Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shameless plug for socialist program...

Yes, I despise and hate socialism. But occasionally it does something right, usually in harness with private liberty.

So here's the plug- a couple of weeks ago I happened to hear a bit of a Mountain Stage concert with Mary Chapin Carpenter. (Yes, another Bolshie, but I don't think the evil kind and very talented.)

But the music was so lovely I had to pull the car over- I was too breath taken to drive. I only heard a snippet.

So after asking Adam Harris if there was a way to listen and download, he informed me that there is, for just this week.

So thanks to all the government programs and lefties- Mountain Stage (the concert), NPR (the radio program), DARPA (the internets), AlGore (also the internets), Steve Jobs (this mac), Mary Chapin Carpenter and her band (the gorgeous music), whoever thought up mp3s, the taxpayers who provided all this stuff, and- gasp- Franklin R--sevelt (TVA).

You have gladdened the tiny heart of this eurocentric, gold standard missing, poor folk oppressing, stag, fox, & coyote hunting, gun owning, SUV driving conservative. Tears of joyful appreciation roll down my face as I listen.

Thank you, America.

Click here and you can listen too. "Here I am" spoke for me. "Elysium" made me gasp. And those piano arrangements...

A country that fears lipstick needs to think...

Once again Fred Reed rolls one over in the open.

Maybe a country that fears lipstick needs to think.

It reads well along with

Dynamite, Manhattan, 1939: ...If you were a 1930s man, woman, or child, Henry Ford or a resident of the tightest-packed block in Harlem, society's ought was an all-day, everyday hand on your shoulder. It checked your freedom and cramped your style. You would have been more comfortable without it. But in the end, like the man's stiff collar and tie or the woman's girdle, it was something you got used to; it was tolerable; it was even, maybe, not as bad as it looked. We rebel in our very souls nowadays against the idea that conventional behavior, dress, and manners could possibly matter. We abolished all those rules with the best of intentions. But there is no getting around the fact that in the 1930s, people simply got more practice in acting as they ought than we do. I can't say what all that dogged practice was worth when push came to shove. I do know that in 1939 you could leave a pile of dynamite unguarded in the middle of New York City.

Joseph Wambaugh's brilliant "The New Centurions" takes its title from a scene in which an old policeman and a young one watch the burning of Watts in 1966. The old policeman muses on the idea that a couple of thousand years ago, there might have been two Roman guardians of order wondering about these Christians- how they were different, they were discarding the old Gods, the old ways, the old don'ts. But the Cristians were replacing the old dont's (and oughts) with new ones. The rule Luddites of the 1950s and 1960s were replacing the old don'ts with nothing.

That was a tragedy in some ways and a blessing in others. Some of the old dont's were evil- ostracism of homosexuals, black folks on the back of the bus. Some oughts- like neck ties at the ball park- just inconvenient admissions of social obedience.

But we have to have some dont's and oughts. Some social obedience for the sake of obedience, some rituals of belonging.

The Freudians, hippies, jumped up academics, guilt ridden bourgeois, worn out greatest generationers, political hacks and weak aristocrats destroyed an irrational, crazy warren of social rituals and obligations, grown up like a medieval town. Product of centuries, millions of adaptations, made by the people. They wanted to replace them with appetite and license.

Which is the law of tooth and claw, isn't it? I believe that the bien pensants thought (and think) that imposed order is the cause of human unhappiness, because it's the cause of theirs. But the rituals and don'ts have to be there. And they have to come from someplace.

The smashers didn't believe that. But order and ritual believed in them. And they left only one source for rules, didn't they? They chose to use the government/academia/press beast to plan, prepare for, and impose the new rules.

So now we have a society where black people don't have to go to the back of the bus. And where "diversity coordinators" exist in private businesses to spend the owners' money on hiring people whose main qualification is their black skin.

Not saying that's worse, just pointing out that both are artificially crazy.

The two columns I cite are more than nostalgic whining. The America of 1910, 1939, and 1960 looked and felt pretty much the same. The America of today does feel different.

I'll give you an example in the next post but one. Have to get a thank you out of the way first.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Wicked" quotes...

"Do I believe in the next world? I have great trouble at times believing in this one."

"...and by not deciding yes, decided no."

"He could not be kept from hunting, but he did not catch much either."

(From the book that inspired the musical.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pennsylvania says the Founders were "terrorists"...

  • That's all I can figure from the state's website. Why else would they put a minuteman- the armed anti-government insurgent of his day- on their page about anti-government domestic terrorists?
  • My littermate kills again...

    She went to some third world hole and played golf at a course next to a national park. THWACK, the ball went into the water.

    AFTER it killed an innocent duck swimming there!

    Her comment "It should have stayed in the nature preserve".

    "Again, blood on your hands."

    "Not this time. Feathers on my balls."

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Prince "Harry" resignation letter...

