My Husky Team
by Robert W. Service
I met an ancient man who mushed
With Peary to the Pole.
Said I, "In all that land so hushed
What most inspired your soul?"
He looked at me with bleary eye,
He scratched a hoary head:
"You know that Sourdoughs jest cain't lie
So here's the dope," he said.
"That hike was like a devil's dream,
Just blizzards, gales and fogs,
But I was leadin' wi' my team
O' seven husky dogs.
Day after day I steered my sleigh,
Yet spry o' heart was I,
And every night the Northern Light
Danced ballys in the sky.
"Them dogs o' mine seemed to divine
Their mighty destiny.
They howled with joy, and like a boy
I jined them in their glee.
While like a spark from out the dark
Fame spurred us to our goal,
On, on we sped, the winnin' sled
To gain the Pole, the POLE.
"I saw it clear, I raised a cheer,
I knowed the prize was won:
The huskies too, like wind they flew -
Them critters sure could run.
The light was dim, the site was grim,
But sunshine swept my soul,
To see - each husky lift a limb
And...irrigate the Pole."
Friday, August 31, 2018
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.Given our current societal rapacity, absence of moral chains, vanity, presumption, susceptibility to flattery, etc. it augurs ill.
I do not mind this in the least—why should one mind? It is rather like having the poet by one’s side—ready to point something out, ready to put into words a feeling or impression that would otherwise be fleeting. And I think we need these familiar references. In the past, many people had them from religious liturgy or from exposure to biblical texts—or they picked them up from poetry they had been obliged to learn by rote as children. This is no longer the case, with the result that our stock of metaphor, the range of our vocabulary, contract and language becomes dry and technical—and less morally and imaginatively powerful.
Confusion of thought prevailed, and the heart did not seek after purity but decided according to appearances.
Why Jerusalem Was Destroyed
“Why was Jerusalem destroyed?” asked the Sages of Israel.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because of the desecration of the Sabbath.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because the morning and the evening prayers were abolished.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because the children of the schools remained untaught.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because the people did not feel shame towards one another.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because no distinction was drawn between the young and the old.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because one did not warn or admonish the other.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because men of scholarship and learning were despised.
Jerusalem was destroyed only because there were no longer men of faith and hope in her midst.
Other sages of Israel said: “Jerusalem was destroyed only because her laws were founded upon the strict letter of the Torah and were not interpreted in the way of mercy and kindness.”
From the day that the Temple was destroyed, men of sound judgment were cut off. Confusion of thought prevailed, and the heart did not seek after purity but decided according to appearances. The shedding of blood profanes the holy soil and is an offence against the Divine Presence; it was because of the shedding of blood that the Holy Temple was burnt.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
(J. L. and R. B.)
by Robert W. Service
In the Northland there were three
Pukka Pliers of the pen;
Two of them had Fame in fee
And were loud and lusty men;
By them like a shrimp was I -
Yet alas! they had to die.
Jack was genius through and through.
Who his future could foretell?
What we sweated blood to do
He would deem a bagatelle.
Yet in youth he had to die,
And an ancient man am I.
Rex was rugged as an oak;
Story-teller born was he.
First of writing, fighting folk,
How he lived prodigiously!
Better man he was than I,
Yet forlorn he had to die.
Jack was made of god-like stuff,
Born to battle for the right;
Rex of fighting had enough
When the gods destroyed his sight . . .
Craven heart - I wonder why
Lingering alone am I?
They were men of valiant breed,
Fit and fearless in the fight,
Who in every thought and deed
Burned the flame of life too bright.
Cowards live, while heroes die . . .
They have gone and - here am I.
“There is a modern term for lines of poetry or song that stick in the mind in this way—a worm. Most of us experience these worms from time to time; we hear a snatch of melody and later we hum it repetitively. For me, it tends to be a line of poetry; the line returns again and again until it becomes part of the way I look at things. It may be a line of Auden, or it may be a line from some other poet. Michael Longley, the distinguished Northern Irish poet, once wrote a poem in which he referred to the landscapes of Ireland and of Scotland. There is a line from that poem that comes to me again and again: “I think of Tra-ra-Rossan, Inisheer / Of Harris drenched by horizontal rain.” I find that last line very beautiful; Harris is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I have a house on the edge of the Hebridean Sea, and it is close to such islands. When I see an island swept by rain, Michael Longley’s lines often come back to me, as if they were background music orchestrated for the very scene before me.
by Nick Drake
I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky
I've been a long time that I'm waiting
Been a long time that I'm blown
I've been a long time that I've wandered
Through the people I have known
Oh, if you would and you could
Straighten my new mind's eye
Would you love me for my money?
Would you love me for my head?
Would you love me through the winter?
Would you love me 'til I'm dead?
Oh, if you would and you could
Come blow your horn on high
I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky
The Rabbi and the Inquisitor
The city of Seville was seething with excitement. A Christian boy had been found dead, and the Jews were falsely accused by their enemies of having murdered him in order to use his blood ritually in the baking of matzos for Passover. So the rabbi was brought before the Grand Inquisitor to stand trial as head of the Jewish community.
The Grand Inquisitor hated the rabbi, but, despite all his efforts to prove that the crime had been committed by the Jews, the rabbi succeeded in disproving the charge. Seeing that he had been bested in argument, the Inquisitor turned his eyes piously to Heaven and said:
“We will leave the judgment of this matter to God. Let there be a drawing of lots. I shall deposit two pieces of paper in a box. On one I shall write the word ‘guilty — the other will have no writing on it. If the Jew draws the first, it will be a sign from Heaven that the Jews are guilty, and we’ll have him burned at the stake. If he draws the second, on which there is no writing, it will be divine proof of the Jews’ innocence, so we’ll let him go.”
Now the Grand Inquisitor was a cunning fellow. He was anxious to burn the Jew, and since he knew that no one would ever find out about it, he decided to write the word “guilty” on both pieces of paper. The rabbi suspected he was going to do just this. Therefore, when he put his hand into the box and drew forth a piece of paper he quickly put it into his mouth and swallowed it.
“What is the meaning of this, Jew?” raged the Inquisitor. “How do you expect us to know which paper you drew now that you’ve swallowed it?”
“Very simple,” replied the rabbi. “You have only to look at the paper in the box.”
So they took out the piece of paper still in the box.
“There!” cried the rabbi triumphantly. “This paper says ‘guilty,’ therefore the one I swallowed must have been blank. Now, you must release me!”
And they had to let him go.
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
by Robert W. Service
I pitched my tent beneath a pine
Upon a grassy mound,
And all that summer worked my mine,
Yet never wealth I found;
Each night I dreamed of fortune dear,
of pokes of virgin gold:
Alas! what riches were so near,
The grass roots could have told.
So broke and burdened with despair,
Abandoning my "lay,"
Believing that no gold was there,
I upped and went away;
And then a Swede came to my mound;
With careless pick he struck,
And where I slept a fortune found,
For that's the way of Luck.
God save us all from sudden wealth
That makes the head to swell;
Champagne and women mined his health
And he went plumb to hell.
And me? To win my bread I drive
A heavy highway truck . . .
But he is dead and I'm alive,
- And that's the way of Luck.
The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done.
“The Fall of Rome” is a portrait of decline. If Auden was at pains to stress the virtues of the civic sense and the city, he was also aware of how such things can fall apart. In this poem the images of such decline are particularly vivid:
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;Lines like that are memorable; indeed, they can get under one’s skin. When I see a picture of a glittering occasion, with fantastic evening gowns, I am sometimes tempted to think of the impermanence of empires; when I encounter a minor bureaucrat—a customs official, perhaps, annotating those largely useless forms that we have to fill in when we cross a border—I wonder whether he or she would not like to write in “I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK.” And as for the agents of the Fisc pursuing tax-defaulters through the sewers—that is pure Graham Greene, pure Harry Lime. When I read in the newspapers of the arrest of some financial criminal, I am tempted to imagine that the arrest took place in a sewer, a paysage moralisé if ever there was one.
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend …
Caesar’s double bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
A princess once said to Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah, “It is true that you are a sage, but why are you so ugly? Imagine God pouring wisdom into such an ugly vessel as yours!”
Rabbi Joshua answered, “Tell me, O .Princess, in what sort of vessels does your father keep his wine?”
