Sunday Poem-William Stafford

Traveling Through The Dark
 —–
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
 
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car   
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;   
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
 
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,   
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
 
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;   
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;   
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
 
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,   
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
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From The Atlantic-El Paso Will Have Its Urban Revolution, If Not Today, Then Someday

Full piece here.

Addition: Apparently, talk of a happy, healthy collective reaching one-world harmony has quite the appeal, in whichever context it may appear.

Notice the assumption that everyone should hate sprawl, or at least, all right-thinking people should hate sprawl.

After documenting a fair amount of failure and wasted money in El Paso, our author finishes with:

‘It may not be the city revolution that was depicted in Plan El Paso, and that the city council of the time hoped they’d see. But the revolution has started in small segments of the city, and for some people, that’s enough.

“We see the green shoots of a trend heading in a new direction,” King told me. “To walk around El Paso, you know that El Paso’s biggest achievements are still ahead of it.”’

El Paso isn’t likely to be Austin, nor the Bay Area, nor Park Slope anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean the revolution won’t come!

In fact, I’m guessing El Paso is El Paso, and having passed through a border town with a high Mexican population and not a lot of natural resources, I saw some decent things going for it.

As for the urban revival, The People want to be healthy, and happy, and in tune with Nature and the collective!  We will show them the way!

At the New Urbanist website:

Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”

As previously posted:

Whatever your thoughts on sprawl, here are some of the groups, who, in my opinion, are involved:

Greens and activists who want to control and regulate the energy sector according to their understanding of nature.  Or they at least will control much lawmaking and the political process through activism, while directing massive amounts of federal taxpayer money to developing this vision (chosen and controlled by politicians whom they favor).  Whatever’s going on with the climate, they’re usually willing to overlook the political waste, corruption, higher costs of gas and basic services and fewer jobs that could make us like Europe, without many of the benefits.

The products of modernism and modernist architecture.  Some modernists believe in utopian and semi-utopian visions of the future, or simply, a better world where people should be rounded up and live happily according the visions of a few artists, architects, and city-planners.  They don’t like the suburbs too much.

Collectivists, humanists and multicultural types who like a broad, ‘equality of outcome,’ definition of democracy and believe there will be room for everyone, all races and classes, in the new urban environment (more like European social democrats) if just the right people are in charge.

Anyone with a monied, career or professional, personal or identity-based stake in this vision.

Bob Zubrin pointed out the problems of environmentalism, and the authoritarian impulses behind many environmentalist goals and methods, which I’ve applied to the urbanists in parentheses below:

After the utopian dreams fade, and when the money runs-out, you often just end-up with a movement which further Left types will use to gain leverage, as in Europe:

1.  There isn’t enough to go around (suburbs waste resources like gas, electricity, and materials in addition to lost productivity and time)

2Human nature needs to be constrained as a result (Trains, buses and bikes are the preferred method of transportation instead of cars…while apartments, co-ops and living units instead of houses in the suburbs are the places to live)

3Someone needs to be in charge (Someone like Bloomberg, or similarly paternalistic leaders are ok as long as they line up with the message and enforce the right laws from the top down)

4We volunteer ourselves for the job (Someone’s got to build a vision of the future, and the vision of the artist or architect, or city planners for example, may be enough for the rest of us to live in much like occurs in modernist architecture).

If you’ve been following current cultural trends, there’s been some native New Yorker pushback against the hipsters in Williamsburg.  These urban dwellers often arrive from the suburbs, moving to urban centers in search of identity, group meaning, and membership with a kind of collectivist, artistic, modernist to postmodernist impulse that lines up with urbanism.   They are changing our culture in many ways.

See Also:  Briton Roger Scruton perhaps also wants America to be more like Europe, less rootless, wasteful, and tramping the flowers.  In modernism’s place (souless airports, blank modern facades speaking only to themselves) Scruton suggests Leon Krier’s New Urbanism and a return to more Classical architectureRepost: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Brasilia: A Planned City and Review Of Britain’s “Lost Cities” In The Guardian

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’

You don’t get the progressive base without the restrictive laws…they are baby steps to paradise: Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

What if you’re economy’s already depressed?  Don’t make a maze of laws and build stadiums and museums on the public dime…get new industry: From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.  From Reason Via Youtube: ‘Is Harrisburg’s Nightmare America’s Future?’

