Saturday, November 30, 2013

India launches Mars probe, says BBC NEWS

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.

Transmigration

When Joe McCarthy died his soul came back in the embryonic Darrell Issa.

Just another kind of crackpot

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.

Rehabilitating The Great War

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.

A pair

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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

BooMan glimpses the condition of the working class in America

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."

And yesterday?

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.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A propos de global warming

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.

Any preference?

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.

Empathy

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.

Happy Thanksgiving, by the way

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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?

Hamlet (and Shakespeare) take it for granted the actor is personally quite unmoved by the fate of Priam's queen.

The Thanksgiving storm came

As so often, the weather didn't live up to the hype.

Yes, a few inches of snow Tuesday that will be on the ground for the holiday and even through the weekend.

But that's all it came to.

BooMan the conservative

However liberal about social issues and the safety-net, Boo always sides with the conservatives about the anti-democratic structural features of the federal government that so markedly magnify conservative power.

He favors repeal of the 17th Amendment though progressives passed it because they could neither abolish the senate nor make representation there proportionate to population, which to this day they would prefer.

He defends the filibuster that even further magnifies conservative power in that body and laments the recent limitation of it by the Democrats.

Don't even ask about a presidentially nominated and senate confirmed, life-tenured committee of lawyers having unchallengable power to decide what the constitution means and force all levels of government and all officials, however exalted, to dance to its tune.

The most liberal thing about him, come to think of it, is the hostility toward white people he shares with Steve M of No More Mr Nice Blog.

He's really concerned about the names of sports teams, for example.

Like the Washington Redskins.

Probably not too worried about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, though.

Well, who knows?

Isn't that a negative stereotype?

The kind of thing that keeps him up nights, worrying about America.

US out of Vatican City

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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

US out of Afghanistan? Finally?

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.

Your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor

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.

That's us.

Media eyewash

BBC NEWS today says the pope has called for "radical reform" of the Church.

The story does not justify that silly claim.

Uh oh.


Religious Freedom Restoration Act, eh?

Per the story,

RFRA, as it's referred to, says law that burden religious liberties must have a compelling government interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that interest.

The law looks like an unconstitutional effort by statute to add a clause to the constitution. 

And a damned silly bow toward establishment with no warrant in the enumerated powers conservatives so hypocritically yell about when it serves their turn. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Democracy and mass propaganda

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.

It's not just for the extremely poor

KOS today refers to a study that says 71% of American uninsured under 65 qualify for a subsidy or expanded Medicaid.

Yes, 30% still fall through the cracks.

But that's still an achievement.

Life after vengeance

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.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The assassination of President Kennedy


Brilliant, chilling, and horrible.

A whole lot of people behaving strangely, and some very foolishly, under tremendous pressure.

A lot of them people who just did not follow the proper and correct procedure they knew to follow, that many of them had followed many times, as professionals.

Others, too, knew what to do and did not do it.

Others acted without guidance, in a daze or frantic.

Poor Jackie.

She sure as hell got the worst of it, from the ride in the car sitting next to Jack while and after he was shot to the OR at Parkland, to the ride in the plane to DC, and for the rest of that awful day, and for days thereafter.

Fifty years ago, yesterday, when I was fourteen going on fifteen.

JFK Remembered

Kennedy was an incompetent and foolish cold warrior.

"Bear any burden, pay any price," after all, is the same in spirit as "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."

He ran against Nixon from the right on foreign policy, yelling about a fatal "missile gap" that did not exist.

Reputedly, he stole the election and Nixon chose to let it pass.

We might have done better with Nixon, both then and since.

Bay of Pigs?

Missiles of October?

Vietnam?

America forced to choose between a lunatic policy of roll-back and the only less crazy policy of containment?

No Goldwater nomination in 64, anyway, I think.

No crackpot conservative ascendancy in the GOP?

Not that they weren't already a force, doing their best to take over, what with tail-gunner Joe in the senate, cheered on by his red-baiting, red-hunting family friends, Bill Buckley and the "respectable" movement conservatives at The National Review.

