Friday, April 28, 2017

Bill Maher on Free Speech

Bill Maher on Free Speech at UC Berkeley for Ann Coulter

On UC Berkeley's De Facto Limitation on Free Speech

On the Cancellation of Ann Coulter's UC Berkeley Speech

The University of California Berkeley, the self proclaimed home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, has proven itself to be anything but that of late.  In February 2017, riots broke out to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus.  Conservative campus activist David Horowitz was forced to cancel in early April 2017 because of strictures placed upon organizers for security.

Ann Coulter was slated to speak on April 27th but UC Berkeley Administration officials cancelled Ann Coulter from speaking.  The Young Americas Foundation and Berkeley College Republicans filed suit against the University of California Berkeley and University of California system Chancellor Janet Napolitano detailing how the academicians created de facto limitations on free speech and engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

Nonetheless, organizers supposedly withdrew their invitation for Ann Coulter to speak.  There is some controversy over that because the organizers claim that the University never gave them the room or hall for the event. However, the polemicist used that premise to cancel her appearance on campus despite Ms. Coulter's prior protestations. Sadly, the heckler's veto triumphed, even though Coulter and the College Republicans was solidly within Free Speech rights.  

Even though Ann Coulter was a no-show at Berkeley, riot police still had to prepare for violence from both antifa elements and  clashing counter-protesters. 

Bernie Sanders on Free Speech and UC Berkeley

Senator Bernie Sanders on Free Speech at UC Berkeley and Ann Coulter

Ben Stein on the Left

Ben Stein on the Left

Geert Wilders on Immigration Jihad

Geert Wilders on Immigration

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bill Nye-- Not the Constitution Guy

Bill Nye, not the Constitution Guy

One of the supposed highlight of the DC March for Science, which was the largest of the Earth Day gatherings around the world, was childrens' infotainment 1990s science host Bill Nye "The Science Guy".

During his remarks in the rain, Nye reiterated his assertion that the Constitution of the United States protects science.

Nye has been claiming since 2015 that the Framers of the Constitution invocation of protecting the "progress of science and the useful arts"  in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution meant the politicians should educate the public about art and have a role in promoting science and a plethora of progressive pursuits like environmentalism and big infrastructure,

Bill Nye at DC March for Science, April 22 2017

Alas, Bill Nye is not the Constitution Guy.  Article I Section 8 is known among lawyers as the Copyright Clause. It protects inventors and intellectual property creators with keeping the benefits of the fruits of their labors.  Namely, others can not steal and profit from their ideas under the law.

Nye's facile interpretation of Article I Section 8 makes one wonder about his other musings.

It is safe to say he is neither Bill Nye the NASCAR Guy nor Bill Nye the Constitution Guy. Considering his public policy pontifications, he may be better described as Bill Nye, the Red Herring Guy. 

Nigel Farage on the Establishment

Nigel Farage on the Establishment

Paying Tribute to Quality-- RIP Robert M. Pirsig

Author Robert M. Pirsig died at the age of 88 in South Berwick, Maine after a period of failing health.  Pirsig was renowned for writing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-- An Inquiry Into Values (1974), a loosely autobiographical travelogue of a 17 day cross country road trip in 1968 with his 11 year old son and two friends during which he pondered weighty philosophical problems to discern the metaphysics of quality,  

Pirsig had served in the Army in the Far East before the Korean War.  During a trip on leave to Japan, Pirsig became fascinated by Zen Buddhism. After his military service, Pirsig received graduate degrees in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and Banaras Hindu University.

Like the unnamed protagonist in the novel, who sometimes referred to himself as Phaedrus (a name inspired by Plato's Dialogues),  Pirsig was a brilliant thinker with a high IQ who eventually suffered a mental breakdown which was treated by electro-shock therapy that altered his personality. By delving deeply into undercurrents of thought, the novel can be seen as a detective story of a man in search of himself.

Robert M. Pirsig, 1975
The title of the book was a play on another popular tome Zen and the Art of Archery (1971). Pirsig's playfulness was also evident in the forward in which the author wrote:

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”
But the book contemplated how man relates to machines, the roots of our culture and what inspires madness.

Plato & Aristotle "The School of Athens" Raphael (1510)
Phaedrus ordered existence between "classic" values (like rational problem solving in fixing motorcycles) and "romantic values" (like beauty and the arts). This philosophical chautauqua ("circus of ideas) which Phaedrus grappled with in his deep thoughts was how the Western mind had separated ordinary experiences from transcendent experiences because Plato and Aristotle had done so. Moreover, the mind-body dualism championed by the Greeks stoked a mental civil war which stripped rationality from its spiritual underpinnings and spirituality of its reason.

What man really ought to strive for is quality.  As Pirsig contemplated:

"Quality . . . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist."

The book became a phenomenon which the author later described as a “kulturbarer" (Swedish for culture bearer), which developed a near cult popularity amongst hippies.  Pirsig mused: “I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else." Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance truly appealed to Baby Boomers. When the novel was first published, New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: 

"[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip... when [Pirsig] comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying." 
 When reflecting on the impact of ZAMM, Todd Gitlin, a counter cultural sociologist speculated that by blending the deep thoughts with the drudgery of daily life, such as motorcycle maintenance:  "Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”

The counter cultural novel sold over one million books in the first year of its publication and sold several million more since then.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became  the biggest selling philosophy book of all times and remained on the best sellers list for over a decade. This is remarkable for a manuscript which was rejected by 121 different publishers before William Morrow signed hi for a small $3,000 advance.

After the unexpected success of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig won a Guggenheim fellowship, some fortune and unwanted fame. Pirsig got so freaked out by what his neighbors called "Pirsig Pilgrims" to his Minneapolis home that he eventually packed his bags and would live in a camper or a sailboat for months.  Pirsig spent the last 30 years of his life in a small town in Southern Maine.

Pirsig wrote one other book, Lila- An Inquiry into Morals (1991), which achieved neither the same success nor cultural impact.  But sometimes one oeuvre is enough to make one's mark on the world. 

Personally, I found Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to be a highly influential book. Believe it or not, it served as a textbook for an Advanced Placement American History course in high school. Despite the unorthodox textbook, I achieved highest marks on the exam as it honed in me an incredible analytical inclination which remains with me to this day (sometimes to the consternation of those close to me).  

While I may not be an adherent to Zen Buddhism, nor will anyone catch me fixing motor scooters or the ilk, I am graced by the idea that there is a nexus between the simply joys and drudgery of daily life and the transcendent. More than a quarter century later, I am still inspired by a quest for quality. To be so deeply impacted by a book demonstrates its importance. 

Robert M. Pirsig on Life

H/T: New York Times

Monday, April 24, 2017

Honoring ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance observed on April 25th each year in Australia and New Zealand to honor the fallen on the battlefield. Originally, the holiday was to recognize those who fought at Gallipoli in 1915 against the Ottoman Empire in the Great War (a.k.a. World War I).

While the Gallipoli campaign failed to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) after an eight month stalemate, but the allied troops from Down Under distinguished themselves. In fact, Turkish President Kemal Atatürk said of the opposing troops in 1934:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears,

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well

The ANZAC Legend  created a powerful legacy which shaped how Aussies and Kiwi's saw their past and their understanding of the present.

The tradition is to remember their valor to the sounds of a bugler playing the last post, reciting the final lines of Lawrence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen"  (1914), also known as "Ode To Remembrance".

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

While ANZAC Day is a solemn day of remembrance, surely the ANZAC Legend contributes to Australian and New Zealand good cheer, which should appreciate Charles Schultz  world ending witticism.

[This piece was originally published at DCBarroco in 2011 with some augmentations]

Commemorating Yom Hashoah-- Holocaust Remembrance Day

Etty Hillesum Holocaust Remembrance Day

 Note how all traffic stops on busy Israeli roads  when the sirens sound marking the moment of silence to remember victims of the Holocaust.

As global thinker Dr. Michael Laitman commemorating Yom Yashoah observed:

As the sirens sound across Israel this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we unite in memory of our lost loved ones. These days, the memory of the Holocaust echoes throughout the world as anti-Semitism is spiraling out of control in Europe and around the world. If we wish to prevent this horrifying memory from becoming a reality once again, we must focus on what we can do to prevent a second Holocaust. The sirens that unite us in memory should remind us that our unity is our strength, that our nation was formed through a commitment to mutual responsibility and to being “as one man with one heart.” If the people of Israel remember this on this day of painful memory, and begin to rekindle our brotherly love above all our differences, then we have truly defeated the Nazis

If only America would take our Memorial Day more seriously than an opportunity to barbecue and watch the Indy 500.  But genocide and losing six million people in the Shoah gives a different reverence to Holocaust Remembrance Day.

