Ben Finiti on Retirement

I see my astute friend Ben Finiti has a new post discussing retirement and its uses.  Like most of his stuff, and like Danton’s head*, it is worth a look.

Ben must know what he’s talking about, since he has been retired in one sense or another for much of his life.  (He is from Florida, you know.)

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*If you are not familiar with the expression “Danton’s head”, Google it.**

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**Don’t bother; I just tried it, and Google failed me.

Anyway, Georges Danton was a leader of the bloodthirsty French Revolution.  After inaugurating the Reign of Terror (they even called it that themselves, proudly), the Revolution became steadily more radical, until it eventually turned on its own leaders, including Maximillian Robespierre, and Danton himself.  On the guillotine, Danton boldly told the executioner to show his (Danton’s) head to the crowd once it was off. “It is worth a look.”

So there’s that.

 

Civilizations Can Die, Too

A while back, I was inspired by an essay that reminded me of a short story.  Since then I have found and read a book that reminded me of the same story and essay.  (A lot of reminding for a guy whose memory is so bad.)

The essay is by Phyllis Chesler, entitled “Old Manhattan Still Standing, But Owned By Others“.  The short story is by Stefan Zweig, entitled Buchmendel, written in 1929. My post is entitled “Phyllis Chesler and Old Vienna.”

As I wrote there,

“The title character is an old antiquarian bookseller who operated out of a table in a Vienna café. Zweig weaves together the story of a vibrant city and culture in its dying days, and makes it the backdrop for the life and death of an individual man.   Mendel is a remarkable jewel set in the living-its-final-days culture, instantly transformed into a dirty discarded beggar in the aftermath.

“The Café Gluck, Jacob Mendel, and cosmopolitan Hapsburg Vienna before, during, and after the First World War; it is, like all of Zweig’s works (and life), unutterably and beautifully sad.”

I recently found (at a Goodwill outlet store, I think) a book called Worlds That Passed, by A. S. (Abraham Simchah) Sachs. It is a nostalgic, even romantic recount of the Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe – the world that is now long lost.  (A first edition, I am sure, because it was never re-issued.)

It opens thus:

“Like a deluge the war has overwhelmed and drowned in torrents of blood hundreds of thousands of Jewish families…Like trees pulled up by their roots from their native soil, so was the Jewish life violently torn from the land to which it had been united by inseparable bonds for many centuries.”

Many books about the Holocaust have started in a similar vein.  But this book is not one of them.

This book was published in 1928.  Five years BH (Before Hitler).

The Roaring 20’s. Decades after Sholem Aleichem’s “Fiddler On The Roof” stories of Jewish village life in Eastern Europe, Sachs wrote an obituary for it.  Zweig wrote a similar obit for Jewish urban life in cosmopolitan Vienna.

And yet, a time that two decades later would be seen as the Golden Age, before Hitler expanded the imagination of anti-Semitism to include all-out extermination.  The “Good Old Days”.

I am not sure where I am going with this.

Maybe it is just that a civilization can die, and when it does the survivors may die next.

 

 

 

 

 

To My Chinese Friends

I have noticed recently that a number of the visitors to my site/website/weblog/blog are surfing from China. The Peoples’ Republic of China.  Wow!

When I say “a number”, I must admit it is a small number (as is the total number of my visitors, alas).

But I would really like to know what draws a web surfer in a repressive one-party state to a lone voice such as myself.  Drop me a comment, if you feel free to.

Of course, it might be the case that I am being monitored by the CCP watchdogs of the PRC. If so, I am honored and humbled.

I should admit that this attention, from whatever source, may be spillover from the blog of my very Catholic friend Mr. Ben Finiti (benfiniti.com).  He has often written about the current Pope’s betrayal of the Chinese people, and the courageous defense of embattled Cardinal Zen.

Whatever it is and whoever you are, please drop me a line.

 

Per Capita Reality about Covid-19

[I wrote the following message to a good friend of mine, who is so depressed about the current crisis, and so obsessed with our president, that he says he will emigrate to some other country as soon as a vaccine is developed.]

I am glad to hear you will not be emigrating any time soon.  I hope you reconsider when this present crisis passes (as it will).

It is all too easy to see this as a failure of our political system, especially if one particularly dislikes our present leader.  The “Orange Man” is certainly dislikable; but that doesn’t lay this at his door.  To the extent that this is a political crisis, it is a widespread one, being felt throughout the western world (and perhaps far beyond.)

My wife has found us a good source of reliable statistics on the Covid-19/Coronavirus mess, at Worldometers.info.  It is revealing.  For instance:

Inadequate as our testing seems to have been, the US has done more testing than Sweden, France, the UK, or the Netherlands (per capita). Yet we have had way fewer deaths than those countries (per capita). And we have had fewer deaths than Italy, Spain, Belgium or Switzerland, even though those countries have done a lot more testing than we have.

Asia (except China, and who can trust their reports?), Africa and South America seem to have escaped the worst of it, for reasons that are unclear and probably varied; but some of them may simply be late starters.

As for the US, we must consider that right now we have a very lopsided epidemic: New York on one hand, the rest of the country on the other.  NY state is 6% of the US population but 45% of Covid deaths.

And Iceland, the nation that has done the most testing (12% of their population), has had more cases and more deaths than Montana. IC is one third the population of MT, but has 4 times the cases and almost 3 times the death rate.

So, whatever is driving the dimensions of this crisis, it doesn’t seem to be politics. And the solution will not be political either.  It will probably be scientific (treatment and vaccines) and behavioral (social distancing and hygiene, like learning to wash hands and cough/sneeze carefully). Mundane stuff.

And on the non-mundane level, I also think prayer will help.

Meanwhile, our task is not only staying healthy but also staying sane.  In that regard I recommend avoiding people that infuriate you, especially on TV (you know who I mean).  And keeping a sense of perspective.

I look forward to seeing you guys once the all-clear is sounded.

More Stuff from Ben

I see my friend Ben Finiti has posted something about prayer, calculus, and chemistry.  I don’t know where he gets this stuff.  (My inspiration is easier to identify: old Simpsons’ reruns.)

Anyway, go take a look here.

Phyllis Chesler and Old Vienna

Phyllis Chesler is one of my favorite writers. Certainly my favorite pro-Israel feminist defender of reality and common sense.

She has just posted a couple of short pieces about the loss she feels, as a true Manhattanite New Yorker seeing urban cultural sites disappear or be coopted.

