April 25th, 2015

The first hippies: Fruitlands

I was on a road trip a little while ago and passed the site of Fruitlands, which I recalled as the failed Utopian community the Transcendentalists began in the mid-1800s. The setting is lovely, overlooking a panoramic view of the hills beyond. Here it is in fall:


The founders of Fruitlands weren’t a practical sort, but you can’t say they didn’t have ideals:

Their goal was to regain access to Eden by finding the correct formula for perfect living, following specific rules governing agriculture, diet, and reproduction…Calling themselves a “consociate family”, they agreed to follow a strict vegetarian diet and to till the land without the use of animal labor. After some difficulty, they relented and allowed some cattle to be “enslaved”. They also banned coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks, milk, and warm bathwater. They only ate “aspiring vegetables” — those which grew upward — and refused those that grew downward like potatoes. As Alcott had published earlier, “Our wine is water, — flesh, bread; — drugs, fruits.” For clothing, they prohibited leather because animals were killed for it, as well as cotton, silk, and wool, because they were products of slave labor. Alcott had high expectations but was often away when the community most needed him as he attempted to recruit more members.

The experimental community was never successful, partly because most of the land was not arable. Alcott lamented, “None of us were prepared to actualize practically the ideal life of which we dreamed. So we fell apart.”



The group at Fruitlands also didn’t believe in purchasing property and in fact wanted to eliminate economic activity in general. Their vegetarianism was extreme enough to have extended to a refusal to eat honey. This shows more of the sort of idealistic thinking that was incompatible with the self-sufficient survival of which the founders dreamed [emphasis mine]:

Fruitlands members wore only linen clothes and canvas shoes; cotton fabric was forbidden because it exploited slave labor and wool was banned because it came from sheep. Bronson Alcott and [co-founder] Lane believed that animals should not be exploited for their meat or their labor, so they used no animals for farming. This arose out of two beliefs: that animals were less intelligent than humans and that, therefore, it was the duty of humans to protect them; and that using animals “tainted” their work and food, since animals were not enlightened and therefore unclean. Eventually, as the winter was coming, Alcott and Lane compromised and allowed an ox and a cow.

The Fruitlands experiment lasted seven miserable months. Alcott’s daughter Louisa May, who was ten at the time, got a bit of revenge for having been forced to endure that experience by writing a satire about Fruitlands and its denizens, titled Transcendental Wild Oats.

[NOTE: When I looked up Bronson Alcott’s Wiki entry, I found the following interesting bit of information about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s funeral: among the pallbearers were Alcott, Louis Agassiz, James Thomas Fields, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. That’s quite a group.]

[NOTE II: The Fruitlands philosophy regarding animals and other living creatures reminds me a bit of the Jains of India. However, the Jains seem less strict; they allow self-defense in some cases, for example, and they usually will eat dairy products:

In addition to other humans, Jains extend the practice of nonviolence towards all living beings. As this ideal cannot be completely implemented in practice, Jains recognize a hierarchy of life, which gives more protection to humans followed by animals followed by insects followed by plants.

For this reason, vegetarianism is a hallmark of Jain practice with the majority of Jains practicing lacto-vegetarianism. If there is violence against animals during the production of dairy products, veganism is also encouraged. After humans and animals, insects are the next living being offered protection in Jain practice with avoidance of intentional harm to insects emphasized. For example, insects in the home are often escorted out instead of killed.

After nonviolence towards humans, animals and insects, Jains make efforts not to injure plants any more than necessary. Although they admit that plants must be destroyed for the sake of food, they accept such violence only inasmuch as it is indispensable for human survival. Strict Jains, including Jain monks and nuns, do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes, onions and garlic, because tiny organisms are injured when the plant is pulled up, and also because a bulb or tuber’s ability to sprout is seen as characteristic of a living being.]

April 25th, 2015

Man accused of rape by “mattress girl” sues Columbia University

This is good news [emphasis mine]:

Paul Nungesser, the Columbia University student accused of raping fellow student Emma Sulkowicz, is now suing the university for doing nothing to stop Sulkowicz’s harassment campaign against him, which he claims “effectively destroyed” his college experience, reputation, and future career prospects.