“In earthen jars, of course,” answered the Princess.
Rabbi Joshua pretended to be amazed.
“How can that be?” he exclaimed. “Everybody keeps wine in earthen jars, but your father, after all, is the King! Surely he can afford finer vessels!”
“In what sort of vessels do you think my father ought to keep his wine?”
“For a King, gold and silver vessels would be more fitting.”
The Princess then went to her father and said, “It is not fitting that a King like you should keep his wine in earthen jars like the commonest man.”
The King agreed and ordered that all his wine should be poured into gold and silver vessels. This was done, but before long the wine turned sour.
Angered, the King asked his daughter, “From whom did you get the advice you gave me?”
“From Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah.”
So the King sent for Rabbi Joshua.
“What made you give my daughter such wicked advice?” he asked angrily.
Rabbi Joshua then told him how the Princess had referred to him as “wisdom in an ugly vessel,” and that he had wanted to prove to her that beauty is sometimes a handicap.
The King remonstrated: “Aren’t there people who combine in themselves both beauty and great talents?”
Rabbi Joshua answered, “Rest assured — had they been ugly their talents would have been better developed.”
On May 27, 1776, the people of Malden, Massachusetts, voted on a set of instructions to give to their representative to the Second Continental Congress, Ezra Sargeant. They adopted this statement of independence unanimously.
Malden, Massachusetts, Statement of Independence
At a legal meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Malden, May 27, 1776, it was voted unanimously, that the following instructions be given to their Representative, viz.
To Mr. EZRA SARGEANT.
Sir -- A resolution of the honourable House of Representatives, calling upon several towns in this Colony to express their minds with respect to the important question of American Independence, is the occasion of our now instructing you. The time was, sir, when we loved the King and the people of Great Britain with an affection truly filial. We felt ourselves interested in their glory. We shared in their joys and sorrows. We cheerfully poured the fruits of all our labour into the lap of our mother country, and without reluctance expended our blood and treasure in their cause.
These were the sentiments towards Great Britain while she continued to act the part of a parent state. We felt ourselves happy in our connection with her, nor wished it to be dissolved; but our sentiments are altered. It is now the ardent wish of our souls that America may become a free and independent State.
A sense of unprovoked injuries will arouse the resentment of the most peaceful. Such injuries these Colonies have received from Britain. Unjustifiable claims have been made by the King and his minions, to tax us without our consent. These claims have been prosecuted in a manner cruel and unjust to the highest degree. The frantick policy of Administration hath induced them to send fleets and armies to America, that by depriving us of our trade, and cutting the throats of our brethren, they might awe us into submission, and erect a system of despotism in America which should so far enlarge the influence of the Crown as to enable it to rivet their shackles upon the people of Great Britain.
This plan was brought to a crisis upon the ver memorable 19th of April. We remember the fatal day! the expiring groans of our countrymen yet vibrate on our ears! and we now behold the flames of their peaceful dwellings ascending to Heaven! we hear their blood crying to us from the ground for vengeance! charging us, as we value the peace of their manes, to have no further connection with a King who can unfeelingly hear of the slaughter of his subjects, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul! The manner in which the war has been prosecuted hath confirmed us in these sentiments; piracy and murder, robbery and breach of faith, have been conspicuous in the conduct of the King’s troops; defenceless towns have been attacked and destroyed: the ruins of Charlestown, which are daily in our view, daily remind us of this; the cries of the widow and the orphan demand our attention; they demand that the hand of pity should wipe the tear from their eye, and that the sword of their country should avenge their wrongs. We long entertained hopes that the spirit of the British nation would once more induce them to assert their own and our rights, and bring to condign punishment the elevated villains who have trampled upon the sacred rights of men, and affronted the majesty of the people. We hoped in vain. They have lost their love to freedom; they have lost their spirit of just resentment. We therefore renounce with disdain our connection with a kingdom of slaves. We bid a final adieu to Britain.
Could an accommodation be now effected, we have reason to think that it would be fatal to the liberties of America; we should soon catch the contagion of venality and dissipation, which hath subjected Britons to lawless domination. Were we placed in the situation we were in 1763: were the powers of appointing to offices, and commanding the militia, in the hands of governors, our arts, trade and manufactures would be cramped; nay, more than this, the life of every man who has been active in the cause of his country would be endangered.
For these reasons, as well as many others which might be produced, we are confirmed in the opinion, that the present age will be deficient in their duty to God, their posterity and themselves, if they do not establish an American republic. This is the only form of government which we wish to see established; for we can never be willingly subject to any other King than he who, being possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and rectitude, is alone fit to possess unlimited power.
We have freely spoken our sentiments upon this important subject, but we mean not to dictate; we have unbounded confidence in the wisdom and uprightness of the continental congress: with pleasure we recollect that this affair is under their direction: and we not instruct you, sir, to give them the strongest assurance that, if they should declare America to be a free and independent republic, your constituents will support and defend the measure, to the last drop of their blood, and the last farthing of their treasure.
Sam. Merrit, town-clerk
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
by Robert W. Service
Where are the dames I used to know
In Dawson in the days of yore?
Alas, it's fifty years ago,
And most, I guess, have "gone before."
The swinging scythe is swift to mow
Alike the gallant and the fair;
And even I, with gouty toe,
Am glad to fill a rocking chair.
Ah me, I fear each gaysome girl
Who in champagne I used to toast,
or cozen in the waltz's whirl,
In now alas, a wistful ghost.
Oh where is Touch The Button Nell?
Or Minnie Dale or Rosa Lee,
Or Lorna Doone or Daisy Bell?
And where is Montreal Maree?
Fair ladies of my lusty youth,
I fear that you are dead and gone:
Where's Gertie of the Diamond Tooth,
And where the Mare of Oregon?
What's come of Violet de Vere,
Claw-fingered Kate and Gumboot Sue?
They've crossed the Great Divide, I fear;
Remembered now by just a few.
A few who like myself can see
Through half a century of haze
A heap of goodness in their glee
And kindness in their wanton ways.
Alas, my sourdough days are dead,
Yet let me toss a tankard down . . .
Here's hoping that you wed and bred,
And lives of circumspection led,
Gay dance-hall girls of Dawson Town!
The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.
I saw Auden only once. It was in Edinburgh, a short time before his death, at a reading that he gave in the University Lecture Theatre in George Square. I was in my mid-twenties at the time, and I had just taken up my first academic post in Belfast. I was back in Edinburgh for a visit when I stumbled upon a notice announcing that W. H. Auden would read from his work at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a day. I got hold of a ticket and found a seat close to the front.
The poet came in, flanked by members of the committee of the Scottish Society for the Speaking of Verse. The party mounted the stage and introductions were made. Then Auden stood up, and it became evident that the fly-buttons of his trousers were undone. There was an audible gasp from the audience, but Auden seemed unaware of anything untoward or, if he was aware of it, did not care. He began to recite his work, entirely from memory, including “The Fall of Rome” and “Musée des Beaux Arts.”
Grief in Moderation
When the Temple was destroyed by Titus the Wicked, there were among Jews many, particularly Pharisees, who took a vow never again to eat meat or drink wine.
“Why don’t you eat meat and drink wine?” Rabbi Joshua asked them.
They lamented: “How can we eat flesh that formerly was brought as a sacrifice upon the Temple altar when now we may no longer sacrifice? How can we drink wine which the priests used to pour upon the Temple altar when now we no longer have any altar?”
“In that case,” argued Rabbi Joshua, “we shouldn’t eat any bread either, because, since the destruction of the Temple, sacrifices of flour also have been abolished.”
“You’re right,” they answered, “we can substitute fruit for bread.”
“How can we eat fruit?” Rabbi Joshua asked. “The first fruits were also brought to Jerusalem for the Temple’s use and now that such offerings have been abolished, we shouldn’t eat them.”
“Possibly we could eat fruits from which such offerings did not have to be made,” ventured the Pharisees.
“Let’s stop drinking water,” Rabbi Joshua continued, “because the water-libation for the altar has also been abolished.”
At this the Pharisees fell silent; they did not know what to answer. Seeing that he had brought them back to reason. Rabbi Joshua said to them:
“My children, pay heed to what I’m going to tell you. It would be impossible to expect us not to grieve, for indeed a bitter fate has befallen us. However, one must not indulge too much in grief. It is wrong to impose upon the Jewish people burdens that they cannot bear.”
