Saturday, October 24, 2015

More Relevant To Today Than You'd Think At First Glance: The Cummington Story (1945) Music by Aaron Copland

I hadn't ever heard of this music by Copland before or the movie he wrote it for.  I figured the best way to hear it was in the context in which he composed it and intended it to first be heard.   The movie is a re-enactment of the integration of a group of World War Two refugees in a small Massachusetts town.  It is a bit on the romantic side, for example, I don't remember anyone ever wearing suits and ties to sit in a town meeting or them being so congenial.  But, then, my first town meeting was about seventeen years after this one and maybe they were more formal about it than we were in Maine.  Other than that a lot of it looks quite familiar to me.

Note the sermon on the text from Leviticus 19:34 " the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself"  something that still hasn't taken in the United States.

Aaron Copland - Piano Sonata

David Witten, piano

Aaron Copland's piano sonata is an example of his not very popular music.   It is certainly not folkloric or popular or nostalgic in conception and, though often played because so many pianists know and love it is a masterpiece, it isn't one of his over-played works.

The third movement, for once, doesn't compromise the overall serious and uncompromising tone of the beginning of piece but maintains it, throughout.   Even the second movement that uses some of Copland's more popular techniques is more sober in its ecstatic exuberance.   These more serious, "challenging" pieces, many of them for piano solo, extend the range of Copland's work and stand beside any of the serious music written anywhere.

David Witten's performance was very good, I agree with his choice to use the music instead of relying on memory.  I stopped playing from memory as soon as I wasn't required to because I would rather have the instructions the composer left in front of me than relying on my memory of them and over reliance on my conception of the piece.  If you're going to play Copland's Sonata, you should do it Copland's way.   This makes me want to take out my score and learn it, again.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Aaron Copland - Short Symphony

Orpheus Chamber Symphony
no conductor

It must have been extremely frustrating to Copland that so much of his music was ignored while a few pieces were played to death.  This piece from 1933 is one I can't understand being largely ignored except that it doesn't have an evocative title or program.

You can hear something else which I'd imagine Copland noticed, what of Copland's style Leonard Bernstein lifted pretty much intact during the years Bernstein was composing.   I believe it was Roger Sessions who advised Bernstein to go off, by himself in the woods for six months till he stopped hearing other peoples' music so he could find his own.  Bernstein never took that advice.

Imagine the need for an Aaron Copland revival, one that didn't play his top five pieces, but we could really use one.   It could be worse, we really need a Dukas revival that ignores his top one.

Hate Mail - Oh, I Don't Know, I've Had My Moments

Why, just the other day, reading one of the insane and loopy statements of Ben Carson I think I was the first person to call him "Dr. Ben Spacey".   

Know Thyself Before Trying To Meld With Thine Own Creation

If you believe that the moderny  goddlessly sciency among us are inoculated against the rankest superstition you clearly haven't looked at the Transhumanist Party candidate for president Zoltan Istvan.  This post at Religion Dispatches, consisting mostly of an interview with him,  contains so many inaccurate assumptions, incorrect statements and irrational conclusions that it would take a week of posts to go through all of them.  The definition of "Transhumanism" is a good place to start, according to the author:

Transhumanism is an intellectual movement that heralds a radical transformation of the human condition as humanity and technology eventually meld together and create a post-human world of nanobots, immortality, and godlike artificial intelligence. It’s a delightfully weird blend of science fiction and fact, where technological forecasting slips into eschatology.

Which is what I'd pretty much conclude it was from reading various loony statements from its various spokesmen.   

The idea that humanity and technology would "eventually meld together" begins by seeming to forget that technology is an invention of human beings, tools and devices which we devise to do things according to our purpose.   There is no possibility of us "melding" with technology because a. technology has no independent existence from human design and human intention, b. there is no "them" in technological devises to meld with us.   As one frequently encountered atheist blog troll challenged me over artificial limbs and embedded computer chips working "off of the electrical impulses in the brain" they apparently don't understand that when people operate a typewriter to record their thoughts or a spoon to feed themselves, those, as well, work though the energy generated in the brain and nervous system.  It's just a matter of scale and the nature of the tool.   While I've read of semi-famous authors who identify rather neurotically with and are attached to their typewriters, especially if they've got a Selectric or an old Underwood, I don't think they believe they've melded with them.  

The techies who inhabit that imaginary blend of science fiction and fact can't even navigate the definition of what technology is.   They are, literally, like children who mistake the personalities they impart to dolls and stuffed animals as being independent of them, which is quite shocking considering their ages, educations and professional responsibilities in so many cases.  Andrew Aghapour might find that delightful, I find it disturbing.  Usually when adults impart personalities and independence to objects by their imagination, if they don't believe it, we call that "art", if they do believe it, we generally call that psychosis.  That is unless the person doing it is very rich and/or confuses people by dressing it up with lots of sci-talk.   There is no more potent means of gulling the gullible in these sciency times than dressing up nonsense as science.

Related to that is this statement by Istvan.   

We want to make it law that you’re not able to go against science just because it violates a cultural or a religious perspective.

Well, among other things, that's a law that demands that science be a static entity because there is no greater violation of science than a scientist overturning an accepted holding of science.  "Science" can have no definition apart from the common agreement of living scientists as to what constitutes scientific knowledge of their time.  The history of science is replete with example after example of a new idea being rejected because it violated the commonly held ideas of science.   Not to mention that there are times when more than one, conflicting holding of science is held by various scientists at the same time.   When that is the case at least one of those has to be wrong, those holding it must be "going against science" perhaps all of them are because two schools of thought in science can have ideas that are wrong.   

More seriously, it fails to understand that science is a cultural perspective and, cluelessly, for folks like Istvan, it's obviously a religious perspective.   Scientisim is one of the most widely held of religious faiths among those who deny they have any religious faith.  It's especially popular among people who know next to nothing about science, though they do know that they are afraid that people will think they don't.   Journalists are especially prone to being fervent and faithful worshipers of science which they probably know no more about than what they learned when their prerequisites were fulfilled in college.   One of the faith holdings embedded in that religion is the belief that science is the sole source of knowledge and that its abilities to discern truth are supreme.  I would ask where Zoltan Istvan locates the rightness of his proposed law granting it supremacy with science. 

