Thursday, November 28, 2019

Stoics and the Divine

In the 16th and 17th Centuries more humanist thinkers blended the Christian tenets with Stoicism. And the principle reason for this had to do with the Stoic idea of a natural order, or what they sometimes called Divine Reason. My own argument would be that the natural order or Divine Reason are expressions that simply attempt to explain those parts of our world over which we as individuals have less, or no control and where we feel most unsafe. Take for example the more ancient idea of The Fates. On the one hand they were three Goddesses who weaved our individual destiny, and to give a narrative of hope, each Goddess had different personalities ranging from nice to nasty. Each Goddess had a name and no doubt far too often the nicer Goddess got lots and lots of presents on her special day, which really pissed off the nastier Goddess who only very rarely got a present for being particularly unpleasant to someone every one hated. On the other hand The Fates in mythology were much less motivated, they were three angry blind men, dour as aging gardeners in the shorter days, randomly hacking away at the invisible strands that determine our destiny, a brutal but necessary business. In this respect for Stoics it was Knowledge that supplied us with the necessary armor to protect us from reacting poorly to the shears of the blind men or the moods of the weavers. Then, when Divine Reason becomes an Almighty Creator, an all knowing entity, and often he or she passeth our understanding, a problem arises. Is Nature fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. Difficult to tell. One answer has always been an iteration of good battling evil which reaches a zenith of absurdity with "Good Guys with Guns, Bad Guys with Guns." From other branches of understanding there's Survival of the Fittest.

By the end of the 20th Century, in what's called Modern Stoicism, the Ancient idea of Divine Reason was modified so as to better fit the templates of thinking, or the conceptual frameworks, of recent times. In terms of Knowledge, a great deal has happened in the last 2500 odd years, just look around, yet how to maintain emotional balance when confronted by that over which we have no control remains a singular preoccupation in just the same way as it always has. Modern Stoicism seeks a clearer understanding of the nature of Divine Reason in scientific areas such as cognition, psychology and so on. These are areas where the language used is the language of science. In other words The Fates as weavers of destinies, or The Fates as bad tempered blind men, might well be up there somewhere, but they are interpreted not through the Knowledge of myth, but through a Knowledge built around how our minds physically interact with our daily life. It's also the case that very often from these recent explorations of mind it emerges that we people are motivated to find a meaning in life, without which we are more prone to an unhappiness, frustration or whatever. Worth noting it's not The Meaning, it's A Meaning. And here you can never really get away from that ancient prophet who fortunate enough to find himself in conversation with his God, asked "What are you. what shall I call you?" Clearly not a question God had ever been asked before. On that occasion God was a Stoic, his most unsatisfactory reply was, "I am THAT I am." And you can kind of see in the Divine answer a Being in Progress, a going somewhere, who knows where, trust me, even though I'm eternal, I'm as adrift as everyone else, so just get over yourself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Stoics

There's an increased interest in the Schools of Stoicism. Interesting also is the extent to which Rand's version of Objectivism is using this new interest in Stoicism to promote their own incredibly depressing ideas, and as a rule with Rand's objectivists they basically spend more time attempting to monetize their almost Satanist template of thinking than they do actually thinking about their understanding with any degree of objectivity. Stoicism is about how a person manages his or her relationship with the world in conjunction with a declaration about Good and Bad. For Stoics Knowledge was the ultimate virtue, as opposed to something like self centeredness, or wealth, or health, or festive spirit. And with this virtue of Knowledge in mind, a Stoic was in a position to react wisely in his or her development of a relationship with nature, which 2500 years ago was thought of in terms of the order of things and was sometimes called Divine Reason.

Back then too, the Natural Order, or Divine Reason, were Fate, Providence, circumstance of birth and such. The sorts of things we people in our daily lives have less control over and get very stressed about. Invariably the more evangelistic in out midst see Stoicism as a more deterministic set of beliefs that result in a kind of fatalism. This criticism is in my view way off the mark, and I say this because a person's relationship with the world is an entirely personal relationship, and furthermore a person's relationship with the world is unique to each individual. In short, a Stoic is one who wisely adapts their will to the world, as opposed to endeavoring to adapt the world to their will, and they do this on the understanding that Knowledge in all its manifestation is the ultimate good. This, their argument goes, produces a balance in the passions that Stoics reckon results in a lasting happiness well worth pursuing. In all the categories and theories of Knowledge one theme remains constant. This theme is,  understandings based on Facts gleaned from experience and learning.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Iscariot

 It was the man from Iscariot who betrayed the embodiment of his meaning in life. Secure in their oath, they all said they never would.

Wonder if Stone will falter or feel betrayed by the understanding that the purpose of his meaning is no longer. When that happens we search for new meaning.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Not Bad for Once

Have to think the Founding Fathers are thinking seriously about celebrating, inviting a few friends, bring a bottle type thing. A bunch of old soldiers now, they'll grunt approvingly or jeer at the mention of this or that elected representative. Franklin, my own favorite, visiting London England he didn't drink the beer, instead for liquids, he wander up the Thames River to where London City's effluent had yet to contaminate the drinking water. Today the great man might even by flying a celebratory kite.

And your correspondent is also more positive in his appraisal of his fellow citizens. His own celebratory kite is a release from the mind of a shackle that's prevented him from contemplating The Rabbit of Usk ever since you know when. Mind you whether the Jordan River has been crossed still remains to be seen. But it's the little things that count, as Dewi Sant was fond of telling his parishioners. He was a short man, unassuming, gentle of heart, a definite nerd in many respects, and poof he became Patron Saint of Wales.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Public Trials

Big day for our struggling Republic. Wind chill, technical issues and snow blindness, so not sure what might be happening in the Halls of Power. Possible of course there'll be the beginnings of an orderly and sensible discussion around whether our president has behaved in a disgraceful and disgusting manner and should be removed from high office, marched to the scaffold, make it a TV Spectacular, have little boys throw rotten eggs at him, sell tee-shirts and beaky hats. The scene reminds me a little of the 12 formative years I spent within the boundaries of English Boarding schools, which were about as far from a Republic as you can get, inspired as they were by the Spartan's treatment of their own youth, who at the age of seven were forced from their homes, out into the world, where they were to fend for themselves through brigandage and theft. A character building exercise apparently, a sorting of the political chaff, I guess. Speaking of which, kind of hoping to again witness a little chaff sorting, but you kind of need your own backbone to do that, none of this what do the polls say nonsense.

Back in the formative years we too had our factions and we had a few totally inadequate high office holders, Head of House they were called, horribly obnoxious spotty faced, entitled delinquents, one of whom wore a cravat at the supper table. We on the lower tables had a visceral reaction to this particular Head of House, his every word and movement, and the prime object of our lives was through acts of aggravation that made his life a living hell, he was big on what was called Dumb Insolence, not saying anything but looking at him funny, the punishment for which was three days calling. You got up, you had cold bath, you dressed, you reported your presence for inspection to him as he lay in bed and you had to do that three times. Tie out of place, and whoop another days calling, your correspondent has seven days straight in his permanent record. The Head of House was found one early day light savings morning beating his own bloody head against the bathroom mirror, it was self centered and very thoughtless of him to get so worked up about his exams, make such a mess of the bathroom just before breakfast. He disappeared from our midst, and much grumbling as it took around two weeks for our House Master to get our mirror replaced. The Assistant Head Boy was promoted and for the rest of that year you could smoke in the toilets whenever you damn well wanted to and some of us, to test the new boundaries, started walking around with our hands in our pockets.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Tapestry

In every possible configuration of a society there are flaws, many of them unseen, unpredicted and invariably those flaws set the scene for a societal change of some sort. What might be called Modernists reckoned it was possible to do something about those flaws, and when you're talking Modernists you're really talking from the Age of Reason to not so long ago. Modernists have an understanding of truth, it's got a capital T and it's out there even if it might be just beyond grasping in an absolute and certain way.

Post Modernists agree with this, but for Post Modernists one of the flaws in society was the capacity of powerful interests to control how truth was perceived. Indeed it wasn't the Post Modernists that caused the current conundrums, rather, from Tobacco is Good for You all the way to Climate Hoax their suspicion around the motivations of sources of information is demonstrably justified. Short term, the whole thing's a sort of basic hedonistic idiocracy stumbling toward extinction, but long term we learn our painful lessons. Small comfort it's all part of the tapestry.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Winter

Your correspondent will not be waxing on about the the many flaws in the design of our species, certainly won't mention the tragedy of not having been blessed with a capacity to hibernate through the shorter and more pointless days.

And the reason he won't be suggesting that a couple of months of total absence from consciousness might benefit us all in unimaginably wonderful ways, everyone gone for a bit, "Have a Happy Hibernation" cards, balloons and so on, is because, apparently, it's a boring subject.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Customer Relations

Gormenghast has changed a little, and the reason it's changed a little is because I have no memory of what I was planning for N-Scale this winter. I have stared at the project, but not actually touched it yet, so it's a confusing time and the last thing you really want to hear from a Telephone linesman is that the frigid temperatures and horrible little wind in the outdoors suits him fine. "Perfect Weather," he called it. I did raise an eyebrow, and he explained "I'm big." It's not the telephone line I tried to be helpful, "so no need to spend the next seven days looking for a fault in the line," and I went on about flashing modem lights, and how traditionally the modem at this end of the telephone line continually dropped if the speed of electronic packets being blasted down the line was too fast, the delicate system couldn't take it and neither could I, the whole streaming movies thing was a total waste, and anyone who played games on line had something seriously wrong with them, when all a person really asks from his internet connection is that it doesn't have the electronic equivalent of a nervous breakdown every ten minutes...

