Archive for March, 2013
31 Mar 2013

“Ouch — That’s Just Brutal”

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Ed Driscoll filling in for vacationing-Glenn Reynolds admires a fine example of the artful juxtapositions of Matt Drudge.

31 Mar 2013

David Foster Wallace and Coleridge

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834)

Helen Rittelmeyer, Class of ’08, was chairman of the same conservative political and fraternal society I belonged to at Yale.

She recently published an admirably perceptive essay on the curiously close similarities between the early Romantic Coleridge and the contemporary hipster ironist David Foster Wallace. This piece has definitely made me into a fan and intended regular reader of this young author.

The… most important similarity between DFW and STC is that they both became famous too early, before their thinking was fully formed. Early fame is always an invitation to drug addiction, but early literary fame more so than other kinds. On top of the basic child-star problem—which is essentially that you’ve satisfied your desire to be extraordinary and foreclosed the possibility of being ordinary, leaving nothing left but to kill time as efficiently as possible until you drop dead—early literary fame involves the added burden of guilt.

Young writers become celebrities because the public sees something appealing in their worldview, or, to use a less grand word, their opinions. But no amount of precocity can make up for the fact that the opinions of a twenty-four-year-old who hasn’t done much living yet are worthless. When the writer grows up he realizes this, and he feels like a pied piper. That’s something child actors don’t have to live with. Christian Bale may feel so embarrassed by Newsies that he pitches a fit when interviewers ask him about it, but he doesn’t actually believe that that film made the world a worse place to live in.

For Coleridge, the false gods of his youth were democracy and revolution. Before the Lyrical Ballads and long before “Kubla Khan,” he had made a name for himself as a radical lecturer whose political themes were democracy and the abolition of property and whose religious themes were Unitarian (in the words of a contemporary, “to shew that our Saviour was the real son of Joseph and that the Crucifixion was a matter of small importance”)—all in his mid-twenties. For Wallace, the false god was cleverness, the “manic patina over emotional catatonia” that comes with a certain type of avant-garde fiction.

In both cases these men later became convinced that the ideology they had embraced in their youth was not just misguided but at serious risk of bringing about a cultural apocalypse—England seeing a revolution like France’s, or American culture being completely cannibalized by irony. One way to deal with this was by embracing the opposite extreme, conservatism in Coleridge’s case and sincerity in Wallace’s. But that didn’t do anything to manage the guilt. Wallace tried to wear his burden lightly, with laughing comments like “Twenty-five-year-olds should be locked away and denied ink and paper,” but to an addict’s mind—which is already inclined to blame itself for all manner of things—the idea that he had done anything to hasten the cultural development he most dreaded must have been excruciating. Coleridge, too, became so concerned with making up for past sins that he wrote letters to the Tory prime minister outlining the best ways to make his administration more reactionary. All because the world made the mistake of paying attention to anything a twentysomething says.

Cyril Connolly wrote that those whom the gods would destroy, they first call promising. This of course was a take-off on the ancient proverb “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” Wallace and Coleridge were both called promising and both made mad, and then, in what must have seemed to them like the final cruelty, the universe declined to destroy them. That task, unfortunately, was left to them. Given that Coleridge died of complications from his addiction, the most we can claim for his way is that it was slower than Wallace’s.

Read the whole thing.


David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008)

31 Mar 2013

85 Years Old, But Still Dancing

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Raymond Borzelli does not let age or lack of income get him down.

Hat tip to “>Vanderleun.

31 Mar 2013

No Easter For Google

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No Piero della Francesca RESSURECTION, not even an Easter egg, or an Easter bunny, today Google’s search logo art is focusing on something much more important.

For those hoodie-wearing fashionistas down in Mountain View, billions of Christians celebrating the most important date in the Christian calendar are irrelevant, what is important about today’s date is it being the 86th (posthumous) birthday of leftist agitator Cesar Chavez.

So let’s all raise a middle finger to those communist heathens at Google and eat some grapes. (Cesar Chavez was famous, back in the day, for organizing a grape boycott.)

There are lots of comments on Twitchy.

