried to turn off that unwanted song.
Because it wasn't sad, no more than that morning snow and that sound of muffled chains.
And it was just as beautiful.
O'Hara's prose, by the way, is very fine.
Update, Sunday, November 10th.
Just finished, maybe 26 or 27 hours after starting.
That is one fast book.
One heck of a story, wonderfully written.
Update, Tuesday, 11/12.
This morning I brushed two inches of snow off the car, and scraped off the ice underneath it.
So much for that beautiful golden snow of maple leaves.
A species evolving toward greater intelligence would simply die out along the way if it didn't also develop an adequate mix of blind optimism and fear of death.
A moment of untypical pessimism.
Despair has a bigger role in history than one might think, and defeat is chosen more often.
The more dreaded or simply more persistent faction in a civil war, though more hated, can win support of a public more afraid of continued violence than of surrender.
And that support can come at the ballot box, as happened more than once in UN-sponsored plebiscites ending colonial or post-colonial wars.
Does this throw light on the Republican strategy of relentless political terrorism?
Property exists because the state says it does and makes it stick with the threat of force.
And the real thing, for that matter, push come to shove.
That said, the deprivation of the poor is an act, not an omission.
But though you may be the willing and grateful beneficiary of this act that does not make it your act.
While your ending the deprivation in any particular case by a small gift, relative to your total stock, would be - as would be putting a stack of twenty dollar bills out on the curb for anyone to take.
That would be consistent with human egoism, however, only if you cherish fellow humans as others cherish white rhinos, polar bears, or members of other endangered species.
Or as others do their pets.
Otherwise the motive could only be madness.
Or, again perhaps within the realm of reason, fear.
Fear of our fellow human beings is, after all, both more common and more rational than love.
But even then only if the sacrifice was only of your superfluity, or of what had to be sacrificed to prevent greater loss.
Taxation, too, exists by the will of the state, again backed by force.
And the same is true of enjoyment of and entitlement to the proceeds.
Just as the property of the heir is not the creation of his act, the income of the state pensioner is not the result of his.
The political struggle, however, to bring state power into line with one's own interests or those of one's class, race, sex, nationality, or other interest or identity group is no omission.
Even though the battle is a clash of mobs more than armies and the result depends not at all on the individual action of any particular bit of canon fodder.
The case is otherwise, of course, for those who can and do choose whether or not to send out the mobs to fight their battles for them.
Or even, and perhaps more so, for the directors of those mobs.
Though not those of any individual among the mass of his privates, Napoleon's victories were, indeed, his own.