No Reagan in 80?

No war on the government in the new century?

The Republicans of that time had already used federal power to support the civil rights movement, Eisenhower and his VP, Nixon, in the lead, supporting the Brown decision of the Supreme Court headed by Eisenhower's appointee, Republican Earl Warren.

Nixon would have been better for the movement than JFK, inhibited by his dixiecrats, as some of its supporters, black and white, understood.

Sure, he used Whittaker Chambers against Alger Hiss to embarrass the Democrats and in particular Truman, Acheson, and retrospectively FDR.

But Hiss was guilty and FDR was a fool about Stalin.

There was no way his anti-fascist war was ever going to do America any good, anyway.

Nixon proved in China his anti-communism was not that of the conservatives, and his policies regarding the Vietnam War, inherited from the Democrat LBJ, were no worse than we could have expected from Humphrey.

Would America have done better in 1960 with Nixon?

We'll never know.

And, no, refusing to fight a vast, global war to save the Jews of Europe would not have been per se anti-Semitic, though anti-Semites would have applauded.

Not even if many American Jews and their allies of the thought police say so.

No more than refusing such a war to save Russia from Germany would have been anti-communist, slavophobic, or pro-Nazi, though anti-communists, slavophobes, and pro-Nazis would have been pleased.

No more than refusing a much lesser war to save the Tutsis in Rwanda was racist.

Oh, one more thing. 

Had Nixon won Kennedy would not have been shot.

Even he would have been better off. 

Snow a bit early this year

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.

Update.

A storm coming Tuesday and into Wednesday.

Off to an early start.

Meaningless Hollywood claptrap?

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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trojan lubricants on TV

Competition for KY using much less amusing commercials.

He is not a nice man, he says. Nor is the other guy.

In the most recent episode of Elementary, Sherlock's anger screws things up repeatedly and the hour ends with him being quite unnecessarily dickish toward Joan, insisting angrily he is not and never will be a "nice man" and self-consciously dealing a blow to their partnership.

But compared to Patrick Jane, Sherlock's lack of niceness is relatively superficial, overlaying a deeper comparative good-guy-hood.

He is, due allowance made for his past, mistaken willingness to murder Moriarty, merely, as he says, acerbic - and disagreeable, offensive, annoying, and prickly.

That is the whole of his not niceness.

As to Jane, more than once diagnosed accurately as a highly intelligent and effective sociopath, his superficial niceness enables his deeper and much more serious not-niceness, exemplified in his career as a successful, arrogant, and still remorseless con artist.

The difference shows as well in their reasons for being what they both are, consulting detectives working with the police.

For Holmes, this is what he has in lieu of a paying career, though we are given to understand he could do well as a private dick and sometimes does take private cases.

His work with a squad of New York homicide detectives fills his days, takes his mind away from his addiction, and provides the discipline, order, and self-esteem he crucially needs.

His general nastiness undermines his ability to work with the cops and more than once jeopardizes his relationship with them, as in the episode under discussion.

Worse, as in this episode, it threatens his relationship with Watson, though he and she know as well as we that his continuing relationship with her is at least as crucial to keeping him from a self-destructive relapse into addiction as his work.

For Jane, on the other hand, his consultant's role is just a way of tracking down the man who killed his wife and daughter so he can personally kill him.

He has already murdered a follower of Red John who had deceived him into thinking he was the evil one, himself.

The same superficial and professional niceness that enabled him to fleece the aggrieved - mostly aggrieved women - in the past now enables him to charm the California Bureau of Investigation - again, especially the women.

And it enables in particular his crucial relationship with Lisbon, without which he could not continue with the CBI and piggy-back his own search for Red John on theirs.

In fact, his charm is such that most of his cohorts on the CBI are well aware that he works with them so he can find and kill Red John and for no other reason, and are actually OK with that.

Interesting lesson, here.