31 Mar 2013

Easter

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Piero della Francesca, Resurrection, circa 1463, Museo Civico, Sansepolcro

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Easter

Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, is one of the three great festivals of the Christian year,—the other two being Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the greatest joy, and accounted the Queen of Festivals. In primitive times it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘And hath appeared unto Simon;’—a custom still retained in the Greek Church.

The common name of this festival in the East was the Paschal Feast, because kept at the same time as the Pascha, or Jewish passover, and in some measure succeeding to it. In the sixth of the Ancyran Canons it is called the Great Day. Our own name Easter is derived, as some suppose, from Eostre, the name of a Saxon deity, whose feast was celebrated every year in the spring, about the same time as the Christian festival—the name being retained when the character of the feast was changed; or, as others suppose, from Oster, which signifies rising. If the latter supposition be correct, Easter is in name, as well as reality, the feast of the resurrection.

Though there has never been any difference of opinion in the Christian church as to why Easter is kept, there has been a good deal as to when it ought to be kept. It is one of the moveable feasts; that is, it is not fixed to one particular day—like Christmas Day, e. g., which is always kept on the 25th of December—but moves backwards or forwards according as the full moon next after the vernal equinox falls nearer or further from the equinox. The rule given at the beginning of the Prayer-book to find Easter is this: ‘Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the twenty-first day of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.’

The paschal controversy, which for a time divided Christendom, grew out of a diversity of custom. The churches of Asia Minor, among whom were many Judaizing Christians, kept their paschal feast on the same day as the Jews kept their passover; i. e., on the 14th of Nisan, the Jewish month corresponding to our March or April. But the churches of the West, remembering that our Lord’s resurrection took place on the Sunday, kept their festival on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan. By this means they hoped not only to commemorate the resurrection on the day on which it actually occurred, but also to distinguish themselves more effectually from the Jews. For a time this difference was borne with mutual forbearance and charity. And when disputes began to arise, we find that Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, when on a visit to Rome, took the opportunity of conferring with Anicetas, bishop of that city, upon the question. Polycarp pleaded the practice of St. Philip and St. John, with the latter of whom he had lived, conversed, and joined in its celebration; while Anicetas adduced the practice of St. Peter and St. Paul. Concession came from neither side, and so the matter dropped; but the two bishops continued in Christian friendship and concord. This was about A.D. 158.

Towards the end of the century, however, Victor, bishop of Rome, resolved on compelling the Eastern churches to conform to the Western practice, and wrote an imperious letter to the prelates of Asia, commanding them to keep the festival of Easter at the time observed by the Western churches. They very naturally resented such an interference, and declared their resolution to keep Easter at the time they had been accustomed to do. The dispute hence-forward gathered strength, and was the source of much bitterness during the next century. The East was divided from the West, and all who, after the example of the Asiatics, kept Easter-day on the 14th, whether that day were Sunday or not, were styled Qiccertodecimans by those who adopted the Roman custom.

One cause of this strife was the imperfection of the Jewish calendar. The ordinary year of the Jews consisted of 12 lunar months of 292 days each, or of 29 and 30 days alternately; that is, of 354 days. To make up the 11 days’ deficiency, they intercalated a thirteenth month of 30 days every third year. But even then they would be in advance of the true time without other intercalations; so that they often kept their passover before the vernal equinox. But the Western Christians considered the vernal equinox the commencement of the natural year, and objected to a mode of reckoning which might sometimes cause them to hold their paschal feast twice in one year and omit it altogether the next. To obviate this, the fifth of the apostolic canons decreed that, ’ If any bishop, priest, or deacon, celebrated the Holy Feast of Easter before the vernal equinox, as the Jews do, let him be deposed.’

At the beginning of the fourth century, matters had gone to such a length, that the Emperor Constantine thought it his duty to take steps to allay the controversy, and to insure uniformity of practice for the future. For this purpose, he got a canon passed in the great Ecumenical Council of Nice (A.D. 325), that everywhere the great feast of Easter should be observed upon one and the same day; and that not the day of the Jewish passover, but, as had been generally observed, upon the Sunday afterwards. And to prevent all future disputes as to the time, the following rules were also laid down:

    ‘That the twenty-first day of March shall be accounted the vernal equinox.’

