Saturday, October 22, 2005
In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddle
stipping their bellies, (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
"You may well ask why I write. And yet my reasons are quite many. For it is not unusual in human beings who have witnessed for the the sack of a city or the falling to pieces of a people to desire to set down what they have witnessed for the benefit of unknown heirs or of generation infinitely remote; or, if you please, jut to get the sight out of their heads." - The Good Soldier
equivalency -- equivalentOne of the most misused concepts out in the political aether is the concept of equivalency, the view that two-sides deserve equal portions of alloted time, merely because a very small and negligable minority believe something out of the mainstream. Once again, we of the Left have no one to blame but ourselves, when we recognize that back-in-the-day when we were in our finest fettle, we once heralded that flavor of the month now called "relativism", once a word denoting a virtue, now reduced to a sneer.
To flesh out this notion, let's turn to the so-called evolution-intelligent design debate. Because a fraction of a minority within the community of life science scholars that almost runs into negative integers affect to plug into this thing called intelligent design, it is therefore declared that there are two sides and that a debate with equal time is now necessary. No such thing is true.
First, we need to allot time relative to the acceptance of a theory versus a religious fever dream set within the rules of scientific debate. Since no top-flight, groundbreaking-research life science institution accepts intelligent design (referred to in this posting as IT), we cannot allot each side half an hour for each side in an hour long debate. We need to establish intellectual equivalency, or proportionate representation, for each, in this case 59 minutes for evolution, and one minutes for intelligent design.
Look at cosmology. You do not allow people to feel about the heliocentric versus the ergocentric view of the solar system. There is no debate in this area; there are no two sides. Likewise, in the realm of earth sciences, there is no hollow earth debate, no matter what my late cousin Stevie said about the matter, despite his reams of "documentation" to the contrary.
Now, public schooling, which is essentially adult day care used to depress unemployment numbers, is irrelevant in terms of assessing the leigitimacy of this so-called debate. Weirdly enough, I believe if a publically elected school board wishes to make their charges more stupid, they have every right to do so as expressions of the public will. As long as they do not impose their stupidity on that minority of students racing on the fast track to challenging careers in real scholarship beyond the age of seventeen. Let's face it, 99% of high school students are not going to elite top-flight universities, so it doesn't matter whether they believe in IT or not. However, to require that the elite students have this dreck imposed on them is tantamount to theft, theft of their time, theft of their brain cells, and a theft and a threat to their aspirations to enter challenging academia. And, no, elitism, like pluralism and intellectual, are not pejoratives. When any of us end up in the emergency room, given the choice, we want an intellectual graduate of an elite Ivy League institution attending to our needs, not the regular guy from an avearge medical school who blathers on about how he is under grace.
Once again, follow the money...no politician asks for imposing this IT dreck in the life sciences department of state universities, a policy which will drive out the top drawer faculty, and thus drive away the grants from any life science-based corporations. It is cheap grace to require IT in high schools because they are in the main second rate institutions that do not matter.
Friday, October 14, 2005
After grumblings about defects in political langauge, I wish to point you to an oasis 0f thirst-quenching good writing: a little Thomas Babington Macaulay: very clever, he used the format of the book review to stake out the definitive Whiggish history of England for the 150 preceding years from the point where he wrote the review, let's say 1650-1800 , that is, to his age, modern history...an MP, India administrator, orator and essayist, proving you can have both a bias and an agenda as long as the sum adds up to a point of view--he writes---
Here he is on the Earl of Chatham.
Such was the posture of affairs when, on the twenty-fifth of October, 1760, George the Second suddenly died, and George the Third, then twenty-two years old, became King. The situation of George the Third differed widely from that of his grandfather and that of his great grandfather. Many years had elapsed since a sovereign of England had been an object of affection to any part of his people. The first two Kings of the House of Hanover had neither those hereditary rights which have often supplied the defect of merit, nor those personal qualities which have often supplied the defect of title. A prince may be popular with little virtue or capacity, if he reigns by birthright derived from a long line of illustrious predecessors. An usurper may be popular, if his genius has saved or aggrandised the nation which he: governs. Perhaps no rulers have in our time had a stronger hold on the affection of subjects than the Emperor Francis, and his son-in-law the Emperor Napoleon. But imagine a ruler with no better title than Napoleon, and no better understanding than Francis. Richard Cromwell was such a ruler; and, as soon as an arm was lifted up against him, he fell without a struggle, amidst universal derision. George the First and George the Second were in a situation which bore some resemblance to that of Richard Cromwell. They were saved from the fate of Richard Cromwell by the strenuous and able exertions of the Whig party, and by the general conviction that the nation had no choice but between the House of Brunswick and popery. But by no class were the Guelphs regarded with that devoted affection, of which Charles the First, Charles the Second, and James the Second, in spite of the greatest faults, and in the midst of the greatest misfortunes, received innumerable proofs. Those Whigs who stood by the new dynasty so manfully with purse and sword did so on principles independent of, and indeed almost incompatible with, the sentiment of devoted loyalty. The moderate Tories regarded the foreign dynasty as a great evil, which must be endured for fear of a greater evil. In the eyes of the high Tories, the Elector was the most hateful of robbers and tyrants. The crown of another was on his head; the blood of the brave and loyal was on his hands. Thus, during many years, the Kings of England were objects of strong personal aversion to many of their subjects; and of strong personal attachment to none. They found, indeed, firm and cordial support against the pretender to their throne; but this support was given, not at all for their sake, but for the sake of a religious and political system which would have been endangered by their fall. This support, too, they were compelled to purchase by perpetually sacrificing their private inclinations to the party which had set them on the throne, and which maintained them there.
After the death of Murray Kempton, there is no one, and I mean no one, writing like this. You have to go back to Gibbon, DeQuincy, Hunt, and Lamb, (yes...wonderful hothouse orchids), but Macaulay is a wonder to behold...
Sunday, October 09, 2005
I would like to address the inflation of language that George Carlin often has analyzed, in this case the term:
person of interest
Now, this phrase uses six syllables, and replaces the old noun of two --
"Suspect" sound so harsh, so judgmental, and in this age the only unacceptable behavior is that of judging. "Person of interest" sounds so much more fun, as if the human under suspicion is actually an intriguing character, a man of many facets...
Rather than a suspect under suspicion of nefarious crimes!
I noted this annoying upgrade after reading a recent article in the city newspaper - a scion of one of our august village tribes noted for siring generations of horse thieves, car thieves, cattle rustlers, check converters, and body attachment fugitives, is now proclaimed a person of interest in the disappearance of a 79 year old woman after he was arrested for a out-of-state traveling parole violation while driving in the woman's car. Now this man has been living off older woman since his early twenties, a sort of mullet haired gigolo for the wealthy widow with a taste for honky tonks and Indian casino slots.
By the by, has anyone noticed the rise and fall of the euphemism gaming for gambling? Apparently, now that the gaming lobby of Mr. Abramson is under indictment, with pols becoming persons of interest, it is now acceptable to refer to the shell game for the delusional thinkers as gambling again.
Some observations on the wikipedia article:
After the SCOTUS Sullivan decision, the legal culture rendered libel a meaningless word. In Europe, one may say baldly a true thing, and still be libelous...the purpose of throwing out the term person of interest is for legal authorities to destroy reputation without doing the hard work necessary for a criminal indictment. It is legal shorthand for "I am in authority, but I have no idea what I am doing". Apparently, it is a lazy phrase from that noted paragon of laziness, Mr. Ashcroft, from an administration notorious for laziness.
By the by, there is no worse form of malice than laziness.