Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Cooky" Is The New Mop Heads

Image result for cooky

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Peter Whalley - The Missing Wife

A psychological thriller, set in the suburbs of Manchester. When Mark's wife goes missing he thinks she will return. Just why has Denise Telfer disappeared from her own house one summer's evening? Can she really have walked out on her married life, leaving Mark devastated and forlorn, or might there be some other, more sinister explanation? 

Mark: Alistair Gillbraith
Paul:  David Schofield
Alison:  Kathryn Hunt
Kate:  Alison Dartin

The BBC has produced more post-TV era English language radio drama than just about any other source and they do a good job.  I'm hesitant to lean as much on their past broadcasts as I have been recently, the problem is that so many of them are so good.   And the guy who's posting these has pretty good taste. 


My posting radio dramas ever week began with me wondering why people who wanted to work in theater, playwrights, actors, directors, etc didn't do plays on their own, for the cast and their closest families or small audiences (you could always do what they do in music and pass-round a hat).   When it's purely audio the possibilities are even greater, you can be a 72-year-old hamlet if no one sees you and you don't have to do the sword play or an 80-year-old Maggie the Cat.   If I aspired to act or write, I'd form a two-hander theater company consisting of me and one other member (who could both play more than one role, it being audio).  Who knows, maybe I have and I don't want to share the results, yet.  Oh, the romance and mystery of audio theater.

Roger Helou Organetto Virtuoso

Back when I was in college, in the middle ages of speculative medieval music performance practice, being a piano major who had taken some lessons in organ, I'd considered taking up the playing of those tiny little organs you see in medieval pictures, the ones that look like a little pipe organ with 2' register pipes.  The motive was, mostly, that I loved the music of Francesco Landini and the other Italian composers of the 14th century ( Jacopo da Bologna was also a great composer).  Landini was famous for his playing of the instrument as well as for his numerous settings of vocal texts.  There is a famous manuscript of keyboard settings of many of those composers who are depicted, the Squarcialupi Codex, maybe the most beautiful of the medieval music manuscripts, certainly one of the most valuable in musical terms.  Here's Landini as pictured in it:

But the recordings and few live performances of people playing reconstructed organettos were pretty boring and uninspiring.  Truth be told, everything about the actual performance of medieval music was pretty much speculative, everything from what the ideal vocal or instrumental tone was to what the improvisation we knew was a part of the actual practice.  Then the goal was always "realizing the composer's intent" which isn't a bad goal when the composer has actually left hints of what that was, though apart from a few ambiguous or widely interpretable descriptions, such as those of Guillaume de Machaut, we didn't really have more than speculations and personal preferences to go on.  We always talked as if that were one "thing" instead of the wide range that it certainly must have been at least as variable as modern musical practice.   And that was a recipe for constant warfare among those who had come up with competing methods of reconstruction which went in and out of fashion unnoticed by the wider world.   It wasn't exactly something I'd have enjoyed being thrown into, so I opted for concentrating on music by living or recently dead composers and, then, teaching. 

Anyway, for the past few days I've been enjoying the organetto performances of one Roger Helou which I have to say, knowing musicians and how they will always be trying to use whatever sounds they can make with their instruments, I think must give us a better feeling of what it must have been like to hear Landini than the "informed" performance practice of fifty years ago.   He certainly must have taken advantage of the variable pressure and articulations available through his manipulation of the bellows, instead of the uniformity that so many seemed to strive for in their "reconstructed" performances. 

Francesco Landini - Fortuna Ria 

Anonym: Lavandose Le Mane / Francesco Landini: Che cosa è questa amor

De Tout Flors (by Machaut, I believe)

Is it how the composers of these pieces would have performed it or enjoyed hearing it?  I don't know, but given how people who, unlike any of us, heard it described the playing of medieval instrumental music, I'll bet this is closer than what people were doing fifty years ago. 

The Failure To Acknowledge There Are Two "Freedoms" One Great The Other Disastrous Is Dangerous Eventually Fatal

I don't think we can safely talk about "freedom" without being more careful about what we mean.  I think there is an inescapable distinction to be made between "freedom" as a libertarian conception, essentially anyone who can act like a self-centered, willful brat with impunity doing that and the kind of freedom which produces a moral, egalitarian democratic political system.

It's the Trumpian conception of freedom, liberty without reciprocal equality (when they inevitably don't want that) without any moral obligation to respect rights, or even rational responsibility that is dangerous.  That is the "freedom" claimed by a large chunk of internet proponents of "freedom,"  for themselves, that is, until the same species of "freedom" exercised by someone else impinges on or harms them, then they can be most eloquent in their claims that they are a victim of an "unfairness" that they were quite willing to inflict on other people when they liked the results.

Then there is freedom as a responsible adult would consider as a realistic and reasonable goal, including moral obligations, a moral obligation to act in accord with egalitarian moral stands, in accord with the truth, within limits of harm to other people and animals and the biosphere. 

Anyone who would die for the first kind of "freedom" is either not thinking very clearly or they've foolishly wasted their life, anyone who died for the second one is a saint.

I'm pretty sure that in today's degraded intellectual climate (the flower of " scientific-enlightenment rationality"don'tchano?) that it will be claimed that there is no scientific means of determining the necessary distinctions between those categories a means of making judgements in line with those two most obviously different conceptions of freedom.  But if you want to do an experiment, try living with a bunch of jerks who act in accord with the Trumpian style of "freedom" or a bunch of people who act in mutual respect of moral obligations on an equal basis, the truth being better than lies and excuses to not be able to discern that, and the rest of what distinguishes the later, dare I say democratic conception of freedom and tell me which ones you prefer?  I doubt even the superannuated brats who want the first for themselves would choose, voluntarily, to live with their own kind and I don't think that any lame-brained assertion of "fairness" should lead us to put with them either. 

Politically, legally, the price of  you being treated with respect will have to be treating other people with respect, which should always be part of the political covenant that is the basis of democracy.  The best prospect of a government which we can all live with would have to make that kind of stipulation.  There should be no room for lawyers and judges who claim that people have a right to lie, to be assholes to others , to be selfish assholes on any scale because to restrict their assholishness is some kind of violation of "freedom" or the Bill of Rights.   They are, essentially, the council of gangsters and the gangster governance of oligarchy and fascism.  There is no right to lie, there is no right to privilege, there is no right to make the lives of others intolerably miserable.  It is the legacy of slaveholding that asserts that in our legal system.   If the United States is to ever recover and secure egalitarian democracy, the rule of just law, etc. it will have to reject that definition of "freedom" and cleanse out legal culture of its vestiges. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Oliver Nelson Septet - Stolen Moments

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet)
Eric Dolphy (alto sax, flute)
Oliver Nelson (tenor sax, arrange)
George Barrow (baritone saxophone)
Bill Evans (piano)
Paul Chambers (bass)
Roy Haynes (drums)


Even The Genuinely Great Charles Pierce Won't Tell You How Bad It Is But I Will

As almost always, Charles Pierce tells the hard truth in the piece he posted yesterday about the origins of Trumpism in the Republican Party,  he diagnoses it as a prion disease that entered the Republican brain when Ronald Reagan became president and his insanity - he fingers supply-side economic bull shit and "splinter protestantism" - became common received wisdom.   After a list of the recent shocked! shocked! Republican staffer of such administrations and campaigns as preceded Trump who just can't believe how things have fallen so low after the glories of one Reagan and two Bushes (including Bush II, imposed by Supreme Court fiat and previous holder of the title of Worst President In Living Memory If Not In History*)  not to mention the campaign of McCain-Palin, Pierce says:

But my most serious reservation is that the dynamic being engaged by these wandering spirits tends to make the inevitable an anomaly. The prion disease has been at work for decades and Trump is just one of its most egregious symptoms. Earlier ones include the strangulation of the nomination of Merrick Garland, the nomination of Sarah Palin, the disinformation regarding Iraq, the U.S. Attorney scandal, the Great Penis Hunt of 1998, TravelGate, FileGate, Whitewater, Iran-Contra, supply-side economics, and the ensemble encroaching on the institutions of government by organized plutocracy and organized theocracy. All of these things, large and small, led inexorably to the presidency* of someone like Donald Trump.

and pointing out why this can't be made to be a mere passing era, remembering the hundreds of thousands left dead in the wake of the now rehabilitated Bush II (Cheney) regime, the seeds of such forgetting appearing on cabloid shows such as that of Lawrence O'Donnell most nights:

That presidency*, believe it or not, one day will end, and, when it does, the country cannot be allowed to go back to the status quo ante. The damage done by this presidency* can’t be swept out of the national memory the way the damage done by the last Republican president has been. The Republican Party has to be purged of the prion disease, all of it. Because the prion disease has sickened the entire nation now. The progress of the disease is now so advanced that the Republican powers within the national legislature are unable to check the powers of a president* that a good portion of the country believes shouldn’t be within 200 miles of the White House, a form of ideological enfeeblement that may be the final stages of the disease. That there are people who were involved in the disease’s earlier stages who are unnerved now seems to me to be yet another manifestation of it. At least, with kuru, the cannibalism comes at the beginning.

