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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
After the Harvest (Indiana Cornfield)
Topic: Verse

 

As a mother passes her hand

Over bed sheets, smoothing them out,

The coming snow will smooth this field,

Covering the broken stubble

Tomorrow, perhaps. But today,

A rearguard of the autumn sun

Retreats across the barren field,

Gilding the harvested bare earth

As if to stand against the fall of night—

But never turning from its westward flight.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:22 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Axis Tilt
Topic: Verse

 

Now the rough winds come. They tumble

   spotted leaves along the sidewalk.

Now the trees rattle.

 

Now the girls cover their loose limbs

   and hurry up the street, heads bent.

Now the sun gives place.

 

Now the cars cough in the morning,

   and the busses vomit cold smells.

Now the trains run late.

 

Now cops are seen by the pale light

   of clotted clouds with pinched faces.

Now the gutters smoke.

 

Now the rough winds come carrying

   new-wrought crystals through the canyons.

The pavements are cold-sugared

   and the sere leaves congregate

   in their fugitive corners.

Now the sky comes down.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:10 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 1 July 2008
But Now We Have Cable
Topic: Verse

 

When I was ten these streets were crooked still,

And I could have walked them with my eyes closed

From corner to corner. I knew every house

Along the streets, and who lived in them too,

And that the old man who sat on the stoop

Of the small house across the street from ours

Had soldiered in France with Black Jack Pershing,

And didn't like kids.

 

I knew the trace of the territory

Behind the houses—the lots and thickets—

The places where the fences had been gapped—

The triangle of fallen logs I called

A fort—which trees were easiest to climb—

And where a fire might be safely laid.

I knew the paths between the broad back yards,

And all the shortcuts.

 

I knew the way to the sluggish river

Where bottles did duty for battleships,

Shattering under my salvos of stones.

I knew the way across the wooden dam

Into the sad patch of forest beyond

The railroad tracks on which I laid my ear

In passing to listen for a train that might

Flatten a penny.

 

I knew where high white ramparts would be heaped

By the muscular plows. From those bastions

I would snowball passing trucks from ambush.

I knew where the pond ice would be rotten

On the first of March, and how to cross it

At a dead run, with the wind in my face,

Over the deep, over the low stone wall,

To the field beyond.

 

Now there’s a superstore where that field was,

And the bastards have straightened all the streets.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:38 AM EDT
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Friday, 27 June 2008
Intellectually Disarmed
Topic: Decline of the West

 

Progressivism embodies a kind of institutional stupidity capable of making people sound like idiots when they comment on political issues, even if they’re quite intelligent people otherwise.

 

Now I can’t place my hand on my heart and swear that Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King is actually an intelligent fellow, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He does, after all, write for a major American newspaper. How, then, to account for his reaction to yesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court, striking down the District of Columbia’s gun ban? Here is King, in full screed:

 

There's one group of District residents absolutely unfazed by today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling shooting down the District's strict handgun ban: the dudes who have been blowing away their fellow citizens with abandon since the law was put on the books 32 years ago.

 

So let me get this straight, Mr. King. The District’s gun ban has been on the books for 32 years—despite which fact, “dudes” have been “blowing away their fellow citizens with abandon.” Another way of putting this would be to say that whereas the ban disarmed law-abiding citizens, it left the criminal class armed and dangerous. This is an argument for gun control? Are you an idiot?

 

No, Mr. King is probably not an idiot. But he is obviously a progressive. Thus when it comes to political, economic and social issues, he’s incapable of thinking straight.

 

Update: It should be noted that barack Obama, who in the past spoke strongly in favor of the District's gun ban, same out with a statement in support of the Supreme Court's ruling. I wonder what Mr. King would have to say about that?


Posted by tmg110 at 8:40 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2008 9:34 AM EDT
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Thursday, 12 June 2008
The Lake Observed for a Year
Topic: Verse

 

Spring— 

The ice that claws the rocks, sands

And barriers of the shore

Rots in the sun. The ice gives 

A final exhausted cough

As its fingers lose their grip.

Summer— 

From the hazed curve of the shore

To the painted horizon,

The cobalt waters glitter

Beneath a fathomless sky,

And the all-triumphant sun.

Autumn— 

Now the waters grow fitful,

And they batter the dumb sand.

A shrewish wind whips the clouds,

And it strips the bending trees,

Strewing the beach with brown leaves. 

Winter— 

The days wane and the light goes, 

And the waters, like the joints

Of an old man, seize and creak.

Of God’s breath upon these sands

I say only: It froze my tears.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:23 AM EDT
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Friday, 23 May 2008
Measuring the American Difference
Topic: Decline of the West

One fairly reliable clue to an individual's political orientation is his attitude toward the metric system of weights and measures. Broadly speaking, those who wish to convert the United States to the metric system are progressive in tendency, while those who prefer to cling to the English system profess conservatism on other issues as well.

