Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Kressmann Taylor - Address Unknown

Tim Dee's adaptation of Kressmann Taylor's novel, published in 1938.

Two old friends, former business associates in San Francisco, exchange letters. One is an American German Jew, the other an American German who, excited and energised by the new Germany of the 1930s, has gone home. Attitudes harden with the seemingly inexorable rise of Hitler, the Jew horrified by the change in his friend and his wholesale adoption of the rhetoric and ideology of Nazism.

With Henry Goodman, Patrick Malahide.

There is a four minute introduction in the recording that talks about the publication history of the epistolary novel that this epistolary drama is taken from, how it was a chilling best-seller when it was first published in 1938, only to fall into obscurity before it was rediscovered, when this drama was made from it.

As I said the other week, I don't usually post adaptations but this one is more a dramatization than an adaptation.  And I think it has a lot to warn us about in our own descent into Republican-fascism.   It can happen here, it is happening here.  Not exactly the same way but it's been known since before 1938 that when it happens here it will be translated into American.

Second Feature:  Julian Simpson - The Listener

Julian Simpson's fast-paced psychological thriller about a man trying to uncover his true identity, set against the backdrop of a war on terror.

Mark Willis ...... Mark Bazeley
Mia ...... Indira Varma
Doctor Gruber ...... Nicola Walker
Samson ...... Mark Lewis Jones
Charlie ...... Jimmy Akingbola

Lenny ...... Paul Panting

Friday, March 9, 2018

Worth Reading

Had a few minutes today so I went looking to see if I could find Marilynne Robinson's essay I'm excerpting anywhere online.   I didn't find it but I did find the complete essay I excerpted earlier this year,  Moses:  The Fate of Ideas posted by Salmagundi in all its depth and substance.  That essay covers some of the same ground as Open Thy Hand Wide while being different enough to make it necessary to read both. 

Copland Plays Copland - Sonata for Violin and Piano - Two Performances

I've posted this first-performance of Aaron Copland's Violin Sonata, him accompanying Ruth Posselt before.

I found this later recording of him accompanying the eminent violinist Isaac Stern made in the 1960s and thought it was interesting to compare the performances.

It's always interesting to hear a composer playing or conducting his own music, especially when they are a good enough performer to give you insights into how they thought of their music.  It's even more interesting when you can compare more than one performances of the composer playing the same piece.

The Books Are Bound To Be Better But . . .

By 1962  when A Wrinkle in Time was published I was already a bit older than its target audience.  But I have read the book to nieces and nephews at least three times.  You'd be amazed at how many of those  I've got and as a single uncle who was self-employed, I babysat for them a lot and our family has a tradition of reading to children.   So I'm very familiar with the book having read it over the course of several decades, out loud.

It is but seldom that a movie of a good book will do it any justice so I wasn't thrilled to find out that Disney had made a movie of Madeleine L’Engle’s book.  Though I was thrilled to find out that they had cast Meg Murray as a bi-racial girl, looking in the stills she looks wonderfully real as an awkward, self-conscious young teen.  Her brother Charles Wallace, adopted in the movie, as Asian (which I don't get unless it was stereotyping of Asian exceptionalism, though, of course, I'm glad the kid got to play the role).    I was thrilled to find out that other casting was inclusive - Mindy Kaling playing Mrs. Who, Oprah Winfrey playing the central role of Mrs. Which - Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit must seem almost exotic with such a wonderfully diverse cast.  From what I can tell, the love interest, the geeky basketball player, Calvin,* is still Irish.

Given so much to be glad about the casting, I was greatly disappointed to read this review of it at VOX which says what of the book they left out.   Never having thought of how the book would have worked as a movie, I think they should have broken it up into two movies like they did with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows**  Wrinkle In Time is as complex  a story as the last of the Harry Potter books, maybe in some ways more so.   I can imagine they could have made the break, right as they made the escape from Camazotz to Ixchel and kept the integrity of the story more intact - apparently they don't include the very important character of Aunt Beast without who I can't see how the story holds together.   Anyway they told the story it would have needed more than one 2 hour movie to tell it right.

The review also notes that they de-Christianized the substance of the book, which also couldn't help but destroy the integrity of its meaning.  L'Engel was a religious writer, no matter how inclusive she was of other religious content, rather obviously a Christian writer.  The story can't be told without that content and remain intact.  It is a story all about risking your life, your mind, even, perhaps, your soul for someone else and the redemption that is only possible through real self-sacrifice and the strength that comes from allowing yourself to be vulnerable through non-selfishness.

I'll say this about the movie, any child who goes to the book after that will imagine Meg, Charles Wallace and some of the other characters as I didn't when I read the book. And that's great.   I think their way of imagining them is better.  But I hope they do go read the book, it's almost always better than the movie.

* Considering what I've been posting this week, never noticed the name before and will have to think about any implications, that is unless L'Engel said something about it.

**  I read the entire series to my youngest nieces and nephew, most of them more than once.   I didn't see the last two movies, I just know they broke up that complex story into two movies.  I don't usually watch movies of books I like because they are bound to disappoint. Though I did see some of the First and all of the Third one and didn't like them much.   The books were better.

"by the standards of his time and of ours"

After where I left off yesterday there is a paragraph in which Marilynne Robinson points out that compared to English law in the Tudor period and in much of Europe, the Law of Moses was mild, especially noting the fact that while European law hanged people for petty theft, the Mosaic law didn't execute people for property crimes.

Continuing with the next paragraph.

Consistent with the polemical treatment of the Old Testament law is the equally polemical approach to American Puritan culture, which was indeed influenced in a remarkable degree by this law. A code published in 1641 called The Massachusetts Body of Liberties makes this clear.  It is often compared to the Magna Carta, to which it in fact bears little resemblance.  A notable feature of the code is a list of twelve infractions for which the punishment is death.   In each of them, and for them only, the penalty is justified , or perhaps required, by citations from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.   One may not worship another god, practice witchcraft, blaspheme, commit willful murder, murder in rage, poison, have relations with an animal, have relations with another man, commit adultery, steal someone [by which I would guess is meant kidnapping], or bear false witness in a capital case.  A twelfth unbiblical law forbids any attempt to overthrow the commonwealth.  By the standards of the period this code is remarkable in that it does not even mention property crime as a capital offense.  The capital crimes are the kind of thing for which we would find any society of the period stern or intolerant  But these laws, like the laws of Moses, do not foresee that the poor will be made first beggars, then thieves, and then corpses as Thomas More said of British law.

I would contrast this with the laws of the various "Enlightenment" regimes in 18th and 19th century Britain, France and 20th century regimes that claim the same heritage and it's clear that the Puritan law, reputed to be so terribly harsh was far less so - that isn't to say that that there was not harshness that fell outside of that code, the hanging of Quakers, an example.  I'm not claiming nor does Marilynne Robinson assert that there weren't serious wrongs done under Puritan law and I know that she wouldn't advocate any kind of a return to the worst of it.  That doesn't mean that we can't acknowledge the best of it which should be influential in our law and policy and habits now, as she points out.

