Sunday, June 30, 2019

The International Board Game

Heat factor 10, Peak Bug, and you got to admire the ebullience of the Chard, a good crop of which was gathered today. At the same time ebullience and reality are often at odds with each other. On the 4th of August 1914 when the British Government declared war on the Central Powers crowds greeted the news from Buckingham Palace with what's probably best to call 'patriotic zeal.'  It's been argued that despite embellishments by story tellers and movie makers it wasn't a frenzy of excitement in the streets of London. A journalist wrote a news report on that day that recorded more somber scenes, his name was Blythe, he worked for a US newspaper, and having been about a bit, he was very aware that not only would the war not be over by Christmas, it would change the world. The argument that tilted Britain into the war was presented by the British Foreign Office this way. If Britain didn't enter the war and the Central Powers won, then Britain and her Empire would be very vulnerable to the machinations of a victorious and expanding  Germany. If Britain didn't enter the war and France and Russia won, how would France and Russia treat Britain for having stood aside, probably deny the British access to the Mediterranean not to mention the damage they could do to British interests in the Middle East and to the wider British Empire.

Blythe was correct about the war, it did go on interminably and it did change the board game that is the world of nations vying for the kind of supremacy that holds and defends territory through military strength, supported by alliances of interests. Less than 100 years previous to 1914 France and Britain had engaged in a very long war that had been fought on several continents and which was finally decided by a series of battles against Napoleon, the last one in 1815 at Waterloo. Britain's developing alliance with France was a response to Germany's reorganization following the French defeat at Waterloo and Germany's growing determination to acquire an empire. There are arguments of course, but following the First World War, no one powerful within the industrialized nations really thought in new ways, they just reckoned on continuing. Then the stock market crash of 1929, pretty much guaranteed there'd be trouble and that came ten years later in 1939. There's no doubt in my mind at least, that the board game as practiced by nations did change in 1945. Nor is there any doubt in my mind that basically while the practices of the game changed the objectives of nations remain very much the same as they always have been. The new practices, if they can be characterized, I'd suggest, were less reliant on mass violence as a weapon of choice in pursuit of solutions to impasse. Who knows how the board game will react to climate change which will be a one time thing, there'll be no long series of trying again.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Accuracy

Gun nuts have this thing about knowing the difference between a round and bullet, and it goes on to the little bits and pieces that make guns go bang, or bang, bang bang, bang, bang. There's an argument which might suggest that the gun nut has a passion for precision, but if you don't know the difference between a gas block and a dust cover, you couldn't care less, not in the least persuaded that it's sacred knowledge, it's kind of like you suddenly become a moron in the appraisal of a gun nut, and you're not one of those nice morons, you're obviously some kind of dangerous moron, possibly a communist, hell bent on destroying the world as gun nuts define it. Not a particularly happy band of people, and easy to think there might be something very seriously wrong with them.  Have to suspect a similar set of mental process pass through the mind of a spelling or grammar nut at the sight of some such woe as "I dun stove masel in the beens, its them been beatle what dun it, an they stollen ma zen."

It's also true that your correspondent who is an absolutely appalling speller and wouldn't really know the difference between past participle and an adverb, does on occasion feel frightfully superior when he does spot a spelling error from someone else. And here there's not even the smallest sense of camaraderie should the fellow poor speller be something like a Republican  All very well pretending that language has some kind of potential for precision for us, but reflecting as it does what goes on inside a person's head, thinking in terms of precision is just so much flotsam in my view. The thing about the assumption of precision is that if you happen to be upright and decent, call it innocent if your prefer, you generally speaking tend to just assume that what you hear or read or see in a photograph or film strip is accurate, rather than being the product of a human mind which isn't really interested in precision for precision sake, or anything like accuracy, it's interested in something else.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Lotus, Pale Red, Garden, Harris

 Bravura. "The recital ended with a blazing display of bravura." A suggestion of technical skill, a confidence gained from practice. Then apparently there's the idea of daring as in "the show of bravura hid a guilty timidity." I'm told Bravura comes from the Italian Bravo. Bravura is not so much Bold in my understanding, it's more dexterous. The Charge of the Light Brigade was bold, the results, even if the Cavalry was skilled, were kind of disastrous. Bravura is a word used after the event is done and time to take stock.  But in the sentence "It seemed like a bravura move on her part," really not sure what is meant by bravura, yet at the same time everyone has an opinion, and to get a better sense of what was meant by bravura, context is critical. So "it seemed like a bravura move" came from the pen of a likely very jaded and exhausted journalist looking for some way to end an account of the recent debate. The "seemed like" part suggests that "it seemed like she was offering a blazing display of a skill won from hard practice."  Or possibly it was a bunch of gobbledygook that sounded as though she was being very skillful, but in fact she was being very bold which in itself is a skillfulness deserving of the word Bravo even if it did end in disaster.

In reporting a political debate, it must be very difficult to get past the appearance of everything up there on a stage, journalists tend not to be cheerful, hope filled, wild-eyed fringey types. Which is one of the reasons why good journalists generally are usually wrong in judging popular appraisals of this or that political performance, but pretty good at seeing though politicians. The account ended with a more, in my view, insightful sentence. The beef was with the moderators managing ten candidates, not one of them with enough time to do anything much more than make mistakes. High spirits, individual ambition and passion all combined to create the possibility of unruliness. According to the journalist in her second possible display of bravura, it appeared that she was "attempting to rescue the moderators," and, I can assume because I admire her, the reputation of her party. And this apparent act of hers is in my view a sterling example of high character, a capacity whenever the visceral rears and all you really want to do is throw dung at someone, to pay heed to the whole, the everything of a moment. I think in the end, never trust anyone who uses the word bravura, unless they're in a drawing room waxing lyrical on something like a piano recital.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Garden Camaraderie

There was a time when the Kitten was a joy to be around in the vegetable garden. She'd pad bravely about, sniff this and that, do a little galloping, Grasshopper gave her something to think about, she'd do a little experimental weeding I foolishly thought, she'd express interest in the comings and goings of two legged kind, it must have been magical for her, then she'd get hot, start panting and a doting gardener would put her in a basket and carefully carry her to the cool of the domicile. A time came when she'd find her own way over the garden fence, it was a convenient spot to perform a bodily function of one kind or another, which as any gardener will tell you is an absolute No-No behavior from a carnivorous mammal. With what they call "proper fecal sludge management" its OK, but just digging a little hole near the Beetroots and making a huge effort pretending to bury it is a recipe for a public relations nightmare. Nor do you really want a herbivorous mammal anywhere near a vegetable garden, so things like pet Guinea Pigs in a garden are completely out. 

