Bitter Grace
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in amaebi's LiveJournal:

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    Sunday, March 29th, 2015
    8:20 pm
    A man like Goldwater
    "One of the unspoken assumptions of presidential campaigns is that the leaders of both parties are patriots who, however serious their mistakes, must be accorded the right to govern. But an essential point in the pseudo-conservative world view is that our recent Presidents, being men of wholly evil intent, have conspired against the public good. This does more than discredit them. It calls into question the validity of the political system that keeps putting such men into office.

    "A man like Goldwater, who lives psychologically half in the world of our routine politics and half in the curious intellectual underworld of the pseudo-conservatives, can neither wholly accept nor wholly reject such a position. He disdains and repudiates its manifest absurdities (Eisenhower as a communist agent), but he lives off the emotional animus that gives birth to them. This ambiguity makes it more understandable why, on the night of this defeat, he so flagrantly violated the code of decorum governing the conduct of losing presidential candidates. The code requires a message of congratulation, sent as soon as the result is beyond doubt, so worded that it emphasizes the stake of the whole nation in the successful administration of the victor, and reasserts the loser's acceptance of the public verdict. In withholding his congratulations until the morning after the election, and then in hinting at Johnson's incapacity to solve the acute problems gratuitously enumerated in his telegram, Goldwater did something more than show bad manners. By complying with the code, but grudgingly and tardily, he expressed his suspicion that the whole American political system, with its baffling ambiguities and compromises, is too soft and too equivocal for this carnivorous world."

    - Richard Hofstadter (2012). "Goldwater and Pseudo-Conservative Politics," in The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Vintage.
    6:12 pm
    A mighty nation and a faithful remnant
    "Monier-Williams, in a postscript appended to the preface to Buddhism expressly for this purpose, states that he is much concerned about `a prevalent error... [that] is persistently propagated.' He then complains:

    "`Almost every European writer on Buddhism, of late years, has assisted in giving currency to this utterly erroneous calculation, and it is nighttime that an attempt should be made to dissipate a serious misconception. It is forgotten that mere sympathizers with Buddhism, who occasionally conform to Buddhistic practices, are not true Buddhists. In China the great majority are first of all Confucianists and then either Taoists or Buddhists or both. In Japan Confucianism and Shintoism co-exist with Buddhism. In some other Buddhist countries a kind of Shamanism is practically dominant. The best authorities... are of opinion that there are not more than 100 millions of real Buddhists in the world, and that Christianity with its 430 to 450 millions of adherents has now the numerical preponderance over all other religions. I am entirely of the same opinion. I hold that the Buddhism, described in the following pages, contained within itself, from the earliest times, the germs of disease, decay, and death..., and that its present condition is one of rapidly increasing disintegration and decline. (xv)'

    "In effect, the `real Buddhists' do not ad up to even a quarter of the Christian population. Here, not only does Monier-Williams dispute the numbers but,more fundamentally, he claims Buddhists are destined for extinction anyway, theirs being a death-embracing pseudo religion whose ultimate goal is annihilation and nothingness.No doubt intended as an assurance fellow-Christians, his emphatic, double-barreled negation of the preponderance of Buddhism attests to the measure of anxiety felt by European scholars and their audiences.

    "Somewhat more charitably thanMonier-Williams, Rhys Davuids suggests that the numbers are in themselves an inadequate indicator of the actual conditions, and that they should therefore be left alone At the same time, in concert with Monier-Williams, he also mentions that Buddhists customarily affiliate themselves simultaneously with other `systems' and cults, and, he avers, none of them is strictly or purely Buddhist; or, as he puts it: `Not one of the five hundred millions who offer flowers now and then on Buddhist shrines, who are more or less moulded by Buddhist teaching, is only or altogether a Buddisht.'"

    - Tomoko Masuzawa (2005). The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism. University of Chicago Press.
    Saturday, March 28th, 2015
    3:51 pm
    Advertising
    Every now and then I love a company's concept of what will appeal to its customers. This is R.H. Shumway's:
    "Are you sick of scouring ditches looking for fresh asparagus? Are you tired of sneaking into your neighbor's yard in the middle of the night to grab some rhubarb? Then plant your own! With just a little bit of time and effort, you can have patches of these spring-time favorites happily growing in your own backyard. Take a look at our top-quality asparagus and rhubarb roots and place your order now for best availability.."
    2:34 pm
    If, like me, you've wondered about the content of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposed....
    Paul Krugman is agin.