In “Old Manhattan Still Standing, But Owned By Others” she laments the new ownership of the Waldorf Astoria, the Carlyle Hotel, and other landmarks now foreign-controlled by alien cultures. In “Old Manhattan Has Disappeared before My Eyes” she mourns the loss of Horn and Hardart Automat, which I remember from a brief young visit.

She sparked another memory when she mentioned Schraffts, “a genteel women-only preserve which served elegant little sandwiches and desserts (and where I kept to myself and studied while in graduate school.)” I had read of Schrafft’s somewhere (probably in the New Yorker, which I read cover-to-cover way back in high school), though never been there (“women-only”?) But the image rang a faint but poignant bell. What was it?

Buchmendel! One of Stefan Zweig’s mournfully beautiful short stories about old Vienna, and what the death of a civilization looks like.

The title character is an old antiquarian bookseller who operated out of a table in a Vienna café. Zweig weaves together the story of a vibrant city and culture in its dying days, and makes it the backdrop for the life and death of an individual man.   Mendel is a remarkable jewel set in the living-its-final-days culture, instantly transformed into a dirty discarded beggar in the aftermath.

The Café Gluck, Jacob Mendel, and cosmopolitan Hapsburg Vienna before, during, and after the First World War; it is, like all of Zweig’s works (and life), unutterably and beautifully sad.

And it could easily be transposed, with few changes, into a story set in today’s Manhattan.

Anyway, check out Dr. Chesler if you are not familiar with her.

 

 

Squirrely!

[In a departure from my usual dire ponderings, I am today pleased to introduce a brilliant new writer to the world. Mr. X, as he calls himself, has produced a delightful story about squirrels, politics, and young love.  It is printed here in its entirety.   No subscription required!]

 

SQUIRRELY!

 

Chapter One

 

A cold, drizzly rain had been falling all day, and now it was starting to pour. On a branch of a tree just outside the window of a house, a wet, bedraggled squirrel sat shivering.

Inside, in the warm, cozy living room sat a warm, cozy family. In the fireplace a warm, cozy fire burned. The father read his newspaper. The mother was knitting. The young daughter sat on the rug before the fire, petting a fat, fluffy cat on a fat, fluffy pillow. It was all very cozy and, well, warm.

The squirrel looked down at the warm, cozy family with great interest, focusing mostly on the cat. As he stared, the cat yawned, stretched, and began to look around lazily. Then the cat looked out the window and noticed the squirrel. It didn’t move, watching the squirrel for almost a minute. Then, it looked slowly around at the family the room, and the fire, looked back at the squirrel – and SMILED!

I know that some people think cats can’t – or won’t – smile. But this was a smile, if not a particularly pleasant one. It expressed a smug satisfaction with the cat’s situation, and a smirking contempt for the pitiful-looking animal on the tree branch outside looking in.

The squirrel was so startled he fell off the branch and landed in a mud puddle. He sat there for a moment, then got up, shook himself, and scampered off – if his slow, wet movements could be called scampering.

As he went, he said to himself (and not for the first time), “It must be nice to be a cat.”

Norman – for that was the squirrel’s name – was a typical teenage squirrel. By typical, I mean that he was like all teenagers, and like most squirrels. He was of average height (for a squirrel) and of average disposition (for a teenager). But in some ways he was different from other squirrels.

He was a rebel. But he was not a nut.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Continue reading ‘Squirrely!’

Serendipity and Ben

My pious friend Mr. Ben Finiti (must be Italian) has posted another thought-provoking item on his eponymous  (a fancy word for self-named; just a reminder that I have been to college) website benfiniti.com, this one entitled “God Is Not Serendipitous”.  The basic idea is that you can’t find God if you don’t look for him. And since most of us have convinced ourselves that we are just fine the way we are, why bother looking?

As H. I. McDonnough once put it, “You know, honey, I’m OK, you’re OK, that there’s just the way it is.”*

Anyway, it is worth a look.

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*McDonnough was the lead character in Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage’s only intentionally funny movie (1987).  It’s worth a look, too.

Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001

[This essay by Charles Murray is more relevant today than when it first appeared in the 2/6/2001 Wall Street Journal. It is still around thanks to OrthodoxyToday.org. (So, thank you, Orthodoxy Today!) 

I was reminded of it while reading “In the Image of Slob”, an essay in today’s Crisis Magazine lamenting the sloppy dress often seen at church these days. Murray puts the issue in the larger framework of societal collapse.]


Prole Models: America’s elites take their cues from the underclass

by Charles Murray

Scholar Charles Murray writes that a major reason for the coarsening of American life is that the creative minority has devolved into competing cultural elites. Instead of guarding the moral, intellectual, and artistic heritage of society, they follow baser artists.

That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture that the right failed to hold back. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has given us the phrase “defining deviancy down,” to describe a process in which we change the meaning of moral to fit what we are doing anyway. I wish to add a third voice to the mix, that of the late historian Arnold Toynbee, who would find our recent history no mystery at all: We are witnessing the proletarianization of the dominant minority.

The language and thought are drawn from a chapter of “A Study of History,” entitled “Schism in the Soul,” in which Toynbee discusses the disintegration of civilizations. He observes that one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites–Toynbee’s “dominant minority”–begin to imitate those at the bottom of society. His argument goes like this: Continue reading ‘Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001′

Truman’s Cheek

[Now here is something to see.  My Catholic friend Ben Finiti (at benfiniti.com) has written a historical essay in rebuttal to a Catholic cleric’s historical interview. Don’t these guys have enough theology to talk about?  Hasn’t the Pope said something outrageous in an airplane press conference? Shouldn’t they be fighting over that?

Anyway, here are BF’s thoughts on a monsignor’s thoughts on Hiroshima and dear Harry.  Enjoy. (I wrote most of it myself, if truth be known.)]

 

Hindsight from the High Ground

by Ben Finiti

On August 6, the terrible anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I was listening to the indispensable Catholic media outlet Relevant Radio, and I heard a curious interview with Msgr. Stuart Swetland on the subject of the day.

It made me think of Calvin Coolidge who is credited with many laconic (and probably apocryphal) anecdotes; my favorite is his supposed comment on returning from church one Sunday. Asked what the preacher spoke on, he answered: “Sin.” Further asked: “What did he say about it?”, Cal responded: “He was against it.”

It would be unjust and uncharitable to summarize the monsignor’s take on Hiroshima in so many words. He acknowledged the difficult situation and the tough decisions that faced those engaged in what was unquestionably a just war. But his conclusion was as straightforward as Coolidge’s: It was a sin, and Truman should not have done it.

