Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Stephen Bain and Deborah Tucker - City Of Hands

A group of people enter a competition to win a car, the winner being whoever can keep a hand on the car longest. As the days progress, the competition takes on a surreal quality. 

City of Hands was first produced at BATS Theatre, Wellington. The authors undertook considerable research on the people who had been involved in the competition. Like They Shoot Horses Don't They, this play shows the lengths to which desperate people are willing to go and try and improve their lot.

With Geraldine Brophy and Peter Kaa. Carol Dee 
Producer/Director  Carol Dee  

Radio New Zealand 

This is the third of the plays in the series Worldplay 1997.  I think it's a good play for the beginning of the season. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Stupid Mail

Simels + Freki, hum.  A little more mass of mendacity and Baby Blue will collapse into a baby Black hole of prevarication. 

The Britathetist mean-girl queen of Duncan Black's blog is, as usual, totally wrong.  The only talk radio I listen to is the CBC Sunday Edition and whatever programming comes on after it if I don't get around to turning it off and, with less frequency these days,  Quirks and Quarks, their science magazine.   And I don't listen to the Sunday Edition as much because Michael Enright's glibness is wearing thin on me.  

Freki is, if you'll excuse the expression, a dumb bunny who's been, as Charles Pierce recently expressed it, "farting higher than her ass"  for as long as I've known of her.  She couldn't con me or cow me, which is why she didn't like me.  I'm sure the Irish name wasn't to her taste either. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Harold Darke - Gloria from Communion Service in F

The word for the sacrament of Communion, "Eucharist,"  means "thanksgiving".  In one of his talks Walter Brueggemann made a joke about how Catholics and other churches did it every day, some did it every week but it was too much for others to take more than once a month.   Under secularism in the United States it's done once a year, sort of, and then it's too much for even most Christians to take, them turning it into an occasion of gluttony and football, card games and family fights.  Secular thanksgiving is too much for me to take so I'll take a pass.  It's a carnivore holiday and as a lactose intolerant vegetarian it saves my relatives from the hassle of wondering what I'm going to eat.  It's an inaction of kindness, really.

But I thought it would be a good occasion to listen to the Gloria from Harold Darke's Communion Service in F.

Choir of Saint Clement's Philadelphia.

Sorry, don't know the director or organist.  It's a really good choir, though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Unitary Executive Theory Is A Theory of Fascism Under the United States Constitution, That Makes It Far More Dangerous Than The "Alt-Right"

On Ari Melber's show last night Ken Dilanian* pointed out that Trump's framing for his blatant attempt to use the Department of Justice to go after his political opponents, one of the most blatant abuses of presidential power was consistent with one of the most dangerous of current fashions on law school faculties and even among sitting members of the Supreme Court (certainly Alito, almost certainly others), the unitary executive theory.   The theory which so far as I can see has been cooked up in the elite Ivy class law schools is, essentially,  one of absolute power of a president over every aspect of the executive branch of the government, apparently up to and including using the Department of Justice, The FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. without much if any inhibitions on his power.   Several strengths of unitary executive have been theorized, all of them are essentially fascistic in nature, turning the American President into something like what Donald Trump, so far, has succeeded in it being. 

The origins of current unitary executive theory, oddly enough, seem to come from lawyers, law school hacks and judicial servants of the rich and privileged, to dismantle the New Deal infrastructure or for Republican presidents to harness it for corporate fascist purposes.  If you think that's overblown, go look at what the legal scholar critics say in opposition to it and what its proponents claim in its favor.  You can, of course, find mealy-mouthed passages in which such proponents as you can find on law school faculties and among judges and justices to give plausible deniability to their fascistic intent but when you consider the entire range of their claims it is clear fascistic power on the part of Republicans is their goal.

I get a lot of snark for my criticism of the Ivy class, especially the product of those law schools which seem to have been granted a traditional monopoly on the Supreme Court but that is the well-manicured, well taylored, perfumed origin of this most American form of facism, the fascism which has a chance of being the law of the land because it is framed within the discourse around the United States Constitution.  And that history is clear.  I also get a lot of snark for my criticism of the a-historical dishonesty of "Hamilton" and for the cult of James Madison but those guys were major proponents who introduced the intellectual framework within which American fascism is not only possible, but asserted by Republicans from Reagan through George W. Bush to Trump.   The Constitution contains a lot of extremely dangerous features, especially under the originalism which would bring us back to rule by propertied white men with the richest among them exercising the most power through the Senate and the appointments that flow through it.  The document without the intervening centuries of alteration, through the rejection of inequality and other features of fascism is the greatest peril to American aspirations for equality and democracy that there is.  Remember that the next time you hear someone in the stripe of Charles Fried going on about presidential power, what you will find under the false front is American fascism which, given the history of white supremacy here, could turn into American Nazism without more than an instigating event cooked up by American Nazis.