In the back of my mind as I rambled on, I was very aware of my own cruel experiences of the customer class, yet I seemed quite incapable of reining myself in. Poor chap must have been warned, "You want it slowed down?" "Yes please," I replied and off he went. In the aftermath of the exchange I thought back to the years I spent delivering milk to door steps. When new management arrived to boost our productivity, all kinds of absurd enthusiasms, like glossy pamphlets offering door step delivery of eggs, cheese, bacon, something called yogurt, one of our number who'd grown up in the coal valleys, a card carrying member of the communist party and our union representative called a meeting. "Kapital doesn't know the job," he said. "Gets this Bee up it's trouser leg, and you just got to let the Bee run it's course. I can't do it because, you know why, but you can." And he pointed at innocent me. I had the Cogan run, poorest part of the city, row houses, front door steps. And indeed absolutely no one in their right mind in the early hours of the morning would have left six eggs, or even a yogurt, on the door step of a house in Cogan. That month our Milk Yard won a great victory, sales were up, receipts were way down. "What can I do?" I explained. "Customers say it keeps getting stolen." And our lives quickly got back to normal

Friday, November 8, 2019

Greater Good

Given the current circumstances, well worth recalling Plato's contributions to public discourse. One of the things we snowflakes have to remember is that we people have been at this for a very long time and one of the things we have learned is that Onions don't grow on trees. And it's true, as you age, and forced to experience something like the dawn of a new fascist state, you acquire a new appreciation of those thinkers you might once have big time sneered at. Plato reckoned that we people in the majority were good at dreaming, we had all sorts of ideas, and when someone came along who promised us the earth we were prone to believing them even if what they promised was almost absurd. And indeed Plato's ideal state was not the chaos of democracy but a Good Tyrant. As well, Plato was well aware that Good Tyrants were very few and very far between, and in the meanwhile recovering from a Bad Tyrant could take generations of thunder and lightening.

What Plato wanted was wisdom in our political leaders. Wisdom is fundamentally an understanding of past, present and future as it is, not what you'd like it to be. Plato's experience of the public square was many bad ideas followed by very few good ideas, and all of them contributing to mostly unsatisfactory and half baked solutions. What was needed, he argued. was a system that plucked the more studious minds from the populace and gave them the opportunity to study the realities of what was known about us people and from these People of Gold the ruling class would be chosen. And even today, you can see the sharp distinction between those who have obedience to the Constitution of the USA, they took their oath and role in society seriously, and those for whom maintaining personal power and privilege could well be more important than the greater good of the three hundred and sixty odd million people who make up these here United States.  In the end Socrates was the wisest of men because he freely admitted without others he didn't know anything.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The New Governor

 In the latter part of the 18th Century, which is like the 1700's, 1776 and all that, the British had a Prime Minister who came to be called Pitt the Elder. Pitt the Elder was a strong Prime Minister, who held the always quarreling Parliament together through the power of his oratory and his capacity to debate. Pitt the Elder was followed by his son, who came to be called Pitt the Younger. And Pitt the Younger has, if you like the idea of a colonial empire, been deemed a very, very fine Prime Minister indeed. I mention this to remind myself that not always do the offspring of those born to or who climb the slippery pole fall to a sort of pointless, nepotistic and corrupt existence. Here in Kentucky, the new governor elect if he survives the challenges to his election by a majority of the vote, is a man called Andy Beshear. His father Steve Beshear served as Governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015.

One of the things about the more conservative mind, is its relationship to that Old Testament rabble rouser Ezekiel, I guess. He was asked "Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?" These days everyone knows that the son should be innocent until proved guilty, it's the only decent and Christian thing to do. Yet far too often we people find it difficult to be decent. And indeed in these parts we're all frightfully decent, yet woe unto he who trusts, let's call them the Pudesduckles, because it's a well known fact that all Pudesduckles are thieves, brigands, bandits and adulterers. Same thing with the "virtues of the father." Andy Beshear, his father was deemed a good and popular governor, an upright and respectable man, he served two, four year terms as Governor and might very well have been elected to serve a third term had State Law allowed it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Governor

One of the things about our hopefully soon to be ex-governor here in the State of Kentucky is that he's a truly unpleasant person, his qualities Skunk and Porcupine. We're talking rude, mean, selfish, totally uncouth in an entirely charmless way and a classic so called successful businessman from New Hampshire.

 All very well for something like firing factory workers without turning a hair, ripping-off contractors and so on, but none of them qualities one should really look for in a high political officer where a degree or two of prescience is a necessary quality for leadership. Otherwise you got yourself just another loudmouth know it all. Two a penny in the political class at the moment.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Woolly Preludes to Winter Projects

The problem with winter projects is you forget where you are. The result, you just sit there wandering around looking at things, your mind still in the vegetable garden, your research becomes an endless hunt for some kind of miracle that will enable a Daikon Radish winter ground cover to survive a rather dramatic cold spell you might not have fully anticipated. To achieve a good deep root growth a Daikon Radish needs getting on sixty days of warmish weather. Then you have to cast through the notes in a vain attempt to determine how long it might be since the Daikon Radish germinated, which it did in a most willful and enthusiastic manner.

Round here if you plant something like a Daikon Radish, or even a Turnip, too early what you get is nesting ground for extraordinarily well fed Stinkbugs, and every pest associated with Cabbage type vegetables that you can possible imagine. In the accumulation of years there was only one year when I got the Turnip planted at just the right time to survive molestation by, shall we just get it over with and call them the Freedom Caucus Republicans of the Insect Kingdom. Nor can I say that I haven't tried very hard to avoid current events. Either way if the ground covers fall foul of anything at all, I know who to blame, and I guess like so many others I've got that to look forward to.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Readying for the Shorter Days

The prospect of cleaning the room which for some reason I call mine is kind of like everything about the shorter days summed into one horrible nightmare. Has to be done, otherwise moving around becomes a little dicey. And once embarked upon the chore isn't too bad, the odd excitement, and inevitably the mind does wander, a worker gets himself briefly sidetracked, a Red Squirrel revere, then pulls himself together and proceeds along the path to removing the summer incumbent all nice and ready for what may or may not turn into winter of studious, useful and constructive activates.

Something comfortable about the word in incumbent, it comes from bearer, a responsibility, but which ever way you look at it, it's basically a burden, which pretty much sums up the current incumbent. Imagine moving that one out. There'd certainly be an ick factor, a sort of goo on the carpets, a slime, pretty much throw away the antimacassars. But no doubt in that venue the new incumbent, the diligent winter projects incumbent, will not themselves have to do the hands and knees shirtsleeve work, nor struggle with a vacuum cleaner cord, wrestle with bedding, even if an exorcist might eventually have to called in from Rome.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Orderly Transition of Power

One of the issues for Kings was the huge problem of what happened after the King died. Too often the transition to a new King was endless warfare. One solution was the eldest son. And the authority for this was in the doctrine of the divine right of kings, which often worked so long as the eldest son was generally deemed legitimate, and in the high ends of aristocracies there was whole breeding program, which over the years got more and more complex, occasionally producing a few somewhat unstable personalities, or congenital idiots if you prefer. For example the Austro-Hungarians did reckon the oldest male offspring of a king or prince who erred by marrying a commoner wasn't really entitled to come under the category of the Divine Right of kings, royalty-wise his eldest son had no chance of being anything remotely divinely ordained. A Royal Hapsburg who chose a non-registered woman to marry wasn't really allowed to be seen in public with her, unless the event was military related. Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, of First World War fame, had married an unregistered woman, she was also killed in the Sarajevo assassination. That visit to the provinces was considered a military matter, which was why the Arch Duke's wife had the misfortune to be there.

The Acholi people in Eastern Africa had the same sort of problems when their Paramount Chief started getting doddery. Who would take his place when he died, and how best to make the transition to a new Paramount Chief with as little public trauma as possible. Their solution was in my view rather brilliant, it covered all bases and worked pretty well. The close advisors to the Chief would generally inform the populace that the old man was on his way out, which meant all the kings male children would begin to try and kill each other. They didn't get into the equivalent of a Roman Arena and make a spectator sport of it. Instead the male children would go off into the wilder places, gather their supporters, all of whom would be promised easy work in return for loyalty and through a combination of bloody violence, traditional megalomaniacal political ambition and clever political maneuvering the Paramount Chief in waiting would emerge, so that when their father died, there'd be no debate around the transition of power. Most Acholi never had to get involved, they went about their day as though nothing was happening.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Justinian and Sporting Events

One of the Eastern Roman Emperors called Justinian the First got himself into terrible trouble following a chariot race, which in those days was a sporting event. The two teams were called The Blues and The Greens. Supporters of each team got totally carried away, and on this festive and often bloody occasion there was already disgruntlement within the Eastern Empire about the new legal code which had caused particular outrage within the populace for new rules around enforcing the tax code. One thing led to another and soon enough the city was burning, it was all the emperors fault, and rioters were preparing to install a new and more understanding Emperor.

In history the event is referred to as the Nika Riots. And while rioters were getting ready to declare a new emperor, never an easy thing to do, just far too many opinions, Justinian decided he was going to quietly leave the city and leave them all to it. It was his wife who put her foot down, she was rather fond of being an empress, she told him to man up gather his soldiers, who cost the empire a fortune to maintain, go in there and behave like an emperor instead of messing around like a gentle legal scholar obsessing on getting a grip on the empire's finances, and reforming the legal system so that it better reflected the fifth century and whole bunch of artsy-artsy stuff. Justinian decided to follow his wife's advice, and lo he's remembered in history as Justinian The Great, one of the best. Either way, however traditional it might be it's a sad day when it's down to a sporting event to determine the direction of a Nation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Myth Makers

Tolkien finished the Lord of the Rings after the second world war. The Hobbit was finished before the second world war. He was an academic man, his area of study included Anglo Saxon, and knew a whole lot about the Norse Sagas, and one of the things that really got on his nerves was the use to which the Norse Saga's had been put by the myth makers of Hitler's Germany as they went about building an account of the Aryan super race that was wholly entitled to rule the world in any way they chose to.

