6/5 to 10/30, 2005
PRAYING . . . At mass today, 10/30/05, we were directed to pray that rich nations "do not hide behind complicated economic systems" to avoid helping poor ones. Uh-oh. A certain geopolitical world view there, wouldn't you say?
THEY ALSO SERVE, ETC. . . . Sox parade and rally Friday, stood stuffed in crowd at Clark and Wacker for 45 minutes or so, then was allowed with fellow stuffees to move down Wacker toward the stage at LaSalle. From this direction came muffled sounds of announcer and various players etc. which led to cheers around me. But hearing- and height-challenged as I was, I had to settle mostly for views and observations of those around me, a mixture in all the usual respects, almost all happy and in the spirit of victory and celebration.
One guy in the earlier stuffing of bodies came to be cranky, however, eliciting finally some pronounced impatience from a sergeant who told him, no, he could NOT cross the lines to get across Wacker. "Sergeant," he said irritatingly, "I'm not saying I want to cross, but WHY can't I cross?" as if in the situation there was a difference. "You CAN'T cross," said the sergeant, who had my sympathy but would have had my advice ("Be not afraid," i.e. be calm) if he had asked.
The complainer had been going on and on: "Can't see nothin'," "this is badly organized," etc. Badgering the sergeant, he was shushed by his wife, embarrassed by his display. Their kid was there. He had got up on wrong side of bed, the only one who had that day, and enough about him.
Oh yes, the pot smoker. He was mellow, however. That was in the midst of the cheering throng after the stage comments had begun. All of it was under a dazzling blue sky in 50 degrees or so, a perfect day. You could look at your fellow fans or at the skyline, buildings across the river. Glorious. That's a groundling's view. For a better one, you watch TV on such occasions.
IMPORTANT FIGURE . . . "Mr. Bush has three more years and three more months in which to take the lead in another direction. Will he use them well or squander them?" says Michael Barone in WSJ 10/29, concluding his wrap-up "Down but Not Out: After Katrina and Scooter, whither the Bush administration?" Barone, author of Almanac of American Politics, is a guy who deals in data; so his generalities deserve more than ordinary attention. As for the Libby indictment,
Fortunately, it appears that the Bush White House will have the services of Karl Rove available. Mr. Rove was not indicted along with "Scooter" Libby yesterday and, while he may remain in legal jeopardy, the comments of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in his press conference gave the impression that further indictments are unlikely. The indictment of Mr. Libby is of course a scar on the administration's record, but not one nearly so visible or disabling as a Rove indictment would have been. Mr. Rove has played a role in this administration that no presidential appointee has played in the first 212 years of our republic: chief political operator and chief policy adviser. He brings to his work an impressive knowledge of history and a sensitivity to the historic currents running through our times. He seems to have, despite his legal travail, the complete confidence of the president.
In 212 years. Hmmm.
CRIME FIGHTING . . . "Very fine distinctions" are at play in the Libby indictment, says special prosecutor Fitzgerald, who is also working to put various Chicago Democrats and a Republican ex-governor in jail on corruption charges. Not too fine, I trust. That would bespeak fussiness. Nor too fine in Chicago, where apparently rampant dishonesty is on trial. (On the other hand, not everyone thinks criminal prosecution is called for in Chi, including Mayor Daley and a DePaul law prof, Leonard Cavise.
PICKING AND CHOOSING . . . From a soldier killed in Iraq, found on his laptop for sending to his girl friend back home:
"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. [end of what NYT ran in its rundown on 2,000 dead in Iraq, leaving this part out:] I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
Michelle Malkin has this, plus comments by an uncle of this man, whom the Times quoted selectively. Would you say the Times was giving an honest account of this brave soldier's letter to his girl back home?
HAVING THINGS BAD . . . Commenting on life in these U.S. as appreciated more by foreigners than us, David Gillies | October 29, 2005 04:25 PM, at Daily Pundit:
For truly mammoth death tolls on a semi-regular basis, you can't beat ferries in South East Asia. These accidents kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands a year, and really the only sane response for someone like me, snug and safe in a relatively affluent country, is to roll one's eyes, experience a fleeting pang of pity for the victims, and get back to what one was doing.
It really is extraordinarily dangerous to be born outside the developed regions of the Earth.
F.A. HAYEK (1899-1992) CONSIDERED IN SOME DETAIL
SOCIALISM IN THE CROSSHAIRS . . . F.A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom, a 1944 book that argues against socialism, was banned by the occupying powers in post-WW2 Germany for the official reason that it might hurt relations with USSR, says Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue (Kresge and Wenar eds., U. of Chicago, 1994 p. 21).
In Road, Hayek objects to "the carefully fostered belef in the irrationality of our economic system" (202) and "a new unwillingness to submit to any rule or necessity the rationale of which man does not understand." (203) This latter he says is applied to morality and religion as well as economics.
But the complexity of our civilization requires such submission. It made our civilization possible. Maybe it stemmed from beliefs later judged superstitious; it doesn't matter. (204) Understanding is in fact beyond us; it's too complicated. Refusal to submit stems from "incomplete and therefore erroneous rationalism."
The refusal to submit ignores the incomprehensibility of forces at work. But the choice is clear: submit to them or submit to other men in the shape of "authoritarian restraints . . . even more painful" than natural ones arising from immemorial custom. Such "forces of society" are less malleable than forces of nature. They are the way to totalitarianism. (205)
We are plagued by our "fascination [with] vague but popular phrases [that] may lead to extremely shortsighted measures" -- "full employment at any price," for instance. (206)
Inflation disguises the lowering of wages, as after WW2, when wartime demand ended in Britain and retrenchment was in order, but instead artificial means were used to shore up prosperity. (208) This is the monetary solution, which lowers productivity and thus reduces the wealth of a nation.
DELETABLE . . . Hayek is a very smart guy, but in Hayek on Hayek, an extended interview edited by others, he says Cicero ended speeches with "Cato delendum est"! No. It was "Carthago," Carthage, to be destroyed, and Cato who said it. And it was "delenda est." Otherwise, he had it right.
And used it right, at the end of every faculty meeting at London School of Economics in the early 40s, about Lord William Beveridge, past director of the school, at the time an Oxford master and successively, for a year or more at a time, chairman of various government committees while also an MP. "Beveridge delendum est," said Hayek, after complaining about decisions by Beveridge, for whom he had thorough contempt.
YOUNG MAN LEARNING . . . Growing up in pre-WW1 Vienna with affluent parents, he had rich opportunities for learning. There were limits, however. When he got too interested in a Bible he'd got as a gift, his (anti-Christian) parents or someone else "mysteriously" removed it. (Hayek on Hayek, 40) By age 15 he was a confirmed unbeliever, though he had been briefly convinced, at age 10 or 11, of the Catholic way.
He flunked Greek, and so read Homer twice, for which he was grateful.
Put off by the "taxonomic [systematic classification] aspects" of biology, he longed - had "a longing" - for theory. His model was "the fire brigade horse," harnessed and ready to go, his goal "to simplify and mechanize routines as much as possible." (A sort of getting to the heart of a matter.)
With the Austro-Hungarian army in Italy in 1918, he heard rumors of "a mutiny of the Czechs." (45) In retreat the German-speakers (11 languages were spoken in the battalion) he found "the only reliable" soldiers.
Back in Vienna after the war, he veered toward a study of ethics, which his father had no use for. His father gave him a volume of Feuerbach as antidote to this ethics stuff. He found Feuerbach "a bore."
Moreover, he found Marxism and psychoanalysis (later called Freudianism) "thoroughly unscientific because [their adherents] so defined their terms that their statements were necessarily true and unrefutable and therefore said nothing about the world." (49) Armed with their all-purpose terminology, they had an answer for everything, invoking as explanation the "death [or life] instinct." It didn't matter which. He found it "irritating." As for the social scientists (positivists) of the Vienna Circle (he was of another circle), he found them "naive on economics." Then along came Karl Popper, who attacked them, saying the test of a principle was its refutability. Hayek became a Popperian.