*  I looked at my notes again, it wasn't Gene Rossi who said it, it was Ken Dilanian.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Harold Darke plays Darke - Meditation on 'Brother James's Air'

Here is Harold Darke playing one of his pieces on the same organ as the piece I posted last night, the one he played as the organist at St. Michael's, Cornhill.  It's always interesting to hear a composer play their own music and, especially in this case, for an instrument they probably had in mind when they wrote it.

Darke is probably best known for his quite beautiful setting of the Christmas song In The Bleak Midwinter, which seems to have been recorded a trillion times.  If this turns into a series I probably won't post that one because you either know it to death or you can find it with no problem. 

I Hope The New House Brings This Up Right Away Next Year

One of the things I advocate that Democrats in control of the House do this year is to make life as hard as possible for Republicans in the dishonestly controlled Senate and gerrymandered state legislatures by passing lots and lots of popular bills which the Senate will not take up or kill or, them giving in on those, Trump vetoing.   

The first day of winter last year, The Hill posted this piece on Susan Collins' pose which she would use to vote for some of the most putrid Republican-fascist legislation, a pose she repeatedly used to do her phony little dance of indecision before she inevitably did what she wanted to do and was always going to do, vote with the worst of Republicans. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will be a crucial swing vote for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) next year, but it may be tougher to strike deals with her after McConnell failed to fulfill a pledge on health care.  

The moderate senator told reporters this month that she had an “ironclad” commitment from McConnell and Vice President Pence to pass legislation by the end of the year to stabilize ObamaCare premiums. She wanted that assurance before committing her vote for tax reform. 

But that vote has now been delayed until January due to opposition from House Republicans. 

Collins isn’t accusing McConnell of breaking his pledge, but she is disappointed in the outcome, according to sources familiar with the negotiations on health-care legislation.  

Those sources added that Collins might think twice the next time GOP leaders promise her something

Well, any number of us could have told them then but it is undeniable now that behind Susan Collins' pose of "moderate Republicanism" there is just more pose. The woman is a lying fraud and always has been.  

With the election in which Republicans up and down the ticket, who had been fighting the ACA - Obamacare - voting literally dozens of time to kill it were running scared, denying to people who watched them try to kill it, that they supported the ACA, they gave Democrats a huge tool to wield with which they should batter and slam and attack the damned Republicans every time they can, they should vote more than 60 times to put the protections and corrections of the ACA into law and let the Republicans vote it down, they should attach that and other popular things to every single bill they pass, even the ones to keep the government open, and let the Republicans be the ones who have to crawl to them to beg them to give them a clean bill.   They should stick that into Susan Collins like Butterball sticks a pop-up timer into a turkey and turn up the heat. 

Democrats need to be responsible and one of the things they have to do is to make Republicans pay, including Republicans in states that maintain a Republican-fascist gerrymander in House and state governments, they should do them no favor that Republicans don't pay in full.   Under the disastrously bad anti-democratic Constitution, made worse by recent Supreme Courts, this is one of the few things which Democrats have to fight against Republican fascism when they can.  It's worth risking anything for to fight against this.  I wouldn't give states which are the worst offenders a single thing, except disaster relief.  If their delegations had opposed giving relief in other disasters, maybe they shouldn't even get that.  

I would advocate they find ways of making life harder for the Republican-fascists on the court, too.  They should make it known that they are investigating Kavanaugh with a possible eye towards his impeachment for perjury and other crimes.  Hold that lying sex criminal's feet to the fire, too. 

Hate Mail - Atheists Choose To See Things Ass Backward

You, as all materialists and, in my experience almost all atheists, have it backward. 

The fact that everything we perceive is done through our consciousness means that literally anything and everything we can talk about is the product of our consciousness.  Including everything we can say or know about material objects and how they move. 

The pretense that we can deal with, talk about, observe or even conceive of some supposed higher level of reality by pretending that we have access to an objective view of some absolute physical reality is just that, a pretense that we can achieve something which is literally impossible. 