Inevitably people have read a great deal into Tolkien's work. By one interpretation the Lord of the Rings was about Stalin, which was another thing that got on Tolkien's nerves. He wasn't a big fan of Stalin by the Lord of the Rings had absolutely nothing to do with Stalin. It was a sequel to the Hobbit, which he'd written for his children and which had become popular with the wider society, grownups and children. And indeed today when devious people are looking around for myths to support particularly odious political positions it's as well we have academics.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dictators at War

Hitler had an uncomfortable suspicion about his regular army military leaders. He'd been a corporal in the army, he'd been homeless after the war and he was Austrian. German regular army military leaders were wealthy Prussian aristocrats many of whom had a long family tradition of military service an esprit that considered war the highest calling. So on the one hand Hitler kind of felt in awe of them and on the other hand he felt inferior to them, not feeling good enough is an awkward combination of emotions for one prone to paranoia which results in a ludicrous contrariness that you don't really want to find in commander in chief. One characteristic of the Prussian military was the extent to which they held fast to the idea that will, and often will alone, won battles. As a result they kind of thought themselves as far too important to concern themselves with the logistics of military operations, that work was the responsibility of someone else. It was combination of hubris and arrogance they had.

Nonetheless throughout the second world war the Prussian military leaders did what was asked of them by their dear leader, even though many of their dear leader's decisions were, shall we say very flawed. This obedience was to the German state as personified by Hitler, and while some military leaders had severe doubts, very few did anything about those doubts, they carried on even though by around 1943 they knew that ultimate victory, or victory of any kind at all, was no loner possible and they knew their commander in chief had devolved, lost his genius or whatever. So mental balance was more a question of reverting to will, hubris and arrogance in military matters and especially so when the commander in chief was less and less receptive to differing opinions. In prison, after the war, the conversations of captured high end Prussian officers were secretly recorded. "......and we ended up no better than shoe-shine boys."

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ladybirds' Flock

Not much joy this time of year, the festive season  has sent out its half baked circus clowns, fluffy things, and glitter, its prefecture no longer trouble themselves with subtlety of invitations, they just polish their sabers, drag out the same old "You Will Have Fun," and you know damn well that years ago Jesus stopped inviting the totally out of touch bubble dwelling Magi to his birthday party. Can't wait for the peace and mental tranquility of the second week in January, yet moments of wonder remain and today the Ladybirds flocked, a mass of them, some of whom will find their way to the room where I sleep and there we'll share hours quarreling around the glue pot, getting all excited when the bedside light is turned on, yarning around the victories and defeats in the 2019 vegetable garden and generally reacquainting ourselves with the sense of community that is winter projects.

And this year the person part of the relationship has what he hopes is a Ladybird proof keyboard, so there'll be non of this idling away the winter in puerile entertainments such as sending in the weaker minds to jam up the F key and blaming it on the users careless eating habits at his lunch time. Sticky stuff peanut butter, but so is Ladybird goo, and if in doubt, I'll take the back of the keyboard off and fair warning if it's not peanut butter, then out comes the vacuum cleaner, which none of us like, especially the Girl Cat who struggles with some kind of delirium tremens at the very sight of it. Must have been something in her kitten-hood, just wish to goodness her traumatic reaction to the idea of a vacuum cleaner included an equally adverse reaction to the idea of biting the heads off rodents, but it doesn't. '

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Meaning, Probabilities, Possibilities and the Slope

It was from within the ranks of the existentialists in their attempt to get a sense of what consciousness might be, there emerged the idea that we people as possessors of consciousness are creatures that make meaning. Creative Is, we can't help ourselves, things out there have to make sense, and the processes by which those things makes sense don't have to reflect anything that might be real. As well in the 1960's from these same ranks there emerged the idea of possibilities, that we people look for possibilities. Oddly the quantum computer is not based on the yes and no of the capacities within a device to switch on and off an electric charge and direct that charge at the speed of light through a series of logical steps, the conclusion to which can take several hours and upwards toward 10,000 years to achieve.

At the quantum level the variables are such that you're talking probability rather than therefore. This means that the logic produced by yes and no can be side stepped in favor of probability, rather than having to wander through all the possibilities before producing a conclusion of some sort, the result, the argument goes, is a device that can perform a calculation that might once have taken say ten years, can be done in seconds, or minutes. The issue is to determine the language of the internal dynamics of the quantum level which in many respects appears wholly random, a flood of possibilities. In his own understanding of consciousness your correspondent has struggle with a slope in the random place, and he's asserted that all matter has this slope, which means all matter contains consciousness. Oh sure, some collections of matter manipulate the slope, or speak quantum, better than others, we people are a fragile example.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Meritocracy, Egalitarianism and Meritorious

In the general theories about how we are and how we might improve, there are two ideas which often arise. One is Meritocracy and the other is Egalitarianism. They are in my view very distinct from each other. Easier to think of meritocracy as the idea that suggests a good society is built upon allowing everyone to have an even chance to rise in the social ranks through process of competing with each other. It's nice and it's pretty. And easier to think of egalitarianism as giving everyone a chance to do their best and be rewarded by society for doing their best. It's also nice and pretty. One of the problems with meritocracy is the extent to which the opportunity to rise to the top means a winner take all type competition, and to win individuals have to devoted themselves to the activities of winning to such a degree that much of the world and its wonder is lost to them as they crawl their way upwards. Whether it's meritorious or not, one result to society is elites that possess a blinkered single mindedness of purpose that trickles down, kind of like mustard gas.

So in a meritocracy everyone gets their chance, and the question is to do what? The answer to the question, is they get their chance to devote their being to a competition that rewards winners, and even in sporting activities you'll find that quite often winners will, shall we say cheat, which means in a good society, and I'll repeat that, in a good society, one that values uprightness and decency, they don't actually deserve to get to the top of their calling. One of the problems with egalitarianism is that by rewarding and valuing people for doing their best, there's always a suspicion that this or that person is only pretending to do their best and this is especially apparent  within the employment relationship, where employers have discovered that in the interest of profitability less powerful people can always be made to devote themselves more fully to particularly blinkered single mindedness of purpose or lose their value to society. Indeed, I'd argue that cream rises to the top, if it scratches and claws its way to the top it's not really cream.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Talking Points

Being just a tad on the obsessive side and on the verge of becoming a full blown conspiracy theorist your correspondent has begun to preen himself not so much upon what is said, but the patterns within the way it is said. Got a note book and everything. And in this very fast paced world, these patterns are easier to take notice of, they repeat more regularly, they kind of stick out. My assumption is that somewhere there is an organizing body, or a series of organizing bodies, that sends out a sort of positioning memo which essentially informs the receivers how to position themselves with respect to this or that issue rather than letting them decide. I believe these memos are called Talking Points. And you kind of know your reading a talking point in the utterances of the political class rather than that person's considered opinion, when a number of different people start using exactly the same short phrases. Currently, in the last couple of days, the underlined word in the memo seems to be "Process" which I can only assume means "Unfair." On the other side the longer lasting underlined word is "Sad," which I can only assume means "We got the bastard."

Meanwhile in all this there's a third source of memos that anyone remotely familiar with sources of information from the Kremlin will be familiar with, and yet the receivers charged with reinforcing the underlined words in the memos from this third source too often appear to also include surviving representatives of the White House. A Kremlin talking point is that Soviet invasion of Afghanistan proved to be too expensive. Not true, in ten years they were defeated by a loose leafed insurgency that included the Taliban and Al Qaeda funded by CIA and Pakistan. The Kremlin talking point that the Kurds in northern Syria and Southern Turkey are a bunch of terrorists depends a little on how you define terrorist. There are around 35 million Kurds, that's like the population of Tennessee down to Louisiana, 12 million have communities in Turkey,  and Turkey wants them thoroughly pacified. The former Kurdish allies of the US had attempted to create for themselves a democratic secular society as the mainspring of their cohesion, they were having some success, something both the Kremlin and Istanbul and Isis are very nervous around when it's anywhere near them. The Kremlin talking point that Ukraine interfered with the US 2016 election....and it just goes on.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Delusional

Feels like Monday, but it's Tuesday. The feels like part is a minor detail, so probably best not to insist that because it feels like Monday therefore it is Monday. Whatever your opinion of the calendar this should be clear.

Meanwhile the technical device has somehow ignored this wisdom and will continue to insist that it has it's existence in Central Time. I can either accept this, or throw the technical device out of the window.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Edging

Your gardener can't quite recall why he chose to dramatically increase the size of the accordion bed in the vegetable garden. The bed's an odd shape, so odd, its 16 degree angle along the fence side can grate the nerves of someone who might be burdened by the sort of anal retentive characteristics that cling to the solidity and solace that can be found in right angles. More likely the initial whimsical sunhat and secateurs impetus behind the decision began with a slight suggestion rather than anything well considered, and lo the spring was wound tight and out came the hand tools along with that devil's kiss "this should be fairly straight forward."

Nor did I fully appreciate the dogged workmanship that once came from me when installing edging. Clearly the accordion bed edging wasn't designed to be molested in any way, it was meant to stand in place through the sands of time and see its own way through the valley of the shadow of death. Which, when a gardener is irrationally wound up and determined to reuse the edging, means resorting to an array of iron bars, crowbars, post hole digging bars, levers, hammers and all the implements of torture are there, dust free and glittering from use. Epitaph-wise, a good chance we're talking "He died doing something in his garden, but no one could work out what."

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fall of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire had Administrative Units, political officials of which were chosen in Istanbul and who relied upon Istanbul for a good income, with pension and the kind of territorial protection that gave them authority and through this authority the officials were able to settle disputes through court systems. Some of those Administrative Units contained  denominations of Christians, Muslims and Jews. The mix of these different sets of beliefs varied from place to place, yet no matter the passions, it was generally reckoned that you didn't go up against the authority of Istanbul, because if you did you'd lose. The Ottoman Empire controlled Jerusalem and Mecca. To the East of Ottoman Turkey, was Iran and Russia, to the North East was Armenia. These eastern and northern Administrative Units were populated by Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds and in the Turkey part of the Ottoman Empire there were communities of Greeks.