30 Years After The Challenger Explosion

A sad day.

After the terrible explosion in 1986, Richard Feynman was included on an independent panel to find out what went wrong.  He discovered a profound difference between engineers’ and managements’ probability estimates for number of flights without failure.  One potential (and very important) reason that a system-ending failure can go unnoticed is the tendency of managers to believe top-down explanations.

It’s vintage Feynman, inconoclastic, penetrating and brilliant:

“for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.”

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Rand Simberg has a different take:

’30 years after Challenger, NASA needs to finally be allowed to instead focus its funding on continuing with what has been working — to help private industry continue to reduce the cost of access to space, and to locations beyond earth orbit, and to make its plans on that basis going forward

Eventually there’s conflict not only between managers and engineers, but bureaucrats and politicians trying to bend institutions to their aims, too.

I see it as a human organizational thing.  Nature can’t be fooled, and takes no prisoners.  Even the best among men, and in man, makes for politics; even well-designed organizations can outlive their usefulness.

Is this really where NASA is?

Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

 

Two Links-Roger Scruton & Theodore Dalrymple

Via The Los Angeles Review Of Books on Roger Scruton: ‘Clement Knox On Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers Of The New Left

‘Scruton is at his best in Central Europe, when conducting his vivisection of the Institute for Social Research, a.k.a. the Frankfurt School, a.k.a. the cultural Marxist — an intellectual movement which must rank alongside monetarism and supply side economics as one of the most astonishingly successful of the 20th century.’

As previously posted-Moral Relativism is actually quite hard to define:

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A quote that stuck out:

‘There’s an attempt to produce a universal, objective morality, but without any conception of where it comes from.’

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Theodore Dalrymple from a while ago, on American cities:

American modernist architecture is convincing compared with the European variety because America is modern, whereas Europe, ever since the end of World War I, has merely tried to be modern, limping sadly after a model.

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘What The New Atheists Don’t See’Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain…From The WSJ Weekend Journal-Theodore Dalrymple: “Man Vs. Mutt”Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com

So, Are You Becoming More Individualistic?

Here are a few operating assumptions on this blog, influences which I realize are at play in my own mind and life. Let me know if you disagree.

They might have some predictive ability, and, then again, they might have quite a bit wrong, and thus, much less predictive ability.

There are plenty of windmills:

1. Individualism, even that to which many libertarians subscribe (draw a ring around the individual, and proceed from there) tends to unmoor many people from the previous obligations, institutions and traditions that were once more prevalent in American life, including that of organized religion (more people, especially educated people in America, are waiting to get married and have babies, for example).  Aside from the economic and technological forces at work in our lives, I’d argue that more people are more inclined to more ‘me-based’ kinds of decisions about work, home, and their personal lives. I hesitate to make any value judgments about such a claim.

Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss…Repost-Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

2. This individualism has been influenced by both modernism and postmodernism in the arts and popular entertainment, and both modernism and postmodernism are full of existentialist and nihilist influences (‘me against the absurdly meaningless void’, and ‘me against the absurdly meaningless void with no possibility of objective knowledge’).  Such influences can help to create a landscape of despairing individuals into which many familiar ‘-isms’ have gained influence, ideas around which individuals are forging meaning and purpose in their lives.  Most of us, after all, can’t bear too much reality, and it’s tough to be alone, and sensible to try and ease the suffering and pain inevitably found in this world (religion is very practiced in such matters).  These influences would include:  New Atheism, Soft Marxism, Pop-Darwinism, Environmentalism, Feminism, Multiculturalism, and a kind of broad, liberal humanism/idealism.

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…

3. Whatever your thoughts on the dangers and downsides to organized religion and its discontents, of which there are no shortage, there are many dangers and downsides to the modern ‘-isms,’ too.  Individuals attached to causes and ideals, without necessarily thinking those causes and ideas through, easily leads to outcomes of ‘more.’  The particular ‘mores,’ of human-rights, more ‘peace,’ more ‘knowledge’ etc. often end-up in an ever-expanding State as a fulfillment of liberal humanism/idealism.  Thus, liberal idealism can have trouble recognizing limits to power, limiting principles to its idealism in the form of institutional power, and can easily overlook where that idealism meets reality and people who think differently.  There are serious design flaws here, highlighted by the activists and radicals seeking constant change beneath such high ideals; driving change and conflict within (where real authoritarians and totalitarians lurk).