His lawsuit contains a wealth of new information about the contested sexual assault, including dozens of messages establishing Sulkowicz’s sexual “yearning” for Nungesser, which she sent to him both before and after the alleged incident.

I’ve written about the Sulkowicz accusations before, here, but it’s Cathy Young’s article that tells the story best. Whether Nungesser raped Sulkowisz will probably never be known, because in the end it’s a case of “he said she said,” but all the evidence I’ve seen so far argues for his innocence.

Nungesser isn’t suing Sulkowisz herself, although she not only accused him of rape but she drew a great deal of publicity to it by her dramatic publicity stunt of carrying around that mattress as an art project approved by the university for credit.

Here are Nungesser’s charges against Columbia. The document also details the course of Nungesser and Sulkowicz’s relationship, with Facebook messages and emails that back up Nungesser’s story. If true (and I assume the emails are real, since he’s ready to present his case in court), it is one of the most sobering stories I’ve ever read, and some of my reaction has nothing to do with the legal details of the case or even the rape accusations, but instead with the quality of their communications, which sound less like two intelligent Columbia students and more like a couple of mindless junior high schoolers (albeit ones who engage in some fairly edgy sexual activity).

Skimming the entirety of the document (particularly pages 7-9), I can’t escape the idea that Sulkowicz’s accusations towards Nungesser may have been sparked by hurt, pain, and anger at his getting involved with another woman and not having as much time for his friendship with Sulkowicz (they were never a couple; they had been “friends with benefits”). This would make her the proverbial woman scorned. I note also that many of her earlier communications with Nungesser, before they ever slept together, had to do with her complains about a previous boyfriend’s failure to use condoms with her and the fact that he was using them with other women.

It’s not the same as the UVA case, but there are some harmonic echoes, including the ploy of trying to get sympathy from a man in whom the woman is interested by alleging another man is sexually mistreating her in some way. But one of the strongest resemblances is the reaction of the university as well as the press. Although at UVA there was no one person falsely accused (mainly because “Jackie” had made up the main perpetrator), an entire fraternity and even the fraternity system as a whole were punished. At Columbia Nungesser was cleared, but he was damaged anyway by the art project, the resultant publicity, and the fact that the university paper revealed his real name, and that officials didn’t nothing to discourage or punish the accuser’s breach of a confidentiality agreement:

The school spent another seven months investigating and after a two-hour hearing found Nungesser “not responsible.” He would cleared of the charges even though he wasn’t allowed to introduced the Facebook messages sent after the alleged rape showing no signs of distress from Sulkowicz…

Nungesser had been abiding by the confidentiality agreement, and says in his lawsuit that Columbia University advised him to ignore the media. Nungesser says the school never took action against his accusers for breaching the confidentiality policy.

About six months after Sulkowicz’s appeal failed, Nungesser’s name was published in the school newspaper alleging he was an unpunished rapist…

Sulkowicz…began a whirlwind media tour for her art project, wherein she carried a mattress around claiming to be a rape survivor (and Nungesser being the rapist).

Her professor is included in the lawsuit because of his statements regarding the art project. In one article for the Columbia Spectator, her professor said “carrying around your university bed — which was also the site of your rape — is an amazingly significant and poignant and powerful symbol.”

Meanwhile, Columbia has allowed this bullying and harassment of Nungesser to continue.

“In complete disregard of Paul’s rights to be free of, among other things, gender-based harassment and gender based stalking, Columbia has allowed Emma to carry the mattress into each of her classes, the library, and on Columbia campus-provided transportation,” the lawsuit states.

Columbia president Lee Bollinger is included in the lawsuit for publicly supporting Sulkowicz’s harassment campaign against Nungesser.

“This is a person who is one of my students, and I care about all of my students,” Bollinger told New York Magazine. “And when one of them feels that she has been a victim of mistreatment, I am affected by that. This is all very painful.”

Of course, no such care was taken for Nungesser…

Threats to Nungesser have appeared online and on Sulkowicz’s Facebook account, including one message suggesting Nungesser commit suicide. (Sulkowicz “liked” that comment.)