The article is a small catalog of loony, half baked and, frankly, uncooked ideas, slogans and bromides and it's nothing compared to the website.  I couldn't help but feel nervous about those things that seemed we agreed on or which seemed to make at least some sense.  Though even crazy people can believe the truth they can also make you nervous about agreeing with them. 

This exchange was of interest to me:

What do you think of religious subsidies—the approximately $80 billion a year that the American government spends on religious institutions through reduced income, property, and investment taxes?

We would remove every single one of those deductions. Of course, I say that knowing that that would be an impossibility. But that would be the goal, to remove those types of incentives [and create] a much more fair playing field for the secular-minded folks out there who also have projects that may not be getting the same types of benefits. I actually don’t want to give benefits to anyone doing these projects. I just think it should be a fair playing field. So the idea is we would try to take away those subsidies and put it back into the system.

Apparently both the the questioner and Istvan are under the impression that "secular-minded folk" don't get tax exemptions for their "secular" by which you should usually understand "atheist" organizations.  Well, I've done the exercise of making a list and looking them up for tax exempt status and just about every one of more than two dozen or so atheist organizations not only had tax exempt status but told their donors that donations to them were tax deductible.  Atheist groups would seem to take full advantage of  tax exemptions and what the author terms "subsidies"

I looked at Istvan's Transhumanist Party website and found out, while they admit that as a political party donations to them can't be deducted from taxes, they will take donations in bitcoin.   I'd like to know a. the legality of that for a political party and b. who keeps track of the accounting and taxing of such donations. 

I would also like to know what Istvan's sources of income are and I'm really curious to know how much of his self-listed CV have been fact checked because, frankly, it looks a bit over ample for one his age.  

I would only add that if you want to read real science fiction on the topic, Clifford Simak's last novel, Highway to Eternity talks about the dangers of something like "transhumanism" and how the fanatics who made it mandatory would know no bounds in their determination to enforce conformity.   And if you want more about the fantasy of agency in man made tools and how it might not be such a great idea, you can read his much earlier short story "Skirmish" also entitled "Bathe Your Bolts In Blood".   Simak knew he was writing fiction, and therein lies the difference. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Aaron Copland - Lark

 SC Governor's School Cantus Chamber Choir directed by Dr. David Rhyne. Thomas Dickinson, baritone.

It's interesting that the members of the chorus are performing from memory and the baritone soloist is using the music.  It's a very good performance, especially for a school chorus.  They're very good.

I'm going to go through the lesser known music of Aaron Copland for a while.  He wrote a lot more than Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man. I've found lots of things on Youtube I never heard before .    It's interesting to hear some of Copland's typical composing methods without his typical orchestration methods.   This makes me wish he'd composed more choral music,

Update:  Actually, the timing is an indulgence in nostalgia for me because it was about this time that I started learning the Copland Violin Sonata because I was asked to accompany someone the following spring.   I loved it and it has been one of my favorite pieces of music, ever since.   I was supposed to play his arrangement of it for clarinet, though I didn't like it as well because the lowering of the piano part by a Major 3rd makes it a lot harder to keep it from sounding muddy.  It can be played effectively but that's not how it's usually done.  I far prefer the original.

Charles Neidich, clarinet
Eunjung Kang, piano

Niedich's playing is extremely beautiful, in some ways some passages sound, perhaps, even better on the clarinet than on the violin.  Kang's playing of the piano is the best I've ever heard in this arrangement.

Hate Mail - You Really Want To Go There Duncan?

I can with certainty say that the last time I ever posted a comment on Duncan Black's brain-dead blog was in the week of June 14th 2012.   I can say with as much certainty that comments lying about what I've written have been posted on Duncan Black's blog most of the days since then by Steve Simels, it's one of his most common means of getting attention.

The evidence that any of the other Eschatots having actually fact checked what Steve Simels says about what I wrote on Duncan Black's blog conclusively shows they seldom have.  That doesn't, though, keep them from lying about what I wrote, as well.

You know, Duncan, it's possible that since you ban people as a means of controlling the comments on your blog that Supreme Court ruling that you breathed such a sigh of relief over in your early blogging years might not protect you from someone who is tired of being libeled by your commentators, such as those who did that today.

Update:  Either make a substantial comment with something to back up what you say on the topic or don't bother filling up my pending comments files with insults based on nothing.  I won't post those unless I find a use for them you definitely won't like.

Update 2:  I want to see the exact URL of what you claim because I don't believe anything you say without confirmation you can't alter.   You forget, I know you for the liar you are better than just about anyone.

Always One Last Detail That Must Be Mentioned

When I said that the Brits didn't adopt eugenics laws, I should have been clearer.  They didn't adopt laws to violate the bodies of those chosen to be unworthy the risk of them reproducing, instead they took the New Poor Law route of incarcerating them to prevent them from reproducing.

As if to prove that a little learning is a dangerous thing, the naive view of genetics available to them at the time, their understanding of inheritance, derived largely from the casual assumptions of animal husbandry which, as well, informed Darwin's invention of natural selection, was inadequate to explain the range of conditions they identified as making people unworthy to have children.  It's still the common conception of genetics, I've recently read a geneticist making a very similar criticism of what informs the current framing of evolutionary psychology for its ridiculously inadequate, 1970s era concept of genetic inheritance.   That doesn't stop it from being the current dogma required of those in the so-called educated class, the framing of their thinking about such things.   That it was inadequate was not unknown in the 1970s as the c. 1975 Sociobiology Study Group statement predicting it would generate neo-eugenics made some of those criticisms of that brand of biological determinism.

Update;  And then there is the Holocaust revisionist Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu's claim that the Final Solution was the fault of the Arabs, that Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was the one who came up with the idea of murdering all of the Jews instead of those Nazis who planned and plotted those murders in 1941.

