Monday, October 27, 2014

"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, Before we go to Paradise"*

"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, Before we go to Paradise"*

Not everything I post is about doom, to whit:

 To Improve a Memory, Consider Chocolate - NYTimes.com


*G K Chesterton The Rolling English Road






Saturday, October 25, 2014

I wish I could be as saguine.






Small article, or report of a talk I suppose, In his own words: Ben Bradlee on liars,

about truth telling.



As I said in the subject, I am not sanguine about ultimate truth telling



    "In a democracy, the truth emerges — sometimes it takes years —

     and
that is how the system is supposed to work and eventually

     strengthen
itself.



     I take great strength from that now, knowing that in my
experience,

     the truth does emerge. It takes forever sometimes, but it
does emerge.

I think that what Buchwald said is truer: You Can Fool All the People All the Time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kasserine Pass

Anyone remember the Battle of Kasserine Pass?  It was the first real confrontation between US and Nazi armies, the latter under Rommel's command.  We did not acquit ourselves well.

There is a point.  It was the first battle (and followed the first seaborn landing, which was also sub par).  But it was the first, and was followed by reorganization, retraining, and forward movement.  (Cue the appropriate music.)

Nothing works from the start, and no plan survives contact with reality.  Handling Ebola is no different.  (I doubt anyone thought of the issue of a staffer going off on a cruise.)

So this is to be expected. 

It would help, if leaders wouldn't say 'it's all OK', but instead said something like 'There is a plan, Here are its broad outlines.  It will no doubt have faults.  We intend to adjust.'

Unfortunately, we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meanwhile in Europe...








A street scene in Schilderswijk, the neighborhood in The Hague where a Jewish resident’s efforts to erect a sukkah have sparked controversy.


I found the content of this article from forward.com, Sukkah Sparks Controversy in Mostly Muslim Dutch Neighborhood – Forward.com not unexpected, which makes it more depressing.

The Jew involved was told
...he could build his sukkah only on condition that he dismantle it by 9 o’clock each night. According to Schomberg [the builder of the Sukkah] , the police had advised the city against allowing a sukkah at all, since it might invite Muslim vandalism*. (Emphasis added.)
I am old enough to recall that during the civil right movement, the excuse of potential violence was used to try and deny pro-civil right protesters parade permits.*

However it was decided, by courts in this country, that the civil authority had a positive responsibility to protect legitimate public displays of opinion, which would include religion. 

That does not appear to be the opinion of the Dutch state.  One wonders, if this issue were to come before  the European Court of Human Rights, whether it would rule that state's have a positive responsibility to protect such rights, like Google's positive responsibility to allow the past to be forgotten.

It does appear to be an attitude that divides the Muslim population from the rest of society and infantilizes it -- that you aren't really fully human, so we can't require you behave in a civil way. 

The behavior of the local Jewish leadership is not uplifting: "his [the Sukkah builder's] behavior puts the entire Jewish community in the Hague (and the Netherlands) at risk."  -- 'Who will be for me', indeed (, Pirke Avot I.15).

As a Jew, this tends to reinforce the view that Europe can never be a home for us.

As a member of 'western civilization' ("It would be a good idea" -- Ghandi), if this is as typical of Europe as it sometimes appears, I despair.



----------
*For the record, I supported the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, so I suppose I am a fundamentalist on this issue.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I can feel safe now, the Constitution protects me...

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz written to reassure us that we don't have to worry -- because change is impossible.


Integrity Disqualifies Sanders for White House - The New Yorker


The effective Unites States Constitution maintains that, in addition to being native born and 35, one must be  part of a "network of cronyism and backroom deals [which is] required under our system to be elected."


This is a triumph of social engineering: "Our political system has been refined over the years specifically to keep [certain types of people]  out of the White House...The system works.”


And to think, I was just writing about feeling glum about Scottland.

Liberty and Union...

I have looked, rather glumly, at the Scottish move to secession, and one comment encapsulated my problem with it.

On Weekend Edition Sunday, there was an interview with Val McDermid, in which she said:
And so I looked at the kind of decisions that have been coming out of the Scottish Parliament since we had some power over our own affairs. And it seemed much more in tune with my own ideas than what comes out of the Westminster Parliament.
The Scotts represent a region which votes with differently (and with greater uniformity) from the (much) of the rest of Britain.  I am hard pressed to see much difference between this and the petitions to secede following Obama's reelection, or those who want to create new states out of old ones.

In the early part of the 19th century, one of the issues that caused conservative in Europe to doubt the staying power of the American 'Republican Experiment', was the belief that a system which derived its legitimacy from some popular consent could avoid be torn apart by faction and secession.

Though we do not hear it with our ears of today, this was what Lincoln was referring in the Gettysburg address, particularly in the closing sections -- people had predicted that a Civil War and dissolution was the natural end of 'government by the people.'

The appetite for secession, not only in Scotland, is fundamentally a challenge to a notion of nation and representative and constitutional democracy (I would use the work republicanism, but that is not apropos when there is a monarch).  That if we lose we leave.  Never mind that the prior PM was a Scott, or that the union allowed Scottland to have a higher standard of living than most the the rest of the UK, at least up through the first several decades of the 20th century.

The mirror of this was the majoritarianism of Thatcher, who savaged the industrial economy of the UK -- which hit the Scotts particularly hard -- on the basis of "We won the election, we don't have to listen."  I know some who argue that these actions and the finanicalization of the British economy justify Scottish secession.

In either case, 'my' triumphs over 'ours'.  'My ideology' is ascendent (for now) so I don't have to listen to you, 'my ideas' have not convinced the rest, so I will not stay with you.

Neither of these acknowledge to temporary nature of the present or that there is anything permanently of value in a larger community.

What this means for the EU (which the Scotts wish to join) is open to question.

We are in a "Thyestean Feast," in the west, with the break down of any notion of an organic union in our communities. I think because it is so useful for the powerful deny a common good -- and so the lowly believe it too.  We thus become unwilling to sacrifice, and worse yet are never even asked.

So, I am glum about the Scotts, because this is a sign that I am a fool to want to still be able to think big, be bounded to a community of real value and scope, and secure liberty.  I fear that it is a symptom of lights going off.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014