Monday, April 30, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris
(or New York, Moscow, Shanghai, etc.)

Back in the Pleistocene, law students used to take a course called “conflict of laws.” Some still do. It was/is a course with roots going back at least as far as the Roman Empire: how to orchestrate a coherent theme out of the cacophony of competing legal systems. For the saving remnant who still care about this sort of thing, I offer the makings of a final exam. It’s a sketch of the background of Jean Monnet, the man who, more than anyone else, created the European Union:

As a young man Monnet traveled the world to market the family wares [French cognac—ed.], from the Yukon to rural Egypt. He spent a long time in North America, giving him an understanding of American business practices, business partners in the United States, and good English.

Monnet had an exporter’s belief in economic internationalism. He was a globe-trotter long before people realized that the globe could be trotted. A convoluted episode from his personal life is illustrative. In 1929 Monnet fell in love with a married woman, the Istanbul-born daughter of an Italian publisher of a French-language newspaper. In 1935, in an era of difficult divorces, they arranged to converge on Moscow, he from financial consulting in Shanghai, she from her temporary home in Switzerland. There Silvia took out Soviet citizenship and took advantage of the liberal Soviet divorce code to divorce her husband and marry Monnet. They moved to Shanghai, then set up housekeeping in New York, in part because they needed to stay away from Europe to avoid a custody dispute over Silvia’s daughter by her first husband. Over the next decade they moved back and forth among New York, Washington, London, Algiers and (once the daughter was grown) Paris.

Jeffry A. Frieden, Global Capitalism 284 (2006)

Frieden on Global Capitalism

I like to camp out at the world’s greatest coffee shop here in downtown Palookaville with my copy of (all caps) Global Capitalism. As far as this crowd is concerned, I might as well be reading Your Inner Werewolf, or Child Abuse for Dummies. In fact, it is not quite as bad as they may think. In his absorbing 476-page narrative history (link), Jeffry (sic) Frieden makes it clear that he is a fan of global capitalism, but with reservations. It can bring huge benefits, he believes, but the benefits come with costs, and there is no particular virtue in letting those costs fall—as they so often do—on the innocent.

Frieden’s account is subtitled “Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century.” The fall-and-rise point is dramatic: the world reached a high point of economic integration before World War I, then spiraled down into autarky through war, and depression, and another war—before embarking on the spectacular trajectory towards integration that we live with today. The “Twentieth Century” part is a more or less fair representation, but in fact Frieden fills in a lot of background—we get a potted history of the Gold Standard that runs all the way back to Isaac Newton.

The kind of reader who will pick up this book probably knows most of the basic facts in it (although I confess I had never heard of Edward Kemmerer before, and I don’t remember Rubber Dollar Warren). Still, I don’t know anybody who gives the economic story the same primacy, nor puts it in such perspective. As a sample of his breadth and concision, consider his thumbnail account of tropical staple farming:

Coffee, cotton, sugar, and rice together accounted for more than half of the tropics’ agricultural exports in 1913, and the impact on tropical societies could not have been more different. M In common lore, sugar and cotton were ‘reactionary’ crops, while coffee and rice were ‘progressive’ crops … The former were plantation products and created some of the world’s most inequitable and torpid societies; the latter were small-farm products and provided opportunities for extensive economic growth. Plantation owners usually farmed sugar and cotton with gang labor. Overseers drove rows of closely watched workers through the fields, with no need to reward individual initiative and motivation. … Large farms were more efficient than small ones, and small independent farmers could not compete with plantation owners.

Coffee and rice, on the other hand, were ideal smallholder crops. … Unlike in the case of sugar and cotton, large-scale gang labor was not practical. … And when the dominant crop was grown by independent smallholders, more broad-based and equitable patterns of political growth usually followed. …

The bitter aftertaste of sugar dominance was shocking inequality. A wealthy elite lorded over an impoverished labor pool, with little incentive to encourage economic, social, or human development, all of which would simply have bid labor away from the sugar plantations. … The economic and political orders reinforced the position of wealthy landowning and merchant classes with little reason to improve the quality of government, infrastructure, or schooling.

In contrast, Latin American’s coffee lands were among the great developmental successes of the decades before World War One. It is not coincidental that coffee, like rice or wheat, was easy to grow at very competitive costs on small farms.

Jeffry A. Frieden, Global Capitalism 98-100 (2006)

Afterthought: motivates me to read a history of coffee. Amazon lists several, none an obvious choice. Readers are invited to offer suggestions.

Perlstein and the Aunt Millies

A few days ago I ran across to Rick Perlstein’s blog. I had just finished his admirable book on the Goldwater revolution and was pleased and amused to find that he had made himself the master of the sinkhole.

I don’t think I then grasped a couple of more general points; one, the blog is brand new, and two, Rick has done a dandy job of identifying a hitherto unpopulated niche in the teeming and gabbling blogosphere. In brief, he has made himself the patron saint of what he calls the “Aunt Millies” -- old-fashioned types who don’t like all this new-age nonsense (“young folks nowadays…”) but who do expect their government to do ordinary stuff like keep the e. coli out of the food chain, or fix the sinkholes.

It’s a fiendishly clever strategy. Perlstein, who knows a lot about conservatives, knows that there are lots of people who vote conservative but who are (wait for it!) pretty decent folk. They may rail and fuss about the Mess in Washington and how they want to Throw the Bums Out, but they do expect the government to do the things they do expect it to do. And who could defend a sinkhole--The National Sinkhole Association? Citizens for American-Sinkhole Friendship? The Sinkhole Advisory Council?

I don’t think I’m precisely an Aunt Millie: I spent too much time in daily newspaper journalism to have any special high regard for the common run of politicians. But I’ve seen a bit of old-fashioned good government in my day, and as the fella says, I know what I like.

Potholes and e. coli seem to be the big items on the Aunt Millie patrol so far, but Perlstein is not so limited. He is also good at, for example, trolling locals newspapers for mundane instances of defining good government down (e.g., link). And he is running a productive subspecialty in mundane lies. It’s good stuff in its own right, and it’s promising: a potential source of more good stuff not covered elsewhere. Long may you blog, Rick; I just hope it doesn’t distract you from your next book.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Carlton Recommends Budden on Verdi

A shout-out to Underbelly’s culture consultant Carlton for the culture-find of the years: Julian Budden’s three-volume set, The Operas of Verdi (link), which is just what it appears to be—a detailed examination of all Verdi operas, chronologically, with tons of musical examples. Il Teatro Buce is an established venue for Verdi DVDs, but we have to admit we are not superswift auditors, and we can use lots of good critical guidance. Here it is, all in one place, and I can testify that it works. We spent two evenings going through Don Carlos—not an easy task, because there are so many versions, and no two performances stage it exactly the same way, and Budden tries to cover them all, but well worth the effort. We gave another two evenings to Traviata which is, by any measure, pretty accessible Verdi, and one we thought we knew pretty well. Silly us: there are a thousand leaps an connections that Budden offers, which we had missed.

Incredibly, the set seems to be out of print at the moment. I got mine used from Amazon, and I must have got the last reasonably-priced sets—the prices on current offerings are enough to crack your glass eye straight across. But there seem to be quite as number of single volumes on offer, so it shouldn’t be difficult to put together a set of your own, and at a saving.