Modern science, based by Descartes on his conception of mathematical perfection, has lent to that superstition.  Descartes doesn't seem to have realized one of the most salient features of mathematics, that mathematical objects are all the product of human imagination, they don't exist anywhere else that we can know of.  That is one of the differences between mathematical objects and physical objects, things which are so fundamentally different should not be expected to share all qualities in common or they would not be rationally categorized as different types of things.

Any absolute logical closure we can achieve in mathematics is a human conclusion based on objects which are entirely imaginary.   There is absolutely no escaping that fact, people are the ones who do it all, they do it through their minds.

Descartes thought that absolute proof possible about such objects was transferable to physical objects.  That that works best with extremely simple physical objects doing fairly simple things indicates that to an extent it works.*  But, as René Thom pointed out, that reliability quickly erodes as those objects become more complex.  Which is indicative that Descartes, surprisingly for someone as philosophically astute as he should have been - and virtually every current scientist who is in every way more philosophically lacking - were, in fact, unrealistic in their faith.   I have never met an atheist who wasn't, as well, naive about that and who didn't try to extend science's efficacy entirely past where it could reach. 

Eddington pointed out that mind is primary to everything we can know, to impeach the validity of consciousness, to try to reduce it in the way that materialists do is like some mighty warrior who starts the battle by cutting off his own head.

* Modern physics more than a century ago started confronting the limits that science has due to that fact of the centrality of human consciousness at the center of physics.   Mathematics followed on in the 1920s and 30s.  That mathematics cannot achieve absolute closure might just reveal that even mathematical objects can't produce Descartes' conception of perfection, just an approximation of what we imagine as perfection.  Perfection is possibly a human invention, too.

It's More Than Mere Reporting Of An Incident, It's The Truth

RMJ has an interesting post up based on an article at the Daily Beast on the minor obsession over the authenticity of the story found in John's Gospel about Jesus getting the "woman taken in adultery" off, of him shaming the crowd about to stone her to death into letting her walk and of refusing to so much as condemn her as a sinner.   The article takes as effective the use that atheists love to put the story to, of claiming that it's not something Jesus ever said because the story isn't found in the earliest manuscripts of John's Gospel and that it's not universally believed to be authentic to it, being a later invention.

As the article quotes two authors of a book on the passage say, the actual origin of the story is a mystery as is the way it found itself into what is taken as the authentic text of what we have as John's Gospel.   When it's been thrown at me I think I've confounded the atheists who expect me to have a Protestant Fundamentalist belief in the literal truth of every word in the Bible by saying it wouldn't bother me if it wasn't something that happened even as I said that I believed what the story taught was authentically faithful to the Gospel of Jesus.   I don't believe that something is true because Jesus said it, I said I thought Jesus said what he did because it was true.  As it says in the Bible, he said a lot of things which the authors of those books couldn't put into the books.  And I said that it was possible that the story did happen and just happened to come down in a different line of sayings and events which later Christians realized contained a truth too important to leave out.  Which I think is some of what the authors are getting at, though I only have the article to go on.

What I'm as interested in is that if it was a later legend about Jesus, what was there about the inventors' beliefs about Jesus that would have made them think this was something he very well may have done and said. 

If it isn't a journalistic style report - something which is a modern anachronism, anyway - it is certainly a way into understanding how early Christians understood Christianity, the status of women especially in relation to their being considered the property of their husbands or other men,  the status given to the sin of adultery and lots of other things.  It's a world of difference between this story and lots of the other legends carried in the "lost books" that are so popular among people who want to forget what Jesus said. 

The article goes into a bit of that:

Though they are careful to point out that we don’t know for sure where the story came from or why it was added to the Gospel of John, Knust, an associate professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Boston University, and Wasserman, a professor of Biblical Studies at Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole in Norway, told The Daily Beast that the interpolation took place “in a context where Greek was used but Latin was also spoken, and probably because the interpolator thought it fit best into that Gospel.” They added that “we can only speculate about why John and not some other Gospel,” but mentioned several theories, including the prominence of stories about women in the Fourth Gospel. They also note the intriguing theory of New Testament scholar Chris Keith that, in addition to portraying Jesus as forgiving, the story also presents Jesus as able to write. Perhaps it was added, then, to combat the scandalous accusation that Jesus wasn’t fully literate.

“Once it was added,” they said “it made sense to many Christians to read it there.”

"In a context where Greek was used but Latin was also spoken,"  forces me to think how women, wives were treated in Greek and Roman law at the time.  I don't think there would be many pagans who would not find this story a bit strange, at the very least.