Where the Liberties depart from biblical example, they are compromised by habits of mind the colonists had not yet unlearned.  Number 43 stipulates that "No man shall be beaten with above 40 stripes."  Deuteronomy 25:3 says,  "Forty strypes shal [the judge] cause him to have and not past, lest he shulde excede and beate him above that manie stripes, thy brother shoulde appeare despised in thy sight."  Again this haunting solicitude for the vulnerable, even one made vulnerable by his own transgression.  And solicitude as well for one who risks the sin of despising his brother.  The second clause of the colonists' law reads "nor shall any true gentleman, nor any man equall to a gentleman be punished by whipping, unles his crime be very shamefull, and his cours of life vitious and profiligate."  This adaptation draws attention to the absence of such distinctions in Moses's law.  That said, it is instructive to compare the Massachusetts Liberties with the Grand Model for North Carolina, drawn up by John Locke at the request of the king and published in 1663, which would have established landed aristocracy and virtual feudalism in that colony.  

According to the Massachusetts code, 

Every person within this Jurisdiction, whether inhabitant or forreiner shall enjoy the same justice and law, that is general for the plantation . . . If any servants shall flee from the Tiranny and crueltie of their masters to the howse of any freeman of the same Towne, they shall be protected and susteyned till due order be taken for their relife . . . If any man smite out the eye or tooth of a man-servant or maid-servant or any mayme or much disfigure him, unlesse it be by meere casualtie, he shall let them goe free from his service . . . No man shall exercise any Tiranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man's use . . . No man shall put to death without the testimony of two or three witnesses or that which is equivalent thereunto . . . For bodilie punishments we allow amongst are none that are inhumane Barbarous or cruel. 

Theses are all drawn from the laws of Moses, to be realized again in early Massachusetts.  They were not by any means in effect universally in the thirteen colonies or the early United States.  That the same reforms were emerging in contemporary British law is unsurprising, since Puritanism was on the rise there, reaching the point of revolution and an attempted social reordering.  They were in some degree contravened in Massachusetts after the Cromwell period, when British authority over the colony could be more effectively asserted.  

I'll break in here and note that the infamous Salem witchcraft trials, executions and imprisonments were in 1692-3, during the Restoration period just mentioned.

That the teaching and example of Calvin were of great influence on Puritan and political thought is a common place, of course - the word "Puritan" and "Calvinist" are virtually interchangeable, and the harshness associated with both words is taken to be the predominant feature of the societies they created. In crowded, besieged, and turbulent Geneva, severity might be expected and perhaps even excused.  Yet on the subject of beggars and how begging is to be eliminated, though Calvin sas, like Thomas More, "To be shorte, of Roges, they become robbers, & in the ned what must become of that?," his argument then takes a characteristic turn.

But yet howsoever the case stand, let us see that the poore be maintained.  For if a man fobid begging, & therewithal doe no almes at all it is as much as if he did cut the throtes of those that are in necessitie.  Nay, we must so provide for the poore, and redress their want, that such as are stout beggars and apparently seeme not to be pitied, may be reformed.  For they doe but eate up the others bread, & rob the needy of that which should be given unto them.  That (say I) in effect, is the thing we have to marke here.  But how may it be done?  First, the Hospitals should brovide wel for such needs . . . [L]et not men play the good husbands in harding up the things that ought to be bestowed upon God & upon those whome he offreth unto us.  Also as every man knoweth the particular needs of his neighbors, so let him indevor to succor them, and consider where wante or neede is, and helpe to remedie it.  If this be done, then shal beggerie be taken away as it ought to be, and they shall not neede to make a simple forbidding of it;  saying, let not men beg any more; * in the meane season the poore shall be left destitute, to die for hunger and thirst. 

Calvin says,  "[A]lthough a man cannot set downe a Lawe certeeine in this behalfe;  yet must every man be a rule to himselfe, to do according to his own abilitie and according to the need that he seeth in his neighbors."  This is from a sermon on Deuteronomy delivered in French in 1555.  

Like the New Englanders, Calvin shows the influence of his time and culture, tending in certain ways and degrees to modify the liberalism of Moses - for example, interpreting as respite for debt the always that call for outright forgiveness and release.  Nevertheless there is a striking generosity in his approach to the problem of theft, by the standards of his time and of ours.  The provisions of the poor which structure both land ownership and the sacred calendar in ancient Israel, the rights of gleaners and of those widows, orphans and strangers who pass through the fields, and the cycles of freedom from debt and restoration of alienated persons and property, all work against the emergence of the poor as a class, as people marked by deprivation and hopelessness.  There is no sense of fearful urgency, there are no special measures to suppress crime driven by need except, as Calvin clearly understands, the preemption of crime through the alleviation of need.

Can you imagine what would happen to any law maker in Congress, the Senate or any state legislature who asserted the need to make THOSE parts of the Mosaic law part of the law of the land?  Not only would conservatives shout it down in rage, large numbers of modern-style liberals would think it was insane.   But how true it is.  Though I would say the provision of material sustenance  - vital as that would be to stop any tendency in the poor to commit crimes - they would also need to know that they were respected, yes, even loved, and included in a supportive and loving community.  The role that status and fashion and the exclusion of large numbers of people from that system of unequal esteem probably has a lot to do with why children and adults are drawn to gangs and crime which give them a chance to gain status and esteem.   I have read recently that it was that which created the M-13 gang among marginalized children in American cities and that the cycle of expulsion exported it to El Salvador only to have it reinforced here.

Walter Brueggemann points out that the Mosaic laws that Marilynne Robinson discusses in this essay, the cycles of debt forgiveness, high among them,  not only had the effect of providing sustenance to the poor, the destitute and the marginalized, it was a means of preventing the creation of what in our society and world are the billionaire oligarchs who reproduce the Pharaonic political economy that the Children of Israel experienced and escaped from in ancient Egypt.  There is a reason that that story resonates wherever it is known and people are oppressed, over cultures, races, even religions.  It is why the "Enlightenment" order sought to denigrate it and destroy its influence because materialism doesn't only not see people as made in the image of God and, therefore, the possessors of equal and inalienable rights, but as some combination as economic resources by those who can lord it over them to be managed or as those who are to be eliminated in a competitive struggle for existence.  As I mentioned several weeks back, any such "liberals" as buy into that "enlightened" view of people and life in general who maintain some notion of provision for the poor are merely exercising habits that materialist-scientistic thinking will eventually break them of.

The reason that American liberalism is on such hard times is a combination of the the libertarian-liberalism, the elitism and snobbery that inevitably generates, the erosion of the basis of genuine American style liberalism necessitated by buying into that system of thinking which makes consumerism the ultimate value, and the attacks on those who long ago gave up The Law, the Prophets and the Gospel even as they go to church and practice some pantomime of "christianity" and even a lot of those have even given that much of it up.  Look at Donald Trump and how he showed the disingenuousness of the religious pretenses of the "evangelicals" who support him.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hate Mail

Oh, that's just another lie.  I never said that about Lenny Bernstein.  You can search my blog to find out what I said and how I backed it up when I said it.  He figures everything is about him in the end so he thinks that's how everyone thinks.  He's got a lot in common with Trump that way.  And Trump's end.  

Guess who this post is about.  I'd give out prizes for the right answer but it would bankrupt me. 

Update:  Well, by that standard, Dopey, Liberace would have to count as a greater artist than Glenn gould, he sold way more records than Gould did.   How many of them do you have?  

Update 2:  Dopey, you're the one who said that Glenn Gould was a greater artist than Gunther Schuller on the basis of units sold, not me.  It's your standard of artistic excellence, which would mean that Jacqueline Susanne was a greater writer than, well, take your pick of great writers who didn't sell as many books. It would also mean Thomas Kinkade was a greater artist than any really great artist.  Kitch, it sells.   Trash, too. 