    ‘That the full moon happening upon or next after the twenty-first of March, shall be taken for the full moon of Nisan.’

    ‘That the Lord’s-day next following that full moon be Easter-day.’

    ‘But if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter-day shall be the Sunday after.’

As the Egyptians at that time excelled in astronomy, the Bishop of Alexandria was appointed to give notice of Easter-day to the Pope and other patriarchs. But it was evident that this arrangement could not last long; it was too inconvenient and liable to interruptions. The fathers of the next age began, therefore, to adopt the golden numbers of the Metonic cycle, and to place them in the calendar against those days in each month on which the new moons should fall during that year of the cycle. The Metonie cycle was a period of nineteen years. It had been observed by Meton, an Athenian philosopher, that the moon returns to have her changes on the same month and day of the month in the solar year after a lapse of nineteen years, and so, as it were, to run in a circle. He published his discovery at the Olympic Games, B.C. 433, and the cycle has ever since borne his name. The fathers hoped by this cycle to be able always to know the moon’s age; and as the vernal equinox was now fixed to the 21st of March, to find Easter for ever. But though the new moon really happened on the same day of the year after a space of nineteen years as it did before, it fell an hour earlier on that day, which, in the course of time, created a serious error in their calculations.

A cycle was then framed at Rome for 84 years, and generally received by the Western church, for it was then thought that in this space of time the moon’s changes would return not only to the same day of the month, but of the week also. Wheatley tells us that, ‘During the time that Easter was kept according to this cycle, Britain was separated from the Roman empire, and the British churches for some time after that separation continued to keep Easter according to this table of 84 years. But soon after that separation, the Church of Rome and several others discovered great deficiencies in this account, and therefore left it for another which was more perfect.’—Book on the Common Prayer, p. 40. This was the Victorian period of 532 years. But he is clearly in error here. The Victorian period was only drawn up about the year 457, and was not adopted by the Church till the Fourth Council of Orleans, A.D. 541.

Now from the time the Romans finally left Britain (A.D. 426), when he supposes both churches to be using the cycle of 84 years, till the arrival of St. Augustine (A.D. 596), the error can hardly have amounted to a difference worth disputing about. And yet the time the Britons kept Easter must have varied considerably from that of the Roman missionaries to have given rise to the statement that they were Quartodecimans, which they certainly were not; for it is a well-known fact that British bishops were at the Council of Nice, and doubtless adopted and brought home with them the rule laid down by that assembly. Dr. Hooke’s account is far more probable, that the British and Irish churches adhered to the Alexandrian rule, according to which the Easter festival could not begin before the 8th of March; while according to the rule adopted at Rome and generally in the West, it began as early as the fifth. ‘They (the Celts) were manifestly in error,’ he says; ‘but owing to the haughtiness with which the Italians had demanded an alteration in their calendar, they doggedly determined not to change.’—Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. i. p. 14.

After a good deal of disputation had taken place, with more in prospect, Oswy, King of Northumbria, determined to take the matter in hand. He summoned the leaders of the contending parties to a conference at Whitby, A.D. 664, at which he himself presided. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, represented the British church. The Romish party were headed by Agilbert, bishop of Dorchester, and Wilfrid, a young Saxon. Wilfrid was spokesman. The arguments were characteristic of the age; but the manner in which the king decided irresistibly provokes a smile, and makes one doubt whether he were in jest or earnest. Colman spoke first, and urged that the custom of the Celtic church ought not to be changed, because it had been inherited from their forefathers, men beloved of God, &c. Wilfrid followed:

    ‘The Easter which we observe I saw celebrated by all at Rome: there, where the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, lived, taught, suffered, and were buried.’ And concluded a really powerful speech with these words: ‘And if, after all, that Columba of yours were, which I will not deny, a holy man, gifted with the power of working miracles, is he, I ask, to be preferred before the most blessed Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” ?’

The King, turning to Colman, asked him, ‘Is it true or not, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?’ Colman, who seems to have been completely cowed, could not deny it. ‘It is true, 0 King.’ ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘can you shew me any such power given to your Columba? ’ Colman answered, ’ No.’ ‘You are both, then, agreed,’ continued the King, are you not, that these words were addressed principally to Peter, and that to him were given the keys of heaven by our Lord?’ Both assented. ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘I tell you plainly, I shall not stand opposed to the door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven; I desire, as far as in me lies, to adhere to his precepts and obey his commands, lest by offending him who keepeth the keys, I should, when I present myself at the gate, find no one to open to me.’