After the proceedings finding Nungesser “not responsible,” the parties were bound by a confidentiality agreement, but the university not only failed to enforce it but instead supported (and allowed a professor to support) Sulkowicz’s allegations, which were made in such a way as to garner maximum public exposure (her story was covered in the media of 35 countries and her claims were treated as true). Columbia did nothing, even though its officials were made aware (see pp 14-15 here) that the accuser had breached confidentiality when speaking to a reporter. Subsequent breaches by the accusers (Sulkowicz had enlisted several friends of hers) as well as an article in the campus press that made it very clear (without actually naming him) who the supposed rapist was, were ignored by the university as well, although Nungesser still felt bound by his own confidentiality agreement.

I could go on and on and on, because it gets worse (much worse) as Sulkowicz continues her vendetta against Nungesser. You can read it all here. I can almost guarantee it will make you very, very angry, as it did me, even though I already knew most of the story.

I know full well that universities in this country have become almost totally co-opted by the left, and are not interested in protecting the rights of anyone who does not follow the accepted PC line. I also know that the accepted PC line in the case of rape is that women don’t lie and that they must be allowed to fully engage in all manner of sex both casual and un- and make whatever ex-post-facto charges against men that they wish, and for whatever reason they wish, and that anyone who questions them is evil. I just can’t accept that this line of reasoning has taken over at the institutions of higher learning in this country, even though I was aware of it as far back as twenty-five years ago when I was an older graduate student at a university and witnessed it myself.

Such a sad state of affairs we have come to. Can lawsuits like Nungesser’s even begin to reverse the powerful tide?

April 25th, 2015

Bruce Jenner: coming out

Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer last night (which I did not watch) revealed to the last three people in the world who didn’t already know it that he is transgendered and considers himself a woman.

That announcement seems to have been taken rather well by a world that seems more interested in the Kardashians and their doings than I think they should be, and I wish him luck—he’ll need it.

Jenner got some hateful responses, though, for—get ready for it—announcing in the same interview that he is (gasp!) a Republican.

If he’d asked me, I would have told him to tread carefully there and to expect a lot of flak. Coming out as a Republican is still the sin that cannot be forgiven.

April 24th, 2015

Something else to think about

Just in case you didn’t have enough to worry about, there’s Yellowstone:

A new University of Utah study reports discovery of a huge magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone’s previously known magma chamber.

…The new report fills in a missing link of the system. It describes a large reservoir of hot rock, mostly solid but with some melted rock in the mix, that lies beneath a shallow, already-documented magma chamber. The newly discovered reservoir is 4.5 times larger than the chamber above it. There’s enough magma there to fill the Grand Canyon.

…This is a volcano that can erupt either in a big way or a truly colossal and catastrophic way. The big eruptions can send lava flowing over a big portion of the park; the really huge ones can form a giant crater, or caldera. The last time Yellowstone had a calderic eruption was 640,000 years ago, and the misshapen hole it created was about 25 miles by 37 miles across. This caldera has since been filled in by lava flows and natural erosion, and Yellowstone Lake covers a portion of the area. The main visual evidence of the old caldera is the striking absence of mountains at the heart of the park: They were literally blown away in the last eruption.

Risk assessment is tricky for low-probability, high-consequence events like volcanic eruptions. The big Yellowstone eruptions occur on time scales of many hundreds of thousands of years. Smith said the repeat time for a caldera explosion at Yellowstone is roughly 700,000 years. But the smaller eruptions, with lava flowing over the surface, are more frequent. There have been at least 50 such smaller eruptions since the caldera exploded 640,000 years ago. The most recent was about 70,000 years ago.

Okay, maybe we don’t have to worry all that much. But I was struck by those dimensions: a caldera 25 by 37 miles. Awesome in the original sense of the word.

April 24th, 2015

About that drone strike gone wrong

How can a drone strike kill only the terrorists, when terrorists have a habit of kidnapping Westerners and holding them hostage?

Can’t be done, despite the fact that we’d like it to be so.

Therefore I refuse to blame Obama for the deaths of hostages Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, dreadful and tragic as those deaths are. Unless some sort of negligence is found, I just don’t see how this sort of thing can be avoided if we are going to use drone strikes, or any other sort of violence for that matter, in a region where we are dealing with people who purposely mix civilians (and hostages) with terrorist fighters.