It would be good to have a sense as to how the early Christians could be expected to have taken such a story and how various Pagan and Jewish communities might have taken it.   If Jesus, presented as a great expert on The Law, considered the Son of God, the Light of the world, is letting a woman, a woman who has wronged her husband through committing adultery instead of being put to death would have been shocking or surprising to earlier and other traditions it would tell us a lot about why Christianity was distinctive.  It is also worth noting that that was certainly not how civil law among governments deputed to be Christian treated such crimes later on.  Apparently it was a story and an idea much more popular among Christians during a period when they were relatively powerless than when they held power.  That's not a shock, the history of so much of civic Christianity has been one of how to ignore the radicalism contained in the Scripture, bowing to a pagan tradition that has never died and which has always more characterized secularized Christianity - much to the discredit of the word.

If they found that the story was what atheists love to say it is, an invention of later Christians, far from it being the "faith-killer" the story says it is, it would enhance my belief because such people who came up with such a story must have been genuinely changed by the Gospel, the Epistles, and their reading of the Prophets and the Law.  In many Christian traditions that aren't as fanatically wedded to the text of Scripture as they aspire to follow its spirit, such a thing wouldn't be a faith killer at all. 

In one of her essays when Marilynne Robinson addresses the disparaging use of the First Testament with all its horrific descriptions of the political-military contentions of the Kings and the earliest Prophets, many of them quasi-political "Judges" she asks what the New Testament  would be like if it contained the history of Christian governments in the same number of centuries.  It's a good question.  As would a similar treatment of secular government since the late 18th century, assigning similar disparagement for their lapses as have been handed to the Hebrew tradition based on its confessions and ruminations over what its kings and priests and judges did.   What would one that took in the current "evangelical" (not to mention right-wing Catholic, Jewish, etc) support for Trump be like?  I'd suggest calling that book "Mammonists".

I'll add that when I heard the dirt-bag crook and thug Matthew Whittacker invoking the "New Testament" I felt like throwing up.  Talk about the devil citing scripture.  You might be tempted to say that it was the best thing about him if it weren't' clear as crystal that it was just part of his huckster come-on. 

Dead Letter Hate Mail

Deep in the muck of my "awaiting moderation" comment pile I found some snarky stuff about Pope Francis allegedly claiming that Christians can't be antisemites, "no true Scotsman" was the framing.  Like just about all of the asininity that flows from the direction of P. Z. Myers and his cohort, that was both a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what Pope Francis said while meeting a delegation to  World Congress of Mountain Jews.  What Vatican News translates him as having said is:

“As I have often repeated, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots.  It would be a contradiction of faith and life.  Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community”.

Which isn't a question of whether or not someone who considers or calls themselves Christians are guilty of antisemitism,  we're all vulnerable to sin and hypocrisy, it makes the point that antisemitism inevitably negates Christianity.   Considering the undeniable truth that Christianity was founded on the same roots as modern Judaism and those roots are undeniably what would come to be called "Jewish" antisemitism inevitably is heretical.  I've pointed out recently that the Nazis and collaborating Christians sought to destroy the very nature of Christianity to remove the central Jewish content of it, leaving it a putrid pantomime costume that could contain Nazism.

Of course, that's too complex a thing for atheist blog flies to reason out and even if it weren't, if there's one way to piss off such atheists, it's to deprive them of their recreational hatred.  They are hate addicts, among the things they have in common with the FOX and Infowars audiences. 

I'm kind of glad I had to look this up because  I was totally unaware of the Mountain Jews and their interesting history and the extremely encouraging fact that they are still here and enough to form a World Congress.  That's the most encouraging thing I've heard since finding out the Maine Senate and the U.S. House will be controlled by Democrats.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Just Felt Like Posting Harold Darke's Fantasy in E Major

I am generally not a huge fan of 20th century British tonal composition.  There are some exceptions to that, I love Michael Tippett's music a lot and there are some pieces by Benjamin Britten that I like.  It having been the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI,  I think it's a shame that the recording he conducted of his famous War Requiem has Galina Vishnevskaya singing the soprano part, which makes large stretches of an otherwise great recording unlistenable for me, at least.  I know Britten wrote the piece for her but I have never been able to hear what others heard in her voice.   To tell you the truth, hers is one of the very few highly renowned voices I really can't stand to hear.*  But I digress. 

I have warmed up to an increasing range of compositions that would fall under that category and will be reposting George Dyson's Magnificat in c minor in the coming weeks, as well as some of the settings by other British composers and those who are influenced by that style. 