So, two down and—what, 20-odd?—to go, but that is fine. Lots more pleasant weekend evenings to look forward to. Carlton says he’s only sorry he can’t find this kind of resource for any other composer. Amen to that, but now that I think of it, I realize I did get some profit out of Bruce Alan Brown’s Così fan tutte in the “Cambridge Opera Series,” and I see by the flyleaf that they have a lot more in the same line (link). Anyway, thanks Carlton, and here’s wishing you many happy aural hours.

Pat Lang Is On a Roll (Plus a Question)

Pat Lang is on a roll this morning—

On George Tenet as a likeable guy:

I dislike George Tenet. I always have disliked him. I knew him well when he was head of the staff at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). I then thought that he was an ignorant, oily, political "hack" who "weathervaned" constantly to know which way the wind blew. He was pitifully under-qualified to be DCI and his lack of integrity under pressure in 2002 reflects his character in general.

On worrying about civilian deaths in war:

Most of the "tough guys" who like to talk about killing civilians have never seen a dead human other than in a casket in a funeral home.

On Bill Clinton’s “cowardly pacifism:”

I never voted for President Clinton, never gave him any campaign money, thought he was ludicrous in many of his actions, but to call a former president of the United States a coward and a pacifist takes a lot of hubris. You have to be really full of yourself to do that. He avoided military service? If that were a criterion for public service then Washington would be a "ghost town," depopulated of the leading lights in both parties.

For all the above see (link). In another post (link), Lang aligns himself with the absolutists on Iraq withdrawal:

The announcement of the beginning of our withdrawal will merely signal to all concerned that the "real" fight has begun.

In that context it must be understood that US logistical teams, advisers, the embassy, etc will all be at terrible risk during and after (the embassy) our withdrawal.

To withdraw our combat forces and leave these others in the country would be criminal. As Voltaire said, "pire qu'une crime, c'est stupide!"

I wish he would say more about this. The narrow point sounds right (Underbelly's class military analyst has been making the same point in unpublished emails for weeks). But I’m one of those who believes that we are stuck with the Middle East whether we want it or not. Does he mean to say that we have absolutely no role in stabilizing this tinder box? If he believes we have some role, just what does he envision it to be?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In Which We Find Out Who Wears The Pants

Underbelly’s Fly on the Wall reports:

SR: Say again—you’ve screwed up the war and now you are going to run the World Bank? This had certainly better not cause any problems for my career.

PW: Well, there is some kind of conflict-of-interest rule…

SR: Hah. Rules are for little people. Find away around it.

PW: Well, we could send you to the State Department…

SR: The State Department? That bunch of leftover Carterites? Are you kidding? Anway, they’ve already got a queen bee. And she doesn’t make a penny more than $173,000 a year. I’d need a good $7,000 ahead of that just for my trouble and convenience.

PW: Now Shaha, I am supposed to fight corruption....

SR: Don’t “Now Shaha” me. And what’s corrupt about getting your girlfriend a good job? $180,000 to start. And with eight percent annual raises.

PW: Shaha, Shaha, Shaha…

SR: Oh, quit sounding like the Little Engine that Could. $180,000 and tax free. Otherwise, you can just go see if your ex wife will answer your phone calls.

Been a long time since we’ve seen a public official quite so clearly bullied by his girlfriend. Thanks, you know who you are, although you may not want the credit.

Let Me Get This Straight...

Let me get this straight: he's a high level State Department official, formerly in charge of the Department of Abstinence-Only. He rings up the best-known madame since Heidi Fleiss.

And orders a massage?

And he believes himself fit to govern? Oh, I think not... (link).

"Available This Weekend for Only $15.95..."

Prehistoric camel found at Wal-Mart building site: (link), Thanks, John.

Alternative title: markets in everything.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Maybe It's Not Too Late

Maybe it's not too late to announce my candidacy (link):
Just how much can you expect from a typical septuagenarian brain?

It depends on the septuagenarian. ... (Septuagenarians who start with high cognitive function—like [Sen. John, my age-mate] McCain, perhaps—are less likely to experience mental deterioration as they age.)

(Oh wait, maybe I did).

Why Tenet Is Still a Bonehead

Kevin Drum (and God knows, everyone else) are going on about the George Tenet non-event (link), in which the former CIA director proves once again that you shouldn't run with wolves if you pee like a puppy. In Kevin's case, the focus falls in particular on the Medal of Freedom, as in "just for a handful of silver he left us..."--Tenet's artless and ultimately pathetic fixation on the Bushy bauble.

What Tenet seems never to have grasped was that he would have a thousand times better chance of getting good notice in the history books if he had refused the Medal than he did by taking it. Wiki's list of notable recipients includes, what, 100 names (link). And I'll bet even the most devoted trivia maven will have trouble identifying more than two thirds of these. And these are the notables. By refusing, he might even have made us forget "slam dunk."

Fn.: I should add that, reading the early out-takes, I suspect that Tenet may actually have the better of on the issue of slam dunk (but recall that his principal adversary here is Bob Woodward, and don't get me started on him). But nobody cares, or will care for more than one news cycle. Now, refusing the medal...

Fn2: Recall Hitler's generals, with their tropical rainforest of decorations. As I recall, Hitler liked to appear among them with no medals at all.

Another Must Read: A Light Colonel Takes On the Generals

Channeled by Phil Carter, a lieutenant colonel, who must be considering other career options, takes on the generals here. He puts me in mind of T.X. Hammes, whom he does cite (link), and Andrew Bacevich (link), whom he does not (or at any rate, not in this piece).

I think you can put the point in two ways, a general and particular. The general point is that big bureacracies behave the way that big bureaucracies behave. The particular is that when you read the stories of the runup to the war, you are just blown away by the careerist cowardice of the upper-level bureaucratic Caesar-wannabees among the generals who knew perfectly well that the war plan was incoherent at best, but who figured better a chance for (perceived) valor and glory in this war than in no war at all.

What I Really Meant Was: TPM on the War

I said the other day that the problem with the war was that we'd already won (link). I seem to have been a bit defensive at the time, as if I feared I was being flip.

TPM is up with a wonderful post this morning that says what I wish I'd said in the first place (link). The whole thing rewards reading, but here are some takeaway points:

We had a war. It was relatively brief and it took place in the spring of 2003. The critical event is what happened in the three to six months after the conventional war ended. The supporters of the war had two basic premises about what it would accomplish: a) the US would eliminate Iraq's threatening weapons of mass destruction, b) the Iraqi people would choose a pro-US government and the Iraqi people and government would ally themselves wtih the US.

Rationale 'A' quickly fell apart when we learned there were no weapons of mass destruction to eliminate.

That left us with premise or rationale 'B'. But though many or most Iraqis were glad we'd overthrown Saddam, evidence rapidly mounted that most Iraqis weren't interested in the kind of US-aligned government the war's supporters had in mind. ...

This is the key point: right near the beginning of this nightmare it was clear the sole remaining premise for the war was false: that is, the idea that the Iraqis would freely choose a government that would align itself with the US and its goals in the region. ...

