George Will freaks out

George Will is a deservedly famous American political thinker. His latest book, the Conservative Sensibility, is a meditation on the meaning of the American founding. He sees an eternal opposition between the limited government ideas of James Madison, and the progressive vision of Woodrow Wilson, who thought that the US Constitution was obsolete conception of the state. I largely agree with his negative assessment of Woodrow Wilson, who was a kind of Obama before his time: detached, aloof, pompous, and a progressive. Wilson failed to secure the support of the Republicans for the post World War 1 settlement and much blame for what followed could be laid at his feet in consequence.

George Will has been the most prominent never-Trumper, and he has not ceased his disparagement. As the election approaches, he seems to be demented on the issue. On ABC’s television show “The View” he said that:

“They think the country is angry. I don’t think Americans are angry. I think those who watch certain cable channels are angry, but that’s a small slice of the country. I think most Americans are sad and embarrassed and exhausted.”

He added, “They’re sad because they’re embarrassed and they’re exhausted because of the constant embarrassment that is inflicted on them by a president that never sleeps. The American people don’t want transformation. They want restoration. They can get the transformation later, but they would like a period of normality.”

Trump annoys many conservative people because he reminds them of everything that is over-amplified, vulgar, and incessant in American society. They feel that the job of the Republican President is to be the adult in the conversation. Trump offends them because their idea of a Republican is someone like George Herbert Walker Bush or Mitt Romney, someone who keeps the noise down across American society. The job of a conservative President is to uphold a certain decorum. Taxes and immigration are secondary issues in this view.

Conservatives are right in their desire for a society with more decorum; but they will not be able to get it. The Democrats have flown free from reality. When you assert, seriously, that when a man may declares himself to be a woman, that we are to be forced to treat a person of one sex as if he belonging to another, and that the full force of social opprobrium and coercive enforcement will fall on those too slow to adjust, you are not dealing with reality any longer. You cannot have decorum in this era of radical contestation.

Trump reminds me of the person who in a crowded cocktail party points out that the dog has just shitted on the carpet. Some people are more offended at the observation being made than that the dog has misbehaved. If only we could all go on pretending, we could all be happy in our ignorance, and besides the staff can deal with the problem anyway.

I find George Will’s taking against Trump to be of that order. I wonder how he would feel about Alexandra Occasio-Cortez as President? Would he be more tolerant?

In the meantime I urge you to read The Conservative Sensibility. It is very good. Try to ignore Will’s harrumphing about Trump. Trump will crush the Democrats at the next election, and they know it.

Graduation exercises

I was present at the University of Ottawa’s graduation exercises yesterday for its arts faculty. In the tedium of watching 1,000 unrelated young people receive degrees, there is little to do but notice the sex, ethnicity and nationality of the graduates. Here are my observations:

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  • It was 80% female, not 70% female. One in five arts graduates were male. Whether this portends a disaster for male status and income is a topic for another blog.
  • Africans and Haitians. There was a large contingent of African and Haitian young women graduating. Clearly we need have no fear that African immigrants to Canada are problematic; they are climbing the ladder of success as fast as they can.
  • I might have counted two Jews out of 1000. Where are the Jews? When I attended McGill in the sixties, about 75% of the arts faculty was Jewish. Have they gone to better universities? Other universities?
  • Muslims were far fewer than Africans, who seemed about one in ten graduates, though they were probably fewer in fact.

There you have it. Expect more educated African-Canadian women in your workforce, and fewer males of all races and ethnicities.

Rupert Sheldrake is brilliant

Rupert Sheldrake is the British biologist who has been taking a stick to the materialist assumptions of modern science. He does so because he thinks we have conflated materialism with science – the former being a doctrine about whatever could be real with a method of inquiry for determining fact.

His point is that science is blocked because it has been in the grip of materialist doctrines, of the kind that the High Priest of materialism, the Selfish Gene theorist, Richard Dawkins, relentlessly promotes. Sheldrake holds that the universe is not limited to material forces and that it is radically evolutionary.

I have corresponded with Sheldrake on occasion, read his books, and am convinced that he is correct. Regardless, Sheldrake has maintained his composure and conducted himself with civility while being constantly savaged by zealots of materialism. It is one of his amazing strengths.

Sheldrake will not persuade materialists that a) they have a doctrine and b) that it is limiting their science. They would assert that their doctrine is in fact reality and their science is impeccable, because materialist. Speaking of intellectual phase locking.