    For those who haven't heard, Prince Henry of Great Britain will not be going to the war with his soldiers. The Army commanders have decided that threats against him make sending him more trouble than it's worth. Zaqarwi is pleased to discover that he is now the Household Cavalry's adjutant.

    The prince is said to be disappointed. I'm sure he can write a better letter than my draft:

    " My troop of Guardsmen has been ordered to active service. I have been ordered to relinquish my post and will not accompany the men I trained with, serve under, and command into battle.

    I am told that this is because I am at greater risk that every other soldier in the campaign, and that my presence would increase the danger to my men and hamper their pursuit of victory.

    I accept that judgement of my superiors.

    I was trained and assigned as a combat officer. These orders tell me that although I may train, I may not serve fully in the army. Considerations other than my abilities will always govern my service.

    My Uncle and Great Grandfather were permitted to share the greatest duty of citizenship with their fellow sailors. My purpose in entering the Army was to serve my country.

    It is now clear to me that I will never be permitted to share that duty. I have been made a fraud and my training has been largely wasted. My superiors have decided that threats against me personally will control where I am assigned. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of my country, my regiment, or my comrades to put the Army in a position of appearing to cravenly obey the rantings of our enemies.

    I know that combat service is not the only honourable or necessary post in war, and I take this step without meaning to disparage soldiers who serve in non combat positions. I have been trained at great expense to my fellow subjects. For that reason, I hereby request reassignment to a non combat position until my service term is completed. This will free a soldier whose life is less valued by our enemies than mine. When my current service term ends, I will resign my commission and seek other ways to serve my fellow subjects."

    When threatened with blackmail, the great Duke said "Publish and be damned to you".

    The best response to threats is always, "Do your worst." I expect that the guardsmen who would have been in the Prince's armoured car would agree, and there would be a long list of volunteers for those seats.

    Starting with my own personal crush, I'll bet.

    There's no way to polish this lump of crap. The British Army has altered a combat assignment because of threats by the enemy. Every one in Iraq who is fighting the barbarians or helping their victims is a target, and they all know it.

    Everyone knows who won this little battle. Without a shot being fired. Again.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    George Patton and Oprah Winfrey...

    "A man who is not himself is nobody". (GSP Jr. 1944)

    "I stand here as a symbol of what is possible when you believe in the dream of your own life. Don't be afraid. All you need to do is know who you are." (OW 2007)

    They would have hated, respected, understood, and been proud of one another.

    Some people are all upset about Oprah Winfrey's commencement speech at Howard, and the "good white folks" sound bite.

    Seeing racism in this snippet of the speech is falling into the mind of Sharpton.

    She is not seeing racism everywhere, she’s talking about historical fact. I grew up with black servants and I can imagine exactly this conversation going on. When Miss Winfrey was born, little southern black girls had a very limited future and her (or Secretary Rice’s) trajectory was almost unimaginable. Fortunately for all of us the white and black people around her, and the white and black people around hundreds of thousands of other Americans who happened to be black (and girls), let themselves imagine. And they worked, white and black, to create ways to let the imagined become real.

    There are PLENTY of reasons- good, human, American reasons- to read this sound bite as not a racial artifact. Rudy Giuliani’s grandparents might have said something similar. The POINT of America is that with liberty, the cream can rise to the top despite all kinds of disadvantage. The POINT of good families, schools, and societies is that over generations, they inspire and permit their members to persevere and strive.

    I believe those were General Howard’s points when he founded his schools, too.

    Getting knotted drawers over this “sound bite” also betrays the ignorance of an outsider in time and culture. It IS an artifact of the speaker’s history.
    My grandparents were of exactly the class and era and place that employed her grandmother. Though I disagree with a lot of her opinions and deplore plenty of her actions, I’m as proud as I can be of Oprah Winfrey. Her grandmother’s “good white folks” would be, too. Because in a perverse yet very human way, she’s part of the family.

    People not from the south, or not from her or my background, or of a much newer time, have a very hard time really understanding that.

  • I notice the complainers aren't mentioning what she said about young black folks- "They don't know what you know. They're falling and they're failing. They're dropping out at rates of 50 percent and higher because we, our generation, didn't teach them who they are. We have a responsibility to raise them up, to lift them up, to save them, to liberate them from themselves."
  • Monday, May 14, 2007

    Mad Hutters!


    Immediate, direct, efficient charity in the best American can do tradition.

    Perpetuating and encouraging failure and neighborhood blight.

  • Maybe both. Certainly looks like a fun way to spend a day.
  • Thursday, May 10, 2007

    You can't make trust out of anything else ...

    You can't make trust out of anything else .

    I actually believe I thought that phrase up. Google never heard of it yet, anyway.