Gerald Clayton - Trapped In A Dream

Piano - Composer: Gerald Clayton
Double  Bass: Joe Sanders
Drums: Justin Brown

Update:  One Two You

An Even More Appropriate Replacement For Hail To The Chief In The Trump Error

Thursday Night Radio Drama - Nick Warburton - Paradise

Antonia is moving to the country after resigning from her city job. She finds an ideal cottage selling for about half its proper price, and snaps it up. She reckons without the crabby housekeeper or the equally awkward Fison. 

Antonia - Amanda Root
Housekeeper - Liz Smith
Fison - George Baker

Nothing too deep, must a nice little story with a mildly O. Henry like ending.

This Story of a 93 Year Old Spy From WWII Who Started The First European AIDS Hospice Is An Inspriation

Helen Taylor Thompson sent coded messages to spies in occupied France during World War II.

"One mistake and someone's life could have been in danger," she says.

Ms Taylor Thompson signed the Official Secrets Act aged 19 and was part of what was known as then Prime Minister Winston Churchill's "secret army".

She went on to set up Europe's first Aids hospice and is still working today with her education charity.

You can watch the short video of her talking about her experiences at the BBC website. 

"Deregulation means unleashing greedy power."

A Conversation with Walter Brueggemann and Kenyatta Gilbert

"Do unto others" is a behest that, if acted on, can have very tangible real-world consequences.

Continuing where I left off yesterday,  Marilynne Robinson sets out an argument for the liberality of Mosaic Law:

Like old Israel, the United States is often said to be legalistic.  And for some reason this is taken to be a criticism and to identify a failing.  It might better be thought of as an acknowledgement of the human propensity to sin or error, in tension with an active solicitude for human vulnerability to the effects of sin and error, the two embraced by an unusual awareness, as self-created and intentional societies, of a calling to be "good" societies.   When Americans launched on the project of national formation, there was still plenty of old wine in those new bottles.

In Old Testament monotheism uniquely it is humankind who introduce evil in the created order, that same human-kind who are made in the image of God and whom God loves.   This great paradox has the effect of centering the problem of evil in human nature and human choice.  More precisely, the concept appears to arise not from any desire to escape or contain the complexities of the problem of veil but from a sense of the literally cosmic significance of humankind as a central actor in creation who is, in some important sense, free to depart from, even to defy, the will of God.  Again paradoxically, the very magnitude of the problem of evil is the reflex of human centrality, because of the weight it gives to our presence in the world and because only we among creatures are capable of the concept.  This vision of human nature and divine nature raises more question than it answers, in part because it does not localize or personify evil.  By the standards of another ancient myth, it yields a kind of realism, an attention to mingled lives and erring generations that grounds sacred meaning very solidly in this human world. 

It was writing the piece about moral relativism/nihilism on the weekend that made me think of this passage one of the more subtle and powerful points I've ever seen about the "problem of evil" not as an explanation but of setting out the range of the utter seriousness that a religious, monotheistic view of the problems of evil entail.   It is to cut through the moral relativistic nonsense which is an intellectual pose that even those who make it don't really believe in.   No one has the slightest difficulty identifying moral wrongs done to them unless they have been psychologically damaged in a very serious way.  Those who readily inflict evil and wrong on other people also have no trouble whining at the top of their lungs when the same is inflicted on them.  There is no one more eloquent in claiming terrible wrongs which must be addressed than an atheist who is reminded of some offensive slogan on their money.   As I pointed out, even Lenny Bruce had no problem with identifying the terrible wrongs done to him by being arrested for obscenity or for such things as the "leper colony" swindle he pulled and bragged about as part of his act. 

Israel's extraordinarily high valuation of life in the world and in community led naturally to the centrality of law.  "Law" is a word that has a special place in Christian thought on the basis of certain understandings of Paul's use of it.  For Harnack, at least in his interpretation of Marcion [*], it means the opposite of grace.  That is, it runs contrary to the will of God, incurring misapprehension of the kind that is not only erring but damnable.  Like most Christian commentators,  Harnack, never pauses to sort through the varieties of teaching or instruction that are called "law," though for him they are for all purposes of one kind with the most precisian of the Levitical laws  

Many of the laws attributed to Moses pertaining to social order and social ethics have theological force because he, unlike Hammurabi, Lycurgus, and Solon, was a religious founder as well as a lawgiver in the usual sense.  The eighteenth-century Englishman Thomas morgan objects to the laws on the grounds that they pertain only to social order, which in his view precludes their having any higher meaning.  In The Moral Philosopher, quoted above, he says "[T]he reasons of this weakness and insufficiency of the moral law, as delivered by Moses, are very obvious.  For, as this law was barely civil, political or national, so all its sanctions were merely temporal, relating only to men's outward practice and behaviour in society" and therefore "could not relate to the inward principles or motives of action, whether good or bad, and therefore could not purify the conscience, regulate the affections, or correct and restrain the virtuous desires, inclinations and dispositions of the mind"

Only the tradition of Moses integrated civil law into the religious mythos, the sacred narrative.  For this reason it has the singular inflection of an attentie, passionate - and singular - divine voice.  In what other body of law could compliance be urged with the phrase "for you know the heart of the stranger"?  This is not to minimize the ethical achievements of great pagans like Plato and Cicero, achievements revered by Christians as long as the classics were read and there were still Christians of a mind to revere.  But the extreme tension these pagans felt between the traditions  of Hesiod and Homer and their own ethical systems is well known and very much to the point. 

Some fragments of the Twelve Tablets of Roman Law survive.  They are part of a social code, and might suggest something of the character of civil law in an earlier period, nearer to the time of Moses.  Two laws respecting the treatment of debtors are of particular interest in light of the attention paid to this question in the Pentateuch.  One says,  "If they (creditor and debtor) do not come to another agreement, debtors are held in bonds for sixty days.  During that time they are brought before court on three successive market days, and the amount for which they are liable shall be publicly announced."  And the next says: "On the third market day [any multiple] creditors shall cut [the debtors] into pieces.  If they shall cut more or less than their due, it shall be with impunity."

As with any ancient law, including those attributed to Moses,  it is possible to say that this doesn't mean what it seems to mean, or it wasn't really enforced.  And to make this kind of argument is perfectly respectable so long as it is made even handedly.  That said, over against this language, it is striking to not how protective, even tender,  comparable Old Testament laws are toward debtors.   This is Deuteronomy 24:10-13: "When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge  You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you.  And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge;  when the sun goes down, you shall restore the pledge that he may sleep in hi cloak and bless you;  and it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God."  The Geneva Bible has a note that makes the law gentler yet.   It says,  "As though ye wouldst apppoint what to have, but shalt receive what he may spare."  No one can read the books of Moses with any care without understanding that law can be a means of grace.  Certainly this law is one spirit with the Son of Man who says, "I was hungry and you fed me.  I was naked and you clothed me."  This kind of worldliness entials the conferring of material benefit over and above mere equity.  It means a recognition of and respect for both the intimacy of God's compassion and the very tangible forms in which it finds expression.  Cranky old Leviticus gave us - gave Christ - not only  "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" but also the rather forgotten "Thou shalt love the stranger as thyself," two verses which appear to be merged in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Still, startlingly gentle law like these fall under the general condemnation of Old Testament severity, and Calvin's refinements with them.  