April 24th, 2015

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

Lenin said it, and he was right:

Bill Clinton helped out Kazakhstan’s dictator with some propaganda at home 10 years ago in exchange for Clinton Foundation board member Frank Giustra being allowed to purchase uranium interests inside that country. Giustra’s company got rich and made a correspondingly rich donation to the Foundation. The company ended up merging with another company to form Uranium One, which began buying up uranium interests inside the U.S. Eventually the stakeholders in Uranium One wanted to make a bigger score by selling the company to — ta da — Russia, but they knew a deal like that would need to be approved by top officials of the federal government, including … the Secretary of State. So they dropped another pile of cash on the Clinton Foundation and the deal was approved. (See why Hillary might have been keen to have that private e-mail server of hers wiped?) And now a huge chunk of America’s uranium supply is controlled by Vladimir Putin, one of Iran’s chief nuclear suppliers. The uranium in your soil may eventually end up in an Iranian enrichment facility…

Clinton defenders would say that sort of thing could never happen because part of the uranium deal with the Russians was that there was a “no export” rule. But that’s not quite the case in reality:

Mr. Christensen, 65, [owner of a Wyoming ranch where uranium deposits are being mined by Uranium One] noted that despite assurances by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that uranium could not leave the country without Uranium One or ARMZ obtaining an export license — which they do not have — yellowcake from his property was routinely packed into drums and trucked off to a processing plant in Canada.

Asked about that, the commission confirmed that Uranium One has, in fact, shipped yellowcake to Canada even though it does not have an export license. Instead, the transport company doing the shipping, RSB Logistic Services, has the license. A commission spokesman said that “to the best of our knowledge” most of the uranium sent to Canada for processing was returned for use in the United States. A Uranium One spokeswoman, Donna Wichers, said 25 percent had gone to Western Europe and Japan.

So, let’s sell some more rope! Whatever could go wrong?

April 24th, 2015

The Clintons: above the law

Commenter “clarityseeker” has a question for me about the Clintons:

What is it that drives them to “feel” above the law, and to operate on the premise that they need not adhere to norms, social standards, much as the rest of us do?

My speculative answer—

The Clintons have always been powerful people, even when young. As early as college and law school they were widely considered to be brilliant and charismatic, both in different ways. Recall, for example, that Hillary was chosen to give a commencement speech in her graduating year at Wellesly, a very unusual honor. The main speaker was Senator Edward Brooke, but she stole his thunder:

Clinton, then just Hillary Diane Rodham, was chosen by her peers to be the first student speaker to deliver a commencement address at Wellesley College. Clinton electrified 400 of her peers at the women’s liberal arts college with a fiery speech that captured the young generation’s disillusionment over President Richard Nixon’s war in Vietnam.

…Brooke spoke first and suggested the anti-war protests sweeping across college campuses were a poor way of exercising students’ constitutional right to assemble, saying “coercive protests” would discourage support from people empathetic to their cause. Clinton, who had led demonstrations against the Vietnam War on campus, wasn’t afraid to take a moment to go off script and respond to Brooke’s speech.

Life magazine did an article that featured her; the whole thing was somewhat like the fuss made when Obama was chosen as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Husband Bill was a star in school too. He was twice president of his class at Georgetown, for example. Then later, Rhodes Scholar. Suffice to say the accolades came early and they were numerous.

Can you imagine the power these two people felt when they united forces in marriage? Remember, also, that when Bill became the governor of Arkansas he was only 32, and the youngest governor in the country.

Of course, being a person with a record of early achievements doesn’t mean you will consider yourself above the rules that govern the little people. Nor do I think this happened right away with the Clintons (although Bill was always that way as a sexual adventurer, and the more he got away with it the more immune from consequences he felt). But as time went on, the combination of brains, people fawning on them, and the gaining of more and more power over time must have fed the feeling that they were immune to the usual rules for public servants.

