Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oranges - Gary Soto (1987)

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Kiss Off -- Violent Femmes (1983)

Gordon Gano wrote the lyrics to the songs on the album Violent Femmes while he was still in high school. I bought this record at the Harvard Coop in 1985. My roommate in school thought that "Nine for my lost God" was the best line. I still think it's "I forget what Eight was for."

I need someone, a person to talk to
Someone who'd care to love
Could it be you, could it be you
Situation gets rough then I start to panic
It's not enough, it's just a habit
Hey, kid your sick well, darling this is it
You can all just kiss off into the air
Behind my back I can see them stare
They'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
They'll hurt me bad, they do it all the time
Yeah, yeah, they do it all the time
I hope you know this will go down
On your permanent record
Oh yeah, well don't get so distressed
Did I happen to mention that I'm impressed
I take one one one cause you left me and
Two, two, two for my family and
Three, three, three for my heartache and
Four, four, four for my headaches and
Five, five, five for my lonely and
Six, six, six for my sorrow and
Seven, seven for no tomorrow and
Eight, eight I forget what eight was for and
Nine, nine, nine for my lost God and
Ten, ten, ten, ten for everything
Everything, everything, everything
You can all just kiss off into the air
Behind my back I can see them stare
They'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
They'll hurt me bad, they do it all the time
Yeah, yeah, they do it all the time


Friday, May 29, 2015

Movies as Suicide Prevention: Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

If you kill yourself, you can never watch this movie again (Duck Soup, 1933).

Mickey: A week ago I bought a rifle, I went to the store - I bought a rifle! I was gonna, you know, if they told me I had a tumor, I was gonna kill myself. The only thing that might've stopped me - MIGHT'VE - is that my parents would be devastated. I would have to shoot them also, first. And then I have an aunt and uncle - you know - it would've been a blood bath.


Mickey: One day about a month ago, I really hit bottom. Ya know I just felt that in a Godless universe I didn't wanna go on living. Now I happen to own this rifle, which I loaded believe it or not, and pressed it to my forehead. And I remember thinking, I'm gonna kill myself. Then I thought, what if I'm wrong, what if there is a God. I mean, after all nobody really knows that. Then I thought no, ya know maybe is not good enough, I want certainty or nothing. And I remember very clearly, the clock was ticking, and I was sitting there frozen with the gun to my head, debating whether to shoot.

[gun fires]

Mickey: All of a sudden the gun went off. I had been so tense my finger squeezed the trigger inadvertently. But I was perspiring so much the gun had slid off my forehead and missed me. Suddenly neighbors were pounding on the door, and I dunno the whole scene was just pandemonium. I ran to the door, I didn't know what to say. I was embarrassed and confused and my mind was racing a mile a minute. And I just knew one thing I had to get out of that house, I had to just get out in the fresh air and clear my head. I remember very clearly I walked the streets, I walked and I walked I didn't know what was going through my mind, it all seemed so violent and unreal to me. I wandered for a long time on the upper west side, it must have been hours. My feet hurt, my head was pounding, and I had to sit down I went into a movie house. I didn't know what was playing or anything I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts and be logical and put the world back into rational perspective. And I went upstairs to the balcony, and I sat down, and the movie was a film that I'd seen many times in my life since I was a kid, and I always loved it. I'm watching these people up on the screen and I started getting hooked on the film. I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself, I mean isn't it so stupid. Look at all the people up there on the screen, they're real funny, and what if the worst is true. What if there is no God and you only go around once and that's it. Well, ya know, don't you wanna be part of the experience? You know, what the hell it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, Jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And then I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How Fraternities Used to Be

"μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος"
New Criterion
"The fraternity system is as old as America. The first fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, was founded in 1776 at William and Mary. That society, which still awards membership based on academic performance, strove to promote fellowship, intellect, and moral conduct. By the 1820s, Phi Beta Kappa had transformed into a purely academic society as fraternities started to spread across American colleges. These organizations, which were literary and social societies, were founded very much in the same spirit as Phi Beta Kappa. They fashioned themselves with the model of ancient Greece in mind. They were named after Greek letters during a period in American history when “Greece eclipsed Rome as the model for virtuous citizenship in the American imagination and at colleges particularly,” as the historian Nicholas L. Syrett writes in The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities. “To be Greek,” he goes on, “was to hearken back to the ancients, to the ideals of the founding of Western civilization; it was also to subscribe to notions of self-improvement through literature and oratory.”
Like the band of friends in Plato’s Symposium, fraternity members came together around two common interests: fellowship and intellectual cultivation. To discipline one’s mind, as Syrett notes, was part of living a virtuous life, which is what the fraternity brothers aspired to do. Meeting minutes from the mid-1800s show brothers at schools like Amherst, Yale, and the University of Michigan gathering to discuss Shakespeare, the benefits and drawbacks of the United States admitting New Mexico into the Union, and “the character of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.” Manliness was defined in terms of being intelligent, socially graceful, handsome, and morally upright—that is, being a gentleman. In 1836, a fraternity at Williams College determined whether to admit men into their brotherhood by asking: “Would you want your sister to marry him?
By the 1920s, the ideal of masculinity changed from the more genteel manliness of the antebellum period to one grounded in physical prowess, athleticism, sexual virility, and aggression. Drinking had occurred previously in fraternities, but the fraternity brothers tried to drink “gentlemanly” quantities—that is, in moderation. But by the post-World War I period, excessive drinking—not self-control—became a mark of masculinity. The more manliness and drinking became intertwined, the more college men drank themselves to the point of oblivion.
Part of the reason ideals of manliness changed, Syrett points out, is women. As women started attending colleges that were traditionally all-male, men not only responded with hostility, but they felt compelled to assert their manliness in new ways. Women, after all, were now equal to men in the eyes of the college. They could engage in the same intellectual exercises as the fraternity men of the antebellum period. But what women could not do was rival men in their physicality, which included their drinking prowess. Another dividing line between men and women was the act of sex itself. For men, sexual prowess became a signature of manhood. “It was in the twenties,” writes Syrett, “that it became popular—indeed, commonplace—for young, middle-class men, fraternity brothers among them, to discuss their sexual exploits with each other.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Norway's Mass Murderer, in The New Yorker

He killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011. He's now serving a 21 year (extendable) sentence, and studying political science via the University of Oslo. See also: The Mass Murderer Triad and this post on Tim McVeigh.

New Yorker

"An initial court-ordered psychiatric review concluded that Breivik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but a second review diagnosed only “dissocial personality disorder” and “narcissistic traits.” The court ruled that he was not psychotic.
What can prompt a relatively well-functioning man to do something so horrific? In the midst of a stable, prosperous, and orderly country? Is it possible to ever comprehend it?
Based on Breivik’s political rhetoric and his self-understanding, and also on his chosen targets—Regjeringskvartalet and the ruling party’s youth organization—it is natural to draw a comparison between his act and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh, in an anti-government protest, parked a truck bomb outside a federal building and murdered a hundred and sixty-eight people. Indeed, Breivik took the Oklahoma City bombing as a model for the first part of his attack. However, almost everything else regarding Breivik and his crime points away from the political and the ideological and toward the personal. He made himself a sort of military commander’s uniform, in which he photographed himself before the crime; he consistently referred to a large organization, of which he claimed to be a prominent member but which does not exist; in his manifesto he interviews himself as if he were a hero; and the impression this gives is of a person who has erected a make-believe reality, in which his significance is undisputed. The way in which he carried out his crime, and the way his thoughts contextualized it, resembles role-playing, rather than political terrorism. The solitude this implies is enormous, not to mention the need for self-assertion. The most logical approach is to view his actions as a variation on the numerous school massacres that have occurred in the past decades in the United States, Finland, and Germany: a young man, a misfit, who is either partly or completely excluded from the group, takes as many people with him into death as he can, in order to “show” us.
A few months before Breivik carried out the assault, he visited his former stepmother and told her that soon he was going to do something that would make his father proud. His mother had left his father when he was one, and it had been years since Breivik had spoken to him.
He wanted to be seen; that is what drove him, nothing else.
Look at me. Look at me. Look at me."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Alec Guinness, Haydn, and Montaigne

Ah, CinemaScope.

"Few things are rarer than a performer who takes a broader view of the world of art. One such artist was Alec Guinness, who published four books, all of them nominally autobiographical, that offer evidence of his aesthetic cultivation and unusually wide-ranging interests. In "A Positively Final Appearance," a 1999 volume of journal entries written toward the end of his long life, he tossed off this passing remark: "For me there are two salves to apply when I feel spiritually bruised—listening to a Haydn symphony or sonata (his clear common sense always penetrates) and seeking out something in Montaigne's essays. This morning, in spite of the promise of a bright cloudless day, I woke curmudgeonly and disapproving of the world and most of its inhabitants. Montaigne pulled me up sharply." Has it ever occurred to anyone else to yoke those two great spokesmen for the civilized virtues of the Age of Reason? If so, it's news to me."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Arrogant, bullying jerk = Successful general?

General George S. Patton
My guess is no. Sherman and Grant certainly weren't bullies, nor was Omar Bradley. MacArthur and Wellington were bullying victims, not bullies. By all accounts it seems like Black Jack Pershing was a pretty good guy. Even Georgie Patton is more complex a character than can be summed up in the label, "bully."

"When George Cabot Lodge, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, talks of the prewar years, he remembers a specific game of tackle football he played as a 10-year-old, and the man screaming and swearing on the sidelines. The man was wearing boots and breeches, apparently just off a horse, and was exhorting his son with four-letter words to “get in there and fight!”
It was 1937. America was at peace. George S. Patton was not. So conspicuous was the cavalryman among the mothers (and it was only mothers, Lodge recalls) at the Shore Country Day School on Boston’s genteel North Shore that Lodge remembers feeling bad for Patton’s son (also named George), who was playing tackle. Lodge, whose father had just been elected to the Senate, was playing guard.
The next time Lodge saw Patton was 1942. The Lodges and the Pattons went for a picnic at Fort Benning. On the way home, Senator Lodge took Patton’s military vehicle and Patton drove the Lodges’ civilian car, with Mrs. Lodge up front and Lodge the younger in back. “We were racing along this straight road, going about 70, when all of a sudden Patton takes his ivory-handled revolver out of his holster and starts shooting in the air,” Lodge recollects. “I guess to liven up the trip for me.” A military policeman pulled him over, as if on script, to receive the obligatory “Don’t you know who the hell I am?” Then, Lodge says, Patton “clapped the embarrassed MP on the shoulder and said, ‘That’s all right, young man. You’re just doing your job.’ And then he pulled onto the road and sped away, pistol blazing.”
Decades after Patton made his historic mechanized thrust across the plains of Europe, the World War II veteran and social historian Paul Fussell told a reporter that he wanted to write a book about the general. It was going to ask: “Is success in generalship related to the perversion of being a bully in social life?”
The book never came to pass. But Patton is a valuable case study on several counts. First, Lodge’s story underscores the importance of context: traits that serve you well in one context (wartime Europe) do not necessarily serve you well in another (peacetime Massachusetts), which would recommend a kind of adaptability that Patton lacked.
But second, Patton raises the question of the jerk’s value to the group. Bullying his own soldiers got Patton reprimanded and sidelined (in 1943, he’d slapped two privates suffering from battlefield fatigue and awaiting evacuation). His ability to bully the enemy is what restored him to favor five months later."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull -- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
   In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
   Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff’d, like thee:
   I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
   The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
   Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
   The drink of Gods, than reptiles’ food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
   In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
   What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
   When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
   And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
   Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
   This chance is theirs, to be of use.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Whatever Lola Wants -- Sarah Vaughn (1955)