Sheldrake’s website is here.

It takes a Catholic

A Roman Catholic is best suited to slag the current Pope. David Warren rises to the occasion.


Pontification

Allow me to agree with Pope Francis that Holy Church owes the world some “outreach.” Of our 266 popes (plus or minus), I mention that one in particular because he has had more to say about politics than, possibly, all the rest combined. His views on social class, income distribution, imperialism, colonialism, general oppression, environmental issues, anthropogenic climate, immigration controls, and many other topics not traditionally considered to be any of the Church’s business, are broadcast constantly. Moreover, his neglect of her primary mission — the salvation of souls through propagation of the faith — has underlined this by contrast….

Best dinner guest ever!

Stephen Fry reveals himself to be the most learned, the most entertaining, the most humane dinner guest you could ever have. Here he appears with Mr. Selfish Gene. Fortunately Stephen Fry does most of the talking, generally about Greek myth and philosophy, with great panache. He calls it “being alert and playing gracefully with ideas”.

Best dinner guest ever, and I am not talking about the twerp on the left.

Intersectional analysis leads to white nationalism

It seems obvious to me. It seems obvious to Bret Weinstein. If you want to maintain cooperation among races – and other categories of human – you had best oppose intersectionality. Because intersectionality puts whites up against the wall, where they find they must cohere with each other, whether they like it or not, or be suppressed. When reciprocal cooperation breaks down, genetic and tribal cooperation reasserts itself. If the enemy is described as “white”, then they may have to accept that definition and act accordingly. It will not be pretty.

Vivaldi Re-Discovered

Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is perhaps the most popular piece of classical music in the world. But did you know that it was virtually unknown, as was all of Vivaldi’s music, until 1950? And did you know that the famed American writer, Ezra Pound, played a large role in his re-discovery?

One of only two known likenesses of Vivaldi (by Ghezzi)

When Vivaldi died in Vienna in 1741 in obscurity and poverty, his music was already forgotten. During his life, he was a priest, virtuoso violinist, music director of La Pietà (a home for orphaned girls), and the toast of Emperors and Archbishops across Europe. His vast collection of choral music for the Church, keyboard and violin music, and operas, none of which were printed in his lifetime, vanished.

Then, in 1926, the National Library in Turin, Italy, received a letter from the monks of Monferrato offering to sell their music collection to pay for repairs to the Monastery. A Professor Gentili from Turin University was dispatched to examine the works, and, realizing that he had stumbled on a treasure trove he immediately set about finding a benefactor, as the Library was short of funds. He found one in Roberto Foà, a wealthy Turin banker, who purchased the collection and donated it to the Library.

As it turned out, they discovered that this was only half of the Vivaldi collection; the other half was still outstanding. A massive search traced the other works to a Marquis Durazzo who was persuaded by his Jesuit Father Confessor to sell his collection to the Library and, by 1930, the collection was complete.

At the same time, Olga Rudge, an American violinist and Ezra Pound’s long-time mistress, was Secretary of the Accademia Musicale in Siena. Pound had founded the Concerti Tiguilliani, an annual music festival, at Rapallo, where he lived at that time. Pound was captivated by Vivaldi’s music and he and Rudge organized at the 1936 festival a special performance of some of Vivaldi’s works. This was the first time they had been heard in over two hundred years!

Unfortunately, the increasing interest in Vivaldi’s music was interrupted by the Second World War, and only in the late 1940s were the first recordings made. Many of his operas have been heard for the first time as recently as 2006! Motezuma, a story of the Conquest of Mexico, was only discovered in Kiev in 1999.

In his book Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque, H. Robbins Landon recounts his first encounter thus:

In 1950, I happened to be in New York when the famous Cetra recording of “ The Four Seasons” arrived at The Liberty Music Shop and a clerk put it on. The shoppers, myself included, stopped their own activities and started to listen, entranced, to this seductive music which had lain forgotten on library shelves for two hundred years…The Vivaldi renaissance had begun.

But Providence must have had her eye on Vivaldi, because when he died, although his pauper’s funeral could only afford the six pall-bearers and six choirboys, one of those choirboys was Franz Joseph Haydn, himself to become a giant in the world of music some years later.