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

I’ve got some work to do in thinking more about a deontological rights-based defense of self-ownership, if such a thing is possible, but drop me a line if you’re interested.

From The Independent: ‘Augustine: Conversions And Confessions By Robin Lane Fox, Book Review’

Via a reader:

Book here.

‘Lane Fox’s book is a work of dedicated scholarship and not for the casual reader. This is in no sense a biography and the author touches only relatively briefly on Augustine’s life as bishop of Hippo, his other works and legacy. The focus is on the Confessions, studied in detail to trace Augustine’s complex spiritual pilgrimage. At the same time, Lane Fox provides an immense amount of contextual information about his hometown of Thagaste in North Africa and about Carthage, Rome and Milan, comparing Augustine’s life there with those of some very different contemporaries.’

As previously posted:

So, where do the social-sciences and foreign policy meet?

Roger Sandall argued Fox pointed-out how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon them:

Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’

On This Site: Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…

Romantic primitivism in Australia: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

Via James Lileks-Hip Docents & Radical Chic

I’m guessing every time a reasonable person indulges the latest performance protest at an art opening or public event, they incentivize more such behavior.

If an institution indulges it, however:

‘Upon googling the event, I discovered that it featured The Guerrilla Girls, who are art critics wearing primate masks. This is the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s website:

”In anticipation of the takeover, Mia asked the Guerrilla Girls to evaluate our collection. The results were shocking! How many women were on view? How can we bring equality to history? Discover the mysteries of Mia’s collection.”

Oy. Well, as to the first question, I imagine they mean how many women artists, and the answer for the pre-Modern collection is probably “near zero,” because there weren’t many, and the answer for the Modern collection is probably “close to zero except for Georgia O’Keefe,” because the mostly male art world devalued their importance. I’ve no reason to assume that the abstract expressionists or the action painters or the Pop Art lads were any less dismissive of women in art than the rest of men in various endeavors.

Hip and edgy institutional appropriation of such radicalism, insufferable as it is, also indulges the real radicals/activists.

Does that do the arts any good?

Via David Thompson:

If you build the art museums, some people believe ‘culture’ will follow, radical chic or not.

Thompson on David Byrne of the Talking Heads (featured in the NY Times):

‘I refrain from calling Byrne a socialist, but what goes unsaid here is that our objections are to a prior assumption by believers in state power, namely that because some undertaking is worth doing, that the state ought to be doing it. If Byrne is addressing society in the above quote (and I think he is to some degree, although largely by not making Bastiat’s distinction), he is doing so as if it were an aggregate, even an abstraction. This may be the essence of the statist mind: that an abstracted aggregate of other people ought to be devoting their energies to the effort I deem noble. It’s from there that the demands flow. The collectivist is not asking you to give up expenditures on your hobby to support his (even if his has been fashioned into a career), he’s asking the abstract aggregate to change its trajectory or support the arts or something nebulous and lofty like that. Cargo Culture springs into being when such demands are met.’

Related On This Site: When poetry went into the universities: Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities:Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Hopefully it won’t go this far:  From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate

Repost-Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

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As I’m neither a lawyer nor an economist, feel free to chime in.  Epstein is intense.

Once you convince yourself that the business of government is to ‘worry about the elimination of wealth differentials,” as he states, then you will almost always end up shrinking the pie.  Epstein advocates keeping the pie growing, and removing barriers for people to enter into voluntary exchanges where both parties can benefit.

The income inequality folks often end up making more inequality through good intentions, cinching off the economy at its top through crony capitalism (favoring a few business winners and creating barriers to market entry along with enormous, inefficient bureaucracies).  They can also increase the politicians’ control over the money supply, eroding capital and tying outcomes to short-term political cycles.  Aiming for more equality often leads to less equality, much as the equality of outcome folks want more one-man, one-vote democracy, which is pretty much impossible in practice.

The whole thing slows down and/or stalls as people fight more over less.