H/T: Dr. Michael Laitman 

Ambassador Nikki Haley on UN Security Council Priorities

Ambassador Nikki Haley suggests UN Security Council focus on Iranian mischief in Middle East

Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Trade

Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Trade

Newt Gingrich on Gun Laws

Newt Gingrich on Gun Laws

Marine Le Pen on Political Divide

Marine Le Pen on politics

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Justifying Georgemas

British Great War Recruiting Poster 

According to the Gregorian calendar, April 23rd is the Feast of St. George (or Georgemas).  The Orthodox also admire the attributes of St. George but follow the Julian calendar which marks the feast on May 6th.  St. George born in Syria Palestrinia in the late Third Century who served as an officer in the Roman army that guarded the Emporer Diocletian, but who was martyred for not renouncing his Christian faith.  The emperor tried to bribe George to renounce his faith and tortured him, but to no avail. Before he was decapitated, St. George gave all of his wealth to the poor.

St. George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic Church, among Anglicans, Orthodox, East Syrian churches. Even Muslims revere this honorable military man. In the Twelfth Century a legend was attached to St. George about slaying a dragon.  The standard Orthodox icon of St. George depicts him slaying a dragon with a woman in the background.

The dragon is generally understood as being both Satan and the monster from his own life (Diocletian). The woman in the background is Alexandra, the wife of Emperor Diocletian. Crusaders credit an appearance of St. George. This was probably legend which traveled back with the Crusaders from the Holy Land and was embellished in courtly Romance retellings.

Legend has it that a plague bearing dragon came down from the mountains and terrorized the countryside.  The dragon could not be appeased with ransom of livestock.  This  dragon would not stop his rampage unless the King tied a young maiden to an oak tree in the center of the village.

The King's nobles used a pigeon to decide what to do.  If the bird flew to the east then, they must take the King's own daughter Sabra and tie her to a tree, as the dragon demanded.  The pigeon flew off to the east.

But as fate would have it, the pigeon managed  to attract the attention of a knight called  George and guided him back to the princess. Just as the dragon was about to devour the princess, the good knight clad in armor fortified himself with a sign of the cross and then brought the fight to the dragon.  George cunningly slowed down the dragon by driving a ball of pitch down his throat, and then speared the dragon with a grievous wound with his lance.  

The Wedding of St. George and Princess Sabra by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1857)

According to Eastern versions, the knight rode back to the city along with the princess and the dragon in tow.  As George approached the city, he promised to slay the dragon if the town would become baptized Christians.  Fifteen thousand men took to the baptismal waters and George slayed the dragon with his trusty sword Ascalon (recalling the city Ashkelon in Israel).  The king was so grateful that he bestowed nobility (some say Sainthood) to George and gave his daughter Sabra's hand in marriage and promised to build a church were the dragon was slain.

St. George is the patron saint of England yet it is not a public holiday in England. The reasons why celebration of Georgemas is muted are cultural, historical and now tinged with political correctness.

St. George was neither English nor roundly associated with England, even though King Edward III formed the Order of the Garder under the patronage of St. George in 1348.  The Reformation played a part as Protestants did not care much for saints' days. In addition, celebration of St. George's day has been in decline since the Act of Union between England in Scotland completed in 1707.  In today's world,  the Daily Telegraph reports that many English people are concerned that national symbols like St. George can be considered racists,

Aside from the fact that many pubs in England are named after George and the dragon, it makes one wonder why this legend matters. Modern man is quick to dismiss myths (unless it is anthropogenic global warming), but this is short sighted. Myths convey essential truths although the romantic story elements may not be exact.  For instance, the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree may have been apocryphal but it does "I can not tell a lie" does illustrate some of the virtues of Washington's transcription of "The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior", which molded the first President's life and were put into practice at the founding of the American Republic.