The tendency to hold certain practices in ancient Israel up to idealized modern Western norms is pervasive in much that passes for scholarship, though a glance at the treatment of the great class of debtors now being evicted from their homes in America and elsewhere should make it clear that, from the point of view of graciousness or severity, an honest comparison is not always in our favor.  Morgan is right about the this-worldliness of the Torah, and wrong in suggesting that this must mean its teachings are therefore without transcendent meaning.  "Do unto others" is a behest that, if acted on, can have very tangible real-world consequences.  The emperor Julian note that no Jew was ever forced to beg.  So this-worldly are God's interests that he cares whether some beleaguered soul can find comfort in his sleep.  He cares even to the point of overriding what are called by us, though never by Moses or Jesus, the rights of property. 

A number of theologians have pointed out that The Law, considered to be so unspeakably harsh with all of those cherry picked and, granted, severe passages about stoning people or inflicting death, is, actually, a means of setting up an economic and political order to prevent the kind of horrendous and domineering wealth that was typical of both ancient and classical paganism.  And it established a degree of egalitarianism, as more than just an entirely unachieved ideal, which we have so rejected that it seems unnatural or impossible to achieve.   Marxism certainly neither proposed anything as radical nor did it even come near to achieving what ever feeble attempts in that direction were asserted.  Neither does capitalism - by which I mean what capitalism became, which doesn't even achieve the far less brutal form that Adam Smith advocated.   Our American quasi-democratic system didn't start out to achieve anything nearly as human or just - compare the fugitive slave laws of the United States as to those of Deuteronomy or the actions of the ICEstapo as compared to the Mosaic Law as to how "the stranger" is to be treated.

Yet it is the common received wisdom of many, perhaps almost all college credentialed people that the Law of Moses is brutally harsh and barbaric whereas the "enlightenment" law which oversaw the hanging and execution of huge numbers of even children for stealing trifles and such events as the Reign of Terror as some great advance over them. 

I look at the period that is held up to discredit religion, such things as the Thirty Years War and the Inquisition and then I look at the enlightenment order with its wars, its ideological and scientifically based terror and genocide campaigns and can point out that the excesses of Christianity are violations of The Law, the Prophets and the Gospel but can't point to anything in the age when science was alleged to be a replacement for it and can find nothing in science that was violated by the mass murders of the modern period.   I don't think you can even make a good case that American law has proved to be any kind of real success as an advancement, though we have had our moments of greatness which is always, and inevitably when we've violated the norms of "rational self interest".

In 2006 when the movie Amazing Grace,** about the struggle of Wilberforce and some others to get Britain to abolish de jure slavery was made,  there was a hue and cry on the secularist-atheist internet about the terrible wrong of associating abolition with Christian religion, though that is, in fact, what history proves was the case.  The Abolitionist movement was a religious movement and it succeeded through appeals to religious belief.   So was most of what was achieved in other struggles for economic justice.

The fact is you have to make hard change out of something, it doesn't just happen and the "skepticism" and materialism of secularism is totally impotent to make that change or to sustain it.  I think the past fifty years have provided American liberals with a real life test of that in which the gains made with such hard sacrifice in the Civil Rights and other movements have been eroded under a program of secularism.  You have to really, really believe to make change.   Really, really believing in atheist-materialist ideologies might provide some excitingly violent stuff that manages to gain power as it imposes a despotism as bad or worse than what it replaced,  to do good takes something entirely different, it takes the kind of belief that is provided by a specific kind of religion, the kind that in the West is found in its most promising and potent form in monotheistic religion.

*  You need to read the first section of the essay that I haven't copied out to understand this or to be familiar with Marcionism and its condemnation of the Jewish Scriptures, something considered heretical by the developing consensus of Christianity which considered The Law and the Prophets to be divinely inspired.

** Didn't see it so I'm not expressing an opinion about the movie, only the reaction to it that I remember online.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Hate Mail

That asshole has been calling me an antisemite for the past six or so years because I said that I wished there were more Jews living in the United States and that they'd been allowed to come here instead of being excluded during the Nazi period.   And that's the exact definition of an antisemite, isn't it.  

I said it when he made a disgusting anti-Roma joke about making a "homeland" for "gypsies" in an abandoned shopping mall.    He's a pathological liar who is a little like the satirical character Alvy Singer, only a lot stupider, with no talent and no charm and no taste.   Only Dopey doesn't believe it, it's just what he says because he can't keep up his end of an argument.  He's got nothin'. 

 I'd rather be in the same group as Tony Kushner and Noam Chomsky than be in the one with Dopey and Midge Decter, Shulamit Reinharz, Norman Podhoretz, and David Horowitz.  He's the Shulamit Reinharz of Eschaton.  Only Eschaton ain't no Brandeis.  And Duncan has become what his mentor's website fought against,  he's a social media whore. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Thou Shalt Be Liberal"

In one of her most important essays, Open Thy Hand Wide [from When I Was A Child I Read Books]  Marilynne Robinson makes an extremely persuasive argument that, contrary to common belief,  liberalism in the traditional American sense of the word, of ample provision of a life to the destitute and poor, equal justice, equality and a democratic governmental system was a direct result of the Calvinism of New England and, especially, the influence of the Geneva Bible, its extensive commentary and even in the choice of words used to translate the original languages of the Scriptures.   If I could find it posted online I would link to it because I think what it says contains some of the most important ideas necessary for the revival of egalitarian democratic governments and socieities I've ever read.

I would like to post the whole thing but I neither have the time to type it all out nor do I wish to risk getting a cease and desist order nor do I want to deprive Marilynne Robinson of any rights to her work.   But I will be typing out sections of it that I think are essential and may go back and paraphrase some other sections as I have time. 

She starts with a short history of the distortion and vilification of Calvinism and how it relates to the program to do the same with the Jewish Bible, that latter effort going back into the classical period. But, most influential for us, she shows how some late 19th and early 20th century writers such as Weber, Santayana, Mencken, Belloc, D.H. Lawrence really got the ball rolling to produce the feeling of certain knowledge of what John Calvin said and what the Calvinist tradition consisted of while actually not knowing anything except what such writers said about both.   It's quite fascinating to fact check the foundations of such common received wisdom that constitute the academic and cultural consensus because it's my experience that a very large part of it is complete bilge, though I have not done it nearly enough in the case of Calvinism.  I'm not a Calvinist, but that's to say I disagree with a percentage of what he said, especially in a few areas where I think he was more of a disciple of Augustine than of Moses or Jesus.   I do find  Marilynne Robinson's point concerning the American liberal tradition and democratic government entirely persuasive.   So I'll just jump into that.


I know I am stepping into a semantic quagmire.   Harnack himself is called a "liberal" theologian and historian, in the very influential sense the word acquired when the project of dismantling the traditional canon was still relatively new and somewhat controversial.  The fact that words have different meanings in different cultures, that "liberal" is itself a word with very different meanings in American and European contexts, for example, never seems to influence discussion as it ought to.   It is surely significant that the word is used in American discourse from the seventeenth century with insistent reference to scriptural contexts in which it occurs, while in England it is adopted from nineteenth- century French and was first of all a political connotation associated with the French Revolution, at least according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  But in Renaissance French, liberal, liberalité meant "generous,"  "generosity,"  and of course the word occurs in the English Puritan translations, the Matthew's Bible and the Geneva Bible, which were followed in their use of the term by the 1611 Authorized Version. 

The word occurs in contexts that urge an ethics of non-judgmental, nonexclusive generosity.   Isaiah 32:6-8 in the 1560 Geneva Bible reads as follows:   "The nigard shal no more be called liberal, nor the churl riche.  But the nigarde wil speake of nigardnes, and his false heart wil worke iniquite, and do wickedly, and speake falsely against the Lord, to make emptie the Hungrie soule, and to cause the drinke of the thirstie to faile.  For the weapons of the churl are wicked:  he diviseth wicked counsels, to undo the poore with lying words;  and to speake against the poor in judgement.  But the liberal man wil divise of libeal things, and he wil continue his liberalitie."  The Wycliffe Bible, which was translated from the Latin Vugate, renders the last verse this way:  "Forsoothe a prince schal thenke tho thingis that ben worthi to a prince, and he shal stonde over duykis." (Forsooth, a prince shall think those things that be worthy to a prince, and he shall stand over dukes.)  The New Jerusalme Bible in English is closer to Wycliffe and Jerome [the translator of the Latin Vulgate]: "the noble person plans only noble things, / noble his every move. "  The New International Version has "the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands."  This tradition of translation conveys a sense of an aristocratic virtue and obligation is being praised here. 

Calvin had important support among the French and European nobility, but he was no admirer of the institution.  In his Commentary on Genesis he interprets verse 6:4, "There were giants in the earth in those days, "  as describing the origins of aristocracy.  He says "[U]nder the magnificent title of heroes, they cruelly exercised dominion, and acquired power and fame for themselves, by injuring and oppressing their brethren.   And this was the first nobility of the world.  Lest any one should too greatly delight himself in a long and dingy line of ancestry, this, I repeat, was the nobility, which raised itself on high, by pouring contempt and disgrace on others."  It is no cause for wonder that Calvin chose to democratize a virtue that was so central to his piety and his teaching.  He clearly did not consider "nobility" a synonym for "generosity".  

It is interesting to note certain differences between Jerome's Latin and Calvin's.  Jeromes insipiens, "foolish, " becomes Calvin's sordidius, "base" or "vile."  Fraudlentus, "deceitful,"  becomes parcus, "sparing" or "frugal";  stultus, "foolish,"  becomes sordidus, "vile"; and fraudlenti, "deceitful," becomes avari, "covetous" or "greedy".  In Calvin's reading the text is both harsher and more pointedly relevant to an ethic of generosity.  The word nigarde in the English of the Geneva Bible has an unpleasant sound but only one meaning - it refers to stinginess.  The interpretation offered in the Geneva Bible derives from Calvin's Latin translation from the Hebrew and his gloss of if.  In Calvin's Latin, verse 32:8 reads:  "At liberalis liberalia agitabit, et liberaliter agendo progredictur" He says,  "This relates . . . to the regenerate, over whom Christ reigns;  for, although all are called by the voice of the  gospel, yet there are few who suffer themselves to be placed under his yoke.  The Lord makes them truly kind and bountiful, so that they no longer seek their own convenience, but are ready to give assistance to the poor, and not only do this once or oftener, but every day advance more and more in kindness and generosity."  

Contrary to popular opinion,  Calvin says it is a misreading of the verse to think it means "that the liberal advance themselves,  and become great by doing good;  because God rewards them, and bestows on them greater blessings."     On the contrary, they advance in an increasing liberality;    "[T]rue liberality is not momentary of of short duration.  They who possess that virtue persevere steadily, and do not exhaust themselves in a sudden and feeble flame, of which they quickly afterwards repent."  As he dos always,  Calvin forbids any narrowing of the obligation of generosity.  He says,  "There are indeed many occurrences which retard the progress of our liberality.  We find in men strange ingratitude, so that what we give appears to be ill bestowed.  Many are too greedy, and, like horse-leeches, suck the blood of others.  But let us remember this saying, and listen to Paul's exhortation "not to be weary in well-doing,' for the Lord exhorts us not to mementary liberality, but to that which shall endure during the whole course of our life."  Again, Calvin understands the passage to refer not to n aristocratic virtue but to a Christian imperative.  In fact he sees the Judgment of Christ present in the words of the Prophet; "In this passage, therefore, we are brought to the judgement-seat of Christ, who alone, by exposing hypocrisy, reveals whether we are covetous or bountiful."  

The Geneva Bible has this for Deuteronomy 15:13-14,  a law that specifies the way in which a freed servant is to be dealt with: "And when thou sendest him out fre from thee, thou shalt not let him go away emptie, but shalt give him a liberal rewarde of thy shepe, & of thy corne, and of thy wines; thou shalt give him of wherewith the Lord they God hathe blessed thee."  There is a marginal note that explains this as justice to the worker: "In token that thou . . . acknowledge the benefite which God has given thee by his [the worker's] labours."  

I am going to break in here to point out how different this is from the treatment of the "freed" slaves in the 1860s-70s, which went from the "40 acres and a mule" proposal of General Sherman, in consultation with what were then radical Republicans and abolitionist leaders to the beginning of Jim Crow under the Electoral College imposed compromise that brought Rutherford Hayes to the presidency.   And how different it is from the compensation to workers all over the country.   The liberalism as economic justice and generosity taught by John Calvin is more radical than anything I ever saw out of the secular American left and, unlike those schemes, it was based on an elevation of human beings above the status of natural phenomena and raw materials to be shifted around and governed from above as "the masses".

In the Wycliffe Bible the verses read this way;  "And thou shalt not suffre hym to go away voide, to whom thou hast givve fredom, but thou schalt give lijflode in the weye, of flocks, and of corn-floor."  In the Douay-Rheims, "[Thou] shall give him his way out of thy flocks," and so on.  Having no Hebrew, I look to the Jewish Publication Society translation to umpire those differences, and I find that their version is closer to Jerome and Wycliffe than to the Reformers [Puritans].  They have, "Furnish him out of the flock" - there is no mention of a "liberal reward." In the sermon on this text, Calvin says, "[A]ccording to your abilitie you be bound to recompense them that have travelled for you, & have been the instruments of such blessings.  For if we thank God with our mouthes, confessing that it is he which hath blesed us, & in the mean while make none account of such as he has sent to do us service in the increasi fo our living, by taking paynes and toyle for us;  all our thanking of him is but lip-labor & utter hypocrisy."  For Calvin, every human encounter is of moment, the other in the encouter is always "sent" or "offereed."  So respect for every circumstance is reverence to God.  Here is the Geneva version in Deuteronomy 15:11:  "Because there shal be even some poore in the land, therefore I commande thee, saying, Thou shalt open thy hand unto thy brother, to thy nedie, and to thy poore in thy land."  This more or less agrees with other translations.  There is, however a note in the margin:  "Thou shalt be liberal."

When all is said and done, the word "liberal" and its forms occur only a few times, even in the classic Protestant translations.  Their five occurrences in the King James Version of the Old Testament translate three different Hebrew words, suggesting that the translators were moved rather than required to make use of the  "Blessing," "voluntary," "to fit out with supplies"  -- if my concordance can be trusted, these are alternative translations of the words   translated as "liberal" or "liberally" or "liberality."  Translation is always interpretation in some degree, and, for those who, like Calvin and the classic Calvinists, take the Old Testament to be a revelation of God, or, to use a word almost interchangeable for Calvin, of Christ, then the spirit of law and prophecy are faithfully rendered, whatever questions might arise as to the letter.  All this is of interest because the verses I have quoted, and the word "liberal" itself, supported by the meaning of the verses give to it, are central to American social thought from its beginnings.  