The monsignor argued from Catholic doctrine, which appears to have recently reached the same conclusion. And he offered some historical “facts” in support. But the facts are questionable, and the arguments seem confused.

I am certainly not qualified to argue theology with any monsignor (though I will try, later.) But facts are facts, and assumptions are not.

There are many points to consider. Monsignor Swetland stated, with varying degrees of certitude, the following “facts”. The Japanese government was about to surrender anyway. The Russians were about to tell Truman about a Japanese peace proposal. Invasion of the Japanese homeland would not have been necessary. The invasion’s half-million US casualties anticipated by US military planners would not have occurred.

These things are nice to know. I bet Truman would have liked to know them with the certainty that his posthumous critics know them.

Now, some of these facts fall into the category of 20/20 hindsight (the Japanese/Russian peace proposal.) Others are in the realm of counterfactuals, the history that never happened (the invasion was unnecessary, since the Japanese already knew they were beaten.)

But my main objection to such thinking is that it side-steps the one all-important question, the only question that matters, from a moral standpoint. What should Truman have done?

The moral high ground is the position which allows those far from the decision to boldly affirm what should NOT have been done. But the moral high ground does not allow consideration of the real question facing the real decision-maker. The only way the moral-high-grounder can address the real question is with hindsight and counterfactuals.

Well, here are some counter-counterfactuals.

1. The Japanese government probably knew they were beaten by 1943; they fought on. From their early offensive high-water, they were steadily pushed back on every front. After Midway, they never again struck in the eastern Pacific. After Guadalcanal, they were in constant retreat throughout the Pacific. And yet, as the tides of war rolled against them, the death tolls rapidly accelerated. The bloodiest battles, on land and sea, occurred in the last 6 months of the war – long after the Japanese government knew what the outcome would be. The death toll on Okinawa, the closest island to the Japanese homeland, was 12,520 US soldiers, 110,000 Japanese soldiers, and over 100,000 Japanese civilians, many by suicide. Continue reading ‘Truman’s Cheek’

More from Ben

My friend Ben Finiti has a new post up on his excellent blog benfiniti.com.  It is about the reality of divorce in our society, and the inadequate (and now getting even worse) position of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue.

He quotes Thomas Aquinas (where does he find this stuff?), and finds that not all marriages (and therefore divorces) are equally weighty.  He says divorce of a childless couple can be anything from trivial (Nicolas Cage?) to tragic. But divorce with children is a species of child abuse.

Whistling in the wind, I suppose. But still good reading.

Update on Me

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately.  I keep getting distracted.  The guy next door got wind chimes.  (Credit Stephen Wright for that joke.)

At any rate, my friend Ben Finiti has re-surfaced, and seems to be on a roll.  His latest, My Sin of Snobbery, just went up.  It’s about what he calls his “first-world problems at church.”

I can confirm that he is indeed a snob, though mostly in good ways.

Anyway, check him out over at benfiniti.com.

Ben is Back

I see that my philosophical friend Ben Finiti has re-surfaced.  He has become a Catholic convert.

And while we all know how tedious such converts can be, I have higher hopes for Ben.

Check him out here.

 

Climate Change Dishonesty on Nuclear Power

Let’s start with some facts. (The source links are below.)

The US generates 38% of our electricity from coal-fired power plants, and another 30% from other fossil fuels (oil and natural gas). That accounts for 37% of our total CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions are the primary cause of man-made climate change.

We generate 19% of our electricity from nuclear power plants, which produce no CO2. Zero.

France generates 77% of its electricity from nuclear power plants, which produces no CO2. Zero.

If the US had built nuclear power plants at the rate France did in the 1970’s and 80’s, we could shut now down every single coal-fired power plant in the country, as well as a third of our gas/oil power plants.

We would be producing 30% less CO2 than we are now. Continue reading ‘Climate Change Dishonesty on Nuclear Power’

Herr Nietzsche and Mr. Finiti

My philosophical friend Ben Finiti has some interesting thoughts on the corruption of science by power. In “It Starts an Ends with Nietzsche“, he blames the famous German philosopher/nutcase for unleashing and legitimizing the pursuit of power over truth and morality.  Like Danton’s head, it is worth a look.

The “Higher Education” Bubble: An Update

Many have written about the scandalous rate of inflation in college and university tuition. Tuition has risen faster than overall inflation. Total higher ed costs (including state support) have risen even faster than medical costs, and medical care has gotten much better even as higher education has gotten much worse! Now, a remarkable proposal has arisen from a remarkable man: Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and current President of Purdue University. This fellow (who was passed over for serious consideration as GOP presidential nominee in 2012 because of his charisma deficiency) has not only suggested, but actually implemented this amazing concept: Freeze tuition and require administrators to cut costs! Continue reading ‘The “Higher Education” Bubble: An Update’

Not “Mothers’ Day” Again?

[Note: I first posted this piece a year (or two?) ago, when it first dawned on me that “Mothers’ Day” is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige… Well, here it is again. I will keep posting it as a yearly reminder, until enlightened thinking progresses to the point that my satire comes true.]

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It is time to put an end to this outrage. “Mother’s” Day is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige of heterosexist oppression. In barely concealed homophobic code, it implies that a child needs and/or benefits from having a mother, and that motherhood is something other than an outdated social construct.

Sure, motherhood may have been revered in the Dark Ages. But as Enlightenment has spread across the land in recent years, social scientists and learned judges have patiently explained to us that “mothers” are now quite redundant. Continue reading ‘Not “Mothers’ Day” Again?’

Thoughts on Police Killings

Three thoughts inspired by the recent assassination of two NYPD officers:

First, the assassin was named Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley.  As the name suggests, he was a Muslim. His website had pages from the Koran, justifying revenge.  Yet the major media reports NEVER mentioned the Islamist issue.  They decided that the narrative was Black American rage over Ferguson and other police shootings.  Again, for the media, “Islam” is considered mentionable only in regard to supposed victims of anti-Muslim American bigots.

Second, some interesting Statistics from the FBI’s detailed file, “Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed”.

Over the past 6 years, 292 police officers were murdered in the US, for an average of 49 every year. This does not include those killed in accidents. Most are killed by gunfire.   In 2014, 59 were murdered. Of these, 47 were shot, 10 were victims of vehicular assault (run down when they got out of their cars), and 2 died from non-gunfire assaults. You may remember reading about a handful of cases, but most were only local stories.