Is there an event in recent history which has been more crassly and vulgarly used than the murders of six-million Jews by the Nazis?   The enormity of the crime magnifies the vileness and vulgarity of that use, it desecrates them, it pisses on their graves.   And the persons doing that are the ones who present themselves to the world as if they were those who hold those victims in greatest reverence.

I would repeat that is what comes of those victims of the Nazis being seen as the only significant victims, of the requirement that it be held that those victims of  the Nazis are more valuable than the other victims of the Nazis.   The "final solution" thinking of the Nazis had already been expressed in the attempt to kill all of the disabled and in Hitler's orders to the officers who were invading Poland to kill all of the Pols.  Those programs of mass murder were two years before the meeting between Hitler and the Grand Mufti took place into which Netanyahu inserts his invented lines that makes the Arab instead of the Nazi the origin of the Final Solution.

There is a price to be paid in the claim that the Jews murdered by the Nazis are more significant than the other people in other groups murdered by the Nazis.   Those Jews who claim that - and I don't for a second believe it is most or even very many Jews who do claim that - give permission for people who are not Jews and who hate Jews to consider murder victims, who are not "their people" unimportant, to not care about them or see them as significant.  If they would protest that that is somehow not right, they have destroyed their credibility to make that protest by doing exactly what they complain about other people doing.

I think that instead of looking at the species of Nazi thinking which focused on the Jews  it is necessary to look at the thinking that led to the Final Solution in terms of its genus because the same thinking led to the murders of other people, other attempts at genocide.   I'm convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu exhibits that genus of thinking when he says such things as that, which is hardly unknown in his political side in Israel, even within his cabinet.  Like Holocaust deniers he looks for pseudo-historical narratives that feed his hatred and opportunistically feed his political use of hatred of Palestinians.   That he would displace any of the blame for the Final Solution from the Nazis who did it in order to make use of the Jews murdered by the Nazis for current political purposes is as vile a thing as has been done with their memory by anyone, it approaches the vileness of Holocaust denial and the efforts to minimize its evil.   

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hate Mail

I guess the cost of trying to get smart people to think is that it often causes shallow people to emote and pout. 

Read the citations, tell me why Darwin and his closest colleagues didn't know what they were saying because that's what you're really contending. 

Where I'll Let This Rest For Now

Just as the distinction between English and German eugenics is a convenient lie, the absolute distinction between what constituted democracy and dictatorship in the period relevant to this discussion is, as well, a convenient lie.   In the case of English and American democracy, as examples, that distinction certainly depended on who you were in those societies.   It makes all the difference in the world whether or not your experience in a putative democracy includes total disenfranchisement, whether because you are a woman or a member of the racial, ethnic or other groups which were excluded, by law or by extra-legal means, from voting or participating in government.  It made all the difference if the the laws of the country, state or municipality were adopted explicitly for the reasons of exploiting or discriminating against you.  If you were a black man or woman living under the burdens of disenfranchisement, legal, economic and social discrimination, a reign of terror by lynch mob, the police or the ability of someone to attack or murder you with impunity, life in the United States carried with it many if not all of the anti-democratic features of life Nazi Germany or the other dictatorships.  In the United States, during that period, you could know that your children were likely to be destroyed by the government and that they or you could be, against your will, sterilized to prevent you from having children.   And the same was at least if not often more true if you were American natives who were at an even greater risk of being murdered or sterilized into extinction well into the past century.   That the Nazis were learning from the state governments which made that program of extinction an exercise of the government is absolute proof that for those people targeted, it was not much different from what the Nazis did.  I would not be against someone observing that today's mass incarceration with its destruction of social and family life, with its ability to disenfranchise large numbers of black men and members of other minority groups was a de-facto extension of those earlier, post-Civil War, progressive era methods of legal and biological control, containment and decimation.

We like to think that we are different from the people who did such monumentally evil things but we can only maintain that illusion by lying about the history of what happened, why it happened, etc.  The Nazis were not a singular aberration, their thinking shares a great deal in common with thinking which is believed to be its opposite, Marxism.   It's not uncommon for people to make a distinction between the horrible dictatorship of Hitler and the horrible dictatorship of Stalin on the basis of their alleged goals and ideas - as if either of them could be trusted to tell the truth about those.  And they're not the only choice of despots to choose from.  You can choose the post-war fascists and the American government which supported and in many cases installed them or the various Marxist despots, including, it must be pointed out, such accomplished mass killers as Mao and Pol Pot, and that choice has been made, continually.  Not least of which I can point out by the United States and most other putative democratic governments in the world.  It really boils down to which body of slaves, which pile of corpses you're ready to buy.  That is the dialectic which so much of the common, conventional thinking on these things participates in.

The day, the moment while I was reading about one of Stalin's mass killings that I realized that for a person murdered by Stalin's goons were as murdered and as dead as anyone murdered by Hitler's goons and that the murders were as wrong and that THAT FACT WAS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ASPECT OF THEIR REIGNS, the blinders that led me along the straight line of  political analysis fell off.  I don't think I really had any understanding of politics, of public life, until that happened.

I have concentrated on the roots of the biological, scientific violence done against so many different groups in the period when Darwinism was the predominant means of thinking which led to that scientific violence, concentrating on the words of Darwin, on the inventor of eugenics and Haeckel's proto-Nazism, gradually expanding the scope to include the post-Darwin-Haeckel-Galton era which brings us up to the Nazis and beyond.   I have, largely, not relied on current scholarship, though a lot of the things I have pointed out aren't unknown to real scholars of these issues and that period.  I have begun, just this week, to look at the work of Thomas C. Leonard of Princeton  who, though I believe we don't share a lot of political and economic opinions, has read and studied that literature far more extensively than I could and who has many important observations about it.   I do not agree with a some of it but he is worth reading.   I will point out that I think his contention that Darwinism is a neutral force, identifying those with what are considered opposites in terms of economics and politics makes the mistake of thinking those two sides of the coin are, in fact, different in their most basic of assumptions.   I would reject that analysis because they begin by using the methodology of science to consider people, societies, governments as having the same qualities as physical objects and forces, the scientific conceit that its chosen subject matter, the thing which can be successfully studied in physics and chemistry account for everything.

I have started with Leonard's paper Origins of the myth of social Darwinism: The ambiguous legacy of  Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought, which gives some insight into how the post-war eugenics-free Charles Darwin was constructed.   I don't think Leonard would agree with my conclusions but haven't read enough of his writing to know that yet.   I do think that the identification of Darwin as both the inspiration of eugenics and its earliest, most influential supporter is unshakable That he was, as well, the earliest and most influential supporter of the proto-Nazi thinking of Ernst Haeckel is, as well, unshakable because both arguments were made from the primary source material in the words of Darwin, Galton and Haeckel.   I would also point out that if Malthus in the last year of his life may have not supported the New Poor Law doesn't change the fact that his earlier writing informed the thinking of those who wrote and adopted an obvious moral atrocity as an alleged "reform", something which would increasingly be done as the people doing such things took science as their alleged framing instead of traditional morality.   That the use of religion by those who did evil in its name is the primary weapon used indiscriminately against religion should make it clear that those who cite the same evil uses of science in indiscriminate attacks against science are at least as justified.  Though science being commonly, and erroneously, believed to be a unified body of knowledge, the charge may be easier to make stick.  I think the more rational case to be made is that the error of equating science with materialism is the real root of that evil, any science which treats people as physical objects, physical resources, pathological tissue in the body of humanity, that's where the real science of evil originates.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Aaron Copland - Sonata for Violin and Piano

Ruth Posselt, violin
Aaron Copland, piano

The Youtube says this is the world premier of the Sonata from 1944, recorded on-air by WNYC.

It is a fascinating performance, I think far better than the one Copland recorded with Isaac Stern in the 1960s.  Ruth Posselt played with a far sweeter tone than Stern who doesn't seem nearly as committed to the piece as she did.   Though I love the recording that the great violinst Peter Zazofsky and the pianist Paul Posnak recorded on Naxos, this is a very special performance.  I didn't know about it until about half an hour ago.  The middle movement is one of the few pieces that brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it.  The tempo changes in the third movement are handled beautifully and not exactly as I've ever heard them before.   While I'll never have the opportunity to play it again, this would inform what I did if I did.  

Choral Evensong

Mark Vernon and Rupert Sheldrake discussing the Anglican tradition of 

Choral Evensong

And here is the new website they talk about for locating churches and cathedrals where you can hear Choral Evensong services in Britain, Scotland and Ireland.   I hope they can expand it to the rest of the world and that it encourages the spread of the tradition where it isn't practiced.    I wish other traditions would put up websites like this.

And here is an example of the kind of music they're talking about,  George Dyson's Magnificat in D sung at Kings College, Cambridge.

More On Proto-Nazi Thinking Outside of Germany Before There Were Nazis

While I had hoped to be able to put this aside as a daily topic, a persistent drizzle of comments keeps insisting that I'm trying to cover up the "Christian" motivation of the Holocaust, talking about "2000 years of Christian anti-semitism" as the motive for the Nazis in murdering six-million Jews.  Of course that's a common narrative use to which those Jews murdered by the Nazis is put among those whose actual motive is hostility against Christianity, not in trying to understand the actual thinking of the Nazis that led them to murder six-million Jews in their obvious attempt to murder all of those they could.   But that narrative begins by a shallow view of the history and that thinking which can't be isolated from the many other groups they targeted for death.  They certainly would have murdered every Roma person if they could have, every disabled person, it was the explicit message of Hitler to the troops he sent to take Poland to murder all of the Pols and a common estimate for the number of Pols he did murder is Two and a half million, many of them Christians, many of them Catholics with whom the common narrative has it,  Hitler is supposed to have shared a religion, Catholic priests were one of the groups highest on the list of those to murder.

One of the things which is most obvious about the Nazis is the complete lack of truth in what they said, even signed as legal documents and treaties.   They lied to the German people about many of their intentions in order to gain office in 1933, they lied constantly while in office about their intentions.  While it is no surprise that politicians and military officers lie, the Nazis made great us of lying throughout their history.

A consequence of that history of lying is that you can't take them at their word about anything.  But one thing is certain, their consciously taken actions tell the truth of their intentions and reveal their motivations.   There is nothing in the actions of the Nazis that are compatible with the teachings of Jesus or the earliest Christians.   Every part of the teachings of Jesus were violated by the Nazis.   You can read the Gospels, the Acts, the epistles and you won't find much of anything that you could derive the conduct of the Nazis from.   And once you have undertaken that exercise, you can go through The History of Creation by Haeckel and The Descent of Man by Darwin and look for concurrence between the scientific statements of Haeckel and Darwin and the actions of the Nazis in their murder of the disabled and of groups held to be of less fittness whose offspring would mix with the fit and bring down the quality of the human population.  If you take the one book on the topic of evolution and its related fields which Hitler is known to have read and consulted, The Foundation of Heredity and Racial Hygiene, you will find that it is, as well, a development of the ideas that Darwin and Haeckel were proposing one generation earlier.

The post in which I analyzed Darwins' often quote mined "aid we feel impelled to give"  clause gave the paragraph that precedes it in The Descent of Man

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

Which, even with the "aid" paragraph is certainly consistent with the program of involuntary sterilization that was adopted in the United States, Canada and elsewhere, as RMJ pointed out.  But if you ignore your 'FEELINGS'  to give aid, it is a scientific argument for courageously following "hard reason," as Darwin put it in the "aid" passage, and do what he said the "savages" did and eliminate the "weak in body or mind", which is, of course, exactly what the Nazis believed they were doing.   Having read lots of the British social thinking in the past ten years, I can imagine quite a few of them making that sacrifice of their feelings and getting a particularly vicious thrill of scrupulosity in going withe what their hard reasoning would inform them would produce a pantomime of a better future.*

You can go through both Haeckel and Darwin and find that they were quick to identify racial and ethnic groups which they found to be "weak in body or mind" as compared to the Northern Europeans, the upper classes of which they both, clearly, held to "exhibit a vigorous state of health".   If Britian had followed the clear advice of this passage, instead of the grudging and glacially slow abandonment of the poor law, the British death camps that the work houses were, they would have left the poor to fend for themselves, likely, as they were told to believe, reinvigorating the survivors.  And that is if they hadn't taken the route that so many of their intellectuals, such intellectual lights of culture as D. H. Lawrence, Virgina Wolfe, George Bernard Shaw, toyed with in the first decades of the 20th century, of gassing them to death.  But you don't have to take my word for that, read the links I provided when I wrote about it before. .