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets
And little man, little Lola wants you
Make up your mind to have (make up your mind to have)
No regrets (no regrets)
Recline yourself, resign yourself, you're through
I always get what I aim for
And your heart and soul is what I came for
Whatever Lola wants (Lola wants), Lola gets (Lola gets)
Take off your coat, don't you know you can't win
(Can't win, you'll never, never win)
You're no exception to the rule
I'm irresistible you fool
Give in (Give in, you'll never win)
Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets
I always get what I aim for
And your heart and soul is what I came for
Whatever Lola wants (Lola wants), Lola gets (Lola gets)
Take off your coat, don't you know you can't win
(Can't win, you'll never, never win)
You're no exception to the rule
I'm irresistible you fool
Give in (give in, you'll never win)
Give in (give in, you'll never win)
Give in.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Osama bin Laden's Bookshelf

You know what would have been weird? If he had Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom, Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative, Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, J.S. Mill's On Liberty, and William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes series of spy novels.
So the books below are purported to be part of the "treasure trove" of intel collected during the 2011 Geronimo rubout in Abbottabad. The fact that OBL apparently owned a couple of 9/11 "Bush did it" conspiracy books, some Illuminati-type conspiracy books, and a lot of Noam Chomsky-type "the U.S. is an Evil Empire" books is unspeakably hilarious to me. I added some book descriptions from for a few selected titles. (Speaking of conspiracies, did you notice that this list was released just a couple of days after Sy Hersh poo-poohed the existence of a "treasure trove"?)

• “The 2030 Spike” by Colin Mason

"The clock is relentlessly ticking! Our world teeters on a knife-edge between a peaceful and prosperous future for all, and a dark winter of death and destruction that threatens to smother the light of civilization. Within 30 years, in the 2030 decade, six powerful 'drivers' will converge with unprecedented force in a statistical spike that could tear humanity apart and plunge the world into a new Dark Age. Depleted fuel supplies, massive population growth, poverty, global climate change, famine, growing water shortages and international lawlessness are on a crash course with potentially catastrophic consequences."

• “A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam” by I.A. Ibrahim
• “America’s Strategic Blunders” by Willard Matthias
• “America’s War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky

"In this new and expanded edition of Michel Chossudovsky's 2002 best seller, the author blows away the smokescreen put up by the mainstream media, that 9/11 was an attack on America by "Islamic terrorists". The expanded edition, which includes twelve new chapters focuses on the use of 9/11 as a pretext for the invasion and illegal occupation of Iraq, the militarisation of justice and law enforcement and the repeal of democracy. According to Chossudovsky, the "war on terrorism" is a complete fabrication based on the illusion that one man, Osama bin Laden, outwitted the $40 billion-a-year American intelligence apparatus. The "war on terrorism" is a war of conquest. Globalisation is the final march to the "New World Order", dominated by Wall Street and the U.S. military-industrial complex. September 11, 2001 provides a justification for waging a war without borders. Washington's agenda consists in extending the frontiers of the American Empire to facilitate complete U.S. corporate control, while installing within America the institutions of the Homeland Security State. Chossudovsky peels back layers of rhetoric to reveal a complex web of deceit aimed at luring the American people and the rest of the world into accepting a military solution which threatens the future of humanity."

• “Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007” by Hanna Rogan
• “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” by Greg Palast
• “The Best Enemy Money Can Buy” by Anthony Sutton

"With mountains of documentation, mostly from government and corporate sources, Sutton shows that Soviet military technology is heavily dependent on U.S. and allied gifts, "peaceful trade" and exchange programs. We've built for, sold or traded, or given outright to the Communists everything from copper wiring and military trucks to tank technology, missile guidance technology, computers - even the Space Shuttle. Peaceful trade is a myth ... to the Soviets all trade is strategic. The paradox is that we spend $300 billion a year on a defense against an enemy we created and continue to keep in business. The deaf mute blindmen, as Lenin called them, are the multi-national businessmen who see no further than the next contract, who have their plants defended by Marxist troops (in Angola); who knowingly sell technology that comes back to kill and maim Americans."

• “Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century” by Bev Harris

"Author Bev Harris...learned was that modern-day voting systems are run by private for-profit corporations, rely on a few cronies for oversight, using a certification system so fundamentally flawed that it allows machines to miscount and lose votes, with hidden back doors that enable "end runs" around the voting system. Find out why your vote might not count -- and what to do about it!"

• “Bloodlines of the Illuminati” by Fritz Springmeier

"You've seen pieces of the puzzle, but still you wonder... Bloodlines of the Illuminati is a unique historical genealogical who's-doing-it book, rich in detail, providing a devastating exposé of the people and families who are THE movers and shakers of the United States and the entire world. You will recognize some of the names instantly. Many names have been purposely hidden from mainstream view. From international finance to war, presidents and dictators alike pay heed to these people. "Influence" doesn't even come close to describing their power. They have plans for you. Who are they? Author, Fritz Springmeier provides a wealth of material and inside information based on eyewitnesses. His outstanding research provides facts that are not available elsewhere. When you finish reading this book, the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place and you'll see the fascinating big picture. You will know who actually runs the New World Order conspiracy, and who is in the Illuminati. ... * Hot new information exposing Wolf Head (a group similar to Skull & Bones). * New genealogy charts, one shows how 25 Presidents are related, another how Prince Charles is related to Count Dracula."

• “Bounding the Global War on Terror” by Jeffrey Record
• “Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions” by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
• “Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D.” by C.R. Haines
• “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies” by Cheryl Benard
• “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins
• “Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300” by John Coleman

300 people control the United States, arranged the Kennedy assassination, etc.

• “Crossing the Rubicon” by Michael Ruppert

"The attacks of September 11, 2001, were accomplished through an amazing orchestration of logistics and personnel. Crossing the Rubicon discovers and identifies key suspects—finding some of them in the highest echelons of American government—by showing how they acted in concert to guarantee that the attacks produced the desired result."

• “Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance” (only the book’s introduction) by C. Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
• “Guerrilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerilla Forces by James Crabtree
• “Handbook of International Law” by Anthony Aust
• “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” by Noam Chomsky
• “Imperial Hubris” by Michael Scheuer
• “In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure” by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam-ud-Deen and Dr. Naahah Ibrahim
• “International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific” by John Ikenberry and Michael Mastandano
• “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” by William Blum
• “Military Intelligence Blunders” by John Hughes-Wilson
• “Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification.” Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, 95th Congress, first session, August 3, 1977.
• “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies” by Noam Chomsky
• “New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11” by David Ray Griffin

"Taking to heart the idea that those who benefit from a crime ought to be investigated, here the eminent theologian David Ray Griffin sifts through the evidence about the attacks of 9/11 - stories from the mainstream press, reports from abroad, the work of other researchers, and the contradictory words of members of the Bush administration themselves - and finds that, taken together, they cast serious doubt on the official story of that tragic day."

• “New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism” by Barry Cooper
• “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward
• “Oxford History of Modern War” by Charles Townsend
• “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy
• “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” by William Blum

"Ever meet a hit man? If not, then consider living in his political equivalent: The United States. In Rogue State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower, find out how the U.S. sentences blasphemers to deaththat is, people and governments blaspheming the holy objectives of American foreign policy.
From incarcerating Nelson Mandela to dropping cluster bombs (which later turn to landmines) on Yugoslavia, from supporting Pol Pot to praising Noriega, the U.S. has been barbaric enough to do it. William Blum shows us how, even though Clinton calls America the worlds greatest force for peace, our Rogue State really needs to be leashed."     

• “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” by Manly Hall (1928)

"In 1928, a 20-something Renaissance man named Manly Hall self-published a vast encyclopedia of the occult, believing that "modern" ideas of progress and materialism were displacing more important and ancient modes of knowledge. Hall's text has become a classic reference, dizzying in its breadth: various chapters explore Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, alchemy, cryptology, Tarot, pyramids, the Zodiac, Pythagorean philosophy, Masonry and gemology, among other topics."

• “Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullins

"The original book, published under the title "Mullins on the Federal Reserve", was commissioned by the poet Ezra Pound in 1948. Ezra Pound was a political prisoner for thirteen and a half years at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C. (a Federal institution for the insane). His release was accomplished largely through the efforts of Mr. Mullins."

• “The Taking of America 1-2-3” by Richard Sprague

JFK assassination conspiracy

• “Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century” by Michael O’Hanlon
• “The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941” by Robert Hopkins Miller
• “Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11,” article posted on article posted on (this file contained only a single saved Web page)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sebastian Junger's PTSD piece in Vanity Fair

Sebastian Junger, at right, with camera, in the Korengal Valley

"In the new piece on post-traumatic stress, [Sebastian] Junger [author of War and The Perfect Storm] suggests several ways of better reintegrating combat troops into American society, including a practice common among some Native American groups: the retelling of combat experiences by a warrior to his own community.
We could achieve that on Veterans Day by making every town and city hall in the country available to veterans who want to speak publicly about the war,” he wrote. “The vapid phrase ‘I support the troops’ would then mean actually showing up at your town hall every Veterans Day to hear these people out.”
Veterans would display a variety of emotions, including pride, anger and grief, he predicted.
It might also begin to re-assemble a society that has been spiritually cannibalizing itself for generations,” he wrote. “We keep wondering how to save the vets, but the real question is how to save ourselves. If we do that, the vets will be fine. If we don’t, it won’t matter anyway.”"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Psychologist Sandy Bem's Death by Suicide

This is an excellent article on the death of psychologist Sandy Bem, who chose to die by suicide in May 2014, five years after first being diagnosed with the cognitive impairments that precede Alzheimer's dementia. By the time she died she could not recognize her own daughter. Most people with dementia don't try to kill themselves, because some of the first symptoms of the disease are loss of insight (they no longer realize that there is something wrong with them) and apathy (they no longer care to do anything about their situation).