Monday, August 27, 2018
by Robert W. Service
I to a crumpled cabin came
upon a hillside high,
And with me was a withered dame
As weariful as I.
"It used to be our home," she said;
"How well I remember well!
Oh that our happy hearth should be
Today an empty shell!"
The door was flailing in the storm
That deafed us with its din;
The roof that kept us once so warm
Now let the snow-drift in.
The floor sagged to the sod below,
The walls caved crazily;
We only heard the wind of woe
Where once was glow and glee.
So there we stood disconsolate
Beneath the Midnight Dome,
An ancient miner and his mate,
Before our wedded home,
Where we had know such love and cheer . . .
I sighed, then soft she said:
"Do not regret - remember, dear,
We, too, are dead.
A crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
The young poet’s story tells us about Auden’s quiet, but very touching, kindness. Auden helped people. Sometimes this took extraordinary forms: he was kind, for example, to a Canadian burglar who wrote to him from prison. He wrote back, encouraging the burglar in his interest in poetry. (Canada no doubt has its share of burglars, but for some reason there seems something surprising in the concept of a Canadian burglar—something vaguely oxymoronic).
While we have seen the apparent death of Communism, ways of thinking that were either born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives. Not all of them are as immediately evident as a legacy of Communism as Political Correctness.Here we are 26 years later, witnessing the fruits of this unconscious absorption of the Soviet utopian habits of mind by the second tier intelligentsia, squirreled away where they can do the most damage in media, academia and departments of government bureaucracy. Rotherham and its shamefully many counterparts across Britain, hidden by bureaucrats and the media for fear of transgressing sacred beliefs about multiculturalism and power structures and racism, etc. The revolt of the masses with Brexit. The decline of the media. The fever pitched screaming of academics, media and government bureaucrats as their power and sinecures are threatened by ordinary citizens.
The first point -- language. It is not a new thought that Communism debased language and, with language, thought. There is a Communist jargon recognizable after a single sentence. Few people in Europe have not joked in their time about concrete steps, contradictions, the interpenetration of opposites -- and the rest.
The first time I saw that mind-deadening slogans had the power to take wing and fly far from their origins was in the 1950's when I read an article in The Times of London and saw them in use. 'The demo last Saturday was irrefutable proof that the concrete situation . . . .' Words confined to the left as corralled animals had passed into general use and, with them, ideas. One might read whole articles in the conservative and liberal press that were Marxist, but the writers did not know it. But there is an aspect of this heritage that is much harder to see.
Even five, six years ago, Izvestia, Pravda and a thousand other Communist papers were written in a language that seemed designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything. Because, of course, it was dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended. Now all these newspapers have rediscovered the use of language. But the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.
A young friend of mine from North Yemen saved up every bit of money he could to travel to Britain to study that branch of sociology that teaches how to spread Western expertise to benighted natives. I asked to see his study material and he showed me a thick tome, written so badly and in such ugly, empty jargon it was hard to follow. There were several hundred pages, and the ideas in it could easily have been put in 10 pages. Yes, I know the obfuscations of academia did not begin with Communism -- as Swift, for one, tells us -- but the pedantries and verbosity of Communism had its root in German academia. And now it has become a kind of mildew blighting the whole world.
A very common way of thinking in literary criticism is not seen as a consequence of Communism, but it is. Every writer has the experience of being told that a novel, a story, is 'about' something or other. I wrote a story, 'The Fifth Child,' which was at once pigeonholed as being about the Palestinian problem, genetic research, feminism, anti-Semitism and so on.
A journalist from France walked into my living room and before she had even sat down said, 'Of course 'The Fifth Child' is about AIDS.'
An effective conversation stopper, I assure you. But what is interesting is the habit of mind that has to analyze a literary work like this. If you say, 'Had I wanted to write about AIDS or the Palestinian problem I would have written a pamphlet,' you tend to get baffled stares. That a work of the imagination has to be 'really' about some problem is, again, an heir of Socialist Realism. To write a story for the sake of story telling is frivolous, not to say reactionary.
The phrase Political Correctness was born as Communism was collapsing. I do not think this was chance. I am not suggesting that the torch of Communism has been handed on to the Political Correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed, often without knowing it.
There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what do do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior. Art -- the arts generally -- are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best, uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but at worst persecution. It troubles me that Political Correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care.
Again and again in Britain we see in town councils or in schools councillors or headmistresses or headmasters or teachers being hounded by groups and cabals of witch hunters, using the most dirty and often cruel tactics. They claim their victims are racist or in some way reactionary. Again and again an appeal to higher authorities has proved the campaign was unfair.
I am sure that millions of people, the rug of Communism pulled out from under them, are searching frantically, and perhaps not even knowing it, for another dogma.
None of them are communists but all of them, as Lessing artfully observed, absorbed the habits of totalitarian communist thinking where the vanguard know better than the populace, where eggs must be broken to make an omelette, where the ends justify the means, and where hate is a perfectly rational political tool as long as it is controlled and used against the correct enemies, i.e. the public.
The Virtue of the Commonplace
A rabbi once had a dispute with a Jew-baiting theologian. Said the latter, “You Jews brag about your world-mission and are proud of the fact that you are God’s Chosen People — yet everybody tramples you underfoot! Aren’t you deceiving yourselves?”
The rabbi replied, “When our Father Jacob fled before the wrath of Esau, God appeared to him in a dream and said: ‘And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth.’ What, may I ask, brings greater use to man than the earth? Just the same — men trample it underfoot. . . .”
Sunday, August 26, 2018
by Robert W. Service
Ah yes, I know my brow is low
And often wished it high,
So that I might with rapture write
An epic of the sky;
A poem cast in contour vast,
Of fabled gods and fays;
A classic screed that few would read
Yet nearly all would praise.
Alas! Low-browed, to lure the crowd
With cap and bells I sing;
And some may cheer and some may jeer,
And some a farthing fling.
The lofty line will ne'er be mine,
To rude rhyme I belong,
And try to please the least of these
Who listen to my song.
Kind folk! excuse my moron muse
Whose earthiness I rue;
Of homespun class it is alas!
The best that I can do.
Of grosser grain I strive in vain
To scale the alps of Art . . .
A clown I go: Houp La! - But Oh
The hunger in my heart!
UPDATE: I posted this from Lyrics of a Low Brow by Robert W. Service, found in a box of books I was more or less unsuccessfully trying to cull in my continuing effort to reduce the 13,000 book accumulation of a lifetime of reading. I have already scheduled a long series of his works in the coming days.
Illustrating enduring serendipity, on this first day of the scheduled posts, and related to the passing of John McCain last night, there is this small tribute:
Because I'm worried that people won't read it, I think this is the only time this story from the 2000 campaign was ever reported and it is my single favorite campaign story, ever. You should click the link, but I'll put the money shots here. https://t.co/dFE6Jrfpp2 pic.twitter.com/IxwRY2RSXN— Jonathan V. Last (@JVLast) August 26, 2018
Do read the linked article Reagan, McCain, and Sam McGee by Andrew Ferguson. Apparently not only were Reagan and McCain fans of Robert Service, but the Queen Mother of England as well.
Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.
My hosts were members of the English faculty, and one of them was married to a writer who told me an extraordinary story about Auden. We were in the car, traveling from the airport at which I had arrived, when, knowing of my admiration for Auden, he mentioned that as a teenager in New York he had met the poet. I asked him to tell the story.
He had written poetry, as some teenagers do, but, unlike most teenagers, he had decided to go to the top in seeking an opinion of his work. He wrote to Auden, enclosing some of his work, and Auden wrote back. That, in itself, was a fine thing: many such letters go off into an uncertain future and are never answered. This may be regrettable, but it is at least understandable: some public figures may be overwhelmed by correspondence and find it impossible to reply to all the letters they receive. They should not be judged too harshly for that, perhaps, but those who do reply should certainly be given moral credit.
Auden’s reply was encouraging, and the young man was emboldened to send further samples of his work. This led in due course to an invitation to call at Auden’s apartment to discuss the work. There was nothing untoward in this invitation, and the meeting consisted of a serious discussion of the poetry that the young man had been writing. But lunch was served amid great domestic squalor, and this gave rise to the story of the Audenesque chocolate pudding encountered by Vera Stravinsky. Mrs. Stravinsky, visiting Auden and Kallman for dinner, went into the bathroom and discovered on top of the cistern a bowl containing an awful brown mess. This she flushed down the toilet, thinking that she was improving the flat’s hygiene but only to discover that she had disposed of the chocolate pudding placed there to cool.
This passage is marvelously foresightful of our current challenge where citizens are fighting, not factions per se, but the "despotick faction", the establishment.
Who will be the associates? Certainly not the virtuous, who do not wish to control the society, but quietly to enjoy its protection. The enterprising merchant, the thriving tradesman, the careful farmer, will be engrossed by the toils of their business, and will have little time or inclination for the unprofitable and disquieting pursuits of politics. It is not the industrious, sober husbandman, who will plough that barren field; it is the lazy and dissolute bankrupt, who has no other to plough. The idle, the ambitious, and the needy will band together to break the hold that law has upon them, and then to get hold of law. Faction is a Hercules, whose first labor is to strangle this lion, and then to make armor of his skin. In every democratic state, the ruling faction will have law to keep down its enemies; but it will arrogate to itself an undisputed power over law. If our ruling faction has found any impediments, we ask, which of them is now remaining? And is it not absurd to suppose, that the conquerors will be contented with half the fruits of victory?This is the passage that is especially resonant.
We are to be subject, then, to a despotick faction, irritated by the resistance that has delayed, and the scorn that pursues their triumph, elate with the insolence of an arbitrary and uncontrollable domination, and who will exercise their sway, not according to the rules of integrity or national policy, but in conformity with their own exclusive interests and passions.
This is a state of things which admits of progress, but not of reformation; it is the beginning of a revolution, which must advance. Our affairs, as first observed, no longer depend on counsel. The opinion of a majority is no longer invited or permitted to control our destinies, or even to retard their consummation. The men in power may, and no doubt will give place to some other faction, who will succeed, because they are abler men, or possibly, in candor we say it, because they are worse. Intrigue will for some time answer instead of force, or the mob will supply it. But by degrees force only will be relied on by those who are in, and employed by those who are out. The vis major will prevail, and some bold chieftain will conquer liberty, and triumph and reign in her name.
Irritated by the resistance that has delayed, and the scorn that pursues their triumph, elate with the insolence of an arbitrary and uncontrollable domination, and who will exercise their sway, not according to the rules of integrity or national policy, but in conformity with their own exclusive interests and passions.We had a fair and free election which delivered the candidate of the people with clarity and integrity. No one has questioned the integrity of the system or the finality of the electoral college. Many have argued for reform so that the despotick faction can achieve power without consent of the governed, but no one claims that the people's candidate did not legitimately achieve victory against all expectations and odds.
They don't make that argument because it is unsupportable by the facts but the despotick faction have certainly spent vast time, effort and money, to undermine the legitimacy of the freely elected candidate of the people and have sought consistently and persistently since before inauguration to find some way to overturn the people's candidate. They seek to protect the corrupted system of despotick faction which has served them so well and which is so threatened by the disruptor who seeks to drain the swamp.
Fascinating the insight and wisdom of those at our founding two and a half centuries ago.
Why God Gave No Wisdom to Fools
A woman of high rank once asked Rabbi Yose bar Halaftah, “Why is it written in the Book of Daniel that God bestows wisdom on the wise? Rightly, shouldn’t God instead have bestowed wisdom on the fools who really need it?”
“Let me explain this matter to you with a parable,” answered Rabbi Yose. “Imagine that two people wish to borrow money from you. If one is rich and the other poor, to which of the two will you lend the money?”
To the rich, of course,” the woman answered.
“Why so?” asked Rabbi Yose.
The woman answered, “If the rich man loses the money I lend him he’ll find some way to return it to me. But where will the poor man get the money to repay me?”
“May your ears hear what your lips are saying!” exclaimed Rabbi Yose. “Were the Almighty to bestow wisdom on the fools, what do you think they would do with it? They would only sprawl themselves licentiously in the theatres and at the baths and play at being clever the livelong day. That’s why He gave His wisdom to the wise who seek after wisdom in the Houses of Study.”
For a variety of reasons, including the cult of multiculturalism in the eighties and nineties and a deliberate policy of open borders in order to change the electorate in the nineties and aughts, Britain has had a rising crime rate in the past couple of decades and in particular, a rapid rise in knife crimes and acid attacks in the past decade.
In the past couple of weeks there have been multiple horrific knife attacks for days in a row, including a disemboweling.
In this context, there is an obvious interpretation to the following headline:
Apparently, one police officer attacked two others with a knife.
Except, that is not what happened.
There is a parallel story over the past month, more substantive perhaps, but less headline worthy than the rash of knife attacks. Britain, despite the good economy, is in a budgetary crisis; a very European one. As with most nations in Europe over the past several decades, the state has been centralizing power and economic control in the center and then ceding much of that power into the European center, a governance amoeba with few boundaries and even less accountability. The democracy deficit is very real there. Citizens have lost control of their governments, and are administered by unaccountable establishment insiders, independent of party label.
While there is a hierarchical structure of power, there is no real federal structure. All decisions, policy, operational and financial, are made at the center. At the same time, all these highly centralized governments with low accountability have succumbed to the bane of unbounded democratic institutions, they keep increasing taxes, borrow more money, and print more money in order to increase consumption today at the expense of inflation, debt and penury tomorrow.
But eventually you run out of other people's money.
In Britain, they are about at the end of the financial charade. Cities and counties have very limited taxing authority, therefore no real decision-making power. The great bulk of taxes are raised centrally and then disbursed back out to the provinces as the centralized establishment deems fit. With the center's ephemeral consumption polices in full flood, there is simply not enough money to go around. The center cannot hold as Yeats said.
Defense spending has been cut to the bone so that military capacity is minuscule. Essential infrastructure spending has disappeared, resulting in collapsing infrastructure and rutted roads. Now, even basic services are being slashed. Local councils have had their distributions from the center gutted. There is no money for local citizens, it all disappears into the center, never to be seen again.
And that is the second context for interpreting this headline.
Police are not stabbing one another, there has been a reduction of police forces of 33% while multiculturalism and open boarders come to fruit with rising violence and crime. Citizens are left to wither while the establishment members luxuriate in security and prosperity.
The situation is made worse by the establishment indulging it's ideological whims. In Britain this means that, while violent crime is rising rapidly, police forces are slashed and of those which remain, they are tasked with policing the internet for people posting rude things about the government and the government's favored groups.
It is this disengagement of the establishment from the care and concern for the well-being of the masses of its citizens which I think explains the revolt across the developed world of citizens against the establishment.
Confusing headlines are a symptom of the underlying pathology.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
A Poison Tree
by WIlliam Blake
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
Gentlemen, the melancholy event of yesterday reads to us an awful lesson against being too much troubled about any of the objects of ordinary ambition. The worthy gentleman, who has been snatched from us at the moment of the election, and in the middle of contest, whilst his desires were as warm, and his hopes as eager as ours, has feelingly told us, what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue.
He returned to Christianity, to an idiosyncratic form of Anglo-Catholicism, having been influenced by his extensive theological reading and by his own need to find a way forward in life. He wrote libretti for operas, notably The Rake’s Progress, over which he and his long-term partner, Chester Kallman, collaborated with Igor Stravinsky. He spent summers in Italy and then in Austria, where he bought a house an hour from Vienna. In the United States his home was in St. Mark’s Place, in Greenwich Village, and he lived there, in conditions of famous mess, until he decided to return to Oxford, where he was given a cottage on the grounds of his old college. His last years there were spent in an Oxford that had changed significantly since his own undergraduate days. He was a lonely figure, sometimes sitting alone in a coffee house, untalked to by students who were too shy to do so or who were simply unaware of who this shambling, unkempt figure was. He was seen in Blackwell’s, the famous Oxford bookstore, reading books off the shelf and then replacing them, his clothing covered in cigarette ash and assorted stains.I do not have it at hand, but will append once located, an interesting piece about the need for structure in one's life. Not just physical structure, but in terms of a worldview such as religion so frequently provides, integrating both mind and heart. Auden's return seems an example of that importance.
Learning Knows No Class
There were two families that lived in Sepphoris. One consisted of aristocrats, educated people who were wise in counsel. The other one consisted of common, undistinguished people.
Each day, when the two families proceeded to the house of the Nasi to pay their respects to him, the aristocrats would enter first and the common people could go in only after the others had left.
Now it happened that these insignificant people began to apply themselves to study, and in time they became great scholars. Then they demanded that they get precedence over the aristocrats when they went to pay their respects to the Nasi.
This incident raised a great deal of discussion everywhere. When Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish was asked for an opinion he passed the question on to Rabbi Yohanan who concluded:
“A bastard who is a scholar is superior to a High Priest who is an ignoramus.”
Friday, August 24, 2018
There is something which has never been seen yet, and which, to all appearances, never will be, and that is a little town which isn't divided into cliques, where the families are united, and the cousins trust each other; where a marriage doesn't start a civil war, and where quarrels about precedence don't arise every time a service, a ceremony, a procession, or a funeral are held; where gossip and lying and malice have been outlawed; where the landlord and the corporation are on speaking terms, or the ratepayers and their assessors; where the dean is friendly with the canons, and the canons don't despise the chaplins, and the chaplins tolerate the men in the choir.
In 1928 he went to Berlin, where he stayed until the spring of the following year. This was a very important experience for him in terms of political education and personal discovery—the equivalent, perhaps, of a dramatic gap year today. Christopher Isherwood, his close friend, recorded that period very strikingly in his Goodbye to Berlin, a book that was so successfully and atmospherically translated to stage and film. Later he went to Spain, another focal point of the battle between European left and right, intending to drive an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War. (Auden was not a good driver at all, and the fact that he did not actually drive an ambulance was probably a good thing for those whom he might have conveyed.) One of his great poems, subsequently disowned, was “Spain,” in which he explores—meretriciously, he later said—the significance of Spain to his generation. There was a visit to China with Isherwood to record the implications of the Japanese invasion, and a journey to Iceland with the Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice. Several volumes of poetry were published—to considerable critical acclaim. As a poet, Auden was feted. His was a new and exciting voice that seemed to capture the hopes—and anxieties—of the time.Weimar Germany, Civil War Spain, Chiang Kai-shek China - the world is peacefully humdrum compared to not so long ago.
Goodbye to Berlin was the basis for the play and movie, Cabaret.
Learning That Leads to Action
Rabbi Tarfon sat conversing on serious matters with other learned men in a house in Ludd. The question was raised: “Which is more important — learning or action?”
Rabbi Tarfon replied, “Action is more important. Of what earthly use are fine words and preachments unless they are
put into practice?”
Rabbi Akiba upheld the contrary viewpoint.
“Learning is more important,” he said.
The sages finally concluded that both were right.
“Learning is more important when it leads to action,” they declared.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
The future they envisaged was one in which justice and freedom would be secured by the enlightened reform of society on rational principles
He went on to university, to Oxford, to Christ Church, where he was the clever undergraduate, the center of a circle of like-minded bright young men impatient with their elders—as bright young men have to be—and eager to become part of the new intellectual climate that was emerging in post–First World War Europe. It was a time of intellectual and artistic ferment, and in the eyes of his contemporaries at Oxford, Auden was very much in the vanguard of all this. He was also extremely promiscuous, picking up other young men with undisguised enthusiasm, even succeeding, as one of his biographers reports, in making conquests on the short train journey between Oxford and London. But if the world seemed bright and full of possibilities, there was a snake in the garden, and this would soon make its presence known in an unambiguous fashion.That second paragraph is chilling. We are still assailed by people and movements (SJWs) who are determined to subjugate others in order to reform society on rational principles. Their rational principles; no room for the opinions of others. Despite the undeviating socialist/marxist record of massacres, genocide, torture, starvation, poverty and repression, people still hunger for the false utopian dream. Seems like we would have learned more with nearly a century's worth of examples.
Auden was not involved in politics at Oxford—his interest in the subject was really kindled only after he left the university and went to Berlin. But many of his contemporaries were becoming deeply involved in political debate: the future they envisaged was one in which justice and freedom would be secured by the enlightened reform of society on rational principles, while material needs would be catered for by scientific progress. It was a fairly conventional left-wing vision, and it had all the confidence that such views of the world usually have. For some, such as the British intellectuals who famously traveled to Moscow, the Soviet Union became the embodiment of their hopes (“We have seen the future—and it works,” enthused the fashionable social theorists Sidney and Beatrice Webb of their carefully stage-managed visit to Russia); for others the battle was a more domestic one, to be fought through unions and internal reform. For all of them, though, the greatest threat was fascism, which was threatening the very basis of European civilization. It was against this backdrop of political threat that Auden spent the years immediately following his graduation from Oxford.
The Parable of the Two Gents
Once, after he had listened to his counsellor, Nicholas of Valencia, speaking evil against the Jews, King Don Pedro was very much perplexed in his own mind.
“There is a wise man among the Jews whose name is Ephraim Sancho,” the king recalled. “Bring him to me.”
So they brought Ephraim Sancho before the king.
“Which faith is superior, yours or ours?” the king sternly demanded of Ephraim.
When Ephraim heard the king’s question he was thrown into confusion and said to himself: “Be wary, for the enemies of Israel have laid a trap for you in order to do you harm.”
But to the king he said: “Our faith, O King, suits us better for, when we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, our God, by means of many wondrous signs and miracles, led us out of the land of bondage into freedom. For you Christians, however, your own faith is the better because, by its means, you have been able to establish your rule over most of the earth.”
When King Pedro heard this he was vexed. “I did not ask you what benefits each religion brings to its believers,” he said. “What I want to know is: which are superior — your or our own precepts?”
And again Ephraim Sancho was thrown into confusion. He said to himself: “If I tell the king that the precepts of his religion are superior to mine I shall have denied the God of my fathers and shall therefore deserve all the punishments of Gehenna. On the other hand, should I tell him that the precepts of my religion excel his he will be sure to have me burned at the stake.”
But to the king Ephraim said: “If it please the King — let me ponder his question carefully for three days, for it requires much reflection. At the end of the third day I will come to him with my answer.”
And King Pedro said: “Let it be as you say.”
And for the three days that followed the spirit of Ephraim was rent within him. He neither ate nor slept but put on sackcloth and ashes and prayed for divine' guidance. But, when the time arrived for him to see the king, he put all fear aside and went to the palace with his answer.
When Ephraim Sancho came before the king he looked downcast.
“Why are you so sad?” the king asked him.
“I am sad with good reason for, without any cause whatsoever, I was humiliated today,” answered Ephraim. “I will let you be my judge in this matter, O King.”
“Speak!” said King Don Pedro.
Ephraim Sancho then began: “A month ago to this day a neighbor of mine, a jeweler, went on a distant journey. Before he departed in order to preserve the peace between his two bickering sons while he was away, he gave each of them a gift of a costly gem. But only today the two brothers came to me and said: ‘O Ephraim, give us the value of these gems and judge which is the superior of the two!’
“I replied: ‘Your father himself is a great artist and an expert on precious stones. Why don’t you ask him? Surely he will give you a better judgment than I.’
When they heard this they became enraged. They abused and beat me. Judge, O King, whether my grievance is just!”
“Those rogues have mistreated you without cause!” cried the king. “They deserve to be punished for this outrage.”
When Ephraim Sancho heard the king speak thus he rejoiced. “O King!” he exclaimed. “May your ears hear the words your own mouth has spoken, for they are true and just. Know that such two brothers as these were Esau and Jacob, and each of them received for his own happiness a priceless gem. You have asked me, O King, which of the two gems is superior. How can I give you a proper answer? Send a messenger to the only expert of these gems — Our Father in Heaven. Let Him tell you which is the better .”
When King Pedro heard Ephraim Sancho speak thus he marvelled greatly. “Behold, Nicholas,” he said to his counsellor.
“Consider the wisdom of this Jew. Since he has spoken justly then justice shall be done to him. He deserves, not rebuke and harm, but respect and honor. You, however, deserve to be punished, for you have spoken nothing but evil slanders against the Jews.”