Fortunately there's a go to cat wrangler here where I live who, Spock like, can pretty much meld with the minds of domestic felines. Like Wellington with his advice on the Sparrows that had taken up residence inside Queen Victoria's Crystal Palace with his "Sparrow Hawks, Ma'am!" The solution to cat performing abolitions in vegetable garden was "Pie plates on top of the fence posts, obviously." Not for me to reason why, and it worked. These days an already stressed out gardener will hear a pathetic little wail that has a quality a person normally associates with an out of sorts two year old, the kind that hasn't yet been alive for seventy years and it's the Kitten wanting to have a garden gate opened for her. We had quite a good day together Bean Picking. I had to slightly thin a couple of rows. It was rain rot and the yellow spawn of Bean Beetle, the rows weren't getting enough breeze and it's peak growing time. The Kittens role was more that of glamorous supervisor, she completely ignored both omnivorous Chipmunks, wisely took no notice of the Toad, and when time came she was pretending to be fast asleep in the Asparagus and had to be carried back to the cool of the domicile. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hustings

The weight of rain has been remarkable. Moon flower blooms, not certain why they're so early. And generally it's all rather higgledy-piggledy, which apparently has a phrase origin that might have something to do with irregular herding together of Pigs. Independent creatures, probably like Cats and Democrats, who most likely don't take kindly to being bossed around, unless there's something in it for them. And as a rule when you start finding it necessary to start herding things around it's for untoward reasons. Never certain whether Tomato likes to be tied up.

Which is one of the major reasons never to trust advertizing, walk warily around the political class and never let yourself be persuaded that Cyprus Vine or Crab Grass has been weeded out of the race to be elected King Pain in the Neck of a vegetable garden, and in this race there are way more than 25 candidates. Dodder was one of the most aggravating, the name says it all.  When it gets hot and wet Creeping Grass is up there. And even though it's edible Portulaca is worse than having in oligarch in the garden and I could go on, but I wont. No point in denigrating stubborn plants that you'd rather never see again, it only encourages them.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Proud and Noble Calling

Bean Picking season will start any day now. Hours and hours and hours of Bean Picking. And hours and hours of "Putting Beans By" which is a polite way of describing sweating over a heat source, risking third degree burns by cinder or Pressure Cooker, first degree burns from hot glass, then having to run out for canning lids and while visiting the grocery store seeing a shelf full of tinned beans, each can priced at well under a dollar. A very depressing realization, and so a gardener draws comfort from the sure knowledge that his Beans are decent upright Beans unadulterated by the machinations of corporate welfare and greed, they are his pain equity, his contribution to the happiness of the planet, a warm cozy feeling. Which isn't actually accurate. The heat source is either gathered twigs for the outdoor stove, the inefficient blaze doesn't exactly trap carbon, or from an electric supply that comes from a coal burning electric power station.

I'd roughly estimate that per Bean Put By, my Bean contributes more CO2 to the atmosphere than a corporate Bean. However I can try to draw some comfort from nut-eating growing practices. The Beans here are organically grown in lovingly hand turned soil without benefit of chemical fertilizer, much cooing, days of careful hand weeding, and in terms of insect control it's all hand done by a highly experienced Non-Beneficial Insect Picker, hour after dangerous hour of it. In the end my price per Bean Put By, including minimum wage for labor, capital outlay, would probably be twenty to thirty, maybe forty times the price of a corporate Bean, and you don't get that kind of incredibly high quality thirty dollar can of Beans in a grocery store because no one's stupid enough to buy it, unless they are so well bred they've never had to think about what a dollar is. Fortunately, we gardeners are a dour people, we are more clockwork than sentient, wind us up and we just keep going until slowly, slowly we come to a grinding halt, trip, fall, then take the last breath being stared at by a platoon of Tomato Horn Worms. Don't get me wrong, it's a proud and noble calling, so better to keep it honest.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Second Boer War and Sunlight

The Bantu had been reduced to servitude, the Great Chaka Zulu defeated and land for white settlers plentiful, yet in 1880 South Africa was a territory divided between two powerful interest groups, neither of them remotely saintly. On the one side were the Dutch Boers and on the other side were the British. In the December of 1880 the Boers and the British could contain themselves no longer and traditional hostilities commenced. By the March of 1881 the Boers had made their point, the British pulled back, and generally speaking it was a win for the Boers. In the October of 1899 hostilities recommenced. This time the British planned to overwhelm the Boers. The Boers were heavily outnumbered and in 1900 they were reduced to guerrilla tactics. And the British Commander, a man named Kitchener came up with the idea of Concentration Camps. He would dramatically reduce Boer support for guerrilla forces by rounding up Boer women and children, as well as Bantu tribes suspected of sympathizing with the Boer cause, isolating them in camps. The camps were not well run, little attempt made, thousands and thousands of Boer civilians died of hunger, disease, many were deported and it was shameful, but the war continued for another two years. Kitchener had an attitude toward his enemy that included the idea that his soldiers should think in terms of hunting down and killing Boer fighters as a sporting event. The enemy corpses were to be thought of as hunting trophies, like Antelope or Buffalo and success was to be defined in terms a weekly bag of killed, captured and wounded. And it's also true that Winston Churchill who'd been a horse soldier when the cavalry charged at the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898, became a correspondent for the Daily Mail so he could see the Second Boer War, he was actually captured by the Boer, he apparently escaped and was able to become a war hero of the British Empire, which certainly helped his political career, so I guess it's all about how you define Atrocity. And the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, a man called Baden Powell, fought in the Boer War and other colonial wars in Africa including the British war against the Ashanti Empire, which went on for years and years. Powell's manual for military scouts served as inspiration for the Boy Scout movement. The point is these famous men knew about Kitchener's concentration camps, and if they didn't it was because they didn't want to, or reckoned there was nothing wrong with it.