I would submit that virtually everything we've done in Iraq since mid-late 2003 has been an effort to obscure this fact. And our policy has been one of continuing the occupation to create the illusion that this reality was not in fact reality. In short, it was a policy of denial. ...

It's a huge distortion to say that this means the war was 'lost'. It just means what the war supporters said would happen didn't happen. The premise was bogus.
Couldn't have put it better myself. Or rather, I didn't put it better myself.

Why Isn't Opera As Good As It Used to Be?

Tyler Cowen weighs in on the question of why opera singing has declined (you'd noticed?) (link). I'd go with some combination of Tyler's #5 and #6--the suits don't like individuality, because they think it doesn't sell. It's the same reason every Broadway show is miked at full volume--the suits think that loud sells, even though the theatre people think it loses all individuality that way. Or the reason every Toll Brothers home has Everything you could Want in a Home and nonetheless lacks charm.

I'd offer another reason, at least for my own taste: nostalgia. I like to listen to mouldy opera disks for the same reason I read Alan Furst novels, or a lot of people watch Edwardian soapers on Mawsterpiece Theatre: a yearning for a past we never experienced (segue to Snoopy on "when this cruel war is over").

Ms. Buce suggests another possibility: it is not the moderns but the ancients that are less well trained. Nobody ever listened to Callas for technique. Less polished voices are more likely to jump off the shelf at you. I think of Bruno Walter doing Beethoven's Fifth with the Philadelphia Symphony: they sound like they are about to fall off a cliff, as if they are all saying "my God, we're playing Beethoven!" Gives the performance an urgency that you just wouldn't get in a more disciplined age (I think I got this last point from Jim Svejda (link))

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Are There Any Bad Danny DeVito Movies?

I have long embraced the view that there is no truly bad Danny DeVito movie. There are mediocre Danny DeVito movies (cf. link); not every movie can be as wonderful as this (link). But bad? Oh, I think not.

We may be testing the limits of this proposition. If you believe these guys, there’s a documovie in the works about the Valerie Plame spy-outing affair, with DeVito as her husband, Joe Wilson.

I guess they could cast this lady as Valerie, but it’s a stretch.

Afterthought: I think the same rule may apply to Harry Dean Stanton (link) but I never saw this.

Annals of Journalism: How to Cover a Retreat

“Now, kid, you just sit down behind this machine gun and when the bad guys start coming over the top, you just keep firing. And don’t worry, kid, we’ll be back for you.”

I feel sorry for Dana Perino:

Q: Dana, on the “mission accomplished” speech, though, wasn’t the phrase something to the effect of, “the battle of Baghdad is over”? Clearly that’s not true.

PERINO: I think it was — it was major combat. And I — it was major combat operations. And at that point, if you’re going back — I’m not the greater historian on this, since I was at the Council on Environmental Quality during this episode, but Baghdad did fall very quickly. One of the things that we have learned over the years is how strong, first of all, that al Qaeda would be in Iraq, that they would set up this battle as, in their own words, the battle to win. And we did not know that their stoking of sectarian violence would do what it did last year. We had — at the end of 2005 and early 2006, you had the votes for a government and a vote for a constitution with millions of people in Iraq. And it looked like we were moving towards a period of political reconciliation. And then if you look at the marker of the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February of 2006, it really started this chain reaction, which is — then in the fall of 2006, the President heard the call of the American people who wanted to see a change in Iraq, and he underwent an extensive review, a comprehensive review which led to the new Baghdad security plan, which is now under way as General Petraeus –

And it goes on (link). Even for someone with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication, it should be easier than this.

Hey Baby, You Want to See My Merit Badge?

I think these are beyond wonderful. I assumed I really didn’t qualify (I concede that teaching spreadsheets to lawyers is not quite “science”). But then I found this:

That’s “experienced with electrical shock, level III”—“In which the recipient has had experience with the shocking of himself/herself.” When I was 10 years old, while standing in the creek, I leaned against the cow fence. Probably explains a lot. H/T, Kottke, BoingBoing

Must Read: Why Then, Our Enemies Will Have Won

Mark Thoma channels Nancy Youssef of McClatchey (link):

The administration is not counting deaths from car bombings in the Iraqi civilian death counts used to assess whether the surge is working because, as Bush argues, "If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory."

Isn’t this the way Burt Reynolds keeps score on Jeopardy?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Born to Rule (Not About Curzon)

This is not another Curzon post, but it is a wonderful insight into the British ruling class, as set forth in the wonderful David Gilmour biography of Curzon that I excerpted elsewhere. Gilmour is discussing the remarkable “coalition government” that ruled Britain from 1916 to 1922, The coalition came together to prosecute World War I, but then persisted longer in peacetime than it subsisted in time of war. Gilmour explains:

The Coalition survived largely because some of its Conservative leaders had come to see themselves as figures above party politics. Birkenhead thought the country simply required an oligarchy consisting of the two most charismatic Liberals, Churchill and Lloyd George, allied to Chamberlain, Balfour and himself; anyone who disagreed he abused or lectured for lack of loyalty. A similar, though much less typical, arrogance was displayed by Chamberlain, who deluded himself into thinking that the party needed its leaders more than they needed the party.

--David Gilmour, Curzon 549-50 (Papermac Paperback ed. 1994)

For men born to rule, they were oddly deficient in blue blood. Birkenhead” would be F.E. Smith, a Johnny-come-lately among aristos, having been created Baron Birkenhead only in 1919 (link). “Chamberlain” would be Sir Austen Chamberlain, eldest son of Joseph, himself one of the most influential politicians of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (link), but a man of humble beginnings. The only true aristo of the three was Arthur Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, member of the Cecil family whose eminence goes back to the time of Elizabeth I (his Uncle, the Marquess of Salisbury, was the last prime minister to sit in the House of Lords) (link).*

Ironically, of the “Charistmatic liberals,” Churchill had a pedigree almost as eminent as Balfour’s: he descended from John Churchill, made Duke of Marlborough at the accession of William and Mary (link). The only true man of the people would have been Lloyd George, son of a Welsh schoolteacher (link).

Churchill’s own father, Randolph, blazed across the political landscape at the end of the 19th Century (link) (he died prematurely in 1895). The elder Churchill and the elder Chamberlain both functioned as intriguers and mischief-makers who did more to revise than to retain the traditional hierarchy. Winston himself switched party lines more than once; he is perhaps better thought of as a romantic than as a conservative.

Perhaps needless to say, aside from the inner circle, Curzon certainly believed himself more fit to be prime minister than anybody. Ironically, the ultimate successor was Stanley Baldwin, regarded by most if not all of this crowd as a pipsqueak (link).


*Alec Douglas Home was named from the House of Lords but he renounced his peerage to enter the Commons (link).

The Question at Lunch: Haremour

The Question at Lunch was: what to call Paul Wolfowitz’s cookie. Okay, cookie is not right, but what is? “Principal squeeze” sounds down-market. “Lover” has too much perfume. “Partner” and “companion” fit some relationships but perhaps not this one. Someone suggested “paramour,” which may have to do—but in the clutter of the moment, I heard it as


Now, there is a word that deserves a place in the language, as in: he doesn’t have just one, he has a whole harem of them. Whether it fits here I do not know. It surely fits someplace, but maybe in this case, we should just settle for “transitional wife.”