The most important thing of all was that they got away with it. The more a person gets away with, the more impervious he/she feels. The pinnacle of all of that was what ought to have been the nadir: the Lewinsky scandal. Bill Clinton was finally caught and exposed and what happened? Essentially nothing, although it was embarrassing for a while.

My hunch is that the Clintons’ primary motivation has never been money, and initially money really didn’t enter into it very much at all. It was only slowly that money became a big part of it, and then that element grew in importance as the Clintons became very accustomed to their lavish lifestyle.

I submit, therefore, that it is somewhat rational for the Clintons to believe they are above the law. Events so far have proven them correct, haven’t they?

April 24th, 2015

I’ve got a theory about what happened on Skywest Airlines Flight 5622

There were some awfully mysterious doings on Skywest 5622:

SkyWest Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration appeared to give conflicting explanations for why three people passed out mid-flight Wednesday, forcing a plane to make an emergency landing.

With nearly 80 passengers on board, SkyWest Airlines Flight 5622 — operating as United Express on behalf of United Airlines — was 40 minutes into its flight from Chicago to Hartford, Connecticut, when a passenger in the middle of the plane began to lose consciousness…

The first passenger who lost consciousness received quick attention from Mary Cunningham, a registered nurse sitting nearby who got up to help. Cunningham said the passenger “was gray, her color looked awful.”

The nurse said after she got the sick passenger some oxygen, the woman became more alert.

“I went back to my seat,” Cunningham told reporters, “and they called me back because the person right behind her passed out.”

But then Cunningham started to feel faint herself. “I started to feel out of breath, so did the flight attendant. Everyone in that section of the flight started to not feel well,” Cunningham said.

The plane had dropped to a lower altitude in case there was a pressurization problem, and it safely made an emergency landing. But the depressurization theory was undermined by the fact that no warning was sounded and the cabin masks didn’t drop as they ordinarily would have. So as of now, everyone is stumped as to what went wrong.

What’s my theory? It’s subject to change if new information comes out, but I think the first person may have fainted for some reason that had nothing to do with the plane, and the rest fell prey to the phenomenon known as mass psychogenic illness, a form of mass hysteria. It’s surprisingly common, and the symptoms the people on the Skywest flight experienced fit the bill. What’s more, it appears (at least from my reading of the article) that all of the sufferers except the first one were aware of at least one other person with symptoms. That’s how mass psychogenic illness works, with the problem spreading by the power of suggestion:

Mass psychogenic illness (MPI), also called mass sociogenic illness or just sociogenic illness, is “the rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group, originating from a nervous system disturbance involving excitation, loss or alteration of function, whereby physical complaints that are exhibited unconsciously have no corresponding organic aetiology. MPI is distinct from other collective delusions, also included under the blanket terms of mass hysteria, in that MPI causes symptoms of disease, though there is no organic cause.”

Although symptoms are not limited to females, the majority of sufferers are women. Commonly exhibited symptoms are headache, dizziness and light-headedness, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty breathing, and fainting is not unheard of. Here’s a description of a previous episode:

On the morning of Thursday 7 October 1965, at a girls’ school in Blackburn in England, several girls complained of dizziness. Some fainted. Within a couple of hours, 85 girls from the school were rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital after fainting. Symptoms included swooning, moaning, chattering of teeth, hyperpnea, and tetany.

Of course, some people would say that even if no physical cause is found, such a cause nevertheless must exist and the mass illness is not psychogenic. I suppose that’s possible in some cases, but I believe the group psychogenic phenomenon definitely exists. One of the hallmarks of these episodes is the pattern of awareness among the people becoming ill, and of course another is that no actual illness is ever discovered (except at times in the very first victim).

The mind is an amazing thing.

April 23rd, 2015

An enormous thank you to everyone who donated

Pledge week is over. I am deeply grateful for every penny that was donated.

So thank you all, very very much.

And I am deeply grateful to everyone who comments here. Even the lurkers are appreciated, whoever you may be.

As in the chorus to this song:

We’re all in this thing together
Walkin’ the line between faith and fear
This life don’t last forever
When you cry I taste the salt in your tears

April 23rd, 2015

Is Hillary in even more trouble?

I don’t know.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m not sure what offense would be enough to cause a significant number of her supporters to turn on her.