America is the only major nation on the planet that has not gone metric. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, when the last big push was made to force the metric system on this country, there were dire predictions that failure to adopt metric would have a disastrous effect on the American economy. It was said, no doubt truly, that the old English system, with its eccentric or obscure units of measurement (exactly how big is an acre, for instance, and what is a rod?) is unsuited to a modern, high-tech economy. It was at this time that signage on the interstate highway system began to give distances in both miles and kilometers. Clearly, the end times were upon us.

But the metric mob had reckoned without the reaction of the American people. Confronted with all those unfamiliar liters, kilos, centimeters, etc., they resolutely refused to stop thinking in terms of inches, ounces, quarts, feet, gallons, yards and miles. And so the dream of a metric America faded out. A few quaint remembrances linger—the two-liter soda bottle and the 5K race—but in the land of E Pluribus Unum, a pound is still a pound and if you give us an centimeter, we'll take a mile.

Despite the warnings of metric proponents, no economic disaster followed this rejection of the metric system. Indeed, the US economy has proved perfectly capable of working in either the metric or the English system as circumstances dictate. But clearly, America's rejection of metric still irritates many progressives:

ZAKARIA: We have to adjust. First of all, it's a much more competitive world. We have to be benchmarking. We have to be asking ourselves, what's going on? Give you simple example. Meredith there are three countries in the world that have not adopted the metric system: Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States. So we look around the world and "We say, that's okay. Those standards are for you. We're special, we're different." And what I'm saying is that era of kind of "American exceptionalism" is over.

That's Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, promoting his new book, The Post-American World, in an interview with Meredeth Vierra on the Today show. (Incidentally, Barack Obama is said to be reading this book.) Zakaria's frustration over America's refusal to get with the global program is practically a parody of the progressive mind-set. How dare these boobs not adopt the rational, logical system of weights and measures that was invented in France, and has been adopted by almost the whole world?

America's decisive rejection of metric was indeed a triumph of American exceptionalism. And it points to a difficulty that progressives are likely to encounter in their various projects to remake the country: the instinctive conservatism of ordinary Americans. Hardly anyone I know, for instance, takes gay marriage seriously. Some are opposed to it while others say that it makes no difference to them whether gay people marry or not—but very few think that gay marriage is real marriage. Despite generations of "progress" on social issues, people retain an instinctive belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, period.

In the long run, perhaps, as metric goes, so goes the nation. The truth—the grim truth from the point of view of progressives—is that most Americans are conservative by temperament. They don't like change, especially when they feel that it's being forced on them by an activist minority. In a country of this size, therefore, with political power so fragmented, projects of social improvement are probably doomed to failure. They can only be implemented, if at all, by stealth or administrative fiat. But though progressives lack the power to bring about constructive change, their irrational desire to reform America by making it just like the rest of the world can cause a lot of damage. Those two-liter soda bottles, for instance, have made a mighty contribution to the obesity epidemic that progressives now propose to fight with "fat taxes" and other forms of bullying. I don't mind watching them chase their own tails, but I do object to their doing so at my expense.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:04 AM EDT
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Thursday, 22 May 2008
60 Minutes of Lunacy
Topic: The Media

There's a reason why the term "journalistic standards" has become good for a laugh in conservative circles. Nowadays, if the target is on the right, the mainstream media's reporters and producers scarcely bother with such bothersome details as facts and evidence. Occasionally, to be sure, someone goes too far and gets the chop. When Dan Rather tried to topple President Bush with forged documents, he was put out to pasture. But on the whole, the media think they can get away with baseless attacks on the Bush Administration, Republicans and conservatives generally.

Take the case of Jill Simpson.

An Alabama lawyer of no great distinction or political background, she has become a heroine of progressivism. Here's how:

Simpson claims to have participated in a phone conversation with several Alabama Republicans in which she was made privy to a plot involving the Republican governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, a former justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, a federal judge, two United States attorneys, several assistant United States attorneys, the Air Force, and, apparently 12 jurors, to "railroad" former governor Don Siegelman into his 2006 conviction for bribery and mail fraud.

As John H. Hinderaker notes in his story for the Weekly Standard from which the above extract is taken, Simpson's story is not only unsupported by a particle of evidence, but utterly ridiculous on its face. And Simpson herself? She's an obvious head case. Perhaps that's why progressives have so fervently embraced her: it takes one to know one. But why did CBS's legendary news show, 60 Minutes, give Simpson the time of day? Why her story was too good to pass up. It involved Karl Rove, the evil genius of neocon fascism. You need no facts or evidence to indict him.


Posted by tmg110 at 7:32 AM EDT
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Monday, 19 May 2008
A Good Word for the Fuhrer
Topic: The Media

Who could make this stuff up? In today's mainstream media, even Hitler has his defenders.

Bruce Ramsey is an editorial writer for the Seattle Times—which may tell you all you need to know about where he's coming from. And okay, I get that progressives hate Bush, and that  Ramsey's in a snit over the President's speech to the Knesset, but does that really justify comments such as this?