Fn: The Online Etymology Dictionary (link) adds:

Originally a term for Christ (by women) or the Virgin Mary (by men)

No, I guess not.

On Glenn Greenwald and David Halberstam

Glenn Greenwald is in rare form today as he undertakes to eviscerate the mainstream press in its hypocrisy and general slackerism (link). The whole thing is worth every bit of the ten seconds’ worth of effort it takes to jump the Slate paywall. The piece might be read as an expansion on his earlier posts remembering the career of his hero, David Halberstam, dead this week at 73 (e.g., link, link, link). But the comparison/contrast, can with profit be pressed a bit further.

In any discussion of Halberstam and the excessive chumminess between the press and its sources, one curiosity is that Halberstam, the ultimate loner, was anything but an outsider. He spent a good chunk of his youth in Westchester County; he was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson (his brother went on to be a prominent cardiologist in Washington, DC).

But after Harvard Halberstam took a career step that must have appeared eccentric to the point of lunacy. While his classmates were scrambling to be copyboys at the New York Times, Halberstam went off to report for the local paper at West Point, Mississippi (the paper published a gracious memorial, recalling his West Point beginnings (link)).

The point, at least as he remembered it,* was that he saw that the story of the moment was civil rights, and the place to cover it was on the front lines. This account, if true, describes the Halberstam of memory: courageous and self-possessed to the point of near pathological arrogance . No wonder, then, that when Jack Schafer went looking for memories of Halberstam among those who knew him in youth, his gleanings were mostly unkind (link).** For me, nothing captures the attitude better than the picture I’ve linked here of Halberstam waist deep in the big muddy, but making time to look over his shoulder to cook a snook at those who trail along in his wake.

I remember Halberstam’s Vietnam stuff, and The Best and the Brightest (which I thought overlong, but interesting); also The Fifties, again a bit overlong, but fascinating to me because I had lived through the 50s, unencumbered by much of the insight that Halberstam seemed to have acquired. I’m not much of a sports fan so I passed over a good many of the other books. Still others seemed, well, perhaps not worth the effort.

So the late Halberstam was not, I think, the kind of reporter that Greenwald so much admires. But who cares? It is hard work being a courageous loner, perhaps inevitably left to the young and the energetic He paid his dues and he had a right to coast. The real trouble is the folks that are trying to have it both ways: the ones who want to trade on the Halberstam aura and mystique, without evincing anything like the Halberstam grit and drive.

[And don’t get me started on Bob Woodward…]

*Why do I qualify? Glad you asked. I qualify for the same reason I felt skeptical of the Jessica Lynch story from day one: it sounds too neat.

**On the other hand, was there ever a more bitchy or backbiting crowd than the folks in the newsroom at the NYT?

Lord Curzon as a Tiepolo Ceiling

More Lord Curzon, and no apologies. In some sense, he is as distant from us as a Tiepolo ceiling (and yes, I have a soft spot for Tiepolo ceilings). As David Gilmour says correctly, his term in India was “a viceroyalty often seen as both the apogee of the British empire and the beginning of its decline.” And Gilmour is at his best assessing Curzon’s attitude towards India and the Indians:

Curzon has been much vilified for his alleged contempt for Indians … . He did not think Indians were congenitally corrupt and dishonest but regarded them as the heirs of a great civilization sunk in a decadence from which they must be rescued. …. Earlier nineteenth-century administrators—most notoriously Macaulay—had dismissed the entire range of Indian culture after no more than a slender acquaintance with it. Curzon admitted only that it was going through a bad stage. To think that the West had a monopoly of wisdom, he declared, was arrogant and foolish … . He did not want the Indians to become brown Englishmen but encouraged them to assimilate Western thought into their own culture. … [H]e resolutely opposed attempts to convert Indians to Christianity. … [H]e bluntly told [a Christian Bishop] that he did not want India flooded with missionaries; he did not believe the country would become Christian or that its loyalty would be increased if it did. …

Unquestionably [his service as viceroy] lacked an elementary dimension, a vision of what India might become or of what she might one day want to become. Curzon thought that what she needed was beneficent rule, a Roman proconsulship or an enlightened despotism, not sympathetic guiding towards constitutional development. He loved the people of India, as he claimed, but he did not love them as a parent who watches his children grow from dependant infants via stages of increasing independence to adulthood. He was like the headmaster of a school whose pupils are always the same age and whom he therefore treats in the same way from one year to the next. Such treatment, in India as elsewhere, may be good for certain people for a certain time, but it cannot last and cannot become a permanent system. At best, as in Curzon’s case, it may induce respect, but it brings neither affection nor gratitude.

David Gilmour, Curzon 170-171, 345 (Papermac Paperback ed. 1994)

“The chief objects of his rule,” Gilmour recounts, “were to make Britain’s administration equitable and her dominion permanent.” (171). Perhaps the most useful perspective to offer on that is that Curzon felt pretty much the same way about the British themselves—except, to his lasting disappointment and dismay, he never got the post of prime minister that he (and, to be fair, others) felt he so richly deserved.

Ranks of the Undead: Yahoo

I really haven't followed closely enough to justify an opinion--and I am a congenital pessimist--but I admit I am one of those who has long believed that Yahoo stands among the ranks of the undead--no reason for being, and just waiting to fall over.

But Barron's points out:

[Yahoo] is maintaining its projections for a key measure of revenues--$4.95 billion to $5.45 billion, up as much as 20% from last year. And cash flow is expected to be 30% to 40% higher by the end of the year.]

As Homer would say: mmm, cash! Disclaimer: anyone who takes investment advice from me is a flaming, self-destructive lunatic.

Cute Headline

NYT on Toyota becoming Number 1 automaker:

Move Over G.M., Toyota is No. 1
Rivals in the Rearview Mirror May be Smaller Than They Appear


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Peter Neumann's Crystal Ball

Count me among those who believe that the tragedy of Iraq (one of them) is that we can't walk away. One reason I'm so mad at these bums is that they have left us far more deeply involved in a far more dangerous and unstable Middle East than we were before they started.

I don't know anybody in government who talks realistically about this point (although Jack Murtha sometimes comes close), Happily, Foreign Policy now hoiks up Peter R. Neumann, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, who offers a bit of sobersided futurology (link). The whole piece is worth reading, but here's a money shot:

[A] withdrawal announcement is much more likely to drive more Sunnis into the arms of the insurgency than it is to compel the insurgents to the negotiating table. ...
If the United States announces a timetable for withdrawal, the only way this grim scenario will not come to pass is if Sunnis and Shiites miraculously learn to trust each other again. That’s becoming more unlikely every day. ...

In their quest to win the policy argument, those who favor heading for the exits in Iraq shouldn’t dismiss as mere political rhetoric the idea that a sectarian blood bath—not reconciliation—is the most likely outcome. Most importantly, though, U.S. political leaders should understand that the game is not over once a withdrawal date is set. On the contrary, getting out of Iraq without unleashing a civil war is likely to be as delicate an operation as getting into the country was in the first place. Let us hope that if the United States does leave, the planning is better this time around.