You can compare that conception of being liberal with the British conception that has gained sway among American "liberals" in the media and academia and, especially, the law and politics, of free markets, free economic competition, the accumulation of wealth in the hands of those who succeed in doing so and who are free to horde and use their wealth to amass power and influence -  all with, at the most, the most stingy of a show of giving to the destitute for the purposes of keeping them in order and sufficiently pacified to be there as a material economic resource.   And when you call such British style "liberalism" what it really is, libertarianism you can see how dangerous it was to not make it clear what you meant when you used the word. 

I do not advocate a complete buying of the program of John Calvin which, as I said, I find a portion of more attributable to Augustine than to the Gospels, the Law and the Prophets.  But I think we have to acknowledge that the traditional American liberalism which is so different from the libertarian-liberalism that has been so damaging, both in terms of policy and the ballot-box poison of the elitist snobbery it came to be associated with in the minds of so many.   A look at the actual governance of Geneva during the time John Calvin was influential there, comparing it to what was going all all over Europe at the same time, is illustrative, as well, but I don't have any more time to do this today.

I am tempted to think a lot more on how those regions in which the King James Version of the scriptures held sway tended to have a different political character than the ones in which the Geneva Bible was more commonly used, the vilified Puritan New England culture which, as Robinson also points out, produced some of the strongest abolitionist agitation, especially when transplanted in such places as Ohio and Iowa and the abolitionist parts of Kansas.   It's no accident that in her most famous novel, Gilead, the radical abolitionist grandfather of old John Ames was originally from Maine, a part of New England which was slower to adopt the mushy Unitarianism that replaced Calvinism in much of  Eastern Massachusetts.  But that will have to wait, too.   The King James Version was commissioned because James I didn't like the radicalism of the Geneva Bible and, especially Calvin's commentary contained in it.  He knew it was not friendly to aristocracy, nobility and royalty.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sid Caesar - "This is Your Story" with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris

There was a time when comedy was funny.

A Streetcar Named ???

I'd better knock it off because I could watch these all night.

That's What I'm Talking About - The Birthday Present Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca

It's striking how much longer and more sophisticated the skits were back then.   TV has destroyed the American attention span. 

“new Jewish humor” embraces rather than stigmatizes Judaism

This statement from Rabbi Waldoks, who was quoted below, is interesting and I think not unrelated to what I said about the use of Jewish terms in comedy routines in earlier decades.

“Jews no longer have hegemony on Jewish humor,” he said, pointing out that “Jewish humor became American humor.” But, he added, “there’s a new Jewish humor emerging that is much more Jewish.”

He compares this new Jewish humor to kosher food, while old Jewish humor is merely “kosher style.” From the Marx Brothers to Mel Brooks to Jerry Seinfeld, “kosher-style” humor “was fast, urban, and had the sound of Judaism. But there was no Jewish content, except to distance the comedian from it and reject it.”

By contrast, “new Jewish humor” embraces rather than stigmatizes Judaism, said Waldoks. Mainstream figures like Sarah Silverman and Jon Stewart are part of this phenomena, as is the proudly Catholic Stephen Colbert. Some of Colbert’s sketches, like his “Atone-a-phone” bit aired during the High Holy Days, ask of his audience a greater familiarity with Judaism than the typical Borscht Belt gag. “This is what the season is about” — that is, calling people to ask forgiveness for wrongs. “But we’re such a small percentage of the U.S. audience for this stuff to be on TV. It’s bizarre.” 

I don't see that it isn't compatible with what I said on the topic. 

Update:  When I'm told that the Eschatots are in a tizzy about what I said I figure it's a sign that I must be on the right track.   The adults fled from that site years ago.   They're a self-reinforcing clique that just keeps telling each other how smart they are.  It produces nothing more than a common emesis.  Which isn't worth any more than that.

Update 2:  Now he's claiming he knows more about the topic than the co-author of The Big Book of Jewish Humor.  A guy he cited as an authority earlier today.  I might post the stuff after Lent is over, he's got the integrity of wet TP.

Hate Mail - Waiting For The Other Sock To Drop But Not Very Hard

I'm not interested in stories about your imaginary friends who had this or that alleged experience, tell the woman to post her own story and maybe I'll post that.  Though if I figure it's just another of your sock puppets I'll say so.  Since I think you made the story up on the spot I'm not anticipating having to do that.  I bet that if I looked for the details I'd find you stole it from someone else. You've got more imaginary friends than Leonard Zelig and tell more lies than Lillian Hellman.   Hey, you're accomplished in that sense of the word. 

As The Nazi Whines - Right on Cue

I don't much listen to NPR anymore, when there's the CBC available online, why listen to the pathetic thing NPR has turned into.  So I wasn't aware until my brother told me that they had serial liar, neo-fascist billionaire supported scumbag Jerome Corsi on whining about his all too temporary banning from Youtube, the venue that has many, many overt neo-Nazi channels.   I've found that when you report even obvious anti-semitic, obvious neo-Nazi content on it, they'll claim they don't see your point so I had hoped the banning of Corsi was some kind of progress.   You can hear the scumball whining about his "freedom of speech" being violated even though Youtube, as a private entity, is not bound to carry any content it chooses not to for any reason.  Not that I'd advise you to wait up nights or hold your breath for social media mega-companies exercising any responsibility when there's a hate-market to make money from. 

"I sell tallises." The Far From Innocuous Use of Stereotypes In Comedy

Imagine that, I have to point out to the self-promoted expert on all such things the history of comic Jewish stereotyping by American Jewish comedians that preceded the 1950s by quite a number of decades.  I'm challenged by the guy who slanders me most days to prove that the kind of humor based in references to Yiddish and Hebrew words was on TV in the 1950s.  But the ground needs to be laid before I get to that.   Here, from an article excerpted at My Jewish Learning.

“With the collapse of vaudeville, new talent has no place to stink.” –George Burns

Which is such a great line they used to introduce the article I'm including it.  When George Burns admits to the fact that much of alleged comedy and show biz acts stink, well, he saw it all.

Before World War II, the Jewish presence in the comedic entertainment world was marked by humiliating self-caricature. Jews such as Jack Pearl, who played radio’s Baron Munchausen, and Al Shean [an uncle of the Marx Brothers]  of the comedy team “Gallagher and Shean” performed on the radio and in vaudeville, often wearing the accoutrements of the baggy-pants clown.

Which may have been how the habit of finding the mere reference to things Jewish as an instruction to laugh may have started.  And that continued through and well past the 1950s.   In the case of the famous Gallagher and Shean it was based in both Jewish and Irish stereotypes, though Gallagher was mostly the straight man in the act.

“There were comedians called ‘Jew Comics,'” explains legendary comedian and filmmaker Carl Reiner. “They wore derbies and talked with a thick accent.” Such self-caricature was acceptable “until Hitler came along,” Reiner explains, “and then all of the Jewish accents disappeared, because we realized we were giving fodder to the enemy.” 

This fear of being laughable spread to the forefront of the Borscht Belt itself, explains writer and historian Moshe Waldoks, co-author with William Novak of The Big Book of Jewish Humor. “In 1947, there was a debate in The Contemporary Record [the magazine that preceded Commentary] between [comedians] Myron Cohen and Sam Levenson on the subject of dialects. Sam Levenson thought the Jewish dialect was demeaning, particularly after what had just happened in Europe. Myron Cohen’s retort was basically, ‘It’s only demeaning if you’re trying to demean,’ which he never did, with his use of accents.” 

