We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday because it arrives during hunting season, and because it's not about giving and getting stuff - it's simply about gratitude and family bonds. But we hereby promise our readers to utter no party-pooper pieties about the commercialization of Christmas this year. However, we must also say that we
Get off the internet, for once. Get in the kitchen and help - or turn on the TV, fix a drink, start getting numb, and watch the moronic Macy's parade like a normal person! Gee, will there be a problem with the balloons? (I swear that the parade coverage is targeted to Alzheimers patients tied into wheelchairs.) But first...relax and spend a few peaceful and intelligent minutes of serenity with us:
"We took Chris Matthews' advice, and really endeavored to understand these people," a Pentagon spokeman said. "And then, once we sufficiently understood them, we atomized them with high-explosive precision munitions. I think this is a compromise approach both the left and right can agree."
"Lasch subtitled his book, “American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,” and it is useful to question just how far the diminishing of expectations he first identified has gone. Looking back on TheCulture of Narcissism more than 25 years later, what did Lasch get right and what did he get wrong? What developments did he presciently identify and which ones did he miss? In the interim decades, has Lasch’s narcissist given way to a new type of American character and, if so, what are that character’s defining traits? A descriptive tour revisiting some of Lasch’s themes — especially the transformation of the family — suggests that the narcissism Lasch described has not disappeared. It has simply taken on a different and in some ways more exaggerated form."
Is there life after blog? He was an excellent and productive blogger. I just found a piece of his I had saved for some reason. It's about Happiness. We hope Chrenkoff has found happiness in his new career.
The "Dreamliner", the replacement for the Boeing 777, looks like a darn nice bus, and I look forward to flying on it. Several human features: higher humidity, so you don't arrive dehydrated; better pressurization (most commercial airplanes are pressurized to an equivalent of 7000' in altitude; this will be closer to 4000); more seat room in cabin class; bigger windows; an 8500 mile range and, I have heard, no recycled air (if the engineers can solve the problem of the half knot per hour speed loss which this seems to entail). I just hope the bathrooms are better - and cleaner. Alas, no swimming pool or Jacuzzi, and no place to enjoy a cigar - even in First Class. You still have to stroll out on the wing for that.
I guess it should go without saying that, since why would I post an unedifying article? But this review of five books by TNR's Paul Berman is a tour de force, and an excellent example of why I have never abandoned TNR: they always have smart people, even if you don't always agree with them.
"France's domestic achievements were genuine, even if the achievements never did penetrate into the suburban housing projects. And from this angle, too, from the perspective of France's domestic peace, the America of George Bush seemed a little worrisome. In America, Christianity had not been pushed out of political life. On the contrary, Christianity in America seemed to have gone insane, with the evangelical sects as principal evidence. Nor was the welfare state looking too healthy in America. The welfare state was shrinking. Nor was capital punishment at an end, in its American version. America seemed poised to execute Mumia Abu-Jumal, who was regarded in France as a famous black leader--a martyr awaiting his martyrdom.
Now, this particular view of American conditions might have looked a little different if the French had kept in mind the peculiarities of American history. In the United States, evangelical sects have always been insane. ("Various forms of religious madness are quite common in the United States," Tocqueville wisely observed.) Even so, Christianity in America has by and large served as democracy's foundation, and not its enemy--which was another of Tocqueville's points. Nor has capital punishment ever played the kind of political role in America that it used to play in France. ("North America," Tocqueville went on to say, "is, I believe, the only region on earth where not a single citizen has been deprived of his life for a political offense for the past fifty years.") As for the welfare state, the French critics had a point, though perhaps it could be argued that jobs, too, have a virtue, and not just jobless benefits.
In any case, instead of looking at these matters from the vantage point of American history, the French observers tended to adopt the vantage point of French history and concluded that America was retreating into the Middle Ages, even if America had never been in the Middle Ages. And since Bush in his vigor and naïveté seemed to be in a missionary mood, the danger arose, or seemed to arise, that America's clericalism, its state violence, and its anti-proletarian biases might, like McDonald's, end up spreading to the European continent, and France's achievements might get undone, and the miserable French past might turn out to be the miserable future."
Read entire. It is a damn good piece of writing, even if you are sick of thinking about France.
In Santa Croce, ten paces from Michelangelo's, and twenty paces from Galileo's. Lousy photo - they don't allow flash.
As Maggie's Farm readers know, Nick Machiavelli (1469-1527), the father of modern political science, was no dark, cynical, sinister thinker, just a hard-headed realist about human nature and the handling of political power. Practical, and a good writer, too.
A few of my favorite sound bites:
"Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society."
"The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him."
"The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous."
"The distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love."
See Aliyah Diary category to learn what this is about.
