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Monday, July 27, 2020

Olivia de Havilland, Commie Fighter

Olivia de Havilland, in Paris, at age 104. Great liberal patriot, RIP.

Olivia de Havilland, Gone With The Wind Star, Dies At 104 - News Brig


History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes. Just as solid liberals like Excitable Andy Sullivan and Bari Weiss are sent to the showers by an ascendant left today, liberals have always been on the left's hitlist when they think they have the upper hand, even the Democrat saint Harry S. Truman.

From The Daily Beast of all places. I guess there are still a few liberals left out there—at least enough to bury their own. Cancel culture, 1946. Plus ├ža change:

The break between the liberals and Communists finally came in a major speech delivered to HICAASP by Olivia de Havilland, at a Seattle rally in 1946.
It had been written for her by the Party’s most prolific and highest-paid screenwriter, the legendary Dalton Trumbo. He gave de Havilland the draft of his speech, that Americans had to condemn “the drive of certain interests toward a war against the Soviet Union,” and that the Truman administration’s policy was one supporting union-busting, anti-Semitism and bigotry against racial minorities.
Without telling anyone in advance, de Havilland, horrified by the words Trumbo wanted her to mouth—went to the podium, and substituted a speech of her own. “We believe in democracy,” she told the crowd, “and not in Communism.”
De Havilland was brave in breaking ranks so publicly. Communists controlled the Screenwriter’s Guild and were influential in the Screen Actors Guild as well, and were known to avoid giving roles to actors or scripts to writers whom they considered “fascist.”
Moreover, in breaking so publicly, she risked losing associates and friends who thought the Hollywood Reds were just “liberals in a hurry” and sincere anti-fascists—many of whom would ostracize someone they considered to be a “Red-baiter.” 
Trumbo exploded in a fit of rage when he heard what de Havilland had done...

[BF mine, lest the lede be lost.]


Requiescat in pace, Dame Olivia. You were Hollywood royalty, a good liberal and a great citizen of the American republic. A patriot, if may I say so, Ms. de Havilland, no offense.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Letter to the Editor: Charlemagne, ‘How Ireland gets its way’ The Economist

26 July 2020


Letter to the Editor
The Economist
<letters@economist.com>

Re: Charlemagne, ‘

Dear Letters Editor,

Notwithstanding the article’s title—

If this is victory, then what would be defeat?

Sincerely,

Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman
Maynooth University Department of Law
(


For a harsher take than mine, see

Seth Barrett Tillman, 

Fox Dad, CNN Dad: Our Problems Remain Epistemological

True story.

Two dads are debating politics. The first dad describes himself as independent, but left of center. He gets most of his news from CNN. Let us call him CNN Dad.

The second dad also holds many independent views, but considers himself right of center. He gets news mostly from alternative news sources, as well as from Fox News. (Fox may be one of the few sources CNN Dad recognizes.) Let us call him Fox Dad.

As I said, CNN Dad and Fox Dad are debating politics. Actually, they are not really debating politics. They mostly agree on politics. What they are debating is Trump. CNN Dad and Fox Dad agree on the outsized influence of corporations on American politics. They agree that the upper-levels of both major parties are irrevocably craven with power and beholden to corporate donors and not responsive in any meaningful way to voters. They share an antipathy toward unnecessary foreign wars. They agree on the importance of the rule of law, and policing, and ensuring the integrity of elections. They both approach the subjects of trade and taxation pragmatically rather than ideologically. They agree China is a threat. Whenever they turn to a new issue, CNN Dad and Fox Dad are able to find common ground, the start of a compromise, if not substantial agreement.

But in the course of their conversations, each time CNN Dad and Fox Dad agree or find common ground on a topic, they quickly find themselves arguing about Trump. CNN Dad believes Trump is the principal impediment to the resolution of any given issue. The rise of corrupt corporatism? Trump is the most corrupt of all. The democratically unresponsive two-party system the corporations control? It may spell the end of the republican experiment, but it's better than Trump. Trump hasn't started any new wars? Trumpian diplomacy might as well be war. Google alone may have the ability to sway up to 10% of American voters? As long as it gets Trump out.