***Say you’re more conservative, or religious, a Burkean, a la Kirk, or very interested in what keeps families together and the restraints necessary upon individuals and their own passions, helping to pursue life, liberty and some happiness.  As a libertarian law/economics thinker, Epstein makes the case that conservatism is great for genetic relations and family units, but not always scalable beyond these smaller circles necessary to maintain greater freedoms in civil society:  our families, churches and civic organizations.  He advocates a broader system of voluntarily entered into agreements and contracts, through Chicago School economic theory, which keeps the pie growing below in a large republic like ours.

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***One concern from the conservative perspective is that libertarian theory can introduce an individualism into people’s lives that is destructive as much as constructive, one that can flirt with anarchy, anti-traditional, anti-authority.  Maybe that individualism is already here, as a friend points out, and if so, perhaps it’s better than filling the postmodern hole with rights-based secular humanism, collectivism, or tying postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism proper. There is both a classically liberal and a deeply anarchic libertarianism

Is health care a right?  From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?  Martha Nussbaum worked with Sen in India…Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

Also:  Robert Nozick anticipates arguments for distributive justice in his libertarian response to similar arguments:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

As an aside:  Is it necessary to pursue power and justice when the extension of the ‘negative rights’ of life, liberty and happiness reach you…and thus make it unnecessary to base the rights and obligations of the state in virtue?  What if they don’t reach you?

Also On This Site: In India: Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal and India and America, surely Amartya Sen is deeper than that?: From Outlook India Via A & L Daily: An Interview With Amartya Sen

So, where did Marx get his ideas, anyways? Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

A Few Thoughts-Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker-‘The Pakistani Dystopia’

Full piece here.

Not news, but worth restating:

‘For decades, the Pakistani military has backed insurgent groups whose express aim is to cross into India and fight. (The I.S.I. has also done this in Afghanistan, helping to create and sustain the Taliban.) The ostensible aim of these militant groups, and of the I.S.I., is to bleed India into ceding control over Kashmir. This has never been more than a fantasy, but it keeps the country of Pakistan focussed on something other than its intractable domestic problems, and it justifies the military’s bloated budgets.’

Then again, when we dealt with Pervez Musharraf, we had an ally in the ‘War On Terror’ who was playing us on both ends.  It’s just the cost of doing business.

As previously posted:

Alvaro Vargas LLosa here.

Our author suggests:

“Pakistan’s original sin — the reason for its instability, its dysfunctional politics, and the penetration of its state and society by religious fanaticism — was the brutal influence of military rule in that republic’s short life. And it still is.”

Michael Totten post here.

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What’s life like in a slum in Karachi?  Crime bosses provide basic social services and protection for residents and become populist figures, earning the love and fear of the people.  The bosses then buy off the police.  The corruption is deep,  the makers of the film courageous, and perhaps a little nuts.  The PPP doesn’t necessarily have control. Good film. Perhaps, what the Karachi government is to the Liyari slum, the Federal government is to the FATA region.

From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And Pakistan…A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

Old Playboy Interview With MLK Jr.

Full interview here.

Worth a read:

‘That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.’

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A short story by Flannery O’Connor, as sent in by a reader:

‘He had not walked five hundred yards down the road when he saw, within reach of him, the plaster figure of a Negro sitting bent over on a low yellow brick fence that curved around a wide lawn. The Negro was about Nelson’s size and he was pitched forward at an unsteady angle because the putty that held him to the wall had cracked. One of his eyes was entirely white and he held a piece of brown watermelon.’

Redemption, mercy, original sin, and a decent short-story leaving you not knowing what to think, exactly.

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Also As Sent In: Martin Luther King’s intellectual development came mainly through theology and seminary, social gospel (addressing social injustices), but also depended on various other sources, including Gandhi’s non-violent resistance (not acquiescence) to displace the force of the laws used against blacks for centuries. He welcomed a broad definition of rights enacted into law to include black folks, and a vast involvement of Federal authority…

And…where some of that energy has gone…further Left.

Cornel West.:

‘Being a leftist is a calling, not a career; it’s a vocation not a profession. It means you are concerned about structural violence, you are concerned about exploitation at the work place, you are concerned about institutionalized contempt against gay brothers and lesbian sisters, hatred against peoples of color, and the subordination of women.’

Related On This Site:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

One way out of multiculturalism and cultural relativism:

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

They’ve got to keep up with the times:A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama