Niall Ferguson: Ingredients for Populist Backlash

The brilliant historian explains that: 1) Trump is not Hitler (of course he isn’t!), and 2) Trump is not new. As Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun. In fact, I vaguely remember learning about Denis Kearney when I was in high school and university, and also William Jennings Bryan (the latter far better known today than the former).

At any rate, very important to not conflate fascism with populism.

The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

…is fear itself. Of course, when FDR said that, there was plenty to fear. But that’s neither here nor there. His greater point was a worthy one. I thought of it while reading this nifty sermon. Have no idea what church this is — judging from a number of things, likely a hippy-dippy, new-agey, ‘inclusive’ congregation. Heck, the minister calls herself the ‘Sarcastic Lutheran.’ (My twin?) Nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with this message.

See, I think when God and God’s messengers say over and over be not afraid it’s because, people of God, fear just isn’t good for our hearts. If, as Paul says, Perfect love casts out fear, then perhaps we could say that fear is the enemy of love. All I know is that fear steals things – it is a thief of love, and joy and generosity for starters. Fear even takes things away while convincing us that it is actually protecting us. Fear makes me feel less safe and feeling less safe is not the same as protecting me. And fear steals these things because fear convinces us that it is more real that what is actually happening. The only time fear isn’t a liar is when you are actually about to be attacked by a bear or asked to do the chicken dance at a wedding or some other imminent threat.

Take that, fear. You have plagued me so! But I’m onto you and your ways.

September 11

There is a lot I could write about this day and what it means to me — and in coming posts I will — but right now I will leave you with a link to a column that was written only a few days after the attacks, a column that still holds up. Not surprisingly, it was written by Christopher Hitchens. How we miss him.

The link to the whole column is here — money quote below.

But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about “the West,” to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings–yes, even in the Pentagon.

When Extreme Left Meets Extreme Right…

…it’s always rather horrifying. One place they meet is anti-Semitism. Another — and I’m noticing it a lot during this American election campaign — is the spot at which dwell these very bizarre Vladimir Putin/Aggressive Russia apologists.

I suspect the leftists who make excuses for Russia these days miss what they view as the halcyon days of the USSR (I think of Stephen Cohen here); those on the right? Maybe they just like strong-arm tactics.

At any rate, this American election cycle is massively depressing.

Colorado, 2006: Wolf and Deer

From 2006, when I was at a conference in Colorado Springs. (Neither shot is great, but they are associated with fond memories.) I ducked out of most of the conference when I found out there was a wolf preserve nearby. I remember how fast they moved, and how hard it was to get a shot. This blessed fellow stopped for about three seconds, though, and looked in my general direction.
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This was taken from a taxi. The driver knew I loved animals (we had been chatting) and he slowed down ever so briefly when he spotted these two on the side of the road.
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September 1…

…1939

It’s always the right time for this poem, though I have always disagreed that “we must love one another or die.” (LBJ used that imagery frequently.) I don’t think that is so. I think “love” is not the only alternative to killing each other. That said, I would consider my life’s purpose fulfilled were I able to write something this beautiful.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Family Portrait

These three ferals are from the same colony, and as you can likely guess from their appearance, are related. The bottom two are siblings and the older black and white lady (top photo) is probably their auntie. The one peering through the fence is the shyest.
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Dubonnet

A friend of ours brought us a bottle of Dubonnet and it brought to mind a jingle from the ’70s. I went on a quest to find it and was unsuccessful but YouTube did give me another gift: a Dubonnet commercial from 1972 with pre-fame Farrah Fawcett and pre-fame Tom Selleck. What is not to love here?