So despite the fact that they agree on issue after issue, so long as they disagree on Trump, CNN Dad concludes they must be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Just another example of our intractable political divide.

CNN Dad is going to prove it to Fox Dad that this is why they cannot agree. That their dispute is over ideology, over tribal values to which Fox Dad bitterly clings.

So CNN Dad takes a Political Compass test. He shares his results with Fox Dad, and asks him to take the test as well. CNN Dad thinks the test will prove that Fox Dad is just too far to the right to ever hope to agree with a normal person on the center-left.

The results of the tests are below. As you can see, CNN Dad is moderately left of center. But to CNN Dad's surprise, Fox Dad's results are essentially in the center, and even in the same quadrant as CNN Dad's results:

Above: CNN Dad's Political Compass test results
Above: Fox Dad's Political Compass test results

And now the reveal: I am Fox Dad. CNN Dad is my dad.

My dad and I come out in the same political quadrant. Our differences on political ideas are slight to modest. Even if you identify as an economic conservative, as I do in the main, unless you believe all taxation is theft and every man is an island, you are in the mainstream of American politics. And even if you identify to the left, as my dad does, unless you want to topple statues of American presidents and unironically believe AOC's ideas would make for good national policy, you are going to be in the mainstream of American politics. 

For now, the extent of our differences is probably based more upon the adverbs we'd use to describe our opinions, than on any differences in the opinions themselves. 

But back to CNN Dad's dilemma: Why do CNN Dad and Fox Dad disagree so diametrically on Trump? Is CNN Dad's Trump-hatred to be explained in that small space between relatively slight differences in policy? The idea is risible. No: the fact that people can hold basically the same ideas, yet disagree so diametrically on an election about those ideas, has to do more with media diet -- on where they get their news.

No matter how many ideas, values, and predispositions my dad and I share, the way we vote will be decided by where we get our information.

I will make you a bet. I'll bet that our country is a lot like my dad and me. I'll bet that, as a country, we don't disagree all that much on what's important. I mean on real issues. Not fatuous abstractions like "national security," or "the environment," or "poverty." As if there were a "pro" and "con" side to such topics. But take any specific policy proposal -- before it is filtered through media outlets -- and put it to a left-leaning American, and a right-leaning American. And I suspect you will find they approach the issue the same way: they will both want to know what it costs, and whether it works. They might not ultimately agree, but no one will be tempted to deploy expletives or call each other names.

The average mainstream, middle-class American, is peaceable, and good-natured, and non-ideological. The average American does not walk around with an inventory of policy ideas he deems acceptable or unacceptable to his ideology. Americans are not ideological by nature.

But we have been habituated to ideological thinking. We have the journalist class to thank for that.

Ironically, Americans seem to realize we have a journalism problem. How we vote depends on where we get our information. My dad realizes this. Our problems, as co-blogger Tom Van Dyke used to put it, remain epistemological. We can't tell whether we agree if we are not even talking about the same facts. Is discussion between two voters about Trump possible when one of those voters believes what they heard on CNN -- or what they read in ABC, or CBS, or NBC, or NPR, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post -- that Trump thinks white nationalists are "very fine people"? Is discussion with a person possible when that person believes what mainstream journalists told them about Trump's colluding with Russia in the 2016 election -- which independent journalist Glenn Greenwald called "a scam and a fraud from the beginning"?

Our elections are not between blue America and red America. Or between Democrats and Republicans, or left and right, or liberals and conservatives. And certainly not between black and white. Our elections have become elections between CNN America and Fox America.

Perhaps you knew this already. If so, let me share with you my theory why CNN and the big news outlets command such outsized and unjustified authority over the minds of otherwise intelligent people.

My thesis is simple: CNN America is affluent. And affluent people, though they may be intelligent, are uncritical when it comes to politics.