As apprehension over the use of accents persisted, dialect comedians such as Myron Cohen became an increasingly rare breed.

It was this fear that kept Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks from recording “The Two Thousand Year Old Man,” who had a strong Yiddish accent. For 10 years the two had been performing the act privately at friends’ houses. 

Reiner and Brooks turned down numerous offers from fellow Jewish performers to make it a more permanent work. Finally, in 1960, Steve Allen, a non-Jew, convinced Reiner and Brooks to record the routine. “He offered to pay for the recording session,” Reiner remembers, “saying, ‘You guys listen to it; if you don’t like it, burn it or throw it away. But at least put it down.’ And the next thing you know, it’s up for a Grammy!”

Which I include because it's interesting to note that those two real comic geniuses understood that such stuff would have a different meaning outside of the group than in it. That it had the potential to be dangerous.   And they are right.  It was Steve Allen who was wrong about that, though not universally throughout the audience, with a dangerously large minority of it. 

Since the challenge made to me was to name a TV show of the 1950s that made Yiddish references, I'll post this part of the very interesting article because it cites the very greatest of all the 1950s comedy shows as an example.

Bolstered by a powerhouse group of writers (including Mel Brooks and Neil Simon) who will go down in history as the Round Table to Caesar’s King Arthur, Your Show of Shows featured everything from sly social commentary to parodies of highbrow culture, such as opera and foreign art films. It remains the standard by which all other sketch comedy shows are measured.

While Your Show of Shows never directly addressed Jewish issues or topics (very few television shows did at the time), the sketches often contained Jewish references. “Caesar did a Japanese character named ‘Taka Meshuga,'” Waldoks says, “which in Yiddish means ‘Really Crazy.’ Of course people in Iowa had no idea what Taka Meshuga meant. It sounds Japanese. So it was a wink, a way of coming out every week and saying, ‘We know you’re out there. And we’re here.'”

Only Waldoks shouldn't be so confident that "people in Iowa" had no idea what Yiddish terms meant.  To start with, I'm sure there must have been Yiddish speakers in Iowa.  Looking up the oldest synagogue in Iowa, I find there is a congregation that dates to 1861.  I don't know if he's as unaware of the role that Jews played in American history in every region of the country, especially in the industrial mid-west.  Though I suspect he would know about that, as I mentioned last week. so many are totally ignorant of it.

But that's not important for my point that by the early 1960s a large number of people, including people who knew not a word of Yiddish or Hebrew, knew that a comedian using a Yiddish or Hebrew word in a comedy routine was a signal to laugh.  And they were laughing AT Jewish identity, not with it.  They didn't have to know what the term meant.  I remember sitting in what was almost certainly a nearly totally gentile audience to see Annie Hall and when Alvy Singer's grade school school class mates stand up and say what they became later in life,

I'm president of the Pinkus Plumbing Company.

I sell tallises.

I used to be a heroin addict.  Now I'm a methadone addict. 

I'm into leather.

though probably few to none of us in that audience knew what tallises (Jewish fringed prayer shawls) were, we knew we were supposed to find it funny.  Maybe even as funny as "I'm into leather," sado-masochism or the seriously unfunny line, "Now I'm a methadone addict".   I don't recall, specifically if we laughed at "the Pinkus Plumbing Company," though I imagine we suspected we were supposed to find the name funny.   Why just the word or name should get a laugh is kind of interesting.   Now that I have opioid addicts in my family, I don't find the line 3rd Boy said funny in the least.  I'm ashamed I ever may have.  And the rest of it.  The scene with Marshall McLuhan was pretty funny as was much of the movie.  I used to really look forward to Woody Allen's movies. Though it centered on the Jewish stereotype that Woody Allen so often played, and other stereotypes, including those of gentiles from the mid-west. 

Any control that even a Woody Allen believed he had over the effect of stereotype humor on his audience was illusory, who knows what it really produced.  That it developed into the shock jock humor that wafted like a stink of fascism in the Reagan era and into today with the revival of fascism and neo-Nazism proves it didn't damage what should have been the target.  The role it played in making the expression of racism, sexism and, yes, antisemitism mainstream isn't nugatory.  That happens when anything goes.  Modernism's connections to fascism and Nazism and the red-fascism of Marxism couldn't be clearer in the writings and documented fascism, etc. of many of modernism's central figures.   It is no accident that the foremost proponents of "freedom of speech" "freedom of expression" right now are fascists and neo-Nazis who are happy that pandora's box was opened. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

"as we have always noticed in history the bad things start with speech, bad speech"

This morning, on CBC's Sunday Edition, Michael Enright did a 24 minute interview with former Ontario Premier Bob Rae who is Prime Minister Trudeau's special envoy to Myanmar.  It is the best, fairest and most insightful thing I've read or heard about the horrendous situation of murder and oppression and forcing the Islamic Rohingya population of Myanmar into perilous refugee - to call them camps would be to white wash what they are - in Bangladesh. 

The whole interview is worth listening to, Rae's insights into it are certainly deeper than you're likely to hear on the American media, which is more about affixing blame and taking sides, dressing down and condemning such people as Aung San Suu Kyi, who are hardly in a position to do what Western people sitting in safety and comfort on North America imagine is a practical possibility.  Really, we've all got a lot more in common with Donald Trump's Caspar Milquetoast heroics than we'd ever like to believe. 

The highly edited, truncated, text of the interview given at the website cut some of the most important things that Rae said,  I have to wonder if it's because what he said didn't go along with the code of liberalish ethics in pointing out the absolutely vital role that hate speech, especially as magnified in the media, especially the social media plays in generating violence and genocide.   I've done a quick transcription of that section of the interview.

Michael Enright: The rest of the world thinks of Buddhism as a religion of tolerance and peace. Where does the bigotry towards the Rohingya Muslim population come from?

Bob Rae:  I think, at it's best, every religion is a religion of tolerance and peace.   Certainly, that's a common position of most religion I'm aware of.  The problem is that I think the Buddhist population in Myanmar, as in Sri Lanka where I also worked a few years ago,  feels besieged by a large population of India, which is a Hindu nation and similarly it's a reality that's a feeling, plus now the additional factor of the relationship with Islam, which since 9/11 has become much more complicated and difficult.

And, also, I have to say it, most people would agree with me, there's also a racial factor. The Rohingya are dark-skinned people and the stuff that's said about them is racist, as well as being based on Islamophobia.  But it's also a basic feeling   it's a feeling that they're strangers in their own land. They're stateless. It's the largest stateless population in the world. And that is a terrible situation to be in, because it means you have nowhere that you can safely call your home.

Michael Enright: Like the Kurds, in a way. 

Bob Rae: Well, the Kurds have a place to live, They live in certain places, 

Michael Enright: Yeah, 

Bob Rae: But, I mean, they're politically very challenged.  The more closest analogy would be the Roma population in Europe, who often have the same level of racism and animosity and stereotyping of the worst kind.   And the same thing is true of the Rohingya in Myanmar and now Bangladesh.  And you also have this in the social media. 

Facebook has become a major carrier of hate speech, as has Twitter.  And they're both widely followed, particularly Facebook in Myanmar.  It's widely followed and you know, you have these very strongly held views which are very nasty in the way they're expressed directed at the Rohingya and that's creating a climate of  of real fear.  And as we have always noticed in history the bad things start with speech, bad speech.