The British upper class in the first decade of the 20th century, those held its most responsible members can sound remarkably like the Nazis did two decades later.  For example, this from a 1910 letter that Winston Churchill sent to Asquith

The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate.

I believe everything I've read of Churchill on the topic concentrates on people with disability, not on race, though Churchill was flagrant racist who believed, fully, in the inequality of races and their scientific ranking,  And he was was hardly alone in writing such passages that presage the Nazis. One of the brightest lights of British socialism, Sidney Webb, was certainly not above appealing to ethnic and antisemitic bigotry in promoting eugenics.  He said this in the Fabian Tract 131

In Great Britain at this moment, when half or perhaps two-thirds, of all the married people are regulating their families, children are being freely born to the Irish Roman Catholics and the Polish, Russian and German Jews, on the one hand, and to the thriftless and irresponsible – largely the casual laborers and the other denizens of the one-roomed tenements of our great cities – on the other.  Twenty-five percent of our parents, as professor Karl Pearson keeps warning us, is producing 50 per cent of the next generation.   This can hardly result in anything but national deterioration;  or, as an alternative, in this country gradually falling to the Irish and the Jews.  Finally there are signs that even these races are becoming influenced  [to limit the size of their families]  The ultimate future of these Islands may be the Chinese!

I will remind you that this was the thinking of the British left, the Fabian socialists, not the Conservatives or even the right wing of the Liberal Party.  Read the whole thing, it is full of the most incredibly revealing junk-science and even more revealing about the nature of Fabian socialism, the kind of socialism which gave socialism a bad name.

The provenance of Webb's scientific expert in such matters couldn't be clearer, Karl Pearson was one of the leading figures in British science, probably Francis Galton's most renowned student, his chosen biographer, whose Darwinist credentials could only have been stronger if they'd been conferred by Charles Darwin, himself.   You can get a good feel for his thinking from reading his pamphlet,  The Problem of Practical Eugenics, which begins with this on the title page

The Darwinian revelation shows that humanity can no longer be considered static.  We know it to be kinetic, the races of which it is composed being in a perpetual state of change.  The judgement of history on the sagacity and achievements of statesmen will turn henceforth on the measure of their contributions to the racial progress of their nations in the generations which succeed them.

Pearson begins the body of his text:

I shall try to indicate what appears to me the pivot for all practical eugenic action.  In the first lecture I laid stress on the great importance of Natural Selection – the selective deathrate – as tending to human efficency.  I pointed out to you that various factors of our modern life were suspending its action, and that our chief hope for national efficiency in the future must lie in selective birthrate.  The whole trend of legislation and social action has been to disregard parentage and to emphisise environment.   Before we could express an opinion on this trend, we had to get some idea of the relative importance of heredity and of environment in producing desirable characteristics in the general population.   In the case of man there is only one method of approaching the problem of inheritance, which, it seems to me, at present can have any application to the treatment of mankind in the mass, or any bearing on the great social reforms.  You cannot study the latent gametic properties of the individual by ascertaining the qualities of his offspring under varying circumstances, as in the breeding pen.  

"I laid stress on the great importance of Natural Selection – the selective deathrate – as tending to human efficiency,"   If that definition of natural selection gives you the chills, it's only because you haven't already considered the meaning of the theory, which is all about the deaths of those who are called "unfit".   As I've pointed out, Charles Darwin, himself, equated natural selection with the Sperncerian slogan "survival of the fittest".   You don't get survival without someone dying.  And I have pointed out that Darwin, himself, asserted that the deaths of the "weaker members" of a population would, somehow, as a result, exhibit a "vigorous state of health".

You should plug through Pearson's tedious pamphlet, written in the scientific style also so beloved of the revolting Fabian saints, Beatrice and Sidney Webb.  This one of Pearson's dwells at enormous length on the tragedy that child labor laws made children of an age when work in factories and mines was banned, completely under the age of 10 and half time before 14 of decreased economic value, attributing the decline in birth rates which Webb based his pamphlet on to that change in the law.  Supporters of Planned Parenthood might note what he said about the increased knowledge of contraception at the same time but he doesn't think that could be why people started having fewer children.  That a eugenicist is basing his arguments for sterilizing people on a declining birth rate is bizarre, especially considering it is being done by one of the most eminent figures in the history of statistical mathematics.

While reading what in Britain was considered wild radicals, in the years Hitler still dreamed of being a famous artist and the depravity of German science was still under the framing of the Kaiser, keep in mind what I pointed out about British intellectuals openly musing about the great benefits to society by killing their various preferred underclasses by gas, some, such as H. G. Wells, were quite explicit about who would "have to go".

And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?

Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear.

As you can see in my earlier post linked to above, Wells didn't hope the Jews - who he stereotypes in one of the most vicious ways I've ever read - would die out but disappear through intermarrying with Gentiles and, so, be gone as a distinct population.  Something he eagerly anticipates.   His comment about his hope that some of their moral heritage would never die is useful only in so far as it proves he knew absolutely nothing about that moral tradition even as he said that.

I don't, for a second believe the Webbs and Pearson were unaware of what their fellow Fabians such as Wells and Shaw who were even more famous than they were  were saying about gassing people they deemed unfit or their "having to go".   I don't see that they kicked them out of the movement or tried to disassociate their revolting, shooty, upperclass "socialism" from those voices.  If someone can show me where they did or if someone in the Brit-left of that period ever told them they were wrong to say things like that, I'd like to see it, with citations and links if possible.