All to which I say a very Catholic and Protestant and Jewish, and Islamic AMEN!  even as I know it doesn't actually get to the real root of the disease which is embedded in the Constitution and the line of supposedly liberal First Amendment rulings that I doubt Charles Pierce is willing to seriously challenge, not to mention the ACLU and liberal members of past courts have brought and joined in.  If you want to read something that demonstrates that, consider this passage from a self-congratulatory piece on the 40th anniversary of Buckley v. Valeo by Joel Gora, one of the ACLU lawyers most responsible for creating the conditions that Pierce decrys as inevitably producing Trump.

Some thought the restrictions on campaign giving and spending violated the very core of the First Amendment’s protections and undermined the essential role of free speech in safeguarding democracy. They organized a “strange bedfellows” coalition of liberal and conservative politicians and groups to challenge these new Draconian restrictions on political freedom in America. The group of plaintiffs included conservative Senator James L. Buckley, liberal anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy, the American Conservative Union, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. They claimed that, as outsiders and underdogs challenging the establishment and the status quo, they would not be able to get their messages out without being able to raise and spend a modest number of larger donations from friends and supporters. Their lead counsel was Ralph K. Winter, a Yale Law School professor, who would go on to a long and distinguished career as a United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit. Another key attorney for the challengers was John R. Bolton, who would later serve in top foreign policy positions and is now a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Yes, that John Bolton, mustache lunatic who was put first proposed to Trump as Sec. of State - Trump didn't like the retro mustache - Ralph K. Winter, one of Reagan's first appointments to the federal judiciary,  Eugene McCarthy, who by that time had become a bitter Naderesque  enemy of a Democratic Party which would, somehow not nominate him as president, and James L. Buckley, brother of the genteel fascist, William F. soon to be member of the Reagan administration and then, also, put into the federal judiciary by him.  And you really could tell what the results would be from the company that Gora and the ACLU kept in that case. 

And it's hardly the only time the icon of pseudo-liberalism has kept such company to such oligarchy advancing effect. In the same piece, Gora gives credit to his and that motley crew's victory in the putrid Buckley v. Valeo ruling for it leading to Citizen's United:

That principle would also be the basis for the Court’s more recent and highly controversial decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), holding that these First Amendment rights also allowed corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations to use their funds to communicate their views on government and the politicians who run it.

The principle being that money equals speech, and, by so doing so turns speech into a measurable commodity.   Eleven years ago I put that in the form of an equation, mP=s  in which m is "money," s is "speech" and P is the constant "Person" with a value of 1, though such a "person" is either one real, human citizen or one gigantic corporate entity.  As should surprise no one, when the "P" has billions of dollars that "Person" either a billionaire or billionaires amassed in a boys club or the "Person" is a mega rich corporation, they will have billions of times the "speech" of people without that money.  The results in our politics has not benefited We The mere People or the unions or the non-profit sector that Gora was using as a fig-leaf to cover up his shame at enabling oligarchy.   If you doubt that's the case then let me ask you how's this going in the laboratory of real life. 

Reagan was product of the country produced by the First Amendment rulings that the ACLU and lawyers like Joel Gora got from the least democratic of the branches of government, staffed by a largely Ivy League trained elite appointed for their service to the elite or, in the past, at least not generating waves that would have sunk their aspirations to the federal judiciary.  The fact is that that goes back in the past right through the "corporate personhood" insertion and right back to the the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention that produced the potential for this to happen.  Charles Pierce is absolutely right to suspect that the same country that went from Reagan to Trump will go right through Trump and on down into whatever degenerate demagogue the Republican primary voters will choose.   Just as it went from Nixon - the first beneficiary of that road to oligarchy which began in 1964 with Sullivan v New York Times. 

The Trump regime, if it were incompatible or inconsistent with or unacceptable under the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights would have been aborted weeks into it.  That it hasn't and well may not be ended, even as blatant treason and high crimes, theft, looting, oppression, racism and insane depravity are its hallmarks is proof that the Constitution contains the seeds of Trumpian fascism and no real inhibitions that will be a reliable prevention of it.

* But who is now a Famous Artist, perhaps a little like what Adolf Hitler would have been if Adolf Hitler had led The Curious Life of Benjamin Button. 

There Is Nothing So Obviously Untrue Or Even Absurd As An Accusation Against Religion That Even Academics Need Fear Saying It

I'm sick as a frickin' dog.  As the saying goes.  I'm going to post a bit more of Marilynne Robinson's essay,  The Fate of Ideas: Moses, and try to write something of my own later.

It's tempting to go over the several fairly recent books that she takes apart because they were well chosen to illustrate the typical, current mid-brow, would-be erudition on the topic.  The first one is the ridiculous claims of Jack Miles in his "God: A Biography (1995), which is so much like what you'll typically read in online atheist garbage, but it's not the most serious of them. I'll take the two that I think are the most typical of would-be serious

Moses the Egyptian:  The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (1997) is the work of Jas Assmann, a major German Egyptologist.  It dusts off Freud's old theory that Mose was in fact Egyptian.  Therefore Moses would have been influenced, Assmnn argues, by the monotheistic cult of Aton, which worshiped the solar disk. (More precisely, it seems the pharaoh worshiped Aton and everyone else worshiped the pharaoh.)  Aton tended to go down at night, and there are lovely hymns of relief at his rising in the morning – facts which suggest that this was a lesser order of monotheism, and that Moses's achievement is undiminished.  This is another example of the tendentious use of scholarship.  Assmann argues that the monotheism of Akhenaton, the pharaoh who founded the cult, was intolerant and hated, and its effects lingered to infect the monotheism of Moses, which was therefore also profoundly intolerant and hated.  Obviously there is nothing inevitable here. 

Assmann's argument is the sort of razzle-dazzle that depends on coinages like “mnemohistory,” which is the exalted and useful discipline of intepreting history that collective memory has displaced and suppressed so thoroughly only the writer has an inkling even of the fact of suppression.  In this cognitive implosion a fusion occurs between Moses and the Aton cultus which conventional history simply cannot achieve.  Assmann is writing this book in response to Freud's abysmal question about the origins of anti-Semitism.  “Strikingly enough,  his [Freud's] question was not how the Gentiles, or the Christians or the Germans came to hate the Jews, but “how the Jew had become what he is and why he attracted this undying hatred.”  He paraphrases Freud's answer thus: “Not the Jew but monotheism had attracted this undying hatred.  by making Moses an Egyptian, [Freud] deemed himself able to shift the sources of negativity and intolerance out of Judaism and back to Egypt, and to show that the defining fundamentals of Jewish monotheism and mentality came from outside it.”  So we are to concede, apparently, that these are “the defining fundamentals of Jewish monotheism and mentality.”   Comment is unnecessary, though I will draw attention here to the notion of victimization I remarked on earlier.  We Gentiles have the Torah to blame for our own worst moments, it would appear. 

Like others of these writers, Assann argues that ancient polytheism was essentially tolerant, “cosmotheism,” and readily accepted other gods, translating them into the terms of the culture that received them.  Granting that Melqart, a god of Carthage, did indeed lounge around in a lion skin looking just like Hercules, we have the fact that Rome loathed Carthage and was despised in turn and reduced that great city to bare earth.  Athens and Sparta had just the same pantheon, and they fought to the death.  And Rome conquered Greece, whose gods it had thoroughly Latinized.  That is to say, whatever the merits of polytheism, at best it only obliged people to find other than religious grounds for hostility, which they were clearly very able to do.  How the wars of the Hebrews against the Canaanites are more culpable than the wars of the Romans against the Etruscans I fail to see, or why anyone should imagine that these wars were less formative of European civilization than those distant, inconclusive wars among the Semites.  Or,  for that matter, why they do not prove that the character of the civilization was already formed when Rome set about the conquest of Italy.  Miles attributes the structure of Western consciousness to monotheism on the grounds that “the Bible was the popular encyclopedia of the Middle Ages.”  But in fact through most of the Common Era in Europe the Bible and especially the Old Testament, existed almost exclusively in Latin, a language incomprehensible to the great majority of people, who were in any case illiterate.  So its influence is easily overstated.  Yet ferocious intolerance has characterized most of Western history in the Common Era. 

Polytheism is as fashionable now as it has been since fascism was in it prime.  As a corollary to the current tendency to blame monotheism for intolerance and aggression and genocide, there is an assumption that polytheism must have been tolerant, pacific and humane.  This notion is old, too.  In The Natural History of Religion, Hume says, “by limiting the powers and functions of its deities, [idolatry] naturally admits the gods of other sects and nations to a share of divinity, and renders all the various deities, as well as rites, ceremonies, or traditions, compatible with each other . . . [By comparison] when one sole object of devotion is acknowledged, the worship of other deities is regarded as absurd and impious.”  