When the Ottoman Empire fell the integrity of the eastern and northern Administrative Units where challenged by the Russian Empire, which was undergoing its own series of changes, and by movements within the Armenian, Assyrian and Kurdish communities which reacted to instability by giving serious consideration to the possibilities of living in an independent sates. Istanbul chose to prevent further deterioration to the integrity of its Eastern border. Playing one community against another had been a good long tradition. And when it came to the Armenians, Assyrians and Kurds, Istanbul with the help of the Kurds conducted a pogrom against the Assyrians, and rather than rewarding the Kurds, Istanbul turned its attention against the Kurds, who retreated into British controlled territories where the British had no intention of giving them a homeland. With respect to the Armenian communities, without much help from anyone Istanbul decided just to get rid of the Armenian and Greek communities on their North Eastern borders. Nations, as we all well know, don't like to admit to ever, ever having been responsible for a genocide.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Cracked Pot

A crack-up was an expression used in the early days of aviation to describe a plane crash. It was this sense of crack-up, of structural failure, that came to be used to describe mental break down. There you are flying your airplane and suddenly things aren't right. Kind of enjoy the relationship between a plane crash and a mind going nuts. In its origins the word crack is associated with a sharp sound, as in you can hear ice cracking. There's a use of the word crack that refers to a warm friendly chat, and there's a wise crack, "They crack me up!" There's a nut cracker, and it goes on. And the question: is there a crack in the Republican Party or is it something else? It's a question that appears regularly within the community of pundits.

Rather than mess with this hole finger in the dyke nonsense, my own view would suggest that the expression Crack-Pot sums what remains of the Republican Party nicely, and has done so for at east ten years. For those in doubt, a crack-pot is an expression that's used to describe an unstable person, as in "Don't have anything to do with him, he's a crack-pot!" It's also true that people will sometimes say "He's a lot of fun, he's a crack-pot!" It's an entertaining quality, a populist, but not for everyday. The point being that a crack-pot can suddenly go full blown crack-up, or it could struggle eccentrically on for year after year. The other thing about a cracked-pot, it has even less overall tensile strength than an un-cracked-pot. This means a tiny little tap on just the right spot, there's a terrible noise and everything stops because you got a kitchen floor to tidy up. Then the issue is whether or not the shards are worth gluing together again.

Friday, October 18, 2019

1001 and Ode to a Camel

"One Thousand and One cleans a big, big carpet in less than half an hour." It's from one of those jingles on an advert for cleaning products. Infuriating, it had a quality to it that caught hold of the ear, wormed its way into your frontal cortex and bounced around like an insane gymnast, or possibly a brain tumor. The fact that I can still remember the words of this jingle from the 1960's is a sure sign of just how much lasting damage has been done by the advertising industry to what few memory cells that remain to me. Oddly, yesterday was day 1001 of the current administration assuming power and paving the way for Putin-style oligarchy.

"They crouched by the arte-brakes, the hunters, and sort to win a safe prey, but she outran their shafts and pursuing hounds." It's not a product of a slimy back room boy in somewhere like Madison Avenue, it's a wonderful mind picture that comes from a translation of a 6th or 7th Century Arab love poem called An Ode to a Camel. And you have to wonder about whose side you're on, the hunters or the beautiful creature that outran them. My usual preference would be the beautiful creature that outran the hunters, off into the yonder. Inevitably there are debates around what a beautiful creature might be.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trails of the Abwehr

Military Intelligence is a discipline, and like all proud disciplines it does require dedication and training, and it's reputation is judged by it's relationship with informed perspectives that are supported by available evidence. Intelligence officers are like the scientists of weather forecasting, and woe unto he who relies on the Farmers Almanac. Abwehr is the German word for Defense. The Abwehr was the name for a military intelligence service formed in 1920 contrary to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty within the agreed to Reich Ministry that was to be solely devoted to military matters, a limited army, a very limited navy, and hardly any air force. In the 1930's political interests within the new Germany had a few secrets of their own, and in 1937 these political interests raided the offices of the Abwehr to destroy files that reflected a truth that might have damaged their own carefully crafted reputations. They assumed that the Abwehr was also political player in the developing political circumstances within Germany. It was a quality of intense distrust within the upper levels of the new German hierarchy many of whom were close to feral and equally as short-sighted as many appear to be here in the USA in the year 2019. And no accident that a dictator is or was their head of state.

What happened was this, Stalin and Hitler had a dictator head of state kind of relationship, it's a sort of  homo-erotic bro-mance only between power lusting boy Porcupines, and Hitler kindly offered Stalin information, that would be provided by his Abwehr, about suspect individuals within the Red Army's officer corps.  Stalin accepted, and Hitler uncertain of the loyalties within the German officer corps thought it best to keep his arrangement, or deal, with Stalin secret. The suspicion was that because of relationships that had developed between the German and Soviet officer corps toward the end of the First World War, German officers might warn their counterparts, who might then escape the labor camps. Stalin conducted a very successful purge of his officer corps, the result was a win for Hitler, the effectiveness and capacities of the Red Army was very badly damaged and it was a win for Stalin who was more interested in his own survival through absolute personal loyalty than he was in his country's military effectiveness. Meanwhile in Germany political interests were very nervous of the Abwehr's information gathering, and had no inclination to believe that the information within the Abwehr's possession wouldn't be used for personal political gain by the Chief of the Abwehr, who at the time believed that his country had done so badly in the First World War as a result of a failure in the mission of military intelligence. I think it was Nietzsche who added his voice to the view that with us people the same events twist on an axis, turn endlessly, nothing really changes.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tangled Webs, Ale Conners, Lord Marmion and Walter Scott

Not sure whether Bo Peep was a good or bad shepherd. Maybe shepherds lose their Sheep all the time, maybe it's just the less experienced shepherd who panics quickly when the odd Sheep goes missing, unaware that sooner or later they return to the fold dragging their tails behind them. A lot of disagreement around who Bo Peep might have been, and probably the truer understandings revolve around Victorian Nurseries rather than some long convoluted account that starts with Medieval Ale Conners who were charged with checking the quality of ale served by publicans, who being devious would employ youths to let them know when an Ale Conner was in the vicinity. These lookouts were called Bo Beeps. And I guess those who gave consideration to framing the occasional nursery rhyme thought Bo Peep kind of a neat name for a little girl shepherd, images of whom never suggest she was possessed of the Paleolithic character little boys tend towards. But best not to get too involved in the debate, let the passion pass into the distance, so that the mind might concentrate on one of Walter Scott's longer poems called Marmion, where the immortal words "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" were penned.  In the poem, Marmion was a lord, up there amongst the landed gentleman in the years prior to the Battle of Flodden, when a disagreement between English and Scottish interests met to settle a dispute. The year of the battle was 1513, and Scott's poem was published around 1808. Not sure how to describe any of Walter Scott's poems, but they're kind of ripping yarns if you don't take yourself too seriously, inclined to sneer at the "Sound of Music" but very much liked the musical South Pacific. "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair, and send him on his way." And that haunting song by Lieutenant Gable "You've go to be carefully taught."

Lord Marmion had a desire to increase his land holdings by seducing a very wealthy heiress called Clara de Clare. Oddly Lord Marmion plotted with his mistress Constance de Beverly to ruin the reputation of Clara de Clare's fiancée and the love of her life, a man called Sir Ralph de Wilton. You might wonder why Constance de Beverly, Marmion's mistress, would wish to assist Marmion. Well Constance was a nun who had slightly gone off the rails and she thought that by assisting Marmion she would get back into Marmion's good favor. Then while attempting to defend his honor against Marmion's wholly made up accusations Sir Ralph de Wilton challenged Marmion to a duel, which in those days (1500's) was how gentlemen proved their honesty in the court of public opinion. Sir Ralph de Wilton lost the duel and he was so ashamed he went into exile. Clara de Clare was heart broken, she decided to become a nun rather than risk having to deal with Marmion's odious character flaws and equally odious seduction techniques. Nor did it work out for Constance, she was tried, found guilty of being a bad nun and she was walled up, literally she was built into a wall of a nunnery. But in her trail she had managed to gain a few possibilities in the afterlife by giving her panel of judges documents that would prove Sir Ralph de Wilton was innocent of Lord Marmion's outrageous and totally made up accusations. And lo, with documentation of his innocence Sir Ralph was accepted back into the community of gentlemen where he was able to do his bit at the Battle of Flodden during which he was acclaimed a hero, his lands were returned to him and he was able to marry Clara de Clare who'd not yet gone full blown nun. And in that same battle Lord Marmion was killed, happenstance that King James IV of Scotland was also killed. As The World Turns (which lasted 54 years, he's 73 if you need reminding) webs of deceit become tangled but never, ever a shortage of plot twists.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sausage and Home Again.

Walked down an aisles in the grocery store that your reluctant shopper has never been down before. You don't get maps, instead you got these little signs high above the aisles you need binoculars to read. The store was busy, shopping cart jams all over the place, coffee clutches with louder than necessary conversation and little old lady eavesdroppers doing nothing to aid the flow of traffic, inadequately trained big people on those motorized hazards that aimlessly zip around, not sure whether all children these days are an inch or two on the other side of special  but let's put it this way a snowflake in good standing does sometimes gain insights into the motivations behind the odious phenomenon of the eugenics movement. Then I saw an opportunity to collect my thoughts in what looked like a peacefully deserted aisle and ducked into it. The aisle contained yards and yards of Dog Treats, each variety of dog treat with images of so called adorable dogs that yap and if you tell them to shut up they bite you. To hell with it, I decided, "I'm going to buy a sausage."