So, what was it that kept Britain from adopting eugenics laws such as many American states had?  It was largely due to G. K. Chesterton who some think was the major force for the defeat of the "Feeble-Minded Control Bill" of 1912.   Chesterton's opposition to eugenics was consistent with his Catholicism, the Catholic Church was the strongest institution which opposed eugenics from just about the beginning of it.   The Labour Party, as well, opposed it, though I haven't, yet, read much of their literature from that period.   I will try to write more on that in the future.

*  To be fair, there were plenty of Americans who were as cold bloodled and self-righteously scrupulous in their pursuit of a better future for those who were left able to have children after their scientific cull.  As history shows, it was here where the Germans learned so much about how to put eugenics into practice, it was Americans in Vermont, in California, on many other states who targeted racial groups for extinction through philanthropically supported, forced, coerced, or unknowingly performed sterilization.

Monday, October 19, 2015



  1. "Noting that Bruno Bettelheim criticized the use of the word "Holocaust" and acting as if the mass murder of Jews was more important than the mass murders of other groups was in no way a "shout out" it was a citation of someone who said something before I did. "

    Well. how convEEEEEEEEEnient, Darwin Boy.


    1. I wasn't going to post this comment because the topic is too serious to entertain your stupidity but then I remembered saying that I thought the new atheism was a product of you guys not knowing how an argument was made in the adult world and realized this was too good a piece of evidence supporting that argument to not use it.
  2. Thanks for the plug!
    1. To the two-year-old mind any attention is still attention. Thanks for providing further insight into the neo-atheist mind.

Hate Mail - Science Is What Scientists Say Is Science They Have To Live With The Shame As Well As The Glory

Eugen Fischer was a scientist, he published science as science which was considered science by other scientists who also hired him to join science faculties at some of the most impressive scientific establishments of his time.  His work was cited as science by other scientists and read as science by other people.   He was consulted to give scientific advice by governments who provided him with resources to do science with.   That those resources were people and their bodies after they had been murdered did nothing to cause the scientists of his time to reject his results or even his means of obtaining those results.

No one can second guess those scientists who gave Eugen Fischer the status of scientist and his work the status of science,  I can see no evidence that another Eugen Fischer couldn't, in some places, today or in the future, have that kind of career in science and, like Fischer, suffer nothing for it.  He was hardly the only Nazi scientist, not even the only one who profited from the living bodies, the corpses and body parts of those held in death camps, his student, Dr. Mengele had those delivered on request from other scientists, fresh from the death camps, there are certainly university and other departments of science which have body parts of those murdered in Nazi genocides on their shelves.  It isn't that long ago that the skulls Eugene Fischer took from his work in the death camps in East Africa in the first decade of the last century were, finally, returned for burial.

I think in the grotesque superstition that science is anything but a human invention, governed by human choices and decisions of what to do and how to do it, it was a huge danger to exempt scientists and their work from considerations of morality.   I have thought of the scenario for a story in which very advanced beings from elsewhere come and try to convince people at the end of the line that it is only by forcing morality onto science that will save us and our planet.  That it was the stupidest thing human beings ever did, to allow our most potent and effective methods to be exercised in the absence of a controlling consideration of the moral consequences of its powerful discoveries and creations.   That anyone, looking at the horrors that science practices and unleashes, eugenics, nuclear weapons, carbon pollution of the environment, etc. who doesn't see the problem is too stupid to allow that much leeway or power.

No, I'm not putting science in quotes anymore when it's something scientists accepted as science.  Maybe they should consider the truth that confession and repentance are prerequisites for learning from your sins as well as your mistakes.   It's stupid for non-scientists to allow them to avoid living up to what they've sold as science, to take moral responsibility and shame for what they do as well as reap the profits and the glory.

Update:  Noting that Bruno Bettelheim criticized the use of the word "Holocaust" and acting as if the mass murder of Jews was more important than the mass murders of other groups was in no way a "shout out" it was a citation of someone who said something before I did.  I tend to try to acknowledge where I got ideas from.   I'm surprised you don't just adore him because he was in one of Woody Allen's movies, that usually absolves all sins for you.

Since I'm on the record as being entirely skeptical of psychology, psychiatry and, especially, psychoanalysis (look what it did for Woody and his, um, ... family) I am certainly not endorsing Bettelheim's professional work and, considering what I said above, I would not hold it or him above the same standard of criticism that I do anyone else.

What Might Have Been Avoided If The German Genocide Against the Herero and Nama People Had Been Assigned Significance?

It's clear that I should use more of the research I've done on the topic of Darwinian eugenics and its myriad horrors, though I don't have the schedule that will allow a daily post on the topic.

One of the worst things about the common discourse of the genocides of the Nazis is that it seals off those crimes committed from 1941 through the end of the war,  the Holocaust, as if it were unrelated to the other programs of genocide, though those murdered were killed in the same gas chambers and burned in the same crematoria, shot by the same soldiers and murdered by the same doctors and medical units.  When the Nazis began murdering people, officially, legally, in 1939 they began with the disabled, the same people and institutions who murdered them were also involved with the larger program of murder.

And the required identification of the Nazis as a singular and peculiar instance of crime and depravity exempts far too many people and institutions and intellectual establishments who were not only as guilty but were fully involved with the Nazis.

One thing that has developed in the past seventy years is the false distinction between eugenics in the United States, Canada, in other countries and the Nazis' eugenic program which brought things written in the 1870s to its logical conclusion as legal, social and military policy.   The fact is there is no wall of separation between eugenics done in English and eugenics done in German, the mainstream of eugenics science in the English speaking world was in constant contact with German eugenicists, in the period before the Nazis passed those first German eugenics laws.  The Nazis learned a lot from the eugenics programs in the United States and elsewhere.  As I wrote before, when the eugenics program in Vermont was being studied they found that the Nazis kept better and more systematically filed records than the Americans who were in the process of trying to destroy the Abenakis in that state, in the same years that the Nazis were building their base and had taken power..

