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Friday, June 24, 2005
STILL TO COME
From the sublime to the ridiculous, said Napoleon, is but a step.
Following yesterday's amazing session at KOPT with Nancy and Mac, I had to attend a dinner at which, unbeknownst to me, a reservist who'd served a year in Afghanistan was to give an informative speech.
It was an illuminating and completely unexpected counterpoint to the radio discussion, and not at all, perhaps, in the manner expected by the speaker.
So, I'm utterly exhausted and am going to fall into the arms of Morpheus. Tomorrow, a little blog on the real horror of our military misadventures.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
NO BLOG TODAY - MAYBE
I'll be in education from early morning to the wee hours, learning about the latest intricate absurdities of the U.S. Tax Code and the Oregon Tax Code.
Thus, though I may WISH I were blogging, whether I will manage it or not is dubious. Maybe late at night, if my mind hasn't been battered into tapioca by the stultifying dullness of the subject, presented in a dour, pendantic monotone by an unending procession of instructors.
It won't be a Tony Robbins infomercial, that's fer sure.
Yippie ki yo ki yay.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IDIOT
or, WHOOPS! THEY DID IT AGAIN!
Well, the House has, once again, passed an anti-Flag-Burning amendment. It goes to the Senate. Hillary Clinton's office has released a statement saying that she's "studying" it.
Polls indicate that since the Republicans started flogging this pony public opposition has risen from 45% to 63% in less than a decade. Kind of like the idiots in Oregon who keep trying to pass a sales tax. Every time it comes up it loses by a larger margin.
But, the Republicans insist on this self-contradictory amendment. I'm expected, as a blogger, to comment, but I'm tired of arguing with the morons. I wrote a long piece in Horse Laugh #3 on the subject, and rather than scan it and do all that work, let me just turn it over to Justice Kennedy, who wrote a magnificent concurrence when the Supreme Court decided this case in 1989. (Rehnquist, O'Connor, and "Whizzer" White were the three votes against, and the latter two joined Rehnquist in one of the most nonsensical dissents ever to disgrace the written legacy of the Supremes. It will NOT be reproduced here.)
from FAUX NOOZ (AP):
CAPITOL HILL The House on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag, a measure that for the first time stands a chance of passing the Senate as well.
By a 286-130 vote, House members approved the amendment -- as they have six times before -- after a debate over whether such a ban would uphold or run afoul of the Constitution's (search) free-speech protections. The measure now advances to the Senate, where activists on both sides say it stands the best chance of passach chamber, it moves to the states for ratification. [needless to say, sic]
And here's White saying all that needs be said, eloquently and elegantly. A fine bit of prose, BTW.
U.S. Supreme CourtThere. The next item on the agenda is an amendment keeping "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. I kid you not.
TAKE SKIING UPHILL'S LITTLE TEST!
ARE YOU A LIBERAL OR ARE YOU A BARBARIAN?
(With our special GUEST blogger!)
Today's blog comes to us from a special guest blogger, who published this little essay in 1930. From the original translator's note :
Jose Ortega y Gasset was born in Madrid in 1883. After brilliant classical studies in the Jesuit College of Malaga, he entered the Central University in Madrid, from which he obtained his doctorate in 1904. Proceeding to Germany, he continued his philosophical studies in Berlin, Leipzig and Marburg. On his return to Spain he filled several educational posts before being appointed to the Chair of Metaphysics in Madrid University which he holds. Invited by the University of Buenos Aires in 1916 to give a course of lectures, he met with brilliant success, repeated in succeeding visits, and has thereby extended his influence throughout the Spanish-speaking world. His writings cover various fields of philosophy, literature and art.
[Note: by his request, the translator remains anonymous, so no attribution can be offered.]