Nor was "sausage" on my list, but arguably because three items on my list were, shall we say, so specially written I couldn't decode them, the sad fact is "sausage" could have well been on my list. It's also true that on a Saturday morning the meat products area in the Grocery store is a dithering place for those in our number who may have lost the physical capacity to touch their own toes and presumably some besotted life partner manages their foot care for them. The other thing about wanting to buy a sausage is that when put beside the mind blowing number of varieties of dog treats, sausage choice is very limited and, even more aggravating, at a minimum you have to buy 5 sausages for getting on 5 dollars. Then if you look further into prices, there's this whole reduced price per sausage if you buy two 5 packs of sausages. I guess it's all designed to sell pedicure kits to besotted life partners. Sadly, I spotted a little yellow lonely circle, the design of which might well have been culled from a Munch scribble just prior to his painting The Scream, so I got 5 suspect sausages for 99 cents. This time tomorrow I could be dead, structural change gone from consideration.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Volfefe Index

Stock Market traders like what they call indexes. If an index moves it suggests future possibilities for profit or loss. The Consumer Confidence Index. I'm told there's something called the Volfefe Index. This index has developed around information on how Stock Markets respond to the current President's Tweets. Doesn't matter whether information in the tweet is accurate or just something made up. This index simply responds to what happens to stocks when the tweet is about subject A, or B and so on.

Currently international trade is struggling with disagreements between United States and particularly China. Any tweet that suggests positive news in this area of trade between the US and China, whether it's true or not, whether it's political or simply a whim, results in stocks rising in value. In the course of tweet storm a trader can buy and sell, come away with a profit. Volfefe! Named after the famine horseman of the apocalypse? Could well be this time next week, but currently the rumor is it was inspired by a mysterious word, possibly a nuclear code, in one of the President's tweets which was "covfefe," the "vol" part in volfefe stands for volatility. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Kurdish Diaspora and Normandy

Feel a little confident that there might well have been Kurds on the Beaches of Normandy. They have a wide Diaspora. The first identifiable Kurds to arrive in the USA did so following the First World War. Back then Woodrow Wilson was all about self determination, and in the Middle East the US policy was that the Kurds who were finally free of the Ottomans should be allowed their homeland. The British and the French had other ideas. In the early 1920's Iraq revolted against British occupation and the Kurds saw their chance at a homeland, they too took up arms against the British. There were two Kurdish rebellions, both of which were put down rather brutally and in the aftermath some Kurds found their way to the United States.

Not good at math but you have to reckon with the enlistments in the USA that followed the USA's belated entrance into the Second World War, the Pearl Harbor incident in the December of 1941, some Kurds might have received their draft notice, along with German Americans, Japanese Americans, Austrian Americans, Andaman Islander Americans.. It's a long list. And I'm aware that during the Second World War the US had a fully fledged and well institutionalized segregation, the military was no exception. But if you're a whitey-white person and you met a Kurd in the streets of Nashville you'd think he or she was as whitey-white  as you, only with a very much better complexion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Glop

Not easy to forget the Pickled Pepper fiasco of a couple of years ago. They were possibly the single most disgusting result of your gardener's short canning career. Yet the problem of a surplus of Peppers remains. Next year there will be fewer Pepper plants in the garden. Vaguely remember deciding that before. This year the excess of Peppers seems worse than ever, and this year some of the excess has found its way into a glop, which doesn't appear in the dictionary as a culinary expression but does kind of well describe anything that begins the cooking process with a cup of vinegar and a cup of sugar and ends up in a sealed glass jar.

This means I have a Pear Glop and a Green Tomato Glop, both of which have Peppers as a major ingredient, and we're talking around 20% of volume. The other thing about us less recipe directed cooks, after spending what feels like a lifetime processing a Glop, you feel obliged to offer the result of your labors a much higher rather than a lower grade. Only later do you develop a more objective view of the contents of the larder, and far too often there are major  disappointments. Either way that's it for the canning and freezing season of 2019, it's been exhausting and it could well take getting on a week to get the smell of vinegar and the flutter of Fruit Flies out of the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Union of Corruption and Hypocrisy

 "The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform..." Is kind of standard definition of hypocrisy. But if I said to you, "I'm a bit ruppy." And you happened to know Sanskrit, somewhere along the line you might come up with, "I'm sorry you have a stomachache, but I think you'll find that the correct English language spelling of the Sanskrit for stomach ailment is rupya." Leaving aside the warm feeling pompous asses get when they meet each other, and the possibilities of extended debate, the point is that through the generations of language the "rup" part of "corrupt" generally means turning good to bad. Rupture and disrupt are other examples of the meanings in the "rup" part. If something is corrupted, that something is spoiled. Its value, if you like, has changed from the perspective that it was good and within the same perspective is now bad.  "I'm glad you're feeling ruppy, I've just poisoned you, which is bad for you and good for me." In time, corrupt came to mean debasement of character, to destroy, seduce, bribe and so on, and no doubt the wide range of meanings of a corrupted stomach is fairly clear, it's a whole thing, can be deliberate, accidental, it may be a result of ignorance and so on. And the word is used for disobedient computer codes.

Corrupting is something A does to B. "These eggs are corrupt." "Who corrupted them?" "Salmonella." Then being a gentle sort of person you can say "Salmonella can't help himself, it's just what he does in the course of his day, such a pity so many people had to die to give Salmonella an opportunity to thrive." All of which is why Corrupt has in its two meanings the idea of dishonest behaviors for personal gain, as well as infection, depraved, perverted, putrid, ugh, and it's a rather long, sometimes passionate list. The dilemma is how to get a hold of the idea of a corrupt person investigating corruption. Presumably he breaks something already broken for personal gain. Tricky area indeed, especially if the corruptor gets a little vague around whether the something is broken or not, which, safe to assume is how corruption spreads as an infection and becomes like a new set of perspectives, as for example insisting climate change is a hoax for no better reason than personal gain. A perspective that may or may not survive. Or possibly corrupt is better grasped in terms of Salmonella and the Eggs. Salmonella can't help himself, has no grand scheme, we're not talking the cunning of a Fox, Salmonella just doesn't know what the "rup" part even means. All of which means the shortsightedness of corrupt hypocrites is problematic for us people.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Machiavelli, Franklin, Jung and Others on Hypocrisy

"The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform..." Several arguments. All of them fascinating. So let's start with Machiavelli. His point was that we people "..are often touched more nearly by appearances than by reality." In the 1980's in a study subtitled Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect of Monkeys, Apes and Humans, agreed when they titled their study Machiavellian Intelligence. It's easier to seem fair than to actually be fair, and because laziness is deeply ingrained in human nature, humans more often choose appearance over reality. Then if you think about this in terms of yourself, unless like me you're an unrecognized Saint, you can grasp the soundness of this position. And you got Benjamin Franklin who said something like "..a convenient thing to be a reasonable creature, it allows you to make a reason for anything you have a mind to." And here laziness gets in the way of the hard work of trying to find accurate evidence to support your position and easier still to pick and chose what evidence best suits your position. The truly challenged by reality of course just make stuff up, then allow the theoretical underpinnings to become increasingly divorced from reality rather than accept the possibility of being in error. 

Philosophers have tried to work out whether or not Hypocrisy is good or bad. Philosophers worth their salt never have answers, but they love a good argument. Generally in moral terms Philosophers see it in terms of "pretending to be activated by a motive other than your own motive." This comes under deceit and lying which may or may not be a good thing. Philosophers also suggest that a "hypocritical lack of moral seriousness" can very much depend upon certain assumptions about the extent and make up of a moral framework within society, and so, they go on, best to think of the "No-Hypocrisy" position in terms of the right to blame and the value of blaming to the more constructive processes worth encouraging within a good society. There's also the idea that hypocrisy is a disposition in some to blame others and at the same time an unwillingness to accept blame from others or to blame ourselves. Realists more often just come out and say that being a moral person is a huge struggle in which most of us fail, so accept the flaws, we're all sinners, for god's sake everyone realize this, so get on with it and compromise. Karl Jung, who really did feel sorry for us people attempted to improve our lot by suggesting that under all circumstances lying to ourselves was very, very unhealthy, we had to know who and what we are and as we decided what we wanted to be, otherwise we all end up nutty. For Jung, I'd like to think, the west is enjoying yet another endless therapy session.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Seasons

Reached for the indoor long trousers this morning. Stared at them, they probably need to be washed, and the ethers are alive with that set of adverts that suggest the approach of the festive season, an appalling violation on a Sunday Morning. "Are we ready to do this Peloton!" It's a girl voice and she sounds very determined in an unnaturally excited way, somewhere between le climax and le concours, if you'll excuse the French. Dread to think who or what Peloton might be, but fairly convinced he, she or it is entirely unnecessary. Last Fall is mostly gone from my own memory, but I do recall raking leaves and being driven to such distraction by "Are we ready to do this Peloton!" that I had to switch off the technical device, which for those of us who have the addiction isn't easy to do. Then in March or May of this year, a long winter it was, "Are we ready to do this Peloton!" finally disappeared and I have known a degree of  inner peace for getting on six months.

It might be easier if I just went ahead and found out what or who Peloton is, but I'd call that an abject surrender. The whole point about "Are you ready for this Peloton!" is to drag you into Hades, down deep into the machinations of the Devil's own, where you creep around staring at last year's food stains on your indoor trousers wondering whether Peloton washes clothes as you slowly become an imbecile. "Harsh?" of course it's harsh, very harsh indeed, it needs to be, we're not talking Karoo Class Locomotives and milk chocolate bars, we're talking Peloton, a canoe ride down the Styx River, it's the contract with its promise that devours your soul leaves you wretched and drowning. Zeus swore an oath on the River Styx that one of his lovers would have everything she ever wanted, too late Zeus realized his oath would result in her death. Triumph and Disaster, "treat these two impostors the same," Kipling wisely quoted Shakespeare in his poem "If."