Because the German and American wings collaborated so closely, the German archives clearly traced the development of German race hygiene as it emulated the American program. More importantly, because the American and German movements functioned as a binary, their leaders bragged to one another and exchanged information constantly. Therefore I learned much about America’s record by examining Reich-era files. For instance, although the number of individuals sterilized in Vermont has eluded researchers in that state, the information is readily available in the files of Nazi organizations. Moreover, obscure Nazi medical literature reveals the Nazis’ understanding of their American partners. Probing the prodigious files of Nazi eugenics took my project to the Bundesarchiv in Berlin and Koblenz, the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Heidelberg University and many other repositories in Germany.

When it was finished, the journey to discover America’s eugenic history had taken me from an austere highway warehouse in Vermont, where the state’s official files are stacked right next to automotive supplies and retrieved by forklift, to the architectonic British Library, to the massive Bundesarchiv in Berlin—and every type of research environment in between. Sometimes I sat on a chair in a reading room. Sometimes I poked through boxes in a basement.

The American intellectual establishment was up to its neck in involvement with German eugenics, even modern American eugenicists and scientific racists, such as James Watson admit that.  You can hear him say it here, the transcript of his remarks say:

Well this was the bigger version of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor. The building was built with money from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1927, when eugenics was generally thought to be a good thing. And the German geneticists thought it was a good thing and had a proposed program of sterilization for a large number of genetic conditions. And, but it wasn't voted in, they couldn't get it through the German democracy at the time. But the moment Hitler came into power a eugenics law was passed within a month, which prescribed sterilization for a large number of conditions including for say, being schizophrenic and in a mental hospital. So very soon afterwards they started a program of sterilization which went on until the war started, with about 600,000 people sterilized, it was a very thorough program and they had records on all these people.

A more explicit statement to that effect is found at the Eugenics Archive.

Alfred Ploetz founded the German Society of Racial Hygiene in 1905. However, a eugenic social agenda only gathered support after the humiliating loss of WWI, when Germans felt beset by adversaries both outside and inside their borders.

In 1927, the Rockefeller Foundation provided funds to construct the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics in Berlin, which came under the directorship of the appropriately named Eugen Fischer. Adolf Hitler read Fischer's textbook Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene while in prison at Landsberg and used eugenical notions to support the ideal of a pure "Aryan" society in his manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

When Hitler came to power in 1933, he charged the medical profession with the task of implementing a national program in race hygiene. The first key element was the enactment, in 1934, of a law permitting involuntary sterilization of feebleminded, mentally ill, epileptics, and alcoholics. ERO Superintendent Harry Laughlin's model sterilization law was closely modeled, and his contributions to race hygiene were recognized with an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg. The "marriage laws" of 1935 prohibited unions between "Aryans" and Jews, as well the eugenically unfit.

By the outbreak of WWII, in 1939, an estimated 400,000 people had been sterilized. However, in 1940 the need for hospital beds for wounded soldiers prompted a "final solution" for "lives not worth living." Psychiatrists and medical doctors identified more than 70,000 mental patients who were poisoned with carbon monoxide in extermination centers at psychiatric hospitals.

After gassing of mental patients ceased in 1941, medical and other personnel with euthanasia experience were reassigned to concentration camps in Poland, where hydrogen cyanide gas was used to kill Jews, gypsies, Slavs, and Social Democrats.

So, the history couldn't be clearer, the murder of Jews was not the only genocide the Nazis not only intended but were engaged in, they were on a list of groups of people, some of them as well based on ethnic heritage, who the Nazis intended to murder, the mass murder of the disabled was the practice genocide of the Nazis, ,or so it seems if you weren't, as I, in fact, was not, aware of before I had done a lot of research into the relationship of Darwinism to eugenics, an even earlier genocide that predated the Nazis.

Note that Hitler and the other Nazis who implemented the various genocide programs relied on information provided by Eugen Fischer whose work was supported by American philanthropy.  He did experiments on Roma and African-Germans murdered by the Nazis during the war, he had been writing on the biological disaster he considered the African-Germans since before the First World War, no doubt much of what the Nazis came to believe, after they organized after that war was based on Fischer's science.  You can read his publication history and if you have read much about who the Nazis murdered his titles are like lists in a a hit list.  Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen, 1913. and Das antike Weltjudentum: Tatsachen, Texte, Bilder. 1943.  Note the date on that second one,  from what I can make of it in the online edition of it, it was scientific anti-semetic propaganda published even as the genocide against Jews was being carried out, in the name of science.

Fischer being employed as a scientist at the Kaisar Wilhelm Institute is especially eye-opening because he had participated, scientifically, in an earlier, pre-Nazi era genocide by the German government in German South-West Africa, Namibia, today from 1904-1907.  He worked at the University of Freiberg at the time, where he continued and advanced in the science faculty, no doubt the hundreds of skulls he'd sent from that genocide were considered in his favor.  More than 100,000 people were believed to have been killed in it.  Fischer conducted experiments on children held in the concentration camps where native Herero and Nama peoples and African-Germans were held in horrendous conditions and often killed, outright.  The descriptions I've read of the practices and conditions there sound like a dress rehearsal for the death camps of the 1940s.  He and other scientists collected body parts, notably skulls from "freshly dead" bodies for scientific purposes.

His scientific studies informed his writing about the "Rehobother Bastards" children of African-German heritage fathered in the wake of the First World War, one of those groups early marked for death by the Nazis.  He also collaborated in coming up with the scientific scale used by the Nazis in determining race.  As an aside, reading about that reminded me of nothing more than "the references on negro‐white matings and skin color valuations" sought by Dr. Henry Farnham Perkins from Charles Davenport as an aid to his program to sterilize the Abenakis of Vermont, fully legally, even philanthropically, 20 years after Fischer was experimenting on children in concentration camps in Africa.  Oh, and it should be noted that Charles Davenport was James Watson's predecessor as the prestigious Cold Springs Harbor labs, he was in contact with German eugenicists even after the start of the war, before the United States became directly involved.

