When the Data is Errata

You may have seen an open letter that was recently written by some indignant Black students at Claremont Colleges, a consortium of pricy schools in Los Angeles. The occasion of their letter was a planned lecture by Heather Mac Donald, in which I understand the Black Lives Matter movement will be denounced, and to the delivery of which these students are consequently opposed. Their burden of their letter is that speech is Power, so power is speech, and censorship therefore enjoys Constitutional protection. Continue reading

A Rift in the Lute

Had you stepped inside the fashionable Fargo Barbecue the other day, you would have seen a local gallant named Snapper Darrill Rush dining with his inamorata.  On the table between the lovebirds, amid clean-picked rib bones and one or two fugitive beans, you would also have seen the cell phone of Mr. Rush.  Had your entrance come at what was to be a fateful moment, you would have heard that cell phone ring, and you would have seen the inamorata reach out and answer it.

That was her first mistake.

Continue reading

Yesterday’s homework

We got some good answers in the comments.  I will try to be brief in my own notes.

Conservative readers were expecting the author to condemn attachments based on biology and to propose his scheme as a way to overcome them.  In fact, his scheme requires that people continue to especially value their biological progeny; the goal, stated plainly, is to get parents to love their children less, to shift focus from the children they are raising to a more diffuse concern for people in general.  Parents are to be deliberately alienated from the children under their care so that attention shifts from those whom they are in a position to help greatly and who require from them an enormous personal investment toward strangers for whom they can do little for good or ill.  The suggestion that his scheme would improve prenatal care is similar:  take away a huge incentive from the person who most determines prenatal care; replace it with an insignificant, diffuse incentive on people with essentially no control over the care of the fetus; expect good results.  The insanity of socialism in a nutshell.

Other unargued assumptions that should be contested:

  • Even if this were a good thing to do, who is this “we” who has the authority to do it?
  • Although the argument does not require that intense partiality (love) is bad, it does assume that it is not so valuable that it can’t be sacrificed to the presumed good of racial equality.
  • The idea that cultural continuity can persist without biological continuity presumes that culture may not concern itself with biological continuity.  In fact, we know many do, and no argument is given why this is illegitimate.


Owned Government Would Tend to Good Government

If government were the personal property of some men, they would have no reason to engage in corruption, and very good reasons to avoid it. So there would be less corruption, and a truer focus on policies that really worked for the benefit of the people (ergo, on tradition). For, good policy engenders prosperity, and prosperity generates lots of revenues for the sovereign. Where the sovereign can profit honestly and honorably from wise government, there will tend to be wise government. The net present value to the sovereign of the income from the golden goose far outweighs the value of the slaughtered goose.

Continue reading

They Already Take Our Children

Here’s another thought, Bonald.  They don’t yet take our newborns, but they already take our children.  It calls itself public education and its main result is a massively uneducated public. So that it doesn’t come to their taking our babies, I propose some proactive steps.

We need a Constitutional amendment that states, Congress shall pass no law concerning the establishment of education; and neither shall the legislature of any state or municipality pass any similar law.  A concomitant statutory law would state: It is legal for any citizen to provide education, either for a fee or charitably.   This would have the effect of abolishing public education while at the same time organizing the market to sort out who is or is not a teacher. These steps would greatly reduce the alienation of children from their families in their formative years.

I would favor another statute at the Federal level making it illegal for colleges and universities to domicile students.  Students who wanted or needed domiciliary arrangements while attending college or university would have to seek them in the private sector.  This would have several beneficial effects. It would greatly reduce the captive-audience phenomenon that abets indoctrination.  It would motivate fee-payers shopping for institutions to which to send those of their children who merited higher education to highlight the criterion of proximity over the criterion of status or prestige. It would therefore encourage people to send their children to nearby colleges, to and from which it would be possible to commute.  No group of people in our society has a greater need, in my estimation, of continuous contact with home and family than the undergraduate population of our colleges and universities.

My first Constitutional amendment would probably disestablish state colleges and universities. That would be good, too.

(Bonald, I first entered this as a comment in your latest thread, but on consideration it seemed too off-topic.)

Homework assignment: reassigning babies

Conservatives are those who have taken on the task of defending common sense against insane ideologues.  This can be harder than it sounds, since the ideologue merely needs to invoke some generally accepted but ultimately insane principle and draw out one if its insane conclusions, while the conservative must take things back to first principles; he must articulate and defend the tacit background assumptions of mankind.

It is a commonplace of education research that we learn by doing, by constructing (with guidance) our own knowledge.  Therefore, I provide a homework assignment for readers.