It is striking to see how the cultural discourse is circling on itself.  Perhaps the real familiarity of their arguments explains why these writers I have looked at offer so little in the way of evidence.  For example, Assmann, the most scholarly of them, says the Old Testament is deeply informed by aversion to Egypt, then offers no support from the text.  And, coincidentally, perhaps, little evidence is to be found in the text.  One Mosaic law of unambiguous relevance, which goes unmentioned by him is Deuteronomy 23:7, “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother, you shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.”    This law provides that both Edomites and Egyptians may enter the assembly of the Lord on favorable terms – after three generations that is, which seems long, but which is liberal by comparison with the ancient Athenians, for instance, who never naturalized the descendants of foreigners.  Nor, as I understand, do the modern Germans.  This one verse is sufficient to demonstrate that there was not hatred but in fact a certain bond between Hebrews and Egyptians. 

The idea that the hatred of the Other is the signal preoccupation of the Old Testament is carried to great lengths by Regina Schwartz in The Curse of Cain  The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (1997).  The following passage gives a fair sense of the book:

“Western culture is laced throughout with a variety of institutions, marriage laws, laws concerning the right of so-called minors, sodomy laws, and a less overt but equally insidious bourgeois morality that specifies which sexual practices and partners are permissible as strictly as Leviticus.  These institutions that reduce women to property – wives owned by their husbands, daughters owned by their fathers – are stubborn institutions that are the heirs of monotheistic thinking about scarcity that have kept misogyny alive and well long after the biblical period, institutions that regard a sullied property – a land shared by a foreigner, an adulterous woman – and other variations of multiple allegiances (multiple gods, if you will), as anathema.  The tentacles of the injunction “you shall have no other gods before me”  reach throughout our social formations, structuring identity as a delimited possession with a remarkable grip”

If there are Eastern polytheistic cultures which cannot be described in the same terms, or in much harsher terms, Schwartz does not name them.  So we must take her word for it that monotheism has created misogyny and xenophobia and all the rest of Western culture.  For her, monotheism functions as original sin has done traditionally.  It is the ultimate source of every evil.  And it is entirely located in the Old Testament – the New Testament is mentioned once, in a note.  This is an extraordinary burden of opprobrium to place on a literature that was of distinctly secondary significance during the formative stages of Western Civilization, beside civil law and canon law and common law and natural law, beside the New Testament and the teaching of the Church, beside the customs and prejudices that survived Christianization.  I think it is unlikely that the Norse or the Franks turned misogynist under the influence of Moses.  For some reason the grim prehistory of Christian Europe seems to deserve not a glance  Considering the view Christendom has taken of Mosaic law, there is no great reason to imagine that its princelings were deep students of Leviticus. 

Schwartz draws attention to the striking perdurability of attitudes and approaches to biblical scholarship that arose in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  This scholarship was the work of Germans for the most part and it was profoundly influenced by emerging nationalism and anti-Semitism – and often brilliant, like so much that was done in Europe in those years.  Schwartz draws attention to some highly questionable assumptions that survive and flourish in biblical criticism on the strength of that old prestige.   Source criticism, which has given us J, E, P, D, and other such artifacts of learned speculation, was pioneered by Julius Wellhausen in the middle of the nineteenth century.  This analytical method is so perfectly suited to conforming the text to the critic's assumptions about it that it establishes nothing.  Yet it has profoundly conditioned the reading of the Bible, which is now assumed by many to have been patched and botched and redacted until its intelligibility is at best merely apparent.  It is refreshing to see attention drawn to the extremely tenuous nature of so much of the seeming learnedness that cumbers writing about the Bible.  Bishop Spong tells us in what order and for what reason the books of the New Testament were composed.  Not surprisingly, his hypothesis – which is all in the world it is or can be – make his interpretation of these texts seem downright inevitable.  To offer hypothesis as fact is not fair to the nonspecialist readership for which his book is clearly intended.  In doing so he is typical rather than exceptional among popular writers. 

On the other hand, Schwartz's own approach is full of the mannerisms of contemporary scholarship, eager to indict, indifferent to the strengths and pleasures of the text.  It is perhaps this approach which makes her insensitive in her own book to the worst tendency in the nineteenth-century criticism she is so right to consider suspect.  That is, its tendency to primitivize and demean the Old Testament, encouraging the belief that it is full of ideas Western culture could be well rid of, that it revealed the “negativity and intolerance,” in Assmann's words, of the Jewish mind.  A favorite disparagement has always been that the Hebrew scriptures have little religious meaning and reflect no spiritual aspiration.  Every book I have looked at proceeds from these assumptions without comment, as if no reasonable person could take another view.  It  is perhaps worth noting that the contemporary literary-critical sensibility is rooted in a milieu not so unlike the one that produced nineteenth-century biblical criticism and which was surely influenced by it – in, for example, Nietzsche and Heidegger. 

The glaring lapses in the scholarship and the assertions made about the texts of the Old Testament as well as the absurdly unrealistic attribution of such malign power to them in a Western Civilization which, as Robinson pointed out earlier, doesn't seem to have taken any of the radical economic egalitarianism that permeates the entire text at all seriously - discounting the clearly more powerful influence of the pagan cultures which never were entirely expunged in Western Europe or wherever Western Europeans colonized - all of that is typical of anti-Jewish-Christian and to some extent anti-Islamic polemics in the materialist-scientistic, atheist would be elite culture of academia and its seepage into popular, especially mid-brow culture.  If you want an example of that, look at how the Ayn Randian thinking of such people as Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and so many others who claim to be primarily motivated by Christianity and the scriptures are the real motivation behind their actions.  If The Law, The Prophets and the Gospels are of so little influence over those who claim that they rule their lives, as they violate all of them, continually, claiming that Moses is all to blame for everything is as absurd a deflection of responsibility as is ubiquitous, today.   I think it is bad enough that it should be considered an expression of real but permissible and blatant animus to Jews and the Jewish tradition. 

I'll remind you that the entire essay appears in the book "When I Was A Child I Read Book".   I've tried to keep up with the publication of Marilynne Robinson's essays but I'm not only one book of those behind,  I noticed the other day, another collection is soon to be published.   I'll have to catch up but I'm too busy re-reading the earlier ones.   She is one of the most important of today's intellectuals, that is beyond any doubt the case. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Had an appointment this morning, I will post something later this afternoon.  Probably calling for Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes to be investigated for leaking classified information to unauthorized parties.   Apparently that letter from the Justice Department (from one of Sessions former staffers!) mentioned that's what Nunes and the other Putin assets in the Congress are doing. 

Nub-o Thub-ank Yub-u

I've started to answer any phone call that I suspect is made by one of those bots that mimic a human being in ubbi-dubbi.  It's amazing how well they seem to take it, as if I wasn't doing that at all.  They just keep going.  I think I'm going to respond to them with random sounds next and see what happens.  

If it turns out to be a real person I'll, of course, be cooly polite to them and explain what I'm doing before telling them I never do business over the phone.  Must be a really shitty job to have.  I remember Miss Manners on hanging up on message machines, there's no holding of etiquette that you have to be polite to a machine. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday Night Radio Drama - Lucy Catherine - Mablethorpe

Alison, with her life ahead of her, wants to discover the past, while Mrs Gawkrodger, too old even to plant her window box, thinks only of the future. They are drawn together by an old photograph, labelled `Mablethorpe 1952' 

Lia Williams as Alison 
Anna Wing as Mrs Gawkrodger

Producer: Tracey Neale

#MeToo Needs To Do Some Hard Thinking About The Causes Of The Problem Without Changing Those Nothing Will Come Of This

If you want more detail about why #MeToo is in danger of imploding because the problem it addresses is ill defined and the general lack of evidence available to judge accusations  you can read more in Matt Kaiser's piece in Vox about the accusation "Grace" made about Aziz Ansari.  Such a thing is bound to continue to happen because in most cases, there are only two people who can say what happened,  the accused and the accuser  They being the only two witnesses able to give evidence as to whether or not there was consent, you can't tell who is telling the truth.   I'd go into the specifics given in the piece that match what I said about this issue the other day but you can read the piece.   Considering the mess it is, maybe that should be "about these issues".   

I will say that the process he describes as the way that colleges and universities are handling this won't continue because in some cases, maybe most of them, there is no real process of determining guilt or innocence.  What it looks like to me is that in cases without physical evidence or third-party witnesses,  and the fact is there won't be in many, guilt is being declared on the basis of who those making that decision decide to believe.  They might get it right or they might get it wrong and that process can as easily let a rapist off as punish someone who is innocent of nothing more than being stupid enough to go into a room with someone he doesn't know and who later falsely accuses him.  What might favor women who make accusations can as easily turn around and favor the accused, especially as people have a right to be judged on evidence and in its absence, there has to be a presumption of innocence.  I'll bet that within the next few years that is the conclusion of some very expensive lawsuits.

This isn't going to change and it's only going to get worse because we've had fifty years of people being encouraged to screw around and screwing around with strangers or people they don't know while drunk.   The idea that casual, semi-anonymous sex indulged in with many different people won't lead to trouble is incredibly stupid, the pubescent, tumescent day-dream of horny 12-year-olds as encouraged by the media and the movies, sex advice columnists and TV sitcoms.  Years ago I wrote about a public health nurse I knew who said she could always count on an increase in very young girls with unexpected pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases the weeks and months after the fair, these days I doubt she'd have been able to discern much difference from the generalized irresponsible sex.