Read the whole article, because it is a powerful piece on both cognitive decline and the Right to Die. I have excerpted the sections below because I never knew these gossipy bits about the Bems, the developers of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory.

"The Bems were both psychology professors, at Stanford and then Cornell, and they traveled around the country giving tandem talks about society’s creation of sex-­role stereotypes. They were a slightly odd couple. Sandy was petite and not the least interested in fashion. Daryl was bigger, dapper, six years older and already a bit stooped, with a scholar’s pallor, a kind face and a courtly manner cultivated over his years of performing as a magician. (He would also come to be known, later in his career, for some controversial experiments involving ESP.)
They turned their politics into a way of life, raising their two children, Emily, born in 1974, and Jeremy, born two years later, in what they described as a gender-­neutral way. “Many other feminist couples have experimented with egalitarian relationships and feminist child-rearing,” Sandy wrote in “An Unconventional Family.” But few “have shared the details of their daily lives as exuberantly as Daryl and I.” She talked about everything, in print and on the lecture circuit: letting Jeremy wear pink barrettes to kindergarten; driving Emily past the same construction site every day because a woman was on the crew; hanging a chart on a kitchen cabinet to let the children know which parent was “on duty” that week.
Despite their good intentions, though, the marriage grew strained. As their children went through adolescence, Sandy complained that she felt like a single parent, with Daryl not fully engaging with the family’s needs. They both saw the paradox in their supposedly egalitarian marriage floundering in such a gender-­stereotypical way. In 1994, when the children were 19 and 17, the Bems separated.
After the split, Daryl acted on his attraction to men, a part of his sexuality that he never hid from Sandy. He liked to joke that on their first date, he told her there were three things she should know about him — “I’m a stage magician, I’m from Colorado and I’m primarily homoerotic” — and that she calmly replied that she had never met anyone from Colorado.
About a year after the separation, Daryl began a long-­term relationship with a communications professor at Ithaca College. Yet he and Sandy never divorced, and he remained a frequent visitor to the big house in Cornell Heights where they raised their children. He ate dinner there a few times a week and stayed involved in the lives of Emily and Jeremy — even more involved, in a way, than when he lived with them. He also remained one of Sandy’s best friends and one of her few close confidants. (She had a short-­lived relationship with a woman soon after Daryl moved out and remained single after that.)"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Germans weren't the only ones Not Taking Prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge

Telegraph (UK)
"At this point, Beevor begins to tell me some of the savage details of American revenge. Their first targets, he says, were SS soldiers, who were often shot out of hand. He also talks of at least one platoon that vowed never to take any prisoners at all: whenever the Germans raised a white flag, a sergeant would stand up and beckon them closer before giving his men the command to fire. At Chenogne the 11th Armoured Division shot 60 German prisoners: “There was no secret about it – Patton even mentions it in his diaries.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this culture of revenge is that the American commanders were not only complicit but actively encouraged it.
“There was anger among the commanders that they had been taken by surprise. There was a large element of embarrassment. When something like that happens, you get very angry, and you refuse to accept responsibility for what you’ve done.” Several of the American generals openly approved of the killing of prisoners, and gloried in the gruesome nicknames the Germans were beginning to know their troops by, such as “Roosevelt’s butchers”.
As we talk, it is clear that Beevor struggles with these issues. Outside academia, there are few people who are prepared to look unflinchingly at the less flattering parts of our behaviour – and certainly no one with Beevor’s large readership has. What’s more, it is one thing to state that such events happened – an admission that many historians have shied away from – but quite another to know how to react to them. The whole subject runs counter to our most cherished communal myths about British and American heroism and gallantry.
Beevor knows instinctively that he must tread carefully, neither condoning the revenge nor reaching for outright condemnation.
“I think what one should try to do is to leave the moral judgments up to the reader. There’s no use in being judgmental. Far from it; we can only speculate as to how we would react in the circumstances ourselves,” he says.
For the first time in our conversation, he displays a flicker of discomfort.
“Why do we do this to ourselves?” I ask. Surely there are less disturbing ways for a historian to make a living – ways that do not involve the study of violence, atrocity and inhumanity? He answers with a single word: “Fascination.” He says it casually, in the same way that he spoke about his sleepless nights, but after everything we have spoken about the word is impregnated with layers of meaning. There is his fascination with the war period, which, he says, defined the world that he grew up in. There is his fascination with man’s ability to endure the most incomprehensible violence, and his fascination with what makes some men break while others are able to rise above their most primitive instincts. And beneath it all, there is that compulsion to lean over the abyss and gaze into the heart of darkness. “I’m afraid the whole nature of evil is something we are all fascinated by.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Aokigahara -- Japan's Suicide Forest

Atlas Obscura
"Called "the perfect place to die," the Aokigahara forest has the unfortunate distinction of the world's second most popular place to take one's life. (The first is the Golden Gate Bridge.) Since the 1950s, Japanese businessmen have wandered in, and at least 500 of them haven't wandered out, at an increasing rate of between 10 and 30 per year. Recently these numbers have increased even more, with a record 78 suicides in 2002.
Japanese spiritualists believe that the suicides committed in the forest have permeated Aokigahara's trees, generating paranormal activity and preventing many who enter from escaping the forest's depths. Complicating matters further is the common experience of compasses being rendered useless by the rich deposits of magnetic iron in the area's volcanic soil.
Due to the vastness of the forest, desperate visitors are unlikely to encounter anyone once inside the so-called "Sea of Trees," so the police have mounted signs reading "Your life is a precious gift from your parents," and "Please consult the police before you decide to die!" on trees throughout.
This does not deter determined people to commit suicide in this dense forest. Annually about 70 corpses are found by volunteers who clean the woods but many are forever lost in the very thick woods. Japanese authorities discounted publishing exact suicide numbers in order to not make the place even more popular."