GREEKS NOT FOR PROFIT . . . In his Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (U. of Chicago, 1991, 46), he noted longstanding antagonism toward the profit motive. Aristotle said it was unnatural, long after "production for gain" had become the foundation of an extended order [beyond family and village] far transcending the known needs of other persons," as Thucydides reported decades earlier.
Today's social theorists know this. Instead, says Hayek, "a naive and childlike animistic [attributing conscious life to inanimate objects] view of the world has come to dominate social theory and is the foundation of socialist thought." (47)
Indeed, "the main source of the collectivist [socialist] tradition" is an "atavistic longing after the life of the noble savage." Even Columbus saw a savage's life as "more gratifying to innate human instincts" (Fatal Conceit, 18-19) than civilization with its rules and inhibiting elements and therefore discontents.
Even Plato and Aristotle, yearning for the Spartan anti-property culture, gave in to "nostalgic longing . . . craving for the micro-order determined by the overview of omniscient authority" (Fatal Conceit, 32) - the comforts of not having to decide.
PROPERTY . . . Hayek's term for private property is "several [exclusive] property," I'm not sure why. But his whole exposition and argument is so appealing that I in no way object.
FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD
Readers may profit from Sun-Times's 10/6/05 story about the kickoff exhibit at Loyola U's new museum featuring an all-but-outed gay Italian artist who portrayed his male subjects as looking provocatively at the viewer. What's to complain about some brief, lucid art history? Whether Loyola profits from it is another story, in view of comments (italics added) by its president and the museum's cultural affairs director that take acceptance of homosexuality to a new level.
"[T]he more human the better," says the president, Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J., about the painter Caravaggio's homosexuality. "There's nothing more Catholic than the concept of the sinner/saint. Most of [his] works were sponsored by the church, and it would be foolish to believe that the church knew nothing about Caravaggio's crimes or relationships. I believe Caravaggio embodies the faith, warts and all. I see no reason to shy away from that." [Some would see a lot of reasons to do so.]
The writer, Misha Davenport, calls this approach a "head-on engagement" with the issue, noting that the museum also showed gay director Derek Jarman's homoerotic 1986 film "Caravaggio" earlier in the week to promote and expand on the exhibit. [Hey guys, here's one you'll like.]
The exhibit "plays to the university's base" in terms of its subject matter, Garanzini told her. The museum's approach is "more broad-based than just Christian art. We're . . . interested in looking at how artists express the enduring questions of life we all ask -- regardless of our own personal religious beliefs." [Ah, those personal beliefs.]
The cultural affairs director, Pamela E. Ambrose, says Caravaggio "secularized religious art and narrative" but was a "deeply spiritual being in his own right. Faith is, after all, very diverse." [Hey, if it's not diverse these days, what good is it?]
He has "earthy views of spirituality," for instance, writes Davenport, paraphrasing Ambrose, and "status as a rebel who did things his way." [Which is how Milton depicted Satan, I do believe. Anyhow, tell it to Sinatra.]
All in all, this gay blade Caravaggio is "the type of guy we all want to be. He said whatever he wanted to say, painted whatever he wanted to paint and did whatever he wanted to do . . . " says Ambrose, leading more or less loyal alumni to wonder where Loyola got her.
All in all, this exhibit-cum-presidential-etc.-commentary has gay activists high-fiving each other throughout Chicagoland. Which may be what Loyola has in mind. It has its base to consider, of course.
EASTER MASS IN BROOKLYN
Easter mass last spring at Queen of All Saints church, Brooklyn, NY, did not begin with a "good morning" from the celebrant, Msgr. John J. Brown, but with "the Lord be with you," which was a good sign. An accurate one too, as it turned out.