An average of 49 per year equals about .01% of the half million or so officers in America. Depending on your perspective, one one-hundredth of a percent may not seem like many.

Far more startling are the numbers of officers assaulted in the line of duty: over 50,000 most years, for about 10%. Every police officer in America knows that there is one chance in 10 that someone will attack him this year.   In the course of a career, the odds in the cop’s favor decrease steadily.

You may never have heard these facts. But most police are well aware of the general risks, even if not the precise statistics. They must face every interaction with a suspicious or misbehaving person, even every traffic stop, as a potential assault in the making. And whenever an assault appears to be developing, the cop must wonder if he or she is about to be the next of the 49.

These are the facts that the haters and race-baiters like Al Sharpton, and even the presumably well-intentioned (?) police critics of the media, fail to recognize or acknowledge.

Third, anyone who advocates the withdrawal of police officers from assertive law enforcement should read this analysis (in the excellent City JournaI) by the NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton, “Why We Need Broken Windows Policing: It has saved countless New York lives—most of them minority—cut the jail population, and reknit the social fabric.

The “BDS” Movement: A 3-Question Test for Antisemitism

“BDS” (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) is an international movement of Western leftists, primarily university faculty and students, claiming to be human rights activists protesting Israel’s illegal occupation of lands claimed by Palestinians. The land was occupied in a series of three wars begun by Israel’s enemies, of course. And Israel has given back occupied lands in the past, when the other party (Egypt) agreed to cease making war against Israel.

Israel’s enemies never quite say what Israel must do to be accepted back into the community of non-boycotted nations. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and much of the rest of the region (including the “moderate” Palestinian Authority) have a clear answer: they want Israel to cease to exist. “Please commit national suicide, and we will drop the boycott.”

But still, if Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian lands against the wishes of the inhabitants, isn’t it simple fairness to protest? Shouldn’t we give the BDS-ers the benefit of the doubt as to their good, non-racist intentions?

If you meet one and want to find out for yourself, ask them these questions.

1) Are you also proposing a boycott of Russia over its illegal occupation of Ukrainian national territory (Crimea), in violation of Russian-signed treaties; or its incredibly brutal occupation of Chechnya? If not, why not? (25 words or less, please.)

2) Are you proposing divestment from Chinese companies over China’s particularly brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet?

3) Are you working to impose sanctions on Turkey over its illegal occupation of half of Cyprus, not to mention Kurdistan?

If you want to drag this out, you can ask them about Serbia’s occupation of North Kosovo, or Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, or countless other cases.

No, the BDS Movement has no interest in China or Russia or Turkey or Serbia or Morocco. There seems to be something missing from those situations, some element that makes them somehow not particularly objectionable to those folks. What could it be that makes Israel’s unwilling occupation so especially awful?

The answer is: JEWS!

QED: BDS is straight-line Antisemitism.   Any denial is just BS.

Criticism, Self-Criticism, and Antisemitism

[My friend Ben Finiti has posted yet another interesting piece. Check out his other stuff at benfiniti.com.]

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A common thread of modern leftist anti-Israel antisemitism is the claim that Israel has only itself to blame for Jew-hatred. If only they had been “nicer” to the Arab armies and terrorists committed to their annihilation! A preposterous but familiar excuse for leftist racism.

But in another sense, antisemitism does indeed have roots in Jewish history. For Israel, in addition to discovering monotheism and the concept of a meaningful history, also invented self-criticism. The first references to Jews as a stiff-necked, materialistic, ungrateful people may be found in the words of the prophets of ancient Israel, quoted in the Jewish (and Christian) bible.

In a PBS series on Jewish history, host Simon Schama (a respected historian) cited as proof of St. Paul’s anti-semitism his claim that the Jews had often slain their own prophets. Schama seemed unaware that Paul was quoting Jesus, and Jesus was quoting the Prophets Nehemiah and Elijah, criticizing Hebrew ingratitude:

“They were disobedient and rebelled against Thee, and cast thy laws behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.” (Nehemiah 9:26)

“They children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” (1 Kings 19:10, quoting Elijah)

The prophets lambasted their own people in order to turn them to repentance. When Christian antisemites began seeking excuses to hate this strange “other” people, they found plenty of ammunition in their shared holy books.

In a similar vein, Protestants criticized the Catholic Church in order to purify and save it. The Enlightenment took the Protestant critique and used it to overthrow all of Christianity.

And it may be noted that some Jewish critics of the state of Israel, both on the left and right, find themselves perilously close to this danger point. Their well-intended (in some cases) criticisms of Israeli government policy are immediately embraced by those who openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. They are touted as especially valid because they come from the Jews themselves!

Conclusion: Honest self-criticism (or acceptance of the criticism of others) is a risky business. It will invariably empower one’s enemies, so it must be approached in the most serious spirit and with only the highest purpose, as was the case with the Prophets. And one must always consider the likelyhood of intentional misuse of one’s words.

BDS = “Kill All The Jews”

Andrew Klavan is a commentator on PJ Media (pjmedia.com), who from time to time does short YouTube videos explaining complex subjects with as much humor as they can bear.  His latest is a 2-minute lecture on the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) to destroy Israel, a movement which continues to spread on the left – including, most disturbingly, such “mainstream” “Christian” churches as the Presbyterians.

Not much of a subject for humor, you say?  You are correct.  Take a look anyway:

 

“Blind, pitiless indifference”

[My friend Ben Finiti’s latest bit of soul-searching. Read more of this sort of thing at benfiniti.com.]

As I have written below, I have spent many years trying to find God.  I have found much Judeo-Christian theology coherent, consistent with reality, and therefore highly plausible.

But I still cannot convince myself that the other coherent, consistent worldview, atheistic materialism, is not also plausible.

Many authors have helped me along; I will list and discuss them sometime.  But nothing so far has been quite so compelling as this quote from atheist guru Richard Dawkins:

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

This chilling statement, offered in support of Dawkins’ atheism, is from his book Rivers of Eden, which I found quoted in Francis Collins’ The Language of God.  (I recommend Collins’ book highly.  He was the director of the Human Genome Project as well as a Christian.)

I expect to be contemplating this for a long time.

Israel’s critics need to face facts

Every critic of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians must (apparently) be reminded of several basic facts.

First, a historical fact: Israel did not start the war.  In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine between Israelis and Arabs. Israel accepted the Partition Plan and announced its intention to live within its borders, in peace with its Arab neighbors.  Those same Arab neighbors rejected the plan, declared war, and vowed to wipe Israel off the map and sweep the Jews into the sea.  The borders have changed with every Arab failed attempt to accomplish this, but the aims of both parties have remained the same.