But the fact that powerful groups can act in such a way toward us people and apparently justify it as perfectly all right, acceptable nothing wrong with it, and go on to live highly respectable lives came very much into a qualitatively different kind of focus following the Second World War. An attempt was made at the United Nations to persuade the world that we people had rights, not because of the circumstance of our birth but simply because all of us are human beings, for god's sake. There were many reasons, many motivations driving the Second World War, not all of them inspiring, yet the ideal, the thing that might permit the millions of dead to rest easier, not feel wasted, was a hope for a better world, a more peaceful and cooperative world in which to live and not have to die gloriously in act of patriotic duty. An articulation of hope for a new sort of future were expressed in Four Freedoms. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Worship. Freedom from Want. Freedom from Fear. In the December of 1948, to promote such a possibility the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 9 was a ban on arbitrary detention, you couldn't just put people into prison without giving them a trial in a court, you couldn't round them up without due process, and if you did you had to look out for them because of Article 6 "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law"-(It would be the law of the country in question.) And certainly, it could be that our species is functionally incapable of maintaining such a fine ideal, so all this high falutin is only something we organize around when we're heartily ashamed of ourselves and beg for mercy. In 1948 there were 58 members of the United Nations. 48 countries voted in favor of the Declaration. 8 countries abstained. And 2 countries couldn't bring themselves to vote. Have to suspect those numbers might have changed a little since then, but who's kidding who, the powerful are allowed to get cynical it might seem until they need good and willing help to go out and die heroically for them and then it's back to bribing us with inspirational blather about future possibilities. Either way, get depressed and call it what you want, a concentration camp is where people are hidden away so you don't have to treat them or think of them as people like you, with feelings, emotions, bodily functions, dreams, hopes, wishes, nutritional needs, clothing, a little privacy sometimes and things like teeth which might need to be cleaned occasionally. But you got to start somewhere? In his 1913 article that's remembered as "Sunlight is the best disinfectant" Justice Brandeis had a context that included this "Public opinion is a sort of atmosphere, fresh, keen and full of sunlight, like that of the American cities, and this sunlight kills many of those noxious germs where politicians congregate..... Selfishness, injustice, cruelty, tricks and jobs of all sorts shun the light; to expose them is to defeat them."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Yobs, Chavs, Tories and the GOP

In the 18th and early 19th Century the word yob meant a male child or young man. Male children and young men, which includes older men who are desperately trying to remain young men, can be a bit of a handful, and if it wasn't for something that can only be a sort of knee jerk maternal instinct there's no way a yob deserves the adjective cute. Cute means attractive in an endearing way. There's debate of course, but I'd argue that in the 18th and early 9th Century yob applied to a boy or man who hadn't been able to secure useful or regular employment, and kind of hung around, maybe took the King or Queen's shilling ended up dying in the corner of some desolate foreign field. Then into the 20th Century the word yob took on the adjectives uncouth, useless, noisy, boisterous, illiterate, ill-disciplined, generally unpleasant and about as far from being gentlemanly as you can possible imagine. Weekend or poser yobs, and I have known a few, for some unknown reason see this term for them as a badge of honor. And I guess it might have been in this 'proud to be a lout' sense that a possibly geriatric opinion writer in a very reputable British newspaper recently suggested that the right of the political spectrum had all become yobs. And it's odd, because the UK Tory part, some few years ago, couldn't mention the UK Labour party without the word yob, or yobbish, or yobby coming up several times.

I dispute the writer's use of the word yob. It's poor term for the disgustingly ignorant behavior that so characterizes the more rightward adherents in the 21st Century.  First of all in my experience yobs are the more classic lefty of the street corner boys, they don't take well to discipline and the idea of yobs being capable of effectively organizing themselves into paramilitary unit is absurd. For that you have to go to the Skinhead or the Punk, both products of the 50's and 60's, a reaction by working class to the more rightward looking middleclass, who had all the stuff and houses, plenty to eat, warm and dry in the winter, and generally being smart-asses who did well at school. The idea of preserving the past for the Skinhead quickly turned angry and that's when they basically became ethnic cleansers and carried Saint George's Cross. The Punks always remained kind of gentle lefties, and they were mostly perfectly capable of giving you a good discussion about this and that without the whole conversation ending in physical altercation.  My own preference for the current right of the political spectrum would be chav or for the girls chavette. The Oxford English Dictionary in the year 2000, accepted this definition of a chav:  ".....person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes." Behaviour is the Oxford Dictionary's way of spelling behavior. Mind you, safe to say, that I rather enjoyed the yob lifestyle, didn't have much of nothing, didn't care, so not the sort of person who'd get remotely excited about free shipping and certainly wouldn't be seen dead mincing around in a designer anything, far too classy for that sort loutish behavior.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Donna Haraway's The Cyborg Manifesto

What does Irony mean. The word is used enough, and in my view it's a word that's up there around Plutarch, it has a sort of location within a group think where in some ways you don't actually have to know what the word means in order for your thought processes to be guided by it. In my case, my thought processes become negative toward the user of the word irony, and absolutely it's a burden I carry, a neurosis if you prefer. But I mention the word irony for two, hopefully much better reasons. The first is in the origin of the word Irony and the second is the word "ironic" as it appears in this sentence: "This essay is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism." An ironic moment in Greek Tragedy was when the audience knew exactly what was going on but from his or her words and actions no one could be certain whether a particular character fully understood what was going on. This understanding of irony suggests the essay is being used as a literary technique. The subject of the essay is an attempt to build a political myth that cleaves to current ideas circulating around feminism, socialism and materialism, and the irony part is, what's really happening is an attempt to better understand the current state of and apparent impasse in feminism, socialism and materialism. The essay ends: "Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." And it's true that Donna Haraway's, Cyborg Manifesto, set off a whole new set of arguments including whether or not a "sonographic fetus" was feasible without the cyborg divorcing itself from the "order of nature." And here the answer isn't "big whoop," it's more like "How interesting."

"This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the super savers of the new right."  In 1985, when Cyborg Manifesto was written, the "new right" became the current version of the USA Republican party, as well as whatever's happening in Europe and I think Donna Haraway would agree with me. "Super savers," would be rampant commercialization of all that is. "Circuits" is a reference to an increasing interdependence between electronics and life forms. The speaking in tongues part belongs to a thesis that there is no one theory of everything, a cyborg is part living thing, part machine and there is no determining an end point or a solution to the relationship of living and machine within a cyborg, it is what it is, single possibilities, single identities don't exist, frontiers have the potential to be boundless. The thing is to let that happen, embrace it by allowing it to be undefined by any one particular cathedral of understanding, all of which are basically human and subject to the limitations of self interest, ambition, making enough money, getting married, raising children, health insurance and it's endless. "Infidels" are non believers in a body of understandings. "Heteroglossia" is different ways of talking about something, you got the logic of language that pertain to specialized areas and this logic can lead to something like my reaction to the use of "Plutarch" and "Irony" and for that matter "pertain," in a sentence. It pretty much puts the user into category that then defines just about every other utterance he or she makes. As an example, "if you call me a Libtard, I'll know you're a borderline Moron." A myth is a myth of course, and whether you like it or not we people all live in one. Yes indeed, who wouldn't rather be a Cyborg.

Messengers

Mention the name Plutarch and while it makes it sound as though you know what you're talking about, there's also a very good chance it makes you sound like a boring old pompous ass. Either way any mention of Plutarch should rightly cause some sort of reaction, so go ahead. The same can be said of course for the State of Missouri. Plutarch was a writer who did ancient biographies of ancient men. In his biography of a famed General of the Roman Republic called Lucullus, Plutarch records Lucullus' progress toward  Eastern Turkey into a territory controlled by Tigranes the Great, and Plutarch mentions this:  "The first messenger, that gave notice of Lucullus' coming was so far from pleasing to Tigranes that he had his (the messenger's) head cut off for his pains; and no man dared to bring further information. Without any intelligence at all, Tigranes sat while war was already blazing around him, giving ear only to those who flattered him." Freud had a rather kindly explanation for this sort of neurosis, he suggested that the whole shooting the messenger thing was a 'take no notice' defense, it was a way of dealing with distressing, unbearable facts or news.

The Church developed a form of shooting the messenger, they had a wide ranging set of arguments, as a messenger you could beg for forgiveness and if you were stubborn you were declared a heretic, which meant that when you died you went to hell. Nor was the Church that fond of fancy new ideas from so called scientists, all of whom were inches away from being possessed by demons and it was really only fair to burn a few at the stake as an example to other poor souls. The tyrannical tend to a version of shooting the messenger which is currently on full display here in the United States. What you do is put your faith in good messengers, there'll always be one, and then should the bad messengers have found secure employment in something like the EPA, you cut the departments funding, you move the department to a part of your territory that no one with an inch of imagination or anything like a spark of interest in the future would want to be relocated to. A little cruel to Kansas City on my part perhaps, unnecessarily vicious, a little over the top but at the same time I'm certain that even in Missouri they have their own way of knowing whether the truth hurts.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Troublesome Pastoralists

Almost everything known about Huns comes from Roman and Greek sources. A fairly biased bunch from whom we get the word Barbarian, which means of incomprehensible babbling speech. The Huns were a pastoral people, a lifestyle that meant you moved on when pasture was difficult, no hanging around worrying about seeds and planting and stuff. The Huns had joined the great western migration of people from Central Asia. Huns settled briefly in the Caucuses and soon enough they joined the tradition of pillaging the frontiers of the Roman Empire. In the East the tradition still was that if you were really adept at pillaging, you could persuade an Eastern Roman Emperor to bribe you with gold and fabulous riches to stop, pull yourself together, try to settle down to a more respectable way of life. The Western Roman Empire had already given up with the whole bribery solution, it was far too expensive, never produced a satisfactory result and the compromise was to grant territory, give the territory autonomy and set conditions for occupying the territory, and oddly enough many pastoralist people settled down. Then if one or other group got above themselves Western Roman Leadership would sort them out through a combination of diplomatic alliances, bribes and threats of violence, and later there were things like excommunication. And it was pretty much like that in Western Europe, with the various groups vying with each other for the overall position of Big Dog until the Marshal Plan and the idea of a United States of Europe, both ideas currently being badly mauled, and it's tempting to reach into History for repetition in a search for answers to the question why, round and round endlessly, but who knows with us people, even if it's only a very remote chance we might be going somewhere, but very doubtful.

In time Attila came to be paramount leader of the Huns who had charge of a wide territory, and were doing well for themselves. On a wild hair he gathered his clans and headed well west of the Caucuses toward what's now France. And what with one thing and another in the area of pillaging he did pretty well until the heartland of the Western Roman Empire started getting very nervous. And it so happened that in the Western Empire a Senator was planning an important political move, he'd chosen a bride. The very young girl was no big fan of the idea and in the interest of general harmony and possibly as a result of abject panic, the family decided that with Huns running amok so close to the heartland there might be a better arrangement to be made. And the girl agreed to be sent as a prospective bride for Attila. She had a letter and she had an engagement ring to give him. There might easily have been language difficulties, miscommunications and so on, but also safe to say that with their  power increasingly waning, Romans, like so many highly advantaged groups clung to a high opinion of themselves and their value long after it was warranted. Attila was delighted, of course he'd be happy to try marrying a well bred Roman, and he expected half the Western Roman Empire as dowry for his effort. Not at all what Romans had anticipated and they'd no intention of agreeing to the dowry. Aggravated Attila and his Huns felt obliged to invade the north of Italy. The Hun invasion distressed Northern Italy so badly it was struck by crop failures. For the Huns, none of whom did anything boring like the hard disciplined work of farming, this meant no food in a starving land and fortunately Attila found matters to attend to elsewhere, which is probably why the Huns never sacked Rome. Mind you, it's also possibly there was no actual benefit to Attila from killing off Rome. A major trophy, but it would be a huge responsibility and a Whale of problems that would certainly have played havoc on the free and easy pastoralist and pillaging lifestyle. Attila died on the eve of the last of his many wedding days, and after he was gone, Huns fell to quarrelling, soon afterwards they disappeared as an organized group. They were assimilated, I guess. 1300 years later the word Hun as a pejorative was first used in 1900 by the Chinese to describe ruthless German attempts to put down the Boxer Uprising and in the First World War Hun was used by the propagandists of the Western Allies to denigrate the German People.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Roman Legions

With Roman Legions, maintaining enthusiasm for fighting was big, very big. Each section had a veteran of wars and it was his role to tell tales of glory, go on about this and that, maintain a narrative of fighting, dying bravely and wining. Nor did it really matter what you were actually fighting about, that question was irrelevant and discouraged. They were pretty much professional soldiers, you joined up for twenty years and if you survived you had a bit hidden away and you were supposed to be given land and a pension. More recently the Democrats here in the United States really want to fight, their veterans are trying to calm them all down. And the thing about that sort of behavior from the veterans, it saps enthusiasm, and when battle commences, well you got a bunch of limp wristed javelin throwers. Just my opinion of course.