Warning: The film is really depressing.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

From Dr. Faustus -- Christopher Marlowe

FAUSTUS: Ah, Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d.
O, I’ll leap up to my God! – Who pulls me down? –
See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah, my Christ! –
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!
Yet will I call on him: O, spare me, Lucifer! –
Where is it now? ’tis gone: and see, where God
Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!
No, no!
Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Earth, gape! O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist.
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud[s],
That, when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven!
[The clock strikes the half-hour.]
Ah, half the hour is past! ’twill all be past anon
O God,
If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
Yet for Christ’s sake, whose blood hath ransom’d me,
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav’d!
O, no end is limited to damned souls!
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang’d
Unto some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv’d in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu’d in hell.
Curs’d be the parents that engender’d me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv’d thee of the joys of heaven.
[The clock strikes twelve.]
O, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell!
[Thunder and lightning.]
O soul, be chang’d into little water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
[Enter DEVILS.]
My God, my god, look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books! – Ah, Mephistopheles!
(Exeunt DEVILS with FAUSTUS)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Not an Addict -- K's Choice (1995)


Breathe it in and breathe it out
And pass it on, it's almost out
We're so creative, so much more
We're high above but on the floor

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side

The deeper you stick it in your vein
The deeper the thoughts, there's no more pain
I'm in heaven, I'm a god
I'm everywhere, I feel so hot

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)

It's over now, I'm cold, alone
I'm just a person on my own
Nothing means a thing to me
(Nothing means a thing to me)

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)

Free me, leave me
Watch me as I'm going down
Free me, see me
Look at me, I'm falling and I'm falling.

It is not a habit, it is cool I feel alive I feel...
It is not a habit, it is cool I feel alive

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive
If you don't have it you're on the other side
I'm not an addict (maybe that's a lie)
I'm not an addict...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Depictions of Madness -- Andrew Scull

Nebuchadnezzar turned into an animal, 1410.

Paris Review
"Modern psychiatry seems determined to rob madness of its meanings, insisting that its depredations can be reduced to biology and nothing but biology. One must doubt it. The social and cultural dimensions of mental disorders, so indispensable a part of the story of madness and civilization over the centuries, are unlikely to melt away, or to prove no more than an epiphenomenal feature of so universal a feature of human existence. Madness indeed has its meanings, elusive and evanescent as our attempts to capture them have been.
Western culture throughout its long and tangled history provides us with a rich array of images, a remarkable set of windows into both popular and latterly professional beliefs about insanity. The sacred books of the Judeo-Christian tradition are shot through with stories of madness caused by possession by devils or divine displeasure. From Saul, the first king of the Israelites (made mad by Yahweh for failing to carry out to the letter the Lord’s command to slay every man, woman, and child of the Amalekite tribe, and all their animals, too), to the man in the country of the Gaderenes “with an unclean spirit” (maddened, naked, and violent, whose demons Christ casts out and causes to enter a herd of swine, who forthwith rush over a cliff into the sea to drown), here are stories recited for centuries by believers, and often transformed into pictorial form.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Scott Walker's debt

Personally, I don't think he has a chance in hell to be elected President. (It's going to be a while until I can stomach voting for someone I could have gone to college with. We were all a bunch of idiots.) But Peggy Noonan is still right about how we should embrace normality. (One unusual thing about Gov. Walker is that his wife is 12 years older than he is. I wonder how often that happens? Evolutionary psychologists would say, Not terribly often.)

Peggy Noonan
"A friend this morning sent a note, jeering at Scott Walker for having significant personal debt. He linked to this story. My friend’s tone suggested the debt makes Walker look less impressive as an individual and less viable as a presidential candidate.
My reaction was the opposite. To me the story made Walker look normal. (That in fact was my impression of him when I met him about a year ago for coffee at a New York restaurant. I was late. He was at a small table alone, reading some papers. No aides, no staff, no security, just a guy at a table, a Midwestern businessman having a cup of coffee between meetings. He also acted normal. This was so startling to me—politicians now are so often weird, outsized, faintly deranged—that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.) According to the piece Walker owes up to $50,000 to Sears and some perhaps similar amount on another card. His spokeswoman said well, yeah, he’s got two kids in college and his parents live with him. His yearly salary is $144,423. More jaw dropping: his net worth is minus $72,500. Meaning he has done a great deal of work and accomplished many things over the years and never bothered to make himself rich. This is so refreshing—public service that is not, apparently, a self-enrichment project—that I can’t help but think we should tip our hats. Good for him for doing it the old-fashioned way. As for its impact on his appeal, unless I’m very wrong, a lot of Americans will feel not derisive about his financial condition but almost touched. “Harry Truman had no money either.”
My friend said Walker’s lack of wealth suggests he can be bought. I’m seeing it the opposite: if he hasn’t sold himself yet, it suggests he is not for sale."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Now Can We PLEASE Stop Pretending that Sports "Build Character"?

