Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
An excellent essay, as Berkowitz's work generally is. A couple of excerpts:
Apparently, Obama and his team believed that clearly explaining the ambitious changes they hoped to enact would lose the election. In fact, it is nothing new for progressives in America to recognize that they are out of step with majority sentiment. What is new is the determination to disguise that democratic deficit.
Much . . . could be said about progressivism’s errors. Most damagingly, it argued that because progress had improved humanity and dissolved or overcome legitimate differences of opinion about morals and politics, the Constitution’s checks and balances and separation and dispersing of power were no longer necessary to prevent majority tyranny and officeholders’ abuse of power.
A central paradox of American progressivism arises from the divergence between its democratic aspirations and its aristocratic ambitions. On the one hand, progressives sought to democratize American politics by putting government in the service of, and giving greater say to, the people. On the other hand, they favored the enlargement of a distant national government, and the creation of an administrative elite that reduced popular accountability.
In the progressive classic The Promise of American Life (1914), Herbert Croly identified the source of this paradox with startling candor. Centralization and elite control were necessary to advance democratic ends because American constitutional government was based on “erroneous and misleading ideas,” and “the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.”
Monday, January 25, 2010
Today is Robert Burns's birthday, time for all of us who are Scots, part Scot, or wish we were, to celebrate the incredibly rich heritage the Scots have left to us. It would be a long list, but let me just mention David Hume, Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, a movement with which Burns was associated, not to mention the American Founding, and of course the great amelioration or at least temporary respite of the troubles of mankind that is Scots whiskey.
Here is one famous lyric of Burns, often called "For a' that, an a' that":
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.
Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
I have no Scottish blood that I know of, though I suppose my WASP father and his ancestors might have had some Scottish blood unbeknownst to me. My mother's sisters both married into Scotland by marrying, one after the other died, in fact, the descendant of an old Scottish pioneer family in Idaho, the Laidlaws, which went there to raise sheep and hell, not necessarily in that order. My uncle Sandy then was the classic Scottish terrier of a man: small and, uh, peppery (to say the very least), he fought with Gen. Patton in the war and could probably have outcursed him. Boise's now lost and unlamented Cub Club allegedly banned him for foul language. Family feuding and onerous death taxes forced him and his brothers to sell the ranch in the 1950's and by then his beloved eldest boy had been killed on a highway while herding sheep, which changed my uncle permanently, everybody said. This was a real shame, as the family had been quite significant in the history of the sheep industry in the American West.
His second wife, who pretty much smoked and drank herself to death at a young age, was my favorite aunt and I like to think, I her favorite nephew. Many was the scrape she got me out of with tyrannical nuns by concocting the most outrageous lies on my behalf. I would entertain her by singing my version of Louis Armstrong songs. Possibly the Scotch helped her find me funny. She I should perhaps mention, was Irish, not Scottish. In spite of smoking numberless packs of Camel unfiltered and a bottomless supply of Scotch (the empties of which he and his wife would drop off at Salvation Army donation booths) my uncle lived to old age. When his father died, the ground had been frozen so solid in Muldoon they used dynamite to blast out a hole, and made one big enough to bury a pick up truck. My uncle though is buried on Morris Hill near my father and other relatives. Anyway, let's hear it for Scotland.
Science marches on, as a dating site analyzes the data and explodes some myths. It is a fascinating post that confirms some of the conventional wisdom but refutes other parts of it.
One of their findings: while women should make eye contact and either smile or flirt in the picture, men should not make eye contact, and don't need to smile.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I don't go out to the movies too often, preferring to catch them at home. But I saw Up in the Air last night and I am quite glad I did. The movie was really excellent. It kept my attention, was funny, had a serious message, was not offensive in any way, and was fresh. I am no expert about awards, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it win the Acadamy Award. While others might predict Avatar, which I haven't seen, based on what I heard about it, I would think Hollywood would be more proud of this film than Avatar. And maybe they would vote that way rather than based on special effects and blockbusterness.