With Roman Legions a general who appeared anxious not to fight, looked for excuses, hummed and hawed, had to make pretty dammed certain veterans within the ranks weren't going to start doubting the capacity of their general to win the battle. The point is veterans did pretty well out of the spoils of war, there was booty, there was kudos, a whole bunch of reasons, nor did a legion really want to go home with its tail between its legs, and if you lost the battle a lot of good men died, so you can call it self interest. Of course, safe to say that elites know the rules, in many ways they live in a bit of fantasy world that kind of suits them, and the other thing about war is, and you quickly find this out, there are no rules. More likely the analogy of the Roman Legions to at least one of our current political parties is apt. The other Political Party are the Huns. Just my opinion.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

June 1963

Some time in June of 1963, a couple of people handily broke into a very secret British government bunker and they photographed a whole bunch of top secret documents, which they then made into thousands of copies and distributed to the press and to the public. Not an easy thing to do, or keep the identity of the perpetrators secret, it was kind of bold of them. The first obvious assumption would be: "Gosh! They must have been highly trained secret agents of a foreign power. But why would they distribute it to the press? A whole lot of sinister subversive type reasons why they'd do that for a foreign power." And back then it was always the Russians. But not necessarily. One argument is that the secret agents were a band of British citizens who wanted to demonstrate the veracity of a British Government White Paper which in 1957 had insisted that there was no feasible defense against a nuclear war. The stolen documents were the work of an unelected committee charged with exploring the possibilities of what to do in the event of a nuclear war. The evidence the committee had been presented with took account of what the aftermath of a nuclear war would look like and the committee's conclusion had been that basically the only way to even begin to manage the aftermath of such a war was some kind of highly efficient military dictatorship, and important people locked safely away in hardened shelters until the all clear was sounded in a couple of hundred, maybe a thousand years time perhaps. 

The pamphlet that accompanied the distributed copies of the documents claimed the essential motivation behind the committee's work was on the behalf of a small group of the power hungry who having accepted the probability of a nuclear war had decided it would be a perfect opportunity for them to take over the country and they were quietly plotting their cause and tactics toward that end. The documents authors claimed that was nonsense and while they were pretty convinced that in the event of a nuclear war nothing much would remain of the United Kingdom they nonetheless still had to come up with some sort of a plan, and try to make the most of it and of course you had to make sure the Queen was safe. The problem was their plan was secret, very few people knew about it, and it was this intense secrecy in an open society that detractors reckon was jolly suspicious. Oddly during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 the plan was never raised by the British Government, the initial preparatory phases never implemented or its existence even mentioned. Stranger still, while a couple of people were arrested and questioned not a single culprit was ever found. Then in the early part of the current century when a man called Nicolas Walter died his daughter announced that he'd been one of the perpetrators of the document theft. Nicolas Walter had written several books, on non-violence, humanism and how an atheist should face death. He'd been beaten up by English Muslims in 1989 for his position on blasphemy. And he'd once been arrested for letting off a bit of steam by yelling at Prime Minister Harold Wilson for supporting the Vietnam War.

Monday, June 17, 2019

General Will

Keynes' understanding of price fluctuations in equity markets, which very much includes an intellectual devotion by share holders to 'anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be' in the decision to buy or sell shares in a stock exchange, does in some ways reflect what can be thought of as a "General Will." The argument is a political populist argument that goes something like this: Individuals are subject to error and seduction, but not the general mass of people, who know what they want and they understand the level of their own independence, or freedom, without being told, and because of this the judgment of the people, as opposed to an elite, is pure and less corrupt. Which is why, the argument goes, "the people" or the "general will" take precedence over the elites.

Historically one of the issues with populism is the extent to which the general will tends to degrade the role of institutions, dismiss them as far too dominated by elites and as a result a long way from pure. Historically with populism it very easily becomes dogmatic and ethnic, rather than pluralist, in nature. And of course the general will, like market places, is subject to manipulation. Before Keynesian economic thinking, in the classic free market economic model, boom and bust was considered an entirely rational process of disciplining, or perhaps purifying, markets. And it's also very true that members of the political class who devote themselves to achieving power through populist movements do tend toward tyrannical impulses. And generally speaking, history suggests tyrannical regimes are prone to a cycle of boom and bust. The question is the extent to which tyrannical regimes can manage boom and bust of the general will. It's also the case that Liberal Democracy, free elections, free press and so on has over time been good at managing the General Will. Pretty sure Keynes would agree.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Keynes and Average Opinion

I was going to talk about the Tulip Bubble that burst in the February of 1637, and whether or not it played a role in the decline of what was and by some calculations still figures as the richest Corporation the world has ever seen, the Dutch East India Company. But back in the late 1930's John Maynard Keynes had an idea that might explain price fluctuations in equity markets, bubbles and things like that. An equity is a share in a public company, which means you own a bit of the company. You can buy and sell your bit of a company in an equity market place. The supply and demand for a share in a company determines the price of a share in that company. If a company doesn't look as though it's doing very well, there are clear reasons why a person might want to sell their share in a company. And if a company does look as though it's doing very well there are clear reasons why a person might want to buy a share in a company. But for Keynes these sort of clear reasons didn't really explain all price fluctuations. He suggested that much of the trade in equity, and in futures markets could be understood  in terms of what a buyer or seller reckoned other buyer and sellers were thinking. A naive person would buy a share because he or she just thought it looked jolly good and exciting. A less naive person would buy a share because he or she reckoned that a majority of people reckoned the share looked good. An even less naive person would buy a share because he or she reckoned that because other people reckoned the share looked good, the price would rise and soon enough he or she would be able to sell the share for a profit. Therefore truly virulent buyers and sellers of equities devoted their, "intelligence to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be."  For those interested the quoted passage is from Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. (1936)

And as a result, Keynes argued, prices fluctuate around the constant moving feast that was average opinion rather than anything like an objective appreciation of the condition or otherwise of the company. Less genteel minds have called the phenomenon "The Greater Fool Theory." And it's true, sometimes average opinion does fall very far foul of reason, and you end up with a panic of selling, supply soars as demand disappears. Generally speaking when this happens a company's in deep do-do, it's embarrassing, no one feels good about themselves, they can't get the best people because they have to avoid the golf club for a bit. There's debate of course, but one argument suggests that when you suddenly give a company lots of money, by for example reducing its tax burden, rather than improving wages and conditions for the lowly, or anything like that, a rational company which initially sold shares to raise money for vitally important wealth creating projects or whatever, would be very inclined to spend that windfall buying back it's own shares. By doing this the company has a greater control of the market for its shares because it has more say in "what average opinion expects the average opinion to be" of it's own shares. And it's also true that company officers have a big interest in the value of their company shares, because that's kind of how as individuals they get paid and how on the day of their retirement they get revoltingly wealthy and disgustingly pleased with themselves, not to mention smug. For Keynes, a much better hearted man than I, what he called businessmen were engaged in a game of chance and skill, they got wholly involved, and often the returns on the game, they found basically disappointing, so for Keynes the whole wide eyed never ending fandango was about more than just profit. "If human nature felt no temptation to take a chance, or derived no satisfaction (apart from profit) in constructing a factory, a railway, a farm or a mine, there might not be much investment merely as a result of cold calculation." Also from General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. (1936)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Genius Behavior

You'd find yourself in a bar, enjoying a couple of beers, not the freezing cold tinned stuff, this beer came in a pint glass, it was a little below room temperature, had a froth to it and you could see the nourishment floating around in it, and if you had enough of it you knew your supper had been taken care of, a fairly pricey meal I guess, but it certainly went through you nicely. Then at the other end of the bar you'd catch a couple of old timers laying down the law about one thing or another, and there was a kind of high pitch whining tone to it that kind of made you think that they both met the modern standard of stable genius as they rattled on, gathering steam instead of useful information. A lot of words, expressions, have to wait a bit before achieving a place in a respectable dictionary. You don't know for sure, but you'd kind of hope there was a committee somewhere that gave the OK to a word, sieved the nonsense out, give us all a chance to digest something like "I'm woke" before assigning it to the ordeal of belonging to the English Language, as opposed to leaving it to the tender mercies of something like the Urban Dictionary, top 100 lists and other degradations to consciousness currently being perpetrated by the tight jean and tee-shirt crowd that dominate the black hole of technological progress. And don't even think about telling me that I have download an App for my mobile device, it just sounds disgusting, and always tempting to snap back, "Bugger-up your own device!"

At the same time, there's a sort of beauty to the living nature of words as they emerge and change, and quite wrong to assert that life would be more comprehensible if dictionaries were shorter. You can dispute "I'm woke," go on a bit about why not "I'm awake," but then you got Wake Island and after an initial cloud burst of sneering you come away with a special fondness from "I'm woke" for the games it plays with imagination, and certainly it's whole lot more intriguing than the ludicrous "I'm born again." Either way in the area of drunken old farts in bars, and on the internet, the idea of referring to them as stable geniuses has a certain sensitivity, the kind of expression a barman might use to lighten his patience at closing time, instead of yelling something like "Get on out you silly old gits, some of us have homes to go to." It's the sort of thing that upsets a gerontocrat, which I suspect is totally invented word derived from gerontocracy, which is a government by terrible old people. For those in doubt the word Git, started it's time on earth as a pregnant fish before being taken into the realm of the pejorative by eager minds.  And indeed, many years ago when I was a fully fledged and blissfully happy drunkard, I recall a particular barmen who had a way with words that spoke volumes, there were whole tomes in his expression as he watched for trouble at that time of the evening when customers were supposed to go home quietly. He used to work as an orderly in a mental asylum, and he had a wealth of stories, his charges ran the gamut, and for him "genius behavior" was how you got yourself banned from his bar.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Cul-de-sac and the GOP

Of the very sensible findings in the GOP autopsy that followed the 2012 Presidential Election some are well worth recalling. "Listen to Minorities." "Gays aren't going away," "Stop being the rich guys." And the one that jumps out and bites you on the nose was referred to as "Epistemic Closure," which does seem like a term that might only be found in the fever swamps of academia. Yet back in 2010, the term was dancing around the thought processes of what they call Conservative Movement Intelligentsia, many of whom dismissed the whole accustaion of epistemic closure as  'wingnuttery,' 'epistemic one-sidedness' and 'lunacy' as they went on to claim that conservative movement was intellectually in excellent fettle and indeed it was the so called Liberals with their political correctness who were the ones struggling with epistemic closure in just the same way as Liberals had been struggling since the 1930's with all that tyrannical destroyer of liberty New Deal nonsense, an area the more radical Conservative Movement Intelligentsia have been averse to since they accused President Eisenhower of being far too Liberal.

But you have to forgive intelligentsias of all shades, they do tend to look down upon us mortals, not so much because we're stupid, more because we often have no idea what they're even talking about unless it becomes something like a meme, which doesn't say much for us but there you go. By epistemic closure the authors of the 2012 GOP autopsy basically chose a polite way of meaning "losing touch with the reality out there." All very well for the GOP propagandists to throw red meat at the general populace, but, the claim by some conservatives was, Conservative Intelligentsia had a responsibility to be guided by boring stuff like facts and figures.  This is what the GOP 2012 autopsy said, "We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue. Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us." All of which went to the shredder in the months before the 2016 Presidential Election. For those counting the 2012 GOP Autopsy was 100 single space pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tortfeasor In The Hood

In Anglo Saxon Law, there wasn't so much Criminal Law, rather it was a Civil Law where the remedy for wrong behavior was a fine of some sort paid to the injured party by the wrongdoer. Amongst the Angles and Saxons this civil law varied from clan to clan and between clans, but the point was to find a remedy that worked agreeably to the general opinion without ending up with endless very expensive blood letting feuds that didn't really get anything like a just or lasting solution. When Alfred, a Christian king of the Saxons, took control he followed the tradition of Saxon kings by presenting his own set of the various customs and practices of remedy for wrongdoing and in his codes of law which was written in The Book of Doom, as it was called, appeared for the first time in Saxon history the Ten 'thou shalt not' Commandments of Moses. One of the elements of wrongdoing that varied from region to region was the distinction between Intentional Injuries and Unintentional Injuries. In time a body of Civil Law developed in Britain and so did a body of Criminal Law. The distinction civil and criminal is really the difference between an offence against the person and an offense against a rule or law imposed by a state. In Civil Law the rules of evidence include an idea that goes back to the German tribes which was the person most believable wins the suit and this rule is now days referred to as "a preponderance of evidence." In the 'thou shalt not' Criminal Law, the rules of evidence are supposed to demand much better than "a preponderance of evidence"

Worth mentioning the harm has to be recognizable and acceptable harm, the Tort is the behavior resulting in harm, a Tortfeasor, a wonderful word, is the person whose behavior resulted in harm, and the Injured Party is the injured party. With respect to intentional injuries and unintentional injuries, the English Law of Torts has some opinions. A person is assumed to have certain obligations toward other people, in other words we're supposed to put some thought into the possible consequences of our actions. When we intentionally cause harm it's a qualitatively different behavior to a harm caused unintentionally. But because we have an obligation to consider the possible consequences of our action a tortfeasor who causes unintentional harm remains obliged to remedy the harm. Proving harm is fairly straightforward but Proving an Intentional Tort is a burden not easy to carry. At the same time, if the injured party believes they were deliberately harmed, it's harder for the injured party to shake hands and forget about it.  And the point about laws, rules, customs, practices and so on, is the preservation of civil society from the top to the bottom. It allows everyone in a society to feel safer from the predation of others, living together on earth becomes fairer, more purposeful, more Just and less cynical if you like, it provides a sense of participation and you can say what you like about Alfred pretending to be the first King of the English and putting the ten commandments into his code of laws, inventing the lantern, he understood this. I think even Hamilton knew this. We didn't live as long back then of course.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Limitations of Theater

The Leninist political tactic is in essence to solidify the base, and by solidify a person usually means produce a kind of 'there is no alternative' type unified loyalty. Meanwhile rival opinions swish around, drinking tea, debating this and that, coming up with all sorts of possible solutions to the dramas of being alive and invariably divisions emerge, a wishy-washiness that just never seems up to the challenge. In military tactics, this theory is translated into a strategy which under the guidance of a skilled commander is able to win battles against superior numbers. The enemy is persuaded, often by cunning, to divide his forces. Napoleon was a master of the technique in his wars against collectives of sometimes quarreling European armies who were nonetheless very anxious to defeat him. And, in my view, no accident that when bin Laden found himself aggravated by the divisions in the Mujaheddin around objectives and so on, in the fight against the Soviets that he chose to call his new group Al Qaeda, which loosely means "The Base" but within it's meaning is the understanding of a foundation, which for bin Laden at least was a sort of purity of vision around what an Islamic State should be.

However you prefer to conceptualize "The Base" in the political sphere, it's not so much a geological feature it's more of a fleeting moment, a ride in the elevator, and there's a good percentage of us people who spend an unhealthy amount of time jockeying for position to benefit from something like a base riding on an elevator. We can't help it. Soon enough because of the ludicrous nature of what you might call "pure dreams" divisiveness arises within a base that has to be managed, and of course you can try to manage it through theater if you want to. Theater generally has limitations, the Church does a pretty good job of it, but does so for a never ending cause, heaven will never be on earth, if it ever happens there'll be no need for a church, and you'd put a lot of vicars out of business. The never ending cause is theatrically powerful just so long as the story never ends. I recall Mrs. Dale's Diary, a quarter hour radio program which when it came to an end after twenty odd years sent many a customer into a deep depression. The program was a constant to cling to and talk about. Then if you wrap the story around a somewhat elderly and unhealthy looking person, however wonderful you might think him, you're not being real wise or sensible, your just kind of watching television, and end up coming up with something like "Elvis is still alive" as you pay homage to Graceland. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nuances

Bag is safe enough as a flexible container, a small sack, possibly a Norse origin in baggage, and in the 1920's bag went downhill, in the 1970's came to be used sometimes by milkmen as a disparaging description of a fussy housewife, as in 'Not that old bag again!' But can't find the origin of the word Sleaze beyond a definition from 1967 were sleaze is defined as a 'condition of squalor.' In other places there's a suggestion that sleaze has something to do with inferior quality, as in 'the lining of this coat is sleazy.'  Safe to say that since 1967 the word sleaze and the antics of the political class often figure in the same sentence. And yes, it's also true that 'some sleazy characters hang around casinos.' In a sense I guess there's an element of the casino in the halls of power. At the same time, it's pretty much been like that since the dawn of agriculture and the idea of property as the winning combination around which a society might bond, produce then squander surplus.

Oddly enough the word Cad, an unprincipled and ungentlemanly person, derives from the word Caddie. A Caddie is Scottish for one who does odd jobs, and who carries golf clubs around. The word Bounder, in the 1560's, was one who set boundaries. Clearly it's a role ripe with possibilities, and in time came to mean an 'ill-bred, unscrupulous man.' The suggestion is that the word bounder reflected one who lives outside the bounds of acceptable behavior. Nonetheless between the expression "You sir, are a cad and a bounder" and the expression "You sir, are a sleazebag" there's some kind of difference. Not certain where the line is, but one thing's for sure, current affairs do grant a perfect opportunity to explore the nuances. And here I do have the impression that the senior senator from my own state of Kentucky is a 'cad and a bounder,' whereas the current chief executive officer of the United States fits better into the 'sleazebag' category. All of which may, but not necessarily, suggest the difference has something to do with that most useful adjunct of ego, competence.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Methuselah, Clothing Allowances and Charity

Not certain I have the mental cohesion to enjoy a traditional early June humid laden contemplation of the direction of slope between Summer and Winter Solstice. Uphill or downhill? Easy enough to blame this lack of cohesion on the current colonial administration, yet such a contemplation would probably be far more constructive than devoting the afternoon to wondering why anyone would spend over a quarter million dollars in a men's clothing store. Maybe Methuselah in the course of his 969 years upon earth might have splurged a little on a clothing allowance of around $25 a year, making it a lifetime clothing expenditure of around quarter of a million dollars, but from nappy to compost the average US male currently lives around 76 years, so at a quarter of a million dollar life time expenditure on clothing, I think you're looking at around $3250 a year, which is a ludicrous number of socks, shirts, trousers and underpants, so maybe my sums are in gross error.

At the same time, and here possibly I'm a bit of a cave dweller, but fairly convinced that any male of our species who spends quarter of a million dollars of someone else's money in a single year on clothing is, shall we say either "a scourge on the good reputation of Lounge Lizards," or "Not all there, mentally." Always a chance there's been some spectacular movement in the gene pool that's proceeding to cast about for new forms of maleness. A most exciting prospect, but have to think future-wise this movement is probably something of a dead end. And indeed there's an argument that suggest Peahens are not in the least interested in the number and size of a Peacock's tail feathers, rather the entire tail feather display of a Peacock is for the sole benefit of discouraging other Peacocks. Mind you the oniomanic in question does serve as chief executive of a registered charity called the National Rifle Association, explains a lot.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Bipedal

There's a general agreement in the more scientific literature that Hunter Gatherers had more leisure, less responsibilities, fairly relaxed sort of life, stories, parties, dancing and stuff. The environment could be tricky, but what with one thing an another you'd do your best and if it happened it happened. Their food sources were very varied which meant they had less reliance upon any particular food source, no abject panic if the larder was absent a sac of Potato or coffee beans. And certainly when our species engaged in hunter gathering there weren't that many of us, we could roam at will, go where we pleased. And you can see this kind of attitude in the joy grandchildren take from being allowed to do pretty much exactly what they want to do, even if it is a terrifying experience for the primary caregivers for whom "a sabre-tooth tiger did it" is no excuse. There are also arguments about whether or not back in those days we were more polygamous than we were monogamous. And it's been proposed by some that bipedalism was an adaption to a monogamous life style, does sound a little suspicious but you can kind of see it if you think it terms of efficiency. Walking easily on two legs, this argument goes, allows people to easily and efficiently carry more, and why on earth would they do that? So boys could take food back to the nest while the girls cared for the offspring. Again there's an argument that suggests that girls of all species are perfectly capably of choosing to mate with weird looking boys on the off chance it might improve their chances. Yet again, there's an argument that suggests we people were forced into bipedalism following a change in the climate that required us to leave the trees and navigate open grassland. It's a rich highly entertaining area of serious thinking, but the reality is we don't know what it was like to be a person in those generations prior to the emergence of agriculture as our prime source of sustenance.

Isaac was an old man, he was decrepit, his mind drifting, his eyesight appalling, he was dying and he really wanted meat. He called to his oldest son Esau and suggested that Esau might go out into the wild, hunt him some venison and Esau would cook it because he knew how to. Not an easy instruction to obey, venison doesn't grow on trees, he'd have to creep around with his bow and arrow sometimes for a couple of days before he'd strike it lucky. Now Rebecca was possibly a little fonder of her youngest son Jacob who was in every respect easier to be around than Esau, and she didn't like the idea of Esau getting a final blessing from Isaac. So she suggested that Jacob nip out to the flock, slaughter a couple of kid goats, which would be about the size of a Deer and she'd make something delicious that Jacob could then take to his father and by so doing receive Isaac's final blessing. "But Esau is an hairy man," Jacob answered, "And I am an smooth man." Rebecca told Jacob to man up, he could cover himself with the skin of one of the kid goats, and Isaac wouldn't know the difference. You can read the story in Genesis 27, and all kinds of fascinating issues here for our own generation, but Esau and Jacob were on the cusp of a transition between hunter gathering and agriculture. The clan was rich and comfortable because of their flocks and not because of an ill-disciplined hairy man disappearing for a couple of days to hunt a Deer. Rebecca, I'd argue, understood this, and God knows what would have happened to the clan if Esau was in charge. Then of course you've got the whole business of using sneakiness and cunning to ensure the security of something like an agricultural interest as opposed to preserving the more free and easy lifestyle of the hairier Esau. And here, one rather unkind argument suggests that we homo sapien boys are possibly past the prime of our overall usefulness to the enduring progress of our species.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Rand, Morgan and Current Events

 "When table utensils were invented in the 1100s, the Catholic Church condemned them as obscene and heretical, claiming, 'God gave us fingers with which to eat.' And we're supposed to get politically discouraged? Oh please. We're being opposed by people who denounced the fork." The quote is from Robin Morgan, a star in the firmament and in my reading of her work I can risk summing her position with another quote from her, "Women are a colonized people." In the end as a red blotchy elderly male, over the years I've learned more about the political condition of maleness from feminist writing than from pretty much anywhere else. "Don't accept lifts from strange men, and remember all men are strange as hell."

One of her points is that while men and women share humanness women are unable to contribute to the shaping of a more human society because they're not treated as equals, which is another way of saying women are an underclass, their role decided for them. And indeed, as an Artist and Political Being, Robin Morgan once suggested "I feel that man-hating is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them."  Kind of no wonder white feminists frighten the current Republican Party, devoted as it is to preserving white male privilege and it's a slippery slope when even girls stopped doing what white men tell them to. Oddly it was the Republican pinup Ayn Rand in her ideas about a moral structure for a successful rationally selfish society who offered, "Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered."

Friday, June 7, 2019

Tyrants of Tender Age

A Posteriori is the basis of empirical thinking and you can call it From facts to General Principles. The trouble is, if your facts are shall we say a great deal less than accurate, your general principles are extraordinarily unreliable and once stated a badly flawed general principle inclines toward a poor relationship with reality. With us people this doesn't really matter, just so long as we're all on board the lesson learning bus. Fortunately, I guess, there are some in our number who cantankerous of personality possess a contrariness that no matter the accuracy or otherwise of a general principle will instinctively dismiss it as an affront to goodness and light, a cruel and unusual stain on the block of existence, a gross infringement of personal liberty and basically all hell breaks loose. You learn this from extended contact with grandchildren, and you understand completely the Edwardian struggle to reappraise the more Victorian, and in my view still very tempting, 'seen but not heard' general principle with respect to anyone of tender age. Then when general order resumes, you have to wonder a little at the definition of tender age. Not certain there's a hard and fast rule, could be tender age is a convolution in meaning designed around the idea of gentrifying pain in the neck and downright aggravating behaviors from particular age groups, a title that attempts to call forth a chivalry from within the darker less nurturing souls. And when those same behaviors remerge in the more geriatric, as they seem to be doing more and more, they demand a less forgiving and more satisfyingly visceral and usually unprintable title.

Thomas Paine, of "these are times that try men's souls" and Founding Father of United Paternalistic States fame, might have used the word non-age instead of tender age. His quote "The bravest achievements were always accomplished in the non-age of a nation."  Aside from the propagandist tone, does add a little something to the very ancient notion of the role played by 'beginnings.' You got the whole monotheistic, Almighty God's got a beard, Adam and Eve, I will be your shepherd and guiding light thing to work on as you attempt to dissuade a two year old from popping the desiccated carcass of a partially digested rodent into his mouth. Then briefly 'it takes a village' leaps into the foray and yes indeed you can easily convince yourself that the true, lasting and most reasonable lesson to be learned for the consequence of this action could well require the cooperation of an emergency room followed by several months in an isolation ward hooked up to a life support system, and here to avoid a personal culpability I'd be quite certain to produce a general principle out of facts that had absolutely nothing to do with the word true. Not that it would have fooled anyone, and as an act of negligence on my part it surely wouldn't have been one of those 'we're all sinners' type things. Very fortunately, or unfortunately, a two year old will drop anything to chase after and attempt to destroy a passing Butterfly, yet another primal characteristic the tender aged share with The Kitten and others of the tyrannically minded set.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Risk

D-Day. The weather forecast wasn't good, overcast, possibility of rain, choppy seas, and any familiarity with the English Channel would suggest that under these circumstances conditions can deteriorate rapidly. But the Supreme Allied Commander understood that failure to send in the Allied invasion force would be a burden on the morale and readiness of the nearly 200,000 sailors charged with ferrying and supporting 156,000 soldiers across the channel. You can picture the soldiers, loaded down with equipment, stuffed up together on the landing craft, some of them seasick, waiting, thinking about it and wondering how it might feel to die on the Beaches of Normandy.  The weather didn't help the invasion, supporting armor was delayed and gusty winds brought up the tide much sooner than was expected.

The Axis forces had had a plan to prevent the Allied forces from breaking out of any beachhead they might have been able to establish. The plan had been devised by Field Marshal Rommel, and it involved keeping large numbers of tanks at strategic points along the French Coast. These tanks could then be quickly deployed. But in Berlin Adolf Hitler had come to believe that he alone knew what was best, and his General Staff had given up on anything like reasonable argument. He ordered the bulk of Axis tanks to be deployed a good distance inland, they'd be safe from a naval bombardment near Paris, well over 150 miles from the coast. Rommel's point about the Axis not having anything close to air superiority was ignored. Who knows what might have happened on D-Day.