That is because affluent people tend to be ideological. Not because the affluent voter is unintelligent or lacks critical faculties. Far from it. No, the affluent voter tends to be ideological because the affluent voter can afford to be ideological. Because the lives of affluent voters do not really depend on the outcomes of elections.

By contrast, the average voter -- the voter who works for a living, supports a family, sends children to public school, lives on a budget -- that voter is not ideological. That is because the average voter cannot afford to be ideological. The average voter is a working mother who does not ask whether a stimulus package offends her principles about the role of the federal government. The average voter is a working father who does not ask whether buying books for his children's suburban school constitutes systemic inequality in a faraway urban school district. The average voter is a black landlady who does not ask whether asking for more police presence in her crime-ridden neighborhood interferes with efforts for criminal justice reform. The average voter is an elderly man who, though he groused about paying into Social Security tax 20 years ago, could not live without it today.

These middle-class voters have an interest in the outcomes of elections. Such voters, who have concrete interests in a given election, will listen carefully to what each candidate proposes. These kinds of voters want to know what the candidates will do about their specific, concrete interests.

But candidates and journalists hate this kind of voter. Candidates do not know, or do not care, how money gets to schools, or how to stop crime, or how to continue supporting an increasingly aging population. Journalists might or might not know these things, but what they know for absolute certain is that talking about them is not going to earn them many readers. So what does the journalist make of how an election will serve these average Americans? Boring, that's what: an unclickable headline, ponderous prose -- no ad revenue. What else you got?

What the candidate and journalist need are BIG issues. Big changes! Systemic changes! What could be bigger than changing the whole system? The added bonus is there are no sleep-inducing policy details to be worked out when you're pulling up root and branch. You don't need a detail man on the bulldozer. And who can resist watching a demolition? Boom! Crash! Pft! Whee!

The only problem is systemic change is not what average Americans want. Systemic change was not a thing in America until the affluent age, the latter half of the 20th century. But by the 1990s and 2000s? Whoosh!

This is a Google Books Ngraph of instances of the terms "systemic change," "systemic racism," "systemic reform," and "systemic injustice" since 1950.

Examples of anti-"systemic" activities include violent destruction of police precincts, gas stations, CVS stores, Targets, Wendy's restaurants, auto parts stores, and large parts of major American cities across the nation. These activities are described by one affluent journalist at Slate as "reasonable" and "quintessentially American." Presumably, many affluent voters will agree. At any rate, it's not their neighborhood. When is the last time an affluent voter went to an AutoZone? How many affluent voters know what a Frosty is?

Systemic change might not be what average voters want. But it is positively titillating to affluent voters. Unlike average voters, affluent voters have no actual concrete interests in the outcomes of elections. When elections are decided by average voters, candidates and journalist are forced to employ more pragmatism in their political analysis. Will the ideas work? What will they cost? This is what makes democracy scientific (remember the term "political science"?), measuring political hypotheses against their results.

BO-RING! Fortunately for journalists, affluent voter-consumers are now in abundance, and they are not interested in measuring the results of their ideas. For the droves of affluent voter-consumers, policy proposals are limited only by their own intentions. And given the affluent enjoy a position of high self-approval, their policy proposals rate very high indeed.

Affluent people are dangerous voters. That is because affluent people are bored, and bored people are destructive.

But: affluent people make great journalism customers. American politics are just the broken eggs required to make a mainstream-media omelet.

Which brings me, at last, to Fox Dad's point to CNN Dad. And that is this: Bleating on about Trump-this and systemic-that is a privilege of the affluent. Trump and systemic change are the refrains of people who have nothing better to do, nothing at stake in a particular election, or in politics even more generally, except the stake a churchgoer has in showing up on Sunday. These affluent voters already have private security (e.g., gated communities), no dependents (or else the means to provide private education), private retirements, etc. The affluent need nothing from elections. So policy details don't really matter. Instead, for the affluent, politics serves a need to feel better about themselves. So intentions are all that matter.

Of course, making the affluent feel better comes at the expense of the concrete interests of the less affluent. This is a privilege of the affluent. You might say that Anti-Trumpism is, in the popular parlance, White Privilege.