Add this to the list along with

--Public/private pension meltdown
--Exploding housing bubble
--Burgeoning credit card debt
--Collapsing dollar
--Medicare cost explosion

[no, not social security, that is still a long way off]

Anyway: sinkholes.

H/T Sawicky, who remembers Guido the Guide.

The VA Emblems of Belief List

I was at my brother-in-law's funeral in a cemetery in the East Bay about 15 years ago when I found myself standing on a memorial stone bearing an Oakland Raiders' symbol. I'm sure it wasn't the first or the last, but apparently it has not yet made the list. Sadly, it is not among the "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers," as promulgated by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. There are 98 in all. Interesting that the Christian Science Symbol and the Muslim five-pointed star are not shown, because under coypright. The VA says:

No graphics (logos, symbols, etc.) are permitted on Government-furnished headstones or markers other than the approved emblems of belief, the Civil War Union Shield, the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of Honor insignias.

Confederate Southern Cross; nice to know that insurgents get representation. H/T BoinBoing.

Second Prize, Ten Days With Newt Gingrich

Oh wait (link).

Monday, April 23, 2007


Back in my grade-grubbing days (which ended sometime soon after I finished grammar [sic] school), I used to dread the biweekly appearance of our roving penmanship teacher. I got lots of 90s and 92s in my regular classes (numbers in lower elementary: yes) but in penmanship I used to get 65, maybe 68. She was beautiful; she was sweet; she was patient; and I failed her every time. Indeed, maybe it wasn't even "penmanship" that she taught; maybe it was "roving penmanship"; I would hardly know because the skill of putting pen to paper was one I was not then, and am not now, and never have been in between, able to conquer. About the best that can be said for it is that it gives me some compassion for kids who aren't good at school. I was always pretty good at most classroom stuff, but when it comes to penmanship, I whiffed every at-bat.

My ticket of admission to the human race was when I registered for Mary Jane Glennon's typing class in my first year of high school. Ever since I have been able to type like a bat out of a cave--fast enough to use it as a weapon, I used to intimidate my classmates with a blaze of typing skill during exams (not always accurate, but who knew?). In my newspaper days, I even learned to shift with my elbow, though that skill seems to have receded. Whatever penmanship skill I had has faded as well

"Whatever I had;" maybe none. But if I did, I surely belong here.

Afterthought: I never considered the point before, but what kind of life must it have been to travel from country school to country school all day long, teaching penmanship?

Markets in Everything -- VT

Carpetbagger has a good post up on how the American Family Association is using the VT shootings as a marketing opportunity. I’ve done my best to keep out of the snark game on VT, actuated by some residual shred of human decency and also figuring that most of what I say would have been said a thousand times elsewhere anyway. But let me offer one wrinkle I haven’t noticed elsewhere. That is: AFA and the chorus are treating all this as a visitation of God’s justice on Godlessness. I don’t know much of anything about VT except that (a) it sounded (and still sounds) like a pretty nice place; (b) it’s a Virginia state school; and (c) it is tucked back in the Appalachians.

Now, what are the chances that VT is a center of Godlessness? Okay, granted it is not Pat Robertson U. But Area Connect lists 48 churches—all apparently Christian, if you count Mormon. I don’t know quite what to compare with but it seems like a pretty impressive layout for a town of 39,573 (link). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that VT students rank high on almost any index of church participation (apparently the shooter himself had some sort of church tie, but I suspect we don’t know enough about that to press it very far). That is, if God has any kind of campus visitation schedule, I wouldn't be surprised to find that VT has long been high on his regular route. Seems to me that a really ticked-off God would have found more to suit his impulse for vengeance here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who Would JP Morgan Invite?--III

The staff and consultants here at Underbelly World Central have been puzzling for weeks over just how a subprime mortgage meltdown would play itself out in detail. It’s gratifying to note that the rest of the world is at last getting with the program (see “Who Would JP Morgan Invite?” – Part II (link) and Part I (link)). It is gratifying, therefore, to see the rest of the world at last getting with the program.

Here, for example is an instructive collection of insights at The Housing Bubble Blog (link). Here’s a teaser:

“I am guessing the subprime bailout will come in the form of some kind of taxpayer-provided insurance. This is a good way to get taxpayers to assume the costs, as few taxpayers understand that loading up the balance sheet of explicitly-guaranteed government agencies like the FHA or implicitly-guaranteed (too-big-to-fail) government sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac with toxic mortgage debt is a form of taxation.”

“However, one would have to pay premiums to a private insurer to assume the risk. In lieue of premiums, the cost assumes the form of a time bomb that will go off at some indeterminate point in the future when one of these debt-burdened agencies blows up and taxpayers are billed for the cleanup costs.”

Underbelly believes that government “insurance” is the most insidious form of government expenditure because it is so beguilingly easy to sell and because it is almost never possible to pinpoint the cost (who, even today, has a good notion of the true cost of the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s? And just in general, as a card-carrying, if not really paid-up, member of the “I’m Alright, Jack” club. I’ve already squeezed most of the subsidies out of the system that I am ever likely to get and I am not eager to finance anyone else’s.

Another commentator to hit the topic head-on is the formidable Gretchen Morgenson at the New York Times (link, but $)—although to be fair, she has had her arms and legs around the subprime story from the get-go. She says:

Because of the way mortgages are packaged into pools and sold to investors, it is still not clear who owns the faltering loans and how much money has been lost. The episode seems to be unfolding in slow motion.

At the risk of sounding cheerful, allow me to suggest one possible bright spot in all this mess: it may be that what we are seeing in part is simply the virtue of diversification. Even if California does, in fact, have three times as many foreclosures as it had a year ago, no individual bank goes under. That is precisely because we pooled all this stuff into portfolios designed to soften the hit—and, miracle of miracles, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

I don’t want to make too much of this. Underbelly believes that this rollie-coaster still has a long way to roll. And it remains true, as an earlier commentator said, that nobody really “owns the problem” yet, in the sense of feeling motivated to try to work out a meaningful solution. But if we are really lucky it may be that this problem will in the end turn out to be, if not exactly entertaining, still bearable.


Underbelly's Chief Military Correspondent weighs in on General Sherman:

...Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea’ was a classic chevauchee, a tactic used regularly in the Hundred Years War and related to scorched earth and the Russian defense in depth. A chevauchee was a cross country raid that literally wiped out everything of any value in a broad swath of countryside. According to Barbara Tuchman in A Distant Mirror both sides set out on these rampages killing and burning everything of value that they couldn’t carry off or eat on the spot. The path of destruction could be miles wide and 50 miles long. In the process they not only burned crops in the field or storage but girdled fruit trees, up rooted grape vines and burned everything else. Some of this went on in the 30 Years War – as the tactic was to deny the enemy the support of the local population and of course food. It could be accomplished by a smaller group of men and avoided pitched battle (source: link)

Sherman pretty well sliced the South in half and kept going. They uprooted the train tracks they weren’t using and bent the rails – and since the South didn’t have much industrial capacity, that was the end of the railroad. (Footnote, the South maintained a different rail road gage until the 1880 when a single width rail line was standardized.)