Second, another historical fact:  Israel has voluntarily withdrawn from territory occupied by its armies, sometimes unilaterally, several times in the past (Lebanon in 2000, Gaza in 2005).  In almost every case, the territory has then been used as a base for attacks on Israel, resulting in the murder of Jewish civilians.

Now, some current facts.

First, Israel is prepared to meet with the Palestinian Authority anywhere, at any time, without pre-conditions, to discuss peace.  This offer is frequently repeated by Israel, and consistently rejected by the Palestinians. (See most recent offer here.)

Second, Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own.  In contrast, Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist within ANY borders.  Here is the Palestinians’ most “moderate” leader, Mahmoud Abbas:

“They talk to us about the Jewish state, but I respond to them with a final answer: We shall not recognize a Jewish state,” Abbas said in a meeting with some 200 senior representatives of the Palestinian community in the US, shortly before taking the podium and delivering a speech at the United Nations General  Assembly.”

If Israel’s critics wish to be taken seriously, they need to admit these facts and explain how these problems can be addressed by Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.  If not, they stand exposed as anti-Semites demanding that Israel commit national suicide.

Finiti on Murray on Kimball on Modern Art

My friend Mr. Ben Finiti (at benfiniti.com) has a new/old post, drawing inspiration from Roger Kimball at New Criterion/ PJ Media and Jay Nordlinger at National Review Online’s blog The Corner.

Here is the beginning:

Roger Kimball, Modern Art, and Flabby Elites”

“Roger Kimball of New Criterion has an excellent essay up at PJ Media, entitled “Annals of the art world: everything old is new again“.  He portrays the sad emptiness, the hollow pretensions, the “mere flabbiness” of modern “transgressive art.”

It reminded me of something I wrote a while back, in 2011, about something else written even further back,by classicist Gilbert Murray in 1940 (that’s how these things go, some time).   Murray pithily sums up the art world, and much the rest of culture, from around 1900 or so.

“First come inspiration and the exaltation of breaking false barriers: at the end comes the mere flabbiness of having no barriers left to break and no talent except for breaking them.”

“No barriers and no talent”: priceless.   Read the rest of it here.

 

“Mother’s” Day Must Go

[Here comes “Parent # 1 Day”!]

It is time to put an end to this outrage.  “Mother’s” Day is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige of heterosexist oppression.  In barely concealed homophobic code, it implies that children need and/or benefit from having mothers, and that motherhood is something other than an outdated social construct.

Sure, motherhood may have been revered in the Dark Ages.  But as Enlightenment has spread across the land in recent years, social scientists and learned judges have patiently explained to us that “mothers” are now quite redundant.

Wise judges such as Vaughn Walker, ruling that the voters of California have no right to decide so important a question, wrote:

“The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment… The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology…Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”

See?  It is “accepted beyond serious debate”.  As Al Gore likes to say, the debate is over, we know all we need to know.

The judge did admit that things were different in the Dark Ages: “When California became a state in 1850, marriage was understood to require a husband and a wife.”  But, as they say in California, that was then and this is now.

The Iowa Supreme Court was equally patient in dismissing the folly of mother-fixation.

“The research appears to strongly support the conclusion that same-sex couples foster the same wholesome environment as opposite-sex couples and suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.

There you have it.  This whole motherhood thing is just a stereotype.

(On retiring soon after this ruling on Prop 8, Judge Walker said ““I have done my part.”  Indeed he has.)

And think of the emotional pain inflicted.  Every “M-word” Day is a gross offense to the self-esteem of gay male couples who are thinking about raising children.

It reminds one of a heart-breaking episode from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  Stan, a young rebel with gender issues, announces that he wants to have a baby:

Stan (also known as Loretta): It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

Reg:  But you can’t have babies.

Stan:  Don’t you oppress me.

Reg: Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?

Well, Reg, modern science has finally come up with effective gestation boxes, so Stan’s dream (actually Loretta’s dream) can now come true. And the courts have said that gay adoption is OK, because all that a child needs is “parents”.

So we can leave this motherhood fetish back in ancient Judea where it belongs.

The obvious thing to do is to rename the holiday.  Federal and state governments are quickly replacing the anachronistic “Mother” and “Father” lines on government forms and birth certificates with the more sensitive “Parent #1” and “Parent #2”.

The calendar can and should do the same thing.  May 12 is Parent #1 Day, with Parent #2 to be celebrated later.  (Don’t get me started on the whole “Fatherhood” outrage.  That can wait until P2 Day.)

Reminder: Did you call your Parent #1 today?

Bubbles: 30 Rock and Obama

I have just watched the entire 7 seasons of 30 Rock on Netflix.  It has confirmed my opinion that 30 Rock was the best TV comedy in a generation (or two).

One of the most surprising thing about the show, given its genealogy, was its general absence of ideological humor.  The once-funny Saturday Night Live year after year found Republicans humorously evil and/or stupid, while Democrats where consistently smart and sexy.  But 30 Rock was pretty fair and balanced in skewering its characters’ political foibles.  Jack Donaghy’s stereotypical capitalist, starve-the-poor conservative faced off with Liz Lemon’s artsy, compassionate but uncontributing liberal.

In one episode, when a liberal Vermont Congresswoman is on a tryst with Jack, Congress legalizes whale torture for sport.  Great stuff. That there’s funny, I don’t care who you are. (Larry the Cable Guy)

In Season 3 episode 15, Liz Lemon (show creator Tina Fey) has a new boyfriend Drew (played by Jon Hamm, Mad Men’s handsome Don Draper). She discovers that people give him preferential treatment because he is so attractive.

Liz’ boss and mentor Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) explains it to her.  “Beautiful people are treated differently from…(looking at her)…moderately pleasant-looking people.  They live in a Bubble.”

Liz marvels, “He’s a doctor who doesn’t know the Heimlich maneuver. He can’t play tennis.  He can’t cook.  He’s as bad at sex as I am. But he has no idea.”

Jack: “That’s the danger of being super-handsome.  When you’re in the Bubble, no one tells you the truth.  For years I thought I spoke excellent French…”

The portrayal is delightful.  Drew is a clumsy klutz on the tennis court, but ladies ask him if he gives lessons. At crowded restaurants he never waits for a table and normally surly waitresses fall over themselves to please him.  Police tear up parking tickets after one look at him.