But the NY Times is once again covering a story that could harm her:

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well. . .

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation…

Most of the commentary about the article linked by memeorandum seems to be from the right rather than the left. But I was especially curious how the left would cover it, and this from New York Magazine (not the left, exactly, but it will have to do) seems to set the tone: there’s no smoking gun, so no big deal:

While that sounds fishy, so far there’s no evidence that the donations affected the deal’s approval. In addition to the secretary of State, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy. It’s also possible that the decision was made by deputies or assistant secretaries in those agencies, not the cabinet members themselves. The Clinton campaign provided a statement from a former assistant secretary of State who said Clinton “never intervened” while he was handling CFIUS matters. Telfer said he made the donations to support his business partner, the Canadian mining executive Frank Giustra, and “the donations started before there was any idea of this takeover.”…

A source with “knowledge of the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising operation” confirmed the obvious to the Times: Many donors are giving to the Clinton Foundation because they hope the money will advance their cause. “Why do you think they are doing it — because they love them?” the source quipped. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were successful in their efforts to influence the Clintons. If the early reports are any indication, untangling the former (and possibly future) first couple’s professional and charity work is going to be an arduous task for journalists, and the findings may test the limits of America’s interest in Clinton scandals.

Somehow I doubt that journalists are up to that “arduous task.” And note with that final sentence (“the findings may test the limits of America’s interest in Clinton scandals”), I think New York is hoping that its readers, and American voters as a whole, are experiencing enough scandal fatigue that they won’t be up to the arduous task of caring whether or not soon-to-be-Democratic-presidential-nominee Hillary Clinton is corrupt.

Short of a video showing Hillary telling the donor “I didn’t support you before, but now that you’ve given me this money I do,” I can’t see how there would be a smoking gun here to discover. And of course, it goes without saying that if it were a Republican (or a Democratic enemy of Obama’s such as Menendez) being implicated, the reaction to a similar story would be very, very different.

Here’s my question, and it’s mostly a rhetorical one because I know the answer: Whatever happened to the idea of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety? Yes, I know; how quaint, and only for Republicans anyway. But if anything illustrates why it’s best to drop all entanglements that might give that appearance, it’s the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.

[NOTE: Oh, and there’s the little matter of tax returns:

For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years.

Those entries were errors, according to the foundation: several foreign governments continued to give tens of millions of dollars toward the foundation’s work on climate change and economic development through this three-year period. Those governments were identified on the foundation’s annually updated donor list, along with broad indications of how much each had cumulatively given since they began donating.

“We are prioritizing an external review to ensure the accuracy of the 990s from 2010, 2011 and 2012 and expect to refile when the review is completed,” Craig Minassian, a foundation spokesman, said in an email.

The decision to review the returns was made last month following inquiries from Reuters, and the foundation has not ruled out extending the review to tax returns extending back 15 or so years.

Perhaps the IRS was too busy auditing conservative groups to catch the Clinton errors.]

April 23rd, 2015

If you’re anywhere near central Massachusetts this Saturday…

…I strongly recommend you go see the movie “Run Boy Run.”

It is showing on Saturday, April 25 at 8:15 PM in Springfield, Massachusetts, at (of all places) the auditorium of the Basketball Hall of Fame. In fact, if you’re within driving distance, I urge you to make a special trip. It’s that good.

The movie was made in 2013, but it’s not available yet in DVD and I wonder whether it ever will be. If not, that’s shocking, because it’s an extraordinary film in every way. Story and script, but in particular the extremely fine acting from the international cast, the members of which each speak in their native tongues (mostly Polish, but quite a bit of German as well as Yiddish), as well as the cinematography. Never did Poland and northern Germany (which sometimes stands in for Poland) look so beautiful, in aching contrast to the searing story.

It’s full of brutality but balanced by heroism and the compassion of strangers who literally risk their own lives to help a small boy. I’ve never seen a film dealing with the Holocaust and World War II that deals so well with the different ways people reacted, from cruelty and eager cooperation to ambivalence and/or indifference to tentative sympathy and small acts of kindness to self-sacrificing courage of sort I would describe as nearly saintly. The film engenders so many emotions and provokes so much thought that it is one that will stay with you forever.