Next month, on April 7th, is the the 24th anniversary of  when the attempted genocide of the Tutsi population in Rwanda began.  We can date the beginning of it because, if nothing else, than that is the date on which one of the largest radio station in the country told Hutus to start murdering the Tutsi people.  Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, was set up by those who instigated and directed the genocide, making it popular with a local version of crude, obscene American style shock jock programming mixed with American style hate-talk formatting, the very kind of stuff that has had such a role in reviving the crudest and most extreme forms of hatred in the United States.    The kind of stuff championed by the same boutique and bookstall liberals and moderates who so gleefully decided that Aung San Suu Kyi was now shit when she failed to meet their expectations in expression of outrage against the predictable outcome of encouraging the flourishing of hate speech.

Since they are seldom mentioned in what's written about it, there was another group targeted by the radio station, the Twa, more often called Pygmy population in Rwanda, who were accused of siding with the Tutsis.  A third of that people were murdered in the 100 days of genocidal violence.

One of the biggest real crimes of Bill Clinton was his administration refusing to take out the transmitting tower of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines even as it was broadcasting instructions telling the murderers where Tutsis were taking refuge so they could murder them.  "Free speech - free press" was the excuse for doing next to nothing to impede the murders.  No doubt he was afraid he might take flack from the "free speech" industry if he'd violated the sanctity of the media, putting that above the lives of those who were about to be murdered on its instruction.


In looking up stuff on the two posts I did about the overrated comedian Lenny Bruce, I came across the interesting fact that his lawyer in his last obscenity trial was the famous "civil liberties" movie industry hack-lawyer Ephraim London.  One of London's accomplishments was getting his client out on bail during the appeal, during which Lenny Bruce took the opportunity to OD on morphine and die.

It is a pungent irony that one of the most famous cases London was involved in was when he filed Lillian Hellman's lawsuit against Mary McCarthy when Mary McCarthy told the truth that Lillian Hellman was an habitual liar on Dick Cavett's show.   I find it entirely in keeping with the "civil liberties" industry that one of its heroic legal figures would be involved with financially ruining Mary McCarthy for telling the truth about the lies of another hero of the pseudo-left.   One of the things I've read about that case was that Hellman and her lawyer knew that she had the financial resources to keep a case going while it would likely break Mary McCarthy who was not wealthy.  I imagine London made a lot of money while representing the film industry.

Boy, Did We Get Suckered By A Really Low Level Shell-Game Con

That piece from the New York Times I excerpted in an update yesterday had this passage in it:

Mr. Bruce often poked fun at the liberals of his day. “I used to go to civil rights marches, but Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles kept bumping into people,” he joked. What animated most of his best work was an aversion to moralism that seems out of step in an age of internet outrage. “When you get to morals, they’re just your morals,” he said in his Carnegie Hall concert in 1961, perhaps his finest recorded performance. “They’re not even morals. They’re mores.”

This cynical jab deftly reduces principles to inherited customs and displays a gift for intelligent wordplay. But it’s also easy to miss his point. Mr. Bruce’s bits are dense and require close attention. A loose improvisational performer, he didn’t patiently set up premises, emphasizing clarity. Instead, he used a jazzy rhythm and spoke quickly, in bursts of stammering digressions that mixed repurposed Yiddish with rhetorical turns of phrases that aimed for literary pleasures.

Um, first, I've listened to Bruce's stuff and that's not what I get out of it.  And the description in the second paragraph both misunderstands what's going on in jazz improvisation and it contradicts itself. It is an elevation of incoherence (Bruce was a heavy drug user) into intellectualism.   And there's the "blind joke" at the expense of two real geniuses by a cheap, rinky-dink, faux genius.   But that's not what I found most interesting about it.

If "When you get to morals, they're just your morals," if "They're not even morals.  They're mores," then all of the moral platitudes over "free speech" that constitute the case for the deification of Lenny Bruce, the entire "free speech - free press" industry line of bilge, is meaningless and there would be nothing wrong with putting Lenny Bruce in jail for what he said on stage.   If moral relativity is valid, not to mention what it really is, moral nihilism, then the cops who arrested him for using whatever words they busted him for are as right as the self-righteous "free speech" champions who turned a pretty unfunny comedian into some kind of moral icon.

That was one of the earliest parts of the conventional 1950s-today catechism of pseudo-liberal, pseudo-lefty pieties that fell apart when I subjected it to rigorous examination.   The moral relativist-nihilist doesn't really believe what they're claiming, they want those aspects of moral absolutism they like to be taken as morally absolute when they want it to be but they want to deny the existence of moral absolutes when it suits them.  That they do it over some of the lesser aspects of morality as they can profit from it is as telling.  By "profit from it" I mean exactly that, making money.   Which is why free speech - free press absolutism is so popular with performers, writers, publishers, TV and radio and movie executives even as they fill the airwave with fascists and neo-Nazis and racists and NRA figures, with porn that eats up and spits out lives,  whose moral depravity kills people in the name of profit and power.  And it is especially stupid when it asserts a moral obligation to allow even Nazis and Stalinists and Maoists, the KKK, etc. a platform when, on gaining power, they would abolish all free speech and every other one of the civil liberties in exactly the same way that the Republican-fascists are destroying the rights of Black People, Latinos, Women and LGBT people. 

Liberals in the 1950s and 60s got successfully duped by the people who held those positions, and they were duped through the media and the desire to be considered fashionable.  They were duped into accepting positions and stands that have, in the realest of real life, ended up electing Republicans, the servants of the rich and fascist starting in 1968 as the Yippies sandbagged Hubert Humphrey and got Nixon into office.   We fell for some of the stupidest frauds because of one of the dumber PR campaigns in American history.   It was really not much different from how the Northern intelligentsia in the post Civil War period got suckered out of the morality that ended de jure slavery only to have it reimposed as de facto slavery for the next hundred years. 

The traditional American meaning of liberalism,  founded in the morality of the Jewish Law as expounded by the Mosaic tradition and expanded by Jesus, depends absolutely on moral absolutes, I have come to see that if you abandon those moral absolutes that are essential to producing egalitarian democracy, you will lose egalitarian democracy and all of the benefits of it.   That such schmucks as Lenny Bruce and the desire to be kew-el in 1964 could talk liberals out of that is nothing to be proud of.   Continuing it in the history of the next fifty-four years is everything to be ashamed of  and proof of the stupidity of those who did and do it.

Update:  I didn't say "kew-el" to be funny, I said it because I knew it would annoy the kind of people who get annoyed by people making fun of the cool kids.

Update 2:  I always thought it was stupid that that tiresome and stupid habit of, especially, New York Jewish comedians to insert Hebrew or Yiddish words into their tiresome routines, due to the the odd and peculiarly strange habit that that was like an idiot card for the audience to laugh.   Some of the worst never-once funny comedians of the post-war period made a career out of that,  Jackie Mason comes to mind.   Even when I first heard it back in the early 60s if not earlier,  I thought it was pandering to a petit form of antisemitism.  That Lenny Bruce did it is nothing especially surprising, he didn't have much talent which is why he went to shock and offensiveness and obscenity in place of being funny.

Update 3:  I knew that because those schmucks were on network TV and I heard them on TV.   You really are becoming senile if you've forgotten what was on TV, your source of 90% of what you believe you know.  Like I said, you have no clue what life outside of the NYC bubble is or was like.