What I find amazing is that the population always came back from hiding and in a few years, had good farms running again. In parts of Germany, the countryside was so depopulated that men were forbidden to enter Holy Orders until age 50 and polygamy enjoyed a brief, sanctioned revival.

Birthday Greetings

W.S. born April 23, 1564; died April 23, 1616.

He had a good groatsworth of wit, Stephen said, and no truant memory. He carried a memory in his wallet as he trudged to Romeville whistling The girl I left behind me. If the earthquake did not time it we should know where to place poor Wat, sitting in his form, the cry of hounds, the studded bridle and her blue windows. That memory, Venus and Adonis, lay in the bedchamber of every light-of-love in London. Is Katharine the shrew illfavoured? Hortensio calls her young and beautiful. Do you think the writer of Antony and Cleopatra, a passionate pilgrim, had his eyes in the back of his head that he chose the ugliest doxy in all Warwickshire to lie withal? Good: he left her and gained the world of men. But his boywomen are the women of a boy. Their life, thought, speech are lent them by males. He chose badly? He was chosen, it seems to me. If others have their will Ann hath a way. By cock, she was to blame. She put the comether on him, sweet and twentysix. The greyeyed goddess who bends over the boy Adonis, stooping to conquer, as prologue to the swelling act, is a boldfaced Stratford wench who tumbles in a cornfield a lover younger than herself.

--James Joyce, Ulysses. Chapter 9, line 245 ff.

The nights of many schemes and little sleep,
The full brain hammered hot with too much thinking,
The vexed heart over-worn with too much aching, --
This weary jangling of conjoined affairs
Made out of elements that have no end,
And all confused at once, I understand,
Is not what makes a man to live forever.

--Edward Arlington Robinson, Ben Jonson Entertains a Man from Stratford

Afterthought: I had a girlfriend who was born on April 23. It was she who told be about Shakespeare. birth and death. She'd be about 70 now; hope she is doing well.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The High Tide of Small-r Republicanism

A couple of days ago, I posted an item about the old soldiers at the Delhi Durbar. It put me in mind of another memorable public spectacle—the celebratory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington at the end of the Civil War, and in particular, the force led by General William Tecumseh Sherman, ending the long march that had taken it across the length and breadth of the Confederacy:

The morning of the 24th was extremely beautiful and the ground was in splendid order for our review. The streets were filled with people to see the pageant, armed with bouquets of flowers for their favorite regiments or heroes, and every thing was propitious. Punctually at 9 a.m. the signal-gun was fired, when in person, attended by General Howard and all my staff, I rode slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds of men, women and children, densely lining the sidewalks and almost obstructing the way. … When I reached the Treasury-building, and looked back, the sight was simply magnificent. The column was compact, and the glittering muskets looked like a solid mass of steel, moving with the regularity of a pendulum.

[Sherman’s Army] was, in my judgment, the most magnificent army in existence—sixty-five thousand men, in splendid physique, who had just completed a march of nearly two thousand miles in a hostile country, in good drill, and who realized that they were being closely scrutinized by thousands of their fellow-countrymen and foreigners. … The steadiness and firmness of the tread, and the careful dress on the guides, the uniform intervals between the companies, all eyes directly to the front, and the tattered and bullet-riven flags, festooned with floors, all attracted universal notice. Many good people, up to that time, and looked upon our Western army as a sort of a mob; but the world then saw, and recognized the fact, that it was an army in the proper sense, well organized, well commanded and disciplined, and there was no wonder that it had swept through the South like a tornado. … Some of the division commanders had added, by way of variety, goats, milch-cows, and pack-mules, whose loads consisted of game-cocks, poultry, hams, etc., and some of them had the families of freed slaves along, with the women leading their children. M mach division was preceded by its corps of black pioneers, armed with picks and spades. These marched abreast in double ranks, keeping perfect dress and step, and added much to the interest of the occasion. On the whole, the grand review was a splendid success, and was a fitting conclusion to the campaign and the war.

--William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman 805-6
(Library of America ed. 1984)

I am aware, of course, that there are places in this country where people still find it possible to contain their admiration for Sherman. Perhaps because I grew up in New Hampshire, I have never been tempted to see things their way. As a warrior, he was a success by any measure. Yet the mark of a successful general is not his kill rate but his capacity to prevail. Sherman’s capacity to prevail is beyond any cavil but his kill rate, measured in context pretty mild. What he produced was not just a famous victory, but one of the most remarkable armies in human history—in many respects, the high tide of small-r republicanism, the very model of a citizenry in arms.

Fn.: April 24th. By my count, that is 142 years ago Tuesday.

We Still Lack Metrics

Harry Reid is catching flac for saying we’ve lost the war in Iraq (see, e.g., link and a thousand others). I think the Senator is wrong, but for the opposite reason. I still hang with those who say the problem is that we’ve won (cf. link, link, link). I’m talking not mere cosmetics, the Aiken maneuver (“declare victory and bring the troops home”). This is something far more substantive: fact is, we’ve accomplished everything we set out to do: Saddam is gone, we have, ahem, settled the WMD question, and we’ve structured a free election (we’ve even got a new oil law).

The administration has suckered us into believing that there is a reason for our continued presence, but nobody can articulate what that reason what might be—how we will know victory when we see it. In the words of a statesman of former times, “we lack metrics.” Sooner we get some, sooner we will be able to get on with our lives: rebuilding the army, supporting the troops and, oh yes, fighting the war on terror. In the words of Oliver Cromwell, echoed by everyone whose political patience was ever tested past enduranace,: “In the name of God, go!.”

[For a less flippant analysis on the same lines, go here.]

Why We Love New York

A stray kitten wanders up to a little girl who bends down to pet it.

Mom: Come on, sweetie, it's time to cross the street.
Little girl, dismayed: But I'm petting the kitty.
Mom: Honey, we need to go. Say bye-bye, now.
Little girl: Goddammit, mommy, I'm petting the kitty!

--17th & 6th

From Overheard in New York ("Can we have a little childhood here?"), and thanks, Larry.

Friday, April 20, 2007

In Which I am Chuffed, or Chuffed

I wrote that “the King was pretty chuffed” when the parliament men challenged his sovereignty (link). Over at DeLong (link), a commentator said that I got the meaning wrong (the commentator blamed DeLong, but the error, if any, was mine). “You should be aware,” he wrote, “[that] ‘chuffed’ is a Royal Navy expression meaning, roughly, proud.”

Hm, I didn’t know that. Is he right?

As judge of my own case (and after a bit of Googling), I declare: advantage, commentator--he is more right than wrong. But as with so many things in life, it is complicated. A review of online sources suggest that most support him, at least in general. gives “chuffed Brit. proud, satisfied” (link) . WordWeb Online gives: “Adjective: chuffed. Usage: Brit 1. Very pleased I'm chuffed to have won’” (link). “Pleased” may not be quite the same as “proud,” but they surely overlap, and the Wordweb example surely entails them both. In the same vein, see the online English-to-American dictionary (link); the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (link); MSN (link); Merriam Webster (link) and others.