One composer whose music I have to say I really have come to appreciate is the relatively little known Harold Darke.  I posted a performance of his Fantasy in E Major a few months back but I didn't realize until I read some biographical material that there is a performance available on the very organ he probably composed it for, the one where he was organist, St. Michael's Church, Cornhill played by one of his successors in that post, Jonathan Rennett

Here's an arrangement of it for string orchestra by Clive Jenkins, made to replace one that Darke himself made but which was lost .

Chamber Ensemble of London
Peter Fish, conductor

* You have to wonder what Britten thought when this happened at the first recording of the piece:

When it came to recording the War Requiem the following year, Vishnevskaya at first failed to appreciate that the work is conceived on different planes, and saw her position with the choir in the Kingsway Hall balcony "as a kind of discrimination", the male soloists, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, being at the front, near the conductor, with their own dedicated chamber ensemble.

She insisted that she should be with them. Attempts to explain the nature of the work failed and, as the producer John Culshaw recalled, "she then lost her head, and lay on the floor of the vestry ... and shrieked at the top of her voice. You would really have been excused for thinking that an extremely painful process of torture was in progress." Miraculously, she reappeared the following day, totally transformed, and this iconic recording was able to be completed as planned.

Which is one of my favorite Tales of the Divas. Aren't you glad I mentioned her, now?  I still can't stand her wobbly vibrato.  I never heard a recording of it with Heather Harper, who had to stand in for G. V. at the premier performances because the Soviet government were being the massive assholes they generally were.  I strongly suspect I'd have preferred it. 

Why The Hell Are Unions Backing Republicans? - The Folly of Leftist Secularism

Other than wishing they'd said "Some Unions" because the situation is a lot more nuanced than they are dealing with here, I think this is an important issue.

The problems of ideological drift and corruption of unions is symptomatic of the problem of any leftism that is based on secular interests instead of an egalitarian moral foundation.  When union members are disinterested in anything other than the size of their paycheck, that's a problem, unions either serve a higher moral purpose, that of egalitarian democracy and society or they will always devolve into what they're becoming. 

I no longer believe secularism can sustain egalitarian democracy because I've seen so much of this kind of thing.  Every single group which has been Marxist or is influenced by Marxism devolves into this kind of thing.  Look at their average lifespan*.  And the unions, as compared to political organizations, are a minor problem.   When I look at the secular left (you can safely subsitute the words "atheist", "hostile to religion" "hostile to Christianity" or other such terms) a lot of them went immediately bad as they focused on their ideological obsessions and picayune stands on unimportant crap (getting the Green Party listed on ballots is obviously more important to a lot of them than keeping Republicans out of office), I have totally lost faith in even the good will of the secular left. 

*  The ACLU is a bit of an outlier in terms of life span, except that so much of what they do, like the complaint about the unions in this piece, have enabled and empowered Republican-fascists, on a pose of principle which is transparently of economic value to their backers in the media and the entertainment industry.  There are few groups that paved the way for Republican-fascism and, in the fullness of time, neo-Nazism more effectively than the ACLU through their "free speech - free press" stands.

Just To Let You Know

I've been working on a couple of posts on different topics and found that once I started, they were way bigger than I thought at first.  That's why I haven't written anything the past couple of days.  I've got a cold too but if I used that excuse I'd go silent most of the winter.  

I'm still here and still working at this, not anticipating it going dark any time soon but don't indulge in scrying or card reading or anything like that. 

In the meantime, I was grossed out to see the first Christmas trees up and glowing around here.  It's indecent to put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.  People used to know this.  

I stopped doing Christmas presents, accepting or giving, five years ago and have never enjoyed Christmas so much as I have since then.  Christmas should always have been a religious holiday, it should never have turned into a commercial obscenity which it is.  If you find that depressing, unplugging from that has been one of the best things I've ever done around the season.  

I still listen to the music, the religiously themed music, still make a few seasonal foods - though not sweet ones, anymore, not wanting to put my pancreas at more risk at my age.  Nature and watching several people die of alcoholism took care of one of my old cravings around this season, I used to love a glass or two of good gin.  Well, a bottle of it, actually.  I can't tolerate alcohol anymore, either.  I'll chew on a few juniper berries to ward off swollen joints and inflammation.  

I might rework the atheist debunking articles I've written in the past and I will certainly re-post Garrison Keillor's classic column on the season - I don't see any reason not to.   

But NOT before Thanksgiving is over.   Pushing Christmas before Thanksgiving is over is disgusting.