The mass, 10:15, for a full house, was on the mark liturgically, and lively to boot, but never frivolous. The people, a racially mixed crowd with slight preponderance of blacks, had a quite serious demeanor as they filed for communion, for instance. Of course, what really told me I was in New York was hearing "one God forevah and evah" from Msgr. Brown, the church's pastor who doubles as personnel director for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
He also hit the pulpit running with the standard Easter welcome to people who don't usually come but might want to register and/or talk about why they don't come, such as having been slighted or injured by a priest. This invitation came after a full-throated rendition of the first two (non-gospel) readings by a handsome, mature woman who interestingly did not begin her reading until some latecomers were seated. A nice touch, that. This happened in a service with no unexplained pauses or pauses explainable only as lapses in preparation.
She read from a real pulpit, raised and extending into the congregation on the gospel side, part of a cathedral-dimensioned very high-ceilinged romanesque church in excellent repair. This mostly black parish obviously has the wherewithal to do things and taste as well. Right after her second reading was sung a lively "alleluia." When it finished, Msgr. Brown was already positioned in the pulpit and got his "The lord be with you" in without pause.
After his reading is when he made his "come back, we are sorry if we offended you" pitch, delivered in strong, friendly, matter of fact tones. He was sure of himself and in no way maudlin about it. Then he got to his sermon, which started with a good (and tried and true, but that's OK) story about a blind child leaping from a burning building into his father's arms because he trusted in his father to catch him. He told the story well.
That's when Aesop the teller of fables should have been the norm, but instead Msgr. B. decided to indulge in a plethora of explanation. Like the blind kid trusting his father, he should have trusted his story to make the point, but he chose to declaim, beating our ears with formula language - LOVE! ETERNAL LIFE! PEACE! What about a bonus for any preacher who can avoid these words in his next sermon? Who instead lets a story make the point? And do it in seven minutes. Yes!
Unfortunately, one feels inevitably, he indulged in the Heresy of the Multiple Middle. This is in contrast to the sermon with beginning, middle, and end. Instead, like most sermons -- this is a too common heresy -- it had many middles and not really an end but a stopping.
Let that not detract, however, from the vitality and sheer organization of the place. It did not for this worshiper, who managed to get the attention briefly of the head usher, a man of the islands, I'd say, to tell him what a good job he had done -- with panache at that, I might have added.
Lisa knows bigots
Far be it from me to tell Chi Trib reporter Lisa Anderson and her presumed editors how to do their job, but what about her lead today in her story "Court told board urged creationism: Witness says she was shocked by bigotry"?
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Nine months pregnant at the time, Dover High School alumna Christy Rehm found herself so shocked by some of the religiously bigoted statements made by members of the Dover school board in June 2004 that she feared she would go into labor, she testified in federal court here Wednesday.
It's settled then. The statements were bigoted. Thanks, Lisa. We would have had to make that judgement ourselves if you hadn't put it that way. On the other hand, if you had written "some of what she considered religiously bigoted statements," we would have been inclined to read further. As while starting a mystery novel or any good story. You're allowed to do that, Lisa (and presumed editors) - report it fair and balanced (copyright Fox News), letting us decide.
I made myself read on, however, just to check, and found this as Exhibit A:
"This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity, and our children should be taught as such."
And this as Exhibit B:
the comment came from Bill Buckingham, a vocal critic of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which states that life evolved through random mutation and natural selection. The theory is widely accepted by scientists,
witnesses said. (Buckingham denies it.)
Lower in the story, we read of subpoenaed reporters, a Mich. State U. prof who says the intelligent-design argument (at issue here) takes us "beyond the boundaries of the natural world" and so does not belong in a biology classroom, same prof saying Intel Design takes us back to pre-Enlightenment days, and a Baptist pastor saying its alternative is "bonehead happenstance."
So some good reporting, but that lead `graph hurts, because it MAKES US SCEPTICAL ABOUT EVEN THE REPORTING. Don't Lisa and her (presumed) editors get it? Their credibility is at stake.
By way of ex-Jesuit commentary on story substance - in addition to the above ex-newsman analysis of the story as such - the courtroom argument apparently was between science and religion. What, no philosophy? Some very sophisticated scientific, nay mathematical minds plump for Intel Design, arguing in philosophical mode to their conclusions. And who's Enlightenment-oriented more, the firm believer in an accidental universe (the pastor's "bonehead happenstance") or the arguer from data, in this case incredible amazing complexity that works?