This settled the controversy, though poor honest Colman resigned his see rather than submit to such a decision.

On Easter-day depend all the moveable feasts and fasts throughout the year. The nine Sundays before, and the eight following after, are all dependent upon it, and form, as it were, a body-guard to this Queen of Festivals. The nine preceding are the six Sundays in Lent, Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima; the eight following are the five Sundays after Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and Trinity Sunday.

EASTER CUSTOMS

The old Easter customs which still linger among us vary considerably in form in different parts of the kingdom. The custom of distributing the ‘pace’ or ‘pasche ege,’ which was once almost universal among Christians, is still observed by children, and by the peasantry in Lancashire. Even in Scotland, where the great festivals have for centuries been suppressed, the young people still get their hard-boiled dyed eggs, which they roll about, or throw, and finally eat. In Lancashire, and in Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and perhaps in other counties, the ridiculous custom of ‘lifting’ or ‘heaving’ is practised.

On Easter Monday the men lift the women, and on Easter Tuesday the women lift or heave the men. The process is performed by two lusty men or women joining their hands across each other’s wrists; then, making the person to be heaved sit down on their arms, they lift him up aloft two or three times, and often carry him several yards along a street. A grave clergyman who happened to be passing through a town in Lancashire on an Easter Tuesday, and having to stay an hour or two at an inn, was astonished by three or four lusty women rushing into his room, exclaiming they had come ‘to lift him.’ ‘To lift me!’ repeated the amazed divine; ‘what can you mean?’ ‘Why, your reverence, we’re come to lift you, ‘cause it’s Easter Tuesday.’ ‘Lift me because it’s Easter Tuesday? I don’t understand. Is there any such custom here?’ ‘Yes, to be sure; why, don’t you know? all us women was lifted yesterday; and us lifts the men today in turn. And in course it’s our rights and duties to lift ‘em.’

After a little further parley, the reverend traveller compromised with his fair visitors for half-a-crown, and thus escaped the dreaded compliment. In Durham, on Easter Monday, the men claim the privilege to take off the women’s shoes, and the next day the women retaliate. Anciently, both ecclesiastics and laics used to play at ball in the churches for tansy-cakes on Eastertide; and, though the profane part of this custom is happily everywhere discontinued, tansy-cakes and tansy-puddings are still favourite dishes at Easter in many parts. In some parishes in the counties of Dorset and Devon, the clerk carries round to every house a few white cakes as an Easter offering; these cakes, which are about the eighth of an inch thick, and of two sizes —the larger being seven or eight inches, the smaller about five in diameter— have a mingled bitter and sweet taste. In return for these cakes, which are always distributed after Divine service on Good Friday, the clerk receives a gratuity- according to the circumstances or generosity of the householder.

30 Mar 2013

Motivation

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Hat tip to Don Surber.

29 Mar 2013

If They Were Selling Bus Tickets Back To Pre-1920 America…

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(click on picture for larger image)

I recently sold one gun via an Internet gun auction site and purchased another. Each transaction constituted a complex bureaucratic nightmare passage through a labyrinth of rules and restrictions.

Paypal, the (commonly used, and ill-loved by everyone) vehicle for on-line payments, is a California entity and will have nothing to do with firearms transactions.

You cannot send a gun to anyone who is not a dealer possessing a Federal Firearms License (and the BATF has been doing its best for years now to restrict the number out there and to make FFLs very difficult to get).

Handguns and ammunition present special problems. The US Post Office shuns the kind of moral lepers who own handguns today, and won’t convey them, period. FedEx and UPS will reluctantly carry them, but only by exorbitantly-priced Priority Overnight or Next Day Air respectively.

When you buy a gun, you have to pay a dealer a fee to receive it for you, and you also have to pay for a police check on yourself.