It's not going to get better because people aren't going to stop doing the stupid stuff that will inevitably lead to women and men going places to have sex with men who are going to penetrate them and either getting raped on the one hand or the one doing the penetrating being accused of doing things that he either knowingly did or believed he wouldn't be accused of because he believed he had consent.   I don't have any more sympathy for Aziz Ansari than I do "Grace" except to say that I am entirely not a fan of anonymous accusations of named people, anonymous accusations should not be published or broadcast because I believe anyone accused, guilty or innocent, has a right to know who is making the accusation against them.  I think any media entity that publishes anonymous accusations against specific, named people or people otherwise definitely identified should be liable for being sued.   Especially if it's a website that encourages the kind of behavior that is guaranteed to generate rapes and false accusations of rapes because it encourages the behavior that will inevitably lead to that.

You won't stop the harassment and rape until you stop encouraging behavior that will lead to it,  corporations might be sued into doing something to restrain the men who work for them, that won't work with other institutions.  Universities and colleges might be able to do the same with faculty and staff though threats of firing for having inappropriate social interactions with students.  But between students and students and non-students, they won't be able to deal with the consequences and will eventually stop trying to.  Then things will go straight to hell.

For crying out loud, DON'T WILLINGLY GET INTO A SITUATION IN WHICH YOU'RE ALONE WITH A STRANGER, ONE WHO MIGHT RAPE YOU OR WORSE OR ONE WHO MIGHT CONSENT AND THEN ACCUSE YOU OF RAPING THEM.   And, for crying out loud, don't do it with someone you don't know, especially if you're drunk, you idiot.   Grow the fuck up. 

The choice between cynicism and exhaustion is not an inviting one because both are forms of death.

I have pointed out before that the book, The Bible Makes Sense was written by Walter Brueggemann about forty years ago, when Jimmy Carter was in the first year of his administration and already, then, his discernment led him to predicting that American society was on a path that would go through where we are now.   Obviously, it wasn't Jimmy Carter who he saw steering us into disaster, it was the general trend of the modern-industrial-scientific culture in which that would seem to be inevitable.  I can't say that he foresaw something as base as the Trump regime but his professional study had certainly exposed him to the potential of even a more promising beginning, as is found in The Law, turning into something as corrupt as we live with now. 

Life Is a Gift 

The other side of the tension is that life is a free gift.  In the sixth century B.C., two hundred years after Amos and Isaiah, Israel was no longer proud and secure.  Now her institutions had collapsed and her nerve had failed.  She now doubted whether sustained life was possible.   Perhaps we are on the edge of such doubting in our society.  Disintegration seemed very near to Israel.  There was (and is) a frantic tendency to want to prop things up and, by being a bit more ingenious, to keep things going.  But to no avail. 

The prophets in the sixth century aserted the radical notion that a community cannot manipulate life because it is a gift from God, and he has not placed the gift of life at our disposal.   That is a warning for every community which takes itself too seriously or values its own resources too highly.  So Ezekiel announces that life for this community of despair is a free gift from God:

Behold they say,  “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost,
We are cut clean off” . . .
Thus says the Lord God:
Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people:  and I will bring you home into the land of Israel  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves,  O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you , and you shall live,  and I will place you in your own land (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

The prophet uses resurrection imagery to speak of restoration of the community and rehabilitation in the land of well being and security.  It is pure gift.  It is new life in renewed relations.  

And his later contemporary also announced to exiles (lost, excluded, dead) that life is a free gift:

Ho, every one who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money, 
come, buy and eat!
Come buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, 
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  
 Harken diligently to me, and eat which is good,
and delight your souls in fatness,
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live . . . (Isaiah 55:1-3)

It is the continuing task of maturing for every faith community to embrace both realities that life is task and that life is free gift.  Unless they are kept in balance either we will be complacent people who are cynical in presuming too much, or we will be weary people who exhaust ourselves to no avail.   The choice between cynicism and exhaustion is not an inviting one because both are forms of death.

In listening this morning to Stephen Colbert's monologue - and I love Stephen Colbert - his saying that the Democrats caved did seem a bit uncharacteristically cynical for him, it's a cynicism that would seem to be the house mindset of the lefty chatosphere, online.   I wrote an early blog post in 2006 about why Democratic politicians don't do what we want them to do, asking people to try to consider it from the point of view of a Democrat who needs to be in office to do anything.   For Democrats who want to be in office so - if they are a majority - they can pass things like DACA into law, they have to listen to people for who that is a make or break issue but there are other make or break issues for other people whose votes they need to get elected.  There has to be a calculation of what they CAN DO out of the things they would love to do and WHEN THEY CAN GET THAT DONE.   I like Chuck Schumer a bit less than I like Steve Colbert but his explanation of how he and other Democrats faced the facts they have to deal with made more sense.   Anyone who wants to pursue the hard work of making the traditional American liberal agenda - exactly consisting of those teachings Marilynne Robinson pointed out were the hardest part of The Law to live up to - they can't take either of those alternatives of exhaustion or cynicism that blog blatherers and tweeting venters indulge themselves in.  I don't think going here is as out of line with what Brueggemann said in that passage as it might seem, I think it's not even that far removed from it.  In any case, that's the reality of what we face to welcome the sojourner among us and to treat them as we would want to be treated ourselves.  Not to mention the poor who are already here.

How Much Is The Big Davos Junket Costing Us?

Are all of the dozens of Trump crime family members (and spouses?) going to Davos going to cost us the $70,000 admissions fee?  And that's just admission to the den of thieves, I doubt they're staying in cheap digs.  I'd really like to know that.   

Getting to go to the big meeting of the Billionaire Boys Club doesn't come cheap, I want to know how much it's costing us as they shaft the poorest of the poor.

Billionaires are the greatest danger to egalitarian democracy, equal justice and economic justice, they are the biggest danger to us, short of Trump blustering and bumbling the world into nuclear war.  The Billionaires are the reason we aren't doing anything about global warming, they are criminally insane.   

If I were in Congress I'd be demanding to know how much the Davos junket is costing us, in total and per person.   How much is it going to cost for Mnuchin to go?   Is that skanky Louise Linton, his wife, going? 

Investigate Nunes

Devin Nunes should certainly be under investigation for an attempt to obstruct justice over his antics of the past year.  His position in the Trump transition during which many of the crimes and acts of treason against the United States would make his possible criminal involvement the most probable of any explanation of his stunts to try to impede the investigation into those crimes.

If other Republican members of the house, such as Trey Gowdy who are participating in the congressional Republican attempt at cover up should be similarly suspected of wanting to cover up their own possible criminality, I don't know, I do know Devin Nunes is exactly the kind of person you would expect would have at the very least known of possible crimes he should have reported as part of his obligations as a member of Congress.  I think the extremity of his own behavior over the past year makes it very likely that he broke the law and wants to cover it up by further obstructing justice.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Someone Tells Me I Should Title All My Pieces Because They're Easier To Find That Way

I am more and more convinced that the actions of Devin Nunes in his bizarre series of wild cover up stunts isn't trying to cover up for Donald Trump's and his regime's crimes,  I'm convinced he's doing it because he is afraid the FBI or the Mueller investigation are going to find out something he, Devin Nunes did that could put him in prison.   I'm convinced that Nunes isn't the only member of the Republican caucus in the House who is worried about their own crimes being uncovered by the investigation, I think there are probably a number of those who were close to the Trump campaign and transition who either knew of illegalities or things they suspected were illegal and didn't report them to law enforcement or which they participated in. 

I think from now on when you look at the kind of stunts they are engaged in "release the memo" which is a totally Nunes created deflection stunt as was the "unmasking" "scandal," those kinds of things, you should ask what crimes the house members pulling those stunts are anxious to hide.

Hate Mail

Of course I oppose the teaching of intelligent design in public high school biology classes in exactly the same way that I oppose the teaching of the materialist-ideological and extra-scientific holding that evolution happened by random chance events acted on by the thread-bare theory of natural selection and that evolution is non-progressive (something which virtually no scientist involved with evolution really believes) and for the same reason, all of those are extra-scientific assertions of the nature of evolution which aren't supported by any physical evidence or any legitimate scientific study of evolution.  It couldn't be done with science because by an incredibly large percentage, so much larger than 99% of the actual events and substance of evolution over more than three-billion years, the evidence you would need to scientifically demonstrate those assertions is not available and never will be.  The use of evolution to promote atheist-materialism is as anti-scientific as the effort to shove the same scanty evidence of what happened into a fundamentalist 6-day distortion of the first chapters of Genesis. 

Twenty years ago I was a fairly conventional, passive acceptor of the claims about evolution, the neo-Darwinian synthesis, though I never, for a second bought that biological determinism of our minds was true.    Because I passively accepted, without any serious look at the scope of the problem of evolution and, especially, the origin of life on Earth, I passively believed lines on the idea of intelligent design - as a general idea and NOT as set out by the ID industry - was illegitimate.