The reason that St. George matters so much to the English is that the legend reinforces characteristics which the English admire and seek to emulate.  St. George is a knight who exemplified chivalry. St. George and the dragon also champions the little guy as well as the triumph of good over evil.  The versions which depict him making the sign of the cross depict deep dedication to principles (if we dare not declare faith).  These romanticized virtues along with the more verifiable versions of his hagiography make St. George a man worthy (bank holiday or not) for Englishmen to emulate.

[This piece originally ran on DC-LausDeo.US]

Umberto Eco on Books

Umberto Eco on Books

William Shakespeare on Life

William Shaekspeare on Life

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II on the Royal Family

Queen Elizabeth II on the British Royal Family

Jon Stewart on Earth Day

Jon Stewart on Earth Day

It does not look like there was much of a mood to play hackey-sack at the DC Science March, which was held in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations, on the National Mall.

2017 Science March DC on National Mall   photo (Joan) @taleanski via Twitter

Friday, April 21, 2017

Democrats Said to Be Up and Cummings (sic)

MSNBC's Donnie Deutsch asked Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7th) who were the rising stars of the Democrat Party.  The Baltimore Democrat gave an eyebrow raising list:

It was curious that two of the up and Cummings (sic) stars of the Democrat Party in the District of Calamity had haunted the halls of Congress for years.  It seems strange to consider Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13th) as a rising star, considering her 22 years in Congress.  She was infamous for voting against going to war after the terror attacks of 2001. But maybe just missing being voted Vice Chair of the DNC gave her that stature in Cumming's mind.

There is some merit in citing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA 28th) as a rising star.  His stature as the Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee gives him a place of prominence when making television hits, particularly regarding Benghazi and accusations of Russia electoral interference.  But this is Schiff's 8th term, so he's hardly a rising star.

Then there is Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).  Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, Kaine would have been Vice President, and spoken of in reverential tones like the predecessor former Vice President Joe Biden.  But that fate was not to be. Kaine distinguished himself as being a disagreeable debater during his match up against his counterpart, then Governor (now Vice President) Mike Pence (R-IN). This compensated for Kaine's charisma deficit during most of the 2016 General Election campaign.  After the electoral defeat, Kaine declined to take a position of prominence amongst DC Democrats, yet Cummings cites him as a up and coming Democrat star.

All three of these Up and Cummings stars seemed to have thrown their lot in with the progressive wing of the Democrat party.  In the past, Kaine had been known for some moderate as well as liberal positions, but the inclination for being a squish seems to have past. Of course, Blue Dog Democrats are dead in the eyes of most Democrat loyalists. If Democrats were keen on a fresher face in DC, they could turn to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH 13), a blue collar Democrat from Youngstown/Akron who made a quixotic bid to unseat Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th) from being House Minority Leader.  Between Ryan's willingness to consider working with the GOP on some bills where there is mutual agreement and payback for challenging the leader (and losing), it is no surprise that Ryan of Ohio was not mentioned.

It is telling that DC Democrats only looked among themselves for rising stars, instead of looking of not looking between the beltways.  But considering how many seats Democrats have lost since President Barack Obama, there may not be many success stories to which to point.

DC Republicans may be in trouble with voters unless they can achieve some successes with health care, taxes, and immigration issues.  But if the Up and Cummings pols  are really the bench for DC Democrats, I weep for their future.

UC Berkeley Bungles Free Speech Again

Ann Coulter on Free Speech

Just over a half century ago, the University of California Berkeley led the Free Speech Movement, which inspired many of the political and cultural changes that started in the 1960s.  Free Speech meant having tolerance for differing opinions and uncomfortable speech.

Today, Berkeley finds itself at the center of the AntiFa movement.  While academics, anarchists and progressive foot soldiers mou-mou the memes about free speech, their actions indicate ideological intolerance and tyranny. In February 2017, black clothed street anarchists rioted around the Berkeley campus to stop Alt-Right polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking.  

Progressives have also bragged about stopping "Radical Son" turned neoconservative David Horowitz from speaking because of burdensome security concerns and added costs to sponsors and limited the crowd.

Three groups invited Ann Coulter to speak at Berkeley on April 27, 2017.  The University Administration made all sorts of nigglesome demands, such as requiring expensive bonds for security, limiting the talk to students and even demanding that the event occur during the day.  As she was determined not to be the one to cancel, Coulter agreed to all of these "ridiculous"  demands, with the request that any rioting students be expelled.  Still Cal Berkeley Administrative offices sought to cancel the event.