Finally, it seems less a matter of answers than of questions. Some are verboten, it seems. There are no mysteries. Which is scientism, not science, it seems to me.
Posted by Blithe Spirit to Chicago Newspapers: The Blog at 9/29/2005 09:48:40 AM
Revolutionary strategy, early 20s:
Van Wyck Brooks in 1921 on what revolutionary writers should do: "Not . . . fan emotions but . . . write good books." (From Aaron, Writers on the Left)
His co-revolutionist Max Eastman said poetry is the key, vs. the French novelist Barbusse, who recommended party censorship because writers' work is perforce "playful" and so requires control. Playful = suspect in this context. (pp. 54-55)
Poetry was to keep the revolutionary dream alive, said Floyd Dell. Poets as "seismographs" of social reality were to lead the way to revolution, as later (I say) Saul Alinsky was to "rub raw the sores of discontent."
Bertrand Russell in 1920 cited "religion and patriotism" as "bourgeois catchwords," per Bolsheviks. He got one look at the new Russia and rejected Communism. Eastman said he needed a dose of Nietzsche to get out of his "softness," indeed to be "purged" of it. The Bolsheveki were "Nietzschean free spirits," and Russell missed that or didn't appreciate it.
Arturo Giovanitti filled the bill as poet. His "On Lenin's Birthday" exulted:
Victory, lightning-faced has come
Just on the day it was told by your prophets and seers,
The harbingers of your great day . . .
Holah [sic]; ye the axmen of truth, blasters of lies and wrongs
Torch-bearers of the sun, incendiaries, petroleers
Raisers of mobs and altars, knights of the mad crusade,
Arise! Break from your chains, burst through your jails . . .
-- 6-4-05 6:35 pm
More Revolutionary strategy, early 20s:
Dadaism, or Dada, "is the spirit of play, of the delightful idiocy of things," said Matthew Josephson, whose The Robber Barons: the Great American Capitalists, 1861-1901 (Harcourt, Brace, 1934) rests on this reader's shelf. He apparently loved Dada, which another book on that shelf, The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 3rd edition (Columbia, 1994), says "stressed absurdity and the role of the unpredictable in artistic creation" and literarily speaking resulted in "mostly nonsense poems -- meaningless and random word combinations."
Josephson understood and endorsed this: "It shows the lack of connection between everything [italics added] with a dazzling quickness of mind," he wrote. (Aaron, 76) He got over it, we presume -- not rashly, we hope -- by the time he wrote Barons, which is praised as having socked it to capitalists and by unwise transference to capitalism but "as history . . . is no more accurate than a Norman Rockwell painting -- a kind of Norman Rockwell in reverse" by Maury Klein ("The Robber Barons' Bum Rap," City Journal, Winter 1995), who says Josephson "was less a historian than a moralist who cared less about the accuracy of the story than about the ideological message he saw in it."
The barons, says Klein, were not money-grubbers but "masters of organization - visionaries and risk takers who thought and acted on a grand scale" and in the process created American industry. For instance, the ruthless "Commodore" Vanderbilt at 66 had $20 million to spare and might have kicked back and enjoyed it. Instead, he got cracking on railroads and the telegraph, "the two most vital arenas of American economic development" (and next thing we knew, there was Gloria V., tripping the Manhattan light fantastic).
In 1886, nine years after Commodore V. had left the living, his critics who said he had grown rich while his employees were paid poorly were answered by Edward Atkinson, a Boston manufacturer, who admitted Vanderbilt had made 14 cents on every barrel of flour shipped over his railroads, said that "in the process he also greatly lowered the price of flour. 'Did Vanderbilt keep any of you down,' he demanded, 'by saving you $2.75 on a barrel of flour, while he was making 14 cents?'"
That, of course, is the classic argument against revolutionists like Josephson, which may be translated, "All in all, was Vanderbilt good or bad for the country?"
-- 6-5-05 2:48 pm