I would offer a trailer here (there are several on YouTube) but I hesitate because I think the trailers give away too many plotlines that should remain a surprise. So I’ll leave that to you.

But please, if you have a chance to see the movie, go.

[NOTE: If you’re a basketball fan, the Hall of Fame is right there, too. If you’re an Emily Dickinson fan, the house in the lovely New England town of Amherst where she lived and wrote her poems is a fascinating place to visit, and probably a bit different from the way you had pictured it.]

April 23rd, 2015

More about that video and conservative infighting

I was on the road most of yesterday and didn’t have time to respond to the comments at the thread with the Monty Python video till just now. Seems to me that the misunderstandings of what I was attempting to say with the post are big enough that the subject deserves a post of its own.

I’m completely aware that the scene in the video is meant to mock the Left. But it also mocks the sort of infighting—especially on smaller details when in the larger sense there is basic agreement—that weakens or destroys a movement or a cause.

And of course I’m aware that “Republican” does not equal “conservative.” We’ve certainly discussed that here, over and over.

My point, however, was that infighting among conservatives, and especially nit-picky objections to conservative candidates, makes it possible for a weaker, “establishment” candidate to be nominated.

To those who write that there have been no conservative candidates for president since Reagan, my response is that there have been plenty of them. None of them have won the Republican nomination, though, in part because of splits in the conservative wing of the party, but also because they’ve just not been very good candidates.

I wrote about that in this 2012 post, in which I said:

A while back I ran a post with a list of every Republican who has run in the primaries since 1976 (at least all those who stayed in for any length of time, and even some who didn’t). Let’s take another look at it, and please tell me what available winner-conservative candidate should have been nominated instead of loser-RINO candidates Bush I (1992), Dole (1996), and McCain (2008).

Because I don’t see it. Really, what you’ve got there for conservative candidates after 1980 is Pat Buchanan (several times), Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Mike Huckabee—and (drum roll, please) Mitt Romney in 2008, when Romney was considered a conservative alternative to McCain…

You can find that more complete list of candidates here. In addition, of course, in 2012 you had Gingrich, Bachmann, and Santorum on the conservative side (not sure where to put Rick Perry, but I’m pretty sure Ron Paul doesn’t qualify as conservative). They all had huge drawbacks in terms of the ability to draw votes in the general election (especially in that hard-to-define quality, likeability, which Reagan had in spades), and at any rate they split the conservative vote in the primaries and did not win.

So I don’t agree that there’s been some sort of suppression of conservative candidates who otherwise would have done well in the general. That’s a myth conservatives like to tell themselves, IMHO, to cover up the fact that the conservative candidates in the last few decades have been weak and unappealing in various ways.

This year, however, is a very different story. The Republicans are blessed with a crop of young, smart, conservative candidates, in particular Walker, Cruz, and Rubio. Note that two are Hispanic, and two are actually “likeable” in the sense I mean: Rubio and Walker (sorry, Cruz; I like you, but you don’t have that “it” factor). I also like Carson and Fiorina—and they have the advantages of being black and being a woman, respectively—but both lack experience in political office, which makes them vulnerable to attack on that score. As for Rand Paul, he takes up the space formerly occupied by his father, only a kinder, gentler, smarter, less flaky version. And Rick Perry is, once again, Rick Perry (whom I also like but he just doesn’t seem to be able to get traction).

Let me be clear: I think this year is the year a conservative has a very good chance of winning the Republican nomination. And I think if it’s the right conservative (who to me at this point seems to be Walker or Rubio, although that’s subject to change) he could actually win the presidency, even against tough Electoral College odds.

Conservative voters have to be smart, though, and not start nit-picking on every little thing. Most importantly of all, I suggest they not stay home if their favored conservative doesn’t win the nomination. If you’re a Cruz supporter, for example (Cruz to my way of thinking being the “purest” and most “principled” conservative in the race), not voting for Rubio or Walker in the general if either wins the nomination would be an extraordinarily self-destructive thing to do, although I have no doubt the people doing it would argue that it’s principled.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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