If, as Hitler is reported to have said, no one remembered the Armenian genocide, it is far more remembered than this genocide of Africans and African-Germans, why that is the case is important because if there is anything dangerous, it is the classification of genocides in order of significance.

Fischer lived until 1967, writing a memoir that white-washed his involvement with the Nazis, it was entitled, Begegnungen mit Toten: aus den Erinnerungen eines Anatomen, which translates as Encounters With The Dead: from the memories of an anatomist.

Before researching the history of eugenics and the eugenics that informed Hitler and the Nazis, I had never heard of the genocide of the Herero and Nama people and those of African-German heritage in the first decade of the 20th century.   In his book When Victims Become Killers:
Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda  Mahmood Mamdani notes reasons why genocides are ignored, undiscussed and untaught.

Accounts of the genocide, whether academic or popular, suffer from three silences. The first concerns the history of genocide: many write as if genocide has no history and as if the Rwandan genocide had no precedent, even in this century replete with political violence. The Rwandan genocide thus appears as an anthropological oddity. For Africans, it turns into a Rwandan oddity; and for non-Africans, the aberration is Africa. For both, the temptation is to dismiss Rwanda as exceptional. The second silence concerns the agency of the genocide: academic writings, in particular, have highlighted the design from above in a one-sided manner. They hesitate to acknowledge, much less explain, the participation--even initiative--from below. When political analysis presents the genocide as exclusively a state project and ignores its subaltern and "popular" character, it tends to reduce the violence to a set of meaningless outbursts, ritualistic and bizarre, like some ancient primordial twitch come to life. The third silence concerns the geography of the genocide. Since the genocide happened within the boundaries of Rwanda, there is a widespread tendency to assume that it must also be an outcome of processes that unfolded within the same boundaries. A focus confined to Rwandan state boundaries inevitably translates into a silence about regional processes that fed the dynamic leading to the genocide

I would say that that is only a partial list of silences and motives for silence, the racial, ethnic, national and class identity of the victims and the murderers is an important reason why genocides aren't considered of equal importance.   In this case, considering the country, the military, the establishment and even the individuals involved provides a definitive case as to why that is dangerous.  The unsavory fact is that even in death there are more favored and less favored victims assigned value posthumously even as they were assigned value by their murderers.   The assigning of value to people, of seeing them in terms of economic production and utility, cost effectiveness, as objects for use or disposal is where it begins.  That habit of thought is one that is guaranteed by materialism and, as such, is an easy habit of thought for those trained in the sciences to practice.   It is also an easy habit for militarists to fall into, the enemy are so frequently objectified as a means of preparing to kill them.  That it was easy for someone trained in anthropology and medicine is a lot less shocking than it should be.

The genocide of the Herero was the first genocide of the twentieth century. The links between it and the Holocaust go beyond the building of concentration camps and the execution of an annihilation policy and are worth exploring. It is surely of significance that when General Trotha wrote, as above, of destroying "African tribes with streams of blood," he saw this as some kind of a Social Darwinist "cleansing" after which "something new" would "emerge." It is also relevant that, when the general sought to distribute responsibility for the genocide, he accused the missions of inciting the Herero with images "of the bloodcurdling Jewish history of the Old Testament." It was also among the Herero in the concentration camps that the German geneticist, Eugen Fischer, first came to do his medical experiments on race, for which he used both Herero and mulatto offspring of Herero women and German men. Fischer later became chancellor of the University of Berlin, where he taught medicine to Nazi physicians. One of his prominent students was Josef Mengele, the notorious doctor who did unsavory genetic experiments on Jewish children at Auschwitz. It seems to me that Hannah Arendt erred when she presumed a relatively uncomplicated relationship between settlers' genocide in the colonies and the Nazi Holocaust at home: When Nazis set out to annihilate Jews, it is far more likely that they thought of themselves as natives, and Jews as settlers. Yet, there is a link that connects the genocide of the Herero and the Nazi Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide. That link is race branding, whereby it became possible not only to set a group apart as an enemy, but also to exterminate it with an easy conscience.

Again, Dr. Mengele was trained in anthropology and medicine, he was a student of Fischer, the man who, as part of his science, experimented on children and people in concentration camps, in Africa and in Europe and who had become an eminent member of scientific faculties in prestigious universities and scientific institutions as a result.

I have read the sometimes disputed quote in which Hitler said that no one remembered the genocide against the Armenians, I would like to know if he ever said anything about this genocide which Fischer never suffered for participating in.    It was a genocide that they not only got away with, but prospered from.  It would be useful to know how much the people who not only interacted as professional scientists with Fischer knew about his participation in that genocide upon which his scientific work was based, but how much those who hired him at the Universities he worked in, in Jena an Berlin, those who funded his continuing research knew about it.   It doesn't appear to have been unknown, only unremarked on.

The silence of the world, of Western post-war culture on the genocide in present day Namibia, shows how little we have learned about what was at the very bottom of motivations of the Nazis and, I would hold, all other instances of genocide, the thinking that turns people into objects to be evaluated in terms of utility, economic and other uses and lacking any real and effective rights that impose a moral obligation to them.

Bruno Bettelheim famously criticized the term "Holocaust" as used to name the Nazis genocide attempt against the Jewish people.  He was, rightly, I think, revolted that the term associated with the Hebrew Temple sacrifice would be given over to the actions of those who tried to destroy the Jewish people.  He also saw a danger in segregating that genocide from the others the Nazis attempted and planned.  That danger is highlighted by considering the role of Eugen Fischer in two genocides and the failure of those enlightenment institutions, science, academia, the philanthropic establishment, to even notice the first one or the obvious nature of what he was engaged in as he promoted the second one.  Obviously the lives of Africans were as little if not of less significance to those esteemed bodies of men than those of the Armenians.   If they had been, I don't think it's at all improbable that the second round of genocides carried out by German governments in the 20th century might have been prevented.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Herbie Nichols - Step Tempest

Herbie Nichols, piano
Al McKibbon, bass
Art Blakey, drums