"I'm just saying, if you're worried about the ball boy ratting you out about those deflated footballs...there's a way to make sure that doesn't happen."

The empiricist in me keeps asking two questions, pretty much all the time but especially when confronted with statements such as "Sports build character." The first question is: WHAT DO YOU MEAN? As in, "What do you mean by 'character'? How are you defining it? Because you have to define it before you can measure it. You are measuring it, aren't you? Because you said that sports 'build' character. Which suggests that individuals who play sports end up with a greater amount of character than they had before they started playing sports. So, what is this character you speak of? Is it Courage? Determination? Kindness? Generosity of Spirit? Honesty? Loyalty? (To whom? Or what?). And you can't just mean that 'people who play sports have more character (whatever that is) than people who don't play sports' because, even if that was what you found, you could not attribute the greater character to the sports playing; it could be that people of greater character are more likely to choose sports playing over not playing sports. (This is the same problem we have when confronted with the assertion that "violin playing makes kids smarter"; it's true that kids who play violin get better grades than most kids who don't, but that might be simply because smarter kids choose to play the violin -- there's not necessarily any magical brain development occurring during violin practice that contributes to general intelligence.) But this gets us to the second question: HOW DO YOU KNOW? You would have to randomly assign some individuals to play sports for a certain amount of time and assign some not to play sports for the same amount of time, measuring their 'character' at Time 1 (at the beginning of the experiment) and Time 2 (at the end of the experiment).
Let's say you choose to define 'character' as not having 3 or more criminal convictions by age 25. Or graduating high school. Or not impregnating anyone you are not married to. Or working full-time. Whatever it is, let it be something you can actually measure (i.e., count). Now let's take a randomly selected sample of 1,000 14 year olds. Let's randomly assign half of these research participants to a high school where participation in sports is required every season (e.g., football, basketball, baseball). The other half goes to a high school where students are required to take four years of Latin, music (e.g., piano, theory, choir), and art (e.g., drawing, painting, drama, public speaking). The sports players can't take Latin, music, or art, and the Latin/music/art students can't play sports. The experiment begins when the participants are 14 and ends when they are 25 (remember, we have to count their criminal convictions).
Which school -- Meathead Manor or Artsy-Fartsy Academy -- is going to have graduates with more character, as defined as "fewer criminal convictions per male student"? (Sorry, but crime is overwhelmingly a guy thing -- you'll have to come up with some other way to measure character among the female students.) That, as we say, is an empirical question. We don't know the answer in advance and we can't know the answer in advance. The difference between an empiricist and everybody else is that everybody else thinks that they already know and therefore facts need not be consulted. The empiricist knows that "facts are stubborn things."*
Here are some facts about sports and character:
"Athletes, especially on team sports, tend to score lower on character tests
(Krause & Priest, 1993; Beller & Stoll, 1995; Dunn & Dunn, 1999). George Sage (personal communication, May, 2004) believes that sport in America has reached a "crisis" point and that most athletes' sports experiences are detrimental to their character development. The majority of the research reports that there is a negative relationship between participation in sports and character development (Krause & Priest, 1993; Dunn & Dunn, 1999; Silva, 1983; Beller & Stoll, 1995; Bredemeier & Shields, 1984a, 1984b; Bredemeier, 1995; Hahm, 1989).

Summary of Research on Character in Sport
A longitudinal study by Krause and Priest (1993), from 1989-1993 at the U.S. Military Academy found significant differences between individual and team sport athletes in moral reasoning and moral behavior. Their longitudinal study of the USMA Class of 1993 showed a decrease in ethical value choices over a four-year period. The results showed that on their entrance to USMA, as well as just before graduation, intercollegiate team athletes scored lower on the Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory (HBVCI) than other athletes, including intercollegiate individual-sport and intramural-sport participants."
[From Doty, 2006; Journal of College and Character]
*"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
-- John Adams, 1770, defending the British soldiers accused of perpetrating the "Boston Massacre."



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seymour Hersh on the killing of Osama bin Laden

Seymour Hersh-IPS.jpg
Sy Hersh, aged 78 and still poking his fingers in the eyes of the powers that be. He's the fellow who broke the My Lai massacre story. I wonder if his source for the piece below is Bob Gates?