Finally, Liz confronts Drew. “You live in a Bubble, where people do what you want and tell you what you want to hear.”  She tries reality-shock therapy on him, and he doesn’t like it.  Liz beats him at tennis, and he complains that “You made me feel like a loser.”

“That’s because you lost.”

As the show ends, Drew decides reality is no fun. “I didn’t like it outside the Bubble, Liz.  It was very ironic.”

“No,” she corrects, “it wasn’t.  That’s not how you use that word.”

“Stop it.  I want to use ironic however I want.  I want to stay in the Bubble.”

Well, who wouldn’t?

IN OTHER NEWS…

At the White House Easter Egg Roll, President Obama was able to sink only 2 out of 22 shots on a basketball court.  (No stories mentioned why basketball was featured as an Easter activity.)

The media reported with great bemusement and surprise at discovering something “The One” was not good at.

If you review the career of Barack Obama, you will find…Drew.  He was ushered into political seats ahead of others who had been waiting a long time, and he took it as his due.  His legislative service was undistinguished, but he was unsurprised when people kept asking him to accept higher office.

He has lived in a media Bubble, where people report what he wants and tell him what he wants to hear.

I wonder if he thinks he speaks French.  He probably thought he was good at basketball.  He probably still does.

And I wonder if anyone working on that episode realized how accurately they were describing the Obama Bubble.  I’d like to think they did.

What Can History Teach About War?

An outstanding essay by Victor Davis Hanson is currently up on PJ Media here and here.  It is a two-part (so far) study of the history of wars, and the interplay of Greek tragedy – victory leading to hubris and overreaching and failure.  Part 1 analyzes WWII and Korea, while the second looks at the Peloponnesian War, and draws conclusions to describe our present situation.

It is outstanding, and you ought to read the whole thing.  But here is the conclusion. Continue reading ‘What Can History Teach About War?’

More on CHILDREN as Props

Mr. Finiti’s recent thoughts on the use of children as political props got me thinking…and remembering.

Over the years as a union activist I often found myself working with a group planning an informational picket line, protest, or demonstration.   Often these involved education employees, but not always.

Whatever the group or issue, someone was sure to suggest that we ask parents to bring along their children.  They would also suggest that we invite the students from our classes to attend.  The idea was that prominently displayed children would humanize our position, and by implication demonize our opponents as anti-child.  Most of all, it would attract the newspaper photographers and TV cameramen looking for an interesting shots. (The  media people were almost always friendly to our causes, and worked with us to get the most sympathetic images possible.)

That would always (if I were in the room, anyway) trigger a mini-debate on the legitimacy or cynicism of such tactics.  Many would defend the children-front-and-center approach, arguing that it the children would certainly agree with us if they could understand the issues.  Others would claim it as a parental right.  But most would argue that the children were the whole point, since we as an education employee organization were naturally motivated by the interests of the children. 

Others would counter that our role as trustees of other people’s children should forbid us to enlist them into what were in fact adult conflicts.  Others would cite the dust-covered “Code of Teacher Ethics”.

Where I could veto the idea, I would.  But where majority voted, I was sometimes overruled.  Elsewhere it might never have been questioned.

And so the photo-op demonstrations flourished.  Cute 2-year olds in strollers would hold up signs reading “Don’t Cut My Mommy’s Pay”, while 5-year olds waved posters reading “Don’t Close My School” or “Vote NO on Proposition X.”  The kids usually smiled because it was an exciting spectacle, and people would smile at them.  But it is an ugly thing to do, if you think about it.

When I see a demonstration with children, especially if they are holding signs or expressing opinions they cannot understand, I know I am watching the work of cynical, self-serving adults who treat children as pawns on their private chessboards. 

I realize that enlistment of child protesters is not as bad as drafting child soldiers, as happens in some benighted corners of the globe.  But it is a lot worse than adults being willing to stand up on their own and hold their own signs and fight their own fights.

I know it wouldn’t pass, but I’d like to see some legislature somewhere consider an act criminalizing the use of children as political props.

Or maybe some Fair Labor Standards Board could declare it to be child labor and require that they ought to be paid minimum wage.

 

What About the Children, Mr. Finiti?

Inspired by the current administration’s Children’s Crusade on Gun Control, my friend Ben Finiti has written an interesting and insightful essay on the abuse and non-use of children in public debate.  Take a look.

———————————————————————————-

The Obama administration’s latest use of children as political props has, as usual, called forth much praise and very little outrage. We have become accustomed to such things. We hardly notice. And this latest is by no means the worst.

The irony is that while children are moved to the fore when useful as window dressing on issues to which they are peripheral, they are so often shoved off the stage when they are central to the issue.

EXAMPLE ONE: DIVORCE, also called dissolution of marriage. Marriage is an act of union between two adults, and so is its dissolution. As things now stand in America, children, if any, are collateral issues, like joint property. Their interests are to be addressed in working out the details, not in the basic decision to permit the dissolution.

[for the rest, click here. ]

Unions vs. Jobs?

A new study of US manufacturing jobs offers some challenging statistics.  They support the long-standing argument that union contracts are a (the?) driving force behind loss of manufacturing jobs.

According to the very liberal Washington Post, America lost 6 million net manufacturing jobs between 1977 and 2012.  We fell from 7.5 million unionized factory jobs (1977) to 1.5 million such jobs today.  That is an 80% loss; 4 out of 5 such jobs disappeared.

But even more amazing, our 12.5 million non-union factory jobs (1977) went all the way to…12.5 million.  No net loss!  Non-union manufacturing jobs in the US remained steady for over thirty years!   So on balance it is only unionized manufacturing jobs that are disappearing.

Many explanations, no doubt.  But unions can hardly escape notice.

Everybody knows or suspects that union contracts (through higher wages, costlier benefits, and inefficient work rules) can make manufacturing more expensive and therefore less competitive.  Overseas competition (at least after the 1970’s) kept US firms from raising prices to cover costs.  Creative accounting (pushing retirement costs off the books) only helped cosmetically for a while.  So where else could US firms scrimp?

A Heritage Foundation Study (by a researcher cited by the WaPo) suggests strongly that it was in research and development.   Innovation and quality both failed to keep up with the international competition, and much of the unionized sector either failed or fled.  Obviously, this was in part a failure of management to do its job properly, even if it meant ugly confrontations with labor.

We have certainly seen direct action by unions to kill off employers, but these are rare if dramatic.  Hostess Twinkies was a recent one, but anyone my age may remember the macho union bosses who helped kill Eastern Airlines.  But for the most part, unions were playing an endless game of chicken with the companies, trying to wring every inch in concessions while keeping the patient (company) at least on life support. (Yes, I know that is a badly mixed metaphor.  Sorry.)

So, manufacturing continues in the US, but factory workers have stopped joining unions or voting for them.  Unions must ask themselves why.  And I mean really ask, not just prepare a case for their own defense.

It’s easy to blame Right-To-Work laws, of course.  But RTW states have unions, too.  And non-RTW states have the same problem.  RTW Iowa may have only 7.1% of its private sector employees in unionized jobs; but non-RTW Massachusetts has only 7.0%.  RTW may explain something, but not much.

Anti-union management fights dirty in union elections, labor argues.  That’s why we need automatic card check certification, so workers can’t be intimidated by anti-union campaigns.  The general reaction to these complaints is a collective Boo-Hoo.  Were the auto companies so union-friendly when Henry Ford’s goons were busting heads in Detroit in the 30’s? (See here for more on this.)  Poor little unions. Mean old bosses.

Or could it have something to do with the fact that so many manufacturing jobs were killed or exported, in plain view, as a result of unionization?  And nobody wants that to happen to their own job?

I’ll tell you one thing for sure.  If unions don’t figure out what to do about it, no one else will.  No one else regards it as a problem.

A few years back, businesses were taught by management consultants to ask themselves the insightful question: What business are we really in?

It is time (maybe already too late) for unions to ask themselves the same question.  Are they political recruiting organizations?  Are they private interest groups, committed to getting and protecting privileges for a dwindling number of members?

Or are they committed to improving the lives of American working men and women, as they say?  Because if they are, they need to recognize that killing jobs or chasing them overseas is complete and total failure.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/as-manufacturing-bounces-back-from-recession-unions-are-left-behind/2013/01/16/4b4a7368-5e88-11e2-90a0-73c8343c6d61_story.html?hpid=z2

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/338085/why-unionized-manufacturing-jobs-havent-returned-james-sherk

Remembering Why They Hate Israel – and Us

I have not been a big fan of William Kristol.  He often seems to derive too much enjoyment from being different and clever.   I have always put great stock in Burke’s commitment to avoid such things: “I assure you I do not aim at singularity.”  Kristol sometimes seems to aim for it. (Maybe all pundits have to do that these days.)

But his piece in the upcoming issue of Weekly Standard, entitled “The West Fights Back”, is a cogent and powerful reminder of something that is all too forgotten in America today: Israel and the US are both hated and attacked by the same people and for the same reasons.

The Walt-Mearsheimer hypothesis, embraced by right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats alike, says that Israel and the Jewish Lobby run US foreign policy for Israel’s benefit, to our own detriment.  Now this stuff is at least as old as the Zionist movement.  It was the thinking of FDR when he suppressed support for Zionism in order to appease Ibn Saud.  It was the mindset of the “realists” in the State Department who urged Truman to withhold recognition of the State of Israel.  (Their “realism” invariably fell back on the belief that Israel would require 100,000 US troops, “boots on the ground”, for its survival in the first year.  The “realists” were wrong, of course, but never acknowledged it.)

And it underlies the thinking of today’s administration “realists”, who think a little “daylight” between the US and Israel will somehow improve things in the world.

Kristol quickly and brilliantly lances the boil of this thinking.  The anti-Israel front doesn’t hate us because we support Israel; they hate us because we are LIKE Israel:  democratic, respecting free speech and religious freedom, willing to live in peace with our neighbors, modern, and economically successful.  Everything the Arabs and Iranians and their allies are not.

Anyway, I suggest you read Kristol’s column here.    And let me know what you think: click the “Comments” button up top.

Back by popular request: Fathers of Daughters

[This was originally posted right after the 2008 election.  It has stirred considerable interest, so here it is again.  The “friend of mine” referred to is Mister Ben Finiti.]

A friend of mine used to theorize that all conservatism, and therefore all defense of society, rests on the fathers of daughters – FODs, as he called them.

He explained that it is only when one has children that one begins to recognize how fragile is the future, how dangerous the present, and how great our responsibility to protect the vulnerable, such as children.

The problem is that women, for the most part, tend to believe that the world is dangerous only by accident, rather than as a basic, natural condition.  My friend claimed that he had never met a woman who would not agree with the statement that “People are basically good.”  And increasingly many men agree with them.

Of course, people are not basically good.  Any Christian who even slightly understands the doctrine of Original Sin can be in no doubt about this.  But most Americans, including most church-goers, would readily subscribe to the “basically good” hypothesis.

As Reinhold Niebuhr put it, “No cumulation of contradictory evidence seems to disturb modern man’s good opinion of himself.”  Yet it is modern woman who seems most undisturbed by human nature.

So women, even as mothers, tend to underestimate the degree of the risks their children face in society. Continue reading ‘Back by popular request: Fathers of Daughters’

The Forgotten Books of Witness

[Note:  My philosophical friend Mr. Finiti just put this up on his website, and as usual it is pretty good.  And since it seems more political than most of his stuff, I post it here in full.  If you want to leave a comment, do it on his page: www.benfiniti.com.]

by Ben Finiti 

Over the recent years, I have developed an interesting new hobby. (Well, I find it interesting.)  I prowl through thrift stores in search of forgotten books by forgotten authors.  And then I liberate them (usually for a dollar) and read them.

I pass quickly over certain types of books.  For instance, I have never bought a 20th or 21st century work of fiction. In my humble opinion as an accomplished literary snob, the last great writer of fiction was Anthony Trollope.  (I do not classify Orwell, Huxley, Waugh, or Koestler’s works as quite fiction.)

I do pick up curious books on subjects in which I have neither interest nor background.  For instance, I just finished a book called Let’s Talk About Port, by J.C. Valente-Perfeito, published in Portugal in 1948.  The author explains the varieties of port, sings (gushes, actually) its praises, and complains of how little his fellow citizens drink of it.   He offers eloquent warnings about the modern scourge of cocktail-drinking, and effectively rebuts those medical cranks who claim that alcoholism is a bad thing.  I had great fun reading it, and I may even try some of the stuff one of these days.

But the real goal of my pursuit is a category of books which was invented and flourished in the dreadful 20th century:  the survivor’s tale of witness to the inhuman atrocities that reached such a peak (so far) in the recent past. Continue reading ‘The Forgotten Books of Witness’

Needed: A New Unionism

In Mother Jones (of all places), Kevin Drum has posted an interesting argument about the need for private sector unions to concentrate on wages and benefits rather than work rules.  This alone is an example of pretty creative thinking for laborites, but it still misses the mark.

Unionism in the private sector is not just down; it’s almost out. Membership has been falling steadily for half a century and is now circling the drain, with membership at 6.9% of the workforce. In 1953 it was 36%.

This disastrous decline has been partly masked by the simultaneous growth of unions in the public sector. While private unions sank, public ones climbed from near-zero in the 1950’s to around 36%, where it has held steady since 1980. Decline has also been disguised by the growing political power of the union movement, as its electoral organizing skills have improved even as membership organizing has languished.

Why the decline? Why have private sector workers stopped joining unions?

The unions have a ready answer: it’s too hard to organize because employers cheat. They scare and intimidate and fire workers who try to organize.

Undoubtedly true, in too many cases. Union-busting consultants have a bag of anti-union tricks that can certainly make certification elections hard to win.

But that just begs the question. Why only now? Didn’t employers know these tricks during all the years unions were growing? Didn’t Henry Ford know how to intimidate workers? Didn’t the steel companies? Didn’t construction firms? Coal-mine operators? The Mohawk Valley Formula for union-busting dates back to 1936.

So why are so many unions now stymied by employer opposition?

Other possible explanations for union decline abound. Many heavily unionized manufacturing and textile industries have moved jobs overseas in search of lower costs.

But other industries that are largely homebound have not been organized in their place.

And in fact many newer industries (high-tech, for instance) are often fairly good employers, offering decent benefits and workplace flexibility in a conscious effort to attract a happy, productive, and non-union workforce.

Private sector unions may be short of members, but not of excuses.

Continue reading ‘Needed: A New Unionism’

Gulliver on Fiscal Stimulus

I don’t write much about the economy and various remedies for its present ills.  That is for two reasons:  First, I believe economics, especially on the macro side, is so far from being science that it is closer to being a conventicle of witches, with multiple schools promoting various spells and potions.  And second, because I don’t really understand it all (despite having taken my Masters degree in economics.)

Anyway, I stumbled across the following passage in Gulliver’s Travels, which I think sums it up.

When Gulliver visited Laputa, the land of the philosophers, he complained of “cholick”.  He was introduced to “a great physician who was famous for curing that disease by contrary operations of the same instrument, a pair of bellows with a slender muzzle of ivory; this he conveyed 8 inches up the anus, and drawing in the wind, he affirmed he could make the guts as lank as a dried bladder.  But when the disease was more stubborn and violent, he let in the muzzle while the bellows was full of wind, which he discharged into the body of the patient…

“I saw him try both experiments upon a dog; but could not discern any effect from the former.  After the latter, the animal was ready to burst, and made so violent a discharge as was very offensive to me and my companions.  The dog died on the spot, and we left the doctor trying to recover him by the same operation.”

Thus Dean Swift’s eighteenth century view of stimulus and other remedies for financial cholick.

The “Mere Flabbiness” of the Elites

[My philosophical friend Finiti has permitted me to reprint here this post from his own site (www.benfiniti.com).]

by Ben Finiti

I came across a passage which seems to describe in remarkably succinct terms the process of the “avant garde” elite’s degradation of our culture.  It is in a 1940 book on Aeschylus by the classical scholar Gilbert Murray.  He is contrasting his subject with the turmoil raised by the Sophists of Athens

“The development is one which has often been repeated in ages of great intellectual activity.  Vigorous minds begin to question the convention in which they have been brought up and which they have now outgrown.  They reject first the elements in them which are morally repulsive, then the parts that are obviously incredible; they try to reject the husk and preserve the kernel, and for a time reach a far higher moral and intellectual standard than the generations before them or the duller people of their own time.

“Then, it seems, something is apt to go wrong.  Perhaps a cynic would say – and it would be hard to confute him – the element
of reason in man is so feeble a thing that he cannot stand successfully except when propped in the stiff harness of convention. At any rate there is always apt to come a later generation which has carried doubt and skepticism much farther and finds the kernel to consist only of inner layers of husk and then more husk, as the place of George IV’s heart, according to Thackeray, was supplied by waistcoats and then more waistcoats.

“First come inspiration and the exaltation of breaking false barriers: at the end comes the mere flabbiness of having no barriers left to break and no talent except for breaking them. ” Continue reading ‘The “Mere Flabbiness” of the Elites’

NEA and The Party: The NCLB Saga

You probably read the story: “NEA Slams Obama’s School Reform Plan”.  This is a type of story that occurs predictably after every election:  “Supporters unhappy with something ‘their’ president proposes”. 

 Groups such as unions, that fight for their members’ interests, must inevitably find themselves opposing actions they think are detrimental.  That’s the advocacy business.

 And everyone knows NEA is such a group, right?

 The question is anything but rhetorical.  Consider the ongoing saga of NCLB, the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001. Continue reading ‘NEA and The Party: The NCLB Saga’

Rene Girard, scapegoats, and the next Holocaust

One of the most original thinkers of our time, Rene Girard, has an excellent article in First Things (one of the most important publications of our time), entitled “On War andApocalypse“.

He reviews his theory of mimetic rivalry and scapegoating, and then offers some related reflections on modern Islamism.  It is most thought-provoking, as RG often is.  And this is clearer than much of his writing (he is, after all, a Frenchman.)  Continue reading ‘Rene Girard, scapegoats, and the next Holocaust’

Leszek Kolakowski, 1927-2009

(by Mister Moleman’s philosophical friend Ben Finiti)

One of the greatest of modern thinkers passed away last month.  Leszek Kolakowski was rightly known for his searing critique of Communism, embodied in his magisterial 1978 survey, the 3-volume Main Currents of Marxism.  The 20th century had crushed his every favorable illusion about Communism (as it did for virtually every other Pole).  He exposed the ugly philosophical reality of Marxism as thoroughly as Alexander Solzhenitsyn exposed its hideous physical reality.  With Main Currents and Gulag Archipelago on a bookshelf, and only The Black Book of Communism between them, no library really needs another volume on the subject. Continue reading ‘Leszek Kolakowski, 1927-2009’

NEA, Past and Present

Mike Antonucci, my cyber-friend and the watchdog of America’s largest union, has asked if I have any thoughts on the recent NEA RA.  Mike, you should be careful what you ask for.

 This NEA Convention seems to have generated little real news.  The ongoing organizational schizophrenia that has driven NEA for the past two decades continues to fade into the background. Continue reading ‘NEA, Past and Present’


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