    Myself, I nearly universally favour free trade- there are nearly always better policy instruments for accomplishing goals other than limiting trade. But a trade agreement can contain all sorts of clauses not directly related to tariffs: ah, the wonders of log-rolling. And I haven't red the document, and few others have-- I've been concerned about the desire to fast-track it. (Yes, I know that this congress is ridiculously obstructive. That's not enough for me.)

    I noted that Elizabeth Warren opposes the agreement, and I pay attention to that, but I still felt short of details.

    So I'm grateful for this from Paul Krugman, with whom I typically agree.
    6:28 am
    Monday, March 23rd, 2015
    5:59 pm
    Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
    9:47 pm
    8:13 am
    We're on a trip
    We are in New Orleans, having driven down through Colorado andTexas.

    We had dinner Thursday night in a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Trinidad, CO, Friday night in an excellent barbeque restaurant* in Wichita Falls, and a completely ridiculously good dinner last night at the Bourbon House in the French quarter. I haven't been in New Orleans in twenty years, and the cuisine's clearly levitated from excellent to completely ludicrous. I mean, really.

    I am daylighting the avoidance-of-sweetener and avoidance-of-alcohol Lenten disciplines for the duration of our stay, observing them only in daylight hours. But today is Sunday, and I shall have a beignet and, later, a praline.

    Yesterday we stopped in Opelousas for lunch. When we found that Crawfish Corner was takeout-only I was kind of bucking for the Town Cafe, because I knew how it would be. But not only the crawfish and the shrimp, but the corn and potatoes actually made it worthwhile for me to have a bag-napped lapful of warm food. At the conclusion I asked both Chun Woo and Sheeyun to sing me a small song of praise for having peeled arthropods for them.


    * Texas isn't my religion: KC - St.Louis corridor is. But this was really good, with the fried okra righteous beyond dreams. We were constitutionally unfit to attempt trifecta by having pie at the end of the meal.
    Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
    5:13 pm
    3:12 pm
    Meritocracy
    "I have heard upscale adult U.S. citizens ask the Guest Relations Desk whether snorkeling necessitates getting wet, whether the skeet shooting will be held outside, whether the crew sleeps on board, and what time the Midnight Buffet is."
    - David Foster Wallace (2012). A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: An Essay. Little, Brown.

    Word.

    At the very least, this suggests that procreation is not meritocratic.

    I think it suggests a whole mess of other things.
    12:08 pm
    Monday, March 16th, 2015
    4:30 pm
    Anti-bullying
    altamira16 asked me to expand on how I worked with Chun Woo to help him become nearly unbullyable.

    The very best thing I encountered, I didn't meet up with till Chun Woo was four and I was waiting in a doctor's office for a congregation member to finish an appointment. In an interview, an anti-bullying expert characterized bullying as a game which the person doing bullying wins by getting the mark to get angry or cry. And, suggested the expert I paraphrase, the best way to get the bully to stop is to give neither of those responses, but instead blandly to bore the bully to death.

    It can take some willpower, especially, I imagine, if the bullying relationship is established.And it's also considerably less useful for physical than for verbal hectoring.

    But it's pretty magical.
    Sunday, March 15th, 2015
    3:30 pm
    hesed v' ohev
    I am i the process of finishing translation of Psalm 31, and I love it. In particular, the phrase הַשֹּׁמְרִים הַבְלֵי-שָׁוְא, which means the keepers or guards of wasting/exhausting emptiness/vanity.
    Saturday, March 14th, 2015
    12:10 pm
    Creation and constraint
    This morning I was greatly impressed by this article.

    It has me thinking of such a complex lot of things.

    I look at the creative, life-giving work of those imprisoned persons and think that it depended on prison permissions. And how unlikely it was, in prison culture, that the permissions were granted. (And of course I think about how many free-world people without prison connections tend to dismiss the imprisoned as "bad guys," without being willing to know them or to know the conditions the imprisoned live under.)