    It came to my mind once upon a time, when I was being romantically recultivated by someone who had been seriously dishonest with me. This was someone who could seduce for England*, yet despite the former flame's absolutely championship efforts, there was a great big space. Nothing else could fill it, and the things that once would have driven me mad with joy were meaningless. They felt false, like sitting down at table for a fantastic meal and suddenly being struck with a head cold. No amount of enticement could replace the intimacy of trust. Without it, everything else was ashes.

    I've been musing on that idea off and on for a while, most recently when a friend told me a little story. Friend works for a State agency, one of four people in the same senior "rank" position. The Agency is changing its political leadership, and the new folks want to give their friends the senior positions. There are contract questions, so the Agency's new bosses are trying to threaten the four seniors to quit to make room. Loss of pension through demotion, that sort of thing.

    So Friend was at a function, and Important Politico, boss of Agency bosses, came over to him. IP told Friend that this was all about getting rid of the other three seniors. They wanted to keep Friend, though, and if Friend would step aside, he'd be hired to a lucrative consultancy doing a job he likes.

    "We're cheating and betraying the OTHER people. But we like you, trust us."

    My desk neighbour at law school was from Alaska and told me about a saloon up there with a sign over the bar, "WE CHEAT THE OTHER GUY AND PASS THE SAVINGS ON TO YOU".

    So, how does one deal with that? Once one enters the realm of trust from that of the arms' length transaction, is there a way out? Can we trust those we see betray others? When one is lied to, how much bribery does it take to buy trust back? Can it ever return?

    No point here, just a muse. I'm rather proud of the phrase though, it gets to the point.

    Probably should have put this on an emo** blog, but it has general application.

    *For my American readers, it's a fairly commonplace British term to denote an Olympic level of skill at and enthusiasm for an ordinary activity. "My mother in law could complain for England."

    **emotions. I don't keep a blog devoted to them, but many people do.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    The Letter Project...

    No, it's not where epistles are herded into proximity with only each other and kept dependent on handouts in exchange for votes while they reject civilisation and breed themselves further and further into Hobbesian anarchy to the accompaniment of rap, the stupidity machine, and cellular telephone ring tones.

    It's another man who's going to heaven.

  • "The Letter Project is simple. You ask for a letter, I mail you a letter."

  • And, instead of that six pack, second pizza, box of ammo, or bag of weed,
  • send some joy.
  • Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Stop reading my stuff...

    If you haven't first consumed the work of Bill Whittle. I had him at the top of my blog roll once, but it felt presumptuous.

    His latest essay is one of the most, no other word, brilliant pieces of memoir, parable, persuasion, history, teaching, exposition, logic, clarity, and originally combined ideas I've ever read. Here's a taste:

  • It doesn't rain often in Los Angeles, but it rained the night I read that book. Its author, David Lifton, claimed that Kennedy was shot from the front, but then the body was secretly taken from Air Force One to Walter Reed Army Hospital where extensive surgery 'reversed' the trajectory of the wounds to make it look like poor patsy Oswald was the real assassin.

    When I finally got to the payoff a shot of electricity went through me. I realized that I was now in possession of such history-changing information that I distinctly recall getting up, opening the door and peering out into the rain to see if I was being watched. I felt, truly, for one half-hour that my life might be in danger. I wish I could say I am making this up.

    That sense of uncovering deep layers of ancient cover-ups is what drove the sales of The DaVinci Code. There, too, a web of truths, half-truths and outright fabrication spun a story that left the reader with a palpable sense of awe. It made you feel important, like you knew something absolutely essential that very few others ever were privileged to know.

    Now most normal people do not look at life from within a pit of failure and despair. Our lives are measured by small successes -- like raising children, serving in the military, doing volunteer work at your church -- or just doing the right thing in a thousand small but important ways, like returning money if someone makes you too much change.

    These are simply the small, ordinary milestones of a life of value. They give you a sense of identity.

    But if I didn't have that sense of identity rooted in my own small achievements, I wonder how likely it would have been for me to grab onto that sense of sudden empowerment, of being an initiate in some arcane club of hidden wisdom. I wonder what might have happened to me if being the Holder of Secret Knowledge had been my only source of self-esteem; the one redeeming landmark in a life of isolation and failure. Indeed, I wonder what power such a worldview would have over me if I could believe that behind the scenes lurked vast and unknowable dark forces -- forces that could topple a president and perhaps even explain why a person of my deep, vast and bountiful talents was not doing a whole lot better in life?

    I wonder what might have happened to me then.
  • Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Marijuana for Children...

    Following up on "Why Mommy is a Democrat", here's a lefty's reverie on teaching a child about dope.

    My favourite part is where the child catches the 'rents getting high, and thinks they are smoking a CIGARETTE!

    That, and hippie mother dresses the little girl as a patriarchal, racist, murderous, classist, trained killer, weapon worshipping feudal oppressor of women, the poor, and the weak.

  • Because, after all, it's just a plant. Like hemlock, dhatura, and cotton.