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s news that both former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his lawyer Michael Cohen were found on the wrong side of the law in separate court cases, the question asked most frequently by the press, Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans is, “Where do Trump voters go now?”From among all the commenters over the past two years, that paragraph is probably the pithiest explanation of 2016 which I have seen.
The answer is the same that it has always been since they first started asking it Nov. 9, 2016: With Trump.
This new conservative populist coalition is not the fluke the political class hoped it was. Donald Trump did not cause it, he is just the result of it, so no matter what he does, it continues. It is predicated on them, not him.
The coalition is a strike at not just tone deafness in both Congress and the White House but also high levels of incompetence, negligence and shoddy performance at agencies, as well as inept social services, a bloated and incompetent bureaucracy, endless wars and multinational agreements and treaties that don’t benefit average people.
These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat. They were willing to look past all of that because of how institutions had failed their communities for three consecutive presidencies.
Right now the value of Trump to the Trump voter is he is all that stands between them and handing the keys to Washington back over to the people inside Washington. That’s it. He’s their only option. You’ve got to pick the insiders or him.
So the question becomes: Can the Democrats pick someone who is Trump? Someone who just says, “I don’t trust anybody in Washington either. They all suck. The Democrats sucks, the Republicans suck and Trump’s a crook.”
If they could pick a Trump for their side, then Trump could have a problem. But as it stands we only really only have two parties; the party of the governing elite and the party of Trump.
That is why they stick with him.
The coalition is a strike at not just tone deafness in both Congress and the White House but also high levels of incompetence, negligence and shoddy performance at agencies, as well as inept social services, a bloated and incompetent bureaucracy, endless wars and multinational agreements and treaties that don’t benefit average people.
The diploma gives society a phantom guarantee and its holders phantom rights. The holder of a diploma passes officially for possessing knowledge . . . comes to believe that society owes him something. Never has a convention been created which is more unfortunate for every one-the state, the individual (and, in particular, culture).
by W.H. Auden
A shilling life will give you all the facts:
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains; named a sea:
Some of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.
With all his honours on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else; could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvellous letters but kept none.
Day Is Done
When the day is done
Down to earth then sinks the sun
Along with everything that was lost and won
When the day is done
When the day is done
Hope so much your race will be all run
Then you find you jumped the gun
Have to go back where you begun
When the day is done, when the night is cold
Some get by but some get old
Just to show life's not made of gold
When the night is cold
When the bird has flown
Got no-one to call your own
No place to call your home
Now the bird has flown
When the game's been fought
Newspaper blown across the court
Lost much sooner than you would have thought
Now the game's been fought
When the party's through
Seems so very sad for you
Didn't do the things you meant to do
Now there's no time to start anew
Now the party's through
When the day is done
Down to earth then sinks the sun
Along with everything that was lost and won
When the day is done
Does society repress individuals or do individuals express themselves. Is female sexuality an expression of personal freedom and choices or an instance of social control? These are issues for the WQ crowd. The claim has long been that disparities between different fields is evidence of social suppression of women. A cascade of research in the past five years has thrown a spanner into that assumption. The countries with the greatest legal protections of women and the strongest egalitarian cultures are also those with the sharpest disparities. The causal mechanism appears to be that countries with the strongest egalitarianism, the strongest laws protecting human freedoms, are also those with the strongest growth and the greatest prosperity. Rich countries allow people to make decisions based on what they want rather than what they need. And when given the choice, apparently men and women choose activities, interests, and outcomes which are consonant with traditional norms. Much to the distress of the high WQ ideologues.
Blake et al are reporting a similar finding from another perspective. In free, egalitarian countries, women use wiles to achieve their desired goals. Emphasis added.
Female sexualization is increasing, and scholars are divided on whether this trend reflects a form of gendered oppression or an expression of female competitiveness. Here, we proxy local status competition with income inequality, showing that female sexualization and physical appearance enhancement are most prevalent in environments that are economically unequal. We found no association with gender oppression. Exploratory analyses show that the association between economic inequality and sexualization is stronger in developed nations. Our findings have important implications: Sexualization manifests in response to economic conditions but does not covary with female subordination. These results raise the possibility that sexualization may be a marker of social climbing among women that track the degree of status competition in the local environment.Free market economies generate high levels of prosperity for all members but at the expense of increasing income inequality. The researchers find that in such an environment, women use sexualization as a mechanism to game the system. In other words, it is a self-chosen strategy to attract a high performance mate.
They elaborate in the Abstract:
Publicly displayed, sexualized depictions of women have proliferated, enabled by new communication technologies, including the internet and mobile devices. These depictions are often claimed to be outcomes of a culture of gender inequality and female oppression, but, paradoxically, recent rises in sexualization are most notable in societies that have made strong progress toward gender parity. Few empirical tests of the relation between gender inequality and sexualization exist, and there are even fewer tests of alternative hypotheses. We examined aggregate patterns in 68,562 sexualized self-portrait photographs (“sexy selfies”) shared publicly on Twitter and Instagram and their association with city-, county-, and cross-national indicators of gender inequality. We then investigated the association between sexy-selfie prevalence and income inequality, positing that sexualization—a marker of high female competition—is greater in environments in which incomes are unequal and people are preoccupied with relative social standing. Among 5,567 US cities and 1,622 US counties, areas with relatively more sexy selfies were more economically unequal but not more gender oppressive. A complementary pattern emerged cross-nationally (113 nations): Income inequality positively covaried with sexy-selfie prevalence, particularly within more developed nations. To externally validate our findings, we investigated and confirmed that economically unequal (but not gender-oppressive) areas in the United States also had greater aggregate sales in goods and services related to female physical appearance enhancement (beauty salons and women’s clothing). Here, we provide an empirical understanding of what female sexualization reflects in societies and why it proliferates.There has been a long simmering debate/antagonism between sex-positive feminists and third-wave feminists for whom sex, in all its manifestations, is a mechanism for suppressing women in a patriarchal system.
Blake et al suggest that in fact sex is a form of empowerment and agency for women, as sex-positive feminists have long argued.
If their research bears out, it answers primarily anthropological questions. It does not address questions of propriety and acceptable social norms. So the fight will continue but it is interesting information.
Their specific foundational belief systems overlap but their derived policy recommendations can differ fairly broadly.
However, all of them tend to reject Classical Liberal precepts such as freedom, equality under the law, rule of law, consent of the governed, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, individualism, freedom of assembly, free markets, market-based economies, etc.
They all are also characterized by messianism, millenarianism, atheism, utopianism, bigotry, racism, out-group scapegoating with violence and hatred, intolerance, centralization of power, cult of the elite, disparagement of the masses, ideological jargon, and concern about ideological purity.
It is often inaccurate to refer to an individual as being from, for example, the Frankfurt School as they have never even heard of the Frankfurt School even though they are following the Frankfurt School playbook. I have hosts of mainstream Protestant Church friends who are hot and heavy for social justice. Given that their husbands are rich businessmen, it is misleading to call them neo-Marxists and yet those are the precepts to which they are adhering.
Lacking an overarching description and yet not wanting to belabor fine distinctions in pursuit of detailed accuracy, I will, for the time being, and with a head-nod to IQ, use WQ - the Woke Quotient. Just as there is a general factor g in IQ, there is also a general factor in WQ. As Wikipedia explains, g
is a variable that summarizes positive correlations among different cognitive tasks, reflecting the fact that an individual's performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person's performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks. The g factor typically accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the between-individual performance differences on a given cognitive test, and composite scores ("IQ scores") based on many tests are frequently regarded as estimates of individuals' standing on the g factor. The terms IQ, general intelligence, general cognitive ability, general mental ability, or simply intelligence are often used interchangeably to refer to this common core shared by cognitive tests. The g factor targets a particular measure of general intelligence.In much the same way, there is a general factor among all the above pathologies. There are differences in the particulars but the overarching effect is the same. If you are comfortable coercively taking money from one group to subsidize another favored group, then you also are likely to be pretty comfortable suppressing freedom of speech, also inclined to proscribe religious freedoms, and to be very comfortable with the idea that experts should be entitled to decide what is best for others.
Until I find something concise, WQ will be the term of use for the time being.
The Best and the Worst Things
Once Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai said to his five disciples: “What is the most desirable thing to strive for in life?”
Rabbi Eliezer said: “A good eye.”
Rabbi Joshua said: “A good friend.”
Rabbi Yose said: “A bad neighbor.”
Rabbi Simeon said: “Wisdom to foretell the future.”
Rabbi Eleazar said: “A good heart.”
Rabbi Yohanan then said to his five disciples: “The words of Eleazar please me most, because his thought includes all
At another time Rabbi Yohanan asked his disciples: “What is the thing that man should avoid most in life?”
Rabbi Eliezer said: “Ah evil eye.”
Rabbi Joshua said: “An evil friend.”
Rabbi Yose said: “A bad neighbor.”
Rabbi Simeon said: “One who borrows money and doesn’t
Rabbi Eleazar said: “A bad heart.”
Rabbi Yohanan then said: “The words of Eleazar please me most because his thought includes all of yours.”
The treatment of recent news reveals an important chasm in 2018 America: the concerns of Mainstream Media vs. those of Main Street USA. In many ways, this divide represents a sort of tale of two cities. The first “city” of Washington-New York media elites explodes over every headline, including endless rumors regarding Russia and White House staff intrigue. In contrast, the second “city” of non-politically obsessed everyday Americans focuses on bread-and-butter issues that actually matter to their everyday lives.
For example, during the second week of August, according to a study from left-leaning Media Matters, MSNBC spent almost 16 hours of total airtime discussing disgruntled and discredited former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. For comparison, the channel spent a total of 45 minutes discussing immigration issues and 39 minutes on the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Moreover, contrast that concentration on innuendo and scandal with the actual issues of concern to most Americans. In a recent Gallup survey about the 2018 midterm elections, the number one “problem facing the country today” is immigration/illegal aliens. The second most important issue is, unsurprisingly, the economy. Matters pertaining to Russia, incidentally, earned a literal asterisk in the Gallup report, meaning below 0.5 percent of respondents.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
The Emperor once said to Rabbi Gamaliel, “Your God is a thief! Why did he make Adam fall asleep and then steal a rib from him?”
The Emperor’s daughter interrupted and said to Rabbi Gamaliel, “Let me answer my father.” Then turning to the Emperor, she said, “Call a judge!”
“What do you need a judge for?” the Emperor asked in surprise.
“Thieves entered my apartment at night,” the Princess replied. “They stole a silver jug, but in its place they left one made of gold.”
“May such robberies occur every night!” laughed the Emperor.
“Well then,” cried the Princess. “Didn’t such good fortune happen to Adam? God stole from him a rib, but in its place he left him a devoted wife.”
“In my opinion,” rejoined the Emperor, “it was wrong of God to make Adam fall asleep. If he wanted to take his rib he shouldn’t have done it stealthily.”
“Father!” cried the Princess. “Order that a chunk of meat be brought.”
Wonderingly, the Emperor did as she asked.
The Princess then took the raw meat and in the presence of her father, put it into the hot ashes to roast. When it was ready for serving she said to him, “There now, father, eat the meat!”
But the Emperor shuddered with disgust and refused to eat. He had first seen the meat when it was raw and after that, when it was still covered with ashes.
“It nauseates me!” he cried.
“There you see!” said the Princess triumphantly. “Had Adam been awake and seen how God cut out his rib and created a woman from it he would have forever been nauseated at the sight of her.”
In this instance, the evidence is Life Paths and Accomplishments of Mathematically Precocious Males and Females Four Decades Later by David Lubinski, Camilla P. Benbow, and Harrison J. Kell.
The cognitive 1% are no basis for extrapolating to the whole bell-curve but it is interesting. From the Abstract:
Two cohorts of intellectually talented 13-year-olds were identified in the 1970s (1972–1974 and 1976–1978) as being in the top 1% of mathematical reasoning ability (1,037 males, 613 females). About four decades later, data on theirThe Conclusion section is actually clearer:
careers, accomplishments, psychological well-being, families, and life preferences and priorities were collected. Their
accomplishments far exceeded base-rate expectations: Across the two cohorts, 4.1% had earned tenure at a major
research university, 2.3% were top executives at “name brand” or Fortune 500 companies, and 2.4% were attorneys
at major firms or organizations; participants had published 85 books and 7,572 refereed articles, secured 681 patents,
and amassed $358 million in grants. For both males and females, mathematical precocity early in life predicts later
creative contributions and leadership in critical occupational roles. On average, males had incomes much greater than
their spouses’, whereas females had incomes slightly lower than their spouses’. Salient sex differences that paralleled
the differential career outcomes of the male and female participants were found in lifestyle preferences and priorities
and in time allocation.
This is the first study to document the career paths of mathematically talented males and females over four decades in which women had high-level career options. Although we found many similarities between men and women, their career paths did diverge. Also, on the whole, both men and women became the critical human capital needed for driving modern-day, conceptual economies. Early manifestations of exceptional mathematical talent did lead to outstanding creative accomplishment and professional leadership, but with notable sex differences. Life satisfaction was uniformly high for both sexes, as was psychological well-being. The mathematically talented were doing exceedingly well for both themselves and society.Reminds me of that scene in My Cousin Vinny where Lisa (played brilliantly by Marisa Tomei) outlines Vinny's terrible future to him.
Understanding remarkable adult accomplishments and creativity in high-potential populations requires looking beyond abilities, occupational preferences, and opportunity. The data suggest that all aspects of life competing for and structuring the use of time need to be assessed. Cutting-edge advances, high-powered careers, and important leadership roles demand substantial time commitment and intense engagement. And this is where the males and females in our samples diverged in aggregate. Compared with mathematically gifted women, mathematically gifted men expressed stronger preferences for developing high-impact careers and were willing to invest more time in their careers. Conversely, the women expressed stronger preferences for and devoted more time to advancing family and community, compared with the men. Both groups advanced society, though in varying ways, traveling different paths to their current highly productive and satisfying lives.
Lisa: So what's your problem?The identity commissars want all identities to be equally represented in outcomes. Instead, under the freedom-based, individualistic cultures and market economies in the west, people get to choose differently, get to choose what they prefer, and they end up having more and more productive careers and more and more satisfying lives. With unequal representation!
Vinny: My problem is, I wanted to win my first case without any help from anybody.
Lisa: Well, I guess that plan's moot.
Lisa: You know, this could be a sign of things to come. You win all your cases, but with somebody else's help. Right? You win case, after case, - and then afterwards, you have to go up to somebody and you have to say - "thank you"! Oh my God, what a fuckin' nightmare!
Oh my God, what a nightmare!
Monday, August 20, 2018
In the late 1980s public-television stations aired a talking-heads series called Ethics in America. For each show more than a dozen prominent citizens sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and tried to answer troubling ethical questions posed by a moderator. The series might have seemed a good bet to be paralyzingly dull, but at least one show was riveting in its drama and tension.American soldiers grapple with difficult moral challenges and come up with answers that might be criticized and might exact a great cost on themselves but which are serviceable. American journalists, unserious in the extreme, make glib decisions that reflect a malice towards their fellow countrymen in order to bolster to their own self-esteem. Is it any wonder that American's hold their military in high regard and their media in such abysmal low regard.
The episode was taped in the fall of 1987. Its title was "Under Orders, Under Fire," and most of the panelists were former soldiers talking about the ethical dilemmas of their work. The moderator was Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, who moved from panelist to panelist asking increasingly difficult questions in the law school's famous Socratic style.
During the first half of the show Ogletree made the soldiers squirm about ethical tangles on the battlefield. The man getting the roughest treatment was Frederick Downs, a writer who as a young Army lieutenant in Vietnam had lost his left arm in a mine explosion.
Ogletree asked Downs to imagine that he was a young lieutenant again. He and his platoon were in the nation of "South Kosan," advising South Kosanese troops in their struggle against invaders from "North Kosan." (This scenario was apparently a hybrid of the U.S. roles in the Korean and Vietnam wars.) A North Kosanese unit had captured several of Downs's men alive--but Downs had also captured several of the North Kosanese. Downs did not know where his men were being held, but he thought his prisoners did.
And so Ogletree put the question: How far would Downs go to make a prisoner talk? Would he order him tortured? Would he torture the prisoner himself? Downs himself speculated on what he would do if he had a big knife in his hand. Would he start cutting the prisoner? When would he make himself stop, if the prisoner just wouldn't talk?
Downs did not shrink from the questions or the implications of his answers. He wouldn't enjoy doing it, he told Ogletree. He would have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life. But yes, he would torture the captive. He would use the knife. Implicit in his answers was the idea that he would do the cutting himself and would listen to the captive scream. He would do whatever was necessary to try to save his own men. While explaining his decisions Downs sometimes gestured with his left hand for emphasis. The hand was a metal hook.
Ogletree worked his way through the other military officials, asking all how they reacted to Frederick Downs's choice. William Westmoreland, who had commanded the whole U.S. force in Vietnam when Downs was serving there, deplored Downs's decision. After all, he said, even war has its rules. An Army chaplain wrestled with how he would react if a soldier in a morally troubling position similar to Downs's came to him privately and confessed what he had done. A Marine Corps officer juggled a related question: What would he do if he came across an American soldier who was about to torture or execute a bound and unarmed prisoner, who might be a civilian?
The soldiers disagreed among themselves. Yet in describing their decisions they used phrases like "I hope I would have the courage to . . ." and "In order to live with myself later I would . . ." The whole exercise may have been set up as a rhetorical game, but Ogletree's questions clearly tapped into discussions the soldiers had already had about the consequences of choices they made.
Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening's panel, better known even than Westmoreland. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings, of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes and CBS.
Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading Jennings and his news crew got permission from the North Kosanese to enter their country and film behind the lines. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, he replied. Any reporter would--and in real wars reporters from his network often had.
But while Jennings and his crew were traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by U.S. and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly crossed the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst the Northern soldiers set up an ambush that would let them gun down the Americans and Southerners.
What would Jennings do? Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to fire?
Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds. "Well, I guess I wouldn't," he finally said. "I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans."
Even if it meant losing the story? Ogletree asked.
Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. "But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That's purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction."
Ogletree turned for reaction to Mike Wallace, who immediately replied. "I think some other reporters would have a different reaction," he said, obviously referring to himself. "They would regard it simply as another story they were there to cover." A moment later Wallace said, "I am astonished, really." He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American" (at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship). "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story."
Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot?
"No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!"
Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said: "I chickened out." Jennings said that he had "played the hypothetical very hard."He had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached.
As Jennings said he agreed with Wallace, several soldiers in the room seemed to regard the two of them with horror. Retired Air Force General Brent Scowcroft, who would soon become George Bush's National Security Advisor, said it was simply wrong to stand and watch as your side was slaughtered. "What's it worth?" he asked Wallace bitterly. "It's worth thirty seconds on the evening news, as opposed to saving a platoon."
After a brief discussion between Wallace and Scowcroft, Ogletree reminded Wallace of Scowcroft's basic question. What was it worth for the reporter to stand by, looking? Shouldn't the reporter have said something ?
Wallace gave a disarming grin, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I don't know." He later mentioned extreme circumstances in which he thought journalists should intervene. But at that moment he seemed to be mugging to the crowd with a "Don't ask me!"expression, and in fact he drew a big laugh--the first such moment in the discussion. Jennings, however, was all business, and was still concerned about the first answer he had given.
"I wish I had made another decision," Jennings said, as if asking permission to live the past five minutes over again. "I would like to have made his decision"--that is, Wallace's decision to keep on filming.
A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform. Jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell said, "I feel utter contempt."
Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell said, Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces--and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. When that happens, he said, they are "just journalists." Yet they would expect American soldiers to run out under enemy fire and drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield.
"I'll do it!" Connell said. "And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get . . . a couple of journalists." The last words dripped disgust.
Not even Ogletree knew what to say. There was dead silence for several seconds. Then a square-jawed man with neat gray hair and aviator glasses spoke up. It was Newt Gingrich, looking a generation younger and trimmer than he would when he became speaker of the House, in 1995. One thing was clear from this exercise, Gingrich said. "The military has done a vastly better job of systematically thinking through the ethics of behavior in a violent environment than the journalists have."
The interview was in 1987 and the article from 1996 and the problem has only gotten worse since then. And it is entirely self-manufactured by the news media itself with zero self-awareness. This week saw 350 newspapers sign a common editorial complaining that the President has been being mean to them, jeopardizing their role in society and making their lives dangerous. They display no awareness that they have manufactured this problem for themselves in a generation-long effort of self-subversion. If you hate your readers, it is hard to hide your contempt.
This sordid past is brought to mind by a current opinion piece The media’s hatred of Trump is only hurting itself by Michale Goodwin lamenting the self-destructive behaviors of the press as it relates to Trump. True as far as it goes but as the above Fallows piece indicates, the rot set in a generation ago.
This month marks the two-year anniversary of one of the most important articles ever written on journalism. On Aug. 7, 2016, after Donald Trump formally secured the Republican nomination and the general election campaign was under way, New York Times media columnist James Rutenberg began with a question:This is the initiating piece to which Goodwin refers, Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism by Jim Ruenberg.
“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?”
Under the Times’ traditional standards, the right answer is that you wouldn’t be allowed to cover any candidate you were so biased against. But that’s not the answer Rutenberg gave.
Instead, quoting an editor who called Hillary Clinton “normal” and Trump “abnormal,” Rutenberg suggested “normal standards” didn’t apply. He admitted that “balance has been on vacation” since Trump began to campaign and ended by declaring that it is “journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment.”
I wrote then that the article was a failed attempt to justify the lopsided anti-Trump coverage in the Times and other news organizations. It was indeed that — and more, for it also served as a dog whistle for anti-Trump journalists, telling them it was acceptable to reveal their biases. After all, history would judge them.
Weeks later, Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor, told an interviewer the Rutenberg article “nailed” his thinking and convinced him that the struggle for fairness was over.
“I think that Trump has ended that struggle,” Baquet boasted. “I think we now say stuff. We fact-check him. We write it more powerfully that it’s false.”
Because the Times is the liberal media’s bell cow, the floodgates were flung open to routinely call Trump a liar, a racist and a traitor. Standards of fairness were trashed as nearly every prominent news organization demonized Trump and effectively endorsed Clinton. This open partisanship was a disgraceful chapter in the history of American journalism.
Yet the shocking failure of that effort produced no change in behavior. After the briefest of mea culpas for failing to see even the possibility of a Trump victory, the warped coverage continued and became the media wing of the resistance movement.
Which is how we arrived at the latest low moment in journalism. This one involved the more than 300 newspapers (including The Post) that followed the Boston Globe and, especially his accusation that they are “the enemy of the people.”
The high-minded among the media mob insisted they were joining together to protect the First Amendment and freedom of the press. In fact, the effort looked, smelled and felt like self-interest and rank partisanship masquerading as principle.
True to their habit, most of the papers expressed contempt for the president and some extended that contempt to his supporters.
Nancy Ancrum, the editorial page editor of the Miami Herald, told Fox News her paper joined the effort without any hope of changing the minds of Trump supporters because “they are just too far gone.”
Imagine that — 63 million Americans are written off because they disagree with the media elite’s politics. Echoes of Clinton’s “deplorables” comment ring loud and clear.
I agree that Trump is wrong to call the media the “enemy of the people” and wish he would stick to less inflammatory words. His favorite charge of “fake news” makes his point well enough without any hint that he favors retribution on individual journalists.
But I am also concerned that media leaders refuse to see their destructive role in the war with the president. Few show any remorse over how the relentlessly hostile coverage of Trump is damaging the nation and changing journalism for the worse.
The incapacity of the media to report straight news, to confine opinion to the editorial page is bad enough. But there have always been issues in the regard. But journalists have drifted so far from the norms of values and behaviors from Americans and their partisan obsession has become so all-encompassing that becomes hard to muster respect. Or even a justification for continued payment of a subscription. For thirty-five years I have been a subscriber to three to five newspapers at any point in time and always to the New York Times and to the Washington Post. I am down to three papers at this point and their is no longer a reason to subscribe to NYT or the WP. I can no longer get straight reporting and their non-political writing is so suffused by critical theory postmodernist deconstructionist pablum that there is hardly any justification to spend that money supporting them. I can't bring myself to cut the cord yet, mostly from habit and fond remembrance. But this scissors are out of the drawer, lying on the counter.