Essentially, buying or selling any non-antique gun in any federally-regulated interstate transaction is a royal pain. The whole affair is loaded with added costs, occult rules and regulations, laws with stiff penalties just waiting to be violated, and the opportunity to be treated like a criminal.

This month’s issue of the NRA’s magazine, American Rifleman, had a letter from a reader (unfortunately not posted on the American Rifleman web-site) which really got my attention.

Just a few generations back, when America was still a free country, an American soldier could slap a handful of stamps on the buttstock of a captured enemy rifle, put on an address label, and (just for safety’s sake) hang a second address tag from the front sling swivel, and put a completely unpackaged, unwrapped rifle in the mail to his dad back home. And the post office would a) deliver it without demurral, and b) not break it.

28 Mar 2013

$3 Yard Sale Bowl Sells for $2,220,000 at Sotheby’s

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DING BOWL, NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY

Kovel’s reports:

The big network news story last week was the $2.22 million bowl sold by Sotheby’s in London [sic: the sale was in New York] on March 19, 2013. A New York couple had bought the bowl in 2007 for $3. Here are the facts culled from many news stories: The bowl is 5 inches in diameter. It was made during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Only one other like it is known and that one is in the British Museum. The expensive bowl is white and has a molded leaf decoration outside and an etched flower design inside. The sellers displayed the bowl either on their mantel or a table until recently, when they noticed the high prices being paid for Chinese ceramics. So they had the bowl appraised and Sotheby’s listed it for sale at $200,000 to $300,000. When the owners were informed the bowl sold for millions, they emailed back “WOW!!!” The buyer, one of four serious bidders, is considered by many to be the world’s foremost dealer in Oriental art. He says he is sure he will be able to sell the bowl.

Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art sale, New York, March 19, lot 94:


PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK STATE FAMILY COLLECTION
A RARE AND IMPORTANT ‘DING’ BOWL
NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD
LOT SOLD. 2,225,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium)
the finely potted body of slightly rounded and steep flared form rising from a short spreading foot to an upright rim, deftly carved to the interior with scrolling leafy lotus sprays, the exterior carved and molded with three rows of overlapping upright leaves, applied overall with an even ivory-colored glaze with characteristic teardrops at the base, the rim of the bowl and the footrim left unglazed showing the fine compact body beneath
Diameter 5 3/8 in., 13.4 cm

Sotheby’s blog did a nice write-up.

The British Museum tells us that these ceramics were “produced at the Ding kilns in Hebei province, northern China, whose white porcelains were considered one of the ‘five great wares’ of the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279 AD).”


DING BOWL, NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY

27 Mar 2013

Marriage Equality

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The Graeco-Egyptian deity Serapis is commonly depicted wearing a modius (a sort of Egyptian headgear favored by Elusinian deities). Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC, stored in the Serapaeum of Alexandria. Vatican Museum

The argument that there exists a supposed “right to marry” currently in some cases unfulfilled is clearly specious. In the first place, everyone in the United Stated already enjoys exactly the same right to marry right now. What some people are demanding is not the opportunity to marry, which they already possess. What they are demanding is the right to redefine marriage and the recognition of the state of other kinds of associations (the sort they desire) as the same thing as marriage, and as marriage’s moral and social equal.

The proposition that the association of a pair of persons of the same sex is just as good, just as valuable to society, just as morally acceptable as marriage is unquestionably a controversial proposition, and one from which a very large portion of the population of the United States would dissent. It is about as good a case as you could possibly find of a matter of theoretical moral and religious opinion on which rational men of good will are inevitably going to differ.

The American tradition is one of pluralism and we are theoretically constitutionally committed to state neutrality on issues of religious faith and morals. So, the real question ought to be: what is the authentically neutralist position that the state ought to be taking on the practice of same sex marriage?

It is widely agreed that the state has no right to enforce traditional religious morality or to interfere with the voluntary and private actions of consenting adults. And that is the status quo. No liberty of association of same sex couples is currently being infringed. No one is stopping them from living together. No one is interfering with their sexual relations. No one is even preventing them from conducting whatever sort of ceremonies of mutual commitment they desire, or preventing them from describing themselves within their own circles as married. The same sex marriage offensive is not really aimed at gaining for same sex couples the ability to file joint tax statements or the other practical benefits of matrimony. If insurance coverage, pension benefits, and joint tax returns were really the issue, we would be discussing some kind of civil union arrangements and the level of controversy and heat of argument would be very different.