So the commentator looks like a clear winner. But then the fun begins. For example, gives “ chuffed adj (Brit)1. colloq Very pleased.” (link). So far, familiar territory. But Allwords adds: Etymology: 19c: from dialect chuff plump or swollen with pride”

Two issues here. One, the synonyms. “proud” is one thing, “swollen with pride” is not quite the same. And plump. Proud and plump? One thinks of Mr. Toad and his new automobile; one detects a note of subtle mockery.

There is the more general problem of “chuffed” and “chuff.” One commentator declares that “chuffed” is “not to be confused with ‘chuff,’” (link), but I doubt that most speakers are so fastidious. And definitions of “chuff,” in general are not fastidious of all. It may be “An onamatopeia for the noise an old steam engine makes;” or rather a whole bunch of nasty stuff you may or may not care to know (link) (“eeuw, I think the king just chuffed").

And there is the matter of case. One may be chuffed adjectivally, but when "Switch engines chuffed impatiently in busy rail yards" (link), they were an intransitive verb.

And finally, one sharply differing view. gives “pleased; satisfied.” link But then it also gives “displeased; annoyed.” And (this is the interesting part) it offers two different etymologies: “From English dialect chuff (pleased, puffed, swollen with pride).” For “displeased” it offers “From chuff (boor, churl), Middle English chuffe.” The lexicographer adds:

I call them fence-sitters. They sit on the fences, ready to say one thing or its opposite, depending on which side they appear. I'm not talking about politicians. These are words, known by many names: autoantonym, antagonym, contranym, enantiodromic, amphibolous, Janus word, and so on.

To cleave is to cling or to split? Ravel is to tangle or to untangle? When you sanction a project, do you approve or disapprove of it?

When a proposal is tabled, is it being brought forward for discussion or being laid aside? In this case, it depends on which side of the Atlantic you live. It's the former in UK, the latter in the US.

So: most of the time, “proud,” just like the commentator said. But with perhaps a touch of subtle mockery, and perhaps an outright autoantonym. I admit I am chuffed to buggery at having found the occasion for this little display of pedantry, but I suspect the king just might have been chuffed to buggery himself.

Fn: Here’s an interesting commentary thread: (link)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crank on Humphries and Marquis

In a comment to my last post (link), the NY Crank says he has no memory of introducing me to Rolfe Humphries. I had speculated as much: funny what sticks, and what does not, after all these years.

Crank also recalls that we shared an enthusiasm for Don Marquis, of "Archy and Mehitabel" fame. He's got that one right (and once again, I suspect have been he who did the introduction). Marquis certainly was a great discovery for me as a 19-year-old. And unlike many discoveries from that period, I'd say he stands the test of time. Better than that, I suspect that Marquis is one of those writers who gets better with wear-- underrated because he is funny. He's not a great poet--he's not precisely a poet at all, even though he writes in a kind of verse. But he has a sensibility, at once fey and astringent, that is as satisfying now as when I first read him (I'd put him light years ahead of, say Ogden Nash, who today strikes me as just too cutsey for words).

Crank mentions Marquis on Shakespeare. Yes; I only dimly remember the one he quotes, but I often think about his account of how Archy the Cockroach met Pete the Parrot--the Parrot who used to live in the Mermaid Tavern where he met the Bard himself (I may steal from it in an anticipated Shakespeare post). I also like the one about the time when Archy visited the Met and talked about the Mummy. After an eternity of sand and dust, the Mummy was dying (sic?) for a beer. And Archy had tell him that he'd wound up in America under prohibition.

Well, well, said the Mummy (I quote from memory), my enemies always told me I would wind up in Hell someday, and it looks as if they had the right dope.

Don Marquis is one of those authors I try to inflict on the younger generation at the right age. But one of the high points of parenthood was the day my daughter--I think she was 15--came home to say "you'll never believe this hilarious poet I just found"--and so discovered him for herself ("Oh, we''ll never rest on Everest, my Himalaya honey"). Oddly enough, I'm not having so much luck with the next generation. I've tried it on a couple of housebroken teenagers who smile politely and turn away. But the daughter's own kids are preteens, so maybe I still have a chance (or maybe she intends to do the obsequies herself?).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"I Haved Loved Loving You"

Ah, yes, here it is—that poem I advertised for the other day. It’s entitled “A Song for Mardi Gras,” published in the Collected Poems of Rolfe Humphries (1965). My recollection is that when I first saw it (1957?) it was billed as a translation from the Welsh. The current edition doesn’t specify, but it bears what I take to be a Welsh epigraph: Dy garu de a gerais. A bit of Googling suggests that he was indeed a poet but perhaps more a translator; a very quick skim through the collective works suggests that perhaps the translations (especially from the Welsh) have more freedom and ease; perhaps you can get away with stuff in translation that you can’t do when you are at home. Here’s the poem:

I have loved loving you,
O my dear, my softly spoken.
Now the forty days draw near,
Vows are made, vows are broken.
Fare thee well, my little slim-waist—
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my fond, O my darling,
In the season and beyond,
Under moon, under star,
Now the time has come to fast--
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my linnet, O my dove,
God have mercy on a sinner!
Fare thee well and absent, love,
Moon and star go to waste—
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my green, O my shadow,
In the ambush set between
Mountainside, moor and meadow,
March, be gone; April, haste—
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

--Rolfe Humphries
Collected Poems of Rolfe Humphries 247-8 (Indiana UP 1965)

I like the easy geniality of this, which escapes jauntiness: The rhythm strikes me as more subtle and challenging than you might at first notice: from an Appendix, I infer that Humphries thought himself a student of Welsh rhythms, whether deservedly or not I cannot say.

Sources say that Humphries lived from 1894 to 1969. He taught for many years at Amherst, and is said to have mentored Theodore Roethke (link). One former colleague remembers him in an oral history: “As a young man Rolfe was a very witty, incisive, and even abusive reviewer. By then [sc. 1960s?—Buce] he was old and tired. He was a guy that you had to like and feel sorry for.” (link).

Fn: the person who first called my attention to this poem 50 years ago was my friend the New York Crank. He didn’t take the bait on my first posted inquiry. I wonder if he remembers.

The Durbar at Delhi

I risk making this blog into your go-to guide for quaint British historical figures, (cf. link), but here is another bit on Curzon, or more precisely, on his regime as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905. Here we are: the Durbar at Delhi in 1903, celebrating the accession of Edward VII:

The Durbar Ceremony was held on New Year's Day in a large horseshoe ampitheatre, specially built in Mogul style with Saracenic arches and coupolas tipped with gold paint. The most moving moment came when the band struck up 'See the Conquering Hero Comes' and over three hundred veterans of the Mutiny, most of them Indians who had fought on the British side forty-five years before, entered the asrena. It was a 'most affecting sight,' remarked Mrs. Thompson, to watch these 'little old creatures tottering and hurrying along to keep up to the time that they once marched without difficulty.'. The crowd rose and cheered, but when the march was followed by 'the wailing pathos' of 'Auld Lang Syne', many of the audience broke down in tears.