Nov. 6, 2005
When Rutie, my teacher, finally broke into tears, it caught me in the throat. I could barely sing. It started simply enough. Our ulpan classes gathered in Shulamit's Tent for singing. Opher, the moshav-dweller who plays piano -- and flute, and accordion (which he prefers, as he feels he is one with the instrument) and directs the choir, and gives us the tours, and is the secular Torah/Mishnah/Gemarrah teacher --embraces me as I enter, remembers me from two years ago. Embraces me with one of those bear hugs that Mizrahi Jews are better at than us Ashkenazim. (Patrick and David know better of which I speak.) We are preparing for a Rabin memorial ceremony next week with the visiting army troops. The troops are to sing for us, and in appreciation, Opher is preparing us to sing for them,. An Israeli gift. So, this gaggle of Argentine-accented, and French-accented, even two Japanese-accented Hebrew students and a couple like me, are being directed in Opher's spirited manner as he plays a tuneless piano, or dons his accordian. Before each song, Opher invites a teacher to read and speak of the lyrics, we should know whereof we sing. [Later, I recall that Plato wanted to ban poetry (at that time, sung lyrics) from the Republic, as music bypasses the rational and goes straight to the heart. (So, right he is about that. Leonard Bernstein gives five characteristics by which to judge good music, then tacks on a sixth: does it hit straight to the heart.)
Coveney on the state of theater cricitism: Prospect
US can be free of oil dependence? Without a single mention of nuclear power? Doubt it. And the writer doesn't seem to know that it requires more energy to produce ethanol than ethanol contains. IndyStar. Ethanol is alcohol: would you pour Grey Goose into the tank of your F-150? Even if Grey Goose were cheaper per gallon than gas? Heck no. Economics isn't everything, because things have meaning to people.
What's wrong with this essay on French riots in Jurist? I have my ideas.
Now, while I usually assume that our readership is all too well aware of the political leanings of the mainstream media, a particular sentence I came across today jumped out at me and has been nagging at my brain ever since. In an AP article covering DeVillepin's vain promises to provide jobs to the disaffected rioters, there is a mention of "Muslim leaders" afraid of a backlash in which the following tidbit appears:
"On Sunday, authorities discovered racist and extremist slogans — including one that said "Defend yourself, France" — spray-painted on a mosque being built in Saint-Etienne in the southeast."
When I read the first part of the sentence, I assumed the author might quote something to the effect of "Africans must die" or "expel all Muslims" or something at least plausibly "racist." But no - apparently the worst they could find was a simple plea for France to stand up to those who seek to profit by violence and destruction. (What irony, to think that during the German occupation of the second world war, a Frenchman scribbling such a message on the side of a building would been held in much the same regard by those in power.)
The implications of this statement go beyond the rioting in France, however, to encompass all of Europe and indeed all of the West, which faces charges of "racism" and "extremism" for even the slightest efforts to control its borders or restrict the free movement of immigrants. Now, if in France's case, continued immigration will inevitably result in a Muslim- and African-majority France, with all that implies for French culture, nationhood and government, surely France is within its right to seek to prevent such a future. Not so, says the left: racism no longer constitutes only the oppression of the non-white or non-Christian other, but also resistance to their oppressing you.
The implications of this are vast, since acceptance of this principle essentially robs the nations of the West of the ability to control and shape their own futures. The demographic changes underway must continue, therefore, since to oppose one's transformation into a Muslim nation would be racist. Likewise in the United States, one cannot oppose giving in-state tuition and driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, since to do so would be racist. Calling for France to defend itself in the face of rioting by African Muslims? Racist, of course. Sadly, this insidious ideology has worked its way into the highest reaches of political power throughout the Western world and shows no signs of losing its grip. Unless it is challenged and destroyed, and soon, France's future looks to be already set.
"The Left is in a profound crisis, a crisis which they have as yet failed to recognize. They are living in a country in which they are outnumbered 3 to 2 by conservatives, and they refuse to consciously recognize that the liberal position is no longer the default position in American public opinion, even as they are forced to cast humiliating votes. The religion of the Left has failed to capture the hearts of America. Their religion has failed, but it’s all they have. Imagine a young man at a madrassa in Pakistan who wakes up one day to discover that he no longer believes the Koran to be literally true. He still carries on with lessons and prayers, perhaps all the louder and more fervently. The Left too has its playbook; it is all they have. So one should expect more of the same, perhaps louder and more fervently."
"Do you know my life story, LJ? Do you know how a man, filled with empty knowledge and the false assurances of gifts and youth, a loving family and a life undeservedly blessed, can squander it all for the pursuit of self-satisfying intellect, arrogance, self-sufficiency, and contempt of others? Have you been in that place of desperate emptiness, having pushed away your children and made your wife a living widow, driving forward with blind foolishness until your own hollow life is endangered? You say you have prayed and those prayers were not answered; I too have prayed–years on end–to a God I once served but who in mercy left me to suffer the consequences of a life driven by self-will and self-satisfaction. Hollow prayers, desperate prayers, prayers a fool’s cry for help to a now-empty universe. A God I once understood completely proved completely inscrutable, hopelessly distant, His ear–if He existed at all–turned elsewhere, His eye on more worthy subjects. Have you then seen–in an hour unimaginably dark–that same God you never knew reach down with gentle hands and unspeakable love, to scoop up this poor refuse and restore him to a life and hope he could never have imagined?"
Comments on OSM from Least Loved Bedtime Stories and from Buzzmachine. On studying it, I can't figure out exactly what OSM is supposed to be, nor do I see that I need it. On the other hand, I rely a great deal on those extraordinary bloggers who put it together. Good luck to them.