The idea of intelligent design isn't properly scientific and it has, by court order, properly been excluded from public school science classrooms, at least legally.   Neither is the atheist ideological claim that there is no evidence of design or directionality and that everything is all a matter of random chance and probabilities and the silly putty theory that can be stretched any which way and pick up any image it's pressed into, natural selection.   The atheist assertions have not been litigated, of course, but that doesn't change the nature of what they are, an ideological framing imposed on physical evidence for non-scientific purposes.  And I will say that whether it's Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne doing that or the side I like better,  that of people like the late Stephen J. Gould. 

There is not and never will be enough evidence of the billions of years long history of evolution to support such claims.   The extent to which the professionals making a living out of saying things about evolution hold with such things the less legitimate it will be as science and the less reliable anything they say about it will be.  Though, since there is no evidence of much of what they assert ideologically, there is no evidence to use to attack them with, either except on the basis that all such stuff is not supported by physical evidence that can be rigorously analyzed and subject to rigorous logical analysis.

At least that's what I've come to conclude is inevitable from the fact of the paucity of evidence as compared to the enormous size of evolution.   Prove me wrong about that. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Constant Complaining From The Constantly Consternated

I hate to point it out but if there's one thing I learned from years as a regular at a few blog with established blog communities, if what they predicted was certain to happen came true, virtually everything would have come true, including complete opposite events at the same time. 

Getting tired and fed up with the stagy outrage, the histrionic tantrums declaring that such and such a Democrat or the Democratic Party were a bunch of bums was one of the reasons I stopped frequeting such blogs.   

No one knows how any of today's events are going to turn out.  No one knows what Chuck Schumer knows except that whatever it is it's more than a bunch of self-reinforcing blog rats do.  I don't care what prep-schools they teach at or Ivy League degrees they have, those jerks have never sat on a local school board or municipal council and few if any of them ever tried to get elected to the most minor office. I think you'd probably do as well depending on what you discern from a Magic 8-Ball toy. 

Ayn Rand - How Is This Still A Thing? - Something To Think About As You Watch The Republican Politicians Make Speeches Today

I can say that this video contains the most comprehensive and spot on definition of "Objectivism" that could possibly exist in English. 

Gary Burton - Ralph Towner - Matchbook

Some Other Time 

I will confess that this is probably the only song by Leonard Bernstein I actually like, written in the period when Gunther Schuller said he was at his best, before fame spoiled him.

Last Hate Mail I'm Answering On The Fate of Ideas:Moses

Oh, dear, I thought I'd answered that last night.   Haven't you gotten the clue yet that when Marilynne Robinson writes an essay like this one that she would have thought of the strife between right-wing Christians and LGBT people such as myself?   She makes this point in the last two paragraphs of the essay:

If one were to argue that the attack on Moses is and always has been an attack on the very idea of ethical obligations, one could adduce by way of evidence, first, the fact that where Moses has been rejected, virtue has been of the kind Jesus described as tithing mint and cumin – a devoting of much attention to minor things.  When the Bible was finally unleashed on Europe, it set off revolutions.

A second, graver point might be made, too.  Every one of these books [those which slammed Moses and the Scriptures that deal with the Law] displaces ethical responsibility away from Christian or modern civilization and onto the Old Testament.  It is useful, it is even rational, to excuse oneself and one's own from ethical responsibility by any means at all, let alone by means that reinforce this worst prejudice?  And in fact would not justice to Moses restore to this mysteriously religious society something urgently needed, a sense of the absolute biblical imperative to respectful generosity toward the poor and the stranger?   When Jesus describes Judgment, the famous separation of the sheep from the goats,  he does not mention religious affiliation or sexual orientation or family values.  He says,  “I was hungry, and ye fed me not”  (Matthew 25:42)*.  Whether he was a rabbi, a prophet, or the Second Person of the Trinity, the ethic he invokes comes straight from Moses.

*  Here's the complete passage Matthew 25:31-46.  No where in the Gospels does Jesus condemn anyone for sexual transgressions that I'm aware of.

. . . how do these crimes compare with those of other peoples, their contemporaries or ours? When Hume wrote, the English gibbets More describes were still as full as ever

The section of Marilynne Robinson's essay that I am going over here ends with a section in which she shows a number of writers, both old and, especially new, who have distorted, misrepresented and lied about the "God of the Jews" for several but not unrelated reasons. The first one she brings up is the atheist icon, David Hume.

Scholarly books on the Scriptures typically claim objectivity and may sometimes aspire to it, though their definitions of objectivity inevitably vary with the intentions of their writers.  But to assume a posture of seeming objectivity relative to any controverted subject is a very old polemical maneuver.  David Hume, in an endnote to his Natural History of Religion (written in 1751, published in 1779), quotes Chevalier Ramsay,  who quotes an imagined Chinese or Indian philosopher's reaction to Christianity: “The God of the Jews is a most cruel, unjust, partial, and fantastical being . . . This chosen nation was . . . the most stupid ungrateful, rebellious and perfidious of all nations . . . [God's son dies to appease his vindictive wrath, but the vast majority of the world are excluded from any benefit.  This makes God]  . . . a cruel vindictive tyrant, an impotent or a wrathful daemon.”  And so on.*

Even pious critics seem never to remember that, in the Old Testament, the Jews were talking among themselves, interpreting their own experience to themselves.  Every negative thing we know about them, every phrase that is used to condemn them, they supplied, in their incredible self-scrutiny and self-judgment.  Who but the ancient Jews would have thought to blame themselves for, in effect, lying along the invasion route of the Babylonians?  They preserved and magnified their vision of the high holiness of God by absorbing into themselves responsibility for their sufferings,  and this made them passionately self-accusatory, in ways no other people would have thought of being.   

That is one of the most fascinating things about the slamming of the Torah, or really the entire Jewish Scriptures is that every particular accurately cited against them is the product of their own confession.  I mentioned the extraordinary idea contained in the Talmud that their conception of God's holiness and goodness even, as mentioned below,  extended to putting a damper on the angelic celebration of the deaths of Pharaoh and his charioteers when God made the waters close on them.  It would be like loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.  Oh, that's right, it is exactly like that. And is it ever hard to do so.

This incomparable literature would surely have been lost if they had imagined the use it would be put to, and had written to justify themselves and to defend their descendants in the eyes of the nations rather than to ponder their life in openness toward God.  By what standard but their own could Israel have been considered ungrateful or rebellious or corrupt?  Granting crimes and errors,  which they recorded, and preserved and pondered the records of for centuries, and which were otherwise so historically minor that no one would ever have heard of them – how do these crimes compare with those of other peoples, their contemporaries or ours?  When Hume wrote, the English gibbets More describes were still as full as ever.  The grandeur of the Old Testament, and the fact that such great significance was attached to it, distracts readers from a sense of its unique communal inwardness.  It is an endless reconciliation achieved at great cost by a people whose relation to God is astonishingly brave and generous.  To misappropriate it as a damning witness against the Jews and “the Jewish God” is vulgar beyond belief.  And not at all uncommon, therefore.  It is useful to consider how the New Testament would read, if it had gone on to chronicle the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Vulgar Beyond Belief  Beyond Belief

"Every negative thing we know about them, every phrase that is used to condemn them, they supplied, in their incredible self-scrutiny and self-judgment." that is an incredible fact in the attacks made against the Mosaic tradition which those who make them never take into account.   All through the Old Testament, especially, but to an extent the New Testament, what a superficial, "enlightenment" reading of the narratives and texts as modern history or science or philosophy misses is that there is enormous ambiguity in even the victories of the Children of Israel.  It doesn't say so in Exodus but the Talmud says that even as the text of Exodus has the Children of Israel rejoicing at the deaths of Pharaoh and his charioteers, God chastises the angels who were about to join them asking them how they dared to rejoice with them, “How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying,”   And there are many instances in the text which how an astonishing sensitivity to the moral ambiguity of their good fortunes and, especially, military victories and which punish their desire to own God (1 Samuel 4:3-11).  That story has always struck me as rather extraordinary.

You can find similar content in some other Scriptures but I don't know of any tradition that takes it as far and second guesses their own action, assumptions and claims as the Hebrew Scriptures.  They show a vigilance against self-interest, against self-aggrandizement that is entirely lacking in modern secular-atheism and even more so in the modern-industrial-scientific framing that finds its highest value in vulgar materialism.

Modernism and, especially the United States could learn a lot from reading the Scriptures in ways that Marilynne Robinson and Walter Brueggemann and many others advocate.  One thing I'm certain of, if an effective margin of supposed liberals and moderates had that understanding of life, we would never have come to what we have.  If the "founders" had not so disdained the Old Testament they might have not embedded the terrible features that benefitted slave owners and exploitative commercial men which are the same ones that gave us George W. Bush and Donald Trump.  If they took the Commandment against bearing false witness, contained in that bit Ten they're always wanting to put in public buildings, our media and so our politics would not be the sewer they are.  I think the egalitarian moral and economic content of the Scriptures are the reason for the long campaign of attacks on them in the modern era as great fortunes have been made under capitalism and the reason they have come to be so widely associated with the poor and members of oppressed minorities who have ears to hear what they're saying.   Contrary to the pseudo-liberal line against them, the economic content of them, especially to a gentile audience through Christianity, is the only reliable foundation of any liberalism that deserves to be called that.  In other of her essays, Ms. Robinson makes a very good case for the traditional American form of liberalism, founded on the rock of equality and economic justice, was a development from the Calvinist study of the Mosaic Law.  The decline of Christianity among educated liberals is the reason that their liberalism declined into an ineffectual, counter-productive snobbery.   Liberalism won't recover until this is rediscovered and really believed.

*  Without having read the text Hume took that from, I wonder if Ramsay's argument wasn't against the doctrine of eternal damnation instead of the use Hume put it to.  About the only thing I know about Chevalier Ramsay is that he was a Christian universalist and influenced by the French quietist and mystic Bishop François Fénelon.   If I get the chance to look it up, I'll try to find out if that's right.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Men's Sheds

I'm not much of a joiner and don't really go for the "man" stuff but for those who do this sounds like it might not be a bad thing.

The first men's shed opened twenty years ago in a borrowed room in the farming town of Tongala, Australia.   

It was an experiment — an attempt at dealing with a growing health crisis. Older men, prone to isolation, despair and depression, have a very high suicide rate. 

Today, there are more than 2,000 Men's Sheds across Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Great Britain. Seventeen in five Canadian provinces.  

In Men's Sheds, there are no rule-books, no funny uniforms, and no expectations. Just a bunch of guys in a bit of the same boat.        

Producer David Gutnick was recently in Winnipeg where he visited the Woodhaven Men's Shed 

[Listen to the report from the CBC here]

It could hardly be more simple. Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, a couple of dozen older guys make their way to a room in a Winnipeg community centre.   

There are folding chairs and tables. A coffee pot, playing cards, a couple of cribbage boards, bundles of dried willow branches and cottonwood bark, a box full of carving knives and paint brushes. 

A bowl of water gets put on the floor for Comet the dog, and a hand-painted sign is taped up on the door for newcomers: Men's Sheds of Manitoba.  

It sounds a lot like the knitting group one of my oldest friends started only for men.  I like the idea that it's not run by some kind of professional (with some kind of psych degree)  not structured and not demanding and it sounds cheap enough that they could be started all over the place.   I doubt I'd go to one but there are probably a lot of men in my age group who would get a lot out of it.

Hate Mail

Marilynne Robinson's essay runs about twenty-eight pages, I'm only giving you a few of those, even as the other sections of it are more than worth reading.   As to the horrible oppression that modern people whine about feeling from The Law,  she covered that quite succinctly after going through the claims of several other authors after the part I'm excerpting.

It really is interesting to discover how oppressed one can feel by law with which one seem to have no meaningful acquaintance.   If anyone could document that the obligation is deeply felt among us to forgive our debtors, then the case for the patriarchal dominance of Moses would be more persuasive.  The fact is that the hardest of the laws, those comprehended in the phrase "open wide thy hand" are never even noticed to be resented.    

I have a theory that the relatively few sexual restrictions in the "holiness code" have been fixed on exactly for the reason that people who can do so want to deflect attention from the radical economic egalitarianism of The Law, not to mention The Prophets and The Gospels and Epistles. 

Since you bring up the fact that I'm gay, it's pretty clear that the authors of the Scriptures didn't have any idea of a faithful, committed, loving relationship that included respectful, non-damaging sexual affection.   A lot has been written about that in the past forty years making a persuasive case that those kinds of lesbian and gay relationships aren't what those talked about.  I think that's especially true in some of the mentions of them in other parts of Scripture which clearly are talking about pagan temple prostitution, which would have been acts of apostacy as well as injustice against the women and children held in sex slavery by those pagan religious institutions.   I do, though, think for those who take the traditional view that they are a flat ban on any sexual relationship between men or between women, it's interesting that THOSE PEOPLE don't seem to take the far more extensive commandments in The Law that Ms. Robinson pointed out in that passage at all seriously and something on which they seem to feel God must have changed his mind. 

I doubt one in a hundred of the college credentialed whiners about how much of a hurt old Moses puts on them have ever read any of it, getting their information from people who misrepresent it hoping to get on Fresh Air or some other talk show.  If not some total boob in the atheist celebrity circuit or some even stupider stand up comic.   Make that I doubt more than one in a thousand of the college credentialed whiners.

These are the laws of a passionate God

The modern cultural practice, I'd say the basic requirement of club membership in everything from high-brow to low-brow would-be intellectualism, is to hold the Biblical Hebrews in the Old Testament and, these days, Christians as well*, to severe standards of judgement that aren't practised much on any other people or nation or ideological grouping.  That's so ingrained that people do it automatically, needing no actual knowledge of the texts or what they actually said, the ersatz erudition that's based in is passed on in secondary, tertiary. . . many degrees of separation from the actual texts, often not based in reading but on what people hear on TV and radio, in movies and even plays.  The general character of utter stupidity of online atheist babble on that is about as good an example of where that ends up as any.

The passage I posted Saturday from Marilynne Robinson's great and, I hold, essential essay,  The Fate of Ideas: Moses ended in her promise to demonstrate that the centuries long slamming, which has only intensified, against the "Jewish God" as described in the Old Testament is false.   It's a very long argument because it can only be made by reading the texts and the historical narrative those are set in, as Marilynne Robinson points out later in her essay, every single accusation of wrong doing made against the Israelites and their God is known by it being confessed in their holiest Scriptures.  This section of the essay presents a number of those passages.   I will break into Ms. Robinson's text to point some things out.   There will be one more, much shorter excerpt from the essay in this impromptu series, before I return to Brueggemann.   If you want to see this as a long, voluntarily given advertisement for the book, When I Was A Child I Read Books and, in fact, all of her essays, I won't object, at all.

Ah, but the people Moses brought out of slavery invaded and took the land of the Canaanites!  The Israelites are much abused these days for their treatment of the Canaanites.  The historicity of the invasion stories as they occur in Joshua is questionable; archeology does not confirm them.   Nor does the book of Judges, which names the peoples “the Lord left” in Canaan;  Philistines, Sidonians, Hivites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, and Jesubites (Judges 3:3-5).  The Israelites may well have been Canaanites themselves, or a mixed population of those who were slaves in Egypt rather than a tribe or people.  The number of those who left Egypt may have been small and grown in retrospect, like the French Resistance.  Possession of Canaan was never complete.  Other inhabitants, for example Hittites and Philistines, were also invaders.  Ancient Near Eastern records often describe the defeat of enemies as their extermination; in fact the only known mention of Israel in Egyptian writing, dated about 1230 BCE, boasts that “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.”    In any case, whatever happened in Canaan, a violent epic was made of it which is the basis of much vilification of “the Jewish God.”

As ancient narrative, and as history, this story of conquest is certainly the least remarkable part of the Bible, and a very modest event as conquests go, the gradual claiming of an enclave in a territory that would be utterly negligible by the lights of real conquerors such as Alexander the Great or Augustus Caesar or even Ashurbanipal.  The suggestion that God was behind it maybe makes it worse than the campaigns of self-aggrandizement that destroyed many larger and greater cities, though it is not clear to me that it should.  A consequence which follows from God's role in the conquer of Canaan, asserted with terrible emphasis in Leviticus and elsewhere, is that God will deal with the Israelites exactly as he has dealt with the Canaanites, casting them out of the land in their turn if they cease to deserve it.  Abraham is told in a dream that possession of the promised land will be delayed an astonishing four hundred years until, in effect, the Amorites (that is, Canaanites) have lost their right to it.  We Anglo-European invaders do not know yet if we will have four hundred years in this land. 

Furthermore, as they approach Canaan, the Hebrews are told that they may not take any land of the Edomites or the Moabites because God has already given those people their land, having driven out former inhabitants. (Deuteronomy 2:4-11).  This is not the thinking of racial supremacists, or of people who believe they alone have God's attention.  Certainly it implies that God honors righteousness in those outside the Abrahamic covenant – otherwise the Canaanites could not have held the land while they did.  In any case, only ignorance can excuse the notion that European learned aggression and tribalism while pursuing the Bible.  The Peloponnesian Wars by themselves are a sufficient demonstration of that point. 

Assuming that my readers are, for the most part, nonindigenous as I am,  I would like to raise the question that seems to me as relevant to ourselves as to Moses.  The movements of populations, that great mysterious fact, that always full of disruption and grief and regret and are as inevitable and irreversible as the drift of continents.  Say that my ancestors fled poverty or affliction elsewhere, as the old Hebrews did, and caused poverty and dispossession here.  Granting that they were invaders, they might still have drawn conclusions from hard experience about how society could be made just, w which were generous and laudable conversion of bitterness into hope.   The most beautiful laws of Moses, when they are noticed at all, are as if shamed and discredited by the fact that he brought his tired and poor to settle in a land that was already populated  We have learned to think of our own most beautiful laws in the same way.  Are disruption and dispossession somehow redeemed by contempt for their best consequences?  Clearly, it was the inspiration of Moses to exploit what might be called the culturelessness of people who had lived for centuries as outsiders in tradition-bound Egypt, in order to make a new nation with a  distinctive religious culture which would express itself in a new social order.  In the narrative, his laws are formulated before the entry into Canaan, implying that the vision of the society preexisted the society itself – and, indeed was like a prophetic vision, always still to be realized.  If the purpose of the law is the righteousness of the individual, it purpose is also the goodness of individual and communal life.  If each member of the community obeys the commandments, then all members receive the assurance that they will not be murdered,  that their households will not be robbed or disrupted, that they will not be slandered, their children will not will not abuse or abandon them.   The relation of law to prophecy, of prohibition to liberation, is very clear. 