What same sex couples want, however, is not really something practical. What they want is the Same Sex equivalent of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. They want federally-enforced moral and social equality. They want the government on their side, enforcing their worldview and their moral perspective on everybody else.

Same sex marriage advocates refer routinely to “Marriage Equality,” but no system of real equality allows someone who is actually not equal to someone else in specific characteristics pertaining to any kind of special conventionally recognized status to simply change the definition in order to gain access to prestige and privileges associated with that status for which he is not qualified.

On the contrary, the ability to modify the fundamental definition of an important institution to benefit oneself is really not “Equality” at all. It is actually a most extraordinary kind of special power and privilege, not normally accessible or available to anyone.

The spectacular inequality characteristic of the contest for “Marriage Equality” can even be seen in the history of the case currently before the Supreme Court. In California, in 2004, the mayor of San Francisco simply set aside state law and began issuing same sex wedding licenses. In doing so, he deliberately ignored a statute passed by the State Legislature in 1977, and a ballot initiative (Proposition 22) passed by a margin of 61.4% in 2000. The State Supreme Court, however, in 2008, intervened to rule, In re Marriage Cases, in favor of Same Sex Marriage. Which, in turn, produced Proposition 8, another ballot initiative in which Californians affirmed their opposition to state recognition of Same Sex Marriage.

In the entire history of the matter, we find a special interest group (the Same Sex community) allied with the national community of fashion elite determined, by hook or by crook, to have their way.

What the issue really revolves around is the determination of the national elite to impose its own faith and morals position coercively, using government, on everybody else.

Same Sex Marriage advocates are particularly fond of attacking a strawman argument, and pointing out that recognizing Same Sex Marriage does not practically impact traditional marriages. They would be indignant, I am sure, if I were to note in reply, that Same Sex Marriage does, however, insult and demean, by travestying traditional marriage, by the imitation of its form, and the usurpation of its honorable status by that which is not honorable.

A fraudulent libertarian argument commonly used tries to contend that no one else is injured if Same Sex couples are recognized by the state as married.

Suppose, just for example, that another wonderful new species of Enlightenment swept the land, and that the intelligentsia, the international elite, Hollywood, the mainstream media, and, what Vito Corleone used to call the Pezzonovante all suddenly converted to the Hellenic and Elusinian cult of Serapis. You and I might continue to think in terms of Christmas and Easter, and all that, but Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the presidents of Yale and Harvard, the editorial board of the New York Times, Sean Penn, Tina Fey, Oprah Winfrey, and the rest were all now mad keen worshipers of the god Serapis. And now they want the image of Serapis placed on the US dollar bill in the place of the portrait of George Washington.

It would just be a small concession of Elusinian Equality. Who would it hurt? Only the uncharitable and mean-spirited could possibly deny a school of thought discriminated against for two thousand years its basic dignity.

26 Mar 2013

Cheering For the Nanny State

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Bowdoin’s aspiring Platonic Guardian Sara O. Conly recently published a great big book arguing in favor of Nanny State paternalism over Liberty. Not surprisingly, we now find her defending Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban in the New York Times.

Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws.

The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.

Of course, what people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it’s soda, tomorrow it’s the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch “PBS NewsHour” every day. What this ignores is that successful paternalistic laws are done on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: if it’s too painful, it’s not a good law. Making these analyses is something the government has the resources to do, just as now it sets automobile construction standards while considering both the need for affordability and the desire for safety.

Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it’s some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever.

In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.

That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.

La Conly’s argument (in both her book and this editorial) really boils down to the claim (based on behaviorist social science, no less) that people are incompetent, make bad choices, and have difficulty recognizing their own best interests. Therefore, Conly says these other people over here, the ones who attended Princeton, who have important official titles and positions, know better what is good for everyone; and you ordinary people over there, you dimbulbs and dufi, should be willing to surrender (just a little) liberty here and some other liberty there, when those wiser and better, and more prestigiously and officially placed, than you decide that it is time to lay down the law and tell you what to do, for your own good.