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Settlement With Mill

A "solid ungulate quadruped of the horse kind, but shorter with long ears and a short mane." The Ass, is a native of Southwest Asia.  Southwest Asia includes Turkey, Iran, the Arabian Peninsular, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and in some minds, not mine, it includes Egypt. There are two species of Wild Ass both of them struggling for existence in Africa, the Somali Wild Ass and the Nubian Wild Ass. Strictly speaking the Donkey is an Ass which has over the years been domesticated, tamed and bred for servitude. Pompous comes from the Latin for 'stately' and all those high end dressing up, self important and funny hat behaviors associated with the more ceremonial side of stateliness. And as a Pompous Ass myself, I'd like to share with these pages my own moment of induction into the community of Pompous Asses.

The year was sometime in the late 1960's or there about and in discussion I did happen to say, "If you actually read the chapter you'll discover that you couldn't be more wrong." All I can accurately recall is the response and the tone of the response, which was "Oh belt up you pompous ass." It was a classic from a total loser who was entirely at sea within the framework of his thoroughly dumb ass, one sided opinions. I felt entirely vindicated, I'd never known what a Pompous Ass was and I began to realize that I was indeed a Pompous Ass, I embraced the title, and I think I got a D minus in the essay, which served only to reinforce my understanding that I was right and Mr. whatever his name was, was wrong to the point of idiocy. Back then of course we didn't have stuff like twitter. So welcome to our extraordinarily diverse community Senator Romney, we use first names so I'll call you "Settlement with Mill" or Milton for short.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Affective, Effective and Drought

"Affective" means causing emotional feelings. "Effective" means sensibly producing the desired result, assuming you know what that result is. Took me almost 60 years to grasp the distinction long enough to retain it for more than three and half minutes. Affective in the title "Reducing Affective Partisan Polarization" means reducing the level of emotion, or hostility, in partisan polarization. The subtitle of the study is the question "Warm Group Relations or Policy Compromise?" One argument as to why everyone seems to hate each other has to do with policy differences, and it's these policy differences that cause the sets of emotions that lead to hostility and an angry partisan divide that doesn't respond well to, let's call it discourse.

The other argument suggests that policy differences are fairly eternal and goes on to suggest that emotions that lead to hostility over policy differences are much ameliorated when leaders are seen to get along with each other, express comradeship in a warm and friendly kind of way without too much hugging and kissing, but certainly not shouting at each other, getting red in the face and saying things like 'what goes around comes around.' In other words, at heart, we're still more like Chimpanzees. The whole study makes huge sense to a gardener affectively struggling with his winter ground covers, weed seeds in his compost, rock hard ground, drought and the physical capacities of what effectively might just as well be a 900 year old Octopus lubbering around on land.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

How to Distract Dictators, The Goebbels and Hess example.

Rudolph Hess was a bit of an occultist, he had home remedies for everything, and he was Adolph Hitler's functional equivalent of Mike Pence. Hess' title was Deputy Fuhrer. Trouble was, while Hess had studied the theoretical underpinnings of the Third Reich, he believed in "living space" for the superior race, he had all the trappings, the uniform, the whole kit and caboodle, and he'd make perfect speeches praising the Dear Leader, but it was the war strategy that troubled him. He'd been wounded as an infantry man in the trenches of the First World War, struggled on became a fighter pilot just before the war ended, as opposed to a behind the lines courier, and he thought another two front war an error for Germany and soon enough he became DFINO, or Deputy Fuhrer In Name Only. In 1941 as the German Forces prepared to move into France, he flew a two engine Messerschmitt to Scotland where he hoped to meet a British bigwig who he understood to be anti-war and pro-Germany. Hess' intention was to talk peace between Britain and Germany. On the trip he took with him 28 different medicines, one of them was glucose, which is sometimes called blood sugar. It hadn't been an easy flight, he had to use landmarks to find his way and he had to avoid gung-ho British defense forces and by the time he got close to the bigwig's estate he ran out of fuel which forced him to take to his parachute.

He was arrested, spent the rest of his life in one jail or another, ending up in Spandau Jail where he killed himself in the August of 1987. He was 93 and by all accounts perfectly sane. Before he left on his trip to Scotland he hadn't actually told his Dear Leader what he was planning to do, but he had written a letter to Hitler laying out the details of his peace with the Anglo Saxons plan. It was a tense time for Hitler, what with an invasion of France about to happen, and when Hitler got the letter he had a bit of a conniption fit, yelled very loudly at everyone and he leapt to the conclusion that it was all part of an inner circle putsch to get rid of their Dear Leader. There was scurrying around, everyone was nervous for the longevity of their important careers. The plan Hitler came up with was to get it to the press in Germany and around the world, that there was nothing to worry about because Hess was totally nuts. Others suggested it just didn't look good under any circumstances to have your Deputy Fuhrer turn out to be a nut case even if he was totally nuts. It was Goebbels, who had his own propaganda problems with the loyalty of occultists, the whole higher power idea kind of undermined his stable genius argument that supported the often erratic Dear Leader, who, according to Goebbels, Germans were supposed to worship. So Goebbels took his chance to distract from the inner circle putsch idea by pointing out to Hitler that Hess was an admirer of the Occult, possible a practitioner, unsurprisingly with the world going insane occultists were popping everywhere. And soon enough all around Germany, any one suspected of occultism was being rounded up and made to disappear. Not sure what it is, but there's a moral for all of us here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Coop De Tat

Both a golpe de estado and a putsch are pretty good words for a "blow against the state" and oddly enough if the état part is capitalized then it's a blow against the "sovereign."  The coup part is not often pronounced coop, more often it's pronounced coo as in what Doves say and that's also rather cool for us English speakers who currently live in a constitutional democracy. Strictly speaking the coup d'état is an unconstitutional seizure of the state by a dictator or a military. So yes, it's an attempted coup and disparate organs of the state are currently bravely attempting to preserve the US Constitution which for getting on two centuries has been a shining a star around the world for many an idealist yearning for a just, fair and equal, open society in which to pursue the complexities of living a life on earth.

The five hundred years of the Roman Republic, another guiding light for many an idealist, fell when Roman senators forgot the essential principles of their own founders as their state gained territory along with slaves who knew how to build and farm, producing unbelievable wealth for the chosen few who slowly lost the enthusiasms of innocence. According to some, Caesar already had political ambitions before he crossed the Rubicon River, which is little more than a shallow fifty miles, was reluctant to assume power, but the Roman Senate was divided to the point of incompetent impasse, some senators were encouraging him to just go ahead and he kind of felt that it was his duty to preserve the integrity of Roman Rule over the vast wealth from so large an area of secured land which at the end of the Roman Republic was over a million square miles. The Roman Empire, for its part, became even larger until it split apart.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Price of Dignity

The whole thing is both fascinating and incredibly depressing, as well as tragic. Yet as one who spent a majority of his formative years in the murky waters of girl free boarding schools for boys my comrades and I learned a thing or two about getting into trouble, which is why with some confidence I can offer pointers to boys who might find themselves in trouble. Imperative to survival is the understanding that just because you don't think this or that activity or behavior is wrong doesn't mean you're right. Think otherwise, and you're pretty much being laughed at by Pontius Pilate, in which case history may or probably not, remember you fondly.  At the same time constantly saying how sorry you are for this or that activity or behavior is just wimpy, gives you a poor reputation as an entirely icky and pathetic human being who'll probably end up in a peaceful monastery or aggressive bible thumping on a street corner or selling exercise equipment.

Nor does it make any sense at all to claim that everyone does it, it gets you nowhere much beyond presenting yourself and your comrades with a splendid opportunity to be turned into exemplars of the consequences of poor behavior, dire consequences ensue as the great and the good, all of them guilty of something, gang up on you to unsully their reputations of your appalling and outrageous accusations. Avoid lying, it enables you to comfortably admit to the lesser crime, reduces your punishment and permits you to keep your dignity. Lie and it just goes on endlessly. Mind you, in my formative years the functionally unstable were as a rule fairly easily identified, they did a lot of sniveling, they whined constantly, everything was unfair, they were a pain in the neck to be around, they complained about their food at meal times, and the only reason to have anything to do with them was they usually had pocket money and would pay you to write a B minus essay for them, then pay you even more to keep quiet about their finest hour.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ground Covers

 It's a great day when winter groundcovers sprout in drought and unseasonable heat, high's of 94 Fahrenheit. The well could run dry in the attempt to maintain the seed beds, but what with one crackpot behavior after another equally corrupt behavior going on in the wider world, the well running dry would be a minor inconvenience necessitating a more emergent attitude from me toward the advance of the new weather patterns climate change has foisted upon us following getting on centuries of abuse the climate has struggled with as a result of our truly juvenile quest for entirely unnecessary levels of surplus. Back in the early days of our planet the first life forms, all of them ocean dwelling, didn't require free Oxygen, as carbon based life forms they took what they needed from oxidized molecules such as iron, magnesium and in the process produced a little free oxygen. Then around two and half billion years ago, in the Proterozoic Period, as the ozone layer in the higher reaches in our atmosphere developed following an increased percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere and reduced the sun's more harmful radiation there was very dramatic jump in the levels of atmospheric free oxygen which for many life forms was actually poisonous, and billions and billions of them became extinct.

Those life forms that didn't fall to the pollution of free oxygen did so as a result of being able to source their oxygen from the free oxygen the Proterozoic Period had produced, and indeed without those early life forms that succumbed to free oxygen as a pollutant the free oxygen in the atmosphere today that you and I breath would not have been available for the long slow evolutionary process that produced the wealth of, the mobility of, and the flexibility of us free oxygen dependant creatures on the planet today. Some of us don't even need roots any longer. It's an interesting argument that really doesn't have anything to do with the pollutants currently causing the atmosphere to warm, the free oxygen we benefit from survived many an extinction caused by global heating and global cooling from volcano, meteor etc., and isn't going anywhere for a good long while. My own view, cling to all you want but our current lifestyle is doomed and as a result presents our species with a wonderful opportunity, if not to progress, not certain that's possible, then at least mature a little around the issue of what is and is not important. This year your gardener is attempting a dish of Groundhog Daikon Radish and Winter Wheat ground cover under very well aged lightly scattered hay bale, so it's all very mindful and exciting.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Deep State

I think it was Mitt Romney who while raising funds for his political ambitions suggested that around 48% of the population were not so much retarded as they were unlikely to ever vote for him, and as a result they weren't worth his while troubling with or giving much consideration to or caring very much about because they'd just never grasp what was best for them. Unknown to him as he spoke to a private group of diner guzzling potential investors was a recording device that was probably in the possession of a minimum wage deep state bus boy doing his best to clear away the plates as quietly as he could, maybe get a generous tip for good obedient, well dressed, clean nailed, behavior in public, treat himself to some left over sausage, mash potato and a cold glass of milk from the kitchen's refrigerators when the horrendous starched white napkin and heavily perfumed evening which cost more than he'd likely earn in a lifetime, was over.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, deep state dishwashers were doing the tidy up, the floor cleaning, cursing the cooks for the mess, swearing and probably polishing off left over glasses of chardonnay, or whatever, while the cooks were out back in the alley, congratulating themselves on a good review from an investment banker, smoking left over cigar butts to celebrate and no doubt some of them were wondering whether they fell within the 48% category, and if so maybe they too should start thinking about becoming deep state operatives. Not sure whether the Mitt Romney crew actually eat salad stuff, but my own memory of being a deep state dishwasher and occasional deep state bus boy suggests that those seeking an honest career in the romance of salad preparation are more likely to engage in deep state activities than for example tin opening, couldn't care less, shrimp cocktail preparers.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Tyranny? We'll know soon.

Our third in command, the 3IC if you prefer, refers to the increasingly unfashionable idea that facts change the situation, and it's the facts that are changing the situation elicits the response to the changing situation. Wonderfully refreshing from a leader. Our first in command, or 1IC, is one of those who reckons that to change the situation to your personal benefit you just make up facts. Our second in command, or 2IC, appears to be more of a balcony ornament. Meanwhile our democracy and the rule of law is on a collision course with tyranny.

In some respects whether our balcony ornament becomes Mr. Big, depends upon the extent to which one of our major parties and legal system has been suborned by the promise of tyranny, which is basically a promise that you won't have to trouble yourself with the popular vote any longer. As in most examples of how democracies become tyrannies, it's the current 1IC's popular support in our own democracy that one of our own major political parties is so in awe of, it could well return facts to the condition of irrelevance that so well characterizes pretty much every tyranny the world has ever known.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Minds, Riot and Paranoia.

The Mind is a difficult area. We are delicate creatures. Most minds benefit from a little bit of everything. Some minds struggle with too much of one thing. Paranoia is a belief that other people are plotting against you. It becomes a problem when the often reasonable assumption that not everyone is an angel, becomes an irrational fear that pretty much everyone is plotting against you, they are determined in what ever way they can to harm you as well as the certainty and the convictions of your god-given interests. The paranoia in all of us can very quickly become riot, and this is especially the case with something like rejection of science. Science has pretty things to reveal and ugly things to reveal. It did not suit the Popes of old that God might not have made the earth the center of the universe.

A slippery slope from there to stuff like medicine, with it's suggestion that we people might be able to interfere with God's will through the magic of knowledge. No accident Faust, in one of the early accounts, was a doctor. True enough feral reactions to foreigners, immigrants, science, boffins and so on can enter the paranoia of riot and everything becomes hoax, a great plot against the great and the good. Which is why you really don't need a geriatric leader who struggles with a very cruel, brutal, icky case of paranoid delusions. Of course those who have tied themselves and their vitally important careers to the riot will find it difficult to eat the sour pie of humility, usefully reinvent themselves. Some never will be able to make the leap of imagination required. Meanwhile the world still turns and the Beatitudes still apply to us people.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Though

New question this time round is "Depends what you mean by though." As in "I need a favor, though." Don't be fooled it's a tough word, in regular hands it should mean either "In Return" or "Provided." Although who knows.

The Ukrainian election system is a two round system. In the March 2019 election the current Ukrainian President received 70% of the vote in the first round and in the second round he received 73% of the popular vote.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Words in Testing Times

There's no Joy in this! You got "Damning" on the one side, you got "Deeply Troubling" in the center. And on the far side you got what begins to sound like the kind of vocalizations the Kitten makes on the way to the vet to get her rabies shot, it's not a pretty sound but you know exactly what she's attempting to enunciate, and there's no amount of reasoned argument that would ever persuade the Kitten that it's absurd of her to suggest that she's a rare and unique creation that was born with an immunity to rabies, heart worm, ring worm, intestinal parasites, which includes tape worm, and it's a long list of awfulness's. But for a rabies shot you do get a little green badge, it's like a medal that's supposed to go on your collar to show everyone how fantastic you are for being such a good citizen even if as I'm told you were dragged kicking and screaming to the veterinarian's office and then frothed and hissed in a most dramatic and rather frightening manner at an already nervous veterinarian. Regret to say, it's feral behavior that you'd never get from the Girl Cat.

"Damning" is fairly clear. Classically from "gone to hell and damnation," or for non-wing-nuts, "Dude, you're totally doomed."  The issue is of course the meaning of "Deeply Troubling." Always a little suspicious of "deeply" in front of "troubling," not only does it sound as though it comes with a querying pursed lip, it's frightfully pompous, and I know this because I am a frightfully pompous person. Nor does "troubling" really add to the equation between "deeply troubling" and meaning. "Troubling to who?" is the instant response. For example I'm "deeply troubled" by the constant rearrangement and absurd number of choices of packaged bread products at the grocery store. You just want to go into the bread aisle and find your familiar bread category without having to wander up and down the bread aisle peering at bread products for a good twenty minutes. Then when you read it's Mitt Romney who's "deeply troubled" you have to wonder whether he means "I still got a chance to be president." In which case "yes!" It is indeed "possibly damning."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Testing Times

It's around 1.30 pm Eastern Standard Time, feel ill from lunch, rumors abound, and like Hegel in Jena in the fall of the year 1806, I'm waiting for The World Soul on Horseback to enter the city. The Horse was called Marengo, I believe. Marengo, in the service of Napoleon, was injured 8 times in the course of his career as a War Horse. A career that ended at the Battle of Waterloo, where Marengo was captured, sent into peaceful exile in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. His boss was sent to a tropical island in the middle of the South Atlantic named after Saint Helena of Constantinople.

Sadly the World Soul  is unlikely to be riding Marengo, the creature's bones, less two hooves, are on display in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London, of all places. One of the missing hooves was turned into a snuff box by some total reprobate, the other is on loan to the Household Cavalry Museum, in the City of Westminster, London. More than likely today's parade will sputter into a puddle of jellied Eels and Banana skins in the hallways of Congress, a very slippery slope. My vote, let's do the right thing, keep the Republic and to hell with the politics of nuance.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The USA's Conservatives

The founder of the Birch Society wasn't that fond of President Eisenhower. He thought Eisenhower was a tool of the communists, and he had whole range theories why, none of them remotely fact based. He wanted to get the USA out of the United Nations. William Buckley, intellectual patron saint of modern conservatism, reckoned the Birch Society were a bunch of far right wing conspiracy theorist nuts with nothing useful to add to the discourse and he politely urged his fellow conservatives to totally ignore them, cosign them to the dustbin of history, and jump all over them in the most well reasoned manner possible by winning the argument. USA's Conservatives used to have influence over the Republican party, their influence dwindled, and now lurks around in the shadows in a condition of high dudgeon, writing books, creeping around cable news and the opinion columns, asking the question why and so on. All of these worthies, decent chaps hungry for useful work, are longing to be rid of our current president and get back to some sense of  policy based upon 'Conservative Values' under the leadership of someone like the Vulture Capitalist Mitt Romney.

To Conservatives, social policy, environmental policy, judicial policy, inequality of income, the whole shoot and caboodle are all on the negotiating table under certain conditions. The main driving force behind USA's Conservatism is the idea of limited government, which is reasonably based on the Founding Father's idea of Human Nature that asserts that people like freedom, they don't like to be told what to do, they like to make their own decisions based on open, fact based and free discussion. For conservatives, Good Policy for a thriving and happy society is made, whether it be social security or foreign policy, when those conditions of freedom to make your own decisions, come to reasonable compromises over differences with other people through fact based free discussion.  If Government just does all that for you, conservatives argue, consent of the governed goes out the window and you got the makings of tyranny. Sadly the Republican Party stopped trying to be conservative sometime during the Reagan era's spending spree. And yes, Conservatives are old fashioned idealists, if you like that sort of thing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Prelude to the Gossip Wars of 2020

The breakup of the Soviet Union resulted in the Ukraine achieving a degree of independence from Moscow. But Ukraine was not immune to the machinations of a break up that resulted in a plutocratic, or kleptocratic, same difference, class gaining control over the industrial base, industries and so on. It was an ugly business, the idea of competition, the cream rising the top, produced a class that really has more in common with the mafia than anything else. Absolute determination to ruthlessly control this or that industry through every grisly trick in the book, including assassination, beating people up etc. And along with this went levels of corruption that were so dark hearted the immortal soul might weep all it wants but there'll be no chance of redemption. When the Ukraine, mostly it's non-Russian citizens,  decided that basically they'd be better off if they could escape the iron clutches of Putin's Russia, they looked around and concluded they'd rather get closer to the European Community and the West generally. Trouble was industry in the Ukraine was controlled by a plutocratic class that heavily relied for it's survival upon practices very much frowned upon by more Western Nations, even if those practices were very much the accepted way of doing things in the Russian sphere of influence. So what happened? Well the West said "You agree to clean house, and we'll be there for you." Ukraine sighed, "That's not going to be easy, we're going to need help cleaning house." Nor does much happen in the Ukraine without Putin's Russia knowing all about it. And there are powerful interests in the Ukraine who stand to lose control of their valuable assets should the Ukraine manage to clean house, do away with the sort of Politics/Commerce nexus of corruption our current administration here in the USA is increasingly prone to because our political class appears to be struggling with, let's call it a death wish. The Ukraine has some wonderful soil, it's the kind of thing a gardener dreams about, it's deep tilth beautiful stuff. One of the other things Ukraine has is a natural gas, and we're talking trillions of gallons, certainly enough for its own needs and plenty for export, yet for a long time the Ukraine had to import most of its natural gas from Russian controlled suppliers. Indeed having to import gas from Russian controlled sources gave Russia a strong hand in any negotiations it had with Ukraine.

Things fell apart, there was an anti-Russian movement, a long tradition in Ukraine, Ukrainians stopped buying Russian stuff, and what with one thing and another natural-gas-pipeline-delivery-wise the Russians decided to go all out gangster on Ukrainians who were getting rather tired of being treated like a colony. There was one of those unofficial, paramilitary wars the Russians are so good at starting and so hopeless at ending, they lose control of the actors. Meanwhile, since 2002, a private company based in Cyprus called Burisma Holdings had been successfully exploring for and producing Ukrainian oil and gas. In 2014 when disputes between Russia and Ukraine had reached the ugly phase, Burisma Holdings appointed Hunter Biden to it's board of directors, the term lasted until the April of 2019, when Hunter Biden stepped down. But when Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors, back in April of 2014, the chairman of Burisma Holdings was Viktor Yanukovych, the pro Russian way of doing things, President of Ukraine. At the news of Hunter Biden's appointment, the German press comforted itself by suggesting that the USA when it comes to Politics/Commerce has always had a hard on for oil and gas, look what happens in the Middle East when anybody sneezes the wrong way, so what do you really expect from them. Some elements in the US press had some cruel things to say about the appointment, it looked like Hunter Biden had broken some sort of unwritten rule by working for a Russian client. In the April of 2014, director of the US-Ukraine Business Council, Morgan Williams, suggested that while there was no evidence of wrong doing from Hunter Biden "It looks like there could be a conflict here. But when you're trying to keep the political sector separate from the business sector, and reduce corruption, then it's not just about holding down corruption, it's also the appearance, (of corruption)."  The White House declared that there was nothing wrong with the Vice President's son getting a damn good job with Burisma Holdings. Then. in the summer of 2014, I think, Ukraine tossed out Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Moscow. By 2016 Ukraine had satisfied at least some of the anti-corruption conditions demanded of them by the European Union and had entered an agreement with the European Union that would, if successful, gradually permit The Ukraine to obtain full membership of the European Union, something Putin's Russia will do everything it can to prevent. Frankly the whole Trump, Biden, Ukraine, nexus gossip crisis sounds to me like one of those manipulative moves against the stability of the west that the former Soviet Union is so incredibly adept at fermenting. The point being, the west is quietly winning Ukraine, putting the current pro-west Ukraine President and wishes of a majority of Ukrainian Citizens in the cross hairs of a US internal power struggle, undermines that.  Yep, Putin wants Trump for another four years.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Too Much to Ask"

In the early part of the 1200's a boy in Germany or Northern France began to preach. He'd had a vision in which Jesus had directed him to lead a peaceful crusade to convert the Muslims to Christianity. The whole idea caught on big time and up to 30,000 children marched south to Port Towns in the Mediterranean where they expected the sea to part as it did for Moses, enabling them to reach the land of the Muslims. The sea didn't part, but Port Towns have ships, and many a merchant promised the children passage. Accounts vary, and according to some, a great number of those children having embarked upon ships ended up being sold as slaves. Ever since, Historians, Psychologists and a bunch of others have been combing the sources to separate truth from fiction, and in the process many have suggests answers to why the children embarked upon their peaceful crusade. One answer, when you grow up, you disappear into a cynicism that feasts on division, hatred and anger, then die pointlessly, the world well rid of you.

But some argue, the crusade wasn't just children, it was mostly people trying to escape the misery of their everyday lives into a religious 'end of the world' millennialism. In the early 1200's a growing number of people in Europe were shunning earthly things, wandering from place to place, relying on charity and doing a little preaching in return, which was a practice that resulted in them being excommunicated by the Pope, the Papal argument being they should have joined a reputable, properly affiliated monastery. As well back then there were no shortage of teenage boys who were well engaged in warfare, they grew up young, a very different world compared to the cosseted life of a more modern teenager. There's also a suggestion that the crusade inspired the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlin, blowing his magic flute so that rats would follow him out of a rat infested township and when he wasn't paid the agreed amount he blew his flute and the town's children followed him out of the town, never to be seen again. And you got to pretty much worship Greta Thunberg: "We demand a safe future, is that really too much to ask?" It's a damn good question.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Locke, Robespierre and Consent

 It was John Locke who observed that "consent of the governed confers political legitimacy." Brilliant, a guiding light, you might think, inspired by reasonableness, and at the same time you might also suspect a degree of idealness in the assertion that falls short of reality, far too many brigands and scoundrels out there messing with the way things obviously should be, fifth columnists, secret enemies conspiring from within. Robespierre had an answer, his own country was riven by divisions, war and a hunger for something reflecting a new order of things. "If the basis for popular government in peacetime is virtue," Robespierre argued, "Its basis in revolution is virtue and terror. --- Virtue, without which terror would be barbaric: and terror, without which virtue would be impotent." I mention this because there does seem to be a surfeit of trembling in the halls and cubbyholes of our Congress. Still prefer the word Frightfulness which during the First World War was the preferred alternative to the word terrorism. Guess the Brits, whether we like to admit it or not, had legitimized the word terrorism as a means of governing a colonial empire. 

During Robespierre's time France had been catapulted head over heels by the failure of the old order and those yearning for something different had fallen to a kind of chaos of meaning. He went on, "How long will the despots fury be called justice, and the peoples justice be called barbarism." Indeed Robespierre in his speech that came to be known as "On Political Morality" was a fine definition of dictatorship, where the idea "consent of the governed" goes out the window and in it's place is "Social protection is due only to peaceful citizens; there are no citizens in the Republic but the republicans." Worth noting the French Revolutionaries called themselves republicans because they wanted to a create a functioning Republic. For Robespierre, his ideal Republic was his understanding of the Roman Republic, which according to Robespierre was about as close to perfect as you could get. On the other hand, disruption, shaking things up, is a recognized Businessman's strategy for securing personal profit and power. The strategy has been defined this way:  "an innovative disruptive business is .... either satisfying the less-demanding customers or creating a market where none existed before."  In action, Disruption is how Amazon came to dominate the market for books and why people pay money for things like Pet Rocks, paper napkins and a new IPod, or whatever, every ten minutes.  Either way, as Locke understood it, 'consent of the governed' is a tricky area that in no way, shape or form, comes naturally.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Mumbo-jumbo

Polygamous peoples of the Gambia River Basin are considered  the source of the word mumbo-jumbo. Early accounts suggest there was a tradition of a male dancer, called something like mumbo-jumbo, dressed up in an outrageous dress and mask, which were kept hanging on a post at the entrance to the village, who screaming and shouting would enter a town in the evening to settle domestic disputes. Accounts continued to suggest that recourse to the mumbo-jumbo's help was really a last resort for males who were unable to control their wives.

The mumbo-jumbo's decision was absolute, he made no actual sense in his speech patterns and there was no recourse to a higher authority, one or other of the wives would always be deemed at fault, and the visit from the mumbo-jumbo came to an end after a night long communal, men, women and children, shouting and yelling, castigating and humiliating the mumbo-jumbo's chosen culprit. A grisly business that's up there with climate change denial, a certain political party and pretty much every utterance that issues from the current President's mental processes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Battle of Maldon Revisited

A lot of people might have been a little confused by the horse in yesterday's attempt to find entertainment on these pages. They may also have been confused by the whole Battle of Maldon reference. I guess too that heat and lack of rain here where I live might have robbed me of brain cells, because I'd initially considered a well reasoned discussion on snowflakes, heroic poems and appeasement. The king at the time was Ethelred, The Unready, back then it was kind of like a joke nickname. Ethelred means well advised, originally unready would have meant ill-advised. Either way the Battle of Maldon was an engagement between Anglo Saxon forces and sea raiding Vikings. The commander of Anglo Saxon forces was a man called Byrhtnoth, he was a bigwig on the east coast of England, down there in Essex. He was tall, very tall apparently, and at the time of the battle he had long white hair and he was in his sixties, which in those days was old for a person, and the cynic might just leap to the conclusion that he was more than likely an old fart, prone to the odd error of thinking, especially in hot weather. Of interest the Battle of Maldon was fought in August.

King Ethelred, the ill-advised, was having trouble reproducing King Alfred's cohesive plan to deal with continuous Viking incursions. Ethelred levied land taxes in areas prone to Viking marauders and these taxes were given to the Kings of Denmark on the understanding that they'd do a better job of keeping Vikings from all over Scandinavia in some sort of check. On his statue, which isn't actually very old, its sculptor is still alive, in his 70's probably, Byrhtnoth has a plaque which goes on about how he was a principle voice against Ethelred's policy of appeasement to the Danes. No mention on the plaque of  how when  raping and pillaging England went out of fashion in Viking ranks English Kings kept on levying the land taxes, revenue for the treasury to pay a standing army, a navy and a bunch of other useful things, which as a policy was a return to King Alfred's more sensible policy preferences for how to deal with foreigners invading English shores. So with Byrhtnoth you got this more right wing nut, muttering on about appeasement, who decided to teach Viking marauders a lesson and in the process made a tactical error. He told all his men to dismount, and they were going to defend a bridge, which effectively gave the Vikings the higher ground. Byrntnoth and all his men died gloriously, except a couple who retrieved the horses and ran away, including Godric son of Odda.