    And I think about a possible world where societies funded that sort of work among free populations.

    And where those life-nurturing workers were free.

    And I think about the patience and love required for this kind of work, and how few free-world people exercise so much patience and immediately disinterested care.

    What if we regarded ourselves as prisoners of this planet-- and as its caretakers?
    4:51 am
    Thursday, March 12th, 2015
    7:50 am
    #saturdayschool
    The rage in the icon is not my current stance: it's a topic.

    One of the Twitter communities I enjoy frequenting is #saturdayschool , founded and maintained by @profragsdale , which congregates on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. US Central Time. There participants discuss and share resources related to social justice topics.

    This last Saturday, the topic was sorrow and mourning. And I PMed @profragsdale asking whether she was going to do anger. She said that was a good idea and invited me to "lead"*. So that's something I'll be doing in about 48 hours. And I wanted to invite interested persons to come.


    * The quotation marks are because there are all sorts of styles that can be and have been used, from opening with thoughts (and maybe resources) and then letting 'er rip, to being present for the entire discussion. I anticipated being present and also letting 'er rip.
    Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
    7:35 am
    Today's phrase
    From an Elizabeth Warren email of yesterday: "the necessary trouble of heroes." (With reference to Selma and the Selma anniversary.)
    Saturday, March 7th, 2015
    3:47 pm
    Public goods
    "`People understand that high-speed Internet access is quickly becoming a national infrastructure issue just like the highways were in the 1950s [and are now],' Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke told CNN Money. `If the private sector is unable to provide that kind of bandwidth because of the steep infrastructure investment, then just like highways in the 1950s [and now], the government has to consider providing that support.'"

    The headline refers to Chattanooga's public provision of online services as communism. I am deeply opposed to the knee-jerk scapegoating of communism and communists that's a USian commonplace, and have no fear of communism as a term, as a school of political economy or history, as a political ideal or even as an earthly attempt at that ideal.* But I think that use of the term here is a misnomer.

    This is a socialized provision of internet services.

    There are a lot of socialized enterprises in the United States. We are a mixed economy. By and large, these are in a category denominated "public goods and services."

    Such goods and services are hard for private providers to charge for and gain revenue from, because they are difficult to exclude users from. Think of toll booths on highways-- slow, cumbersome, non-trivially costly. Now imagine them on every byway and lane.

    Such goods and services have a very low marginal cost for increased usage-- while an increased number of drivers affects one's own driving experience, roads have to be very crowded indeed for one more vehicle to make a difference to us. That is, consumption of them is relatively non-rivalrous.

    And most of them require a tremendous capital outlay despite the low marginal cost of providing the good or service once that capital investment is made.

    For these reasons private industry does not provide socially desirable amounts of such goods and services. Back before "the market"** became a matter of religion in the U.S., large corporations like Bell Telephone provided such services under government regulation that required them to serve communities they wouldn't otherwise have bothered with, and regulated prices to make the services genuinely accessible, while also making sure the providing company made adequate profits.

    In the Chattanooga case, public provision of internet services has resulted in the community-wide mitzvah of a desirable environment for much-coveted technical firms. A very public good indeed.


    *It's not substantially scarier to me that a lot of earthly attempts at democracy.
    ** Firms are not the market or markets. Firms are substitutes for markets, as Ronald Coase indicated in "The Nature of the Firm", one of the two papers for which he won a Nobel Prize.
    2:39 pm
    Demonstrating im/possibility
    "We have yet to stop our own political rhetoric to address the basic question about what kind of place and in what type of society we want to live.

    "Society should not exist to make a few people fabulously wealthy while others starve."


    (The author seems to me immediately afterward to underrate the mutual responsibility entailed in feudalism, but that's a trivial detail not related to the main thrust of the article. And believe me, I'm not bucking for feudalism.)
    Thursday, March 5th, 2015
    11:34 am
    Fourth Grade Math Club: Problems for the March meeting
    These were distributed last Friday-- I was too short on time to ask y"all to check them for me.Collapse )

    * I forgot to make the principal of indeterminate gender, in my efforts to name the figure M.Y. Opia.
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