Interesting, too, that I started this note intending to comment on Holmes's awful haircut and punkish, grubby, and anti-elegant grooming that so suits his general twitchiness and addict anger.

And that, too, is in contrast with Jane, whose grooming suits his charm.

Still, we ought not to push the contrast too far.

As noted, Sherlock for years planned to murder Morarity for killing his own one true love, and in the episode under discussion intended to frame a serial killer rather than see him escape punishment.

And yet I don't think it's correct that the two characters are equally not nice inside, the difference being that Sherlock is also not nice outside while Patrick is charming.

Jane spent his whole life, from adolescence on, being a villain.

Not so, Sherlock.

Not by a mile.

Silvio under fire

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.

History written by Newt Gingrich

According to Pat Buchanan, America was a virtuous and pacific, isolationist republic until she crossed the water to fight the Spanish for Cuba and the Philippines, entering fatefully upon the seas of empire and globalism.

More candid are those who reject the line he draws as arbitrary, between the centuries of westward expansion by means fair and foul and America's modern era.

Robert Kagan instead affirms continuity with the gusto and British-American tribalism of a smarter and less inhibited Newt Gingrich.

For Bill Kauffman, the affirmation is more a lament.

And for Howard Zinn, it is a Black Book of atrocity from beginning to end.

The right wing version is history written by shallow and corrupt, narrow-minded Pollyannas.

The left wing version is deeper but not more honest.

History is a nightmare from which no one can awake.

The dismal visions of the hard left are often fundamentally right but fundamentally corrupted by hate.

If we not only reject but refuse to credit their Utopianisms it emerges that Furet was wrong.

The primary motivation for the communist revolutions of the 20th Century was not mere hatred of the bourgeoisie but of mankind as a species, acted out with suitably destructive effect.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hedonism

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.

Advancing on fogeydom

Though I have not retired, I am of an age when many people do, and I just got my Medicare card in today's mail.

Weird feeling, that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Filibuster reform?

Only blocked for executive nominees and judges below the Supreme Court.

And actual legislation?

The budget?

The beating heart of the progressive legacy?

No change.

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.

Baldwin a homophobe?

Probably.

It's a little late in life for him to be discoverng on the fly that use of a term for any distinct group of people as an expletive of defamatory abuse is offensive to that group and encourages disdain toward its members and, because the offense and harm to the group were unintended and are immediately regretted, resolving on that account not to so use terms for that group again.

That sort of modestly traumatic learning experience was not uncommon in my early years among children raised in a society of customary racism and casual anti-Semitism.

But how could it be made today by a grown man no longer young?

A man of his age who uses language that way cannot deny understanding what it does.

The liberal thought police, of course, encourage that sort of  abuse of some groups while avenging like furies its visitation on others.

In that regard, the actor crossed a line.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Elizabeth Warren

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.

Any Republican.

Same old same old

Attacks on Obamacare and on Obama and the Democrats based on Obamacare continue with all the fury of a global warming typhoon.

Relentless and remorseless.

Seek shelter and wait.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A blog without readers

I think I have had no readers for perhaps some years, now.

So why write?

Thinking is articulation.

Thoughts that are not articulated are not thought.

About that useful

Voting.

Doing a rain dance to end a drought.

Casting a spell to keep away tornadoes.

Cheering to help your team win.

Prayer. 

De Blasio

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.

Silliest remark by a celebrated black movie maker

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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hamlet

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?

The dog that isn't barking

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.

Very sensible.

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.

Even an atheist should pray for him

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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An unsatisfactory Jesuit

Pope Francis in the eyes of the very Catholic Pat Buchanan, in his latest column distressed that this fellow is not much interested in the culture wars and might even prioritize the church's preferential option for the poor over abortion and the struggle against gay marriage.

An option first articulated under that name by Latin America Jesuits close to the movement of Liberation Theology in the mid and late 20th Century.

And a side of Catholic doctrine totally rejected by the sons of Holy Mother Church so conspicuous in the conservative movement for their pious regard for the free market capitalism it so clearly condemns.

People like Pat and Rick Santorum and the serial monogamist Newt Gingrich.

Did I mention I graduated with a BA in philosophy from Holy Cross, once upon a time in the second half of the 20th Century, when the cold war was still on?

With the Flatley Medal, no less.

That still makes me smile.

I hadn't any idea the thing existed until they told me at graduation that I had won it - though there had been a mysterious series of tests and interviews with faculty with whom I had not been close, during senior year.

I would have preferred at the time of choice to go to U Mass, a much cheaper secular school.

But that would have been educationally very costly, both in general and with particular reference to philosophy.

Fortunately, in that regard, my parents would help pay only if I went to HC.

In many ways I loved the place, though for most of my time there I was an atheist, with occasional interludes as a vaguely existentialist deist.

Or vaguely deist existentialist, perhaps.

There were no official minors, but I had that many credits in both English and theology.

Some on the faculty attempted to recruit me for their orders, the Jesuits and the Marists.

But I was not dishonest enough to accept, either about God or about sex.

Make what you can of those who accepted the offer.

Pope Francis, say.

Update.

KOS today responds to this article of Pat Buchanan's by bitterly attacking him for being old, white, and racist.

Unclear which is the worst charge in KOS's eyes.

But all three seem hateful, contemptible, and nothing to the purpose.

Still, that's pure and honest KOS.

I am who and what he hates, though I voted twice for his man and still support him.

The more the Democrats think like KOS the more they gradually shift from being a lesser evil to an outright lesser enemy.

A man of conviction

Orwell.

You can tell from his essays, not to say from his life.

Now that would make it fun to vote

If Bernie Sanders ran in the Democratic primaries I would vote for him over any Democrat I know of.

That would make a trudge to the polls rather fun.

Not a chance in hell, of course.

He's not a Democrat, he's old, he's white, and he's a man.

And it seems the issues that move him most are those of old-fashioned progressivism.

If he runs as an independent or on some minor party ticket he could be a horribly effective spoiler, ensuring the GOP wins in 2016.

Of course, I hope he does not do that.

If he mounts a run the Democrats and their liberal sympathizers will rip him to pieces.

Leading them to socialism, Cuban style?


How far will he take them?

He wants to rule by decree, anyway.

The communists in Cuba broke a lot of eggs, but reputedly fewer than in Russia or anywhere in Asia, and (also reputedly) there actually was an omelet served to some people.

Perhaps it’s only my ignorance speaking but I don’t see that things are so bad in Cuba that the Cubans should welcome a counter-revolution, though they are very apt to get one if and when anything remotely like normal democracy is restored.

If President Maduro takes his country toward Cuban style communism, rather as Salvador Allende tried to do, I truly don’t know how to judge whether for Venezuela that would be a good thing or a bad thing.

There would be winners and there would be losers.

The American right, terrified still at the specter that used to haunt Europe, would call out for intervention.

The American left would oppose it and be divided on the fundamental question whether a Bolivarian revolutionary dictatorship would even be a bad thing, much as they are divided now about the dictatorship of the Cuban communists.

Personally, I see no American dog in this fight.

Certainly no dog of mine.

Though it might be rather bracing to see the arrogant, out of control conservatives of the USA get their noses pushed a bit out of joint. 

Lord knows they need to be chastened by a good scare. 

Different rules for thee and me


Yeah, we know.

But what white people say or do with their white friends so is up to black America to dictate, right?

Well, liberal America, actually.

How long can they keep it up?

The onslaught of conservative hysteria about Obamacare, I mean.

For what seems like weeks, now, the conservative media have been blaring outrageous, angry propaganda on the subject almost to the exclusion of everything else.

This is what they do.

Just one reason to hate the Republicans.

Their propaganda is more exclusively evil not only in purpose but in content than that of the Democrats or their liberal supporters.

And that's going some.

Update. 

On second thought, that's not entirely fair. 

Yes, I mean to the Republicans. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Conflicts of interest

Bentham insisted the foundation of his moral view is the impartial rule, each to count for one and no one to count for more than one.

Be it so.

If I do A Fred, a child of 4, will suffer 20 dolors of pain while if I do B Jill, also 4, will suffer only 2.

Surely it is best to do B, then?

And if B leads to both Jill and Paula each suffering 2 dolors?

Well, yes, surely B is better still.

And if it leads to 11 of Fred’s classmates – or 15, or 25 – each suffering, quite separately, 2 dolors, all of them volunteers with their parents’ approval, doing it as a kindness to spare poor little Fred the agony of 20 dolors?

Is it still the better choice?

Surely so?

Surely it’s still a brave and laudable kindness?

What difference does it make how many of Fred’s classmates there are, all of whom take on a mere 2 dolors to spare him, the poor tyke, that  big lump of 20?

After all, not one of them suffers a bit more than those piddling 2 dolors.

Even if there are fifty of them, it is not as though that added up to one kid, somewhere, suffering a whole hundred dolors, is it?

No, certainly not.

Then twelve suffering one dolor against one suffering one dolor is a wash.

It’s not the same as one suffering twelve dolors against one suffering one dolor.

I forget who first urged this, but he also pointed out that majoritarianism is just making a rule of the lesser surrendering to the greater force.

Making a virtue of supposed necessity, so to speak.

Might have been Shaw.

Now, if it were a single kid suffering a hundred dolors that B led to, well, then maybe A would really be better and poor Fred would have to take his 20 dolors.

[Aside.

The disciples said to Jesus, “Better one should die for the sake of twelve.”

“Phooey,” he replied. “Even if twelve died, not one of you would die more than once. Now if one of you were to die twelve times, that would be something!”

/Aside.]

But then again, better for whom?

Not for Fred, certainly.

Nor even in the eyes of his Mom, I would imagine, though she might play along if she couldn't save Fred, somehow, in secret.

In the eyes of God or his equally imaginary secular proxy, the necessarily impartial ideal observer?

So what?

Ah, so you mean it’s morally better.

I see.

Well, we know what that comes to.

The voice of power, bellowing quite deliberate nonsense.

And then there is little Johnny who is so sensitive he always feels things twice as strongly as anyone else.

So to maximize pleasure and minimize pain one must always maximize his pleasure first, and minimize his pain, it being so cheaply and easily done.

Well, his Mom says so, anyway.

Or is she just a liar and he not really the utility hog she claims he is?

How could anyone know?

Reading assignment.

Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation.

J J C Smart in Utilitarianism, For and Against.

As to the maybe Shaw, The Intelligent Woman's Guide? Maybe?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The regime of liberal censorship


Insulting, patronizing, belittling, demeaning, agist (!), and controlling in the fatheaded, liberal way.

The liberals kicked out the clergy to make themselves America’s moral police, not only of what people say and do but of what they think.

Interesting that nearly all who have chosen to attack Cohen have been sure to attack him in a fashion they themselves label "agist" when others do it and they want to blame them for it.

Liberals have remarkably little tolerance for the customs, norms, attitudes, and institutions that are essential to shape and maintain the very differences they so mendaciously claim to prize. 

The rule of endogamy, or the taboo against exogamy, is a clear example. 

The last thing these fakers value is actual diversity. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dreiser

Dickens without the sentimentality?

I fear Mencken liked Dreiser for the same reason Vonnegut liked Mencken.

Vonnegut was an ignorant man.

But it's too soon to quit on him.

Dreiser, I mean.

I'll carry on.

Update.

Finally put it aside about November 15th, after well over a hundred pages. 

An American Tragedy is just too uninteresting a story, told badly, in bad prose, at too great length. 

Apologies accepted, but not thanks

My employer this year made a big thing of 11/11, holding a celebratory dinner to which all employees who are veterans were invited and at which they were emphatically and ceremoniously thanked.

I did not attend.

The soldiers of the Union deserved the thanks of the freedmen.

The soldiers of our revolution deserved the thanks of our ambitious national politicians.
It's not so clear they were owed thanks by ordinary folk.

All of our other soldiers are owed, not thanks, but apologies for fighting, and in most cases being made to fight, and in far too many cases being injured or killed, in wars America had no stake in, or anyway those Americans had no stake in.

Come to that, so are most, if not all, of those soldiers of the Union.

The best thing we can do for the American troops of today is knock it off.

We here should highly resolve to stop making our people fight wars that are none of their affair.

Why don't we?

Because people like war, just as they like hockey, boxing, and football.

Because when they see a fight in a schoolyard the other kids don't try to stop it, instead surrounding the fighters and urging them to beat the hell out of each other.

Because we are the vicious, bald chimpanzees that we are.

Or seem to be.

It’s bullshit, and American liberals have handed this to them on a silver platter


Right.

And climate change is responsible for tornadoes in Oklahoma.

And America is responsible for climate change.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

As I Lay Dying

Some of what Faulkner wrote is reputed, perhaps rightly, unintelligible.

But not this.

This is excellent.

I started late this morning.

I'm already about a third of the way through it.

Update, 11122013.

Finished it last night.

Another very fast read, gripping and tragic.

The tragedy stemming from character but also from ignorance and stupidity.

10,000 passports for Nazis?

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.

Not yet.

Wouldn't be a tough sell, though.

So long as the targets aren't Jews, Muslims, or blacks.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Appointment in Samarra

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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Serious doubts? Really?

NBC reports John Kerry says he has serious doubts Oswald acted alone in the JFK assassination.

He thus joins about 90% of Americans who figure the Warren Commission report was bullshit and we will all go to our graves with no idea what really happened.

Just one of the many, many things we’ll never know.

So?

Move on.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Consider this

When deciding whom to support in the coming Democratic presidential primaries, consider the question who is more or less likely to get us into a war in the Middle East, if not to save Israel then to make sure women have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Just a thought.

The government we deserve



Congress is stupid and wrote a stupidly worded anti-terrorism law.

Prosecutors are evil and make a habit of abusive construction of statutes to smash their victims.

And George Will’s political manifesto is a crock of shit.

What else is new?

Take that, feminist Democrats


Hillary’s successor will not be using his office to champion global revolution on behalf of American feminism.

So, Obama sold out the old for the sake of the young


The contrast is illuminating, between what these Democratic senators want to do and what the president has actually done.

And still he is the lesser evil, by far, even for the geezers, when compared either to the Republicans who ran against him or to those who wanted to run against him.

Given the aspirations of the Republicans, a sensible fogey has to hope for a long string of Democratic victories, even when the Democrat is clearly not as good as some minor party candidates.

In fact, we have to hope that, for the duration of the current wave of Republican radicalism, and so for the foreseeable future, no minor party candidate runs who could possibly split the left enough for the Republicans to win.

With any luck, another sequence of minor party forays will split the right, as one did back in the 1990s.

Agenda? Not much.

Obamacare has a crappy website

We may never hear the end of it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Patriotism

The aim of the propaganda of patriotism is willing canon-fodder.

And more generally social peace and political quiet.

Pleasure

Schopenhauer was right to insist that pain is real, but he was wrong that pleasure is not.

On the other hand, Epicurus was right that getting pleasure as commonly undertaken generally entails a lot of trouble, not unusually more than it is worth.

Epicurus was thinking of sex when he said that, but one might also consider the use of adult beverages.

Clearly, much in either case depends on moderation and prudence.

Probably, Schopenhauer too was thinking of sex when he said that pleasure is only relief.

The German also held that, pleasure being unreal and pain only too much so, the avoidance or minimization of pain is the only reasonable rule of life.

A rule he never followed, demanding as it does, since he agreed a longer is a more painful life, a quick and painless suicide.

Sometimes, however, he claims only that pleasure occurs only with or as the relief of an always greater pain.

This is still wrong - there are, for instance, pleasant surprises that are not episodes of unexpected relief of pain - but it is not silly.

And sometimes the pleasure that comes with relief is considerably greater than the distress relieved.

Of course I, too, am thinking of sex.

Not very popular since the mid-20th Century, before that it was generally admitted that pain is an evil and at least innocent pleasure a good, and the hedonist view that only pleasure is good in itself and only pain thus evil was a serious competitor, along with the view that happiness is the excess of pleasure over pain.

Like egoism, hedonism has historically been offered, generally by the same people, in an ethical and a psychological version.

And again like egoism, a purely empirical hedonism, neither ethical nor quite the other, is available concerning the way things generally seem to go.

We note that humans commonly seem to give little or no weight to the interests or concerns of others as against their own, except in varying degrees for some few persons most close to them.

Likewise, they seem in practice to attribute little significance to anything but their own pleasure - or at any rate what pleases them - , their own pain, and their own happiness, taking account of those of some few others as they would those of their pets. 

Perhaps very beloved - even excessively beloved - pets, but still pets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, egoism and hedonism are often advanced by the same people.

Henry Sidgwick, contemporary of Nietzsche, professed both hedonism - more Bentham's than Mill's - and egoism.

(And also act utilitarianism, but never mind that.)

Against the pessimists he insisted that, the ordinary background tenor of life being somewhat pleasant, most of the time for most of us life is happier than not.

And the prospects for many of us, at least, and much of the time, do not make immediate suicide the prudent choice.

There is some question whether he took sufficiently into account such common phenomena as chronic though mild arthritis and the myriad episodic and impermanent pains of life.

Intelligence and evolutionary success

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.

Earthly salvation

Human life is very small compared to the scale of history or even politics.

Given that either is, for each of us, an irresistible force of nature, the extent of our vulnerability is frightening.

And depressing.

The trolley dilemma

Look it up at Wikipedia.

It raises puzzling questions about acts vs. omissions, double effect, and deontological vs. consequentialist ethics.

There might even be fairly regular differences of opinion by political outlook.

All very interesting.

But don't forget there is no right answer to the question what's the right thing to do because morality is bunk and, strictly speaking, there isn't even any such question.

What actually matters to anyone facing the dilemma is the very real and urgent question which course of action leads to the best outcome for himself, given his druthers and the responses of others to his choice.

Or which answer to the test question what's the right thing to do leads to the best outcome in an academic, professional, or other context.

Acclaim as a hero?

Infamy?

A long term in prison?

A failing grade?

A tenured position in the philosophy department?

Nearly impossible to tell, isn't it?

No one but an enemy would wish this on you.

American politics in a nutshell

Steve M reports Kevin Drum reports a Georgia man complains the cheapest policy available to him costs $200 a month, a quarter of his income.

He blames Obama.

Not the Republican Supremes who blocked mandatory Medicaid expansion, the Republican governor who decided against it for his state, and the Republican Georgia legislature that supported him.

Though he would have been eligible for free Medicaid coverage under that expansion, he blames Obama for the fix he's in.

And it might very well not be because he doesn't know.

The moral convictions of ordinary Americans apparently make them easy recruits for the right on money issues.

Just as their moral and religious convictions, together, do on sexual issues.

And yet, the pews at church are full of believers like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, who want abortion and contraception safe and affordable, even for adolescents, and vote accordingly.

How many Democratic voters support spreading the wealth and, though they believe the moral condemnation implicit in the bumper sticker complaint, "socialism is fine until you run out of other people's money," are confident we are a long way from that, yet?

Or grateful?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Terrorism, war, and despair

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?

Maybe.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Property and taxation: acts or omissions?

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.

The future of mankind

Extinction.

In ten, a hundred, or a thousand generations.

Or more.

Perhaps a lot more.

Does it matter to you?

How much?

Why?

The march of the philistines


And the inexorable evolution of the university toward the trade school ideals of the Babbitts of Zenith continues. 

Perhaps it's time to look again at Ortega's The Revolt of the Masses.

Certainly at Sinclair Lewis.