Speaking philosophically, I went to Yale (which outranks Princeton all day long), so I get to point out to Professor Conly that in reality, the behaviorist social sciences prove that our Mandarins, politicians, and experts are just as fallibly human as everyone else, and are also subject to errors produced by biases toward short-term satisfaction and unrealistic optimism, particularly –in their case– optimism about their own capacities, objectivity, and motivations. Platonic Guardians tend to think that they are being disinterested and only trying to maximize everyone’s well being, while all the while they are busily gathering greater powers and control over the lives and fortunes of others to themselves. The best political philosophers are those, like Jefferson and Madison, who recognize the fact that no one enjoys the kind of superiority of perspective which entitles him or her to prescribe to someone else what he ought to do inside his own private sphere of liberty.

26 Mar 2013

Jim Carrey Clocks in on Gun Control

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Tasteless and moronic video by Jim Carrey simultaneously sneering at rural America, insulting the late Charleton Heston, and blaming American gun owners for violence. If anyone ever doubted that Carrey is an asshole and an idiot, just watch this. He is so spectacularly stupid that he obviously thinks this is clever, and that the chain of consequences alluded to in the rapid patter, closing section of the song makes some kind of sense.

Cold Dead Hand with Jim Carrey from Jim Carrey

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Greg Gutfeld, on Fox News, did not like it.

2:02 video

25 Mar 2013

Mayor Bloomberg: “There Are Certain Times We Should Infringe On Your Freedom”

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The Washington Times makes clear that Hizonner is not actually referring to cases of civil war or national emergency either. He means, in fact, whenever we (the bien pensant class of busybodies) are convinced that we know best what’s good for you.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: Sometimes government does know best. And in those cases, Americans should just cede their rights.

“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom,” Mr. Bloomberg said, during an appearance on NBC. He made the statement during discussion of his soda ban — just shot down by the courts — and insistence that his fight to control sugary drink portion sizes in the city would go forth.

Read the whole thing.

We need to find a way to expel Michael Bloomberg from the Republican Party.

25 Mar 2013

David Chancellor’s “Hunters”

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South African photographer David Chancellor’s new book on African Big Game trophy hunters, Hunters was scheduled for publication on March 15, but must have been delayed since Amazon does not have copies yet.

Slate recently published a preliminary review, offering a sample of Chancellor’s photographs which are certainly worth looking at.

Big Game trophy hunting is an extremely expensive activity, and its end result is commonly the personal trophy room, a grandiose display of taxidermy testifying to levels of wealth and superbia which almost inevitably provoke a negative reaction. Today’s popular culture is pathologically hostile to both, and is even more predictably hostile to hunting, especially the hunting of large, charismatic, and commonly classified as “endangered” Big Game species. So the cards are obviously stacked against the human subjects of Chancellor’s photography from the beginning.

I get the impression that Chancellor succumbed a bit by contagion to some understanding of the hunting instinct, but his careful phraseology seems determined to maintain an “objective,” supposedly neutral, perspective on all this.

I suppose the photographer must have found himself on the horns of a grave dilemma. On the one hand, it would obviously be totally unacceptable to the community of fashion to be found unreservedly celebrating killing animals for sport, and, worse, for trophies! Yet, who but the members of the Dallas Safari Club and others of the same ilk are going to be buyers of such a book? Describing his subject matter in terms agreeable to PETA would not be such a good idea either. So Mr. Chancellor is clearly obliged to walk a very careful prose line.

David Chancellor’s book, Hunters, is a collection of work from photographer, who is based in South Africa, on the world of tourist trophy hunting.

“For many years I’ve been interested in the increasing overpopulation of man and how that clashes with wildlife,” Chancellor said about his initial interest in photographing Hunters.

Hunters examines the actual hunts as well as the end result, where hunters return to their homes filled with their “trophies.”

He also examines local African communities who benefit from the large amounts of money hunters pay to go on these hunts. Chancellor’s images bring to life a hot topic that has divided hunters, conservationists, and animal-rights activists. He isn’t making any judgments about any of the groups and hopes his images will allow for a better understanding of the process from all sides.