  1. Read the excerpt at Steve Sailer’s blog from Howard Rachlin’s thought experiment / argument that babies should be randomly reassigned to mothers at birth, with the exception that each mother will know that it definitely won’t be her baby she’ll be coming home with.  The argument is that this should be done in the interests of equality and eliminating racism.  See link for details.  (Or you can read the source, which is not much longer.)
  2. Explain in 150 words or less why this idea is evil, crazy, and stupid.  (Okay, I won’t count words, but please strive to maintain normal comment length.)
  3. Solutions to be posted tomorrow.

Making peace with death: the ideal human lifespan

I’ve just finished reading The Consolations of Mortality:  Making Sense of Death by Andrew Stark.  I enjoyed the book, but instead of reviewing it, I prefer to give some thoughts it prompted in me.  The author’s goal is to find a way to reconcile people like himself to their own mortality, people like himself being those who do not believe in an afterlife and see life as a good thing rather than a vale of tears best escaped.  Life has been good to me, and I do have trouble believing in a life after this one, so the book appealed to me.  Still, one might sense a contradiction in the whole project.  The search for consolation–arguments to justify a desired emotional state rather than a search for truth irrespective of how it might make one feel–is an invitation to dishonesty, and yet Professor Stark seems to be a very honest man, so that much of the book involves him probing suggested reasons not to fear death and finding that they fail to hold up upon examination.

Continue reading

Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony

Mahler-Klemperer S2 Album Cover

Introduction. Readers of The Orthosphere might approach the following essay as though it were an addition to a suite of music-appreciation essays that I have posted at this website.  Previously at The Orthosphere, I have commented on the music of Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959), Eduard Tubin (1905 – 1982), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), and Howard Hanson (1896 – 1981).  Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) is by far a more important composer than any of those four despite the fact that each is a splendid and wonderful composer in his own way.  I have reason to believe that once, during his sojourn in New York State and on his way to Niagara Falls with his wife, Mahler passed through the small town on Lake Ontario where, in my exile from my native California, I have lived since the fall of the fateful year 2001.  A fair number of Mahler acquaintances made their way to California in the 1930s.  I knew musical people in California who had known Mahler – or who had known Mahler’s wife or daughter.  I knew others who, like me, had come powerfully under the spell of Mahler, whose influence may be heard in certain landmark film-scores, like those, for example, of Eric Korngold.  For me, Mahler has been a presence, immediate and personal, since my late teens, when I began to make my acquaintance with his extraordinary symphonies on record.  That was the heyday , at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, of the long-playing vinyl album.  Usually, the album came with extensive, small-type notes on the reverse of the cover or with a booklet inside the sleeve that was even more detailed than the back-of-the-sleeve essay.

It was possible in Los Angeles in the early 1970s to purchase “boxed sets” of the Mahler symphonies in the so-called Vox Box series – vintage (usually monophonic) recordings offered in three-disc sets for about a dollar per disc.  I probably first heard the “Resurrection” Symphony (Symphony No. 2, begun in the late 1880s and finished in the early 1890s) in one of the many recordings of that work made by Otto Klemperer, a Mahler-acolyte and noteworthy itinerant conductor, who became especially associated with Mahler’s “Resurrection.”

Continue reading

The “Ula Lu La Lu” & Consciousness: Meditations on an Imagist Poem by William Carlos Williams

Botticelli Venus

Sandro Botticelli: Venus (1486)

Introduction. The American poet William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963) began his authorship with imagist poems and quirky mixtures of prose and verse like Spring and All (1923), a book that intersperses paragraphs of speculation concerning poetry, consciousness, and the world with seemingly improvised but in reality carefully composed verse-effusions that attempt an audacious transformation of the banal into the sublime.  Scholars of Twentieth-Century American poetry invariably categorize Williams as modern or avant-garde, but I would argue that Williams continues strongly in the Transcendentalist or American-Romantic tradition of the century previous to his own.  Spring and All, supposedly an epitome of idiosyncratic American modernism, offers a case in point, even in those statements where Williams appears to reject tradition altogether and extols the virtue of “the imagination, freed from the handcuffs of ‘art.’”  In an early prose-sequence of Spring and All, Williams denounces those whom he calls “The Traditionalists of Plagiarism.”  Williams uses the term plagiarism in an unusual way, as a failure of consciousness  and perception to rediscover the newness and beauty – indeed even the sublimity – of the given world in all its particulars.  In effect, in Spring and All, Williams engages a new version of the Romantic critique of complacency, recording, as he puts it, “our despair at the unfathomable mist into which all mankind is plunging.”

Complacency is the failure of imagination to invest fully in the structure of reality and the order of being; complacency is the epistemological and cognitive counterpart of original sin.  Williams, like all good Romantics, aims at redeeming humanity from its wretched lapse, its Winter of Discontent, so as to establish men and women in the paradisiacal springtime of refreshed apprehension.

Continue reading