Don't let the title of his superior essay frighten you. Over the years, I have found it to be astonishingly prescient, and particularly incisive in diagnosing what's gone wrong with modern civilization. Looking up a reference yesterday, I was struck by his use of the term "barbarian," which I have unconsciously paralleled in my own, decades-long use of the term. Whether I got it from him, or on my own is fodder for armchair psychoanalysts anywhere.
Sr. Ortega y Gasset's crackling prose remains as current in the 21st Century as it was in 1930, predicting the European holocaust to come. (Note that he rightly pronounced the Fascists and Bolsheviks "barbarians" and "anti-liberal" long before this became garden-variety common wisdom).
Oh, the essay's title? "The Revolt of the Masses." For some mysterious reason, he is eminently readable, quite an anomaly for philosophers.
Now, are you a liberal or a barbarian? Here's Sr. Ortega y Gasset on "liberalism":
The political doctrine which has represented the loftiest endeavour towards common life is liberal democracy. It carries to the extreme the determination to have consideration for one's neighbour and is the prototype of "indirect action." Liberalism is that principle of political rights, according to which the public authority, in spite of being all-powerful, limits itself and attempts, even at its own expense, to leave room in the State over which it rules for those to live who neither think nor feel as it does, that is to say as do the stronger, the majority. Liberalism -- it is well to recall this to-day -- is the supreme form of generosity; it is the right which the majority concedes to minorities and hence it is the noblest cry that has ever resounded in this planet. It announces the determination to share existence with the enemy; more than that, with an enemy which is weak. It was incredible that the human species should have arrived at so noble an attitude, so paradoxical, so refined, so acrobatic, so anti-natural. Hence, it is not to be wondered at that this same humanity should soon appear anxious to get rid of it. It is a discipline too difficult and complex to take firm root on earth.
Firstly, we can state with some satisfaction that the translator was British -- hence the odd spellings. But consider the following paragraph in light of last week's (and month's) political depredations by the angry Republican majorities in the House and Senate against the rights and very speech of the minority Democrats (e.g. the shutting down of the minority hearings of the Judiciary Committee by "Bad Comb-Over" Sensenbrenner, the relegation to the basement of John Conyers' hearings this week, or the threat to destroy the filibuster, and Bush's insistence yesterday that John Bolton's nomination filibuster be put to yet another vote for cloture -- all in violation of long-standing rules of parliamentary procedure:
Share our existence with the enemy! Govern with the opposition! Is not such a form of tenderness beginning to seem incomprehensible? Nothing indicates more clearly the characteristics of the day than the fact that there are so few countries where an opposition exists. In almost all, a homogeneous mass weighs on public authority and crushes down, annihilates every opposing group. The mass - who would credit it as one sees its compact, multitudinous appearance? - does not wish to share life with those who are not of it. It has a deadly hatred of all that is not itself.
So, we have liberalism contrasted implicitly with barbarism. But let's see what Gasset defines "barbarism" as, and tell me which legislators and/or Administration personalities might fit this description:
There may be those who feel more disturbed by other symptoms of emergent barbarism which, being positive in quality, results of action and not of omission, strike the attention more, materialise into a spectacle. For myself, this matter of the disproportion between the profit which the average man draws from science and the gratitude which he returns - or, rather, does not return - to it; this is much more terrifying. [The monstrosity is increased a hundredfold by the fact that, as I have indicated, all the other vital principles, politics, law, art, morals, religion, are actually passing through a crisis, are at least temporarily bankrupt. Science alone is not bankrupt; rather does it every day pay out, with fabulous interest, all and more than it promises. It is, then, without a competitor; it is impossible to excuse the average man's disregard of it by considering him distracted from it by some other cultural enthusiasm.] I can only succeed in explaining to myself this absence of adequate recognition by recalling that in Central Africa the negroes also ride in motor-cars and dose themselves with aspirin. The European who is beginning to predominate - so runs my hypothesis - must then be, in relation to the complex civilisation into which he has been born, a primitive man, a barbarian appearing on the stage through the trapdoor, a "vertical invader."