That is why CNN America and Fox America cannot agree. We might share the same ideas about our country's problems. But while Fox America wants to make America become better, CNN America just wants to feel better. And those are two very different things.

Because no matter how much Trump might be able to "make America great again," he will never make CNN America feel great. And that, for the affluent CNN America, is what really counts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Has ‘New Reform Club’ Been Blacklisted?


Raheem,

We corresponded some years ago—at a time when you were at Breitbart (London). Two co-bloggers and I post at New Reform ClubNew Reform Club has always been searchable via Google. Up until yesterday, if you search for “New Reform Club” via Google, our blog and our posts would pop up. But starting today, you cannot find our blog and posts via Google searches.

New Reform Club is a conservative/libertarian blog. My two co-bloggers occasionally write on topical Christian issues. Quite honestly, we are not that important—although we sometimes get favourable links from Professor Glenn Reynold’s widely-read Instapundit, which will push our readership for a given post above 10,000 (if not above 20,000).

After I noticed the problem with Google, I saw that The National Pulse and several Twitter feeds (e.g., Charlie Nash’s and yours) are reporting that (major) conservative websites have been blacklisted by Google. 

Has New Reform Club been blacklisted?

Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman, Has New Reform Club Been Blacklisted?, New Reform Club (July 21, 2020, 13:22 PM), https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/07/has-new-reform-club-been-blacklisted.html

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Telegram from Early Affluent Age to Late Affluent Age

Looking through my commonplace book, I ran across this passage, and marveled at how much of Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of early 19th century France could be made of early 21st century America. See if you do not agree:
“But,” he [Tocqueville] wrote, “I am firmly convinced that chance can do nothing unless the ground has been prepared in advance. Antecedent facts, the nature of institutions, turns of mind, and the state of mores are the materials from which chance composes those impromptu events that surprise and terrify us.”

He then lists, in the case of the 1848 Revolution, what these were: the industrial revolution, which brought many workers into Paris, not all of them able to live on their wages or to find work; the passion for material pleasures, which fed on envy; theories that poverty could be eliminated by mechanical changes in social arrangements; contempt, well earned, for the nation’s rulers; centralization, which brought the engine house of the country to Paris; and the instability of a society that had lived through no fewer than seven revolutions within sixty years.

. . . .

Beginning at the top, he is death on King Louis-Philippe. The revolution “was unforeseen by everybody, but by him most of all; no warning from the outside had prepared him for it, for his mind had retreated long ago into the sort of haughty loneliness inhabited by almost all kings whose long reigns have been prosperous, who mistake luck for genius, and who do not want to listen to anybody, because they think they have no more to learn.” Louis-Philippe’s fault was “to corrupt the people without defying them and to twist the spirit of the Constitution without changing the letter; to play off the country’s vices one against the other; and gently to drown revolutionary passion in the love of material pleasures; this had been his idea throughout his life, and it gradually became, not just his main, but his only thought.”
Joseph Epstein, Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide (HarperCollins, 2009).

I had come to think this particular trick was a more recent innovation: “to corrupt the people without defying them and to twist the spirit of the Constitution without changing the letter; to play off the country’s vices one against the other; and gently to drown revolutionary passion in the love of material pleasures." One might assume that having legal and journalistic and media industries mobilized to these ends were necessary conditions for revolution. But Louis-Philippe, Tocqueville thought, had pulled off the same effects single-handedly.

The difference being, perhaps, that Louis-Philippe did not foresee or intend of his efforts the revolutionary effects.

Letter to The Telegraph on the Goya Foods Boycott


Seth Barrett Tillman, Lecturer
Maynooth University Department of Law
(affiliation for identification purposes only)


July 20, 2020


Letter to the Editor
The Telegraph
letters@telegraph.co.uk

Re: Rozina Sabur, White House defends Ivanka Trump over Goya Foods ethics violation claim, The Telegraph (U.K.) (16 July 2020, 5:08 PM), <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/16/white-house-defends-ivanka-trump-goya-foods-ethics-violation/>.

Dear Letters Editor,

Your Washington, DC correspondent, Rozina Sabur, wrote: “The brand’s largely Hispanic customer base said the Goya executive appeared to have overlooked what they termed Mr Trump’s history of making ‘racist’ comments about Latin American immigrants.” Sabur fails to point to even one Hispanic who believes this—much less a significant number of Goya’s Hispanic customer base. Instead, Sabur points to unnamed celebrities and to Trump’s political critics. Meanwhile, United Bodegas of America, i.e., representing many of Goya Foods actual customers, has rejected the purported boycott of Goya products. See <https://abc7ny.com/goya-products-latino-community/6324392/>.

Seth

Seth Barrett Tillman (a U.S. national living abroad)

Seth Barrett Tillman, Letter to The Telegraph on the Goya Foods Boycott, New Reform Club (July 20, 2020, 5:14 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/07/letter-to-telegraph-on-goya-foods.html>; 



Friday, July 17, 2020

The Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness

Thanks to taxpayer-supported Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of African American History & Culture, a handy guide to all things Caucasian:





Missing: Golf, Trailer Parks, The Hallmark Channel, Recreational Vehicles, Mayonnaise, Country Music, Snow, Fine Wines, Elvis-on-Velvet, Contract Bridge, Ronald Reagan, Bicycles, Manilow, Darts, Water Skiing, Electric Guitars, NPR and The Smithsonian.



Epilogue:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

An “Amicus” filing in the Roger Stone matter … (UPDATED)

A motion in United States of America v. Roger Stone, Jr. (Crim. No. 19-cr-18-ABJ) was filed on July 15, 2020. It was titled: Motion for Leave to File Letter Brief of Amici Curiae Professors Ethan Lieb and Jed Shugerman. It was signed by Ronald A. Fein, a member of the bar for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and the Legal Director of Free Speech For People. The motion’s certificate of service stated:
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I hereby certify that on July 15, 2020, I electronically transmitted the foregoing to the Clerk of Court at dcd_cmecf_cr@dcd.uscourts.gov, and that service on both the United States and the defendant Roger J. Stone will be accomplished by email to counsel.


Can a represented “party” do that—serve a document by e-mail—and, thereby, avoid the federal courts’ electronic CM/ECF filing system?


As to substance, Paragraph 5 of the motion states:

5. This motion and the proposed brief are timely. Although “there is no rule of Federal Criminal Procedure that permits non-parties to join the proceedings to put their two cents in,” Minute Order (Mar. 15, 2019), this motion is filed just one day after the Court’s deadline for submission of the Executive Grant of Clemency that is the subject of the proposed amicus brief.
Here is what the Court’s March 15, 2019 minute order states:

The movant and other interested onlookers should be aware that, as the Court has emphasized on multiple occasions already, there is no rule of Federal Criminal Procedure that permits non-parties to join the proceedings to put their two cents in, or to intervene and file motions on the defendant's behalf. Leave to file any future pleadings submitted by this movant will be denied. Signed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 3/15/19.
Id. (emphasis added).

Does Mr. Fein expect that there is some reasonable likelihood that his motion will be granted? Or is this filing just a media event and fund-raising opportunity for his organization?

Here is a link to the brief.  <link>.

Seth


Seth Barrett Tillman, An “Amicus” filing in the Roger Stone matter …, New Reform Club (July 16, 2020, 3:01 PM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/07/an-amicus-filing-in-roger-stone-matter.html>;


UPDATE: On July 17, 2020, the Clerk of the Court (DDC) filed this motion on the docket. See <https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.203583/gov.uscourts.dcd.203583.396.0_3.pdf>. It does not appear that the Court has ruled on the merits of the motion for leave to file the proposed amicus brief.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

BARI TONES AND TENORS

Ah, the Bari Weiss resignation letter, eh? Quite a tone and tenor to that letter, hiding in plain sight at bariweiss.com. There's a story, what? Something about a dearth of diversity (flat dearth society?) in points of view at The New York Times.



I think that is absurd... after all, the NYT was the first bastion of Holocaust denial. That is not only diverse, it's da vorst! And wasn't it just yesterday The Times let A.M. Rosenthal slyly argue for Bill Clinton's impeachment and removal in favor of Al Gore?

Well, that's all for me... when the mighty fall, the flighty go to the mall!

Monday, July 13, 2020

KELLY PRESTON, RIP

In For The Love Of The Game, Kelly Preston uttered this immortal line to Kevin Costner: "You can win or lose the game all by yourself. You don't need me!"




Thank you, Kelly, for reminding us that we do need you, but you can only help us once we realize that we do. Your smile made us whole and you leave us more than we were when you came, but less than we were yesterday. Go in peace, back to Heaven which sent you to us as a precious gift. As for us, we can only mope... and rent Holy Man one more time!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Extract from ‘Politico’


Josh Gerstein, Trump poised to run out political clock on emoluments suits, Politico (July 9, 2020, 11:34 PM EDT), <https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/09/trump-emoluments-suits-355787>:

One legal expert who has submitted amicus briefs challenging the legal theory behind the suits faulted all sides in the litigation and the courts for allowing the cases to drag out for years.


‘The attorneys general [for Maryland and DC] filed their case 5 months after [the] parallel Foreign Emoluments Clause action in a federal court in New York ... They never sought a preliminary injunction, which would have been likely to push the litigation forward on an expedited schedule,’ said Seth [Barrett] Tillman, a lecturer in law at Ireland’s Maynooth University. ‘Their complaining about delay, at best, shows a lack of introspection.’

FYI: Tillman’s original e-mail to the Josh Gerstein, reporter:

It is a bit much for plaintiffs, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, to “complain about the continued delays in the case.” They have caused delay in this litigation from the beginning. The Attorneys General filed their case 5 months after plaintiffs filed a parallel Foreign Emoluments Clause action in a federal court in New York. 

Then, 8 months later, they filed an amended complaint. They never sought a preliminary injunction, which would have been likely to push the litigation forward on an expedited schedule. They initially brought this action against the President exclusively in his official capacity, but later, they added a claim against the President as an individual—they then litigated this latter claim—and, afterwards, they sought to drop this claim. During this entire time, the Attorneys General action was paid for by the taxpayer, but the President was paying for his own defense out-of-pocket, and then, after they litigated this claim, they dropped their claim against the President—all without a word of explanation to the press or public.

Finally, they consistently filed their papers on the due dates, as opposed to in advance of the due dates—again, doing absolutely nothing to move this litigation forward expeditiously. Their complaining about delay, at best, shows a lack of introspection.

Seth Barrett Tillman, Extract from ‘Politico,’ New Reform Club (July 10, 2020, 1:22 PM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/07/extract-from-politico.html> (quoting Tillmans e-mail to Gerstein);






Herb London, RIP

[NRC welcomes back our blogbrother Jay Homnick and his notes on the passing of founding blogbrother Herb London two years ago.—Ed.]

Well, my youngest son turned 18 on July 9, so the only dependents I have left are co-dependents. But as years tick by, the losses mount up alongside the gains.


Back when Herb London and I were both regulars here, we had never met each other in person. Eventually we not only met but shared some lovely times, after he invited me to be a Senior Fellow at his London Center for Policy Research, the rare think tank where folks a) think and b) are not in the tank for anybody.



Herb was among the last of the old school of independent thinkers in New York City, like Norman Podhoretz, who eulogized him beautifully at his funeral.

Attending the funeral cost me a Manhattan parking ticket for $125, money well spent. Herb the singer with a Top Ten single, Herb the college basketball player, Herb the political gadfly, Herb the public intellectual were all celebrated, alongside Herb the husband and Herb the father of three remarkable daughters. (Plus I got to schmooze with Ann Coulter for the first time.)

His wife Vickie continues to helm the Board of the think tank, along with a cast of public-spirited characters like actor Tony LoBianco and his wife. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, best-selling author and Fox commentator, is the President. Our big project right now is creating an Accountability Project to push back against abusive prosecutions by the Justice Department.

Herb, the Reform Club lives! I hope you are smiling down at us from Heaven...




Thursday, July 09, 2020

Dear NFL: Sure, but what about the White National Anthem?

The NFL is considering opening the season with what the NAACP designated in 1919 as the "Black National Anthem," a spiritual called "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

In the current environment, anything remotely associated with race is a political statement, so some wags, reactionaries, and assorted social commentators have not unfairly asked whether a "white national anthem" shouldn't be played as well.

But there is no white national anthem! is the retort. Well, of course there is, at least unofficially--and I say the answer to music is more music. Music is the universal language, and the brother hears it just fine. Go for it, America! You have nothing to lose but your blues!



Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but ...

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks
What does a people do with monuments from a fallen state? And, whose business is it?

On the one hand, monuments are a part of history, and in general we seek to preserve history for its own sake. On the other hand, we also should not like to elevate bits of history that we find repugnant. So a common suggestion is that monuments be placed in a museum.

The people of Bulgaria have had occasion to consider this suggestion. Bulgaria's communist government fell shortly after the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union. Bulgaria is littered with communist-era statues, many commemorating Soviet soldiers and leaders, as well as Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Understandably, many Bulgarians strongly prefer not to honor the violence and horror of communism by keeping these statues in the public space. But they would also not erase their history, even such a dark chapter of it. Perhaps, then, they may be put away in a museum?

Yet here are the perspectives of two Bulgarians about their monuments:
"What kind of museum? Who are going to be the curators? Who are going to be the people who collect the memorabilia or artifacts and how are they going to present them? Because those people are ashamed of their own past. How are they going to put something in a museum?"
("Buzludzha: A crumbling reminder of communism," The Economist (Oct. 20, 2014) at 3:50 (available at https://youtu.be/62Qvp4y031k.)
"I don't think that people should be ashamed of anything related to its history because that's the meaning of history. We should learn it, and if it was a mistake or something, we should make sure that we don't repeat the mistake. So maybe it could stay there as a monument of the shame of our past, but in order to make us think better about the future."
(Id. at 4:20.)

I am inclined to adopt the perspectives of these Bulgarians, coming, as they are, from people whose ears are still trained to hear the foul notes of totalitarianism. Monuments are interactive history. In a museum, they are merely an exhibit -- static, dead. In a short time I expect with a virtual-reality headset one will be able to get the same experience by browsing the exhibit on Wikipedia. A monument is different from an exhibit. A monument shares a people's space. They pass it on the way to work. They pass it on the way to school. They might meet friends at a monument. That may protest a monument -- or celebrate it. Detractors might scrawl on a monument. Supporters may knock the scribblers down. And people might decide to dress up the monuments. Through these joint activities, a monument takes on new meaning, and its history merges into the present. A people finds a way to bring past values it abhors up to date with present values, without erasing its history, or losing its identity. Only by conserving one's past is progress possible.


Other people, living far away, even in different countries, may have an opinion on another people's monuments. For example, Bulgarians in Sofia apparently enjoy painting and dressing up the Monument of the Soviet Army for different occasions. After one such incident, Russia tendered a stern statement to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, issuing a "demand for taking measures to prevent such incidents in the future." Russia's wish, obviously, is to impose its view of monuments in Bulgaria upon the Bulgarian people who live with the monuments. Perhaps the treatment of the Sofia monument is vulgar. But that's nobody's business but the Bulgars'.

Here in the U.S., some House Democrats released a funding bill that calls for the removal of any statues “depicting any individuals who served as members of the Confederacy” or of “military forces of a State against the United States.” These statutes are predominantly in southern states. The House Appropriations Committee that released this bill is headed by a representative from New York, and only a very small minority of the Democratic membership are from southern states.

Like Russia's pronunciamento in Bulgaria, these House Democrats wish to impose their view of southern monuments upon southern people who live with the monuments.

In response, the White House released this statement:
“These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal. They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten. These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our Nation."
The White House response is very Bulgarian in outlook. I am inclined to think that is a good outlook to have when it comes to monuments.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Wilt thou break this statue because it is not wholly composed of gold and diamonds?


Voltaire tells how an angel sent Babouc to report on whether the city of Persepolis should be destroyed; Babouc goes, and is horrified with the vices he discovers; but after a time “he began to grow fond of a city the inhabitants of which were polite, affable and beneficent, though they were fickle, slanderous and vain. He was much afraid that Persepolis would be condemned. He was even afraid to give in his account. This he did, however, in the following manner. He caused a little statue, composed of different metals, of earth and of stones (the most precious and the most vile) to be cast by one of the best founders of the city, and carried it to the angel. ‘Wilt thou break, said he, ‘this pretty statue because it is not wholly composed of gold and diamonds?' The angel resolved to think no more of destroying Persepolis, but to leave “the world as it goes.” After all, when one tries to change institutions without having changed the nature of men, that unchanged nature will soon resurrect those institutions.
Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers (1926).

We must try our level best to understand our history, including -- perhaps even especially -- its ugly moments. We must not let the good deeds blind us to the bad. But neither should the bad deeds of some of our forebears blot out the good and even great deeds of others. A statute, though a mere hulk of rock or metal pulled from the earth's crust, masquerades as a patient philosopher, a heroic soldier, a noble leader. Does the statue, then, pretending at more than it is, tell a lie?

Surely not. We wring the good from base and ordinary things, even vile things. Neither the world nor we its inhabitants are composed of gold and diamonds only, but of things base, and ordinary, and even vile, yet mixed in with something precious. That which is precious is small in amount. And we may wish for more. But history shows we are not likely to get it.

Shall we break, the establishment media and politicians ask us, these pretty statutes because they are not wholly composed of gold and diamonds?

No, must be our response. We will not let you break them.


Saturday, July 04, 2020

Renewing the Pledge

A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.
—G.K. Chesterton

A man learns to love his country who has learned to love his family. A man cares for his family first—and not because of strong feeling merely, but because he has sworn an oath to God and his neighbors to stand by his bride, and to protect, with his very life, the offspring of their union. And to those before whom he swore the oath, he owes also a special duty to protect them from such harm that it is in his control to avoid. For these, a man's first, tiny platoons, he has fought and won heroic victories. In memory of these victories, and of his fallen brothers, he has erected monuments, and taught his children to remember them and to honor them.

Chief among these monuments is the flag under which they fought, and died. The flag is a symbol of first loyalties. A man will fight and even die for his own country, but he owes no supererogatory duty to equate the interests of foreigners with those he is sworn and bound to protect. The world is God's charge, not man's, who, frail and impotent, is charged instead with the modest task to care for those around him. For he who will not be satisfied with saving less than the whole world, would make himself God—and in so doing would he not only defy the creator of the world, but would commit acts of treachery against his fellow man: by casting those in his charge out of their homes, away from their friends, and into strange lands who know them not.

No man learns to fight and die for his country from some head of state. If ever such a thing has happened in history, it was an unnatural thing. For no one ought to persuade anyone to fight and die, for any country or for any person. Yet, one who is not willing to fight and die for his own country is a refugee; one who would not die for his family is an orphan. It is in the fortress of the family, and through campaigns with friends, that one learns the parent of all virtues, which is love. For greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. He who loves, fights.

And so it has come to pass that those who detest fighting, detest love also.

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans, my friends!


Friday, July 03, 2020

Franklin Roosevelt addresses a nation on the verge of a great war


"There is, moreover, another enemy at home. That enemy is the mean and petty spirit that mocks at ideals, sneers at sacrifice and pretends the American people can live by bread alone. If the spirit of God is not in us, and if we will not prepare to give all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our own land, we shall go to destruction."

FDR, September 2, 1940 at the Dedication Ceremony of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Cap, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park dedicated in 1940 | Raleigh ...