The narrative we're given about Munich is entirely in hindsight. We know what kind of man Hitler was, and that he started World War II in Europe. But in 1938 people knew a lot less. What Hitler was demanding at Munich was not unreasonable as a national claim (though he was making it in a last-minute, unreasonable way.) Germany's claim was that the areas of Europe that spoke German and thought of themselves as German be under German authority. In September 1938 the principal remaining area was the Sudetenland.

Baloney. People knew plenty in 1938, as Churchill's account of the march to war (The Gathering Storm) makes very clear. What was lacking in many quarters were the intellectual honesty and moral courage to face facts. Hitler had never concealed his true purpose: it was there for all the world to read in the pages of Mein Kampf. Ramsey is right when he says that fear of war caused the democracies to sell Czechoslovakia down the river. But that is an explanation—not an excuse.

As for the claim that Hitler's demands were "reasonable," it should be noted that neither Austria nor the Czech Sudetenland had ever been part Germany. (Both were possessions of the Habsburg Monarchy up to 1918.) Hitler's desire to add these lands to his Greater German Reich only appeared reasonable to those who felt that they could save themselves by feeding someone else to the wolf.

But the crowning idiocy of Ramsey's screed is his complaint that criticizing a policy of appeasement by appealing to an historical precedent is mere 'hindsight." Well, Bruce, it could also be called "learning for the mistakes of the past"—one reason, certainly, why we study history. Fort some reason, though, the terrible mistake that was made by Britain and France at Munich is one that progressives prefer to overlook. What's up with that?


Posted by tmg110 at 7:35 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
The End of Science?
Topic: Must Read

 

Another thing about Last and First Men that strikes me as impressively prescient is Stapledon’s description of the corruption of science. As he imagines it, the intellectual decline of the First Men causes the once fluid doctrines of science to crystallize into a fixed and intricate dogma. The distinctions between science and religion gradually fade away; scientists themselves develop into a priestly caste.

 

To contemplate the follies of contemporary scientism is to certify the clarity of Stapledon’s vision. Countless people who scoff at the idea of God give their faith to Science (I capitalize intentionally)—yet few of them appear to have the smallest grasp of science as such. Indeed, the empirical mode of thought and the protocols of scientific method are anathema to such true believers as the followers of Al Gore. For to think critically about global warming is to commit an act of heresy—and the heretic is not to be debated. He is to be liquidated. Hence the shrill insistence that where global warming is concerned, “the debate is over.” Hence the frequent comparisons of global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers.

 

Of course, few people are fanatically attached to such pseudo-scientific causes as global warming and stem cells. But even where fanaticism is lacking, a corrosive faith festers. The argument that such-and-such a position or policy violates the principles of “good science” is held to be unanswerable. But what is “good science”? Many things may indeed be scientifically possible. Whether or not they’re good and desirable is another question entirely. But those who place their faith in Science have no desire to take up that question.

 

Thus in the name of Science, debate is quashed, criticism is suppressed and the heretic is persecuted. Or to put it another way, in the name of modern scientific religion, science is being destroyed. Imagine the outcry if Al Gore proposed to demolish Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. But we’re letting him and people like him get away with the demolition of another and equally glorious achievement of Western civilization, our scientific heritage. Olaf Stapledon saw it coming. He should be living at this hour.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:07 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2008 8:20 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Did They Ever Like Us?
Topic: Must Read

 

 European anti-Americanism is no recent phenomenon. It has quite a long pedigree, as I was reminded recently upon rereading Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future. This remarkable novel, which appeared in 1930, traces the history of humanity from Stapledon’s present to a future two billion years hence. It describes the evolution of humanity through eighteen species, of which our own is merely the first—and the most primitive.

 

Last and First Men is today considered one of the seminal works of modern science fiction—an ironic honor since Stapledon, a British philosopher, had no contact with the American writers of the so-called golden age of science fiction. Reportedly he was quite startled when he did learn of the existence of the genre, and of the huge popularity of his novel in SF circles.

 

The opening chapters of the Last and First Men depict the decline and fall of the First Men—homo sapiens—who only achieve global unity after the intelligence and initiative of the race have been undermined by generations of war. The world-spanning society that is founded in the aftermath of a long, destructive conflict between America and China is corrupted from the start by stereotyped scientism and religious fundamentalism. After 4,000 years of intellectual and spiritual sterility, this world society is destroyed by an energy crisis.

 

In some ways Stapledon was eerily prescient. He foresaw the problem of energy, the decline of Europe and Russia, the rise of China, the confusion of science with religious faith and much more. But what is particularly notable about the scenario described above is that it makes America the villain of the piece. It is American scientism and fundamentalism that rings down the curtain on the First Men. The author's mordant description of the First World State is titled "An Americanized Planet."

 

Last and First Men is very strongly marked by an apprehension that Europe’s older (and superior) culture will not in the long run prove capable of standing up to American power, or to the large-scale export of American vulgarity. To read this book is to receive an intriguing lesson in the sources of contemporary European anti-Americanism—and to realize that for all its tone of moral superiority, this prejudice is rooted primarily in hatred, fear and despair.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:35 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 April 2013 9:51 AM EDT
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