London Review of Books

"It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. ...[W]ould bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations?...
This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha [two senior Pakistani military officials] knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.
...‘The compound [in Abbottabad] was not an armed enclave – no machine guns around, because it was under ISI control.’ The walk-in had told the US that bin Laden had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that ‘the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him.’ (Reports after the raid placed him elsewhere in Pakistan during this period.) Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. 
...‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ ... The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.
...At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. ...There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone. ‘Everyone in Pakistan has a gun and high-profile, wealthy folks like those who live in Abbottabad have armed bodyguards, and yet there were no weapons in the compound,’ the retired official pointed out. Had there been any opposition, the team would have been highly vulnerable. Instead, the retired official said, an ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden’s rooms were on the third floor. The Seal squad used explosives to blow the doors open, without injuring anyone. One of bin Laden’s wives was screaming hysterically and a bullet – perhaps a stray round – struck her knee. Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired. (The Obama administration’s account would hold otherwise.)
‘They knew where the target was – third floor, second door on the right,’ the retired official said. ‘Go straight there. Osama was cowering and retreated into the bedroom. Two shooters followed him and opened up. Very simple, very straightforward, very professional hit.’ Some of the Seals were appalled later at the White House’s initial insistence that they had shot bin Laden in self-defence, the retired official said. ‘Six of the Seals’ finest, most experienced NCOs, faced with an unarmed elderly civilian, had to kill him in self-defence? The house was shabby and bin Laden was living in a cell with bars on the window and barbed wire on the roof. The rules of engagement were that if bin Laden put up any opposition they were authorised to take lethal action. But if they suspected he might have some means of opposition, like an explosive vest under his robe, they could also kill him. So here’s this guy in a mystery robe and they shot him. It’s not because he was reaching for a weapon. The rules gave them absolute authority to kill the guy.’ The later White House claim that only one or two bullets were fired into his head was ‘bullshit’, the retired official said. ‘The squad came through the door and obliterated him. As the Seals say, “We kicked his ass and took his gas.”’
After they killed bin Laden, ‘the Seals were just there, some with physical injuries from the crash, waiting for the relief chopper,’ the retired official said. ‘Twenty tense minutes. The Black Hawk is still burning. There are no city lights. No electricity. No police. No fire trucks. They have no prisoners.’ Bin Laden’s wives and children were left for the ISI to interrogate and relocate. ‘Despite all the talk,’ the retired official continued, there were ‘no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks. The Seals weren’t there because they thought bin Laden was running a command centre for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gathering information inside that house.’"

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ross Douthat cites empirical support for social conservatism

"In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the pro-choice side of the abortion debate frequently predicted that legal abortion would reduce single parenthood and make marriages more stable, while the pro-life side made the allegedly-counterintuitive claim that it would have roughly the opposite effect; overall, it’s fair to say that post-Roe trends were considerably kinder to Roe’s critics than to the “every child a wanted child” conceit. Conservatives (and not only conservatives) also made various “dystopian” predictions about eugenics and the commodification of human life as reproductive science advanced in the ’70s, while many liberals argued that these fears were overblown; today, from “selective reduction” to the culling of Down’s Syndrome fetuses to worldwide trends in sex-selective abortion, from our fertility industry’s “embryo glut” to the global market in paid surrogacy, the dystopian predictions are basically just the status quo. No-fault divorce was pitched as an escape hatch for the miserable and desperate that wouldn’t affect the average marriage, but of course divorce turned out to have social-contagion effects as well. Religious fears that population control would turn coercive and tyrannical were scoffed at and then vindicated. Dan Quayle was laughed at until the data suggested that basically he had it right. The fairly-ancient conservative premise that social permissiveness is better for the rich than for the poor persistently bemuses the left; it also persistently describes reality. And if you dropped some of the documentation from today’s college rape crisis through a wormhole into the 1960s-era debates over shifting to coed living arrangements on campuses, I’m pretty sure that even many of the conservatives in that era would assume that someone was pranking them, that even in their worst fears it couldn’t possibly end up like this.
More broadly, over the last few decades social conservatives have frequently offered “both/and” cultural analyses that liberals have found strange or incredible — arguing (as noted above) that a sexually-permissive society can easily end up with a high abortion rate and a high out-of-wedlock birthrate; or that permissive societies can end up with more births to single parents and fewer births (not only fewer than replacement, but fewer than women actually desire) overall; or that expressive individualism could lead to fewer marriages and greater unhappiness for people who do get hitched. Social liberals, on the other hand, have tended to take a view of human nature that’s a little more positivist and consumerist, in which the assumption is that some kind of “perfectly-liberated decision making” is possible and that such liberation leads to optimal outcomes overall. Hence that 1970s-era assumption that unrestricted abortion would be good for children’s family situations, hence the persistent assumption that marriages must be happier when there’s more sexual experimentation beforehand, etc.
I’m not going to tell you that either side has a monopoly on the truth; human nature is much too complicated for that. But I will say, again, that if you look at the post-1960s trend data — whether it’s on family structure and social capital, fertility and marriage rates, patterns of sexual behavior and their links to flourishing relationships, or just trends in marital contentment and personal happiness more generally — the basic social conservative analysis has turned out to have more predictive power than my rigorously empirical liberal friends are inclined to admit."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Repression of War Experience -- Siegfried Sassoon (1918)


NOW light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth; 
What silly beggars they are to blunder in 
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame— 
No, no, not that,—it’s bad to think of war, 
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;         5
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad 
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts 
That drive them out to jabber among the trees. 
Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand. 
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,  10
And you’re as right as rain...
                                Why won’t it rain?...
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night, 
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark, 
And make the roses hang their dripping heads. 
Books; what a jolly company they are,  15
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves, 
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green, 
And every kind of colour. Which will you read? 
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise. 
I tell you all the wisdom of the world  20
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet 
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out, 
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling 
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters; 
And in the breathless air outside the house  25
The garden waits for something that delays. 
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,— 
Not people killed in battle,—they’re in France,— 
But horrible shapes in shrouds—old men who died 
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,  30
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.
    .    .    .    .
You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home; 
You’d never think there was a bloody war on!... 
O yes, you would ... why, you can hear the guns. 
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft ... they never cease—  35
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out 
And screech at them to stop—I’m going crazy; 
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.