“I was working with hunters who were saying hunting and conservation go hand-in-hand, and that was when things got interesting to me,” he said.

To gain access to the hunters, Chancellor needed the help of individuals who accompanied mostly Americans and Eastern Europeans on hunts around Africa. …

Chancellor quickly discovered while trailing the hunters that he needed to be present with them throughout the entire length of the hunt in order to create the most accurate and emotional images.

“You need to be there the second after they’ve done what they’re going to do because that is the moment they will react to an animal after a kill,” Chancellor said. …

To complete the cycle, Chancellor wanted to photograph the trophy rooms of the more seasoned hunters and spent time in Dallas with members of the Dallas Safari Club.

“I found myself documenting these guys who say they’ve hunted for 25 years and want to hunt a leopard or lion, and I photographed them … but at best what I’ll produce from that hunt is an individual with a lion … the only way (to complete the book) was to go back to where he actually has all of his trophies and produce a portrait that would complete the task, to show his entire career in one portrait,” Chancellor said.

25 Mar 2013

Yale’s Sex Week Prostitution & Bestiality Poll

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Earlier this month, it was revealed that the management of this year’s Sex Week at Yale circulated a questionaire inquiring about Yale students’ sexual histories, whether they’d ever had sex for money, and what sort of activities had they participated in. Campus Reform blog

I personally smiled sardonically and shrugged when the Daily Mail swallowed this silliness whole and when one editorialist at NR online also climbed on board, worrying aloud about what all this pre-matriculation-at-college debauchery must say about the state of our civilization.

The Daily Mail is a British newspaper and, let’s face it, some of the guys who write for NR do not have personally an Ivy League background, so a little confusion about the meaning and validity of that particular poll was understandable. But, as the French flavorfully put it: “Il ne faut pas de enculer des mouches” [One does not sodomize flies]. I decided not even to dignify this nonsense by remarking on it.

I was clearly wrong. Some flies will keep demanding attention until they get it.

First of all, a few days ago, on Facebook, a prominent conservative intellectual I know (who did not go to Yale), was linking another instance of the one-out-of-ten-Yale-undergraduates-have-been-hookers news meme. So, I intervened and pointed out that in evaluating all this, one needed to reflect on in just what way the typical Yale undergraduate is likely to respond to blithering, intrusive, and basically bizarre questions about his-or-her sex life written up in ridiculous form by a professional “sexologist” who operates a suburban store selling dildos. I was only surprised that number of affirmative answers to the weirder questions was so low.

More recently, even Glenn Reynolds (who went to Yale Law, and ought to know better) was repeating this important meme.

March 21, 2013

HIGHER EDUCATION UPDATE: Nine Percent of Yale Students Surveyed Say They’ve Accepted Money for Sex. “Nine percent of Yale University students who participated in a recent survey on sexual behavior reported having been paid for sex at least once. Three percent said they had participated in bestiality, and more than half said they had ‘engaged in consensual pain’ during sex.”

When I read this sort of thing, I think back fondly to Ken Kesey appearing at Yale, during the Revolution, to announce to the nation his candidacy for the presidency (opposing Richard Nixon in 1972). Kesey was visibly inflamed with self-righteous political passion, egomania, and some sort of mood altering substances. He proudly delivered his diatribe, and began taking his bows while condescendingly accepting questions from the audience.

The Yale undergrad questioners began cruelly playing with Kesey like some cats playing with a mouse. They gravely expressed agreement with his nonsensical propositions, and deliberately and skillfully drew him farther and farther out along fanciful limbs of patently ridiculous claims pertaining to his qualifications for high office and elicited from him some extremely potentially embarassing proposals for national policies involving sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll. Then, the audience began mocking him. People asked unkind questions, like whether he might not be too stoned to campaign effectively. Kesey became infuriated, and he began exchanging invitiations to come up and fight him for catcalls from the floor. And that was how the audience at Ken Kesey’s presidential campaign announcement at Yale sank that campaign on its opening night.

Someday, boys and girls, I should tell you what we did to Norman Mailer, but that is another story. In any event, it is necessary to bear in mind, that most people who get into Yale are very, very bright, and that Yalies have a tendency to mock fools.

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