I have never, in the many decades I've read things about the Jewish Scriptures, ever read anything more carefully, scrupulously, fairly sympathetic to the character of the Scriptures and those who composed, assembled and maintained them than this paragraph in this essay.   For that characteristic practice alone, Marilynne Robinson's essays should be considered essential reading.   I can't think of another essayist of the past century and likely longer whose essays more deserve that status in whatever canon whatever remnant life those who aspire to a life of the mind establish.  If that sounds like an advertisement for the book, I can't do it justice.

The laws of Moses assume that the land is God's, that the Hebrews are strangers and sojourners there who cannot really own it but who enjoy it at God's pleasure (Leviticus 25:23).  The land is apportioned to the tribes, excepting the priestly Levites.  It can be sold (the assumption seems to be that this would be done under pressure of debt or poverty) but a kinsman has the right to buy it back, that is, redeem it, and restore it to its owner.  In any case, in every fiftieth year the lands are restored to the tribes and households to whom they were first given.   Every seventh year Hebrew slaves were freed, each taking with him or her enough of the master's good to “furnish him liberally” (Deuteronomy 15:14 all quotations are from the Revised Standard Version).  In thee years also all debts are to be forgiven.  Obviously these laws would have the effect of preventing accumulation of wealth and preventing as well the emergence of a caste of people who are permanently dispossessed.  Furthermore, in every seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath, to lie fallow,  “that the poor of your land may eat;  and what they leave the wild beasts may eat (Exodus 23:11).   Others are to live on what it produces without cultivation and on what has been set aside (Leviticus 25:1-7, 20-23).  At all times people are forbidden to reap the corners of their fields, to glean after they have reaped, to harvest their vineyard sand their olive trees thoroughly, to go back into the field for a sheaf they have forgotten:  “It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt;  therefore I command you to do this” (Deuteronomy 24:21-22). 

As Walter Brueggemann said in the book I've also been going through, the liberation of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, their status as freed slaves is the center around which all of their morality revolves, the means of understanding their experiences in history and, as Marilynne Robinson demonstrates in this essay, their radical economics and universal egalitarianism, including even the "Stranger" among them and even their enemies and rivals.   I agree with her that there isn't any other such national literature anywhere I've encountered.

These laws would preserve those who were poor from the kind of wretchedness More describes by giving them an assured subsistence.  While charity in Christendom was urged as a virtue – one that has always been unevenly aspired to – here the poor have their portion at the hand of God, and at the behest of law  If a commandment is something in the nature of a promise (“Ten Commandment” is an English imposition, in Hebrew they are called the Ten Words), then not only “you will not be stolen from but also “you will not steal” would be in some part fulfilled, first because the poor are given the right to take what would elsewhere have been someone else's property, and second because they are sheltered fro the extreme of desperation that drives the needy to theft.  The law of Moses so far values life above property that it forbids killing a thief who is breaking and entering by daylight (Exodus 22:2-3).  Judgment in criminal matters is based on the testimony of at least two witnesses, and not, as in premodern European civil law, on judicial torture and self-incrimination, which often led to the deaths of accused who insisted on their innocence.  In very may ways Moses would have lifted a terrible onus of manslaughter from the whole civilization.  The benefits to everyone involved in terms of dignity and peace would have been incalculable.  

And it is certainly to be noted that no conditions limit God's largesse toward the poor.  They need not be pious, or Jewish or worthy, or conspicuously in need, or intent on removing themselves from their condition of dependency.  The Bible never considers the poor otherwise than with tender respect, and this is fully as true when the speaker is “the Jewish God” as it is when the speaker is Jesus.  What laws could be more full of compassion than these?  

You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Exodus 23:9

Through this passage you can see that all of those whited sepulchres in the Republican Party are in violation of a commandment as set in Scripture as the famous Ten they also violate while claiming them as their own. 

You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you; he shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place which he shall choose within one of your towns, where it pleases him best; you shall not oppress him.  Deuteronomy 23:15-16

Anyone who asserts the Biblical character of the U. S. Constitution has to do so while ignoring that the text as given by the slave-holding "founders" and their allies in the Northern commercial class was a blatant violation of this commandment.

You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge Deuteronomy 24:17

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns;  you shall give him his hire on the day he hears it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it);  lest he cry against you to the Lord and it be sin in you.   Deuteronomy 25:14-15

If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open you hand to him, and led him sufficient for his need, what ever it may be .  . You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him;  because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and all that you undertake.   For the poor will never cease out of the land therefore I command you,  You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land.  Deuteronomy 15:7-8. 10-11

Then there is a Sabbath, the day in which one may not exploit and cannot be exploited, even by one's family or oneself   

Six days you shall labor and do all your work;  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the lord your God;  in it you shall not do any work,  you , or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant , or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates,m  that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.  You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt,  and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm;  therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.   Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Exhaustion was as endemic as malnutrition among the laboring classes of European cultures into the twentieth century.  Moses obliged manservant and maidservant, stranger and sojourner, ox and ass, to share in God's rest one day in seven.  This is profoundly humane, quite unexampled.  Some Christian writers on the Sabbath say this law was never applied to us, though historically many Christians have in fact sabbatized earnestly, one day late.   Jesus, in the manner of a Jewish prophet, criticized the way in which the Sabbath was observed in his time, clearly feeling it had become more demanding than restorative.  This is far from a rejection of the institution itself,  nor is it to be imagined that Jesus could have wished to deprive servants of their rest any more than widow and orphans and strangers of their sustenance.  Yet all this has been done in his name because he supposedly freed us from the burden of the law.  It seems to me fair to say that the loss of Moses was the defeat of Jesus, insofar as it was the hope of Jesus to bless and relieve the poor. 

These are the laws of a passionate God.  “Impassioned” is usually used by the Jewish Publication Society to translate the word other English translations render as “jealous.”  The Hebrew stem apparently means “to grow red.”  “Jealous” comes from the same Greek root as “zealous,” and the Greek worlds that derive from it are usually translated in the New Testament as “zeal” or “zealous”  IN the earliest English uses, for example in John Wycliffe's fourteenth-century translation of the Old Testament,  “jealous” often has that meaning, suggesting ardor and devotion.  In modern translations the Hebrew word is usually translated as “zeal” when the subject is a human being (as in 1 Kings 19:10) which must indicate an awareness of the wider meaning of the word.  But “jealousy” is virtually always imputed to God.  Jealousy has evolved into a very simple and unattractive emotion, in our understanding of it,  and God is much abused for the fact of his association with it.  Since translations are forever being laundered to remove complexity and loveliness, and since tradition is not a legitimate plea in these matters, one cannot help wondering how this particular archaism manages to survive untouched.  

hese are the claims of an almost supernaturally moral people who, in the midst of their hard scrabble life in a largely desert place, while under constant danger and attack, invasion, exile, at least one attempt by genocide under the earliest European's attempt to do so, maintained an incredibly elevated vision of God's morality and the moral and legal requirements that their experience of being oppressed placed on them when they were in a position to be oppressors.   I can't think of many other individual writers who maintained that practice, I can't think of any national group which did so as well.

I also can't think of anything that is more likely to establish egalitarian democracy in the United States or anywhere than this view of God and the moral consequences and laws that must emanate from that vision and which are determined by it. 

*  As Marilynne Robinson points out, Christians practiced an unfair and distorted reading of the Old Testament in the past, though I would say generally that was nowhere as bad as the secular practice that targets both of them.  Perhaps it is similar to how British and English speaking atheists adopted the Anglican line of anti-Catholic calumny with little modification to apply it to all of Christianity and Judaism as well.  Perhaps this is a different example of being ware of your harsh words because someday you may need to eat them.   Perhaps it's an example of what happens when Christians violate the Commandment against bearing false witness.

You Won't Win By Setting Aside The Presumption of Innocence And The Requirements Of Due Process

Note:  I'm coming to think that when issues of rights get involved with sex, especially sex of the kind that hook-up "culture" encourages that everyone goes stupid.   Or enough people to make it seem like everyone has.   The speed with which what started out as an obviously necessary effort to out men who had raped, assaulted, and harassed women has degenerated into a number of huge messes also leads me to think that unless everyone draw some distinctions very fast that the whole thing will turn into a complete hash.   I've tried writing this post several times and have come to the conclusion that there's no straight line through the problem because too many people are including too many, different, sometimes unrelated issues under one category.  You can't do that and expect anything but a mess.