Rebel Yell

Belief

A youtube video examines the question whether life is unique to this planet, which is an interesting question. We have all been the targets of the “billions and billions” hypothesis of Carl Sagan, who held that it was virtually certain that amidst the billions and billions of stars there must be life. At a certain point in the film, the late Dr. Sagan gets a sliver of time, in which he says that “Faith is belief in the absence of evidence….For me, believing when there is no compelling evidence is a mistake. The idea is to withhold belief until there is compelling evidence.”

Let us think about that statement for a moment. If I stand before you, in plain sight, do you need to believe that I am there? No. Belief in that case is superfluous, and to say that you believe I stand before you when you see me is not an accurate use of the term. If I say I have been to Rome last week, do you need to believe that I was there? I would say yes, a bit, and belief is an appropriate word. But very much less belief is needed to believe that Rome exists than that I was there last week. It doesn’t take much to believe that Rome exists. It is a reasonable inference from thousands of photos, histories, accounts and travelogues that attest to the existence of Rome. Thus the degree of belief is proportionate to the probability of the event in question.

If I hold a pencil in my fingers and open the fingers, I do not believe that the pencil will drop to the ground. I know it. Unless gravity has been amended, the result of letting the pencil go will be that it drops to the ground. And if it floats away, then you know we are on a spaceship.

If you withhold belief until there is compelling evidence, you will never need to believe a thing. Which is the state that Carl Sagan wanted us to live in.

This point was hammered home by our Minister in his Easter sermon. He said from the pulpit: “everybody on this side of the aisle is a strict materialist. Everyone on the other side of the aisle is a believing Christian. We all get into the Tardis – Dr. Who’s time and space machine – and appear at the mouth of the burial cave on Easter morning. The rock has been rolled away, the seals have been broken, the ropes have been broken, and the tomb is empty. What do the materialists all say? “The body has been taken”. What do the Christians say? “He is risen indeed”.”

His point was that better evidence does not necessarily overcome the objection (that say, something happened that was impossible) , that belief might be needed even if you had been present twenty seconds after the Resurrection.

The point of this morning’s sermon is to point out that we do not escape from the need to believe some things. It is easier to believe in the existence of Rome than say, some bohunk hamlet in Oklahoma that you have never heard of. But when something plainly impossible happens, you need belief. Compelling evidence will not be available for the extraordinary or the miraculous. Moreover, large parts of your life run on belief, because you have no compelling evidence for most of the assumptions on which you base your life and actions.

Which is why I think Carl Sagan one of the bigger fools of our time. Regardless, watch the video. We do not need to know nor should we be afraid that we do not know whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Tariffs have just replaced Trump’s ‘Wall’

News this morning that the threat of tariffs was enough to cause the Mexicans to promise better performance in controlling their borders is the surest demonstration that tariffs – if imposed by the United States – have a persuasive effect on smaller actors.

I have watched Steve Bannon be hammered by an arrogant know it all editor of the Economist on this subject. I have watched so great a mind as George Will find that tariffs are the ultimate sin of Big Government.

I know all the arguments. Free trade is good. It reduces prices for consumers. It optimizes lines of production. It expands wealth. Getting rid of them is good.

So why is the middle of America west of the Appalachians becoming an economic desert? Why are entire towns composed of trailers, and why is Walmart the only game in town? Why is the opioid crisis lowering the age of death? Why is there economic despair west of the Mississippi River?

This was the question that voters had to ask themselves in 2016. Their answer, by the narrowest of margins, was Trump. It comes down to something that Tucker Carlson said a while back in an important speech: that the economy is for us, and not we for the economy. The American elites lost sight of the fate of the working class when the value of labour went to nearly zero. I heard language of such contempt for the American white working class coming from white Democrats that, if said about any other group, would be seen as racism. [I have been persuaded that deep snobbery (classism) is as evil as any serious racism.]

I am not persuaded that tariffs are ultimately benign for everyone, but they were used by the Republican Party for a century to help industrialize the United States. Why not now?

And while we are at it, what is the matter with controlling your borders? Even if the threat of tariffs has to be invoked? Much as I admire, and agree with, George Will, the preconditions for the society he wishes to preserve and foster have to be re-created. That would mean an American upper class that gave a damn for the people who inhabit their country. Trump is the visible evidence for that failure, and talking about James Madison’s vision of distributed government will not change that, much as I admire James Madison, and George Will, for that matter.

George Will