The mass-man believes that the civilisation into which he was born and which he makes use of, is as spontaneous and self-producing as Nature, and ipso facto he is changed into primitive man. For him, civilisation is the forest. This I have said before; now I have to treat it in more detail. The principles on which the civilised world - which has to be maintained - is based, simply do not exist for the average man of to-day. He has no interest in the basic cultural values, no solidarity with them, is not prepared to place himself at their service.
Now, before you declare Ortega y Gasset a "racist" post-facto, consider only that he was referring to tribal Africans -- e.g. neolithic hunter/gatherers and agrarians; aboriginals -- in the sense that they were utterly uneducated(in the European sense) and yet were just as easily able to use the latest technology as the most elite European sophisticate: motor-cars and aspirin.
The point is about barbarism: now consider that exemplary barbarian, Newt Gingrich, who, as Speaker of the House, so little understood the nature of government that he shut it down, thinking that our "civilisation" was "as spontaneous and self-producing as Nature" and never recovered politically from his monstrous ignorance and arrogance. He simply didn't understand that government produces profound and intrinsic benefits (and, if not handled well, maladies) within the society that the "primitive man," Newt existed.
Isn't this barbarism at the very essence of Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, Orin Hatch, Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, Dick Cheney and, yes, Mad King George?
Or, in the immortal words of Bill O'Reilly: "It's MY MONEY! It's MY money!!"
Now, consider the consequences to our rich and easy civilization, should the barbarians succeed. Take it away, Jose:
I persist then, at the risk of boring the reader, in making the point that this man full of uncivilised tendencies, this newest of the barbarians, is an automatic product of modern civilisation, especially of the form taken by this civilisation in the XIXth Century. He has not burst in on the civilised world from outside like the "great white barbarians" of the Vth Century; neither has he been produced within it by spontaneous, mysterious generation, as Aristotle says of the tadpoles in the pond; he is its natural fruit. One may formulate, as follows, a law confirmed by palaeontology and biogeography: human life has arisen and progressed only when the resources it could count on were balanced by the problems it met with. This is true, as much in the spiritual order as in the physical. Thus, to refer to a very concrete aspect of corporal existence, I may recall that the human species has flourished in zones of our planet where the hot season is compensated by a season of intense cold. In the tropics the animal-man degenerates, and vice versa, inferior races - the pygmies, for example - have been pushed back towards the tropics by races born after them and superior in the scale of evolution. The civilisation of the XIXth Century is, then, of such a character that it allows the average man to take his place in a world of superabundance, of which he perceives only the lavishness of the means at his disposal, nothing of the pains involved. He finds himself surrounded by marvellous instruments, healing medicines, watchful governments, comfortable privileges. On the other hand, he is ignorant how difficult it is to invent those medicines and those instruments and to assure their production in the future; he does not realise how unstable is the organisation of the State and is scarcely conscious to himself of any obligations. This lack of balance falsifies his nature, vitiates it in its very roots, causing him to lose contact with the very substance of life, which is made up of absolute danger, is radically problematic. The form most contradictory to human life that can appear among the human species is the "self-satisfied man." Consequently, when he becomes the predominant type, it is time to raise the alarm and to announce that humanity is threatened with degeneration, that is, with relative death. On this view, the vital level represented by Europe at the present day is superior to the whole of the human past, but if we look to the future, we are made to fear that it will neither preserve the level reached nor attain to a higher one, but rather will recede and fall back upon lower heights.
And thence to the holocaust. (Remember, this was written prior to 1930).
Now, we are faced with a similar materialistic, selfish barbarism -- the cultural equivalent of the "spoilt child," or, in the words of Senor Ortega y Gasset:
This leads us to note down in our psychological chart of the mass-man of today two fundamental traits: the free expansion of his vital desires, and therefore, of his personality; and his radical ingratitude towards all that has made possible the ease of his existence. These traits together make up the well-known psychology of the spoilt child. And in fact it would entail no error to use this psychology as a "sight" through which to observe the soul of the masses of to-day. Heir to an ample and generous past - generous both in ideals and in activities - the new commonalty has been spoiled by the world around it. To spoil means to put no limit on caprice, to give one the impression that everything is permitted to him and that he has no obligations. The young child exposed to this regime has no experience of its own limits. By reason of the removal of all external restraint, all clashing with other things, he comes actually to believe that he is the only one that exists, and gets used to not considering others, especially not considering them as superior to himself. This feeling of another's superiority could only be instilled into him by someone who, being stronger than he is, should force him to give up some desire, to restrict himself, to restrain himself. He would then have learned this fundamental discipline: "Here I end and here begins another more powerful than I am. In the world, apparently, there are two people: I myself and another superior to me." The ordinary man of past times was daily taught this elemental wisdom by the world about him, because it was a world so rudely organised, that catastrophes were frequent, and there was nothing in it certain, abundant, stable. But the new masses find themselves in the presence of a prospect full of possibilities, and furthermore, quite secure, with everything ready to their hands, independent of any previous efforts on their part, just as we find the sun in the heavens without our hoisting it up on our shoulders. No human being thanks another for the air he breathes, for no one has produced the air for him; it belongs to the sum-total of what "is there," of which we say "it is natural," because it never fails. And these spoiled masses are unintelligent enough to believe that the material and social organisation, placed at their disposition like the air, is of the same origin., since apparently it never fails them, and is almost as perfect as the natural scheme of things.
My thesis, therefore, is this: the very perfection masses benefited thereby to consider it, not as an organised, but as a natural system. Thus is explained and defined the absurd state of mind revealed by these masses; they are only concerned with their own well-being, and at the same time they remain alien to the cause of that well-being. As they do not see, behind the benefits of civilisation, marvels of invention and construction which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, they imagine that their role is limited to demanding these benefits peremptorily, as if they were natural rights. In the disturbances caused by scarcity of food, the mob goes in search of bread, and the means it employs is generally to wreck the bakeries. This may serve as a symbol of the attitude adopted, on a greater and more complicated scale, by the masses of to-day towards the civilisation by which they are supported.
So, are you a liberal or are you a barbarian?
Jose and I would like to know.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
or, DANG! I SPOKE TOO SOON!
In the proceeding post, I erroneously attributed accuracy to the NEW YORK TIMES. It was by another writer. The error of reporting factually has now been corrected.
June 22, 2005Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
MORONS ON PARADE, or
ISCARIOTS OF FIRE
Well, there are a couple of breaking stories as I write this that, once more, point out the lack of education and manners, and the intellectual sloth that's come to characterize our Yew Essay culture.
The first one is that the Utah "Boy Scout" has been found. The eleven-year-old has been found. Which bothered me since for the past couple of daze, he's been alternately a "Cub Scout" and a "Boy Scout."
I was both. When I graduated to Boy Scout status at about that age, my uniform looked like a Russian general's: I had every legal bit of frill, frump and frippery embroidered to my uniform shirt that was allowed. (In fact, I had additional stuff, but it was more than was allowable -- extra arrowheads, both silver and gold, the Cub Scout equivalent of merit badges).
Well, according to the AP's earlier coverage, the boy "[who had] not yet graduated from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, was visiting the camp with a friend, whose father was volunteering at a three-day session for 1,400 older scouts."
But, in hundreds of newspapers, around the world, and even the local DESERET NEWS in Salt Lake City identify the boy as a "Boy Scout."
Now, considering the utter SIMPLICITY of the story, and the very few facts involved -- the spelling of the name, the location of the Scout camp, and the (estimated) number of people searching for the lost boy, you'd think that more than one or two reporters would be able to make the distinction between a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. But no.
Worse, initial reports CORRECTLY identified the boy as a 'cub scout,' but, evidently, the intellectual strain of a "cub scout" visiting a "boy scout" camp was too much to keep focused on for three days, and, if you will GOOGLE the tale, virtually every news story now identifies the "boy scout" as having been found. It is a small but telling distinction. If you can't keep your simple, easy facts straight, how on earth can you be trusted to analyze actual stories, which are compounded of a series of facts.
Astonishingly, the NEW YORK TIMES actually managed to get it right, if third hand: "The hunt for the boy, a Cub Scout who was visiting a Boy Scout camp with a friend whose father helped lead an annual event there, drew more volunteer searchers with each passing day. About 3,000 volunteers showed up to canvass the rugged area surrounding the camp on Sunday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune."
Facts are stubborn things, said John Adams, but they are no match for the intellectual sloths that populate our news media.
Jefferson, Madison and Adams all recognized that the bulwark of a viable democracy was education, and education has ALWAYS been seen as the route to the "American Dream." But these journalism school graduates not only got it wrong, but they TYPICALLY get it wrong. Just ask anyone who's ever been the subject or a quoted source in a newspaper article. They get it WRONG all the time.
Now, there is a point here, and I'll meander for a moment: when education fails, the Founding Fathers warned, democracy would fail. And the Bush Administration touts their exportation of "democracy" around the world? We can't even maintain it here, with hundreds of years of tradition. As our functional literacy vanishes -- and how can we claim to be literate when we can't even tell the difference between a "cub scout" and a "boy scout" in a simple story about a lost child? -- then democracy fails. Which brings us to ...
Second moron story of the day?
Senator Dan Durbin (D, Illinois) apologized today on the Senate floor for telling the truth.
Here's the AP story: "Under fire from Republicans and some fellow Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin apologized Tuesday for comparing American interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to Nazis and other historically infamous figures.
'Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line,' the Illinois Democrat said. 'To them I extend my heartfelt apologies.'
His voice quaking and tears welling in his eyes, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate also apologized to any soldiers who felt insulted by his remarks.
"'They're the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them,' he said.
The apology came a week after Durbin, the Senate minority whip, quoted from an FBI agent's report describing detainees at the Naval base in a U.S.-controlled portion of Cuba as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures.
"'If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime-- Pol Pot or others-- that had no concern for human beings,' the senator said June 14.
"The comment created a buzz on the Internet and among conservative talk radio hosts, but Durbin initially refused to apologize.
"'This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure,' he said the day after his initial comments."
William Kristol, the Faux Nooz stooge ended up on the CBS News website yesterday (fallout from Rathergate, perhaps) writing this hideous screed, for which NO ONE will demand an apology: "Newt Gingrich, my friend Hugh Hewitt, and others have suggested that Sen. Durbin should be censured by the Senate. His comments are, to be sure, deserving of censure."
Well, it's too bad that balls aren't much in evidence in the Democratic opposition these days. Give 'em the Sudentenland, what do we care? Give 'em Austria, what do we care? Hey: who cares about Norway? About Poland? We have to remain POLITE at all costs.
I've got news for the Democrats: Barbarians don't give a fig about napkin rings, nor do they hold out their pinkies when bashing in skulls.
These ARE barbarians, and what Durbin OUGHT to have said was this: "I apologize for being entirely too polite about this Administration. What I should have said is that they're vicious, unscrupulous bastards who wouldn't know what the truth was if it bit them in the ass -- which, according to the latest polls, is just what it's doing."
And Dick Durbin would have been a hero to add to the sparsely populated pantheon currently occupied by Barbara Boxer and John Conyers.
But, instead, progressives continue to follow the deadly path of accommodation, and appeasement.
These people are running a CONCENTRATION CAMP, dammit! The analogies to the Gulag and to the Nazis are not only apt, they are ACCURATE! And what do the right wing weasels say? Why, HOW DARE YOU! Our torture is MUCH LESS horrible than THEIR torture! These are BAD people!
Begging the question, of course. If no charges are preferred, and no evidence is produced, how do we know what these people are? SOME may well be actual terrorists. Even this "all-thumbs" gaggle of Keystone Kops might occasionally get it right, of course. BUT, absent the millennia-old Western KEYSTONE of trial by jury, we don't know that. We only know that the only terrorists we can point to with certitude are the selfsame utilizers of fear, of terror, of scare-tactics that have cowed Dick Durbin into apologizing.
One APOLOGIZES to those whom one has offended with INACCURATE and HURTFUL remarks. Consider that these weasels were behind the "Swift Boat" slanders and then ask yourself how on earth that they might be deserving of a "tearful" apology.
"'All of us, I believe, who have had the opportunity to serve in public life from time to time have said things that we deeply regret. I know that I have. I would like to say that the senator from Illinois, he did the right thing, the courageous thing, and I believe we can put this issue behind us,' said Senator John McCain, (R)-Arizona." (AP)
Forgetting, of course, that McCain was among the attack-dogs calling for an apology, managing to once more pull the sleight-of-hand distraction that pulled the attention of the country from the Torturers of Gitmo to the Syntax of Durbin.
These are NOT civilized men, kiddies. These are BARBARIANS! And they are using OUR sense of civility, of polity, to cow us into apologizing for daring to criticize THEIR barbarity.
Hell, Dickie Boy, why not just go whole hog: "Dear Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, and all the Ships at Sea, I apologize most profusely for putting my eye in the way of your fist, my stomach in the way of your knee, and my testicles in the way of your steel-toed boot. I hope that they are not harmed in any wise by my inexcusable actions, and I tearfully beg for your forgiveness. "
The story continues: "The words of a decorated military hero, Vietnam POW John McCain, may go a long way toward healing the wounds of Durbin's words. But, some other GOP leaders have to weigh in first, like President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "
Oh dear Lordie, Lord.
Finally, that acrobatic troupe, The Whining Schindlers have dusted off their tights for one more encore. After having fought Michael Shiavo for ten years in court, having enlisted every power available to accuse him of monstrous crimes, accuse the judges of monstrous behavior, having cast every aspersion possible on Shiavo, and, having then screamed about his decision to cremate the corpse, having screamed about the autopsy and demanded other, favorable opionions they are upset, angry, and call Michael Shiavo "unkind."
AP: Michael Schiavo angered his late wife's family Monday by not notifying them about the burial beforehand and by inscribing on her bronze grave marker the words 'I kept my promise.' ... David Gibbs, an attorney for the woman's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, decried the inscriptions on the marker. 'Obviously, that's a real shot and another unkind act toward a grieving mom and dad,' Gibbs said. ... 'We're hopeful that there was some effort here to show some kindness' to the Schindlers."
These are the poster children for the New Barbarians. Too damned bad that they're upset. But you have to admire their glacial persistence. Rust never sleeps and neither, evidently, do The Whining Schindlers.
I fully expect that they will still be complaining as the World Ends, Jesus comes and goes, and Bush ascends into Heaven in a Flaming Chariot.
Or, at least, a flaming Iscariot.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Home again home again, jiggedy jig.
I'll post today's blog later. But, meantime, notice the two blogs written last week. I didn't have internet access, so I'm posting them retroactively. When I got back I had 3259 e-mail messages, which completely filled my mailbox by 3:06 AM PDT on the 16th. Who knows how many came in after that. So, if you wrote AFTER 3:06 AM on Thursday, resend your e-mail, 'cause I didn't get it.
NOTE: ALL correspondence relating to the blog will be considered as a submission for possible posting. Submissions may be posted and subsequently published without compensation. Identities of posters will be suppressed to protect their privacy. The rabid snarling of the barking moonbats requires that comments be moderated. We certainly and respectfully ask your indulgence in this matter. Thank you.
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* O T H E R S T U F Fo There is no other stuff at this time. There might be someday, though. One can always hope.