As it has developed over the past two and a half months the wave of accusations of sexual harassment against men has grown and expanded and has come to cover a large number of accusations against men who are accused of everything from legally defined rape to being guilty of looking at women the wrong way.   And with the expansion of what has been included.  under the #MeToo umbrella includes everything from serious actual crimes -singly and committed against large numbers of women - to illegal harassment to understandably obnoxious behavior to, as I mentioned, women objecting to how a man looks at them - as was claimed against one of the psychology profs at Dartmouth.   And there is also a range of evidence and documentation supporting the accusations, from what looks like it should have gotten action by the police and prosecutors to the merest accusation and even just internet rumors based on supposition*.

Is this defined as a problem too big to achieve a satisfactory outcome?   After looking at the opposing manifestos of the groups represented by Catherine Deneuve and Caroline Haas (agreeing far more with Haas than Deneuve), the same in the United States, of Samantha Bee's piece on it last week, I think it's in danger of imploding due to that.  It is certainly being attacked on the basis of claims which can be characterized as extravagant or false.  Any false claims will be magnified to attack claims of even genuine crimes, they are probably the worst enemy of those who want to make progress against the assault and harassment of Women.

I don't know if this is going to become a feature of life online but I do know it's probably not sustainable, the excesses damaging the original or the most important intentions of those who started it and those who seriously want to stop as much of the actual abuse as possible.   As things such as the obviously political accusations against Al Franken came to be associated with it, I was certain that a backlash against it was inevitable and that stage of things has been reached.  Other than any innocent people whose lives will be damaged or their careers destroyed, the even greater tragedy of this is that the serious goals of #MeToo will be side tracked.   

One of the problems is that the desire to be all inclusive of the wrongs people claim has overshadowed the need to acknowledge that false accusations are bound to be part of any such manifestation, especially in the age of online gossip.   Any such false accusations demonstrated to be false or even just successfully refuted with the general public due to insufficient evidence will inevitably lead to the discrediting of real accusations of crimes and wrongs.   Which are real and which are false can't be known except through the presentation of evidence and its evaluation and, especially when it's sex,  I doubt that's possible in many cases. 

That is the use those already made are being put to by those who don't want things to change as a result of #MeToo.   And I doubt there is any way to keep them from using discredited accusations that way.  I know those made against Al Franken, when I saw what was presented as "evidence" and the history of Leann Tweeden with Republican ratfuckers were what first led me to think that the most basic rules of fairness to those accused had been set aside.  

You can assert that the women "must be believed" because of the role that not believing women played in allowing the conditions that allowed the rape and harassment to persist as it had but that's not sustainable.  No ones credibility should rest on their identity, if you claim that right for Women, I guarantee you that Men will claim the same right and they'll get it.   The solution is the presentation of evidence and its fair evaluation, not taking accusations or claims of innocence on faith.  

It's not just or right to judge any individual case on the basis of assumed trends in other cases because every case can only be judged on the basis of the evidence of guilt.  

I have been telling people that for more than five years in a case of accusations made and believed on the basis of no evidence against gay men.   If women aren't traditionally believed when they expose someone who has wronged them, the opposite was traditionally the case for gay men.  Gay men would be believed to be guilty of whatever they were accused of, even, in many cases when they were the victims of beatings or even murder in which the murderer or attacker said they did it because the gay man came onto them.  That even worked when the victim was straight, in some cases.    As I was able to point out, even then, 2011, there were papers being published in law journals against banning the "gay panic" defense even in murder cases because the lawyers advocating it be retained said jurors were going to believe it, anyway.  

The solution to both cases, at least in the case of actual crimes, is to demand that evidence produced be evaluated and considered, when that is possible.  When there is no evidence that meets legal requirements injustice may be unavoidable but foregoing that in assessing guilt is a guarantee that there is going to be injustice.   

When you mix sex into wrongdoing, especially when it is possible that the victim might have consented to what happened and there are no witnesses to that consent or refusal (as there generally are not) knowing who to believe can't be assumed to be knowable on the basis of gender or identity.   If you want a good illustration of that, consider the traditional assumption that no White Woman would give free consent to have sex with a Black Man and the consequences for Black Men accused of rape.  Then, it was automatically assumed that the Black Man was lying based on his identity.   And there didn't even have to be any sex involved or even an accusation made by a White Woman,  Mere suspicion was often enough to get a Black Man killed.   You can substitute the term Gay Man for Black Man and Straight Man for White Woman and you might get what I'm talking about. 

Consider that when due process broke down in these instances, it was members of the dominant power, straight, White Men, who were most likely to be the ultimate beneficiaries of that, it wasn't gay men.  It was LGBT People, it was Black People, and it is Women who are most likely to be the ultimate losers if due process, both in law and other levels of enforcement is not applied.   Insisting on due process is a protection for Women as it is for Men of any gender or racial or ethnic identity. 

I think a lot of this is the consequence of the reduction of formality in places of business, in schools.  I think it's likely that if there are monetary consequences for corporations and schools in this that it might lead to a wise reintroduction of policies against co-workers having romantic or sexual relationships.  IF THEY ARE REINSTATED THERE SHOULD BE A POLICY THAT WHEN THERE IS A VIOLATION THAT THE FIRST ONE FIRED WILL BE THE ONE IN A SUPERIOR POSITION IN THE CORPORATION.   That would be wise as well as just because it would probably make bosses think harder about coming on to and pressuring an employee to have sex.  

I also think it should lead to schools, especially colleges and universities, to enforce a ban on romantic and sexual relationships between teachers and staff with students.  Faculty should know they could lose their job if they come onto a student and evidence of that can be produced.  I'd go so far as to ban private meetings between them.  There should also be more effective bans against the consumption of alcohol and drugs which are certainly a big part of producing the problem.  What it can do to convince girls and boys that they really shouldn't get drunk or go with strangers in bars who pick them up I don't know, I do know that if we're going to consider people of college age to be adults then they don't get to claim some kind of right to do stupid stuff like getting sloshed or agreeing to go someplace they could be attacked and raped and that the responsibility for them doing so falls on the college or university.   

Again,  people don't have a right to be stupid, that is being stupid, voluntarily through getting drunk or letting their libido do their thinking for them.  People who are unintelligent through no choice of their own need protection of a kind that college students would reject as infantilizing them even as they choose to diminish their own capacities.   What they're doing by doing those things, especially in places like pick-up bars is volunteering to be victimized by people who want to take advantage of the, either by their consent while being voluntarily stupid-drunk or by force if they don't give consent.  If they were robbed or beaten up intead of raped, I don't think they'd fail to see the point.   

If they gave their consent, even stupid-drunk then they are guilty of making a fool of themselves, if they didn't give consent they are the victims of a crime, unfortunately, due to their going into danger voluntarily the crime will probably be impossible to prove.   Of course you'll be able to think of all kinds of cases and accusations that don't fit those closely but the problem is that they will be refuted by people who claim they do and there is seldom anyone who can produce evidence to refute them.  If the guy who they claim raped them was stupid-drunk, as he might well have been, it doesn't help.  

I am beginning to think the drinking age should be 45, though there are plenty of people I'm reading online who make me think that's too low. 

Keeping yourself safe is going to do you a lot more good than insisting that the police or prosecutors or the college or university get you justice, which will often be impossible due to putting yourself in a condition to be victimized, especially when there is no one to witness whether or not you gave consent.   If the only thing to judge by is your going back to some guy's place, voluntarily, it doesn't matter how wrong it seems to include that in deciding who a jury believes because it's going to happen anyway.  Your best buddy online won't tell you that but I just did.  And I say it to any man, especially any gay man as much as I would a woman or girl.  In fact, I've said it to gay men for years.  And I will say to any man who wants to get a woman or girl or man or boy back to his place so he can have sex with them, you're putting yourself into a situation to have accusations made against you.   I don't have any sympathy for men who do stupid stuff and get accused of assault or rape falsely.  I'll save my sympathy for people who didn't put themselves in harms way knowingly or through choosing to be drunk in a pick-up bar or frat party.

I am also coming to think that unless these problems are considered in smaller, sorted categories improving things won't be possible because #MeToo has come to mean too many different things to be effectively sustained.

*   I will not go into the case of Aziz Ansari and the accusations at the site "Babe" because I'm not familiar with him or the site or the accusation except to say maybe that's unavoidable when people pick up strangers for sex and that it's incredibly stupid to encourage people to do it.  I'd say any website that encourages women to hook up with strangers is encouraging a percentage of them to put themselves in a situation that could lead them their being raped or maybe murdered.  As far as I've read about it, "Babe" is a site run by a bunch of irresponsible jerks who, like so many jerks online, are mostly interested in generating traffic for their site through being irresponsible jerks.  And I'll say that anyone who slams second-wave feminism on the basis I've been reading from such people is too stupid and irresponsible to produce anything good.   Why not slam the suffrage movement and really make asses of yourselves.

I will advise Ansari and other men who participate in hooking up,  you are setting yourself up for those kinds of accusations, that's not going to stop so maybe you should consider what happened here as an indication that it's not the best idea you've ever had.