David Gilmour, Curzon 244 (Papermac Paperback ed. 1995)

That would be "The Sepoy Mutiny" or (depending on your point of view), the "First War for Indian Independence" (link). For a more acerb view of the British experience in the Mutiny, see J. G. Farrell, The Siege of Khrisnapur.

Another memorable "old soldier's parade" (which I have around here somewhere) is the March of Sherman's Army down Pennsylvania Avenue, fresh from their triumph in "the Civil War" (or the "War for Southern Independence," depending on your point of view).

From Your Friends, the Taxpayers

Sumner Redstone showcased Bill Clinton at a Breast Cancer Coalition fundraiser in his Beverly Hills home, er mansion, er palace. Clinton (link):

.. thanked Redstone for hosting the event in his beautiful home, joking that it “makes the White House look like public housing.”

Hm. Actually the White House is public housing, not so?

Afterthought: I guess I'm remembering my Kentucky days. A.B. "Happy" Chandler, candidate for governor in 1955, found out that the incumbent had installed a new rug in the mansion. By the best evidence, the rug cost $2,720. Chandler gave it a battlefield commission to $20,000, and made it the centerpiece of his campaign. "We gonna take off our shoes and walk on that rug!" Credit for refreshing my memory: Time Magazine. Update: The Wichita bureau recalls that when Eisenhower signed over the Gettysburg Farm (to the government), he said: “Well, we’re back in public housing again.”

Now Listen to Me

It's up everywhere, but I think I will add myself to the parade:

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

I got it from Making Light here (and that's what VT teaches us about my political agenda, he he).

Fn.: Comment thread at Making Light is good; a nice conspectus of all the all the "lessons to be learned" (hint: co-ed dorms!).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Looking for a Poem (Updated: Found It!)

For reasons that will be clear in a moment, I had hoped to post this poem back on Easter Monday. Trouble is, I can't remember it, and can't find it. I heard it, or perhaps read it, back int he 50s. My recollection is that it was billed as a translation from the Welsh--though I must say, it sounds a lot more like an homage. I believe the translator was Dudley Fitts. Anybody recognize it? The only fragments I can bring up are:
I have loved loving you oh my linnet, oh my dove....

March, begone, April, haste!
Til Easter Monday all are chaste!

Anybody recognize this one?

Update: Found it! Michael Gilleland, proprietor of this fine blog, responds in an instant:

According to Google Book Search, it appears in Rolfe Humphries, Collected Poems (Indiana University Press, 1965), pp. 247-248. Google Book Search only gives a "snippet view", so you can't see the entire poem online.

Rolfe Humphries, Dudley Fitts, looks like I mixed up m translators-with-quaint-names. A thousand thanks to Michael, and I'm off to the library.

Update update: Patrick Kurp crossed the tape just moments later. Thanks to Patrick, whose own blog alsos remains on my a-list.

More on Open Courseware and a Medical Fun Fact

Following up on my last post re open courseware, I went Googling and found this site, hitherto unknown to me, which goes straight to my Google Reader. I also found the following fun fact, perhaps peripherally relevant, but mainly curious & interesting (link) …

A New York Times story here today about the emergency treatment received by New Jersey Governor John Corzine reminded me of reactions my father and brother shared with me about the care Governor Wallace and President Reagan received in emergency rooms. Dad was an orthopaedic surgeon. He thought there was a good chance Governor Wallace would have not become a paraplegic if there had not been a “celebrity delay” before the doctors got underway to treat his spine. My brother, a with extensive family practice emergency room service, said it was President Reagan’s enormous good fortune to have his gunshot wounds treated in an emergency room used to a high volume of crime related trauma. My brother thought an orderly who spotted signs of internal bleeding and rushed Reagan into treatment—reacting to the wound instead of the identity of the patient—may have saved the President’s life.

The Bloginar

Earlier I linked to some fascinating posts about Supply Side Economics from people some of whom were present at the creation and others of whom simply knew what they were talking about. Bruce Bartlett, Mr. SSE himself, brings the matter full circle with a bit of metablogging here--linked, naturally enough, at Economist's View, the site that got the ball rolling and has pretty much established itself as the go-to source for up-market econ discussion (link).

Here's another example: Martin Wolfe presides over his own seminar at Economist's Forum here. As Mark Thoma points out, prominent economists often weigh in at Wolfe's site with comments of their own.

Of course, if you are a little shaky on the whole idea of supply side, you could pop on over and select any of half or dozen so relevant courses at MIT Open Courseware here.

[Aside: Wonder how that bit is going, anyway. I admit, I often go there browsing and say to myself, "hm, I ought to learn more about that..." Yeh, right. How many people, I wonder, actually work their way through an MIT course in any systematic way? And who are they?]

Christian Abstinence

Elbowing my way into a free table at the student dining hall today, I found myself next to a dazzling young twosome, totally entranced with each other. She was drop-dead beautiful, vaguely Asian--Pilipino? He was plain vanilla, if you can ignore the earring. It didn't take long to figure out that they were Christians, and happy to talk about it (to each other; I remained invisible throughout). When did you become a... No, my father is not a... My first boyfriend was a ... . And so forth. In time the talk turned to abstinence, or perhaps I should say "Christian abstinence," because the coupling (pardon) seemed to come naturally. They seemed to be in favor of abstinence, but it certainly commanded their attention. As I tucked away my book and prepared to leave, they were tackling the subtopic of erectile dysfynction. It seemed to make them really hot.

I have lived long, I have seen much.

Why So Many Regents Grads?

The Wichita bureau weighs in with a useful insight on the assertion that 150 grads of Pat Robertson U are at work in the US Government: they'd work cheap. And long hours. For the cause.

Did I mention my skepticism that there are really 150? I did? Okay, I say it again. We're talking about a source here not meticulous about the truth, and with a natural motive to hype. Maybe more than 15, though.

VT Links

There's a good collection of VT stuff at this (unlikely?) source (link and link). Here's another useful comment (link). Entirely snark free, both.

Update: They score again (link). I won't even bother update again, just go to their blog and keep looking.

Infinity is Funny

Infinity is funny.

I was driving through the parking kiosk with David. The sign said “Parking 0-30 minutes, $5.” David said: imagine that, they charge you $5 even if you don’t park here at all.

Fran Lebowitz says: I figure I have as much chance of winning the lottery if I don’t enter as if I do.

An expert is a guy who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.

Infinity is funny.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Think I've Read Three of These

So far as I can tell, I have read three of these. And Da Vinci Code is not one of them.

Followup: Okay, let me see. Angela's Ashes (kids gave me to it for Christmas--good fun). Unbearable Lightness of Being (loved it. And FWIW, the film version is on of the best up-market blue movies ever made--my, the things you can do with a bowler hat). Love in a Time of Cholera: (iked it, but I like other Garcia Marquez better).

I have enjoyed other stuff by authors on the list: Cormac McCarthy's Suttree. Anthony Beevor (with Artemis Cooper), Paris after the Liberation. The Iain Pears mystery novels. I started Donna Tartt, Secret History, but when I read that the beginning Greek students were reading Aeschylus, I knew she couldn't be trusted. I may have read Hawksmoor. I read something by Peter Ackroyd that was sufficiently weird that I can't remember what it was.