Unlike Yiannopoulos and Horowitz, Ann Coulter is both an established agitating author who can make the television circuit.  So instead of just accepting Berkeley cancelling her speaking event, Coulter took to television to ridicule and challenge the imperial leftist Berkeley chancellor, vowing to go to campus anyways to speak.

After just one day of bad press, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks backtracked,  In announcing that Coulter's speech could be rescheduled to May 2nd, Dirks wrapped himself around the rhetoric of the free speech movement, but did not specify the secure venue where the event would occur.   

This P.R. recovery move by the Berkeley Chancellor was too clever by half. In seeking to staunch the unflattering image, the date was moved to when there would be no classes held.  Moreover, because of the last minute switcheroo, additional expenses would be incurred.  In addition, Dirks did not check with the inconvenienced speaker.  For her part, Coulter claims that she is unavailable May 2nd and is going to appear anyways on April 27th. 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks 
UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks was slated to resign in August, 2016 because of widespread criticism from the faculty for the way he handled a sexual misconduct claim and budgetary deficits, yet he still remained.  After besmirching Berkeley's reputation for being the bastion of the Free Speech Movement, one wonders why he still has a job. Furthermore, inquiring minds are interest on University of California Chancellor Janet Napolitano's perspective.

Remembering San Jacinto Day

On the eve of the decisive for Texas independence which would occur on April 21, 1836 at San Jacinto, Captain Mosely Baker extolled his troops:
"You are now paraded to go into battle. For the past few weeks, our greatest desire has been to meet our foes in mortal combat, and that desire is about to be gratified. I have confidence to believe that you will do your duty and act like men worthy of freedom, but if there be one who is not fully satisfied that he can face death unfalteringly, he is at liberty to remain at camp, for I do not wish my company disgraced by a single act of cowardice.

 Yonder, within less than a mile is the tyrannt, Santa Anna, with his myrmidons who have overrun our country, destroyed our property, put to flight our families and butchered in cold blood many of our brave men.
Remember, comrades, that we fight this day for all that is dear to us on Earth, our homes, our families and our liberty. He who would not fight for these is not worthy of the name of man.
Remember that is little army of less than 800 men is the last hope of Texas, and with its defeat or dispersion, dies the cause of freedom here and we will be regarded by the world as rash adventurers, but should victory crown our efforts, of which I have but little doubt, we can anticipate a riddance to the country of our oppressors, followed by peace and prosperity, and in the further years when this broad, beautiful and fertile land shall be occupied by millions of intelligent and thrifty people who can appreciate the value of liberty, we will be honored as the founders of a Republic.

 Remember that Travis, Crocket, Bowie and their companions, numbering one hundred and eighty three of the bravest of brave men, stood a siege of ten days their number and fought till the last man was not killed, not one being left to tell the news or tell the tale.
Remember that Fannin and four hundred volunteers were basely murdered after they had capitulated as prisoners of war and sent to the United States.
Remember you fight an enemy that gives no quarter, and regards neither age nor sex. Recollect that your homes are destroyed; imagine your wives and daughters trudging mud and water, and your children crying for bread, and then remember that the author of all this woe is within a short distance of us; that the arch fiend is now within our grasp; and that the time has come at last for us to avenge the blood of our fallen heroes and to teach the haughty dictator that Texans can not be conquered and that they can and will be free.
Then nerve yourselves for the battle, knowing that our cause is just and we are in the hands of the All-Wise-Creator and as you strike the murderous blow let your watchwords be: "Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!" 

The 800 Tejanos routed 12,000 Mexican troops on April 21, 1836 in eighteen minutes.  The battle was so decisive that General Santa Anna escaped the San Jacinto battlefield for a few days dressed as a private.  Despite Cpt. Moseby's firey rhetoric against the ruthless tyrant Santa Anna, the defeated Mexican General was not harmed when he was captured. In attempting to prevent execution, Santa Anna offered to order the sizable remaining Mexican forces to stay away. Thus, the Texas troops followed Sam Houston's exhortation not to harm Santa Anna lest he just be another dead Mexican. 

Three weeks later, General Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco which ended hostilities with the Texans and established the first steps of official recognition of Texas independence from Mexico.